Cause for Great Hope in our World

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Today, Thursday November 16, 2017, marks the ninth anniversary of my return to the world after a seven-day coma due to bacterial meningitis – an illness that my doctors agreed most likely should have killed me. Their evidence that the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was too badly incapacitated for anything but the most primitive conscious awareness proved to be incompatible with the extraordinary experience I witnessed deep in coma, with features consistent with similar human experiences reported over millennia.

Of course, I have come to see my miraculous recovery and the extraordinary experience I witnessed deep in coma as a beautiful gift to be shared with the world. As my medical colleagues agreed, such a journey could not be simply dismissed as a hallucination, drug effect or dream because of the documented damage to my neocortex. My first book, Proof of Heaven (Simon & Schuster, 2012), marked the initial step in that reporting, but it represents a question mark in my journey, more than any kind of actual answer. Millions of people realized it represented a confirmation of an infinitely loving force at the creative source of our lives, but the deeper nature of that love remained elusive. But, as a scientist, I now had a far grander vision of the cosmos from my personal experience, one that demanded explanation. Such understanding did not result from the experience itself, but has necessitated a lifetime path of integrating my understanding of all such evidence from within the framework of science. Thus, I bask in my ongoing journey, which parallels the revelations coming to the scientific world in our ongoing voyage of discovery around the very nature of consciousness itself.

I have learned so much in the nine years since first awakening, in a journey of discovery, documented in my latest book, Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Heart of Consciousness (Rodale Books, 2017), that has involved thousands of other people around this planet, including many of the brilliant and courageous scientists who are addressing the deep mystery of consciousness – of the relationship between mind and brain. This voyage of discovery is of crucial value to us all, because many of our conclusions about the nature of reality hinge on the direction in which the mind-body debate flows.

The answer emerging from the scientific study of the nature of consciousness is one that is contrary to the prevailing views of conventional materialist neuroscience (and thus of our culture at large), and in ways that are most exciting and bring cause for great hope and optimism for the human race. They suggest that we are all truly bound together experiencing life within the One Mind, a source of unbounded love, comfort and purpose. The greatest commonality between the world’s religious systems, that we should “do unto others as we would wish done unto ourselves,” seems to be written into the very fabric of this loving force that binds the universe together through consciousness itself. Our free will choices are crucial in defining the larger course of our lives, and especially in contributing to the universal evolution of consciousness itself. We will reap what we sow, and thus should adhere as best as possible to the golden rule stated above.

However, science and spirituality remain stuck in their current impasses, unless they are to be wed together, which is their true destiny. We live in an age when that marriage becomes a very real possibility. My effort to catalyze that hopeful vision comes in the form of my just-released book, Living in a Mindful Universe, co-authored with my life partner, Karen Newell. We are very optimistic that it represents “proof of heaven” for the rest of us – for open-minded skeptics, and for those who might not have read a book with the word “heaven” in the title. Of course, it also deeply confirms the beliefs that many have in an afterlife, of the connectedness of our souls that outlasts the death of the physical body, and especially in an infinitely loving God. But now, the support comes mainly from science (especially quantum physics, which essentially demands this spiritual truth) and from the analysis of extraordinary human experience and examination of the very fundament of consciousness itself.  As Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976), winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1932, so famously said: “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”

The companion online workbook to our new book is a completely free 33-day email course that includes a major topic of the book sent out each day, with an accompanying practice, and on many days additional resources (such as links to other books and articles, and also four Sacred Acoustics audio recordings to help people achieve deep states of transcendental conscious awareness, connecting with that primordial mind). The best part of the 33-day course is that individuals from all over the world (given the translate function available on the page to offer it to speakers of many languages) share comments and experiences on each page – a beautiful growing community of like-minded seekers from around the globe.

So, in reflecting on my return to this beautiful and loving world nine years ago today, I am comforted to be sharing the growing comprehension of my journey with the world, as humanity finally rises up to the beauty of our shared destiny – one that offers hope and promise of a better world just beginning to dawn, one of peace, harmony, and fellowship to every being in existence.

Peace and blessings to you all!

Our Collective “Gift of Desperation”

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We seem to have had more than our fair share of natural disasters in these late summer months – more category 4 and 5 hurricanes hitting the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States than have ever been encountered, two powerful earthquakes stunning central and southwestern Mexico, record high temperatures with devastating forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and many other regions of the western US.

As dire as these events are, spawning widespread devastation, killing hundreds, and leaving 10,000s of people homeless and destitute, I have been impressed with the power these catastrophes have had in bringing people together. Heart-warming scenes of strangers risking life and limb to rescue strangers, groups of people uniting in common effort to save others, numerous examples of people rescuing thousands of frightened animals caught up in the mayhem – these disasters have shown how mother nature’s worst destructive chaos often has the effect of demonstrating how we really are all in this together, that our most redeeming qualities as human beings are illuminated by such extreme challenges.

Those involved in treating alcoholism and addiction often refer to the power of the “gift of desperation” – that the illness often drives someone so low that they are forced to deal with it, the alternative being death. In many ways, these natural disasters offer a collective gift of desperation. As my journey since coma in 2008 has revealed to me, the challenges and hurdles in life should be viewed as allies – they often provide the power to provide for our growth and maturation as spiritual, interconnected beings.

My interpretation of so much of the good I have seen in people through these disasters is that such challenges bring us closer together, in ways that support the notion of the Collective Mind, that we are all expressions of a vast intelligence, bound together through love and compassion, and acts of simple kindness.

Witnessing the 2017 Total Eclipse

The most profound of human experiences cannot be put neatly into words – they are so extraordinary as to completely defy encapsulation within our very limited language. A total eclipse of the sun is the epitome of such ineffable natural events. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, “Comparing a partial with a complete solar eclipse is like comparing kissing a man, to marrying him.”

Similar to the wave of up-reaching hands that passes around a large stadium for a sporting event, the spirits of those souls witnessing this rare and seemingly miraculous event all along the 70-mile diameter centerline of the moon’s shadow passing from Oregon to South Carolina joined together in astonishment as the peak of totality crossed the entire continental United States in just 90 minutes.

With distant surrounding thunderstorms providing an exciting and dramatic backdrop, we were among the blessed souls at the Buck Hall Recreation Area just north of Awendaw, South Carolina, to bid final adieu to the moon’s shadow after its spectacular 3,000 mile crossing from Depoe Bay, Oregon, across 13 states, until its departure over the alligator-infested salt marshes just north of Charleston. The last time the moon’s shadow traversed the continental United States was in 1918, at the close of The Great War (later renamed World War I).

For billions of years, the moon orbited much closer to earth, and eclipses were more frequent, with longer duration. In contrast, a few hundred million years from now, the moon will have receded from the earth (at 1.5 inches per year, or 23.7 miles per million years) to such a distance that it will never again be able to cover the sun’s surface from earth’s perspective. So we are living at the perfect time to view such incredible phenomena that reveal the vibrant dance of our sun’s atmosphere, normally hidden from view.

Although clouds interspersed with blue skies during most of the 90-minute buildup as the moon progressively obscured the face of the sun, we remained positive that we would see the total eclipse, along with our surrounding compatriots who had set up elaborate camera and telescope systems to observe this most unique of natural phenomena. Joined in purpose to witness this rare event, we were rewarded with clear sky for the 2 minutes and 30 seconds of totality. The brilliant multicolored (predominantly bluish-violet) solar corona danced in glorious splendor – the electrified streaming atmosphere of our home star extended out millions of miles, glowing at temperatures over a million degrees hotter than the 11,000 degree Fahrenheit visible surface of the sun.

Those moments spent during totality will forever be time completely suspended – so truly extraordinary as to represent a glorious oneness with this fantastically beautiful universe. Sublime perfection!

Jupiter glowed brilliantly to the left of the coronal apparition, whose shimmering undulations revealed an extraordinary level of reality – always there, yet forever obscured behind the intense light of the sun’s surface (a million times brighter than the corona). And, as the sun was completely blocked just after the “diamond ring” appearance of Bailey’s beads (sunlight streaming through the valleys between the mountains of the moon), the entire landscape of the South Carolina coastal marsh was lit only by the vibrant corona (as bright as the full moon). The horizon became suffused by the soft reddish-yellowish glow normally associated with a beautiful sunrise or sunset, but surrounded us completely.

To punctuate the delicate perfection of the event, lightning burst through thunderheads just inland from us, as if to remind us how fortunate we were in that suspended dimension beyond time and our consensus reality – indeed, a reminder that our small band of amazed human beings were united as one by this unique natural spectacle and the wonder of our shared experience.

While observing the moon’s eclipse of the sun, we listened to the sounds of Eclipse, a special Sacred Acoustics recording that taps into the energies of the earth, sun and moon. The magical soundscape of Eclipse provided a perfect accompaniment to the visual event. It is a recording that acknowledges our connection to the mindful universe we inhabit and that we will listen to again whenever we want to harvest such creative energies.

The several hundred people gathered with us at Buck Hall were all transformed through sharing this magnificent event together. We could also feel the wave of millions of other souls along the 3,000-mile path across the country and with many more around the world who tapped into the spirit of the eclipse through television, internet and meditation.

Advances in quantum mechanics and studies of consciousness reveal we are all truly connected as one. Having experienced the eclipse with so many others, we bring that extraordinary oneness of existence into this world for all fellow sentient beings. We see this signal event as a sign of unity. Even when the world appears divided, it is events such as the eclipse that help us recognize the oneness we all share.

Such profound oneness is an integral message of our upcoming book, Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Heart of Consciousness. The timing of the eclipse thus seems a fitting portent to this unification we foresee and describe. Together, we can make the world a better place, where ALL lives matter. As consciousness continues to evolve, we are each an integral part of the whole.

 

 

 

Compelling Studies on Drugs and Consciousness

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One of the most fundamental, and damaging, falsehoods in modern science is that all that exists is the physical world, and the closely related concept that the physical brain creates consciousness. Modern neuroscience is contributing to the rejection of this misconception through a set of interesting experiments assessing the action of various psychedelic drugs on the brain (specifically those that influence serotinergic receptors).

Scientific investigations that utilize psychedelic drugs offer measurable and functional outcomes that inform our evolving notions of consciousness and our understanding of the full nature of reality. However, let me be clear from the outset of this article that I do not recommend the casual use of such substances in a non-sacred, recreational setting. In research studies, the quality and quantity of drug administered can be strictly controlled and monitored, which is not the case in most recreational settings where such psychedelics can be dangerous to one’s health.

For purposes of scientific research, they offer compelling findings which mirror the effects of non-drug induced spiritually transformative experiences such as near-death experiences.

First is a report from Imperial College in London in 2012 in which functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to evaluate various brain regions in subjects under the influence of psilocybin, the active principle in psychedelic mushrooms (the genus Psilocybe consists of over 100 species).1 The most remarkable finding of that study was that the activity of major connection regions of the brain was greatly diminished in those who were having the most profound psychedelic experiences, as opposed to the increase in activity anticipated by physicalist scientists who believe the brain creates consciousness and all of experience.

These results were confirmed by a Brazilian study published in February 2015 assessing brain activity through fMRI, this time in subjects under the influence of ayahuasca (which contains the active psychedelic compound N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, normally present in our brains but in only minuscule amounts).2 Ayahuasca caused a significant decrease in activity throughout the main junctional network in the brain, known as the default-mode network (DMN).

Just this month, the Imperial College group in London refined these observations with another confirmatory study, this one examining the effects of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide-25), the most potent psychedelic, active in doses of 10s to 100s of micrograms.3 In brief, they report decreased integrity of the DMN and decreased alpha and delta power in another main junctional network, the exact opposite of what one would expect if the physical brain were creating the extraordinary conscious experiences.

The reason these studies are so crucial (and confounding to the materialists who believe the physical brain creates conscious experience) is that they powerfully refute the simplistic and false physicalist notion that the brain creates consciousness. The most extraordinary experiences were reported by those subjects who had the greatest inactivation of their brain’s junctional center network activity, as measured through fMRI and MEG. As the brain becomes less active, internal experience actually becomes more active.

This is completely consistent with my own experience in deep coma due to severe bacterial meningitis (as recounted in my 2012 book Proof of Heaven). As my neocortex was destroyed by the invading bacteria, my conscious awareness greatly expanded to levels unprecedented in my normal waking experiences of my entire life. That shocking reality nagged at me especially in the early months after my coma, at a time I was trying to explain the whole experience as a vast hallucinatory trick of the dying brain (defaulting to my pre-coma reductive materialist scientific beliefs, honed by several decades working as a neurosurgeon).

My doctors knew from the medical evidence in my case that my neocortex was far too damaged to be supporting any mode of robust conscious experience, including any elaborate hallucinations, drug effects or dream states. After extensive review with some of the doctors who cared for me, and with several interested colleagues in neurosurgery, it became apparent that that ultra-reality occurred because the experience was real, although it did not occur anywhere in our 4-dimensional space-time of the observable physical universe.

As is often the case with global media completely steeped in the conventional materialistic paradigm, the press reports about the most recent study falsely trumpeted the opposite of the actual findings. Both the Guardian and CNN focused on some of the fMRI images, but completely missed the astonishing conclusions of the actual study, instead misinterpreting them as showing increased brain activity as opposed to the remarkable decreases in activity the paper actually reports.

Although such scientific investigations into psychedelic drugs are crucial in our evolving notions of consciousness and understanding the full nature of reality, I do not recommend the casual use of such substances in a non-sacred, recreational setting. However, very powerful tools exist for those seekers seriously interested in pursuing the deep mystery of consciousness within us all.

Meditation is a time-proven technique for those seeking to understand the universe by going within. For those who do not yet have a reliable means of meditation I suggest the tools of differential sound frequency brain entrainment I have helped to develop with Sacred Acoustics. Co-founder Karen Newell and I travel the world sharing these tools in our presentations – a list of upcoming presentations is listed here.

We are spiritual beings living in a spiritual universe – we can come to know this fact by going within. Given there is but one Truth we all seek, it should come as no surprise that open-minded science that acknowledges all of the relevant empirical observations (including not only psychedelic drug experiences and epiphanies during meditation, but near-death experiences, shared-death experiences, precognition, after-death communication, death bed visions, out of body experiences, remote viewing, past life memories in children indicative of reincarnation, etc.) should help lead us towards that Truth. This will lead to a necessary synthesis of science and spirituality that is crucial to our evolution as a species and to the well-being of all life on our planet.

[1] Carhart-Harris, RL, Erritzoe D, Williams T, et alia. “Neural correlates of the psychedelic state determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Of Sciences 109, no. 6 (Feb 2012): 2138-2143.

[2] Palhano-Fontes F, Andrade KC, Tofoli LF, et alia. “The Psychedelic State Induced by Ayahuasca Modulates the Activity and Connectivity of the Default Mode Network,” PLoS One (2015).

[3] Carhart-Harris, RL, Muthukumaraswamy S, Roseman L, et alia. “Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging.” Proc. Nat. Acad. of Sciences (Mar 2016).

Godspeed, Edgar Mitchell!

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Dr Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14, 1971

Dr Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14, 1971

Forty-five years ago today, Edgar Mitchell, one of the great explorers of our era, was piloting Antares, the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) for the Apollo 14 Mission, down to land in the hills of the Fra Mauro highlands on the Moon (February 5-6, 1971). His partner in the LEM was Alan Shepard, who, almost ten years earlier, had become the first American to visit outer space.

Today, this heroic explorer is venturing into an even more “undiscovered country,” as he has left the physical plane. Edgar Mitchell, who will go down in history as one of the truly great explorers of the ages, passed over on February 4, 2016. During the third successful moon landing mission, he had become the sixth man (of twelve total, to date) to walk on the moon.

I was fortunate to stay with Edgar during a trip to Florida July 10, 2012, as we connected our efforts to advance humankind (along with John Audette and Bob Staretz, both very crucial in this collaboration, and long-term friends of Ed’s) through the joining of Edgar’s Quantrek and Eternea (the brainchild of John Audette, which I also helped to found).

I enjoyed hearing about his childhood, growing up on a ranch in New Mexico next to one owned by Robert Goddard, the “father of American rocketry” (a fascinating synchronicity!), and how he, like me, had first soloed an aircraft at the young age of 14. To have such an extraordinary experience at that tender age of discovery weds one’s soul forever to the realms beyond earth.

Although I had followed his original journey in February 1971 as a teen-ager fascinated with space travel, hearing him tell of his grand epiphany, or savikalpa samadhi experience, an “ecstasy of unity,” while returning from his “sacred journey” to the moon, remains a true highlight of my life. Here is how I recall our conversation:

“I was basically unemployed,” he explained over breakfast in his home. “I had piloted Antares down to the Fra Mauro highlands, taken the longest walks ever taken on the moon, through those dusty lunar hills with Alan, then piloted the ascent module back up to rejoin Stu in Kitty Hawk. As we left lunar orbit to head home, my work was done. So I had three days to relax and enjoy the view.

“We were in barbecue mode, with the spacecraft rotating every couple of minutes to avoid any area overheating in the intense sunlight. I could see ten times as many stars as you can ever see from earth, so the view was spectacular. With the rotation, I would see the earth, moon, and sun pass by the window every few minutes. The immensity and serenity of the universe struck me in an entirely new way, out there suspended between the great blue jewel of earth and the dusky moon we were leaving behind. The setting was perfect – I suddenly sensed the profound consciousness of the universe – how it is completely interconnected and aware – an absolutely indescribable awareness. My life was changed forever.”

Thanks to his courage, vision, and keen intellect, the world was changed forever, too. His grand achievements as a scientist and moon-walking astronaut were only Phase 1 of his fascinating life journey. In many ways, it was the second phase of his remarkable life, in which he pursued with tireless enthusiasm a passionate interest in deepening our understanding of consciousness, the nature of reality, and of humanity’s place in it, that I believe history will truly revere.

In my opinion, his greatest quality was his love for others, and for all of humanity. His epiphany led him to courageously pursue the deep study of scientific aspects of consciousness, to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), and to help lead humanity towards metanoia, a far grander awareness of our spiritual nature and of the unity of conscious awareness and the universe. His intuition that science and religion greatly strengthen each other, that their natural synthesis is an inevitable aspect of human history, is one that I share deeply.

He wrote several wonderful books about his trip to the moon and resultant life journey, which I have personally found to be most inspiring. In particular: The Way of the Explorer (1996) is a beautifully written saga of his life building up to and including the Apollo 14 mission, and of the powerful consequences of his epiphany, and Psychic Exploration (1974) is an extraordinary compilation in which Dr Mitchell assembled some of the best scientific minds on earth in addressing the deep mystery of consciousness.

Godspeed, Edgar Mitchell! The world is a far better place for your having lived in it. Prayers and blessings of gratitude for your courageous achievements in this lifetime, to help awaken humanity to the true spirit of our destiny.

I offer my heartfelt condolences to Karlyn, Elizabeth, Kim, Mary Beth, Paul, and the rest of his family.

Eben Alexander III, MD

Charlottesville, Virginia
February 5, 2016

2015 Interviews

Eben Alexander has been a guest on many programs. In addition to those featured below, a full list of media interviews is available under the “media” page.

Heaven on Earth Summit

 

Diario de Pernambuco in Brazil, article posted to Curiosmente by Paolo Trigueiro for our Portuguese readers (translate it on Google):

 

Canada’s Réconciliation with Pierre Baribeau

 

The Outer Limits of Inner Truth radio with host Ryan McCormick

 

 

S17-TV: Proceedings from the 2nd International Conference on Near Death Experiences (Marseilles, France) featuring Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr. Jeffrey Long, Dr. Raymond Moody and, plus the film “Untimely Departure”  https://en.s17.tv/

 

Coma Study – Jan 2015

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Earlier this week (Jan 2015), Dr. Alexander was invited to weigh in on a groundbreaking new study that shows coma patients actually heal faster and more completely when they hear their loved ones voices telling them loving things. The sample size was small, but it’s extremely promising, and the results were strongly in favor of introducing a new protocol for coma patients.

Dr. Alexander himself may have benefited from his family doing this during his illness.  Of course, his family hadn’t read any studies saying they should talk to him and pray for him–they just did it.  As it turns out, that was probably the smartest thing they could have done.

He was unconscious, of course, so he couldn’t hear his family speaking to him during the coma, but as he describes in the interview, he remembers his sisters fighting to bring back his memory when he awoke, dazed and amnesiac.

“My sisters’ role in my healing came after I initially awoke from coma, when my brain was still extremely compromised and I was in and out of awareness of my surroundings in the ICU,” he told me. “I believe that those stories played a major role in my rapid recovery of brain functions.”

You can watch that interview about the new coma study here.  

 

Welcome – Feb 2014

Ever since I started sharing my story, and especially since the release of my book, Proof of Heaven, people have pulled me aside after meetings and presentations to tell me about their own experiences. It often starts the same way: I’ve never told anyone this before, but…

The opportunity to hear those stories and share in the spiritual learning process of others is the greatest gift Proof of Heaven brought me. It has helped me to understand more about my own experience, and to see how different aspects of truth are revealed to each of us, like facets of a gem. It also revealed how difficult it is for most people to talk about spiritually transformative experiences, and how few opportunities modern life affords us to openly discuss questions that truly matter — the ones about life and death, and about who we are and what we’re meant to become.

That’s part of why I’m so excited for the launch of my new website at www.ebenalexander.com. It’s a way for folks to reach me, but it’s also designed as a safe space for those curious about spiritually transformative experiences (STE’s), near-death experiences (NDE’s), and phenomena related to non-local consciousness to learn with and from each other. This website is not a one-way street; it is the beginning of a networked community of researchers and open-minded thinkers who will together expand the boundaries of knowledge beyond what mainstream materialist science has yet dreamed possible. Whether by reading, signing up for the newsletter, or — most importantly — submitting your own story, you are most welcome to join us as we take the first step.