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11Oct 2012

Heaven is "Real": A Doctor's Experience of the Afterlife

Heaven is "Real": A Doctor's Experience of the Afterlife

If you've been wondering, you can now put yourself at ease: Heaven is real. 

That comforting end to a discussion lasting thousands of years comes not from an evangelical group, not from a pastor, not from a mystic or a saint--but from the cover of this week's Newsweek and its online counterpart The Daily Beast.

The story wastes no time telling us the author of the story, Eben Alexander, is a neurosurgeon at Harvard, and the son of a neurosurgeon. "I grew up in a scientific world... and had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death." Their "strange stories...didn't mean they had journeyed anywhere real." No religion or mysticism for him, in other words: He's a scientist

But his interpretation of those out-of-body journeys changed in 1968 2008, when he slipped into a coma for seven days after contracting bacterial meningitis. During those seven days, he had an out-of-body experience of his own. And that gave him "a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death." He is telling the story, he says, with "the logic and language of the scientist I am."

Here's his scientific argument for the existence of an afterlife:

While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.

That's it for the science. No tables, charts or graphs, no data, no publications in scientific journals.

Having proved his case, Alexander then goes on to describe the experience. The highlight was a message about the secret of life, delivered in an unearthly language by a young woman with high cheekbones, deep-blue eyes and golden tresses. I know if I kept you in suspense you'd just skip ahead, so here it is, in Alexander's words:

The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I’d say they ran something like this:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”

“You have nothing to fear.”

“There is nothing you can do wrong.”

I have kept you in suspense about one thing. As you might have suspected, this is an excerpt from a forthcoming bookProof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, to be published later this month by Simon & Schuster. At this writing, it's No. 5 on the Amazon bestseller list, and it's not out yet.

Neither Simon & Schuster nor Newsweek/Daily Beast provided much information about Alexander, but his LinkedIn page identifies him as chief science officer at Eternea, in Lynchburg, Va. Eternea's web page says it is a "research, educational and outreach organization" and its "mission is to advance research, education and applied programs concerning the physics of consciousness and the interactive relationship between consciousness and physical reality (e.g. matter and energy), and to enhance the understanding of spiritually transformative experiences."

I have no quibble with others' religious beliefs. Those who choose to accept Alexander's interpretation of his experiences are welcome to do so, as far as I'm concerned. 

But I strongly object to Alexander's, and Newsweek/Beast's and Simon & Schuster's collusion in dressing this up as scientific evidence for heaven, golden-locked lasses, and out-of-body experiences. There is nothing scientific about Alexander's claims or his"proof." We are all demeaned, and our national conversation is demeaned, by people who promote this kind of thing as science.

This is religious belief; nothing else.

I wouldn't bother to argue science with creationists who believe the world was made in six days; their beliefs are unshakeable. But the editors at Newsweek/Beast and Simon & Schuster should know better. I have no doubt that all of the parties involved will make a large amount of money from this project--money that will not, I suspect, be accepted as legal tender in their glittering afterlives.

-Paul Raeburn






Hypothesis #1:  Qi (spiritual energy) = Aether (scientific name for same energy)

The difference between the two:  

Qi ~ Believed to exist based on faith

Aether ~ Yet to be fully proved, but believed by some to exist

What is the difference between a hypothesis and faith?  There isn't one really.  In both cases, something yet to be "proven" is believed to be true.  So you see, the Great Divide between the spiritual community and the scientific community is not so wide as some perceive.

True to, what I am finding, is your typical, cynical and generally dysthymic writing style.  No, I didn't log in today to poke fun at that.  Where I do take issue, however, is in the fact that you twisted the "facts".  Here is why:

1)  Mr. Alexander stated that he now believes in heaven.  There was no mention of his sudden conversion from science to religion.

2)  According to the information you provided in this article, there is no information that Mr. Alexander has a sudden belief in God either, only that he now believes in heaven.

I suppose we can attribute this to the fact that you, in your own bias, believe that God must be synonymous with heaven and religion.  Not all people who believe in spirituality, believe your assumptions to be true.  The unfortunate, and blaring fact in this instance, is that you allow your assumptions to get in the way of true science.

Science is the study of facts, and that which is provable, is it not?  Why then, negate the possibility that there are some aspects of spirituality that overlap with science.  You are doing no favors to either community by trying to sway the masses to conform to your set of beliefs.  That is not true journalism, as true journalism is unbiased, as true science should be as well.  

It is fine to believe the facts that are provable, but you must leave open the possibility that you do not have ALL of the facts.  In history, science and spirituality were one.  They worked together, in tandem.  Note:  I did not say religion.  Why do we continue to keep the two so fully divided?  This serves neither.

These two communities do not have to fire scathing comments at each other anymore.  We could learn so much more by conceding that both sides hold a piece of the truth.  There has been more than one scientist in our history to realize this, and yet they've all failed to unite the communities.  You don't have to believe in religion, to believe that there is something in the spiritual community of scientific importance.

You have a voice, and an opportunity to stop that divisiveness.  We need not continue in a constant state of duality:  good and evil, black and white, right and wrong.  We know that no one wins a war, and that's exactly what this has been.  It's time to step back and accept the truth, and it is so simple and staring you in the face.  I wish you luck in your soul search.  Even if you don't believe you have one, I assure you that you do.

~R. K.


Sorry, 2008! Apologies for the error. That makes the story newsier than what I initially wrote, but it doesn't change anything else.

Oh, Addendum!  The paper at the link in my prior message actually got published.  :)  It is in an obscure place called The Journal for Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Science, No. 5, pp. 193-207, July 2009

Apart from anything else -- this experience happened in 1968??? I guess when you're dealing with eternity, the concept of "news" takes on a rather different meaning.

Yep. An MD does not a scientist make. It especially does not a good scientist make.

Hi--I had an experience, too, that I could not reconcile with my hardcore athiest beliefs and scientific bent.  But, the experience being real--no "near-death" nonsense--I decided I had to rationalize what happened to me.  Here is what I came up with, though it has nothing to do with the actual experience (as it should be):

Let me know what you think?

Best to all, Phil

Just another reminder that while doctors have studied some science in medical school, it does not necessarily make them scientists.

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