After Near-Death Experiences
And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:11
I want to share one more Near-Death Experience (NDE), a particularly powerful account because it comes from a neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander. He details his experience in the New York Times Bestselling book, Proof of Heaven. As a dedicated scientist, he was particularly skeptical about NDEs, an afterlife, and anything religious. He believed that consciousness began and ended in the human brain, so once the brain was dead, individual consciousness was dead, too. That was his belief, at least until the consciousness-producing part of his brain died for seven days. A rare bacterial infection caused his neocortex to shut down. I will not spoil his gripping story by paraphrasing it here, except to share a couple of elements to continue our reflection on NDEs.
Dr. Alexander describes three distinct realms in the afterlife: the underworld, which he named the Realm of the Earthworm’s-Eye View; the Gateway, and the Core. He experienced what he described as direct communication with God. He writes, “My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us…” He writes about something important he was taught in the afterlife, which he summarizes as follows:
- You are loved and cherished.
- You have nothing to fear.
- There is nothing you can do wrong.
As interesting as NDE accounts are, the life changes occurring after many NDEs are equally interesting and enlightening. For those of us without a personal NDE to learn from, these reports provide a possible glimpse into what awaits behind the mysterious veil we will all pass through one day and how that knowledge should influence how we live today. Here is some of what changed for these folks on returning to earthly life following their afterlife experience.
- A new-found recognition of the uniqueness of each individual being, including the uniqueness of their own being. This is an egoless awareness in that one recognizes how special one is, but at the same time recognizes that everyone else is equally special, so there is no pride or feeling of superiority accompanying the perception.
- Many experienced a disconnection from the daily concerns that caused much worry and anxiety prior to their NDE. They had greater clarity at to what was and was not important in this life.
- Related to the last change, they lightened up – not taking themselves or others so seriously – and laughed more.
- Many people became more compassionate, both to themselves and to others.
- Some desired to purge their lives of the possessions that now seemed only to weigh them down. They found themselves longing for a simpler, less encumbered life.
- A change in religious beliefs was common. Some began attending church for the first time or for the first time on a regular basis. Others stopped participating in organized religion but became intensely focused on non-church-related spiritual activities.
- As mentioned in a previous post, many became acutely sensitive to the impact of their actions upon others.
- Their knowledge and awareness of the spiritual aspects of life were magnified. Many could now sense the spiritual guides or guardian angels that accompany us all the time on earth.
- They believed with certainty that dead loved ones, God, Jesus, angels, and other spiritual beings are very near and surround us at all times.
- They lost all fear of death.
Like Jacob’s vision of a ladder extending from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending, so there appears to be a doorway between this life and the next through which beings come and go with some regularity. Throughout my life I have had dreams of familiar homes, often that of a grandparent, where (in the dream) I enter rooms I never knew were there. Sometimes these perplexing rooms are frightening, sometimes they are wonderful, but they exist alongside familiar rooms. In reflecting on NDEs it appears that at the time of our physical death, a doorway opens to aspects of life that have always been here, but exist just outside our earthly realm of perception. If we are to believe any of the thousands of NDE accounts, we must believe the realm of the spirit is a real and present influence on our earthly lives, today and always.
This is the 25th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.
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 Eben Alexander, M.D., Proof of Heaven. Simon & Schuster, New York. 2012.
 Ibid, p. 9.
 Ibid, p. 71.