Last tweaked September 21, 2023
"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
“It is quite unfortunate that people of a certain race or color are discriminated against for just being. This place and it's workers not only racially profile hopeful retreat goers, but they are also extremely unprofessional. Disgusting display of prejudice and racism...this place should no longer be patronized.”
-- Moni C, Cerritos, CA, 5-2-22, Yelp review
Current Stewart 'ownership's' plague of
reprehensibly inappropriate intent
Quick take: bathhouse closed permanently as far as present 'ownership' is concerned. Tubs torn out to re-purpose building (reportedly rescued by local for safekeeping during occupation); lodgings now only open for booked group retreats -- no more individual visits (and no spa to entice one.) Name of place officially changed. Stewart Mineral Springs website scrapped. Operation, a separate for-profit legal entity under Pneuma, its nonprofit umbrella, reportedly filed for bankruptcy protection a while back.
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, 2018
"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
A 2020 Yelp review re-posted in its entirety (with added editorial comment):
"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 in a quest to gain total control over the realm to do their own thing, mitigating costs by renting out remaining facilities to a few 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
This review was soon deleted from Yelp site, not even left in the "not currently recommended" bin, near bottom, like some of the more controversial or deemed-inappropriate postings. No need to wonder why: speaking truth to power touches the forbidden third rail, shocking the running of 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, c. 2018
"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, c. 2018
" It is sad the new owners took a good thing and
changed it so drastically ..."
-- Gretchen G., Mt. Shasta, CA Yelp review, c. 2018
Click title for 12-part sussing, including recent history, by former longtime volunteer, along with possible way to rescue place. See also below, entire page, including op-ed and re-posted sweat lodge ban rants (scroll way down). Over half the site now addresses the current dilemma, what led to it, and a call to actively visualize the liberation of the beloved, legally seized realm by its countless fans
Furor over Kicking out the Sacred Sweat Lodge
scroll about three fourths down this page
(click above & scroll 4/5 down)
(click and scroll past long editorial conclusion)
Springs's 'remote stewarding' went from
bad to worse
Updated August 2023
by Stuart Ward
Recent years' enormous changes
everywhere included the Springs...
...but even before the pandemic hit, forcing the initial closing of Stewart's bathhouse, turnover in absentee 'owners' in January 2016 had already radically changed the place, once its initial nine month de facto grace period lapsed.
During those first months things stayed pretty much the same, including management, clothing-optional and weekly, public-friendly sweat lodge ceremonies. So much so, many people assumed 'ownership' change came only much later on seeing new faces, atmosphere and attitude at the front desk -- or even later yet (May 2020), with the stunning announcement of intending to permanently cease spa service.
At first the only sign of devastating waves of change to come -- besides an actual one on the sundeck door that in amazingly tiny print announced the pending ban of clothing optional -- had been a seemingly innocent little stone Inca figurine placed at the base of tree by the cold plunge area. Looking back, it was like a planted seed patiently biding its time.
For soon enough, all hell would break loose.
Drastic changes -- first banning clothing-optional, then a year later kicking out the sacred sweatlodge, 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 the outfit's own affiliated groups, family and friends -- plus the usual straggle of non-discriminating and/or uninformed -- ever seemed to fill the gaping void.
The place's once robust revenue stream has been drying up ever since -- needlessly in the eyes of spring devotees -- leaving the operation treading water or sinking for having such unapologetically private-minded designs on the grounds legally stolen from its fans.
Purely to further their own interests, they messed with a nearly century-and-a-half-old, sterling tradition: providing the greater public with an affordable purifying, healing and rejuvenating spa and nature retreat...
...a tradition that in recent decades embraced clothing-optional and weekly sacred sweat lodge ceremonies, which together greatly enhanced the synergy of the place, making the visiting experience more energizing and all-inclusive and boosting the healing potential of every open-minded visitor.
Had it only been minor changes suiting the 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 down-home dedication to purifying, healing and rejuvenating service to the public at large.
They obliterated the place's casual relaxed air, essential to the effective operation of any spa retreat worth its salt. They soon showed how little interest they had in ever preserving and furthering the longtime dedicated service operation that had garnered fans the world over.
Stunning re-purposing of bathhouse
Then along came the pandemic. A few months later, on May 1, 2020, over four years after assuming legal title, came a shocking announcement -- their first general-public online communication ever, beyond copy sizzle -- of the "painful" decision to close the bathhouse...permanently.
While other regional rural spring resort spa compounds also had to close over COVID, they were relatively thriving before it and are now merrily bouncing back, as the global freak-out fades to memory. (Some re-opened long ago, at first with restrictions, like Harbin, requiring masks even in soaking pools and sauna; and Jackson Wellsprings, now having a mix of walk-in hours and reservation-only periods).
With Stewart's already wobbling and bloodied on the ropes due to the fan-base's contemptuous rejection of the new overseers' wonky diversionary plans -- changes, again, made long before the virus ever showed up -- there's no telling what now lies in its future.
Pessimists assume the worst, thinking the place is gone forever. Optimists await Pneuma's "covetous fever" infection to run its sorry course and then appropriate new stewardship rescuing it. Realists say it could go either way, depending on whether or not enough fans collectively visualize the current 'owners' coming to their senses, abandoning their half-baked schemes and 'selling' the place, at a fair price, to an enlightened new stewardship that would then dedicate itself to reviving the realm's fitfully glorious healing legacy.
Judging from their website (and the visitor review re-posted near the top of this page), the absentee stewards -- an oxymoron if ever there was one -- were serious about their stated intent to re-purpose the bathhouse into an extra retreat and workshop space or some such. The historic spa center would reincarnate this year as...Shambala House. (Shamelessly Gutted Bathhouse would be a more appropriate name.) see New Day Dawning
Writer's not fully certain if the wonky repurposing plan was announced before or after the pandemic hit...but if before, as strongly suspected, it indicates nothing less than the premeditated murder attempt of a beloved 145 year-old institution...and along with it the abiding universal spirit of a grounds dedicated to furthering the well-being of the greater public.
If made after -- as it seemed 'owners' might've wanted to make appear was the case -- then the pandemic provided one convenient quasi-plausible excuse for taking such drastic action. In the fog of historic global disruption of 'normal', it appeared only to be joining the meltdown of countless other business operations that bit the dust or were forced to take drastic measures to try to stay afloat.
In any event, anyone who's ever felt an abiding fondness the place doubtless viewed the series of drastic changes as mindbogglingly inappropriate, dumbfoundingly nutzoid and unspeakably shameful...defying as they did the realm's sterling, age-old tradition: offering the public a place to pursue natural purifying, healing, rejuvenation and/or basic rustic lodging in a relaxed, unassuming manner, amid the blessings of nature...
...and if they ever come to gain a Big Picture awareness, it's an attempt they'll live to regret, if they don't already.
Again, writer suspected the conversion plan was dreamed up early, possibly even before the actual sale transfer. Long before the steep reality check of what's vital (and what isn't) to human welfare and mankind's collective higher fulfillment being delivered to their semi-private banquet table.
In due course, the now emerging higher mass awareness might well evaporate what many fans deem to be no less than a terminally misguided, baldfaced, public-be-damned attempt to co-opt the beloved healing retreat.
Their posted sizzle of coming attractions might then in the long run prove no more than a fading wonky fantasy.
The mission statement on the new Pneuma Retreat Center site gave away, through careless spelling, its perhaps less than forthcoming 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 a grand mutation experiment,maybe?
In recent decades the place had grown to become a wildly popular as a de facto rural community center for the wider region as well as rendezvous and destination point for myriad travelers both domestic and international. More than a few fans are firmly convinced that any attempt to so willfully co-opt such a treasured institution just to suit some inappropriate, private-minded interest is guaranteed to fail in the long run.
As others have said in reviews (see re-posted reactions to the sweatlodge removal, a ways below), it's only a matter of time before the land rejects them -- fundamentalist-leaning 'bourgeois spirituality', convoluted psycho-babble and all (God love 'em, anyhow).
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 out a small fortune ($2.6 million US) to gain legal title, they'd gained the inviolable right -- private property rights being sacred in our yet divisionary materialistic world -- to do with it whatever they damn well pleased. They probably knew they might have a tough row to hoe with myriad fans' longtime attachment to the place. Maybe they hoped we'd all just fade into the sunset, once getting a brief royal snit fit out of our systems. Defeated, we'd sigh and move on with a wistful, "Oh, well, nice while it lasted" resignation.
The cynic in the builder of this part Stewart Springs blog, part history, part review- and article-re-posting site first thought their 5-1-2020 announcement of the "permanent" closing of bathhouse was maybe only the latest ploy (banning c/o being the first, kicking out the sweatlodge the second) to get the general public so pissed they wouldn't care WHAT they did with the place.
Then, at some future point, they'd quietly re-open the bathhouse spa for their own exclusive use -- once beyond the radar of outraged public scrutiny that'd been raining on their parade ever since the c/o ban and sweatlodge eviction, both of which had apparently been putting a crimp in more fully enjoying 'their' brand new, appropriated land.
But THEN (obviously rendering writer's suspicions baseless), they shut down the bathhouse and actually tore out the tubs, intent on re-purposing the entire building, sending already-extreme public outrage clear into the stratosphere. (Wondered if maybe they kept the two tiled tub stalls intact that years earlier they'd taken forever fancying up -- replete with over-elaborate, blindingly shiny, expensive plumbing hardware -- for their high muckety-mucks to indulge in a royal soak every now and then.)
Obviously it turned out they were in earnest about their intentions to repurpose the bathhouse (based on credible reports of others; writer hasn't set foot on the grounds since December 2017, when the sweatlodge was kicked out).
The dastardly deed was done with unspeakably callous disregard for the realm's legacy: offering seven generations of humanity with the blessings of affordable natural purification, healing and rejuvenation in its nature-rich environs. One stunned fan called their despicable actions no less than a crime against humanity, a sentiment doubtless shared by many mineral spring enthusiasts.
They'll surely learn in time that the fact the sale of the 'property' was a 'legal' transfer in itself doesn't mean diddly-squat -- not beyond the three-dimensional material realm, seen in the spheres of spiritual law, universal compassion and cherished public regard.
Rise of the 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 together. One in three; a sobering thought if true.
Such are discomforted by the unsettled complexity brought about by inclusiveness and diversity -- qualities the Springs held in at least some measure -- finding escape-from-freedom relief and comfort in the uniform sameness and tight regimental order and an omniscient leader always telling them what to do and how to think.
So what's happening with the Springs is perhaps only a reflection of the 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 the more freedom loving.
(Unrelated...a renowned financial analyst, the late Larry Edelson, had 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 we're in the 2020's... Pray for peace.)
Shedding light by better understanding the place's past
Back to the dismal plight in our own neck of the woods... The mindblowing magnitude of such a grievous detour from the place's longtime dedication to serve the public flies in the face of the claim reported by former manager Rowena. On purchasing, they supposedly told her they liked the place 'pretty much just the way it is' (if true, obviously they were lying through their teeth).
It might well make one wonder how such an ignominious fate could've 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 indeed did in fact happen...and ultimately remind springs fans that such a lamentable fate is NOT written in stone, that the situation is not irreversible, that one should not abandon all hope for the place.
The way the fans choose to collectively view the situation is critical to the chances of saving it.
With enough devotees envisioning the realm again serving as a viable community resource and healing center for an enlightened public, under new, hands-on, progressive stewardship, it CAN be resurrected in the fullness of time.
A new reincarnation... place rescued by public-minded investors and benevolent supporters, everyone involved seeing it as an invaluable rural healing place and community treasure. One to be enjoyed by all, especially nature loving, holistic-thinking, free-spirited, growth-minded people from all walks of life. One integrated at last with an infectious can-do spirit and grounded in community involvement (as often 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 realm, in due course it WILL manifest.
January 19, 2021 marked five years of dubious new 'ownership'. If they'd plotted some five-year plan, possibly they'd stepped up plans when Covid hit, offering plausible cover for scrapping spa service ahead of schedule.
But, dare one hope, maybe they'd given themselves five years to turn the place around to suit their misguided purposes and make the operation profitable, or at least semi self-supporting, and now see the writing on the wall. Maybe even now they realize they were in classic denial for thinking they could ever pursue such an inappropriate diversionary fantasy there, and now sobering reality is staring them in the face. Maybe even now they've started to feel chagrined and are toying with the idea of relocating elsewhere and surrendering the place to a willing, appropriate stewardship, at a fair price, and thus mend their now much-tattered integrity.
Regardless of the actual time frame, if enough friends of Stewart Springs envision such an outcome, it can happen.
Call it the thousandth monkey effect.
Bleak events leading
to the current dire straits
Following a momentous Springs visit by the new 'owners' from Los Angeles, Mexico and South America in mid December 2017, the springs's operation suffered the final deal-breaking sea change in the eyes of the place's myriad fans.
Longtime general manager Rowena P. was at last stepping down -- two years AFTER the sale. She'd acted mostly by remote from hundreds of miles away during the last two of a controversial, health-plagued, 12-year, profit-driven run, while a non-empowered on-site staff rubber-stamped strict marching orders from the new 'owners' as relayed through her.
THEN a new, on-site management was at last brought on board, a long-range plans ratcheted up, and they really went to town.
From frying pan to fire
Within a week, the spring gazebo's prayer altar was emptied and the 45-year sacred sweatlodge kicked off the land -- last straw for countless fans a year after scrapping the popular clothing-optional policy had already shocked people senseless. The once-magical realm, now radioactive with lost heart, destroyed culture and blinded vision, was immediately shunned by countless devotees who'd cherished and supported the place for decades.
Shameless flasher website
A year later, in 2019, coinciding with the third year anniversary of the wa-y-y absentee new 'ownership' on January 19 (in noteworthy and weird synchronicity, the grand re-opening date three years earlier of Harbin Hot Springs), they replaced the old creaky tiny-print website with a short-lived, streamlined one. (Soon, all pretense abandoned, a freedom-minded public having rejected their watered-down, body-oppressive spa change and become enraged over their kicking out the sweatlodge, they scrapped the site and one was redirected to their Pneuma site.)
Loaded with eye-catching graphics, slick text bites and shameless flashers, the site had confirmed the suspicions of most: when not enjoying their little Shangri-la themselves and running private workshops, the seemingly tone-deaf, hospitality-indifferent 'ownership' (for a while at least) seemed to be coasting on the place's reputation to attract more upscale, urban, flirting-with-awakening visitors...those less into grokking profound spa purification and rejuvenation than throwing disposable income at the promise of some vaguely pleasant, nominally healing, tightly packaged country resort escape... or maybe a bare-bones overnight lodging in the boonies...
...plus those maybe wanting to book spiritually-focused events, workshops, weddings, or retreats and who didn't seem to mind how the former casual, open-minded atmosphere had been thoroughly scrapped and replaced by a wound up one that put such an unapologetic choke-hold on the realm's former quasi bohemian air it beggared belief to any and all who knew the place in kinder times.
No matter that low-key radical body freedom -- which allowed one to experience profound, often instantaneous re-integration of body, mind and spirit and renewed sense of authentic self -- was suddenly verboten. As if, overnight, the place's open-minded c/o policy had somehow suddenly become shocking, distasteful and immoral.
Or that the beloved historic bathhouse's seven-generation-long, grand, dedicated tradition of offering healing mineral-water purification to a planet's people seeking natural healing had been so matter-of-factly gutted.
Or that 45-year sacred Karuk sweatlodge, anchoring countless visitors in down-to-earth communion and celebration of living close to nature, grokking ancient ways of Native American culture and thus providing unique spiritual understanding, 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 reading:
No Trespassing - Violators will be Prosecuted
With that sign, from the very start they'd tipped a hard-ass attitude, in effect saying, "It's our baby now and we'll do whatever we damn well please with it, so go jump in a lake (not our creek) if you don't like it". (The sign was likely prompted by curious visitors who'd climb over the gazebo railing to check out the adjoining, neglected sacred red spring.)
2020 vision &
2020 had started out so promising... number the very hallmark of clear vision...then the dread virus struck and things got blurry fast. Almost overnight, 'normal' life on the planet seemed to vanish.
Pandemic concerns soon seemed to preempt everything. What was or wasn't happening at Stewart's became of little or no interest to most...with the exception of that dumbfounding 'owner' announcement of May 1, 2020, of the decision to permanently close the bathhouse. And, soon after, as indicated elsewhere on their site, telling of their plan to re-purpose the building to make more retreat and class space (gutting the tubs, including three or four vintage clawfoots, soaked in by countless thousands over time, of course wasn't even mentioned)...and the heck with continuing the 145-year-old tradition of offering mineral baths, saunas and cold plunges to weary humanity.
As mentioned, apparently spa service was apparently never much of an abiding interest. Their watered-down, mandatory cover-up variety, which fans used to radical body freedom spurned, was maybe offered just for appearance sake, knowing it would probably go over like a lead balloon and thus pave the pay to justify scrapping the whole operation. (Either that or they'd've maybe been fine with a watered-down, mandatory cover-up spa and hoped it would fly; when it was rejected they -- never being that mineral-spring-spa enamored, and being practical and seeing valuable realty going to waste -- simply decided to scrap the entire spa operation and re-purpose the building.)
Again, this was made to seem to be the official time-line decision...that it was only AFTER the pandemic that they had to make the tough call, done ever so regretfully, crocodile tears falling like rain, sacrificial lamb slaughtered to further their own pet projects...
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 the 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 the first time the bathhouse had ever been shuttered since the 1980s, beyond the week for annual maintenance and long-ago seasonal winter closings (the latter of which ended in late 1999, when the place went year-round.
Drastically ending bathhouse operation might, again, ultimately prove that the unwieldy, exclusive-minded intentions of the 'absentee stewards' are far too sketchy and diverting from the place's former public-healing dedication to ever pan out and be supported -- maybe even by their own rank and file...grandiose dream of adapting the legally-seized Springs to specialized private ends -- with maybe a few handpicked outside-groups subsidizing costs now and then -- sinking without a trace...aided and abetted by the advent of a growing enlightened populace insisting on a more just, fair, and sustainable world for everyone sharing this ride on our little azure ball whirling through space.
Countless fans hold that "buying" the de facto historically public-serving spa retreat did NOT entitle them to do with it whatever they wanted.
Not without severe and self-defeating consequence. The resulting Mt. Everest of bad karma is such that one would think anybody truly conscious and awakened (vs. just awakned) -- mindful of the land and its long-steeped dedication to natural healing and unassuming hospitality -- would naturally never even dare THINK of pursuing such a wonky course.
But again, possibly in the back of such expedience-friendly thinking in their far-away realms, like Fagin in Oliver! they're reviewing the situation.
Maybe even now they are considering divesting of the place...if it appears their diversionary fantasy is going bust and their pockets aren't deep enough to keep pouring cash into a bottomless pit. (Some $77. a day every day of the year in county property taxes alone.)
Place to be revalued
in time. Move check-in to inside front gates?
Places like Stewart's gain critical new importance in these rarefied times... More than ever it deserves a new, service-dedicated stewardship, one willing to establish a nonprofit labor of love that in time would pay for itself -- follow the bliss and the money always follows. Maybe it's years down the road -- or it could happen tomorrow. (Who knows anything for sure these days except only love is real?)
Such places, nestled in the clean simplicity of nature and offering the simple natural medicine holistic-minded beings yearn for, serve as much needed sanctuaries for a massively awakening if much bent humanity.
Bathhouse operation would resurrect -- with the vital aid of plumbing aces who can suss out and reactivate the intricate mineral water heating and delivery systems, now idled, mineral water going unused and unappreciated into the creek -- under new, hand-in-glove stewardship that naturally inspire a widespread involvement and support by the countless de facto friends of Stewart Springs, bummed to hell and gone over the present pitiful state of affairs.
Possibly over time there could emerge a brand-new bathing compound, one of inspired and practical design, tearing down the current one. Historic sentiment aside, it never did have the optimal spa layout for maximizing the easiest and most blissful spa experience. (Unfortunately, the source's welling rate is too modest to support a communal mineral-water pool.)
Critically, it wasn't separated from the distracting hubbub of office and revved-up arrivals fresh off the road, or the frequent laundry room churn. Among other things, it had people excitedly chatting right outside one's tub stall, its 3/4 wall letting sound spill over; head bonking ceiling beams for anyone over 6'3"; plus all the maintenance and employee break-room chatter, massage meet-ups, outdoor employees coming in and marching up to the one refreshment station located right by tub rooms and sauna as passing vulnerable, sheet-wrapped patrons tried to keep a relaxed mindset...
Barring tackling such an ambitious and costly project, the existing bathhouse might at least be reconfigured, moving the laundry work and the office elsewhere and converting the current office to, say, a long needed steam bath. Many love being steam-cleaned as much -- or more -- as getting dry roasted (and for this reason many spas provide both). And the current tiny private office to the left of the front door might return to serving once again as the historic entrance foyer. It'd make a perfect place to leave shoes in cubbies and thus jump-start getting into the spa zone (taking a page from Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings).
One former old-time visitor, Tom, decades ago had suggested the practicality of maybe setting up a check-in booth right inside the front gate, similar to Harbin Hot Springs' mustering-in procedure. Then everyone entering the grounds would be checked in and have paid for day use or overnighting before even entering the realm proper. A printed paper taped to the inside windshield with check-out-time printout would keep everyone's status on track.
Once having paid, maybe first having to wait a few minutes, time to appreciate the creek's song and inviting trees, the sometimes chaotic road energies would settle down a bit, making for a more relaxed and focused visit. (A new main office could be built elsewhere, maybe on the former parking lot above bathhouse, or on the lot below former sweatlodge.) The 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 space on the grounds has, alas, always been limited, so maybe offering a discount for visitors ride-sharing would ease the problem? Possibly some enterprising souls could run a shuttle service at busiest times.
< Former love offering inside the Spring's mineral water gazebo by the creek. One of two, actually; the other, in A-frame parking area, the county Health Dept. put the kibosh on, citing allowing only one source, for some obscure reason; the combined second source had enabled many more people to enjoy soaking in the mineral waters in recent times.
In any event, the ongoing global crises might well serve as a grand wake-up call to shake humanity out of outmoded ways. Such radical changes could enable Stewart Springs to at LONG last get free of its chronic, often-sketchy, woefully dysfunctional, sometimes mindnumbingly inappropriate operational mindset...and return things to something of the way the place began so 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 public in unassuming manner, with a generous dollop of graciousness and altruistic spirit, echoing the Stewart family's historic 78-year run.
Stewart Springs only in memory now, for
the time being...
...after the once thought inviolable dedication to serving the 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 have treasured Stewart's as it was, before late 2016, grok how and why the place's once dedicated purifying, healing and rejuvenating focus got so far out of whack in the first place -- through a motley succession of expedient-minded post-Stewart stewards, way from long established, grounded service -- it would energize a quantum shift and manifestation of a new, hand-in-glove operation...
...a perfect match according to the lights of a host of genuine rural spa enthusiasts, retreat seekers and nature lovers everywhere.
The original, long ago blueprint of founder Henry Stewart and his wife -- dutifully followed later by their daughter Katy and her husband and a select few other stewards since -- had faded so much over time that, on one level at least, the current absentee stewards perhaps couldn't be blamed for trying to make such a shockingly inappropriate detour from the place's longtime dedicated public-minded operation.
To the casual eye looking at the place on its face, its extraordinary altruistic legacy had faded so much that it was difficult for many to even recognize it.
Having briefly visited as booked groups over the years for workshops and long seeking their own place, Pneuma people and/or their associates one day had approached the manager and expressed an interest in taking over the place if Foggy wanted to sell and the price was right.
Their higher-ups and funders were perhaps at best little more than remotely aware -- or possibly much concerned -- of the realm's sterling public service tradition...one every true-blue spa-culture fan, budding newbie and aware visitor seemed to naturally intuit and resonate with (while doing their best to tune out any bothersome profit- and excessive control-minded energies)...some even reportedly tuned into a protective angelic presence said to watch over the grounds. (On a lunch break now if so, or perhaps letting it all happen just to wake people up to the need to preserve and protect the place once and for all.)
With the then-legal steward and salaried managers failing to appreciate the importance of transferring operations to an appropriate new steward and thus perpetuate the realm's tradition, and perhaps tired of being saddled with the peculiar place for 34 years, especially after his daughter Crystal, after a trial run, had opted out of taking it over, it was ripe for the plucking for some new 'owner', likewise unappreciative of the place's legacy, to do with what they wanted.
Never mind that countless visitors had had life-transforming experiences on the grounds. Writer over the years witnessed several experiencing moments of profound illumination -- some in extraordinary, wide-open crown chakra meditations, others walking around grounds in profoundly blissful states, radiating fifty thousand watt energy fields. Writer, while never reaching such rarefied heights, did have the experience of a lifetime volunteering in the joy of service.
It's said that, metaphysically speaking, the vortex energy of the realm magnifies whatever energies beings present bring into it.
Such an illustrious past, again, might've been invisible to the casual, less aware observer for the place having been so long hidden under less dedicated, profit- and/or focus-diverted operations. So much so, it made it appear that while the spa service was maybe nice enough for any so inclined, it was no great shakes...and would be no great loss if scrapped and the bathhouse repurposed -- just so long as lodging and event space was kept open for the holders and their few select groups to enjoy whatever attractions, natural and man made, yet remained.
Then again, perhaps the essence of their takeover thinking, to cynical thinking, anyway, was something along the lines of:
"It's a shame what happened to this lovely place. So neglected, so disrespected...and so under-exploited!
"By golly, we'll rescue it, fix it up, do our thing here, while keeping it open to the public -- on an increasingly limited level, of course...and, owner's prerogative, in a way, ah, more suitable to our own lifestyle and moral values and dedication to furthering our own little shtick.
"Heck, any spiritual focus at all will be an improvement after the shocking Sodom and Gomorrah level the place had degenerated to.
"We'll continue to offer it to a few select outside groups, if only to subsidize our own private gig, perhaps giving people a chance to adjust -- not from any love for the great unwashed (gimmeabreak) -- to minimize unpleasantness.
"Heck, we'll transform it to serve our own exclusive gig so gradually, they'll never know what hit them until it's too late. (Ain't power grand?)"
Intent: after greater wealth? Or just total
control to do their own thing and enjoy the place privately
while select outside groups subsidize costs a smidgen?
The current 'stewards'' intent, at least before the 'plague' hit and bathhouse closed, seemed to many to be just trying to milk more money out of the place, shifting the customer base in hope of attracting more upscale visitors and groups...those perhaps casually flirting with discovering more mindful ways of living (though naturally still embracing numbed-down body alienation)...those having the desire and money to sign up for touted quasi-new age, psychotherapy-adjunct training classes and workshops (or rent the grounds for weddings and such)...NOT those already conscious and savvy to genuine, free-spirited rural spa culture, people who were suddenly dismissed as kinky undesirables and dangerous, new-age cults hell-bent on unraveling the very fabric of society.
The double whammy of kicking out the sweatlodge and banning simple nudity put such a crimp in the place's former spiritual mojo and quasi liberated air that, for countless, it suddenly became Stewart Springs in name only. And their real intent soon enough became all too painfully clear once dismantling the bathhouse, hundred-year-old clawfoot tubs and all. (And then scrapping their own revised Stewart Springs website, which at first appeared still spa-dedicated if uber commercialized around the edges.)
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 actually savoring the spa experience anymore...or any conscious group having anything remotely approaching a full-tilt, bedrock, soul-liberating experience.
To paraphrase an old song lyric, there was a whole lot of disconnectin' goin' on.
Overnight nude became rude
Designed to entrance, the now-deleted, revamped website had worlds more sizzle than substance. Zero info about the new invisible remote board of directors by name. Little to no sense of community.
And the laughable statement about how the new strict cover-up policy was for "a more comfortable environment" almost made one half-expect to read of 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, those happy to resist ever re-learning how to feel mindfully at ease publicly out of clothes in natural settings, resenting like hell seeing others doing so, being reminded how much they're blindly buying into systemic, age-old body alienation that made people so uptight for their bodies being needlessly bound up in defensive cloth armor, all because of society's deeply entrenched, hidebound, false-modesty, negative-body-image mindset.
Whether one availed themselves of clothing-optional or not, it was the linchpin that enhanced the free-spirited air of the grounds -- the bedrock that enabled a more profound harmonizing with nature -- thus making the place so wildly popular in recent decades ... DESPITE an often-wonky, power-freak, profit-obsessed management of latter days.
The new 'owners' -- who doubtless love the place too, if in a more controlling, non-altruistic sort of way -- again, appeared either ignorant of the realm's non-profit, service-minded legacy or -- chilling if the case -- obtusely indifferent to it.
While busy shifting focus, until finally closing and gutting the bathhouse, they had 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 had distinguished itself for being a rare oasis, like a handful of sister springs on the West Coast, that allowed visitors the option of enjoying being nude during (most of) the spa regimen...
...thereby potentially enhancing the overall comfort and healing benefit from the realm's special waters and energy-amplifying vortex phenomenon. In the process, visitors often experienced profound, life-changing body acceptance and liberation...if open-minded enough to give c/o a try and come out of the nudist closet, as it were. For, in their heart of hearts, most everybody -- born naked -- is, despite a lifetime of societal conditioning, a natural-born freebody* waiting to re-emerge.
* With the rare exception of, it's said, roughly one percent of the population, classified as gymnophobiac, or one 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 the place's uber-relaxed, free-flowing atmosphere...one that the open-minded (vs. clothes-minded), policy naturally fostered.
Elsewhere on the now-gone site, a rehashed, vague mission statement and no-this-and-no-that policy page revealed how the new outfit was definitely NOT into running a public-minded spa service -- especially any shameless pagan one. It had essentially copied the former negative, reactionary, non-transparent operation mode, but then, critically, added its own bohemian-culture-destroying twist...
..and totally disregarded -- unlike the former 'owner' (who to his eternal credit) let the longtime-local family management team redeem something of the place's original spirit if mostly only because it proved great for business -- the legacy of the pioneer founding Stewart family: providing a pure love-of-service, de facto nonprofit, healing and rejuvenation retreat for the benefit of all humanity.
One that made the place phenomenally popular for having a strikingly unassuming blueprint, running a healing refuge in such a forthright, affordable and folksy manner that people around the world found it a gift and rich blessing in their lives. Over time thousands of international visitors had made Stewart's one of their travel destinations, if not THE central destination.
see SMS history
The 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 the 'smaller self', which, then combined with conscious breathwork, is worked into an innovative new tool for formal psychotherapy focusing on achieving the transcendent mind state of one's 'greater self.'
It seems that, in case of Pneuma at least, conventional Judaeo-Christian tenets are thrown into the mix just for the heck of it. (Could imagine almost hearing some at the start proclaiming, "We are NOT 'spiritual'...but we ARE religious; so abandon all false gods, ye pagans and nonbelievers -- and cover your shame!") Also added in: various new-age disciplines like yoga, Tai chi and transcendental meditation, making for a peculiar mishmash that, for want of any better term, one might call bourgeois spirituality.
The peculiar amalgam's purported central aim: to train therapists and everyday students, in good part through a conscious breath technique, to promote reintegration of body, mind and spirit on "profoundly higher levels" of enhanced awareness, thus ultimately helping raise global consciousness.
From the 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 think, 'Well, 'bout time! At last an aware and conscious Springs stewardship is working to redeem the place, finally saving it from decades of unapologetic commercial exploitation and neglect...
...the realm can finally become a reinvigorated, affordable sanctuary grounds, promoting higher awareness and natural organic being...Hallelujah! Turning nature-rich Springs into a thriving, infectiously can-do, community-active oasis that true-blue fans have so long dreamed of...the place finally will join the wider region's other progressive-minded rural spring resorts.
Ojala que; if only...
Alas, the current 'owners' of what was for the better part of 147 years an affordable, public-friendly rejuvenating retreat and casual resort instead appeared bound and determined to scrap its tradition...simply to suit their own private needs...to the point of total ruination as far as fans were concerned.
They went worlds beyond the mere jonesin' profit focus of the former 34-year absentee legal steward, San Francisco based John Foggy. More than just impressed their own conservative mindset on the place. No, they scrapped the spa outright...in so doing showing their true colors: intent to seize the place in order to pursue their own private gig and allow affiliated groups to enjoy it privately, while maybe renting out the grounds now and then to certain select groups to help subsidize costs a tad...
... AND THE PUBLIC AND A NEARLY CENTURY AND A HALF
NATURAL HEALING DEDICATION BE DAMNED.
It would almost seem that they'd been suffering the public at first only to help pay the freight...and, again, perhaps give once faithful visitors a chance to say goodbye, while gradually unfolding their wonky long-term plans to transform the place even further away from serving as the low-key, public-friendly spa retreat it'd so long been.
This in shocking contrast to what more than a few genuine-spa enthusiasts held the vision of the place becoming...or rather, returning to: in essence (if not legal fact) a nonprofit purifying, healing and rejuvenating refuge, embracing the clean simplicity of nature, dedicated to serving the greater good by restoring the founding Stewart family's 78-year-long love-of-service mission...
...an enterprise so well ensconced in nature that, in its 'civilized' variation at least, it echoed the timeless First Nations people's deep reverence of the land and waters' healing powers...medicine that had likely saved the founder's life as young man and made him a true believer.
Former everyday visitors of more modest means and bohemian leaning became merely tolerated (and then only so long as one didn't even dare THINK about skinnydipping), as the 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 intentions...
The atrociously misguided plans, as far as the now-estranged fan base was concerned, clearly seemed bent on privatizing or semi-privatizing the place just to expedite pursuing and enjoying their own peculiar amalgam of psychology shtick, quasi new age applications and conservative social/religious affiliations...
...again, indifferent to or ignorant of the place's historic service-minded dedication to providing humanity with an affordable, people-friendly natural refuge in which to pursue profound spa purification, healing and rejuvenation.
They'd turned their backs on the countless conscious, growth-minded, spa-savvy visitors, those who had valued the place's healing culture -- one that any authentic rural mineral spring retreat hopes to cultivate -- plus, again, the teaming sea of others, primed to discover and embrace such a nature-friendly retreat like a long-lost friend.
They were all thrown out into the cold.
The unspoken message heard loud and clear: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Cheshire Cat at Work
The realm of Stewart Springs as countless had known it over decades was being systematically erased ... not unlike the guiding trail through dark woods in 'Alice in Wonderland' getting swept away by the big bushy tail of the mischievous Cheshire cat.
In the eyes of spring retreat fans, mediocrity was triumphing ingloriously.
Slowly and methodically re-branding and re-purposing the place, if the misguided plan ever succeeded long term, the former universal healing refuge would be permanently subordinated to having the public subsidize the outfit's clinical quasi-new-age shtick as a workshop and event retreat for students, members, employees...plus any event and workshop planners among the public able and willing to drink the peculiar Kool Aid.
Even this, before ending spa service, 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 bereft fans knew only all too well -- long before they ever gutted the bathhouse -- how they'd banned clothing-optional, kicked out the Karuk sweatlodge and emptied the gazebo's prayer/love offering altar. Also, how they'd upped bath rates -- twice -- took away the free monthly employee bath perk (not even a token discount offered) and increased the house take on gift shop consignments and masseuse services.
Locals day? Formerly, regional residents got nearly half off; afterwards, only a few token dollars were shaved. "We love our visitors!" the neglected old official Springs site still gushed a whole year after abrupt changes clearly spoke otherwise, such sentiment having become a cruel, fossilized vestige of kinder times (albeit always tenuous).
"We respect all religions and spiritual traditions," the outfit claimed encouragingly on its Pneuma website.
Would it were true. But actions belied any such liberal-sounding sentiment. Could it be that they simply refused to acknowledge ancient earth religions that predate -- and were ruthlessly co-opted by -- organized Judaeo-Christianity?
In any event, Jesus wept.
As things stood, it hardly made for a peak experience for any longtime aficionado unaware of the devastating changes until arriving all psyched...whereupon being shocked senseless.
More of a pit experience.
Such visitors -- before new 'ownership' at last unfurled the dismal colors now snapping in the breeze, striking sorrowful disbelief and righteous indignation in the hearts of fans everywhere -- were already having many 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 the place's rare earth medicine, more profoundly experienced for having the freedom to lose unneeded cover if one so chose...no constrictive condom of cloth as it were, dulling and crimping sensory wellbeing, thus expediting body-mind-spirit integration. Put simply, being in the altogether enabled feeling more together. One was free to more fully experience the sauna, coldplunge, and sunning deck's palliative effects, expanding the brief freebody experience of one's private tub.
Such a formerly experienced positive, even euphoric, mindstate was, of course, something ostensibly valued by the group, at least to go by Pneuma's transpersonal psychology mission statement.
Which naturally led one to ask...
What the #%#@! is wrong
with this picture???
Rather than a place devoted to healing and allowing becoming more one with nature in the eternal present, beyond thought -- in the process often experiencing immediate and profound benefit -- it became painfully clear that the outfit was hell-bent on co-opting the realm just to further their own private gig.
A cynic might've viewed their shtick 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 lucrative, super-structured
enlightenment model for indoctrinating therapists in new ways to aid psychotherapy clients with big bucks, festering in distant cities.
Again, the approach itself might be laudable enough, no doubt potentially doing good for any affluent enough and so inclined to pursue such a formal, long term therapeutic approach, good for what ails you.
But, in bitter mind-boggling irony, it attempted it by overhauling Stewart's from being a long-established refuge for the many to immediately benefit from, to a place to teach and perpetuate its psycho-therapeutic approach for the relative few to benefit from over time.
Result? It worked overwhelmingly against the ability of the former everyday trekker with even a whisper of bohemian leaning and affection for genuine spas to any longer benefit from the long accustomed, uplifting soak-sauna-plunge routine...until recently experienced DIRECTLY, immediately, on the spot.
It was a bizarre situation too weird to wrap one's mind around -- or want to even try. For in attempting such focused re-purposing of Stewart's with the subsequent severe cultural disruption, it worked to resoundingly defeat Pneuma's purported aim of uplifting human 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 the inherent magic and charm of the place, regardless of set-up...and, over time, those aforementioned therapy patients quietly freaking out in distant neurosis-rich cities -- those willing to pay the big bucks to, essentially, have someone remind them to breathe deep.
Their very mission statement shows a yawning gap between ostensible goals and the 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 the former open-minded clothing-optional policy, implicitly recognizing simple, mindful nudity to be a profound expression of love and harmony, allowing for a fuller healing experience, wasn't generating positive radical change in the hearts of visitors (so long as group energies held together despite absence of more mindful management support), then writer doesn't know what could've -- half as well or a tenth as easily.
Winter outdoor nudity was often for hardcore spa enthusiasts only, cooling down from a sometimes 200 degree F. sauna by plunging into the sometimes 30 degree F creek and screaming like a banshee, or rolling in the snow, embracing the polarity therapy of hot-sauna-cold-plunge full tilt.
Mindful nudity, as any aware person knows, has the incredible ability to open one to embrace the physical self and feel newly genuine as when infants and toddlers, thereby easily fostering the reintegration of body, mind and spirit.
No thoughtful person would deny that the rejected option to pursue conscious freebody awareness has a staggering potential to help raise planetary consciousness.
Easily fostering positive radical uplift in body-mind-spirit when pursued mindfully, the policy was light years cheaper and FASTER than anything, experienced in the Springs's appropriately nature-rich, purifying-intent environment and ratcheted up through the grounds' believed magnifying vortex energies, amplifying whatever was focused on.
But in eyes of new absentee stewards, such an option had (obviously) made for TOO radical a change. Too uncontrollable. Too California. Too REAL. Too in the moment. Perhaps it made their own shtick look tame, even lame, in comparison to those embracing mindful body freedom and/or otherwise fast-tracking personal and social transformation.
Or they'd been so intent on re-purposing the place to expedite doing their own thing that, beyond simply rejecting clothing-optional spa, they honestly never gave a flying leap about providing spa service. That, or, again (here giving some benefit of the doubt), maybe a conventional, cloth-bound one they'd've been okay with, but Stewart's ingrained body-liberating, 18-year tradition couldn't successfully be flipped to the old, body-oppressive one. So junking the entire bathhouse operation was the only logical solution, wanting to recycle the valuable 'realty' (that's 'reality' without the all-seeing 'i') for other uses more in line with doing their own shtick.
One day early on, during the years-long sales negotiations, the writer spotted a person he later concluded was one of Pneuma's high muckety mucks -- if not the grandmaster himself. He was cruising the bathhouse hallway, so completely caught up in his own world, walking purposefully as he matter-of-factly checked out the space, pointedly ignoring everyone around him, as if they weren't even there.
So much so, it felt like any appreciation he might've held for genuine healing spas might've fit in a thimble with enough room left over to hang out a " Space for Rent" sign.
In a nutshell: immediate affordable soul enrichment and body-spirit-mind healing -- once had by anyone entering the realm with a few shekels, an open mind and heart, and a willingness to embrace nature's wisdom and overcome any lingering exaggerated body self-consciousness (or who didn't get bent out of shape by those who did) -- was being indifferently sacrificed, along with the very bathhouse itself, to a mindset promoting the delayed, pricey kind led by professionals invested in super-structured, formalized, tell-me-I'm-not-crazy-Doc psychotherapy...
...all within a new, buttoned-down environment reflecting the new 'owners'' conservative ways...
...and, again, the place's former time-honored, dedication to healing greater humanity through powerful mineral waters and rare vortex energies be damned.
The new set-up obviously appeared FAR more concerned with perpetuating its Institute first and foremost, the ostensible overarching intent of raising planetary consciousness coming in a distant second.
The outfit's therapeutic approach, to any with a cynical turn of mind, almost seemed 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 in an over-commercialized world.
Not to be a johnny one-note here (okay, too late), but it bears constant repeating:
Current private-minded 'owner' focus and intent has thwarted the ability of a multitude of growth-minded, conscious beings, from all walks of life, to any longer enjoy the beloved realm's powerful healing energies, for immediate and profound benefit.
With open-spiritedness as good as banned and bathhouse spa service scrapped altogether, any continuing event organizer would be effectively supporting and reinforcing a rank betrayal of the place's spirit with every cent dropped.
Likewise any choosing to work there. They'd been either unwittingly or knowingly serving as accomplices. Either concern for making rent eclipsing certain knowledge the place's laudable ways has been tossed off like used tissues or failing to grok the realm's extraordinary public-service legacy in the first place.
It's so depressing, the writer needs a shrink. (Hey, they might be on to something...)
One might suspect the outfit is perhaps only flirting with spiritual awareness as a mere adjunct to their 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, nature-friendly way...affordably, easily, effectively... allowing for often spontaneously gaining profound body-mind-spirit reintegration through the ultra-relaxing clothing-optional spa regimen's powerful purifying waters -- thus having zero need for any such expensive, drawn-out psychotherapy in the first place.
Obviously one of the best arguments for going bare in nature is how (judicious) exposure of one's entire skin to the healing rays of sunshine produces 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 drawn out and pricey therapy.
Nature, the supreme healer.
So some might cynically view the 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 any 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 the status quo resisting legalization of medical cannabis as unfair competition to those pushing their own often useless, frequently harmful, mad-scientist laboratory-concocted snake oil remedies, euphemistically known as pharmaceuticals...
...at least until staking out their OWN budding-market lion's share... 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'd hoped to continue earning livelihoods in a natural-healing service field long respected and intimately understood.
Not to unduly demonize...
Again, it's not that the outfit doesn't undoubtedly do good. Obviously there are problems spa treatments alone can't begin to cure.
Pneuma's European-origin eclectic teaching model, rooted in the 1960s' humanistic psychology branch, focuses on achieving positive wellbeing and transcendence rather than seeking out neuroses under every rock. It no doubt works just fine -- but elsewhere, in more consciousness-starved regions time-warped in the old millennium and thriving on such professional specialties of dire necessity, providing a healing tool for those affluent enough to divvy up the big bucks for such long-term psychotherapy.
Not in the Future State of California -- leastwise not in the nature-loving, free-spirited, infinity-minded rural TOP of California, amid the natural spirit lifter of Mount Shasta...and most especially NOT within the ancient mystic healing portal of Stewart Mineral Springs.
New wine takes new containers.
Is the rare healing nectar of Stewart Springs realm now to be watered down and blended for a packaged, wine-in-a-box approach, reflecting other regions' and mindsets' enlightenment and self-empowerment levels, just to accommodate the outfit's private-minded bureaucratic needs, conservative mindset and desire to use the place to pursue their exclusive gig?
Those who have cherished the sacred realm's fitfully free, bohemian minded, sometimes holy-stoned, culture for decades -- despite the last 'owner's' offputting profit focus -- hold that the new absentee stewards' intent is NOT in alignment with the Creator's loving universe.
Livid Outrage Over Evicting Sacred Sweatlodge
and other deal-breakers
Removal of the 45-year Karuk tribe sacred sweatlodge from Stewart's in mid December 2017 sparked a firestorm of stunned reaction on Yelp, Google Review, and SMS Facebook sites -- most or all posts long since deleted.
The following flurry of excerpted reactions, posted online from December 2017 through January 2018, reflects perhaps the strongest unified voice ever made of Springs devotees' love of the sweatlodge and the Springs' grounds as a whole...unfortunately coming only after losing the first and now in danger of forever losing the second.
Note: certain passages are emphasized by the editor by italicizing and/or underlining, but any ALL-CAP words are the 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 a boy, and grandfather were survivors of the 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 it was 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 this too shall pass...
All aware beings who have deeply loved the place now envision a positive future for the Springs... either with present new 'ownership' hearts miraculously melting or, barring such an unlikely miracle, with the abject failure of the current oppressive regime and privatization scheme, and, in due course, as 'owners' come to their senses, realizing the stunning magnitude of their error, the eventual transfer of stewardship to new, appropriate stewardship that can joyfully redeem the now-suppressed healing spirit of the realm.
Such a collective vision and concerted efforts by the unorganized, de facto Society for Preservation of Stewart Mineral Springs can work miracles.
As mentioned, most of the above re-posted Yelp reviews were soon deleted from the 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 -- and oddly -- added rants back to main page before, in September 2018, finally deleting the entire feedback page. Editor's happy to have rescued so many heartfelt writings in time, saving them from oblivion.
It's frustrating to speak your mind only to have one's words deleted, discounted as being bad for business...regardless of how sincere, insightful and true the words might be.
What's that saying? In times of oppression, speaking the truth is deemed a revolutionary act?
Remember that contained within the Chinese character for 'crisis' is the character for 'opportunity'.
Have people treasured the place enough to INSIST it redeem its higher destiny as a purifying, healing and rejuvenating ground that everybody the least bit open-minded, aware and nature-friendly can enjoy?
Bestir the imagination. Envision a thriving, affordable healing refuge for growth-minded people everywhere under an in-sync nonprofit stewardship working hand in hand with the wider Mt. Shasta region's community.
Countless fans are certain the realm deserves no less.
see 12-part sussing "What Happened to Stewart Springs?'
for more inside dope and mostly informed perspective
also: Intro to Rants & Raves
Writer Stuart Ward served as SMS work-trade assistant manager and grounds keeper from 2000-2002, under Mary H., living on grounds. He built and maintained the bathhouse cold plunge for 14 years and self-published books on body acceptance and body freedom inspired by his own personal experiences at Stewart's.
YouTube on Springs (jerky camera, but nice music track)
YouTube: Bathhouse deck and frozen cold plunge
Tribute video by local musician Carolyn Hedger
All Things Stewart Springs
Exploring & defending the once & future magical healing realm
An Independent Stewart Springs watchdog, tribute & blog site since 2011