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The #1 New York Times bestselling account of a neurosurgeon's own near-death experience—for readers of 7 Lessons from Heaven.
Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists. A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.
Then, Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human—shut down completely. For seven days he lay in a coma. Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.
Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.
Alexander’s story is not a fantasy. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.
This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to. That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary. No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it. Reading it will change your life.
About the Author
Eben Alexander, MD, has been an academic neurosurgeon for the last twenty-five years, including fifteen years at the Brigham & Women’s and the Children’s Hospitals and Harvard Medical School in Boston. He is the author of Proof of Heaven and The Map of Heaven. Visit him at EbenAlexander.com.
Read an Excerpt
A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
—ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879–1955)
When I was a kid, I would often dream of flying.
Most of the time I’d be standing out in my yard at night, looking up at the stars, when out of the blue I’d start floating upward. The first few inches happened automatically. But soon I’d notice that the higher I got, the more my progress depended on me—on what I did. If I got too excited, too swept away by the experience, I would plummet back to the ground . . . hard. But if I played it cool, took it all in stride, then off I would go, faster and faster, up into the starry sky.
Maybe those dreams were part of the reason why, as I got older, I fell in love with airplanes and rockets—with anything that might get me back up there in the world above this one. When our family flew, my face was pressed flat to the plane’s window from takeoff to landing. In the summer of 1968, when I was fourteen, I spent all the money I’d earned mowing lawns on a set of sailplane lessons with a guy named Gus Street at Strawberry Hill, a little grass strip “airport” just west of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the town where I grew up. I still remember the feeling of my heart pounding as I pulled the big cherry-red knob that unhooked the rope connecting me to the towplane and banked my sailplane toward the field. It was the first time I had ever felt truly alone and free. Most of my friends got that feeling in cars, but for my money being a thousand feet up in a sailplane beat that thrill a hundred times over.
In college in the 1970s I joined the University of North Carolina sport parachuting (or skydiving) team. It felt like a secret brotherhood—a group of people who knew about something special and magical. My first jump was terrifying, and the second even more so. But by my twelfth jump, when I stepped out the door and had to fall for more than a thousand feet before opening my parachute (my first “ten second delay”), I knew I was home. I made 365 parachute jumps in college and logged more than three and a half hours in free fall, mainly in formations with up to twenty-five fellow jumpers. Although I stopped jumping in 1976, I continued to enjoy vivid dreams about skydiving, which were always pleasant.
The best jumps were often late in the afternoon, when the sun was starting to sink beneath the horizon. It’s hard to describe the feeling I would get on those jumps: a feeling of getting close to something that I could never quite name but that I knew I had to have more of. It wasn’t solitude exactly, because the way we dived actually wasn’t all that solitary. We’d jump five, six, sometimes ten or twelve people at a time, building free-fall formations. The bigger and the more challenging, the better.
One beautiful autumn Saturday in 1975, the rest of the UNC jumpers and I teamed up with some of our friends at a paracenter in eastern North Carolina for some formations. On our penultimate jump of the day, out of a D18 Beechcraft at 10,500 feet, we made a ten-man snowflake. We managed to get ourselves into complete formation before we passed 7,000 feet, and thus were able to enjoy a full eighteen seconds of flying the formation down a clear chasm between two towering cumulus clouds before breaking apart at 3,500 feet and tracking away from each other to open our chutes.
By the time we hit the ground, the sun was down. But by hustling into another plane and taking off again quickly, we managed to get back up into the last of the sun’s rays and do a second sunset jump. For this one, two junior members were getting their first shot at flying into formation—that is, joining it from the outside rather than being the base or pin man (which is easier because your job is essentially to fall straight down while everyone else maneuvers toward you). It was exciting for the two junior members, but also for those of us who were more seasoned, because we were building the team, adding to the experience of jumpers who’d later be capable of joining us for even bigger formations.
I was to be the last man out in a six-man star attempt above the runways of the small airport just outside Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. The guy directly in front of me was named Chuck. Chuck was fairly experienced at “relative work,” or RW—that is, building free-fall formations. We were still in sunshine at 7,500 feet, but a mile and a half below us the streetlights were blinking on. Twilight jumps were always sublime and this was clearly going to be a beautiful one.
Even though I’d be exiting the plane a mere second or so behind Chuck, I’d have to move fast to catch up with everyone. I’d rocket straight down headfirst for the first seven seconds or so. This would make me drop almost 100 miles per hour faster than my friends so that I could be right there with them after they had built the initial formation.
Normal procedure for RW jumps was for all jumpers to break apart at 3,500 feet and track away from the formation for maximum separation. Each would then “wave off” with his arms (signaling imminent deployment of his parachute), turn to look above to make sure no others were above him, then pull the rip cord.
“Three, two, one . . . go!”
The first four jumpers exited, then Chuck and I followed close behind. Upside down in a full-head dive and approaching terminal velocity, I smiled as I saw the sun setting for the second time that day. After streaking down to the others, my plan was to slam on the air brakes by throwing out my arms (we had fabric wings from wrists to hips that gave tremendous resistance when fully inflated at high speed) and aiming my jumpsuit’s bell-bottomed sleeves and pant legs straight into the oncoming air.
But I never had the chance.
Plummeting toward the formation, I saw that one of the new guys had come in too fast. Maybe falling rapidly between nearby clouds had him a little spooked—it reminded him that he was moving about two hundred feet per second toward that giant planet below, partially shrouded in the gathering darkness. Rather than slowly joining the edge of the formation, he’d barreled in and knocked everybody loose. Now all five other jumpers were tumbling out of control.
They were also much too close together. A skydiver leaves a super-turbulent stream of low-pressure air behind him. If a jumper gets into that trail, he instantly speeds up and can crash into the person below him. That, in turn, can make both jumpers accelerate and slam into anyone who might be below them. In short, it’s a recipe for disaster.
I angled my body and tracked away from the group to avoid the tumbling mess. I maneuvered until I was falling right over “the spot,” a magical point on the ground above which we were to open our parachutes for the leisurely two-minute descent.
I looked over and was relieved to see that the disoriented jumpers were now also tracking away from each other, dispersing the deadly clump.
Chuck was there among them. To my surprise, he was coming straight in my direction. He stopped directly beneath me. With all of the group’s tumbling, we were passing through 2,000 feet elevation more quickly than Chuck had anticipated. Maybe he thought he was lucky and didn’t have to follow the rules—exactly.
He must not see me. The thought barely had time to go through my head before Chuck’s colorful pilot chute blossomed out of his backpack. His pilot chute caught the 120-mph breeze coming around him and shot straight toward me, pulling his main parachute in its sleeve right behind it.
From the instant I saw Chuck’s pilot chute emerge, I had a fraction of a second to react. For it would take less than a second to tumble through his deploying main parachute, and—quite likely—right into Chuck himself. At that speed, if I hit his arm or his leg I would take it right off, dealing myself a fatal blow in the process. If I hit him directly, both our bodies would essentially explode.
People say things move more slowly in situations like this, and they’re right. My mind watched the action in the microseconds that followed as if it were watching a movie in slow motion.
The instant I saw the pilot chute, my arms flew to my sides and I straightened my body into a head dive, bending ever so slightly at the hips. The verticality gave me increased speed, and the bend allowed my body to add first a little, then a blast of horizontal motion as my body became an efficient wing, sending me zipping past Chuck just in front of his colorful blossoming Para-Commander parachute.
I passed him going at over 150 miles per hour, or 220 feet per second. Given that speed, I doubt he saw the expression on my face. But if he had, he would have seen a look of sheer astonishment. Somehow I had reacted in microseconds to a situation that, had I actually had time to think about it, would have been much too complex for me to deal with.
And yet . . . I had dealt with it, and we both landed safely. It was as if, presented with a situation that required more than its usual ability to respond, my brain had become, for a moment, superpowered.
How had I done it? Over the course of my twenty-plus-year career in academic neurosurgery—of studying the brain, observing how it works, and operating on it—I have had plenty of opportunities to ponder this very question. I finally chalked it up to the fact that the brain is truly an extraordinary device: more extraordinary than we can even guess.
I realize now that the real answer to that question is much more profound. But I had to go through a complete metamorphosis of my life and worldview to glimpse that answer. This book is about the events that changed my mind on the matter. They convinced me that, as marvelous a mechanism as the brain is, it was not my brain that saved my life that day at all. What sprang into action the second Chuck’s chute started to open was another, much deeper part of me. A part that could move so fast because it was not stuck in time at all, the way the brain and body are.
This was the same part of me, in fact, that had made me so homesick for the skies as a kid. It’s not only the smartest part of us, but the deepest part as well, yet for most of my adult life I was unable to believe in it.
But I do believe now, and the pages that follow will tell you why.
I’m a neurosurgeon.
I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976 with a major in chemistry and earned my M.D. at Duke University Medical School in 1980. During my eleven years of medical school and residency training at Duke as well as Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard, I focused on neuroendocrinology, the study of the interactions between the nervous system and the endocrine system—the series of glands that release the hormones that direct most of your body’s activities. I also spent two of those eleven years investigating how blood vessels in one area of the brain react pathologically when there is bleeding into it from an aneurysm—a syndrome known as cerebral vasospasm.
After completing a fellowship in cerebrovascular neurosurgery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom, I spent fifteen years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School as an associate professor of surgery, with a specialization in neurosurgery. During those years I operated on countless patients, many of them with severe, life-threatening brain conditions.
Most of my research work involved the development of advanced technical procedures like stereotactic radiosurgery, a technique that allows surgeons to precisely guide beams of radiation to specific targets deep in the brain without affecting adjacent areas. I also helped develop magnetic resonance image–guided neurosurgical procedures instrumental in repairing hard-to-treat brain conditions like tumors and vascular disorders. During those years I also authored or coauthored more than 150 chapters and papers for peer-reviewed medical journals and presented my findings at more than two hundred medical conferences around the world.
In short, I devoted myself to science. Using the tools of modern medicine to help and to heal people, and to learn more about the workings of the human body and brain, was my life’s calling. I felt immeasurably lucky to have found it. More important, I had a beautiful wife and two lovely children, and while I was in many ways married to my work, I did not neglect my family, which I considered the other great blessing in my life. On many counts I was a very lucky man, and I knew it.
On November 10, 2008, however, at age fifty-four, my luck seemed to run out. I was struck by a rare illness and thrown into a coma for seven days. During that time, my entire neocortex—the outer surface of the brain, the part that makes us human—was shut down. Inoperative. In essence, absent.
When your brain is absent, you are absent, too. As a neurosurgeon, I’d heard many stories over the years of people who had strange experiences, usually after suffering cardiac arrest: stories of traveling to mysterious, wonderful landscapes; of talking to dead relatives—even of meeting God Himself.
Wonderful stuff, no question. But all of it, in my opinion, was pure fantasy. What caused the otherworldly types of experiences that such people so often report? I didn’t claim to know, but I did know that they were brain-based. All of consciousness is. If you don’t have a working brain, you can’t be conscious.
This is because the brain is the machine that produces consciousness in the first place. When the machine breaks down, consciousness stops. As vastly complicated and mysterious as the actual mechanics of brain processes are, in essence the matter is as simple as that. Pull the plug and the TV goes dead. The show is over, no matter how much you might have been enjoying it.
Or so I would have told you before my own brain crashed.
During my coma my brain wasn’t working improperly—it wasn’t working at all. I now believe that this might have been what was responsible for the depth and intensity of the near-death experience (NDE) that I myself underwent during it. Many of the NDEs reported happen when a person’s heart has shut down for a while. In those cases, the neocortex is temporarily inactivated, but generally not too damaged, provided that the flow of oxygenated blood is restored through cardiopulmonary resuscitation or reactivation of cardiac function within four minutes or so. But in my case, the neocortex was out of the picture. I was encountering the reality of a world of consciousness that existed completely free of the limitations of my physical brain.
Mine was in some ways a perfect storm of near-death experiences. As a practicing neurosurgeon with decades of research and hands-on work in the operating room behind me, I was in a better-than-average position to judge not only the reality but also the implications of what happened to me.
Those implications are tremendous beyond description. My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.
The place I went was real. Real in a way that makes the life we’re living here and now completely dreamlike by comparison. This doesn’t mean I don’t value the life I’m living now, however. In fact, I value it more than I ever did before. I do so because I now see it in its true context.
This life isn’t meaningless. But we can’t see that fact from here—at least most of the time. What happened to me while I was in that coma is hands-down the most important story I will ever tell. But it’s a tricky story to tell because it is so foreign to ordinary understanding. I can’t simply shout it from the rooftops. At the same time, my conclusions are based on a medical analysis of my experience, and on my familiarity with the most advanced concepts in brain science and consciousness studies. Once I realized the truth behind my journey, I knew I had to tell it. Doing so properly has become the chief task of my life.
That’s not to say I’ve abandoned my medical work and my life as a neurosurgeon. But now that I have been privileged to understand that our life does not end with the death of the body or the brain, I see it as my duty, my calling, to tell people about what I saw beyond the body and beyond this earth. I am especially eager to tell my story to the people who might have heard stories similar to mine before and wanted to believe them, but had not been able to fully do so.
It is to these people, more than any other, that I direct this book, and the message within it. What I have to tell you is as important as anything anyone will ever tell you, and it’s true.
Table of Contents
1 The Pain 11
2 The Hospital 17
3 Out of Nowhere 23
4 Eben IV 25
5 Underworld 29
6 An Anchor to Life 33
7 The Spinning Melody and the Gateway 38
8 Israel 42
9 The Core 45
10 What Counts 50
11 An End to the Downward Spiral 59
12 The Core 68
13 Wednesday 74
14 A Special Kind of NDE 76
15 The Gift of Forgetting 80
16 The Well 87
17 N of 1 89
18 To Forget, and to Remember 95
19 Nowhere to Hide 97
20 The Closing 102
21 The Rainbow 105
22 Six Faces 108
23 Final Night, First Morning 111
24 The Return 115
25 Not There Yet 120
26 Spreading the News 124
27 Homecoming 126
28 The Ultra-Real 129
29 A Common Experience 131
30 Back from the Dead 136
31 Three Camps 140
32 A Visit to Church 147
33 The Enigma of Consciousness 149
34 A Final Dilemma 162
35 The Photograph 165
Reading List 177
Appendix A Statement Scott Wade, M.D. 183
Appendix B Neuroscientific Hypotheses I Considered to Explain My Experience 185
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Eben Alexander M. D. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
As a neurosurgeon schooled in some of the most elite institutions of the American scientific community, Dr. Eben Alexander considered himself an “unbeliever”—one who did not believe in God, Heaven or an afterlife. He was confident that the brain was the ultimate source of consciousness and all reports of experiences in the “spiritual realm” were unsupportable from a scientific perspective. Everything changed, though, on November 10, 2008, when a splitting headache landed him in an emergency room and ultimately a seven-day coma. In Proof of Heaven, Dr. Alexander recounts the story of those seven days and the spiritually transforming experience that occurred during them. When he awakened from his coma, his old certainties about the nonexistence of the afterlife were gone.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Do you know anyone who had a Near Death Experience (NDE)? What was your attitude toward their experience when they described it to you?
2. How does the fact that the author (Eben Alexander) is a physician (neurosurgeon) influence your attitude toward his story of his NDE?
3. In chapter 10, “What Counts,” the author shares some of his family history and how, after learning some news about his birth parents as an adult, he lost his “last, half-acknowledged hope that there was some personal element in the universe. . .” Do you identify with that hope? Has there been a time in your life when that hope was either confirmed or lost?
4. On pp. 57–58, the author poses these questions: “Was there a force or intelligence watching out for all of us? Who cared about humans in a truly loving way?” How would you answer those questions? How have you come to those answers?
5. In chapter 11, “An End to the Downward Spiral,” the author describes the impact of meeting his birth family and learning about aspects of his life story that he had not previously known about. Why do you think these experiences had such a significant impact on his sense of well-being? Have you ever had an experience in which you learned new things about your own life story? How did your experience change you?
6. On page 71, the author puts into words the wordless message he received during his NDE. “You are loved and cherished. You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.” How does this message make you feel? What emotions do you experience when you read the words? Do you believe they are true?
7. On page 73, the author asserts that “. . . certain members of the scientific community, who are pledged to the materialist worldview, have insisted again and again that science and spirituality cannot coexist.” What is the materialist worldview? Do you believe science and spirituality are necessarily opposed? Describe.
8. On page 76, the author states: “The (false) suspicion that we can somehow be separated from God is the root of every form of anxiety in the universe . . .” Do you agree? Why or why not?
9. In chapter 14, the author describes one factor that made his NDE unique. What was this factor? Do you agree with the author that it really does set his experience apart?
10. How does the author’s response to his NDE make you feel about your own faith? Do you agree with his conclusion on page 96: “None of us are ever unloved. Each and every one of us is deeply known and cared for by a Creator who cherishes us beyond any ability we have to comprehend”? How do his conclusions compare and contrast with your understanding of God?
11. What part of Dr. Alexander’s story moved you the most? Describe.
12. Upon his first visit to his Episcopal church after “returning” to his body, Dr. Alexander said: “At last, I understood what religion was really all about. Or at least was supposed to be about. I didn’t just believe in God; I knew God” (p. 148). What do you think is the difference between believing in God and knowing God?
13. In chapter 31, the author describes three varieties of attitude toward NDEs. With which do you most identify? Has reading this book moved you from one group to another?
14. On page 141, the author makes the bold statement that scientists in our society are “the official gatekeepers on the matter of what’s real and what isn’t.” Do you think this is true? If it is, why do you think scientists have been given this kind of authority? Do you think this authority really should belong to scientists? Why or why not?
15. On page 103, the author describes the positive effect his friends’ prayers had during his coma. Does this part of his story resonate with you? Do you have any experience(s) of your own of prayers being effective?
16. How do you feel about the title of the book? Do you think spiritual experiences and realities can be proven? In what ways does the author’s suggestion that a spiritual experience can be proven help or hinder his story’s believability?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. If you know someone who has experienced an NDE, invite them to your next book club meeting and ask them to share their story. How comfortable or uncomfortable is the group with the sense of mystery and the unknown? How do different members of the group respond to things that are beyond our ability to fully comprehend?
2. Keep a month-long log of things you notice in your life that can’t be reduced to material or physical explanations (i.e., anything that happens that has an element of mystery or transcendence). Bring your log to your next book club and discuss the options for how to think about these realities.
3. Read The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, which provides an overview of the eight main worldviews that are held by different individuals in the twentieth century. At your next book club meeting, discuss which worldview you most identify with and why.
4. Think about the power of science in affecting your own beliefs. Are you a person of faith, science, or both? Discuss.
A Conversation with Eben Alexander, M.D.
Why did you decide to become a physician and specifically a neurosurgeon?
My father certainly had a lot to do with it. As I describe in the book, he was a celebrated neurosurgeon who had a huge influence not just on me, but on just about everyone he met. That would have been about the end of it if you’d asked me this question before my NDE. Now it’s a little different. I see my father’s role in my life as part of what you might call my destiny. I think my life this time around was supposed to be about delving into the mystery of consciousness and how it relates to our fundamental understanding of reality.
How has your NDE changed the way you make decisions about how to spend your time and energy each day and the way you relate to others?
I was never much of a time waster. Even when “relaxing” I was usually going in overdrive. That’s even more the case now. I see time as more precious than ever. But at the same time, if something goes wrong, I’m able to take it much more in stride. Every moment of our life is precious beyond measure. But it’s not all we have. There is more—much more—to come.
In terms of relationships with others, everything has changed. I see all those around me as eternal spiritual beings undergoing the glories and trials of the physical world. This does not mean I’m wearing rose-colored glasses, however. Hardship and suffering appear in a clearer focus and in fact hit me harder than they did before. Seeing the world more deeply does not mean filtering the negative out. It just means seeing it in its true context.
Has your NDE impacted the way you practice medicine and/or interact with your patients?
My current schedule has become far too busy with presentations and telling my story to leave time for patient care. I hope to get back to it at some point, but with a different focus. I plan on working with patients who are terminal, in ICU or hospice, and in helping families deal with the impending loss of a loved one. I have so much more to offer them now. I feel that that is one of the main reasons I returned—to share my story and give real comfort to those who need it most.
In the earlier part of your book, you talk about your hope for what you describe as a “personal element in the universe” (p. 57). That hope seems to have been realized in the encounter with a personal Creator that you describe occurring during your NDE (p. 96). Yet you also state that “consciousness is the basis of all that exists” (p. 154), and this has a less personal sound to it. Can you elaborate on this contrast?
Consciousness is a primary aspect of the universe and a supreme mystery that transcends all our efforts to capture it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to describe it anyhow, and in doing so we can go more in one direction or another. That is, we can zero in on its less personal aspects or its more personal ones. But the loving Creator I encountered was very definitely not impersonal. At the same time, calling that Creator “personal” is problematic too, because it introduces limitations. The same kind of limitations that are introduced when we use words like “Him” or “Her” or “It” to describe that Creator. The reality of the Divine burns all these terms instantly to ash.
The word “Proof ” in the title has caused controversy. Do you think using this word has helped or hindered you in your efforts to demonstrate the reality of the spiritual world?
I wanted it known that this was not just another NDE story. My experience provides extremely strong evidence that consciousness is not dependent on the cortex. It was proof for me personally, and it has convinced many others. The cortex mediates consciousness while we are on earth, it does not produce it. Of that I am certain. So while I completely understand the difficulties that people have had with the title, in the end I feel it is accurate.
In chapter 32 of the book, you briefly allude to going to church after you recovered an understanding of “what religion was really all about. Or at least was supposed to be about.” Can you say more about what you realized at that moment?
I felt deeply, for the first time in a place of worship, the concrete presence of the Divine. The images and symbols around me struck me with a power that I had never appreciated before. I have since visited many places of worship, both Christian and otherwise, and though the specifics of the settings differ, that core feeling of gratitude to the Divine always comes through.
As a young man you thought science had all the answers. How would you advise a current medical student to approach the argument (popular among scientists) that we are “fast approaching a Theory of Everything (or TOE), which would not seem to leave much room for our soul, or spirit, or for Heaven, and God”? (pp. 153–54).
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that you know all there is to know. The history of science and philosophy is filled with examples of thinkers who were tempted into believing they could do just that. When I was in med school, the thinking was very much: we don’t know everything about the universe yet, but we’re just about to. I now find that idea absolutely laughable in its arrogance and its blindness. We don’t have the first hint about how the universe really works or what’s really in it. We have no idea what dark matter is, we have no idea what consciousness is. We have no idea how many dimensions there are to the universe, how populated or unpopulated they are by other consciousnesses. One could go on. I would advise someone in medical school now to thank their stars they are living in a time when we do know so much about the universe, about the human body, about all manner of things that we were essentially in the dark about just a hundred years ago. But there’s a big difference between feeling grateful about the knowledge we do have and thinking we know everything. We don’t, and never will.
Are you still in touch with your birth family?
Yes I am. My birth family and my adoptive family have become very close, and we have all grown in many wonderful ways as a result of our reunion.
What was the most challenging part of writing your story?
The most challenging part was simply containing my sheer excitement and enthusiasm to tell the world what had happened to me. What I experienced was not new. Many others have caught a glimpse of the realms I encountered during my NDE and told of them. But the medical facts behind my case were new, and once the full force of this came home to me, it was very hard to keep patient during the long process of creating the book. The early drafts read more like a telegram than a book. I gave all the details of what happened to me within the first few pages, because I was just so anxious to tell the reader how amazing it all was. Learning to slow down and do it right was hard. The final manuscript of Proof of Heaven was produced with the help of a friend of mine, a gifted writer named Ptolemy Tompkins, who had written a book, The Modern Book of the Dead, with which I’d identified closely. Along with my editor, Priscilla Painton, Ptolemy showed me that one of the most extraordinary things about my story is that it is just that: a story. It needed to unfold piece by piece and revelation by revelation, just as it did in real life.
How has this experience changed your life?
It has changed everything imaginable in my life. However, I continue to struggle through life’s bumps and surprises like everyone else. Like many people who have undergone a spiritually transformative experience of such magnitude, I have no choice but to live my life as authentically as I can. We must always be true to our hearts.
What is the main thing you hope people take away from reading your story?
That we are far more than physical beings. Not only do we continue to exist after bodily death, but our awareness functions at a much higher level once it is free from the physical limitations of the brain. At the core of our existence is a love for us far grander than we can ever imagine: the infinite, unconditional love of a Divine Creator. That love offers us the power to heal ourselves, our species, our planet and our entire existence.
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As a physician and NDE researcher, I highly recommend this book. Dr. Alexander's book, like Dr. Mary Neal's book, "To Heaven and Back," includes the important elements of an NDE, including recognition of being in a different dimension, meetings with unusual beings, feelings of being accepted and welcomed, and a realization that we are all part of the universe, and carry divine universality in us at all times. Dr. Alexander includes his own research in this great book, conducted after his NDE, where he shows how he is working through the many questions that his experience engendered. His book also shows how he, as a physician, had to let go of engrained thinking about the possibility of NDEs and his colleagues skeptical views of NDE, after surviving his own NDE. A masterful book, beautifully written, and sure to become a classic of true NDE literature. Recommended for all who really want to learn about a true NDE, and about current scientific thinking about NDEs and the directions that NDE research is taking. It is wonderful that, like Dr. Neal, Dr. Alexander does not focus on "religion" in the books. It is interesting to note that the survivors of NDEs do not usually focus on religion as being important. Instead, based on years of talking to them, survivors of true NDEs have moved beyond religion to focus on compassion and humanity, as they have report that there is no religion in the afterlife, but there is a higher consciousness that we are all one, and that goodness and light live in the community of universal consciousness, which erases the people-made divisions of "religion." Please note that to date, no survivor of a true NDE has returned to promote only their religion, or to become hysterical if someone dies and is not a member of that same religion. Survivors of a true NDE report the opposite, and that we are all important in the afterlife, with an emphasis on the divinity found in all of us. Anyone using a story of NDE phenomena to promote their personal view of religion is being misleading, as that is simply marketing with a view to making money, and not truthful reporting of an NDE to increase knowledge and respect for all.
I LOVE this book! Dr. Alexander's story is gripping. I started reading the book last night, and it was very difficult to stop! His writing makes reading almost effortless, and he tells his story as if he were there talking to me. The scientific information is written so that it is very easly understood. I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest of the book!
I am a nurse, so I was able to follow alot of the physiology and the medical challenges Dr. Alexander use to describe his experience. For me, what was most compelling about this book is recognizing how difficult this was to write in light of the fact Dr. Alexander had spent a lifetime substantiating findings with facts; then having only his word to tell others about this incredible experience. This book makes me want to know more about this God that Dr. Alexander now knows so intimately. I came away a little envious of the experience - how absolutely blessed he was to get this opportunity. Thank you Dr. Alexander for sharing this experience.
I've been studying quantum mechanics for a while, and this book is right on. I would venture to say, life changing. And if you've ever suffered a great loss, this book will give you great comfort.
This is a nice read for those that cling to the idea that nde's are brain chemistry at work and scoff at the idea of life after death. Clearly the authors brain was gone... yet they still scoff and deny. I was hoping to read more about his nde experience but the book was written to try to inform "scientific" types that nde's are real...too much talk about his illness and family....not enough about what he experienced beyond. I was expecting more but understand why he did so... I am always amazed how some are so big inside that they can't see beyond themselves. They close themselves off to possibilities beyond man and his ideas....this is a good book for those very people ...to at least entertain the idea that the universe is beyond the human mind and always will be ... man's science flip flops constantly...God does not. The scientists cant cure the common cold but decided that nde are all in the mind...i wonder what fool or group of fools decided to put that into the textbooks. Tg for people that are willing to go against the crowd or we would still be living on a flat earth ..this author did a fine and honest job of telling what he learned ...outside of man's ever changing, flawed textbooks..
I couldn't wait to read this book. Being a medical practicioner myself, I was excited that the author was a practicing neurosurgeon who, by his own admission was lacking in faith. What I expected was a convincing monologue on why he could really prove the existance of an afterlife. What I got, instead, was a treatise on meningitis and ICU psychosis along with a life's history and confessions of insecurity about being put up for adoption by parents who later married and had other children. Dr. Alexander's description of heaven was minimal, inadequate and bizarre. Don't waste your money.
The only thing that stopped me reading was the need to wipe my eyes. My tears were blurring my vision. Though—especially if you are in the medical profession—you still might not believe in heaven, I don't think it's possible for anyone to read this book and not believe in love.
From the reviews I thought this book would be controversial, but I found it to be highly enjoyable. I guess some people know exactly how "heaven" is "supposed" to be... I thought this book was both thought provoking and well written, and I would recommend it to others who choose to live with a scientific, and ever expanding, open mind.
I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of this book only to be disapponted after reading it. If i wanted to know so much about mengitis we would not have bought it but we wanted to know about his out of body experience to heaven, not much of that in this book. Most of the contents of the book is the index which relates to the books the author read before publishing his own. Many of those books offer a farther in depth view of what proof there is of heaven than this book leads me to believe. If you want an autobiography of a neurosurgeon's life who was adopted and survived a deadly disease, this for you. I would suggest other books for stronger proof that heaven is for real.
A truely remarkable book written by a remarkable man. Dr. Alexander is a highly educated and respected Neurosurgeon and as such his thought process is based in scientific fact. His story is amazing and miraculous to say the least. He presents his experiences through a Doctor's scientistific eyes and does it so that the average person understands and can believe. He is able to present the vastness of the universe and the connectedness of all that it entails. His book is truely his testament and answers some of life's greatest questions. *This was a GoodReads win
This is a fascinating story....all true....of a physician's journey from near-death, back to life and the amazing trip and experience that it was for him. I am also a physician and while from the standpoint of 'facts,' 'proof,' and 'truth' the story does not have the usual scientific credibility and validity that any scientist would demand, still the story is compelling. I have been involved in acute care in the hospital setting for many years and have seen many things over that time that made no scientific sense to me. I believe in things that I cannot necessarily see, feel and prove. There remains much that we do not know. I have had personal experiences that make me except Dr. Alexander's 'proof' of different worlds, habitats, and environments that our souls or spirits may experience. Said another way, we most often think of this sort of thing as we human beings have a spiritual experience. Perhaps it is more correct to say that we are all spirits who are having temporary experience as a human being.
Exciting but only for the open minded If you are a searcher you will be fascinated and uplifted
Sweet story of unconditional love.
You will get the most out of it if you read it with an open mind.
What sets this book apart is the fact that Dr. Alexander is a neurosurgeon with great knowledge of what makes up consciousness. The parts of his brain that would create experiences like he underwent (such as in a dream state) were not functional at the time he experienced them. He is also a man of science and a skeptic, who changed his views completely after experiencing this. This transformation is interesting and notable. His descriptions of heaven are vivid, uplifting, and fascinating. Dr. Eben Alexander, a prominent neurosurgeon at Harvard University, has written a fascinating book about his near-death experience. At the age of 54, he contracted a severe form of E. Coli meningitis, which aggressively attacked his cortex, or the portion of the brain that supplies conscious, rational thought. He slipped into a coma, but instead of experiencing nothing, like in deep sleep, Dr. Alexander describes a journey to heaven. It helps explain on a deeper level why it was so painful for Jesus to be separated from God even if only for a short while. That once you have been there you realize that while life in this realm(earthly)is precious, what is ahead is so much better. That we realize the fear of this new place or what happens next is completely unfounded. Sort of like a child's first day of school....by the afternoon most love what they initially feared and never look back to the time before as "better". As someone who has experienced an NDE, and struggled with many of the same things that Eben discusses here, I am not surprised at the response that many are having to this book. To say "people who have NDE experiences often find the telling of their story, while trying to impart the information they receive during their experience, a difficult task," would be an understatement as vast as the universe.
Those who really want to believe will believe. Those who do not, will not. And all of these reviews are just that, the result of open or closed minds. I don't necessarily believe Dr. Alexander's story, but I do believe that people either want to believe in God or they don't. These reviews demonstrate nothing more than that.
Dr. Alexander's "proof" is a self-report of a mystical experience he had. To believe that what he says if "proof of heaven" you have to believe that his self-report is true. The self-reported events occurred while he was unconscious in the hospital, and when he awakened from that unconsciousness he experienced a kind of "ICU psychosis" that he eventually recovered from. Additionally, he states that his NDE (near death experience) was more profound that anyone else has ever had. Exactly how could he know that? What he has to say could have been said concisely in one chapter, but he has added enough fluff to make a book out of it. He notes that he is still gaining additional understanding of his profound experience, so I am guessing that there will be another book with more supposed insights. I am both a spiritual and cynical person, and I am not convinced that this is not just another attempt to make money by feeding on people's fear of death and sense of unknowing about what does or doesn't happen after we die.
I expected this book to be inspirational. Instead it was egotistical. Perhaps this "NDE" would have been better as a short story. The author spent too much time talking about himself and his family in a way that was unjustified in his near death experience. What was most embarassing to read was the almost competitiveness in which the author claimed his experience was "real" compared to anything else out there. He even wrote that he was the exception to all other experiences because he had such an unusual medical experience. Instead of justifying his case, he came off as unapproachable and egoistic. I'm sorry this story had to be told in such a way. Not a recommendation of mine. "Life after Life" and "The Light Beyond" are writing in a much less self-serving way for the public.
I really wanted to believe, I did. The whole book felt fake and contrived. It feels like it was written by someone who knew it would be an easy sell to suckers like me who are skeptical but want to believe.
This, is an awesome book!
Om?? REALLY? Reading and verifying Dr.Eben's account* reveal 3 facts. #1. He died #2. Heaven is NOT where Dr.Eben went. #3. There is an afterlife *Read "Decieved by the Light"
A good read from an unusual perspective. What makes this story even more unusual is that the author seems to have made it his new calling -giving talks and setting up a web site. I don't know about all the other reviews but I for one would never doubt what someone else had experienced. The author and other writers had said that heaven cannot be put into words or described in mortal terms. That for me hints at something more than our physical world. There are no experts only people of faith who don't choose to know who's experience is real.
When Dr. Eben Alexander, M.D. went to bed On 9 November 2008 his back was achy, when he awoke the next morning at 4:30, the pain was severe. By 9:30 of that morning he was in a coma. What began as a small discomfort was the early onset of a deadly disease. When an otherwise healthy individual contracts spontaneous E. coli bacterial meningitis (a 1 in 10,000,000 occurrence), spends seven days in a coma and fully recovers (90% of the individuals who suffer this malady die, the remaining 10% remain in a sustained vegetative state), “miracle” is the only fitting term. The fact of his survival remains unprecedented in the annals of Medical Journals. What is most remarkable, however, was what he experienced while in the coma. Dr. Alexander is convinced that he spent those seven days in a place “more real” and “more beautiful,” where he learned without limits or filters of matters that will take him “the rest of his life to sort out,” and which he understood Love is the core of the universe; he visited what is commonly called “Heaven.” His difficulty in describing exactly what he saw was a matter of limited speech. (How does one describe chocolate to one whom has never tasted that treat? How to relate the vastness of the Grand Canyon to someone who has never seen a valley? These are the difficulties Dr. Alexander faces in trying to relate his experience.) He possesses the intelligence, the vocabulary and the ability to relate difficult concepts clearly (he has been a medical researcher and neurosurgeon for over 25 years) yet he is greatly limited to the use of inadequate tools to detail the glories he saw. The description he was able to present caused my heart to race – THAT is how magnificent what he saw was. After he recovered he researched Near Death Experiences, a field of rich documentation, spanning decades and multiple cultural strata, that he has ignored because he “knew the about NDEs without caring about the facts.” The last 50 pages of the text are devoted to his speaking of the medical validation of his experience. As a skeptical scientist, he knows the difficulty before him as he speaks to his fellow scientists of what he learned. He argues a strong case. As a therapist, I was skeptical of many of the events/details Dr. Alexander posits in this book. His was a VERY sick brain, under unimaginable stress. I have seen what that organ can make up when people are under far less stress. His ending the book addressing many of the questions I pondered was a help. His brain, according to his illness, was not stressed, the parts of his brain that “caused” him to be human “WERE OFF LINE,” they were unavailable to create hallucinations/dreams/logic. In other words, he was not capable of making up the elaborate events during his illness. As a Theologian, much of what he said resonated deeply within me. His speaking of all things being connected, of his “being a part of all there is,” reminded me of some of the profound Spiritual moments in my life. I want to believe there is a place where my Grandfather Stonecypher can hear, where my Mom-by-Marriage can remember my name, where my Uncle Ted can see. A place, as the old hymn states, “of quiet rest, near to the heart of God.” A home where the greeting is, as it was for Dr. Alexander: “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.” “You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.” (p.41) That is the message of hope upon which my theology stands.
This was not a biblical account but a personal account of what Dr. Eben Alexander experienced. If you are looking for a by the numbers book( based on scripture) this isn't it. It is well written and thought provoking. It left me feeling like he shared an intimate part of his spiritual experience and I appreciated every minute of it.
When I started this book I was fascinated by the three different plots of the book: the illness itself, how his family coped during the experience, and then his experience in the coma. I did notice some differences between his views of heaven and my religious experience, but it didn't take away from the overall message of the book. This novel combines religion and science without forcing any kind of opinion upon the reader. Definitely a must read!