Mike Hendricks

Mike at Night

Mike Hendricks recently retires as social science, criminal justice instructor at McCook Community College.


Proof of heaven ... or not

Friday, October 12, 2012

There is a remarkable story, almost unbelievable in fact, in this week's Newsweek magazine. It's written by Dr. Eben Alexander, a respected neurosurgeon, and reflects his trip to heaven while in a coma when his brain was literally "turned off" by the illness he had.

Alexander says before his illness he was a Christian in name only. He hardly ever went to church, was totally skeptical of near-death experiences and relied on science as the ultimate answer to all our questions. But for him, that miraculously changed when he was hospitalized in a coma with the human part of his brain, the neocortex, inactivated for seven days. During that time, he reports taking a guided trip to heaven by a beautiful female companion who told him, without speaking, that he had nothing to fear and there was nothing he could do wrong.

The significance of this story and where it differs from all others similar to it is that his brain wasn't working during his vision. It had essentially shut down and, according to Alexander, without a functioning brain, one is also incapable of thought.

We have been hearing about these near-death experiences since Dante's inferno. The only way Alexander's story differs from many others is there was no white light at the end of the tunnel and his loved ones weren't waiting on him. But to him it was more real than anything he had ever experienced in his life.

Of all the wants and needs we have as mortal human beings, the desire of an afterlife is paramount in everyone's mind. We can't fathom turning into nothingness. It's beyond our capabilities of intellectual thought. It seems we have always been alive and the thought of dying and no longer being a part of any world throughout eternity sends chills of dread and despair through the hearts and minds of even the most dedicated and devoted believer.

So Alexander's vision was not extraordinary at all. What made it different from most of the others is the belief among scientists and physicians that man cannot dream or think without a working brain, which his was not during his experience. But we also know that science and medicine are still in their infancy and we discover things we didn't know before about the capabilities of the body and mind every day. Alexander's experience will almost certainly attract new research into the mind-brain duality in an attempt to discover if his vision was possible when no one at the time thought it was.

We all want it to be, whether we're Christian, Muslim, Jew, agnostic or atheist. We don't want this life on earth to be the end. We all hope for something more after we're done here. But the problem we have is that no one has ever come back to tell us. When we die, it's a one-way ticket we purchase. And that's why, regardless of how faithful we are in our beliefs, we dread death and mourn when others die. We have this undying and relentless hope that we'll be re-united with all the people who had meaning in our lives on the other side but there's no way we can know for sure, outside of faith.

Because of that, we hang tenaciously onto our religious beliefs, believing with all our hearts that it is the only possibility of having a satisfying life after death. And no one can be blamed for that because it's our only hope.

There's still so much we don't know about how the mind and body work. That's why we're still looking for a cure for the common cold. Can we dream when the brain has been shut down? People didn't think we could before Alexander's experience but perhaps we can. Maybe we're capable of things we haven't even dreamed of yet. Did the fact that the author of the article was a Christian, although not a practicing one, have anything to do with his experience?

My uncle, who was as much a dad to me as my father was, had surgery once when I was young and, during the surgery, he had a vision of going to hell and was totally distraught because he couldn't find me there. When he came home from the hospital, he was a changed man. He had been a rounder for most of his life but he never missed a church service after that until the day he died.

I hope Alexander is right, just like the rest of you do. But the only way we'll ever know for sure is for US to die and that's something most of us don't want to do.

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  • Some of the accounts of Near Death Experience, were certified, very, dead, and after a time of minutes, hours, or even days, spontaneously awaken, back to lucid thought, with most, never again to doubt there is a Heaven, and a Hell.

    The other 'Some,' were certified as being clinically dead, but not yet certified, usually, after minutes, return, to sentient life, remembering an experience that 'changes' their lives.

    On the premise they are not lying, and believe they experienced something, how do we determine them to be wrong, simply because they didn't have the experience in 'triplicate??'

    They tell us the story, but the 'Neigh-say' types usually manage to embarrass them sufficiently, most will no longer discuss what they experienced. That is too bad/sad.

    Alexander, as I remember, didn't mention, as you stated, nor did he mention 'God,' only the secular type things one might see on a vacation to a beautiful place. I would suspect, however, if he had no faith in his heart, prior, he does now, which scientifically does not qualify as proof.

    When we die, we all will learn the truth, and IMO, those who learn what I believe, will find they understand too late, to enjoy the place they learn is there, for them, if only they had accepted the gift, through Faith ... but, you've heard that 'unprovable' witness before.

    Thanks for bringing up the subject.

    -- Posted by Navyblue on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 2:37 PM
  • But the problem we have is that no one has ever come back to tell us.

    There are many books available of people people that have had near-death experiences and came back to tell about it. I have 4-5 such books and they are supposedly all true stories as indicated in the books. And I know of several others.

    -- Posted by LaBrie on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 3:57 PM
  • If I'm not mistaken, there was a very specific individual that came back to tell us, perhaps you've heard of him..... Jesus Christ.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Mon, Oct 15, 2012, at 3:10 PM
  • *

    Amen, Mr. Mercy. Well done.

    -- Posted by Mickel on Mon, Oct 15, 2012, at 8:24 PM
  • There is more to this life that we can know with our five senses. The area of the electromagnetic spectrum that is accessible to us is only a very small part of the whole, and physicists are becoming aware that there are more than the 4 dimensions of length, height, width and time. Who are we to say that simply because we cannot perceive it with our receptive organs that it is not real? This reminds me of a quote..."Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." Sir Arthur Eddington

    -- Posted by quick13 on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 8:16 AM
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