The subject of ‘near death experiences’ (NDEs) came out of the closet in the early 1970s with the publication of Life after life by Dr. Raymond A. Moody.
Until then, those who had experienced their own life-changing NDE were generally hesitant to talk about it. The medical world in general pooh-poohed the idea, putting it all down to fantasy and the effects of narcosis.
But Moody’s study, his book and subsequent publicity the subject gained increasing popularity, primarily because there were so many people who now felt they could openly talk about their NDE.
This article is not, however, about Moody and his work, but about Dr. Eben Alexander’s unique experience. Yes, he clearly had an NDE. But it in no way resembled the NDEs as described and categorised in such detail by writers and researchers such as Moody.
There are numerous features that serve to make Alexander’s story so unusual:
- He is himself a doctor, and not just a doctor, but a neurosurgeon and scientist, a man who frankly admits that until his own NDE he was totally dismissive of such tales.
- Spirituality was totally lacking in Alexander’s life until his NDE. A profound awareness of the spiritual dimension now plays a significant part in his life, while his scientific inclination is in no way diminished and is a highly creduble feature of his approach in this book.
- That his NDE was radically different from any other that he’d heard about or later read about (the extensive bibliography in his book is proof of the thoroughness of his research) serves to make his experience even more convincing for him.
- As a scientist, he can now accept that the soul or spirit – the true essence of man – exists independently of the brain.
Within just a few hours Alexander is transformed from a healthy man into a dangerously sick patient.
The E. coli meningitis is extremely rare (the book contains fascinating details) and, according to the statistics, should have quickly caused his death.
However, as a well cared for patient in the intensive care unit of his ‘own’ hospital, he remains in coma for nearly a week, is ‘written off’ by his medical colleagues… and then all of a sudden returns, almost as if nothing has happened to his body.
While in coma he travels, sees places and people, and is able to remember and record them in significant detail. The story shifts constantly between the ‘ordinary’ world of the hospital and the people surrounding and supporting him – his family, friends and doctors – and all that he experiences in the ‘other’ world, with all its sense of reality.
A different NDE
The surprises in this ‘other’ world are so different that there is more than enough new material in Alexander’s book, even for experienced readers on this subject.
If you ever doubted the power of prayer – even in the simplest form of positive, supportive thinking – then there is plenty of material in this book to help you change your mind.
This subject is a minor but relevant theme, spotlighted chiefly in the decisive part played by a valued family friend, a woman with well-developed psychic qualities.
As already mentioned, Alexander includes an impressive list of additional sources. As a scientist, he proves he’s done his homework! Furthermore there is a clear statement by Dr. Scott Wade, who investigated Alexander after his admission to the hospital on 10 November 2008, as well as an appendix covering neurological hypotheses that Alexander has considered as possible rational explanations for his unique experience.
Originally a convinced materialist and realist, Alexander is now, after his NDE, totally convinced of a form of life after death.
In this fascinating book, which became a number 1 bestseller on the New York Times list, he tells his story.
It is his truth, just as he now knows he has the task of waking up the world of regular medicine to the reality of NDEs as real and valuable experiences.
An additional comment *
Magnificent, comforting words. A description of his NDE that goes beyond anything you could possibly conceive. Alexander switches between various worlds and his memories of the experience, between describing how he comes out of coma and searches for meaning in all that he had experienced, between his point of view as a doctor, as a scientist, and the ever-present love that he experienced while out of his body.
He describes situations in a way that makes them recognisable, even though they are far beyond ‘normal’ recognition, and does so in a way that improves the clarity of his story and brings to life the emotions he experiences.
The word pictures and richly sensual descriptions (smells, colours, movement) serve to involve the reader even more deeply in his journey.
He describes the universe as a huge, muddy, jelly-like womb (veins like roots, sounds like a machine). There is the realisation of timelessness where the sense of self is absent, rather a connection to ‘all that is’, fully one with the universe. And the next moment there’s the awareness of separation – with animated descriptions of scary, rapacious animal-like forms – and the comparison with the sense of being imprisoned.
The panic thought “I must get away!” transforms into light and a loving entity. He arrives at ‘the gate of light and love’ on his way to the core.
* Input from Ma Deva Indra (my beloved)