The Source Family was founded in the Hollywood Hills by James Edward Baker a.k.a Father Yod or YaHoWha. Before moving to LA in the late 1960s to pursue work as a stuntman, Baker led a pretty admirable life. He was awarded the Silver Star Medal for heroism during World War II and was an expert in jujitsu.
However, his reputation was not all rosy. He was suspected of being a bank robber and an accused murderer. However, all that crazy reputation seemed to have faded away upon his arrival in Los Angeles. He fell for the Nature Boys, a Los Angeles-based group of beats who lived a natural lifestyle, maintained vegetarian diets and lived according to nature’s laws. Baker also studied philosophy, religion and esoteric spiritual teachings, even becoming a Vedantic monk for a time. He later became a follower of Yogi Bhajan, a Sikh spiritual leader and teacher of Kundalini Yoga.
Baker left Yogi Bhajan in the late 1960s and then Father Yod was born. Father Yod created his philosophy based on Western mystery tradition. He became the patriarch of a commune of young people, who considered him their spiritual father. They became what was known as the Source Family. In 1969, Father Yod founded one of the first health food restaurants on LA’s Sunset Strip. The Source Restaurant served organic vegetarian food, with such celebrity regulars as John Lennon, Julie Christie and Marlon Brando. The restaurant even featured in Woody Allen’s classic film Annie Hall.
The restaurant was the perfect recruiting tool for the family. Many young, impressionable people enticed with such teachings as marijuana-enhanced sex being the purest route to enlightenment quickly joined the group. And so the community grew, as did Father Yod’s ego and his harem of gorgeous sister wives. The Source Family was heavily influenced by the teachings of Yogi Bhajan and the astrological age of Aquarius. Members took on the surname Aquarian and lived together in a Hollywood Hills three-bedroom house. The family survived with the earnings of the Source Restaurant. At its peak popularity, the restaurant grossed $10,000 a day. They practised communal living in Southern California and later in Hawaii. The community was also very experimental with fashion. They wore Grecian and Egyptian inspired white clothing until Father Yod decided
to commission their family fashion designer named Galaxy Aquarian, to design velvet rainbow robes for everyone. The family soon became a sort of local legends. They attracted a lot of media attention, wondering the Sunset Strip with their colourful outfits and flowing hair, spreading their utopian beliefs. Their rock’n’roll reputation was also backed by their house band’ named Ya Ho Wha 13. Father Yod formed the improvisational psychedelic rock with himself as lead singer. In 1973 the band began making limited pressings of their jam sessions, eventually releasing nine albums that were sold at the Source Restaurant for ten dollars each. The original recordings have become valuable to collectors of underground music.
But the Source Family’s positive reception in LA did not last. Due to their sex practices, there were 51 babies born in the family and when one of them fell sick, all hell broke loose. The group had shunned modern medicine in keeping with their beliefs but had to take the sick baby to the hospital due to the severity of the illness. Authorities were then alerted and by this time over 100 people were sleeping in the three-bedroom hills mansion. Considering that children were also involved, the story received wide media attention. With children involved, the media attention turned ugly. Father Yod got slammed with a tremendous amount of negativity and the Family sold the restaurant and departed to Hawaii in late 1974.
On August 25, 1975, despite having no previous hang gliding experience, Yod decided that he would go hang gliding. He crash-landed on the beach and died nine hours later. In 2006, two Source Family members, Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquarian wrote the history of the group. A revised version of the book entitled The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and The Source Family was released in 2007 and included a CD with live Ya Ho Wa 13 performances, radio interviews, and Family recordings. You can find out more about the Source Family documentary film by Jodi Wille here.