Religion and Philosophy

Cult classics: the faded glory of California’s fringe sects – in pictures

By Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, The Guardian

Fifty years after a golden age for the spiritual groups, many have disbanded. But pockets remain throughout the state

Half a century ago, you could barely walk down the street in California without tripping over some kind of fringe spiritual sect or cult-like group. Pretty much every famous organization, guru, and spiritual trend of that era had ties to the Golden state – from the Maharishi to the People’s Temple, the “Moonies” to the New Age.

Now, with the exception of some Scientology buildings and the occasional Hare Krishna devotee, you almost never encounter fringe spiritual groups from that California golden age.

Some of the groups violently disbanded or their members died under horrific circumstances. Others slowly faded away, pushed out by California’s rising cost of living, or made obsolete by the fact that many of the things that made them appealing were absorbed into the mainstream: Fortune 500 CEOs now regularly attend Burning Man and crystals and Himalayan salt lamps can be purchased at Target. (The more nefarious side of fringe spiritual belief is also becoming increasingly mainstream, as seen in the rise of QAnon.)

But some of California’s fringe spiritual groups are still out there – little pockets of commune dwellers, transcendental meditators and UFO worshippers dotted around the state. I’ve been documenting their headquarters and places of worship.

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