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Archive for the ‘Temples of LA’ Category

Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens

In Temples of LA on March 23, 2011 at 12:15 am

The upside to taking a toddler along when you visit a holy place like this one in the West Adams district of Los Angeles is three-fold:  1) you’re immediately a good person for showing your daughter something that the docent/guide/believer finds very special, 2) their asides to Briar are super-revealing and 3) “Oh boy, would you look at that, she really is ready to go.  I’ll have to skip the pitch but the literature looks real interesting!”

That said. <lowering defensive posture> This place is awesome.

The architecture is storied and beautiful.  The grounds are filled with quiet places to reflect.  Some unique angles on the southern parts of LA totally startled me.

It’s the HDQ to MSIA.  From their literature:  Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens is home to the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, which teaches Soul Transcendence and practical spirituality, and Peace Theological Seminary & College of Philosophy, the educational arm of MSIA, which offers master’s and doctoral programs, classes on the Internet, and retreats, workshops, and classes exploring spirituality in locations around the world.

It’s a beautiful place to spend a couple of unhurried hours.

Serene and centered as it all is, this dad gets concerned every time he takes his free-wheeling daughter into one of these joints.  He sees danger!  What if it sticks?  Briar’s pure state of non-belief could be seriously destroyed by a sudden infection of wonder.

Believe me, I don’t take this shit lightly.  My own dad’s journey lead him to expose me to a double dose of Xian religion and a lot of hippy-dippy shit that I’m still working out to this day.   (See BURNT.)

So far, no worries…

In fact, walking out, holding her mother and her fathers’ hands and swinging between them, Briar was chanting over and over “you can’t open the gate, you can’t open the gate…”

By the time she was strapped into her car-seat, it was a song.

I love you, my little heathen.  Stay beige.

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Builders Of The Adytum – Highland Park

In Temples of LA on September 27, 2010 at 9:21 pm

This red-brick bunker on Figueroa is the headquarters of a world-wide organization, the Builders of the Adytum. The temple was closed when we visited, but the office/gift shop was open.

The woman who works there is not a follower of the order and so could not tell me that the name derives from the Latin word for “Inner Shrine.”  Continuing this metaphor, Christ is the carpenter and thus THE BUILDER of the Inner Shrine, in a mystical, higher-consciousness sort of way.  (The followers of this sect profess to a desire to emulate Christ.  And who can blame them.)

Briar is two years old and she was freaked out by framed photo of founder, Paul Foster Case, hanging above an altar with fresh roses.  I’m considerably older and I was a little freaked too.


I read a great description of these folks somewhere.  The idea was, to paraphrase, that the order is the closest thing out there to resemble the popular portrayal of Freemasonry.   This is  an order shrouded in mystery, who believe in Qabalah, Christianity, Astrology, Tarot, and the Occult.

The order differs in that the Masons are a firmly fraternal organization.  Not only was a woman, Ann Davies, an essential member in the history of the order, but, on our visit, the temples’ Sunday services listed two woman pastors.

Their website is interesting, if misleading.  It describes the order as entirely a correspondence school of mystery.  Believe me, the Builders of the Adytum temple occupies psychical space and provides services every sunday.

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel – Alhambra

In Temples of LA on September 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I was going to skip the Missions on our little Religions Of LA tour.  I figure Briar’s going to get more than her fill of all that in elementary school.  (I was nine in Illinois and did a lot of time with “Lincoln Lived Here”/”Lincoln Worked Here”/”Lincoln Pissed Here.”)  But after all the neat and odd temples in Los Angeles and beyond I’ve dragged little Briar to recently, it seemed like she was due for some old fashioned Imperialistic Catholicism.

And Mission San Gabriel Arcángel filled the ticket nicely.

The full name is La Mission del Santo Principe El Arcangel, San Gabriel de Los Temblores.  An earthquake destroyed the first mission, and another took out the bell-tower on the existing building.  Fortunately, the altar is intact and quite beautiful.

It was 101 degrees on the day we visited, so this was a super short trip.  I’m counting on Briar to fill me in on the details in about six or seven years, depending on her test scores.

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Hindu Temples – Malibu

In Temples of LA on September 9, 2010 at 3:31 am

Oh my Hindu God, this place is beautiful!

But the temple rots.  Like most properties in Malibu Canyon, the land is worth a zillion dollars but it’s nearly impossible to get permits to build or improve.  The surrounding grounds and picnic area are overgrown and neglected.  Below the temple, where you find the bathrooms and the offices, it feels like the break-room in a crappy warehouse.

The temple itself is just beautiful.  The neglected feel of the place only adds to the aesthetic appeal.  There were a surprising amount of pilgrims during our late afternoon visit.

I had just put Briar’s shoes on in the car before I had to take them off.  It’s a mellow place but there are rules.

Cousin Danilo sez: “Please do not break coconuts!”

Beautiful and strange.  Mysterious.  Oh, and Britney Spears had her baby boy blessed there, so it’s got that going for it.

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Self Realization Fellowship – Lake Shrine – Pacific Palisades

In Temples of LA on September 3, 2010 at 12:08 am

Here is the Golden Lotus Archway.  Beyond it lies a lake where a blue houseboat floats beneath a Dutch windmill.

Welcome to the Lake Shrine.  To a wonderful, non-judgemental, non-confrontational meditational haven for macro-lens photographers, journal scribblers, sky-gazers and all kinds of pilgrims.

The history of this place is literally fantastic.  Some of the elements:  A silent movie set, an accidental lake, a set-builder from 20th Century Fox and a yogi.  Paramahansa Yogananda acquired it in 1950 and added the archway, the Ghandi Memorial and the temple on the hill.

There is also the Court of Religions, a very Forest Lawn-esque area where (from the Shrine’s literature) “each of the five principal religions of the world is represented by a monument that bears its symbol.”

Looks like a grave to me.  A well-tended, much-honored grave — but a grave nonetheless.

BTW:  H. Everett McElroy was the set-builder and visionary who built the windmill and imported the houseboat from Lake Mead.  His dream house is for sale and it’s pretty cool.

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Mormon Temple – Westwood

In Temples of LA on August 25, 2010 at 12:54 am

Stella laughed when I google-mapped this place.  It looms over Westwood and existed as a constant bafflement in her childhood.  Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory with probable zombies.

Briar said one word as we got out of the car.  “Scared.”

There is garden full of tiny statues of women (or statues of tiny women).  Briar again: “Scared!”

The friendly greeters knew just why we were there. The Visitors Center has been closed for 3 1/2 years for refurbishing.  It just reopened last week.

The grounds are filled with well-tended gardens, lots of flowers and the people couldn’t be nicer.  So I’m not really sure what Briar was picking up on that got her so scared.

But I’m damn proud of her!

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Crystal Cathederal – Garden Grove

In Temples of LA on August 17, 2010 at 12:52 am

When you see Robert Schuller preaching from the pulpit on his “Hour of Power” TV program, he is standing inside the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.  In the early seventies, Schuller had a vision of a church built entirely of glass and then, we were told by the docent who gave us our tour, he met “entirely by accident” the most prominent architect working with glass, the great Philip Johnson.

Divine intervention or not, the place is amazing.  This description of the particulars of the building might blow your mind.   I imagine attending a service there would be inspiring — the light inside the cathedral is just breathtaking.

I know someone else who had a vision to build a special place.  That was Hubert Eaton, founder of Forest Lawn.  His cemetery in Glendale was built upon his firm belief in a “Christ who smiles and loves you and me.”  He chiseled this message into the giant marble  “Builder’s Creed” which stands outside the mausoleum containing the mortal remains of W.C. Fields, Carol Lombard and Michael Jackson.

Eaton spent the rest of his life searching for art that would confirm this conviction.  He didn’t have much luck.  The archives at Forest Lawn are crowded with sketches, paintings and statuary that didn’t catch that magic smile.

Dr. Schuller also preaches a singularly Californian theology.  Eaton created a graveyard “devoid of misshapen monuments and other customary signs of earthly death”;  Schuller’s crystal Christianity isn’t muddied by untoward contemplation of  sin.

And Schuller seems to have had a lot more luck with the whole grinning Jesus thing.

Everyone is cracking a smile in Garden Grove.  Jesus, Terminator 2: Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph.   Everyone but Briar…

This is a Definite – you must visit.  Just be sure to you get a nap in earlier, drink plenty of milk and wear fresh diapers.

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Monastery of the Angels – Hollywood

In Temples of LA on August 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

We continue to visit the hidden or forgotten temples of Los Angeles.

Part of the Mission Statement of the Monastery of the Angels reads:   “As contemplative Dominican Nuns, we have withdrawn from the world in such a way as to embrace everyone in the heart of Christ.”   Try and wrap your mind around that one.

These nuns are not kidding.  I lived two blocks from this place for four years and never knew it existed.  And the order has been there since 1930.  It’s above that part of Franklin where you get in caught in traffic near Gower.  A couple of blocks from the 101 Coffee Shop.

The public areas consist of a small courtyard with flowers and statuary, another courtyard dedicated to the contemplation of the Stations of the Cross, and a chapel which frightened Briar, though it seemed awfully nice to me.

We were invited into the gift shop by some very nice women.   It is here that we made a transcendent discovery: the nuns make hand-dipped chocolates!  My wife is something of chocolate connoisseur and she dubbed them “excellent.”

“Better Than The Best”?!  Excuse me, ladies, but MY bible has some shit to say about Pride!

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Vendenta Temple – Hollywood

In Temples of LA on August 6, 2010 at 1:30 am

My heathen daughter munches on a cookie in front of the chapel of the Vedenta Society of Southern California.  It’s tucked in a little corner of Hollywood above Franklin near Vine.

The order was founded in 1929 when a couple of Pasadena ladies gave Swami Prabhavanda a little house in Hollywood.  In the thirties, his followers constructed the temple and bought the surrounding houses to build the complex.  In the forties, guys like Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood hung out here.

Briar met another freakishly-healthy, freakishly-thin man.  He turned out to be some sort of holy celebrity.  Between fielding photo requests from visitors, he showed us around the place and introduced Briar to a “jolly elf” who turned out to be some sort of administrator.

Another change since the ’30s is the 101 freeway.  It’s just over the southern wall.  I imagine there is a lot of talk around campus like this, “it’s our ocean” or “the river of life” or “feel the rhythm? just like breathing!”

No disrespect to our practicing brethren, but your shit is pretty obvious sometimes.

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Self Realization Center – Mt. Washington

In Temples of LA on August 2, 2010 at 9:48 pm

It is a crooked path of steep winding roads that leads ya to the Mother Center of the Self Realization Fellowship.  The former home of founder Paramahansa Yogananda (buried at Forest Lawn btw), this is now the International Headquarters for the order.

The grounds are just beautiful.  There are lush green nooks for meditation or reflection, and great views of odd vistas, of little seen parts of Los Angeles and unfamiliar angles on downtown.  Briar met a spookily-calm man, bone-thin with a broad hat, who dubbed her an angel.  When she hid her face, he amended that to shy angel, saying “I shan’t force an introduction then.”

Drop by between 9 and 5, except on Mondays.  1 to 5 on Sundays.  This part of Mt. Washington is a maze – leave bread-crumbs.

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