It has been said by some people that the reason why supernatural things become more popular by the end of last century is because people want to escape the routine life process. Since supernatural things do not happen routinely and performing extraordinary things which cannot be done in normal, natural way, many people are fascinated with such phenomenon.
However, there are also various interpretation for such phenomenon. Skeptics will want to think that it is a bunch of hallucinated people who are lying or exaggerating things that never been there in the first place. On another hand, it is seemed that more and more people experienced and / or heard about this phenomenon. Such supernatural experiences are manifested in many things, such as alien abductions, near death experiences, telepathy, telekinesis, angelic and demonic encounters, instantaneous healing, prophetic message, and so on.
One of such experience which become very popular in both Christian and secular circle is near death experience of Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who graduated from Harvard Medical School. He experienced real conscious event when his brain was effectively dead for seven days because of meningitis. He wrote his experience in his book, Proof of Heaven. Because it receives such wide publication, I decided to read and see what was said in his book.
This story in this book is basically separated into two parts. First part is the story on what happened in the earth, before, during and after he experienced his Near Death Experience. It starts on background of his spiritual journey before he experienced his NDE. After he knew about the fact that he is adopted child, he tried to contact his biological parents but then they refused to meet with him. This disappointment, combined with the dominant worldview in his medical profession (materialism) in which all realities are limited to matters and there is no such thing as soul or life after death, lead him to disbelieve that all-loving God exists.
And then, he wrote about the process how he become sick. He initially felt the pain in the morning on his spine. But then he perceived it as a flu symptom which he experienced the previous week. However, the pain spread to his head and then he become unconscious after he greeted his son when he went to school.
After that, his wife brought him to hospital. Many people close to him, like his family and fellow doctors were surprised when they learned that Eben Alexander has suffered from meningitis which literally ate his brain, which is very rare among adult. Furthermore, the survival rate for meningitis is very low.
The interesting part is that according to Eben Alexander, this meningitis bacteria has shut off his neo-cortex, which is a part of the brain which is responsible for memory, language, and generating consciousness. That implies that it is scientifically impossible for him to have such lucid and real conscious experience during his comma.
Miraculously, he awoke after seven days and then can remember all his life details and even all memories about his medical profession. According to him, it is the first case in which a patient suffered from meningitis can recover and live a normal life. Usually, even if the patient did recover, he will be only confined to bed or suffer from amnesia. That concludes the first part of story.
However, that is not the main part of this book. The second part and the most impressive part of the book is his writing about what he encountered when his body was confined to the hospital bed for seven days. Different from previous Near-Death Experience that I read, Eben Alexander claimed that he has no memory of his identity on earth when he traveled to this other world. I used to read Near Death Experience of Todd Burpo and he has his memory during his unconsciousness and he meet with his deceased sister who died of miscarriage several years earlier.
Initially, he entered the place which is looked like earth. It is like countryside and it was green and lush (p. 38). He saw trees, fields and children. The people sang and danced around in circles and there was also a dog, running and jumping among them (And it is more proof that animals have eternal soul, just like human).
He also described the sensation of other world as far exceed the limitation of our sensory perception. All sensory perception are mixed with each others. All things there are still distinct, but everything was also a part of everything else like design of Persian carpet (p. 46).
And then there is a being who come near him. He described this being took form of “a beautiful girl with high cheek-bones and deep blue eyes” and spoke to him message consisted of three parts:
- You are loved and cherished forever
- You have nothing to far
- There is nothing you can do wrong
After this, he was brought to a place of immense void, completely dark. He claimed that this place is where he interacted and communicated with God whom he called “Om” (I do not know whether Eben Alexander realized it or not but “Om” is actually the very same word used by New Age believers to describe God). Then probably the most important part of this book is the message, that according to Eben Alexander, was delivered from God to him in that realm:
Through the Orb, Om told me that there is not one universe but many – in fact, more than I could conceive – but that love lay at the center of them all. Evil was present in all the other universes as well, but only in the tiniest trace amounts. Evil was necessary because without it free will was impossible, and without free will there could be no growth – no forward movement, no chance for us to become what God longed for us to be. Horrible and all-powerful a evil sometimes seemed to be in a world like our, in the larger picture love was overwhelmingly dominant, and it would ultimately be triumphant.
I saw abundance of life throughout the countless universes, including some whose intelligence was advanced far beyond that of humanity. I saw that there are countless higher dimensions, but that the only way to know these dimensions is to enter and experience them directly. They cannot be known, or understood, from lower dimensional space. Cause and effect exist in these higher realms, but outside of our earthly conception of them. The world of time and space in which we move in this terrestrial realm is tightly and intricately meshed within these higher worlds. In other words, these worlds aren’t totally apart from us, because all worlds are part of the same overarching divine Reality. From those higher worlds one could access any time or place in our world.
That is quite a bunch of extra-Biblical revelation about universe from him! Even though Old Testament told us that God created heaven and earth, it has been presumed in many group of theologians that there was no evidence that God has created different intelligent beings other than human and consequently many people just do not care and practically assume there is none.
So the readers would probably ask: After reading his book, what are my conclusion? Is his experience real, fake or partially true? Considering his credential, medical background, and all medical records about his illness and testimony from his family about his recovery, I think his experience is miraculous and real. However, I still reserve my judgement about the being whom he interacted with, which he claimed to be God and his few statements about universe.
One of most disturbing thing for me is that his testimony is New-Age flavored. Furthermore, he also said in his book that the universe is infinitely old and has no beginning and end (p. 157). The belief that universe is eternal is actually not new since it was endorsed by Greek philosophers. However, it was mainly endorsed by pantheists and atheists. Many Christians, including me, still believed that God created universe out of nothing by using only his Word. It is one of my main objections and hence probably I need to examine other NDE testimonies before concluding its validity.
Having said so, I am not saying that every aspect of New Age belief is wrong. Some parts of New Age beliefs such as we are basically part of the Divine and part of the Universe is actually true, based on scientific evidence in quantum physics and Bible itself. During creation, it was said that God himself “breathed into his (Adam’s) nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2: 7). Hence, we also have that divine essence (life and spirit) in us the same as God.
I still believe that even his experience is fake, my faith will still stands. It is because I have asked and experienced God’s miracle and his revelation through nature, Holy Scripture, answered prayers and countless other things are more than enough to convince me that He exists and loves us.