Wednesday, October 5, 2011

After the Bell Tolls, Then What? ---The Amazing Saga of Dr Eben Alexander III

The question of what happens to us at the time of bodily death has been widely debated by theologians, philosophers, and scientists throughout the ages. While some hold that we have a soul or a spirit that survives, others have a more mechanistic view. They believe that our consciousness is simply the result of brain function, the firing of neurons. Thus, when the brain dies, that is the end of us. But, in truth, this is all hypothetical. No one really knows---or do they? Dr. Eben Alexander thinks he has the answer.

Dr Alexander is a seasoned neurosurgeon who was trained at Duke and Harvard. In spite of a religious upbringing, his scientific background coupled with his life experiences, had led to him to be a religious nonbeliever. He had no expectation of an afterlife. And then something happened that dramatically changed all that. Dr. Alexander had a near death experience!

He woke up one morning several years ago with a debilitating headache and backache. Within a short period of time he was in a coma, suffering from a rare strain of bacterial meningitis. In the hospital, his doctors were not hopeful regarding his chances of survival, much less recovery. He remained in that coma for seven days, hovering between life and death. And then, remarkably, he woke up, dazed and confused, but with vivid memories of what had occurred while in the comatose state. Amazingly he suffered no neurological damage whatsoever. As he pondered all that he remembered and the fact that he had emerged unscathed, he attempted to find scientific reasons to explain it all. Could he have had hallucinations as a result of the disease? Was the lack of adequate blood flow, and thus lack of sufficient oxygen to his brain an explanation? In the end, he had to abandon looking to science for answers, and accepted the conclusion that he couldn't at first believe. His consciousness had left his body!

Last month, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Alexander when he was here as one of the keynote speakers at the IANDS yearly conference.(International Association for Near Death Studies) Although I had seen him make a short appearance on "Through the Wormhole" on the SCI channel, I knew little about him and had no idea what to expect. When I encountered him in person, the presentation I had seen on TV paled in comparison to the dynamic, personable individual that I met. Eben Alexander is excited about what happened to him. He is enthusiastic to get his message out. And that message is emphatically, "There is an afterlife. I know. I've been there!"
When he spoke at the conference, he had all who attended hanging on to his every word. Most were brought to tears by his narrative. Even the strongest skeptics had to be left with some doubt! I'm not going to give away the details of his story because Dr Alexander will be a guest of the Rhine this Friday night, Oct 7th, at the Stedman Auditorium. So if possible, anyone who can, should hear this in person. If not, he is in the process of writing a book which will reveal all. I will only remark again that he is convinced that there is life after death, that he experienced it, and that it is good!

The survival question is not often addressed at the Rhine, not because we don't find it of interest or importance. In fact, J.B. Rhine considered it to be the tacit issue that underlied much of his research. He recognized though that life after death did not lend itself well to the scientific method! The possibility of nonlocal consciousness, however, is often cited as a reasonable explanation for the paranormal phenomena that we do research. While, at this point, we can demonstrate that certain PSI events do occur, the underlying mechanism by which they occur, remains a mystery.
So, what really does happen when we die? Is, in fact, the mind separate from the body, having it's own eternal existence? For some, Eben Alexander's account of his journey into another dimension, in spite of a nonfunctional brain, will just give further credence to their already held belief that an afterlife is a reality. For others, skepticism will remain, or perhaps there will be absolute disbelief. However, as difficult as it may be to fully grasp this concept, sooner or later, each and every one of us are inevitably going to find out! Until then, we will probably just have to wonder!

-- Cynthia Nigro Ph.D.