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.