For millennia, humans have wondered what happens after we die. Finally, we have a definitive answer: this week, in an exclusive cover story, Newsweek reveals that "Heaven Is Real." And it sounds suspiciously like a DMT trip as described on internet drug forums.
For nearly as long as humans have been thinking about the possibility of an afterlife, they've also been reading the "Experiences" essays on Erowid.org — accounts of trips and experimentations written by conscientious drug users. Finally, the two pastimes converge, in "Heaven Is Real: A Doctor's Experience With the Afterlife," possibly the most embarrassing cover story Newsweek has ever run, in which Dr. Eben Alexander falls into a coma and apparently, uh, goes to heaven.
Alexander's account of his experience is exactly as well-written, exactly as scientific, and exactly as interesting as most of the stories in Erowid's "Experience Vault." And that's not the only similarity! Below, take our test: Newsweek cover story or message-board post about drugs? Winners get to go to heaven.
1) Newsweek Cover Story "Heaven Is Real" or Ayahuasca Experience "The Din of Celestial Birds"?
"Birds? Angels? These words registered later, when I was writing down my recollections. But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms."
"A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it. [... T]he joy of these creatures, as they soared along, was such that they had to make this noise — that if the joy didn't come out of them this way then they would simply not otherwise be able to contain it."
3) Newsweek Cover Story "Heaven Is Real" or DMT Experience "The People Behind the Curtain"?
"As I walked deeper, I could see, standing in the middle of the room, [...] an object similar to an hour glass. It was slowly turning over. I became aware that this vessel, as it tipped over, transferring its contents from the small red end to the larger blue end, was transforming me."
"If the head is the center of vision, what I saw encompassed a field extending to behind the ears. A fury of colors came into focus throughout this field, and out of the overwhelming mass of color a being emerged. Although the origin and nature of this being were not known to me, I was in awe of it, and I knew that I was powerless in its presence. It both hated and adored me and communicated through ambient noise which held my undivided attention."
5) Newsweek Cover Story "Heaven Is Real" or Morning Glory Seeds Experience "The Face of God on a Mountain Top"?
"For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. She was young, and I remember what she looked like in complete detail. She had high cheekbones and deep-blue eyes. Golden brown tresses framed her lovely face. When first I saw her, we were riding along together on an intricately patterned surface, which after a moment I recognized as the wing of a butterfly. In fact, millions of butterflies were all around us — vast fluttering waves of them, dipping down into the woods and coming back up around us again."
"Almost immediately, I felt as if I were being sucked down and backward, through some kind of barrier or membrane, and that everything that got sucked back into this emptiness was turning hard, or to stone. [...] Immediately intimidated by this encompassing sensation of death[...], I seemed to stop my passage by sheer force of will. I felt as if my face, feet and hands were sticking out above/below/in front of the infinite membrane that bisected my body."
7) Newsweek Cover Story "Heaven Is Real" or Mushrooms & Cannabis Experience "Ego Death Reborn, By Way Of The Slug"?
"The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I'd say they ran something like this: 'You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.' 'You have nothing to fear.' 'There is nothing you can do wrong.' The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief. It was like being handed the rules to a game I'd been playing all my life without ever fully understanding it."
"I had the sense of being catapulted head over heels through some kind of warp in space or time. I became aware of strange spiral arches that looked [...] like the double helix DNA strands. The coils seemed to be composed of colorful, moving trains and buses. I heard somebody's voice. I cannot recollect what it said. There was also the presence of my mother. Had I become her? Because it also felt as though 'I' was no longer 'me.'"
9) Newsweek Cover Story "Heaven Is Real" or DMT Experience "Blue By You"?
"My final memory is being in absolute nothingness, except for one spirit. As I looked at it, it started to oscillate, so as I was looking at myself — or what I perceived was myself — I was changing form a thousand times a second. The oscillations became faster — and the spirit wanted to know who it was. It wasn't asked in words, but I knew what the question was — somehow. I said 'I don't know.'"
"I continued moving forward and found myself entering an immense void, completely dark, infinite in size, yet also infinitely comforting. Pitch-black as it was, it was also brimming over with light: a light that seemed to come from a brilliant orb that I now sensed near me. The orb was a kind of "interpreter" between me and this vast presence surrounding me. It was as if I were being born into a larger world, and the universe itself was like a giant cosmic womb, and the orb [...] was guiding me through it."
"Heaven Is Real: A Doctor's Experience With the Afterlife": 1, 2, 5, 7, 10.
Image by Jim Cooke, source photos via Shutterstock