Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Thought on the Heaven Seen

I am on a short vacation, actually family reunion, in Florida.  I was really hoping to do some writing while here . . . and while away from the 24-7 demand of trying to keep a medical practice afloat.  But through a strange chain of events (too complicated to discuss here) I found myself computer-less on this trip.  So I've focused on exercising, watching back to back episodes of International House Hunter (some would say my attempts to get in touch with my feminine side) and of course visiting with my extended family.

So, I've borrowed my wife's computer this morning and after a 10 mile ride to Starbucks, I have some solitude to write.  My infamous typos will be worse this morning because my wife's computer's keyboard is offset to the left (has a number keyboard on the right) plus her computer has some type of virus (I think) that causes it to constantly lock up. This, oddly, also causes the spell-checker not to work.

But anyway, I took a reprieve from reading novels to read the book, Proof of Heaven, by Dr. Eben Alexander. That is him pictured above.  I was drawn to the book when he appeared on the Katie show for an interview. To make a long story short, he was a highly accomplished Harvard neurosurgeon, who knew the brain inside and out but then whose own brain completely shut down (a very, very near death experience for a week) and during that shut down, he had a NDE (near death experience) but as a scientist is 100% convinced that this experience was real. It has changed his life.

I could write an entire book on this concept of the Psyche (as described by the Greeks and those prior to them), the Judo-Christian soul and the mind.  But let me say that Dr. Alexander does a good job of it in his book.

I personally am the greatest skeptic you could ever know. I don't believe 99% of the stories I hear people tell . . . not that I think that they are liars . . . but because I have some humble glimpse of the deceptive nature of our own psychological make up. In the case of Dr. Alexander, I'm am less doubtful than usual.  This is mainly because he does have an intellectual approach and he too understands how our hearts are deceptive, and our psychological make up can trick us (as can a malfunctioning brain).

So, I actually think that it is very possible that Eben's experiences were an actual excursion into the other side.  Now, I don't agree with his interpretation of his experience, which is very 21 century American (quasi-pantheistic). In his story, it appears that there is no fallen nature, although he does allude to evil.  But that is not my point here.

The one facet of the book I wanted to talk about is that which relates to this blog, the nature of monistic thinking, or the harmony between that which is seen and unseen.  This especially was a focus in the book when it comes to consciousness, what is it. Dr. Alexander assumed it was from circuitry in the neurons of the brain's cortex . . . before his big adventure. Afterwards, he is convinced it is something else.

I've said before that the one convincing proof for me is that I am. It is a Descartian way of thinking, but I am aware that I exist, that I'm not a mechanical or semi-conductor robot . . . nor am I an organic, biological robot. I am a soul and I can tell from the inside out.  This is what is also called self-consciousness.

Once we know that we are . . . there is no easy way out.  As I've said before, all paths out of the crater have great barriers to rationality.  I believe that these barriers exist because our minds are fallen and can't grasp what would seem like an easy path out.  So, the atheists are no better off than the most extreme fundamentalist Christians, who don't think at all but blindly believe.  They each must come to grips that we are here and the universe is here and how it got here, if you take each thought to its ultimate conclusion, becomes complicated.

I do digress, but I think the book does a good job (maybe I should say that Dr. Alexander's experience did a good job) of trying to grasp the universe as it is . . . dark matter and all.  Knowing that the spiritual side is not understandable by us people any more than a two dimensional being trying to understand the three dimensional world of which they have never experienced. But somewhere in this madness is the answer to why we are here (not the purpose of why we are here but the history of how we got here).

So now we come to the mind.  The book got me thinking about how our physical brains and our spiritual selves relate. I use to say that the brain was the interface between the spiritual selves and our external persona. But now, I would say that the brain is a window to our true spiritual selves. But, the brain is real and of tremendous value. If a window is fractured, it distorts the image of the other world. When our brains are fractured through mental disabilities from the severely mentally retarded to those of us with some form of mental illness to the rest of us who are never perfect. We do see in a mirror dimly who we are but our spiritual selves are the real, the un-fractured view.

But I close this rambling and semi-book review with one more thought.  Eben, like so many, seems to take the view at the end of the dualists.  But rather than being an evnagelical dualist, it is more of the panthesitic dualist, where our labor should be to transcend this world through meditation and try to connect to the other, more important world.

I still think that the most healthy view is to embrace this world, as fractured as it is, and to love it as a God created space for our present lives. But to know that in the other side are the parts that make sense of the big questions. We will enjoy those parts in their due time. And there is a need and a place for the redeemptive power of Christ. The cross did mean something, which Eben implies it did not. But I see the Christians who do not think embracing Eben, as nice of a guy that he is, line, hook and sinker . . . not noticing that he completely eliminates the need of Christ. They will embrance him because he talks about angels and does visit a church to light a candle. Just like the Christian bookstores embraced the godly couple of Jon and Kate + 8 because they prayed before they ate their fish sticks .  .  . And exploited their children for money. I'm sure his Poor of Heaven book is available in the Christian bookstores even now.


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