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Near Death Experience Comes to Life

Last week I quickly mentioned that the topic of near-death experience had made the cover of Newsweek. I didn’t have much time to discuss it then (and I still don’t, really) because…I’m writing about near-death experiences (for my book). But at the time, I quickly mentioned on my Twitter account a couple of things that concerned me about the case, and the big publicity it was getting:

  • That the Newsweek piece was pitched as ‘Proof of heaven/afterlife’, but no real evidence was offered in the article.
  • That Eben Alexander’s experience actually didn’t sound overly like a typical NDE…in fact, it sounded a whole lot more like a psychedelic experience via entheogens such as Salvia or DMT.

My latter point was quickly supported by a satirical article on Gawker which asked readers to try and pick whether phrases were from the Newsweek NDE feature, or from internet postings about drug experiences. The former point was, as could be predicted, picked apart by prominent atheists, including P.Z. Myers and Sam Harris.

Now firstly, I’m not as concerned as some that Newsweek ran the story – it’s a human story, and fascinating in its own right, something that a lot of peope would want to read. Hardly an “archaeological artifact that is certain to embarrass us in the eyes of future generations”, as Sam Harris would have it (whoah there with the hyperbole Sam!). All the same, I think Harris makes some good points in his critique, most notably:

Everything — absolutely everything — in Alexander’s account rests on repeated assertions that his visions of heaven occurred while his cerebral cortex was “shut down,” “inactivated,” “completely shut down,” “totally offline,” and “stunned to complete inactivity.”

Where I would urge caution though, and Sam Harris even quickly mentions this himself, is that we should probably be reserving judgement until the book itself is released (on October 23). Now, some blame should go to Newsweek’s headlining department, because I expected some decent evidence to be put forward, when it wasn’t. But there are elements to the case that weren’t mentioned in the Newsweek article which will obviously be in the book, and which no doubt led Alexander to his conclusion that his ‘NDE’ was proof of an afterlife. Perhaps the most prominent of which was that the woman he interacted with during the experience was his birth sister whom he had never seen an image of before (Alexander was adopted out), and who had died just a few years previous to his illness. He mentions it in this clip:

Now, from his description of how this all played out, I’m sure skeptics could pull this piece of ‘evidence’ itself apart enough to show there are scenarios that explain how he saw his dead sister. But it does make clear that there are other interesting elements to the story that convinced Alexander to his way of thinking (and may convince others). So perhaps we should steady down with the criticisms for now.

Though I’m not sure Dr Alexander and his publishers would be overly concerned with more publicity at this stage – his book is currently (as I write) #2 on Amazon, and it’s still a week away from official release. Ahem, Newsweek, I have a cool book out soon that you might like to mention…

  1. I watched an episode of the
    I watched an episode of the amazing “Long Island Psychic” on The Travel Channel last week which was very instructive. Lisa was being interviewed at a radio station, but it was a set up. Unbeknownst to her there were 8 skeptics waiting in the wings to suddenly show up like a police line up and have her read them live and on air. The idea I’m sure was to take her out of her game and sever any connection she might have to trickery. She immediately zeroed in on one of the skeptics and proceeded to blow her mind with revelations about her recent personal life and events in it. The skeptic was converted. It was fabulous to watch.
    Lisa Caputo is giving the skeptics fits. You don’t really have to go in search of abstruse gray area stories about the afterlife. Caputo just dumps it in your lap so convincingly as to silence the skeptics. I really like her most oft used format which is to just go out into the world and randomly bump into people whose relatives are just screaming for a chance to get through and tell the living something. The amount of detail she brings up is just mind boggling in its specificity. Oftentimes a married couple will be astounded when Caputo reveals something that a spouse did not know about the other spouse. It really is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen on or off the TV. The show is getting stellar viewer ratings which it surely does deserve. Caputo’s personality is so goofy and unassuming too that it just ices the cake. She spends a fortune on hair spray and getting her nails done. The point is that the ability to connect with dead is an inherent human trait that most of us probably have if we would but let it out of the kennel.

  2. from the Anti-Blockade-Sigil-Dept.
    the fringe becomes mainstream the mainstream becomes fringe endless iterations of novelty spirituality on sale for all to partake



    1. I would not characterize what
      I would not characterize what Caputo is doing as “novelty.” It is not some parlor trick for our amusement. Just look at how profoundly she changes and eases lives within just a few minutes. There is a whole lot of pain and guilt that accumulates around death and our immature ideas of what it is. Caputo completely transforms all that for people in dire pain, and she is genuine. What she is doing is very genuine and very compassionate, and it is a step in human evolution.

      1. from the Protestantism-Can-Be-So-Interesting-Dept.
        *chuckle* To better communicate with your particular culture, for ‘novelty’ I mean it in the sense of variety & abundance :3

        I hope that helps you :3

  3. Newsweek

    Ahem, Newsweek, I have a cool book out soon that you might like to mention…

    Well, that depends… will you be willing to use a bow tie —or at the bare minimum, a crocodile-leathered fedora? 😛

  4. Proof of heaven
    I read a few articles about Dr. Alexanders book, and we share that we’ve both had meningitis and a NDE. I’d just begun to read this article when I received a phone call from my grandson who had won a hundred dollar gift certificate from Barnes & Nobels. I have a Nook book, Sorrows Bridge, through Barnes & Nobels that concerns the existence of consciousness after death. This news necessitated I make a call to a skeptic, named Don. He interrupts me to say that he is just now reading this article. Coincidence? There are none.

    Don says he doesn’t believe that Dr. Alexander existed after death. I say I know we survive because I’ve experienced meeting someone on the other side that I didn’t know was dead. That’s proof!

    We hang up and each read this excellent article and watch the video. I call him back. “Don’t tell me that isn’t proof!” I say.

    “I’ll never accept any proof,” he says. Hours later he has a heart attack. Death itself is the only proof for some.

    Any one who wants to contact me while I’m still alive: Website:

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