Quiet graciousness awaits visitors at this spiritual retreat in the heart of Los Angeles.
An Italian villa done in the style of a Renaissance mansion lies in the heart of Los Angeles. Built for the Gausti family, the home was completed in 1913. In 1937, the property was bought by famed Hollywood director and choreographer, Busby Berkeley. Over the next few decades, the villa was bought and sold until the Peace Theological Seminary (PTS) bought it in 1974. It is currently the headquarters for the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness.
The Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, or “MSIA,” was founded in California in 1968 during the rise of the West Coast New Age movement. Created by Roger Delano Hinkins, who later changed his name to John-Roger after a consciousness-expanding near-death experience, the movement’s aim was to “teach Soul Transcendence, which is becoming aware of yourself as a Soul and as one with God, not as a theory, but as a living reality.”
The movement has a number of celebrity adherents (said to include Beach Boys Carl Wilson and Arianna Huffington) and has been criticized as a cult of personality. However, even its critics tend to acknowledge that it is not particularly destructive. Unlike other more famous Hollywood religions, it does not ask anyone to break ties with friends or family and does not attempt to control the lives of its followers. Meanwhile, its followers say that it is merely a practice that helps them find spiritual focus and meaning.
Regardless of one’s feelings about MSIA, the center has done well by the architecture they occupy. MSIA has not only restored the villa to its original beauty, but has added both a meditation garden and labyrinth which is regularly open to the public by appointment via their center or online.
The gardens are modeled after classic Japanese gardens and offer several quiet areas to sit. Visitors will not be bothered and can choose to meditate, read or just relax. The labyrinth is modeled after the famous one on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France. It allows you to take a 1/3 mile walk in a condensed, spiraling space, where perhaps you will meditate on your soul, or just think about the last episode of Game of Thrones. Either way, it provides a lovely space for peaceful thought in a busy city.
Know Before You Go
There is a gated entry for both cars and pedestrians. Just pull up and ring the call buzzer. The docents are extremely kind and helpful when you visit. The gardens and labyrinth are free but donations are greatly appreciated.