A Book Review
Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Dr. Eben Alexander
Review by Mark Ireland, Helping Parents Heal Co-Founder and Author of Soul Shift: Finding Where the Dead Go
Today nearly everyone is familiar with the phrase “Near Death Experience” and its’ acronym, “NDE”, coined by Dr. Raymond Moody in his 1975 landmark bestseller, Life After Life
. Since then interest in NDE phenomenon has gained momentum and research efforts have accelerated—with investigations taking place across the globe.
NDE reports come from patients who come precariously close to death, yet are revived before dying. The number of these reports has expanded exponentially in the recent decades as a result of new techniques used to resuscitate cardiac arrest patients. These are people who would have previously died, but are now able to share their perspective on what it’s like to be at the brink of death.
Common NDE elements include an OBE (Out-Of-Body Experience), where the patient reports a sense of release from their physical body. In conjunction with this sensation, the patient often indicates that they are able to hover above their body and observe what is going on in the room below, including resuscitation efforts. NDE experiencers also frequently report:
-Meeting deceased loved ones
-Going through a life review process
-Entering a tunnel and moving toward a bright light
-Arriving in a blissful reality, often via the tunnel
-Meeting a being of light, sometimes reported as Jesus, Buddha, or another spiritual figure
-A deep sense of acceptance and unconditional love
-A choice to stay in this realm or to return to physical life
Skeptics claim that there must be some brain activity going on during these episodes and that the experiences are most likely hallucinations. Countering skeptical arguments are cases where the NDE experiencer provides specific, accurate information about events taking place in the operating room at a time when they were physically unconscious. In some cases patients furnished highly detailed reports of procedures conducted and instruments used by doctors that were later validated. There have also been reports of communications between doctors, nurses, and other people, observed by the patients during their OBE that proved accurate—including some conversations that took place in other rooms.
Further countering the skeptical argument, hallucinations are almost always negative and distorted experiences, whereas NDE’s are most often reported as blissful and extremely vivid—even more so than waking reality. It’s also interesting to note that when unconscious patients meet people they know during an NDE, they are always deceased rather than living persons. If these experiences are hallucinations, wouldn’t one expect some living individuals to be included?
Nonetheless, skeptics haven’t given in one bit and they continue to argue that the brain is responsible for such experiences. This is why Dr. Eben Alexander’s new book, Proof of Heaven
is such a game-changer.
Prior to his Near-Death-Experience, Dr. Alexander, who taught and performed neurosurgery at the Harvard Medical School, concurred with most of his fellow scientists by assuming that the brain produces consciousness. But after a close brush with death following a weeklong coma, as a rare form of bacterial meningitis attacked his brain, Dr. Alexander’s worldview changed.
According to prevailing theories on brain function, Dr. Alexander should have been incapable of consciousness during his coma, as the entire outer surface of his brain was covered with bacteria and puss. As he noted, “These bacteria had gotten rid of all the glucose and the only thing left to consume were my brain cells. So my entire neocortex—the part of the brain that makes us human—was completely shut down.” Despite this dire scenario Dr. Alexander actually experienced an expanded awareness, sensing an immensely loving connection with the divine source and knowledge of the interconnected nature of the universe. His biological recovery could also be described as miraculous, since doctors did not expect him to survive. As a Neurosurgeon who understands the intricacies of neurological function, Alexander knew that his crippled brain could not have produced any level of conscious awareness, let alone the expanded sense of awareness he experienced.
The clincher for Dr. Alexander came to light a short time later when something from his NDE was validated in a most surprising way. During the NDE, he was accompanied by a female that he perceived to be a guardian angel. He saw her face clearly and felt a tremendous amount of unconditional love coming from her. Four months after his release from the hospital, Dr. Alexander received a photo of a sister he’d never known named Betsy, who had died about ten years earlier. (Dr. Alexander had been given up for adoption at birth and had only connected with his biological family one year prior to his NDE. He had been told about Betsy but had never before seen her photo.) Upon looking at the picture of Betsy, he recognized the smile, glistening blue eyes, and calming look as belonging to the guardian angel who had accompanied him during his NDE.
I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Alexander two times this past summer and during our last visit I asked him a few questions about his experience. This prompted him to share his greatest revelation, previously expressed to colleagues in question form, which was, “Do you know what this means?!”
Dr. Alexander then shared his perspective, mirroring my view, that consciousness is primary and that matter and form are creative expressions produced by consciousness—and that the spiritual realm is real.
I highly recommend Proof of Heaven
to anyone interested in knowing more about Near Death Experiences and the corroborating evidence they provide in support of life after death. This book will appeal to both laypersons and science-minded individuals. Although Dr. Alexander is an esteemed scientist and Neuro-Surgeon, he is also a warm and caring individual. Eben’s sense of kindness and integrity comes through in his writing.