Father Yod and his "Family": the amazing story of an American cult

In 1969, a healthy food restaurant opened on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles-one of the first in the country, and possibly in the whole world. In an institution called "The Source", young hippies in white clothes greeted guests warmly and served them organic vegan food.

No one guessed that this place was not just a restaurant, but the epicenter of the newly formed American cult, headed by James Edward Baker, better known as Father Yod. Read about how Baker turned from a criminal into a living deity and organized his own spiritual community in our material.

Father Yod and his "Family": the amazing story of an American cult

James Edward Baker was born on July 4, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio. From an early age, the boy was raised by a neighbor, since his own father left the family. "Foster dad" was an athlete, businessman and mountaineer, he tried to instill in the boy exceptionally good qualities. As a teenager, Baker was engaged in martial arts, achieved success in jiu-jitsu, skillfully shot an arrow and even won the title of the strongest young man in the United States.

Growing up, he went to serve in the Marine Corps, where his merits were again noted – the Silver Star medal, which is awarded for valor in battle. However, later US Army officials said that Baker's name was not on the list of those who received the medal…

Father Yod and his "Family": the amazing story of an American cult

Anyway, after finishing his military service, Baker moved to California and became interested in spiritual practices. He made friends with the guys who were turned on proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. They called themselves Nature Boys.

The guys believed that you need to live "according to the laws of nature", and then nature will thank you with strength, health, beauty and youth. Baker began to adhere to the same philosophy. In the intervals between walking naked and eating raw vegetables, he began to study philosophy, religion and esoteric teachings. For a while, Baker was even a Vedantic monk! His spiritual path led him to become a follower of Yogi Bhajan, the teacher of kundalini yoga and the founder of Sikhism.

The topic of proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle fascinated Baker so much that he decided to open his own restaurant, where organic vegetarian dishes were served. At the end of the 60s, there were no such institutions in the United States, so the "Source" was a huge success. John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Steve McQuinn, Marlon Brando and other celebrities dined here. The revenue of the institution for the day could exceed 10 thousand dollars! No restaurant could boast of such figures.

Father Yod and his "Family": the amazing story of an American cult

It is noteworthy that even before the opening of the "Source", Baker had two other establishments-here, on the Sunset Strip. They were called Aware Inn and Old World. However, unlike the Source Restaurant, they did not attract so many people. Later it became clear why: the "Source" was not just a restaurant, but also a center for recruiting followers of the teachings of Father Yoda.

Absolutely all of Baker's friends and acquaintances who knew him in his youth told about his violent character. Not only in the war, he had to kill people... once he killed a neighbor with whom he quarreled over a dog, another time he killed two guys who attacked him in an alley. But most of all, I remember the case that even got into the newspapers: Baker killed the husband of his mistress with two stabs in the neck.

Father Yod and his "Family": the amazing story of an American cult

Having become interested in kundalini yoga, Baker realized that all his aggression is hidden somewhere at the base of the spine, and that with the help of regular meditations, pranayamas and asanas, this "wild beast" inside can be tamed. As a result, he became the most devoted follower of Yoga Bhijan and even considered him a god. When Bhijan loudly announced that he was not a supreme being, James was disappointed in his guru…

Then he changed his name to Father Yod and decided to become a spiritual teacher himself. Over the years of practicing and absorbing sacred texts, Baker has absorbed enough information. Now he could share it with others, but it was necessary to choose a suitable place for holding meetings… This is what the new restaurant became.

Dozens of young people, inspired by Eastern mysticism, which was literally in the air at that time, came here every day to listen to a new prophet. They believed that the age of Aquarius would soon come, and spirituality and religiosity would dominate the world, and various creeds would become more important than exact sciences.

Father Yod and his "Family": the amazing story of an American cult

When they gathered in a restaurant, they meditated, practiced yoga, studied esoteric literature, ate vegan food and just talked. It was for communication that many young people came to this commune.

Many compared the first meeting with Baker to divine enlightenment. It seemed to people that Father Yod himself seemed to shine, and small fireflies flew out of his ears. In fact, there was nothing special about Baker, he was just able to give young hippies what their parents, friends and society did not give – full acceptance and unconditional love.

Soon, the number of people wishing to join the "Source Family" exceeded 150 people. They all lived as one big family in a house in the Hollywood Hills, adhered to the commandments that their teacher declared, communicated, fell in love, got married and even gave birth to children. Baker himself had three heirs, but 14 wives at once, but only one of them was legitimate.

Father Yod and his "Family": the amazing story of an American cult

Every morning, Father Yod took the "flock" to the cold pool to harden their bodies and souls. Then they prayed, meditated, did yoga, used psychedelics (in order to expand consciousness) and had breakfast, always something organic. After that, some of the students went to work in a restaurant – it was he who helped feed 150 "mouths" at once, while others stayed at home and taught those who wanted to join the "Family". A special place was set aside for this in the backyard.

Hundreds of girls and boys voluntarily abandoned their families to recognize James Biker as the father, and even changed their surnames to one common one: "Aquarius". They called their mentor God.

Naturally, not all residents of the Hollywood Hills were delighted with such neighbors. Numerous complaints began to arrive at the "family": one after another, various services came to the mansion-from the sanitary inspection to the service for minors. As a result, Baker and his large family had to leave their home and move to Hawaii.

Father Yod and his "Family": the amazing story of an American cult

But here the "Family" was overtaken by the first crisis – they really had nowhere to live, no one wanted to take strange hippies to work, and money flowed away like water. The commune slowly began to disintegrate. The end of the "Source Family" can be considered the day when Baker suddenly crashed to his death during a hang glider flight.

For two more years, the wives and numerous mistresses of Father Yoda tried to keep the" Family " afloat. However, reality made its own adjustments – someone had to work, someone had to study, someone had to build their own, real, family. So one of the strangest religious movements in the United States collapsed, having existed for five years.

However, in 2001, one of the followers of the doctrine tried to resume its activities. According to the woman, Father Yod himself asked for this, who, having died, simply got rid of the physical shell, and now periodically appears to her.

Keywords: Religion | History | World | Cult | Organization | Faith | Spirituality | Longreads

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