(His interview was on ABC’s “Nightline” (Oct. 24, 2012).
Four years ago, Dr. Eben Alexander came close to death from E. coli meningitis that had put him into a coma and shut down his entire brain cortex. Only his most primitive brain parts were still functioning. His prognosis was not good.
A week after being in the hospital, he awoke. But the most amazing part of his survival story is that he claimed to have experienced an ontologically real journey to Heaven while seemingly brain dead!
I do not doubt his story. After all, I am a student of the unique ideas of scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg who not only was the first researcher to formulate a neuron theory (brain cells) but he offered the most complete description of Heaven we have today.
Whereas Dr. Alexander experienced heaven during his weeklong coma, Swedenborg experienced Heaven for almost thirty years—and wrote volumes about it! So I made some comparisons between the supra-sensory experiences of these two legitimate scientists.
Dr. Alexander states that during his coma, he was first in a kind of murky darkness then was “rescued” by a spinning orb of light, which opened up into a beautiful valley with blossoming flowers. It was a realm of indescribable beauty and complexity. (Swedenborg gave additional input on the origins of this light and said that it was non-physical and the sacred source by which God enlightened human minds to see beyond mere material or spacetime ideas.)
My biggest problem is that this short adventure into Heaven provided only a small sliver of heavenly life in which Dr. Alexander was told (by his dead sister) that he was “loved,” that he was “cherished” and that “he could do no wrong.”
This is exactly what people imagine heaven to be—a place of profound self-affirmation. A brief visit to heaven could easily leave one with this impression of the afterlife. But Swedenborg insisted that goodness and wisdom came only from the Lord God, and that heaven’s biosphere reflected precisely the extent to which we allowed divine love and wisdom to enter into our hearts and minds—from the principle of humility, not self-importance.
According to Swedenborg, heaven reflects one’s inner reality and our orientation to the Creator. He also observed that all new people entering the spiritual world first had a positive experience, especially meeting old friends and family members. But as the inner qualities of a person’s spirit became manifest, a man or woman would gravitate to the spiritual reality that best harmonized with that person’s deepest thoughts and intentions. “Heaven” is not a guarantee.
I guess that God’s providence saw it as useful to give humans hope of an afterlife through Dr. Alexander’s brief experience of heaven. But for those who are interested in learning more, Swedenborg offers a lot more relevant details about our spiritual eventuality.