Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
by Eben Alexander
Narrator: Eben Alexander
Published: October 23, 2012
Genres: Audiobook, Memoir, Non-fiction
Format: Audiobook (6 hrs and 14 mins)
Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people.
A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDEs, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.
Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human— shut down completely. For seven days Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.
Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.
This story sounds like the wild and wonderful imaginings of a skilled fantasy writer. But it is not fantasy. Before Alexander underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. That difficulty with belief created an empty space that no professional triumph could erase. Today he is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.
Proof of Heaven is not the kind of book I usually read. I’m not a fan of reading near death experiences since they seem very personal to me and I have a hard time connecting with them. I wasn’t a huge fan of the descriptions of Eben Alexander’s near death experience because they felt a little weird to me, but overall I actually liked this book. Proof of Heaven talks about his family life before his experience and the things he personally learned during his experience which was enjoyable to read.
My favorite part of the book was Eben learning about his past. He was adopted and felt loved by his adopted family, but as he grew older and had kids he started to wonder if his biological parents ever loved him. He compares not knowing if he was loved by his biological parents and how it made him unhappy to not knowing if we are loved before we came to this Earth by God can make you depressed and unhappy. Until he went into a coma he didn’t believe God loved him. It was beautiful to read about how learning that God loved him brought a lot of joy and happiness into his life.
There were a few life-changing things he learned that really resonated with me. Evil is necessary for free will and free will is so important in our mortal life. He learned that God is human and personal. One of the unique things about Eben’s experience was the fact that he was a brain surgeon before this experience and he realized that you don’t have to sacrifice science to believe in the spiritual. If we as a society continue to pursue science without also pursuing the spiritual then we will be “relatively bereft in the realm of meaning and joy, and of knowing how our lives fit into the grand scheme… (pg 152).”
Eben had such an interesting view on the brain and how it relates to consciousness. I had never thought about it like that before, but it made sense to me.
The brain itself does not produce consciousness. That it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter, shifting the larger, nonphysical consciousness that we possess in the nonphysical worlds down into a more limited capacity for the duration of our mortal lives.
– Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven pg 81
Narrator Rating: ★★★★
This was a great audiobook. It was read by the author which always seems to help clarify what exactly they meant when they wrote it just based on how they read it. He had a mellow, southern voice and read at a nice pace. There’s also an afterword in the audiobook that was not in the print version. He blended the ideas of East and West religions and clarified why he chose the words he did in the book which was interesting to listen to.
Overall, even if you are skeptical of near death experience memoirs I think you should still give this one a try since I found his scientific perspective unique and enjoyed the spiritual learning that he did.
Content Rating: Everyone. Clean read.
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