The Literary Examiner

Nov 10, 2014 at 02:54 pm by steve

Eban Alexander, M.D.

The Map of Heaven

by Eban Alexander, M.D. (with Ptolemy Tompkins)

c.2014, Simon & Schuster; $21.99 / $26.99 Canada; 208 pages



Doesn’t that feel like an undeserved admonishment? Make a wrong turn, take a different road, and your GPS unit scolds you for not following directions. Sometimes, even when you do, you’re lost anyway.

Isn’t that the way things happen? If you don’t know what path you’re taking, you can’t be sure where you are. But in “The Map of Heaven” by Eban Alexander, M.D. (with Ptolemy Tompkins), you may find the plat you need to know where you’re going.

You are a star.

Literally, some of what’s inside you came from “ancient, now long-dead stars.” We are “organic chemistry and biochemistry” and the Bible says we will return to dust when we die. But since time began, humans have wondered if there’s “more to the story.”

Lately, science has tried to answer that with a “Theory of Everything.” The problem is that that doesn’t settle profound questions on the meaning of existence. We can look to religion, but that may not have an answer, either.

Instead, says Alexander, “The key to understanding this world... is to remember the place above and beyond, where we really came from.” Heaven, he believes, is what makes us human and, without it, “life makes no sense.” Furthermore, when we become open to the “larger world behind the one we see around us every day,” we will find the “Gifts of Heaven.”

The Gift of Meaning, for instance, is something that “people are starving for,” but that is already inherent in life. Part of understanding it lies in understanding that coincidences are not coincidental, but may be messages from beyond.

The Gift of Vision allows us to see how we’re connected with one another and with every living thing. The Gift of Belonging helps us know that we are where we need to be, and that “higher worlds” surround us. The Gift of Strength teaches that we will someday be much more than we are today. The Gift of Hope tells us that we “must not forget that [this world] is not all there is.”

Imagine yourself standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking down. What you’d see is not quite how deep “The Map of Heaven” is.

Using ancient philosophy, modern psychology and medicine, science, etymology, letters from readers, several different religious tenets, and a big dose of New Age, author Eben Alexander, M.D. attempts to put the Afterlife in context for us on Earth.

This expounding on his previous book (“Proof of Heaven”) is provocative, but also quite disorienting. Alexander bounces from one discipline to another so quickly (sometimes in the same sentence) and so often without context that I generally had a very hard time following his thoughts before he careened to the next idea.

It could be argued, I suppose, that this imparts a sort of excitement to what’s said here, and the meaning behind the meaning of life. That could be so, but just know that “The Map of Heaven” is as deep as they come and it may cause your brain to recalculate.


Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri is a professional book reviewer who has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book.

March 2024

Mar 20, 2024 at 11:19 am by kbarrettalley

Your March 2024 Issue of Birmingham Medical News is Here!