Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Superior HIV Test

This is excellent news. We will no longer have to largely wait for the disease to progress far too far in order to detect it. It also promises to be an easy test to administer. If we are lucky, it can be available over the counter.

Again that matters. Folks want to prove a negative without confronting the emotional costs of dealing with the medical fraternity. Anything that makes it easier to prove a negative is good news. Once a positive is signaled, then behavior quickly changes anyway but then on the patient's own terms.

For those affected, this also allows the levels to be driven far lower and plausibly optimizes the immune system.

ERC-funded scientists develop sophisticated HIV detection test

[Date: 2012-10-29]

Two researchers funded by the EU have succeeded in developing and testing a state-of-the-art HIV detection test. The Imperial College London, United Kingdom duo says the test is 10 times more sensitive than other methods used to identify this disease, and it is inexpensive. The potential to bring this innovative technique to market is strong, providing a way to diagnose HIV earlier. The findings were published in the journal Nature Materials. 

Professor Molly Stevens and Dr Roberto de la Rica, who received a EUR 1.6 million European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant and a EUR 212,000 Intra-European, Marie Curie Actions fellowship, respectively, looked for an HIV protein, a molecule named antigen p24, which scientists used to detect HIV in newborns with a relative degree of success. Their latest findings are miles ahead of what other studies discovered in the past because of the nanotechnology techniques developed and used in their tests. Professor Stevens and Dr de la Rica evaluated 30 blood samples donated by St Mary's Hospital in London and detected the disease in 10 patients; this would not have been possible if traditional techniques had been used. 

'Using current technology to look for early signs of a virus or a disease can be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack,' said Professor Stevens. 'Our new detection system, is highly innovative; it is not only an affordable methodology that will greatly improve the standard of living of patients with HIV infection in low income countries, but as it is also more sensitive than any existing conventional test, it will also enable the ultrasensitive detection of disease biomarkers, i.e. biological indicators of disease, with the naked eye.' 

Commenting on the groundbreaking result, Dr de la Rica said: 'We have abandoned principles within the existing methodological framework to propose a radically new line of investigation. The test will allow us to detect HIV infection in patients that were previously undetectable, and costs will be significantly cheaper.' 

The researchers believe the novel test could prove beneficial for laboratories that do not have many resources. They said numerical analysis would not have to be performed to count the number of viruses per collected blood sample to determine an HIV case. A change in the colour of the analysed samples would be enough to confirm or discard infections, according to them. 

Commercialisation of the test is possible if more research is conducted. But the researchers said they are hopeful that their research can be translated to the clinical setting and point-of-care use.

For more information, please visit: 

European Research Council (ERC): 

Imperial College London:

Triple Confirmation of Sasquatch DNA in Russia

This report had already popped up on the usual feeds, but I was startled to find it up front and center on the main news feed of Google. This surely means that all the publicity over the past year is now lowering media barriers to these stories.

Rather importantly though, this is a major DNA disclosure. We have had the equivalent in North America but done under the radar by nervous experts. It is nice to know that some folks have recalled that they are scientists.

The results are exceptional and triple confirmed. You can not get any better than that.

We clearly have unique DNA that is not human but close enough to assure us that we are dealing with a close relative. I expect to see other results already obtained in North America to be released now for direct comparison.

As I posted a couple of years back, the momentum behind the emergence of the Sasquatch has become unstoppable. I thought then it would be accomplished with night cameras which has been done but still been debated. Real trackers are now working the case. This is a much better way. A triple confirmed DNA test to provide a standard for Asia and a comparable for North America raises the Sasquatch out of controversy forever.

Again it is rising on to the front pages of our newspapers.

Sasquatch in Siberia? Hair found in Russian cave 'belonged to unknown mammal closely related to man'

    Hair did not belong to any known animal from the region such as a bear, wolf, or goat
    Mysterious mammal more closely related to man than to monkeys

30 October 2012

Astonishing claims were made in Russia today that DNA tests on suspected 'Yeti hair' reveals the existence of 'an unknown mammal closely related to man'.

The 'tests' were conducted on samples of hair found in a Siberian cave during an international expedition last year.

'We had ten samples of hair to study, and have concluded that they belong to mammal, but not a human,' said Professor Valentin Sapunov, of the Russian State Hydrometeorological Institute.

Nor did the hair belong to any known animal from the region such as a bear, wolf, or goat, he claimed.

Analysis was conducted in the Russia and US and 'agreed the hair came from a human-like creature which is not a Homo sapien yet is more closely related to man than a monkey', said the Siberian Times, citing claims made on a regional government website in Russia in the area where the hair samples were allegedly found. 

It stated that long-awaited scientific tests were conducted on their hair at two institutions in Russia and one in Idaho in the US.

'All three world level universities have finished DNA analysis of the hair and said that the hair belongs to a creature which is closer by its biological parameters to Homo sapiens than a monkey. The Yeti's DNA is evidently less than one per cent different to that of a human.'

The tests were undertaken on hair found one year ago in the Azasskaya Cave in the Mourt Shoriya area of Kemerovo region in Siberia, it was alleged. 

The 2011 expedition to  the remote cave complex in Kemerovo when the alleged Yeti hair was found was led by Dr Igor Birtsev, seen as Russia's leading advocate of the existence of the abominable snowman.

Yeti region: The hair was found in Kemerovo which is a notorious yeti sighting spot

He last night questioned the conclusions saying he was seeking more information about the alleged tests.

The Siberian Times said only 'scant' details were made available of the 'DNA findings'.

Sapunov claimed that the prestigious Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences was involved in the tests.

Yeti 'sightings' have been reported for centuries in most continents but the creature has evaded capture and no remains have ever been discovered.

Several 'sightings' of yetis have been made recently according to a Russian official and fishermen in Siberia. 

'We shouted to them - do you need help?,' said fisherman Vitaly Vershinin.

'They just rushed away, all in fur, walking on two legs, making their way through the bushes and with two other limbs, straight up the hill.'

He continued: 'What did we think? It could not be bears, as the bear walks on all-fours, and they ran on two.... so then they were gone.'

Russia's leading researcher on yetis, Igor Burtsev claims around 30 of the 'abominable snowmen' live in the Kemerovo region, where these sightings were.

Read more:

Paw Paw Potential

This item came as a complete surprise to me. It must not like the local biome I grew up in. It turns out that it is easy to work with and we just have not. Perhaps this is because it is somewhat like a papaya. That too offers initial difficulties in terms of convenient preservation and the like. Yet as I learned a long time ago, we need to simply get serious about it and accept some initial failure.

They apparently need to go skin black like a banana to achieve full ripeness and I am sure that this is off putting to most. Yet is also reminded just how much can be done with a banana. We have learned to freeze a fully ripened banana. The resulting product is easily incorporated in shakes.

In fact six such bananas and a good quality soy milk to fill up the blender produces a satisfying shake. Another banana will make it thicker and two will make it nearly solid.

The real surprise though, is that if it is poured into a container and brought up to boiling point in the microwave, on cooling it will set into a caramel colored solid pudding that will last a long time without oxidizing. Notice how we have gone from yuck to pretty damn good. I thank my friend David for this input.

If the paw paw behaves as well we may even have another pudding. In fact the above is suggestive of a line of useful commercial products that need no starch or eggs.

The Next Superfruit Growing in Your Backyard

Pawpaw trees produce the largest edible fruit native to North America, and they're perfect for backyard gardeners.


They may be funny-looking, but pawpaws are high in iron, calcium and antioxidants—and they can grow just about anywhere

Unless you live in Hawaii, it's unlikely you'll ever find a local banana, or a local mango, or any other tropical fruit grown within 200 miles of where you live. But if you live in Indiana or pretty much anywhere else in the mainland U.S. right about now, you'd be able to sample a "Hoosier banana," aka the "poor man's banana," aka the "prairie banana," aka the pawpaw.

The largest edible fruit native to North America, the pawpaw will grow pretty much anywhere, although it does best in the Northeast and the Midwest, says Ken Asmus, owner of Oikos Tree Crops, a Kalamazoo, Michigan–based nursery that sells pawpaw tree seedlings. Their fruit ripens around the end of August and lasts until mid-October, but Asmus says the fruit on his trees in Michigan are just starting to ripen, owing to a cool spring.

And the taste? They live up to their nicknames. "Pawpaws have a really funny flavor and really funny texture, like a smooth banana, but also kind of mushy," he says. "Almost like a strawberry-banana flavor." Chefs and home cooks he knows use them to make cookies—"they add a sweetness and moisture to cookies," he says—breads, and even ice cream. And Asmus has tried canning them to take to various farm shows so he can have samples to give to potential pawpaw owners. "I have other jellies that I make sitting next to a milky pile of something that looks really horrible, but everyone who tastes it says it's really good!" he says. Just don’t look for them at the grocery store; you're more likely to find a pawpaw at your local farmer's market—if you aren't already growing them in your backyard.

Some nutritionists and foodies think pawpaws could be the next superfood. They have 20 to 70 times as much iron, 10 times as much calcium, and 4 to 20 times as much magnesium as bananas, apples, and oranges, Asmus has found. And research from Ohio State has found that they have antioxidant levels that rival cranberries and cherries. An added health bonus: Being a native tree, pawpaws are resistant to most pests and diseases, making them very easy to grow organically, without the insecticides or fungicides used in most fruit orchards.

"Plus, they just look really cool," Asmus says. They look like huge bananas and can weigh a pound or more, hanging in trees that live in shady areas alongside riverbanks and streams. Not only are they unique in appearance, they serve an important purpose. The Zebra swallowtail butterfly lay their eggs exclusively in the pawpaw tree, and the tree serves as the sole food source for their larvae.

Paw Paw

by Picky

Now that's some strange looking fruit, eh? It's a Paw Paw – the largest native to America tree fruit and it's one of the very few native to America fruits. They grow here in PA and apparently are fairly popular in SE Ohio (Pawpaw Festival). Well, we have them at the Fair Food Farmstand for $6.50/lbs. Fear not the price though as they're not too huge; a buck will get you a smallish one to try out.

Now the daunting task of picking out a ripe one. Over the year and change I've been working at the Farmstand has schooled me pretty well on picking some ripe fruit. I was decent beforehand, but now I can ID a ripe [fill in the blank] with the best of them. A truly ripe paw paw looks and feels offensively ripe. Like past how ripe you want a banana to be for banana bread (i.e. too soft and gushy for just plain eating). In the photo above, we have an almost ripe, brown paw paw at top and a green paw paw at bottom. Some people prefer the harder green paw paw, but some people also think a well done burger is acceptable fare ;) . The one pictured at top was squishy, but not about-to-burst ready.

So what does it taste like? It's somewhere between a banana and a mango. Yep, you read that right. Banana-mango. If you've ever ordered up a banana-mango smoothie at a smoothie stand, you just might love yourself a paw paw.

(Annoyingly, I've changed the position of the un/ripe paw paws from the first photo, sorry) How do you eat one of these suckers? Well, you can bit into one I guess, but I've split them open, lenghtwise and dug in with a spoon. On to specific taste… The unripe one first: it's got a fruity custard texture which goes well with one name for the paw paw: custard apple. It's not stringy inside, but not fully creamy. The seed pods, which are roughly as tall as pennies, but tapered and not as wide, are chewy – don't eat them, I was just curious. To me, the paw paw has more of a mild papaya than mango with a hint of banana. Closer to the skin side of the meat, the meat is a little chunkier and not as creamy as at the center.

The ripe one: Much more fragrant and much creamier meat with almost no harder chunks to be found inside. When scraping the meat from the inside of the skin, you get a hints of a toasted flavor which I really liked.

I've read that one can make chilled desserts from paw paw and that good old GW's favorite dessert was chilled paw paw. They're a strange fruit and well worth a try if you don't mind the texture – I know lots of people who have issues with oddly textured foods. The Farmstand received a shipment of paw paws from Green Meadow Farms in Gap, PA today. I haven't seen them yet, but I just called in and was told they were pretty large.

One volunteer from last year, whose family is from Jamaica, brought some home to her mother to try. She said her mom said the American paw paw was quite different from the Jamaican variety so if you've had the Jamaican one while island hopping in the Caribbean, these are different.

The Future of Cycling After Lance

This is my second trip around this block. It is obvious that cycling will now have a long road back. Yet the same is true for all sports. Right now we are still trying to cleanse the sports we have and at the same time the concussion crisis is building up and must be resolved. There is a lot of repair work to be done.

We also need to think through steroids in general and learn how to manage the problem. As I posted before, steroids work in exactly one way that I am aware of. They accelerate muscle recovery. If it can be done safely, this may well be a good thing. Muscle sprains hurt and are debilitating and interrupt training.

Thus it is pretty clear that a top athlete has every incentive to work with them. The problem is things like a rare cancer such as Armstrong encountered. I do not think it is possible to stop their use for young aspiring athletes. I am not sure we should.

For example, it is clear to me that it would be highly advantageous if all children entering puberty were put on a progressive physical training program with a high food intake in order to optimize muscle development. Doing this at that particular time generates a stable muscle system that is easily maintained for a lifetime. I know this because my own legs were beefed up then and I have retained them since. Few such children would then be recognized as potential athlete as that requires skill development and heavy additional training.

Doing this type of preparation would ease late development naturally and perhaps obviate the need for steroid support.

Life after Lance Armstrong: Can cycling forge a drug-free future?

Julien Pretot, Reuters | Oct 22, 2012 4:35 PM ET

GENEVA — Lance Armstrong was ditched from the Tour de France record books on Monday but the question of whether cycling should forget his tarnished legacy or use it as a force for change must be urgently addressed.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has ratified the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to strip Armstrong of his seven titles, leaving a crater in the Tour annals from 1999-2005.

He deserves to be forgotten,” UCI president Pat McQuaid told a news conference in front of more than a 100 journalists.

But can the retired American and his legacy really be forgotten for the sport to move on and try to forge a doping-free future?

As McQuaid said himself, his tenure as UCI president from 2005 has been riddled with doping scandals from the Floyd Landis affair in 2006 when the American was stripped of the Tour title through Alberto Contador’s troubles where the Spaniard too lost his 2010 crown.

The cheats all followed in Armstrong’s footsteps whether they knew the whole truth about the American or not and riders who worked with the 41-year-old are still in the peloton.

Many American riders who testified against him and themselves to USADA received reduced bans and they will be back to race having vowed never to dope again.

The USADA report also showed other riders than Armstrong who wired large sums of money to sports doctor Michele Ferrari, who was banned for life for masterminding the former rider’s doping programme.

We haven’t got to this stage of looking for other stuff that’s in that report,” said McQuaid.

We are also awaiting news from Padua in Italy [(another investigation into an alleged doping ring] which might implicate some riders.”

For cycling to truly move on it has to use the Armstrong affair to further promote change rather than banish it as uncomfortable evidence of a bygone age when cheats ruled the roost.
There must be more action to combat the system that took over the sport,” Travis Tygart, the head of USADA, said in a statement.

It is important to remember that while today is a historic day for clean sport, it does not mean clean sport is guaranteed for tomorrow.

Only an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission can fully start cycling on the path toward true reform and provide hope for a complete break from the past.“

UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest suggested that such a commission would be good ”for all sports“.

Cycling has indeed made great strides in combating doping in recent years but has received bad press because it is catching cheats, albeit sometimes slowly, while other sports struggle to match cycling’s complex anti-drug procedures.

Irishman McQuaid, who confessed he never turned professional as a young rider in the 1970s because he feared he would have to dope, nevertheless sees a positive future for his beleaguered sport.

As J.F. Kennedy said, quoting a Chinese saying: ‘When written in Chinese, the word crisis consists in two characters: one represents danger, one represents opportunity’,” he remarked.

The fight against doping advances and the tools available to international federations in the fight against doping advance, and the tools available to us in the UCI now are much more advanced than in the early 2000s.“
A culture shift has happened too, he believes, something born out by the strong anti-doping stances of many teams and the passionate verbal blasts handed out by 2012 Tour champion Bradley Wiggins to anyone who questioned his good faith.

It is important to remember that while today is a historic day for clean sport, it does not mean clean sport is guaranteed for tomorrow

Many riders are saying they don’t want to be involved in the culture of doping, even ones who were witnesses in this affair admitted they did not want to be involved. The riders today have a different attitude,“ McQuaid added.

We have to have faith in the riders today, the sponsors are heavily involved in the sport …We lost a very important sponsor, Rabobank, last week, that’s true, but I’m quite confident that this sponsor will be replaced and the sponsors we have understand what is going on.“

However, cycling has been at a crossroads before and not acted sufficiently to spare it from ridicule.

In 1998, the sport was plunged into a major crisis with the Festina doping affair and it failed to prevent Armstrong from then implementing what was regarded by USADA as the most sophisticated doping program ever seen.

The culture has also not changed completely. Some riders still regard Armstrong as a true champion.
It was difficult for the UCI to have another response,“ France coach and former tour of Spain winner Laurent Jalabert told French radio station RTL.

Anyway, he was a great champion. Whatever he could have taken, there were not that many riders at the same level. He had a huge talent. He may have made a mistake, he got caught, he has been punished for it.

He is not the first but, whatever, he had outstanding skills.”

Cycling has much more work to do.

Syria Simmers

 I do not see it that way. This is a civil war that will seek a truce when it is clear to both parties that the other side will not submit and that neither can be forced to submit. The government side has proven its mettle and the rebels are proving their mettle.

A cease fire will allow for both parties to reorganize their political presence. A negotiation can then focus on the reestablishment of civil society and local security for both parties. A third party intervenor, even if only diplomatic should be able to get the situation settled somewhat.

In the meantime there is some spill over from groups that welcome a widened involvement.

We actually have the same scenario in play in Libya with two factions not trusting each other. The Arab spring merely unleashed these factions but failed to get them to talk to each other as yet.

Note that in Iraq that the two factions are in fact talking and cooperating while the Kurds simply stand back. I think that is the natural road for all as there are few economic gains to be had through conflict.

Forget Libya, The Syrian Conflict Is What's Going To Make The Middle East Explode

Agence France Presse | Oct. 17, 2012, 12:17 PM

Syria's 19-month conflict could set the entire region ablaze, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters in Lebanon on Wednesday.

"This crisis cannot remain confined within Syrian territory," Brahimi said. "Either it is solved, or it gets worse... and sets (the region) ablaze. A truce for (the Muslim holiday of) Eid al-Adha would be a microscopic step on the road to solving the Syria crisis."

Brahimi called on Monday for a temporary ceasefire during the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday starting on October 26.

"The Syrian people, on both sides, are burying some 100 people a day," he said.

"Can we not ask that this toll falls for this holiday? This will not be a happy holiday for the Syrians, but we should at least strive to make it less sad."

The Damascus regime says it is prepared to discuss the proposal in talks with Brahimi. The exiled opposition says it would welcome a ceasefire, but insists the ball is in the government's court to halt its daily bombardments.

Brahimi said that "if the Syrian government accepts, and I understand there is hope, and if the opposition accepts," a truce would be a step "towards a more global ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy artillery, a stop to the flow of foreign weapons, and then towards a political solution in Syria."

His tour to countries playing influential roles in the crisis has taken him to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which support the revolt, and Iran, Damascus's closest regional ally, as well as to Iraq and Egypt.
Brahimi said he would end his tour in Damascus, but did not say when.

"We are in discussions with all the parties to stop the bloodbath and to (ensure that) problems in Syria are solved by the Syrians themselves," Brahimi said, after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

"Everyone says the bloodbath in Syria is very dangerous, and that it needs to stop, but each side blames the other" for violence that has killed more than 33,000 people since the outbreak of a revolt in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"We need to see how pull Syria out of the abyss it has fallen into."

Brahimi said he was following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, in dealing with "this grave issue," as well as the Geneva accords reached on June 30 by an action group on Syria.

Annan's six-point peace plan failed to stop the bloodshed, while the Geneva accords fell short of calling on Assad to step down.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dr. Eben Alexander on the Medical Mystery of Near-Death Experience

 This is a follow up posting on Dr. Eben Alexander's book on his remarkable Near Death experience. This interview is long and I will underline key passages. As I have stated before, I entered this state personally while resting one afternoon and was able to confirm the reality of the state itself. I reached a couple of conclusions then and this interview will generate additional information.

1 The experience does not have the softness or intangibility of a normal dream state. The luminous dreaming phrase is appropriate. What is observed is an expansion of the spectrum. This is pretty specific and not something we can experience or even expect.

2 Imagined abodes and attire are possible for a soul residing in the afterlife and that afterlife becomes experientially real. I observed my mother in her abode but did not communicate.

3 It is possible to acquire new information. It is also possible for an entity in this environment to monitor events on earth if it wishes. One gets the sense of been above it all but having interest as we would expect. I do not think such an abode is the end of the story.

That is as far as I got on this and as far as was suggested by most other observers. This article reveals a great deal more and is a breakthrough in understanding. The animal kingdom is richer than we ever thought.

Dr. Eben Alexander on the Medical Mystery of Near-Death Experience

October 23rd, 2012 Alex Tsakiris

Interview with Dr. Eben Alexander about his new book, Proof of Heaven, and the medical mystery of his NDE.

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with neurosurgeon and author Dr. Eben Alexander about his new book, Proof of Heaven.  During the interview Alexander explains why his medical training did not prepare him for understanding his near-death experience:

Alex Tsakiris:   One of the really fascinating parts of the book is the professional transformation you go through as a result of this experience.  As you tell it, you weren’t totally unaware of the near-death experience research.  It was out there.  You had heard of, for example, Dr. Raymond Moody, but it was something you looked past because all your training had told you this was impossible.  So, it had created this blind spot in your medical knowledge.

Dr. Eben Alexander: …it did require a tremendous amount of re-education. Having been an academic neurosurgeon for over 20 years, I thought I understood brain and how brain generates consciousness and mind and soul, spirit, what-have-you. But my thinking was clearly that when the brain and the body die that’s the end of consciousness. I now know that’s absolutely not true. And to get to that point after my experience I really had to learn a tremendous amount about consciousness I never had to know as a practicing academic neurosurgeon.

I knew a few things about consciousness. I knew a few things that seem to turn it off. Every day we use general anesthesia which is effective at turning off consciousness.  Yet having used it for 150 years we still have absolutely no clue how general anesthesia works. I think that should give the listener a little bit of an idea of how little we really understand about consciousness. In fact, my experience showed me this very clearly, and I go into nine neuroscientific hypotheses in my book that I entertained and discussed with others in neuroscience, neurosurgery, trying to explain how my ultra-real experience might have happened in my brain given the severity of my meningitis.  My conclusion is  that none of these explanations work.

Today we welcome Dr. Eben Alexander back to Skeptiko. Dr. Alexander has just published Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Near-Death Experience and Journey into the Afterlife. Welcome, Dr. Alexander. Thanks for joining me on Skeptiko.

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Well hello, Alex, and thanks very much for having me back.

Alex Tsakiris:   Well, you’ve written quite a book here. One part medical thriller—it really is—and one part near-death experience science book. It’s a great read. I didn’t think neurosurgeons were supposed to be writers of this caliber.

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Thanks a lot. I appreciate it. I think you can tell it’s really a story from the heart because it’s a very personal story and my experience was absolutely life-changing in every sense of the word. And I mean, to me I think a lot of people are most interested when they hear that I had a profound near-death experience like millions of people have had and witnessed that ultra-reality and the startling nature of that realm.

And because I had bacterial meningitis, which really pretty much turned off the human part of my brain, after I was recovering and putting the whole story together it started becoming very clear to me that there was absolutely no way that it had happened in my brain. And that was based on neuroscientific principles. So as stunned as I was by the nature of the experience, the ultra-reality, when I was waking up from coma my original intent was to try and explain that based on neuroscientific principles. T

Then over a few months and even before I started reading any near-death experience literature, I realized how sick I was and how it was really impossible to explain this very rich experience through the typical neuroscientific explanations and it really happened and it happened in a place that’s outside of our physical universe. I think that’s what’s so stunning and that’s why so many people are fascinated by this story.

Alex Tsakiris:   Absolutely. And of course, as you just mentioned, I think the other aspect of it that draws people in is your background. I mean, you would know the answers to some of those questions. You have quite an extensive academic background as well as professional. I mean, you are a brain surgeon. You know how people say, “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon?” Well, in this case it takes a brain surgeon. You were a professor at Harvard Medical School for 15 years, you’re publishing papers in all medical journals, so you are a bonafide expert in these areas.

And then if I can just fill in a little of your story—so there you are, you’re a neurosurgeon, you moved back to the South where you’re from originally with your family to slow down a little bit although you still have a very active practice and do to this day. But then this incident, this spinal meningitis, and it’s an e coli bacteria, which I just was stunned. I didn’t know anything about it but again, this book is part medical thriller so when you read this book—and it’s really a great read.

It’s not only a book you’re going to want to read for yourself but I really think it’s the kind of book you’re going to want to give to someone else because they’ll be drawn into the story and at the same time they’ll be overwhelmed by the medical and scientific evidence behind it.

Anyway, this thing happens to you and I guess one of the parts we could explore right now is as a physician, tell folks a little bit about the medical miracle of your recovery itself. Taking the NDE out of it this is just an extraordinary medical case, isn’t it?

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Right. I must say, all the physicians and nurses who took care of me were absolutely dumbfounded that I ended up making a complete recovery. As you pointed out a minute ago, it’s very important to note that it was an e coli—a spontaneous e coli meningitis—which in adults probably has an incidence of around 1 in 10 million per year or less. So it’s very rare. That, I think, has mainly served the purpose of keeping me focused so that I was not about to dismiss any of this. It’s almost like it was kind of an overkill of forcing rarity on me so I would not lose track of how important it was to get to the bottom of all this.

The other thing is, as I do tell in the book, when I first came down with this illness which was on November 10, 2008, I became symptomatic at about four in the morning. It was a very severe, very rapidly progressive disease so it started with back pain and then rapidly to a severe headache. And then within about three hours of onset, into a grand mal epileptic seizure that was really not breakable. And if you do a literature search you’ll find that if someone has a grand negative bacterial meningitis like I had and they go into coma rapidly, and in the literature that’s within 24 hours—of course, I was so sick I did that within three or four hours.

It turns out that with that history, when they get to the emergency room their mortality is already at 90% from that illness. So I had only a 10% chance of surviving when I got to the emergency room. They quickly put me on three antibiotics to try and cover this and I did not respond for several days to the antibiotics. So that 10% survival estimate when I first came in the door crept towards 2% or 3% by the end of the week, which is the time when I finally woke up.

My physicians were making it very clear to my family that even if I did survive it, especially by that point after I’d been in a coma on a ventilator for a week, that my chances for neurological recovery were very limited and that I would probably spend the rest of my life in a nursing home. So in fact, they were even at the point of discussing stopping the antibiotics just so they didn’t get caught in that trap where at the end of the day they might have cured the meningitis and yet been left with somebody in a persistent vegetative state. It really was an absolute miracle that I was able to come back.

[as an aside, my own experience with a major heart attack stopped my heart for twenty minutes with much the same prognosis. I was saved because excellent CPR was applied throughout even though then no one understood that it could work - arclein]

Alex Tsakiris:   And your coming back is again just stunningly remarkable. Talk a little bit about that. You do in the book; you describe the process but it just sounds almost unbelievable that you would recover the way that you did.

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Well, I will tell you that if I’d had a patient—before my coma if you had asked me, “How much does a patient remember if they have acute bacterial meningitis, go into coma within hours, spend a week on a ventilator, and then finally start to wake back up?”

Alex Tsakiris:   Yeah, but your eyes popped open, right? Your eyes pop open and you say, “Take this ventilator out.” And you start talking. I mean, that is also quite amazing, right?

Dr. Eben Alexander:   It was absolutely stunning. I think it’s important to point out to people that for one thing, I would not expect a patient to remember anything at all from within that experience. So in fact, I was very shocked because I remembered a tremendous amount and that’s what I tell in my story.

[I also remembered nothing during my induced nine day coma likely because they had me on maximum mophine from which it took weeks to cleanse my system off. I suspect he had no morphine - arclein]

The other thing that’s crucial to understand is that the meningitis was so effective at wiping out the outer surface of my brain, my neocortex, that’s the part where all of our human experience happens. Meningitis is probably the most efficient way to wipe out the human brain and human existence and still leave some of the deeper structures intact so that potentially somebody could survive it, although very, very few people who are as sick as I was with bacterial meningitis end up surviving at all. So I still consider myself extremely fortunate.

Alex Tsakiris:   And you remark in the book that this is for those reasons probably one of the most convincing cases of survival of consciousness because it’s very difficult to argue from a medical neuroscience standpoint that there was anything going on in that brain state that you were in.

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Right. I think my neurologic exams very clearly point out that I was getting much worse through the week to the point where I really didn’t need much in the way of sedation or anything. My brain stem was very damaged, you can tell from my lack of brain stem reflexes. I mean, I was extremely sick from this.

And of course, when I started reviewing my medical record much, much later I was shocked that I could be that sick and then be coming back to the point where I was reviewing my own medical record. In fact, I was present at my own Grand Rounds, which are a clinical pathologic correlation conference which most people obviously cannot ever do because those conferences are about patients who are deathly ill.

It just shocked me that the meningitis was so effective that deep inside coma, when I first became aware of anything deep inside coma, I had absolutely no memory of my life. No knowledge whatsoever of Earth or humans or this universe, certainly nothing about my identity or any of that. I didn’t even have any words. All my words were completely gone. There was no language at all. And I spent a very long period of time initially, and of course long is easy to understand when you realize I had no prior existence. So just like for a newborn, an hour or two can seem like infinity because it’s their whole lifetime.

[this is important and sharply confirms internally what is been observed physically, In my case, I retained awareness of my life - arclein]

And likewise, just coming into existence in this murky kind of underground, muddy, foamy realm which is what I initially remembered, it was an area that I call in my book “an earthworm’s eye view.” It’s a very murky—I don’t think memory was working at all well and that’s why it seemed so foamy. I had no body awareness, no sense of self at all.

I was just aware of being this speck in this kind of mundane, boiling soup with this mechanical pounding sound deep off in the distance and kind of a vague sensation of roots or vessels or something that were coursing through the muck around me. Occasionally even a memory of some face that might boil up. I mean, these could be ugly, grotesque shapes. Certainly nothing identifiable. They’d boil out of the muck and there might be some screech or roar or something and then they’d go back into the bubbling soup and that was that.

I felt like I was in that earthworm eye view, that murky realm, for ages. It’s impossible to really put a number on it because it was for a very, very long time. It was the only existence I’d ever known. And it was in that setting that I had this what to me seems to be kind of a spontaneous emergence, which is most paradoxical in looking back on it because it was at a point where that earthworm eye view, that muck, was at its lowest ebb.

My thinking when I was writing all this up is that that earthworm eye view was about the best consciousness that my brain, soaking in pus, could muster. That’s why it was so stunning that what happened next was an awareness of this spinning melody of bright light and it had all these fine filaments coming off of it. It was spinning very slowly in front of me and coming closer but it had a beautiful melody that went with it. As it came closer it opened up like a rip in the fabric of existence and was a portal into this lovely, verdant valley. But I found I was going into a beautiful realm that was a very rich tapestry, very experiential.

In recalling all the memories of it and my awareness of it in the weeks after my coma when I was trying to write all of this up as a neuroscientist report, the amazing thing was how a lot of the visual and auditory sensations had this complete overlap. I mean, I think it sounds a lot like what is known as synesthesia where people in kind of recognizing their senses and constructing the world realize that sometimes auditory may overrun into visual and olfactory may be associated with certain visual or auditory. I saw a lot of that kind of thing when I was recalling all of this and trying to write it down.

It was an incredibly interactive realm and one that was very beautiful and kind of vivid and stunning but in recalling the beautiful music and a lot of the scenes that I saw, it was very difficult to unravel just because of this incredible overlap. And it was all ultra-real. It makes the realm that we live in here on Earth seem very dreamlike in comparison. It was very sharp and crisp and poignant and meaningful. Even though I had no words in that realm, the concepts, conceptual flow, was pure and complete. I mean, in fact words seemed to be a great bottleneck, a hurdle to understanding compared to the way information flowed into me there.

So I had that absolutely lovely scene that I flowed up into that was very rich in its complexities and also very interactive. Any question in my mind—and these were not worded questions. I could kind of wonder why and kind of who and what and the answers to those questions hit me like these incredible waves of experience. They would come through me and I would know completely the truth to everything around any of those queries. And from there this was this very profound sense of Divine and of the Divine presence that I describe in the book, and also the importance of love and how powerful love is in that realm.

Then I went outside of the entire universe and I was out with the orb of light and with this Divinity and learned so much more. I go into that in detail in the book but the important thing is that that very rich experience with profound knowledge coming into me would then suddenly without any apparent lead-in, I would be back in that earthworm eye view.

And actually I learned that by recalling the notes of the melody that beautiful light would come spin up in front of me and then as I kind of encouraged the melody and remembered more of it, the whole thing would open up again as a portal into that beautiful, very complex, rich, ultra-real realm and then back outside of the universe where I was taught more-or-less. And that happened several times.

It was a real mystery as I was trying to put it all together and write it down when I came back, especially that it was back and forth between this murky, very simple and unresponsive earthworm eye view and the very rich and vivid and alive and responsive aspects of what I call the Gateway and the Core which was outside of the entire universe. It took me a long time to understand why that all was and what that was showing me. Really it’s taken me about 3-1/2 years to come to my current level of understanding about what that entire journey meant and what it was telling me.

Alex Tsakiris:   It’s an absolutely amazing account and it’s amazing on several levels. One is the detail. You know, it’s unbelievable that you could have a recollection of that level of detail and you can remember things happening in the sequence is both remarkable and is very useful for folks who want to understand whatever message you could bring back to us from that realm. Which I think is a tricky subject that we might want to talk more about later.

I also like—and you bring this out quite clearly in the book—that despite any uncomfortableness that it might create in someone, the message is one of Divinity; the message is one of love and a compassion that goes far beyond what we can imagine in this Earthly realm but which we often talk about when we talk to people who have had various kinds of spiritually transformative experiences. So you do kind of go there, if you will, and kind of jump right into it and say, “Yep. There’s no question about it. This was this Divine experience.”

Dr. Eben Alexander:   The phrase, “unconditional love,” people talk about all the time who have had these kinds of experiences. The words just fail to do it justice. But it explains so much and the comfort that I found there and the love and the oneness and the connectedness that we all have and share is really profound. But of course, this is all confirmed.

It turns out that my older son had some home from college two days after I got out of the hospital and he was shocked to see me conversing at all because the last time he’d seen me I’d been deep in coma. He was just amazed at this transition. He said it was as if there was a light glowing within me, which I certainly felt. I mean, I was getting up at 1:30 or 2 every morning and just writing. I was just so elated to be alive and elated to have been through all this.

But he also advised me—he could tell I was very interested in writing this up and at the time my intent was to try and explain it based on neuroscientific principles because that ultra-reality is just an absolutely stunning thing. After I wrote down everything I could remember, and he advised me to do that before I read anything. So in fact, it took me about six weeks after I got out of the hospital to write down what amounted to about 20,000 words, which was kind of my core story.

Based on my son Eben’s  advice which is very sage advice, not to read anything at all about physics, cosmology or near-death experiences until I’d written my entire story down, then I started reading the near-death literature and was shocked at the similarities across the board of what people experienced. In fact, when you research the afterlife literature going all the way back to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, TibetanBook of the Dead, and lots of other early writings about afterlife going all the way back to Ancient Greece, it’s very clear that the similarities far outweigh the differences and are far more impressive.

This realm is very real and this realm is eternal and it’s very reassuring to see all this confirmation in so many different places. For me, as a neurosurgeon, it’s pretty clear how the differences arise in some of these stories and that has a lot to do with the brain and human mind serving as kind of a filtering function so that our culture and our personal history can kind of flavor or color our recollections when we come back from these places. But having been there, I can tell you that it was far more striking to me the similarities. The similarities going back for millennia in these writings of people who have visited these realms.

[I agree that it is the similarities that stand out. My own awareness sent me through to murky forest to reach a road and see the light down the road - arclein]

It’s not simply those who have a near-death experience. There are numerous ways to have spiritually transformative experiences and to me some of the most instructive were in Raymond Moody’s recent book, Glimpses of Eternity, where he talked about shared death experiences where loved ones–although back in the late 70s it was health care workers who happened to be there when a patient made a transition over–would be kind of sucked in along that spiritual journey even to the point of seeing someone’s life review, a soul’s life review on their way into the heavenly realm. And then in the shared death experience, you have a person who is perfectly healthy whose soul gets sucked along for part of that journey and then comes back to tell about it.

I would say before my coma, of course, I would have been very tempted to say that’s just some very kind of stressed-out psychological response. And now I know that it’s real. That these things indicate kind of the profound nature of what’s going on with reality and our existence. These are things that if we really want to understand truth and get to truth, we need to have a better understanding of what these kinds of experiences are telling us.

Alex Tsakiris:   Let’s talk a little bit about that because one of the really fascinating parts of the book is the professional transformation you go through as a result of this experience. I mean, it’s kind of like a Flat-Earth kind of thing where you reveal in the book that you weren’t totally unaware of the near-death experience research. It was out there; you had heard of Raymond Moody. But it was just something that you completely looked past because all your training had said this was impossible. This doesn’t exist. So it creates this blind spot in your medical knowledge.

I think that process is fascinating and you’re very open about it. I think it goes a long way towards helping us understand how we can be in the situation we’re in in terms of the medical establishment’s and scientific establishment’s views of these kinds of experiences. Do you want to talk to that a little bit?

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Yeah. That’s actually one of my favorite subjects, as you can imagine, is the transition that I went through because of this. I had grown up in North Carolina in Winston-Salem in a family. My father was an academic neurosurgeon and he always led me into the scientific way of thinking. I really spent my life growing up with a scientific way of thinking. He had also been a combat surgeon in the Pacific in WWII and I think it was his strong spirituality that got him through that experience relatively intact because that was a very tough time.

So he gave me both a spiritual background and we used to go to church, a Methodist church, when I was growing up. But as much as I wanted to believe in God and Heaven and the power of prayer and all that, the more I went through my academic neurosurgical career and I trained at Duke and I spent 15 years on faculty at Harvard Medical School in Neurosurgery, the more it just seemed to be basically impossible to explain how the spiritual realm and God and Heaven could exist.

And in fact, I had my own personal kind of psychic challenge or trauma back in 2000 that had to do with the fact that I was adopted. That ended up really crushing out of existence my last hope that there could be a loving God or that prayers would be answered. And that was in 2000 that that happened. It was eight years later that I went into coma.

I can tell you that my journey in coma showed me very clearly the existence and power of that Divinity that exists and is very real. It also proved to me beyond any doubt the eternity of our souls. I know that physical death of the body and brain is not the end; it’s a transition. In fact, I think many will be quite surprised to find that their conscious awareness actually expands greatly when they leave the confines of the physical limitation of human brain and body. That’s something else that I explain pretty clearly in the book.

[This is a new insight that I did not experience per se.]

For me, it did require a tremendous amount of education. Having been an academic neurosurgeon for over 20 years, I thought I understood brain and how brain generates consciousness and mind and soul, spirit, what-have-you. But my thinking was clearly that when the brain and the body die that’s the end of consciousness, soul, spirit. I now know that’s absolutely not true. And to get to that point after my experience I really had to learn a tremendous amount about consciousness that I never had to know as a practicing academic neurosurgeon.

Because a neurosurgeon, we know a few things about consciousness. We know a few things that seem to turn it off. Every day we use general anesthesia, which is effective at turning off consciousness and yet having used it for 150 years we still have absolutely no clue how general anesthesia works. I think that should give the listener a little bit of an idea of how little we really understand about consciousness. In fact, my experience showed me very clearly and I go into nine neuroscientific hypotheses in my book that I entertained and discussed with others in neuroscience, neurosurgery, trying to explain how my ultra-real experience might have happened in my brain given the severity of my meningitis. And none of them work.

So in many ways my experience showed me that consciousness can exist very richly totally outside of the brain and body and that it exists in that form after our body dies. Now, there’s a lot of literature in trans-personal psychology that has to do with reincarnation and past life studies and also a tremendous literature on what I call “phenomena of extended consciousness.

Some people in the past would say “psi” or “paranormal” or “parapsychological” experiences like remote viewing, telepathy, extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, out-of-body experiences, all manner of things like that that I know from my experience since coma are very real phenomena. There’s that marvelous book, Irreducible Mind that Ed Kelly and Bruce Greyson and the group UVA put out for any scientific types who still doubt extended or what we call “non-local” consciousness.

And also the book by Pim Van Lommel on Consciousness Beyond Life. Both of those are marvelous books about consciousness and how it exists and in fact exists in a much richer form when it’s not encumbered with a physical brain and body.

Alex Tsakiris:   But I do have to say one of the things I appreciated about the book is you really don’t venture into those other areas too far, which I think can get a little bit confusing and a little bit thin in terms of the real science of it when folks do that. I mean, you allude to this other body of research out there that you might explore in consciousness but you don’t go too far in the book.

And also what you do do in the book which I really appreciate and I thought was great is because the book is written in a very accessible way and a very page-turner kind of fashion, you do have an Appendix in the book that you were just referring to that is in more of neuroscience-ese that will certainly address pretty directly these kinds of “scientific arguments” that are often leveled against near-death experience.

By the way, I love this–you mention that after looking at these scientific arguments you found that you were shocked by their transparent flimsiness. So you do have an Appendix in the book that addresses things from a more medically-oriented standpoint, don’t you?

[Yes – a huge mass of empirical evidence has been consistently rejected on completely flimsy grounds, not least of which is the ongoing Sasquatch investigation. - arclein]

Dr. Eben Alexander:   I think it’s important. I mean, we’re all in this together. I think we’re all trying to get to truth so it’s not as if this is some great battle and somebody’s going to come out winning. I think all of us really would like to get closer to the truth about our existence. What my experience forced me to do was to really come to grips with what we know about consciousness and what we don’t because it’s all about consciousness.

And of course, just to clarify for people, in fact some people in my audiences have thought that only humans are conscious because we’re the ones who talk and have language. Well, it turns out that consciousness probably goes way down the evolutionary ladder and in fact I will assure you that many animals have a very rich consciousness. Many of them probably have a richer consciousness than we do because the linguistic brain, that little rational part in our brain—of course, that’s the part that I put all that tuition money into and all those years of training to teach myself neurosurgery.

[this is a very new insight that needs to be followed up on]

It turns out that that little voice, the rational voice in our head, is not really our consciousness. In fact, I’ve gotten into a pattern of daily meditation, centering prayer, things like that ever since my coma because the real answers lie deep within all of us. We have these answers in our own consciousness but it involves—my meditations involve first and foremost turning off that little voice. You know, the little voice of reason in my head.

In fact, neuroscience showed 30, 40 years ago with Benjamin Libet’s experiments as a starting point but others more recently that that little voice of reason is not the decision-maker that we’d like to think but it’s actually a passive observer. It’s tied with our ego and with Self and in fact, what I’ve found is that liberating who I am and my awareness, liberating that from myself and my ego is a very important part of trying to get to some of these deeper truths which I think are accessible through deep meditation or centering prayer.

Although certainly I know of patients and families who have gotten this same kind of bridge to the Divine, to knowing of the Divine, to what I call the Gift of Desperation, which also can certainly happen in people’s lives where you just feel like you can’t take another step because everything has gone wrong and it’s just kind of the end. That’s when you feel that Divine love inside of you and it’s very real because it is real.

Again, that’s something I go into in my book about the power of love and that unconditional love and how we all are loved. It’s a crucial thing to understand as we move forward. I think it will help people feel this connectedness that we all share to read my book and kind of get how this has changed the way I look at all of our existence and look at consciousness.

I mentioned a minute ago about how I had to learn a tremendous amount about consciousness and I came upon the hard problem of consciousness, which I also would urge any interested parties to look into if you haven’t done that yet. The hard problem is actually a very simple thing to say. It’s simply how does our consciousness awareness that we each know and experience every waking second, how does that emerge from the physics, chemistry, biology and anatomy, physiology of the human brain?

What I can assure you is that there’s not a soul on Earth who has a clue what the first sentence in the chapter describing that emergence of consciousness from the physical brain; there’s no one on Earth who knows how to start writing that chapter because it’s a very, very deep mystery. This is something that I’ve really had to come to know full force because it helps me to understand my whole experience.

And of course, the other side of it that I discuss briefly in the book has to do with the enigma of the interpretation of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics has been telling us for almost 100 years now that consciousness paints reality. That there is something very profound about consciousness that enables a reality to emerge. What we would consider our common sense, day-to-day knowledge, it says there’s a reality there and we’re simply passive observers is not correct. That’s why many very brilliant scientists who came up with quantum mechanics in the first place were driven to mysticism in trying to explain what the experiments revealed.

The experiments have only gotten even more mysterious in recent years, not less so. But I think the physics community has—I would say they’ve not necessarily stepped up to the plate to try and answer that although there are notable exceptions like Roger Penrose has written several excellent books trying to establish a physics that can be used to help explain consciousness.

Alex Tsakiris:   So, Dr. Alexander, the name Raymond Moody, of course the pioneering NDE researcher, his name’s come up a couple times in this interview. I’d like to explore one aspect of that that I don’t know if you’re aware of but in your book you’re very open about your experience of adoption, being adopted as a baby and how that plays into your near-death experience in a very amazing, mystical almost kind of way.

I don’t know if you’re aware but Dr. Moody is a parent of two adopted children and he tells an amazing story about his son at a very young age coming to him with this between-lives memory. Raymond Moody’s son says, “I remember looking down and seeing you and mom on the beach talking about adoption and I was told ‘You’re going to go join that family and you’re going to become part of that family.’”

I guess there’s so many different aspects of that that we could go into but one of the things I want to explore is does it not seem that a lot of times these NDEs serve up to us just what we’re looking for? Just what we’re needing to advance? Sometimes on a level that we can’t even understand but they somehow fit into our life plan and resolve for us these life issues.

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful point and yes, Dr. Moody is a good friend of mine. I love him dearly. He’s such a wonderful soul, as many people who know him will attest. I have heard his telling of some of the revelations that he has gotten from his adoptive children. It’s just absolutely beautiful. But you’re exactly right. And of course I’m sure you saw how in my story it was woven together to demonstrate very clearly how much of my life and how so much of my life, especially parts that just didn’t make sense before all came together and made sense by putting the pieces together through my NDE.

And it was kind of a two-way street because my NDE in many ways in my mind was validated very profoundly as a deep, rich, transcendental, spiritual experience because of the way it presented to me. And basically through things that were unknown to me because of the fact that I’d been adopted. Put up for adoption. And that kind of validation is very powerful. I think all that in essence, it would certainly seem that it could have easily been a purposeful thing because the revelation to me was so profound when I put it all together several months after my coma that it basically made everything start to make sense once I put it together.

But you’re right. It’s amazing how these NDEs often will bring the pieces together that help our life on Earth that might have seemed somewhat fragmented before, to bring it all to a point where it makes much more sense. It’s one of the beautiful gifts that we get out of these experiences.

Alex Tsakiris:   But there’s also a challenge therein and I think it has to do with this word “personal” because there is a tendency sometimes for folks to come back from these experiences and generalize their personal message and kind of broadcast it out there that hey, I just talked to God and here’s what He had to say. Or, here’s what She had to say. And as tempting as it is to go along with that, and I think anyone who has been into near-death experience research has been uplifted by some of these accounts, there’s a certain inability we have to really access that information. We can’t really take it on face value, can we?

Dr. Eben Alexander:   That’s absolutely true. I think that’s why I try to make a point in my book that as profound and life-changing as a near-death experience is, I firmly believe that we all have access to this kind of knowing. That we don’t have to almost die to get it.

As I point out, that has a lot to do with meditation or centering prayer, going pretty deep into our own consciousness and getting away from that linguistic brain, the ego, and the Self, which erect all these kinds of false hurdles around us up at the surface level. But to get beneath all that we can get to some much higher truths that are applicable more generally. You’re right. I think the lessons that I got out of my NDE are very good for me and I also think one of the main values of my NDE is that it very strongly supports that that whole spiritual realm is very real.

Part of that is it offers a much more facile explanation of the relationship between mind and brain and consciousness and reality. So I think it has value in that sense but a lot of my personal lessons and a lot of the profound parts of my story that had to do with my adoption and putting my life back into a piece that made much more sense, obviously a personal—and for me. But I think the overall story can help other people to be open and look for similar things in their own lives and also know that you can find those deep in meditation or in centering prayer or in other kinds of spiritually transformative, transcendent states.

Alex Tsakiris:   Well, the book title again is Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Experience and Journey into the Afterlife. It’s sure to be a big success. It’s going to be out right around the same time that this interview is published in October of 2012. Tell us about the other things that you’re doing related to this book.—tell us a little bit about that and/or any other things that are going along with the publication of the book.

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Right. Well, I would urge anyone interested in the book to visit my personal webpage, which is I’m trying to use the enthusiasm around this book to help educate people about, and this is a site that I co-founded with my very good friend and colleague, John Audette, who is also a founder of IANDS, the near-death studies group founded over 30 years ago.

John and others, Ray Moody, Bill Guggenheim, Edgar Mitchell of IONS, and Bob Staraster, there are numerous people who are helping with the Eternia efforts. We wanted to serve as an educational platform to help people learn about all manner of spiritually transformative experiences, so not just near-death experiences. But a tremendous number of other spiritual experiences that are out there that help us to know that God and Heaven and Angels and the whole spiritual realm can be very real. This can be after-death communications…

Alex Tsakiris:   Terminal lucidity is one of the things you talk about in the book.

Dr. Eben Alexander:   That I refer to in my book because by—and people can go there. We’re creating a database where people can tell their own stories. We’re trying to pay a lot of attention to how the data is entered so it will be very useful data that we vet on the way. We will open this to researchers, scientific researchers, consciousness researchers, those in clergy, and also as I said, have it be an educational facility for people who are curious about life after death. Curious about the spiritual realm.

I’m very grateful to Edgar Mitchell, the Apollo 14 astronaut who’s been a wonderful help in all this. He had this beautiful epiphany on his way back from the moon back in the early 1970s where he was aware of this consciousness throughout the universe. And of course, he has addressed that through IONS and through Quantrack and basically his view being that of looking at the quantum hologram. Those of you who are interested can go check into it. It’s part of David Baum and some of the other models that have to do with interpretation of quantum mechanics.

In my view that kind of thing really supports information as the core of all existence and it’s a very short step from the physics statement that information is at the base of all existence to saying that an intelligent, omniscient, unconditionally loving creator is that information at the core of it all. But we are trying with Eternia to bring science and spirituality much closer. In fact, I think that humanity will see its greatest progress if we simply open the boundaries of science to fully encompass all the possibility that belief and faith and knowing of the spiritual nature of the universe can exist very comfortably with the latest discoveries in science.

And in fact, as I said, I really had to go a long way into quantum mechanics. In fact, a second book which I’m working on will take a lot of the stuff I had to strip out of the first book, because the first book is really for the general reader, and I can tell you that to try and fully explain my experience I had to get right down into the very fundamentals of causality, free will, predetermination, energy, mass, time, space. I mean, really had to get down into the nitty-gritty of reality to try and fully understand it.
And of course, most of that was far too deep for a book written for the general public so a lot of that was stripped out but that is something that I’m working on and hope to finish sometime in the next few years. It’s a major project as you can imagine. But I think to really put all this together into a package that makes sense in the year 2012 for very educated people, we really have to look at all aspects of this.

It goes very deep.

One thing I can tell you from my experience is I realized that the chasm between our scientific knowledge and even of the potential for human understanding, the chasm between that point and where the realm of this deity and the creative source of this universe is so much grander than I ever would have thought before. It’s now very clear to me how the human mind is just not in the right ballpark to ever weigh in pro or con on the existence of that Creator. We’re a little closer than lemurs and chimpanzees but not a whole lot.

And so all those physicists out there who want to write the theory of everything so they can get first prize in the Publisher Parish Challenge, we’re never going to know it all. There are some very strong philosophical reasons why I can say that in the current book and will get into it a whole lot in my next book.

But don’t worry. The journey is just fine. It turns out that when we are free of the limitations of human brain and mind, we actually can get into a tremendous amount, more knowledge, and that’s one of the challenges. When I came back, trying to squeeze into this little brain and body is a very difficult thing, which I found was the problem with many people who have NDEs. They report that same issue.

And I can tell you that awareness and understanding is much richer out there and we unfortunately just can’t bring it all back because we’re only human. We can get a tremendous amount of insight and we can try and pass that on to others which I try to do in this book. But we don’t necessarily bring back all that we’re able to witness when we’re free in that realm.

Alex Tsakiris:   Well, Dr. Alexander, it’s a wonderful book and it’s a very great body of work that you’re trying to bring forward. So we wish you the best of luck with that. We look forward to talking to you in the future as you move forward with that.

Thanks again so much for joining me today on Skeptiko.

Dr. Eben Alexander:   Okay, Alex, thank you very much. It was great talking with you.