All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Updated or revised August 8, 2022
"They took a well balanced spiritual place and ruined it. The managers don't care about their guests or their employees. It was hard to watch the place turn into something less spiritual and free-minded."
-- former SMS front desk receptionist on indeed.com
"This used to be one of the most sacred places in my life and it is beyond heartbreaking what has happened here. Truly a great loss for the west coast community. No more Bathhouse... It got bought by city folk who care not for anything but their profit and are anything but spiritual. People like that should not buy sacred lands."
-- Down T., Nevada City, CA, 4-19-21 Yelp review
Stewart 'ownership's' plague of
reprehensibly misguided intent
Quick take: bathhouse closed permanently as far as present 'ownership' is concerned. Tubs torn out to re-purpose building (tubs reportedly rescued by a local for safekeeping); lodgings now only open for booked groups -- no more individual visits (and no spa to even entice one anyhow). Name of place officially changed and Stewart Mineral Springs website was scrapped. Operation, a separate legal entity from umbrella group, reportedly filed for bankruptcy protection.
More reposted online review excerpts:
"There are years of magical energy, prayers and love that have been steeped into this place; now it feels like it is being erased."
-- Michele Feasby, Instagram post
"The new owners have changed the very fiber and culture of the space we have all loved for decades."
-- Anu H., Nevada City, Yelp review
"Apparently change of ownership can be a killer for sacred places..."
-- Vladimir V, San Bruno, CA Yelp review
2020 online Yelp review re-posted in entirety:
"I'm writing to express deep sadness and profound disappointment at the Pneuma group for dismantling the bathhouse - the bathtubs and rooms have been removed, and the place renovated to be a 'retreat space'.
"The springs are a sacred place offering healing waters to people who came from around the world for decades. This is not a place 'owned' by anyone - it is meant to be stewarded by whoever manages the land. Now, the Pneuma group, a non-US organization in a quest for money, has taken out the baths and the bathhouse [Ed. - or at least quest to gain total control of realm to do own thing while mitigating overhead by renting out facilities to tradition-indifferent outside groups].
"There are no more springs for anyone to benefit from. Pneuma has violated a sacred trust and duty to preserve an ancient, unique resource and sacred site. Ironically, they now hold 'chakra and mantra' workshops in the space previously provided for people to explore the inner realms on their own.
"They are capitalizing on the destruction of a place they clearly don't understand and should not have been in control of. There are no words for the violation of their responsibility to steward this sacred place. Shame on you, Pneuma."
-- Benicia B., S.F., Yelp review 8-11-20 (Review was soon deleted from site, not even left in "not currently recommended" bin near bottom, like some of more controversial or irrelevant postings. No need to wonder why: speaking truth to power is touching the forbidden third rail, shocking to running any ethically compromised, nontransparent operation.)
Excerpt from same poster's 12-12-21 Yelp update:
"This non-US group has completely erased a site long considered a sacred healing site through generations. Now they host silly retreats about faux shamanism and hock their pseudo spirituality. Where before this was a place of refuge, it is now an empty shell. Avoid this place and the indelible grief that permeates it."
"The love seems missing from the place -
it has a more clinical feel to it"
-- Leo H, Los Gatos, CA Yelp review
"We noticed a change in vibe as soon as we opened the door to the office. Gone were all the beautiful pictures of Shasta and crystals as well any ambiance at all."
-- Beth C., Oakland, CA Yelp review
" It is sad the new owners took a good thing and
changed it so drastically ..."
-- Gretchen G., Mt. Shasta, CA Yelp review
What the #%[email protected] happened to
See below - entire (very long) page, including op-ed and re-posted sweat lodge ban rants followed by more semi-informed analysis and ranting by former longtime volunteer Stu Ward.
Furor over Kicking out Sacred Sweat Lodge
scroll two-fifths down this page
(click above & scroll 3/4 down)
Springs 'Remote Stewarding' Went
From Bad to Worse
Updated June 2022
Enormous changes everywhere
...but even before pandemic hit, forcing initial temporary closing of Stewart bathhouse, turnover in absentee 'owners' in January 2016 radically changed the place once an initial nine month de facto grace period lapsed.
During those first months things stayed pretty much the same, including management, clothing-optional policy and weekly sweat lodge ceremonies. So much so, many people assumed 'ownership' change came only much later after seeing new faces, atmosphere and attitude at the front desk -- or later yet, on the shocking announcement of abandoning spa service permanently.
At first the only sign of devastating changes to come -- besides actual one on the sundeck door in tiny print announcing pending ban of clothing optional -- had been a seemingly innocent tiny stone Inca figurine placed at the base of tree down by cold plunge area. Looking back on it now, it was like a planted seed patiently biding its time.
Soon enough, all hell would break loose.
Drastic changes -- first banning clothing-optional, then a year later essentially kicking out the sweat lodge, for 45 years open weekly to the public by love offering -- made for sudden, SERIOUS disenchantment among the place's countless fans and supporters. Visitorship tanked overnight. Only a reported sputtering of new visitors beyond outfit's own affiliated groups, family, and friends -- plus the usual straggle of non-discriminating and/or uninformed -- ever filled the void.
Place's once robust revenue stream has been drying up ever since -- needlessly in the eyes of countless fans -- leaving operation treading water or sinking for having brazen. private-minded designs on the 'property' they 'bought'. Purely to further their own private interests they egregiously messed with the rare institution's nearly century-and-a-half-old tradition of providing the wider public with an affordable, dedicated healing spa and rejuvenating retreat...
...a tradition that in more recent times embraced clothing-optional and weekly sacred sweat ceremonies, which together enormously enhanced the synergy of the place, making it all-inclusive, enduring, endearing and phenomenally popular.
Had it only been minor changes suiting absentee stewards' lifestyle values and ways, like putting little personal imprints on things and fine-tuning policies, that would've been one thing.
But no, they willfully destroyed wholesale decades of cultural evolution and dedication to natural purifying, healing and rejuvenation.
They mindlessly obliterated place's relaxed, down-home air critical to the successful operation of any genuine spa retreat worth its salt.
Shocking Re-purposing of Venerated Bathhouse
Then came the dread virus and few months later, on May 1, 2020, over four years after assuming legal title of the grounds, came an announcement -- their first general-public online communication ever, beyond sizzling blurbs -- of the "painful" decision to shut the bathhouse... permanently.
While other regional rural spring resort spa compounds also had to close due to Covid, they were relatively thriving before it hit and will undoubtedly bounce back once pandemic fades away. (Some have since re-opened, with restrictions, like Harbin, requiring masks even in soaking pools; and Jackson Wellsprings, by online pre-paid reservation for 90-minute use).
With Stewart's already wobbling on the ropes with new 'overseers''' wonky, depressingly blatant, private-minded intentions -- changes, again, made long before virus ever showed up -- there's no telling what might lie in its future.
Pessimists assume the worst, thinking the place gone forever. Optimists await patiently for Pneuma's "covetous fever" infection to run its course and appropriate new stewardship come to the rescue. Realists say it could go either way.
Judging from their website (and visitor review re-posted near top of this page), absentee stewards -- an oxymoron if ever there was one -- were dead serious about stated intent to re-purpose the bathhouse structure into extra retreat and workshop space. Historic spa center would reincarnate in 2023 as...Shambala House. (Shamelessly Gutted Spa Building might be a more appropriate name.) see New Day Dawning
Not fully certain if repurposing plan was announced before or after virus hit...but if before, as writer strongly suspects, it would indicate nothing less than the premeditated murder of a beloved 145 year-old institution. And along with it the abiding universal spirit of a grounds dedicated to serving the greater good.
If made after -- as it seemed 'owners' might've wanted to make appear was the case -- the pandemic provided one incredibly convenient, quasi-plausible excuse for taking such drastic action. In the fog of recent historic global disruption of life as normal, it appeared only to be joining the meltdown of countless other businesses that had operations bite the dust or were barely hanging on.
In any event, anyone who has held the place in their hearts would no doubt agree that the series of unconscionable changes was nothing short of stupendously inappropriate, dumbfoundingly nutzoid, unspeakably shameful... blatantly defying the realm's sterling tradition of offering one and all natural healing, rejuvenation and lodging in a relaxed, unassuming, affordable way...
...and if they've an ounce of conscience they'll come to regret it if they don't already.
Again, writer's leaning towards thinking the wonky conversion plan was dreamed up early, perhaps even before the actual sale...long before a steep reality check was delivered to their private banquet table in these radically changing times.
In due course, such new realities might well evaporate any bald-faced, public-be-damned attempt to co-opt a global public's beloved rural retreat.
Posted sizzle of coming attractions might well prove little more than a lopsided, fading, lame fantasy of mindlessly repurposing the historically public-spirited healing realm.
Posted mission statement on the new Pneuma Retreat Center site fairly gave away through careless spelling its less than altruistic intent: "Our mission is to inspire and support people and communities that are working to create an awakend humanity." Awakend humanity? Sounds scary. Mad scientists spearheading some grand mutation experiment, maybe?
In recent decades, the place became wildly popular as a de facto rural community center for the wider region, plus a rendezvous and destination point for myriad travelers both domestic and international. Many firmly believe any attempt to willfully destroy such a beloved place just to suit mostly private-minded interests is guaranteed to fail miserably.
As others have pointed out in reviews (see below impassioned, re-posted reactions to sacred sweat lodge removal), it's only a matter of time before the land rejects them -- fundamentalist-leaning 'bourgeois spirituality', convoluted psycho-babble and all, God love 'em.
Why anyone ostensibly in the healing field would ever choose to heap such horrible karma on themselves defies all comprehension.
Their justification was doubtless that since they'd forked over a small fortune ($2.6 million US) to gain legal title of the property, they'd gained the inviolable right -- private property rights being sacred in our divisional materialistic world -- to do with it whatever they wanted. They probably knew they'd have a tough row to hoe with myriad fans' attachment to the place, but maybe thought they would soon fade into the sunset after getting a brief royal snit fit out of their system. Defeated, they'd sigh and move on on with a resigned "Oh well, nice while it lasted..." acceptance of unfortunate changes.
Cynic in builder of this part Stewart Springs blog, part history, part review- and article-re-posting site as a 20-year Springs volunteer first thought their 5-1-2020 announcement of "permanent" closing of bathhouse was only the latest ploy (banning c/o being the first, kicking out sweat lodge the second) to get the general public so pissed they'd no longer cared WHAT the hell they did with the place.
Then at some future point they'd quietly re-open bathhouse spa for their own exclusive use -- once beyond the radar of outraged public scrutiny that'd been raining on their parade ever since c/o ban and sweat lodge eviction...putting a serious crimp on the potential for any real enjoyment of 'their' legally appropriated land.
But THEN (rendering writer's suspicion baseless) they shut down bathhouse permanently and actually tore out the tubs, fully intent on re-purposing building, sending public outrage into the stratosphere. (Wondered if maybe they kept the two tiled tub stalls intact that they took forever years earlier to fancy up, replete with over-elaborate, blindingly shiny, expensive plumbing hardware, for high muckety-mucks to indulge in a royal soak every now and then.)
Obviously it turned out that they were dead serious on the intent to scrap the bathhouse spa (based on credible reports of others; writer hasn't set foot on grounds since December 2017).
The dastardly deed was done in unspeakable disregard to realm's sterling legacy of providing seven generations of affordable natural healing and rejuvenation at a nature-rich retreat beloved the world over.
They'll surely learn in time the fact that the sale of the 'property' was a 'legal' transfer in itself means diddly-squat beyond the three-dimensional material realm, as seen in the spheres of spiritual law, universal compassion and cherished public sentiment.
Rise of control freaks
In the 2020 book Twilight of Democracy, The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, by Pulitzer prize winner Anne Applebaum, it's argued by a behavioral economist quoted that in any country a third of the population has a authoritarian-leaning disposition (vs. libertarian). It's a frame of mind that "wants to overthrow, bypass, or undermine existing institutions, to destroy what exists." Interestingly, this third includes both the far right AND the far left. One in three; a sobering thought if true.
Such are discomforted by the complexity brought by inclusiveness and diversity -- qualities the Springs had at least in some fair measure -- finding escape-from-freedom relief and comfort in uniform sameness and tight regimental order and some omniscient leader telling them what to do and how to think.
So what's happening with the Springs is perhaps only a reflection of recent global polarizing of societal energies in which minority thinking has gotten a tenuous foothold on things for a while, making matters needlessly unpleasant and trying for the two-thirds majority of more freedom loving and public-spirited of the planet.
(Unrelated...renowned financial analyst, the late Larry Edelson, discovered what appears to be a major 80-year war cycle in both America and beyond: 1780, American Revolution; 1860, Civil War; 1940, World War II. Now 2020 time period... Pray for peace. Might the storming of the Capitol prove to be something akin to being the United States' own forerunner Kristallnacht event, as former California governator Arnold forthrightly posited as a possibility on YouTube?) Let's hope not.
Back to the plight in our own neck of the woods... The shocking magnitude of detour of the place's function -- flying so rudely in the face of the claim reported by former manager Rowena, that on purchasing they said they liked the place pretty much just the way it was (if true, obviously lying through their teeth) -- might make one wonder how such an ignominious fate could have ever befallen the realm in the first place.
By examining the history of the Springs, both recent and older, this site hopes, among other things, to shed light on why such a thing DID happen...and ultimately to remind fans that such an ignoble fate is NOT written in stone, that the situation is not irreversible, that one SHOULD NOT abandon hope for the place.
The way fans choose to view it is absolutely critical. With enough envisioning a future with place once again serving as a vital community resource and healing center for the greater good under new, hands-on, progressive stewardship, it can be manifested in the fullness of time.
A new reincarnation... place rescued by public-minded investors and benevolent supporters, those who see it as an invaluable restorative, mystical realm. One to be enjoyed by nature loving, holistic thinking, growth-minded people everywhere. One integrated at long last with an infectious can-do spirit and grounded community involvement, as is hour-distant Jackson Wellsprings, just north of Ashland, Oregon, off highway 99.
IF enough conscious beings visualize the best of all possible futures for the place,
in due course it WILL be rescued.
January 19, 2021 marked five years of the dubious new 'ownership'. If they'd made some five-year plan, possibly they'd stepped up planned changes when Covid hit, offering plausible cover to entirely scrap spa ahead of schedule.
But, dare one hope, maybe they'd given themselves five years to turn the place around to suit purposes while making operation profitable or at least semi self-supporting, and now finally see the writing on the wall. Maybe even now they realize they were in abject denial thinking to pursue a fantasy for a place that reality's proved unworkable and ridiculously inappropriate. Maybe they're even now starting to feel duly chagrined and are toying with the idea of surrendering the place to a willing, appropriate stewardship at a fair-minded price.
If enough of far-flung friends of Stewart Springs envision such an outcome, it will happen. Call it the thousandth human monkey affect.
Bleak recent events leading
to current dire straits
Following a momentous Springs visit by new 'owners' from Los Angeles, Mexico, and South America in mid December 2017, Springs' operation suffered the final, deal-breaking sea change in the eyes of myriad longtime fans.
Longtime general manager Rowena P. was at last stepping down -- two years AFTER the sale, having acted mostly by remote from hundreds of miles away during those last two years
of a controversial , health-plagued, 12-year profit-driven run while non-empowered on-site staff rubber-stamped strict marching orders from new 'owners' as passed on through her. THEN a new on-site management was finally brought on board, long-range plans ratcheted up and they really went to town.
From frying pan to fire
Within a week, gazebo's prayer altar was emptied and 45-year sacred sweat lodge effectively kicked off land -- last straw for countless fans a year after banning of popular clothing-optional had shocked many senseless. The once-magical realm, suddenly radioactive with lost heart, destroyed culture and blinded vision, was instantly shunned by countless who had cherished and supported the place for decades.
Shameless flasher website
A year later, in 2019, coinciding with third year anniversary of wa-y-y absentee new 'ownership' on January 19 (in noteworthy and most peculiar synchronicity, the grand re-opening date three years earlier of Harbin Hot Springs), they replaced the old creaky tiny-print website with a new, short-lived, streamlined one. (Pretense abandoned, one's now redirected to Pneuma site.)
Loaded with eye-catching graphics, slick text bites and shameless flashers, site confirmed the suspicions of most: when not enjoying their little shangri-la themselves and running own workshops, the seemingly tone-deaf, hospitality-indifferent 'ownership' appeared out to attract -- coasting on place's reputation -- a more upscale, urban, flirting-with-awakening visitor base...those less into grokking profound spa purification and rejuvenation than in throwing disposable income at the promise of some vaguely pleasant, nominally healing, tightly packaged country resort escape, or simply a bare-bones overnight lodging in the boonies...
...plus those maybe wanting to book spiritually-focused events, workshops, weddings, or retreats and who don't seem to mind how the former casual, open-minded atmosphere
was indifferently scrapped in favor of a wound-up one that soon had an unapologetic choke hold on the energies. (And, of course, those just liking to stay overnight on the road and not interested in anything else.)
No matter that the mindful, low-key radical body freedom of simple nudity, which had allowed one to experience profound, often instantaneous re-integration of body-mind-spirit, became verboten, as if overnight becoming distasteful, disrespectful, even out-and-out immoral.
Or that the beloved historic bathhouse's seven-generation-long grand dedicated tradition of offering healing mineral-water purification to the world was so matter-of-factly gutted.
Or how 45-year sacred Karuk sweat lodge, anchoring countless visitors in down-to-earth communion and celebration of life and grokking ancient ways of Native American culture and providing unique spiritual focus, was unceremoniously kicked off the land.
Or that the people's altar of love and gratitude offerings in the old spring gazebo above the creek was torn down, initially replaced with a cheery sign warning:
No Trespassing - Violators will be Prosecuted
With that sign, from the very get-go they'd tipped off their hard attitude of " the public be damned, it's our baby now and we'll do whatever the hell we want with it; go jump in a lake (but not our creek) if you don't like it". Sign was likely prompted by curious visitors who'd climb over gazebo railing to check out adjoining, neglected sacred red spring.
2020 vision &
2020 vision &
2020 started out so promising... number the very hallmark of clear vision...then the dread virus struck and vision got blurry real fast. Almost overnight it seemed 'normal' life on the planet vanished.
Coronavirus pandemic concerns soon preempted everything else. What was or wasn't happening at Stewart's suddenly became of little interest to most...with possible exception of that dumbfounding 'owner' announcement of May 1st, 2020 of decision to permanently close bathhouse and, as indicated elsewhere on their site, revealing plan of re-purposing building to make more retreat and class space (gutting tubs of course was not mentioned)...and the heck with continuing to offer mineral baths and saunas and cold plunges.
Apparently it was never an abiding interest. Their watered-down, mandatory cover-up variety that fans used to precious body freedom roundly rejected was maybe offered just for appearance sake, knowing it would go over like a lead balloon, but giving a quasi plausible excuse to get rid of spa service altogether.
Again, that seemed to be the official time-line decision...that it was only AFTER the pandemic that they decided to make the seemingly tough call, done ever so regretfully, crocodile tears falling like rain, as the sacrificial lamb was slaughtered just to further their own squirrelly intentions.
But writer seems to remember their site long ago, pre-Covid, talking up some mysterious Shambala House. It was baffling, as could not place any such structure on grounds beyond already mentioned A-frame, restaurant, and conference hall.
Then at some point they added pictures to the text...of the bathhouse!
To writer's knowledge, it was first time the bathhouse has been shuttered since 1980s beyond a week for annual maintenance and long-ago seasonal winter closings -- latter of which ended in late 1999 when the place went year-round for the first time.
Drastically ending bathhouse operation might, again, ultimately prove that the unwieldy, exclusive-minded intentions of 'absentee stewards' are too sketchy and inappropriately diverting from place's former dedicated spa focus to ever pan out and be supported -- perhaps even by their own ranks and relations...grandiose dream of adapting the legally-kidnapped Springs for specialized use with outside-groups subsidizing costs fading fast..aided and abetted by the advent of current transformational populace forces insisting on a more just, fair, and sustainable world for everyone sharing the ride aboard this little azure ball whirling through space.
Countless fans hold that "buying" the de facto public-serving, dedicated spa retreat did NOT entitle "owners" to do with it whatever they wanted.
Not without severe consequences. The resulting Mt. Everest of bad karma is such that one would think anybody truly conscious and awakened (vs. just awakned), being mindful of the land and its long-steeped tradition of profound healing and simple hospitality, would've never even dared THINK of pursuing such a senseless, woefully out-of-sync course of action.
But possibly in back of expedience-friendly minds in far-away realms they've been mulling over the situation. Perhaps, again, they are even now considering divesting of the place if it indeed appears their diversionary fantasy is going bust and pockets aren't deep enough to keep pouring cash down a bottomless pit.
Place to be revalued
in time. Move check-in to inside front gates?
Places like Stewart's are gaining critical new importance in these pregnant times... More than ever it deserves a new service-dedicated stewardship willing to establish a nonprofit labor of love (that in time might pay for itself' -- follow the bliss and the money will follow.) Maybe it's years down the road. Or it could happen tomorrow. (Who knows anything for sure these days except that love is real?)
Such places, nestled in the clean simplicity of regenerative nature and offering the simple natural medicine holistic-minded beings crave, serve as much needed sanctuaries for an awakening -- if now also much bent -- humanity.
Bathhouse operation could resurrect -- with vital aid of plumbing aces who can suss out and reactivate the intricate mineral water heating and delivery systems now ostensibly idled -- under a new, hand-in-glove stewardship that inspires widespread local involvement and support.
Possibly over time there might emerge a brand-new bathing compound, of inspired and practical design, once tearing down the current one. Historic sentiment aside, it never did have an optimal spa layout for maximizing the easiest and most blissful spa experience. It wasn't separated from all the distracting hubbub of office and revved-up arrivals fresh off the road or laundry room churn. It had people loudly chatting right outside one's tub stall, 3/4 wall letting sound spill over; plus all the maintenance and employee break room chatter, massage meet-ups...
Barring tackling such an ambitious, costly, disruptive project, the existing bathhouse could be reconfigured by moving laundry and office elsewhere and converting current office to, say, a much needed steam room. The current tiny private office to left of front door might return to serving as historic entrance foyer. It'd make a perfect place to leave shoes in cubbies and jump-start getting into the spa zone, as done so neatly at Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings.
One regular visitor, Tom, decades ago suggested setting up a check-in booth right inside the front gate, one perhaps similar to Harbin Hot Springs' mustering-in procedure. Then everyone entering the grounds would be officially checked in and have paid for day use or overnighting before even entering the realm proper. A printed paper taped inside windshield with time stamp would keep the status of everyone on track.
Once having paid, maybe first having to wait a few minutes to appreciate the creek song and inviting trees, the sometimes chaotic road energies would settle down, making for a more focused visit. (A new main office could be built elsewhere, maybe on former parking lot above bathhouse or on lot below former sweatlodge.) Sketchy energies of idly curious visitors driving in -- especially voyeurs who used to park along the upper road to blatantly gawk at all the naked people outside below the bathhouse, some with binoculars -- would become ancient history.
Parking on grounds has always been limited, so maybe offering a discount for visitors ride-sharing might reduce the problem. Some enterprising souls could start an approved shuttle service.
< Former love offering inside the Spring's mineral water gazebo by the creek. One of two, actually; the other the county Health Dept. put the kibash on, citing only allowing one source for some reason; the combined second source had enabled far more people to enjoy soaking in mineral waters.
In any event, the current global crises might well serve as a grand wake-up call to shake humanity out of outmoded ways. Such radical changes could well enable Stewart Springs to at LONG last get free of its chronic, often-sketchy and dysfunctional, sometimes mindnumbingly inappropriate operational mindset...return things to something akin to the way place began long ago (in historic 'civilized' times, that is)...a vital, down-home, nonprofit-in-spirit if not in fact, healing and rejuvenation retreat...affordably serving the greater good in down-home style, with a dollop of graciousness.
Stewart Springs in name
...after the once-thought inviolable dedication to serving the wider public by providing a rustic healing spa resort was scrapped with seemingly little more than a passing thought.
But, again, if enough Spring enthusiasts, especially those who treasure Stewart's as it was before late 2016,
grok how and why place's once altruistic focus got so far out of whack in the first place through a motley succession of often woefully inappropriate post-Stewart stewards, away from the long established grounded-service purifying and healing spa offered, it could serve to energize a quantum shift and manifestation of a perfect new stewardship...
...a happy match according to the lights of genuine rural spa enthusiasts and nature lovers everywhere.
The original long ago public-benefit blueprint of founder Henry Stewart and wife -- dutifully followed later by daughter Katy and her husband and a select few other stewards since -- faded so much over time that, on one level at least, current absentee stewards can't be blamed too much for having made such an egregiously inappropriate detour from place's traditional public-dedicated operation.
To the casual eye it had faded so much almost as to have never existed.
Briefly visiting as a booked group over the years for workshops and long seeking their own place, Pneuma people and/or associates likely one day approached the manager to express their interest in taking over the place if Foggy wanted to sell and for the right price.
Their hire-ups/funders were perhaps at best little more than remotely aware -- or concerned -- of realm's rich extraordinarily pure minded public service legacy...one every true-blue spa-culture fan and budding newbie seemed to intuit and resonate with naturally (while doing their best to tune out any bothersome profit- and excessive control-minded energies)...some even reportedly tuned into the protective angelic presence said to watch over grounds.
Countless visitors have had life-transforming experiences there. Writer over the years witnessed several -- some in high meditation, others walking around grounds in profoundly blissful state -- experiencing moments of extraordinary illuminated being. Writer himself had the service experience of a lifetime volunteering there.
It's said that, metaphysically speaking, the vortex energies of the realm greatly magnify whatever energies beings present focus on.
Such an illustrious past, again, might be invisible to the casual observer; it's been hidden under decades of less dedicated, profit- and/or focus-diverted operation. So much so that it made it appear that while the spa service was maybe nice enough for any inclined, it was no great shakes...and so would be no real loss if scrapped and building repurposed, just so long as lodging and event space was kept open to groups for enjoyment of what remained.
Then again, perhaps the essence of takeover thinking (to the cynical mind) was something along lines of: "It's a shame what happened to this lovely place. So neglected, so disrespected...and so under-exploited! We'll rescue it, fix it up, do our thing here while keeping it open to public on a limited level...but, owner's prerogative, in a way...ah, more suitable to our own lifestyle and values and preoccupation in furthering our professional shtick. Heck, any spiritual focus at all will be an improvement after the shocking Sodom and Gomorrah the place had so shamefully sunk to.
"Ultimately, we'll continue to offer it to select groups in order to subsidize our own private gig, perhaps give people a chance to adjust, but not from any love for the great unwashed, mind you (gimmeabreak), but just to minimize unpleasantness. Heck, we'll transform it to serve our own exclusive gig so gradually, they'll never know what hit them til it's too late. (Ain't power grand?)"
Intent: after greater wealth? Or simply wanting absolute
control to do own thing and enjoy more privately
while having select public groups subsidize costs?
Current 'stewards'' intent, at least before plague hit and bathhouse closed, seemed to many to be trying to make more money out of the place by shifting customer base and hoping to attract more upscale visitors and groups...those perhaps just casually flirting with maybe discovering more mindful ways of living, though still numbly embracing body alienation...those having the desire (and money) to sign up for touted quasi-new age, psychotherapy-adjunct training classes and workshops (or rent grounds for weddings or such)...NOT those already conscious and savvy to genuine, free-spirited rural spa culture, people who had been summarily dismissed as kinky and undesirable.
Double whammy of kicking out sweat lodge ceremony and banning simple nudity in the course of spa regimen put such a crimp in place's former spiritual mojo and quasi liberated air that for countless the place suddenly became Stewart Springs in name only. And their real intent became painfully obvious once dismantling bathhouse, vintage clawfoot tubs and all. (And, more recently, scrapping their own revised Stewart Springs website.)
Sure, for a while you could still get in a decent soak and sauna, maybe even have a pleasant creekside locale for special events and functions...but it was hard imagining anyone the least bit mindful enjoying the spa anymore...or any conscious group having anything remotely approaching a full-tilt, bedrock, soul-liberating happening.
To paraphrase an oldie song lyric, a whole lot of disconnectin' goin' on.
Overnight, nude became rude
Designed to entrance, now-deleted, revamped Springs site was worlds more sizzle than substance. Zero info about new invisible, remote 'owners' by name. Little to no sense of community.
And Laughable statement about how the new strict cover-up policy was for "more comfortable environment" made one almost half-expect to read some reviewer gushing "I experienced such delightful wedgies in the sauna and cold-plunge. Thank you!"
Concern for children's body-alienating programming in progress and foreign-guest sensibilities aside, some might've said such wording essentially translated to:
"Now nudity-free to ease the worried minds of body-alienated everywhere, happy to resist ever re-learning to feel mindfully at ease out of clothes in public natural settings, resenting like hell seeing others doing so, and making one feel uptight and painfully reminded of how much still buying into systemic, age-old body alienation.
Whether one availed themselves of clothing-optional or not, it was the linchpin that enhanced the free-spirited healing air of the entire grounds -- the very bedrock that enabled a more profound harmonizing with nature -- thus making place wildly popular in recent decades DESPITE often-wonky, power-freak, profit-obsessed management.
New 'owners' -- who doubtless love the place too, if in a controlling, private-minded sort of way -- again, appeared either ignorant of realm's extraordinary non-commercial, service-minded legacy or -- chilling if the case -- utterly indifferent to it.
In any event, while busy drastically shifting focus, until closing the bathhouse they seemed to be catering to more conventional-minded visitors. Those wanting to buy some tastefully bland, warm and fuzzy getaway in boonies, maybe tinker with purifying a bit or get a whiff more enlightened in new, touted workshops and classes...
...happily dropping cash while remaining dutifully shackled in textile chains at the very place that until recently distinguished itself for being a rare oasis, like a handful of sister springs on West Coast, for allowing visitors the option of mindfully enjoying nude (most of) the spa regimen...
...thereby potentially enhancing the overall comfort and healing benefit from realm's special waters and transformational, energy-amplifying vortex. In the process visitors often experienced profound, life-changing body acceptance and liberation...if open-minded enough to give it a try and come out of nudist closet, as it were. For in their heart of hearts, most everybody -- born naked after all -- is, beyond a lifetime of social conditioning, a natural-born freebody* waiting to re-emerge.
* With rare exception of, it's said, roughly one percent of population who are gymnophobic, having an abnormal fear of nudity -- their own and/or that of others (vs. just a normal fear?).
In any event...
...take clothing-optional away and the magic was gone...for legions of desolated fans plus a sea of potential newbies, deprived of discovering and enjoying the blessings of nature in place's uber-relaxed, liberating, free-flowing atmosphere...one that the open-minded (vs. clothes-minded), body-friendly policy fostered.
Elsewhere on the now-gone site, rehashed vague mission statement and no-this-and-no-that policy page revealed how the new outfit was definitely NOT into running any kind of public-minded spa service -- especially any shameless pagan one. It had essentially copied former negative, non-transparent operation model but then critically added its own fatal bohemian-culture destroying twist...
..and totally disregarded -- unlike the former 'owner', who to his eternal credit let longtime-local management redeem something of place's original spirit (even if perhaps only because it proved great for business) -- the altruistic legacy of the pioneer founding Stewart family: providing a pure, love-of-service, de facto nonprofit, healing and rejuvenation retreat.
One that made the place globally popular for having a refreshingly unassuming blueprint, running a healing refuge in such a forthright, affordable, folksy manner that people from around the world found it a rare gift and blessing in their lives. Over time thousands of international visitors happily made Stewart's one of their travel destinations if not THE central destination.
see Pneuma's site
also SMS history
New' ownership' is part of a peripherally-spiritual professional organization called the Pneuma Institute.
Into transpersonal psychology, sometimes referred to as the psychology field's 'spiritual' branch, its efficacy debated by some within the field, the international outfit with apparent Romanian roots appears to explore, analyse, and promote peak experiences, altered consciousness, and enhanced awareness in general that transcend 'smaller self', which, combined with conscious breathwork, is then worked into an innovative new tool for formal psychotherapy focusing on achieving the transcendent mind state of one's 'greater self.'
Seems that, in case of Pneuma at least, conventional Judaeo-Christian tenets are also thrown into the mix just for the heck of it. (Could almost imagine hearing some in the beginning having proclaimed, "We are NOT 'spiritual'...but we ARE religious; so abandon all false gods, ye pagans and nonbelievers -- and cover your shame!") Also, various new-age disciplines like yoga and transcendental meditation.
Peculiar amalgam's purported central aim: to train therapists and everyday students, in good part through conscious breathing techniques, to promote reintegration of body, mind and spirit on "profoundly higher levels" of enhanced awareness, thus ultimately helping raise global consciousness.
From website: "We are certain that only through peace born in the depths of our hearts can humans inspire and transmit inner peace to their society and to the world."
No argument there. Sounds great. One not knowing any better reading that might've thought, 'Well, 'bout time! At last, an aware and conscious Springs stewardship is working to redeem the soul of the place, finally saving it from decades of unapologetic commercial exploitation and neglect...
...realm can finally become a reinvigorated, affordable sanctuary grounds promoting higher awareness and natural being...turning nature-rich Springs into a thriving, infectiously can-do, community-active oasis that fans have long dreamed of...place finally will join wider region's other progressive-minded rural spring resorts.
Ojala que; if only...
Current 'owners' of what has been for the better part of 145 years an affordable, public-friendly rejuvenating retreat and modest casual resort appeared bound and determined to mess with tradition to suit own private purposes...to point of total ruination as far as the global legion of place's fans is concerned.
They went worlds beyond the mere jonesin' profit focus of former 34-year absentee steward, John Foggy. More than just impressing their own conservative mindset on place. For they scrapped the spa...at last showing their true murky colors: intent to seize the place to pursue their own specialized gig and allow affiliated groups to enjoy privately, while maybe renting out the grounds now and then to certain select groups to subsidize costs...AND THE PUBLIC BE DAMNED.
It would almost seem they'd been suffering the public for a while only to help pay the freight...and, again, perhaps give once faithful visitors a chance to say goodbye, while gradually unfolding misbegotten long-term plans to transform the place ever further away from serving as the low-key, altruistic-minded spa retreat it had so long been.
This in shocking contrast to what more than a few spa idealists have always held the vision of the place becoming...or rather, returning to: an essentially nonprofit purifying, healing and rejuvenating refuge...one embracing the clean simplicity of nature and dedicated to serving the greater good of humanity and restoring founding Stewart family's benevolent, long-ago, 78-year love-of-service mission...
...an enterprise well-ensconced in nature that, in its 'civilized' variation, echoed the timeless First Nations people's profound reverence of land and waters' healing properties...medicine that had possibly saved founder's life as young man and made him a true believer for life.
Former everyday visitors of more modest means and bohemian leaning had become barely tolerated (and then only so long as one didn't even THINK about skinnydipping), as outfit attempted cultivating more affluent -- or at least more conventional-minded -- visitors to help cover costs.
Actually, covering seemed to be the main theme all around: covering costs, covering bodies, covering intention...
Misguided intent, as far as now-estranged fan base is concerned, seemed to be privatizing or semi-privatizing place to expedite pursuing and privately enjoying their own peculiar amalgam of psychology shtick, quasi new age applications and social/religious affiliations...
...again, indifferent to or ignorant of place's historic dedication to providing humanity an affordable, people-friendly refuge in which to experience profound spa purification, healing and rejuvenation amid the welcoming arms of nature.
They turned their backs on the countless conscious, growth-minded, spa-savvy visitors who so deeply valued place's healing culture -- one any authentic rural mineral spring retreat hopes to cultivate -- plus a teaming sea of others primed to discover and embrace such liberating, nature-rich retreats like long-lost friends.
They were all effectively thrown out into the cold.
Unspoken message, heard loud and clear: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Away from Stewart Springs' now-gone official website, place had all along been referred to as Pneuma Retreat Center.
Cheshire at Work
Realm of Stewart Springs as countless have known it over long decades was being erased...not unlike the guiding trail through dark woods in 'Alice in Wonderland', swept away by big bushy tail of mischievous Cheshire cat, or the erosion of U.S. democratic rights and protections under a would-be strongman.
Mediocrity triumphing ingloriously...
Slowly and methodically re-branding and re-purposing place, if misguided plan ever succeeded longterm, former universal healing refuge would be subordinated to having the public subsidize the outfit's clinical quasi-new-age shtick as workshop and event retreat for students, members, employees...plus any event and workshop planners among the public willing to drink the Kool Aid.
Even this conceivably might've been at least semi-okay (think California Big Sur's Esalan) IF in the process they hadn't turned the former quasi-bohemian, free-spirited climate upside down and inside out...which of course they did, in spades.
Countless now-bereft fans know only all too well -- long before the gutted bathhouse -- how they banned clothing-optional, kicked out the Karuk sacred sweat lodge and emptied the gazebo's prayer/love offering altar. Also, upped bath rates -- twice -- took away free monthly employee bath perk (not even a token discount) and increased house take on gift shop consignments and masseuse services.
Locals day? Formerly, regional residents got nearly half off; after, only a few token dollars were shaved. "We love our visitors!" neglected old official Springs site still gushed a whole year after abrupt changes clearly spoke otherwise, sentiment having become a cruel, fossilized vestige of kinder times (albeit often ever so tenuous).
"We respect all religions and spiritual traditions," outfit claimed on its own Pneuma website.
Would it were true, but actions belied any such noble sentiment. Or could it be that they simply refused to acknowledge ancient earth religions, which predate -- and were ruthlessly co-opted by -- organized Judaeo-Christianity?
In any event, as things stood it it hardly made for a peak experience to any longtime aficionado somehow unaware of devastating changes until arriving, all psyched...whereupon shocked senseless.
More of a pit experience.
Such visitors -- before new 'ownership' at last unfurled their dismal colors snapping in breeze and striking sorrowful disbelief and righteous indignation in the hearts of place's fans everywhere -- had many of said transcendent experiences, thank you very much...
...along with altered-consciousness episodes by the truckload...and countless life-liberating, uplifted-awareness, reintegrated body-mind-spirit breakthroughs...all complements of place's inherent rare earth medicine, fostered and more fully experienced for having the freedom to lose unneeded cover...no constrictive condom of cloth, as it were, dulling and crimping sensory wellbeing and body-mind-spirit integration. Being in the altogether enabled altogether more deeply experiencing the sauna, coldplunge, and sunning deck's palliative effects (along with the experience in one's private, naked's-fine tub).
Such a formerly experienced, positive, even euphoric, mindstate is of course something ostensibly valued by the group, going by Pneuma's transpersonal psychology mission statement.
Which naturally leads one to ask...
What the #%#@! is wrong with this picture???
Rather than place being devoted to healing by becoming more one with nature in the eternal present, beyond thought, in the process often experiencing immediate and profound benefit, it became clear that the new outfit was hell-bent on co-opting the realm just to mostly further their own gig.
Cynic might've viewed efforts as trying to put God in a box and under a microscope, dissecting and over-intellectualizing transcendental mindstates in some
formalized effort to roll out a super-structured enlightenment model for indoctrinating therapists in new ways to aid psychotherapy clients with big bucks festering in distant bergs.
Again, the effort itself might seem laudable enough, no doubt doing good for any affluent enough and so inclined to pursue such a formal therapeutic approach, good for what ails you.
But, in bitter, mind-boggling irony, it was attempted by largely re-shuffling Stewart's from a refuge for the many, to immediately benefit by, to a place to teach and perpetuate its psycho-therapeutic approach for the few to benefit by over time -- while also serving as bureaucratic headquarters and courting more upscale new-agey groups, indifferent to suppressed public-service legacy, to help pay freight.
Result? It worked overwhelmingly against the ability of former everyday trekkers with even a whisper of bohemian spirit and abiding love of genuine spas to any longer enjoy an affordable, uplifting reintegration of body-mind-spirit via soak-sauna-plunge...until recently experienced DIRECTLY, immediately, on the spot.
It's a bizarre situation, too weird to wrap one's mind around easily -- or even want to try. For in attempting such focus re-purposing of Stewart's, with the subsequent severe cultural disruption it only worked to inhibit Pneuma's purported desire to uplift consciousness...
...except maybe for the well-deserving bourgeois, affluent spiritual babes in the woods, enrolling in academic classes, yoga workshops and intensives...and "neon-Jesus-glowing-in-the-dark" (Dylan) assemblages of insider group events; plus general-public Stewart newbies wowed by inherent magic and charm of place regardless of set-up...and, over time, aforementioned therapy patients now quietly freaking in distant, neurosis-rich cities -- those essentially willing to pay big bucks to have someone remind them to breathe deep.
Very mission statement shows a yawning chasm between ostensible goals and mindset that banned clothing optional:
"We are living a crucial moment in the history of humanity. New schools, institutes and universities are needed to teach an unbiased type of thinking that can generate a radical change. In turn, this can cause a permanent revolution inside the human being through Love [emphasis added]. Only in this way will it be possible to create a harmonious society."
Again, true enough words. Beautiful, even.
But if former open-minded clothing-optional policy, implicitly recognizing simple ,mindful nudity as a powerful expression of love and harmony, allowing a far greater healing experience, wasn't generating positive radical change in the hearts of visitors (so long as group energies held together despite absence of mindful management support), then writer doesn't know what could -- half as well or a tenth as easily.
For mindful clothing-optional (c/o) has the incredible ability to open one to once again embrace essential physical self and feel newly genuine, as when infants and toddlers, thereby almost magically fostering profound reintegration of body-mind-spirit.
The rejected option to pursue such conscious freebody awareness has staggering potential to serve as an invaluable tool in raising planetary consciousness.
Easily fostering positive radical uplift in body-mind-spirit when pursued mindfully, a clothing-optional policy was light years cheaper and FASTER than anything when experienced in Springs's appropriate, nature-rich environment -- and ratcheted up through grounds' amazing magnifying vortex energies.
But in eyes of new absentee stewards such an option made for TOO radical a change. Too uncontrollable. Too California. Too REAL. It made their own would-be shtick look a tad tame, maybe even a bit lame, in comparison to those embracing mindful body freedom and fast-tracking personal radical transformation.
Or they've been so intent on re-purposing place to suit own private shtick that, far beyond simply rejecting clothing-optional spa, they honestly didn't give a flying leap about providing spa service, period. Or, giving them some benefit of the doubt, maybe a conventional, cloth-bound one they'd've been happy with, but Stewart's ingrained body-liberating 18-year tradition couldn't be flipped...so junking the entire spa scene and trying to recycle the bathhouse to other uses appeared the only course of action, if not their original intent all along.
In a nutshell: immediate affordable soul enrichment and body-spirit-mind healing -- once had by anyone entering therealm with open mind and heart and willing to embrace nature's wisdom, overcoming any exaggerated body self-consciousness and false modesty (or who didn't get bent out of shape by those who did) -- was indifferently sacrificed...along, now, with very bathhouse itself, to a mindset promoting a delayed, pricey kind, led by professionals invested in super-structured, formalized, tell-me-I'm-not-crazy-Doc psychotherapy...
...all within new, buttoned-down environment reflecting new 'owners'' conservative ways...
...and, again, place's former time-honored, dedication to healing humanity through rare and powerful mineral waters be damned.
Place's set-up has appeared FAR more concerned with perpetuating the Institute, its ostensible overarching intent of raising planetary consciousness coming in a distant second.
Outfit's therapeutic approach might, to any with cynical turn of mind, seems mostly aimed at those with more dollars than sense, ones who think you must pay, and pay dearly, to attain any spiritual enlightenment and peace of mind whatsoever.
Not to be a johnny one-note, stuck record here (okay, probably too late) but it bears constant reminding:
Current 'owner' focus and intent has utterly thwarted the ability of multitudes of free-spirited, conscious beings to affordably enjoy unfettered the beloved realm's powerful healing energies in an open-minded atmosphere, for the immediate and profound benefit of greater humanity.
With open healing spirit suddenly as good as banned and bathhouse scrapped, every continuing visitor and event organizer was now effectively supporting and reinforcing betrayal of place's true spirit with every cent dropped there.
Likewise any choosing to work there. They'd been unwittingly or knowingly serving as accomplices. Either concern for making the rent eclipsed certain knowledge the place's unassuming ways had been tossed off like so much used tissue or they failed to ever grok the realm's extraordinary public-service legacy in the first place.
It's so depressing, writer needs a shrink. (Hey, they might be on to something...)
One might suspect outfit is perhaps only flirting with spiritual awareness as a mere adjunct to dry psychotherapeutic approach, keeping it wrapped up in frosty clinical mindset (and incongruously linked to conventional
religious doctrine to boot) rather than letting everyman and everywoman -- that is, any would-be therapy patient -- plunge into enhanced well-being full-on as Stewart Springs enabled in its own low-key way...affordably, easily, and effectively...naturally allowing for often spontaneously gaining profound body-mind-spirit reintegration through ultra-relaxing, clothing-optional spa regimen's powerful purifying waters -- thus having zero need for any expensive, drawn-out psychotherapy in the first place!
One of the best arguments for going bare in nature is how (judicious) exposure of one's entire skin to the healing rays of sun produces serious vitamin D, activating serotonin in the brain that magically lifts one's mood with the release of feel-good endorphins. It's worlds better, easier, and faster than taking any anti-depressants or undergoing long, drawn out, pricey therapy.
Nature is the supreme healer.
Some might view situation as no less than the shrink industry trying to snap up the Springs to sideline its service, co-opting super-natural therapy, marginalizing it from being serious competition in the healing field, in order to more easily push their own lucrative, intellectually top-heavy, super-structured gig.
It's perhaps not too unlike status quo resisting legalization of medical cannabis as unfair rivalry to those pushing often useless, frequently harmful, mad-scientist, laboratory-concocted snake oil remedies euphemistically called pharmaceuticals...
...at least until staking out their OWN budding-market lion's share, that is... protected through lobbied and bought legislators, enacting corporate-friendly policies that in turn squeeze out or force to go outlaw countless small family growers who have hoped to continue earning their livelihood in a service field long respected and intimately understood.
Not to unduly demonize...
Again, it's not that outfit doesn't undoubtedly do good. Obviously there are some problems spa treatments alone can't begin to cure.
Pneuma's European-origin eclectic teaching model, rooted in 1960s' humanistic psychology branch, again, focuses on achieving positive wellbeing and transcendence rather than seeking out neuroses under every rock. It no doubt works just fine -- but elsewhere, perhaps in more consciousness-starved regions, time-warped in old millennium and thriving on such professional specialties of dire necessity, providing healing tool for those affluent enough to divvy big bucks for long-term psychotherapy.
Not in the Future State of California -- leastwise not in nature-loving, free-spirited, infinity-minded rural TOP of California, with natural spirit lifter of Mount Shasta...and most especially NOT at ancient mystic healing portal known as Stewart Mineral Springs.
New wine takes new containers.
Is rare healing nectar of Stewart Springs realm to be forever watered down and blended for packaged, wine-in-a-box approach reflecting other regions' and mindsets' enlightenment and self-empowerment levels, just to accommodate outfit's bureaucratic needs, conservative mindset and desire to pursue an exclusive gig?
Those who've cherished sacred realm's fitfully-free, bohemian, sometimes holy-stoned, culture for decades -- despite last 'owner's' offputting profit focus -- hold that new absentee stewards' intent is NOT in alignment with a loving universe.
More analysis and ranting by writer, plus inside dope on former 'ownership'-management directly leading to current abysmal situation, follows the below sea of re-posts over controversial sweat lodge removal in December 2017
Livid Outrage Over Evicting Sacred
and other deal-breakers
Removal of 45-year Karuk tribe sacred sweat lodge in mid December 2017 sparked a firestorm from now-alienated, brokenhearted Springs visitors on Yelp, Google Review, and SMS Facebook sites -- most posts long since deleted.
The following flurry of excerpted reactions were posted online December 2017 through January 2018. Gathered collection reflects perhaps the strongest unified voice
ever made of Springs devotees' love of sweat lodge and place as a whole...unfortunately coming only after losing the first and now in danger of losing the second.
Note: certain passages are emphasized by editor by italicizing and/or underlining but any all-cap words are reviewers' own.
"You are dead in the water. How dare you ask the tribe to leave...this is OUTRAGEOUS and from someone who has been there, and paid, over 100 times, you will NEVER get my business, nor that of ANYONE I can tell. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME."
-- Nancy Neubauer, SMS Facebook review
"I am deeply saddened by the new administration...They have chosen to kick out the Native American lodge that has been there for 45 years! This is devastating. I will not come back...I pray for the land and the new owners..."
-- Carla C., Weed, CA revised Yelp review
"I am so amazed at brazen callous and disrespect of the new 'owners'. To kick first Nation people off of land they have utilized for thousands of years! Shame. I will never be back to the springs under current ownership or practices..."
-- Jessica Zern, SMS Facebook review
"...the new owners of Stewart Mineral Springs have disallowed the Native American sweat lodge from continuing on their property.
Late revered Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom led sweat lodge at Springs for decades. His father, then boy, and grandfather were survivors of tragic massacre of 1870s at and around tribe's longtime sacred healing land now known as Stewart Springs. They'd been camping further upstream, where a bit cooler, during hot summer weather
It seems as if all their new changes are geared so that they can have a high 'fallutin' retreat center for rich Bay Area folks. Maybe I am missing something and don't know all the facts, but I have heard that us locals will not be welcome there when their ultimate vision of high-end retreat center comes to pass..."
-- Alan Cooper, SMS Facebook
"...[V]ery sad to find out that the new management has taken away the sweat lodge, not caring one bit for the native people and what it represents to them and all of us. I feel you're taking something away that not only nourishes the community but also bonds, heals and strengthens the community... i refuse to support such blind and money hungry establishments."
-- Sigfredo Hernandez, Google review
"This USED TO BE MY MOST FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD.....now I can sadly say I will not return until the current owners sell it to better care takers or have a serious 'come to Jesus ' about their HORRIBLE MANAGEMENT.
"I have been a regular devout client for 15 years... I have rented every building on the property and used to come weekly for a decade, I have hosted weekend workshops and many ceremonies and raised my child bringing him to the native sweat lodges.
"The new owners have changed the very fiber and culture of the space we have all loved for decades.
"They have changed their rules around 'clothing optional areas' to a puritan bathing suit only mentality. The clothing optional aspect is something that everyone I know that has frequented this healing springs has LOVED about the place.
"After 40+ years of tradition of honoring the Native Americans and providing a place for their Sweat Lodges they have banned this vital and deeply respected aspect of the community from carrying on their sacred ways on their ancestral lands.
"The employees did not seem happy. Their overall practices are a disgrace to the legacy of healing that these springs hold for many many many people. Their lack of care for the local community is shameful.
"The current owners and management have sucked the beauty, joy, innocence and purity from this sacred place with their attempt to sanitize our sacred waters with their mal-intent. There is a deep sadness in my heart, I am praying for change. I deeply look forward to returning to my favorite place on earth...but not as it is now. I will stay positive that change will come."
-- Anu H., Nevada City, CA, two Yelp reviews combined
"To Stewart Mineral Springs: Where is the sweat lodge? Where will people go for Healing? ...I am dismayed. There is no honor in this."
-- Susan Shannon, findaspring.com
"I am deeply saddened as I write this review. This place has been the grounds for indigenous ceremonies providing healing and comfort for thousands of people for the last 45 years. New owners have decided to... change the clothing optional policy to clothing mandatory, and removed the people of this land.
"...This location was once a very sacred and safe space But it looks like all of that is changing now. The new owners of the land are obviously money driven and unaware of the sacredness of the sweat lodge ceremony that was offered here every Saturday of the year for 40 something years...
"Unfortunately the owners of this land will now learn about energy and not in the best way."
-- Shay W., Campbell, CA, Yelp review
"stewart mineral springs used to be a beautiful, wild and wonderful place. i felt very fortunate to live so close and went weekly.
"new owners took over last year and every change they've made has been awful. from nixing the clothing optional option and disallowing people to stretch in the sauna ["No yoga in sauna" sign slapped on door; no doubt result of one freebody down-dog too many - Ed.]... to removing some of the more blissful offerings from the lobby, the loveliness is gone.
"recently they put an end to the weekly sweat lodges led by local indigenous elders that have happened there for 45 years, on land that has been sacred to indigenous people for centuries. this is a huge blow to our local community.
"i will not return until this place changes ownership again. hopefully these folks won't totally destroy it before that happens. i encourage all...to discontinue any sort of support of this place.
"please share this far and wide...they remove access to the local indigenous people who have prayed here for eons... Please make sure people know about this. I am sure they have their excuses but I'm sorry, this is not right at all, regardless...
"This will be the third time I have written this review, and while Yelp claims business owners can't pay to have reviews removed, suspiciously this one has been removed twice, though it is a clear and honest review.
"I am a local and spent a lot of time at the springs over the years until the new owners took over. The surrounding land is gorgeous - the section of the PCT [Pacific Crest Trail] that runs nearby is a regular hiking favorite of mine. In fact, I often loved a morning hike to the Deadfall lakes, followed by a soak and sweat afterwards.
"One would suspect, unfortunately, that the new owners wish to privatize the springs entirely - most recently by telling the local Native Americans that they can no longer run the 45-year-long sweat lodges on the land, which were attended by a loving community and tourists alike...
"Many other beloved aspects of the springs are being done away with as well: clothing optional opportunities have been removed entirely (have fun in the cold plunge wrapped in a sheet!), and I find the "remodeling" that's currently happening (removing the wood from the tub rooms and replacing it with tile) to look sterile, like a hospital. Finally, they have raised the locals rate TWICE since taking ownership. This shows, definitely, a lack of concern and regard, for sure. Many people in our local community are seniors with limited income, artists and musicians, who sought out the springs weekly for healing until the rates became unaffordable for us.
"There are other, better options for the time being, at least until this place changes ownership once again - it has had many owners in the past, none of whom have treated the local community so poorly..."
-- Dori M, Mt. Shasta, CA, Yelp review + SMS Facebook
"In solidarity with the land, its natural state, and the local tribes... this business stewards nothing and does not give back. To continue to patronize this self-serving business is a vote against the common and the local indigenous people."
-- Karen El, SMS Facebook review
"This place used to be cool before the new and greedy owners took over. Raised rates, took away the native sweat lodge, and ended their clothing optional policy...They don't want you there if you're not rich. They don't care about locals. They raised rates yet don't seem to use any of it to update the place at all... Greed has taken over this great spot. I'm not giving them a penny ever again and I hope other locals choose to follow suit..."
-- Marty Glassley, SMS Facebook review
"I was shocked by the exorbitant $35 fee to sauna and soak in a tub of piped-in heated mineral water. I asked how such a unique natural resource came to be privately owned after thousands of years of indigenous usage, where one could imagine tribes laying weapons and differences aside to heal in the therapeutic waters.
"I was told a story of how the local band of Karuk people were massacred on the grounds years after healing the man that would eventually purchase the land from the government. (How the government can sell stolen land, I don't know, but we all know it's nothing new) The woman told me that as a result of such a bloody past, Karuk and other local indigenous tribe members have held weekly ceremonies there to help heal the land, descendants and soothe residual spiritual disturbances.
"I found this news hypocritical in light of the gigantic fake monument to colonialism all visitors must pass through in the form of the Army-style stockade gates and parapets reminiscent of the very institution responsible for the attempted genocide of the Native Peoples.
"Now, apparently under new ownership, there will be no more First Nations-led sweat lodges on Saturdays, in addition to the new ban on the nude human form and their outrageous regular fees and continual raising of the discounted fee for locals.
"The people who run this place are clearly happy to ignore the fact that this place is a resource for all people, stolen the [bloodied lands] of indigenous people in order to turn a profit. Their predatory business practices, disrespectful shunning of The Karuk People and homage to colonial military power signal a sad continuation of American history of oppression."
-- Drew S., Oakland, CA Yelp review
"Once it was a respite for locals and travelers alike. Matsuru Emoto even came to the property to speak about the purity of its water. It was a sacred place. Now, new owners have come in, kicked out the local tribe ... raised the prices and pretty much ruined the whole thing. So sad."
-- Wendy James, SMS Facebook review
"...this sacred space is one of first places I visited in the Mt Shasta area many years ago and a place I held near and dear to my heart. When I moved to Shasta as a new mom it was a great place to rejuvenate and I visited regularly. Since the new owners have taken over and policies have changed I have only been twice. Now, I am brought to tears as I hear the family that welcomed me with open arms into their Karuk Sacred Sweat lodge and have been asked to leave their sacred land.
"So much disrespect is being shown to this native indigenous tribe, who are honored in our community and deserve much respect, and lands that were here way before these owners came along. I myself and many others have had much healing and growth from those sweats. To the amazing Karuk tribe who have taken my family under your wings, give thanks for all you do and I am sorry for your great loss.
"I will not be going back to Stewart Mineral Springs. There are many amazing mineral springs close by, whose owners honor the sacred land and indigenous tribes, where I will choose to support."
-- Rosy Ware, SMS Facebook review
"It is with great sadness that I hear about the change in ownership at Stewart Springs. Raising the prices, kicking out the sweat lodge and changing its rustic nature and availability for locals to do ceremony will make it a place I will likely no longer choose to visit. So sad; this was a very sacred and special place."
-- Bonnie F., Castro Valley, CA Yelp review
"...the new owners...ripped the heart out of this place by kicking the local indigenous sweat lodge..."
-- Angel Cassidy Burst, SMS Facebook review
"I'm so dissatisfied with the new owners. First they took away clothing optional, then they cut the pay of their massage therapists, then took out the sacred items, and now the worst and most disrespectful action, they removed the Karuk Sweatlodge... This land is not really their land. It's sacred ground of the Karuk people. So much disrespect. Very rude. I will not be bringing any spiritual groups to this place until the sweatlodge has returned..."
-- Lauren Willow Anderson, SMS Facebook review
"A beautiful place where I have enjoyed going to bathe and do sweat lodges with the Indigenous locals. When I learned that the new owners are making big changes like raising the prices and trying to turn it into a high-end resort, I was devastated. It appears that instead of working with the locals, these new owners have shunned them, instead making them stop doing a decades old ceremony that brings lots of people to pray and sweat at the site as well as to take the baths. If these new owners believe they can make a go of it without working with the local people, including the Indigenous tribe(s) that were there long before they arrived, they are destined to fail.
"It's so sad to see Stewart go down this road. I won't be going back unless the sweats are reinstated..."
-- Hope I, El Sobrante, CA Yelp review
"Shame on you for breaking a 45 year sweat tradition...I see you losing a lot of local and regional support over this decision!"
-- Laurie Sweets, SMS Facebook review
"Too bad new owners don't get it."
-- Patty Speelman-Sherman, SMS Facebook
"What no more sweats?!...unseen energies will not be happy."
-- Shannon Wedgley, SMS Facebook review
"...[M]y personal experience with the sweatlodge was transformational. It was beautiful that they shared that sacredness in tradition and opened it to whoever wanted to attend...sad and truly disrespectful..."
-- Kat Mysers, SMS Facebook
"Really sad...the greed factor is such a turnoff. The spiritual community of Mount Shasta could boycott the place..."
-- Shananda Ann Kumara, SMS Facebook
"It never felt right there for me. I was always uncomfortable. The land looks dirty and used up and not taken care of... the energy of the land did not feel right to me..."
-- Kimberley Ann Montgomery, SMS Facebook
"...I refused to go starting last summer. Being on the inside as an employee I saw much I didn't agree with and it's by far much worse now. When I was there, I prayed for a cleansing of the land..."
-- Sequoia Therese, SMS Facebook
"I remember the first time going here and loving the peaceful atmosphere and the most amazing group of people were running a sweat lodge. It was a very profound healing for me and I was brought into a beautiful way to pray and the most amazing group of people who to this day I call family. I am devastated to learn the new owners have asked these amazing people to leave this place where they have been providing this service for 45 years.
"I always recommended this place to people but no longer can. I hope you know that you have hurt so many peoples' heart by doing this. As our beautiful teacher has taught us we will continue praying for you and the world because that is what we do."
-- Tina Wood, SMS Facebook review
"I'm very disappointed and saddened and upset that they have kicked out the Native sweat lodge. I think it is all about the money now. Who cares about the history and soul of this place? ... 45 years the sweat lodge has been here. Why are you ending this? Is it a liability issue excuse to run people out?..."
-- Carla Charraga, SMS Facebook
"I love this place with all my heart. I healed so much here and have grown so very much from my experiences here, but since the new owners have come in and instated new policies that inhibit the free expression on one's self... It went from full transparency to having to cover up. (Clothing optional was one of the most potent aspects of SMS healing qualities... also the magical feeling of free expression of beauty of its guests.) Yes these new rules have allowed shy newcomers to enter but at what cost?
"And now...the sweat lodges lead by local indigenous elders will be discontinued? Is this fulfillment of Hopi prophecy that at the end of days indigenous American ceremonies will cease? The world is on fire. Will we see the error of your ways with love and understanding? Or will we come to realize this only after economic failure? ..."
-- Elmer de Jesus Contreras, SMS Facebook
"The new owners...are disrespecting the Karuk & the local people."
-- Jeanne Baker, SMS Facebook
"Without the sweat lodge this place is not worth it. The sole fact that the Native people were kicked out gives me enough reason not to go. I cannot believe the new owners would ruin the most magical and sacred experience ever. Until the sweat lodge returns, I will not return."
-- Jenny N., Sacramento, CA
Things are bad, all right. But know that this too shall pass...
All who have deeply loved the place and events envision a positive future for Springs... either with present new 'ownership' hearts miraculously melting or, barring that seeming unlikelihood, with abject failure of current oppressive regime and privatization scheme in due course and eventual re-sale to new, appropriate stewardship that can redeem spirit of place.
Know that collective vision and concerted efforts by unorganized, de facto Society for Preservation of Stewart Springs can work miracles.
See latter part of in-depth op-ed below, new intro to Rants & Raves, and New Day Dawning.
As mentioned, most of above re-posted Yelp reviews were soon deleted from site, ostensibly for "violating terms of service" -- owner furor over earnest visitor push-back being allowed to air at all, perhaps? And SMS Facebook first suspended its review site, then briefly -- oddly -- added rants back to main page before in September 2018 finally deleting entire feedback page. Glad to have rescued so many heartfelt writings in time, saving them from oblivion.
Frustrating to speak your mind only to have words deleted for being discounted as bad for business...regardless of how sincere, insightful, and true words are.
What's that saying? In times of oppression, speaking truth is deemed a revolutionary act.
& in-depth scoping
What the #%! Happened to
New 'owners' erased popular culture, semi-
privatized realm for quasi new-age shtick,
costs subsidized by group bookings
No nudes is good news;
Place closed to individual visits
"Surprisingly [Stewart's] has not been bought out and turned into a high dollar 5-star resort spa. Interesting, that, because several times that has been looked at, but something seemed to intervene. Its almost like the amazing dual springs are meant to be for all the people, especially the ones drawn there for spiritual refuge and healing rejuvenation. "
-- James Tyberonn
"In the circle of life are the laws of nature. If you stay in that circle everything will be OK. Outside that circle are the laws of man. If you only follow those you are in trouble."
--Russell Beebe of Ojibway tribe
by Stu Ward
Longtime Springs volunteer; suspended support 12-2017. First posted in late 2017, former-insider spiel is revised or tweaked every now and then for continued relevancy (though some skeletons of earlier sussing of 'owner' intent remain).
Writing's arbitrarily split into 12 parts.
Simon says "Take one giant step backwards."
Stewart Mineral Springs has long held a special place in the hearts of countless mineral spring fans around the world.
Many of its most ardent fans and supporters felt that the clothing-optional ban enacted in November 2016, first of long string of controversial changes, marked a profoundly
wrong-headed, giant step backwards.
And words could barely register the stunned shock and dumbfoundment over kicking out grounds' sweat lodge, ostensibly done to gain affordable fire/liability insurance coverage.
And upping outrage clear into the ionosphere, after being unable to successfully switch bathhouse operation to mandatory cover-up after 17 years of popular mindful clothing-optional, they gutted the inside of historic bathhouse to repurpose the hundred-year old structure to suit own exclusive-minded purposes...
...and realm's 145 year-old healing spa tradition, benefiting the global community, be damned.
Latest depressing developments: officially changing place's name to Pneuma Retreat Center and disallowing individual (if spa-less) visits beyond group bookings.
Writer, local work-trade volunteer who'd got psyched to create and maintain bathhouses's cold plunge on informal work-trade basis for 17 years, had for last two nourished a Pollyanna, deep in denial, hope that the outrageous misstep of banning mindful-nudity option would prove to be only a de-facto breather...a chance to let dust of old management unsupported clothing-optional scene settle before enlightened all-new management forged a new, more aware and integrated policy...
...one inclusive of place's diverse visitor base...one that would naturally attract management and staff as much, or more, motivated in fostering genuine healing than merely covering rent or mortgage.
Thinking was that with at least tenuous openmindedness by new, way-y-y-absentee 'ownership' once gaining deeper understanding of place and druthers of once-substantial bohemian-leaning support base, it would reinstate clothing-optional post-haste. (This, though learning that one 'co-owner' reportedly owns a popular mineral springs resort in Mexico that is, most assuredly, NOT clothing-optional...'Ayy carumba! No nudistas aqui, por favor!')
Realm would then be brought back in alignment with time-honored tradition of every other popular rural mineral springs resort in the greater northwest U.S., all of which allowed some measure of mindful nudity in order to foster optimal purifying, healing, and rejuvenation...often triggering profound body-mind-spirit reintegration in the process. Similarly, purported rate increase was seen as done only to absorb covering paying workers better than the two bits over minimum wage long doled out by former, sometimes penny-pinching, absentee steward.
Nope. Naive me. Took further calamities of removing gazebo spring-house altar, slashing masseuse's and gift shop consignee's take and, coup de gras, kicking out sacred sweat lodge, to realize something was indeed rotten in the state of Denmark. Sadly, detached from place, vowing never to set foot on grounds again as things stood, same as countless other,dyed-in-the-wool, now-estranged devotees of cherished place.
And, as it turned out, while maybe management positions started getting better pay, any poor schmuck holding, say, a grounds handyman position, a job certainly requiring valuable skills, was reportedly still expected to sweat away at California minimum wage, poverty-level pittance of $10.50 an hour.
First new 'ownership' in 34 years as of 1-19-2016 had seemed such a slam-dunk perfect time -- golden window of opportunity, even -- to forge a rebirth of the realm... one infused with dedicated energy, bursting with fresh focus and positive grounded perspective, no longer clouded by chronic past profit-hungry preoccupation, with all its chaotic snafus and downers...
...at last gone an often-dire situation so abysmal, place almost seemed vying for Most Dysfunctional Management Award in some bizarro alternate universe.
So what happened? What kept the grand re-set button from getting pushed, restoring sacred place to its natural peaceful state as the thriving, altruistic, open-minded healing retreat spa it's always longed to return to, such qualities locked into its DNA?
Wanted: workers willing to work cheap
Why instead did place become a horrible, jaw-dropping, slow-motion train wreck? A cultural collision thundering around the world, first by banning clothing-optional and reverting back to improbable retread pre-millennium mindset rife with oppressive body shame and false modesty, rudely smacking of depressing mindless conventionality that so many came to Springs in good part to take a break from. Then removing gazebo altar of countless prayer and love offerings -- like tearing down a living church.
Absolute last straw was telling Karuk medicine man Walking Eagle to leave after lodge's some 45 years of ceremonies, to cease weekly sweats on ancestors' healing lands, lands held sacred by his and other regional tribes for time untold.
Tearing out the tubs in the bathhouse was only a post-apocalyptic action, one showing "owners'" true intent...lest there still be any doubt whatsoever.
Whether one participated in sweat lodge or not, its loss is incalculable. For it represented both the last cultural link to the renaissance days of 1970's progressive Goodpasture family's stewardship and, more critically, the prehistoric reverent use of the land. Lodge, along with re-introduced c/o policy, enabled keeping a modicum of bedrock diversity and bohemian-friendly spirit alive at the Springs. More crucially, it served to help neutralize the horrible karma of the place created by 1870's massacre of natives on and around very grounds.
Enter Dragon Lady with Gilded Visions
& Marching Orders from All-Business Boss
It's said the cause of anything is everything, and the cause of everything is anything.
Without going any deeper here into historic cause and affect that's made Springs the way it is (explored in History and latter part of part 4 in Yet More Rants & Raves,), what happened in recent times was former 12-year general manager Rowena P.'s long-nurtured vision of "Refining the Culture."
It was perhaps the predictable result of relentless pressure from former San Francisco absentee 'owner' John Foggy
to generate ever greater profits. It became her mantra, spoken reverently with glazed eyes, as she and accomplice, late operations manager husband, Ted D., seemed wrongheadedly determined to turn a unpretentious healing place steeped in rustic, down-home charm -- simple dedicated spa with no-frills lodging -- into some improbable wannabe upscale resort. Not at all unlike one we have trying to happen now, embracing shadowy Babylon world's bass-ackwards, bourgeois control-freak mindset, all dressed up in slick smiley-face for public consumption.
Fantasyland vision Afield in Schemes was fed by money-siren whisperings of "If you ban it, they will come". It being place's former unassuming spirit of bohemian-leaning, free-spirited -- sometimes holy-stoned -- culture with tenuously abiding tolerance for lifestyle diversity, including weekly Native American sweat lodge, spiritual card readings, and mindful nudity in suitably unsuitable bathhouse and creek locations.
Again, clothing-optional policy offered countless people the rare chance to shake free of a lifetime of body suppression, shame, false modesty, and/or undue physical self-consciousness. Visitors were at last free to be their real undisguised essential selves again as when newborns and toddlers, aiding process feeling reborn. Policy, when upheld mindfully by daily group energies despite any focused support from management, fostered a worlds more relaxing, often life-changing, spa experience. (For some, only after getting beyond initial intense freak-out stage before at last regaining some semblance of un-selfconscious freebody awareness.)
As it turned out, new 'owners' seemed to like the old-culture-destroying refinement idea just fine, thank you. Unspoken message appeared to be something along the lines of 'Cover your asses, you shameless heathen.'
It came as no great surprise, as she herself brokered the deal for legal title change, reportedly for a 10% cut, which some might view as the ultimate sell-out, having milked an extra quarter-million dollars off place by selling to ready-cash buyers, with their first-hidden intentions at such grievous odds with original spirit of place...a spirit always hiding just below the surface, clamoring to re-emerge.
Writer's heard a rumour that the operation's reported revenue levels were exaggerated more than a tad. Perhaps such a shady ploy was felt needed to cinch a lucrative deal with hesitant buyers. (If true, it might explain why vibe of current stewardship might at times seem sour and out of sorts, having buyer's regret as it were, realizing their strong coveting of place had stymied exercising any more thorough business caution, and now feeling left to try to make the best of a bad deal.)
In any event, que lastima.
The popular Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain's founder, Mathew Engelhart, author of Sacred Commerce, was initially a co-owner. Some, including writer, thought this a very promising sign... that the place was at last going to experience a grand turnaround. But he soon sold his interest. One perhaps doesn't haven't to wonder too much why in light of sorrowful developments going on there since he bailed.
Maybe she did some big song and dance about lucrative untapped potential of place, inflated figures and all -- "The upside potential's enormous!" Then simply took the money and ran. Possibly she'd railed how "Everyone hates clothing-optional except for a few low-spending, kinky locals; it's killing business, I tell ya..."
Then again, maybe she didn't have to say a word, the fabled if low-key place selling itself.
Rumors abounded as to what they were actually up to.
Maui's Little Beach irregulars >
One is they were determined to ratchet up bigger-spending, ostensibly more respectable (i.e. unabashedly bourgeois), visitorship, including sundry therapists and practicing
To that end, for a while they appeared busy incubating awannabe tony resort: many witnessed the bathhouse's two new fancy tiled tub rooms, replete with shiny, ostentatiously fancy faucet fixtures. So blindingly shiny, they reminded writer of a Marine Corps honor guard's steel helmet. And the bathhouse was no longer referred to as simply the bathhouse. It became (briefly) "The Wellness Center." And the humble, homely A-frame? Upgraded to "The Chalet."
Another rumor: that they were only homogenizing place by erasing countercultural imprint -- sweat lodge, mindful nudity, gazebo prayer and love altar, etc. -- in hopes of attracting more everyday, less discerning travelling mainstream hordes who'd buy a watered-down spa experience and the relatively cheap out-of-town lodgings en masse and likewise better reflect their own conventional mindset. (And, hearty souls, wouldn't mind at all in cold weather if heating in lodgings was sketchy; that, or they'd be too numbed to even think of demanding a refund the next morning in the office...if the office was even open before having to leave.)
Either way, time revealed that the overarching, improbable intent was no less than the outright repurposing of the entire grounds to, first and foremost, serve as their world headquarters, retreat and teaching center for their Pneuma Institute -- again, a peculiar amalgam of conventional Judaeo-Christianity, transpersonal psychology, with strong focus on teaching mindful breathing techniques.
Unwitting enablers included several longtime annual workshop retreat event organizers, who it seemed perhaps loved the place more for being their own money generator. They appeared indifferent to or unaware how restrictive and oppressive the operation's seismic shift was to the place's one-time myriad free spirits who'd largely driven its former roaring success of operation.
And similarly, some visitors got so hooked on the place that they were willing to suffer various and sundry new restrictions IF it meant getting one more Springs mineral water fix. They were determined not to let the new scene keep them from spending more time with their dear old friend, even if now in dire straits. With an "It's unfortunate, but hey, what can you do?...management will NEVER get it right" attitude, they'd suffer the new downside...or go into denial, driving from mind the glaring fact that through continued patronage -- even if only once a year -- they were effectively helping the new, decidedly non-public-minded regime tighten its stranglehold on the former quasi free-spirited universal realm.
But some wondered how long the public might still be welcome at all at the place, such as it was, especially with bathhouse gone...
...which brings up the last dismal rumor: that a long-range plan was afoot to eventually close gates to the public outright. Maybe only after years of suffering them to help finance changes -- and give time for people to get so royally disenchanted with place they no longer cared what the heck they did with it.
In this scenario, obviously no one would have a chance to even try to enjoy, let alone gripe about, dispiriting changes. Place would become exclusively for private use by 'owners' to enjoy for themselves, hold Pneuma workshop courses, retreats and intensives, plus host related international social gatherings, workshop classes and intensives...
...maybe, again, they'd keep allowing in a few select outside workshops in that could stomach -- perhaps even embrace -- the new rock-ribbed regime to help cover insurance, management, utilities, and place's new sky-high annual county property taxes (based at roughly 1% of last sale price, for about $28,000/year... over $500/week, or $77. every single day of the year).
Is it any wonder they reportedly filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors?
became suspect overnight
It turns out a nonprofit like Pneuma is legally allowed to own a for-profit business under California law and then pay regular taxes on it. Perhaps they had no real incentive to work place any more, taking tax write-off somehow by legally juggling against some more profitable operation of one or more of 'owners', thereby enabling luxury of remaking place into its own scene with little to no real concern of making nut, as does any regular sink-or-swim business operation...or even your more on-the-ball nonprofit.
Regardless, in every scenario the remedial first step is of course to purge place of the riff-raff; exterminate the freaky infestation of those so outrageously leaning toward freedom-loving, status-quo scoffing, alternative-lifestyle-embracing ways...in other words, anyone who liked to skinnydip or sunbathe or sauna nekkid. (Or is open-minded enough to give it a try.)
Such unacceptably unconventional ways (for countless, sensible and organic) -- rejecting things over-structured, unduly profit-minded and/or life-affirming challenged -- are deemed strange, distasteful, offensive, even dangerous, for the refusal to worship Mammon and pay obeisance to arbitrary power, to the super-organized sensibilities of the tight-wound ...along with would-be gullible patrons who would buy into their story of being so nobly dedicated to spiritual uplifting and planetary healing.
So it became a no-brainer to scrap the popular longstanding clothing-optional policy, get rid of springhouse gazebo's prayer altar end longstanding weekly First Nations sacred sweat lodge ceremony...
...plus, before it became obvious fans wouldn't buy the tenuous, new 'respectable' bathhouse operation and so closed down spa operation entirely, chip away at longtime Locals Day deal so as to render price break meaningless; raise rates in general twice and up takes on massages and consigned gift shop items. (Again, bear in mind their umbrella outfit's a nonprofit. How's that for irony? Proves intent is always the bottom line, not profit or nonprofit status alone.)
Stripping away place's former spiritually diverse and egalitarian vibe seemed the name of the game. Adding further insult to injury, workers -- those who didn't quit in shock and disgust the second day out -- trying to endure new oppressive regime to put food on table (or, again, those who never really got what place was about in the first place), no longer got a free monthly mineral bath. (It had been a thoughtful perk offered for decades as a reward for dedicated efforts; it helped keep workers in sync with spa's reason for being and were otherwise not affordable at the prevailing paltry pay.)
Invisible 'co-owners' appeared maddeningly indifferent to how theordered changes erased the former popular culture so lovingly built, nurtured and supported over decades by myriad nature-loving Springs devotees and supporters both near and far.
For, again, it was the former fans who had largely funded place's upgrades -- place reported a robust annual quarter-million dollar profit towards end of old 'ownership' (that is, if not a calculated exaggeration to help make the sale) -- by enthusiastic repeat visits over decades and turning flurries of friends and relations onto it.
Business is business
But, hey, business is business; it's our baby now and we'll do whatever the heck we want with it, so nyaah. Possession's nine-tenths of the law, ya know. (and perhaps under breath: and the sooner we turn all you yahoos off to it, the sooner we can quit having to suffer your tiresome howls of protest, gritting our teeth trying to make nice to keep your dollars rolling in a while longer before we finally pull the plug. Then we can enjoy it all for ourselves, heh-heh, hah-hah, hee-hee, ho-ho...)
If rumor of plans to essentially slam gates to public is indeed true, then at first blush it might appear fans are screwed.
That is, if 'owners' actually think they could close such a priceless public treasure and still enjoy it with even one shred of spiritual integrity after the condemnation by an entire global community for trying to bogart the realm that's provided dedicated purification and healing to the world for the better part of 145 years.
A Japanese-American acquaintance once told the writer he was shocked such a great natural treasure as Stewart Springs wasn't a protected public spa as is sometimes done in his old homeland with its own historic developed rural mineral springs.
Any suspecting this is what's happening might grumble, "Well, why not just shut the damn gates now and be done with it?" The fact they're not provided some hope it isn't true, one supposes...that the extent of closely-guarded intent is only to try upscaling and/or sterilizing place (without time honored spa, no less)...
...that is, unless they simply wanted to keep milking unwitting visitors who thought everything was hunky-dory, plus veterans finding place still borderline tolerable for a spaless retreat, going for lodging only, to fund ultimate privatization goal...until one day the imposing front fortress gates indeed swing shut and clueless trekkers are then greeted by imposing new signs growling:
Private Property - Keep Out - Violators Prosecuted
No Peak Experiences for You
Parapets Manned 24/7
Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Butts Elsewhere
Okay, so parapets probably wouldn't be manned all the time, but you get the drift.
Envisioning perfect future stewardship
Assuming last rumor isn't actual intent (and maybe even if it is)...if everyone who has loved the place boycotts it (worlds easier now, with bathhouse dismantled and no nongroup visitors allowed), while raising awareness and spreading word how place's former wild cultural spirit has been systematically suppressed to suit some private buttoned-down agenda, how new 'owners' are re-working place to double as own Pneuma world headquarters, in process strangling it to death as a lifestyle-diverse, healing refuge for everyday people...
...if enough now-estranged Stewart aficionados did this, while at same time visualizing positive future stewardship, THEN current 'owners' might never generate critical level of patronage or, if choosing to slam gates totally to public, manage to have one iota of peace of mind in efforts to promote their own brand of pricey, slow-cure healing methodology.
Instead, they'd rightly feel like do-do. This -- on top of possibly their coveting place having blinded their better judgement and now experiencing buyer remorse -- hampering overall ability of outfit to actually help people feel better and deep down in closer communion with planetary oversoul, such global consciousness-raising, after all, claiming to be the overarching mission of the Institute.
They'd be dead in the water...unless having the money to burn and couldn't care less if none of formerly dedicated fans come anymore short of willingness to kowtow to new depressingly dampened down and limited scene of lodging only and then only in booked groups.
Former zenned-out mandala pattern of bathhouse floors, including sauna. Old boards were torn out about 2012 due to longstanding moisture rot. Management unwilling to take the time and effort to replicate longtime meditation-friendly touch that had helped make place so exceptional
Over time, private-minded stewards will feel the far-reaching popular wrath putting the jinx on any such dreary dreams of the once-enchanted realm serving as their headquarters/retreat/
classrooms for shrink industry and hosting quasi new-age events, private celebrations, and training-wheel spiritual workshops.
Widespread public disdain and condemnation, reflecting the mountain of squirrelly karma diverted scene has been building up ever sense legal transfer, would in the grand scheme of things fully neutralize the effectiveness of any good works outfit might ever hope to achieve.
Staying away in droves alone might foil any such plans. Annual workshop and performance events that had gone on forever there -- notably Zavada's and DeLong's -- would fade away as would-be participants and event bookers realize they'd been drinking the Kool-aid, supporting inappropriate use of place by remaining hooked on it oblivious or indifferent to how operation's former open-minded ways and bohemian spirit were unceremoniously pushed off a cliff.
Such workshop/retreat organizers would then, rather than further aid and abet cultural destruction of place -- that is, if any could possibly still still be attracted to it after dismantling the bathhouse -- find new places for a while. Maybe Flowing Waters just down the hill -- until 'ownership' at last changes again for the better.
Their joining in unity with de facto boycott and spreading awareness of unacceptable scene -- along with positive visualization -- could well hasten the day the universe manifests a new, nonprofit operation under service-dedicated steward(s). Then visitors might once again create a new, infectious, thriving cultural renaissance within the healing realm.
Too, would-be followers and supporters of Pneuma and adjunct group-ownership outfits and causes might sour once connecting the dots. They'd dolefully realize that its bureaucratic mucky-mucks essentially created cultural genocide at the place they'd hoped to re-purpose to pursue their psychotherapeutic methodology.
They'd be shocked on learning how the general public, among them countless seeking elusive genuine healing spas, were suddenly left out in the cold, former nature-attuned lifestyle suffering frostbite, overall body-mind-spirit health regimen severely compromised.
Redeem frayed honor?
Barring having a miraculous change of heart, they could -- saving grace -- neutralize such gnarly karma by becoming mindful enough to re-sell at a fair price to now-envisioning, perfect new stewardship...those who, again, would transform place into legal nonprofit healing center and engage the community in plugging into it with all their diverse gifts, talents, and resources. Current holders might perhaps even take a loss by way of penance, or at the LEAST sell at cost, allowing for improvements made.
International outfit, relocating to a place happily unhindered by current gnarly controversy, free at last of their ill-fated 'purchase', would regain a fair measure of now-mortgaged integrity and credibility...and ultimately gain something of an offhand POSITIVE role in realm's age-old healing legacy and evolution. And, of course, they'd once again be free to enjoy it along with everybody else -- perhaps even learning to better embrace their inner bohemian...or at least no longer mind so much when others do.
If third rumor -- eventual privatization -- is indeed the case, they'll soon realize, if they haven't already, that such action is NOT doable in the real world.
...not without disastrous, overwhelmingly self-defeating consequences.
For, again, global wrath and disdain would all but guarantee the inability to ever enjoy the legally stolen place with even one nano-particle of true peace of mind. It'd leave them feeling like shallow-water pretenders, having zero credibility for trying to push their shtick there, purportedly to increase spiritual awareness and heart awakening at the price of having so wrongheadly erased its accustomed spirit-attuned, open-minded atmosphere for legions of place' former diverse, all-inclusive fans and supporters to enjoy any more.
Any foundation built on the sandy grave of a willfully destroyed people's culture cannot support anything without reeking to high heaven.
If indeed having bought place only to mold it to double as headquarters and specialized semi-private retreat and teaching center subsidized by general public, with no interest in ever running a spa beyond a rejected superficial level -- then, again, they'll throw in the towel, duly chagrined, relocate and sell place at fair price to one(s) who will honor realm's former simple, affordable, free-spirited healing tradition,recognizing realm as a blessing and gift to the entire planet.