Few things are as mysterious to us as the existence of an afterlife. At the same time, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that three-quarters of Americans believe in an afterlife – 50-percent strongly so.
Proving it, however, is relegated to religious beliefs and personal testaments, and isn’t typically in the realm of people in science and medicine.
Enter Dr. Eben Alexander III. He is a neurosurgeon who claims to have had an afterlife experience during a seven-day coma, something he would have previously discounted, or at least questioned, in the experiences of some of his near-death patients.
He says he went into the coma in November of 2008 - and a week later, awoke with spiritual insight he couldn't explain away.
"I made a full and complete recovery within probably 2 or 3 months, which was inexplicable from a medical standpoint," he says. "And then I had to explain this incredible odyssey I had, deep within a coma."
He’s written about his experiences in his book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. Uniquely, he also writes about the scientific community’s position on the afterlife, or more to the point, its lack of answers. Put out by the major publisher Simon and Schuster, the book is breaking down the barriers for those who are uncomfortable talking about the idea.
Alexander says he's still trying to figure out the details of how we get to the afterlife, but he says he has some inklings about why our souls come to this reality in the first place.
"In fact our souls are yearning to get down into this very imperfect realm with all of its evil and injustice because this is actually where they get the work done," he says.
What is the work our souls need to do? That he can answer with certainty.
"Our existence has everything to do with manifesting the love - unconditional love of that creator for the creation and serving as conduits for that love to our fellow beings, showing compassion, showing forgiveness, and this is so much about what we are here to learn."
Alexander will appear tonight at Boswell Book Company.
Note: This interview was recorded in March, 2013.