THE IDEA OF MODERN PRIMITIVES
The whole purpose of "modern primitive" practices is
to get more and more spontaneous in the expression of pleasure with
insight. Too much structuring somehow destroys any possibility of
an ecstatic breakthrough in life experiences.
"Modern primitive" is a term I thought I had coined in
1967 when I met Bud "Viking" Navarro and Zapata in Los
Angeles. We used the term to describe a non-tribal person who responds
to primal urges and does something with the body. There is an increasing
trend among certain young people now to get pierced and tattooed.
Some do it as a "real" response to primal urges and some
do it for "kicks" - they aren't serious and don't know
what they're doing. People are getting piercings in places where
no one should get them! One girl got a piercing like a beauty mark
above her lip, but anything she wore would get caught in her teeth.
She had to give it up.
Physical difference frightens people in our culture more than anything
else. You can be aberrant as hell mentally, politically, socially,
but do one little thing physical-put a bone in your nose-and boy,
you're in trouble! They'll let you do almost anything as long as
it isn't physical.
Most other cultures revere androgynous characters and people who
are different-fools, midgets, nuts-as "god-like." In this
culture these people could only find a place in a carnival. but
then that faded out of vogue. Now you can't have a ten-in-one show
anymore because all the freaks are in institutions or they've been
patched up with plastic surgery or something-made more normal. Since
1945 it's been impossible to have a freak show - I know some people
who tried to find enough freaks to have one, and they couldn't find
any! It's a helluva world: you can't even find freaks anymore! Everyone
"has" to look the same!
Taken from the book Moden Primitives by RE/Search Publications
Fakir Musafar : www.bodyplay.com
SKIN DEEP: YOUR BODY BELONGS TO YOU
- PLAY WITH IT
Interview with Fakir MusafarBy the age of four; Poland Laomis was
regularly dreaming about his past lives; by six he was experiencing
psychedelic visions while riding his bicycle; by twelve he was poking
his mothers sewing needles through his skin. By the age of
thirteen he had pierced his foreskin in the coal cellar, by fourteen
he was experimenting with his newly found psychokinetic powers;
and by seventeen he had a full-blown mystical shake-up of the kind
recounted by saints, sages, and madmen.
Gradually, the puzzling elements of Rolands childhood began
to slip into place, like the ribs beneath a whalebone corset. This
odd and awkward boy from a strict Lutheran family in whitest South
Dakota had been born again in the regal personage of Fakir Musafar:
Fakir Musafar was a misunderstood shaman in thirteenth-century Persia
who entered mystical states through manipulating his body and died
of a broken heart after a lifetime of ridicule.
This could also have been the fate of Roland had he remained within
the walls of his family cellar; where his experiments began. Instead,
Fakir came out, and now, at sixty-three, he has not only been accepted
by the tribe but has been granted something of the status of an
elder statesman. He is undoubtedly America s master guru of
body ritual, offering wisdom and experience in a movement with more
than its share of neophytes searching for identity.
Fakirs role models are Hindu sadhus who sleep on beds of
nails, African women with necks elongated by metal rings, and New
Guinea tribesmen with belts that reduce their waists to a whisper.
It was he who coined the terms modern primitive and
body play, terms that now, thanks to the information
revolution, have become almost as familiar as cyberpunk
or generation X. The modern primitive movement is a
tribal concoction of neopagans, lesbians, gays, artists, punks-creative
misfits who have taken the term queer from the exclusive
domain of homosexuality and applied it to all who find themselves
trying to squeeze their round pegs into the square nipples of society.
His twenty-seven years as an advertising executive allowed Fakir
piercing insight into the power of symbolism, a knowledge he exploits
beautifully in his quarterly magazine, BodyPlay. He is also the
founder and director of the School for Professional Body Piercing,
the first in America.
I interviewed Fakir on October 17, 1992. Sitting in the garden
of his suburban bungalow in Menlo Park, California, bespectacled
with a button-down haircut, in sports shirt and slacks, Fakir could
still be that executive. There is little to suggest what lies beneath,
except that poking through his nose is a five-inch porcupine quill.
Fakir is a misfit who, unable to find a mold to fit into, simply
fashioned one for himself.
Rebecca McClen Novick
Rebecca:. What first inspired you to start changing your body state?
Fakir: I always seemed to have that inclination. When I was growing
up all the people around me lived under Judeo-Christian principles
and rules, and the whole thing was operating under a very hard,
patriarchal society. My biggest problem as a child was spacing out
and I would literally go into trance states at the drop of a hat.
It was very difficult for me because I thought I was going nuts.
I would try and stay there but I couldnt help it, Id
fade away. Bells would ring, Id have audio and visual hallucinations.
I remember riding a tricycle and having wonderful hallucinations
like on acid.
I had a particular problem in social situations which still bothers
me today. I guess its an escape, a coping mechanism. This
family was so repressive and dysfunctional that it was natural for
me to use this ability to space out, to cope with the boredom and
Rebecca: What were you like as a child - apart from spacy? (laughter)
Fakir: I was very much alone, I was very thin, I didnt do
too well with other kids, I didnt do too well in sports. I
couldnt catch a baseball because I was blind as a bat. But
I was also very bright. I devoured books because that was my only
escape from this very limited society. I started on Volume A of
the best looking encyclopedia. I read the whole thing from cover
to cover and then I started on Volume B and so on. When I got through
that set of encyclopedias I went to another set and read that one.
And I found out that I was really interested in how other cultures
Rebecca: And when you first saw pictures of people with scarification,
tattoos and piercings, did you suddenly go, aha! this is it?
Fakir: Oh yeah - instantly the light went on. Very often I could
recognize that whatever they said about these people in the photo
caption was not what was going on. I could look at them and feel
how that person felt at the moment the photograph was taken. It
was a mixture of fear, pain, intense sensation, awe, and I thought
my God! theyve got something! And I would secretly try to
do these things, the Ibitoe of New Guinea which is the waist reducing
One of the abilities I had when I was young was psychometry. We
lived in an area that was heartland for Indians last stands
and the last survival of Indian culture, so there was a lot of Indian
atmosphere. The townys would just plow over Indian graves,
but I would go out on my bicycle and find Indian campgrounds, burial
spaces, places that were blessed and had a charge in them. At a
very early age I could touch a tree and get a whole vision of what
had happened there. I could take a stone from an Indian burial ground
and it would speak to me. I still do this.
Rebecca: And you used to visit the Indians and hang out with them.
Fakir: Yes. They were treated very badly, worse than dogs. I found
a kinship because I was a loner. I always felt I was on the edge,
on the fringes of society. My search through life has always been
to find the disenfranchised, I always had more in common with them.
I had a very hard time with the establishment.
Rebecca: What kind of reactions do you get from Native American
people to the things you do?
Fakir: I have a lot of friends who are Native Americans. I did
some rituals at a place called Rancho Cicada and Hawk (could you
describe briefly who Hawk is?) was one of them. He was quite taken
with it, we exchanged presents and energies and he participated
in some of the ceremony. In general Ive had nothing but respect
and awe from Indians.
Rebecca: You dont ever come across people who think its
just another example of the white man encroaching on Indian terrain?
Fakir: In Boston I was on a television program and they had Native
Americans on there who were very un-native compared to the ones
I grew up with on the Lakota reservations. They had always lived
in cities and they were very Catholic or Lutheran. They didnt
seem to have much connection with Indian culture, but I had objections
from them that I was ripping off Indian culture and exploiting it.
Rebecca: Going back to your childhood....
Fakir: I was the head of the class in the Lutheran confirmation.
I knew all the dogma and all the theories and the doctrine of transubstantiation.
We had a very aristocratic pastor who came from New York. He was
quite a maverick because he didnt preach hell and brimstone
as much as he did love. He used to think the world of me.
One of my favorite meditation spots was church. I was in the choir
and we sat in this separate space in front of the organ which had
all of these beautiful vibrations coming out of it. And I had some
of the most beautiful fantasies including erotic fantasies in that
Rebecca: Was there anyone you could share your true urges and visions
Fakir: I couldnt share what I was doing with anybody at all.
It was so way out and bizarre compared to how everything was. In
school I was an avid lucid daydreamer. I was near-sighted so I couldnt
see the board, it was so boring and the way they did everything
was so rigid. Theyd explain something and Id jump twenty-eight
steps before theyd even got to step three with the rest of
So Id look out of the window, Id look at a tree and
Id become sunlight falling on a leaf - I learned how to have
visions. Some of them were alarming.
Rebecca: If your environment had been more interesting perhaps
you wouldnt have been encouraged to develop your inner world
Fakir: Yes, thats true. At home on Sunday afternoons you
had to wear your Sunday best which was always very uncomfortable
and you had to sit in an upright chair for hours while the family
droned on and on about the crops and Aunt Tillys tumor - all
this neat stuff. (laughter) I would sit in this room and stare at
my Uncle Milton and all of a sudden I would start going into a trance
All the voices would go vzzzzzzzzz, like turning down the volume
control, and everything would start to get dark except for Uncle
Milton whos head would get brighter and brighter. Then it
would start to recede until it was a pinhead and then it would come
back, but instead of Uncle Milton it would be an old Chinese man
and he would be speaking Chinese! I was totally fascinated by this.
Up until I reached puberty I had some psychokinetic abilities, I
could make things move just by looking at them and concentrating
- little things like match-sticks or tiny pieces of paper. If I
had been discovered doing some of the things I did I would probably
have been committed to an insane asylum.
Rebecca: Did you ever wonder whether you were going insane?
Fakir: There were times I did. When I started to trance out involuntarily
it scared the hell out of me and I used to fight it. I think by
the time I reached puberty I had started to accept this as being
a part of me and I began to realize that perhaps I had a gift which
the people around me didnt have.
Rebecca: Did you ever try to explain to your parents what you were
Fakir: They didnt want to know.
Rebecca: The tools you used to change your body state, did you
make them yourself?
Fakir: The first tools were very simple. I discovered a bag of
clothes-pins and clipped them onto my skin and made fans, for example.
Rebecca: What motivated you to pierce your foreskin?
Fakir: I discovered that I could disconnect or step aside. My body
could feel something but I didnt necessarily have to feel
it - I could watch my body feel it. I could take a sewing needle
and slowly push it through my skin. I desperately wanted to pierce
my nose, but that would have been too visible.
But I had another spot that nobody ever looked at and which did
not exist as far as these people were concerned and that was my
cock! I liked my dick and I like the idea of having a hole. So I
put a clothes-pin inside my foreskin and let it go. Instantly uncomfortable
- painful you would say. But it wasnt pain, it was intense
sensation. It was intriguing and it made me feel alive to feel something,
to know I was doing something that I had a right to do, no matter
what other people thought.
Rebecca: What is pain, in your view?
Fakir: Pain is a prejudicial word. Pain to me is intense sensation
that you neither expect nor want. Like, for instance, if you get
up in the middle of the night and you stub your toe on the bed -
thats pain, and I feel it just like anybody else. If, on the
other hand, it was full daylight and I was deliberately tapping
my toe against an iron bed and it started to give me intense sensation
that would not be pain.
Rebecca: Unless you did it really hard. (laughter)
Fakir: Well, it depends on how carried away you get. I run into
a lot of people who are out to feel things, theyre out for
sensation, theyre out for kicks. But it isnt coping
with the sensation and dealing with the physical transformation
that is so important. Its what happens in the process and
the intent. The same thing goes for any kind of ritual. People are
always looking for the authentic way to do a Sun Dance. There isnt
any, the Indians laugh. If they talk to anthropologists theyll
invent all sorts of wild stories about the proper way to do something,
all of which they know is bullshit. The people who ask the question
dont comprehend the nature of magic and ritual, so why tell
them a straight story? They wouldnt understand it anyway.
Rebecca: How did you get away with doing these experiments without
your family finding out?
Fakir: I did all these experiments in my mothers fruit cellar
under the cover of having a new hobby - photography. It turned out
to be a really good cover because I seriously was learning to do
photography. I gradually picked up one body practice after another
and Id try to take photographs of it. Something told me it
was important to document what I was doing. The camera had a little
lever on it that you could tie a string onto to click the shutter.
So about the age thirteen I was doing this.
Rebecca: You mention a particular experience that you had when
you were seventeen, as a turning-point in your life.
Fakir: It certainly was. On Memorial Day weekend my parents went
away for three days and I had the run of the house. By now I had
tried many things: I had pierced my foreskin, I had done some tattoo
on myself, I had discovered the ibitoe and was doing constriction
on my waist, I had made a bed of nails and lain on it. But I was
determined to do one experiment that carried everything to an extreme.
I planned that I was going to make myself totally immobile in a
way I had heard people do in order to have altered states.
(Reading from magazine) I had fasted for two days and reduced myself
to an emaciated robot by dancing for hours with fifty pounds of
logging chain. I was seeking an experience, a happening that no
other human being I knew had had, even if it meant death. It was
2 a.m., I stood with my back against the cold wooden wall and laced
ropes between the pin staples driven at three inch intervals up
the outline of my body
I pulled the ropes deep into my legs from my ankles up to my numb,
belted waist. Tied in tight I felt helpless, glued against the wall.
My chest, arms and head were also quite helpless. I just waited
in the darkness not knowing what to expect. I was resolved to stay
that way until something happened. My body ached for relief or sleep,
but it could not slip away because of the tight discomfort of the
- I had learned that if you do something like a Samadhi tank, interesting
things wont happen to you, youll just drift off into
a pleasant state. You have to have something that keeps you from
drifting into that state thats physically uncomfortable, then
the more interesting things can happen -
Soon, a pleasant, warm kind of numbness crept up my legs and arms.
They dissolved into nothingness, but when the numbness also began
to work up my spine into my breathing center, I panicked. I fought
for breath, it was like drowning. I was trapped, unable to loose
myself, self-sentenced to whatever came next. At this point I began
to wonder if I hadnt bit off more than I could handle. Something
deep inside shifted to a feeling of indifference.
I gave up fighting, I was just a watcher now, not aware of breathing
or any other direct physical sensation. Only my head still seemed
to exist. Next, a vibration, an oscillation developed. It got stronger
and stronger, not unpleasant in the beginning, but soon it felt
like my robot body was suspended on the end of a long cable hanging
deep inside some huge chasm. A giant, over whom I had no control
was swinging the cable from wall to wall, smashing me to pieces.
The smashing went faster and faster and got more violent with each
swing - it was later I learned that was my heartbeat.
In the crescendo of this uncontrolled smashing there was a faint
click! sound deep inside my head in absolute stillness with a slight
humming in the background and I was floating in a pool of warm,
sticky glue, uncaring. I didnt know where I was, but I was
alive. Disembodied with no fear, no pain, no discomfort. I was hyper-alert
and feeling good, satisfied like at the moment of sexual climax.
I became aware that I could see, dimly in a different sort of way
than before. I concentrated my fuzzy vision - I was still looking
at me, or rather, at my still lashed against the wall body. What
was I looking at? Was it me, or was I the looker? The other reality
of this paradox struck me with explosive force, but in this state
I couldnt be serious.
I explored my new reality for some time. One of the peculiarities
was the feeling that in this state there was no time. I knew I could
go forward and backward in time as easily as I normally walk from
one room to another. I studied the lifeless form on the wall. It
was beautiful. I had feelings of great love for it. It was always
obedient to my wishes, moving when and where I wanted it to even
when it was tired and in pain.
Then my attention moved away from that body. I stayed in the present,
the things to explore were endless, right there. I found I could
move right through a concrete wall under the earth outside, or I
could think light and Id float up through the beams, floors
and roof, above the house, above the trees. This was real! It was
magnificent. I watched a cat scamper across the vacant lot beside
the house. I could see people moving inside a house a block away.
The first rays of dawn pierced the cellar window. I slowly drifted
back to the coal-bin wall.
Without remembering how, I somehow found my way back to the shell-body
still lashed there. It freed itself. This beautiful experience colored
my whole existence. From that day on I was liberated. I felt free
to express life through my body. I had an insight, an understanding
- my body is mine to use. Its my media, my personal living
canvas and living clay to mold and shape and mark as an artful expression
of the life energy that flows through it. Your body belongs to you.
Play with it.
Rebecca: You went on to become a successful advertising executive.
Advertising is so much about images and what youve been describing
seems to be so much about getting beyond the image to the essence.
How did you reconcile these two perspectives?
Fakir: To get beyond images you have to get totally hooked by them.
You have to get satiated, you have to learn how to manipulate and
deal with images. If you never get to the point where you realize
what is an image and what isnt and if you dont know
much about image construction, then its very hard to get beyond
Rebecca: It seems, in America especially, there is a tendency to
get stuck with the image. Do you find the same thing with people
who get involved in changing their bodies through what you have
termed, body-play? Do a lot of people get into it simply
for the look, for a fashion statement?
Fakir: Not really because I put them to the test. If they get involved
with me, right off the bat theyre going to drop out real soon
if thats the only reason. When you start putting large hooks
through someones body, they very soon get beyond the look
and the image. (laughter) You have to get down to very basic stuff
- you just cant avoid it. People either dig it and do it or
they dont. We have people who run in horror. But of course
there is some fadism, its bound to happen.
Rebecca: How do people who get into body modification view their
bodies as opposed to people who abhor this kind of practice?
Fakir: Were getting to the last taboo. The last taboo in
a cultural revolution, as I see it, is the body. That was the great
hang up of Judeo-Christian culture. One thing you could not monkey
with was the body and the greatest gift of the body which is erotic,
Rebecca: How much is body modification got to do with sexuality?
Fakir: A lot! Joseph Bean, editor of Drummer magazine came up with
the idea that theres the body-first way, the heart-first way
and the mind-first way to explore spirituality. Weve practiced
the mind way a lot in the West; philosophy or pure science, or Zen
Buddhism which I got into for a while.
I sat in some Za-Zen and I discovered one thing. Youre sitting
for two hours, youre really getting with whats floating
around in your head, and all of a sudden your leg hurts, or youve
got to pee, or you get an erotic fantasy and you get an erection
- how do you deal with this? There are some forces that are more
powerful than the ones youre dealing with in a Zen meditation.
So Ive had plenty of experience with the devotional way because
on its good and light side, Christianity has a lot of that.
In India its known as Bakta Yoga, the heart-felt way of reaching
out to spirituality. That also doesnt take into account the
physical body, its needs, demands and wants and does not take
into account the gift of the body which is erotic and sexual energy.
That can keep coming in the way of your devotion. Then we have the
Basically all shamanic tradition is through the body. For example,
before the northern invaders came in, the non-Vedic cultures, the
southern Indian peoples, the Tamils, had their way which was the
way of Kali and Shiva and Tantra. That definitely dealt with the
body and sexual energy. It was based on exploring spirituality the
body-first way, and thats really what Fakir is bringing out
now in modern tribes.
Rebecca: How is sexual energy used within a spiritual context?
Fakir: There are ways of developing the ability to maintain a certain
kind of energy and keep it at a very high level. In American Indian
tradition, when a man loses his semen, they say you lose your moos-moos,
your sexual energy. You want to learn to have orgasms without losing
your moos-moos because otherwise youre giving youre
energy away. Its the same thing that goes on with the Indian
Sadhus who lay on beds of nails and who do all kinds of austere
In the most extreme cases there are Saddhus who take their dick
and tie a rock on it and sit around like that all day. They stretch
their penis to a point where its dysfunctional, they cant
get an erection any more. But they get into a shamanic state of
consciousness, they keep their moos-moos, they keep their energy.
It builds and builds and they can go into altered states of consciousness.
Its like always being on the edge of orgasm.
This is what happens when I do a lot of physical body rituals. The
trick is to be able to go past the point where you ejaculate and
then you can continue and have repeated orgasms or, if you carry
it far enough, you go beyond that. As the arousal level goes up,
your feeling or response towards physical sensation goes down. So
when youre all hot in a sexual scene, you dont experience
pain in the same way. As you get sexually aroused your body naturally
starts dumping endorphins, your natural opiates, into your system,
and this is something that many shamanic cultures have known for
eons. Ive also been able to cultivate it to a large degree.
Rebecca: Yet celibacy is used in almost all the worlds religions
as a way of release from social responsibility and the distractions
of relationships and family in order to get in touch with the spiritual
Fakir: Thats very true. But as with some of the Sadhus and
other people who disconnect a lot, Ive have found out that
it can also have a negative effect; it can withdraw you, it can
remove your humanity. Ive had this same struggle and I found
after many years of being alone, and being able to space out and
do all of this stuff, that in a way I was getting farther and farther
away from my humanity.
The best explanation I had was from Ram Dass. We had a little private
dinner and he sat on a couch in a lotus position and talked for
about three hours. He explained that thats what happened to
him - he dropped the Baba. He was rising up to cosmic
heights but he left his humanity behind and he couldnt take
it any more, so he went from being a Hindu to being a Buju, as he
put it. (laughter) Thats how he got into what hes practicing
now, the SEVA and the hospice he started - all these humanitarian
Rebecca: You mentioned that the body is the last frontier of Western
taboos but were also obsessed with the body. There are many
accepted forms of body modification; plastic surgery....
Fakir: Well it has to be painless and instant.Rebecca: ....liposuction,
collagen injections, hair extensions, but then you get a ring through
your nose and its uh uh, not that. What defines the limits
of this taboo?
Fakir: The people who are getting collagen injections, and the people
who want the plastic surgery want a nose like Marilyn Monroe or
something. So basically what their body modification is all about
is to conform, whereas the kids who are getting tattooed and pierced
are going in totally the opposite direction. The purpose of their
body modification is to non-conform. And where it might have been
that you had to have this so you could be a warrior, you could be
grown-up or whatever, here it isnt that way. To do this you
are a maverick, this is the way you display your difference.
Rebecca: Part of the nervousness of the establishment is then due
to the fear of the larger non-conformity that is going on inside
that persons mind.
Fakir: Yeah. Body-building is an almost accepted form of body-play.
By ripping muscles and reconstructing them you can move them and
change them and do all kinds of wondrous things to the body. Its
still weird in a lot of peoples eyes though, they dont
Rebecca: Are you finding a greater openness occurring towards this
kind of thing?
Fakir: I think theres a cultural change coming about but
I think its coming about because the people with these old
attitudes are just going to last so long and die, and their place
will be taken by people with new attitudes. Its the way society
has always changed.
So the kids that have a different view about the body - conformity
and expression through the body - are going to replace people who
will never understand this. People over thirty mostly dont
understand this and could never buy it, so you dont even try
to explain it. They come to my workshops occasionally, a few broad-minded
older people, but for most of our culture its a hopeless cause.
Rebecca: Do you see the rise in fundamentalism as a balancing-act
reaction to the new liberalism?
Fakir: I think it is. These things go in cycles anyway, so there
are bound to be swings this way or that, but for the most part I
think its a reaction to its own end. The world is actually
improving, Im very optimistic. We came from years that were
so exclusive - its not like that anymore. Ive visited
three or four times since I grew up there and its changed.
When the television came it changed things radically. It brought
in tons of new ideas and desires, some of which werent too
desirable either, even worse than the ones they replaced. But it
did change things, otherwise they were fixed in time, there was
a time-warp there. When I grew up nothing had changed in twenty
years, because there was no communication with the outside world.
If you went to Minneapolis, wow! it was like going to Singapore.
I feel that the rise of exclusiveness is having its final
death struggles, in apartheid in South Africa for example. Its
going to go down - its inevitable. I dont see any difference
between fundamentalist Moslems, fundamentalist Baptists or fundamentalist
anythings. These are all people who are living by the view that,
were the only ones, were the chosen few, weve
got the word and everything else is wrong! And we have to change
it or destroy it.
I see the vigorousness and the energy and the viciousness thats
in some of the fundamentalists as a last death kick. And they probably
in their heart of hearts know theyre going to go because you
cannot survive in this global village with that kind of exclusiveness.
Rebecca: I think theyll to be kicking for a little while
Fakir: Well, I know jeopardy. I was very afraid, for instance,
to go to Texas. I had visions of people finding a little about what
Fakir does, seeing some of these images and picketing us.
Rebecca: But you didnt have a problem there, I hear the Texans
were very receptive. In those kinds of places where there is a hard-core
or conservatism, people are hungry.
Fakir: Desperately. There are queer people there who dont
know theyre queer. Weve got this thing going on in the
west coast where youve got a lot of people defining themselves
now not as this, that or the other persuasion or practice but just
as queer. The feeling is that if you dont fit
in with the rest of the crowd in the suits and ties - youre
queer. And wed better stick together because those people
are going to try to destroy us and we cant let our differences
In Dallas we found out there was a lot of division. There are a
lot of closeted people there. There were closeted SM players, there
were closeted kinky people, there were closeted gay people, there
were gay leather people who wouldnt speak to non-gay leather
people, the lesbians would have nothing to do with the gay men and
so on. Up here in San Francisco were having great get-togethers
where lesbians and gay men are having all kinds of interesting explorations
together. Weve gone to another phase.
Rebecca: The modern primitive movement thats
happening in the west, is this a desire for a closer knit tribalism
- a sense of community beyond and apart from the cultural homogeny?
Fakir: Out of the mass fusion. Yes, theres this desperate
hunger, this desperate crying need to belong, to find a place and
some kind of meaning. Its very hard to have meaning unless
you have family and tribe. Human beings are basically social and
we have alienated the things that make us more human. Sitting playing
Nintendo or watching sitcoms on television does not necessarily
make us more social.
Rebecca: Do you see a future where this tribalism has spread to
the point where people with similar cultural attitudes will live
in communities which provide for their lifestyle? Its already
happening - San Francisco is a good example.
Fakir: Its been going on for about ten years, as far as I
know. Its cultural fusion. I was searching for a tribe for
fifty-five years. (laughter)
Rebecca: When did you first meet people you could relate to, apart
from the indians?
Fakir: When I moved to the city it was more difficult. People that
were different, queer in one way or another, didnt necessarily
show up and say, Im queer, lets get together.
First I realized there were things I couldnt do without help.
I desperately wanted to do the O-Kee-Pa, that is to be hung up by
flesh-hooks, or the Kavandi-bearing; its very hard to do these
to yourself. I did little tattoos on myself, but only where I could
I had a vision for years and years that I would only be me if I
had a certain tattoo on my back. Its a Native American design
and depicts flame coming out of the earth. I made a large photograph
of my back and I took what I saw in my vision and sketched it on
tissue-paper. I started going around to various tattoo artists and
theyd look at this and laugh. Theyd say, You want
that on your back? How about a nice panther, how about a rose, how
about a dagger with Mom in it? (laughter)
Finally, after a lot of searching I found a man called Davy Jones
who was receptive. He was the official tattoo artist for the Hells
Angels. He saw my tattoo and instantly connection with it. As far
as I know that was the first blackwork that was ever done in this
Rebecca: The Kavandi-bearing entails wearing a frame thats
filled with sixty or so spears inserted into the torso. Could you
describe your first experience of this?
Fakir: Well, Davy came over and I prepared myself. I fasted and
meditated and did all the things I felt I had to do to get myself
psyched up. We did a Kavandi that lasted all day. I totally spaced
out, projected out of my body, floated up out through the roof and
looked down on all of this with great interest. Davy had said, Ill
only do this if youll sign a release that says in the case
of injury or death you wont hold us responsible. And
we did a very formal document so if a body was found laying there,
they wouldnt be in trouble.
I had a marvelous experience. The only problem I had was that I
wanted more space but I couldnt communicate because I was
projected out of my physical body. It was like an automaton, a puppet,
and I felt I couldnt speak through the mouth. I wanted them
to open this door so I could run down the driveway and out into
the street and the only way I could communicate this was to run
up against the door and go smash! with all these rods in. That scared
the hell out of them. All I was trying to tell them was, open
the damn door! (laughter)
I had experimented and hung myself up O-Kee-Pa style a few times
but I could only go so far. I knew that if I spaced out and hung
that way for twenty minutes Id strangulate and die. So I appealed
to Davy and his friends to come over again. Thats when I first
met the white light. When I got to the point of getting 98% of my
weight on the piercings I had made in chest, to go the other 2%
I either had to come out of my body or quit. There was no way I
could endure this, it was so intense. I was hoping that in this
condition I would just click! And then it happened and I was free,
floating in warm, sticky glue.
I saw a ball of white light and it was singing. The music was wonderful
and it was talking to me. It said, Hi, Im you - greetings.
And the love! Ive never felt love on a human level like this.
The communication was telepathic and instant. It was a wonderful,
wonderful experience. To me, that was the Great White Spirit, my
higher self, my God Self. My guru had told me years before, One
day youre going to meet your Godself and youre going
to be really surprised because it isnt going to be at all
what you think. Well, I did, hanging by flesh-hooks.
Rebecca: Was that the original purpose of the Sun Dance - to meet
with the Great White Spirit?
Fakir: Yes, many times. It was a way of getting into a shamanic
state of consciousness where all things are possible, where you
escape the boundaries and limitations of a physical life in a physical
Rebecca: Is part of the purpose of ritual to teach people how to
deal with pain?
Fakir: Yes. Its one of the things thats missing in
our culture. A few people discover it because of what they do. I
had an interesting conversation with Fran Tarkenton, the football
player. He talked about deliberately getting involved in a situation
where you know theres going to be pain, and we kind of connected.
I had a standby position on a talk show and the guest was unable
to make it. I didnt find out until a year later who that guest
was. Everybody on the show was surprised because they were expecting
someone else to be there.
Rebecca: Who were they expecting?
Fakir: George Bush. (laughter)
Rebecca: Thats great. Isnt the desire to make things
as comfortable and as painless as possible a natural and healthy
Fakir: Well, you can learn to transform pain into something else
through ritual. And a society that functions by trying to make things
as painless and as comfortable as possible might be missing the
boat because a lot of what were here to learn in life may
be locked away. There are people who realize the value of hardship
and people who climb up cliffs. All these physical challenges are
where you discover spirit. Theres a validity in doing this
other than getting up the wall.
Rebecca: What do you think happens to a society that doesnt
offer ritual and rites of passage?
Fakir: It turns out a bunch of zombies and robots. How are they
going to explore their spiritual dimensions without some challenges?
You either create them yourself or someone else creates them and
guides you through it. You need challenges; emotional, physical,
Rebecca: Many societies offer a very specific rite of passage for
the journey from puberty to adulthood. Like many people I found
puberty a very confusing time and was looking for something to relate
to, to help explain what was happening to me. It felt like a transition
Fakir: You had nothing to say it was a transition. A transition
from what to what? Of course you were totally lost. Remember, the
traditions and rituals didnt happen because someone sat down
and invented them, they came out of one persons needs, experiences
and experimentation. They were guided to do certain things and it
seemed to work. They became the elders and they passed what they
had learned on to those who came after them and so on. When the
whole system of traditions, families and tribes vanished there was
nobody to pass anything on to, and now were all wandering
around in limbo not knowing how to proceed from one phase of life
to the next.
Rebecca: Much ritual in the major religions of today is purely
symbolic, a hangover from an experience which was probably initially
quite powerful, like baptism, for example.
Fakir: Ritual, if its valid and has real magic in it, is
truly transformative. You are not the same person you were before
the ritual. So many people want transformation, they want to be
freed and cleared of old stuff. When I did piercings commercially
in San Francisco I would ask people, why are you getting pierced?
and to my surprise, instead of getting replies like, because
my buddies are, or I just always wanted a gold ring
in my tit, I got real answers. They were creating their own
initiations, their own rituals. Almost everybody had a good reason
for doing what they were doing. It wasnt a hollow thing.
Rebecca: I heard about a girl who got her labia pierced, partly
because she has a very straight job and was feeling she was losing
her identity. So shes got this secret rebellion going on under
Fakir: Right. I may look like everybody else but really Im
different to you! Ive had that secret thing going for years,
ever since I pierced my dick. They may think Im fitting in,
but I have the secret pleasure of knowing Im not.
Rebecca: Is body modification largely about reclaiming the body,
taking it back from social pressure and control.
Fakir: Reclaiming is a major reason for this. We run into an awful
lot of women who have been raped, who by the act of getting pierced
or by doing one of these rituals feel their reclaiming. Somebody
has abused and usurped and used them and they want to say to themselves
and to others, Im taking my body back from someone who
took it from me, and by this act I bring my body back to me.
Rebecca: Judeo-Christian attitudes that the body is sinful has
seeped into the culture so much. Is redemption also a part of this,
absolving the body of sin?
Fakir: Perhaps. This culture seems to have lost all the original
Goddess, nature-orientated, animistic, shamanic things - that all
came together in the form of witches and we burned them! St Patrick
chased snakes out of Ireland - the snakes were the pagans for crying
out loud! They were in tune with nature and the ecosystems and they
Rebecca: Why did the body become such a taboo?
Fakir: Well, to take the ownership of ones body away from
oneself can give power to another. It was stricly a power game.
When Jehovah was invented the power game started in western culture
and its never stopped since. The priests said, I am
the only one who can speak to God and you cant get any blessings
or absolutions unless you go through me. There was a hierarchy
and it was all set up, property rights and the oppression of women,
just so one person could have control over another.
Rebecca: Reichian therapy is a lot about drawing emotions out of
the body and releasing memories. Is this similar to what goes on
in the practices you describe as body-play?
Fakir: Very much. People think youre only doing mechanical
things with the body when you pierce it, tattoo it, sculpt it, but
youre doing more than that. Its the process of creating
the change of body-state thats transformative, more so than
the physical stuff that you see. It also helps you define the boundaries
between body and spirit.
Rebecca: How do you define those boundaries?
Fakir: Well, you push the body as far as you can. By pushing and
doing something deliberately to the body you finally reach a point
where you realize there are two things coexisting here at the same
time. To find out where the body starts and stops and where the
spirit that lives in the body starts and stops is a really important
Rebecca: So you believe that there is a definite point at which
body and spirit are divided?
Fakir: Ive found that theres a very distinct point
when you want to go into a shamanic state of consciousness. There
is a strong physical and emotional experience and you do finally
reach a disconnection point where you go into the underworld, you
go into the cosmos - you go someplace. You have to reach the end
of body and get into spirit totally in order to have these shamanic
The experience of being aware of the distinction I call the ecstasy
state; you know your body, you can feel everything there is
in the body but you also know youre not the body. You can
be totally spirit and just be an observer. You know youre
outside your body because you can travel in time and space.
I had the beginnings of ecstasy states and altered states when I
was four or five years old. First I had ongoing recurring nightmares
once or twice a week about being crushed to death. It took about
forty years before I really found out what that was all about. It
was my death in a previous life, from which I had gone into this
life and it was unfinished business, so to speak.
Rebecca: What are some of the incarnations which you believe Fakir
Musafar has lived?
Fakir: There is only what I feel and my experience, but the best
I can figure out at this time is Ive been a double walk-in.
I feel I probably was the original Fakir Musafar who lived in 11th
century Persia. My heart stopped when I first saw him, it was just
a little cartoon in Ripleys Believe it or Not . He had daggers
thrust through his body and he had the idea that you could use the
body to explore spirituality. Supposedly he died heartbroken after
eighteen years of this - no one got the message.
So he went to a culture where they did understand this, as a walk-in
after he died. This was the tail end of the Plains Indian culture
in America, a fusion of Indian tribes. There was a young boy who
was trying to learn the medicine way and was having a very hard
time with it. He was very near death because of the hard tasks put
forward, so he gave up his body voluntarily and the original Fakir
thought, here is a chance for me to do what I know how to
do with people who understand it. But that was a very short
life. This was a man called Tiso or Tuten Mekina in Mandan language.
I had wondered why I had this need for holes in my chest and this
name means literally means man with holes in his chest. I heard the name in a vision, a lot of what I learn comes in visions.
The nightmare I had as a child was the death of Tiso. He lived only
into his early twenties, within ninety miles of where I was born.
I actually found the place where Tiso died his death, on the Yellowbank
River. The Chippewah nation was always at war with the Plains people
and Tiso had been sent on a pony to scout where the main forces
of the Indians were. On the way back he was going down this ravine
and the warring forces had set a trap with logs and debris and big
rocks, which fell and crushed him.
Rebecca: What, in your view, is the advantage of a body-first approach
to higher consciousness as opposed to one thats mind-first
Fakir: But you cant find the spirit, you dont even
know what the spirit is! Its not to say that the heart and
the head arent involved in this transformation - they are,
but its just that you go body-first and you drag the feelings
and the mind with you.
Rebecca: So its using the body and extreme physical sensation,
in order to transcend the experience of physicality altogether.
Fakir: Yes. The only way you can step aside from the body is through
the body. Youre always going to be saddled and strapped with
body needs and body problems with the other approaches. You have
to be in tune with the body to do the body-first approach, you have
to have a great love for it. Ive got a good rapport with my
Rebecca: Have you experienced healings through the kinds of rituals
Fakir: From the experiences Ive had working with people,
I would say tremendous healings, and this isnt necessarily
physical. There can be emotional and psychic healings. Grief, guilt,
sorrow, all kinds of things can be dealt with better in the shamanic
state than they can be in the non-shamanic state.
Rebecca: The practices of body modification have come from places
where theyre used within a very traditional setting and if
an individual doesnt comply with the ritual theyre in
danger of being ostracized by the tribe. What is considered alternative
over here has already been dogmatized in many social situations.
Fakir: Well I cant speak too authentically on what goes on
and what went on in these so-called primitive cultures.
Remember, there arent many left and most of the things that
I used as role-models didnt even exist when I found them.
Rebecca: But in those places body modification is about belonging,
merging the individual with the culture, its not about rebelling
or being a maverick.
Fakir: But the thing that I seem to have intuited, even though
I wasnt able to go back - well, theres such a thing
as time travel so I feel Ive kind of been in some of those
cultures, but I wont talk about it because its hard
to believe - is that there was, in general, a feeling of inclusiveness.
In other words maverickness was accepted, not rejected. It was worshipped
rather than cast out or locked away and I really dont feel
that it was that dogmatic.
Ritual is a way of getting from point A to point B, getting from
this consciousness to a shamanic state of consciousness, and really
all thats important is to know that youre in this consciousness
and that there is another consciousness. What happens between here
and there can be different every time. The magic got lost in Western
culture mainly because everything got dogmatized. Originally the
mystics probably had ways to transcend the ordinary state of consciousness,
but people saw that and started to formulize it. They said, now
you do this and you put this object here and then you say these
words, and so on, and when people did it - nothing happened.
The magic went away. They missed the message entirely.
My idea of live ritual is really wonderful stuff. Someone whos
had the experience of being able to transcend ordinary states of
consciousness is the one who establishes a ritual in the first place.
They do it again and oh! it happened again. Then other people say,
can I do this too? But its not the literal physical
things that you do step after step that makes this happen. Theres
something behind this that makes it happen. But after a while, as
it gets more popular, it starts getting ritualized in a dogmatic
way and theres no room for spontaneity. The western mind is
process-orientated, but you lose the spirit in the process.
Rebecca: The repercussions of getting body-modification rituals
wrong can probably be pretty nasty.
Fakir: We have kids who want to go out of their body. They see
a picture in Modern Primitives and they try to do the same things.
They dont come and talk to me about it and things go wrong.
They try to hang by flesh-hooks, for example, and they tear lose
and get bloody. They need a Kaseeka. Thats a Mandan word used
to describe an elder, an initiate, a medicine man in some cases,
who has been on the trip before, who has used some kind of technique
to get from ordinary states of consciousness to a shamanic state
of consciousness. When young men were initiated, usually each one
had a Kaseeka.
I liken that to SM. We have a sadist and a masochist, we have a
top and a bottom. Under the best conditions this gets to be a shamanic
trip and the top is a Kaseeka and the bottom, or the masochist,
is the one who takes the trip. But unlike the way some people practice
SM, to really be a Kaseeka, youre not just an operator, youre
not just the manipulator, you have to go on the trip too. So the
kids that pick up some of these things and try to do them have no
Kaseeka, no guidance.
Rebecca: Isnt that indicative of the whole mentality of underground
western culture - the tendency to mistrust authority?
Fakir: Well thats why we need the new tribes. To have a tribe
you have to understand there are people who have more experience,
who have been there before and you have to always acknowledge the
elders. We have elders who have no credibility. Our politicians
try to be elders and people are seeing this as a fraud. These people
know nothing, they cannot guide us.
Rebecca: How do you see your role?
Fakir: Strange as it may seem Fakir has become a role-model for
an awful lot of young people. Hes accepted as a tribal father
as an elder. I have many sons and daughters all over the place.
Rebecca: How does that feel?
Fakir: It feels natural. Im willing to accept the role.
Rebecca: Does it ever worry you, the responsibility?
Fakir: I have a therapist who keeps pointing out that theres
a dark side to the Fakir as well as everything else. You have to
know where you are and that Fakir is like an archetype, an image.
The father they have found is not you, its something behind
what youre doing and I have to keep remembering that. If I
dont I get into serious trouble.
Rebecca: What kind of trouble?
Fakir: You become a cult-figure and you go down in flames. (laughter)
Rebecca: You recently took psychedelics for the first time. How
did this experience compare with the body rituals youve done?
Fakir: Well I found out it was the same thing. I went to the same
kind of places.
Rebecca: So it was a reinforcement or simply a parallel to what
you had already discovered.
Fakir: Yeah. Except that I had an advantage because I already had
great respect for people who had gone before, Id had some
Rebecca: Its estimated that far more people are taking psychedelics
now than in the sixties. What do you think about the validity of
psychedelics as a way to expand consciousness?
Fakir: Well, I wish people would get involved in some other discipline
and learn things another way first, and I wish they would have trips
with Kaseekas of worth, otherwise what kinds of experiences are
we getting? How valid are these revelations? Are they revelations
at all? But with the right kind of guidance I think its just
as valid as hanging in a cottonwood tree with flesh-hooks.
Rebecca: But its not a body-first approach.
Fakir: It is a body-first approach. Youre changing something
in the body first and then from that youre dragging everything
else out. But all the other ways of getting into shamanic states
are totally voluntary and youre in control. In other words,
if I start hanging from flesh-hooks, I can always stop anywhere
along the line.
When you drop a psychedelic, once its in your system, thats
it, youre stuck for twelve hours or whatever. And thats
unfortunate because something can be missed. One of the basic things
in body-play is learning how to make your own chemical alterations
in your own body and control them, so things dont take off
like a wildfire.
Rebecca: Why do you speak about yourself in the third person?
Fakir: Getting too stuck in identities is a dangerous trap. You
can lose your way. When I did a Sun Dance with Jim Ward in Wyoming
the sun didnt shine and there was a three day forecast for
rain. I said, we came out here to do the Sun Dance. If the
Great White Spirit wants us to do the Sun Dance its the job
of the Great White Spirit to make the sun shine.
I put my arms up and asked for whatever was right to happen and
Jim did the same. And I totally lost my identity. I didnt
know who I was, I was not an advertising man, I was not Fakir, I
was not Roland, I was not a white person, I wasnt even a human
being. I was the wind, I was the earth, I was all kinds of things.
All of a sudden, after thirty minutes the clouds parted and the
sun came out. All afternoon the it shone down on this spot and we
went down and did our Sun Dance - and got a sunburn! (laughter)
Rebecca: How did your guru influence your ideas on life?
Fakir: It got more and more clear as time went by and every time
I have an experience and work with others whove had similar
experiences it gets clearer in conscious understanding. My guru
explained it. I didnt understand hardly anything he taught
me over a very compressed period of time. He said, dont
worry about it, its stuck in your consciousness and little
by little the answers will be revealed and you will say, oh, thats
what Arthur meant. And thats whats happened to
me for years and years and its still happening now.
First, he sat out in the Mojave desert for seven years in a shack,
every day asking, Who am I? Then he was a merchant seaman
and would occasionally jump ship and travel in places like India.
He studied everything and practiced everything and he passed all
of this on to me including a huge library of books from Gurdjieff
to Madame Blavatsky. Tantra, tarot, astrology - he dabbled in it
all. But his whole purpose was to find out not what was different
between all these beliefs, but what was the same.Rebecca: How did
he become your guru?
Fakir: I wanted to do graduate work in technical theater and drama
and I was encouraged by a friend to go to San Francisco. I was looking
for somewhere to live and I had a list of places. I got totally
lost in the fog on a street one block long that you couldnt
find in broad daylight if you were looking for it! I checked the
list to see if one of the houses was on this street and it was.
I knocked on the door and a lady answered who looked very strange.
The house was weird, the walls were painted bright red and the ceiling
was metallic gold. The first thing she said to me was, Im
a reincarnate Egyptian, what are you? I thought, gee,
I think Im on the right track here. (laughter) We got
into a lively conversation, she was an avid astrologer and a Rosicrucian
and we just hit it off. There was a group of metaphysically inclined
people who congregated every night in a cafeteria and one of the
people who always popped up at these gatherings was my guru, Arthur.
One night Cleo came back from work at three in the morning and brought
Arthur back. He sat down and I sat down and we talked a few pleasantries
and then he said, Oh shit! Im stuck with you.
I said, What do you mean? He said, I just got
a message from your inner self that you are a chela and Ive
got be your guru. Thats how it started and he was my
guru for sixteen years until he passed on.
Rebecca: How do you respond to someone who says that youre
just copying. These rituals are so ancient and so much a part of
the culture that uses them that you will never really understand
it, youre always going to see it through the filter and the
eyes of your own culture?
Fakir: Ive heard that a lot. You can see it through the eyes
of your own culture but you can still catch the fire. I can light
a fire in Africa and we could carry it somewhere else. Fire is fire,
no matter where it burns.
Rebecca: To bring your own definitions and values to it is okay
then, in your view?
Fakir: Yeah. Its still useful, if youve found it and
you can use it - youve got fire. Ive had a lot of people
accuse me of being hollow and of ripping off these other cultures.
I find this difficult to understand. I may have been inspired by
them, but much of what Ive done has been quite different -
I do it my way. But I thank them and Im very appreciative
that Ive had a chance to be inspired to do anything at all!
Rebecca: What is the modern primitive movement a response
to. What is the driving force behind it?
Fakir: Total disenchantment with everything they see around them.
It started in the sixties. I see the sixties through to the year
two thousand as kind of an evolutionary revolution. I feel were
in the final phase now and the last taboo, the last hang-up is the
body. The first was is what you see, what you see? When
people started in mass numbers to take psychedelics and say gee,
maybe what we think is real isnt real, thats when
the revolution started.
So we then had a whole new set of values and we questioned everything.
All institutions, religious, educational, commercial, governmental,
all these things have been questioned. And more recently with the
evangelists, the spiritual guides started to crumble and had feet
of clay. General disillusionment has set in. Body modification takes
you back to the beginning, to basics, to the first cave persons
who started having insights and discovering things.
Rebecca: Its very easy, obviously to put down the West and
to idolize the East...
Fakir: Well think of the oppression that occurred in some of those
other cultures, think about the Islamic world, or India and the
caste system. Wherever you go, youre going to have these problems.
Rebecca: Right. So what do you think the West has to offer the
rest of the world?
Fakir: Well, Ive looked at it from the perspective of an
Indian who came into this culture and thought man, if only Id
been back there in Lakota society and I had a flash unit. It would
be like having the sun in my hand. And when I ride in a car, to
me its a pony with fire in its belly.
As a young man I wanted to know how everything worked and I think
technology is what the west has to offer. How to manipulate things
externally. Where weve lost the way here is in learning that
there are two kinds of technology, the mechanical and the magical.
What people are looking for in the modern primitive movement is
not to abandon material comfort and the technological aspects of
society, but to balance it out with an understanding and an equally
competent use of interior magic technology.
We dont have much magic technology. There are some places,
in the outer limits of physics particularly, where people have got
to the end of the circle and lapsed over. Some physicists are now
at a point where theyre now into magic technology and dont
Rebecca: Do you have people who challenge you, who come to you
for a piercing, for example, but who only want to do it their way?
Fakir: I have that happen a lot. I have others who come to me who
have a genuine respect. They say, you show me the way, Ill
do it any way you tell me. I make people jump through a lot
of hoops, I dont make it easy.
Rebecca: What do you think are some bad reasons to get a tattoo
or a piercing?
Fakir: If youre doing it out of your head and not your heart
you may really fuck your life up. Youre dealing with something
very powerful. When you pierce somebody, youre not just piercing
a physical body, you are doing some very strange things to the energy
circuits and to the spirit that lives in the body.
In our medical science, the phantom limb phenomena is well-known.
I maintain that when a surgeon is doing surgery, the reason it works
is not only because he is manipulating something in the physical
body. His intent, what hes doing in the psychic, spiritual
side of life has to be there. If the physician is very skilled in
removing a limb, but doesnt understand that there is an electrical
counterpart, he has to remove that too if this is going to work
or else you end up is a person missing a leg but who stills feel
the leg there.
Rebecca: So you feel that if you are connected to your inner spirit
youll be safe?
Fakir: Yes. In my experiments I felt even if things went wrong,
somehow Ill come out okay. Ive always felt a kind of
connection with something that put me here and made this heart beat.
It was in charge of things in an intimate and personal way, not
a remote, time-sharing god in charge of billions of people. This
is part of the concept that I got from the Native Americans. To
them, the Great Spirit was always a Great Spirit for each person,
not one Great Spirit for everybody.
Rebecca: Youve talked about the body as a tool for liberation,
but its also been used as a tool for control. We talk romantically
of exotic rites of passage in other cultures, but there is also
cruelty in many of these practices.
Fakir: There is a negative side to all this over-romanticism and
I may be guilty of doing this. In some of the cultures these practices
are certainly non-consensual. For example, the binding of young
girls feet in China were acts of extremely patriarchy and
a very oppressive thing.
Rebecca: So do you feel that the element of choice has to be there
for these practices to be truly valid?
Fakir: Well, oddly enough I still have the feeling that even though
it was non-consensual, there was still an opportunity there. You
can fight and resist and suffer and you can also accept and adapt
and learn. And so even some of these things may have been enforced,
something constructive could still come of it.
Rebecca: Why are so few people of color involved in the modern
Fakir: Thats an interesting question for me too. I think
its much harder for people of color to find their way into
this circle. Were trying to make it accessible with the fusion
groups Im involved with, but black people are still fighting.
Its hard for many of them to get through the barrier to inclusion,
to have the trust that theres actually a place for them and
that theyre not going to be excluded.
Rebecca: Acceptance is a theme that you discuss a lot, was it this
that attracted you to the SM community?
Fakir: I found people who were just accepting of queerness. I discovered
that gay people in general could be very open. In 1977 I was at
the first International Tattoo Convention. These were maverick,
way-out sons-of-bitches. I thought that, if any place, this is where
I can let it out.
I was encouraged to come out as Fakir Musafar by an eccentric millionaire
called Doug Malloy. He was talking in terms of being gay but also
coming out of the closet with everything that I did that was queer.
So I did, I did everything that I knew how to do - and it was big
hit - much to my surprise! Like on the coal-bin wall, thunder and
lightening did not come down and strike me dead. (laughter) I found
warmth, I found love, I found an opening here.
Rebecca: What kind of response have you gotten from New-Age groups?
Fakir: For a while I tried getting this out to the so-called New-Age
audience. I did just fine getting an invitation and getting to the
meeting-places, but when I started talking about blood and piercing
the body, they said, oh no! We can think about it and contemplate
it and we can smell beautiful scents, but we cant accept this! These people were not ready to confront the last barrier to discovery
- the body. So I had very little luck with the New Agers.
Rebecca: The Judeo-Christian ghost.....
Fakir: Is still haunting them. And usually you find the parting
of the ways when it touches on the body and erotic or sexual energy. Thats fine, Ill learn my crystals, but dont
start moving that thing around here! (laughter)
Rebecca: What are your thoughts on death based on the experiences
youve had in life?
Fakir: Ive been faced with a lot of death and Im facing
a lot of death right now. Ive sat by people whove died
a lot the last year. I made this connection with the gay community
not realizing that although I got the opening and the warmth, a
lot of people were ultimately going to be HIV positive and their
prognosis for life was very grim. Now theyre dropping all
Since some of these are people who I cultivated very close friendships
with its getting more difficult dealing with feelings that
get caught up in their dying. In some ways its almost been
a blessing because its forced me again to face this issue
of the ultimate change of body-state called death. Ive seen
some beautiful deaths and Ive seen some very ugly deaths.
Rebecca: What do you think determines whether a person has a good
Fakir: Its the understanding, the acceptance. There are people
for whom I honestly feel death was a wonderful experience and transition.
Death and dying is thrown into a nothing but an ugly context in
this culture - the whole business and commercialization of death
and dying. I think it should be a conscious experience, it should
be an adventure.
I sat with a woman while she was dying who I was very close to.
To her, life was breathing, and if she took her last breath it was
like blowing out the candle. And she could not understand in any
way whatsoever, or explore the possibility that there might be something
beyond. And so she went way beyond the time where she should have
said goodbye. The body hung on.
Rebecca: So the more youve explored your spirituality, the
more your faith in a continuity has grown?
Fakir: How can you explore spirituality if you dont explore
death? We have so many distractions and diversions, anything and
everything to keep our minds off it. This is not Tibet, we do not
have a Book of the Dead here, we do not prepare people to die! Ive
sat in rooms with people who were close to death and who were in
such a state of denial. The last one was just a week or so ago.
He had nothing on his mind except decorating the room in which he
Rebecca: Why is it so important to you to trademark phrases like
modern primitive and body-play? Im
thinking how strange it would be if, for example, Alan Freed had
trademarked the term rock `n roll?
Fakir: What Im trying to be is a teacher, and in essence
what Im talking about are things that I hope will help people
explore spirituality. And Ive already had experiences with
people taking and using these words for exploitation and commercial
value. I understand that you cant really own a word but I
feel that I would like to stop, if I can, the exploitation of something
that I invented and coined. Id like to keep it from going
Rebecca: Isnt that a risk that we all have to take? Youre
stepping on very sacred ground here - freedom of speech. And ultimately
these terms will be used against you if thats what people
want to do, with or without the trademark.
Rebecca: Youve mentioned a guy who was trying to get together
some freaks for a freak-show, like they had thirty years ago, and
he couldnt find any! What does that say to you?
Fakir: You cant have difference. This is a clean, pure society
and people go to great pains to eliminate deformity.
Rebecca: Isnt that one of the great barriers to body modifications
such as you find in the modern primitive movement, that
it challenges the cultural definition of what is beautiful?
Fakir: Exactly. That original commandment is still there, Thou
shant fuck with the body, Why not? Because you
might learn something and then you wont come back and go to
my church and bow down to my priests. Thats what its
all about - to me.
Fakir Musafar: www.bodyplay.com
Taken with permission from:
Mavericks of the Mind: www.levity.com/mavericks/mus-int.htm
Thanks to David Jay Brown.
David Jay Brown: - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebecca McClen Novick: - email@example.com