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WHEN LAST WE encountered Pierre Arnold Bernard (yesterday here at SimanaitisSays; 1929 in his lifetime), he had just ordered a car from Belgian automaker Minerva. But not just any car, his particular Minerva AM was to be one of the largest and most lavish automobiles of all time.
Con artist? How come I always seem to encounter these guys?
Born Perry Baker or perhaps Peter Coon in Leon, Iowa, in 1875, Bernard later also called himself Homer Stansbury Leeds. In 1905, he founded the Tantrik Order of America, one of the country’s first yoga organizations. A New York Sanskrit College followed in 1910. In 1918, a well-heeled yoga disciple gave Bernard a 30-room mansion on a 72-acre estate in Nyack, New York, which became the Clarkson Country Club.
I couldn’t find precisely when Bernard adopted the title Oom with its various illustrious qualifiers. However, before long he ran a chain of tantric clinics in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City.
Oom’s scholarship centered on yoga and tantra. Ever so loosely, yoga is a collection of physical, mental and spiritual practices. Tantra enhances this with a touch of mystic sensuality. Oom’s association with tantra and sex evidently didn’t hurt his clinics’ business model.
However, it did get him tangling with the law over allegedly taking liberties of a psychic nature (not to say of other sorts) with two teenage girls. He was charged with kidnapping the pair, one of whom noted, “He had promised to marry me many times. But when he began the same thing with my little sister [age 16] I decided I would expose the whole matter.” Three months later, the charges were dropped.
Oom’s popularity, especially with upper middle class women, continued through the 1920s and 1930s. One of his lecturers at the country club was another lucky-in-love type, conductor Leopold Stokowski. Eventually, Oom, er… Bernard turned to other endeavors, including baseball stadiums, dog tracks, an airport and becoming the president of the State Bank of Pearl River, New York.
I like to think he continued enjoying his 7000-volume Sanskrit collection, said to be the best in the country, and touring about in his Minerva “Throne Car.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016