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The Incredible Oneness of Shasta

Features
posted: 06/06/2005

"God meaning good, Yoj says. "All good, good for all, that's all God ever means, daddy-o. He sips his coffee and beams at me. With glowing blue eyes, shaggy hair, and a white beard, he looks like an Old Testament prophet, albeit a sporty one from a mountain town. It's a bright May morning, warm enough for shorts, and we're sitting on the deck at Laurie's Mountain View Café in Mount Shasta, California. I'm framing a reply to Yoj's utterance of Essential Truth—a "yeah, dude seems insufficient—when his face breaks into a wide grin. "The incredible oneness of being! he exclaims.

Click the slideshow below for more photos.

The incredible oddity of Shasta, I'm thinking. There's the mountain, an isolated pyramid 14,162 feet high and irresistible to backcountry skiers. And there's the town, birthplace of a major New Age religious sect, breeding ground for mind-bending myths, and haven for the crystal-loving crowd. Having grown up in northern California, I've always been intrigued by this alpine Area 51, worshiped by skiers and religious seekers alike. So I've come to town now to figure out what unites—or maybe divides—the mountain's twin cults, and I'm hoping that Yoj, who belongs to both, may prove to be the Rosetta Stone, or at the least the Missing Link.

The plan is to do some backcountry touring and to visit what amounts to the country's weirdest après-ski scene—a New Age carnival held annually at the base of Shasta that has been dubbed (deep breath, please) The Integrated Cosmic Unity Wesak Celebration: Achieving Integrated Self-Mastery for Planetary Unification. Held at Shasta since 1995, the event is named in part for the Eastern holiday of Wesak, celebrating Buddha's birth. There's no better time to learn about Shasta's spiritual side. Then, after teaming up with another local guru—Chris Carr, the owner of Shasta Mountain Guides—I'll climb to the summit and ski down a 7,200-vertical-foot spring-corn epic.

As we relax in the sun, I get the Yoj life story. Here's the short version: He came to the mountain in the winter of 1997. A hundred-day-a-year telemark skier from Pagosa Springs, Colorado, he used to live in a Sioux tepee, work at a hot spring/juice bar, and spend his spare time meditating and running around the forest stark naked. One day he read a book that discussed a lost civilization beneath Shasta, and the idea electrified him. It seemed not only real but somehow personal. He moved and landed a job as a liftie at the Mount Shasta Ski Park, and life was good, or as he would put it, "Ecstatic, brother! Truly joyous!

Shasta is a spiritual mountain for the Wintu tribe, and to the faithful it's one of the world's seven sacred New Age summits, the home of transdimensional doorways and intergalactic star gates. "Mount Shasta is the individualized expression of the father-mother God, Yoj says, thus launching into a freewheeling sermon. Though he now does landscaping for a living, Yoj orates with the command of a Southern Baptist minister—on mescaline. Speaking in a rapid Kerouacian patter, veering off on wild tangents but always returning to his central points, he talks about skiers who photographed angels above Shasta, about a divinely ordained helicopter crash, about the peak's role as an energy transmitter.

"Shasta is the great central sun that wants to gather around it all of the good it can so that it can process and redistribute that energy, Yoj says. This, in turn, will set the stage for greater harmony. "The divine plan for earth is the full reunification of all life on the surface. Angels, ETs, beings of the elements. The 'wee' people—gnomes, fairies, and leprechauns—who through our own discord we have forced to hide underground. The rock people and the rose people. Reunification must happen so that we can see the real heavens around us.

I mention the lost civilization beneath Shasta (I'd read about it on the Internet): Some 25,000 years ago, the continent of Lemuria, ke Atlantis, was submerged under rising ocean waters. Survivors fled to Shasta and took shelter in giant caverns, where they now live free of war, death, and disease in a gold-plated city known as Telos.

Yoj nods. "Part of the divine plan is that the Lemurians are coming forth, he says. In fact, it seems I am face-to-face with a Lemurian right now. "It's no big deal, Yoj says. "I've just popped up and taken an embodiment. I was born on the surface, from a mother, but I am from Telos.

Psyched to ski with a telemarker from Telos, I invite Yoj to join me on an afternoon tour on Shasta's flanks, but his answer is noncommittal. "Yeah, yeah, the energies are looking real good for that, he says. Maybe we'll meet later at a local ski shop. If not, we'll hook up tomorrow at Wesak. I'm to look for him to the right of the festival's main stage. As we part ways, he tells me how to get ready for Wesak.

"Connect to your God presence, he says. "It's just like skiing moguls. Efficient use of your power. Quiet upper body. Wild lower body. Keep your hips a-wiggling.

Yoj does not show up later. Before we said goodbye, he mentioned a time-consuming new landscaping job that he'd taken and, even more ominously for a would-be Lemurian groupie like me, that his girlfriend ("soul mate) had returned to town after a long absence. Yojless, I leave the ski shop and drive 15 minutes up a winding country road to Bunny Flat, the primary staging area for summit trips, and set out across tree-dotted flats. To the right is Avalanche Gulch, a swerving natural halfpipe swept clean of vegetation. According to a survey done in 2000 by the American Geographical Society, "at least half and perhaps more of the visitors to Mount Shasta could be termed 'spiritual pilgrims.' In the summer, I'd be crossing meadows sprinkled with signs of Shasta devotion—prayer flags, altars, crystals—but there are no such artifacts now.

Reaching the first steep slopes, I attach my climbing skins and head up a thousand feet, stopping below the rocky spine of the Casaval Ridge. The snow is grippy mush, but the sunset—over a green valley well on its way to summer—is nearly perfect. Approaching the parking lot, I hear a pure tone, ringing like a bell but without decay. The sound is everywhere at once, flooding through the trees. Only as the note ebbs can I identify its source: Seven people, forming a prayer circle in the parking lot, are singing in unison. Ooooooh. It's my personal call to Wesak.

The College of the Siskiyous, site of the Cosmic Unity Wesak, looks like your typical junior college—grassy quads, winding paths, low-slung concrete buildings—with the backdrop of Shasta's snowy mass. Stepping into the darkened gymnasium where the main events are held, I make out at least 500 people sitting on bleachers and folding metal chairs. Almost everyone is wearing white and purple—pants and tunic tops or loose-fitting dresses—and they sit silent and still. The back of the room has a booth offering aura readings; the walls are hung with tapestries clearly inspired by Santana's early-'70s album covers; the whole place glows with purple light. No sign of Yoj, and no time to look. On a stage in front, a gaunt, robed figure steps forward: Dr. Joshua David Stone, the founder of Wesak.

A Southern California family psychologist turned New Age religious guru, Stone calls himself the High Priest Spokesperson for the Planetary Ascension Movement. In 2004, spiritual sources appointed him World Teacher, a position held for the previous two millennia by Jesus. Before arriving, Stone and I had e-mailed, and he's the all-caps type: "DEAR JAMES, MOUNT SHASTA IS A SPIRITUAL VORTEX! THIS IS WHY IT WAS CHOSEN AS THE SITE FOR WESAK!

From the podium, Stone dispenses his synthesis of Eastern and Western religious teachings, mystical and paranormal beliefs, Heideggerian philosophical nuggets and Chicken Soup for the Soul—style affirmations. "If you are not right with self, you will project your wrong relationship onto everything, he says.

Later, Stone invites to the stage the Channel Panel, eight powerful mediums who will connect the audience to the spiritual equivalent of the Dream Team. Frederic Delarue, dressed in black, channels for the angels. Eterna, plump and permed, stands in for Jesus. Joanita Molina—beautiful, Brazilian, in flowing white—for Kuthumi and Mother Earth. Sally Lesar, in a rose dress, channels for a galactic being known as Metatron. And so on. Saint Germain (channeled by one Phillip Burley) begins to speak, and the crowd is rapt, for Germain is Shasta's patron saint. The backstory: In 1930 a government mining engineer named Guy Ballard was hiking on Shasta when a young man appeared before him. The man transformed himself into the 18th-century French mystic Saint Germain and began to speak. His revelations were recorded in Ballard's Unveiled Mysteries (published under the pen name Godfre Ray King) and became the basis for the I AM religious activity, a proto—New Age faith that attracted more than a million followers by 1940. Today, there are still thousands of adherents and more than a hundred temples nationwide.

"Good morning. This is Saint Germain, Burley intones.

"Good morning, the audience responds in unison.

"Your path is your path and not anyone else's path. The great truth is to know yourself. … Turn always again and again to the great I AM presence within.

Everyone applauds. The Channel Panel carries on.

"Create the destiny that your soul wants for this planet, says Kuthumi.

"There is no such thing as a mistake, says Jesus.

"Some crop circles are made by the Ashtar and Arturian peoples, and some are made by extraterrestrial races unknown to you at this time, says Metatron.

After looking around again for Yoj—and not finding him—I step out into the sun to scan the rows of booths at the Wesak fair. An aimless bongo-flute duet wafts in the background. Geodes for sale. Chakra realignments. Paintings of ETs. The latest copy of the Galactic Federation News. Twenty bucks gets me a genuine Lemurian seed crystal. The mountain called Yoj. The mountain called Chris Carr. A devoted East Coast skier, Carr had always assumed that after college graduation, he would wind up at Jackson or Vail. But on a sophomore-year road-trip from California to Oregon, Shasta suddenly appeared through the windshield. "I was blown away by its mass and the power I felt, Carr says. In 1995, Carr took a job with Shasta Mountain Guides. In 2002, he and his wife, Jennifer, purchased the business. "I truly believe it was by divine intervention that I found my way here, he says.

Carr is on skis, with me following. We're making our summit bid, a process that begins at the entirely unholy hour of 2 a.m., and we slide through the trees into moonlit clearings.

A sustained ascent, with its repetitive motion and rhythmic breathing, is always somewhat hypnotic—and in darkness it becomes as meditative as the whale song at Wesak. Shasta glows blue-white against the starry sky. The small talk has died out, and as we negotiate switchbacks, I'm left with the scraping of skis and the echoing of yesterday's voices. I hear Kylie Wheeler, a 25-year-old former liftie and ski patroller I'd met at the festival, who talked for an hour about Shasta's four-dimensional snowflakes and six-sided gravity field. It was head-bending stuff, and it feels good to be away from the festival crowds and metaphysical mountain, in the cold air, on this solid peak.By eight in the morning we've reached snow-covered Lake Helen. With 3,500 feet down and 3,700 feet to go, we're nearly halfway to the top in terms of elevation, if not effort. High above, the rocky Red Banks jut from the snow. Between them and us is a backcountry version of Alf's High Rustler—3,000 vertical feet, 35 to 40 degrees, one long shot. Beautiful to bomb down. A pain to climb up.

Carr stomps on tirelessly. For him, the trip is a comfortable ritual. For me, it has br wrong relationship onto everything, he says.

Later, Stone invites to the stage the Channel Panel, eight powerful mediums who will connect the audience to the spiritual equivalent of the Dream Team. Frederic Delarue, dressed in black, channels for the angels. Eterna, plump and permed, stands in for Jesus. Joanita Molina—beautiful, Brazilian, in flowing white—for Kuthumi and Mother Earth. Sally Lesar, in a rose dress, channels for a galactic being known as Metatron. And so on. Saint Germain (channeled by one Phillip Burley) begins to speak, and the crowd is rapt, for Germain is Shasta's patron saint. The backstory: In 1930 a government mining engineer named Guy Ballard was hiking on Shasta when a young man appeared before him. The man transformed himself into the 18th-century French mystic Saint Germain and began to speak. His revelations were recorded in Ballard's Unveiled Mysteries (published under the pen name Godfre Ray King) and became the basis for the I AM religious activity, a proto—New Age faith that attracted more than a million followers by 1940. Today, there are still thousands of adherents and more than a hundred temples nationwide.

"Good morning. This is Saint Germain, Burley intones.

"Good morning, the audience responds in unison.

"Your path is your path and not anyone else's path. The great truth is to know yourself. … Turn always again and again to the great I AM presence within.

Everyone applauds. The Channel Panel carries on.

"Create the destiny that your soul wants for this planet, says Kuthumi.

"There is no such thing as a mistake, says Jesus.

"Some crop circles are made by the Ashtar and Arturian peoples, and some are made by extraterrestrial races unknown to you at this time, says Metatron.

After looking around again for Yoj—and not finding him—I step out into the sun to scan the rows of booths at the Wesak fair. An aimless bongo-flute duet wafts in the background. Geodes for sale. Chakra realignments. Paintings of ETs. The latest copy of the Galactic Federation News. Twenty bucks gets me a genuine Lemurian seed crystal. The mountain called Yoj. The mountain called Chris Carr. A devoted East Coast skier, Carr had always assumed that after college graduation, he would wind up at Jackson or Vail. But on a sophomore-year road-trip from California to Oregon, Shasta suddenly appeared through the windshield. "I was blown away by its mass and the power I felt, Carr says. In 1995, Carr took a job with Shasta Mountain Guides. In 2002, he and his wife, Jennifer, purchased the business. "I truly believe it was by divine intervention that I found my way here, he says.

Carr is on skis, with me following. We're making our summit bid, a process that begins at the entirely unholy hour of 2 a.m., and we slide through the trees into moonlit clearings.

A sustained ascent, with its repetitive motion and rhythmic breathing, is always somewhat hypnotic—and in darkness it becomes as meditative as the whale song at Wesak. Shasta glows blue-white against the starry sky. The small talk has died out, and as we negotiate switchbacks, I'm left with the scraping of skis and the echoing of yesterday's voices. I hear Kylie Wheeler, a 25-year-old former liftie and ski patroller I'd met at the festival, who talked for an hour about Shasta's four-dimensional snowflakes and six-sided gravity field. It was head-bending stuff, and it feels good to be away from the festival crowds and metaphysical mountain, in the cold air, on this solid peak.By eight in the morning we've reached snow-covered Lake Helen. With 3,500 feet down and 3,700 feet to go, we're nearly halfway to the top in terms of elevation, if not effort. High above, the rocky Red Banks jut from the snow. Between them and us is a backcountry version of Alf's High Rustler—3,000 vertical feet, 35 to 40 degrees, one long shot. Beautiful to bomb down. A pain to climb up.

Carr stomps on tirelessly. For him, the trip is a comfortable ritual. For me, it has become an initiation, one requiring no small measure of faith that there will be future reward for present pain. After a quick snack we make the final push up the rocks of Misery Hill, and by early afternoon, we're standing atop the mountain. Carr pulls a puffy down jacket from his pack and munches a granola bar. I find a rocky seat and check out the view, a tri-stater. The snow-capped Cascades march north into Oregon; to the east sprawls the brown, high desert of Nevada; California's Trinity Alps form a ragged wall between us and the Pacific.

"At Mount Shasta, you get what you want, Yoj had told me. "Time and space just waste away. Literally, for him: Out skiing on the mountain, Yoj says, he often pulls over to have a sip of water—and finds himself standing in the same spot an hour later, having gotten lost in a blissful trance. It's too bad that he couldn't come up with us today. "James, I really dig how much you want to go skiing, to be up there in the white, he said. "As much as you want to do that is how much I want to be with my soul mate—in the green, with the trees, by a river. I know you understand.

The logic was bulletproof in its own Yojian way. And he does love Shasta, not just in a spiritual sense but in a physical one. I'm less sure about the people at Wesak. For all of their Shasta-centrism, the mountain is still an abstraction for many of them, a big white shape in the sky. At Wesak, what began as an innocent question became my private joke: After listening to someone sing the mountain's praises, I'd ask him if he wanted to come ski it with me. The startled answer "Oh, no thanks went with the inevitable look What, are you crazy?

From the summit, we clamber back down Misery Hill, put on our skis, and then traverse to the top of the West Face, another of Shasta's 3,500-vertical-foot fall-line plunges. The quality of the corn is only so-so—the day is too warm, and we're an hour past prime time—but it's still light, loose stuff. My legs come alive. With the angle moderate and the obstacles minimal, there's no wrong way to ski, only varying degrees of right. I opt for high speed, wide arcs. Pause, repeat. Ecstasy. Truly joyous.

After cutting east, we drop through rock bands into Hidden Valley, an amphitheater of snow framed by the Shastina peak and the Casaval Ridge. In the runout, the snow stops pretending to be snow. The temperature is above 80, and we're water-skiing through a giant white Slurpee. We climb out of Hidden Valley. Snake through Anaconda Gulch. Trigger a wet slide in Giddy Giddy Gulch, traverse to Casaval Ridge, and cruise the luge run of lower Avalanche Gulch. Finally, 13 hours after we started, we're back at Bunny Flat.

Carr has lost count of his Shasta summits—the number tops 100—but even so, he still relishes the trip. "There's a feeling here, he says. "After any extended leave, the first thing I do when I come home is to climb Shasta. Sometimes there's so much energy flowing in my body, I practically vibrate.

That said, Carr won't soon be mistaken for one of the Wesakers: "People choose a lot of ways to respect the mountain. Climbers and skiers pay their respect by going up there—which is a lot different from someone who spends all day worshiping crystal pyramids.Part of the divine plan is that the Lemurians are coming forth, Yoj says. In fact, it seems I am face-to-face with a Lemurian RIGHT NOW. L

"It's no big deal, he says. "I've just popped up and taken an embodiment. I was born on the surface, from a mother, but I am from Telos.

as become an initiation, one requiring no small measure of faith that there will be future reward for present pain. After a quick snack we make the final push up the rocks of Misery Hill, and by early afternoon, we're standing atop the mountain. Carr pulls a puffy down jacket from his pack and munches a granola bar. I find a rocky seat and check out the view, a tri-stater. The snow-capped Cascades march north into Oregon; to the east sprawls the brownn, high desert of Nevada; California's Trinity Alps form a ragged wall between us and the Pacific.

"At Mount Shasta, you get what you want, Yoj had told me. "Time and space just waste away. Literally, for him: Out skiing on the mountain, Yoj says, he often pulls over to have a sip of water—and finds himself standing in the same spot an hour later, having gotten lost in a blissful trance. It's too bad that he couldn't come up with us today. "James, I really dig how much you want to go skiing, to be up there in the white, he said. "As much as you want to do that is how much I want to be with my soul mate—in the green, with the trees, by a river. I know you understand.

The logic was bulletproof in its own Yojian way. And he does love Shasta, not just in a spiritual sense but in a physical one. I'm less sure about the people at Wesak. For all of their Shasta-centrism, the mountain is still an abstraction for many of them, a big white shape in the sky. At Wesak, what began as an innocent question became my private joke: After listening to someone sing the mountain's praises, I'd ask him if he wanted to come ski it with me. The startled answer "Oh, no thanks went with the inevitable look What, are you crazy?

From the summit, we clamber back down Misery Hill, put on our skis, and then traverse to the top of the West Face, another of Shasta's 3,500-vertical-foot fall-line plunges. The quality of the corn is only so-so—the day is too warm, and we're an hour past prime time—but it's still light, loose stuff. My legs come alive. With the angle moderate and the obstacles minimal, there's no wrong way to ski, only varying degrees of right. I opt for high speed, wide arcs. Pause, repeat. Ecstasy. Truly joyous.

After cutting east, we drop through rock bands into Hidden Valley, an amphitheater of snow framed by the Shastina peak and the Casaval Ridge. In the runout, the snow stops pretending to be snow. The temperature is above 80, and we're water-skiing through a giant white Slurpee. We climb out of Hidden Valley. Snake through Anaconda Gulch. Trigger a wet slide in Giddy Giddy Gulch, traverse to Casaval Ridge, and cruise the luge run of lower Avalanche Gulch. Finally, 13 hours after we started, we're back at Bunny Flat.

Carr has lost count of his Shasta summits—the number tops 100—but even so, he still relishes the trip. "There's a feeling here, he says. "After any extended leave, the first thing I do when I come home is to climb Shasta. Sometimes there's so much energy flowing in my body, I practically vibrate.

That said, Carr won't soon be mistaken for one of the Wesakers: "People choose a lot of ways to respect the mountain. Climbers and skiers pay their respect by going up there—which is a lot different from someone who spends all day worshiping crystal pyramids.Part of the divine plan is that the Lemurians are coming forth, Yoj says. In fact, it seems I am face-to-face with a Lemurian RIGHT NOW. L

"It's no big deal, he says. "I've just popped up and taken an embodiment. I was born on the surface, from a mother, but I am from Telos.

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