Eben Alexander (author)
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Eben Alexander III
|Born||December 11, 1953|
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill |
Duke University School of Medicine
Eben Alexander III (born December 11, 1953) is an American neurosurgeon and author. His book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife (2012) describes his 2008 near-death experience and asserts that science can and will determine that the brain does not create consciousness and that consciousness survives bodily death. Alexander is also the author of the 2014 book The Map of Heaven which builds on the claims in his previous book, and coauthor of the 2017 book Living in a Mindful Universe which describes his personal journey since 2008.
Early life and education
Alexander was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was adopted by Eben Alexander Jr and his wife Elizabeth West Alexander and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with three siblings. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy (class of 1972), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (A.B., 1975), and the Duke University School of Medicine (M.D., 1980). He completed his Neurosurgery residency at Duke University Medical Center in 1987 followed by a Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery fellowship at the Newcastle General Hospital in the United Kingdom in 1988.
Alexander has taught and had appointments at Duke University Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute et al.
While practicing medicine in Lynchburg at the Lynchburg General Hospital, Alexander was reprimanded by the Virginia Board of Medicine for performing surgery at an incorrect surgical site, two times over the course of a month. In one instance, Alexander altered his operative report because he believed the surgery had diminished the patient's symptoms. He was sued by the patient for damages totaling $3 million in August 2008, but the case was dismissed by the plaintiff in 2009. As a result of the mishaps, Alexander lost his privileges at the hospital and was forced to pay a $3,500 fine to the Virginia Board of Medicine and complete ethics and professionalism training to maintain an unrestricted medical license in the state.
Following the release of his 2012 book Proof of Heaven, Esquire magazine reported that Alexander had been terminated or suspended from multiple hospital positions, and had been the subject of several malpractice lawsuits and that he settled five malpractice suits in Virginia within a period of ten years.
Proof of Heaven
In 2012, Alexander authored a semi-autobiographical book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, in which he asserted that his self-experience of out of body and near-death experience (NDE), while in a meningitis-induced coma in 2008, suggested that consciousness is independent of the brain and that death is a transition phase into another realm. Alexander said in a New York Times interview that he had preferred a title of "An N of One" (a medical trial size of one patient) instead of "Proof of Heaven". He said, believers in heaven were not happy with the title because, "This is not scientific proof."
Alexander's book was excerpted in a Newsweek magazine cover story in October 2012. Alexander provided a slightly more technical account of the events described in his book in an article, "My Experience in Coma", in AANS Neurosurgeon, the trade publication of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Since the release of the book, he has presented hundreds of lectures around the world in churches, hospitals, medical schools, and academic symposia, besides appearing on TV shows including Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey. Alexander has also expanded on his NDE in the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the peer-reviewed Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association.
The Map of Heaven
Alexander's second book, The Map of Heaven: How Science, Religion, and Ordinary People Are Proving the Afterlife, was published in October 2014, where he again asserted the existence of an afterlife and that consciousness is independent of the brain. The Map of Heaven was number 12 on the New York Times bestseller list during the week ending November 2, 2014.
Living in a Mindful Universe
Alexander's third book, Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Heart of Consciousness, was coauthored with Karen Newell, cofounder of Sacred Acoustics. Published in 2017, the book discusses attempts to understand the true nature of consciousness backed by scientific findings and cultivating a state of harmony with the universe and our higher purpose. The authors also discuss awareness of spiritual realms and developing experience that leads to profound understanding for a more harmonious and peaceful world.
Criticism and reaction
In a 2013 investigation of Alexander's story and medical background, Esquire magazine reported that before the publication of Proof of Heaven, Alexander had been terminated or suspended from multiple hospital positions, and had been the subject of several malpractice lawsuits, including at least two involving the alteration of medical records to cover up a medical error. He settled five malpractice suits in Virginia within a period of ten years.
Esquire also found what it said were discrepancies with regard to Alexander's version of events in the book. Among the discrepancies, was that Alexander had written the cause of his coma was bacterial meningitis, despite his doctor telling the reporter that he had been conscious and hallucinating before being placed in a medically induced coma. In a statement responding to the criticism, Alexander maintained that his representation of the experience was truthful and that he believed in the message contained in his book. He also claimed that the Esquire article "cherry-picked" information about his past to discredit his accounts of the event.
Proof of Heaven was also criticized by scientists, including Sam Harris who described Alexander's NDE account on his blog as "alarmingly unscientific", and that claims of experiencing visions while his cerebral cortex was shut down demonstrated a failure to acknowledge existing brain science with little evidence prove otherwise. Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks agreed with Harris, and argued that Alexander had failed to recognize that the experience could have been the result of his cortex returning to full function at the outset of his coma, rather than a supernatural experience. In 2012 Alexander responded to critics in a second Newsweek article, where he said that he vividly remembers having periods of hallucination and explains that there was a massive difference between them and his 'fully immersive' visions of the afterlife. Alexander describes the hallucinations in his book, saying that they were disjointed and centred around both random events and his doctors. He then compares them to the "hyper-real" experience of the afterlife, and says they do not match up. He also made a prediction in his book that secular critics, which included himself before his coma, would attempt to discredit him and his experience without looking into it properly.
In 2000, Alexander located his birth parents but learned his birth mother did not want to meet him. His birth mother eventually changed her mind and Alexander met his birth parents and siblings in 2007.
- Burkhart, Jesse (December 5, 2012). "Best-seller 'Proof of Heaven' author remembers Winston-Salem roots". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
- "Renowned Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander Dies at 91".
- Washburn, Mark. "'Proof of Heaven' author discusses his adoption at the Westin uptown". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
- "Practitioner Profile".
- Dittrich Aug 2013.
- Thompson, Dave. "Neurosurgeon reprimanded by state board". The News & Advance. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
- Dittrich, Luke (August 2013). "The Prophet: An Investigation of Eben ALexander, Author of the Blockbuster "Proof of Heaven"". Esquire. New York City: Hearst Communications, Inc. pp. 88–95, 125–126, 128. Page 95: "On August 6, 2008, the patient filed a $3 million lawsuit against Alexander, accusing him of negligence, battery, spoliation, and fraud. The purported cover-up, the changes Alexander had made to the surgical report, was a major aspect of the suit. Once again, a lawyer was accusing Alexander of altering the historical record when the historical record didn't fit the story he wanted to tell."
- Alexander, Eben (2012), Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, Simon & Schuster, pg 169.
- Alexander, Eben (2012), Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, Simon & Schuster, pg 40.
- Kaufman, Leslie (November 25, 2012). "Dr. Eben Alexander's Tells of Near Death in 'Proof of Heaven'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
- Alexander, Eben (October 8, 2012), "Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife", Newsweek.
- Eben Alexander III (2012). "My Experience in Coma". AANS Neurosurgeon. 21 (2). Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
- Ingrid Peschke (October 24, 2013). "Dr. Eben Alexander Says It's Time for Brain Science to Graduate From Kindergarten". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- "Dr. Eben Alexander Shares What God Looks Like". OWN TV. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- Alexander, Eben (April 15, 2016). "Becoming Conscious: A Neurosurgeon Discusses his Transformational Experience". Congress of Neurological Surgeons (Spring 2016).
- Alexander, Eben. "Near Death Experiences, the Mind-Body Debate & the Nature of Reality". The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association (January/February 2015): 17–21.
- Alexander, Eben. "Near Death Experiences: The Last Word". The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association (July/August 2015): 275–282.
- "Best Sellers". Paperback Nonfiction. The New York Times. September 21, 2014. Archived from the original on October 1, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
- "New York Times". New York Times. November 2, 2014.
- "Living In A Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon's Journey Into The Heart Of Consciousness".
- "Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Heart of Consciousness".
- "The Dr. Pat Show: Talk Radio to Thrive By! Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Heart of Consciousness with Dr. Eben Alexander".
- Jeff Bercovici. "Esquire Unearths 'Proof of Heaven' Author's Credibility Problems". Forbes. Retrieved July 13, 2013.
- Harris, Sam (October 12, 2012). "This Must Be Heaven". Retrieved May 26, 2018.
- Sacks, Oliver, "Seeing God in the Third Millennium", The Atlantic Monthly (December 12, 2012).
- Eben Alexander (November 18, 2012). "The Science of Heaven". Newsweek. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
- Burkhart, Jesse. "Best-Seller 'Proof of Heaven' Author Remembers Winston-Salem Roots". Journalnow.com (Winston-Salem Journal).
- Washburn, Mark. "'Proof of Heaven' Author Discusses His Adoption at the Westin Uptown". Charlotte Observer.com.