THE GREAT OOM:
The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America.
By Robert Love.
Viking. 402 pp. $27.95
Victorian mores still dominated mainstream America at the dawn of the 20th century, but an eclectic proto-counterculture stirred in more adventurous circles. Spiritual teachers including the mystic G. I. Gurdjieff, the feminist evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and the prosperity-minded African-American minister Father Divine preached new religious ideas to big followings. Pierre Bernard has faded from the ranks of such well-known names, but the man who popularized yoga in the United States, where 20 million people now practice it, was once the much-chronicled glittering sage of the Jazz Age. In The Great Oom, he’s resurrected as an important cultural figure who blazed the trail for New Age spirituality and alternative health regimens.
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