Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013.02.19 Proof of Heaven?

Hearing Eben Alexander, author of the book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife, speak was a moving experience for me—not because I needed proof of heaven or bolstering for my religious faith. In fact, I’d pretty much decided to wait till I was much older to worry and wonder about resurrection theology—and never have fretted about “getting in.”

Nor was I interested in hearing one more, albeit from a medical scientist, testimony about near-death experience. 

No, I was moved because Dr. Alexander was NOT charismatic. That is not meant as an insult. 

Alexander spoke almost casually and in a low-key way about the exhilarating, exotic, colorful, yes, heavenly according to age-old religio-spiritual imagery, experience he had while he was in a week-long coma induced by bacterial meningitis (inflammation of membranes that line the skull and enclose the brain and spinal cord).

“My neocortex was not running at all,” he told us. It was dead, or more graphically, a “neocortex soaked in pus.”  In such a condition, the physical organ we call brain, could not manufacture  consciousness such as Alexander experienced.

Does human consciousness exist outside the brain? It would seem so. The brain, in fact, actually limits consciousness, according to Dr. Alexander.  

Alexander came out of the coma and back into life, armed with a life-transforming experience, and a memory. His son, a physician studying neurosurgery himself, told him not to talk to anyone or read a thing before he wrote everything he remembered down. He wrote 20,000 words in six weeks. 

Medical doctors, who had all but pronounced the case hopeless, called his recovery a medical miracle. Alexander called it the result of being in heaven. The publisher chose the book's title to promote sales, but it's really about Divinity. He described his vision of divinity (his word) in great detail, including a perfect mystical melody, a beautiful woman, swirling colors, an infinitely knowing presence, and a powerful message of unconditional love. All the ingredients of a perfect first date, I’d say.  

No stranger to religion, in part because of a physician father with a strong faith, Alexander, nevertheless, looked to science to answer life’s questions. But after his spiritual awakening he testified: “I knew what happened to me was beyond science, and that if I said anything at all as a scientist ever again, I had to say this.”  

Science and theology are not at odds, as many in both camps have maintained.  They are soul mates driven by similar quests and using different methodologies.  Such an interface, to me, is not “brain” (or rocket)  science!  Still,  for such a conversation to succeed, both camps must be motivated by respect, accord the project the dignity it deserves, speak with mutual respectful, and have no attachment to agenda or outcome.  

I will not describe more of Alexander’s compelling details, save to add that he left us with a tantalizing  cliff-hanger, the final discovery that, for him, secured the truth of the heavenly realm as he experienced it.

Do I find this witness credible?  Yes. Why?
    -I didn’t feel the impulse to argue with him or critique, one of my favorite resistances.
    -He never used the word resurrection, or tried to pump a Christian agenda. 
    -He was humble, far from culture-bound celebrity, although he has achieved media fame.
    -He did not point to himself, but beyond himself. When asked if he thought God “arranged” all this with a higher purpose, Alexander said, “No. I was not chosen.”
    I was glad to hear that theological line of thinking dispelled. God doesn’t choose anyone, make anyone special, or manipulate human freedom, even for a godly agenda  (That’s our specialty.) We are all called, and chosen. 
    -The message of Love was clear, as was the message that Alexander would go back and be a messenger—the job of “angels.”
    -When he, against all odds, awoke, his first words were: Thank you.
    -His second words were: All is well.
    -All “near-death” accounts are consistently the same at the core, though there may be descriptive imagery from earthly culture or religion ie. seeing Jesus, Buddha, etc. Atheists would leave it abstract, Alexander noted, but made no fun of that approach. 
    -One does not have to almost die to have such experience.
    -If you have such an experience you will never forget it, although you may question it and try to understand it by many means.
    -Images sync with biblical and other ancient and modern mystical witnesses.
    -Extended consciousness is not a new topic.
    -All things are one in God.

I felt affirmed in my own spiritual experience and pleased that Alexander’s witness answered some of my questions:  Why, in spite of being exposed to lots of traditional negative God images, even in the Bible, have I never believed a single one? Why have I never believed that God created goodness, and therefore must also be the author of evil?  Why have I never thought God was judgmental or controlling, never? I was never afraid of God.

My theology comes out of my own spiritual experience and often has made me feel out of step, although, thankfully, I didn’t have to get pregnant, exiled, crucified, or nearly die for it.

Oh, I’ve been hurt and lost connection with the God I early experienced, and I’ve doubted my self and my own memory, but I NEVER forgot what happened. And yes, I’ve felt angry at patriarchal images and language, plenty, but, from my beginning I knew it was NOT God—not simply, not MY God, but NOT God at all.    

I write about the talk I heard with some trepidation, because I may have heard some things wrong, and I haven’t read the book, only reviews and articles. But I will read the book, then keep on writing my own book. As Alexander said, it’s good timing for this message—and its source.