Nyack Sketch Log: Yoga Reborn Here
by Bill Batson September 3, 2013
Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here, by William Broad. Feb. 28, 2012.
The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world’s fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of “self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat.”
Sex, Bliss, Tantra & the Anusara Revolution
by Ramesh Bjonnes
Feb 8, 2012
A few years ago, Mara Carrico wrote an article called ”The Truth About Tantra” in Yoga Journal, in which she made the following prediction: the next revolution in yoga in America will be Tantra.
While I had my hunches that we would see an increasing interest in genuine Tantra, Carrico was spot on prophetic! That is, she predicted a vigorous new interest among yoga enthusiasts in the deeper study of Tantra philosophy as opposed to the bedroom slackers who dabble in the more shallow Sex-Tantra. Or Neo-Tantrics, as prolific yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein has dubbed those who often mistake the Kama Sutras for the Yoga Sutras. Those who mistake orgasm for enlightenment. (More)
All fame is fleeting but it’s easy to forget how well known Oom was in the 1930s. This New York Times movie review from 1934, of W.C Field in “The Old-Fashioned Way”, reminds us that Omnipotent Oom was familiar enough to readers to toss off in a casual comparison.
To the lyric popping of vest buttons and the tortured noises of the laugh that begins deep down, the magnificent Mr. Fields has graciously placed himself on view at the Paramount, and honest guffaws are once more heard on Forty-third Street. The great man, the omnipotent oom of one of the screen’s most devoted cults, brings with him some new treasures, as well as a somewhat alarming collection of wheezes which, ten years ago in the vaudeville tank towns, must have seemed not long for this world. But somehow when Mr. Fields, in his necessary search for comic business, is forced to strike up a nodding acquaintance with vintage gags, they seem to become almost young again. (more)
Why do we not seem as interested or nearly as informed about such very early 20th century home-grown teachers?
An excellent blog post from Chetana Panwar. The author asks,
“The book (The Great Oom) came out last year and was also reviewed in the New York Times, but I have not heard much comment about it in the yoga community. ”
We’ve wondered about this as well.
But most astounding to me has been the incredibly informative recent book, The Great Oom, about an American, Dr. Bernard, and his Indian guru, who taught very diverse aspects of yogic cleansing, meditation, asana and philosophy starting in the 1890s through the 1920s when they had yoga studios in Manhattan, through the 20s and 30s at a Yoga Country Club in Nayak, NY, that had long term residents in the Vanderbilt family, and visitors like teenage Pete Seeger. It is an amazing story of a teacher who captivated many, and whose students were the earliest teachers of Hatha Yoga across America. The book came out last year and was also reviewed in the New York Times, but I have not heard much comment about it in the yoga community. And yet, it is such an American tale of a young, un-formally-educated boy, meeting a mystical teacher and dedicating his life to learning from him and teaching, reinventing himself and his credentials for the high society of a number of cities from coast to coast. Why do we not seem as interested or nearly as informed about such very early 20th century home-grown teachers? Why do we not more often make the connection between Thoreau and the Boston Transcendentalists and the yoga tradition?
The Northeast Popular Culture Association has selected The Great Oom for the 2011 Rollins Award.
Robert Love’s book,The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America, has been awarded the Peter C. Rollins Book Award. This award recognizes the best scholarly monograph on any popular culture or American culture topic published in the previous year by authors living or working in the Northeast.
A quote from a Rollins Award committee member.
“All five members of the Rollins Award committee really enjoyed readingThe Great Oom. I have found myself on more than one occasion in high-end yogini apparel stores wondering how yoga’s path in America led to the mall—how yoga got so mixed up with personality, status, and money—and your study of Bernard’s career, and the yoga “scene” of the early 20th century provided valuable and engaging historical perspective.”
My Life in a Love Cult: A Warning to All Young Girls, My True Life Story by Marion Dockerill, High Priestess of Oom, 1928. (First time on the Internet!!)
Thus, we might say that the magical and sexual career of Aleister Crowley was in many ways parallel to that of the founder of the Tantrik Order in America, Dr. Pierre Arnold Bernard – and in fact, the two did also briefly intersect. Not only do many of Crowley’s teachings on sexual magic do seem to bear some superficial resemblance to those of Bernard’s American Tantra, but it would seem that Crowley also had some direct contact with the members of the Tantrik Order in the 1920’s. Crowley was first introduced to his infamous “Scarlet Woman,” Leah Hirsig, in New York in 1918 by her sister Alma, Alma, it seems, was a direct disciple of Bernard and deeply involved in his Tantrik Order in New York; however, she would later go on to publish her own exposé of Bernard’s group, under the pseudonym of Marion Dockerill, entitled, My Life in a Love Cult: a Warning to All Young Girls (1928). — The Omipotent Oom: Tantra and Its Impact on Modern Western Esotericism by Hugh B. Urban, Ohio State University.