By Veronica Chavez
I have felt the soothing sensation of togetherness during a hot yoga class, the passionate camaraderie from playing on a sports team, and the overwhelming comfort of sharing the same beliefs as another person. Because I have experienced these brief moments of euphoria, I can understand to a certain extent why people in the ‘60s and ‘70s became attracted to communes.
One such commune–or cult–was The Source, which is featured in the 2012 documentary, The Source Family.
Surprisingly, the group had very wholesome beginnings. Jim Baker, founder of the cult, began attracting peaceful-minded individuals in California through his popular vegetarian restaurant, The Source. At the same time, Baker became deeply interested in the spiritual practices of Yogi Bhajan, who he spent some time following.
Baker then decided to start his own group. After hosting group meditation sessions at his restaurant for several years, Baker felt that the participants needed to conjoin at an even deeper level.
He and his followers acquired a property. Baker used the so-called “Mother House,” to run a spiritual boot camp of sorts. He kept his followers on a strict raw food regimen and meditation schedule.
Although their daily itinerary was rigid, the followers still felt grateful towards Baker–or “Father Yod” as he named himself.
Personally, I believe this sense of gratitude and well-being stemmed more from the cult members’ better diet and the mental benefits that follow from meditation. I also think of this era–the time of the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, and sexual revolution–as one where the young generation felt a deep disconnect from their parents. As such, Baker provided a father-like figure that was very attractive to vulnerable and lost followers.
Although the police had several problems with the group, followers felt at ease. However, things only went smoothly until the day Baker declared that he would begin to have multiple wives. Disgusted with Baker’s new lustful persona, many left the group, and the cult eventually saw its demise shortly after Baker’s passing.
The cult crumbled, but that did not mean the lives of its members were lost. Many of the followers are now therapists, life coaches, self-sustaining individuals, and even doctors.
While the group’s practices were certainly a radical way to approach life, I found their devotion, belief in kindness, and compassion for all living creatures oddly refreshing.