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Wolfgang Sterneck
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Fakir Musafar:


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 :


Fakir Musafar:


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 mother’s 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 Roland’s 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.

Fakir’s 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 couldn’t help it, I’d fade away. Bells would ring, I’d 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 it’s 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 abandonment.

Rebecca: What were you like as a child - apart from spacy? (laughter)

Fakir: I was very much alone, I was very thin, I didn’t do too well with other kids, I didn’t do too well in sports. I couldn’t 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 lived.

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! they’ve got something! And I would secretly try to do these things, the Ibitoe of New Guinea which is the waist reducing belt.
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 towny’s 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 I’ve had nothing but respect and awe from Indians.

Rebecca: You don’t ever come across people who think it’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 choir loft.

Rebecca: Was there anyone you could share your true urges and visions with?

Fakir: I couldn’t 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 couldn’t see the board, it was so boring and the way they did everything was so rigid. They’d explain something and I’d jump twenty-eight steps before they’d even got to step three with the rest of the kids.
So I’d look out of the window, I’d look at a tree and I’d 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 wouldn’t have been encouraged to develop your inner world so much.

Fakir: Yes, that’s 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 Tilly’s 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 state.
All the voices would go vzzzzzzzzz, like turning down the volume control, and everything would start to get dark except for Uncle Milton who’s 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 didn’t have.

Rebecca: Did you ever try to explain to your parents what you were doing?

Fakir: They didn’t 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 - that’s 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, they’re out for sensation, they’re out for kicks. But it isn’t coping with the sensation and dealing with the physical transformation that is so important. It’s 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 isn’t any, the Indians laugh. If they talk to anthropologists they’ll 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 don’t comprehend the nature of magic and ritual, so why tell them a straight story? They wouldn’t 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 mother’s 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 I’d 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 ropes.
- I had learned that if you do something like a Samadhi tank, interesting things won’t happen to you, you’ll just drift off into a pleasant state. You have to have something that keeps you from drifting into that state that’s 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 hadn’t 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 I’d 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. It’s 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 you’ve 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 isn’t and if you don’t know much about image construction, then it’s very hard to get beyond images.

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 they’re going to drop out real soon if that’s the only reason. When you start putting large hooks through someone’s body, they very soon get beyond the look and the image. (laughter) You have to get down to very basic stuff - you just can’t avoid it. People either dig it and do it or they don’t. We have people who run in horror. But of course there is some fadism, it’s 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: We’re 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, sexual energy.

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 there’s the body-first way, the heart-first way and the mind-first way to explore spirituality. We’ve 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. You’re sitting for two hours, you’re really getting with what’s floating around in your head, and all of a sudden your leg hurts, or you’ve 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 you’re dealing with in a Zen meditation.
So I’ve had plenty of experience with the devotional way because on it’s good and light side, Christianity has a lot of that. In India it’s known as Bakta Yoga, the heart-felt way of reaching out to spirituality. That also doesn’t take into account the physical body, it’s 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 body-first way.
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 that’s 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 you’re giving you’re energy away. It’s the same thing that goes on with the Indian Sadhus who lay on beds of nails and who do all kinds of austere things.
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 it’s dysfunctional, they can’t 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. It’s 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 you’re all hot in a sexual scene, you don’t 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. I’ve also been able to cultivate it to a large degree.

Rebecca: Yet celibacy is used in almost all the world’s 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 side.

Fakir: That’s very true. But as with some of the Sadhus and other people who disconnect a lot, I’ve have found out that it can also have a negative effect; it can withdraw you, it can remove your humanity. I’ve 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 that’s what happened to him - he dropped the ”Baba.’ He was rising up to cosmic heights but he left his humanity behind and he couldn’t take it any more, so he went from being a Hindu to being a Buju, as he put it. (laughter) That’s how he got into what he’s practicing now, the SEVA and the hospice he started - all these humanitarian efforts.

Rebecca: You mentioned that the body is the last frontier of Western taboos but we’re 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 it’s 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 isn’t 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 person’s 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. It’s still weird in a lot of people’s eyes though, they don’t understand it.

Rebecca: Are you finding a greater openness occurring towards this kind of thing?

Fakir: I think there’s a cultural change coming about but I think it’s 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. It’s 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 don’t understand this and could never buy it, so you don’t even try to explain it. They come to my workshops occasionally, a few broad-minded older people, but for most of our culture it’s 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 it’s a reaction to it’s own end. The world is actually improving, I’m very optimistic. We came from years that were so exclusive - it’s not like that anymore. I’ve visited three or four times since I grew up there and it’s changed.
When the television came it changed things radically. It brought in tons of new ideas and desires, some of which weren’t 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. (laughter)
I feel that the rise of exclusiveness is having it’s final death struggles, in apartheid in South Africa for example. It’s going to go down - it’s inevitable. I don’t see any difference between fundamentalist Moslems, fundamentalist Baptists or fundamentalist anythings. These are all people who are living by the view that, we’re the only ones, we’re the chosen few, we’ve 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 that’s in some of the fundamentalists as a last death kick. And they probably in their heart of hearts know they’re going to go because you cannot survive in this global village with that kind of exclusiveness.

Rebecca: I think they’ll to be kicking for a little while longer.

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 didn’t 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 don’t know they’re queer. We’ve got this thing going on in the west coast where you’ve 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 don’t fit in with the rest of the crowd in the suits and ties - you’re queer. And we’d better stick together because those people are going to try to destroy us and we can’t let our differences go away.
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 wouldn’t 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 we’re having great get-togethers where lesbians and gay men are having all kinds of interesting explorations together. We’ve gone to another phase.

Rebecca: The ”modern primitive” movement that’s 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, there’s this desperate hunger, this desperate crying need to belong, to find a place and some kind of meaning. It’s 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? It’s already happening - San Francisco is a good example.

Fakir: It’s been going on for about ten years, as far as I know. It’s 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, didn’t necessarily show up and say, ”I’m queer, let’s get together.” First I realized there were things I couldn’t 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; it’s very hard to do these to yourself. I did little tattoos on myself, but only where I could reach.
I had a vision for years and years that I would only be me if I had a certain tattoo on my back. It’s 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 they’d look at this and laugh. They’d 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 country.

Rebecca: The Kavandi-bearing entails wearing a frame that’s 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, ”I’ll only do this if you’ll sign a release that says in the case of injury or death you won’t hold us responsible.” And we did a very formal document so if a body was found laying there, they wouldn’t be in trouble.
I had a marvelous experience. The only problem I had was that I wanted more space but I couldn’t communicate because I was projected out of my physical body. It was like an automaton, a puppet, and I felt I couldn’t 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 I’d strangulate and die. So I appealed to Davy and his friends to come over again. That’s 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, I’m you - greetings.” And the love! I’ve 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 you’re going to meet your Godself and you’re going to be really surprised because it isn’t 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 body.

Rebecca: Is part of the purpose of ritual to teach people how to deal with pain?

Fakir: Yes. It’s one of the things that’s 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 there’s 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 didn’t 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: That’s great. Isn’t the desire to make things as comfortable and as painless as possible a natural and healthy one, though?

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 we’re 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. There’s a validity in doing this other than getting up the wall.

Rebecca: What do you think happens to a society that doesn’t 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, mental.

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 but....

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 didn’t happen because someone sat down and invented them, they came out of one person’s 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 we’re 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 it’s 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 wasn’t 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 she’s got this secret rebellion going on under her clothes.

Fakir: Right. I may look like everybody else but really I’m different to you! I’ve had that secret thing going for years, ever since I pierced my dick. They may think I’m fitting in, but I have the secret pleasure of knowing I’m 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, ”I’m 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 used herbs.

Rebecca: Why did the body become such a taboo?

Fakir: Well, to take the ownership of one’s 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 it’s never stopped since. The priests said, ”I am the only one who can speak to God and you can’t 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 you’re only doing mechanical things with the body when you pierce it, tattoo it, sculpt it, but you’re doing more than that. It’s the process of creating the change of body-state that’s 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 discovery.

Rebecca: So you believe that there is a definite point at which body and spirit are divided?

Fakir: I’ve found that there’s 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 states.
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 you’re not the body. You can be totally spirit and just be an observer. You know you’re 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 I’ve 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 Ripley’s 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 that’s mind-first or spirit-first?

Fakir: But you can’t find the spirit, you don’t even know what the spirit is! It’s not to say that the heart and the head aren’t involved in this transformation - they are, but it’s just that you go body-first and you drag the feelings and the mind with you.

Rebecca: So it’s 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. You’re 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. I’ve got a good rapport with my body.

Rebecca: Have you experienced healings through the kinds of rituals you’re describing?

Fakir: From the experiences I’ve had working with people, I would say tremendous healings, and this isn’t 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 they’re used within a very traditional setting and if an individual doesn’t comply with the ritual they’re 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 can’t speak too authentically on what goes on and what went on in these so-called ”primitive” cultures. Remember, there aren’t many left and most of the things that I used as role-models didn’t even exist when I found them.

Rebecca: But in those places body modification is about belonging, merging the individual with the culture, it’s not about rebelling or being a maverick.

Fakir: But the thing that I seem to have intuited, even though I wasn’t able to go back - well, there’s such a thing as time travel so I feel I’ve kind of been in some of those cultures, but I won’t talk about it because it’s 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 don’t 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 that’s important is to know that you’re 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 who’s 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 it’s not the literal physical things that you do step after step that makes this happen. There’s 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 there’s 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 don’t 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. That’s 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, you’re not just an operator, you’re 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: Isn’t that indicative of the whole mentality of underground western culture - the tendency to mistrust authority?

Fakir: Well that’s 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. He’s 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. I’m willing to accept the role.

Rebecca: Does it ever worry you, the responsibility?

Fakir: I have a therapist who keeps pointing out that there’s 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, it’s something behind what you’re doing and I have to keep remembering that. If I don’t 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 you’ve 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, I’d had some guidance.

Rebecca: It’s 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 it’s just as valid as hanging in a cottonwood tree with flesh-hooks.

Rebecca: But it’s not a body-first approach.

Fakir: It is a body-first approach. You’re changing something in the body first and then from that you’re dragging everything else out. But all the other ways of getting into shamanic states are totally voluntary and you’re 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 it’s in your system, that’s it, you’re stuck for twelve hours or whatever. And that’s 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 don’t 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 didn’t 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 it’s 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 who’ve had similar experiences it gets clearer in conscious understanding. My guru explained it. I didn’t understand hardly anything he taught me over a very compressed period of time. He said, ”don’t worry about it, it’s stuck in your consciousness and little by little the answers will be revealed and you will say, oh, that’s what Arthur meant.” And that’s what’s happened to me for years and years and it’s 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 couldn’t 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, ”I’m a reincarnate Egyptian, what are you?” I thought, ”gee, I think I’m 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! I’m 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 I’ve got be your guru.” That’s 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 you’re 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, you’re always going to see it through the filter and the eyes of your own culture?

Fakir: I’ve 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. It’s still useful, if you’ve found it and you can use it - you’ve got fire. I’ve 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 I’ve done has been quite different - I do it my way. But I thank them and I’m very appreciative that I’ve 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 we’re 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 isn’t real,” that’s 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: It’s 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, you’re going to have these problems.

Rebecca: Right. So what do you think the West has to offer the rest of the world?

Fakir: Well, I’ve looked at it from the perspective of an Indian who came into this culture and thought man, if only I’d 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 it’s a pony with fire in it’s 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 we’ve 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 don’t 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 they’re now into magic technology and don’t know it.

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, I’ll do it any way you tell me.” I make people jump through a lot of hoops, I don’t make it easy.

Rebecca: What do you think are some bad reasons to get a tattoo or a piercing?

Fakir: If you’re doing it out of your head and not your heart you may really fuck your life up. You’re dealing with something very powerful. When you pierce somebody, you’re 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 he’s doing in the psychic, spiritual side of life has to be there. If the physician is very skilled in removing a limb, but doesn’t 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 you’ll be safe?

Fakir: Yes. In my experiments I felt even if things went wrong, somehow I’ll come out okay. I’ve 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: You’ve talked about the body as a tool for liberation, but it’s 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 primitive” movement?

Fakir: That’s an interesting question for me too. I think it’s much harder for people of color to find their way into this circle. We’re trying to make it accessible with the fusion groups I’m involved with, but black people are still fighting. It’s hard for many of them to get through the barrier to inclusion, to have the trust that there’s actually a place for them and that they’re 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 can’t 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. ”That’s fine, I’ll learn my crystals, but don’t start moving that thing around here!” (laughter)

Rebecca: What are your thoughts on death based on the experiences you’ve had in life?

Fakir: I’ve been faced with a lot of death and I’m facing a lot of death right now. I’ve sat by people who’ve 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 they’re dropping all the time.
Since some of these are people who I cultivated very close friendships with it’s getting more difficult dealing with feelings that get caught up in their dying. In some ways it’s almost been a blessing because it’s forced me again to face this issue of the ultimate change of body-state called death. I’ve seen some beautiful deaths and I’ve seen some very ugly deaths.

Rebecca: What do you think determines whether a person has a good death?

Fakir: It’s 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 you’ve explored your spirituality, the more your faith in a continuity has grown?

Fakir: How can you explore spirituality if you don’t 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! I’ve 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 was dying.

Rebecca: Why is it so important to you to trademark phrases like ”modern primitive” and ”body-play”? I’m thinking how strange it would be if, for example, Alan Freed had trademarked the term rock `n roll?

Fakir: What I’m trying to be is a teacher, and in essence what I’m talking about are things that I hope will help people explore spirituality. And I’ve already had experiences with people taking and using these words for exploitation and commercial value. I understand that you can’t 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. I’d like to keep it from going berserk.

Rebecca: Isn’t that a risk that we all have to take? You’re stepping on very sacred ground here - freedom of speech. And ultimately these terms will be used against you if that’s what people want to do, with or without the trademark.

Fakir: Probably.

Rebecca: You’ve mentioned a guy who was trying to get together some freaks for a freak-show, like they had thirty years ago, and he couldn’t find any! What does that say to you?

Fakir: You can’t have difference. This is a clean, pure society and people go to great pains to eliminate deformity.

Rebecca: Isn’t 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 shan’t fuck with the body,’ Why not? ”Because you might learn something and then you won’t come back and go to my church and bow down to my priests.’ That’s what it’s all about - to me.

Fakir Musafar:

Taken with permission from:
Mavericks of the Mind:
Thanks to David Jay Brown.

David Jay Brown: -
Rebecca McClen Novick: -


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