Proof of Heaven
A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Eben Alexander, M.D.
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A SCIENTIST’S CASE FOR THE AFTERLIFE
Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people.
A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDEs, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.
Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human— shut down completely. For seven days Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.
Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts 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.
This story sounds like the wild and wonderful imaginings of a skilled fantasy writer. But it is not fantasy. Before Alexander underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. That difficulty with belief created an empty space that no professional triumph could erase. Today he 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.
Disappointed by Assumptions
First let me say that as a catholic I really wanted to believe that Dr. Alexander had a near-death experience and visited God in Heaven. I also believe that as a scientist and physician he adds credibility to his experience.
My issues with his account and his book, however, are the following:
(1) As an emergency physician at a very large academic teaching hospital and medical school, I've treated hundreds of cardiac arrest patients and have, unfortunately, declared many more people dead who arrived in this state than I've saved (as every EM physician would attest). And while I respect Dr. Alexander as an accomplished neurosurgeon, nowhere in his book did he discuss any scientific evidence that his neocortical function was shut down, other than being in a comatose state and having a brain soaking in pus. Was an EEG performed that showed no brainwave activity? I assume that one was (performed) because without it one could easily argue that he had at least some residual cortical activity that could be generating a hallucinogenic-like state. As someone who has removed patients from life support who had neither cortical or brainstem function, I kept waiting to hear which tests had been done to confirm no cortical function. I truly hope that an EEG was performed because I really do want to believe that his experience was one outside the realm of consciousness associated with the brain.
(2) Dr. Alexander's account of heaven, while very beautiful and reassuring, was also somewhat bizarre. While it is what it is, his description of Heaven sounded like someone undergoing an endorphin-like experience. In fact his description of the Realm of the Earthworm's Eye View completely lost me and really made me believe that this was a dream or hallucination. And his description of being able to control his movement from this realm to the dark core by simply focusing on the visible floating melody made me more convinced that this experience originated from the brain. It was if he could control what part of his experience he was experiencing. Other NDE accounts seem to corroborate each other at least somewhat. None seemed so wildly bizzare and almost fantasy-like as Dr Alexander's. The whole account of being a speck on a butterfly's wing really sounded like a story from someone experiencing a hallucination. Again, I am not trying to be critical because I do believe that Dr. Alexander believes he experienced what he experienced. But while I continued to read his description I couldn't overcome the fact that he never explained (at least to my satisfaction) why he believed he had no cortical function AT ALL.
(3) Maybe I'm simply inpatient but while I was reading the book I kept thinking "Get on with it!" While there were some interesting human and family stories weaved throughout the book, there was simply too much filler and not enough substance. I kept waiting for it to get better but it never did.
Instead of spending time on the description of the actual experience, there was too much emphasis put on his interpretation of the experience and the family's response to his illness. I would have rather read more about the lessons that he learned from the experience and how it has impacted and changed his life.
So finally, I would have to say that overall I give this book 2 stars out of 5. I do think that it is a heartfelt account of a NDE and like I said I respect Dr. Alexander and all that he went through. As a catholic I believe in heaven. I just wish his book made my faith even stronger.
Words can't describe the power of this book
This book is about love. Unconditional and selfless love for oneself, and for every living thing we encounter throughout our life.
It's well written, well researched, and eloquently crafted. Be careful this book may change your life forever.
I kept reading this book because I kept hoping the author would give us more vivid details about his experiences in Heaven but instead he went on and on about his family and how skeptical he was beforehand and how important it was to him to get his story out. What story? Where are the details of Heaven? Less family, more Proof!