When it comes to near-death experiences, some of the most skeptical medical professionals are neurologists. Typically, they espouse a materialistic view emphasizing that the brain is the source of consciousness, and that NDEs are products of the dying brain–hallucinations and other imaginary mental constructions that will ultimately stop when the brain’s activity stops. If this hypothesis is true, then NDEs tell us nothing about life after death.
Now comes Dr Eben Alexander, a Harvard-educated neurosurgeon, who drifted in a coma for seven days in 2008 after contracting meningitis. During his illness Alexander says that the part of his brain which controls human thought and emotion “shut down” and that he experienced “something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.”
What was it? He saw angels.
Writing for Newsweek, Dr Alexander says he was met by a beautiful blue-eyed woman in a “place of clouds, big fluffy pink-white ones” and “shimmering beings.” He has written a book, Proof of Heaven, describing his experience.
“Birds? Angels? These words registered later, when I was writing down my recollections. But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms.”
Alexander added that a “huge and booming.. glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it. The sound was palpable and almost material, like a rain that you can feel on your skin but doesn’t get you wet.”
The neurosurgeon says he had heard stories from patients who spoke of out-of-body experiences, but disregarded them as “wishful thinking.” Now he has reconsidered his opinion following his own experience.
“I know full well how extraordinary, how frankly unbelievable, all this sounds. Had someone even a doctor told me a story like this in the old days, I would have been quite certain that they were under the spell of some delusion.
“But what happened to me was, far from being delusional, as real or more real than any event in my life. That includes my wedding day and the birth of my two sons.” He added: “I’ve spent decades as a neurosurgeon at some of the most prestigous medical institutions in our country. I know that many of my peers hold as I myself did to the theory that the brain, and in particular the cortex, generates consciousness and that we live in a universe devoid of any kind of emotion, much less the unconditional love that I now know God and the universe have toward us.
“But that belief, that theory, now lies broken at our feet. What happened to me destroyed it.” To say his experience was as real as his wedding day and the birth of his children is a strong statement in support of NDEs. I doubt that he will change the views of skeptics in his field, but maybe they’ll think twice before dismissing their patients experiences.
Dr. Alexander’s reflections are a welcome sign from a medical field which routinely rights off NDEs as wishful thinking, telling us that we can’t trust our own experiences. Apparently, when it happened to him, Alexander wasn’t so quick to dismiss his own experience.