To the class of 2020, congratulations on graduating during the worst healthcare challenge our world has faced in over a century, one that has fully disrupted our lives and ordered the whole world to “stay home” for months on end.

“Congratulations?” You might ask.

No doubt the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic shutdown have thrown a wrench into your expectations for how your years of hard work in school would come to a worthy conclusion.

Well, I agree that the challenge of graduating during the Covid-19 pandemic is a hardship, but, like all such hurdles, it might just prove to be a blessing in disguise. Graduation speeches are generally known as “commencement,” reflecting that they happen at the beginning of the rest of your life, not the ending of your education. Life can be challenging for any of us. The ability to find a silver lining as you commence the rest of your life under this apparent hardship of the viral lockdown is a worthy quest. In many ways, this Covid-19 pandemic might provide the most valuable experience of your entire education – a resilience to hardships, and an optimism that can counter whatever the world throws at you in the future.

By way of example, I would like to share the stories of four people who faced adversity and the unknown in their lives and consequently grew into much grander versions of themselves through the challenge. The adversity and uncertainty created the opportunity for each of them to magnificently fulfill their potential and make remarkable, lasting contributions.

In the 16th Century, humans looking up at the night sky knew that all of those sparkling points of light were in a fixed sphere high above the earth. A young Italian scientist, Giordano Bruno, who was a forward-thinking visionary, proposed that those points of light in the night sky might really be distant suns, possibly orbited by planets, even possibly inhabited by other intelligent beings. The church was intolerant of many philosophical and theological statements during the Inquisition, and Bruno was tortured and killed in 1600 by the forces that drove many to their imprisonment or death. He defended this cosmological vision to the end and refused to recant it. His demise did not destroy his vision. Only over the last three decades has science begun to fully catch up with his proposal, as the most powerful telescopic efforts to date, using mainly radial velocity measurements and transit monitoring, have identified over 4,200 planets orbiting distant stars, some even offering tantalizing spectroscopic clues that those planets might be favorable to life. Despite his ruthless execution, the courageous visionary legacy of Giordano Bruno lives on 420 years after his death!

In June, 1661, Isaac Newton began his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge, England working his way through by serving as a valet, until his studies were interrupted by a plague that swept through England. He had qualified for a scholarship that would cover not only his Bachelor of Arts degree, but also his post-graduate Master of Arts degree. In 1665, while still an undergraduate, he discovered the generalized binomial theorem, while pursuing the study of “mechanical philosophy.” Immediately after receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in August, 1665, the university was forced to close as the Great Plague, the last wave of the bubonic (or Black) Plague, killed 100,000 people (fully one quarter of London’s population) over 18 months. Due to that pandemic, he had to study at home over the next two years waiting for the university to reopen. From his small home in Woolsthorpe, lacking the resources of a university library, he started developing his notions of optics, a universal law of gravitation, and he invented a whole new and vastly useful field of mathematics: the calculus! Not bad for a previously undistinguished college student. After two years of isolation due to the Plague, Newton returned to university and completed his Masters degree. Remarkably, Isaac Newton truly blossomed as a creative thinker during the isolation period, emerging as one of the greatest scientific minds in history after weathering the hardship of the academic shutdown.

Albert Einstein graduated from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich in 1900, but he was unable to secure a teaching position for two years. A family friend finally helped him get a job as a patent clerk, 3rd class, in the patent office in Bern, Switzerland. Luckily, his mundane work in that office left plenty of spare time for him to pursue his profound interest in physics. In 1905, as a 26-year old patent clerk, he wrote four monumental scientific papers, in a year that has since come to be called his “annus mirabilis,” or “miracle year.” Those four papers, published in the Annalen der Physik, went on to revolutionize the scientific world, creating a seismic shift in understanding that continues to expand today. The first paper addressed the photoelectric effect, ultimately a cornerstone of the newly-born field of quantum physics, specifically addressing how light beams eject electrons from a metallic surface. The second paper addressed Brownian motion, or the first direct proof of the existence of atoms, after over two millennia of their proposed existence. The third paper concerned special relativity, Einstein’s effort to reconcile problems of Newtonian mechanics with James Clerk Maxwell’s notions of electromagnetic fields, which led to the surprising linkage of space and time. The fourth paper of that truly miraculous year dealt with nothing less than mass-energy equivalence, his famous equation E=mc2, which ultimately led to the end of World War II through the development of atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, a welcome result for all of humanity in its rapid ending of that deadly conflict that ultimately saved millions of lives. It was his paper on the photoelectric effect that led to his receipt of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, although that by no means makes it the most scientifically important of the four papers. It was simply less controversial than his work on special relativity or mass-energy equivalence.

The world has never been as enthralled by a brilliant scientist as its was by Einstein. As early as 1919, when his predictions of the sun’s displacement of the apparent positions of stars near the sun during a total solar eclipse validated his concept of General Relativity, the global public was mesmerized and became caught up in his scientific successes, though few truly understood his work. Our very common use of global positioning systems, or GPS, is one very practical result of Einstein’s discoveries that has changed our lives from the drudgery of reading and interpreting maps to instant electronic positioning and routing in our travels. None of that would exist without Einstein’s theory of general relativity. As recently as 2017, the world was involved yet again in Einstein’s prescient brilliance: his prediction of gravitational waves in the theory of general relativity was beautifully confirmed by one of the most astonishing pieces of technology ever constructed by humans – the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO. Comprised of two huge laser interferometers (each with two orthogonal arms 4 km long), LIGO consists of one unit in Hanford, Washington, and the other 3,000 km away in Livingston, Louisiana. The astonishing ability of this set of observatories to distinguish signal from noise in analysis of gravitational waves would be equivalent to being able to measure the distance to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, 25 trillion miles away, down to the accuracy of the width of a human hair!

Not bad for a patent clerk, 3rd class, with some extra time on his hands! Working in the Bern patent office in 1905, he did not have ready access to a scientific library (much less a resource like the internet!), but he had a wonderful colleague, Michele Besso, with whom to discuss his ideas. He first met Besso at the Polytechnic Institute and his family had helped Einstein obtain the position in the Bern patent office. Einstein gave specific credit to Besso in his paper on special relativity: he said he “could not have found a better sounding board for his ideas in all of Europe” than Michele Besso. Fortunately, today’s technology allows for Facetime and Zoom chats, and so that opportunity to chat with your friends should not be underestimated, pandemic or not!

Einstein remained lifelong friends with Besso, until he died in Geneva just over a month before Einstein’s own death on April 18, 1955. In a letter of condolence to Michele’s family, Einstein had written: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Einstein’s grand understanding of the deep mystery of time itself as an illusion gave him comfort, and implied that death did not ultimately separate him from his lifetime friend at all, which leads us to the fourth and final revolutionary thinker.

Raymond Moody became fascinated by the idea of an afterlife after he read Plato’s account of an Armenian soldier, Er, that concludes his book, The Republic, written almost 2,400 years ago. Er was killed in battle, but his body did not decompose over ten days on the battlefield. Two days after collecting his body, he was placed on a funeral pyre, where, just before the planned ignition, he unexpectedly regained consciousness and regaled his astonished fellow soldiers with stories of travel through astral planes. This story stuck with Moody as he went on to obtain a PhD in Greek Philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1969, teaching briefly at East Carolina University before deciding he would prefer going to medical school and becoming a physician, like his father. In the mid 1960s, Moody met Dr. George Ritchie, a Virginia psychiatrist who had had his own profound experience returning from near-death as a 19-year old Army recruit in Fort Barkley, Texas, in December 1943.

Having read the story of Er, Moody’s mind remained open to the possibility of this life not being the entirety of conscious existence and accepted Ritchie’s story. Later, as a medical student at the Medical College of Georgia, his patients began telling tales of unexpected experiences occurring in the setting of severe injury or illness, that many would have been tempted to dismiss as hallucinations. Raymond, however, became intrigued by their consistencies and similarities, despite the wide variety of medical situations that induced them. The story recounted by Plato’s soldier Er would have fit right into this modern collection of patients! He documented over a hundred such cases, and assembled them into a landmark book, Life after Life, first published in 1975. He popularized the term “near-death experiences,” and is globally considered the father of the field. Despite his medical training, Moody’s open mind and his inquisitive curiosity allowed him to make connections where others had not.

Academic study of similar cases by scientists around the world now supports a far richer and more profound interpretation of their meaning, and of the implications for the nature of consciousness, indeed in many ways proof of the existence of the human soul. The modern study of consciousness includes the tremendous evidence for the reality of non-local consciousness, such as telepathy (sensing others thoughts and emotions), precognition (knowing the future), remote viewing or extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis (the manipulation of physical matter by the mind), and even past-life memories in children indicative of reincarnation. But the tip of the spear in demonstrating mind and consciousness independent of the physical brain remains firmly in the realm of near-death experiences and related studies.

Moody realized there was too much there to simply dismiss the claims of his patients as hallucinations, and his intuitions of the importance of these stories has proven most valuable. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, when our way of interacting in the world has been so affected, I encourage you to develop an open mind. Pay attention to the anomalies in life — just as Raymond Moody did. The history of science is filled with tremendous progress when people embraced the anomalies and outliers — the cases that just didn’t fit the standard model. Those jagged edges in our explanations offer seeds to a much deeper understanding of reality, as long as we are not tempted down the simple path of blind acceptance. Don’t just accept the beliefs of others – find out for yourself!

Prior to November 2008, I had heard plenty of fantastical stories from my neurosurgical patients whom I often patted on the back and reassured that it was just a drug effect or hallucination. I had followed a fairly conventional path of scientific education in pursuing my medical training so my mind was not as open as Raymond Moody’s — that is, until I found out for myself when I came down with an absolutely should-have-killed-me case of gram-negative bacterial meningo-encephalitis. I spent a week in coma due to a disease that medical documentation later revealed had decimated my neocortex, that’s the part of the brain most directly related to human consciousness. While my brain was unable to produce a hallucination, I witnessed an extraordinary spiritual journey that was much more real than anything I’d ever experienced in my life. When I finally struggled my way back to this world, I had such complete amnesia for my life that I did not even recognize loved ones at the bedside, like my sisters, sons and even my mother. Although my physicians had predicted the dire destruction of my illness, they were unprepared for my rapid recovery of function and memories over hours and days, not to mention my complete return to normal over two months or so.

After reviewing my medical records, it was clear to me that our notions of the brain’s role in creating consciousness were false. In fact, it’s the other way around: consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, and the brain merely serves as a filter for consciousness, our very awareness. Since this realization, I have discovered over a hundred scientists around the world pursuing research that fully supports this scientific concept. When this maturation of understanding becomes more prevalent in our mainstream world, the potential for unprecedented progress is inevitable. A horrific health challenge, so devastating to my family as they lived through it, has become one of the greatest blessings of my life! Talk about a silver lining!

Of course, mine is but one of many stories that validate a much grander model of understanding our reality, because we are each on a journey of personal growth and discovery, contributing to the evolution of consciousness itself.

Each of you will have your own story. Your education has always been about learning how to learn, and your final exam in this course of study involves the challenges of the pandemic and the economic distress that comes with it. Yes, the abrupt end of the school year left much of your course work completed online as opposed to physically present, making it seem less complete. Many aspiring athletes had their senior dreams of competition smashed by the pandemic and its forced social distancing.

However, the potential is there for you to grow stronger through direct experience – to become more resilient. If your “learning how to learn” was on track by the time the pandemic ended the normalcy of the school year, then the challenge taught you lessons about adapting to change, learning to navigate a new normal, and seeing yourself as a more mature and capable soul. Hardship naturally breeds resilience. As 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so wisely observed, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Clearly true in the case of near-death experiences, this maxim applies to life for all of us.

Our greatest rewards come from contributing to the common good. As we grow and learn, we come to appreciate the simple gratification of being of service to others. The Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to help others, especially those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum who were marginal before the pandemic, but now are dangerously exposed as our thin safety net for the have-nots is challenged by the extremes of the pandemic.

The great gift of this unexpected ending to your academic studies is your learning that when the world gives you sour lemons, make lemonade!

Remember that many of the assumptions and beliefs hosted by our world are falsely limiting. You are more than just your thoughts, more than just your ego, much more than just your physical body and brain. The only limits are those propped up by those beliefs, but you have the power to prove them wrong. As Einstein so wisely observed, imagination is far more important than knowledge. Consider the possibilities limitless, especially when it comes to helping others and contributing to the higher good and your contributions will be everlasting.

Congratulations, indeed, on your hard work, your disciplined study, your attention to cultivating friendships and your personal network, and especially on coming to see yourself as a contributing citizen of the world – the steel of your soul tempered in the cauldron of the covid pandemic. Finding strength in the dark cloud of this lockdown will truly provide a gift that will last a lifetime.

Thank you.

It should be no surprise to learn that happy people are healthier and live longer. Happiness brings more success to relationships and makes us more resilient during stressful times. Happy people perform better in their jobs and earn higher incomes. The happiest among us naturally feel a sense of inner peace. The United Nations recognizes happiness as a significant measure of outcome in our world and since 2012 has sponsored an annual happiness report of all countries. The latest results from the 2019 report are revealing.

The United States in the 2016-2018 epoch ranked 19th in the world, below top place finishes by Scandinavian countries, several central and western European countries, Australia-New Zealand, Canada, and Costa Rica. Out of 132 countries, the U.S. is among the top 15% of the happiest in the world. Notably, if material wealth were the source of happiness, the U.S. would be much higher on the list. Despite its relatively smaller size compared to other countries, it represents fully one quarter of the world’s economy. It seems clear that significant resultant happiness due to the acquisition of material wealth is fleeting, at best.

Of greatest concern is the fact that the U.S. has lost considerable ground in the happiness measure since 2005, which marks the starting point of the UN data collection. The U.S. ranked 112th of 132 countries (Venezuela came in last) when looking at the change in levels of happiness from 2005 through 2018. In the Declaration of Independence, one of the three unalienable rights declared by our founding forefathers was the pursuit of happiness, ranked equally with liberty and life itself. Yet, over 13 years, our happiness level has decreased more than 111 other countries. Where has the U.S. gone so wrong in pursuing one of the simplest measures of success available – our very happiness?

The 2019 report addresses the role of digital media in diminishing our sense of happiness. Among U.S. adolescents, happiness increased from 1991-2011, but has been in steady decline since 2012. Of note, smartphone availability and usage began a dramatic increase in 2012. This decline has also been associated with a serious increase in depression, suicidal ideation and self-harm, especially among girls and young women. Overall, suicide increased by 26% in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015, with especially alarming bubbles in young females and middle-aged white males.

In spite of the long-term rise in GDP per person over the measured interval, several simultaneous trends have contributed to our country’s malaise: worsening health conditions, declining social trust, and declining confidence in government. Many of the comments concerning the U.S. apply widely to other countries, especially in the Americas and Europe. Overall, the report elucidates how elusive happiness becomes when we are self-absorbed in our own little worlds, abandoning the social fabric of relationships with family and friends, and falling victim to satisfying the demands of our ego as it promotes our material-oriented drives.

The general impact of burgeoning addictions has contributed to the spread of unhappiness in the U.S. Addictions are widely defined to include not just narcotics and alcohol, but addiction to work, exercise, screen time, food, sex and love, among others. Any activity that consumes a person’s time, energy and interest at the expense of the rest of their life is considered an addiction. One of the major consequences is the damage and destruction of relationships with others. In contrast, the report findings support the notion that helping others can be a very rich source of happiness, a fact that may have been lost on many of the me-focused screen-addicted people in our modern world. Small acts of kindness and compassion represent a significant effect on happiness, for both the giver and the recipient.

The good news is, we can correct this course direction. We must realize we are not victims of circumstance – the outer world is a reflection of our inner world.

We tend to see ourselves as existing separately from the world around us, but, in fact, our entire mental model of self and world is ours alone. Language is all about objects, relationships and actions, and thus obscures the seamless oneness of our conscious perceptions in which all of the universe is an aspect of our mental “self.” Placebo effect is just one of the most common examples showing that our beliefs and mental will can affect the physical world in ways that defy simplistic materialistic notions of cause and effect.

Combine this realization with the emerging scientific concept that we are all sharing one mind. In fact, consciousness is unified throughout the universe and is only filtered into our awareness through our brains, luring us into believing that personal consciousness is isolated when that is not the case at all. Our very existence as sentient beings offers us significant influence in how that mental world evolves. This highlights the value of exploring the mental realms as a means of interacting with the universe at large.

In essence, the main thrust of modern scientific studies of consciousness is revealing that we are spiritual beings living in a spiritual universe. The more separatist, competitive materialistic thinking has pervaded our modern world, the further we have migrated from our basic spiritual nature, resulting in unhealthy dissonance and toxicity. This spiritual vacuum in our world is at the root of much of societal malaise, whether it be the storm of addiction that is killing us in unprecedented numbers, or the shocking epidemic of suicidal behavior afflicting huge swaths of our modern society – those who have lost any sense of meaning or purpose, not to mention happiness, in their lives.

To contribute to these efforts, Karen Newell and I have created Inner Sanctum Center, an online community designed to help open minds to these truths through exchange of ideas and generating firsthand experience. As part of its launch, we invited participants in our 33 Day Journey free program to a recent Live Q&A Session on October 22, 2019. We invite you to view a replay of this 93-minute session where we answer questions on a variety of topics.

No soul left behind – all can achieve inner peace and happiness, and the more each of us achieves this worthy goal, the more harmonious our world will become.

Earlier this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an article about the alarming 28% rise in suicide deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2016. The issue was recently punctuated with the celebrity suicides of Kate Spade (June 5) and Anthony Bourdain (June 8), leaving many to wonder how such visibly successful and seemingly fulfilled people can take their own lives. Such assumptions fail to acknowledge that suicide is often a more fundamental existential disorder of disconnection and purposelessness.

From my perspective, suicide deaths are largely the result of the spiritual vacuum in our secular culture. Spirituality, in this discussion, is an acknowledgment of meaning and purpose in our lives, as well as a sense of deep interconnection with others and with the universe at large. Some gain spiritual growth through religion, although conflicting orthodoxies tend to diminish our knowing of the reality of such a guiding force at the core of our lives, at least for some. Unfortunately, the predominant scientific materialism of our era supports a notion of separation and meaninglessness that only contributes to the spiraling desperation reflected in this sad explosion of suicidal behavior.

Suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state, especially those in the Midwest and New England, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the CDC: “In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.”

An editorial in the British Medical Journal reported that the recent decline in overall life expectancy in the US is mainly attributable to the rise in suicide and substance abuse.

In fact, many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Life challenges often contribute to suicide, such as those involving interpersonal relationships (42%), problematic substance abuse (28%), physical health problems (22%), job/money concerns (16%), criminal legal problems (9%), or loss of housing (4%). The largest group is thus associated with a perceived lack of love in their lives, in the form of relationships gone wrong (or that never form in the first place).

Firearms are the most common means used by people who successfully commit suicide. In 41% of these cases, the person had a known mental health condition, and in 55%, the person had no known mental illness. Pulling a trigger is far too easy an action, and allows tragic ease to accomplish the goal, whether it is ending one’s own life, or taking another.

One of the most important steps to take if one is concerned about a possible suicide is thus to separate such easy means (i.e., guns or potentially lethal drugs) from the potential victim, though accomplishing this task is not always as simple as it should be.

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, reports that rising rates of depression, loneliness and anxiety, as well as the opioid crisis and economic turmoil (such as that following the 2008 economic meltdown), are likely linked to the rising rates of suicide in America. Those primarily due to depression, loneliness and anxiety might well be prevented through an improved safety net of connection and purpose, manifested through healthier social relationships and a deeper sense of purpose in our existence. Especially in our very “me-focused” culture, the great value of serving others as a purpose often allows a solution to what otherwise might lead one towards suicide.

We continue to rely almost entirely on people themselves to tell us if they are suicidal, “yet nearly 80 percent of people who die by suicide explicitly deny suicidal thoughts or intentions in their last communications,” according to Matthew Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard University.

Alarmingly, in May 2018, an article in the medical journal Pediatrics reported that twice as many children were hospitalized for contemplating or attempting suicide in 2015 compared with 2008. There has been a 70% increase in the rate of suicide among girls (ages 10-19) from 2010 to 2016, which also hit a 40-year high in 2015. Where has our society gone so wrong as to fail our children in this way?

Any given suicide might involve more than a single factor, but the overall problem will become more manageable through a deeper cultivation of connectedness and caring for each other. Rates of depression are rising globally, and instead of sweeping the stigma of mental illness under the rug, we would benefit from more open and candid sharing of our feelings and concerns with one another. Acts of kindness and caring, learning how to listen to others’ sharing of their feelings and problems, raising an alarm when we are concerned about others, and keeping those identified as possibly at risk safer by removing easy access to lethal means, such as guns and potentially deadly medications and drugs – all of these can contribute to an alleviation of this depressing epidemic of suicide.

Suicide is invariably a complex issue, with any one case presenting significant challenges. In my role sharing my NDE and its implications for humanity, I frequently address questions about suicide, and we may find a natural remedy from within the NDE community.  Our good friend and colleague, Dr. Raymond Moody, has reported that one of the few categorically true observations to be made about suicide is that, if one attempts suicide and experiences any of the features of an NDE (encountering brilliant light and an overwhelming sense of a divine force of love in the universe, meeting souls of departed loved ones, etc.), then he or she will never attempt suicide again.

The commonly encountered pattern is that those who fail in suicide attempts are generally doomed to repeat their attempts. So this powerful effect of NDE elements preventing future suicide attempts is remarkable, indeed. NDE reports from observation across the veil also suggest that, during the life review, those who succeed at suicide likely witness a profound sense of love that others and the universe at large have for them, and gain comfort from that revelation, but they also realize the deep pain that many felt in their loss.

In short, suicide is never the right answer. The more we can nurture a sense of connectedness and purpose in our lives (of “spirituality”), the less likely people will be tempted to “end it all.” The other fact of this discussion is that suicide will never work as an escape from worldly problems, especially as one comes to realize that modern consciousness studies imply the reality not only of the afterlife, but of reincarnation. That particular dodge (of suicide) doesn’t solve the soul’s challenges and necessity of facing the issues at hand – if ignored or avoided, they will only be repackaged in a different form for one’s next incarnation. The world of transpersonal psychology is filled with such stories of soul challenges arranged over multiple lifetimes – all with the purpose of growth and learning. NDE experiences clearly show that the guiding compass of our soul journeys is one that acknowledges the binding force of love that connects us all.

There is no way out, but through. It is better to deal with the big challenges in this lifetime, never resorting to suicide as an exit plan. Together with medical or mental health treatment, as appropriate, meditation and centering prayer often yield access to our higher soul, and to guidance in helping us see this grander vision of our challenges, and of their solutions.

If you know someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide right now, please get help. I have posted some resources and information on the FAQ page here: What about Suicide?

“Hate only causes more hate. My daughter would’ve said, ‘Why hate?
What would that accomplish or do for anyone?’ Heather would not want people to hate.”

– Mrs. Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer,
who was killed in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, we live in Charlottesville, Virginia. We have always valued our quality of life in this idyllic part of the world. Charlottesville is a long-time center of democratic ideals, the site where the writer of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, chose to place his state university. It has been a center of enlightening thought and wide-ranging research including the exploration of NDEs and all manner of expressions of non-local consciousness at the University of Virginia.

So, like many of you and many in my current hometown, we were shocked and appalled at the uprising of hatred by neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups that led to the death of a sweet soul who peacefully stood for the principles of equality, as well as two peace officers just doing their job that day. As we learned about the unfolding events from afar while presenting at the IIIHS conference in Montreal, we were touched and heartened to witness a march of solidarity and support for our town as we shared dinner with Raymond Moody at an outdoor café.

The perpetrators argue that they are acting under the constitutional protection of our first amendment (freedom of speech and of peaceable assembly). I doubt the founding fathers ever anticipated that some would bring arms (assault rifles, bludgeons and other lethal weapons, including Dodge Chargers) to a decidedly unpeaceable assembly. Their implication is that if the opposing side doesn’t agree with their position, that they will then be maimed or killed. The situation is insane, and must come to an end.

Any student of 20th century history realizes that the world responded to similar bigotry, hatred and racism (that began with street brawls in Germany similar to the one in Charlottesville), professed on the scale of nations, with a war that enflamed the entire globe, left over 53 million people dead, and ended with the instant incineration of between 130,000 and 225,000 people in the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Such is the ultimate fate of hatred and intolerance. The lesson is clear – violent hatred and racism are no longer  acceptable modes of human behavior. Remnants of such thinking have survived into the 21st century, but it is time for humanity to grow up and wake up to the reality that we are all in this together, that love will always trump hatred.

Witness the case of Dylann Roof’s shooting of nine innocent black worshipers in the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, SC in June 2015. This incident led to exactly the opposite of what he intended: the entire community banded together to denounce such senseless violence, and the confederate flag, a divisive symbol of bigotry and racism, came down once and for all after more than half a century flying over the state capital in Columbia.

It is crucial for us to remember our history – those who fail to do so are doomed to repeat it. But as these confederate statues shift from being of historical or artistic importance to symbols of hate, they become dispensable, and are being summarily removed (as in Baltimore and New Orleans) because of their role as symbols of hatred and divisiveness. Our country is founded on far loftier principles of equality and justice, a fact we should trumpet with great pride.

Along with the victims of violence in Charlottesville, often overlooked is the fact that the hater is also a victim of his own mindset – living a life filled with hatred is a curse in itself. We must ensure that all souls, especially our younger generation, are influenced by love and connection, acceptance and resilience, forgiveness and compassion.

No matter one’s politics, terrorism in any guise is wrong. Hate is wrong.

No matter one’s earthly life circumstance and challenges, we are all here to learn. Compassion is healing. Hatred is not.

No matter one’s religion, country or race, all souls seek Oneness.  Hate divides.

The heart of consciousness that each soul seeks invites us all – no matter where we are right now.  It calls us home to love, to rise above the noise, to look at one another with open eyes of tolerance, to join hands in today’s mourning and in tomorrow’s continuing journey to become whole.

As Heather would’ve said, “There is no point in the hate.”

The tragic events in Charlottesville mark a turning point, an opportunity for reconciliation and the growth of peace and harmony in our world. Fortuitously, for the first time in 99 years, a total eclipse of the sun will cross the United States on Monday, August 21, 2017. Eclipses have long been seen as potentially marking major shifts in humanity, and we prefer to view this coming eclipse as a sign that brighter days are ahead for all. Sacred Acoustics has created a special recording designed to tune in to the energies of the eclipse, and to begin the process of collective healing and shifting our world from divisiveness to wholeness. Learn more here.

Each and every one of us can come to renounce violence and bigotry, by cultivating within ourselves a choice of greater compassion and kindness to others. This will ultimately make all the difference in the world – peace and harmony are not some pie-in-the sky idealist dream – they are very real qualities of the world we can co-create. The process starts with you and me and each one of us.


Eben and Karen

PS:  Tragically, as we were preparing this letter to you, we received word of another terrorist driving into a crowd of innocent people in Barcelona.  Our hearts and prayers are with the victims, families and communities in Spain and around the world, as we realize the urgent imperative to meditate and live from compassion, so that love prevails over hate on our shared planet.

PD:  Trágicamente, mientras nos preparábamos esta carta, recibimos la noticia de otro terrorista que conducía a una multitud de inocentes en Barcelona. Nuestros corazones y oraciones están con las víctimas, a las familias y a las comunidades de España y de todo el mundo, cuando nos damos cuenta del imperativo urgente de meditar y vivir de la compasión, para que el amor prevalezca sobre el odio en nuestro planeta compartido.


Just as people began responding to my blog on “Confronting Evil,” reports started coming in about the tragic deaths in Nice, France on July 14 – the killing of innocent people around the world continues to shock us daily. Yet again, we are confronted with unbelievable crimes against humanity, no matter what the cause, from mental instability to terrorism. If this is earth school, what are our lessons today? And more to the point, how does the force of pure love felt by so many who report near-death experiences play a role through all of us in healing?

After extending the deepest condolences and prayers of love and comfort for the victims and their families, we have a choice to make – to meet hatred with hatred or to bring love and compassion into the equation. Forgiveness may take some time, but is also key to shifting the dynamic of love in our world.  The one who benefits most from forgiveness is the forgiver.

Each of us individually has the free will to choose our response, and each of us is at a different level of awareness, learning, and spiritual growth.  It is not about being better than another, or always choosing wisely (because we do learn from mistakes), or even sharing a common belief system.  But it is, I think, about reaching closer to a mutual goal of unconditional love, at our own rate. After all, some may not yet realize that love is a worthwhile goal, and no amount of being told “this is what you should or must believe” will get them there.  We all learn and grow based on our own experience and understanding.
We know, from the sheer numbers of NDEs and the commonality of their reports, that the soul is not limited by the existence of the physical body, and is eternal. Yet, many people do not believe the soul is eternal, because they have not personally experienced an NDE or other spiritually-transformative experience (STE), nor read much about their evidential nature. They may not have had the opportunity to meditate, pray or experience the spiritual aspects in their lives — yet.  They have their own lessons to learn, as do we all.

My worldview has been shaped not only by my profound NDE deep within coma, but also by the confirmatory testimony from many souls I have met along the pathway of sharing my experience and its most positive message about humanity and our earthly existence. The underlying message is one of unity, Oneness, and the higher good of all being the goal. I believe that this focus on the primacy of love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness is at the core of all of the great faiths of the world, although it has often been twisted and distorted by those humans who take it on themselves to interpret and present to the masses an altered version of the original message of the prophets, often towards the goal of controlling others. This mode of control is completely at odds with the simpler and more profound message originating in those great teachers of love and compassion – Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad being prime examples.

This worldview is centered in the Oneness of all consciousness, and the source of that Oneness is the infinite healing power of unconditional love at its core. As always, a cardinal transgression at the heart of this worldview is the act of killing — the killer violates the miracle of life through killing, whether of self or others. From my journey, it is clear that suicide and homicide are wrong at the deepest levels. Homicide is justified only if it prevents the homicide of others. Peaceful solutions and avoidance of escalation of violence through retribution and revenge represent the ideal. But in our complex world, one must often support the actions of good police officers, who endeavor to protect all citizens without bias or prejudice, and of soldiers, who protect the innocent by defending against threats and violence. When the intent to value and protect life is central, such actions are manifestations of this same fundamental love and respect for the sanctity of life. The deep love of this universe is just, and honors not only life but the expression of free will by those who respect others. We are all co-creators of the world we wish into being from our loftiest dreams.

To clarify specific questions regarding the “life review” that a terrorist might have, my journey witnessed the broad mechanism of souls having their life review as a crucial part of the soul school aspect of existence, that we are all here to learn and teach as consciousness evolves.

The life review is not what an individual perceives simply from their own perspective, but rather it is an omnidirectional evaluation from everyone with whom we have interacted – we feel our words and actions through their eyes, and through their extended family and friends’ eyes and hearts, and through those who may read a news article about a public incident, etc. Crucially, we feel the emotional impact that our actions and thoughts have on others, from their perspective.

The perceived boundaries of our individual self turn out to be ephemeral, and the Oneness we share with all other beings becomes apparent. So, the murderer will feel the emotions, pain and sadness of the murder victim, and there is no escaping this. Magnify that by the number of people harmed or killed, and by the number of people around the world who are shocked around feelings for that murderer.  These are intense feelings that will likely be a personal hell for the one having such a “life review.” After he completes his review, in the brilliant healing light of the unconditional love of Source, he will come to better understand the crucial role of love.

Free will is available to all – it is not whether, but how it is used, that can assist one in evolving swiftly or slowly, or remaining stuck.  And, as far as the force of love at the source getting through to someone cast as “evil,” it depends on all of us, doesn’t it?  If such actions are countered with hatred, love will have a hard time being seen or felt. On the one hand, we could allow the terrorists’ agenda to trap us in fear and hatred of them and their actions, and to separate us from others.  If, on the other hand, enough people shift to love and pray for all, that some kindness can penetrate the wall of hate the terrorist has constructed, then we begin to chip away at those hardened beliefs that lead them to repeat their cycles of destruction. Of course we must try to contain their actions and protect others, but there is a fine line in our approach, our intent.

As a civilization, we have a responsibility to defend people from such violence, and how we go about it is another free will choice—one that benefits from many thoughtful people engaged in finding answers. Most people, including myself, would defend themselves or their families if they were personally threatened. But what do we do after the danger passes?  Do we forgive, do we pray, do we re-center ourselves in love?  How do we honor the fallen in this seemingly perpetual cycle of violence? Perhaps their extreme sacrifice can lead us to review our laws (internationally) about allowing guns in our communities, to reword our every message and action based in love, and to enter more publicly into dialog about our mutual journeys of soul that endeavor to bring down walls rather than build them higher. We are truly One, and the more we come to know and live this, the better off we all will be.

True forgiveness is an essential choice that many successfully embrace in seemingly despicable circumstances. In my younger years, I sensed great truth in the saying “Tout comprendre, tout pardoner.” Translated, this oft-quoted phrase means “if you understand someone else completely, you can pardon all of their actions.”

This supposition hinges on the notion that humans react similarly to various specific challenges, and assumes that we all pursue rational solutions to our problems with others. Does this apply in the face of apparent evil, such as the spasm of terrorism and efforts at counter-terrorism that grip our modern world? Can we truly come to fully understand the life and motives of a terrorist, to the point of “pardoning” their actions? Doesn’t the rampant killing of innocents violate everything that a sane human being holds dear?

Our official response, as a culture and as a nation, is often to label the perpetrators as “evil,” and to base our actions on a standing principle of retaliation when wronged, and on a newer policy, at least in the USA, of destroying anything or anyone we label as “evil.”

After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, then-President George W. Bush referred to the rogue states of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “axis of evil,” which he claimed to be the main source of terrorism at that time. Since then the world has witnessed an expansion of institutional terrorism as well as a spike in “evil” activity by individual, disgruntled terrorists or malcontents across many countries and continents. The concept and consequences of “evil” are as old as time, but the choices we make about how to confront it or root it out in today’s world have more far reaching consequences than ever before.

Episcopal priest Steven Paulikas recently wrote a thoughtful op-ed piece in the New York Times (6/27/16) concerning the “fool’s errand” of trying to stamp out the evil expressed through terrorist acts. He highlighted the writings of philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who was orphaned when his father died as a soldier in the first World War, and who himself spent five years as a French prisoner-of-war held by the Germans. Ricoeur realized that evil exists not as a thing per se, but as a black hole of thought, making it a much tougher entity to simply “extinguish.” He stressed the importance of responding to evil appropriately, mainly in the form of addressing the suffering of the victims. This wisdom espoused by Ricoeur involved “an unwavering commitment to relieve and prevent suffering,” as Paulikas put it.

Ultimately, I believe any such eradication of evil will come from a deeper understanding of the experience, emotions and motives that drive all involved. As much as the National Rifle Association would urge us all to take up arms and take this fight to the level of Armageddon, I know that our ultimate solution will involve love, compassion and forgiveness. Otherwise, it all mires down into an endless cycle of repetitive violence, revenge, and misery for all concerned. The falsehood that one can destroy such “evil” through military might has been exposed and disproven time and again in the recent decades of escalation— the status quo is not leading towards a solution. And these cycles, when replicated on a micro-scale in our own neighborhoods and families, deliver no better results.

The way out? To express our free will in the face of this madness. To break the cycle of revenge and retribution will involve choosing a higher view, one that is broad enough to engage a win-win strategy and that includes all of us together on this journey. This view is no Pollyanna dream, but a potential goal strongly supported by emerging scientific notions of the nature of consciousness, and the ever-evolving evidence that we are all part of One Mind — thus to harm my neighbor (or my enemy) is to harm myself, in a very real sense. Combine this awareness with compelling evidence from the study of the mind-brain relationship: that the consciousness of which we are all a part is eternal, and that the rich literature on near-death experiences (NDEs) offers much evidence for a fundamental reality that is spiritual at heart – a reality that derives its essence from the power of unconditional love at the core of all creation. With clearer vision, one begins to glimpse a pathway out of this morass.

Having your life “flash before your eyes” is not just some recently discovered concept – the “life review” aspect of NDEs has been described across numerous cultures, belief systems and continents for millennia. The life review at the end of one’s physical life is the stage on which our higher souls (and soul groups) judge the various thoughts and actions of our lives that still have important lessons to offer. Given the strong purpose of justice and of learning that is inherent in one’s life review, it serves as a powerful corrective in one’s eternal soul journey, gently but firmly providing lessons that steer us more towards love, compassion and forgiveness. Each lesson helps us to integrate our individual desires with the Oneness so often and affectionately described by the millions who have been there as a result of an NDE or similar forms of spiritually-transformative experiences (or STEs).

The life review of someone who has killed others will be a hellish experience that involves feeling the pain and suffering not only of each of the victims, but also of all the other souls who felt pain when coming to know of their act of killing. This reality comes not from the dogmatic preaching of ideologues, but from the empirical evidence of human experience–from those who have been there, as revealed by the increasing number of stories of NDEs and similar STEs liberally annotated over the internet in recent decades. Much of the absolute tsunami of such evidence comes as a result of enhanced techniques of cardiac resuscitation available to physicians worldwide over the last half century or so. The world is populated with literally millions of souls alive today who have been to the other side and returned to share their experiences. And, the increased number of incidents and expanded reporting through books, media and the internet are not by accident or coincidence. Ignoring such evidence is a choice we should not make.

As the reality of the One Mind, of our interconnectedness, and of the core presence of love as a fundamental constituent of our evolving universe becomes more established and begins to alter our perceptions of ourselves and of our role in this evolution of consciousness, this reality will displace the false sense of separation so prevalent in our current materialistic world view. We will finally begin to mature as a sentient civilization, choosing to move towards the loftiest of realities of human potential—one based in peace, harmony, and a focus on the higher good. Even if only a small percentage of souls currently recognize this reality, it is nevertheless present in every soul’s fundamental essence, waiting to be turned on, to be expressed instead of repressed. On a practical level, we can exercise free will guided by oneness and love in matters of everyday experience as well as in those of international policy.

We are all, truly, in this together. But we have fooled ourselves into a false sense of separation, whether from secularist and deterministic Newtonian science or the competitive dogma spewed to the masses from religious zealots of diverse beliefs that run counter to the original unifying principles in the mystical traditions of all of the great faiths. The fundaments and birthright of this universe are based in love, compassion and forgiveness.

I believe we have reached a major juncture, from which we can choose either awakening to these eternal truths, or committing planetary suicide. The choice is ours. I, for one, am optimistic that our destiny is to choose awakening.


Each new year offers an opportunity for reflection on the recent past, and consideration of the world we live in and where it is headed. How might we see the whole spectrum of current events in a sensible way, so that we can envision how we might actively influence the coming year in a favorable direction? The terrorist attacks in Paris, Lebanon and California, as well as escalating warfare in the Middle East, are most troubling, and, according to many media reports, our group psyche is reaching levels of fear not faced since immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01.

These events are indeed disturbing. However, I am heartened by the degree to which I see many in this world awakening to a deeper understanding of our connectedness through consciousness. This profound interconnectedness can help lead us to a more peaceful, loving and harmonious world. Witness how a few weeks after the horrific attacks in Paris, world leaders convened in the very same city to construct the most effective and significant agreement to address climate change in our history. Given the fits and starts of prior attempts at collaboration on this most crucial issue, this confluence of global intentions to address the increasingly dire situation of greenhouse gas production is most promising.

The most central message I bring through my presentations and books is the insurmountable power of unconditional love to change our world for the better. In spite of what many would point to as the darkness of our times, I remain optimistic that the way out of our troubles is always at hand.  Our beacon in these times, as during past challenges, is the great power of the human spirit to usher us into a far better and more harmonious world for all through love, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance and mercy. Unconditional love has infinite power to heal, whether one is talking about healing the individual, the soul group, ethnic populations, nations, all of humanity, all of life on earth, or beyond.

During this holiday season, as we contemplate the potential of the coming year, I invite you to join me in prayer and meditation seeking to manifest a more perfect world. I see this as very much within our grasp. It is up to each and every one of us to serve as a conduit for that love — to love ourselves first and foremost, and to express that love through choices that actively serve to spread that love through us to all of those around us. We all have the ability to serve as points of light for the infinite healing power of love — we simply need to make that choice.

Please enjoy this audio interview that I provided for the Heaven on Earth telesummit I participated in earlier this year.

My best personal wishes for love, peace and harmony – for all of this world!


Fox News Magazine’s Jaimie LaBella talked with Dr. Alexander before the holidays, and that article is out now.  You can read it online here.

Jaimie asked Dr. Alexander one question that he’s rarely asked about in interviews–the age-old Problem of Evil.

If you’ve read books on philosophy, especially religious philosophy–or even spent a lot of time thinking about those things–then the Problem of Evil is a concept that’s familiar to you 

It goes like this: If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, why does evil exist in the world?

Different religions have taken different paths to answering this question. But any religion that posits an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent Deity has to grapple with it.

Some have put forth that evil is a result of human free will, and our imperfect understanding of Divine will.  Others suggest that evil–and even intense human suffering–are necessary for spiritual development, and that our souls would experience a kind of stagnation or atrophy without it. Still others say that evil is simply the absence of good, and exists where God has chosen to withdraw, or even that evil is an alternative power, weaker than God but still a continually challenging, balancing force.

That last scenario doesn’t fit in with what Dr. Alexander saw during his experience.  So when Jaimie LaBella asked Dr. Alexander to weigh in on what he thought about a battle between good and evil, here’s what he said:

“I rather see it that the power of that unconditional love, of the light and love of the creator, is an infinite force that can expel the darkness of evil; both in material realm and spiritual realm,” he says.

“It was clear to me the infinite love of that creator, that I encountered in the spiritual world, had infinite power to heal. [And] to defeat that ‘evil’ in the world, we can all serve with the power of love, compassion and forgiveness. We need to wake up and take greater responsibility for this world. I believe this is all a part of a grander plan.”

The article is worth reading in full.  In the meantime, here’s hoping that in this new year, 2015, we all find ways to contribute light to the darkness, and serve with the power of love, compassion, and forgiveness.