Opening the door

Deep ✨

I keep thinking about the links between mind-altering substances, reality and the afterlife. In honour of dr. Bruce Greyson, who is actually doing research on the similarities between near-death experiences and psychedelics, I want to raise the question: are these drugs really ‘altering’ the way our brain works, or are they ‘opening’ the spectrum of what we can perceive? 

Mind-altering or mind-expanding?

In the dutch language, we call psychedelics ‘mind-expanding’ substances, translated literally. This assumes that they don’t mislead us, but open up our brain to another world, different concepts, or maybe another dimension. Are the dutch up to something, or are we just disagreeing on semantics here?

Dr. Bruce Greyson seems to suspect the former. Because in his studies, he already has proven that people who go through near-death experiences, all talk about some of the same places or concepts when they come back alive. He differentiates the interpretations of what they saw according to different cultures, i.e. a Christian may describe what he saw as God or the heavens, while an atheist describes ‘a light, warming presence’ or ‘the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen’. 

You can easily argue, as dr. Bruce Greyson does, that they actually saw a very similar thing, but their cultivated minds interpreted and explained the same concepts differently – inevitably matching their current world views- once back in their human form.

Another reality

The curiosity of his research on psychedelics is this: could the place we see, and the things we feel when we take these substances, in (this or another) reality be the same place and things we experience when we die? And this question really, really does keep me up at night.

Especially when I hear friends seeing the same ‘imaginary’ things while using substances, without being able to communicate with each other. Could these be the same similarities that different people who survived near-death experiences describe? Could they all somehow have opened a (the same?) door that normally stays closed? I once asked my friend (as I have never used psychedelics before) whether it feels like you’re being deceived, or whether it feels like you’re actually seeing stuff that is always there, but you’re only now seeing. She whole-heartedly said the latter. For example, people often claim to see how everything in nature is connected – which matches my worldview even sober.

I think this possibility plays on my mind a lot because it’s such a bold suggestion. But, if we one day prove this to be true, it has far-reaching consequences. Not only then have we proven that there is something called an afterlife, but we can also then suggest that this place and experience is not only granted after death, but we can also ‘visit’ this ‘place’ while still being alive – through the use of psychedelics!

Un-learning to see

There is one thing I want to add to this thought experiment. The things that substance users or the survivors of near-death experiences try to describe, I sometimes recognise in children. Young children often claim to see things that we cannot see. They talk to lost relatives, see imaginary friends and sometimes describe the reality of a simple house or street completely different from adults. 

When we remember the dutch description of psychedelics as ‘mind-expanding’, could it be that this expansive state is actually our natural state, and that we narrow our mind down as we grow older (for obvious reasons such as saving brain energy, order in the chaos, focus on survival)? Could it be that we unlearn to see the abundance of the world, the fullness of reality, the extravagance of the universe as adults? And could the afterlife and psychedelics be a remedy for this all? 

If yes, I would love to learn to do this in the now, without any substance. Could that be a part of the future? I’d love to hear your opinion. 

xx Coco

Why death is not the end

Deep ✨

Even though I was brought up as an atheist and materialist, my thoughts on life, love and death don’t match these world views. They have shifted a lot since I was younger. Partly because of events I have experienced, and partly because of my interest in philosophy and spirituality taught me to open my mind and heart on certain topics. My thoughts on death, therefore, are pretty alien to many people around me. Let me tell you why I don’t think death is the end for us – and remember, these are just my thoughts. I’m no expert (yet).


The first time I realised that atheists and materialists might be all wrong about life and death, was when I learned that according to physics, energy does not perish. In nature, energy changes form, moves and transforms, but it never really goes away.

And this matches the consensus that the universe is still expanding (that’s what we mean when we say, the universe is infinite). Infinity means endless expansion, and if you hold that thought it would make no sense that any energy is ever lost.

The level of energy in the universe should at least stay the same (as the amount of energy that was created by the big bang) but in an expanding universe it will most likely become even more energy. In that fashion, we are not only talking about no real deaths at all, but we are even talking about endless births. How is that for abundance?

This made me think about the energy that gives life to human beings – it takes energy to be born, to live and move around, to enjoy, to love – and to die. What then happens with this energy? We often like to think that when our body dies, nothing else like the soul or spirit stays behind. But what then do we call this energy that isn’t lost or dead? And where does it go?


This brings me to my interest for reincarnation. Throughout my life, I have heard stories about kids knowing things they couldn’t have known unless they were present in a certain past event – in a different body. As a different person.

Of course, you can dismiss these stories by calling them make-believe, or funny ghost stories. But given that energy doesn’t perish, is reincarnation really that hard to make sense of?

Of course, there is still a possibility that our energy doesn’t always reincarnate in another body of another person, but becomes a tree, an object, or dust. It is a much less romantic idea but in the vocabulary of energy, maybe not as dark as it sounds.

I have been listening to The Balanced Blonde’s podcasts for a while now, and she reminds me often that everything in nature is connected, and therefore – alive. Also, she claims to have lived many many different lives before. Just something to think about.

Near-death experiences

The next reason I don’t believe that death is the end, can be found in the famous last words of Thomas Edison. When he died, the very last thing he said was:

‘It is very beautiful over there.’

And writer John Green very blissfully responded (years later of course) to these words with: I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope its beautiful.

I think we have all wondered where we go once we die. And even though this is probably not a physical space, we can talk about the concept of a somewhere describing the thing that happens to us when we die.

For example, dr. Bruce Greyson has researched the place that Thomas Edisons lasts words seem to refer to, though it was not because of these words but because of something that he experienced as a doctor. One of his patients was ‘out’ or unconscious, but woke up (or came back to life?) again after a few hours.

In these few hours, dr. Bruce Greyson talked to her roommate a few rooms down the hall. The patient could not have heard this conversation, but later claimed she was right there in the room and could repeat almost every word they said.

Not willing to confuse the patient any further, dr. Bruce Greyson dismissed the situation as ‘curious’, but never forgot the event. Years later, he heard about near-death experiences and realised that this could have happened to the patient. He decided to research near-death experiences himself as a doctor, as he felt like if this happened to patients, he owned them a scientific explanation. You can read his book After if you want to know more.

Because I don’t have time and space to explain all the things dr. Bruce Greyson found out about the afterlife or ‘there’ in his studies. But they did make me believe that there is ‘somewhere’ we go when we die. If many people who have died and came back to life claim to have seen ‘something else’ and many of them describe the same thing, who am I to not believe that it’s somewhere, and to hope it’s beautiful?

Wayne Dyer and his daughters

All the reasons above became more real for me when I listened to an interview with Wayne Dyers daughters, about his death and how they dealt with it. One daughter had always been sure that the death of her father would not end the relationship, but just transform it (to non-physical and more spiritual).

The other daughter was sceptical but became more and more convinced after her father had passed for longer, and she seemed to connect to him more and more.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about relationships to people who have died. I’m not even sure we can call them relationships. But if energy never really goes away, and if we do believe in something like an afterlife, it would make sense that our loved ones actually stay closer to us than we think.

Love is eternal

And this brings us to the final realisation about death not being an end. Life and death are united in something more important than both: love. And in the very same interview, one of Dyer’s daughters said something very relevant about losing someone you love, and how the love you feel for them is not lost.

This made me realise: The fear of losing someone you love, is a fear of losing love. But love cannot be lost – if you really love someone, this love is eternal.

So we actually fear losing something that cannot be lost. You don’t stop loving someone because they died. And if we may believe all the people discussed above, they never really stop loving us either.

xx Coco