News24

Neurosurgeon sees the afterlife

2012-10-14 12:56

Washington - Eban Alexander's quick trip to heaven started with a headache.

It was November 2008 and a rare bacterial meningitis was fast on its way to shutting down the University of Virginia neurosurgeon's neocortex - the part of the brain that deals with sensory perception and conscious thought.

"For seven days, I lay in a deep coma," he recalled. Yet at the same time, Alexander "journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe, a dimension I'd never dreamed existed."

There he found "big, puffy, pink-white" clouds against a "deep, black-blue sky" and "flocks of transparent, shimmering beings... quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet."

It turns out Alexander was not alone.

His travelling partner in the afterlife was a young woman with high cheekbones, deep blue eyes and "golden brown tresses" who, amid "millions" of butterflies, spoke to him "without using any words."

"You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever," she told the doctor, a father of two with movie star looks. "You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong."

Explanation

Alexander recounts his story, and seeks to explain it, in Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, to be published in the United States on 23 October.

His New York publisher failed to respond to interview requests, but an excerpt from Proof of Heaven in Newsweek magazine has stirred the enduring debate about life after death.

Inevitably, sceptics wonder if Alexander, who teaches at Harvard Medical School, is going out on a paranormal limb.

"It sounds like he had nothing more than an intense lucid dream," wrote one reader on Newsweek's website. "A personal anecdote is not evidence or proof, as moving as it may be," added another.

The sarcastic New York blog Gawker challenged its readers to spot the difference, if any, between Alexander's portrayal of paradise with published accounts of LSD trips.

But others stood firmly by Alexander, who has previously spoken of his near-death experience on science TV programmes and in a lengthy interview last year with Skeptico.com, a science and spirituality blog.

Afterlife

"If there is evidence and proof of an afterlife, this is probably as good as it gets," Catholic Online, a web-based Roman Catholic news service, wrote approvingly.

By one estimate, three percent of Americans - more than nine million - have undergone a near-death experience. Some have written up their stories on the website of the Near Death Experience Research Foundation.

"There are tens of thousands of near-death experiences every year and many of them are very similar to Alexander's," said Paul Perry, co-author of several best-selling books on the topic.

"These experiences might be a glimpse into our next miraculous and exciting adventure," he told AFP in an email. "Unfortunately, there is little meaningful research taking place in this field right now."

Dean Mobbs, a psychologist at Columbia University in New York who studies neurobiology and fear in humans, did not dismiss Alexander's experience - but he questioned how it came about.

"I think there's no paranormal component to it," said Mobbs, co-author of a paper in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences identifying near-death experiences as "the manifestation of normal brain functions gone awry."

Stimulating the brain

"I believe our brains can concoct vivid experiences particularly in situations of confusion and trauma," he said in an interview. "The brain is trying to reinterpret the world and what's going on."

Mobbs cited research in which, for instance, Swiss neuroscientist Olaf Blanke has artificially induced an out-of-body experience by stimulating the point in the brain where the right temporal and parietal lobes meet.

He also recalled how the body can unleash "a massive dose of opioids" in the face of extreme danger. Opioids generate feelings of euphoria like those described by near-death survivors.

Mobbs also noted that many people who claim to have undergone a near-death experience were never, in fact, near death - while the majority of those who have died briefly before resuscitation do not recall going anywhere.

In his Newsweek excerpt, Alexander framed his experience in religious terms.

One of the few places he has had no trouble getting his story across is church, where "the colours of the stained-glass windows recalled the luminous beauty of the landscapes I'd seen in the world above," he wrote.

"The plain fact is that the materialist picture of the body and brain as the producers, rather than the vehicles, of human consciousness is doomed."

Comments
  • thys.human.75 - 2012-10-14 13:26

    Suggest you also have a look at the views of other sceptics. Another neurosurgeon dissed Alexander's story by pointing out that he was treated for suspected meningitis, that he was given cortizone and that it is by now common knowledge that cortizone has this hallucinatory effect on certain people. A close relative here in SA recently had the same treatment for the same suspected illness and experienced very similar hallucinations. But then why would anyone let known medical facts stand in the way of a book that will sell millions among the superstitious believers.

      liveby.thesword.1 - 2012-10-15 00:10

      @thys.. i suggest you have a look at what science says about multiple dimensions...go read about CERN.....its the only way evolution(cosmic inflation)theory can gain support. if you don't believe strongly in something...you'll believe anything.....

      aniken.vader.31 - 2012-10-15 00:26

      just a thought - if the movie matrix could envision a life that is within the real world, while humans are immersed in a fictional virtual world, then why can't there be a similar thing? WHY do we have to ALWAYS think it in the terms of religion? There ARE actually tantalizing CLUES in the sub-atomic realm and from the black-holes that we ARE indeed living within a virtual world! Read about it before commenting on this..! I feel that religion and especially the concept of "heaven" used in this guy's story negates the rights to other religious groups to an after-life! TYPICAL Christian double-faced..! Frankly, if we "can do no wrong" and that we are "loved" and that the world was there ALL THE TIME and will continue existing in the after-life, gives less meaning to the reason why we are alive! WHY then are we experiencing the phenomenon called life? What is the purpose t all of this?

  • charmaine.hoffmann.1 - 2012-10-14 13:31

    I have heard that when you take certain drugs you might have the same "out of body" experience....never tried it myself though, pity, because it sounds like a wonderful experience..lol

  • Sammy Willow - 2012-10-14 13:59

    ever heard of iboga, try it and you have the same out of body experience, and all it is is a root from Gambia, the best place to do this is in costs Rica, where you have a shaman guide you, check on you tube joe rogan talk about his iboga trip, it trully is a discovery of oneself

      phae.rayden - 2012-10-14 15:21

      Yay for natures amazing gifts. Having used some of them (unfortunately not ibogaine) for personal insight I can vouch for amazing results. A small expamle; unexpectedly a re-occuring nightmare since childhood was experienced in a completely different format which gave me full insight into the reason for them, they have not returned and that was 15 years ago. Such a waste not to allow people to tap into this wonderful world.

  • J.Stephen.Whiteley - 2012-10-14 14:24

    I believe the human race lived at one time entirely in the spiritual world, but without personality. To gain personality, we exchanged this for the material. My desire is to experience the spiritual realm as an individual. Why else are we here?

      Alien42063 - 2012-10-14 14:50

      WTF? X|

      kevin.watson.7906 - 2012-10-14 14:55

      Accident of the cosmos.

      paul.botha.967 - 2012-10-14 15:14

      You should go and see a psychologist boet!

      jason.croxford.56 - 2012-10-14 15:27

      The one with the most stuff at the end wins Duh!!

  • Johann Enslin - 2012-10-14 14:50

    Agree....WTF?

  • Adriaan - 2012-10-14 14:55

    I like the pink fluffy clouds ha ha, the cognitive scientists theory is more plausible by far though.

  • rasthami.m1 - 2012-10-14 15:00

    Nut case !

  • dehlia.fredericks - 2012-10-14 15:07

    Y the disblieve?

  • francois.r.bester - 2012-10-14 15:13

    i had a near death experience in the defence force.i came down with cholera from drinking dirty water.we were deep into enemy territory and i dewatered completely.i was casavacted by road to south africa.on the way the medic felt my pulse and checked my blood pressure, his verdict, i was dead.i was conscious, yet unconscious.the slightest movement would make me cramp up.they wrapped me in a blanket and put me on the floor of the 'buffel'.while laying on the floor i felt myself leaving my body.i sped over a flat landscape towards a high dam wall.i knew that if i went over the dam wall i would see a huge lake with high mountains and trees hundreds of meters high all in green grass fields.i also knew that if i went over the wall i would speed towards the trees towards a muddy bank where i would enter and never come back.i turned around and decided that my mother wouldn't make it without me!i was declared 'dead' on arrival, they cut my skin to get a vein to put in a drip as there was no blood pressure.i was in shock.i 'regained'consciousness'and lived to tell this story!i lost 13 kg's in 24 hours.life is and was never the same afterwards.life is real, death is real.death is also life.there is life after "death"

      Stewart Croucamp - 2012-10-14 15:37

      Hey buddie only those of us that experienced it will be able to understand. Great experience.

      Jacques - 2012-10-14 16:46

      Bliksis dude

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-10-15 13:21

      I prefer your experience and description to this pink fluffy cloud stuff in the report above, but maybe that is because I've just finished reading a fictional book that deals with this type of experience. I particularly like the line that life is real and so is death because it is true. As far as an afterlife is concerned I don't buy into it. Your own description of going into a muddy bank and never coming back begs the the questions of back from where and also one of this being an out of body experience due to physical changes where your higher conscious mind made a better choice on your behalf. You simply were not meant to die then and science and technology played a vital role in ensuring that.

  • beverley.oflynn1 - 2012-10-14 15:17

    A highly educated neurosurgeon wanting to make a few bob, no I don't think so, then he could have just as well written a book on how ignorant and arrogant people are that right on these blogs from a neurosurgeon's point of view!

  • Robert Frankol - 2012-10-14 15:21

    pothead?

  • porshe.vrebec - 2012-10-14 15:24

    Meditation does that in most people,that's not new . it happen all the time, It's called OBE.

      andrez.kolesky - 2012-10-14 15:47

      OBE. Outcomes Based Education ??

      sally.lewitt - 2012-10-14 22:45

      Sounds like some kind of shooter.. To many of those and I too have an 'outa body experience'

  • jason.croxford.56 - 2012-10-14 15:25

    In a galaxy far far away..........

  • andrez.kolesky - 2012-10-14 15:40

    I seem to see more than that when I'm hopelessly stoned (comatose) on Durban Poison

  • Arno Boender - 2012-10-14 16:21

    crack pot ! how does ones thoughts or anything about yourself crossover to a so called afterlife... only logical thing one can think of is the brain goes into a dream state... ! so crazy how some ppl think and are so gullible

  • warren.friedman1 - 2012-10-14 17:16

    The result of a sudden loss of blood pressure/oxygen to the brain. Common sympyoms amongst people on centrifuges when g-forces drain the blood from the head. Nothing mystical about it!

  • crracker.crackerr - 2012-10-14 17:22

    Which one of the many gods or even religions on the shelves? It's a fair question. Now how about a fair reply?

      stephen.king.900 - 2012-10-15 07:19

      There is only one God. The God of all creation.

  • goldwright - 2012-10-14 18:06

    Each to their own. If people are gullible enough to be taken in by it all, well, may they float happily on their puffy clouds into never never land, & maybe they'll see Peter Pan and Captain Hook too.....

      sally.lewitt - 2012-10-14 22:36

      Rags, you forgot to mention father xmas and the easter bunny.. Xna!

  • hudayfah.newman - 2012-10-14 18:11

    Here's a more detailed account of his story. Quite interesting!http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/10/07/proof-of-heaven-a-doctor-s-experience-with-the-afterlife.html

  • theMichaelHawthorne - 2012-10-14 18:11

    Biggest bogus bs.

  • PrettyUsefulArt - 2012-10-14 18:37

    What I find amusing is that no-one ever 'came back' and said "jeez, who knew God was Black?" or "who knew Jesus was Buddha?" or "who knew Mohammed was Jesus?" They always see what they've been brainwashed into believing. Ho hum.

      sally.lewitt - 2012-10-14 22:19

      Almost like the UFO 'sightings' the ol' doctor is getting free publicity prior to the 23 Oct release date. Early retirement coming up.. Mm..?

      tshiamo.kekana - 2012-10-14 23:28

      lol so tru......fools brainwashed......

  • durell.dunn - 2012-10-14 18:58

    There is definately life after death - eternal life. But we should understand that we need first face judgement before we can walk in to heaven or hell

  • daniel.w.gie - 2012-10-14 19:50

    ho hum .......when you dead , you ain't coming back here ....lol

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-10-15 13:33

      Did water die? All the things which have died that we might live would have died anyway since death is something inescapable. What happens thereafter is a mystery and you are so right on the button when you say that Judgement starts "In the House" where God supposedly resides in man who actually takes things so literally. despite the various religions not even being able to agree that we are all spitual beings with our own choices. Life is random death is immutable, what happens after death is unknown. Heaven and hell are myths made up by mankind to explain and console those who have yet to pass through the gateway of death.

  • john.breakfacet - 2012-10-14 19:52

    "big, puffy, pink-white" clouds ,"flocks of transparent, shimmering beings.."millions" of butterflies, spoke to him "without using any words." Ha ha ha so funny.

  • thys.human.75 - 2012-10-14 20:44

    NDE experiences are plentiful - but we usually only hear about those that believe they saw God (or Jesus or Abraham or Mohammed). TV magnate Kerry Packer, well-known for his support for rebel cricket tours to SA in the so-called apartheid years, and also an outspoken atheist, also had such a NDE during an operation. He later described how he went thru a tunnel of pure white light until he reached the end. What was there, everyone wanted to know. "There was f-all," answered the Aussie in typical style. I think he came closest to reality.

  • jody.beggs - 2012-10-15 08:53

    that explains everything there must be a god ? Pathetic... But explains a lot , faith is just a hallucination trip given to sheep herders 3000 years ago. Time to move on people , try shrooms , change your life ... Damn the man.

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-10-15 14:08

      Faith to me is an absence of fear of what life holds for you. It is a conscious choice to have faith rather than succumb to the circumstances and dogma of others. I have a choice to live or die and living means co-existing without judgement wherever possible of others who are uniquely different from myself. "Religion" forces you to become judgemental of and even homicidal towards those who through no fault of their own choosing believe differently. We are asked to possess our possessions - ie fight for what we believe is right but paradxically told Thou Shalt not kill. The Bible is a historical and genealogical record much translated and debated through the ages with records of rules and journeys made by various offshoots of mankind and still being interpreted in the modern day by men of good inntentions perhaps who place their own interests before those in need of spiritual love and nuturing thereby muddying the waters even further. We today create life in test tubes for couples who are unable to have - see Sarah - but we also spend fortunes on keeping alive through artificial means flesh which will not stop deteriorating and robs others of dignity. Who benefits financially from these two aberrations alone? God? Mohammed? Jehovah? We euthanase animals who suffer but condemn people who are suffering to a life of indescribable purgatory purely out of selfishness and because of laws of man. There is something seriously flawed in this logic and man God's image is central to it.

  • nish.naidoo1 - 2012-10-15 09:32

    They should start this article with, \Once Upon a time, there was a crazy neurosurgeon......\

  • aderitotmn - 2012-10-15 09:57

    I also had a dream of going to heaven, but it wasn't all fairy tales. The G.O.D. was dishing out coins to everyone for the works they done. I think you had to have a certian amount of coins to get into heaven. Now can I also write a book?

  • burger.geldenhuys - 2012-10-16 02:01

    All religion is based on aliens.. Fact! All you have to do is look into the past and you will notice.. Even in the bible!

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