I Watched the Fire That Grew So Low

He not busy being born is busy dying.” — Bob Dylan

All things must pass away.” — George Harrison

Upon us all, upon us all a little rain must fall.” — Robert Plant

“Even at the time that the pebbles are being counted out, be not frightened; tell no lies; and fear not the Lord of Death.” — Tibetan Book of the Dead


I spoke with an old friend this past weekend, our conversation primarily focused on how our respective families were dealing with the social and economic upheaval that the novel-coronavirus (COVID-19) has wrought.

I mean, what else are we going to talk about in times like these, no?

But, as we hadn’t had a chance to talk in a while, other matters crept into the conversation, music and magic in particular.

Brian mentioned he was reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a book that I was intimately aware of in the days of my youth, when I lived in a haunted little place on Martin Street, just off campus at Ball State University, a short walk from Papa Lou’s Chug-A-Mug.

This set off a flood of memories, mostly good, but some sad and others, well, frightening.


The picture above was taken in 2006. When I lived there, twenty years earlier, from late Fall of 1986 until Spring the following year, it had a comfortable brick porch, where we lulled away the hours, stretched out on the broad walls, sipping Budweiser or Rolling Rock, and deciphering the mysteries of the universe.

In ’86 I was twenty years old and at the height of my fascination with the works of Aleister Crowley. I had recently been sitting in with a local Alexandrian Coven led by a University Philosophy professor, and my longtime chum and roommate, Brent, and I entertained a small group of magically-minded folk (primarily chaos magicians) on a regular basis.

The TibetanI had purchased a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, secondhand, after reading The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert. Both books had a huge impact on me during that time.

After my talk with Brian this weekend, a lot of those old thought patterns began to resurface.

For those unfamiliar, the Tibetan Book of the Dead is a sort of guide through the journey of consciousness after death, and of that space between death and rebirth. It also has a number of rituals for those dying and for those who have already passed.

There is a beauty in passing when faced without cowardice or fear. But, I feel, the Lord of Death should not be welcomed until the very end, in those final moments when fate’s hand is played.

As I’ve said, time and time again, life in this material plane is to be cherished. Every moment should be savored. Our time here is painfully short. One should not hasten its ending, but neither should it be feared.

“All things must pass away.” But, to borrow from George R.R. Martin, what do we say to the Lord of Death? “Not today.”

Far too many people are being callous with their lives and the lives of others during this pandemic. Modern society, it seems, cannot be inconvenienced, even if it means preserving the lives of those medically challenged or long of tooth.

Too many lack the capacity to care for anyone beyond themselves.

Too many cannot handle being alone with themselves, because it is in those quiet moments that we see ourselves for who and what we truly are. Few can handle revelations such as these.

It was a pleasant stroll through my memories of immersion in the Tibetan Book of the Dead and of that period of self-discovery. Those studious days of my youth, magically alight on a journey of expanded consciousness, are paying dividends in the here and now.

If you get a chance to read it, you really should.

And while you’re out there on the perimeter, remember to take care of yourself and those around you. Don’t be the cause for another’s illness. Be diligent. Be smart. Be safe.




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