The Real Cult of California: Father Yod and the Source Family

In 1969, a man named Jim Baker opened a vegetarian restaurant, The Source, on Sunset Boulevard. It was hugely successful, with celebs like John Lennon and Frank Zappa dropping in to dine on Rainbow Salad. But The Source was far more than Los Angeles' leading organic eatery: It was also the nerve center of a robe-clad cult led by Baker, who soon renamed himself Father Yod, then later YaHoWa (an approximation of the sacred name of God).

A new book, The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family, lays out the sect's arc in astounding detail. It moves from Baker's outrageous beginnings — he allegedly once killed two men with his bare hands — to his death in 1975 in a hang-gliding accident. At first glance, the Source Family might seem mere hippie-dippy free-love silliness, but this tome well illustrates how the congregation was exceedingly disciplined and spiritual. Author Isis Aquarian is of course sympathetically biased, as she was one of Yod's 14 "wives," but she provides a unique perspective on why more than 150 people would go to such great lengths following his mélange of Eastern and Western philosophies.

Details

Other Cinema hosts a "2-hr. audio-visual survey" of the Source Family on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 992 Valencia (at 21st St.) at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $7.77; visit www.othercinema.com for more info. On Sunday, Nov. 18, Aquarius Records hosts a book-signing and listening party at 1 p.m. Admission is free; call 647-2272 or visit www.aquariusrecords.org for more info. Ya Ho Wa 13 performs that same night at Café du Nord at 8 p.m. Admission is $12; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com for more info.

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But perhaps the collective's most lasting contribution was its music. The Family had a band, Ya Ho Wa 13, which performed in parks, festivals, and schools. The Source comes with a companion CD featuring a variety of unreleased Yod "teachings" and music, including a recording of the band playing Beverly Hills High in 1973. These days, Ya Ho Wa 13 is considered one of the top psychedelic bands of the era. Any of its 11 albums, which originally sold for a dollar each at The Source restaurant, now go for big bucks on eBay. To celebrate The Source's release, key band members Octavius, Djin, and Sunflower are playing live for the first time in 32 years.

 
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