Robert and Suzanne Mays are long-time near-death experience researchers who, in their words, “have an interest in exposing and ameliorating injustices that occur from time to time among human beings.” In addition, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS). With their knowledgeability about NDEs and experiencers, the Mays were concerned recently by the highly negative article in Esquire about neurosurgeon Eben Alexander and his best-selling book, Proof of Heaven.
The dismay was caused in part because Dr. Alexander will be one of the keynote speakers at the IANDS 2013 Conference in Arlington, Virginia, August 29 – September 1; he will also participate on a panel of physicians who have had an NDE. If the charges made in the Esquire article were true, Alexander should perhaps be replaced as a speaker. If the charges were not true, conference-goers needed reassurance to that effect.
Given their investigative background, Robert and Suzanne set about looking into the claims made by the author of the Esquire article. They asked, “How careful was [author] Luke Dittrich with the facts he presented?” Here is the interesting report.
Funny how I don’t see this rebuttal getting nearly as much press as the original Esquire article. If it wasn’t for the spiritual/paranormal friendly blogosphere, I wouldn’t be aware that Dr. Alexander even had a defense.
Robert and Suzanne Mays have obviously done their homework, and Luke Dittrich hasn’t provided a rejoinder yet. I don’t think he can.
So where is Dr. Alexander at? Simon & Schuster has already made their dollar, so they aren’t going to do anything. The movie rights to Proof of Heaven have been sold, so now we have the specter of some Hollywood hack turning Eben’s story into a b-grade movie featuring CGI Butterfly’s, thundering Angels, and little or no substance.
Dr. Eben Alexander has to take control here. We can blame his publisher for warping the title and plot to give the book a sexier sales appeal, but if this ship is ever going to get righted, Doctor Alexander himself is going to have to come out swinging, and soon.
Let’s face it, an IANDS Conference appearance may be impressive to readers of this blog, but it’s simply not newsworthy to the mainstream press.
I find myself imagining Dr. Alexander running the Mays article as a full page ad in a major newspaper like the New York Times, Washington Post or Boston Herald. That would generate buzz and force Dittrich’s hand.
If I could talk to the good doctor personally, I would tell him to consult an independent publicist.
Better yet, pitch a fit. Cuss somebody out (figuratively speaking) – it’s okay Eben, because it’s not about you. It’s about hope and inspiration. Everywhere, people are craving for a glimmer of piercing light to help them escape their modern day materialist Platonic mental caves.
This all costs money, but…
I also can’t help thinking that Dr. Alexander has a tidy little character defamation lawsuit on his hands. If he’s squeamish about it (some NDEr’s have problems with dishing out revenge), he could always donate the after-expense money to charity. NDE research sure does need the money.
Nan Bush says
So far as I’m aware, Alexander has no plan to create a fuss. He has made his statement of rebuttal but has no wish to get into a…well, let’s call it a quibbling contest.
Dave Woods says
Do you know how many people are afraid to believe in anything? They either avoid all thought of something, or find a way to totally negate it so they can steer away from it. They not only do this for themselves, they try to recruit others. This is because there’s safety in numbers, The more people they can get to agree with them, the safer they feel.
As far as this brilliant writer is concerned, intellect is the greatest defense against feeling there is. The plus of intellect is the ability to conceptualize. The minus of intellect is that it gives them a million rat holes to run down in order to avoid who they really are, and what they’re real motivations are. God save us from the righteous.
Nan Bush says
Dave, there are three writers in this pot, all brilliant one way or another–Eben Alexander, Luke Dittrich, and Robert Mays. Which?
Dave Woods says
Nan Bush says
Thanks for clarifying!
Nan Bush said:
So far as I’m aware, Alexander has no plan to create a fuss.
Yeah. I guess arguing isn’t the forte’ of the spiritually enlightened.
But sometimes it gets so frustrating. I find myself wishing that the spiritual position had a spokesperson who could not only defend, but take on an intellectual offensive mission as articulately as the professional debunkers.
Some very good spiritual-friendly spokespeople capable of competent debating do exist. Robert McLuhan, Bernardo Kastrup and Chris Carter come to mind, although I’m sure they’re not the only ones. We need somebody with the equanimous intellect of Sam Parnia, and the belly fire of Victor Zammit (without the childish vitriolic rants).
Maybe I’m slipping into woo-woo New Age idealism, but IMHO, the two biggest curses on the face of humanity right now are religious fanaticism and materialist dogmatism. I wish someone would at least try to break the spell.
I guess I need to slip back to my ivory castle and see what happens next…
Jill Whitehead says
My interpretation of what the Dalai Lama is saying about Dr. Alexander’s experience is different from Dittrich’s and from what the Mays’ seem to have concluded. I think the Dalai Lama is asking for a thorough investigation. He is wagging his finger in order to emphasize his point that a person’s character must be assessed when the experience falls into the deeply hidden category. He’s not intentionally being biased, but is using Dr. Alexander’s experience in order to describe a method he (the Dalai Lama) uses to study and categorize sacred Buddhist texts.
While I think it’s crucial to view what all three guests have to say on this subject (which is, “Life and After Life,” not roast Dr. Alexander), one area was particularly revealing for me (and also of me). I have been an experiencer for most of my life and learning how to bridge the gap between this world and my experience can be challenging. When the gap is bridged, I call it a universal truth. Here’s the Dalai Lama telling us why this is so important. This quote is verbatim, so please excuse the fact that it looks worse than it sounds. It starts at 53:14 of the video…
“Many of mystics develop because of, we very much based on appearances without knowing the reality. So, the gap between reality and appearances always source of problem. So, therefore, in order to develop more realistic approach you must know the reality. So, firstly, we must accept this gap, I think, in every field.”
That didn’t take long. Alex Tsakiris has just put up an interview with Robert Mays:
Nan Bush says
LOL. Thanks for the catch! Glad he (Robert) is getting the exposure.
Ben Riggs says
Because of his background and credentials, Eben Alexander clearly has posed a significant threat to established ways of thinking about things we don’t know much about. For many, this is particularly disturbing. So distorting facts and interpretation becomes the mode of defense, and in this case an offensive strategy to be employed against the messenger.
I’m about as cynical as they come, and have a scientifically based technical background. And I recently spent 4 days in the proximity of Eben Alexander in a conference in Virginia. My take is that Eben’s publisher cut a lot from his original book draft to dumb it down for commercial purposes. His sin may have been going along with it. But I suspect the rejection of his birth mother, combined with his trying to please his adoptive father by forcing himself to be a doctor instead of an aviator, led to a professional and personal spiral (that he briefly admits in his book) that resulted in medical screw-ups and even coverups.
So what do we believe? For me, I believe the stories of people like Eben Alexander over the arrogant material scientists like Stephen Hawking who think they “can answer everything”.
Canadian and romanian researchers find cerebral activity in death pacients.
Nan Bush says
It is interesting to find such novel brain activity under the tested circumstances, which confirms that indeed, pinpointing actual time of death is extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible under normal conditions. However, as a layperson, I don’t see what the findings offer other than an opportunity for neuroscientific conjecture, as the highly technical data are concerned solely with the mechanics of brain activity, with no relation to actual experiential (meaning-making) factors from the perspective of the patients.