Proof of Heaven by E. Alexander, M.D.

December 9, 2012

Can you believe this book:  Proof of Heaven  A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D. ?

     This book relates the “near-death experience” (NDE) of a neurosurgeon.  There are hundreds of such accounts in the media, but this book claims that its author’s experience was both unique and compelling enough to render proof that consciousness exists independent of bodily existence, that life goes on after death.  Woody Allen once said, “I don’t believe in an afterlife but I’m taking a change of underwear anyway.”  We share his equivocation but we prefer to know for sure if we should pack those skivvies.
     Twenty-one years ago, I wrote a report on the NDE for a college class.  I began my research by attending a meeting of a local chapter of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, where I met and heard the stories of several NDE’rs.  Why do such accounts fascinate us?  Perhaps because they offer the best elements from both a good old-fashioned ghost story and a bulletin from the frontiers of science.  They tantalize us with the promise of eternal life, a form of comfort that formerly only religious faith could supply.  While faith is the purview of the devout, belief is available to all if it is supported by scientific “fact.”  In an age of conflict between science and religion, any revelation that purports to reconcile the two paradigms offers us psychological integration or what used to be called peace of mind.  This new field of study, dignified with the multi-syllabic Latin name “circumthanatology,” has been cleansed of superstition and religious dogma and sanctified instead by statistical study.
           The book under discussion, however, is just one more of many “anecdotal reports,” anathema to the scientific mind.  The author claims that what makes it different is the absolute incapacitation of the “human” parts of his brain while in a coma with e-Coli meningitis.  He even includes, in Appendix B, rebuttals to various neuro-scientific hypotheses that would explain the NDE experience.  Yes, his account of factual details and more emotional, human-interest details was fascinating and compelling.  I was convinced.  Or was I?  One unique feature of Dr. Alexander’s NDE was that he had no sense of self, no awareness of an individual identity while in that state.  He points to that fact as further proof of the independence existence of consciousness.  Couldn’t one also hypothesize that the very fact that his neo-cortex was “bathed in pus” and therefore totally inactivated, was the cause of his lack of a sense of identity?  If proven, that hypothesis would strengthen the “brain produces consciousness” theory.
     So, before packing my underwear in anticipation of my own journey into the afterlife, I checked out the web site of his nonprofit organization, Eternea, at www.Eternea.org.  Interesting.  The site states that “anyone can join” yet the fee for basic membership is $50 and there are tiers of membership according to the amount of the “donation” given, with increased privileges for those higher on the tiers.  Proof of hierarchy based on financial status, even among Heaven’s advocates?
The most compelling statements in the book, for me, were those that revealed that, and I paraphrase, God is love; love and compassion are real, concrete, and are the very fabric of the spiritual relm.  Further, Alexander states that God loves us.  How well this harmonizes with the basic precepts of the great religions of the world.  Take this statement as an example, “You must…look toward each other and then toward mankind with the utmost love and kindness…This has been the essence …of the teaching of the Prophets, saints, seers and philosophers…”  Abdu’l-Baha.  For more about and from Abdu’l-Baha and the Baha’i Faith, go to www.usnsa@usbnc.org.

 

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