JOHN OLIVER BLACK was born on September 1, 1893, in Grover Hills, a small farming community in northwestern Ohio. Grover Hills is about 30 miles east of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and it was in Indiana that he spent most of his early years. Later he moved to Rockford Illinois, not far from Chicago, and finally, in 1920, to Detroit Michigan. Mr. Black was the oldest of six boys in a traditional Christian family. As a youth, He was particularly impressed by the spiritual power of his grandfather. He related the power of his grandfather when ‘witnessing’ in church and how pictures fell from the wall at his grandfathers passing. Yogacharya was married to Ethyl Wood April 2, 1916 and he worked in Rockford, IL carriage works factory to support his family. In 1920 he decided to seek his fortune in Detroit, MI. The Automotive Industry was in its infancy and Mr. Black started his own business, Peninsular Metal Products with $500. Yogacharya was a householder as were Lahiri Mahasaya & Sri Yukteshwar before him and had two children Robert & Phyllis. In his years in Detroit, Mr. Black built Peninsular Metal Products to a 35 Million dollar per year, publically traded Company. During his working years he moved in the business circles of Detroit counting such men as Henry Ford among his friends also belonging to the prestigious Detroit Athletic Club & The Detroit Golf Club. At one time he became the largest individual land owner in the state of Michigan with large property holdings in lower Northern Michigan. One of his properties, Cranberry Ranch, was 7 square miles with multiple lakes. He used this property for entertaining business clients & relaxing. He also became what he called a checkbook farmer with many thoroughbred animals. These activities gave Yogacharya a wealth of experiences from which he drew many humorous teaching stories for his students. He also acquired 800 acres northeast of Gaylord, Michigan; this later became the property for Song of The Morning Ranch ‘A Yoga Retreat of Excellence’ which he founded in 1970.
Of obvious spiritual evolvement from previous incarnations Yogacharya was drawn back to the spiritual yoga path in this incarnation. The fast pace materialism of the early automotive industry had left Yogacharya a hypochondriac and spiritually hungry. He began to study philosophy and learned Hatha Yoga from an Indian Yogi named Rishi Singh Gherwal. Rishi Gherwal was an Indian Yogi who studied Yoga for fifteen years in Benares under Lasheman-Jhula. He wrote a short booklet on Hatha Yoga in 1925 called ‘The Science of Yoga, Lessons in Personal Development’. He also wrote another longer book on Yoga called ‘Great Masters of the Himalayas’, which is very inspiring. He lived in the mountains of Santa Barbara, CA. As a result of his association with Rishi Gherwal, Yogacharya began to hold Hatha Yoga & Philosophy classes in Detroit & Lansing MI. One of Yogacharya’s extraordinary talents was the ability to find minerals in the ground particularly oil. This was taught to him by Rishi Gherwal. I may be wrong about this, but I also believe Rishi Gherwal taught Yogacharya his famous ‘Salt Water Cocktail’.
Hamid Bey, An Egyptian Coptic, was another spiritual acquaintances of Yogacharya. Hamid Bey lived and traveled through the United States demonstrating his ability to be buried alive and go into suspended animation. He was also a friend of Paramahansa Yogananda and on occasion traveled and demonstrated his unique abilities in conjunction with Paramahansaji’s lectures. He Founded The Coptic Fellowship headquartered near Grand Rapids, MI, through which he published several books such as “My Experiences Preceding 5000 Burials” & “The Art of Meditation”. I was on staff at Song of the Morning Ranch in 1974 when two young coptic men came to the retreat to visit Yogacharya. They were on their way to a Coptic retreat near Traverse City, MI. They said that they had come to visit Mr. Black because he was the most advanced master in the western hemisphere and a member of the White Brotherhood. Who knows about such statements, but it makes for interesting conjecture.