My friend Pat Fero sent a suggestion for imagining hope – two books by Eben Alexander, MD, with Ptolemy Tompkins, entitled Proof of Heaven and The Map of Heaven. She calls them “the most positive books I’ve read in years.”
Turns out that the first one is a best seller and a focus of heated debate. For anyone else who hasn’t come across them: the books are about the author’s near-death experience and what he extrapolated, as a neurologist, from it. Before Dr. Alexander’s coma from a brain infection, he defined himself as a scientific materialist; now he believes that what happened to him during his seven-day coma actually occurred in another dimension, which he calls the afterlife.
From what I’ve been able to gather Alexander is trying to prove that near death experiences (NDEs) can give scientific evidence that consciousness exists beyond the physical life of the brain (in NDEs that occur when the brain is no longer functioning). In other words, he believes that even after the physical self dies consciousness continues in another realm, one that he is calling heaven. And guess what? He’s drawing a lot of fire.
A book review by Patricia Pearson in The Daily Beast notes that the arguments for and against Alexander’s books are part of “a radically fractured discourse. For materialists, it goes without saying that Eben Alexander will lose you at hello.” At a talk by Alexander she also notes that the part of the audience that listens to him with interest instead of skepticism “cross[es] every demographic line you can name. They aren’t the Christian right. They aren’t the “wishful” grieving. They aren’t some special group of American Stupid. They include scientists and doctors . . . philosophers, and journalists, and engineers, and musicians. They just happen to have encountered something singular and startling, not materially explicable—which we might once have called an intimation of the Divine.”