“I look through the rear view mirror a lot as I keep moving forward, but I try not to get stuck in it. I don’t think any of us want to live with each other again or repeat that process. It was for that timeframe.”
JG: Was it difficult to explain your life in The Source Family to outsiders?
IA: Nobody talked about it. There were people who hadn’t even told their wives or husbands that they were in The Source Family. I mean, how do you tell someone that you were in this commune and the guy had 14 wives and you all ran around nude and then he jumped off a cliff and died?
Lots of people just said, “Nah, I’m going to zip that one up.” It can be very daunting to come out of the closet with something like that. You wonder if it’s going to be a witch hunt. Tim Miller [Religious Studies professor and author of numerous books on communes and counter culture movements], brought me out of my source closet.
“I mean how do you tell someone that you were in this commune and the guy had 14 wives and you all ran around nude and then he jumped off a cliff and died?”
JG: Is there any part of you that regrets leaving everything behind to join The Source Family?
IA: No. Absolutely no. Not at all. When you know you know. It was one of those moments where I absolutely knew [quietly laughs]. It was like a veil had been lifted. I was fearless in leaving everything. Some people call it a rapture–something that changes you instantly–and I really believe we have spiritual guidance in that crossover because I don’t think a person can do that on their own.
So of course I never regretted it, but it left some messy threads with Ron because I just walked out on him. But the thing is, I always thought Ron was going to go with me. I never in my wildest dreams thought he was not going to go with me [laughs]. What a shock to find out that he absolutely was not going to do that and thought I was stark raving mad.
“Some people call it a rapture–something that changes you instantly–and I really believe we have spiritual guidance in that crossover because I don’t think a person can do that on their own.”
JG: Does he still believe you’re stark raving mad?
IA: Well, he didn’t speak to me for almost 40 years. He was very mad. It took a while to talk him into meeting with me. He thought Father Yod was a quack and a charlatan. He thought I had been brainwashed and he wanted me to say that I was wrong. He wanted me to denounce Father Yod and the whole Source Family, and I couldn’t do that because I don’t feel that way. If anything we felt our parents’ generation had been brainwashed. We’d been heart-washed.
But he has a partner, Cheryl, who really saved his life and career and she helped me work with him. When we were doing the Source documentary she talked him into coming. He watched the documentary and he liked it. It filled in some gaps for him. We all went out to dinner. We hugged. It was nice. He started allowing us to have a friendship again.
“We felt our parents’ generation had been brainwashed. We’d been heart-washed.”
JG: Do you feel the 2012 documentary, The Source Family, accurately reflected life during your time with The Source Family?
IA: [The documentary] was done by somebody who couldn’t have done it any better for not having lived the experience. If it had been done by me it would have been done different, but then it would not have been as successful because it would’ve been just another in house, religious thing. It was made with my archives, but the agreement I made when making the documentary was that it would not be whitewashed–that I would allow other takes on it.
One of the most shocking things when I did the book and then the documentary was to find out that not everybody saw things the same way I did, that not everybody is processing the same way. I had to start allowing for other realities. There were things I personally did not agree with in the documentary, but that was their journey so it was valid. One does not negate the other. All in all I think it’s a good documentary and I think it’s a good representation.
JG: Has your opinion of The Source Family changed as time has passed?
IA: Now I have a daughter. When she was in her 20s, would I have wanted her joining an older man and being one of his wives and living with a hundred people? That made me very quickly come to the understanding that it was for that time. When you take something out of the timeframe it’s supposed to be in it’s not going to make a whole lot of sense. It belongs then.
“When you take something out of the timeframe it’s supposed to be in it’s not going to make a whole lot of sense. It belongs then.”
JG: What do you know about the current revival of commune culture?
IA: I recently visited the Twin Oaks in Virginia. They’ve been around since the 70s. I love what they’re doing. The younger generation has taken it over and they’ve build a whole section that when people when hit their older years they can come back and live in a hospice situation on the commune and pass over with people helping them. Their birthing section is in the same building so they have those two bookends happening there. I think that’s amazing.
JG: What are you working on these days?
IA: I’m 73 years old. If I didn’t do another thing that would be OK [laughs]. I’m still working on lots of projects, and I’m finding that I have a whole new cosmic family now–a whole new set of people I’m involved with and it’s nice because we’re just happy to know each other–happy to be with each other. No drama and good karma.
To delve deeper into Isis’ time with The Source Family, check out these beautiful videos about The Source Family, the people who lived there, and the ones who were left behind:
For even more on Isis Aquarian and the rest of The Source Family check out Society’s Dropouts: 48 Eye-Opening Photos Of America’s 1970s Hippie Communes. Finally, see what life was like inside five of history’s most insane cults.