Newsweek‘s cover story is a testimony from Dr. Eben Alexander, a distinguished neurosurgeon who did not believe in life after death experiences until he had one of his own that could not be explained by strictly materialist means. Excerpts:
All the chief arguments against near-death experiences suggest that these experiences are the results of minimal, transient, or partial malfunctioning of the cortex. My near-death experience, however, took place not while my cortex was malfunctioning, but while it was simply off. This is clear from the severity and duration of my meningitis, and from the global cortical involvement documented by CT scans and neurological examinations. According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.
It took me months to come to terms with what happened to me. Not just the medical impossibility that I had been conscious during my coma, but—more importantly—the things that happened during that time.
His account of what happened to him is very trippy, and, note well, non-specifically Christian, or particular to any other religion. I have no idea what to make of what he says a spirit guide told him: “There is nothing you can do wrong.” Really? A messenger of God told him that? Is what Jerry Sandusky did to those kids wrong? Is what the Taliban did to that poor Pakistani girl advocating for educating girls wrong? I simply do not believe that this man was given such a message from the all-holy God. I believe that he really believes that he was — in other words, I don’t think he’s lying, or intending to deceive; nobody at Dr. Alexander’s level of professional accomplishment goes public with something as bizarre as this unless he really believes it, and feels compelled to tell others. I find it impossible to believe this is authentic, though.
On the other hand, I do believe that something like his general experience could have happened, and does happen. Here’s a link to a video of Dr. Alexander talking about what he says happened to him. What do you think about this story? About NDEs?
The neurosurgeon ends it like this:
One of the few places I didn’t have trouble getting my story across was a place I’d seen fairly little of before my experience: church. The first time I entered a church after my coma, I saw everything with fresh eyes. The colors of the stained-glass windows recalled the luminous beauty of the landscapes I’d seen in the world above. The deep bass notes of the organ reminded me of how thoughts and emotions in that world are like waves that move through you. And, most important, a painting of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples evoked the message that lay at the very heart of my journey: that we are loved and accepted unconditionally by a God even more grand and unfathomably glorious than the one I’d learned of as a child in Sunday school.Today many believe that the living spiritual truths of religion have lost their power, and that science, not faith, is the road to truth. Before my experience I strongly suspected that this was the case myself
But I now understand that such a view is far too simple. 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. In its place a new view of mind and body will emerge, and in fact is emerging already. This view is scientific and spiritual in equal measure and will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all: truth.
He’s right about that, I am certain. The rest of it, I dunno. I’m skeptical.