By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
In spite of the sudden availability of this wealth of rare material, the Source remained pretty much an unknown quantity — though speculation was plentiful. Unbeknownst to the world at large, the remnants of the Source Family — which had officially dispersed within a couple of years of YaHoWha’s death — were coming to terms with its legacy. A couple of Hawaiian reunions occurred — first to finally scatter YaHoWha’s ashes on the 20th anniversary of his fatal flight, and then to observe the birth of the Aquarian age on September 17, 2001 (as predicted by the Great Pyramid). Family archivist Isis began organizing the enormous quantities of photographs and ephemera and writing a definitive history of Baker and the group. Initially published privately for Family members, The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family came to the attention of Jodi Wille and Adam Parfrey of the maverick publishing house Process. Wille helped edit and expand the history, which now includes a number of dissenting voices regarding the purity of YaHoWha’s motives (and a CD of previously unreleased recordings, including a live gig at Beverly Hills High!).
Not that Isis’ version of the story is all peaches and cream. As with most prophets, YaHoWha’s thoughts began turning to the coming apocalypse. At around the time he began to lose interest in the musical project, he became convinced that America was on the brink of a series of cataclysmic upheavals — nuclear war followed by earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions. When one of the Family children became seriously ill with an untreated staph infection, emergency-room doctors alerted the authorities. Fearing a crackdown, YaHoWha realized it was time to sell the restaurant and head for the hills of Hawaii. No danger of military invasion, tsunamis or volcanoes there!
While the inside scoop on the high-functioning days of a utopian religious movement is a rare and fascinating thing in itself, it is the account of its unraveling that makes for the most compelling reading, throwing the accomplishments of the spiritual social experiment into high contrast. Without the income provided by the restaurant and the relatively tolerant and supportive environment of Los Angeles, the vision began to fray at the edges. The populace of the Family’s first Hawaiian destination, Kauai, was decidedly unwelcoming, and doubts and paranoia arose among the flock — and their shepherd. A contemporary article from the local paper The Garden Island quotes YaHoWha desperately offering the services of the Family to “police the airports” to drive the also-unpopular hippie “parasites” off the island, if only the authorities would “look the other way.”
That didn’t work. In 1975, YaHoWha bailed with a small entourage on a peripatetic world journey, searching for a new home in Thailand, India, Nepal, Egypt, Greece and a half-dozen other locales. The remaining Family members had to persuade the Hawaiian welfare authorities to buy them airplane tickets back to the mainland. After regrouping briefly in San Francisco (where they refurbished a haunted mansion and YaHoWha basically revoked the sexual privileges of his sons in a vain attempt to make them get jobs), they decided to try Hawaii again. It was around this time that Father got interested in hang-gliding.
Usually, accounts of communal spiritual movements are sensationalistic “exposés of brainwashing cults” or whitewashing “defenses against prejudicial conspiracies.” The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family is something else. The participants in this story seem uniformly intelligent, straightforward and better off for their brush with the infinite. Most cherish their time with YaHoWha as a central transformative period in their lives, even when they have gone on to make millions in the construction industry or found other fringe spiritual communities to shelter them. And the Source Family is just one of many such under-documented experiments from a period of recent American history that was quickly swept under the rug with unwarranted ridicule and fear mongering. I’m not convinced that the release of this book is a harbinger of the imminent transformation of our species’ consciousness and the basic structure of society. But it at least allows us to discuss the possibility again without snickering.