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.
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.