The Source Family’s outlandish lifestyle, popular celebrity hangout restaurant, rock band, and beautiful women made them the darlings of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip; but their outsider ideals, controversial spiritual leader Father Yod, along with his 13 wives, instigated local authorities. They fled to Hawaii, leading to their dramatic demise. Years later, family members surface and the rock band reforms, revealing how their time with Father Yod shaped their lives in the most unexpected ways. These personal accounts, along with interviews with outsiders, make up the interviews in the film. However, the story is largely cinematic, expressed through the use of the group’s extensive film and audio archive maintained by Isis Aquarian, one of Father's wives, Family documentarian, and a central character in the documentary (as well as being associate producer). The film’s soundtrack is composed entirely of original Source Family music produced from 1971-1975.
Father Yod’s flower-powered ego trips and the utopian wet dreams of The Source Family
At the age of 18 I thumbed my way from Northern Virginia to Los Angeles. Picked up by long-haul truckers, who introduced me to Black Beauties, and an ex-con in a Rambler American who generously shared his Lucky Strikes, I managed to make the trip in three sleepless days and nights. When I got to the City Of Angels, I made my way to The Source restaurant, a hub of hippie activity that I was anxious to experience. The place had a rep for being a very cool gathering place for spiritually-inclined hipsters, Laurel Canyon rockers and Hollywood celebrities. John and Yoko frequented the joint. They liked the menu’s wide selection of salads and protein drinks. Woody Allen satirized the place in a scene in Annie Hall when he orders bean sprouts and “mashed yeast.”
The Source had energy and its long-haired white-robed staff generated some genuinely good vibes. For a hippie from the downcast East Coast, The Source radiated a sunny magnetism that drew you in and made you feel that the future might be golden. And for awhile, The Source was golden. It made money (as much as ten grand a day) and it made converts to the Aquarian Age philosophy spun from the ego of the restaurant’s massively charismatic owner, Jim Baker (Father Yod).
Baker was a former WW2 war hero, martial arts expert, bank robber and an acquitted killer (two quick karate chops, two dead bodies). He possessed the well-honed patter of a con man and an unquenchable lust for life. When he discovered the hippie movement, it was like a hardboiled character out of a Jim Thompson novel wandering into Richard Brautigan’s world of LSD, poetry and hippie pussy. A few hits of Orange Sunshine, some classes in Kundalini yoga and the scent of patchouli-basted pubes propelled Baker into a spiritual phantasmagoria that transmogrified the warrior into the cosmic Father Yod.
|Father Yod and his 13 wives|
Baker attracted a following of young hippies looking for alternatives to their suburban alienation and middle-class angst. In Father Yod they found both a guru and a sense of paternal security. He established a commune of about 150 flower children, the Source Family.
Transfixed by his personality and lulled into blissful acceptance of his “Enlightenment For Dummies” distillation of the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, Alan Watts, Swami Satchidananda, Krishnamurti etc., his followers got a brain-addling dose of the cosmic warm and fuzzies. Throw in some exotic rituals involving group sex and ganja and you had one very happy cult-like collective with the usual misogynistic tendencies lurking under the groovy free love surface. Yod ended up with 13 submissive wives, most in their late teens and early twenties. He was 50 years old and he knew how to nasty.
Despite Baker’s power-tripping ways, the Source Family was to many of its members the real fucking deal. In the downhome archival footage that comprises much of the new movie, The Source Family, you can see genuine happiness on the faces of Baker’s followers. In filmed interviews conducted in recent years with core members of the family, few have any serious regrets. Many attribute their successes in life (several are millionaires) to Baker’s teachings. Some, on the other hand, do bear scars, most of whom are women. Their deep love of Baker was betrayed by his lust for the seemingly endless flow of teenyboppers streaming through his bedroom door. Baker displayed the classic behavior of many new age gurus during the ‘60s and ‘70s. From Rajneesh to Chogyam Trungpa, these cosmic poonhounds couldn’t resist the power and glory of the peach-fuzzed meat pit of mortal delight.
The Source Family is a fair-minded film that benefits from a motherlode of footage and photographs taken over the course of several years documenting the group from its beginning to its bittersweet end. Behind the scenes at the restaurant, home births, group gropes, concerts by the Source Family’s psychedelic rock band (Sky Saxon was briefly a member) and various westernized tantric practices were filmed by one of Baker’s wives, Isis Aquarian, who also wrote a very fine book on the commune. This makes the movie uniquely intimate and powerful (even Baker’s death is filmed).
The Source Family is opening theatrically and on demand in May. I urge you to see it. It’s refreshing to experience a movie about American counter-culture, particularly the hippies, that doesn’t present its subject with a snicker and a sidelong glance. This is an honest exploration of something real and significant: the search to find what we already are but have forgotten, the search for the self. It ain’t easy and it can get sloppy, but it’s the only game in town worth playing.
In Alejandro Jodorowsky’s masterpiece El Topo , a cosmic gunslinger goes in search of his spiritual master in order to kill him. The idea being that in order to really be free, we must be free of our masters, our gurus. In the case of Jim Baker, he didn’t wait for his students to kill him. He did the job himself. After years of proclaiming his Godhood, he awoke to the revelation that he was a mere man and had nothing left to offer his followers. He calmly flew off a mountain cliff in a hang glider that he had no idea how to operate. The God literally crashed to earth and died nine hours later. The coroner found no broken bones or internal bleeding. His body was whole and intact. For three days his corpse was attended to by his beautiful young wives. As in life, Father Yod died with a contented smile on his face. (source)