A Teachable Moment: Esquire Versus Dr. Eben Alexander

A Teachable Moment: Esquire Versus Dr. Eben Alexander

Aug 18



The following information comes from Sedona’s 07/09/13  NDE Class. To view the complete notes for this class, go here. To read the notes from previous classes, go here.

For the latest news, comments, and developments concerning this story, go here.


August 18, 2013 Update

By PMH Atwater

Original Link

“The book Proof of Heaven honestly and effectively portrays the near-death experience of Eben Alexander III, M.D. His case has been mentioned several times in this newsletter. I was one of the near-death researchers he turned to, and I have interviewed him at length. I can personally verify that what happened to him, although unique in its medical components, was typical of such experiences — what it consisted of and how he responded to it – including the pattern of aftereffects which he now displays. I have no hesitation, then or now, in presenting Dr. Alexander as an honest, loving, and caring individual, who has done his best to share the elements of his close brush with death, how medically “at the edge” he was, the near-death episode that filled and expanded his world, his recovery, and the reason he feels he survived. . . to share the message of an afterlife with others around the world. His sense of mission is strong. Like so many of us, though, he crossed paths with a staff writer for a magazine who misquoted him and failed to thoroughly check out what appeared to be facts. The result was a magazine article printed in Esquire Magazine that defamed him in ways that have been difficult at first to counter. Clearly, there seems to be a case of fraud here, or at least of an author who did not do all the fact-checking that could and should have been done. If you are interested in the truth in this matter and how the Esquire author “goofed,” please access this link for a complete and accurate accounting of the real facts.”


August 14, 2013 Update

NDE Researcher Robert Mays examines some of the facts surrounding the article that Luke Dittrich wrote for Esquire about Dr. Eben Alexander.

To read the complete article, click here or here (pdf).



…if Dittrich had interviewed Phyllis, she would have told him:she and her mother saw a rainbow as they were entering the hospital about 1 PM. It was to the right of the entrance (north of the hospital) where there are mountains. They commented on the rainbow and Betty noted, “It’s a perfect rainbow!” When they turned the corner into Eben’s ICU room a few moments later, Eben was sitting up in bed.

Later that day, Phyllis emailed friends back in Boston, telling them about Eben’s miraculous recovery — and about the rainbow she and her mother had witnessed. She offered to show me the email.

…if Dittrich had asked her, Holley would have confirmed the story: indeed, at some time in the ER Eben had shouted out “God, help me!” and everyone present including Holley and Michael Sullivan had rushed to his side — Holley had been just outside the curtain — but Alexander fell back unresponsive. Those present were given hope that he was recovering, but those hopes faded quickly.

I spoke with Holley Alexander recently. She said that this incident occurred about an hour or so after she had arrived in the ER with Eben. “It happened before they sedated him, while the doctors were trying to get vital signs and spinal fluid and all that. I said to Michael [Sullivan], ‘He spoke!’ and Eben kept writhing. Dr. Potter might not have heard it. She was in and out, checking scans, spinal fluid, so it’s very likely that she wasn’t there.

And yes, this happened before Alexander was intubated, so Eben Alexander’s only embellishment was to fudge the timing of the incident, for dramatic effect — a trivial adjustment.

Dittrich did not recheck with Dr. Potter and did not show her how he was quoting her. Had he done so, he would have gotten a surprise.

Sylvia White reported that Dr. Laura Potter became concerned after she was contacted by the press when the Esquire article first appeared, and subsequently expressed her alarm about the way her remarks were being twisted. Dr. Potter made the following statement in an email:

“I am saddened by and gravely disappointed by the article recently published in Esquire. The content attributed to me is both out of context and does not accurately portray the events around Dr. Eben Alexander’s hospitalization. I felt my side of the story was misrepresented by the reporter. I believe Dr. Alexander has made every attempt to be factual in his accounting of events.” — Dr. Laura Potter

So Luke Dittrich’s portrayal of the events regarding Alexander’s illness is inaccurate. Dittrich took Dr. Potter’s statements out of context, twisted them and misrepresented them.

Now we see that all three key flaws in Eben Alexander’s story have turned out to be totally false or trivial. And Luke Dittrich is relying especially on this last one to build a case that Alexander’s story is a complete fabrication, and his heavenly experience a hallucination or a fantasy.

All it would have taken was a simple conversation with two or three of the people identified in Proof of Heaven as witnesses — who were available to be interviewed — to corroborate or definitively refute Alexander’s account. In this last case, Dittrich’s argument rested solely on the assessment of Dr. Laura Potter. Yet had he asked her, Dr. Potter would have confirmed the accuracy of Alexander’s story. Likewise Holley, Michael Sullivan, Phyllis Alexander and Sylvia White would have confirmed the accuracy of the story in Proof of Heaven.

To Esquire’s Editor in Chief David Granger, Luke Dittrich’s story is great journalism. To me the Dittrich article is shoddy and irresponsible journalism — shoddy because of Luke Dittrich’s and his Esquire editors’ evident failures: failure to consider alternate explanations (rainbow), failure to check with the cited witnesses (Phyllis and Betty Alexander), failure to verify information with additional witnesses (Holley Alexander, Michael Sullivan and others), failure to check with medical experts (on the likely cause of coma), failure to check again on crucial testimony of the sole cited witness (Laura Potter), failure to read the book carefully (Dr. Wade’s statement about Alexander’s coma), failure to verify conclusions via other witnesses (Holley Alexander and Sylvia White), failure to exercise care in asserting erroneous facts (use of drugs was not mentioned in the book), failure to exercise care in quoting and interpreting recorded remarks (Dalai Lama), and failure to exercise common sense in interpreting the meaning of statements (Dalai Lama).


A Teachable Moment: Esquire Versus Dr. Eben Alexander
By David Sunfellow
July 12, 2013

Speaking of the dark side, a rare and wonderful opportunity to learn more about this subject erupted this past week around Dr. Eben Alexander and his best-selling book, Proof of Heaven. Here’s a report from NBC that we watched in class:

What, exactly, is going on here? Who’s telling the truth? Who’s lying, dodging, fudging, and generally playing fast and loose with the facts?

The current controversy erupted with Esquire publishing a lengthy article by Luke Dittrich. Here’s a summary.


The Dark Side of Esquire & Luke Dittrich

• In order to read Dittrich’s article, you had to pay 1.99. Some people felt that Esquire published this article, and locked it behind a mircopayment door, to ride the coat tails of Alexander’s book, which has reportedly sold over two million copies. More charitable views suggested that Esquire, like many other print publications, was simply experimenting with new ways to generate income from its online and digital resources.

• It appears that Dittrich intended to write, and Esquire intended to publish, an expose’ on Alexander from the get go. Unfortunately for Alexander, he apparently didn’t realize this until it was too late.

• The finished article doesn’t beat around the bush. It immediately calls Alexander’s credibility into question. And then, step by step, makes its case, uses damning facts that are drilled home by clever writing techniques.

So what, exactly, did the Esquire article say? The summary I shared in class is included below. To read the complete article, go here.


The Prophet
By Luke Dittrich
July 2, 2013

“Before Proof of Heaven made Dr. Eben Alexander rich and famous as a ‘man of science’ who’d experienced the afterlife, he was something else: a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention.”



• Dittrich personally interviewed Alexander several times, including at his home in Lynchburg, Virginia.

• Dittrich provides a quick outline of Alexander’s history: He was adopted, athletic, loved science fiction, became an enthusiastic skydiver, dreamt of flying on the space shuttle, of helping to build the International Space Station, went to medical school instead and grew up in the shadow of his famous neurosurgeon father.

• He became an expert in stereotactic radiosurgery, a type of treatment that burned away the problems inside a patient’s brain, cauterizing aneurysms, cooking tumors, without the skull even needing to be opened.

• Many people associated with Alexander were interviewed for the story. The residents that went to medical school with Alexander described him as charming, larger than life, a charismatic barrel of energy, and “brilliant”. He also liked to wear bow ties.


Unfocused, With A Tendency To “Doctor” Medical Records

After Dittrich provides basic background information about Alexander, he begins to paint a very unflattering picture of Alexander. While other attending surgeons could completely lose themselves in an operation, Dittrich says that Alexander wasn’t like that:

“He’d come rushing into the OR, talking to the nurses and the residents and anyone else who’d listen, rambling about near-earth asteroids or dark matter or whatever other topic in astrophysics he’d been reading about in his spare time. It would take him a while to get down to business, to focus on the matter at hand.”

This comment helps set the stage for the first malpractice suit that Dittrich mentions. This law suit was filed by a woman who suffered partial facial paralysis as the result of an operation that Alexander performed. She claimed that Alexander had not adequately informed her of the risks. The woman’s lawyer, according to Dittrich, also suggested that Alexander had doctored her records:

“When Alexander found things that didn’t fit the story he wanted to tell, he changed them, or made them disappear.”

Alexander settled.

Later on in the article, Dittrich discusses another malpractice suit in which Alexander operated on the wrong part of a patient’s spine. Worse, Alexander not only didn’t tell the patient about it, but he altered the patient’s medical records to make it look like he had operated on the correct part. Writes Dittrich:

“On August 6, 2008, the patient filed a $3 million lawsuit against Alexander, accusing him of negligence, battery, spoliation, and fraud. The purported cover-up, the changes Alexander had made to the surgical report, was a major aspect of the suit. Once again, a lawyer was accusing Alexander of altering the historical record when the historical record didn’t fit the story he wanted to tell.”

And once again, Alexander settled.

Dittrich reports that Alexander settled on another case that took place two weeks after the first botched job in which Alexander operated on the wrong vertebra of another patient. He also settled with a woman who sued him for leaving a small piece of plastic in her neck.

While malpractice suits are apparently not unusual in high risk surgery, Dittrich wanted to make three basic points:

1. Alexander was involved in more malpractice suits than usual:

“By the time all his pending cases are resolved, Alexander will have settled five malpractice cases in the last ten years. Only one other Virginia-licensed neurosurgeon has settled as many cases in that time period, and none have settled more.”

2. Alexander had a habit of doctoring medical records.

3. Is it ethical to write a book in which you present yourself as a famous and well-respected neurosurgeon without mentioning you’ve also been involved in several malpractice suits, been fined by The Virginia Board of Medicine, and ordered to take continuing education classes in ethics and professionalism?

Towards the end of the article, Dittrich actually asks Alexander about this directly. We’ll get there in a moment. What’s important to add now is that Alexander does, in fact, allude to these problems in his book. After mentioning that he struggled with — and overcame — a drinking problem in medical school, he talks about how an emotionally brutal experience in his life pushed him over the edge again. The incident involved learning that after he had been put up for adoption as a child, his birth parents got married and had three more children, all three of whom they kept and raised. According to Alexander, this information completely derailed him, both emotionally and professionally.

“So I struggled. And I watched in disbelief as my roles as doctor, father, and husband became ever more difficult to fulfill. Seeing that I was not my best self, Holley [Alexander’s wife] set us up for a course of couples counseling. Though she only partially understood what was causing it, she forgave me for falling into this ditch of despair and did whatever she could to pull me up out of it. My depression had ramifications in my work. My parents were, of course, aware of this change, and though I knew they too forgave it, it killed me that my career in academic neurosurgery was slumping — and all they could do was watch from the sidelines.”

— Page 57, Proof of Heaven

Dittrich apparently didn’t feel that this general admission went far enough. Besides malpractice suits and the repeating pattern of doctoring medical records, which you can learn more about by clicking here, there were also other issues.


Turbulent Relationships With Bosses & Employers

Dittrich reports that there were conflicts with bosses and institutions where Alexander had worked — some that were dramatic enough to end up in the pages of a best-selling novel that Alexander contributed to.


What’s Up With Chuck?

Chuck shows up in the opening pages of Alexander’s book. He is identified as a fellow skydiver. What makes Chuck significant is that Alexander makes Chuck the central figure in an elaborate near-skydiving-crash that convinced him that there was a part of us that was deeper, and could react more quickly, than our brains.

But did Chuck actually exist? And did the incident that Chuck played a central role in actually happen?

Dittrich was able to track down a man named Chuck who was in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Sport Parachute Club the same time Alexander was. But he wouldn’t return Dittrich’s calls. Chuck’s sister-in-law did. According to Dittrich, the sister-in-law read Proof of Heaven and immediately thought to herself that the Chuck in the book must have been her brother-in-law. Via email, she contacted Chuck and Chuck told her that he remembered Alexander. He didn’t, however, remember anything like the incident Alexander describes in his book.

What does Alexander have to say about this? Dittrich writes:

“It’s not Chuck,” Alexander says today. “I probably should have put a disclaimer in the front of the book saying that Chuck is not Chuck. It is actually somebody not named Chuck. Because I cannot give the name of the person it was. Because the attorneys at Simon & Schuster would be mad at me. Because potentially they did something wrong. Potentially they were liable for causing trouble, etc., etc. So I am under very strict advice from the Simon & Schuster attorneys not to divulge who that was.”

So he had changed the character’s name to Chuck, which happened to be the real name of someone he did skydive with?

“It’s not Chuck,” he repeats. “It’s not Chuck.”

Is he still in touch with Chuck?


And fake Chuck?

“No, I don’t know what happened to fake Chuck.”


Weather Reports & Missing Rainbows

There are also problems with the weather. In Chapter 21 of Alexander’s book — a chapter called “The Rainbow” — Alexander reports that his sister, Phyllis pulls into the hospital parking lot where he is staying. After reading a text message from a member of a prayer group that said “expect a miracle” she notices a perfect rainbow. Later that day, Alexander miraculously came out of his seven-day-long coma.

After noting that “every part of [Alexander’s] story seems to be connected to every other part in mysterious ways,” Dittrich says that he contacted Dave Wert, meteorologist in charge at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office that encompasses Lynchburg and asked him to review the weather records for the week of November 10 through 16. Could there have been a rainbow on the morning of the sixteenth? “No,” Wert says.


Comas & Calling Out For Help

There are also problems with Alexander’s coma. Was it caused by a rare case of E. coli bacteria meningitis? Or was it caused by one of Alexander’s attending physicians, Dr. Laura Potter? According to Dittrich, the answer is Dr. Laura Potter and her fellow doctors. They induced a coma so they could treat Alexander and keep him safe.

Was he in a coma for all seven days he was in the hospital? Apparently not, as Dr. Potter reports that when they tried to wake him to see what he would do, he awakened in the same agitated state that he arrived at the hospital.

In his book, Alexander writes that in the final moments before leaving the emergency room, after two straight hours of guttural animal wails and groaning, he became quiet. Then he shouted three words that were heard by all the doctors and nurses present. The three words?

“God, help me!”

Dr. Potter, according to Dittrich, has no recollection of this. After intubating Alexander more than an hour before he left the emergency room, which included putting a plastic tube down his throat, through his vocal cords, and into his trachea, she told Dittrich that she couldn’t imagine him speaking at all.

Significantly, while Alexander told Dittrich that he would allow three doctors who treated him to speak about his case, his medical records are confidential and he does not plan to make them public.


Publishers Create Catchy Title & Alter Content

According to Dittrich, the title of Alexander’s book, Proof of Heaven, was generated during a meeting the Alexander didn’t attend — a meeting between executives at Simon & Schuster and executives at various ABC television programs, including Good Morning America, 20/20, and Nightline.

Dittrich remind’s Alexander of what he said about his book’s title and asks whether there were any parts of the book’s contents he would concede “are similarly hyperbolic.” He says no, there are not. But P.M.H. Atwater disagrees. In her November 13, 2012 newsletter, she writes:

“There is one factual error in the book on page 78, where he states that he was allowed to die harder, and travel deeper, than almost all other NDE subjects. Almost all? Well, not exactly true, but sort-of. Come to find out his editor insisted that this line be in the book, even though Eben did not agree and felt it was a stretch. Seems to be the way of publishing these days — when in doubt, exaggerate. There are several who evidenced medical conditions similar to Eben’s…”

After detailing all the information I have summarized above, Dittrich now enters the home stretch. Here’s how he describes his last interview with Alexander, which took place via Skype:

We talk about rainstorms and intubations and chemically induced comas, and I can see it in his face, the moment he knows for sure that the story I’ve been working on is not the one he wanted me to tell.

“What I’m worried about,” he says, “is that you’re going to be so busy trying to smash out these little tiny fires that you’re going to miss the big point of the book.”

I ask whether an account of his professional struggles should have been included in a book that rests its authority on his professional credentials.

He says no, because medical boards in various states investigated the malpractice allegations and concluded he could retain his license. And besides, that’s all in the past. “The fact of the matter,” he says of the suits, “is they don’t matter at all to me…. You cannot imagine how minuscule they appear in comparison to what I saw, where I went, and the message that I bring back.”

His survival is a miracle, he says. His doctors told him that he is alive when he should be dead, and he believes intensely that he is alive for a reason, to spread the word about the love awaiting us all in heaven. To heal.

By focusing on the inconsistencies in his story, on recollections that don’t seem to add up, on a court-documented history of revising facts, on the distinctions between natural and medically induced comas, he says, is to miss the forest for the trees. That’s all misleading stuff, irrelevant to his journey and story.

Toward the end, there’s a note of pleading in his voice.

“I just think that you’re doing a grave disservice to your readers to lead them down a pathway of thinking that any of that is, is relevant. And I just, I really ask, as a friend, don’t…”


The Dalai Lama: Extraordinary Claims Require Reliable Witnesses

Finally, Dittrich brings the Dalai Lama into the fray. He describes the “Life and After Life” symposium which took place at Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon on May 10, 2013. Along with other scientists and scholars, the Dalai Lama and Dr. Eben Alexander both attended this conference. Dr. Alexander spoke first. Then the Dalai Lama. As Dittrich describes the event, you are given the impression that the Dalai Lama thought Alexander might be playing fast and loose with his facts. Here’s how Dittrich describes the encounter:

The Dalai Lama is not a native English speaker, and when it’s his turn to speak, he does so much less smoothly than Alexander, sometimes stopping and snapping his fingers when a word escapes him, or turning to his interpreter for help when he’s really stuck. He is not using notes, and the impression he gives is that of a man speaking off the cuff. He opens with a brief discourse about the parallels between the Buddhist and Shinto conceptions of the afterlife, and then, after glancing over at Alexander, changes the subject. He explains that Buddhists categorize phenomena in three ways. The first category are “evident phenomena,” which can be observed and measured empirically and directly. The second category are “hidden phenomena,” such as gravity, phenomena that can’t be seen or touched but can be inferred to exist on the basis of the first category of phenomena. The third category, he says, are “extremely hidden phenomena,” which cannot be measured at all, directly or indirectly. The only access we can ever have to that third category of phenomena is through our own first-person experience, or through the first-person testimony of others.

“Now, for example,” the Dalai Lama says, “his sort of experience.”

He points at Alexander.

“For him, it’s something reality. Real. But those people who never sort of experienced that, still, his mind is a little bit sort of…” He taps his fingers against the side of his head. “Different!” he says, and laughs a belly laugh, his robes shaking. The audience laughs with him. Alexander smiles a tight smile.

“For that also, we must investigate,” the Dalai Lama says. “Through investigation we must get sure that person is truly reliable.” He wags a finger in Alexander’s direction. When a man makes extraordinary claims, a “thorough investigation” is required, to ensure “that person reliable, never telling lie,” and has “no reason to lie.”

Did Dittrich fairly and accurately describe this encounter? You can decide for yourself. Here’s a videotape of the event. The portion that Dittrich is referring to begins at 0:46:05.

Big Finish

Dittrich continues and ends his article with this:

Alexander listens quietly, occasionally fidgeting with the program in his hands. He’s a long way from home, and even further from the man he once was. It’s been a dizzying journey, but his path forward seems set. He’s told people that God granted him so much knowledge, so much wisdom, so many secrets, that he will have to spend his entire life unpacking it all, doling it out bit by bit. He’s already working on the follow-up to Proof of Heaven. In the meantime, anyone can pay sixty dollars to access his webinar guided-meditation series, “Discover Your Own Proof of Heaven,” and he’s been consulting with a pair of experts in “archaeoacoustics” to re-create some of the music that he heard while on his journey. You can even pay to join him on a “healing journey” through Greece.

In his past life, Alexander went through some hard times, but those hard times are far behind him now.

He is in a better place.


Eben Alexander’s Statement

What was Alexander’s response to Dittrich’s article? Here’s the response that was posted on July 6th on his Facebook Page:

For those concerned by issues raised in a recent article, Dr Alexander offers the following:

“I stand by every word in my book Proof of Heaven and have made its message the purpose of my life. Esquire’s cynical article distorts the facts of my 25-year career as a neurosurgeon and is a textbook example of how unsupported assertions and cherry-picked information can be assembled at the expense of the truth.”

A complete response is forthcoming. Remember – Love has infinite power to heal.


The Net Erupts

As you might imagine, as soon as Esquire’s article appeared online, droves of people read it and started commenting on it. In the NDE world, these three networks were buzzing:

NHNE’s NDE Network

The Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) Network


You can also find pertinent comments on:

Eben Alexander’s Facebook Page

NHNE’s NDE Facebook Page

Most people were quick to take sides, including many who hadn’t even bothered to read the article!  They either believed Alexander had told the truth and was being unjustly crucified by Esquire, or they felt Esquire had revealed, in technicolor, that Alexander was a charlatan who was making a fortune selling tales of an afterlife to the gullible masses.

Here are a few comments from Alexander’s Facebook Page:

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down Doctor!!”

“Very interesting! Esquire?!? I thought they are a progressive bunch of people and NOT backward thinking lying lunatics?”

“Keep carrying the torch Dr. A. You have far more supporters than detractors.”

“Pseudo skeptics (media whores) trying sell their scientism masquerading as science and in reality hidden materialist agendas are often at work in these situations.”

“What you wrote was the Gospel truth Eben…Don’t let the naysayers, scoffers and cynics get you down.”

“I was computing some numbers in my head. If Eben sold about 2 million books and let’s say that there were 2 million book buyers who bought one book each; then, if Esquire were able to sell it’s ‘research’ to, let’s say, at most half of the book buyers, at $1.99 a pop, that’s almost $2 million revenue for Esquire. So, I guess from a marketer’s perspective, whether the so-called critics’ claim was true or not, it is still quite profitable. If I am a purely money-grabbing business person, I say ‘stirring the pot’ is a very profitable venture. Don’t you think? Business is business, right?”

Of the 60 comments that I read, only one reader dared to offer a more thoughtful response:

“The allegations are big and I think more evidence Is needed to support Eben’s credibility.”

While the comments on other NDE-friendly networks were more mixed, they also tended to side with Alexander. Most felt Esquire’s article was a hatchet job; they believed skeptics, materialists, atheists, Christian fundamentalists, and money-grubbing corporate interests were behind the story. Many believed Alexander’s past mistakes were not relevant because he has now been changed by his near-death experience and is trying to live more lovingly and consciously. Some NDErs also took the whole episode very personally; they felt that they had been misrepresented and abused by the mainstream media and that the same thing was now happening to Alexander.

Other comments included these three gems, the last of which was written by me…


The Pot Calling The Kettle Black
Don O’Conner

Original Link

Eben Alexander says: “Esquire’s cynical article… is a textbook example of how unsupported assertions and cherry-picked information can be assembled at the expense of the truth.” But isn’t that a two edged sword? Has Eben produced unsupported assertions and has he cherry-picked things from his experience to make things look a certain way? I’m not passing judgment, just stating an opinion on his statement.

I remember the discussions on this forum when his book first came out and there were rumors that he had changed things in the book because that is what the publisher wanted. I do not know the truth of it. But I do know this, when I’ve spoken of my experiences, I spoke my truth and then walked away, I didn’t really care whether others believed it or not. I was not going to argue with them, as he seems to be doing with the esquire story. But then again I wasn’t trying to sell a book and make people think one way or the other.


Everything Could Be Fabricated
Chet Day

Original Link

I agree about the necessity of serious NDE research.

I also think people need to open their minds to the possibility that everything Alexander wrote about his NDE in his book was fabricated. As a professional writer, for example, I know it would be an interesting and relatively easy task to write a narrative about a personal NDE that the community would salivate over. That isn’t something I would do, but such a writing project would be a relatively simple matter for anyone who liked to write and who had knowledge of NDEs and who knew the buttons to push to excite the NDE community.

I’ve seen conscious deception of this magnitude (for financial and/or ego reasons) from best-selling authors and personalities several times in the natural health, enlightenment, and vegan communities, and I see no reason why the same thing couldn’t happen in the NDE community.

To start wrapping this up, most everyone who’s taking part in this discussion appears to be a lot less cynical than I am, thank God, but the goal of the discussion is to seek truth, right?

And, in this world, sad to say, there are many individuals fully capable of convincingly lying about anything for financial and/or ego reasons, including an NDE.

We know from the article that Alexander is a careless surgeon who fused the wrong vertebrae in two different patients in a matter of weeks and that he doctored records in one of these two instances to cover up his egregious errors. Medically speaking, Eben Alexander is not just an MD who has been savaged by greedy lawyers to make money. Anyone who would doctor records to cover up serious mistakes, in my book at least, could also realize that a ruined medical career could be replaced by using neurosurgeon and MD credentials to provide scientific legitimacy to an NDE — a “proof of heaven.”

America has a long history of Barnum’s who don’t mind fooling the public… especially when BIG money is involved.

Finally, I know that suggesting Alexander may be a fraud who fabricated much (if not everything substantive) in his book may not be a popular point of view in this discussion, but it is a point of view that deserves intelligent consideration.


As Within, So Without
David Sunfellow

Original Link

Wholesale fraud in Eben’s case seems very unlikely to me. I [do, however,] agree that we must exercise conscious, careful, caring discernment.

I’ll go a step further, however, and say that we all — every single one of us — have areas in our lives where shadow issues are running amuck. The way we view and react to people and situations on the outside, is usually an accurate gauge for how we are treating ourselves on the inside. As within, so without. Are we really, deeply looking at our own issues — the places within ourselves where we lie, cut corners, exaggerate, refuse to see the truth, avoid admitting mistakes? Do we also bristle, boil, and attack others for daring to notice the undone areas in ourselves? Or are we able to remain calm and even-handed? Do we make healing, and an honest search for the truth, more important than saving face and getting our feathers ruffled?

Treating myself — and others — with deep love and respect, while at the same time, holding both accountable, is an extremely tall order in this world. We prefer — deeply prefer — to swing one way or another: ignore all the developmental/dark side business, or jump in shoot everything up.

Which reminds me of one of the most important insights I think NDEs have to offer us. They offer us a breathtaking example of how to live healthy, balanced lives. On the one hand, they use life reviews to call every single transgression to mind. None of us gets away with anything. And on the other hand, we are absolutely, wholeheartedly and unconditionally loved. We are not condemned for our shortcomings, but encouraged to become ever more full blown, crystal clear embodiments of the divine. That, I think, is the proper attitude.

Again, this is a profoundly difficult posture to maintain in this world: to treat ourselves and one another with the same kind of discerning eye and loving heart that we are treated with on the other side. But that, I think, is what we need to strive for.

Back to Eben. The question I’m asking myself right now is this: Am I treating Eben, Luke Dittrich, Esquire, and everyone else involved in this situation like we are treated on the other side — in a loving, clear seeing, constructive way? Or am I swinging to extremes? As within, so without…


Which Way Will The Wind Blow?

Alexander mentioned that he intends to provide a “complete response” to the Esquire expose’. If his response tackles the issues raised in the Esquire article head on, clarifying misunderstandings and admitting where he may have been less than honest, I will be cheering him on. If there is one thing this world needs, it is people who are big enough to admit mistakes, without resorting to blanket denials or lawyerly-worded, face-saving evasions.

If, on the other had, Alexander sticks with the first statement he made — that he stands by every word in his book — then we are probably looking at a situation that will continue to escalate until the truth, whatever it is, finally emerges for all to see.


Take-Aways & Suggestions

So what can you and I learn from this situation? Here are a few concrete suggestions:

• Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Don’t embellish, fudge, doctor, spin, or alter facts so they read better and/or sell more books (or articles). And this applies as much to authors as it does to journalists, politicians, scientists, doctors, teachers, theologians, mystics, gurus, plumbers, carpenters, what have you. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth.

• Remember that spiritual experiences do not magically make us perfect. If we were wounded and undeveloped beings before a spiritual experience, we will still need to work on the imperfect sides of our human nature when we return to this world.

• Pay attention to the dark side, in both ourselves and others.

• Rather than automatically taking sides, make a sincere effort to see both sides of every situation — and extend love, compassion, and forgiveness to all parties, including those who have engaged in behaviors that are less then loving, compassionate, and forgiving themselves.

As we discussed these ideas, one class member wondered aloud about hooking people up to some kind of lie-detector machine. That prompted me to mention that the days of lying are rapidly coming to an end. Along with the internet, which allows human beings to quickly compare notes with other people all over the world, we are also developing increasingly sophisticated methods to find out what really happened. In the end, it seems clear that this world is step-by-step moving closer to how it is on the other side of the veil. Eventually, we’ll no longer be able to lie to ourselves or others in this world any more than we are able to lie to ourselves and others on the other side. We might as well start learning how to tell the truth, all the time, now!



• Esquire Challenges Dr. Eben Alexander’s Credibility & Story
• Nancy Evans Bush on the Controversy Surrounding Dr. Eben Alexander 
NDE Stories on Dr. Eben Alexander

• How Near-Death Experiences Are Changing The World
• The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth
• Quick List of Prominent NDErs
• NDE Stories
• NHNE’s Collection of NDE Testimonials – Archive One
• NHNE’s Collection of NDE Testimonials – Archive Two
• NDEs NOT Caused by Malfunctioning Brains
• NDE Take-Aways
• Pulse on NDEs
• NHNE NDE Social Network
• NHNE NDE on Facebook
• NHNE NDE on Google+

• NHNE NDE Bookstore



  1. David, as I told you via email, I thought you did an excellent job of summarizing the article and capturing the essence of the controversy. Really well done.

  2. Mary

    “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth!” Really?? How?? We’re forgetting that “dirty little secret” of the publishing world: the EDITORS!! It’s their job to get the book SOLD!!! You submit a manuscript, and either agree to their changes, alterations or embellishments…(large or small!)…or ta-ta(!!), you’ll find your manuscript out in the trash! It is my opinion that most true NDE enthusiasts can still appreciate Dr. Alexander’s heartfelt message despite all of these noisy distractions.

  3. Joan

    Great article, David. Thanks for the reminder to look at the bigger (deeper) picture.

  4. I have written and released two non-fiction books (dealing with afterlife evidence) through a traditional Publisher and and can relate to the comments about the editing process. In the course of working with an Editor, suggestions were sometimes made to add a dramatic element. I considered and sometimes accepted the recommendations, but only when they fit with my story and I would not compromise on the truth. (Fortunately, I had final say over all edits and they never made a suggestion that would have altered the veracity of my story.) Although my publisher is affiliated with Random House, they are an independent company with a focus on spiritual books – so they are more focused on quality than marketing appeal. I imagine the game may be a bit different with some of the mega publishers, especially with the significant downturn in the publishing industry over the past few years.

  5. By the way, I’ve met Dr. Alexander on two occasions and found him to be a very genuine, kind, and caring person. While I look forward to Eben’s full response, I did read the Esquire article and saw it as an attempt at a character assassination. I don’t anyone who has lived a stain-free life (myself included) and Eben did fess up to many of his foibles in the book. I’d venture to guess that there were many people who were helped through the surgeries he performed, yet there is no mention of the positives in his life.

  6. John D. Cox

    While reading through all of this material regarding Eben Alexander’s book, Proof of Heaven, and all that is said about Luke Dittrich’s research into Eben, I kept wondering what was and is Luke’s relationship with or to Eben. What motivates Luke to do the considerable work and take so much time to investigate Eben? Did I miss this? Is it written about? I think that information of this sort is very important in “getting to the truth.” I wonder what would be the results if Luke were investigated as has been Eben? I know nothing as to the “ultimate truth” of any of the discussions about Eben’s book and Eben as a human being. And, for sure, I know nothing Luke Dittrich. Can anyone shine any light on this Luke fellow and what he’s been and is about?

  7. Hi John. It’s not something that most people consider, but I agree with you that it would be very helpful to know more about Luke Dittrich and his motivations for writing this article. Since authors ultimately determine what to include, what to leave out, and how to shape/spin/present a particular article, their agendas, biases, motivations, and life experiences are important. Here is what Esquire has to say about Dittrich. Notice that his grandfather is a neurosurgeon:

    “Luke Dittrich has been a contributing editor at Esquire since 2008. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Crime Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and his article about a group of strangers who sheltered together during a devastating tornado won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. He is currently writing a book for Random House about his neurosurgeon grandfather’s most famous patient, Henry Molaison, an amnesiac from whom medical science learned most of what it knows about how memory works.”

  8. This research is very well done. I also find all your reference links very helpful.
    This is my first time looking at your website. My website also has elements of my own NDE spiritual experience in 1974.

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