Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kundalini strikes again....This Time an Eminent Neurosurgeon

A couple of weeks ago I submitted a draft paper for my MSc in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology to my personal tutor for his comments before submitting the final paper in early December. In his feedback, he wrote that it might be useful to look up the work of Eckhart Tolle, Katie Byron, and Dr. Eben Alexander. Eckhart's work I am familiar with, having read The Power of Now and A New Earth many times. Byron I am less familiar with, but know the system she has developed called, The Work, is based on questioning our thoughts and asking, "Is this thought true?" I haven't read any of her books or attended any of her trainings. However, I have heard both her and Eckhart speak when I was a volunteer at a mind, body, spirit center in London some years ago.

Dr. Eben Alexander's NDE
Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander
Dr. Eben Alexander, however, I knew nothing about. I hadn't even heard his name until my tutor put it in his comments. All my tutor gave me was his name so my first stop was Wikipedia which I realize isn't the best academic source, but I wanted to get a general flavor of what he is claiming and what he is claiming shocked me. He is claiming nothing less than Proof of Heaven, which is the title of his book about his near death experience (NDE). Historically, I have been ambivalent about reports of NDEs. I feel intuitively that they stem from brain activity — particularly right brain temporal lobe activity triggered by spontaneous Kundalini. However, the fact that this account was written by a well-respected neurosurgeon (Dr. Alexander), who knew a great deal about neuroscience, got me to thinking. If my tutor recommended this research and expected to see some reference to it in my final paper, I had better knuckle down and find out more about it.

On my way to work I stopped off at a bookshop and asked if they had Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife in stock. I was in luck; the shop assistant picked the last copy from the shelf. Glancing briefly at the cover I saw that it had a butterfly on it which holds personal significance for me. So feeling intuitively that there was something in this book which was going to be important, I thanked the shop assistant and left.

When I returned home from work that evening I opened the book and began to read. Dr. Alexander claims that e-coli bacterial meningitis shut off the neocortex of his brain which resulted in his coma and subsequent NDE. I am no neuroscientist/neurosurgeon so I can't comment on this.  However, the description of the pain he endured and the associated physical symptoms screamed to me, "Kundalini."

On page 13 of the book, he writes, "I shifted slightly in bed and a wave of pain shot down my spine." In the next paragraph, "Instantly the pain ratcheted up another notch — a dull, punishing throb penetrating deeply at the base of my spine." On page 16, he says: "Pushing open our bedroom door, she (Eben's wife) saw me lying in bed just as before. But looking closer she saw that my body wasn't as relaxed as it had been, but rigid as a board. She turned on the light and saw that I was jerking violently. My lower jaw was jutting forward unnaturally, and my eyes were open and rolling back in my head."

On pages 17-18 he continues: "When the EMTs wheeled me into the Major Bay 1 of the ER, I was still convulsing violently while intermittently groaning and flailing my arms and legs. They went to work on me, I was squirming like a six-foot fish pulled out of the water. I spouted bursts of garbled, nonsensical sounds and animal-like cries."

Reports of NDEs often feature a bright, but enveloping, benevolent light I hold the Buddhist view that there is nothing in the inner world to be afraid of and while I haven't had the rich intense vivid visual experiences Dr. Alexander had, the convulsions are something I identify with. For many weeks and months after raising Kundalini, my body would convulse just before sleeping. It still happens occasionally, but I have learned to trust and surrender to the energy and when the episode ends I am left feeling calm and relaxed.

After reading his account, I googled Dr. Eben Alexander and kundalini to see if anyone had connected his experience to Kundalini, but the combination only resulted in a few articles. Had I expanded my search to include near death experience and kundalini I would have found many links. I am very aware that the connection between the two, although rather commonplace, has not been extensively explored. Nevertheless, those of us who are more experienced with this energy need to read Dr. Alexander's account, as well as the many other NDE accounts. If the consensus is that NDEs are driven by the spontaneous eruption of Kundalini energy, it solidifies the hypothesis for research around the connection between Kundalini and NDEs.

However, as interesting as his book is, I'm not sure his experience constitutes proof of heaven. He needs more time to assimilate his experience, more time to research it, more time to think about it in scientific terms before conferring religious status on the states he passed through.

It would be useful to hear the accounts of those who treated him in the ER and to know more about the drugs they administered. Will he dig deeper into the physical causes and the anatomical processes that induced the experience?

Has Dr. Alexander ever heard of Kundalini? And if so, will he pursue the connection to NDE, specifically to his experience? Does he understand that both Kundalini and NDEs take time to integrate? It took Gopi Krishna 20 years before he was able to write about his Kundalini experience. JJ Semple needed almost thirty years to be able to write about his experience. Will Eben Alexander continue to write about his? Or is his first book a "one and done?"

At the Kundalini conference which I organized and facilitated in April 2013, one of the speakers, a Kundalini Yoga Master, was asked the question, "Is Kundalini dangerous?" His reply was, "I think it is dangerous to ignore Kundalini."

Intuitively, I feel that Kundalini is the vehicle that is shifting certain people's consciousness. Why these people and not others I don't know? Nevertheless, we should be aware of the relationship between Kundalini and the NDE. That the two phenomena share enough commonalities for us to conclude that they are related.

Perhaps, Dr. Alexander's account is most notable because of his standing in the medical community as a respected neurosurgeon. Is he now considered a renegade because he ventured beyond the accepted confines of science? What do his colleagues think? He and his book have received a torrent of backlash from atheist neuroscientist, Sam Harris, who sees Dr. Alexander's book damaging the argument that consciousness is a by-product of the brain. Will Dr. Alexander recant?

As of this writing, it appears he no longer agrees with the neo-atheist position. It appears he now believes consciousness to be independent of the brain. What will he believe 20 years from now? What do you believe?