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The California god rush

July 09, 2006|Michael Soller

CALIFORNIA has always put out the spiritual welcome mat for missionaries, mystics, the mad and the simply marvelous. As long ago as 1863, Henry David Thoreau referred to the "rush to California" of "philosophers and prophets, so called." It has always been a place where unvarnished East Coast contempt met undiluted Eastern mysticism. But somehow it worked. It nurtured thinkers such as Aldous Huxley and Abraham Maslow, who sought to activate their potential at Big Sur's famed Esalen Institute.

Far from the pounding surf, Mt. Shasta remains a source of sacred power for Native Americans and native Californians alike. And in the Southern California desert, the Salton Sea's sickly shore laps at Salvation Mountain, a DayGlo adobe hill declaring "God Is Love."

In his book "The Visionary State," from which these photos are taken, author Erik Davis calls California the "theme park of the gods." Another description came from a clairvoyant who on a 2000 visit to a San Diego spiritualist retreat claimed to have overheard a voice whisper: "I can't believe we live here."

-- MICHAEL SOLLER

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