I’ve never been much of a joiner. Working in groups, team sports, board games even, have never really been the most appealing things to me. I’m fiercely independent and intentionally contrarian at times even to my own detriment, making me probably the least suitable candidate for communal living in the world (let alone religious cult membership). This does not mean I don’t find the whole phenomenon fascinating on some level, especially when we’re talking about the high level psychedelics of The Source Family.
As many of you are very well aware, The Source Family, the great 2012 documentary directed by Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille, compellingly lays out the story of that otherworldly “Aquarian tribe” of white-robed mystics searching for “God Consciousness” on the fringes of 70’s L.A. counterculture. Famously, the group made some of the strangest, most sought-after and sometimes straight-up creepy psychedelic recordings the world has ever heard while running the organically charged Source Restaurant in L.A. in order to finance the entire metaphysical enterprise under the spiritual tutelage of one Jim Baker (aka Father Yod, aka Ya Ho Wha).
But, if the 2013 doc didn’t already supply you with everything you felt like you needed to know about the Source Family, and if you’ve already read The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wha 13 and The Source Family then the two-and-a-half hour film below is sure to help you fill in a few more blanks. A student film project created in conjunction with cooperative members of The Source Family and made a decade before the 2012 film, this one is called Revisiting Father and the Source Family. A very young looking Evan Wells directed it, and lets not kid ourselves here, it could use some editing. But give the guy a break! He was still in schooll after all, and the film is still very much worth watching if this kind of thing is your bag. Many of the same folks from the 2012 The Source Family documentary speak their minds here but there are also several interviews with family members who don’t show up in the later movie. What the film lacks in slick production, it makes up for in raw, in-depth interview footage of people telling honest, wild tales from the inner circle as it were.
More insane stories about 6’ 6” family spiritual leader, Jim Baker, whom one former family member calls “The heaviest dude I ever met,” pervade the film. We get some additional information about Baker’s supposed military conquests including one completely over-the-top incident in which Father Yod claimed to have shot down a whole a bevvy of attacking Japanese fighter pilots from the deck of a sinking navy ship in his “former life.” The general attitude towards the guy is “Man, you couldn’t make this shit up if you tried.”
The sounds of the family band, sometimes called Ya Ho Wa 13 are prominent in the film and the utopian hopes for spreading the wild garage band’s message around the world are discussed in depth. Baker’s business acumen and even flaunting of monetary gain as an avenue to spiritual freedom is also explored once again and additional stories appear from the Source Restaurant which was one of the first organic dining establishments in the country and which supposedly made more money per square foot than any restaurant in the United States during a certain period in the ‘70s.
Revisiting Father and the Source Family also takes a look at what some people saw as the “spiritual snobbery” of the fringe group (everybody had to be beautiful) and the inherent lifestyle conflicts contained within it (Baker eventually took on thirteen wives). This film goes into far more detail about what some would call the inevitable fracturing of the group than the 2013 film, and there’s definitely an acknowledgement by some of the interviewees that a lot of people are embarrassed to admit that they were ever a part of the whole thing.
One striking thing about both films though is that some of the former members of the Source Family seem to have never really left. Many of those interviewed continue to refer to Baker as “Father” without a hint of irony. Some people will of course say that they were simply brainwashed robots looking for a father figure they never had, making them ripe for the drug-fueled ravings of an out-of-control megalomaniac. That could very well have been the case for some. But others clearly believe that they actually discovered something in the Source Family that was so goddamned enlightening that the average human being will never fully get it, a sentiment that’s expressed again and again throughout both dialogues. I have no idea, but they speak with a matter-of-fact ease about a chosen lifestyle that would absolutely push the limits of what most people’s accepted social mores could bare, and that makes these first-person testimonies fascinating to watch one way or the other.