To part 2
Is it possible to be dead? Or is it only possible to die and then it’s over? Is there a consciousness independent of the brain? Does consciousness use our brain as a tool?
The neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander fell ill with a bacterial infection of the brain and within 24 hours went into a coma which lasted seven days. During this time his neocortex was out of function. “The part of my brain that was […] responsible for constructing the world in which I lived and moved and for assembling the raw data coming in through my sensory organs into a meaningful universe, that part of my brain didn’t exist any more. It wasn’t that my brain was working inadequately, it simply wasn’t working at all.” And thus “[I] became acquainted with the reality of a world of consciousness that existed completely free of the limitations of my physical brain.”
After seven days he returned – but those seven days had changed his understanding of the world, of life, of the universe. In his book Proof of Heaven  Dr. Eben Alexander describes his experiences as follows.
“Passing on this knowledge now feels something like being a chimpanzee who has become human for a single day to experience all the wonders of human knowledge, and then returns to his chimpanzee friends and tries to make them understand what it was like to speak several Romance languages, master various types of arithmetic and know about the enormous dimensions of the universe.”
What he has experienced has not only changed his understanding of consciousness. His understanding of the world, of reality, of our being as humans has undergone a profound transformation. One can sense the urgency with which he wants to convey to us that we can trust, in life and in death.
He had repeatedly received the message:
You are loved and appreciated.
You have nothing to fear.
You can do no wrong.
“God, the Om, understands our human situation […), since it knows what we have forgotten and understands what a terrible burden it is to live even for a moment without any memory of the divine.”
“We have lost touch with the deepest mystery lying at the center of our existence: our consciousness.” […] “Our life down here may seem insignificant [… ], but it is important, because it is our task here to grow towards the divine [… ] and this growth is [… ] observed with great attention.” […] “The physical universe is nothing compared to the spiritual realm from which it emerged, the realm of consciousness. [… ] This other, more vast universe is not far away. [… ] It simply exists on a different frequency. [… ] Like understands like. You have to open up to an identity with that part of the universe that you already possess but may not be aware of.”
“The unconditional love and acceptance I experienced on my journey is the most important discovery I have ever made or will ever make. “
O Death, our masked friend and maker of opportunities,
when thou wouldst open the gate, hesitate not to tell us beforehand;
for we are not of those who are shaken by its iron jarring.
According to an ancient Egyptian myth, the sphinx asks those who seek to get past it three questions, which they have to answer truthfully before their request is granted:
Where do you come from?
Who are you?
Where are you going?
However, what can we mortal beings, with our limited consciousness, really know about the origin, meaning and destination of our life’s journey? Do we have to believe in dogmas or what gurus tell us? Is there a powerful inner vision that directs our steps, even in dark and uncertain parts of our journey?
Eastern teachings of wisdom as well as early Christianity maintain that human beings do not only live for the duration of one earthly existence. A sequence of reincarnations makes it possible for them to take the essence or harvest of experience of each life on earth with them into the next life. What for? In order to settle old debts, to make up for what one has neglected or done wrong in a former life (and, possibly, to make other, new mistakes)?
To accumulate knowledge or to refine and perfect one’s being? To be born and die again and again – each time suffering the dissolution of everything personal? Is there something inside me which urges me to ask such questions? A knowledge which is timeless and which, perhaps, surpasses all knowledge and experience of collective mankind throughout the ages?
On ancient Egyptian pictures we can see Anubis and Thot weighing the heart of a deceased person: Can a human being at the end of their life on earth have something to show for which, from a higher, spiritual point of view, is of lasting value?
The spiritual teachings of the Gnostics and Rosicrucians speak of an eternal principle which, latent at first, is inherent in human beings, like a spark or a “rose of the heart”. It harbors the memory of a divine origin, of an ancient promise that there is a way out of the endless cycle of birth, death and reincarnation. Through the mysterious process of transfiguration, the soul being can be fundamentally changed, so that, as in Jacob’s vision in the painting by William Blake, an ascending spiral into a divine world of light opens up.
Anxiety, the fear of death, makes freedom impossible. If we approach the sphinx trustingly and submit the answer to its questions to the source of wisdom deep inside us, we can pass the guardian of the threshold with joyful confidence in our heart.
And – when finally our time has come – we can rejoice like St. Paul: “O death, where is thy sting? Death is swallowed up in victory!”
(to be continued in part 4)
 Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven. Simon & Schuster, New York 2012