‘Now that I have been privileged to understand that our life does not end with the death of the body or the brain, I see it as my duty, my calling, to tell people about what I saw beyond the body and beyond this earth.'
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (2012)
Dr Eben Alexander
In Summary

Stricken by meningitis, Dr Eben Alexander’s brain became non-functional for a week. Yet, somehow, his consciousness continued, dwelling in a transcendent realm of beauty, angels and the Divine, transforming him from hesitant sceptic to ardent believer.


What happens to us after we die? This is, perhaps, the most debated question in human history, receiving different and often incompatible answers from nearly every culture, religion and philosophy. With so many varying opinions, it appears the question is simply unanswerable – at least in this lifetime. Unless someone actually dies and comes back to tell us, there seems little hope of knowing with certainty what lies beyond. Yet such a possibility is no longer pure fantasy; with the advent of modern medical technology, a phenomenon known as near-death experiences (NDEs) has become increasing prevalent. Stories from those who claim to have experienced life beyond their physical existence and come back to describe it now flood bookstore shelves. Unfortunately, few of these experiences have been able to convince the harshest sceptics since most NDEs stem from witnesses who have little background in neurology and the other possible, purely natural explanations for their encounters.

At least that was true until the publication of Proof of Heaven in 2012. The NDE recounted in the book was qualitatively rather commonplace to those who have had similar experiences. But what sets Eben Alexander’s account apart was the fact that he was no ordinary individual but a respected, Harvard-trained neurosurgeon – perhaps the most qualified person imaginable for assessing the validity of such experiences. Sure enough, as a once sceptical atheist he went on to become a converted prophet of the supernatural, and his account, which remained a bestseller for 97 weeks, provides some of the most shocking evidence that death is just the beginning of something far grander.


‘God help me.’ These are the final, nearly prophetic words of Dr Alexander before slipping into a coma – one that would last almost a week and leave his doctors certain that his bacterial infection had completely decimated his brain. The accomplished surgeon had contracted bacterial meningitis, an extremely rare and dangerous disease that claims the lives of 90 per cent of people in similar states to Alexander. After a week without response to antibiotics, his doctors gave up hope, believing the invaders had completely devoured the high-functioning sections of his brain. However, just before they ceased his treatment the impossible occurred: Alexander woke up. Astonishingly, he was not merely alive but seemingly unharmed by the ordeal, recovering all his mental capacity within weeks.

This story is astonishing enough on its own, yet it is what Alexander described next that would make his encounter truly unique. While in his coma, his higher brain functioning measurably ceased. Despite this, Alexander claims to have experienced a world beyond description. Initially, he had passed into a void of darkness, being a ‘lone point of awareness in a timeless red-brown sea.’ Unease soon set in as disturbing animalistic forms, noises, and smells began to clog his surroundings. Piercing through the darkness, a beautiful form appeared, breaking up the shadows and escorting Alexander to a new realm – one dreamlike in splendour yet far more real than any dream could ever be. The form, now discernible as a breathtakingly beautiful woman, communicates to him – yet not in words – that he is loved and is here to be taught before being sent back.

Led by his guide, Alexander encounters beings which could be characterised as angels. God, called ‘Om’, is experienced at every moment, telepathically answering every question posed by Alexander. As the pair transition to higher levels and deeper into the ‘core’, he encounters more and more of the Divine, before they soon redescend into that original darkness. This time, however, he experiences that darkness without the same fear or anxiety. As his ‘tour’ continues, he recognises that time, as he had understood it, does not translate in this new reality. In fact, words themselves seem incapable of communicating any part of the experience. The beauty, grandeur and love of every moment is incommunicable. However, there are some truths the spiritual traveller has brought back with him, such as the fact that evil seems miniscule next to the cosmic reality of love and is only allowed because God tolerates free will. Our goal is to grow into the Divine by expressing compassionate love, which is the very essence of existence.

Eventually, the gates of heaven are closed to Alexander and, as he descends again into his incarnate form, he remembers for the first time the earthly identity he had left behind. The faces of all those who had been with him in the hospital surround him in his plunge towards the earth, encouraging and praying for him. Now awakened from his coma, Alexander speaks his first words to his long-suffering family: ‘All is well.’ His recovery is relatively quick, yet the confusion generated by his experience would last much longer. How could he square his experience with his scientific knowledge that consciousness exists only in the brain? Sometime later, Alexander receives a photo of his deceased younger sister – a sister he had never met due to his childhood adoption. The photo reveals a beautiful yet familiar face – the exact same face that had guided him through the afterlife.

The medical impossibility of his journey, mixed with the undeniability of what he had encountered, was the catalyst for his transformation. Alexander’s chief goal in life became spreading the message of eternity. Believing he was chosen for just this task, Alexander now set out on his mission – one that he remains convinced came directly from God.


Unsurprisingly, Alexander’s account has drawn enormous criticism and provoked much debate. Some have challenged his credentials. Others have urged other possible explanations. Despite this, Alexander has stood firm, undermining any simple attempt to explain his experience as a by-product of a dying or rebooting brain. And so, the debate continues. Alexander’s experience offers some of the most remarkable evidence yet for the legitimacy of NDEs, yet if his encounter is ‘proof’ of anything, it is that there will always be doubters, sceptics and opponents who refuse to believe in anything beyond our ordinary experience. However, for those open to just such a possibility, Alexander’s account offers a reason to hope that, at rock bottom, the fabric of our world is nothing less than unconditional love and that our time on earth is just one small part of our amazing, divinely planned story.

Further Reading By This Author

While Proof of Heaven is Alexander’s first and most famous title, he has since followed up this work with The Map of Heaven and Living in a Mindful Universe.

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