Proof of Heaven~ a review by Fr. Bryan Wolf

Proof of Heaven is a 2012 New York Times bestseller written by Eben Alexander,MD and publihsed by Simon and Schuster. Dr. Alexander is an academic researcher, scientist and a practicing neurosurgeon. With degrees in Chemistry, from the University of South Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a medical degree from the Duke University Medical School; Dr. Alexander chaired staff at Massachusetts General Hospital and is faculty at the Harvard Medical School. His credentials and standing within the medical community and specifically in the field of medical neuroscience, practice and surgery; is beyond question. He is frequently a television guest and commentator.

During November of 2008, Dr. Alexander suffered a serious medical emergency from an extremely rare attack of Infectious Bacterial E.Coli Meningitis. So rare is this condition and powerfully resistant to aggressive treatment, that the mortality rate is above 90% according to the Center for Disease Control; who also record less than one case in 10 million annually. Unbeknowst as to the cause of Eben’s infection, he deteriorated quickly into coma. So bleak was his prognosis that family gathered and last rights administrered, even as fellow doctors and researchers from around the world worked, albeit without success, to remedy his condition. As he records in his book, with supportive documentation from medical doctors who treated him, he lacked even the slightest registration of any brain activity, even with deep cerebral probe. Spinal taps revealed more pus than fluid, and death was considered imminent. Miraculously and without warning, Eben awoke from a week long coma; even to the surprising degree of having immediate speech and recognition.

Fully recovered, Dr. Alexander writes in Proof of Heaven of his experiences on “the other side.” He references near death experiences (NDE) in his research. However what makes his story so compelling, is he cites the medical evidence to demonstrate that his brain activity was so neutralized by his condition. Most doctors and researchers today explain away NDE as the brain’s attempt to create hallucination, in order to function in extreme adverse situations. As Dr. Alexander explains, “a person in coma is actually in both worlds- physically here and spiritually there.” He hold his case up as Proof of Heaven, in that his brain was so damaged it was medically and literally without thought, consciousness or activity.

Why I write this and why I am so moved, is that Dr. Alexander does indeed offer Proof of Heaven. He recounts a spiritual being (more on “her” later) who eventually greets him and tells him three great things he remembers to this day- “1) You are loved, 2) You have nothing to fear and 3) You can do nothing wrong.” This is repeated to him time and time again, during his “visits to the other side” while in his coma.

While there is much that can be written here to explain his “vision of the other side”, I will limit myself to a few profound theological concepts Dr. Alexander shares. These will either inspire you to read the book or- at the very least, to pray.

Dr. Alexander states he was shared knowledge, though he admits he is not sure why he out of everyone else who enoyed a NDE should be chosen- perhaps because of his crendentials and his initial scientific disbelief of such experiences. He confesses to a Divine Being (God) who, by His power, blocks our complete understanding of Him. To use the old adage- our souls are here for school. We can be, if allowed by the Creator, aware of our spiritual existence- which is where we were before we were born into this physical life. Here to learn and make right choices, we would be less apt to do so, Dr. Alexander theorizes, if we knew we would ultimately be returing to paradise. He goes on to state in his book that God “knows what we have forgotten (of the spiritual side) and understand the terrible burden it is to live with amnesia (of God’s existence) for even a moment.”

The gift of free will is given to us to accomplish our choices, and evil and injustice permitted in the world because, being right and just would loose their significance and beauty if they were carte blanche. Dr. Alexander writes; “While our life down here may seem insignificant, it is hugely important for our role here to grow towards the Divine- and that growth is closely watched by beings in the world above. Lucent souls, which I believe are the origin of our culture’s concept of angels.”

Is this to say there is a hell? Dr. Alexander shares of first being exposed to a “murky darkness, like being submerged in mud but still being able to see through it.” Not conscious of having a body, he states he “was aware of something beyond” this environment and “fought to move to it.” Breaking free of this “murky darkness” he is met by her. “You are loved. You have nothing to fear. You can do nothing wrong.”

Her? I have mentioned her before. But who is she? Therein lies, in the final chapter of his book, what he considers- and perhaps rightly so, Proof of Heaven.

An editorial comment here. The book can slow down a bit, as a Doctor, Eben does get involved and go into detail of his medical condition, diagnosis, tests and treatment. These however, are all served up to the reader to build his case that his NDE was not hallucinatory or medically possbile. There are of course skeptics to his account. But for religious persons, we build on faith not labratory conditions. Oh, and of course for argument sake- there is Her.

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