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January 5, 2006

One Holy Man

The first time I visited India, almost five years ago, I saw a holy man sitting on a rug on a sidewalk in downtown Delhi. A small crowd had gathered. I stood off to the side.

The grey-haired man began performing some impressive gymnastic stunts on a branch of an overhanging tree. I surreptitiously took out my video camera. He was alert. He saw. And he more or less demanded that…I come onto his rug to get a better shot. Then he announced that he was going to do "penis tricks."

And this holy man proceeded to wrap his flattened penis around a broomstick, which he then slowly twirled.

Of course, I don't mean to imply that this is any way representative of modern India. Still, it is there. And maybe I do mean to imply that it is, in some tenuous way, representative of an element that survives in modern religion….. Can't say I've ever replayed that videotape, though.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at January 5, 2006 6:01 AM


"...that it is, in some tenuous way, representative of an element that survives in modern religion..."

-- Maybe I should try to be more explicit: to do that with your genitalia is a way of showing that you are beyond sex, pain, the body; that through discipline (a positive?) you have overcome the natural world, the world of appearances, which are thus being viewed as (theme of the week for me) negative.

Is celibacy a "penis trick"? Is abstinence? Virginity?

Posted by: mitch at January 7, 2006 1:22 AM

You might find it worthwhile to read "The Outsider" by Colin Wilson; in it he considers the different 'ways' of spiritual development. There's the way of emotion (his main example is van Gogh), intellect (T.E. Lawrence), and the body (i.e. the way of the fakir; the way of Nijinsky). He finds each way insufficient by itself and points toward Gurdjieff's 'way of the clever man' which combines all three.

None of which has any immediate connection to whether one believes in any god or none. One can be a secular fakir (see Cirque du Soleil or the Jim Rose Circus).

Posted by: Tom Buckner at January 15, 2006 4:13 AM

On secular fakirs: one can easily take this even to include the body piercing and modern primitive movements in popular culture.

Posted by: Dayv at January 19, 2006 3:07 AM

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