Life after death? Neurosurgeon says he's been there
University of Virginia neurosurgeon Eben Alexander says he saw "millions of butterflies" during a trip to heaven when he was in a coma suffering from a rare bacterial meningitis. 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 October 23.
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 traveling 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."
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 October 23.
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, skeptics 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 programs and in a lengthy interview last year with Skeptico.com, a science and spirituality blog.
Clouds above the Los Angeles Coliseum. University of Virginia neurosurgeon Eben Alexander says he saw "big, puffy, pink-white" clouds during a trip to heaven when he was in a coma suffering from a rare bacterial meningitis."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."
"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 colors 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."
(c) 2012 AFP
- Why near-death events are tricks of mind Nov 01, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Out-of-body experiences may be caused by arousal system disturbances in brain Mar 05, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- Heaven is a 'fairy story', says Stephen Hawking May 16, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Seeing red -- in the number 7 Oct 22, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- US needs offensive weapons in cyberwar: general Oct 04, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Vermont became on Monday the third US state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
Other 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Food microbiology laboratories continue to submit false negative results and false positive results on a routine basis. A retrospective study of nearly 40,000 proficiency test results over the past 14 years, presented today ...
Other 11 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Siemens has presented the world's first ultrasound system with wireless transducers. The system's transducers, which can be easily operated with one hand, transmit ultrasound images via radio waves to the ...
Other 16 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(AP)—A woman who lost both hands, her left leg and right foot after contracting a flesh-eating disease has been fitted with prosthetic hands.
Other May 18, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
Bacteria resistant to the antibiotic colistin are also commonly resistant to antimicrobial substances made by the human body, according to a study in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microb ...
1 minute ago | not rated yet | 0
New research suggests that a compound abundant in the Mediterranean diet takes away cancer cells' "superpower" to escape death. By altering a very specific step in gene regulation, this compound essentially re-educates cancer ...
8 hours ago | 4.8 / 5 (8) | 2 |
Salamanders' immune systems are key to their remarkable ability to regrow limbs, and could also underpin their ability to regenerate spinal cords, brain tissue and even parts of their hearts, scientists have ...
9 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 2 |
Researchers have pinpointed a catalytic trigger for the onset of Alzheimer's disease – when the fundamental structure of a protein molecule changes to cause a chain reaction that leads to the death of neurons ...
9 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Turns out, that old "practice makes perfect" adage may be overblown. New research led by Michigan State University's Zach Hambrick finds that a copious amount of practice is not enough to explain why people ...
6 hours ago | 3.4 / 5 (8) | 0 |
Older prostate cancer patients with other underlying health conditions should think twice before committing to surgery or radiation therapy for their cancer, according to a multicenter study led by researchers in the UCLA ...
6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |