Proof of Heaven—do not let the title fool you that this is a Christian tome about streets of gold and pearly gates. Eben Alexander, M.D., a well-respected neurosurgeon, saw many medical cases in which patients claimed to have seen deceased loved ones or heaven. He dismissed them all as chemical processes in the brain—until he had his own near-death experience while in a seven-day coma. Alexander states that while in his coma his neo-cortex was non-functional. The only thing keeping his body alive was his brain stem.
Alexander says he was a Christmas and Easter church-goer, and thought ideas of God were pleasant fantasies. In his coma, however, Alexander experienced angelic beings, and sounds and sights more beautiful than anything on earth. He gives a list of scientific explanations that he used to cite as reasons for these “delusions,” and refutes most of them because his neo-cortex was not functional and it’s the neo-cortex that processes such experiences. He also refutes other scientific versions in an appendix, with medical language that only a physician would understand.
Alexander was in a coma induced by bacterial meningitis, and his recovery was a medical miracle in itself. He should have died and his story alternates chapters between his medical condition that worsened day-by-day, and his concurrent experiences in the other realm.
While on the “other side,” which Alexander states is really a dimension that is right here, he had a female guide who took him on a tour of the universe. He’d always had a fascination with flying, astronomy and physics, and found that while out of body he gained instantaneous knowledge and understanding of how the universe works that would take him years to learn here. He reports that he did not see any loved ones in the other dimension and had no personal identity as a neurosurgeon who had an earthly family to which he wanted to return. He feels his lack of a sense of personal self allowed him to go deeper into the experience than most others who have near-death experiences. While he thought he had not seen any loved ones, once out of his coma he was given a picture of his birth sister, whom he’d never met because he was adopted and she had died. He was shocked to find that she was the angelic guide who gave him the tour of the universe.
Alexander states that our physical existence on earth is like a speck of dust compared to the vast reality of love beyond space and time. The reason we do not recognize true reality is that the brain filters it out of our consciousness. While Alexander used to think that consciousness was solely of the brain, he now knows that the brain has nothing to do with consciousness and our sense of existence goes on beyond the body. Again, he knows this because his neo-cortex, which allows for the organization of personal life information, was not functioning. He now feels that our society, while it has benefitted from technology, needs to regain its lost sense of the mystical. Without knowledge of our oneness with each other and all life, we are prone to random violence, escalating greed, global pollution and lack of purpose and meaning.
Alexander states his scientific mind never allowed him to believe a loving God exists. In fact, he calls the God he experienced “Om,” a feminine presence whose message is that love is all there is. “Om” felt like the primordial creative sound that pulses throughout the universe. This presence is available to everyone and has nothing to do with accepting religious tenets or being a good person. The main messages Alexander received were: all of us are loved and cherished; there is nothing to fear; we can never do anything wrong.
I have read a number of near-death accounts and what I like about Alexander’s is that his description of life beyond the body most closely resembles what is taught in A Course in Miracles (ACIM). ACIM is the only spiritual path that satisfactorily answered my questions about world suffering. Some of the areas in which Proof of Heaven sounds like it’s right from ACIM are:
Ø The brain does not really think. It filters bits and pieces of information and formulates a story. This is what it decides is reality, all the while true reality lies outside its awareness. Our daily experiences are an illusion. However, love is the true reality and the love we have for our children, spouses, friends, pets, etc. never dies.
Ø Time does not exist in reality. Time and space are only a function of the dualistic nature in the physical universe.
Ø We are loved, innocent and there is nothing to fear.
Ø We must choose love instead of fear because we are allowed to choose what we will experience.
Ø The false belief in separation from God is the source of all anxiety and problems and the solution for every problem is recognizing that we are one with each other and God.
Ø Physicality is characterized by defensiveness. There is no loss in Spirit, therefore nothing to defend.
Ø Alexander described life as being like an egg and the creative aspect of God is the shell around the egg’s contents. However, he felt that while his consciousness was identified with all that is, he could never fully become one with Source. A Course in Miracles likewise indicates that God is beyond consciousness.
Proof of Heaven is both enlightening and entertaining and it is a must-read for anyone interested in life beyond the body. It is especially helpful for skeptics with a scientific bent, as it answers commonly-held criticisms scientists hold about consciousness and God.