- Be Scofield is a prominent cult reporter and author of Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons.
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Father Yod led an experimental psychedelic rock band inside his cult known as the Source Family during the late 1960s and early 1970s. At first it was a hippie-like commune where he encouraged healthy eating, yoga, tantric sex and meditation. But it soon evolved into a cult with Yod claiming to be God and saying he was divinely told that he'd have followers.
"If you wanted to create a sort of archetype of the sort of ultimate early seventies, California spiritual cult, you could do no better than the Source family," said historian Eric Davis.
The group viewed themselves as ushering in the magic of a new age. "Jim’s remarkable life had perfectly prepared him for this essential and timely new paradigm in the evolution of our Country, and Mankind," his followers write. "We lived totally 'In The Now'… in a little 'Aquarian Bubble.' Everything outside of our 'Circumvent Force' we called (condescendingly) 'The Maya.' We did not pay attention to dates, we just lived our lives each day with great joy, fun and responsibility! Time did not exist for us."
“It was literally like meeting God, the Father or God the Brother — however you wish to see it," said former member Djin Aquarian. “[Father Yod] was so accomplished in so many ways and was so willing to share his every success and knowledge with us; that kind of gift in a young, seeking person’s life — you can only imagine the influence."
One follower reflects back on the power of the time:
During this transition between profound Ages, much of the mystical, metaphysical knowledge (which had previously been carefully hidden) began to be opened up (and/or “CHANNELED”) to the common man. Therefore, important information which could aid in Mankind’s re-birth of consciousness was finally becoming available to him. This was the help that sleeping Man had not been aware that he needed to enable him to birth a new THE SOURCE RESTAURANT evolution of the “Adam Kadmon”… the “Light Body” that has all of the “Keys” contained within it … The “Tree of life” … the Blueprint for all … the Primordial Man – the archetypal prototype of the “Sixth Root Race”… of the “God Man” … Jesus – YHSVH – Yod Heh Shin Vau Heh !
Yod got his start following Yogi Bhajan in 1969, another destructive cult leader who built a following. He even traveled to India with him studying Kundalini yoga. Prior to that he studied with Paul Bragg of the famous Dr. Bragg food line. In 1951 Yod spent six months as a Vedanta monk.
Soon Yod mixed the teachings of Alan Watts, Satchidananda, Krishnamurti and Bhajan into his eclectic cult methods. He wrote a book called Liberation which cobbled together a mix of the spiritual ideas he was learning. Yod also wrote a Ten Commandments for the Aquarian Age of which the first one read "Obey and live by the teachings of your Earthly Spiritual Father."
After a few different restaurants Yod opened the Source Family restaurant in 1969 to great success. It was the first vegetarian restaurant and it attracted celebrities like Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It brought in $300,000 a month at its peak.
The team behind the vegetarian restaurant consisted of 150 followers of Father Yod who all lived in a communal home in the Hollywood hills. They practiced tantric sex and group sex believing that Father Yod was their savior. Yod had 14 wives and 13 children. Their Sunday morning meditations led by Yod attracted young and impressionable followers.
Members were forced to turn over all possessions and belongings. Those with inheritances signed them over to Father Yod. Followers were given new spiritual names like Sunflower or Jim the Aquarian and indoctrinated into his teachings. His vision was that his family and followers would be saints and sages and they would usher in the next era of transformation. Yod declared himself God in 1974 and changed his name to Yahowha.
The groups use of LSD and sex magic led to spiritual portals opening, former members believed. At one point they witnessed vampires walking down the stairs in their home.
THE FIRST MUSICAL ITERATION OF the cult was known as Father Yod and the Spirit of '76. The band had 13 members playing an array of instruments. They released the album Kahoutek in 1974. Dubbed "improvisational psychedelic rock and hippie-folk," the record was chaotic and unpredictable with Yod screaming and mumbling. He claimed the lyrics were channeled from the divine, however.
Father Yod received a $30,000 donation that was supposed to be used for a specific purpose however, he gave the money to his drummer Octavius to build out a recording studio and rehearsal space in their garage. The group would jam together for hours after their morning meditations. Octavius even set up speakers in the living room and wired them to the studio so members could hear the band as they played.
Between 1973-1974 the group recorded over 60 albums, nine of which were pressed on vinyl LPs. They were published by their private label Higher Key Records and sold out of their store The Hermit Hut, next to the Source restaurant. Every record label turned them down.
"He said the music was way before its time and that the message would come through it," a former follower said. "He said it would carry a frequency that would be like spiritual seeds that would transcend time."
Another former member said Yod clearly distinguished his music from "feminine" music that was structured. "'I'm going to express masculine music, and it would be the antithesis, the polar opposite of feminine music, meaning it was unrehearsed," he said Father Yod claimed.
"He just focused, he meditated in the morning," a former band member said. "He got an idea that he'd want to deliver, sometimes he had notes and he'd go into the band room and he'd belt it out and the musicians would just have to keep up with this."
"Being in the band room was higher than any drug you could ever take," a guy who played with the band said. "That energy we produced in there just made us soar so you could feel like you could fly. We just wanted to completely clean ourselves out and let the music come through."
He described how chaotic the sessions would be but yet still maintained a sense of harmony. "There was a predominant guitar player full of fire and sometimes he'd just play a big chord and his guitar would be out of tune and so we'd play for five minutes just trying to get in tune and it would come out to be some of the greatest stuff you ever heard. All out of tune and notes everywhere, but all in harmony.
"Nobody was really buying them," a former follower said. They'd sell the records out of the Source restaurant for $10. Nowadays the original records trade for thousands.
"We thought the music would be the vehicle that we could sustain ourselves with and to get the word out," an ex-member said. "People would hear the wisdom in the music and become enlightened."
Like Charles Manson they believed music would transmit the deeper spiritual message. "These are teachings of his worldview," a former band member said. "It was a frequency. It was a message. It would cut through time. It would alter the future but would find listeners. The man was a natural adept. He liked to study and apply hermetic principles of frequencies, rhythm, gender. It was as if we were existing in the past and future simultaneously."
In December, 1974 the group relocated to Hawaii and reestablished themselves as a commune. They were fleeing CPS in Hollywood who had heard frequent reports of illnesses as the group rejected conventional medicine. Eight months after arriving Yod was determined to ride on a hang glider off a 1,300 ft cliff despite having no previous experience. Surprisingly he floated gracefully through the air but he crash landed and died nine hours later.
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