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