A glimpse into the NDE in “Proof of Heaven”

I’ve recently read Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Dr. Eben Alexander, who documented a miraculous experience that led him to believe that the death of the brain and of the body doesn’t constitute the end of existence, that consciousness lives on after death and god exists and loves all beings. He dedicated this book to people like him (and me) who are sceptical about NDE recollections. As someone with an obsessive preoccupation with the subject of NDEs and insights into occurrences that hint at the phenomenon of consciousness existing independently from the brain, I’ve had this one on my reading list for a while. The way the narrator describes his communication style in the idyllic world he visited is not unlike my own transcendental experience from some time ago: wordless, felt, almost telepathic, and ineffable.

The narrator views his NDE as a life-turning event that led to a metamorphosis of his life as he knew it, due to a very significant paradigm shift regarding a fundamental belief. As a firm believer in science, although hoping to be proven wrong, he had always aligned with the view that the brain equals consciousness, that once the neocortex is switched off, the possessor vanishes into non-being. He had read many recollections of NDE subjects who claimed to have navigated otherworldly landscapes or talked to god during their experiences, but he always thought such instances were still brain-based, that they happened whilst the brain was not totally shut down – for instance, if someone’s heart was temporarily off and their neocortex was inactivated for a while yet not irreversibly damaged and irretrievable. That was before he was afflicted with a very rare case of bacterial meningitis and, whilst in a coma and with a completely inoperative neocortex – as he claims, the deeper part of him – that he had previously described as existing beyond time – deserted his body and his mortal identity, including his memories and his self-concept, to wander into other realms, meet otherworldly beings, have a conversation with god, and have glimpses into higher dimensions.

During his comatose metaphysical odyssey, he delved into the Underworld, the Gateway, and the Core, places that he was convinced were real.

The Underworld was characterised by “Darkness, but a visible darkness-like being submerged in mud yet also being able to see through it. Or maybe dirty Jell-O describes it better. Transparent, but in a bleary, blurry, claustrophobic, suffocating kind of way. Sound, too: a deep, rhythmic pounding, distant yet strong, so that each pulse of it goes right through you. Like a heartbeat? A little, but darker, more mechanical-like the sound of metal against metal

Whilst in this pulsing underworld, his consciousness was devoid of memory or concepts of identity, his existence was not limited by time, and he felt like his awareness was uncannily merging with his surroundings. In a way, the experience was dreamlike, as he could perceive what was happening around him, without having any self-concept. He didn’t have a body or at least the awareness of one, or the capacity to form words. It felt like he had regressed to a primordial state, he ponders, as far back as the bacteria that infected him, causing his illness – in a world devoid of emotion, logic, and language.

The traveller’s extremely apathetic predisposition gave him a certain invulnerability, due to his detachment from his memories and sense of self. Although he could judge that he may or may not survive that place, thoughts of either option caused nothing but indifference.

The narrator mentions this underworld dwelling was like being inside a murky womb with bloody vessel-like ramifications of a dirty scarlet aglow, or like being buried underground yet still able to see the matrixes of roots.

I am going to include his entire description of the place, because I feel it is a great image of an uncanny liminal space:

“The longer I stayed in this place, the less comfortable I became. At first I was so deeply immersed in it that there was no difference between “me” and the half-creepy, half-familiar element that surrounded me. But gradually this sense of deep, timeless, and boundary less immersion gave way to something else: a feeling like I wasn’t really part of this subterranean world at all, but trapped in it.

Grotesque animal faces bubbled out of the muck, groaned or screeched, and then were gone again. I heard an occasional dull roar. Sometimes these roars changed to dim, rhythmic chants, chants that were both terrifying and weirdly familiar-as if at some point I’d known and uttered them all myself.

As I had no memory of prior existence, my time in this realm stretched way, way out. Months? Years? Eternity? Regardless of the answer, I eventually got to a point where the creepy-crawly feeling totally outweighed the homey, familiar feeling. The more I began to feel like a me—like something separate from the cold and wet and dark around me—the more the faces that bubbled up out of that darkness became ugly and threatening. The rhythmic pounding off in the distance sharpened and intensified as well—became the work-beat for some army of troll-like underground laborers, performing some endless, brutally monotonous task. The movement around me became less visual and more tactile, as if reptilian, wormlike creatures were crowding past, occasionally rubbing up against me with their smooth or spiky skins. Then I became aware of a smell: a little like blood, and a little like vomit. A biological smell, in other words, but of biological death, not of biological life. As my awareness sharpened more and more, I edged ever closer to panic. Whoever or whatever I was, I did not belong here. I needed to get out. But where would I go? Even as I asked that question, something new emerged from the darkness above: something that wasn’t cold, or dead, or dark, but the exact opposite of all those things. If I tried for the rest of my life, I would never be able to do justice to this entity that now approached me . . . to come anywhere close to describing how beautiful it was. But I’m going to try.”

The being of light he continues to describe was spinning, emitting shiny, white-gold filaments causing the darkness enveloping the protagonist to fracture and disintegrate. Eventually, the whirling light revealed an opening, a portal that the traveller went through, feeling like being born into an idyllic, blissful world, where the inside and the outside were intertwined and where he also experienced uncanny feelings of déjà vu.

“Below me there was countryside. It was green, lush, and earth like. lt was earth, but at the same time it wasn’t. It was like when your parents take you back to a place where you spent some years as a very young child. You don’t know the place. Or at least you think you don’t. But as you look around, something pulls at you, and you realize that a part of yourself-a part way deep down-does remember the place after all, and is rejoicing at being back there again.”

The narrator continues to emphasise the realness of the place throughout the dreamlike descriptions. He also describes “the single most real” experience of his life: an encounter with a girl who communicates a special, soothing message to him by transferring its conceptual essence into his mind, wordlessly. Whilst acknowledging the limitations of earthly language, he translated the message as such:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”

“You have nothing to fear.”

“There is nothing you can do wrong.”

Inside the Core, advanced, ethereal, winged beings, scintillating creatures with silvery bodies, living sounds, and an elusive divine being blessed the surroundings. Everything was part of Source. After silently asking questions such as “Where is this place? Who am I? Why am I here?”, he mentions that “the answer came instantly in an explosion of light, colour, love, and beauty that blew through me like a crashing wave. What was important about these bursts was that they didn’t simply silence my questions by overwhelming them. They answered them, but in a way that bypassed language. Thoughts entered me directly. But it wasn’t thought like we experience on earth.”

This part was what struck a chord with me because of my own experience of transcendence. There is an uncanny resemblance between my own otherworldly encounter and the excerpt above, particularly the communication style, which is something that I’ve written about on my blog at some point and in my diary more extensively, and our words seem to describe a similar encounter – albeit with an extra element that was pretty essential in mine. It’s also relevant to say I was not in a coma or on DMT, and there were no perceptual hallucinations, it was an intense inner feeling whilst I was caught somewhere between worlds.

I would love to end this on a positive note and to say that this book will convert your world view on matters of the afterlife. Naturally, however, despite the credentials of the author, I was inclined to take the subject of his writing with a grain of salt, especially in regard to the moment when the NDE happened. I was so excited about this non-fiction book because it was written by a neurosurgeon who expressed his belief in science throughout it, as well as confidently asserting that his conclusions were grounded in medical analysis of his experience and on his deep familiarity with the most advanced concepts in brain science and consciousness studies. Normally when I read about NDEs, they often appear intertwined with the notion of a DMT-induced hallucination and there remains an unresolved issue of whether the voyage to alternative realms occurred during the coma or immediately before or after it, which is more scientifically plausible. This makes sense, especially considering the numerous cases of people who have miraculously awakened from extended comas, only to confirm that they only encountered nothingness beyond. There have been neuroscientists who also discredited the supernatural element of Dr Eben Alexander’s story, saying it was unscientific and justifying it using the same explanation I mentioned. One of the doctors involved in his case also stated that Eben was hallucinating before he went in a coma.

And I understand and still feel the scepticism. However, because of my experiences, I must say this story opens up that door of the esoteric inside my mind a little bit wider. I shall see if reading Dr Raymond A Moody will have the same effect.

The Uncanny Website Revamp

I just re-vamped the Uncanny Archive website, making it more atmospheric whilst including descriptions of different categories of the uncanny, as well as personal insights and additional information on the Freudian roots of the concept. There will be more web content coming up soon, so keep an eye out, especially if you’re a fellow lover of uncanny films and intriguing, moving narratives.

Within the first pages of his essay on Das Unheimliche, Freud adopts a humble tone, acknowledging that his analysis is limited by the lack of exposure to foreign literature due to conditions in the immediate post-World War I period. Within this historical context, the psychoanalyst’s interest and fascination with the uncanny arose from his experience treating post-war traumatic cases. This is evident in his essay, which consistently gravitates towards the subject of neurosis and the significance of repressed content of thought in the manifestation of the uncanny. 

Freud’s work itself turns out to possess some of the uncanny characteristics it describes. First of all, its purpose is to reveal something that is concealed within the parameters of subjectivity of feeling, of experience, and memories. […] Another aspect that Das Unheimliche shares with its subject and with many uncanny narratives is that it is haunting, repetitive, and filled with uncertainty. […] Certain works of art encompass that combination of factors through which the uncanny is born out of art and transcends into life, making the reader and the viewer experience it.

Visit the Uncanny Archive website to read more.

Liminal Space

A state of flux.

An ineffable sense of rapture of the mind, body, and soul.

A substitute for the spirit molecule.

A place where it’s safe to be human and where the concept of being human is unravelled at various stages in a way that will add to one’s self-worth, empathy, and awareness.

The texture of reality is mutable here. Your substance might go through physical and spiritual metamorphoses in tempestuous waves. Fragments of souls that are no longer around will reflect back at you unexplored feelings and aspects of your self on a visceral level.

You will witness the miracle of the self unfold. During your paradigm-shifting odyssey into this state of overwhelming multitudes, your core will be shaken and re-examined, but despite that, you will overflow with self-love even as you go through the transformative process. Your memories and dreams will be your friends, not your foes.

There will be upheavals, eventually followed by a sense of enlightenment and profound emotional intensity that will set new foundations in stone. No more lingering intrusive thoughts. No longer projecting and no longer being affected by other projections. An elation and liberation of the self.

Inserted myself in film stills from Stalker, Annihilation, and Solaris; photos edited and composited by me.

I had actually written a little uncanny story that these images were just accompanying, but I’ve decided to integrate that one exclusively in a greater project of the future.

Into the blue

April 2018 Diary Entry

Innocence lost, a long time ago. Nostalgia replaced. By curiosity for the unknown. By determination. Out of the cold, out of the black I rise and into the blue I delve with the excitement of a bird piercing through a portal in the sky, seeing the grandeur of another world, realising for the first time she had been flying inside a big cage surrounded by mist until that moment. There is warmth rising from within. I embrace the unknown. The unknown embraces me.

Photos from 2017-2018:

Self-love notes

Step into your wild self. Access your Dark Feminine energy to rediscover your full strength and unlock your untamed power. Recognise dark energies, but don’t fear them. Deconstruct the fortress of the self. Reweave the fabric of your world in innovative, transformative, driven ways. Embrace your Underworld i.e. shadow self, fears, desires; normalise negative emotions, seeing them as an opportunity to embrace authenticity. Allow yourself to experience nuanced emotions. Resist the temptation to bypass. Connect with yourself without neglecting the parts that you may have become disconnected from: reclaim them. Trust your instincts and assessments of the world, they’re usually accurate and you owe yourself self-belief. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Your intuition always sees through the fortresses of personas. Reframe your outlook on your whole existence. Embody the witch / alchemist archetype: Transform everything. Start by transforming your inner life, which will empower you to enact external change (including shifts in consciousness). Expand your vision, expand your knowledge. Only you have the power to hold yourself back from personal fulfilment. Some situations require control, others would be better navigated through an approach based on surrendering. You are the only one with the tools to discern between the two. Aim to be impervious to other people’s visions of your life’s trajectory. Avoid circumstances that don’t allow you to show up as your best, authentic self. Don’t feel a pressure to approach interpersonal relations as if they’re a performance and avoid situations where there is that expectation whenever possible. Healthy relationships don’t require you to change, pretend, cross your own boundaries, or feel depleted or uncomfortable in any way. Tap into childlike wonder and blissful maiden-like playfulness. Connect with nature more often. Be emotionally mature and empowered without losing a sense of connection with your innocence.

The engulfing

A beckoning sign.
I’ve been teetering on a thin line

The catalyst-
Something as simple
as a knife twist,

A reframing of purity-
turned glacial.
A false sense of security,

Withdrawing, inward
It’s coming, one step forward-
the possession
the engulfing
It’s on.

The switch has been turned.
The demon has been summoned
I sense the first intimations of life,
feel its claw without being touched,
almost taste its void, hushed
She picks up and licks the knife
it turns into a magic wand in her hand
the open wound morphs into a black hole
I can no longer lick it to exorcise my self
She is free to bleed into me, she’s in control
The last protective layer is pulled off, violently.

After a battle spree
progressing morbidly, artfully
I summon the will
to lull the beast to sleep
before I get silent and still
I’m in it really deep
yet once again manage to make it all seep
out of me as I get ready to take another leap.

Siren’s prayer

In my dream
I was a siren, dwelling
in a pool of blood
filled with corpses
of preys
their starved predator;
Musical, aquatic Scheherazade-
unwilling witness, captive,
or cold-blooded accomplice
with a gnawing change of heart-
so not so cold-blooded after all?
Moon-intoxicated, I sensed
your presence from afar,
running, teeth-clenching-
anxiety rising,
to the last tidal dream,
I wonder – who am I
supposed to
the new live prey,
the ghosts of the dead,
or you?
Reluctant to find out,
I sing my melody, inwardly
to drown out the sound
of your blood feast.

Uncanny encounter

Lifting the white veil, I open the old, mysterious drawer. Inside, next to a fairy tale-infused wooden music box and some forgotten Christmas and birthday cards that seem to either yearn for my full attention or yearn to be left alone or be destroyed, I see the charming box where the photographs are stored – those prosthetic memories that seem to have developed a life of their own. Where I currently live, few objects that are explicitly mnemonic tend to survive the memorabilia purge I execute regularly sometimes in my attempts at minimalism and sometimes for the sake of symbolically shedding the past and starting afresh – a peculiar habit, perhaps, for someone fascinated with archives and the archival process and antique stores. Any letter or card would have to be extremely emotional, soul-stirring, and potentially heart-wrenching for some reason (for instance reflecting the cavernously deep feelings of the sender) in order to coexist with me for long periods of time. I’d have to feel like throwing it away would be a blasphemous act. Or alternatively, there should be something within that object that propelled my mind to get spiritually irrational and make up a superstition about it, specifically a superstition of what might happen if I got rid of it, so I just let it rest in some corner instead, where it’s cast into oblivion.

Any physical diaries I have ever had have been burnt – I couldn’t get rid of them in any other way: flames are symbolic. The process is more cathartic than deleting a LiveJournal account, but everything has been digitised and that works for me, despite the supposed deprivation of the haptic pleasure and of the magic of writing with a fountain pen in a beguilingly beautiful notebook. With the amazing texture, designs, and cover art of some notebooks nowadays, I’d probably decay with indecision whilst trying to decide what thoughts were noble enough to be written in such a diary anyway, and if I managed to decide, I’d still curse myself whenever I have to cross out one word and I would embellish the hell out of those noble thoughts to the point where it would be more of an exercise in literary style, imagination, and language rather than one in authenticity, self-awareness, or memory preservation. I suppose I’ll stick to the occasional LiveJournal entries and notes on my phone for that.

I have also deleted many photographs along the years and there are long chapters in my life that only ever still exist, in some vague, distorted form, in my mind. Rather than doing so out of an impulse or lapse in judgement, it was always planned and I have always been at peace with it, which is even more sacrilegious. Freud would be disappointed – he praised the power of photography to act as a reliable mnemonic device, since physical proof of a memory combats the decay the memory would face if it were only stored in one’s mind – hence liable to distortions over time. In his view, diaries, photographs, cards, are all part of a chain of mnemonic devices which free us, helping us unload the burden that we would have to hold if memories were permanently retained in our minds. They are extensions of identity, of your inner life, aiding our capacity to remember, which in turn allows us to absorb new information and conceive fresh thoughts. Eh, anyway, family photos, in particular, lie by omission – in addition to being an enemy to individuality, which is sacrificed in favour of an unreal collective past. Belonging whilst losing one’s self. Not to mention the notion of counter-memory and how trying to retain the past might only bring about its destruction, ultimately alienating you from your past and from life and making you construct false or weirdly altered memories. Photographic self-obliteration as a form of resurrection or metamorphosis. The intersection between the other and the self, photographic depiction and identity: the end of existence.

I open the charming, memory-preserving or memory-annihilating box. The photo album has an imposing, magnetic presence. As I turn the pages, I remember most of the photos, so they’re hardly nostalgic artefacts. I’m quite desensitised due to this observation and the fact that nothing seems to elicit an emotional response. But then I reach one portrait that I must have seen before, surely, and yet there’s something I haven’t read on her face before. Am I imagining this? It seems uncanny. The girl in the picture, a defying, atemporal doppleganger, an embodiment of a spectral condition, seems to want to tell me “I refuse to exist as an afterthought in this simulacrum”. She wants to step out of the frame and haunt. “I want to smell like Alien, not naphthalene. And this curse of only seeing the light every few years during the holidays…” She reprimands me for forgetting her, for misunderstanding and misconstructing her, for only reanimating her as a “Screen Memory” on rare occasions. I want to hug her. Tell her she is more myself than I am, in a way. Tell her she wouldn’t like it out here. But I remain silent. My expectation of chasing decaying memory traces has turned into an uncanny Blow-Up moment as I catch a glimpse of resignation and almost grief on her face. As I notice this, the door to the unconscious is slightly open, but not enough for her to escape. I know I was supposed to integrate her. But she will be here until next time, feeling trapped. And I will still feel both protective and afraid of her. Perhaps next Christmas it will be different.


What was that, right there?


Your sigh… a sign of weariness, blasé indifference, the content of decadence, spiritual relief?

Concealed contempt, a remembrance of loss, emotional capitulation, or repressed agony?

No, it was actually me remembering your intrusive habit of analysing nonverbal cues and how in moments like these it tends to rub me the wrong way. Consider it a sign of my discontent with this dynamic.

We should look into that, I’m sure there’s a reason for it. And for building invisible barriers of psychological impenetrability and feeling resentment whenever I try to cross them. Perhaps it’s because…

Hilarious. You’re talking about trespassing, excavating, and infusing. There’s a way to enter someone’s inner world, force and a lack of subtlety are usually not the way. And seriously…The fact that you get visibly and, depending on your familiarity or affinity with the observer, often vocally irritated when the same treatment of psyche dissection is being inflicted upon you without consent…Now, what was that golden rule of Confucius?

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves?

That’s probably misattributed. And a cautionary statement more than a rule. Give it another shot.

To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it!

…Also not a rule. And I’ll be buried with my grudges.

Not an ethical rule, but a self-help rule. Look, I know, but are you truly bothered or just digging up reasons to be dissatisfied with and closed off to me?

It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.

You don’t actually live by that. Also, preaching about trust… Your obsessive devotion to double standards is the gateway drug to narcissism. But I’ll look past this because I see a version of myself in you.

Your dogmatic devotion to projection under the disguise of spiritual awareness is a gateway drug to psychotic solipsism.