Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander

The afterlife is obviously a fascinating subject to most people, and I've read a few books on the subject of near-death-experiences (NDEs). This is the 3rd book I've read on the subject (the first two were Return from Tomorrow and Heaven is for Real).

I don't really take them too seriously. After all, no one but resurrected beings can say what's it's like to actually die. The people who write about NDEs haven't died, because they're here. If they're here, they're not dead. Now, that's not to say that what they experienced wasn't a glimpse of something divine or eternal-it very well could have been. After all, much of what they report squares very comfortably with gospel principles. It's the other stuff that becomes a little bit problematic.

Like what? Well, many people report seeing angels that had wings. Angels don't have wings, so that's wrong. Other people report seeing a movie of their entire life, which if not directly impossible just doesn't quite seem correct to me. In Return from Tomorrow, at one part the author described seeing a valley where people without bodies were furiously fighting each other (but doing no damage) and benevolent giants were towering over them, watching them and urging them to stop and be peaceful. Eh...probably not.

In Proof of Heaven, Dr. Alexander reported waking up in kind of a primordial ooze that felt like it was underground and was filled with scary animal faces that would periodically bubble up and say or chant wordless but frightening things at him. Though he described it basically as 'disconcerting but natural-feeling, as if I belonged there,' I feel this is flatly incorrect in terms of what people would experience with passing away.

His story is pretty interesting, but his afterlife experience wasn't all that cool relative to other accounts I've read. He eventually went into a paradisiacal land where his deceased sister flew around with him in the sky while surrounded by butterflies, and he passed over gorgeous countryside filled with happy people and their pets and all kinds of nice things. He then eventually went up to a giant space orb kind of thing that he felt was a 'portal' kind of thing where you could communicate with God, and he felt that it answered every question he could ever think of immediately and completely.

One thing it told him was something that John Groberg mentioned in The Other Side of Heaven after he almost died of starvation from no food after the hurricane hit his island; namely, that there are multiple universes. I tend to not believe things that aren't written in the scriptures or Ensign or are mentioned in general conference. I do tend to believe this, however. First, because John Groberg said it, and he's a general authority, and Second, because it sounds and feels correct to me. Mind-blowing, in some ways, but correct. So this book mentioned that, and I thought that was cool.

It's a good read. He's a neurosurgeon, so he's very well spoken and writes very ably. It's funny to see what he gets wrong and gets right, and to see him discover things that we've known have been true about existence forever. There was one part where he said God told him that there was evil on the Earth because it had to exist there for there to be free will, and that there was evil in 'trace amounts' sprinkled throughout the rest of creation for the same reason, but that relative to the good in the rest of creation, the evil was like 'a grain of sand.' That was cool too.

Ultimately, it was a good and interesting read but his time spent in the 'afterlife' was described extremely briefly relative to the rest of the book. Maybe only 5% of the book. If you're looking for a much more interesting, and potentially more accurate (in my opinion) experience, then go for Return from Tomorrow. Heaven is for Real was just brief little snippets but was also a nice and uplifting read.

There were two parts I wanted to quote:
"Like many other scientific skeptics, I refused to even review the data relevant to the questions concerning these phenomena. Those who assert that there is no evidence for phenomena indicative of extended consciousness, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, are willfully ignorant. They believe they know the truth without needing to look at the facts."
"If I had to summarize all this, I would say first, that the universe is much larger than it appears to be if we only look at its immediately visible parts. Second: We-each of us-are intricately, irremovably connected to the larger universe. It is our true home, and thinking that this physical world is all that matters is like shutting oneself up in a small closet and imagining that there is nothing else out beyond it."

Incidentally, one of the interesting things I read in the aforementioned Heaven is for Real book, which was about the NDE of a 4-year-old boy, was that the boy's father, after the experience in which his son said he met Jesus and sat on his lap, etc, showed him numerous paintings of Jesus to see if the boy could say which one was 'right.' The boy said they were all wrong. Then one day he was watching Glen Beck and saw an episode of a girl who basically had dreams and visions of the spirit world (or claimed to) and was also an extremely talented painter. She painted a picture of what she said was the accurate depiction of Jesus. The boy immediately said, "that's it." That picture is much different than typical depictions, and is this:

1 comment:

Hillary said...

I liked the first half of the book going back and forth between what was happening to him on earth vs. what was happening to him in the other universe. But you were right, once he returned to his body, the rest of the book was him trying to show readers why he was credible. I didn't need a map of why he was credible, I felt he had already explained enough to prove his credibility.