Midweek Mysticism: Neuroscientist goes to heaven
Dr Eben Alexander, a Harvard-educated neurosurgeon, has written a compelling article in Newsweek magazine, Heaven is Real, on his experiences when he was effectively brain dead.
He writes: “In the fall of 2008 … after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.” Note the wording: a scientific reason.
That consciousness continues after death, and also out-of-body-but-alive states — which is experientially the same thing — is well attested here on this site, including many of my own experiences. It’s good though to have one of the “enemy”, a neuroscientist, on board. Follow the link above to read the four-page article.
Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia, a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain. … For seven days I lay in a deep coma, my body unresponsive, my higher-order brain functions totally offline.
He continues, “There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. … my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe.”
It’s interesting that Dr Alexander continually refers to this dimension as “the afterlife”, so certain is he that this will be his experience following his actual bodily death. Many mystics, and others who have had similar episodes, will confirm his diagnosis. It is as “real” as the world around us right now.
Actually, there’s no reason to suppose that this life is not a spiritual experience too, a sort of Out of Bounds course to make us ready for higher states of being.
But back to Alexander’s account: what he experienced was a full-blown tour of “heaven”, beyond intermediate states, which often occurs very close to death. Remember, his brain was being eaten alive by bacteria and the thinking/emotional part was completely closed down. This was the big bazooka.
In this life many people get introductions to higher-level states. The first serious one is being bathed in “divine light”. Beyond that lies an initial tentative out-of-body excursion which includes the powerful moment of an address by a superior being. For both experiences, one remains in touch with this world and can see it.
Alexander had temporarily lost his brain-led ability to be in this world. His spirit/consciousness simply floated up into levels above where others were aware of his plight and greeted and guided him, as described in the article.
As he so eloquently puts it: “My near-death experience … took place not while my cortex was malfunctioning, but while it was simply off. … According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.”
There are many such testimonies around describing in minute detail the glories of an afterlife. Science, as always, crowds them out, either from a belief (and it is a belief) that they are plain wrong, or from a deep prejudice that they cannot be right.
If we — the human race — are fully to come to terms with this life as it truly is, we must stop listening to the wilder fringes of scientific opinion, such as Richard Dawkins, and accept that “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in [their] philosophy”.
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
The Mystic in the 21st Century is coming soon.
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