Do you believe in life after death? Neurosurgeon shifts view on faith, life.

Oprah Winfrey welcomes Dr. Eben Alexander to the set of Super Soul Sunday. Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander’s account of a near-death … Continued

Oprah Winfrey welcomes Dr. Eben Alexander to the set of Super Soul Sunday.

Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander’s account of a near-death experience “Proof of Heaven” is atop the New York Times bestseller’s list. On Sunday, Alexander will appear in a new episode of “Super Soul Sunday” on Oprah Winfrey’s network.

A strain of bacterial meningitis that soaked his brain forced the 54-year-old into a coma. He said, at the time, his consciousness was alive, enabling him to connect with the divine. He chronicled his experiences in “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.”

He said the experience “absolutely changed the way I look at everything,” Alexander said in an interview with The Washington Post.

“I look at the hardships, difficulties and hurdles in life as opportunities of growth,” said Alexander, who is in private practice in Lynchburg, Va.

He said among the things he experience was confirmation that “at the core of it, we are eternal spiritual beings.”

Alexander and colleague John Audette established Eternea, a non-profit research, educational and outreach organization focused on the convergence of consciousness and physical reality, the nexus between spirituality and science.

When asked what he thought was the most important information he learned from researching near-death experiences, Alexander said: “It showed me very clearly that our consciousness has a huge component that’s not dependent on the brain. … Our consciousness, spirit and soul don’t depend on the brain.”

“Our spirit and soul are eternal. For the skeptics out there, they have to study the hard problem of consciousness, and realize that there’s not a soul on earth, not a scientist or philosopher who could give you a sentence to describe how the brain creates consciousness. Consciousness is primary and generates all the rest.”

Some critics have questioned Alexander’s story including whether cortex was shut down during his coma.

On his blog, neurosurgeon and rationalist Sam Harris critiqued Alexander’s perspective, saying he ‘s an agnostic about “how consciousness is related to the physical world”while noting that “although I am an atheist who can be expected to be unforgiving of religious dogma, I am not reflexively hostile to claims of the sort Alexander has made. In principle, my mind is open. (It really is.)”

“Going from symptom onset to coma within three hours is a very dire prognostic sign, conferring 90 percent mortality at the very beginning, which only worsened over the week. No physician who knows anything about meningitis will just ‘blow off’ the fact that I was deathly ill in every sense of the word, and that my neocortex was absolutely hammered. Anyone who simply concludes that ‘since I did so well I could not have been that sick’ is begging the question, and knows nothing whatsoever about severe bacterial meningitis,” Alexander said during Alex Tsakiris’ Skeptiko podcast in October.

The “Super Soul Sunday” episode premieres at 11 a.m. ET on OWN. He said he didn’t watch the program regularly before he was approached to appear on it, but he appreciates Winfrey’s role in expanding the conversation across religious or philosophical traditions.

“I think Oprah is so totally connected and knowing of all this truth. What she’s doing, this is a gift to the world, sharing what she’s learned in her own journey.”

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  • ericcallenking

    There is a diad, two poles, the material and the mystical, both exist, where you get into trouble is when you mix the two. believing in a life after death seems like a classic example of transposing the material into the realm of the mystical. There is no statement that doesn’t contain truth, what is in the mind is a reflection of what is in the world, it is the task of philosophy to determine what is truth and what is distortion. Yes there is heaven, just not a literal place with harps and mead and wings. Heaven belongs to the mystical so must be considered as something real, the connection between people, the bonds of love and compassion that are in some way eternal even as we are not, I’ll be very surprised if I’m walking around on clouds after i die.
    i think near death experiences could be considered to be a result of the brain being in a twilight state, between being and nothingness in a realm of magic just as twilight is the balance between light and dark, it’s not that what you see then is hallucination, just that it is not literal. The mind can be like a funhouse mirror, everything in ti is a reflection of something real, the trick is determining that reality. The realm of the abstract is real as any mathmatician can tell you, abstract ideas have an eternal existence just not a material one. God and heaven are ideas therefore they exist, just not a man with a white beard and a realm of clouds and harps-heaven is a state here on earth that split second of freedom you experience when the wheels of cause cease grinding the wheel of effect forward briefly, it is the dreams of flying you had as a child the magic of Christmas the lightness of heart when you find someone-if there’s a literal afterlife i’ll be the one wandering around with a flabberghasted expression, but I don’t think so, thoughts arise in the brain without that medium to support thought it just doesn’t seem possible.

  • balletcafe

    Do I believe in life after death? Of course I don’t.

  • artsy01

    What a bunch of nonsense! Can’t wait unti Santa comes down the chimney.

  • jdpetric

    If thought continues and is present in the subconscious brain even if in a coma, for moments when a the heart stops beating, and then consciousness is regained by heart beat, life never terminated into death, life never ceased even with unconscious thought.

    As explained by the inspired words of the Bible, “death” is the end of all thought.

    Ecclesiastes 9:5 explains for our edification, “For the living are conscious that they will die… as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all…”

    Is there life after death ? There will be !

    This is made possible only by our God and Creator who has the power to resurrect and bring back to life any individual he desires.

    The Bible speaks of a “time” when there will be aresurrection of the dead to a paradise earth indicated at John 5:28, 29 where it says, “Do not marvel at this, because the “hour” is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice, and come out …”

    The Bible also speaks of a resurrection of Christ “brother” to heavenly life whom were chosen by God and whom inherit the heavenly part of God’s Kingdom.

    These number “one hundred and forty-four thousand … who have been bought from the earth” (Revelation 14:1-3) and who’s job will be to rule as Kings and Priest along with Christ over the inhabitants of a “new” cleansed and righteous earth. (Revelation 5:9-10 and 2Peter 3:15)

    It was never God’s intent that humans grow old, experience diseases or die. This was a result of the rebellion which happened at the beginning of mankind’s history in the Garden of Eden involving one spirit creature and the first two humans who disregarded God’s rightful instructions as Ruler of Heaven and earth.

    The entire theme and purpose of the Bible is a history that explains what happened in the past, why we now die, what happens when we die, and what “God’s Will” is which we pray for to take place “as in Heaven also upon the earth”.

    This, the Bible explains will be a restoration of harmonious obedient human and heav

  • AgentFoxMulder

    If this neurosurgeon had written a book about his NOT experiencing ANYTHING during his “near death episode,” the atheists would be trumpeting him as proof against the idea of life after death.

    Christians believe in life after death because Jesus rose from the dead and those who witnessed his resurrected body wrote about their experiences in the new testament.

    We don’t need proof beyond that.

  • Hubie2

    What Bible is the information you quoted from?
    There are many Bibles and manymen have written and changed the words of Bibles.
    Not every word in All Bibles are true. We need
    to know what God said, not what a man thinks he m,eans by the words in a Bible>

  • chaos1551

    Meh. A near-death experience is just that. No one learned anything about the afterlife. Call me after you’ve been dead for a week in a coroner’s fridge, then came back to life.

    Also, partial brain damage creates serious problems for consciousness. Full brain damage creates death, leaving me to doubt that a soul will rise off with recognizable consciousness able to perceive and remember.

    To conclude, not knowing how the brain creates consciousness doesn’t equate to there being an afterlife. You’ve created a non sequitur.

  • itsthedax

    Sure thing Mulder! Of course the tricky part is being born into exactly the right religious sect. Otherwise you get locked out of heaven.

  • ThomasBaum

    You won’t be the only one with a “flabberghasted expression”, seems as if many of those that believe in “a literal afterlife” will be much more “flabberghasted” than you.

  • ThomasBaum

    jdpetric

    You wrote, “It was never God’s intent that humans grow old, experience diseases or die.”

    Some people say/think/believe that God is Omniscient, it appears by what you wrote that you do not believe this and that man’s disobedience came as a surprise to God, is this what you believe?

    Have you ever thought that this was where God gave us (humanity) free will?

    Have you ever thought that God not only knew this but that God’s Plan, which God has had since before creation, was to become One of us for ALL of us?

    As it is writtern, “My Ways are not your ways and My Thoughts are not your thoughts”.

    I don’t know who said it first but it sure is something to think about: God created us in His Image and we have been trying to return the favor ever since.

  • jdpetric

    Yes, the Bible refers to Jehovah God as “the great Omniscient One” at Genesis 22:1 and of course I believe that God has that ability.

    However, the question you may need to consider is , does God always use the ability of omniscience ?

    Can God chose not to use it if he so desires allowing men the dignity to chose right from wrong or to do His Will or not ?

    Having said that, there are accounts and situations mentioned in the Bible where God had not to use that ability.

    At Genesis 11:5-8 God is described as directing his attention earthward, surveying the situation at Babel, and at that time, determining the action to be taken to break up the unrighteous project there of the building of the tower of Babel.

    After wickedness developed at Sodom and Gomorrah, God advised Abraham of his decision to investigate (by means of his angels) to “see whether they act altogether according to the outcry over it that has come to me, and, if not, I can get to know it.” (Ge 18:20-22; 19:1)

    God spoke of ‘becoming acquainted with Abraham,’ and after Abraham went to the point of attempting to sacrifice Isaac, God said, “For now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.”—Ge 18:19; 22:11, 12

    By reasoning on these accounts we learn that our God and Creator Jehovah does not always chose to use his ability of foreknowledge but allows mankind the dignity to make a choice to be the children of God through our adherence to what God requires of us.

    I hope that explanation answers your question Thomas.

  • jdpetric

    Hubie2

    Although I have several versions of the Bible, for the most part I use the New World Translation of the Bible.

    Feel free to look up any of the scriptures which I’ve quoted from or used as references with your Bible to see if there is any errors.

  • Watcher1

    As an aside, there is no word for “resurrect” in the Ancient Hebrew language. The word was “reincarnate”.

  • Watcher1

    I kind of like George Carlin’s take on Christians: “Tell them there’s an invisible man in the sky, they believe it. Show them something with a sign that says “wet paint”, they have to touch it.”

  • Watcher1

    Great book, short read, “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian L. Weiss, MD.

  • mikeinova

    Who knows? Conjecture. Wishful thinking. Speculation. All come to mind. Yet, at the end of the day, no one knows, no mortal can know.

  • Sadetec

    @ AgentFoxMulder “If this neurosurgeon had written a book about his NOT experiencing ANYTHING during his “near death episode,” the atheists would be trumpeting him as proof against the idea of life after death. ”

    Oh you soooooo don’t get atheism, do you?

  • DJWinMassachusetts

    If Oprah endorses it, then it must be true.

  • RRMON

    If ever having been close to death and awaken, take time to notice if there had been a change in the smallest of items that normally goes un-notice, like a tree branch facing a new direction, a color of a sock, a person’s likes, a brand name on an appliance, etc.. If so, then you’ve died or the past realities had?
    Every soul is immortal, but not all living things maintain their souls.

  • ThomasBaum

    jdpetric

    You wrote, “However, the question you may need to consider is , does God always use the ability of omniscience ?

    Can God chose not to use it if he so desires allowing men the dignity to chose right from wrong or to do His Will or not ?”

    Omniscience is not some kind of “trick up God’s sleeve”, so to speak, either God is Omniscient or God isn’t.

    Just because God “knows” even before we do something does not in the least take away the “fact” that we have free will in what we do.

    You wrote, “I hope that explanation answers your question Thomas.”

    About the only thing that you have explained, in my opinion, is that you seem to believe that you have God all figured out and whether you like it or not God is God and you are not God.

    As far as Abraham and his son go, have you ever thought that God was showing something to Abraham?

    Ever heard of predestination?

    It doesn’t mean that God has “predestined” where one goes but that God “knows” where one goes because God is Omniscient.

    Of course that is where one goes initially but Jesus “won” the “keys” by His Birth, Life and Death and will use these “keys” in due time, God’s Time.

    With these “keys”, God will release the captives and raise the dead.

  • larryclyons

    Alexander gave up any credibility he might have as soon as he dropped the scientific viewpoint. Myself I prefer this viewpoint taken from about 1700 years ago:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.’”
    Marcus Aurelius

  • jdpetric

    I realize that God’s ability is not a trick. Sorry if you got that impression from my question.

    Does God’s choose not to use that power is certainly within the realm of His power (all powerful and all mighty) not to use if he so chooses.And I supplied Scriptural evidence to support such a conclusion.

    Further, it is impossible for any to know God’s mind on all matters. I certainly made no such claim.

    Having said that, I would refer you to 2Timothy 3:16-17 where it says that, “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.

    Where is your Scriptural support ?

  • jdpetric

    Thomas

    You said, “As far as Abraham and his son go, have you ever thought that God was showing something to Abraham?”

    Are you claiming to know something not revealed in the Bible additional to God’s with Abraham?

  • itsthedax

    You see, Thomas, that’s one of the bits of cognitive dissonance that makes christianity pretty weak beer.

    You claim that your deity is eternal and omniscient. This means that all human actions have been known to your deity since the moment of creation. Yet you also claim that we have freedom of action. A thinking man would realize that those two notions are contradictory.

  • itsthedax

    What Oprah glossed over was the Dr. Alexander’s subtext: He got to see heaven, which means that his is the one true faith. No other religions need apply.

  • ThomasBaum

    itsthedax

    You wrote, “You claim that your deity is eternal and omniscient. This means that all human actions have been known to your deity since the moment of creation. Yet you also claim that we have freedom of action. A thinking man would realize that those two notions are contradictory.”

    First off, I said that God knew since before creation not since the moment of creation.

    Second, a thinking man with a puny conception of God could easily think that.

    Third, as I have said many times this is why God came up with a Plan before creation itself and this Plan is unfolding before our very eyes.

    Fourth, something is true or not true irregardless of anyone’s belief.

    We, humans, like to put God in a “box”, God just does not fit into any of the “boxes” that we have attempted to construct for God.

  • ThomasBaum

    jdpetric

    You wrote, “You said, “As far as Abraham and his son go, have you ever thought that God was showing something to Abraham?”

    Are you claiming to know something not revealed in the Bible additional to God’s with Abraham?”

    What I am saying is that we can and should think about what is written and in this case was God trying to bring something out of Abraham just as God tried to bring things out of Moses that neither man may have even known themselves to be capable of?

  • jdpetric

    The faith you speak of is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.

    Belief in God is reasoned through evidence of God’s invisible qualities which are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward.

    They are perceived by the things he made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that it is inexcusable to deny God’s existance.

    The more science look at the universe, the more order they see in creation.

  • ThomasBaum

    And sometimes God just “rewards” your faith, which is a gift, with a personal revelation.

    As it is written, “Remember, I (God) have chosen you, you have not chosen Me”, sometimes it is that simple and that mind-boggling.

  • estelene

    @jdpetric, I believe because of all the things you name–science, beauty, mystery. I believe because I have felt God hover in all the wonderful and challenging moments of my life.

    But here’s where we disagree–it is not inexcusable to doubt. The stories of our faith tell us that. When Thomas doubted, Jesus told him, Come here. Stick your fingers in my side and feel for yourself. When the father asked for healing for his son, he cried, “I believe, Lord,” and then in the next breath, “Help my unbelief.” Jesus had far more compassion for him than many in our faith have for those who don’t believe. And Jesus’ greatest condemnation was for the church leaders who thought they had all the answers.

    Inexcusable to be honest about disbelief? No. The stories of God for the people of God tell us that it is inexcusable for us to be so certain and self-righteous about our faith that we judge those who have difficulty believing.