If you’ve been in the library lately, you may have noticed that our last display featured intriguing, unusual, and inspiring true life stories. As Mark Twain put it, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” Well, after spending the last month combing our library for the wildest true life stories to display, I’ve found quite an array of unbelievable tales- explorers living amongst killer ants, extreme gardeners and their giant gourds, Michael Jackson‘s life story. Yes, I thought I had seen it all…until I came across a shocking new documentary called The Source Family.
The Source Family follows a Los Angeles cult formed in the 70′s around the unconventional spiritual leader Father Yod. Father Yod, also known as YaHoWa, was formerly Jim Baker, an ex-Marine, judo master, and wanna-be stuntman who had been in and out of prison for killing people with his judo chops. Isis Aquarian, the cult’s historian (incidentally, she was also one of Father Yod’s fourteen wives) recounts how he robbed “between two and eleven banks” to fund what turned out to be one of the first health food restaurants in the country, The Source Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. The Source Restaurant was staffed by beautiful, long haired sirens dressed in white robes who catered to clientele such as Joni Mitchell and John Lennon. After being “turned on” by the teachings of Sikh kundalini master Yogi Bhajan, Jim Baker grew a long white beard, changed his name to Father Yod, dressed exclusively in white robes and turbans, and declared himself the spiritual father of what came to be known as The Source Family. “I know this sounds insane, but I saw lightning bolts coming out of his ears,” one of his devotees professes. Most of his 140 followers were under thirty, children of the counterculture who moved in together in a mansion in the LA hills and worshiped their earthly spiritual father above all things. All members legally changed their names-Electricity, Ah-Om, Sunflower, Orbit-and took the middle name “The” and the last name “Aquarian”. At first Father Yod, in his fifties, had just one teenage wife, but as his powers grew he took on a dozen more, instructing them and the rest of the gang in the ways of tantra and the Sacred Herb. He was also the front man of Ya Ho Wa 13, a psychedelica-rock band made up of his followers. After trouble with the law, Father Yod transplanted his cult to Hawaii, where they struggled to regain the idyll of their early days. I won’t spoil the ending of this weird tale, let’s just say it involves Father Yod, a hang glider, and a 1,300 foot cliff.
The Source Family draws on a wealth of video footage and photos: from home births to ritual healings to Father Yod tooling around in a Rolls Royce, it seems that the Source Family documented everything. There are also some great interviews with former Source members. If The Source Family whets your appetite for truly unusual realities, try these documentaries: Tabloid, Cat Dancers, Random Lunacy, and Bombay Beach.