This New Age Inn Wants to Do More Than Just Feed You

updated 07/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In Topanga Canyon, just east of Malibu, in a place where Jupiter still aligns with Mars, and the Age of Aquarius eternally interfaces with the New Age, the Inn of the Seventh Ray nestles by a crystal-clear brook. Here the free-range songbirds warble; the organic wildflowers bloom, and scented breezes carry the gentle sounds of classical music. No harsh words are spoken, the clear air is undefiled by cigarette smoke, and the very food itself is rated not by such gross standards as caloric content but on the higher plane of "esoteric vibrational value."

If all this isn't enough to attract the discerning diner, the Inn of the Seventh Ray is also a lonely outpost in the never-ending battle between Good and Evil, between Democracy and whatever else is out there. "No democracy has ever lasted more than 200 years," says Lucile Yaney, who started the Inn in 1975. "The fall of democracies has something to do with the level of consciousness in the people: They grow fat on the land; they grow dull; they don't become attentive to their needs." Then she says, going right to the heart of her political philosophy, "If we ever lose our basic freedoms, it'll be because of junk food. We'll get so gassed up, we'll forget to defend ourselves, and we'll be taken over without firing a shot."

So to keep America free and un-bloated, Yaney, 49, serves natural food in aggressively arcadian surroundings. The Seventh Ray's menu runs to such items as a meatless lasagna, made from whole-wheat noodles and filled with a mushroom-tofu combination, all for only $15.95. There is a special called omritas, an eggplant stuffed with olives, nuts, mushrooms and feta cheese, which costs $14.95 and is described on the menu as "nature's perfect vessel of transportation, direct from the Violet Planet."

The menu, in fact, makes very interesting reading. Take this excerpt: "Sometimes, the inn is not just an inn, or it may be just an inn, or it may be your passport to somewhere in time—an inner retreat experience—a special auric forcefield, and you may never be the same again."

Yaney is very serious about food and restaurants, although this was not always the case. Back in 1973 she was a psychotherapist who commuted through Topanga Canyon on her way from her home in Woodland Hills to her Beverly Hills office. She and her psychoanalyst husband, Ralph, noticed an eyesore amid the natural beauty of the canyon—a garage, with junkyard attached, that offended their sensibilities. At the time they were looking for investments, but, says Yaney, "we had also been exploring the spiritual path." A combination of those concerns prompted them to look into buying the place. "We knew we had to get it; I'll never be able to totally understand why," says Yaney. "We walked on the property and felt this intense charge."

And so, moved by who knows what, they bought the land for $120,000, tore down the garage and cleaned up the site. Two years later they opened the Inn of the Seventh Ray. Yaney had never run a restaurant before, but she had ideas—strong ideas—about what a restaurant should be. "A lot of your ideas, your new directions in life, are made at restaurants," she says. "We were very aware that if restaurants—because of the volume of people that pass through them—could ever stand for something, they would have some kind of influence on society."

From the beginning, the Seventh Ray was ahead of its time. "We took out all the preservatives and chemicals and did natural food," says Yaney. "We took our bread, and when we baked it, we actually blessed it. We did things like take watercress and ginseng and cashew nuts and make it into a soup. Of course, nobody ordered it."

Smokers were exiled to the patio, and sandal-wearing waitresses were encouraged to deliver lectures on nutrition. And there was no place for drugs—"they blow holes in your aura," says Yaney. "When we started, one of our requirements was that new employees had to be off marijuana for six months," says Yaney. "We were starting to see the fallout from people getting tied in to all the voices and the negative planes."

Over the past 13 years some mellowing has taken place, and the waitresses no longer proselytize. If your aura is feeling loutish and is baying for red meat, you can get a steak with mushrooms for $17.95. Business is good, and the restaurant serves 1,000 customers a week, some of them famous—though Yaney claims to be indifferent to that. "We really try to respect people's privacy," she says, "and we don't do anything to encourage a celebrity environment."

Still, Richard Chamberlain, Dolly Parton and Robert Redford have eaten there...even Shirley MacLaine, who enjoyed it in this life and may be back in the next.

—By Michael Neill, with Michael Alexander in Topanga Canyon

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