Mar 28, 2016

The Truly bizarre story of Father Yod’s cult

Nathan Jolly
March 28, 2016

IN 1969, one of the world’s first health food restaurants opened on LA’s Sunset Strip.

Operated by the charismatic Father Yod, the Source Restaurant offered organic vegetarian food served by a collective of young hippies dressed in white robes.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were regulars, as were Marlon Brando and Warren Beatty, and the restaurant even featured in Woody Allen’s classic Annie Hall, where he mockingly orders alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast.

At its peak it reportedly took in $300,000 a month.

What a lot of the regulars didn’t realise at the time — despite the white robes — was that the restaurant was ground zero for the Source Family — a collective of roughly 150 of Father Yod’s religious followers, who lived communal style in a house in Hollywood Hills.

Father Yod seems to have lived numerous lives before starting the restaurant. Born Jim Baker, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal for heroism during World War II, was an expert in jujitsu, a suspected bank robber, and an accused murderer.

Baker moved to LA in the late ‘60s to pursue stuntman work, but was soon seduced by the Eastern mysticism dripping through the streets at the time.

Baker became Father Yod, a spiritual leader who espoused the virtues of healthy eating, yoga, mediation, and a number of other practices that were nascent at the time but are now commonly accepted.

The restaurant was the perfect recruiting tool for the Source Family, and its ranks quickly swelled with young, impressionable people looking for a sense of purpose and community.

Members took on the surname Aquarian, and crammed into a three-bedroom house in the Hills.

Music was central to the Family lifestyle, with members forming a ‘house band’ named Ya Ho Wha 13, selling albums from the restaurant.

Ya Ho Wha 13 sounds exactly like you imagine it would
Djin Aquarian was the band’s guitarist, and explains to he was looking less for a leader, and more for community.

“I was [a] vegetarian, long-haired hippy, meditator, Jewish mystic, and yoga beginner so the Source Brotherhood sounded intriguing,” he explains via email.

He met Father Yod at the age of 23 — and although he was drawn to the Family, he left his first meeting dissatisfied, opposing the use of sheep skins for meditation. Djin travelled for a further year, returning in 1972, and joining the Family that October.

“[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,” he recalls.

“It was literally like meeting God, the Father or God the Brother — however you wish to see it.”

Octavius Aquarian was another young seeker drawn to the Family. He was told of the Family by a friend — “I went to check it out. I never left,” he tells

Like Djin, he was a musician and initially drawn to the community aspect.

“It was more about what they were into in those days”, he explains in an email. “[Father Yod] was first and foremost a father figure to all the people who clearly had a need for an example in their lives.”

Not surprisingly, the Family’s lifestyle was not without its share of detractors.

“The Source was equated with the Manson family back then,” Octavius remembers. “Fear of the unknown is usually a factor.”

Some of the rumblings were coming within the Family itself, as Djin explains.

“Father Yod got slammed with a tremendous amount of negativity for so many reasons and from multiple sources, including quite a few Source sisters and brothers.”

With living conditions becoming untenable — close to 150 people squashed into three bedrooms — the Family sold the restaurant and departed to Hawaii in late 1974.

“It was like a military campaign,” Djin recalls. “Father had to be resourceful, clever and wise. We didn’t have as much money available without the restaurant income and we didn’t have employment until we settled and created — or found — jobs to keep 144 mouths fed and bodies sheltered.”

Tragedy struck shortly after the move, with Father Yod attempting to hang-glide off a 400m cliff, despite having zero experience. He crash-landed on the beach and died from his injuries.

Even this has a positive spin put on it. “To this day, I felt he was calling the unseen world’s bluff,” Octavius says.

Djin feels similarly: “It was a shock to all but perhaps subconsciously expected. He often mentioned him leaving this plane to serve his children less-fettered in the next dimension.”

The Family attempted to stay together for what Djin refers to as “two very difficult years”, but without Yod’s guidance as an anchor or the restaurant as a cash cow, the Family split and hit the fields and streets of Hawaii in 1977, “many of us without means, and in shock after living communally for six and seven years”.

“It was brutal coming back to the system we left behind for most,” Djin says, “even when having wealthy families to go back to, because of all the ‘I told you so’s’ and humble pie that was served.”

Octavius struggled with the transition. “When you offer a crutch, it helps but can also create a weakness,” he explains. “It took me a couple of years to enter back into the traditional society.”

Despite the eventual fallout, neither Djin and Octavius regret their years with the Source Family. “It was such a creative time and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of such a memorable scene,” Octavius remembers.

“I look back with gratitude and feel it was more of a blessing than a curse as a whole,” adds Djin. “I learned a lot, achieved a lot, and see how it prepared me to offer a lot to those who have been born generations after, and feel an affinity.”

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