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