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Tapping the Source

Photos courtesy of Isis Aquarian/Source Family Archives

Photos courtesy of Isis Aquarian/Source Family Archives

It was a typically warm, sunny Los Angeles day when I pulled into the gravel parking lot next to the Source. The place was packed. The patio outside had round tables with director’s chairs and cheery yellow-and-white-striped umbrellas. The wait staff were all wearing white — Mexican cotton pants and shirts and Mexican peasant dresses.

I felt a distinct energy shift as soon as I walked through the door. The workers were beautiful young men and women who radiated health. Every table was filled with interesting-looking people. I noticed Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in a corner, and one of the guys from Earth, Wind & Fire with a longhaired looker.

Across the room, I spotted Jim Baker, who had changed dramatically since I last saw him. Before, he had been a hip, handsome, middle-aged man with short hair. He now had a white beard, his hair had grown out to his shoulders, and he was wearing white drawstring pants and Birkenstocks. He seemed to be glowing with vitality and was talking animatedly to some customer friends. I suddenly fell absolutely in love with him, not just in a sexual way, but in a profoundly deep way.

I approached him, and he looked me over admiringly and gave me a big smile and a long, wonderful hug. “I’m really, really happy to see you,” he said. I was so affected by the warm, healing energy of his embrace that it was hard to speak. The cells in my body felt activated.

The feeling was like being drunk or high. It didn’t feel to me like he was controlling the energy; he just seemed friendly and open and full of love, as if he were blissful in his new, elevated state of consciousness and aware of the significance of the moment between us.

I now understand, after years of meditation and reflection, that my higher self had recognized his higher self, and the unexplainable feeling I had was a joy-filled encounter between two reconnecting souls. And my cells, in soul recognition, had started vibrating to match his energy vibration, which was heightened. I was awakening to my destiny, and, for the first time in my life, I felt truly whole.

It was as if I had gone through a stargate and there was no turning back. That was the buzz I was feeling, and that feeling of deep connectedness and heightened awareness is what ultimately compelled me to leave everything behind. Everything.

Joining the Source Brotherhood, as we called it then, was not easy — it required sacrifice and dedication. If someone was interested and seemed like a possible good fit for the Family, he or she was invited to morning meditation. After three meditations, the individual had to decide whether to join the Family or stop coming to meditation. People who wanted to join were typically assessed by Father in front of the group and asked questions about themselves and why they wanted to be there. Once Father welcomed them in, they were told to dispense with their material goods and relinquish all their property of value to the Family. For most of the young ones in our group, this was usually a car or maybe a musical instrument and not much else. Although all property in the Family was communal (Father would say, “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine”), Father usually allowed musicians to be the caretakers of their own instruments.

Some have said that Father took from those who came in, but in truth, Father gave the Family tenfold what we gave him, not just spiritually, but financially. While everything is a matter of perspective, it was Father’s restaurant, the Source, which supported all 160 of us, even though only 33 of us were working there full time. The money from the restaurant and its sale would sustain us long after we left L.A., almost until Father left his body. Everyone gave all he or she had to the whole; Father contributed far more than he took from others, and this made him unique among gurus at the time.

It seemed everyone had their part to play in the Family, and all entered right on cue. In the early fall of ’72, a charismatic, exceptionally graceful, brown-haired 19-year-old beauty named Susan wandered into the Source. Although it may not have been immediately apparent, this was to be a turning point in the history of our little Family, the beginning of our next incarnation as a group.

Susan told us that she had had a vision while in her hometown in Pennsylvania and had drawn a picture of a powerful, longhaired, bearded older man sitting behind her. She put the picture up in her room, and a few months later, got into her little VW bug and drove across the country. When she came to Los Angeles, a friend sent her to the Source for a good vegetarian meal. When she met Father in the Cedar Temple, she saw him as “that man” in her drawing, and she knew she was home.

Reborn as Makushla, Susan immediately knew that she and Father were meant to be together. Within three days, Makushla had joined Father, Robin, Galaxy and Venus in the bedroom over the Source. At one point in the beginning he told them, “Ahom, you are my wife, Makushla, you are my mother/angel, Galaxy, you are my daughter/child bride, Venus, you are my trusted friend.”

Makushla would fill this “Mother Angel” role with a special grace until Father left his body. She became the one woman who accompanied Father constantly. As he continued to accept other women, Makushla had to handle the same anguish of sharing him. But while Jim Baker ended up leaving and divorcing all of his wives, in his later manifestation, YaHoWha, he kept all 14.

Life at the Mother House had been a utopian dream come true for most of us, but after a year, the Chandlers decided not to renew our lease, and we had to leave. The house was located just a few blocks away from the site of the Manson Family’s La Bianca murders, which had paralyzed Los Angeles only a few years earlier.

I imagine the sight of a hundred young people living in one house, all wearing white and following around a man who looked like Moses, might have made some neighbors nervous. We were kind to everyone and kept the house immaculate, but we were up at 3:30 a.m. every morning for meditation, played music, and liked to walk around nude, among other things. Sometimes we would see men on the hill peering down at us with binoculars, and police helicopters occasionally hovered over the compound.

In March of 1973, we found a hillside home overlooking the Sunset Strip close to the Source restaurant. We called it the “Father House” and rented it for $1,000 a month, just as we had the Chandler mansion, although it was less than half the size. The lot was large and very private, with the house built on a knoll below an arid, scrubby hilltop, accessible only by a long, steep driveway. Stands of cypress trees gave further privacy on either side of the house. We had a beautiful view of Hollywood and, in the distance, the smoggy skyline of Los Angeles. To us it felt like being on a higher plane, looking down onto the Earth from an exalted spot. I remember seeing lots of spaceships at the Father House. Father would point them out to us.

For us, these were the best of times and the most carefree, as the Source lived up to its name and destiny by taking care of all our material needs, providing us with such a level of peace and clarity while we witnessed the meteoric, almost overwhelming, rise of our Father’s consciousness.

Father and Makushla had the master bedroom with Ahom, and eventually Ahom and all the pregnant women were moved into a side room off his bedroom. Ahom was about six months pregnant when Aquariana and Prism (who had also become Father’s women) also became pregnant by Father.

Everyone always made sure Father got the best of everything — robes, food, homemade belts and occasional gifts from the outside. He would give away his robes and belts to his sons if he saw they were in need. And if we made his food first, and he saw that others were not getting the same, he would turn and hand it to the nearest son.

We all held Father in such reverence, and the wisdom and love that he gave to us all was so profound, that our perspective was to look up to him as an exalted being. Although he warned us not to accept what he said as gospel and to figure out the truth for ourselves, we tended to unquestioningly accept what he said and did, and focused on him as a literal manifestation of God. Because he spoke truth, I have not regretted that belief.

On Sundays, the Source was closed and all of us would spend the day together as a Family. We occasionally went on outings together, to Santa Monica Beach or Griffith Park. At the beach, everyone would wear homemade bathing suits and go into the water together, then sit in the sand and Father would teach while passersby gathered round.

When we went hiking in Griffith Park or walking back and forth to the Source from our home in Nichols Canyon, what a show it was! One would see this colorful band of beautiful, confident, serene young people in long, flowing robes with their long hair streaming — all completely focused on this one, awe-inspiring being.

But with such a large group and so much going on within it, things outside of our “circumvent force” did not hold our interest for long. We most enjoyed making music or doing creative arts and crafts projects. Once in a while a group would go to a movie. But Father’s consciousness was such that he could barely put up with most of them, and we often walked out after only a few minutes. Paul Mazursky, famous for directing the film Bob and Ted and Carol and Alice, would lend us his movie projector and 16 mm films, which we viewed at home. Father loved old movies from the ’30s, especially musicals with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. Mazursky would feature Father and the Source restaurant in his 1973 film Alex in Wonderland. A few years after that, Woody Allen would film the famous breakup scene in Annie Hall at the Source.

By far our favorite “movie” was to listen as Father told stories of his life and times in detail. His stories became interwoven into our own lives and consciousness and would include everything: the good, the bad and the ugly of his amazing and full life as Jim Baker, whom he would describe in third person.

As the Family continued to grow, we had all types of arrivals: women who brought children with them, some whole families, or a mother and grown sons. Children were of the ultimate importance to our Family. We had a vision that the perfect society would be one that started with people who were raised with consciousness from the start. We brought close to 40 new souls into our Family at the Father House, all through completely natural births, which was actually illegal at the time. Back then, even breastfeeding was discouraged, and most American women fed their babies manufactured formula. Feminists at the time considered this a breakthrough for women’s liberation. The mothers in the Family not only breastfed their children but would proudly do it in public at a time when such behavior was considered shocking.

A year and a half after he became Father Yod, Father changed his name to “YaHoWha” in honor of the ancient and sacred name of God — which, until Father began to share it, had been hidden from the common man for thousands of years. Some people would think that this naming came from Father’s ego — that he was exalting himself so that people would think he was God. As far as the Family was concerned, he was far and away the best example of God consciousness that any of us had ever encountered in our lives.

For many, Father’s teachings were profound. Others ran from his presence in fear. Each morning class was a fiery life-changing experience of love and wisdom. Sometimes it felt as though every second were a test of your will to simply be there. If Father stood up and said, “Let’s go for a walk in the park,” you knew that you had maybe 30 seconds to be in the van or a mind-blowing adventure would be lost to you.

During some of our morning meditations, Father would say, “Let’s play some music!” Then a few Family members would plug in their guitars and start tapping into the cosmos.

Even though Father had money, women and power, there was a restless void within him that always needed to be filled. The band and its musical energy were able to bring him a new source of joy and excitement and enabled him to be anchored once again in earthly fulfillment.

The story of the Family’s music is a complicated one, with scores of musicians and many different band incarnations over a period of five years. A quick guess would place maybe 18 excellent musicians in the Source Family, with at least 15 more good ones, and no less than 50 more wannabes.

Father created several different bands and would always encourage the individual Family musicians. Ahom and Hom started the energy early on, which was contagious, and Family members would come in with guitars or maybe a bass. You would always find somebody gathering in Soma’s or Sunflower’s room to jam. Lotus or Aquariana would sit at the piano and spontaneously write songs. When the Family attracted several musicians of professional caliber who had been in the Hollywood music scene, that’s when the true magic started.

The times that we would put on concerts for the public were the best. Father was intent on spreading the sacred name of YaHoWha to all that he could, especially young people who might have the ears to hear and eyes to see the message of our show. First we put on a program with several musicians at the Wilshire-Ebell Theater called “God and Hair,” which brought Waterfall into the Family. We also had a three-day “Aquarian Hoedown” and put up posters everywhere.

Father would ask someone to arrange to get permission for one of the Source Family bands, usually Ya Ho Wa 13, to play for students at various colleges and high schools in the Los Angeles area.

We ended up playing packed performances at UCLA, CalArts in Valencia, Grant High School and Beverly Hills High School. Being the early ’70s, I suppose these schools were more open to having unconventional performances for the students. Either that, or we were very convincing!

We would arrive at our destination in an Aquarian caravan that would rival the president’s motorcade. The band members would arrive first in Damascus’ Mercedes, sometimes in robes or suits, hair and beards impeccably groomed — looking like rock stars from head to toe. Father would follow in the Rolls, dressed in his white suit or some awesome robe, with Pythias as chauffeur. Eight brightly colored VW minibuses would form the caravan tail, filled with Family members. The Family women would all be decked out and utterly glamorous, in flowing silk and velvet gowns and beautiful jewelry.

Responses to the shows were mostly positive, but mixed. It sailed right over some people’s heads. Others clearly responded to the music and would stay after the show and engage the sons in long conversations. At Beverly Hills High School, a rabbi became so infuriated that he almost punched Father when he heard him speaking the sacred Name of God to a large audience of students. He shouted, “You CANNOT say that name in public!” This reaction only emboldened Father, and he just laughed that deep, cosmic laugh of his. He loved being provocative, and his mission was to spread truth in the face of hypocrisy. He was inspired by the energy this generated, and that, in turn, inspired us all.

Things seemed to be going better than ever for our bands. We had put out nine records in two years, performed all around town, had major-label interest, and Electricity had arranged for the record-store chain Licorice Pizza to carry our albums.

But then Father shifted his focus to the cataclysms that he saw on the horizon, and things changed. There was talk of selling the Source, and we could feel our Hollywood Eden begin to slip away.

[In 1973, most of the Source Family moved to Hawaii. Except for a period of world travel and a longer stop in San Francisco, they remained there until YaHoWha’s death two years later. And then things began to fall apart.]

It was a rocky road for most of the Source Family members in following years. In the Family, we had our own way of dressing, eating, loving, our own social mores and even our own way of speaking. We had to relearn how to communicate with the rest of the world, now our world. It was a painful transition for most. Some started slipping away from the teachings and some went on to other spiritual endeavors or groups. Some fell into drugs to try and recapture the cosmic heights we’d gotten so accustomed to or simply to escape. A few brothers ended up living on the streets, and a number had breakdowns.

Some of the Family members looked back on their experience as the best of times, a foundation that allowed them to make sense of this life and even the next. Some had regret, shame or anger for the things that occurred. For me, I consider YaHoWha the great love of my life. I saw him as Jim Baker, Father Yod and YaHoWha, and I loved him for who he was in each of these manifestations of his being. I know he was also the great love of his other women, and I understand why. For me, sharing him with others was ideal, and I felt in harmony in the situation; I was fulfilled by him in every way, and in a few short years felt more love, comfort, wisdom, fun and a deeper connection to spirit and flesh than I’d ever imagined was possible in this world.

And for many of the Family members who live on, despite the harsh judgment many have had to endure over the years trying to explain or justify our experience to others, the overwhelming majority continue to believe that their adventure with Father and the Family was a defining period of their lives.