In one swift motion Hardy drops the mag and spins a full 90 degrees. We’re now inches apart. Nose-to-nose. As if the elongated S-shaped sofa we’re sharing has coiled violently, forcing us to invade each other’s personal space. “I really don’t appreciate you asking me a question like that,” Hardy growls. His fierce, penetrating eyes are fixed in an unblinking stare. “Have you ever had a near-death experience?” he asks. “I’m speaking from experiential hindsight and I can tell you it’s not something to be taken lightly. If you want to talk to me about death you’ve got to come from that place. It’s like asking someone, ‘How many people have you killed?’ You understand what I’m saying?” Sensing Hardy is on the verge of cutting the interview short (or something worse) LWLies extends an olive branch, making it absolutely clear we’re not here to unsettle or antagonise him. He sits back, takes a moment to collect himself and gestures for a change of subject. But almost immediately Hardy jolts forward again. “I’m sorry, man… You’ve just touched on a spot that’s very sensitive. You have no idea how close to something I am right now in my personal life. No fucking idea. It’s not your fault, I understand that, but you’ve really struck a nerve.
Love, beauty, goodness, and friendship are real. They’re as real as rain. They’re as real as butter, as real as wood, or stone, or plutonium, or the rings of Saturn, or sodium nitrate. On the earthly level of existence, it’s easy to lose sight of that.
According to a Yahoo poll, 74% of the people who participated believe heaven exists. Now, I’m not going to talk about this from a neuroscientific perspective; the much more eloquent and qualified Sam Harris has already done that. However, I will speak of this from another perspective–a human perspective. Dr. Eben Alexander has two sons and a wife–plenty good reason to fabricate such a story with money in mind. Any good father would think of his family after a near-death experience. Yes, he’s a successful neurosurgeon; surely he doesn’t need the money…right? Neurosurgeons earn anywhere between 250,000 and 700,000 annually. That may sound like a lot, but had he passed away, they would have likely received his pension, annuity, etc. Perhaps that creeps over a million or so, but when someone faces death, what may seem like enough isn’t enough. I find it more probable that he invented this story in order to write a book and profit off the gullibility of religious zealots–specifically Christians. However, there’s another problem with his story:
Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn’t begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.
A lukewarm Christian? A skeptic? One can’t be too certain after reading that. If what he’s saying is true, how did he enter heaven? Doesn’t god spit out the lukewarm (Revelation 3:16)? Aren’t them who disown Jesus disowned before the father and his angels (Luke 12:8,9)? What about his vision? He was on a butterfly wing. He saw arcs of light and called them “angels”. Why didn’t he see cherubim (also known as the four living creatures) (Ezekiel 1:5-10; Revelation 4:8) and seraphim (Isaiah 6:2-4)? Why didn’t he see thrones? Why didn’t he see the 24 elders (Revelation 4)? What about the son sitting at the right hand of the father? His version of heaven doesn’t even sound like the Christian version–like the versions purportedly put forth by Isaiah, Ezekiel and John! Yet they believe him. Here’s what I gather from all of this: 1) a man will do anything to ensure that his family is secure 2) people forget theology because they’re so desperate for an afterlife and proof of its existence. Does heaven exist? He may want it to exist; you may want that too, but the fact remains, heaven is the epitome of wishful thinking.
Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows-the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even our animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional
It is the responsibility of scientists never to suppress knowledge, no matter how awkward that knowledge is, no matter how it may bother those in power. We are not smart enough to decide which pieces of knowledge are permissible and which are not. —CARL SAGAN (1934
Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows-the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even or animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. this is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that ever will exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does no know it, and embody it in all of their actions.
Not much of scientific insight? well, I beg to differ. I’m back from that placed, and nothing could convince me that this is not only the single most important emotional truth in the universe, but also the single most important scientific truth as well.
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife, Eben Alexander
The “Proof of Heaven” Author’s Near-Death Experience Has Now Been Claimed To Be Thoroughly Debunked By Science
A book called Proof of Heaven is bound to provoke eye rolls, but its author, Eben Alexander, had space in a Newsweek story and on shows like of Fox & Friends to detail his claims. Read into those endorsements — and nearly 15 million copies sold — whatever you will, but in a big new Esquire feature, Luke Dittrich pokes large holes in Alexander’s story, bringing into question the author’s qualification as a neurosurgeon (which is supposed to legitimize his claim) and the accuracy of his best-selling journey.
In his book, Alexander claims that when he was in a coma caused by E. coli bacterial meningitis, he went to heaven. Of course, Dittrich’s piece is not the first time that Alexander’s text has come into question. In April, Michael Shermer at Scientific Americanexplained how the author’s “evidence is proof of hallucination, not heaven.” But Dittrich calls into question not what Alexander experienced so much how he did. While Dittrich looks at legal troubles Alexander had during his time practicing neurosurgery, perhaps the most damning piece of testimony comes from a doctor who was on duty in the ER when Alexander arrived in 2008. Dr. Laura Potter explains that she “had to make the decision to just place him in a chemically induced coma.” But that’s not how Alexander tells it, according to the Esquire investigation:
In Proof of Heaven, Alexander writes that he spent seven days in “a coma caused by a rare case of E. coli bacterial meningitis.” There is no indication in the book that it was Laura Potter, and not bacterial meningitis, that induced his coma, or that the physicians in the ICU maintained his coma in the days that followed through the use of anesthetics. Alexander also writes that during his week in the ICU he was present “in body alone,” that the bacterial assault had left him with an “all-but-destroyed brain.” He notes that by conventional scientific understanding, “if you don’t have a working brain, you can’t be conscious,” and a key point of his argument for the reality of the realms he claims to have visited is that his memories could not have been hallucinations, since he didn’t possess a brain capable of creating even a hallucinatory conscious experience.
I ask Potter whether the manic, agitated state that Alexander exhibited whenever they weaned him off his anesthetics during his first days of coma would meet her definition of conscious.
“Yes,” she says. “Conscious but delirious.”
In interviews in the piece, Alexander asks Esquire‘s Dittrich not to bring up the discrepancies in his story. The neurosurgeon-turned-author’s Twitter account has been silent this morning, but he told the Today show that he stood by “every word” in the book and denounced the magazine story as “cynical” and “cherry-picked.”
Read the rest of Dittrich’s story, which is behind a small paywall, here.
Heaven isn’t an abstraction; it isn’t a dreamscape cooked up from empty, wishful thinking. It is a place as real as the room or the airplane or the beach or the library where you are right now. It has objects in it. Trees, fields, people, animals—even…actual cities. But the rules of how things work there—the laws of heaven’s physics, if you will—are different from ours. The one rule we need to remember from here, however, is that we end up, in the end, where we belong, and we are led by the amount of love we have in us, for love is the essence of heaven.
Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows-the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even our animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or will ever exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all of their actions.