The enduring mystery of the hereafter – a film and a book

Philosophical books and films about life–after–death have been and continue to be published – especially in countries, like Brazil, that are not so ideologically committed to the fundamentalisms of either Big Science or Big Religion. Autobiographical accounts of near-death experiences (NDE) continue to appear and regularly land on the non-fiction best-seller lists – testifying to our unending interest in what happens, or might happen, after the end of our life here on this Earth. I want to discuss here the 2010 Brazilian film Astral City – A Spiritual Journey and the 2012 autobiographical Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D., sub-titled A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.

The filmAstral City, which can be found and purchased through Amazon, is based on the Brazilian best-selling novel Nosso Lar (Our Home), by the renowned Spiritist medium Chico Xavier (1910-2002). On YouTube ( one can watch a 5-min. film about this remarkable man, with only a primary school education, who devoted his life to counseling and serving others through a process known as “automatic writing.”  Through such means he also produced over 400 books, including one of poems by well-known deceased Brazilian poets.  All of the proceeds from his healings, counselings and writings were devoted to charity.  In the YouTube clip you can see him filling page after page of writing with his right hand while holiding his head and shielding his eyes with the other. His left hand didn’t know what his right hand was doing! The Wikipedia entry for Chico Xavier says his books sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide. “Heavily influenced by works of Allan Kardec, Xavier professed that his hand was guided by spirits. Xavier called his spiritual guide Emmanuel, who according to Xavier, lived in ancient Rome as Senator Publius Lentulus, was reincarnated in Spain as Father Damian, and later as a professor at the Sorbonne.Chico Xavier was twice nominated for the Nobel peace prize.

Like many others I found the film-story Astral City to be remarkably authentic and convincing – meaning that it is consistent with everything else I have personally come to understand about the possibilities of communication with spirits in the hereafter. In the story, a deceased doctor gradually comes to realize he has a role to play as a healer, working with those who transition in states of severe illness or delusion – but he first has to learn the vastly expanded and deepened possibilities of the astral world. We also see and hear about the lessons human spirits have to learn when first transiting into the after-life,  and the fact that choices exist even here. There is a scene, reminiscent of some of Dante’s descriptions of the hell world, where the confused ghosts of recently deceased individuals are roaming around in a desolate and dark landscape, not having accepted that they are dead. Then, as soon as the individual asks God for help of their own free will, a crew of astral paramedics arrive to escort him to the healing places for rest and recuperation. Some spirits are refusing to acknowledge that they are dead and make desperate and futile attempts to move to the earthly world they have left, but to which they cannot return  – without going through the whole process until their next incarnation.


The book Proof of Heaven, Dr. Eban Alexander’s account of his NDE, also contains a good deal of  information and description about the nature of the after-death world, from which he returned. But here, the descriptions come from the pen of someone at the other end of the scale than Chico Xavier. He was a skeptical agnostic about life after death –  as expected, perhaps required, from the guild of his professional peers.  Dr. Alexander was a highly trained and experienced neurosurgeon, who had heard accounts of NDEs from patients he had treated, but considered them fantasies produced by the brain under stress.  His nervous system had contracted a rare viral illness that attacked the two higher levels of the brain, leaving him in a comatose, vegetative state – in which he remained for seven days.

On the day when his doctors and family decided they were going to take him off the continuous drip-feed of antibiotics – he unexpectedly opened his eyes and announced that he had come back. He made a complete recovery of all his functions – a process that took several months, during which he also put in writing everything that he experienced during his OBE/NDE  – one of the most complex, detailed and vivid accounts I have read. Raymond Moody, M.D., one of the first physicians to study and report on NDEs writes that “Dr. Eban Alexander’s near-death experience is the most astounding I have heard in more than four decades of studying this phenomenon. He is living proof of an after-life.”

Eban Alexander’s account of the after-death realms is consistent with that of Chico Xavier in several respects. He talks about the first memories he has of being in a realm he later came to call “the earthworm’s-eye view” – a dark, featureless, human-less world of clammy, mud. Reminiscent of other descriptions of the realm of those who do not yet realize they have died. In comparison to other published accounts of NDEs, Alexander’s account is distinctive in that it has no descriptions of going through a tunnel and meeting light-beings who escort him – he was just hurtled straight into a bodiless realm. He eventually learned that all he had to do to bring himself to the higher realms was to think of them (“thought directs energy”) and long for them (“longing leads to belonging”).

During my time out of my body, I accomplished the back-and-forth movement from the muddy darkness of the Realm of the Earthworm’s-Eye View to the green brilliance of the Gateway and into the black but holy darkness of the Core any number of times. …Each time I went to the Core I went deeper than before, and was taught more, in the wordless, more-than-verbal way that all things are communicated in the worlds above this one. ..One of the truths driven home to me in the Core each time I returned to it was how impossible it would be to understand all that exists – either its physical/visible side or its (much, much larger) spiritual/invisible side, not to mention the countless other universes that exist or have ever existed.

But none of that mattered, because I had already been taught the one thing – the only thing–that, in the last analysis, truly matters. I had initially received this piece of knowledge from my lovely companion on the butterfly wing upon my first entrance into the Gateway. It came in three parts, and to take one more shot at putting it into words (because of course it was delivered wordlessly), it would run something like this:

You are loved and cherished.
You have nothing to fear.
There is nothing you can do wrong.

There is much more in this fascinating true-life account, which surely delivers a powerful but compassionate blow to the entrenched materialist worldview of modern science and medicine – by a highly qualified member of its intellectual elite.  One of the things I appreciated especially about Dr. Alexander’s book is the Appendix in which he systematically lists and refutes nine “neuroscientific hypotheses I considered to explain my experience.” One of these was a “DMT dump from the pineal.” He refutes this explanation by saying “my cortex was off, and the DMT would have had no place in the brain to act…the hypothesis fails on the basis of the ultra-reality of the audio-visual experience, and the lack of cortex on which to act.”