Proof of… What, exactly?


The recent best seller “Proof of Heaven” relies on the visions of a neurosurgeon with a severe infection in his brain. But the visions and sense of numinous feelings he had are apparently fairly common effects from recreational abuse of the hallucinogen DMT. I had seen this commentary and Sam Harris’s more harsh debunking about it a while ago, but was reminded (and given a topic for today’s post) by this item in the NYT.

So, is the reportedly similar experience of many people who’ve had extreme medical emergencies really “proof of heaven”, or is it a result of highly stressed brain cells dumping a lot of neurotransmitters? Or to put it another way, if there is a real “heaven” that people almost-but-not-quite visit, does that mean there’s some validity to the psychedelic drug experience?
Finally, is there any way to counter the idea that the visions and ecstatic states that led to the meme of angels, floating, awesome numinousness, etc. might have arisen internally from a meditative, trance-like, or even epileptic state?

Sorry, but this neurosurgeon probably wasn’t as cortically damaged as he claimed, or he wouldn’t have been able to write a book, let alone return to work. Dude, he was trippin’.

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