On November 23, 2013, Eben Alexander will be part of a symposium hosted by the Open Center. Visit the class page to learn more.
By Eben Alexander
When I began sharing my experience—speaking not only to friends and family, but to medical groups, churches, and universities—I wasn’t sure I could convey the profound nature of my odyssey. I didn’t realize that after every presentation, people would approach me with questions and stories of their own. For many, it was the first time they said aloud what they’d felt and seen. Some had been afraid that they would come off as “crazy”; others simply weren’t ready for the changes that truth would demand of them if they let it guide their lives.
But the more presentations I made and the more people I talked to, the more often I heard from those who openly discussed what they’d seen, and who said things like, “your book helped me trust myself enough to embrace my own experience.” If that’s what people take away from my presentation—that it’s rational and important to accept the intuitive perception that you are loved, and that each of us is capable of living a more loving, full life—then my book is serving its purpose.
When I woke from seven days in coma, I didn’t call what had happened a “near-death experience.” In fact, even if the right words had been accessible to my healing brain—and it would be weeks before they were—I wouldn’t have chosen to call it that. Words are unavoidably inadequate, but the term that feels most authentic is spiritually transformative experience (STE). It seems especially apt now that so many other people have shared stories of finding their way to the places my consciousness visited while my body was battling meningitis, but without themselves being at death’s door.
In a study published in his 1982 book Adventures in Immortality, pollster John Gallup found that 47 million people, or one-third of Americans, reported having had a “religious or mystical experience.” In other words, one out of three people you see on the street have felt the same sense of a higher power and ultimate connection, one that’s stronger than family or friendship or geography because it encompasses those things and more. They might describe it with different words, or they might interpret what they saw differently, but they experienced a moment where they knew there was something greater, something more, something infinite.
Just a few years ago, I would have dismissed them. As a neurosurgeon, I was used to believing in what I could see, feel, and measure, and NDEs and STEs seemed like so much wishful thinking. But soon after my experience, I found a wealth of scientific research and anecdotal evidence that revealed the error of my prior assumptions. By extension, I also came to realize the significant evidence supporting non-local consciousness. That one-third of Americans—myself included—have stumbled onto something vitally important.
If you are one of those who have had a religious or mystical experience, an experience like mine, you know that death is not an end, but a transition. You may be able to put the blinders back on for a while, but not for ever. You’ve been granted the incredible gift and challenging responsibility of both living a greater truth and standing as a trustee for it at a crucial moment, when science is newly able to study the phenomena of life, death, and consciousness. If you have a story, now is the time to stand up and share it, and to join me in opening our minds to a greater reality.
Eben Alexander, MD, a neurosurgeon who has spent the past 15 years at the Brigham and Women’s/Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, underwent a transformative spiritual awakening following a near-fatal bout of bacterial meningitis.www.LifeBeyondDeath.net