Body Modification vs. Spirituality – Through the Modified Looking Glass

Body Modification vs. Spirituality

We are not engaged in a complicated joke disguised as a new religion. We are engaged in a new religion disguised as a complicated joke.

Malaclypse the Younger


This column will be a little different. In terms of style, it is even more so than usual a collection of thoughts and reactions. It is very much a sort of revealing of the process and analysis which runs through my consciousness as it relates to the topics within. I present it hopefully as ‘food for thought’ because that is the sort of food which, while it cannot support life, can make living far more interesting.

I am not a religious person. I am not a spiritual person. I do not worship. I do not believe that I have a soul or spirit. I do not feel that my mind and body are in any significant way distinct from one another. I have simply decided, after research and experimentation — still ongoing of course — that the way in which I currently choose to view and functionally interact with the world does not require these things.


In addition, also from the BME Megasurvey, almost 90% of respondents are not a member of any religious groups involved in body modification. That leaves 10% that either have been or hope to be, although only half that number are actually currently involved in such a group.

These results left me a little bit surprised, and pleasantly so. I suppose because like many others I have been sold, to a large extent, the media version of body modification a la the modern primitive or seeker bent. I also often hear — or read on BME — about people connecting their modifications to a faith or spiritual outlook. Then again, many times it seems that the choice of terms (‘spiritual’) is very much based upon a broad and almost meaningless pop usage. Spirit derives from the Latin spiritus, meaning breath and thus breath of life. The Greek term would be psyche, standing for the principle of animation or life. These notions are most often developed in conjunction with a doctrine of soul. Broadly applied it could be related to anything regarding the experience of living, but it would generally presuppose a commitment to the idea of spirit or soul as “substance”. This idea is fundamental to many religious doctrines but also presents a host of problems so great that many thinkers have conceded dualism to be effectively bankrupt and instead try to focus on developing a notion of soul and spirit that is not separate to the body. Given the context in which the term is often placed I have to wonder if something like ‘life affirming’ might not be a less baggage-laden and equally accurate term for many to apply to their experiences.

Dualism of the mind-body, body-soul, or even mind-body-soul is to me very much like the notion of a flat earth. It has some strong intuitive appeals but eventually it fails my needs and requires unacceptable complications of explanation. I have no objections, however, to others believing in a flat earth or anything else that may suit them. When I hear ‘mind-body’ I think of it in the same relationship as, say, ‘liver-body’.

God, gods, Buddha, Allah, Vishnu, bigfoot, UFOs, leprechauns, and the Trix Rabbit — believe in whatever you would like. However, do not expect me to share your beliefs or accept your implication that my experience of life is any less vibrant or fulfilling for not sharing them. The idea that you can make qualitative judgments of other people’s experiences for them is both arrogant and absurd. While you are at it, you can attempt to convince me that the taste I detestfully experience when I eat spinach is one that is wonderful to me.

That which inspires religious or spiritual fervor in others is not missing in my life. I simply experience things through a different lens. To me such things are not evidence of the glory of a greater being or giving me contact with some universal, unifying force. They are, however, glorious life affirming experiences which further impress upon me the wonders which I can come to know.

I do not seek transcendence of body. I seek to revel in body. To me it is a marvelous and nearly unlimited thing and I am far more interested in developing it, pushing it, driving it, and ultimately exploring its full potential. I sometimes wonder if those who seek transcendence are not in some way afraid what their bodies are capable of doing, and of themselves. Is their transcendence another way of explaining experience or fleeing from the vastness of experience which is possible?

In fact, transcendence is meaningless to me. In my view of myself as a whole there is no going beyond. All is contained within. This does not mean I have any more or less than those of different views but that I explain the experiences differently. For example, I have many times experienced by induction and spontaneously all of the sensations often described as OBE (out-of-body-experience), both before and after developing my current views. I would say now that OBE is a misnomer. Of course, I don’t agree with the definition of body that is inherent in that description to begin with.

Body modification and ritual are a very large and important part of how I choose to learn about and explore my world. I have a great deal of respect for those people and cultures that have come before and continue on around me in these varied practices. They can teach me a great deal and lead me to a great many possibilities. However, I am at all times on guard to try to be aware of and separate out the necessary from the personal and cultural artifacts. Body modification describes a set of procedures and practices. They need not be religious or spiritual but can be and are often used as such. This means that the religious or spiritual component is one that is added by the individual or group as a function of their beliefs. Your experience with body modification is your own and need not involve the religious or spiritual beliefs of others. At least as careful, perhaps more so for many, as one is in choosing what foods they consume, so should one be with the ideas and beliefs one intakes.

PS. As soon as possible, for general mental nutrition, obtain and read the essay Religion for the Hell of it by Robert Anton Wilson. You can also find it re-printed in his book Coincidance. Among other things it contains the essential solution to an effective Church of Body Modification — even for us non-religious, non-spiritual types.

Erik Sprague


because the world NEEDS freaks…

Former doctoral candidate and philosophy degree holder Erik Sprague, the Lizardman (iam), is known around the world for his amazing transformation from man to lizard as well as his modern sideshow performance art. Need I say more?

Copyright © 2003 BMEZINE.COM. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published August 14th, 2003 by BMEZINE.COM in Tweed, Ontario, Canada.


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