Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 10/09/2012

The Butterfly Guide

Dr. Eben Alexander; photo by Jody Glynn Patrick


This November, a book is being released about an episode that began in November 2008, when a doctor developed severe back pain at 4:30 a.m. A neurosurgeon for 25 years, Dr. Eben Alexander III subsequently was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. To make matters worse, he was given a 10% survival odds by his colleagues after the eruption of spontaneous e coli in the hospital. His brain stem and cortex showed signs of disintegration and he very soon had to be put on a ventilator to survive. He became combative, his eyes were divergent, and he lapsed into a deep coma.

His soon-to-be-released book is written in his words by his own hand. Even though the outer section of his brain was eaten away, Alexander survived. He surfaced without a memory of his life on earth, without a clue of his relationships to others, but with a deeper knowledge — that the lessons learned during his extended near death experience were not a product of disassociate ramblings or strong hallucinogenic drugs. It was, and remains, his Truth.

This past April, I met him and learned more about his story:

“This is coming from a neurosurgeon who, before my coma, thought I was quite certain how the brain and the mind interacted. It was clear to me that there were many things I could do or see done on my patients to eliminate consciousness. It was very clear in that realm that the brain gives you consciousness, and when the brain dies, there goes consciousness, soul, mind—it’s all gone. That much was clear.

“Now, having been through my coma, I can tell you that’s exactly wrong — and that, in fact, the mind and consciousness are independent of the brain. It’s very hard to explain that, certainly if you’re limiting yourself to that reductive materialist view.”

Different domains of existence

He recalled working his way through different domains, including the lowest where he resided for “Months? Years? Eternity?” Time had no relevance. “I had an earthworm’s world view, inching my way through mud or jello,” he said. “My memory wasn’t working. I had no anchors.”

Then, from deep within that rhelm, came a melody of light to him, both absolutely beautiful. “I had no body awareness. The melody was suspending light in contrast to all else, simply that.”

In an emerging second domain was a brilliant green valley and he was given views of rich, real beauty. He became aware of chants or anthems being sung somewhere above him, which he attributed to “angels”. The anthems rained down softly from above on a warm breeze he found most comforting, and then realized the breeze to be caused by the wing of a butterfly. “You are loved, cherished, there is nothing you can do wrong. You are loved eternally,” the voices in the butterfly breeze promised.

This was followed by a tremendous sense of euphoria – though he stresses that words do not do the emotion justice at all. He came to understand that he would be shown several things by a guide, and he would come and go three times, by remembering the notes of the melody. He would not be allowed to stay – it was not his time – but there were lessons to see and learn and so he was invited to visit with his guide.

The “concept flow” he tried to describe was, Alexander said, beyond linguistic expression, strong and complete; the melody was comprised of thousands of people kneeling and murmuring; this he understood.

His guide was a pretty young woman who transported him on her butterfly wing modality; he had never met her before, though he recognized her as a beloved personage. Later, he would see her face for the first time in the “real world” when given a packet with information about his birth parents (he had been adopted). She would then be revealed to him as a sibling who had died in her young adult years.

Being “revived”, he says, has left him “dumbed down”

Now research director for the Monroe Institute in Faber, Virginia, Dr. Alexander says he understood that even while his soul was urging flight and unification with a different reality, having a 10-year old son (at that time) pleading with him to “stay” was the most frightening part of his soul’s personal tug-of-war.

“It was terrifying to be so out of control,” he admitted, and after resuming consciousness, he had to re-think every aspect of his life and purpose, given a new understanding of his place in the universe, versus his material place in the physical and emotional world he occupied during his prior life. This was perhaps the greatest struggle of his life, and he resisted any form of psychological “therapy” until he had written his own thoughts and memories down – 20,000 words, which became the crux of the book about to be released.

“Consciousness is what really exists, and it is not local; it is the thing that exists,” he says, trying had to explain his emerging philosophy of existence. “What we look around and see is illusionary. We are so much richer when we are free of the human shackles of brain and mind. Ego has to be put aside. Hardships and hurdles are gifts; they are conduits for the understanding and appreciation of unconditional love. That is the real, undying lesson.”

I never knew him before his lengthy hospitalization or the fight for his earth-bound life, but I saw a changed man before me. “I am different,” he said. “I’m a better guy to my family. I think I’m a better human being. At least, I hope so.”

Following the death of a child, parents are typically desperate to know or believe that their child didn’t expire with their last breath — not the soul. I hope this offers some glimmer of faith — if only a butterfly kiss of a promise.

Interested to know more? Watch for his book, “Love After Death: A Neuroscientist’s Odyssey through the Afterlife”.


  1. Greetings. I have been trying to subscribe to the email subscription above but for some unknown reason it does not go through.
    Elizabeth Wagner

    • Thanks for the notice; I’ll try to work this out with WordPress! It must be a glitch there, as this is a widget from them! Thanks for your patience as we get the subscription setup corrected…. JGP

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