Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Yoga of Doctor Orient

This is the first of what will probably be a number of posts about Owen Orient, the main character of a series of occult novels written by Frank Lauria, starting in 1970’s Doctor Orient.  Over the course of eight books (or at least the 5 ½ that I’ve read so far) Orient struggles against a variety of supernatural evils, various gangsters, and the Central Intelligence Agency, aka Computer Integrated Assassins.  The tools at his disposal are wide and varied- the ability to invoke angels; telepathy; and both kundalini and tantric yoga.  It’s that last part that first caught my interest, because there aren’t a lot of books with leads who use yoga to fight evil.

Like The Shadow, The Green Lama, Doctor Strange, and Batman, Owen Orient spent a number of years in Tibet learning esoteric arts under the tutelage of a wise master in the mountains.  This is certainly where he learned his yoga, and perhaps telepathy as well.  This teacher was Ku, leader of the Nine Unknown Men who are the secret masters of the League of Serene Thought.  We don’t get a lot of information about Ku, other than when he sent his student Owen back into the world he left him with a gift- a cigarette lighter with a mandala to help Owen focus.  Turns out Himalayan mystics like to smoke (more on that later).

Orient's 1920 Rolls Royce; not everyone gets the Batmobile
At first glance Owen Orient is a model of yogic abstemiousness.  He eats a strict vegetarian diet, practices asana and meditation daily.  In his own way Orient has committed to bhakti yoga, the yoga of service, by working to bring universal harmony to the world by spreading the art of telepathy.  On the other hand, Orient pokes around the edges of this puritanical lifestyle in a way that is distinctly tantric.  He may refrain from meat, but he does occasionally drink.  Orient smokes hand rolled cigarettes that are usually tobacco, but sometimes have a certain green herb scent to them.  He’s uncommonly attached to his restored 1920 Rolls Royce Ghost limousine.  Orient follows the tantric version of brahmacharya, following a path of subtle restraint in sexual relationships rather than chastity; that is, unless he has lost his senses inside a tantric dakini (books #3 & #4) or is snorting back rails of cocaine while locked naked in a bedroom with his boss’s wife for a weekend (book #5).  In one encounter Orient mentally weighs his commitment to ahimsa against the consequences of inaction, just before smashing someone’s trachea with a rusty pipe (book #6).  If tantra means straying from the classical path and embracing a non-dualistic worldview, then Owen Orient is quite the tantric yogi.

The two worlds of Doctor Orient- sometimes you meditate, sometimes you do cocaine off a semi-naked woman
Being a tantric yogi myself, I’m fascinated by what this outlook and lifestyle in the hero of an occult detective action series. What really catches me about Orient’s outlook is how closely it is informed by the same yoga as me in some ways, yet how widely it strays from my own in others.  People ask all the time what I get out of yoga- flexibility, nice ass, a better golf game, killer moves in the sack.  Sure, I have all of those, but that’s not the main lesson I’ve taken away from the last six years of yoga practice.  What I have learned from tantra yoga is santosha, or radical acceptance, and non-attachment to goals.  For me that means accepting I cannot on my own make the world a better place.  To think that is hubris.  What I can do is through my own practice help the best parts of me emerge, and hope that version of me will be reflected in the people I encounter every day- at least until it’s time for me to go full Vanaprastha and retire to a cabin in the forest.

Owen Orient, on the other hand, has never fully grasped this message.  He sincerely believes that being able to share his practices of telepathy and esoteric yoga will make the world a better place.  In pursuing this goal Orient loses friends, loses fortunes, sleeps with the wrong women, is nearly killed numerous times, has his heart broken and his house burned down, and ultimately becomes hunted by the CIA.  Attachment to goals is Orient every day, and he suffers for it continuously.  

More on Doctor Orient in the future.


  1. wasn't there a comic book series about him? I seem to remember seeing a couple of issues.

    1. There was! It was a backup to a two-issue series called Scorpio Rose. Haven't read them yet, they are on the list.