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As regular readers of this blog know, I suffer from Compulsive Skin Picking, a disorder which has left callouses on two of my fingers. A further confession follows: I sometimes pick at the callouses with my teeth (stronger) and nibble the tiny bits. Once in a tract of mixed state mania, I imagined myself digging my teeth into my father’s skull. And it scared the living daylights out of me! (I did not act on this. Even in mania I knew that this was dysfunctional. I kept it to myself until recently.)
But I have nothing on Houston-born Gary Stevenson (now known as Kapal Nath) who, as a member of India’s Aghori sect, practices ritual cannibalism for the purpose of extending his life and aggrandizing great powers unto himself. (It is not known if Gary is a member of the Republican Party.)
Stevenson was discovered by Hannah Thomas, a reporter for The Edinburgh Student. In January, Harper’s published a more complete version of Thomas’s interview. There he revealed his wickedest secrets:
I like the taste — it’s like pork. Younger flesh is better — babies taste really fresh. It’s the same with any kind of meat — old people hav a stringy texture, like wood, but babies are like lamb. It’s like the way most people prefer lamb over mutton. Also babies are pure, so their spirit is clean. When I eat flesh from older humans, it’s like their tainted spirit comes into me. It can be draining if they have negative energy.
I feel much safer now. Still, am I alone in hearing the twisted echoes of New Agey thinking? Stevenson hangs his beliefs on a spiritual meathook and dares us to rebuke him: a “many truths” argument waits somewhere behind his molars.
The best bit is the fingers, though. The police found this charred arm one day, and I wanted to eat the fingers — they’re the most tasty part of the body. It kinda smells like rawhide. It’s addictive, makes you want to do it more and more.
I can almost understand. Picking at my fingers comforts me. I’m not in it for the flavor, however, but for the relief of anxiety. I think. At least I don’t save the bits and use them to flavor a soup.
Thomas didn’t partake of any of Stevenson’s meals, but she did some research on him and came to a few unpleasant realizations:
Nath is currently wanted by the FBI for questioning in connection with several missing backpackers whom the government suspect may have been ritually sacrificed and consumed by cannibals in India. Although relieved by my lucky escape, I felt somewhat offended that Nath was evidently not tempted to eat me. If only all the other men in India had as little carnal interest in me.
Stevenson’s “spirituality” bears much in common with survivalism. Both ideologies insist on a many truths path to self-justification, both are primarily selfish (the one seeks extended life and the other seeks to prepare for an apocalypse where they plan to shoot anyone who so much as thinks about eating one of their Coast Guard-approved survival bars), and both have a mobster-like violence streak to them:
I had a big right with some Aghorisin Varanasi — you know, they were jealous of me. I was on their turf. I wanted to kill one of them actually. He tried to kick me out, and I started to beat him. The others turned on me, and a policeman got involved. I actually stabbed him with this sword I carried. Got put into prison for awhile.
But, you know, that wasn’t the first time I went to jail. I went back to the Americas, and they had heard about me being a cannibal. Yeah, put me in some mental institution, tried to medicate me. Actually, I was really pissed off, as I had all my skulls and bones stolen by the guards — thrown away. I even had a skull with fangs, it was priceless, must have been from a retarded person or something. That upset me when they took that one.
Those who know little about the different varieties of mental disorders probably do not see what I see. Pundits who have little psychiatric understanding would rush to the conclusion that this fellow is mentally ill, perhaps bipolar or schizophrenic. I submit that he is neither. He invents his own morality as it suits him. Propelled by God-knows-what, Stevenson is not sick like me. There are mood swings or hallucinations here: he stands on proven spiritual ground. What we see here, I think, is a man who has thought things through. His hunger for long life and supernatural power suggest a very banal, pseudo-spiritual theme taken to a conclusion not normally seen in American life. Among India’s Aghori, a peculiar sociopath has found a niche in the caste system. And his rationale for eating his fellow human is profoundly influenced by American middle and upper class renegades who are not, I think, mentally ill, merely willfully delusional.
Unlike me, who picks at his skin because he is compelled, Stevenson eats human flesh because he has convinced himself of its powers. No drug, I think will cure him. And he does not want to change.