Is Heaven Real? A Neurosurgeon Shares His Story About the Afterlife
By Jaimie La Bella, December 18, 2012
As a practicing neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander knew everything there was to know about the human brain. With an extensive background in neuroscience, he would use his scientific knowledge to refute claims by those who said they visited heaven during a near death experience.
He believed those occurrences were simply fantasies produced by the brain under extreme strain. But that all changed when Dr. Alexander had a near-death experience himself, which he outlines in his book, “Proof of Heaven.”
In 2008, Dr. Alexander contracted bacterial meningitis of the brain and spent a week in a deep coma. He says that what he saw, felt and experienced during that time was beyond scientific explanation.
We asked Dr. Alexander to share a bit about his journey into the afterlife:
What has been the most challenging aspect of connecting your near-death experience to your scientific background?
“The most challenging thing has really been to try to maintain this even keel and objective, analytic mindset. It is so stunning to realize what it really means, the reality of that realm,” Dr. Alexander explains. “Once I came to realize just what the experience was telling me, which was several months after my coma, I finally realized how sick I had actually been and the reality of that realm. The challenge is to maintain a steady mindset.”
Did you try to scientifically understand your visit to the afterlife after you woke up from the coma?
“I did try to scientifically prove what had happened to me,” Dr. Alexander said.
“I came back and I was blown away by it all, but at the same time my doctors were saying, ‘Of course you saw what you did, you were extremely sick,’ and the message there was that there was some fantastic trick of the dying brain that must have happened.”
But Dr. Alexander knew his memories of the afterlife were too clear to be fictitious. “I remembered it way too real to be unreal,” he said. “Initially, I was looking at this as a neuroscientist. How could this occur when the neo-cortex was completely damaged? The stunning imagery I had seen, I thought, ‘Well gosh, that has to be some sort of mechanism.’ Then there were clues about exactly when this long journey happened. Those clues were linked to events and people who were present during the times of my coma. Then, finding that this entire journey had happened deep in the middle of my coma when my neo-cortex was deactivated and putting together a rich experience like that was impossible. For me that was stunning.”
How did you know you were in heaven?
“Well, the initial realm I entered, what I call the ‘earthworm’s eye view,’ seemed to go on for a long time. I had no memory of my life on Earth, but I think that temporary amnesia allowed my journey to unfold without any restraints,” he said.
“Then the blinders came off and [revealed] this crisp, ultra-real gateway with beautiful butterflies and flowers, with souls dancing and angels above me. There were colors beyond the rainbow and butterflies appeared repeatedly.”
What did heaven look like? What did it feel like?
“It was full of bliss. It was full of that loving, comforting, caressing and cherishing love from the creator. There was nothing to fear, there was no pain and there was nothing that one could do wrong in that realm.”
What was the transition like from heaven back to your physical body?
“In fact, I was never aware of having a choice of whether I’d come back or not,” Dr. Alexander said. “I was told I would be taught many things, that I would not stay, but I would be coming back.”
He believes his return to earth was prompted by family members praying around his bedside.
“I was feeling the love from those praying around me,” he explained. “It was then that I remembered the faces of those around me; one of those faces was of my 10-year-old son. I didn’t remember how we were connected, but I felt that bond. He would come in the room and say, ‘Daddy, you’re going to be OK.’ I didn’t understand the words, but it was something about the pleading that brought me back and pulled me back,” he said.
“It was terrifying because I realized that all this mattered. I knew I had to come back because there was another soul depending on me. It was that love from my son that really forced me to crawl my way back.”
Have you become more religious after this experience?
“I’ve come to know absolutely the existence of an all-loving and powerful God — that our souls are eternal,” Dr. Alexander said. “I go to church all the time, but I have also come to realize strongly that there is no one right religion. All aspects of religion have everything to do with the rich, deep, eternal reality,” he explained. “Anything about religion that says they are the only one is just doomed dysfunctional human thinking. It’s all about showing compassion and forgiveness in our lives and giving our faith and belief to the source of all creation.”
Is there any message you brought back with you from heaven?
“We are all loved. As conscious beings, we are eternal spiritual beings. The very nature of consciousness and spirit are connected at deep levels,” Dr. Alexander said. “As such, we are dearly loved and cared for forever. Death is just a transition; it is the journey and it does not end anything. Our relationships with loved ones continue. We can connect with our loved ones after they have passed over; believing that and then seeing evidence with that is such a gift. It’s a very powerful gift.”
What is your message to skeptics who denounce your experience?
“I think the most important thing to understand — and this was a central part of the message that I came back with— is that we’ve all been seduced by materialist science over the past few hundred years. What that scientific module fails to tell you is they have gotten closer to realizing that the origin of consciousness is probably forever beyond our understanding,” he says. “They have gotten closer to realizing that, in fact, we have no clue how consciousness could come out of the physical brain. The boundaries of science must be broadened greatly,” Dr. Alexander added.
“Don’t believe for one second that the physics community is close to explaining the consciousness out of the physical brain. It’s the most profound mystery ever known.”