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Proof of Heaven

A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife

Author(s): Eben Alexander

ISBN13: 9780749958794

ISBN10: 0749958790

Publisher: Piatkus (23 Oct 2012)

Extent: 208 pages

Binding: Paperback

Size: 15.5 x 1.6 x 23.1 cm

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  • Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists. A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

     

    Then, Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human—shut down completely. For seven days he lay in a coma. Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.

     

    Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

     

     

    Alexander’s story is not a fantasy. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.

     

    This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to. That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary. No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it. Reading it will change your life.

  • Eben Alexander


    Dr. Alexander, a renowned academic neurosurgeon, spent 54 years honing his scientific worldview. He thought he knew how the brain and mind worked. A transcendental Near-Death Experience (NDE), in which he was driven to the brink of death and spent a week deep in coma from an inexplicable brain infection, changed all of that – completely! He was shocked to find the hyper-reality of that spiritual realm, which many had reported in NDEs. He has spent the last two and a half years reconciling his rich spiritual experience with contemporary physics and cosmology. His spiritual experience is totally consistent with the leading edges of scientific understanding today. Together, science and spirituality will thrive in a symbiosis offering the most profound insight into fundamental Truth, yielding unimaginable power. The keystone is in global progression of individual conscious awakening. Many in both the scientific and religious (or spiritual) realms must denounce their addiction to prejudiced, closed-minded, dogmatic beliefs, in order to open our awareness to this novel synthesis of understanding Truth. By probing deeply into our own consciousness, we transcend the limitations of the human brain, and of the physical-material realm. The spiritual realm is real. Seamless blending of science and spirituality will occur. His book will be available in North America October 23, 2012, and in many other countries (and languages) soon thereafter.


  • Be the first to review this product


    Eben’s masterpiece is a story for scientists, skeptics, believers, and seekers.  Read it for a foretaste of something beyond the veil, beyond our dreams, and beyond our wildest imaginations.  Read it as Last Rites for your past understanding of a limited world and discover bridges to the eternal in our very midst.

     - The Rev. Michael R. Sullivan

     

    Dr Eben Alexander's near-death experience is the most astounding I have heard in more than four decades of studying this phenomenon.  In my opinion, Dr Alexander is living proof of an afterlife.  The extraordinary circumstances of his illness and his impeccable credentials make it very hard to formulate a mundane explanation for his case.  For me, it is difficult to shake the feeling that his experience was somehow divinely ordained. Dr. Alexander's book Proof of Heaven deserves to be a major international bestseller, and I believe it will be.

    I am confident that Dr. Alexander's story will capture worldwide interest. It will inspire many to accept that there really is life after death. I suspect his book will be a global game-changer. It has seismic implications and may help humanity arrive at a more accurate understanding of life's true meaning and purpose in the larger sense. 

    Dr. Eben Alexander's near-death experience stands as perhaps one of the crown jewels of all near-death experiences. The knowledge of what he experienced raises the bar for serious investigators and pundits. It marks the beginning of a new era of rational investigation of humankind's deepest mystery, life after death.

    - Raymond Moody, MD, PhD, author of Life Beyond Life, 1974, and father of the field of Near-Death Experience studies

     

    Proof of Heaven is more than just an awe-inspiring account of a profound encounter with spiritual reality. Dr. Alexander’s neuro-science career taught him that near-death experiences are brain-based illusions, and yet his personal experience left him dumbstruck.  His honest struggle to make sense of this unforgettable journey is a gripping story, unique in the literature of spiritual experiences, that may well change how we understand our role in the universe.

     

    - Bruce Greyson, MD, Carlson Professor of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia School of Medicine; co-editor, The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation

     

    If ‘Central Casting’ was given an assignment to locate the most highly qualified person, who has had a near-death experience (NDE), to have him write one or more books about it, lecture about it, and appear in the media to promote it around the world, no one could find a more perfect candidate than neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III, M.D.  He has all the necessary academic credentials for this assignment, is warm emotionally, very articulate, has undergone a profound spiritual transformation, and is highly motivated to unify science with spirituality…

     

    I firmly believe Proof of Heaven will be one of the three top selling books of all time on the subject of near-death experiences – and that it will authenticate and validate NDEs more than any other book that has been written on this topic, with the exception of Dr. Moody’s first book.  In my opinion, Proof of Heaven will sell millions of copies that will create much wider acceptance of near-death experiences and the many spiritual lessons they contain.

     

    This book is a thunderbolt!

    - Dr. Rabbi Meir Sendor

     

    Dr Eben Alexander's near-death experience is the most astounding I have heard in more than four decades of studying this phenomenon.  In my opinion, Dr Alexander is living proof of an afterlife.  The extraordinary circumstances of his illness and his impeccable credentials make it very hard to formulate a mundane explanation for his case.  For me, it is difficult to shake the feeling that his experience was somehow divinely ordained. Dr. Alexander's book Proof of Heaven deserves to be a major international bestseller, and I believe it will be.

    I am confident that Dr. Alexander's story will capture worldwide interest. It will inspire many to accept that there really is life after death. I suspect his book will be a global game-changer. It has seismic implications and may help humanity arrive at a more accurate understanding of life's true meaning and purpose in the larger sense. 

    Dr. Eben Alexander's near-death experience stands as perhaps one of the crown jewels of all near-death experiences. The knowledge of what he experienced raises the bar for serious investigators and pundits. It marks the beginning of a new era of rational investigation of humankind's deepest mystery, life after death.

    - Raymond Moody, MD, PhD, author of Life Beyond Life, 1974, and father of the field of Near-Death Experience studies

     

    Proof of Heaven is more than just an awe-inspiring account of a profound encounter with spiritual reality. Dr. Alexander’s neuro-science career taught him that near-death experiences are brain-based illusions, and yet his personal experience left him dumbstruck.  His honest struggle to make sense of this unforgettable journey is a gripping story, unique in the literature of spiritual experiences, that may well change how we understand our role in the universe.

     

    - Bruce Greyson, MD, Carlson Professor of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia School of Medicine; co-editor, The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation

     

    If ‘Central Casting’ was given an assignment to locate the most highly qualified person, who has had a near-death experience (NDE), to have him write one or more books about it, lecture about it, and appear in the media to promote it around the world, no one could find a more perfect candidate than neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III, M.D.  He has all the necessary academic credentials for this assignment, is warm emotionally, very articulate, has undergone a profound spiritual transformation, and is highly motivated to unify science with spirituality…

     

    I firmly believe Proof of Heaven will be one of the three top selling books of all time on the subject of near-death experiences – and that it will authenticate and validate NDEs more than any other book that has been written on this topic, with the exception of Dr. Moody’s first book.  In my opinion, Proof of Heaven will sell millions of copies that will create much wider acceptance of near-death experiences and the many spiritual lessons they contain.

     

    -  Bill Guggenheim, Coauthor of Hello From Heaven!, 1995

     

    An NDE is both an existential crisis and an intense learning experience. In the last thirty years a lot has been written about NDE and its aftereffects: a new life insight, a loss of the fear of death, and a new idea about the relationship between consciousness and brain-function. But it becomes far more convincing when a well-respected neurosurgeon writes about his own NDE and about his own new insight about the mind-brain relationship.  Because, as he states in his book, as a practicing academic neurosurgeon with a penchant for research, he respected the scientific method as the gatekeeper for accepted views of reality. His neuro-scientific worldview consisted of a practical reductive materialism – that a complete understanding of cognitive neuroscience, and specifically, consciousness, could be obtained by understanding the vast interrelationships of the brain’s material reduced to its most basic elements (neuronal networks, individual molecular and atomic properties and interactions of nerve cells). Anything defined as mind, spirit or soul would ultimately depend upon the functional integrity of those physical brain constituents. So the overwhelming NDE that is described by Eben Alexander in this intriguing book was a special state of consciousness that according to current medical science should not occur during an actual period of deep coma.

     

    In his wonderful and fascinating book, Proof of Heaven, he asks himself: how and why did my NDE occur? How did the content of my NDE come about? Why did my life change so radically after my NDE? Many of these, and additional questions, will be answered by Eben Alexander in this book, that touched my heart by his honesty and by his obvious acceptance of the many consequences for his personal and professional life. In his book he describes in detail what happened in his consciousness, he writes about his search to understand what happened to him as a human being, and also to explain what happened to him as an academic neurosurgeon. He concludes that enhanced consciousness was experienced beyond the body and the brain, and that the brain inevitably and convincingly cannot be the producer of consciousness. I can highly recommend this important book that has the potential to break many scientific taboos. But we should also realize that the acceptance of new scientific ideas in general and ideas about the experience of enhanced consciousness independent of a normal functioning brain in particular requires us to have an open mind and to abandon dogma.

    - Pim van Lommel, MD, Cardiologist, author of ‘Consciousness beyond Life’. ‘The science of the Near-Death Experience’

     

    Eben Alexander brings a unique perspective to the sacred world combining a glorious, personal vision of spiritual consciousness with patient, insightful scientific inquiry. This is a compelling story of what may lie ahead for all of us in the life beyond this one. We have nothing to fear.

    -  Allan J. Hamilton, MD, FACS, Professor of Neurosurgery, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA - Author of The Scalpel and the Soul, and Zen Horse, Zen Mind

     

    What distinguishes Dr. Alexander’s case… is the dramatic proof of verifiable details by third parties that could not have been imagined or created by any state of mind, and events that occurred that cannot be tossed aside by skeptics of any ilk.  Plus, he is a neurosurgeon, an established scientist, who lived through a bona fide miracle – one that challenges everything he ever knew, personally or professionally.  His awareness of mission fits his profile, a scientist ready to challenge science.  There have been others like him, but not with proof that can be independently verified to the degree that his can be.  He recognizes the threshold where he now stands, and has chosen higher consciousness research to help fulfill his goals.  A sense of destiny pervades his thinking, that somehow all of this was planned.

    - PMH Atwater, Author of Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose, 2011

     

    Proof of Heaven is a masterful interplay of personal, medical, scientific and spiritual perspectives; seen through the eyes of a gifted observer and intellect. It provides fertile ground for fundamentally developing both a personal theology and new psychology of consciousness.

    - Bruce W. Shackleton, EdD Psychologist, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School 

     

    What a read!  This is a very important book. Dr. Alexander's experiences resonate remarkably with views of Heaven, the Afterlife and the potential of consciousness in the Jewish mystical tradition. This book is a thunderbolt!

     

    - Dr. Rabbi Meir Sendor

     

    I stood at Eben’s bedside ready to read Last Rites.  The neighbor I had known as vivacious, even gregarious, was lifeless and passing away.  Since Monday of that fateful week, infection had claimed every cell of his body, and the doctors’ attempts at life had failed.  We thought there was no hope, that we would lose our friend and loved one, and as his priest, I believed Eben’s funeral was the next step on the journey.

     

    But Eben’s mind, body and soul had something else planned for us.  In this amazing book, Eben recalls how he walked the valley of the shadow of death yet survived.  With vivid detail and description, he invites you to walk with him to that place none of us has experienced yet in our humanity we know we shall one day certainly travel.  Having survived a near death experience and brought his neurological expertise and background to it, we gain both the insight of the mystics in his poetic words and the reality of the physical world in his scientific explorations.

     

    More importantly, Eben transcends the particularity in which most of us live to arrive at a comprehensiveness we seek.  From the uniqueness of his own experience, this present day mystic has sought illumination, and in finding a degree of it, a glimpse of the beyond, he calls all of us to a place of greater integrity and authenticity.

     

    Eben’s masterpiece is a story for scientists, skeptics, believers, and seekers.  Read it for a foretaste of something beyond the veil, beyond our dreams, and beyond our wildest imaginations.  Read it as Last Rites for your past understanding of a limited world and discover bridges to the eternal in our very midst.

     

    -The Rev. Michael R. Sullivan, Rector, Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church  Atlanta, GA

     

    Dr. Eben Alexander’s story of his near death experience is astonishing. It changed his life and outlook on the universe, and the book probably will do likewise for his readers. His brushes with the Sublime are exhilarating to read, from the first whoosh of a near-miss parachuting crisis at sunset, to his staggering medical miracle, to his revelation of what exactly transpired during his seven-day coma.

     

    The 20th century documents a continuing war between the conflicting worldviews of science and religious faith. The great task of the 21st century could be, for the brave, the investigation of where these two grand human endeavors dovetail, intersect, and nourish one another. One nuance of Alexander’s mesmerizing book is an attack against scientism by one of its formerly great adherents. Rather than allowing science to diminish our perspectives to that which is immediately observable or quantifiable, he allows scientific method to reveal horizons of reality that are ultimately more luminous and multidimensional than we previously intuited.

     

    I must say that part of me rebels against his goal of pointing towards a unity of all religions.  Perhaps that is because I am a part of a faith-tradition that encompasses so much more than that which is typically shoehorned into the narrow niche of religion.  Still, his insights about the nature of consciousness, the soul, the power of prayer, the immortal nature of the human spirit, and transcendence from this narrow spectrum of human sensory experience point to an understanding of reality that religious mystics everywhere have tried to articulate for millennia.  From a Jewish perspective, his experiences are ones that the prophet Ezekiel, Shimon bar Yochai, Abraham Abulafia, Isaac Luria, and the Baal Shem Tov would have understood with sympathy and excitement.

     

    Dr. Alexander, by surviving, was given a tremendous gift. He in turn has given a gift—an enduring one—to anyone who has ever suspected (and doesn’t this include all of us, at some point?) that his or her life, consciousness, and spirit are more magical, mystical, and wondrous than we generally appreciate.  Read his book with radical gratitude.

     

    - Rabbi Neal Gold   Temple Shir Tikva  Wayland, MA

     

    An NDE is both an existential crisis and an intense learning experience. In the last thirty years a lot has been written about NDE and its aftereffects: a new life insight, a loss of the fear of death, and a new idea about the relationship between consciousness and brain-function. But it becomes far more convincing when a well-respected neurosurgeon writes about his own NDE and about his own new insight about the mind-brain relationship.  Because, as he states in his book, as a practicing academic neurosurgeon with a penchant for research, he respected the scientific method as the gatekeeper for accepted views of reality. His neuro-scientific worldview consisted of a practical reductive materialism – that a complete understanding of cognitive neuroscience, and specifically, consciousness, could be obtained by understanding the vast interrelationships of the brain’s material reduced to its most basic elements (neuronal networks, individual molecular and atomic properties and interactions of nerve cells). Anything defined as mind, spirit or soul would ultimately depend upon the functional integrity of those physical brain constituents. So the overwhelming NDE that is described by Eben Alexander in this intriguing book was a special state of consciousness that according to current medical science should not occur during an actual period of deep coma.

     

    In his wonderful and fascinating book, Proof of Heaven, he asks himself: how and why did my NDE occur? How did the content of my NDE come about? Why did my life change so radically after my NDE? Many of these, and additional questions, will be answered by Eben Alexander in this book, that touched my heart by his honesty and by his obvious acceptance of the many consequences for his personal and professional life. In his book he describes in detail what happened in his consciousness, he writes about his search to understand what happened to him as a human being, and also to explain what happened to him as an academic neurosurgeon. He concludes that enhanced consciousness was experienced beyond the body and the brain, and that the brain inevitably and convincingly cannot be the producer of consciousness. I can highly recommend this important book that has the potential to break many scientific taboos. But we should also realize that the acceptance of new scientific ideas in general and ideas about the experience of enhanced consciousness independent of a normal functioning brain in particular requires us to have an open mind and to abandon dogma.

    - Pim van Lommel, MD, Cardiologist, author of ‘Consciousness beyond Life’. ‘The science of the Near-Death Experience’

     

    Eben Alexander brings a unique perspective to the sacred world combining a glorious, personal vision of spiritual consciousness with patient, insightful scientific inquiry. This is a compelling story of what may lie ahead for all of us in the life beyond this one. We have nothing to fear.

    -  Allan J. Hamilton, MD, FACS, Professor of Neurosurgery, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA - Author of The Scalpel and the Soul, and Zen Horse, Zen Mind

     

    What distinguishes Dr. Alexander’s case… is the dramatic proof of verifiable details by third parties that could not have been imagined or created by any state of mind, and events that occurred that cannot be tossed aside by skeptics of any ilk.  Plus, he is a neurosurgeon, an established scientist, who lived through a bona fide miracle – one that challenges everything he ever knew, personally or professionally.  His awareness of mission fits his profile, a scientist ready to challenge science.  There have been others like him, but not with proof that can be independently verified to the degree that his can be.  He recognizes the threshold where he now stands, and has chosen higher consciousness research to help fulfill his goals.  A sense of destiny pervades his thinking, that somehow all of this was planned.

    - PMH Atwater, Author of Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose, 2011

     

    Proof of Heaven is a masterful interplay of personal, medical, scientific and spiritual perspectives; seen through the eyes of a gifted observer and intellect. It provides fertile ground for fundamentally developing both a personal theology and new psychology of consciousness.

    - Bruce W. Shackleton, EdD Psychologist, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School 

     

    What a read!  This is a very important book. Dr. Alexander's experiences resonate remarkably with views of Heaven, the Afterlife and the potential of consciousness in the Jewish mystical tradition. This book is a thunderbolt!

     

    - Dr. Rabbi Meir Sendor

     

    I stood at Eben’s bedside ready to read Last Rites.  The neighbor I had known as vivacious, even gregarious, was lifeless and passing away.  Since Monday of that fateful week, infection had claimed every cell of his body, and the doctors’ attempts at life had failed.  We thought there was no hope, that we would lose our friend and loved one, and as his priest, I believed Eben’s funeral was the next step on the journey.

     

    But Eben’s mind, body and soul had something else planned for us.  In this amazing book, Eben recalls how he walked the valley of the shadow of death yet survived.  With vivid detail and description, he invites you to walk with him to that place none of us has experienced yet in our humanity we know we shall one day certainly travel.  Having survived a near death experience and brought his neurological expertise and background to it, we gain both the insight of the mystics in his poetic words and the reality of the physical world in his scientific explorations.

     

    More importantly, Eben transcends the particularity in which most of us live to arrive at a comprehensiveness we seek.  From the uniqueness of his own experience, this present day mystic has sought illumination, and in finding a degree of it, a glimpse of the beyond, he calls all of us to a place of greater integrity and authenticity.

     

    Eben’s masterpiece is a story for scientists, skeptics, believers, and seekers.  Read it for a foretaste of something beyond the veil, beyond our dreams, and beyond our wildest imaginations.  Read it as Last Rites for your past understanding of a limited world and discover bridges to the eternal in our very midst.

     

    -The Rev. Michael R. Sullivan, Rector, Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church  Atlanta, GA

     

    Dr. Eben Alexander’s story of his near death experience is astonishing. It changed his life and outlook on the universe, and the book probably will do likewise for his readers. His brushes with the Sublime are exhilarating to read, from the first whoosh of a near-miss parachuting crisis at sunset, to his staggering medical miracle, to his revelation of what exactly transpired during his seven-day coma.

     

    The 20th century documents a continuing war between the conflicting worldviews of science and religious faith. The great task of the 21st century could be, for the brave, the investigation of where these two grand human endeavors dovetail, intersect, and nourish one another. One nuance of Alexander’s mesmerizing book is an attack against scientism by one of its formerly great adherents. Rather than allowing science to diminish our perspectives to that which is immediately observable or quantifiable, he allows scientific method to reveal horizons of reality that are ultimately more luminous and multidimensional than we previously intuited.

     

    I must say that part of me rebels against his goal of pointing towards a unity of all religions.  Perhaps that is because I am a part of a faith-tradition that encompasses so much more than that which is typically shoehorned into the narrow niche of religion.  Still, his insights about the nature of consciousness, the soul, the power of prayer, the immortal nature of the human spirit, and transcendence from this narrow spectrum of human sensory experience point to an understanding of reality that religious mystics everywhere have tried to articulate for millennia.  From a Jewish perspective, his experiences are ones that the prophet Ezekiel, Shimon bar Yochai, Abraham Abulafia, Isaac Luria, and the Baal Shem Tov would have understood with sympathy and excitement.

     

    Dr. Alexander, by surviving, was given a tremendous gift. He in turn has given a gift—an enduring one—to anyone who has ever suspected (and doesn’t this include all of us, at some point?) that his or her life, consciousness, and spirit are more magical, mystical, and wondrous than we generally appreciate.  Read his book with radical gratitude.

     

    - Rabbi Neal Gold   Temple Shir Tikva  Wayland, MA



  • Prologue

    A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be. —Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

    When I was a kid, I would often dream of flying.

    Most of the time I’d be standing out in my yard at night, looking up at the stars, when out of the blue I'd start floating upward. The first few inches happened automatically. But soon I'd notice that the higher I got, the more my progress depended on me—on what I did. If I got too excited, too swept away by the experience, I would plummet back to the ground... hard. But if I played it cool, took it all in stride, then off I would go, faster and faster, up into the starry sky.

    Maybe those dreams were part of the reason why, as I got older, I fell in love with airplanes and rockets—with anything that might get me back up there in the world above this one. When our family flew, my face was pressed flat to the window from takeoff to landing. In the summer of 1968 when I was fourteen, I spent all the money I'd earned mowing lawns on a set of sailplane lessons with a guy named Gus Street at Strawberry Hill, a little grass strip "airport" just west of Winston-Salem, the town where I grew up. I still remember the feeling of my heart pounding as I pulled the big cherry red knob that unhooked the rope connecting me to the tow-plane and banked my sailplane toward the field. It was the first time I had ever felt truly alone and free. Most of my friends got that feeling in cars, but for my money being a thousand feet up in a sailplane beat that thrill a thousand times over.

    In college in the 1970's I joined the University of North Carolina Sport Parachuting (or Skydiving) Team. It felt like a secret brotherhood—a group of people who knew about something special and magical. My first jump was terrifying, and the second even more so. But by my twelfth jump, when I stepped out the door and had to fall for more than a thousand feet before opening my parachute (my first "10 second delay"), I knew I was home. I made 365 parachute jumps in college and logged over three and a half hours in freefall, mainly in formations with up to 25 fellow jumpers. Although I stopped jumping in 1976, I continued to enjoy vivid dreams about skydiving, which were always pleasant.

    The best jumps were often late in the afternoon, when the sun was starting to sink beneath the horizon. It's hard to describe the feeling I would get on those jumps: a feeling of getting close to something that I could never quite name but that I knew I had to have more of. It wasn't solitude exactly, because the way we dived there actually wasn't all that much of that. We'd jump five, six, sometimes ten or twelve people at a time, building freefall formations. The bigger and the more challenging, the better.

    One beautiful autumn Saturday in 1975, the rest of the UNC jumpers and I teamed up with some of our friends at a paracenter in eastern North Carolina for some really great formations. On our penultimate jump of the day, out of a D18 Beechcraft at 10,500 feet, we made a ten-man snowflake. We managed to get ourselves into complete formation before we hit the 7,000 foot mark and thus were able to enjoy a full eighteen seconds of flying the formation down a clear chasm between two towering cumulus clouds before breaking apart at 3,500 feet and tracking away from each other to open our chutes.

    By the time we hit the ground the sun was down. But by hustling into another plane and taking off again quickly, we managed to get back up into the last of the sun’s rays and do a second sunset jump. For this one, two junior members were going to get their first shot at flying into formation— that is, joining it from the outside rather than being the base or pin man (which is easier because your job is essentially to fall straight down while everyone else maneuvers toward you). It was exciting for the two junior members, but also for us more seasoned ones because we were building the team, adding more experienced jumpers who would be able to join us for even bigger formations.

    I was to be the last man out of the Cessna-195 in a six-man star attempt above the runways of the small airport outside the bustling town of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. The guy right in front of me, from the Roanoke Rapids team, was named Chuck. Chuck was also fairly experienced at "Relative Work"—that is, building freefall formations. We were still in sunshine at 7,500 feet, but two and a half miles below us the streetlights were blinking on. Twilight jumps were always sublime and this was clearly going to be a beautiful one. 

    Even though I'd be exiting the plane a mere second or so behind Chuck, I'd have to move fast to catch up with everyone. I'd rocket straight down headfirst for the first seven seconds or so. This would make me drop almost 100 MPH faster than my friends so that I could be right there with them after they had built the initial formation. 

    Normal procedure for RW jumps was for all jumpers to break apart at 3,500 feet and track away from the formation for maximum separation. Each would then "wave –off" with his arms (signaling imminent deployment of his parachute), turn to look above to make sure no others were above him, then pull the ripcord. 

    "Three, two, one...Go!"

    The first four jumpers exited, then Chuck and I followed close behind. Upside down in a full head dive and approaching terminal velocity, I smiled as I saw the sun setting for the second time that day. After streaking down to the others, my plan was to slam on the air brakes by throwing out my arms (we had fabric wings from wrists to hips that gave tremendous resistance when fully inflated at high speed) and aiming my sleeves and pants legs straight at the oncoming air. 

    But I never had the chance.

    Plummeting toward the formation, I saw that one of the new guys had come in too fast. Maybe falling rapidly between nearby clouds had him a little spooked—it reminded him that he was moving about 200 feet per second towards that giant planet below, partially shrouded in the gathering darkness. Rather than slowly joining the edge of the formation, he’d barreled in and knocked everybody loose. Now all five other jumpers were tumbling out of control.

    They were also much too close together. A skydiver leaves a super-turbulent stream of low-pressure air behind him. If a jumper gets into that trail, he instantly speeds up and can crash into the person below him. That, in turn, can make both jumpers speed up and crash into anyone who might be below them. In short, it's a recipe for disaster.

    I angled my body and tracked away from the group in order to keep from adding to the tumbling mess. I maneuvered until I was falling right over "the spot," a magical point on the ground above which we were to open our parachutes for the leisurely two minute descent down to the target on the drop zone. I looked over and was relieved to see that the disoriented jumpers were now also tracking away from each other, dispersing the deadly clump. 

    Chuck was there among them. To my surprise, he was coming straight in my direction. He stopped directly beneath me. With all of the group's tumbling, we were passing through 2,000 feet more quickly than Chuck had anticipated. Maybe he thought he was lucky and didn't have to follow the rules—exactly. He must not see me. The thought barely had time to go through my head before Chuck's colorful pilot chute blossomed out of his backpack. His pilot chute caught the 120-mph breeze coming around him and shot straight towards me, pulling his main parachute in its sleeve right behind it.

    From the instant I saw Chuck's pilot chute emerge, I had a fraction of a second to react. For it would take less than a second to tumble through his deploying main parachute, and—quite likely—right into Chuck himself. At that speed, if I hit his arm or his leg I would take it right off, dealing myself a fatal blow in the process. If I hit him directly, both our bodies would essentially explode.

    People say things slow down in situations like this, and they're right. My mind watched the action in the microseconds that followed as if it were watching a movie in slow motion. 

    The instant I saw the pilot chute, my arms flew to my sides and I straightened my body into a head dive, bending ever so slightly at the hips. The verticality gave me increased speed, and the bend allowed my body to add first a little, then a blast of horizontal motion as my body became an efficient wing, sending me zipping past Chuck just in front of his colorful blossoming Paracommander parachute. As I passed him I was moving at over 150 MPH, or 220 feet every second. Given that speed I doubt he saw the expression on my face. But if he had, he would have seen a look of sheer astonishment. Somehow I had reacted in microseconds to a situation that, had I actually had time to think about it, would have been much too complex for me to deal with.

    And yet... I had dealt with it. It was as if, presented with a situation that required more than its usual ability to respond, my brain had become, for a moment, super-powered.

    How had I done it? Over the course of my twenty-plus year career in academic neurosurgery—of studying the brain, observing how it works, and operating on it—I had plenty of opportunities to ponder the question. I finally chalked it up to the fact that the brain is simply a truly extraordinary device: more extraordinary than we can even guess. 

    I now realize that the real answer to that question is much more profound. But I had to go through a complete metamorphosis of my life and worldview to glimpse that answer. This book is about the events that changed my mind on the matter. They convinced me that, marvelous a mechanism as the brain is, it was not my brain that saved my life that day at all. What sprang into action the second Chuck’s chute started to open was another, much deeper part of me. A part that could move so fast because it was not stuck in time at all, the way the brain and body are. 

    This was the same part of me, in fact, that had made me so homesick for the skies as a kid. It's not only the smartest part of us, but the deepest part as well, yet for most of my adult life I was unable to believe in it.

    But I do believe now, and the pages that follow will tell you why...

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Proof of Heaven