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I agree with you Michael that Mr. ALexander's NDE is highly atypical, but what I found most intriguing is when he saw the young woman during his experience, and then later identified her as a deceased sister (if I'm remembering her correctly) he had never been told about when he was growing up. Assuming that he's telling the truth, it's a very strong piece of verdical evidence, which makes the rest of his NDE all the more puzzling. Perhaps it really was a brain trip instead of a mythical experience, but the spirit of his deceased sister intervened to try and send a message.

I agree with your scepticism in this case. Alexander Eben´s experience seems to me more like a Disney inspired hallucination that a genuine NDE. And please note it is not only some hardcore sceptics who reject Eben, you can find a devastating critique by Dr. Jean-Pierre Jourdan,none less than the president of IANDS-France, on the website of the same organisation (in French). http://iands-france.org.pagesperso-orange.fr/res_reflex.html#LPP
Michael M.

Count me in as one who also thought Alexander's NDE sounded more like a drug trip than anything else, and one that didn't seem anything like the hundreds of NDEs that I've read about. I stopped reading after about two chapters, just couldn't take it anymore...

When I saw this blog entry, I initially thought it was an old rerun. "Proof of Heaven" was my introduction to NDE literature. Alexander's experience is exceptional and unique, but it does not contradict what is conveyed in other accounts. What is particularly unusual in Alexander's story is the temporary annihilation of his sense of self and personal history, such that he was simply aware with no language or human memory to frame his experience. Thus, of course, no life review, as he was tabula rasa, and no crystallizing the experience at the outset within a human context.

Harris's critique of Alexander can be cut and pasted and applied generically to most any NDE claim. Alexander's brain state, whether on, off, or some state between; is not relevant to the validity of his experience. That goes for all NDEs, some of which occur when only the threat of imminent death is present. Like many NDEs, Alexander's did not involve a cardiac arrest. Alexander speculates that the particular state of his brain may have contributed to the unique features of his NDE. Perhaps, but I don't know. Who does?

Harris wants his readers to know that Alexander has strayed off the reservation of science and gone off to Oprah land. No stranger to ad hominem smears, he uses the same tactic to "debunk" the Pam Reynolds case:

"Dr. Michael Sabom, is a born-again Christian who had been working for decades to substantiate the otherworldly significance of the NDE. The possibility that experimenter bias, witness tampering, and false memories intruded into this best-of-all-recorded cases is excruciatingly obvious."

So, when celebrity atheist Sam Harris speaks out against "Proof of Heaven" we should trust his objectivity, but when someone of Christian faith has done considerable NDE research we should presume "experimenter bias, witness tampering, and false memories". Like many of his ilk, Sam presumes that his beliefs are the inevitable fruit of the practice of reason and pursuit of truth. The irony of his position completely escapes him.

I agree that Alexander's "Peak in Darien" experience of his deceased sister should be considered veridical evidence - for what its worth. And whatever caused his experience to occur is not relevant to whether or not his experience was a real afterlife experiencest. A good example supporting my claim comes from actor Larry Hagman (of J.R. fame) who experienced an NDE-like experience while on an LSD trip. Years later, he had virtually the same NDE-like experience after recovering from a liver transplant (though heavily medicated). Both of his experiences include core NDE elements as well as hallucinatory images (such as two feathery mythological Griffin-like lions guarding a cave). So while it's true that hallucinogens can produce NDE-like experiences while not actually "near death," it shouldn't be relevant in determining whether or not such experiences are actual afterlife experiences. There are many consciousness-altering ways to have transcendental experiences - the dreams we have every night is another example. Read about Larry Hagman's NDE-like experiences on my website. His testimony is one of the best and most beautiful I have ever come across.

Kevin Williams
www.near-death.com

Michael,

I agree with everything you wrote here. I think Alexander was in the Astral (mostly) during his experience, though that doesn't mean that other "real" beings could not have visited him. I agree about the time-markers, though the issue of "when" in such cases may largely be irrelevant. (It's helpful, certainly, in the case of some NDEs to establish that the patient could not have been conscious while receiving veridical information. But this is more for the sake of establishing that the mind can exist without the brain than for establishing "when" the patient had the experience.)

All of us, some more so than others, ignore the elephant in the room. For each of us, Sam Harris included, our reality exists totally in our conscious experience. The illusion each of us is blinded by is that there is a world outside our conscious experience that is exactly like the reality we are experiencing. But it is just that, an illusion. All we know is what we consciously experience. It cannot be otherwise. The brain and all that the term implies exists only within conscious experience. Again, we have no way of demonstrating otherwise.

While for most of us, the stream of our conscious experience is of a material world, and since we in most instances do not have experiences of anything other than a material world, it is understandable that each of us has “bought” into the illusion that a material world exists outside of our conscious experience. But we can provide no proof that such a world, especially one exactly like the world we experience, actually exists.

Since reality, for each of us, is our individual conscious experiences, when someone has the conscious experience of an alternative reality, one that we ourselves do not personally have, how can we say, not having had that experience, that it is invalid. It is valid for the person who has it, as are all of our experiences. It is just that some experiences are consistent with the experiences we have of a material world, while others are not.

Since everything is conscious experience, and nothing can be demonstrated to exist outside of conscious experience, there is nothing to preclude the possibility of our having a shift in our conscious experience from our usual reality of a material world to an alternative reality. Sam Harris has apparently not had this experience. Others apparently have. His reality precludes the existence of these alternative realities, because in his reality they are inconsistent with his experience of a material world, while for those who experience them, they exist and are real.

Tom D:

"Sam Harris has apparently not had this experience."

Tom, I agree with your very interesting comment. What surprises me about Sam Harris is that despite his having had some profound experiences triggered by psychedelics, he remains tied to a materialist perspective.

He writes:

"Needless to say, if I knew my daughter would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if she does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience."

For many of us, the rite of passage of which he speaks makes us feel right at home with accounts like Alexander's.


Kevin said:

"A good example supporting my claim comes from actor Larry Hagman (of J.R. fame) who experienced an NDE-like experience while on an LSD trip. Years later, he had virtually the same NDE-like experience after recovering from a liver transplant (though heavily medicated)."

Kevin, as someone who's forever lobbying for the spiritual value of some psychedelic experiences, I appreciate your posting this.

Thanks, too, for your great work on NDERF!

Interesting thoughts, Tom, and well stated. - AOD

@Tom that's why "we" feel its pertinent to study consciousness. Bring science out of the dark ages and make the study of science a comprehensive one. After all NDE'S are culture bound, and remote viewing, PSI etc have been shown to have an effect. It's time the world studied what consciousness in all its forms is capable of. Lyn x.

Lynn,

Yes, I agree that consciousness should be studied from many different angles. Many of “us” lament the fact that the purse strings for scientific research are mainly controlled by materialists, as is most of academia. Thus most research into consciousness assumes the brain to be the source. Individuals such as Bernardo Kastrup and Donald Hoffman are attempting to change the paradigm, such that we come to recognize consciousness to be fundamental and the source of the experienced brain rather than the brain being the source of consciousness.

There is so much research that could be done if there were more open-mindedness. What is the source of our experiences? How do we explain long-term memory? There is a rare group of individuals who remember in detail every day of their life from an early age (referred to as hyperthymesia). How is this explained, and does it have any relationship to the extremely detailed life review experienced in some NDEs and by many who have made the transition into an alternate reality? How do we explain the reports by many that during their life review they experienced events (had memories) from the perspective of others who were involved in their experiences? How do we access memories of other lives? There is so much that we do not know about memory and where memories come from that to say that it is totally limited to the brain ignores numerous other possibilities that should be open to research.

Kudos to Michael Prescott and others for a willingness to explore some of these possibilities.

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