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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Proof of Heaven by Dr Eben Alexander [Book Thoughts]

I doubt that Proof of Heaven changed my life too much and I can't consider myself convinced, but it was worth a read if only to satisfy my curiosity.


Proof of Heaven by Dr Eben Alexander

Proof of Heaven is the autobiographical story of Dr Eben Alexander, a well-respected Neurosurgeon, who contracted a rare disease that put him into a near-fatal coma but survived against the odds. After his awakening, Dr Alexander has made a full recovery and claims to have seen the afterlife during his time out. It might be tempting to close this post right here and dismiss the book as spiritual hogwash but there are some particulars about Dr Alexander’s case that convinced me to read the book.

For starters, Alexander claims to have spontaneously contracted bacterial meningitis, an occurrence so rare that it’s practically unheard of. The disease put him into a coma and most who enter meningitis comas don’t ever wake up. Those who wake up after 4 days usually become vegetables, losing most of their higher order brain functions such as speech. Alexander stayed in the coma for a full week and then went on to make a full and absolute recovery, even regaining his medical knowledge.

It’s also worth noting that meningitis attacks the brain. Alexander claims that, from the scans, the disease had disabled his entire neo-cortex, the part of the brain that creates conscious experience. Because of this, he concludes that he couldn't possibly have been hallucinating.

While I did find the book and Dr Alexander’s account of the afterlife interesting, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. Alexander does note in his book that he doesn't expect many to believe him. In fact, he notes that, being an atheist, he himself blatantly disregarded all his patients over the years who had Near-Death Experiences and claimed to have seen the afterlife. He notes the conundrum that, if someone else was in his position and claimed to have seen what he had seen, he would have a hard time believing them too. And I suppose that is the crux of the book; you read his account and, based on his arguments and the evidence, you decide what to make of it.

As for the story itself, it's told narrative style, alternating between chapters about Dr Alexander's hospitalization outside and the 'other-wordly' experience he was having at the time. The chapters are short, the account rarely dramatizes the situation and Dr Alexander sprinkles his medical knowledge in here and there to help keep you on track with the progress of his disease. It does manage to keep the reader’s interest to a reasonable degree even if the last 40 pages do drag a bit. The writing also does have that strange sincere quality of someone trying to put something into words with extreme difficulty.

But that being said, I can't consider myself convinced. I'd be prepared to read anything further from Dr Alexander but, for me, it's simply unknowable whether or not what the Dr experienced actually was the afterlife.

I doubt that Proof of Heaven changed my life too much and I can't consider myself convinced, but it was worth a read if only to satisfy my curiosity.

See you next week

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