How the Heck Did He Ever Get Those 40 Knives in There?

A set of 6 knives
What Can We Learn
From the 40 Knives Story?
Ever had the urge to go out and do something crazy?

Not something benign like chowing down on your little one's birthday cake instead of sticking to your diet, but a super-strong impulsive desire to do something reckless and dangerous?

Self-destructive even?

Have you ever firmly made up your mind that you were going to do something, even if it went against the norm, and then just carried it out regardless of what anyone else thought or said?

Maybe, not something as outrageous as that police constable, Surjeet Singh, who swallowed 40 knives over the course of a few weeks because he developed a taste for iron, and just decided to do it, but something that placed you on the fringe, so you kept it secret from those who might not understand?

While I still can't figure out how that man ever managed to get all of those folding iron knives in there, I was riveted to my seat as I read his story across several news platforms.

With each story:

The truth grew more and more frightening.

It didn't take long to realize that taking risks and even displaying odd behaviors isn't exclusive to those who live on the outskirts of what society considers normal. Except for Singh's strange sense of taste, he was labeled by those who knew him as just a normal man.

The scary part?

The greater portion of humanity identify with their urges. We see our thoughts and feelings as always coming from us. As a result, we can actually do some pretty odd things due to our lust for pleasure.

I suppose that's why this particular story hit home for me.

Not only do the details line up with the principles of alchemy, but we all do similar things, to one degree or another. We just don't realize that we're doing them.

And that unconscious doing is the most frightening part of the story.

What Causes Risky Behaviors?

It is perfectly normal to occasionally put yourself in jeopardy, such as jay-walking or performing a handful of outlandish stunts that teenagers do.

Colorful Cow Manniquin Statue
When I was in high school, for example, the football team pulled up to our local shoe repair shop in the middle of the night and took off with a huge cow mannequin that was sitting out front. Later on, they put the cow back, but it was just attributed to one of those things that kids do.

Nothing more dangerous than that.

However, habitual risk takers are seeking more than just making good on a dare. They will go to great lengths to get that must-have adrenaline rush that they crave. Fear creates an hormonal upsurge in stress hormones, and if you like that feeling, you can actually become addicted to negative states.

I honestly can't relate to that type of addiction.

I don't like the physical results of adrenaline surges, but many people do. They feel empowered due to the side effects of cortisol and other stress hormones.

Don't think you can become addicted to stress hormones?

Think about those who love drama, and crave drama, in their lives.

If they don't get that interaction, or sense of urgency, often enough, if life becomes unbearably boring for them, so that the body never goes into the fight-or-flight response, drama-lovers will go out of their way to create the drama in their lives that they need.

People driven by impulsive cravings are not always a slave to their hormonal state. Singh didn't swallow those 40 knives because he was addicted to the thrill.

Often, people do what they do only because it makes them feel good, and for no other reason.

In Singh's mind, his actions were justified, even though he carried them out in secret so as not to experience the disapproval of his family and friends. Instead of thrill, his odd behavior came from cravings for metal, the urge to experience the pleasure of taste.

The sensation of metal in his mouth was more important than the ultimate consequences for swallowing. To Singh, it was more uncomfortable to not satisfy his wild craving than it was to consider what those pocket knives were doing to his stomach.

It was only after the pain became more unbearable than his satisfaction, that he actively sought help for his addiction. This is one of the reasons why pain avoidance or the need to get rid of every single uncomfortable situation in our lives is not to our advantage.

All risky behaviors, at their very core, are caused by the same fundamental goal, or ideal, that we all set up when we entered this world:

The fundamental purpose of life is to experience continual pleasure and happiness, while pain and disturbance is to always be avoided at all costs.

You can easily see that purpose playing out within the 40 knives story, as well as other alchemical principles that are worth taking a closer look at.

How Does the 40 Knives Story Relate to Alchemy?

40 Knives Story: Frog Looking Into a Mirror

Everything outside of ourselves mirrors what's going on in the conditioned mind. This mirroring, or out-play of environmental events, is how LIFE performs her greatest work on our behalf.

The events, situations, and experiences you're going through right now are designed to wake you up to what's really going on, if you care to open your eyes and take a look.

Most don't.

Like Singh, instead of looking for the alchemical principles and metaphors being presented for their observation and consideration, most people ignore life's gifts and simply give into their urges and notions, even if they don't make sense.

Few stop and take the time they need to question where their urges and thoughts are coming from. 

If Singh had done that, if he had questioned his drive for pleasure over the consequences that might result from acting on those urges, he may have made a different decision.

Instead, he discovered that he enjoyed the taste of the iron knives so much that he firmly decided, with strong emotion, that he would eat the knives. And since he saw value in eating the knives, the higher mind acted on his decision.

In alchemy, iron is one of the 7 metals. It is thought to be the tenth most abundant element in the universe. Iron is strongly associated with our primal urges, so it represents the conditioned mind in the extreme.

Of interest, in this case, is that the iron knives Singh chose were all about 7 inches in length, and while he swallowed some of them in their folded form, he also went to the trouble of opening up others before swallowing them.

As I read through the various details reported by the media, I couldn't help but relate the act of swallowing to the act of blindly taking suggestion into our minds. Often, we just accept things that we read or hear as true – automatically – because they “sound” reasonable.

They sound like they might be true.

Other times, we ingest suggestion because of its source. If we hold others up as authoritative, rather than in their true state of expertise passing out information, we'll believe what they say without giving it a second thought.

It is true because our authorities said so.

But when we do that, when we swallow the suggestions of others, or even our own thoughts and urges, because we're addicted to being told what to do, rather than experimenting with those ideas ourselves, we are taking a great risk with our spiritual lives.


Because we don't know if the idea is true or not.

If the idea is true, we'll be okay, but if it isn't true – and most of the time, what tastes good to us isn't true – the suggestion can do a lot of damage to our mindset, in the same way that those 40 knives ripped up Singh's stomach.

In fact, the damage was so lethal for Singh that doctor's hypothesized that if he had waited even a few more days, he would not have survived his addiction. He was bleeding internally. He was dying and didn't know it.

What Disturbed Me Most of All?

What really disturbed me about this incident wasn't the man's odd behavior. I've seen a lot of odd behaviors in my lifetime.

For example, my youngest son fed cooked oatmeal to the VCR because it thought it was hungry. At age 5, son number three turned his bicycle upside down, spun the wheel, and then tried to stop it from spinning by sticking his finger in between the spokes.

While the oatmeal stunt wasn't physically harmful, the bicycle stunt almost cost my third son his finger.

What disturbed me more than this man's odd behavior was the photo of all of those knives laid out on a bed sheet, some of them folded up and some of them opened to the 7-inch full length.

The visual imagery of those knives embedded itself in my memory.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to pick up another kitchen knife again without having that picture jump into my head, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Life has handed me what early Mormonism used to call a TOKEN.

A token is something that slaps you on the back of the head like Agent Gibbs in the NCIS television series. Before Michael Weatherly left the show, Gibbs used to slap Tony on the back of the head to wake him up.

A token is a wake-up call.

It's something that says, “Snap out of it!”

An adult stomach, no matter how thin or fat you are, has a resting volume of a little less than a quart. When I looked at those knives, the volume of 40 knives, I couldn't help but be amazed at how Singh got all of those knives in there.

Sure, the stomach is stretchable and many think it can hold up to four times its normal size in food and beverages, since it's actually a muscle, but 40 knives?

Astonishingly, the knives were not all folded up. If they had been, Singh might still be swallowing them today.

That's one of the major reasons why we are so susceptible to suggestion. We are swallowing and swallowing a lot of folded-up knives, folded-up suggestions, instead of knives with blades that will cut our digestive system to shreds.

But, we do swallow a lot of opened 7-inch blades as well.

We do that every time our body goes into the fight-or-flight response, when we have our feelings hurt and we aren't in actual physical danger. The excess energy provided by the higher mind, can be quite destructive if we don't USE it wisely.

It was only the pain in Singh's stomach, the discomfort that he sought to get rid of, that led to his ultimate salvation. If he had waited even a few more days, he wouldn't have pulled through.

And so it is with us.

The Takeaway

Fox Looking at His Reflection in a Pond
Fox Looking at His Reflection
In a Pond
It's easy to sit back and create distance between ourselves and others. Sometimes, that makes the crazy events in our lives or the painful experiences we pass through more bearable and less destructive to mind and spirit.

We are really not so different from the others that we try to separate from. Our own odd behavior is only a matter of degree. While we might not go as far as swallowing 40 knives, just for pleasure, we often are not motivated to do anything constructive unless we are in pain or uncomfortable.

Human nature tends to see pain and discomfort as something bad, but let's not forget that pain, as in Singh's case, can be our saving grace.

It is pain that brings us to the point where we're ready and willing to begin questioning what's really gong on here. It is the pain and discomfort in our lives that provides the necessary catalyst for change. And it is the struggle to gain our goals and ideals that finally brings us unto the throne of grace.

Instead of reaching into the pocket of blame for the cause of someone else's odd behavior, try looking into the mirror they provide and ask:

What can I learn about MYSELF from what they are saying and doing?”


  1. Thank you for this article. It made me realize that the end of pain can be the cause of apparent pleasure; and pleasure when it stops can also feel like pain. These are both on one continuum. No one quality lasts forever. Change is ever present.

    1. Thanks for sharing that insight. Nothing lasts forever. I love that!


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