Weird History

Los Angeles Has A History With The Occult Unlike Any Other U.S. City

Southern California is as far as you can get in the contiguous United States from the puritanical roots, restrictive social norms, and old money of cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Los Angeles is nearly 2,700 miles from Washington DC, and the watchful eyes of the federal government. California is the westernmost destination of the American frontier, a land rich in natural resources like oil. A place you go to reinvent yourself. An area with a long, sometimes sordid history of new religions, experimental spirituality, far-out cults, and psychedelic occult activity. 

From the financial and cultural behemoth of Scientology to the psychotic folkies of the Mason gang and the sex-crazed, psychedelic vegetarians of the Source Family and their messianic leader Father Yod, the occult in Los Angeles wears a number of guises. Yet each of these groups, and the history, mythology, and dogma associated therewith, was born of countercultural tendencies. L. Ron Hubbard didn't want to pay taxes. Edith Maida Lessing, who founded the Mount Helios cult compound in Glassell Park, "declared free love would replace marriage, believed in communal ownership of property, and boasted that she had control over more than 1,000 men". Carlos Castaneda, an anthropologist at UCLA, claims to have met an indigenous Mexican shaman at a bus stop in the southwest who had the ability to manipulate time and space, and taught him, among other things, kung fu and how to take peyote.