Proof of Heaven and A Panorama of Possibilities
I first heard about ‘near death experiences’ in the late 1970’s when I was home from college on vacation. It was a term not yet in vogue. My dad was watching an interview on PBS with a middle-aged woman whose voice and demeanor expressed intelligence, groundedness, and compassion—someone with integrity. She was describing an extraordinary experience that happened while she temporarily died, of immense bliss, expansion, unconditional love. Whereas she had been doubtful about the existence of consciousness beyond this life, her inner journey gave an absolute certainty that human consciousness DOES exist beyond this material life. As a result, this woman dedicated her life to uplifting those who faced terminal illness, or had lost loved ones, by sharing her life-altering experience.
I was riveted by her account. I soon read Life After Life by Raymond Moody,an early pioneer in ‘Near Death Experience’ research. Since then, thousands of stories have been shared. Dr. Eben Alexander’s book, A Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, has recently captured attention internationally. While in coma with a sudden illness that shut down key functional areas of his brain, he undergoes a ‘journey’ within consciousness that broke open his limited understanding that life is restricted to the material world. He enters a vast, magnificent world of beautiful sounds and sights and unsurpassed joy. His awareness went further into an essential ‘Core’ in which he was immersed in limitless, unconditional love and total knowledge. He experienced unity with the Divine and everyone and everything in the universe.
Prior to this, Dr. Alexander had been a skeptic about anything beyond the material world. But his inner journey opened a sense of transcendent reality that had a quality of self-evident truth.
From his training in neurology, Dr. Alexander analyzed his experience within the parameters of science. He concludes that indeed, human consciousness not only exists beyond materiality, but that consciousness itself is the primary source of life.
Dr. Alexander also recognizes that it is not necessary to have a near-fatal illness in order to expand our full potential. We all have the capacity to unfold higher states of consciousness now, in this lifetime. He recommends meditation as a key way to do this.
After his life-altering adventure, Dr. Alexander began researching everything he could on the development of consciousness—from ancient spiritual traditions, to personal accounts, to cutting edge research. These three approaches to knowledge are what Maharishi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, called the ‘Three Eurekas’. When asked how we can have complete knowledge about anything, Maharishi responded that we should consider three sources: the records of ancient seers, scientific research, and our own experience.
The science of consciousness that Maharishi revived, unfolded, and clarified, provides a powerful key for understanding the universal human quest for enlightenment. More than that, it includes a practical technique, Transcendental Meditation, for cultivating higher states of consciousness. Because TM is so natural, it allows for a gradual refinement and purification of mind and body—both of which are needed in order to allow for Self-realization in this life.
My own fascination with the development of higher stages of human development brought me to Harvard Divinity School. Having graduated from Maharishi University, I had a thorough understanding of how knowledge of our world is indeed ‘structured in consciousness,’ and that ‘knowledge is different in different states of consciousness,’ and that we as human beings are capable of experiencing far, far more in our awareness than the status quo. As I studied spiritual accounts from around the world, I found many corroborations of this magnificent vista of human potential. Throughout time and place, teachers urge us to realize that our life has immense potential; that there is no need to stay stuck in limitations and suffering.
I saw this profound perspective taught in a wide range of traditions. From my own background, teachings I had taken for granted began to have far more meaning: The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all else will be given to you (Matthew 6:33). In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places….(John 14:2).
I was fascinated with the accounts of mystics who described resplendent glimpses of human potential. Hildegarde of Bingen wrote, And it came to pass…that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming…and suddenly I understood the meaning of the expositions of books….
Dr. Alexander exhorted, and Maharishi taught, that these are not intellectual concepts or imaginary fancies. These are direct experiences of Reality. But the key question is, how do we cultivate this experience ourselves? We do not want to just leave this to chance.
Spiritual traditions point to two fundamental and related necessities—silence and purification. We need to transcend the noise of the world and of our awareness. For example, the Lakota Indians teach that the greatest support in the spiritual quest, and in life in general, is silence – and that the very voice of the sacred is Silence.
We see this also in the Hebrew Bible: In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15
We are told to enter into the field of silence within, the field of rejuvenating joy, peace, expansion, power, total knowledge, and love. Immerse ourselves in this deep rest through regular practice. Through time, the nervous system gradually purifies itself of stress, and awareness gradually unfolds its full potential—the state of enlightenment—where bliss, intelligence, creativity, freedom, knowledge, and love are unbounded.
The renowned psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross advised, Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose.
As women, we have great capacity for refined awareness. We have the potential to experience that all of creation is a symphony of joy and jubilation (Hildegarde of Bingen). Transcendental Meditation is a powerful and effective means to cultivate our awareness so that we not only have glimpses, but stabilized experience, of heaven on earth. And through us, we can be instruments for creating heaven on earth for all.
About the Author
Cynthia Johnson is a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and is a mother, wife and writer. She is a contributor to the book A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision (1st and 2nd editions) by George Ellis.