NUMBER ONE on the New York Times Best Seller List two weeks after its Oct. 23, 2012 release, Proof of Heaven is Eben Alexander's conscious journey to staggering heights of communion and understanding that lie ahead for us all, when each of us leaves the limitations of our physical body and brain behind.
You could not experience the philosophy of father Bernard Suppe' S.J. at the University of Scranton in the 1970's without confronting the power of the indomitable human spirit within us. Ours to discover and nurture, it is consciousness, reasoning, essence; and I understood that consciousness is not subject to the vagaries of disease and mortal trauma.
Who we are flourishes long after our material bones, organs and tissue become fertilizer for daffodils.
Consciousness exists separate and apart from the human brain. For me this was not a tenet of faith, though faith I have. It is the product of reasoning.
Most scientists however believe consciousness is the result of and entirely dependent upon the human brain. When the brain dies, consciousness ends with it. Exclamation point.
Advances in medical science over the last half century have allowed physicians to resuscitate many patients who previously would have been pronounced dead, their bodies removed to a morgue.
Upon resuscitation a significant number of these departed have relayed extraordinary, seemingly real and eerily similar experiences while visiting a realm beyond.
Scientists write off such stories as the result of an impaired cerebral cortex. A fading cortex, perhaps due to a lack of blood and oxygen generating an imagined paradise from its vast reservoir of dreams, memories and hopes.
No one dismissed such Near Death Experiences as mere fanciful tales more quickly than Dr. Eben Alexander.
The adopted son of a renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1976 and Duke Medical School in 1980.
A neurosurgeon himself, Dr. Alexander did his residency at Duke, Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital. He spent 15 years as an associate professor of neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and authored more than 150 chapters and papers for peer-review medical journals.
In November 2008 Dr. Eben Alexander, then 54, contracted gram-negative spontaneous Escherichia Coli Bacteria Meningitis.
Meningitis is the swelling of the meninges that line and protect the brain and spinal cord. Alexander's membranes were incredibly inflamed due to infection from the powerfully resilient E-coli bacteria attacking his brain.
E-Coli Bacteria Meningitis is extremely rare, almost always fatal and any survivor does so in a vegetative state.
Alexander's cortex – that which controls memory, language, emotion, logic, visual and auditory awareness - was not simply impaired, fading or functioning improperly -- it was not functioning at all.
Unresponsive and on life support, Dr. Alexander was in a coma for seven days before returning to open his eyes.
What occurred is a first in medical history. Officially Dr. Alexander's status is, N of 1, a term that refers to medical studies in which a single patient stands for the entire trial.
Dr. Alexander's cortex was shut down, turned off, absent. His cerebral plug had been pulled; show over, nothing.
This time there could be no feint, brain generated apparitions of dreams, memories and hope to explain away the compelling account he presents in his best selling book.
His severe illness, its manifestations, an inert cortex, crossing into the unknown, surviving, the ability to write it all down, has never happened before. It is a first - ever.
The profound and ageless concept conveyed in Proof of Heaven is consciousness exists separate and apart from the human brain.
Aware of Dr. Alexander's case and thinking of father Suppe' I bought the 188-page book on Tuesday afternoon and finished it that night.
In this holiday season, do yourself a favor - Proof of Heaven.
Alexander's cortex – that which controls memory, language, emotion, logic, visual and auditory awareness - was not simply impaired, fading or functioning improperly - it was not functioning at all. Unresponsive and on life support Dr. Alexander was in coma for seven days before returning to open his eyes.
Kevin Blaum's column about government, life and politics is published every Sunday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org