1. Sri Yukteswar Gigi
2. Aleister Crowley
3. Mae West
4. Lenny Bruce
Sri Yukteswar Gigi
- Sri Yukteswar Giri (1855 – 1936) was an Indian guru and, amongst other things, an educator and a student of the Sanskrit scripture the Bhagavad Gita and of the Bible. At the request of Guru Mahavatar Babajin in 1894, he wrote a book comparing Hindu scriptures and the Christian bible, naming it Kaivalya Darsanam, or The Holy Science.
- Yukteswar converted his large family home into an ashram where he lived with students and disciples. In 1903, he also established a second ashram, using the ashrams to teach students.
- He developed a syllabus for schools on the subjects of physics, physiology, geography, astronomy, and astrology. He also wrote a book for Bengalis on learning basic English and Hindi. Later, he became interested in the education of women, which was uncommon in Bengal at that time.
“The purpose of this book is to show as clearly as possible that there is an essential unity in all religions; that there is no difference in the truths inculcated by the various faiths; that there is but one method by which the world, both external and internal, has evolved; and that there is but one Goal admitted by all scriptures.”
- Sri Yukteswar Gigi, Introduction to The Holy Science
- Aleister Crowley (1875 – 1947) was an English occultist, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer.
- Crowley was the founder of the Thelema religion., seeing himself as the prophet who was entrusted with informing humanity that it was entering the new Aeon of Horus in the early twentieth century, a time when old ethical and religious systems would be replaced by new ones focused upon the principle of individual liberty.
- Crowley controversially was also a bisexual, a recreational drug experimenter and social critic. He espoused views and philosophies against the moral and religious values of his time, his mantra being "Do What Thou Wilt". Because of this, he gained widespread notoriety during his lifetime, and was denounced in the popular press of the day as "the wickedest man in the world."
- Crowley has remained an influential figure right up till this day, and is widely thought of as the most influential occultist of all time. In 2002, a BBC poll described him as being the seventy-third greatest Briton of all time.
- References to him can be found in the works of numerous writers, musicians and filmmakers, and he has also been cited as a key influence on many later esoteric groups and individuals, including Kenneth Grant, Jack Parsons, Gerald Gardner and, to some degree, Austin Osman Spare.
“The supreme satisfaction is to be able to despise one's neighbor and this fact goes far to account for religious intolerance. It is evidently consoling to reflect that the people next door are headed for hell.”
- Aleister Crowley
Symbol of the Thelema religion
- Mary Jane "Mae" West (1893 – 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades.
- West was known for her bawdy double entendres, and sexual independence, resulting in numerous censorship battles and even time in jail.
- According to the New York Times obituary upon her death in 1980, aged 87:
“Mae West stood as the epitome of playfully vulgar sex in the United States, portraying the role of a woman who made men slaver when she crossed a room in her sinuous walk. Dressing in skin-tight gowns, bedecking herself in jewels, maintaining an impeccable blondness and offering innuendos in a sultry voice, Miss West posed as a small-town Lothario's dream of sexual abandonment in Sodom and Gomorrah.”
- West was born in Brooklyn, New York, to parents involved in prizefighting and vaudeville. Mae herself worked on the stage and in vaudeville from the time she was five years old. She studied dance as a child, and by the time she was 14 she was billed as "The Baby Vamp" for her performances on stage.
- Later Mae began writing her own plays. One of those plays, "Sex", landed her in jail for ten days on obscenity charges in 1926. Two years later her play "Diamond Lil" became a huge Broadway success. Mae caught the attention of the Hollywood studios and her second film, She Done Him Wrong (1933), based on her earlier and popular play that she had written herself, was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture. It also made Cary Grant a star. Her third film later that year was I'm No Angel (1933).
- The controversy aroused by these two films resulted in the studios establishing the Motion Picture Production Code, which regulated what content could be shown or said in pictures. As a result of these codes, Mae began to double-talk so that a person could take a word or phrase any way they wished. This was so she could get her material past the censors.
- After more films and flak, and with the censors becoming tougher, she went back to the stage. Mae continued to be a success there. When censorship began to end in the 1960s, she returned to film work in 1970's Myra Breckinridge (1970). Her last film was 1978's Sextette (1978).
- Some anecdotes:
When the management at her Ravenswood apartment building barred her African American boyfriend, boxer William Jones, from entering the premises, West solved the problem by buying the building and lifting the ban.
During World War II, Allied aircrews called their yellow inflatable, vest-like life preserver jackets "Mae Wests" partly from rhyming slang for "breasts" and "life vest" and partly because of the resemblance to her torso.
Mae West did not support actors appearing naked, believing that suggestion was more sexy than nude. Her comment on this was ”Never drop the seventh veil.”
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
- Mae West
- Leonard Alfred Schneider (1925 – 1966), better known by his stage name Lenny Bruce, was a Jewish-American stand-up comedian, social critic and satirist. He was renowned for his open, free-style and critical form of comedy which integrated satire, politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity. His 1964 conviction in an obscenity trial was followed by a posthumous pardon, the first in the history of New York State, by then-Governor George Pataki in 2003.
- "He paved the way for future outspoken counterculture-era comedians, and his trial for obscenity is seen as a landmark for freedom of speech in the United States. In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him third (behind disciples Richard Pryor and George Carlin) on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time."
- Some anecdotes:
Bruce joined the United States Navy at the age of 16 in 1942, and saw active duty during World War II aboard the USS Brooklyn, fighting in Northern Africa, Palermo, Italy in 1943 and Anzio, Italy in 1944. In May 1945, after a comedic performance for his shipmates in which he was dressed in drag, his commanding officers became upset. He defiantly convinced his ship's medical officer that he was experiencing homosexual urges. This led to his dishonorable discharge in July 1945. However, he had not admitted to or been found guilty of any breach of naval regulations and successfully applied to have his discharge changed to "Under Honorable Conditions ... by reason of unsuitability for the naval service".
“Onstage, he was a dark, slender, and intense figure who prowled around like a caged animal and spoke into a hand-held microphone. His monologues were peppered with four-letter curse words and Yiddish expressions. In his act, Lenny liked to expose racist attitudes by forcing his audiences to examine their own racial prejudices.”
Repeated prosecutions for obscenity and profanity saw him do jail time and become a regular target of the police and community groups. As soon as he secured a gig somewhere, the local police invariably threatened the venue owner with arrest if the performance went ahead. Suffering depression and with his drugtaking increasing, by 1965 he was also broke and in debt.
“In February 1966, Lenny traveled to Los Angeles and appeared onstage for the first time in years. He performed for a very small crowd who included a few hecklers and vice cops waiting to arrest him if he should use profanity again. Lenny by this time was bearded, overweight, and haggard, and his performance centered on his current obsessions: his constitutional right of free speech, free assembly, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. When a friend asked him afterwards why he had turned his back on comedy he replied, "I'm not a comedian anymore. I'm Lenny Bruce."
On August 3, 1966, Lenny was found dead on the bathroom floor of his Hollywood home from a drug overdose. He was aged 40.
“A lot of people say to me, 'Why did you kill Christ?' I dunno, it was one of those parties, got out of hand, you know.”
“If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.”
Poster for Lenny Bruce's last series of performances, which took place at The Fillmore in San Francisco on June 24 and 25, 1966.