Proof of Heaven

Skeptics have fascinated me for many years because they will often hear a supernatural story from a trusted source — a long-time friend who no history of mental illness or a reason to lie — and still find ways to dismiss it. Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who also worked at Harvard Medical School in Boston, was one of those skeptics until he contracted a case of E. coli meningitis, which attacked his brain and left him in a coma for seven days.

What makes Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife such a compelling read is that its author a.) was a secular man, b.) is a doctor who specializes in the brain, and c.) knows that his illness attacked the very parts of the brain that give skeptics an “out” in terms of believing that neath death experiences (NDEs) offer proof of the spirit world.

Dr. Alexander’s NDE is important because he isn’t just some random guy who drowned and was resuscitated; it is important because he knows about “endogenous glutamate blockade with excitotoxicity,” the limbic system, the lateral amygdala, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) “dumps,” cortical function, etc.

In short, he is not a man who can be “out-scienced” because he has dedicated his life to medicine.

Random blog posts by a lucid dreamer who was visited by a floating purple orb can be easily dismissed — but a Near Death Experience by a neurosurgeon with over 25 years experience, who uses science to back his claims, is much more difficult to deny.

Dr. Alexander says at one point:

Depending on whom you talk to, consciousness is either the greatest mystery facing scientific enquiry, or a total non-problem. What’s surprising is just how many more scientists think it’s the latter. For many — maybe most — scientists, consciousness isn’t really worth worry about because it is just a by-product of physical processes. Many scientists go further, saying that not only is consciousness a secondary phenomenon, but that in addition, it’s not even real.

Many leaders in the neuroscience of consciousness and the philosophy of the mind, however, would beg to differ. Over the last few decades, they have come to recognize that ‘hard problem of consciousness.’

Like many other scientific skeptics, I refused to even review the data relevant to the questions concerning these [supernatural] phenomena. I prejudged the data, and those providing it, because my limited perspective failed to provide the foggiest notion of how such things might actually happen. Those who assert that there is no evidence for phenomena indicative of extended consciousness, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, are willfully ignorant. They believe they know the truth without needing to look at the facts.”

For those still stuck in the trap of scientific skepticism, I recommend the book Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, published in 2007. The evidence for out-of-body consciousness is well presented in this rigorous scientific analysis. Irreducible Mind is a landmark opus from a highly reputable group, the Division of Perceptual Studies, based at the University of Virginia.” — Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven, (Simon and Schuster, 2012), 151-153.

I do not want to spoil any details of the doctor’s experience in the spirit realm, so I will refrain from mentioning them here. I will say, however, that Proof of Heaven is a quick and worthwhile read for anyone interested in the subject matter. The paperback edition is $16 for a new copy, but it is money well spent.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

7 comments

  1. interesting. In truth our own scientific understanding of the universe is fraught with our hubris and ego. Most of the scientific community is convinced it knows all there is to know, that there is no new frontier to discover other than things that further support what we already know or support one’s bias.

    We surely don’t live in an age of discovery and wonder about God’s work, we are lost in morass, trying to explain away what they don’t understand…and obeying political masters who will only fund if they think right.

    Me and a close friend use to argue these points while working at a jet engine test system, those long days working hard both mentally and physically (complex pressure and flow calculations, heavy fuel hoses and heavy equipment) gave us a lot of warm up for discussing such things. For him, the fact the universe had order and that we could perceive it with the sciences was proof that there was no God. For me, as a former atheist, it was irrefutable proof that there is. The only real difference between us was that I saw the possibilities in what we did not know yet, while he dismissed them as irrelevant. The Atheist always argues that we should only believe what we can see and touch…when even insects can perceive our world better than we can and most of the world we live in is unseen. I won the argument…but I guess one person at a time.

    1. “In truth our own scientific understanding of the universe is fraught with our hubris and ego. Most of the scientific community is convinced it knows all there is to know, that there is no new frontier to discover other than things that further support what we already know or support one’s bias.”

      Dr. Alexander does briefly go into those who think that a “Reality of Everything” (ROE) model is only a matter of time on a long enough timeline. It sounds like a Douglas Adams novel…but yes, when you follow the logic they’re essentially factoring consciousness into that and saying free will is a lie.

      “Me and a close friend use to argue these points while working at a jet engine test system, those long days working hard both mentally and physically (complex pressure and flow calculations, heavy fuel hoses and heavy equipment) gave us a lot of warm up for discussing such things. I won the argument…but I guess one person at a time.”

      You couldn’t be more right about “one person at a time,” which is why most people never even go there. Once a person has let a certain mindset calcify, it often takes years and years to get them to accept something that contradicts it. On political issues, that is why it irritates me so much when I know that I have made a (very slow, but steady) difference, and then certain well-known figures drop rhetorical nukes on a daily basis…

      Like you, I look at science as proof God exists. The more I learn about the universe and how mind-boggling complex — yet connected — it is, the more my faith is strengthened.

  2. This sort of book has a bad reputation these days because of the rash of “heaven tourism” stuff put out by (usually) Pentecostal people claiming their 3 year old kid saw heaven. There was a big one a few years back (written by a guy actually named Malarkey, no joke), and the son who allegedly died, went to heaven, saw rainbow horses and sat on Jesus’ lap, repudiated it once he was a young adult. He said he had made it up, then elaborated on it as he saw how happy and excited it made his dad and others.

    I stick with the Resurrection of Christ. It’s not as jazzy as rainbow horses, and more of an argument from reliable authority, but the authority is very reliable.

    1. “This sort of book has a bad reputation these days because of the rash of “heaven tourism” stuff put out by (usually) Pentecostal people claiming their 3 year old kid saw heaven. There was a big one a few years back (written by a guy actually named Malarkey, no joke), and the son who allegedly died, went to heaven, saw rainbow horses and sat on Jesus’ lap, repudiated it once he was a young adult. He said he had made it up, then elaborated on it as he saw how happy and excited it made his dad and others.”

      You won’t get any arguments from me on that one. That’s why I have never done a blog post on little kids who may have been exploited by their parents. 😉

      “I stick with the Resurrection of Christ. It’s not as jazzy as rainbow horses, and more of an argument from reliable authority, but the authority is very reliable.”

      Wise choice.

      The reason why I think stories like this are important is because not everyone is like you. How do you reach the person who has adopted science as his religion? You can scream about the Resurrection until you’re blue in the face, but there are some people whose eyes will glaze over the moment you say the name “Jesus.” Is that your problem? On some level, no. However, there is a certain mentality among many Christians (I’m not accusing of you of this), that irks me. It’s like, “I got mine. I already know the TRUTH.”

      When I die, I fully anticipate God to something along the lines of, “I appreciate that you preached to the choir — that’s nice — but what did you do to open the hearts of atheists? What kind of patience and effort and creativity did you show with them?”

      Even if one tries to totally dismiss Dr. Alexander’s NDE, the medical story is fascinating. From a scientific point of view, he should have never had such an experience in that coma because his brain was, for all intents and purposes, fried. And when he did come out of his coma, he should have never recovered like he did. He should be a shell of his former self — but that didn’t happen. He’s perfectly fine. In fact, he was transformed for the better. It’s a very thought-provoking story.

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