"In the Berkshire Hills of Connecticut, in an out of the way valley, is a school of philosophy, a religious retreat, an eastern monastery in embryo, perhaps. There is not, however, a trace of Oriental coloring visible to the casual observer to call attention to the fact..."
"that it is not indigenous to the soil that gave us wooden nutmegs-- not a trace, that is, except the Hindu Swami, monk and sage at the head of the establishment and the name, which is in good Sanskrit the Vedanta Ashrama"
"There is no such thing as magic; there is no such thing as second sight, or mind reading, or thought transference; there is nothing but fakery and humbug in Hindoo mysticism, and I challenge any Spiritualist or medium to show me any trick or trickery done by him or her that..."
"I haven't done in the open, or cannot do. And I will repeat that challenge as often as they desire, and meet the best of them under their own conditions..."
"The mentality of Lu Etta Smith was the subject discussed at the trial of Dr. Willard P. Burke today. Attorneys for the defence did their best to prove her insane. They delved into the realms of the mystic world and hauled forth spooks, swamis and bogie men."
"Then Hindu philosophy was mixed up with a question otherwise immaterial, irrelevant and incompetent..."
“In one week of February, 327 Hindus arrived in San Francisco. The Hindus in California now number 10,000…benevolent assimilation of the Hindu is impossible. In the first place, they despise white men”
“Any American or Briton who assumes a patronizing air to a Hindu does not offend the philosophical oriental. Instead, he amuses him intensely”
“Secretly despising our parvenu, inexperienced civilization, and without the intention of becoming Americanized, or even Caucasian, the Hindus can not be benevolently assimilated. They are the most persistent race in the orient”
“It seems hard to believe that in this civilized day there should exist anywhere, such preposterous absurdity as are practiced in India in the name of religion”
“Although England has ruled here for more than a century, and the Protestant missionary societies have spent upwards of a hundred million gold dollars in trying to make converts to Christianity, the mass of people still adhere to the ridiculous practices of the ancients”
“Eve is eating the apple again. It is offered as a knowledge of the occult that shall solve the riddles of existence. Yoga, that eastern philosophy the emblem of which is the coiled serpent, is being widely disseminated here”
“Literally yoga means the ‘path’ that leads to wisdom. Actually it is proving the way that leads to domestic infelicity and insanity and death”
“‘You are my affinity no longer.’ It was with these words that Mrs. W. E. Stone abandoned husband, children, home, country, and friends—gave up her position as a leader of the exclusive society of LaFayette, Ind....”
“And she accepted, in the place of all this, a life of semi-barbarity, among the mystics, the fakers, and the dervishes of East India, where as a devotee of the weird, intangible faith which is called Yoga, she must satisfy her heart’s desire in the contemplation of the occult..”
“The cult, which is now reported to have claimed Mrs. Stone, is an offshoot of an ancient Hindoo system of thought”
“A number of years ago one phase of the cult was forcibly called to the attention of Chicagoans through the lectures of Mrs. Ida Craddock, who applied its theory to details of life in such a way her books and publications were barred from the malls and she was indicted”
“Lack of drapery appeared today as one of the chief beliefs of the leader of the Christian Yoga cult, Yogi Ralph DeBit, in his trial with Mrs. Dorothy Gerber before Justice Brinker for alleged misconduct”
“Like the character in ‘The Naked Truth,’ it appeared that the mystery of human life was unveiled, and the inner truth revealed to the elect only when earthly and statutory vestments were tossed away”
Mrs. Lalros...was about to become the victim to the terrible suttee of her caste when reduced by the man who afterward would become her husband” in
“At the age of 11, just on the eve of the children’s marriage, the youth of 13 who was to be the bridegroom died and... according to the irrevocable laws of her caste, she was doomed to be burned on the funeral pyre”
“Yoga, that Eastern philosophy, the emblem of which is the coiled serpent, is being disseminated in America. Literally yoga means ‘path’ that leads to wisdom. Actually, it is pricing the way that leads to domestic infelicity and insanity and death” 2/
“It was the Congress of Religions, at the Chicago World’s fair, in 1893... they arrived silken clad and sandal shod, to prove an attraction that outshone the plain American variety of minister in a frock coat and white tie.” 3/
In recent posts we’ve seen the intellectual and cultural impact of various Swamis in America. Spiritual figures like Swami Ram and Swami Abhedananda traveled and lectured extensively, drawing adherents and pushing back on distortions propagated about India and the “Hindoo”
But as we have also seen, the figure of the Swami also became something of a villain in American culture, a trickster magician out to cheat innocent Americans (women in particular) of their money. Enter Swami Kohlrabi!
Published in the San Francisco Call in 1913, the comic strip below features one “Swami Kohlrabi,” an unscrupulous American professor who dresses up like a “Swami” to trick clients out of their money:
“if this teacher had ever gone up from Calcutta to Meerut, some nine hundred miles, in a boat and made use of his eyes, I think he would have observed hundreds of these amphibious creatures... I could tell you cases myself where European men have lost their lives by swimming”
“The teacher talks of the people of this country being familiar with the horrible story of the Juggernaut, which he also never heard of until he heard it here, though at the same time he says he saw one of those cars being drawn by men and women...”
“‘My work in this country is not a missionary movement’ said Swami Abhedananda, when seen with the class of young children which he has recently begun to instruct in the elements of the Hindu religion. ‘Nor have we any desire to proselyte nor found a sect..’”
“But the great mistake made by Americans concerning the condition of the Indian woman. I never heard until I came to this country that Hindu mothers throw their babies into the Ganges to be eaten by crocodiles.”
“If the interesting Hindoo monk, Swami Ram, could talk to an audience with the ease of convincing grasp of ideas that characterize him while talking to individuals he would soon have an army of enthusiastic followers”
“Under the spell of that caressing voice and the visions conjured up by the wand of his Mahatmic wisdom nothing seemed impossible, nothing unattainable. The tricks of the hypnotist and the faker were child’s play to him”
Vivekananda and his fellow Ramakrishna disciples were not the only ones who come to America in the aftermath of the Parliament. Published in the St Louis Republic in 1902, the clip below is first hand account written by journalist turned Vaishnava missionary Baba Bharati
As a journalist Bharati apparently knew Kipling, and sources suggest that he was the inspiration for the holy man in Kipling’s novel, Kim! #HindooHistory
Bharati distinguished himself through his missionary approach. Not only did he push back on the distortions of Claudius Buchanan and his ilk— he argued that Hindu thought was in fact preferable to Christianity! Needless to say, this was a source of controversy. #HindooHistory