Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Proof of Heaven ~ Eben Alexander

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the AfterlifeProof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After browsing through some reviews posted here, I have discovered that there are basically two types of people who are reading and reviewing Proof Of Heaven

A.  The atheist/skeptics who do not believe in an after life.
B.  The seeker who is interested in educating themselves on the possibility of after life and NDE (near death experiences).

For myself, after finishing this book in four hours, I came to the realization that I should never read anything about NDEs again.

Not only is this based on PoH, but also on Passage, another book (albeit fiction) that deals with NDEs.

I should preface all my thoughts with stating that I do believe in an after life and I have no idea why people feel the need to argue about such a belief.  I may not be able to prove there IS an after life, but one also can't prove irrevocably that there ISN'T, no matter who they say they are.

So I started reading this book on recommendation from a co-worker.  Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon from the States who was formerly a skeptic who had no time or patience to consider the possiblity of NDEs being true or accurate.

He becomes critically ill due to a strain of meningitis and his brain shuts down for almost a week, leaving his consciousness floating around in...heaven.

Starting off--the title is ridiculous because Alexander doesn't actually offer PROOF of heaven.  He tells a story of what he saw when he was in a coma, but that isn't infallible proof...It's an experience he lived through which is far more real to him than it is to the reader.

The book discusses the clinical symptoms and prognosis of those diagnosed with bacterial meningitis:  death is usually the inevitable end.  Alexander goes into detail about what happens to his family around him while he pines away in the ICU, frolicking around in heaven in another universe.  Time isn't linear heaven.  Questions are asked and answered in the same moment in heaven.  You feel complete love in heaven.

Clearly Alexander has been through a life altering experience, but it doesn't translate well in the book.  He assures the reader on multiple occasions that words are weak and unable to properly translate what he saw and felt.

My personal issue with the novel was the fact that Alexander turned faith into a mystic neo-New Age documentary.  He describes God as "Om" and "Divine" and discusses "oneness".  This has nothing to do with the Christian God.  He also then uses Scripture OUT OF CONTEXT in one chapter as a way of illustrating what he means.

The feeling I got from  this novel was that Alexander was attempting to encompass every single type of religion with his generalizations of who God is and what He does for us.  He does a great job of explaining the scientific aspect of NDEs and the brains functions, but he never truly address the issue of:  who is God to you personally and how has your experience drawn you closer to Him?

At the end of the book you are left with an exhortation to treat each other with the same Divine Love that he experienced in heaven.  There is no sense of accountability with worship and faith.  There is no proof of heaven.

Instead of making me feel less alone and more aware of God's presence, Alexander made me feel sufficiently uncomfortable (especially when introducing psychics and channellers) and unhappy.  If you choose to be Bhuddist, Muslim, Christian, etc...choose with all your might.  Don't be like Dr. Alexander, attempting to pick the best of each religion or belief, bending it to your wishes.  

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David Chilstrom said...

I had the opposite reaction to reading Proof of Heaven. Rather than putting me off books about NDEs, I've been burning through them like a house on fire since reading it. Here are the key takeaways I have from the phenomenon:

1) For many, an NDE is a spiritually transformative experience. Certainly, this is the case for Alexander who, though not on the stump for Jesus, is crusading for the cause of an everlasting consciousness that transcends the body in life and death.

2) That love is the prime directive, our reason for being. In the life reviews which many NDE'rs experience, they see and feel (often from the perspective of the other) the impact of their kind and cruel exchanges with others. Though they sense no judgement from the interrogating being of light, they experience shame for the harm caused to others. Like Dicken's Scrooge, people who have seen and felt the effects of their actions, good and ill, are chastened to lead better lives.

3) The experience of an NDE is not a hallucination. For many Near death experiencers, their NDE experience is the single most real, profound, and clearly memorable experience of their life. Indeed, like the Buddha, for many NDErs, the physical world is deemed less real than the spiritual dimension experienced during their NDE.

Alexander's account is unique in that he clearly has one foot in the domain of science and another in the spiritual. The materialist dogma of the scientific establishment is his cross to bear, while for many other NDErs, illuminating the little moments in life with kindness and charity is reason enough for being.

Marcia said...

Hi David,

Thank you for that thoughtful reply.

1.) I take issue with the term "consciousness", which was one of the biggest things I struggled with while reading the book. From Christian theology, I believe we are all born with a SPIRIT and a SOUL. The soul is our personality, our mind, our will, thoughts emotions. Our spirit is something God has breathed into us, essentially life, perhaps the closest definition to the term "consciousness". I do believe in our everlasting spirits, but not with regards to the term "consciousness".

Many people are using this terms when describing entering altered states, due to prayer or meditation. However, I don't believe it is the proper or correct term to use. Consciousness is a part of our working mind, which would shut down when/if our brain goes on pause or shuts down. But our SPIRITS are what is within us and that is what I believe Alexander experienced when he went to the other world.

2.) Love IS a prime directive of life, and I very much appreciated the fact that Alexander had some important truths to impart. Yes, we are all loved deeply by God, as He created us and delights in us. However, KNOWING about love is not always enough to cause us to activate and demonstrate love to others. Reading a book about someone experiencing a love in another life is not likely to cause me to want to spread love around the world. I felt it was too roundabout a way to get a message across.

(1st Corinthians 13 is a great chapter about the definition of true love.)

3.) I have never believed that an NDE IS a hallucination. It would have been physically impossible for it to be so, considering his brain was shut down.

Thank you for these insights on what you believe. I'm always interested in hearing opinions from my readers.

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