Heaven is Real

It isn’t often that one of the world’s leading global affairs magazines publishes a cover story like that. But this week’s edition of Newsweek magazine features, as its lead article, a first-hand account of Dr Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who “experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.

The entire article is worth reading – whether or not you believe in life after death – but here are a few extracts that stuck out for me:

Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down…I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain…

While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility…

…as far as I know, no one before me has ever travelled to this dimension (a) while their cortex was completely shut down, and (b) while their body was under minute medical observation, as mine was for the full seven days of my coma…

Toward the beginning of my adventure, I was in a place of clouds. Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky. Higher than the clouds—immeasurably higher—flocks of transparent, shimmering beings arced across the sky, leaving long, streamer-like lines behind them.

A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it…

And the article continues.

Dr Alexander writes as a man still trying to work out the meaning and consequences of his experience. Still battling with reason and science, trying to see how this experience fits in with his understanding of the world.

To me, the most fascinating thing about this story is it’s unlikely hero. Dr Alexander is not a religious zealot looking for validation of his beliefs, he’s not an evangelist, or even a very strong Christian (in his own words, he is a Christian “more in name than in actual belief.”). And this makes his account all the more interesting.

I wish him well. I hope he writes more about it so that we can know how he gets on.

*Update: I notice that the Daily Mail has covered this story today.

*Update 2: And there is a book in the pipeline too.

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The Apology Prince Harry Should Make

The balance of opinion in the UK seems to be that Prince Harry’s actions are not too serious. This view was summed up excellently by Dan Hodges in his post for the Telegraph earlier today.

I agree with this opinion. While Harry may have been foolish to allow the photos to be taken, he’s perfectly entitled to let his hair down once in a while. And what’s more, I don’t think his actions are likely to cause too much damage to the reputation of the Royal Family.

During the 10 hour flight back to London, he’ll no doubt be doing a lot of thinking about what to say in response. If he wants to draw a line under this and move past it, he needs to say something fairly soon. Otherwise the media will continue to control the story and run with whatever gossip is being thrown around.  In my opinion he should make a statement within the next 24 hours. It should be apologetic, but not too apologetic. Here is what I think he should say.

I am truly sorry for the embarrassment that my actions have caused to those who are close to me. As someone who lives his life in the public eye I should have been more careful in choosing the people with whom I spent my time whilst on holiday. I deeply regret the fact that some images of me at a private party have made their way into the public domain. While these did not come from me directly, I recognise that I bear some responsibility.

In the past eighteen months I have witnessed, and been part of, some of the proudest moments of national celebration in my lifetime. Last April, it was a huge honour for me to stand shoulder to shoulder with my brother as his best man on his wedding day. More recently, I was immensely proud to be involved in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations; a time of real national celebration and unity. And of course, in the last few weeks it was a privilege to be an Olympic Ambassador during the great spectacle of the London Olympics.

I feel great pride in my country and consider it an honour to have been able to fight for her in Afghanistan on several occasions. Indeed I look forward to returning to the front line to be with my Army colleagues again soon.

If my recent actions have in any way, called into question my commitment to the Army, to my family or to Great Britain; I’m sorry. I recognise that the role I have carries a great deal of responsibility. While I do not think it is unrealistic for someone in my role to enjoy some ‘down time’, in future I will exercise better judgment and will endeavour to be more discrete.

I now look forward to drawing a line under this episode and returning to my duties as a soldier and as an ambassador of Great Britain.