Yesterday I finished reading--and rereading--a remarkable book my wife gave me for Christmas, a book called Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander, which for weeks has been high on the New York Times bestseller list (No. 1 I think). It's one of the most amazing books I've ever read, and I've read thousands of books (literally).
Alexander is a distinguished neuroscientist and neurosurgeon. He has hundreds of scientific publications and speeches. He's now just about my age of late-50s.
He's an adventurous and athletic man, who spent years doing extravagant group sky-diving aventures. And he almost died in one of those dives, when a friend's parachute opened prematurely right beneath him, and he instantly dived away.
He was raised Methodist in North Carolina, but he lost his faith as an adult scientist, especially after some tragic events in 2000.
He's been a practicing neurosurgeon for more than 25 years, following his father. He spent 15 years as a professor and clinician at Harvard Medical School, then moved to a job in Lynchburg, Virginia, closer to his roots.
In November 2008, he woke up at 4 a.m. one morning with a terrible headache and declined within just a few hours to persistent grand mal seizure.
In the emergency room and then ICU, they eventually discovered he had an EXTREMELY rare (never seen before) outbreak of E. coli. in his brain, causing bacterial meningitis. Within just a few hours he was in a deep coma.
He was in the coma for seven days, despite the most intensive treatment, including three IV antibiotics. The bacteria completely disrupted and/or destroyed his neocortex (the outer layer of the brain that makes us human). His brain function flat-lined for days.
The doctors told the family after six days that his chance of survival was less than 1% and that if he survived he'd be a vegetable unable to speak. They suggested he be taken off the antibiotics.
On the seventh day, he suddenly awoke! And he has miraculously had a complete recovery.
His book, Proof of Heaven, is a marvelous little book. It's only about 200 pages, with appendixes. Amazingly readable. Many very short chapters. Very well written. I suggest you buy it. It's an incredible book.
In short, he went to heaven and saw God. And he has completely changed his worldview.
In the book, which is transparently sincere throughout, he honestly admits that he was starting to doubt his own amazing story.
And then he got a photograph from his biological parents (he is adopted) of an older sister of his who had died before he was born and he had never seen. And he saw that she was his guide in heaven.
I'm just scratching the surface. To anybody with an interest in the spiritual, I most highly recommend this beautiful book.
Of course, the fundamentalist atheists like Sam Harris are gathering like locusts, insulting and attacking and mocking (as you can see if you just google "Eben Alexander"). They don't like having their religious faith questioned. They're wrong.
Dr. Alexander's vision of heaven is new agey but not explicitly Christian. There are some Christian fundamentalists on the Intertoobs attacking him for being a heretic and tool of the devil, etc.
Anybody taking so much heat from both the fundamentalist atheists AND the fundamentalist "Christians" perhaps deserves a reading.
For me, I believe him, after an incredibly skeptical (and often joyous) read and reread and reread of the book and many other items.
I'm facing very major surgery in the next few weeks, with a certainty of months of major suffering and something like a 30% risk of death (according to my surgeon, who is a great man). I found this book by Dr. Alexander to be comforting, uplifting, and hopeful.
And let me also say, in my own life I've had several mysterious experiences, OBEs (out of body experiences), NDEs (near death experiences), and other mystical events. I'm 100% certain there is a supernatural realm beyond our daily existence. Dr. Alexander's book describes, again and again, what I have myself experienced in conditions of near-death more than anything I've ever seen, and I've been looking for many years.
If you wish, you can find more on this at Dr. Alexander's own website at http://www.lifebeyonddeath.net/ .
Dr. Alexander received three key messages from God, several times: 1. We are loved. 2. We have nothing to fear. 3. We can do no wrong.
Yes, all of us can disagree at length with all of that. Myself, I believe it.
And let me finally say, I've lost many close family members to suicide, including my mother in 1984 and my youngest brother in 1977. The Alexander book gives me several measures of hope, silly as that might seem to materialists.