Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists. A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.
Then, Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human—shut down completely. For seven days he lay in a coma. Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.
Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.
Alexander’s story is not a fantasy. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.
This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to. That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary. No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it. Reading it will change your life.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
—ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879–1955)
When I was a kid, I would often dream of flying.
Most of the time I’d be standing out in my yard at night, looking up at the stars, when out of the blue I’d start floating upward. The first few inches happened automatically. But soon I’d notice that the higher I got, the more my progress depended on me—on what I did. If I got too excited, too swept away by the experience, I would plummet back to the ground . . . hard. But if I played it cool, took it all in stride, then off I would go, faster and faster, up into the starry sky.
Maybe those dreams were part of the reason why, as I got older, I fell in love with airplanes and rockets—with anything that might get me back up there in the world above this one. When our family flew, my face was pressed flat to the plane’s window from takeoff to landing. In the summer of 1968, when I was fourteen, I spent all the money I’d earned mowing lawns on a set of sailplane lessons with a guy named Gus Street at Strawberry Hill, a little grass strip “airport” just west of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the town where I grew up. I still remember the feeling of my heart pounding as I pulled the big cherry-red knob that unhooked the rope connecting me to the towplane and banked my sailplane toward the field. It was the first time I had ever felt truly alone and free. Most of my friends got that feeling in cars, but for my money being a thousand feet up in a sailplane beat that thrill a hundred times over.
In college in the 1970s I joined the University of North Carolina sport parachuting (or skydiving) team. It felt like a secret brotherhood—a group of people who knew about something special and magical. My first jump was terrifying, and the second even more so. But by my twelfth jump, when I stepped out the door and had to fall for more than a thousand feet before opening my parachute (my first “ten second delay”), I knew I was home. I made 365 parachute jumps in college and logged more than three and a half hours in free fall, mainly in formations with up to twenty-five fellow jumpers. Although I stopped jumping in 1976, I continued to enjoy vivid dreams about skydiving, which were always pleasant.
The best jumps were often late in the afternoon, when the sun was starting to sink beneath the horizon. It’s hard to describe the feeling I would get on those jumps: a feeling of getting close to something that I could never quite name but that I knew I had to have more of. It wasn’t solitude exactly, because the way we dived actually wasn’t all that solitary. We’d jump five, six, sometimes ten or twelve people at a time, building free-fall formations. The bigger and the more challenging, the better.
One beautiful autumn Saturday in 1975, the rest of the UNC jumpers and I teamed up with some of our friends at a paracenter in eastern North Carolina for some formations. On our penultimate jump of the day, out of a D18 Beechcraft at 10,500 feet, we made a ten-man snowflake. We managed to get ourselves into complete formation before we passed 7,000 feet, and thus were able to enjoy a full eighteen seconds of flying the formation down a clear chasm between two towering cumulus clouds before breaking apart at 3,500 feet and tracking away from each other to open our chutes.
By the time we hit the ground, the sun was down. But by hustling into another plane and taking off again quickly, we managed to get back up into the last of the sun’s rays and do a second sunset jump. For this one, two junior members were getting their first shot at flying into formation—that is, joining it from the outside rather than being the base or pin man (which is easier because your job is essentially to fall straight down while everyone else maneuvers toward you). It was exciting for the two junior members, but also for those of us who were more seasoned, because we were building the team, adding to the experience of jumpers who’d later be capable of joining us for even bigger formations.
I was to be the last man out in a six-man star attempt above the runways of the small airport just outside Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. The guy directly in front of me was named Chuck. Chuck was fairly experienced at “relative work,” or RW—that is, building free-fall formations. We were still in sunshine at 7,500 feet, but a mile and a half below us the streetlights were blinking on. Twilight jumps were always sublime and this was clearly going to be a beautiful one.
Even though I’d be exiting the plane a mere second or so behind Chuck, I’d have to move fast to catch up with everyone. I’d rocket straight down headfirst for the first seven seconds or so. This would make me drop almost 100 miles per hour faster than my friends so that I could be right there with them after they had built the initial formation.
Normal procedure for RW jumps was for all jumpers to break apart at 3,500 feet and track away from the formation for maximum separation. Each would then “wave off” with his arms (signaling imminent deployment of his parachute), turn to look above to make sure no others were above him, then pull the rip cord.
“Three, two, one . . . go!”
The first four jumpers exited, then Chuck and I followed close behind. Upside down in a full-head dive and approaching terminal velocity, I smiled as I saw the sun setting for the second time that day. After streaking down to the others, my plan was to slam on the air brakes by throwing out my arms (we had fabric wings from wrists to hips that gave tremendous resistance when fully inflated at high speed) and aiming my jumpsuit’s bell-bottomed sleeves and pant legs straight into the oncoming air.
But I never had the chance.
Plummeting toward the formation, I saw that one of the new guys had come in too fast. Maybe falling rapidly between nearby clouds had him a little spooked—it reminded him that he was moving about two hundred feet per second toward that giant planet below, partially shrouded in the gathering darkness. Rather than slowly joining the edge of the formation, he’d barreled in and knocked everybody loose. Now all five other jumpers were tumbling out of control.
They were also much too close together. A skydiver leaves a super-turbulent stream of low-pressure air behind him. If a jumper gets into that trail, he instantly speeds up and can crash into the person below him. That, in turn, can make both jumpers accelerate and slam into anyone who might be below them. In short, it’s a recipe for disaster.
I angled my body and tracked away from the group to avoid the tumbling mess. I maneuvered until I was falling right over “the spot,” a magical point on the ground above which we were to open our parachutes for the leisurely two-minute descent.
I looked over and was relieved to see that the disoriented jumpers were now also tracking away from each other, dispersing the deadly clump.
Chuck was there among them. To my surprise, he was coming straight in my direction. He stopped directly beneath me. With all of the group’s tumbling, we were passing through 2,000 feet elevation more quickly than Chuck had anticipated. Maybe he thought he was lucky and didn’t have to follow the rules—exactly.
He must not see me. The thought barely had time to go through my head before Chuck’s colorful pilot chute blossomed out of his backpack. His pilot chute caught the 120-mph breeze coming around him and shot straight toward me, pulling his main parachute in its sleeve right behind it.
From the instant I saw Chuck’s pilot chute emerge, I had a fraction of a second to react. For it would take less than a second to tumble through his deploying main parachute, and—quite likely—right into Chuck himself. At that speed, if I hit his arm or his leg I would take it right off, dealing myself a fatal blow in the process. If I hit him directly, both our bodies would essentially explode.
People say things move more slowly in situations like this, and they’re right. My mind watched the action in the microseconds that followed as if it were watching a movie in slow motion.
The instant I saw the pilot chute, my arms flew to my sides and I straightened my body into a head dive, bending ever so slightly at the hips. The verticality gave me increased speed, and the bend allowed my body to add first a little, then a blast of horizontal motion as my body became an efficient wing, sending me zipping past Chuck just in front of his colorful blossoming Para-Commander parachute.
I passed him going at over 150 miles per hour, or 220 feet per second. Given that speed, I doubt he saw the expression on my face. But if he had, he would have seen a look of sheer astonishment. Somehow I had reacted in microseconds to a situation that, had I actually had time to think about it, would have been much too complex for me to deal with.
And yet . . . I had dealt with it, and we both landed safely. It was as if, presented with a situation that required more than its usual ability to respond, my brain had become, for a moment, superpowered.
How had I done it? Over the course of my twenty-plus-year career in academic neurosurgery—of studying the brain, observing how it works, and operating on it—I have had plenty of opportunities to ponder this very question. I finally chalked it up to the fact that the brain is truly an extraordinary device: more extraordinary than we can even guess.
I realize now that the real answer to that question is much more profound. But I had to go through a complete metamorphosis of my life and worldview to glimpse that answer. This book is about the events that changed my mind on the matter. They convinced me that, as marvelous a mechanism as the brain is, it was not my brain that saved my life that day at all. What sprang into action the second Chuck’s chute started to open was another, much deeper part of me. A part that could move so fast because it was not stuck in time at all, the way the brain and body are.
This was the same part of me, in fact, that had made me so homesick for the skies as a kid. It’s not only the smartest part of us, but the deepest part as well, yet for most of my adult life I was unable to believe in it.
But I do believe now, and the pages that follow will tell you why.
I’m a neurosurgeon.
I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976 with a major in chemistry and earned my M.D. at Duke University Medical School in 1980. During my eleven years of medical school and residency training at Duke as well as Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard, I focused on neuroendocrinology, the study of the interactions between the nervous system and the endocrine system—the series of glands that release the hormones that direct most of your body’s activities. I also spent two of those eleven years investigating how blood vessels in one area of the brain react pathologically when there is bleeding into it from an aneurysm—a syndrome known as cerebral vasospasm.
After completing a fellowship in cerebrovascular neurosurgery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom, I spent fifteen years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School as an associate professor of surgery, with a specialization in neurosurgery. During those years I operated on countless patients, many of them with severe, life-threatening brain conditions.
Most of my research work involved the development of advanced technical procedures like stereotactic radiosurgery, a technique that allows surgeons to precisely guide beams of radiation to specific targets deep in the brain without affecting adjacent areas. I also helped develop magnetic resonance image–guided neurosurgical procedures instrumental in repairing hard-to-treat brain conditions like tumors and vascular disorders. During those years I also authored or coauthored more than 150 chapters and papers for peer-reviewed medical journals and presented my findings at more than two hundred medical conferences around the world.
In short, I devoted myself to science. Using the tools of modern medicine to help and to heal people, and to learn more about the workings of the human body and brain, was my life’s calling. I felt immeasurably lucky to have found it. More important, I had a beautiful wife and two lovely children, and while I was in many ways married to my work, I did not neglect my family, which I considered the other great blessing in my life. On many counts I was a very lucky man, and I knew it.
On November 10, 2008, however, at age fifty-four, my luck seemed to run out. I was struck by a rare illness and thrown into a coma for seven days. During that time, my entire neocortex—the outer surface of the brain, the part that makes us human—was shut down. Inoperative. In essence, absent.
When your brain is absent, you are absent, too. As a neurosurgeon, I’d heard many stories over the years of people who had strange experiences, usually after suffering cardiac arrest: stories of traveling to mysterious, wonderful landscapes; of talking to dead relatives—even of meeting God Himself.
Wonderful stuff, no question. But all of it, in my opinion, was pure fantasy. What caused the otherworldly types of experiences that such people so often report? I didn’t claim to know, but I did know that they were brain-based. All of consciousness is. If you don’t have a working brain, you can’t be conscious.
This is because the brain is the machine that produces consciousness in the first place. When the machine breaks down, consciousness stops. As vastly complicated and mysterious as the actual mechanics of brain processes are, in essence the matter is as simple as that. Pull the plug and the TV goes dead. The show is over, no matter how much you might have been enjoying it.
Or so I would have told you before my own brain crashed.
During my coma my brain wasn’t working improperly—it wasn’t working at all. I now believe that this might have been what was responsible for the depth and intensity of the near-death experience (NDE) that I myself underwent during it. Many of the NDEs reported happen when a person’s heart has shut down for a while. In those cases, the neocortex is temporarily inactivated, but generally not too damaged, provided that the flow of oxygenated blood is restored through cardiopulmonary resuscitation or reactivation of cardiac function within four minutes or so. But in my case, the neocortex was out of the picture. I was encountering the reality of a world of consciousness that existed completely free of the limitations of my physical brain.
Mine was in some ways a perfect storm of near-death experiences. As a practicing neurosurgeon with decades of research and hands-on work in the operating room behind me, I was in a better-than-average position to judge not only the reality but also the implications of what happened to me.
Those implications are tremendous beyond description. My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.
The place I went was real. Real in a way that makes the life we’re living here and now completely dreamlike by comparison. This doesn’t mean I don’t value the life I’m living now, however. In fact, I value it more than I ever did before. I do so because I now see it in its true context.
This life isn’t meaningless. But we can’t see that fact from here—at least most of the time. What happened to me while I was in that coma is hands-down the most important story I will ever tell. But it’s a tricky story to tell because it is so foreign to ordinary understanding. I can’t simply shout it from the rooftops. At the same time, my conclusions are based on a medical analysis of my experience, and on my familiarity with the most advanced concepts in brain science and consciousness studies. Once I realized the truth behind my journey, I knew I had to tell it. Doing so properly has become the chief task of my life.
That’s not to say I’ve abandoned my medical work and my life as a neurosurgeon. But now that I have been privileged to understand that our life does not end with the death of the body or the brain, I see it as my duty, my calling, to tell people about what I saw beyond the body and beyond this earth. I am especially eager to tell my story to the people who might have heard stories similar to mine before and wanted to believe them, but had not been able to fully do so.
It is to these people, more than any other, that I direct this book, and the message within it. What I have to tell you is as important as anything anyone will ever tell you, and it’s true.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Eben Alexander M. D. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
As a neurosurgeon schooled in some of the most elite institutions of the American scientific community, Dr. Eben Alexander considered himself an “unbeliever”—one who did not believe in God, Heaven or an afterlife. He was confident that the brain was the ultimate source of consciousness and all reports of experiences in the “spiritual realm” were unsupportable from a scientific perspective. Everything changed, though, on November 10, 2008, when a splitting headache landed him in an emergency room and ultimately a seven-day coma. In Proof of Heaven, Dr. Alexander recounts the story of those seven days and the spiritually transforming experience that occurred during them. When he awakened from his coma, his old certainties about the nonexistence of the afterlife were gone.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Do you know anyone who had a Near Death Experience (NDE)? What was your attitude toward their experience when they described it to you?
2. How does the fact that the author (Eben Alexander) is a physician (neurosurgeon) influence your attitude toward his story of his NDE?
3. In chapter 10, “What Counts,” the author shares some of his family history and how, after learning some news about his birth parents as an adult, he lost his “last, half-acknowledged hope that there was some personal element in the universe. . .” Do you identify with that hope? Has there been a time in your life when that hope was either confirmed or lost?
4. On pp. 57–58, the author poses these questions: “Was there a force or intelligence watching out for all of us? Who cared about humans in a truly loving way?” How would you answer those questions? How have you come to those answers?
5. In chapter 11, “An End to the Downward Spiral,” the author describes the impact of meeting his birth family and learning about aspects of his life story that he had not previously known about. Why do you think these experiences had such a significant impact on his sense of well-being? Have you ever had an experience in which you learned new things about your own life story? How did your experience change you?
6. On page 71, the author puts into words the wordless message he received during his NDE. “You are loved and cherished. You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.” How does this message make you feel? What emotions do you experience when you read the words? Do you believe they are true?
7. On page 73, the author asserts that “. . . certain members of the scientific community, who are pledged to the materialist worldview, have insisted again and again that science and spirituality cannot coexist.” What is the materialist worldview? Do you believe science and spirituality are necessarily opposed? Describe.
8. On page 76, the author states: “The (false) suspicion that we can somehow be separated from God is the root of every form of anxiety in the universe . . .” Do you agree? Why or why not?
9. In chapter 14, the author describes one factor that made his NDE unique. What was this factor? Do you agree with the author that it really does set his experience apart?
10. How does the author’s response to his NDE make you feel about your own faith? Do you agree with his conclusion on page 96: “None of us are ever unloved. Each and every one of us is deeply known and cared for by a Creator who cherishes us beyond any ability we have to comprehend”? How do his conclusions compare and contrast with your understanding of God?
11. What part of Dr. Alexander’s story moved you the most? Describe.
12. Upon his first visit to his Episcopal church after “returning” to his body, Dr. Alexander said: “At last, I understood what religion was really all about. Or at least was supposed to be about. I didn’t just believe in God; I knew God” (p. 148). What do you think is the difference between believing in God and knowing God?
13. In chapter 31, the author describes three varieties of attitude toward NDEs. With which do you most identify? Has reading this book moved you from one group to another?
14. On page 141, the author makes the bold statement that scientists in our society are “the official gatekeepers on the matter of what’s real and what isn’t.” Do you think this is true? If it is, why do you think scientists have been given this kind of authority? Do you think this authority really should belong to scientists? Why or why not?
15. On page 103, the author describes the positive effect his friends’ prayers had during his coma. Does this part of his story resonate with you? Do you have any experience(s) of your own of prayers being effective?
16. How do you feel about the title of the book? Do you think spiritual experiences and realities can be proven? In what ways does the author’s suggestion that a spiritual experience can be proven help or hinder his story’s believability?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. If you know someone who has experienced an NDE, invite them to your next book club meeting and ask them to share their story. How comfortable or uncomfortable is the group with the sense of mystery and the unknown? How do different members of the group respond to things that are beyond our ability to fully comprehend?
2. Keep a month-long log of things you notice in your life that can’t be reduced to material or physical explanations (i.e., anything that happens that has an element of mystery or transcendence). Bring your log to your next book club and discuss the options for how to think about these realities.
3. Read The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, which provides an overview of the eight main worldviews that are held by different individuals in the twentieth century. At your next book club meeting, discuss which worldview you most identify with and why.
4. Think about the power of science in affecting your own beliefs. Are you a person of faith, science, or both? Discuss.
A Conversation with Eben Alexander, M.D.
Why did you decide to become a physician and specifically a neurosurgeon?
My father certainly had a lot to do with it. As I describe in the book, he was a celebrated neurosurgeon who had a huge influence not just on me, but on just about everyone he met. That would have been about the end of it if you’d asked me this question before my NDE. Now it’s a little different. I see my father’s role in my life as part of what you might call my destiny. I think my life this time around was supposed to be about delving into the mystery of consciousness and how it relates to our fundamental understanding of reality.
How has your NDE changed the way you make decisions about how to spend your time and energy each day and the way you relate to others?
I was never much of a time waster. Even when “relaxing” I was usually going in overdrive. That’s even more the case now. I see time as more precious than ever. But at the same time, if something goes wrong, I’m able to take it much more in stride. Every moment of our life is precious beyond measure. But it’s not all we have. There is more—much more—to come.
In terms of relationships with others, everything has changed. I see all those around me as eternal spiritual beings undergoing the glories and trials of the physical world. This does not mean I’m wearing rose-colored glasses, however. Hardship and suffering appear in a clearer focus and in fact hit me harder than they did before. Seeing the world more deeply does not mean filtering the negative out. It just means seeing it in its true context.
Has your NDE impacted the way you practice medicine and/or interact with your patients?
My current schedule has become far too busy with presentations and telling my story to leave time for patient care. I hope to get back to it at some point, but with a different focus. I plan on working with patients who are terminal, in ICU or hospice, and in helping families deal with the impending loss of a loved one. I have so much more to offer them now. I feel that that is one of the main reasons I returned—to share my story and give real comfort to those who need it most.
In the earlier part of your book, you talk about your hope for what you describe as a “personal element in the universe” (p. 57). That hope seems to have been realized in the encounter with a personal Creator that you describe occurring during your NDE (p. 96). Yet you also state that “consciousness is the basis of all that exists” (p. 154), and this has a less personal sound to it. Can you elaborate on this contrast?
Consciousness is a primary aspect of the universe and a supreme mystery that transcends all our efforts to capture it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to describe it anyhow, and in doing so we can go more in one direction or another. That is, we can zero in on its less personal aspects or its more personal ones. But the loving Creator I encountered was very definitely not impersonal. At the same time, calling that Creator “personal” is problematic too, because it introduces limitations. The same kind of limitations that are introduced when we use words like “Him” or “Her” or “It” to describe that Creator. The reality of the Divine burns all these terms instantly to ash.
The word “Proof ” in the title has caused controversy. Do you think using this word has helped or hindered you in your efforts to demonstrate the reality of the spiritual world?
I wanted it known that this was not just another NDE story. My experience provides extremely strong evidence that consciousness is not dependent on the cortex. It was proof for me personally, and it has convinced many others. The cortex mediates consciousness while we are on earth, it does not produce it. Of that I am certain. So while I completely understand the difficulties that people have had with the title, in the end I feel it is accurate.
In chapter 32 of the book, you briefly allude to going to church after you recovered an understanding of “what religion was really all about. Or at least was supposed to be about.” Can you say more about what you realized at that moment?
I felt deeply, for the first time in a place of worship, the concrete presence of the Divine. The images and symbols around me struck me with a power that I had never appreciated before. I have since visited many places of worship, both Christian and otherwise, and though the specifics of the settings differ, that core feeling of gratitude to the Divine always comes through.
As a young man you thought science had all the answers. How would you advise a current medical student to approach the argument (popular among scientists) that we are “fast approaching a Theory of Everything (or TOE), which would not seem to leave much room for our soul, or spirit, or for Heaven, and God”? (pp. 153–54).
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that you know all there is to know. The history of science and philosophy is filled with examples of thinkers who were tempted into believing they could do just that. When I was in med school, the thinking was very much: we don’t know everything about the universe yet, but we’re just about to. I now find that idea absolutely laughable in its arrogance and its blindness. We don’t have the first hint about how the universe really works or what’s really in it. We have no idea what dark matter is, we have no idea what consciousness is. We have no idea how many dimensions there are to the universe, how populated or unpopulated they are by other consciousnesses. One could go on. I would advise someone in medical school now to thank their stars they are living in a time when we do know so much about the universe, about the human body, about all manner of things that we were essentially in the dark about just a hundred years ago. But there’s a big difference between feeling grateful about the knowledge we do have and thinking we know everything. We don’t, and never will.
Are you still in touch with your birth family?
Yes I am. My birth family and my adoptive family have become very close, and we have all grown in many wonderful ways as a result of our reunion.
What was the most challenging part of writing your story?
The most challenging part was simply containing my sheer excitement and enthusiasm to tell the world what had happened to me. What I experienced was not new. Many others have caught a glimpse of the realms I encountered during my NDE and told of them. But the medical facts behind my case were new, and once the full force of this came home to me, it was very hard to keep patient during the long process of creating the book. The early drafts read more like a telegram than a book. I gave all the details of what happened to me within the first few pages, because I was just so anxious to tell the reader how amazing it all was. Learning to slow down and do it right was hard. The final manuscript of Proof of Heaven was produced with the help of a friend of mine, a gifted writer named Ptolemy Tompkins, who had written a book, The Modern Book of the Dead, with which I’d identified closely. Along with my editor, Priscilla Painton, Ptolemy showed me that one of the most extraordinary things about my story is that it is just that: a story. It needed to unfold piece by piece and revelation by revelation, just as it did in real life.
How has this experience changed your life?
It has changed everything imaginable in my life. However, I continue to struggle through life’s bumps and surprises like everyone else. Like many people who have undergone a spiritually transformative experience of such magnitude, I have no choice but to live my life as authentically as I can. We must always be true to our hearts.
What is the main thing you hope people take away from reading your story?
That we are far more than physical beings. Not only do we continue to exist after bodily death, but our awareness functions at a much higher level once it is free from the physical limitations of the brain. At the core of our existence is a love for us far grander than we can ever imagine: the infinite, unconditional love of a Divine Creator. That love offers us the power to heal ourselves, our species, our planet and our entire existence.