“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

What is it about Christmas that LI dislikes? It is not the giftgiving. It is not the carols. It is not the trees. We like all of that.

What we don’t like is the sexlessness.

Christmas, after all, took over from Saturnalia. But as the baby Jesus has become more and more innocent, he has sucked the erotic energy out of the ocassion. This isn’t absolutely true – my friend T. sent me, just today, an article about celebrating Christmas in Japan. Evidently, the holiday is notable for being that time of year during which virgins get rid of their virginity in various Japanese hotels. Good for those guys and gals.

But in America, it is all about the kids, and not at all about the conception.

Perhaps what we need is the tantric Christmas.

Hugh Urban is a rising American scholar on tantric practices. He’s written an essay about the man who brought the Tantra to America: Pierre Arnold Bernard . Bernard was not, I think, mentioned in Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon, a book I always recommend to people for its enjoyable account of the first tentative movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that coalesced, eventually, into the New Age. From Urban’s description of Bernard, I don’t know how he was missed:

“Known in the popular American press as "Oom the Omnipotent," Bernard became notorious throughout newspapers and journals as a spiritual leader and philosopher as well as a philanderer, seducer of women and purveyor of scandalous indecencies. Not only did he found the first "Tantrik Order" in America (1906), but he was also the first in a long line of Tantric gurus who would come under intense criticism and suspicion for their alleged immoral, indecent and illegal sexual practices. As such, he has been a seminal influence on much later esotericism in the U.S. not only on later traditions of Western sexual magic, but also on contemporary New Religious Movements, such as the cult of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the Siddha Yoga Society, and more recent developments like American Tantra," the Church of Tantra and the New Tantrik Order in America.”

Damn, LI wanted to be the first to be known as Oom the Omnipotent! There goes our dream moniker.

Urban is at pains to separate Tantra, which is a complex and multiple meditative practice, from its reputation as orgiastic yoga-ing. He takes the point of classical tantra – which has to do with restraining and (somehow) retracting semen – as a sign that tantra is about power. Unsurprisingly, the reference is to Foucault here.

So how did Tantra gets the sex label? It started with the Victorians:

“It was really not until the early nineteenth century, with the arrival of Christian missionaries like the Baptist William Ward and the Scotsman, Alexander Duff, that Tantras became objects of intense interest and morbid fascination. Above all, the missionaries singled out the sexual element particularly transgressive and illicit sexuality as the most horrific aspect of the Tantras and the clearest evidence of their complete depravity. The Tantras, as Ward put it, involve "a most shocking mode of worship" centered around the worship of a naked woman (preferably a prostitute or outcast) and rites "too abominable to enter the ears of man and impossible to be revealed to a Christian public"”

Sounds like Christmas to me! LI might not be too pious, but we think we could possibly be interested in the worship of naked women. Nice to think that, all the time, our hobby could actually be incorporated into a tax free entity.

Bernard was a mysterious man. He came, of course, from California. He had traveled much in the mystic orient, and ended up in San Francisco teaching hypnotism and yoga and founding the Order of the Tantrik Brotherhood, which made marvelous promises to initiates. But things really got going after 1906:

"After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Bernard left California and eventually relocated to New York City, where he would open his "Oriental Sanctum" in 1910. Teaching Hatha Yoga in the downstairs room and offering secret Tantric initiation upstairs, the Oriental sanctum quickly became an object of scandal in the New York press: the notorious "Omnipotent Oom" was charged with kidnapping and briefly imprisoned, though the charges were later dropped. "I cannot tell you how Bernard got control over me or how he gets it over other people," said one of the alleged kidnapees, Zella Hopp, "He is the most wonderful man in the world. No women seem able to resist him.”

LI cannot resist the name Zella Hopp. It exerts a strange and effluvial influence over our thinking, it is as if vaseline were rubbed all over the inner lens, things are getting watery even as we type these words. We might have to go to a bar, soon. But wait…

The Omnipotent Oom became quite successful, according to Urban, who culls newspaper and magazine reports that claim that the Tantrik order included many celebrated names. The police raids probably helped, too. Nothing gives you publicity like a sex raid from the cops. O.O.’s credo was as follows: “The trained imagination no longer worships before the shrines of churches, pagodas and mosques or there would be blaspheming the greatest, grandest and most sublime temple in the universe, the miracle of miracles, the human body.”

Why that would be blaspheming, instead of something on the order of a spiritual acquisition and merger, we aren’t quite sure. In any case, O.O’s initiates paid fabulous fees to engage in mysterious physical activity with the great man himself, in a turban and flared Turkish pants, sitting on a throne, presiding.

Unfortunately, all things come to an end. The Omnipotent Oom, while retaining his belief in the worship of the naked body, eventually branched out into other fields, and in 1931 became the president of the State Bank of Pearl River. A rather daring act, actually, given the state of the banks in 1931. Perhaps this was a secret sexual act of a kind O.O. specialized in.

We highly recommend the article. And remember, have as much sexual congress as possible for a merrie, merrie christmas.

No comments: