By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Source Family film has roots in Carlton

Marcus Larson/News-RegisterFormer Carlton resident Charlene Peters was among the followers of Father Yod in 1960s and  70s Los Angeles.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
Former Carlton resident Charlene Peters was among the followers of Father Yod in 1960s and '70s Los Angeles.

“The Source Family,” which will make its Portland debut May 17 at the Hollywood Theater, is a documentary about the followers of Father Yod in the 1960s and early 1970s. With long hair and long robes, they were the darlings of Los Angeles as they lived out Yod’s brand of spiritualism, vegetarianism and communal living and loving.

“It was an amazing time in my life,” said Peters, who is serving as associate producer of the film. “I’m so thankful I found the mystery teachings. That’s what I was so ready for.”

Peters, known as “Isis Aquarian” in Source Family parlance, is the oldest daughter of the late Dorothy and Charles Peters. They lived out their retirement years in a big, old house between the railroad tracks and city hall in Carlton.

She was a teen when her mother bought the house in the 1950s. She was attending Yamhill-Carlton High School when her younger siblings were attending Carlton Elementary School.

After returning to the family’s home base in Carlton frequently over the decades, the siblings sold the house to dentist Mark Miller, who remodeled it to serve as an office.

Several of Peters’ siblings live in McMinnville, Newberg and the vicinity. She owns property in Carlton, but makes her home in Hawaii.

She’s currently traveling in support of the film. She and other former members of the Source Family, including the owner of The Lotus vegetarian restaurant, plan to be in Portland for the premiere.

Peters, who finished high school in Florida, worked  in New York and Washington, D.C., as a young adult. They she heard about the hippies and flower children of California, and was drawn west.

She met the former Jim Baker, who had been a successful restaurateur before dropping out and taking the name Father Yod. He and his followers were running The Source, a high-class vegetarian eatery that attracted everyone who was anyone in L.A.

Peters realized the Source offered food for the spirit as well as the body. “I knew I belonged,” she said.

Her family, led by her devoutly Catholic mother, expressed concern, she said, but accepted her decision. All her mother asked, she said, was that she stay in touch.

She became one of Yod’s 13 wives and family historian and archivist. Her records, writings and recordings — including 500 tapes of morning meditation classes and records cut by the family’s band, Yahowha 13 — would become the basis for a book, then a film.

“People called it a cult,” she said, “and we were. But all ‘cult’ means is ‘culture,’ not something bad at all. We were a culture. ... We lived in our own world, lived by spiritual law over man’s law.”

The Source was well ahead of the mainstream, Peters said, practicing home birthing and schooling at a time when neither was common. The 200 or so members meditated and performed other rituals as they followed ancient mystical teachings and Father Yod’s revelations.

“It became a closed circle,” Peters said. “We were all on the same frequency, and there was no need for anyone else to come in. We went on our own adventure.”

Within its communal structure, the family was very organized.

“We had protocols,” she said. “Everything was highly respected and done for spiritual purposes. We really believed we were morphing from human into the next evolutionary process, becoming a spiritual being — what Jesus was the prototype for.”

But while the Source Family members lived their values of spirituality and peace, they eventually became objects of suspicion.

“People confused us with the Manson family,” Peters said. And she said she understands how people might misunderstand “a man who looked like Moses with 13 wives.”

The family left L.A. Eventually, Father Yod asked his followers to disperse, but they refused to leave him.

One day, as he pondered what to do, Father Yod tried hang gliding and crashed. Within hours, he died of his injuries — an event Peters calls “leaving the body.”

It wasn’t suicide, she said. He could have done that without the hang glider.

“He tempted fate,” she said. “This was his crossing over.”

Two years later, members of the Source went their separate ways to pursue their individual paths.

Peters, who had a young daughter by then, returned to Carlton. She lived first with her mother, then on her own.

“But I couldn’t handle the mentality,” she said. “I was so spiritual that I needed to find a spiritual energy I could relate to.”

Hence the move to Hawaii.

Peters is now a 71-year-old grandmother. In addition to producing a book and film, she has spoken at a number of colleges and universities.

Today’s students are learning about hippies and spiritual quests as part of their history studies, she said, and they are adopting many of the traditions the Source Family practiced.

She continued:

“As Father Yod said, ‘No one needs a middle man anymore. Everyone should have a direct connection to their spiritual selves.’

“That’s what this generation is doing — following its own pursuits.”

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