In 2008, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander lay comatose in a hospital, a rare form of bacterial meningitis attacking his brain. His neocortex -- the part of the brain that controls sensory perception, conscious thought and language, among other functions -- had shut down. "My memories of my life on earth, of this universe... and certainly of family and all my words, language, all of that was completely gone," he says.
Which is why what happened next is what opened this man of science to the existence of an afterlife. In a "Super Soul Sunday" interview with Oprah Winfrey (airing Sunday, December 2, at 11 a.m. ET on OWN), Dr. Alexander describes what he saw when he awoke on the other side.
He says he was "just a piece of awareness" with no memory of who he was or his life before, and describes seeing this new world from an "earthworm-eye" view. "Initially, I was in this kind of vague, foggy, murky underground," he says. "It was like being in dirty Jell-O," he says. "I had a very strong sense of either roots or vessels or something dark and red kind of strandy coming through around me."
The place was primitive, he says. "There was a pounding mechanical sound deep somewhere off in the distance," he says. "Every now and then there might be some grotesque face or something that would boil up out of the muck and then chant or roar and go back into the muck. It was kind of a hideous place, yet I remember nothing else."
"Do you remember being afraid?" Oprah asks.
No, Dr. Alexander says. "It was just kind of the way it is," he says. "It was existence, so there was no memory of anything better, so it seemed OK."