Earth’s Root Chakra: The Mysticism of Mt. Shasta

From Indigenous tribes to New Age hippies, Mt. Shasta has long influenced myths of spiritual power. And the lenticular clouds that ring its summit have long evoked visits from extraterrestrials. [Photo] Bryce Craig

Rising 10,000 feet above the landscape, Mt. Shasta lies in solitary, captivating grandeur, visible from over 100 miles away. Seen while one drives north on I-5, the robust massif—the Cascade Range’s most voluminous stratovolcano—stretches toward the sky, its 14,179-foot summit rising to the east of its satellite cone, Shastina. Orb-like clouds—their whisked, cylindrical appearance beautiful and unnatural—brush its summit so often they’ve been reported as UFOs. Just 40 miles south of the Oregon border, Shasta is one of the southernmost Cascades. Known for more than just its physical beauty, it stands out as an impalpable entity—an energy, a sacredness—that has inspired myths of hidden civilizations, religious movements, a designation as Earth’s Root Chakra and even a nonprofit recognized by a President’s Council.

“When I first caught sight of [Mount Shasta] over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since,” John Muir wrote of the mountain on the horizon. 

Muir, of course, was not the first to feel the mountain’s power. Thousands of years before he set foot in California, the Shasta, Atsugewi, Achuwami, Wintu and Modoc tribes residing near Shasta incorporated the distinct peak into their cosmologies, though documentation is inconsistent. One Wintu legend traces their people’s origins to a sacred spring on the mountain. A Modoc story says, “at last, the water went down…then the animal people came down from the top of Mt. Shasta and made new homes for themselves. They scattered everywhere and became the ancestors of all the animal people.”

But these are not Shasta’s only legends.

In 1886, Frederick Spencer Oliver, a young man who grew up near Mt. Shasta, wrote the book A Dweller on Two Planets. Oliver claimed the spirit Phylos the Thibetan channeled the stories of a hidden city inside the mountain through him. In 1925, an author known simply as Selvius continued Oliver’s work, publishing an article about the Lemurians in The Rosicrucians Mystic Triangle. Selvius described the city of Telos hidden in Mt. Shasta and its inhabitants: 7-foot-tall, supernatural beings dressed in all white who descended from the lost continent of Lemuria.

Decades later, in the early 1930s, mining engineer Guy Ballard was hiking on Shasta when he met the Count of St. Germain, who gave Ballard a cup of “pure energy” and told him about the Ascended Masters. “I had planned such a hike…to spend some time deep in the heart of the mountain, when the following experience entered my life…. [St. Germain] stood there before me—a magnificent God-like figure—in a white jeweled robe, a Light and Love sparkling in his eyes that revealed and proved the Dominion and Majesty that are his,” Ballard wrote.

St. Germain, a medieval French “wonderman,” was highly regarded for his skill in alchemy and claimed by some to have discovered the elixir of life. His mystical character lived on after his death, earning him recognition as an Ascended Master (one of the spiritually enlightened beings who have transcended their corporeal self and return to share wisdom with humanity). After the meeting, Ballard published the book Original Unveiled Mysteries under the pseudonym Ray Godfre King and started the I AM movement with his wife, Edna.

Almost 50 years later, in 1978, recent Princeton University graduate Andrew Oser journeyed to Shasta. In the peak’s presence, he found himself at peace, connected to who he was and left feeling re-energized. He returned to the mountain for the next 28 years for an annual reconnection and recharge. On his website, he relayed an experience he had on one such trip while camping at what he calls “one of his favorite vortex spots,” where he had a vision of founding a nonprofit to empower children through sports. He moved to Washington, D.C., and started the Joy of Sports Foundation—an organization which the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recognized for its work with at-risk children. Eventually, Oser moved permanently to Shasta. He now runs Mount Shasta Retreats and works as a spiritual guide, helping people find peace and connection on the mountain they can incorporate back into their lives. 

Ashalyn, a former Mormon turned clairvoyant, shares a similar path to Oser. She came to Shasta for a camping trip while living in Oakland, California. Like Oser, she left feeling so rejuvenated that she returned each summer to recharge. In 1988, she moved to Mt. Shasta and just over a decade later opened Shasta Vortex Adventures. “A lot of  people are guided to the mountain by their own spirit guides, their psychic healers, their health practitioners…and then they show up in Mt. Shasta at my door,” she says. “People worldwide are coming here to feel the energy of the mountain and connect with the spiritual energy.”

As much as people try to ascribe Shasta’s allure to a concrete phenomenon, the essence of its power lies in its intangibility—in the conviction of the feeling experienced in the presence of  the mountain. As for what gives Shasta its power, everyone believes something different— some don’t qualify it at all. “It’s just the way God made it,” Oser says. “The mountain doesn’t care what  you believe; it’s a place you can connect to whatever you believe in.”

This essay was originally published in Issue No. 151. To read more, pick up a copy, or subscribe to read stories like these as soon as they are published in print.

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