The story of one of Los Angeles’ first wellness cults is reportedly being adapted into a television series starring Mark Ruffalo.
Known as the Source Family, the group had a prominent flash in the pan from the late 1960s until they began to disband after their eccentric leader died in a hang-gliding accident in Hawaii in 1975.
During their heyday, about 140 men and women lived in a series of communes in southern California, where they dressed in flowing robes, practiced tantric sex, and recorded a series of psychedelic rock albums.
They also, famously, operated a health food restaurant on the Sunset Strip that was frequented by the likes of John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, and Marlon Brando.
They worshipped at the altar of Father Yod, born Jim Baker. He was a reported WWII fighter pilot, bank robber, lethal judo expert, and wealthy Midwesterner who developed a religious philosophy that combined astrology, mysticism, western esotericism, and a number of other spiritual philosophies.
Father Yod took 14 ‘spiritual wives’ within the group, and encouraged underage female members to marry older men – leading some to describe him as ‘a dirty old man on a lust trip.’ However, unlike many cults from the era that gained prominence for the horrific abuses members suffered, the Source Family has remained largely free from such controversies.
Members of The Source family cluster around a Rolls-Royce bought by their disciple ‘Father Yod’ – born Jim Baker – with the proceeds of his Sunset Boulevard health food restaurant
Father Yod – who also went by Yahowah – is pictured with members of his Source family. He ‘married’ 14 women he described as ‘spiritual wives’
The Source restaurant is pictured in LA during the 1970s. Its wacky health food dishes set trends and took in $10,000-a-day, enabling Father Yod to live a lavish lifestyle
Members of the Source cult perform music outside their Mother House – whose official name was Chandler Mansion – in Los Angeles
Father Yod (left center, with white beard and staff) and his followers in an undated photo
A number of documentaries and books about the group have been released over the years, and now a limited series, with Ruffalo tipped to play Father Yod, is in motion, according to the LA Times.
Historian Isis Aquarian also has released a new book called FAMILY: The Source Family Scrapbook – published by Sacred Bones and Otherworld.
The legends surrounding the man who became Father Yod are many.
It’s said that he shot down 13 Japanese planes while flying in World War II. That his hands were registered as weapons, after he killed two men using his martial arts expertise (he was convicted of manslaughter in 1963). It is also suspected that he robbed up to 11 banks.
While still known as Jim Baker, he moved to Hollywood to take a shot at acting with an audition for Tarzan. After that evidently failed, Baker turned to the restaurant business and launched the health food spots Old World and Aware Inn.
Both were a huge success in California’s burgeoning hippie scene, and while basking in his newfound wealth, Baker delved into it the philosophies that were so popular at the time. He became a student of the spiritual guru Yogi Bhajan, then began developing his own spiritualism that combined the principles of a number of mystical philosophies – free love, spiritual sex, health-focused living, and smoking a lot of marijuana.
Sometime in the late 1960s Baker assumed the name Father Yod and began gathering followers, eventually adopting the Source Family name and moving into a mansion in the LA neighborhood of Los Feliz.
To fund their lifestyle, Father Yod put his entrepreneurship to work and opened the Source restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, which quickly became the face of LA’s outlandish culture. So much so, it was parodied in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall, when the main character grimacingly orders ‘alfalfa sprouts and a plate of mashed yeast.’
At its height, the restaurant was making about $10,000 per day, leaving Father Yod and his disciples extremely well funded. He purchased a Rolls-Royce that followers chauffeured him around in, adopted the name YaHoWah (a repurposing of the Hebrew word for god, Yahweh) and taught his followers how to chant it.
As female members gave birth within the cult, his followers naturally grew.
Father Yod was a wealthy restaurateur before developing his spiritual philosophy and cult
Family members abandoned their old names, assuming the last name Aquarian instead, and took first names like Lotus, Lovely, Explosion, Isis or Sunflower – leaving each with a name like ‘Zarathustra Aquarian.’
At one point, the group spent tens of thousands of dollars on instruments, amplifiers, and recording equipment, and converted the mansion’s garage into a recording studio where they set to work putting their philosophies to music.
Father Yod fronted the band, and they recorded about 60 albums filled with improvisational psychedelic rock and hippie-folk.
Their music was never picked up by a major label, but much of it was self-published by the family, and the remaining LPs draw hundreds of dollars apiece by collectors today.
The Source Family’s recording drew the ire of neighbors, and they were eventually forced to relocate to a smaller home in Nichols Canyon.
Another reason for their flight from the mansion was persistent visits from police, who were responding to reports of underage women living among the group. In response, Father Yod reportedly encouraged the girls to marry male members, as a way of insulating them from police and the reach of irate parents.
The Source restaurant, which the cult operated on Sunset Boulevard
Mark Ruffalo (left) is rumored to be starring as Father Yod in a television series about the Source Family produced by Stacey Sher (right)
At some point in the early 1970s, Father Yod began marrying multiple women, leaving his first wife Robyn devastated.
She would later accuse him of being a conman on a ‘lust trip’ for young women but, beyond her complaints, there were few noises of dissent from within the group.
Former member Galaxy Aquarian, who was once named Dawn Hurwitz, joined when she was 16 years old in 1972 and later became one of Father Yod’s wives.
She told the LA Times that her time with the group had been a positive experience.
‘I took a lot of that with me, but I’ve adapted to life,’ Galaxy said. ‘I married another man. I’ve worn several hats.’
Father Yod eventually moved the group to Hawaii, and one day in 1975 he announced he was going to go hang gliding.
Despite having zero experience in the sport, he jumped off a 1,300-foot cliff in a glider and promptly plummeted to his death.
It remains unclear whether the death was a suicide. According to the Johns Hopkins Newsletter, Father Yod had experienced a lapse of faith in the year of his death and confessed to followers that he was not a god.
And in the 2012 documentary The Source Family, a former member said Father Yod told the group of his intent to ‘leave the body’ a month before the fatal accident.
The cult began to dissolve after Father Yod’s death, finally disbanding around 1978.
According to the maker of that documentary, Jodi Wille, Mark Ruffalo is gearing up to play Father Yod in a limited series based on the cult. Also involved in the project is Ruffalo’s manager Margaret Riley, along with producer Stacey Sher.
In March, they all joined a number of former Source Family members for dinner, inspired by what they dubbed ‘a journey into the cult roots of health food,’ according to the LA Times. They were also joined by producer Ben Sinclair, music producer Rick Rubin, and actress Patricia Arquette.
The dinner, put on by the media group Atlas Obscura, included a menu inspired by the Source restaurant with items like ‘multidimensional soup,’ ‘aware salad,’ and ‘psychedelic toast.’
Before the group ate, Source Family members Galaxy, Zarathustra, and Venus Aquarian gave a blessing they were taught by Father Yod.
‘As above, so below, and around, we go, YaHoWah,’ they chanted together.
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11990859/Inside-Source-Family-bizarre-1970s-Hollywood-sex-cult.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490&rand=1270