A small crowd huddled closely around Eben Alexander, M.D., before his recent lecture at Sofia University in Palo Alto, hanging on his every word.
It was not surprising given that this is a man whose extraordinary near-death experience just four years ago has given him insights about which most people are more than anxious to hear.
His message was clear and simple: You don’t have to go to heaven – to die or even nearly die – to gain the kind of life-transforming perspective that will change your life for the better here and now.
For Alexander, a neurosurgeon and author of the New York Times best-seller “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife” (Simon & Schuster, 2012), the most lasting takeaways from the week he spent in a coma were: You are loved. You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.
This was pretty heady stuff, especially for a doctor who had always assumed that the brain – an organ that, in Alexander’s case, had completely shut down due to a rare meningitis infection – was the source of consciousness.
“Pull the plug and the TV goes dead,” he thought.
But if this were true, then where did these ideas come from? What do they mean? Are they of any practical value?
Alexander characterizes these and other inspirations as a “direct extension” of divine consciousness itself – an assurance of “the true spiritual self that all of us are destined someday to recover,” an all-encompassing message from God that he said flooded him with “a vast and crazy sensation of relief.”
In other words, heaven – a place perhaps akin to what 19th-century religious reformer Mary Baker Eddy once described as “not a locality, but a divine state of Mind.”
So how does the average Joe tune into these kinds of heavenly bulletins?
“You must do the work,” Alexander said. “At the end of the day, we each have to go deep into our own consciousness, through prayer or meditation, to access these truths.”
Alexander’s talk ended with perhaps the most important insight of them all: the unshakable conviction that “we are all deeply loved and cherished forever.”
In the moment of silence that followed, there was a sense that the good doctor’s message was not just heard but already having an effect on those who came looking for just such an assurance – a little slice of heaven, if you will, here on earth.
Eric Nelson, a Los Altos resident, serves as media and legislative spokesman for Christian Science in Northern California. The First Church of Christ Scientist is located at 401 University Ave., Los Altos, and the public Reading Room at 60 Main St. For more information, visit cschurchlosaltos.