Beauty and Death

I just finished Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, a medical doctor.  Dr. Alexander caught some strange E. coli meningitis that put him in coma for a week and shut down his neocortex. The neocortex is what makes us human, gives us thoughts, ideas, insights, allows us to dream, both awake and asleep.  During that week he had a near-death experience (NDE).

 It’s a quick read. But for me the important part to it was the three main “lessons” he learned in heaven.

  1. You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.
  2. You have nothing to fear.
  3. There is nothing you can do wrong.

 He then goes on to say:

The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief. It was like being handed the rules to a game I’d been playing all my life without ever fully understanding it.

 The realization touched him to his core.

 When he came out of his coma and readjusted to being back here he realized the absolute futility of the rational, materialistic mindset of the scientific community to understand his experience. What was interesting is before his NDE he would have dismissed his own experience as some delusion. But being a neurosurgeon and having spent decades studying the brain and later looking at his own neurological printouts while he was in the coma he realized all the rational explanations that the scientific world gives to explain away the NDE could not be possible in his case since his neocortex, the one part of the brain that would make the experience possible, was not functioning. He became his own unique test case.

 He believes now that the brain, rather than being the organ that creates conscious awareness, as he believed before, is in fact like a reducing valve or filter for the vastness of our own consciousness. We know the senses create very narrow bands of information for us to experience what we do. They filter huge masses of information out so we can function.  But what would be the reason for filtering out our true vast conscious nature?

 His point is, that is why we are here. To learn that vastness again while faced with the slow turgid pace of this compellingly real material existence. Dr. Alexander takes those three lessons I mentioned above and boils them down further into one. The entire Creation is love. The evil we see here, he says, from heaven is only a small disturbance in the unbounded love. What we see as negativity and evil allows our free will to function while here on earth so we can learn to re-experience that spiritual love while still here.

 Now the reason I wanted to write about this is, one, I think this is a really important insight to understanding why we are here. But also I think beauty is fundamentally tied to our ability to love. When we are angry and stressed, that is distracted by the “reality” of our existence here, we don’t see beauty. Beauty and love are intertwined. Without one we cannot have the other. The fear we have about not having enough money, about what other people will think, about working hard and on and on create disturbances in our awareness. A destructive interference to the limitless beauty that surrounds us.

 Reminding ourselves, through meditation or reading, whatever means we use, that our real and ultimate nature is a vast unbounded consciousness of love, and all the trials and hardships we experience are not the ultimate truth, apparently real but not actually true, that is the kind of realization more and more of us need to have to change the world.  And Lord knows, the world does need some changing.

The sense of limitation we see here, that we buy into, creates for us the fear and greed, that so ruin any hope of a community of mankind that lives in beauty and peace. The truth is available to us but most hold desperately to the obvious but limited vision of our material existence. 

4 thoughts on “Beauty and Death

  1. Hi Ian . Ive been having a difficult time here at art school feeling angry and stressed and your words have made me remember that all the people who care about me and help me outnumber the ones who stand in my way (the destructive interference). So good luck on your quest for beauty. And thanks for helping me on my quest. And thanks for being one of the ones who cares about me. jan P.

  2. I have recently struggled with whether God even exists as I watch what seems to be a growing onslaught of manmade horrors worldwide on the nightly news. This morning I decided to forego church to paint and just clear my mind. How awesome that I stopped to read your blog first! It seems hardly cooincental that proof of God’s enduring love could come from such an unlikely source. Thank you!

  3. I am looking forward to reading your book. I find the message given from this man’s experience to be the nicest sort of comfort possible. By the way, I often think about the incredible Italy workshop with you (year 2000?). I am still painting with Jocelyn and Mary Page, two of my dearest friends. Thanks for that too!!!

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