See Luminosity

Proof of Heaven

Proof of Heaven

Reading About Heaven

I’ve been just a little into heaven, lately. Interesting how you can go more than 30 years of your life, and never really pay particular attention to heaven. And then, all of a sudden when someone you love goes there, you can’t stop thinking about it.

Of course the source for understanding about heaven has to be scripture, but it’s also been interesting to me to read books on the experiences of those who claim to have gone to heaven through near-death experiences. I’ve read a number of books on the topic, including Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo, and the wonderful The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey, both of which I highly recommend. These books are amazing, and are incredibly faith-lifting. However, there has always been a common denominator in the books I’ve read on the subject – the authors were Christians.

I know, I know, you’d think this would be a good thing to me. Christian testimony and personal experiences of heaven should be the most likely to corroborate the principles of scripture, thereby serving the purpose of (possibly) being able to help add details to our understanding of the spiritual realm that scripture itself does not supply. Deriving such conclusions must be done with extreme caution and awareness that personal testimony does not equal God’s truth, but because the observations in these books (from what I remember of them) don’t contradict scripture, they definitely appear to shine light on the world we see after this life, and I recommend that everyone read them.

The problem for me, though, is that Christian testimony is pretty much guaranteed to corroborate scripture. By virtue of the fact that Christians use common language, share similar values, and understand complementary spiritual themes, it’s not surprising to me that experiences they share about heaven are going to follow along the lines of what scripture tells us about heaven. More amazing to me, more faith-corroborating than Christian near-death experiences, would be an experience of heaven that echoed what scripture tells us, but from a person who had no connection with or knowledge of Christianity or scripture whatsoever.

A New Book on Heaven

I’ve found a book that comes closer to that than any I’ve read before. It’s called Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander. Dr. Alexander is a neurosurgeon who, prior to his near-death experience, did not believe in God or the existence of an afterlife – believing instead that consciousness was simply a function of the brain. After contracting bacterial meningitis, which left him brain-dead, Dr. Alexander had an experience in which he was taken on a tour of the spiritual realm. His experience there, during a time when his brain was no longer functioning, convinced him that there is indeed life after death, and an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God who loves people personally and desperately. He miraculously recovered completely from his illness (there is not a single case of any person anywhere who has ever completely recovered from severe bacterial meningitis as he did), and has since made it his life’s work to try and convince others (particularly those in the medical community) that consciousness is not a function of the brain, but something that exists outside of the brain as the ultimate reality; in short, that there is a God and life after this one, and that God loves each of us more than we can ever know or describe.

Dr. Alexander’s book is completely different from any other I’ve read. He does not use any Christian terms at all, and does not interpret his otherworldly experience from a remotely Christian or biblically-based eschatological view. Yet it is precisely those elements that make the book so powerful, in my opinion. It is interesting to me that Alexander comes to conclusions about God and heaven (although he doesn’t call either of these things by those names) that are surprisingly biblical, without in any way meaning to, and without coming from a scripturally-based perspective.

A Neurosurgeon’s Descriptions of the Spiritual Realm

Alexander finds himself trapped at first in a place he calls “The Realm of the Earthworm’s Eye View”, that is characterized by monotony, lack of personhood, meaninglessness, obscurity, and, the longer he is there, terror. This place, although not drawn in Alexander’s experience by traditional Christian pictures of fire, echoes many of the biblical concepts about hell as being separated from God. He is drawn up from this murky non-existence by a great light into a spiritual realm where he eventually gets to experience God, whom he calls “Om”, because he describes God as being omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent (descriptions underscored in scripture). Alexander explains that he understood, after his experience in the afterlife, why Judaism and other religions refuse to say God’s name – because there are no words in our language that can possibly adequately describe him, and because he is so phenomenally glorious.

Alexander’s descriptions of winged, transparent “orbs” who sing and chant out of pure joy, are quite similar to the Christian concept of “angels”, and he describes a language-defying feeling of being unconditionally, perfectly loved, the closer he gets to the “Core”, or to “Om” (God). The love Alexander experienced in this realm “would make your whole life up to that point worth living, no matter what had happened in it so far”; ”something higher, holding all those other kinds of love [romantic, friendship] within itself while at the same time being more genuine and pure than all of them”. He also describes how, in this spiritual realm, knowledge comes instantaneously, how time as we understand it ceases to exist because everyone there lives in an eternal present, and that there is both a perfect interconnectedness with the Creator of the universe while at the same time a tremendous vastness separating him from God.

The Ultimate Basis of Reality

The surgeon was struck by how real this spiritual world is – much more real than the world we live in every day that we think of being real. He describes the vibrancy of this realm and compares its “hyper-reality” with the way we would feel to come out of a theater from watching a movie on a screen and then walking out into a beautiful, glorious sunny day.  Dr. Alexander comes away from his experience with the belief that “consciousness” is the ultimate reality, as opposed to anything in our physical world – a consciousness separate from ourselves that has always been. His mystical-sounding conclusion actually corresponds quite well to the idea that God, the “I AM”, is the ultimate reality who has no beginning and no end.

The way he puts it:

“Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything…In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that ever will exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all of their actions”.

Interesting, the parallels to concepts in scripture:

 

  • 1 John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, 13 ”Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

His conclusion on who we really are, and what life really is, is this:

“Our truest, deepest self is completely free. It is not crippled or compromised by past actions or concerned with identity or status. It comprehends that it has no need to fear the earthly world, and therefore, it has no need to build itself up through fame or wealth or conquest…How do we get closer to this genuine spiritual self? By manifesting love and compassion. Why? Because love and compassion are far more than the abstractions many of us believe them to be. They are real. They are concrete. And they make up the very fabric of the spiritual realm. In order to return to that realm, we must once again become like that realm, even while we are stuck in, and plodding through this one.”

  • Luke 10:25-28: “’What must I do to inherit eternal life?”… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ …Jesus replied, ‘Do this and you will live.’”
  • John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
  • Romans 8:2 “…Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
  • John 15:11-12: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
  • Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Although Dr. Alexander does not specifically indicate a faith in Christ in his book, clearly this experience completely changed the man, who had a thoroughly scientific and naturalistic worldview prior to his time in these other realms. Something amazing happened to him, something illustrative of many Christian principles, for he now lives with a life-changing belief in God and in God’s love, and with a passion to tell others about Him.

The Impact of This Book

There is no doubt that Alexander’s book has a New Age feel, especially because of its non-traditional terms and references. And many of his experiences are different from those of other near-death-experience books. But if you can get beyond the words, which he repeatedly asserts are completely limiting and inadequate in trying to convey his experiences, and look beyond to the concepts and themes he illustrates – you find a surprising picture echoing many biblical principles.

For me, that is exciting.

It is encouraging to find that a non-Christian, scientifically-focused surgeon’s experience in the spiritual world confirms much of what the Bible underscores about God and life after this one – without him ever trying to do so. If anything, the book affirms the fact that God is completely and utterly beyond our ways and comprehension in this world, but that he simultaneously loves us passionately and intimately. This is a man who has been changed by his experience of what he believes to be God. The fact that so much of his experience mirrors principles found in scripture about God and heaven is, for me, just another piece helping to completing the puzzle of what the life after this one will be like.

And, if Alexander’s experiences are true, those of us who die and get to go to heaven to be near God have a whole lot to be looking forward to.

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