Inside the Source Family, bizarre Hollywood cult whose members practiced ‘mystical sex’, as its story is about to be told in TV series starring Mark Ruffalo

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The story of one of Los Angeles’ first wellness cults is reportedly being adapted into a television series starring Mark Ruffalo.

Known as the Source Family, the group had a prominent flash in the pan from the late 1960s until they began to disband after their eccentric leader died in a hang-gliding accident in Hawaii in 1975.

During their heyday, about 140 men and women lived in a series of communes in southern California, where they dressed in flowing robes, practiced tantric sex, and recorded a series of psychedelic rock albums.

They also, famously, operated a health food restaurant on the Sunset Strip that was frequented by the likes of John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, and Marlon Brando.

They worshipped at the altar of Father Yod, born Jim Baker. He was a reported WWII fighter pilot, bank robber, lethal judo expert, and wealthy Midwesterner who developed a religious philosophy that combined astrology, mysticism, western esotericism, and a number of other spiritual philosophies.

Father Yod took 14 ‘spiritual wives’ within the group, and encouraged underage female members to marry older men – leading some to describe him as ‘a dirty old man on a lust trip.’ However, unlike many cults from the era that gained prominence for the horrific abuses members suffered, the Source Family has remained largely free from such controversies.

A number of documentaries and books about the group have been released over the years, and now a limited series, with Ruffalo tipped to play Father Yod, is in motion, according to the LA Times.

The legends surrounding the man who became Father Yod are many.

It’s said that he shot down 13 Japanese planes while flying in World War II. That his hands were registered as weapons, after he killed two men using his martial arts expertise (he was convicted of manslaughter in 1963). It is also suspected that he robbed up to 11 banks.

While still known as Jim Baker, he moved to Hollywood to take a shot at acting with an audition for Tarzan. After that evidently failed, Baker turned to the restaurant business and launched the health food spots Old World and Aware Inn.

Both were a huge success in California’s burgeoning hippie scene, and while basking in his newfound wealth, Baker delved into it the philosophies that were so popular at the time. He became a student of the spiritual guru Yogi Bhajan, then began developing his own spiritualism that combined the principles of a number of mystical philosophies – free love, spiritual sex, health-focused living, and smoking a lot of marijuana.

Sometime in the late 1960s Baker assumed the name Father Yod and began gathering followers, eventually adopting the Source Family name and moving into a mansion in the LA neighborhood of Los Feliz.

To fund their lifestyle, Father Yod put his entrepreneurship to work and opened the Source restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, which quickly became the face of LA’s outlandish culture. So much so, it was parodied in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall, when the main character grimacingly orders ‘alfalfa sprouts and a plate of mashed yeast.’

At its height, the restaurant was making about $10,000 per day, leaving Father Yod and his disciples extremely well funded. He purchased a Rolls-Royce that followers chauffeured him around in, adopted the name YaHoWah (a repurposing of the Hebrew word for god, Yahweh) and taught his followers how to chant it.

As female members gave birth within the cult, his followers naturally grew.

Family members abandoned their old names, assuming the last name Aquarian instead, and took first names like Lotus, Lovely, Explosion, Isis or Sunflower – leaving each with a name like ‘Zarathustra Aquarian.’

At one point, the group spent tens of thousands of dollars on instruments, amplifiers, and recording equipment, and converted the mansion’s garage into a recording studio where they set to work putting their philosophies to music.

Father Yod fronted the band, and they recorded about 60 albums filled with improvisational psychedelic rock and hippie-folk.

Their music was never picked up by a major label, but much of it was self-published by the family, and the remaining LPs draw hundreds of dollars apiece by collectors today.

The Source Family’s recording drew the ire of neighbors, and they were eventually forced to relocate to a smaller home in Nichols Canyon.

Another reason for their flight from the mansion was persistent visits from police, who were responding to reports of underage women living among the group. In response, Father Yod reportedly encouraged the girls to marry male members, as a way of insulating them from police and the reach of irate parents.

At some point in the early 1970s, Father Yod began marrying multiple women, leaving his first wife Robyn devastated.

She would later accuse him of being a conman on a ‘lust trip’ for young women but, beyond her complaints, there were few noises of dissent from within the group.

Former member Galaxy Aquarian, who was once named Dawn Hurwitz, joined when she was 16 years old in 1972 and later became one of Father Yod’s wives.

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