Home » Intelligent Design, Mind, News » Anyone recall that neurosurgeon who wrote Proof of Heaven (2008)?

Anyone recall that neurosurgeon who wrote Proof of Heaven (2008)?

File:Simon Marmion (Flemish, active 1450 - 1489) - Tondal Suffers a Seizure at Dinner - Google Art Project.jpg

early NDE account, c. 1500

At Wired Science, Christian Jarrett, a science writer with a neuroscience background, offers,

Last year Eben Alexander told the world about an unusual experience he’d had in 2008, one that involved flying on the wings of a butterfly alongside a beautiful woman. The world took notice. His tale was a Newsweek cover feature, and his book about the fantasy Proof of Heaven has now sold over two million copies. Alexander grabbed our attention because he’s a neurosurgeon – or used to be – and because his fantasy, which also involved pink fluffy clouds and “flocks of transparent shimmering beings”, took place while he was effectively brain dead – or so he claimed.

Well, two million copies later, the story turns out to be more complex. He had not practised in a year and was dogged by malpractice cases when the experience he describes happened.

I researched this area years ago for a book. Generally speaking, near-death experiences often have life-changing effects. They cause the experiencer to focus much less on power, money, and status, and much more on relationships.

That is, it turns out that the trite saying is true: On their deathbeds, people really don’t wish they had spent more time at the office. And if they come back to tell us about it, they are quite likely to act on that insight.

People did this stuff smarter in the Middle Ages. Visits to hell, purgatory, and heaven were typically presented as a dream or vision or account of someone else’s experience. Thus they were evaluated for teaching value, not verification of details.

Note: The link takes you to a discussion of such works, a page of which is reproduced above. This one was written centuries before Dante’s Divine Comedy just plain ran away with the genre.

– O’Leary for News

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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12 Responses to Anyone recall that neurosurgeon who wrote Proof of Heaven (2008)?

  1. Esquire Proof of Heaven Expose Debunked, Dr. Eben Alexander Prevails – Interview with Robert Mays reveals a disturbing pattern of misrepresentation and distortion in Luke Dittrich’s Proof of Heaven expose published in Esquire Magazine.
    http://www.skeptiko.com/220-es.....-debunked/

    audio:
    http://www.skeptiko.com/upload.....t-mays.mp3

  2. bornagain77, I don’t doubt that the debunkers are misrepresenting their case to some extent. But some of us think that evidence of a changed life is much more persuasive than any other kind. Where genuine, it forces the debunker to resort to slander, and many people then see through to the relevant facts. – O’Leary for News

  3. Just thought that you might like to know that the Esquire article, though carefully crafted, was exposed as shoddy journalism. I didn’t think you were anywhere near naive enough to take it seriously. (i.e. I’ve read your book ‘The Spiritual Brain’ and have a pretty good idea were you stand!)

    The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Spir.....0061625981

  4. No indeed, bornagain77, I chose my words carefully when I described the story as “complex.” I have no doubt that during NDEs, people encounter an authentic reality not otherwise accessible, as opposed to merely hallucinating. The reason I think that is the documented life and attitude changes. If hallucinations changed lives, serious alcoholics and drug addicts would swear off the stuff. But sorry, no. And life change is usually very difficult. The best explanation is a different authentic experience.

    Anyway, the story is mostly just a hedzup: Because NDEs are not predictable, the people who have them often have stuff in their past that can be used to discredit them. Best to know what else is being said.

  5. Personally, Denyse, I find the body-language of, well, actually, most of the experiencers of NDE’s, absolutely compelling. I don’t have a scintilla of doubt as to the authenticity of their experiences.

    And, indeed, I believe they very much tend to tally with your prime criterion of a completely changed outlook on life to an egregiously positive serene and upbeat one. No actor, living or dead, could simulate the depth and subtlety of the emotions that overcome them as they reminisce – still less for the protracted period of time involved even in a fairly brief video clip.

    Of course there are occasional frauds, and they give themselves away in the same way. One woman, with a quite atypical story, seems overly pleased with herself, laughing, almost sneering at her viewers at their ignorance of this great benison to which she alone had been privy – instead of the evincing the characteristic humility and emotion characteristic, it seems to me, of the authentic ones.

    Another woman was also overly pleased with herself, as if she were a child telling her parents what a good time she’s had at the fair her aunt had taken her to!

  6. If hallucinations changed lives, serious alcoholics and drug addicts would swear off the stuff. But sorry, no. And life change is usually very difficult. The best explanation is a different authentic experience.

    Exactly! And that the reason I think the NDE of George Foreman’s NDE was legitimate. It happened just past the height of his career when he still had plenty of money and fame…

    He was a well-known bad-boy boxing celebrity that became a minister after his NDE after a boxing match in Puerto Rico against Jimmy Young. Everyone who witnessed George going through it thought he was hallucinating. But the thing was, George was never the same man again.

    He returned to boxing after spending years doing charitable work. When I saw the video of the boxing match where he regained the heavy weight title at age 45, it truly was a miracle. 10 out of 10 rounds he was boxing were losing rounds, and then in the middle of the 10th, he threw two miraculous punches and his opponent was knocked out cold.

    Foreman, in the middle of Sin City Las Vegas at the MGM Grand boxing ring, got on his knees and prayed and thanked God. I’ve been to the MGM Grand, and now I’ll think of it as a place where God honored Foreman’s sincerity. I got choked up watching the video…

    I talked about Foreman’s story here and provided video links to Foreman’s story:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-volume-1/

    Foreman’s life-transformation is something Dawkins cannot offer a human being. Such life transformations must come from a divine source.

    The link I provided was part of a trilogy of stories of boxing celberities. One episode was of Mike Tyson another of Foreman. The contrast in the direction of their lives is telling. Something about Foreman is truly different. A life that became so devoted to charity and full of meaning after the NDE contrasted to Tyson’s life that just went into a death spiral…

  7. Dr. Alexander’s NDE is very trustworthy in my opinion. Besides, his body language as Axel mentioned…

    A Conversation with Eben Alexander III, M.D. – Near Death Experiencer – with Steve Paulson (Interviewer) – video
    http://www.btci.org/bioethics/...../vid3.html

    ,,, and having a profound life changing experience that radically altered his worldview, as News mentioned,,,

    A neurosurgeon confronts the non-material nature of consciousness – December 2011
    Excerpted quote: To me one thing that has emerged from my experience and from very rigorous analysis of that experience over several years, talking it over with others that I respect in neuroscience, and really trying to come up with an answer, is that consciousness outside of the brain is a fact. It’s an established fact. And of course, that was a hard place for me to get, coming from being a card-toting reductive materialist over decades. It was very difficult to get to knowing that consciousness, that there’s a soul of us that is not dependent on the brain.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ciousness/

    The Easter Question – Eben Alexander, M.D. – March 2013
    Excerpt: More than ever since my near death experience, I consider myself a Christian -,,,
    Now, I can tell you that if someone had asked me, in the days before my NDE, what I thought of this (Easter) story, I would have said that it was lovely. But it remained just that — a story. To say that the physical body of a man who had been brutally tortured and killed could simply get up and return to the world a few days later is to contradict every fact we know about the universe. It wasn’t simply an unscientific idea. It was a downright anti-scientific one.
    But it is an idea that I now believe. Not in a lip-service way. Not in a dress-up-it’s-Easter kind of way. I believe it with all my heart, and all my soul.,,
    We are, really and truly, made in God’s image. But most of the time we are sadly unaware of this fact. We are unconscious both of our intimate kinship with God, and of His constant presence with us. On the level of our everyday consciousness, this is a world of separation — one where people and objects move about, occasionally interacting with each other, but where essentially we are always alone.
    But this cold dead world of separate objects is an illusion. It’s not the world we actually live in.,,,
    ,,He (God) is right here with each of us right now, seeing what we see, suffering what we suffer… and hoping desperately that we will keep our hope and faith in Him. Because that hope and faith will be triumphant.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....79741.html

    ,,,besides those two important things that establish trustworthiness, Dr. Alexander’s experience also had several nuances that fit exactly what one should physically expect, from a Theistic perspective, prior to investigation. Let me explain a bit of what I mean by that. Dr. Alexander’s NDE was rather unique from typical NDEs in that he had completely lost brain wave function for 7 days while the rest of his body was on life support. As such he had what can be termed a ‘pure consciousness’ NDE that was dramatically different from the ‘typical’ Judeo-Christian NDEs of going through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension, seeing departed relatives, and having a life review.,,

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/

    Near Death Experience Documentary – commonalities of the experience – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTuMYaEB35U

    Dr. Alexander’s NDE was different from typical NDE’s in that it featured, whilst his body was on life support and he had lost brain-wave function, his ‘consciousness’ ultimately going outside the confines of space/time, matter/energy altogether to experience ‘non-locally’ what he termed ‘the Core’, i.e to experience God. It is also interesting to note that he retained a ‘finite sense of self-identity’, as Theism would hold, and did not blend into the infinite consciousness/omniscience of God, as pantheism would hold. Remember the only ‘bodily form’ that he mentioned was being a ‘speck on a butterfly wing’, whilst ‘normal’ NDE’s feature a person being ‘a body of light’:

    “I was in a body, and the only way that I can describe it was a body of energy, or of light. And this body had a form. It had a head, it had arms and it had legs. And it was like it was made out of light. And it was everything that was me. All of my memories, my consciousness, everything.”,,, “And then this vehicle formed itself around me. Vehicle is the only thing, or tube, or something, but it was a mode of transportation that’s for sure! And it formed around me. And there was no one in it with me. I was in it alone. But I knew there were other people ahead of me and behind me. What they were doing I don’t know, but there were people ahead of me and people behind me, but I was alone in my particular conveyance. And I could see out of it. And it went at a tremendously, horrifically, rapid rate of speed. But it wasn’t unpleasant. It was beautiful in fact. I was reclining in this thing, I wasn’t sitting straight up, but I wasn’t lying down either. I was sitting back. And it was just so fast. I can’t even begin to tell you where it went or whatever it was just fast!” –
    Vicki’s NDE – Blind since birth – quote taken from the following video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e65KhcCS5-Y

    Of supplemental note. We have two different forms of quantum entanglement in the body. One is a close nit quantum entanglement, in every DNA and protein molecule in the body, that would provide a coherent mechanism for how a person’s soul connects to the temporal body:

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – Elisabeth Rieper – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    The other form of quantum entanglement found in the Body is a more ‘widespread entanglement’ within the brain. A ‘spread out’ entanglement that would provide a coherent mechanism for how consciousness connects to the brain/body:

    Quantum Entangled Consciousness (Permanence of Quantum Information) – Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video
    https://vimeo.com/39982578

    Brain ‘entanglement’ could explain memories – January 2010
    Excerpt: In both cases, the researchers noticed that the voltage of the electrical signal in groups of neurons separated by up to 10 millimetres sometimes rose and fell with exactly the same rhythm. These patterns of activity, dubbed “coherence potentials”, often started in one set of neurons, only to be mimicked or “cloned” by others milliseconds later. They were also much more complicated than the simple phase-locked oscillations and always matched each other in amplitude as well as in frequency. (Perfect clones) “The precision with which these new sites pick up on the activity of the initiating group is quite astounding – they are perfect clones,” says Plen
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-399098

  8. Moreover, I remind people of the fact that quantum mechanics has steadfastly delivered stronger and stronger evidence that we live in a Theistic universe not a materialistic universe:

    Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger by Richard Conn Henry – Physics Professor – John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the “illusion” of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case, since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism (solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist). (Dr. Henry’s referenced experiment and paper – “An experimental test of non-local realism” by S. Gröblacher et. al., Nature 446, 871, April 2007 – “To be or not to be local” by Alain Aspect, Nature 446, 866, April 2007 (Leggett’s Inequality)
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/aspect.html

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”; Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

    Thus, considering how all the details fit into a cohesive whole, that is why I find Dr. Alexander’s testimony extremely trustworthy!

    Verse, Quote, and Music:

    John 3:12
    If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
    William Shakespeare – Hamlet

    Evanescence – The Other Side (Lyric Video)
    http://www.vevo.com/watch/evan.....tantsearch

  9. NDE’s and the mind make sense in our universe. When you think about it do we really do live in a material universe. For example if particles make up everything we see then what are the particles made of, ok then what makes up what makes up the particles. Then you say nothing makes up particles. Then if particles make up the universe and particles aren’t made of anything then we are made of nothing. This shows that our universe is really just immaterial.

  10. In supplement to the skeptiko articles in post 1, for a more balanced assessment of facts than is presented in the Esquire article (and thorough charring of the Esquire article) see:

    Esquire article on Eben Alexander distorts the facts – August 2013
    http://iands.org/images/storie.....0facts.pdf

  11. I have an interesting story to go along with Eben Alexander’s book ‘Proof of Heaven’. A friend of mine was recently listening to Dr. Alexander on Public Radio on her drive to work,,,

    Westminster Town Hall Forum: Dr. Eben Alexander on the nature of consciousness – podcast
    http://www.mprnews.org/story/2.....s_presents

    ,,,and, being impressed by how articulate Dr. Alexander was, she made up her mind that she just had to read Dr. Alexander’s book ‘Proof of Heaven’. Well she got to work and went about her day at work which included taking an elderly men out for coffee that morning. That morning it was decided, by the elderly man, that they ought to go to a new coffee shop that they had not visited before. My lady friend had just 5 dollars personal money on her and opted for a .75 cent apple juice that morning, leaving her $4.25. Upon leaving the coffee shop it was decided, again by the elderly man, to visit a Mom and Pop knickknack shop right next to the coffee shop. As soon as my lady friend turned into the door of the knickknack shop, there was a row a bookshelves and staring her in the face, right at eye level, was Dr. Alexander’s book ‘Proof of Heaven’ that she had just made up her mind to read. She went up to the cashier and inquired about the book. It turned out that the owner of the shop had just finished reading the book (and had enjoyed it very much) and had just set the book out on the bookshelf that morning. The price of the slightly used book? $4.25 ! She bought the book :) and had a ‘GodWink’ moment to go with her new book that I very much enjoyed her retelling the story of.

  12. Great expression, Philip: Godwink! One of the funniest Godwinks (although leading to a new life) that I’ve read about, was on YouTube video-clip.

    A young man in the thrall of drugs was walking along the road and thought to himself, ‘Boy could I do with twenty bucks (for crack or whatever).’ Walking on just a few paces, to his utter astonishment, he saw a $20 bill on the pavement, someone had dropped. When he picked it up, it turned out to be an obvious counterfeit, perhaps part of a game, but on the other side of it was stuck a piece of paper with a message.

    I can only remember the bare bones of all of this, but the message led him, I believe to a place for helping addicted people out of their thraldom – which it duly did; and he’s now on the staff, helping others. I believe it was a Christian organisation.

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