Death at burning man — making sense of life, death, psychadelics & the subtle realm

Trigger warning: If the story of the man who died running into the effigy at Burning Man is traumatizing to you, do not read this post.

If you want to read my take on this incident which includes extended commentary on the Nature of Psychedelic Experiences, the Realm of Subtle Beings & Energy, and a larger spiritual perspective on the Cycle of Life and Death, then read away.


Oh man what a way to go.

It appears that the Occam’s Razor for this incident is that this was an accidental death induced by phenomenal occurrences on a psychedelic trip.

Some have speculated that he believed he was Daenerys from Game of Thrones, and as such believed he was immune to fire.

Certainly the pictures depict a man who is charging forth like he believes himself to be a hero in a fairy tale, and not a depressed, suicidal man looking to kill himself. However, those attempting suicide are often filled with a rush of adrenaline in their final moments due to their perception of final escape, relief and release.

This is a reminder that psychedelics are dangerous, powerful substances, that need to be treated with care and caution if we are to reap the benefits of their teachings.

….A brief two paragraph interlude for those of you who believe the Subtle Realm is Pre-Rational Hippie Mumbo Jumbo — know that I once believed this as many did, but that it is most definitely real by many legitimate epistemological methods, just not primarily the methods you have been taught or the methods conventional Western Science accepts, but they are learnable.

The Harry Potter series is actually incredibly powerful and accurate allegory. The world of magic co-exists with the ‘normal world’ and is generally undetectable in every day life, unless you’ve consciously developed the Subtle Sensitivity to operate in this Realm.

…[Back to regularly scheduled magical programming]…Psychedelics blow open the defenses of the Subtle Body, and litter your Aura with holes.

This partial Mechanism of Action is both the upside and the downside to Psychedelics.

Psychedelics make you more permeable to your surroundings and the Subtle, Etheric and Astral Worlds that are always around us, but otherwise much harder to perceive.

Psychedelic Trips can bestow amazing Visions, Insights and Information. These come primarily from two sources: your Higher and Lower Self — the Super-Conscious and Sub-Conscious, respectively, as well as Subtle Beings and Entities.

Attribution of where energies are coming from is both challenging and essential for Integration.

Subtle Beings & Entities can be both Beneficent and Malevolent, and the whole spectrum in between, just like humans.

When you have a good or bad trip, how do you sort out what Energies came from a Subtle Entity and what was repressed emotional content in your Shadow, or Blessings from your Higher Self?

Epistemological Methods in the Subtle Realm, colloquially known as, “How do you know what to attribute your subjective experiences to?”, are very under-appreciated and under-developed in most Subtle Realm Travelers, and the New Age Community at large.

Burning Man is a particularly potent environment for the Subtle Realms. Subtle Beings of all varieties make the Pilgrimage to the Playa each year, just as the humans do. To them it is an Auric Feast. Which Energies you personally come into contact depends a lot on who you are and what Energetic Frequencies you are Resonate with at a particular moment in time.

Many of my Spiritual Teachers have advised against using Psychedelics. I have not stopped using them completely, but I use them far more sparingly, paying careful attention to my Set and Setting. Experience has taught me that I am very sensitive.

My teachers have also said that psychedelics blow open your Timelines and give you access to Energy and Information often before you are ready. And that it is possible to access the same Frequencies with other, safer, healthier and more reliable methods.

The value of psychedelic experiences lies primarily in our ability to stay Awake during the Trip, and Integrate our experiences after the Trip has passed. Staying Awake during a psychedelic experience is primarily about maintaining Presence and seeing Phenomena as Expressions of Spirit rather than Contracting back into the False Stories of the Egoic self. With respect to Integration, Ken Wilber has brilliantly put that ‘States can come for free, but Structure is Earned.’

Burning Man is one of the most crazy settings possible to do Psychedelics. In effect, ‘crazy’ means high risk/reward profile. I have experienced both ends of the spectrum at Burning Man in my 4 years attending the festival since 2009: Ecstatic Kosmic Downloads that were Integrated as Irrevocable core aspects of my Being…and I have been thrown into a Miserable Nightmares of Disorientation and Vomit, mixed with pernicious Paranoia that I was in Mortal Danger.

A further point of context on this rather Spectacular Death this year at Burning Man, is understanding the True Nature of Life and Death in this world.

Perhaps most importantly is the false belief that we have only one life, and after we die that is it. I wrote a post last month on this topic calling it, ‘The Most Insidious Belief in Western Culture (

A Soul’s journey is comprised of millions of lifetimes.

So Death is not something to fear, but rather something to come to accept and come to peace with.

Especially if you would like to Gracefully and Consciously move through the In-Between Realms known as the Bardo, as you enter your next life.

We all ‘Transition’ when our time has come.

That has much less to do with our own Agency and much more to do with: Karma, a new life that is calling us, how much we have fulfilled our current life contracts, whether we’re ready to go, and whether our unfulfilled contracts are deserving of Divine Intervention.

It appears to me the man who ran into the fire, Aaron Joel Mitchell, was ready for his next adventure.

May his Fate inform Ours.