Saturday, March 30, 2013
Eben Alexander: "Proof of Heaven": The afterlife, when the brain cortex completely stops
Author: Eben Alexander. M.D.
Title: “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife”
Publication: 2012, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-4516-9518-2,196 pages, paper.
Amazon link is here.
No, don’t get me wrong. I may be approaching my seventieth (at least not “eleventieth”) birthday, but I didn’t read this book out of a belief that Im going to die myself soon. No, the topic of the afterlife has always been interesting, and recent articles on cosmology have the persistence of consciousness seem inevitable and needing exploration. I will soon read Mary Neal’s comparable account and compare it.
Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon himself. His story is unique. He had moved to Lynchburg, VA with his family, and developed a sudden case of bacterial meningitis early on a Monday morning in November 2010 at home.
Bacterial meningitis sometimes spreads in college dorm (which is why vaccinations are often required), and sometimes results in amputations because of the unusual way the bacterial toxins destroy blood vessels. But in Eben’s case, the bacteria, non-responsive to antibiotics, caused his cortex to stop functioning completely. Miraculously, he recovered. He also recovered his memories and function, very much the way a computer slowly brings up its services when it has been turned off a long time.
It is very unusual for meningitis to appear in a middle-aged adult, and normally bacteria cannot get to the brain from other parts of the body. His strain did not match one found in Israel, where he had just visited. Conceivably, the strain could cause a pandemic if contagious, but no one else in his family got it. There is no explanation of the disease.
Part of his life story concerns his own adoption, and effort to meet birth parents and biological siblings.
During his coma, he had a Near-Death Experience. The experience started in a kind of permanent darkness and void that he calls the Core. He was drawn into a world of dazzling beauty, similar to other descriptions of a kind of garden heaven. There was also a Gateway to the cosmos. He says he saw people and angels. He believes he met his biological sister there. It seems as though some of the people were “reflections” of people still alive on earth, and others had past. There were people of varying ages, including children.
An NDE during a coma from meningitis, he argues, may constitute more “proof” of the afterlife because the cerebral cortex, compared to deeper parts of the brain, is so completely shut down that normal physiological explanations of NDE’s could not possibly apply.
My own take on this goes something like this: The universe is built in little blocks down to subatomic particles. There is a hierarchy of matter, from physical, to chemical to biological. Consciousness and free will become a way to counter entropy. Normally, biological systems must reproduce in order to counter entropy (although how “angels” get around this is an interesting question for thermodynamics). Also free will, and the possibility of wrongdoing which comes with the territory, is essential to countering natural entropy. It would seem as though consciousness is as much a part of physics as more familiar concepts of matter and energy. All of this seems to come together at the quantum level, where there is so much uncertainty.
It would seem to me that consciousness cannot be destroyed. It would make sense that after physical death, you remain aware of yourself and everyone who has passed is aware of you; all of you are aware of the deepest motives of others. It is the ultimate connectivity, the ultimate astral social network. But you can only deal with your issues by living again, starting over on another planet, maybe in a different universe. Perhaps your consciousness travels to some repository through a black hole.
Eben says that when you’re alive on this Earth, your brain doesn’t “remember” your trans-cosmic consciousness. It has enough to do just to adapt to a real planet. But when the cortex is shut down completely, the universal consciousness can take over.
What Eben seems to have seen is more a template for a place than a real “planet” with a geography, although some of the people (his sister) seem specific. Even discusses time as a mutable dimension, and suggests that experience of the afterlife could involve other universes built among other dimensions (up to eleven in string theory). If time is mutable, you could imagine at a person’s timeline could be available at all possible ages in the afterlife, just as it is in memory. When I stand in a disco, I may envy the body of a 25-year-old and wish I could have it back. But in a sense, in the afterlife, maybe I could.
Interview with Dr. Alexander on Afterlife TV.