Editor's Note: The following history of the Johannine Daist Communion (JDC), called the Dawn Horse Communion, when it was headquartered in Lake County, is culled from JDC literature, newspaper accounts, and interviews with former members.
Franklin Jones was born "fully Enlightened...into an unsuspecting middle-class family" about 45 years ago.
"Franklin Jones, as a conscious creation or condition began one day while I was crawling across the linoleum floor in a house that my parents had rented...
"There was a little puppy dog that my parents had gotten for me running across the floor toward me. I saw the puppy dog, and I saw my parents and it began from that moment. All the rest of the events which occurred during the two or more years prior to that were not the years of Franklin Jones. He has no existence prior to that time, the conscious or intentional being."
Jones studied at Columbia University in new York, and Stanford University. He studied under various gurus, eventually joining the Church of Scientology.
He changed his name to Bubba Free John and went out on his own, attracting followers with his mix of eastern philosophy and his own thoughts.
Jones taught his followers that they could find spiritual happiness if they would subordinate their wills, and follow his commands.
He is considered a "perfectly enlightened being."
Jones' non-profit organization has had a variety of titles, including Sri Hridiyam, the Dawn Horse Communion, the Free Communion Church, and the Crazy Wisdom Fellowship.
Jones moved his group to Lake County in 1973, purchasing the old Siegler Springs resort on Cobb Mountain. The group also had a center on Olympic Drive in Clearlake, where books and other literature were published. Although the organization's headquarters have moved, cult members still own and frequent the Siegler Springs resort, which they have renamed Persimmon. Followers also refer to the area as the Mountain of Attention.
The JDC still has bookstores around the world, including one in San Rafael.
The group fielded a candidate for Lake County Supervisor in 1976.
A Yuba college teacher named Bill Stratton, who lived at the Siegler Springs resort, ran for the District 1 office.
Stratton ran on a platform of making government responsive to the public, and carefully regulating the geothermal industry.
During the election, opponents said Stratton, who had lived in the county for three years, had signed up between 200 and 400 voters, all from the ranks of the Dawn Horse Communion.
One candidate called the election "a stacked deck."
One man had an ad printed in the Middletown Times-Star which quoted from a book written by Jones, "Garbage and the Goddess". The quotes promoted sexual freedom and cursed marriage.
"Motherhood is an illusion. Giving birth is no more Divine than taking a crap," the ad read.
A week later, then-publisher Floyd Kilbee apologized for the ad, saying it did not represent Stratton's views.
The incumbent supervisor, Don Ellis, who did not seek re-election, said publicly "A vote for Bill Stratton is a vote for the DAWN HORSE COMMUNION."
During the primary, clerks challenged the qualifications of Dawn Horse residents, until a leader in the cult threatened legal action.
Stratton was defeated in a November run-off by Bob Jones, 1,892 to 788.
After that time, the cult played a quieter role in the community. Eventually, the headquarters of the 1,000-member group was shifted to San Rafael, and a tropical island in Fiji.
The JDC has a number of divisions: the Laughing Man Institute, which is the public education division; the Dawn Horse Press, which publishes JDC material; the Free Communion Church, for worship activities; and the Crazy Wisdom Fellowship, which is the organization for "mature" practitioners.
The JDC claims to have worship centers in Lake County, Hawaii, a school in Hunter, N.Y. and Fiji. Members live throughout the world.