Proof of Heaven: a Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Dr Eben Alexander.
Piatkus. 2012. 194 pp. ISBN: 9-780749-958794. £12.99.
This is not just another book about near death experiences. It is a book which puts the relationship between our everyday earthly lives and that of the afterlife into an exciting perspective.
Try and imagine that you have just come out from a theatre or cinema, into the bright light of day. While you were inside, the play or film absorbed and delighted you, (or otherwise) and occupied all your attention. But now that you are outside and back to the reality of your own world, the performance, which seemed so real at the time, is even now already becoming a memory, and rather a faded memory at that. This explanation by Dr Eben Alexander, the practising neurosurgeon and experiencer of the amazing journey into life after death described in this book, has remained with me far more vividly than any other NDE that I have ever read about. It helped me to understand why it is that those on the ‘other side’ not only find it difficult to return, but, because the life there is so much more vivid and real, there is no desire to return to the dullness in which we exist here.
Struck down suddenly and inexplicably with spontaneous E.coli bacterial meningitis the author went into a deep coma. During that time his ‘entire neocortex – the outer surface of the brain, the part that makes us human – was shut down. Inoperative. In essence absent.’ His brain had closed down completely. He was kept going with various machines including a ventilator, and pumped with powerful anti-biotics.
He went through similar experiences which have been recorded about NDEs for centuries – the journey ‘through a dark tunnel, or valley, into a bright and vivid landscape…the sense of being able to see in all directions simultaneously…the sensation of being above linear time – of being above everything…the direct and instantaneous reception of concepts that normally would have taken a very long time and a great deal of study to comprehend, without any struggle whatsoever…feeling the intensity of unconditional love.’ He felt as though he was ‘being born. Not reborn, or born again. Just…born.’ He uses words such as brilliant, vibrant, ecstatic, stunning to describe what this world looks and feels like. And all the time he had felt ‘alive, and aware, truly aware, in a universe characterised above all by love, consciousness and reality’. He realised that ‘the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.’
During his time there he became aware of another being – a beautiful girl who communicated with him telepathically and showed him many wonderful things. He did not recognise her, but later, when he was recovering, he was shown a photograph of a half-sister who had died at a young age, and before he had had a chance to meet her. As he looked at the image of her he became aware that this was the being he had met in the afterlife.
Interspersed with his own experiences are chapters which tell of the heart-rending situation which his family found themselves in. They took it in turns to be by his bedside, and watched helplessly as his condition deteriorated dramatically. Eventually, when the doctors told them there was no hope they prepared themselves for the worst. Except for his young son, Bond. The boy had reached a stage where he felt he could not go into the hospital any more and see his father in the terrible state he was in. But, on hearing that the doctors had given up, Bond rushed into the room and pulled up Eben’s eyelids, and said repeatedly and directly into the empty unfocused eyes, ‘You’re going to be okay, Daddy. You’re going to be okay’.
As he gradually returned it seemed that his mind – his real self – was ‘squeezing its way back into the all too tight and limiting suit of physical existence, with its spatio-temporal bounds, its linear thought, and its limitation to verbal communication.’ And he became aware of six faces, unrecognisable at first, and yet he felt he should know one of them in particular. It was someone who needed him, who would never recover if he left. It was the face of a young boy. It was his son, Bond.
It took about two months for him to recover completely, which even so is a miracle. For those who contract E.coli bacterial meningitis and survive it, almost all will spend the rest of their lives in a vegetative state. Dr Alexander not only recovered well but was able to return to his scientific study and work on the human brain, with the new knowledge that can link science with consciousness – or should I say Consciousness.