Theos Casimir Bernard

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Theos Casimir Bernard
TheosBernard showing BaddhaPadmasana.jpg
Bernard, practicing yoga
Born December 10, 1908
Died 1947 (aged 38–39)
Nationality American
Known for Explorer, author, expert on Tibetan Buddhism
  • Viola Wertheim Bernard (m. 1934-1938; divorced)
  • Ganna Walska (m. 1942–1946; divorced)

Theos Casimir Bernard (1908–1947)[1] was an explorer, and author, known for his work on yoga and religious studies, particularly in Tibetan Buddhism.[2] He was the nephew of Pierre Arnold Bernard.


Bernard first trained in law, obtaining a bachelor's degree in 1931 and embarking on an internship in 1932, but decided instead to pursue an advanced degree at Columbia University.[3] There, according to 2010's The Madman's Middle Way, Bernard, who described himself as "the first white lama", became the first American to write a dissertation on the subject of Tibetan Buddhism.[4]

In 1936, he toured India and Tibet with his wife, Viola Wertheim Bernard[5] (half-sister of Maurice Wertheim), studying Tantric Yoga in an effort to master its fundamental principles.[6] On his return to the United States in 1937, his experiences were published across the country over several weeks by the North American Newspaper Alliance and Bell Syndicate.[7] This was followed by a series of lectures and radio appearances in 1939 and by the publication of the memoir Penthouse of the Gods.[8] Bernard was also featured in popular magazines, including a cover story in Family Circle in 1939, followed shortly by his second book, Heaven Lies Within Us, which explored Hatha Yoga under the guise of an auto-biography.[9] According to 2008's Barbarian Lands, many of the experiences Bernard describes in his books have recently been discovered to have been fabricated, based on the experiences of his father.[10] In 1939, Bernard opened the American Institute of Yoga and Pierre Health Studios.[11][12]

During the 1940s Bernard completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University under the supervision of Herbert Schneider.[13]

In 1947, he again visited northern India, on an expedition to the Ki monastery in Tibet in an attempt to discover special manuscripts. In October, while in an area of Pakistan, Inter-communal violence broke out in the section of the hills that he and his Tibetan companion were travelling. It was reported that both were shot and their bodies thrown in a river.[Note 1][14] He was declared dead several months later, though his body was never found.[15]


  1. ^ This account of the death of Theos Bernard was related by G.A. Bernard, Theos' father


  1. ^ Hackett, Paul. Barbarian Lands: Theos Bernard, Tibet, and the American Religious Life. Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 2008. 
  2. ^ Paul G. Hackett (15 September 2003). Theos Casimir Bernard. Columbia University. 
  3. ^ Hackett, 196–197
  4. ^ Donald S. Lopez Jr. (15 May 2007). The Madman's Middle Way: Reflections on Reality of the Tibetan Monk Gendun Chopel. University of Chicago Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-226-49317-6. 
  5. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help);
  6. ^ Syman, Stefanie (22 June 2010). The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America. Macmillan. pp. 119–120, 122. ISBN 978-0-374-23676-2. 
  7. ^ Syman, 123.
  8. ^ Hackett, 687-690.
  9. ^ Hackett, 695-701
  10. ^ Hackett, 694-702.
  11. ^ Hackett, 726-730
  12. ^ Syman, 132
  13. ^ "The Life and Works of Theos Bernard". Columbia University. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  14. ^ Bernard, Theos (1982). Hatha yoga (Fourth impression of the revised edition (1968) ed.). Rider. p. vi. ISBN 0091500516. 
  15. ^ Love, Robert (2010). The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America. Viking Adult. p. 315. 

Further reading[edit]