‘Proof of Heaven’: Neurosurgeon turns NDE into fascinating read for skeptics, believers

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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Your mind can not be trusted because you are not your mind

Science mind

In a strange turn of events, the conservative guy who doesn’t believe in science (Didn’t anyone tell you us conservatives don’t believe in science?) was catching up on his regular reading of the “I F**king Love Science” Facebook page and thought he’d share it on his little old blog.

Consider the following procedures:

The Ganzfeld Procedure:

At first this sounds like a bad practical joke. Begin by turning the radio to a station playing static. Then lie down on the couch and tape a pair of halved ping-pong balls over your eyes. Within minutes, you should begin to experience bizarre set of sensory distortions. Some people see horses prancing in the clouds, or hear the voice of a dead relative. It turns out that the mind is addicted to sensation, so that when there’s little to sense — that’s the purpose of the ping pong balls and static — your brain ends up inventing its own.

The Incredible Shrinking Hand:

Last month, researchers at Oxford University announced the discovery of a powerful new painkiller: inverted binoculars. The scientists found that subjects who looked at a wounded hand through the wrong end of binoculars, making the hand appear smaller, felt significantly less pain and even experienced decreased swelling. According to the researchers, this demonstrates that even basic bodily sensations such as pain are modulated by what we see. So next time you stub your toe or cut your finger, do yourself a favor: look away.

The Rubber Hand Illusion:

If you happen to have a rubber arm in the closet, then this hallucination is for you. Begin by hiding your actual arm behind a box on a table so that you can’t see it. Then arrange the fake arm on the table, so that from your point of view it looks like it could be your hidden arm.

A friend should then stroke both the real hand and the rubber hand in the same place and at the same time. After a few minutes, you should feel like the fake limb has become your own flesh.

Then have your friend stab the rubber hand, or hit it with a hammer: You will feel a powerful jolt of anxiety and pain, since your brain is convinced that the rubber hand is real.

Science is great, but it has its limits. Worse, hubris leads researchers to believe that through their five (often unreliable) senses they could unlock all the mysteries of the universe. For many, science is just as much of a religion as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism.

One of the questions I often have for my skeptical friends is: How do you know that there aren’t forces in motion that are operating on levels beyond the understanding of your fives senses? A tape recorder is made to understand the world through sound waves, but that doesn’t mean that light waves don’t exist. Likewise, we (the elegant machines we are) understand the world through sight, sound, touch, smell and taste — but it’s very possible the world is made up of “matter” that our senses can not detect.

As the “I F**king Love Science” page points out, the mind is apparently “addicted to sensation” — so much so that it will “invent” sensation when you try and cut it off.

Another way of saying all of this is that your ego is addicted to sensation. But you are not your ego. You are much, much more. Many people have so much faith in science that they refuse to explore these questions, and as a result they become a slave to their ego.

A host of faiths have asserted for ages that there is a “self” operating behind the ego, and those who have become more in tune with it have used that connection to greatly enrich their lives (and the lives of others).

As I’ve pointed out before, it is no coincidence that television programming encourages you to run up the credit card for things you don’t need. The brain is addicted to sensation, and with that comes an addiction to gadgets and gizmos, designer clothes and fancy cars. At that point, you are a slave to other men and organizations that do not have your best interest in mind.

The person who can observe reality from a higher level of consciousness does not care about celebrities and video games, gossip and politics. The person who is in tune with his oneness with the universe and cognizant of his own higher being is not easily pitted against his fellow man. He can not be exploited by politicians. He thinks for himself and follows the path his heart instructs him to follow.

You were meant to accomplish great things. You have a higher purpose, but modern society is geared towards getting you to deny who and what your really are. Whether it’s through meditation, reading the wisdom of Lao Tzu, familiarizing yourself with the teachings of Jesus or simply opting for your friendly neighborhood Google search engine, I encourage you to explore the interconnectedness between science and spirituality even further. If you do, I believe you will be well on your way to realizing your full potential.