You don’t need to have a near-death experience (NDE) to understand what heaven is like, but it might help. The Map of Heaven follows on from Dr Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven, in which the neuroscientist describes his experience of a beautiful spiritual dimension while he was in a week-long coma.
In this subsequent book, Alexander reveals how God shows up in our earthly existence and explores what NDEs reveal about heaven. It is comprehensive and complex, mixing research about philosophers and scientists from the past with modern personal stories about the afterlife.
One chapter begins with Aristotle and Plato before going on to explain how great scientists such as Goethe, Fechner and Pascal treated ‘faith and science as allies and not in conflict’.
Real-life testimonies are peppered throughout, including remarkable deathbed visions and touching tales of how the presence of departed loved ones continues to be felt through nature and during supernatural encounters.
Alexander’s style is positive, with a focus on God’s love, and I subscribe to his central theme that there is a larger world than the one we see around us every day. ‘Heaven makes us human,’ he writes. ‘Without a knowledge of where we came from and where we are going, life makes no sense.’
However, don’t expect a Christian viewpoint on heaven. Alexander’s beliefs are a pick and mix of religions and traditions, with only passing references to Jesus and biblical truths about eternity. Ultimately, I felt sceptical about NDEs and am unlikely to recommend the book to others, either in this life or the next.
ANDREW DUBOCK is communications manager at Viva