Spotlight: A Conversation with Dr. Eben Alexander & Karen Newell: When Science Meets Spiritual
by Kathy Tarbell
KT: In Proof of Heaven, you detail the medical condition that led to your coma and vividly describe your near-death experience (NDE) while in that unconscious state. Your latest book, Living in a Mindful Universe, which you co-wrote with Karen Newell, is an effort to unite science and spirituality. What prompted you to commit to such an ambitious project?
EA: As a scientist, I’m very interested in the scientific explanations for all of this. Since my coma, I’ve discovered that there are hundreds of scientists around this world who are working on the very deep mystery of the primacy of consciousness, and that tremendous scientific progress has been made toward explaining it. It’s truly a revolution.
KT: What do you think is prompting this revolution?
EA: For thousands of years this kind of spiritualist knowledge was based on the journeys of prophets and mystics. However, that changed in the late 60s when doctors developed ways to resuscitate cardiac arrest patients. By doing so they’ve now populated this world with tens of millions of souls who have been to the other side and come back. I think it’s all those NDEs that are shifting the balance tremendously and taking us to a new level of understanding, and it’s broadly supported by the science. That’s the thing that makes this revolution so extraordinary.
KT: How has the recognition of the primacy of consciousness changed your own approach to healing?
EA: I think it changes everything. Consciousness studies now strongly affirm that the assumptions of material science—that the material world is all that exists and that consciousness beyond the brain is an illusion—has turned out to be 180 degrees off from the truth. This is a complete flip in understanding how much power the mind has over matter. We see it strongly in the placebo effect, yet most people don’t understand just how powerful the placebo effect can be. People have cured themselves of cancer and rid themselves of advanced infections and things like that just through the belief that they can do so. The most extraordinary examples of profound healing occur in near-death experiences, which I would say is like a placebo effect on steroids.
KT: That was especially evident in your own case of full recovery.
EA: There’s no explanation within Western medicine for my kind of recovery from meningitis with such extensive damage to the neocortex and brain stem. Naturally, it has attracted a lot of scientific interest because it challenges perceptions.
KT: Eventually, your study and research on non-local consciousness led to a curiosity about methods people used to access realms similar to your NDE experience. It also led to a fortuitous meeting. Karen, how did you and Eben meet?
KN: We both enrolled in a seminar on how to achieve different states of consciousness. I’ve never had a life altering experience, like an NDE, but I always accepted that our consciousness existed before we were born and would continue to exist after we die. Even as a child, I could sense a God force, mostly through communing with nature and animals, and I was mystically curious. My thirst to know more led me to learn through a long series of personal experiences along with experimenting with lots of different theories and techniques.
KT: Eventually you tried HeartMath, which proved to be transformative for you. How did you hear about it?
KN: I had been doing a tremendous amount of reading, and HeartMath kept coming up. I knew that love in the heart was the key, but I soon figured out that I didn’t really know how to feel in the heart. HeartMath teaches a coherence technique where you focus on the heart to generate feelings of gratitude. I couldn’t do that at all. I could only think of things I was grateful for. HeartMath and Sufi heart rhythm meditation allowed me to realize that between me and feeling was stored emotional trauma I’d forgotten about. Once that was activated and cleared, I started to have more supernatural experiences, because I was now able to get behind who I really am and not that surface kind of person we all kind of create to get along in the world.
KT: Another big change happened when you discovered sound and acoustics.
KN: Yes. At the time, I was trying countless techniques seeking anything that would help me quiet the mind. Typical meditation was a waste of time, because all I would do is sit and think. But adding sound, like crystal bowls and tuning forks, anything with binaural beats, helped me tremendously. Especially when I combined sound with what I call “heart breathing”. And sound alone, even without heart breathing, would start to trigger things. It absolutely helped me recognize the inner observer and realize my thoughts were a separate part of me. All of that became possible because sound served as a meditative aid, and it was absolutely necessary to get me over that hump of quieting the mind and accessing the beyond—the non-physical part of myself.
KT: It was this interest in sound that sparked a collaborative effort with Kevin Kossi, an audio engineer, to create binaural-beat sound recordings. Tell us about that.
KN: Binaural beat recordings correlate to brain-wave states: alpha, beta, delta, theta and gamma. By using different frequency combinations, listeners are helped to relax into an expanded state of awareness. Kevin and I had been experimenting with combinations for about a year when we invited Eben to join in the experience.
KT: Eben, I understand that Kevin worked with you to create sound mixes perfectly suited to you. What did you experience?
EA: My main interest was to see if the recordings would help me reconnect to the realms I experienced in my NDE. And they did. Not in the full hyperreality that I experienced during my coma, but these “sound journeys” far exceed simply recalling my NDE memories. This has now become my preferred form of daily meditation. And it’s also why I encouraged Karen and Keven to form their company, Sacred Acoustics.
KT: This is a featured part of what you and Karen are building online to help others connect to expanded awareness. Correct?
EA: That’s right. What we are working on now is what we call the Inner Sanctum Center program that helps people learn how to detach from the physical world
to explore within. The site is now live
and promises to be a powerful way for people to discover that your outer world
is ultimately dependent on the structure
of your inner world. Meditation that centers prayer and opens ourselves to the primordial mind of the universe is the
key, and we offer meditative techniques
to do that. And that’s the important thing. All who are interested can go to
There is also a free, 33-day email course at EbenAlexander.com. Just click on the popup banner to get started. This course covers a lot of the major points within Living in a Mindful Universe. It’s all free and it includes some sacred acoustics meditation files plus a lot of practice suggestions. More than 8,000 people have already taken the course and have reported really radical transformations in understanding. It also has a translate button, so people from all countries can participate. Plus, a tremendous community has grown up around this 33-day journey, because people are leaving instructions and their own experiences on each page. There is no fee—all you have to do is provide your name and an email address. So, we’re very happy about how that course is helping people.
Personal experience is also available to all through sacred acoustics. Visit SacredAcoustics.com to learn more about that.
Basically, the tools for personal exploration are there, the scientific framework is there, so it’s really incumbent on any truth-seeker to follow these pathways.
KT: The journey for you both has been amazing. What is the most important message you’d like to leave with readers?
EA: While we started from completely different points, both Karen’s and my journey arrived at the same place; that love, mercy and compassion are at the core of the universe; and that the Golden Rule is basically written into the fabric of the universe, so if we hurt others, we’re hurting ourselves. So, we are committed to helping as many people as possible get connected to that ultimate truth.
Eben Alexander, MD, was an academic neurosurgeon for more than 25 years, including 15 years at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School in Boston, with a passionate interest in physics and cosmology. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Proof of Heaven and The Map of Heaven. Visit him online at EbenAlexander.com.
Karen Newell is a lifelong seeker of esoteric wisdom and has amassed a wealth of first-hand experience exploring realms of consciousness. Cofounder of Sacred Acoustics, she teaches how to enter and engage with expanded awareness in order to connect to inner guidance, achieve inspiration, improve wellness and enhance intuition. Visit her online at SacredAcoustics.com.
Kathy Tarbell is the managing editor for the Central and North Central New Jersey editions of Natural Awakenings. She can be reached at [email protected].
Dr. Eben Alexander will be featured at a Wellness Gala Special Event speaking on his book Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Heart of Consciousness from 6:30-9 p.m., on October 28, at the Hilton Hasbrouck Heights. For information and tickets, call 973-713-6811 or visit WellnessGala.com.