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Kerista Commune Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Kerista Commune.
Title: Kerista Commune Collection
Inclusive Dates: circa 1971-2008
Quantity: 1 linear ft.
Abstract: Pamphlets, broadsides, fliers, course descriptions, assorted other publications and printed material from the Haight-Ashbury area commune.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
http://scrc.syr.edu

Biographical History

The Kerista Commune was a moderately successful urban commune based in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, existing from 1971 to 1991. Membership varied over the years, but at its largest it was slightly less than 30 men, women and children. Founded by John Presmont (Brother Jud) and Eve Furchgott (Even Eve) in 1971 (though Presmont had founded Kerista as a religion as early as 1956), all members agreed to the same social contract in order to join. Social contract standards ranged from 'Total Rationality at All Times' to 'Clean Up Your Own Mess'. The commune also practiced Gestalt Therapy (members would verbally encounter themselves, friends and sometimes strangers about their neuroses), and communal living and finances. The Commune also practiced polyfidelity (members were faithful to a family group, called a Best Friend Identity Cluster or BFIC, within which they rotated sleeping arrangements), and coined the word "compersion" as "the opposite of jealousy, positive feelings about your partner's other intimacies."

The Commune was based on the idea of independent learning, self-education, and the creative use of technology to find novel solutions to the world's problems. Projects ranged from the simple to the highly ambitious and included self-esteem workshops, creative visualization, drama (Theater Verité, the Cosmic Opera), social justice, assistance for veterans (Presmont was a World War II veteran), free courses and rap groups, formation of a network of intentional communities ("Kerista Global Village"), newsletters and zines (The Storefront Classroom, The Utopian Classroom, Rockhead, The Node, others) and books. Kerista Commune members also formed the executive leadership and held many staff positions of Abacus, Inc, a highly successful Apple computer reseller in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Kerista Commune broke up in 1992, triggered in large part by feelings among many members that Presmont was not holding hiimself to the same standards he demanded of others. Presmont continued his work (incorporated as the World Academy of Keristan Education, or WAKEINC), until he died in 2009.

[Preceding adapted from information on the Kerista Commune website, http://www.kerista.com/

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Kerista Commune Collection consists of pamphlets, broadsides, fliers, course descriptions, and assorted other publications and printed material produced by the Commune and its members.

It is extremely important to bear in mind that many (if not all) of the projects undertaken by the group were interrelated and interwoven, and projects also grew out of, merged with and split from each other over time in an organic manner. In addition, much of the material for a given project was reused, recycled, reissued, recopied, recompiled, and projects sometimes changed names over time. As a result, despite the fact that the collection has been roughly divided by type of material, there is an enormous amount of overlap across the entire collection.

Background information consists of selected items that provide some background information about the Kerista Commune and Jud Presmont. This includes the articles of incorporation for Presmont's post-Kerista organization, the World Academy of Keristan Education; a handbill with the "Basic 17 Standards" for the University of Utopia/Storefront Classroom; a published scholarly article on the commune's practice of polyfidelity; a questionnaire on the commune, and various formal and informal statements on why the commune dissolved.

A small amount of Correspondence includes a few memos from Presmont to the group as well as letters from Presment to John F. Kennedy, Jr. and to the White House Director of Media Affairs.

Newsletters contains scattered issues of two newsletters issued by the commune, Utopian Eyes and Workers' Paradise. (Additional issues of the newsletters have been cataloged and can be located through the Classic Catalog .)

Most of the material produced by the Commune was, unsurprisingly, communally produced and bears no specific author's name. Presmont material contains presentations, slide shows and compilations whose title pages explicitly states that they were written by Jud Presmont. Some of these may date from after Presmont's departure from the group, but this cannot be determined for certain since almost nothing is dated.

Projects contains a wide assortment of material produced by the group, including fliers, brochures, handbills, publications, presentations, summaries, course descriptions, and more. Where items involved a single specific project such as "Gestalt-o-rama" or the Big Rock Candy Mountain Monumental Art Project, they are foldered together. As mentioned above, projects overlapped with each other to a greater or lesser degree. Some of the items were apparently intended as presentations to potential financial backers as they include dollar amounts.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is divided into background information, correspondence, Presmont files and project files. Material within each series is arranged alphabetically.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

A number of books and newsletters have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog and search on "Kerista" to locate these items.

Special Collections Research Center has a number of collections relating to communes, communal living and intentional communities. Please see our subject page on Religious and Utopian Communities for more information.

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Subject Headings

Persons

Aronson, Elliot.
Furchgott, Eve.
Malakh-Pines, Ayala.
Presmont, John P., 1923-2009.

Corporate Bodies

Kerista Commune.
Kerista Tribe.
World Academy of Keristan Education.

Associated Titles

Far out west.

Subjects

Alternative lifestyles -- United States.
Communal living -- California.
Games -- Social aspects.
Games -- Symbolic aspects.
Gestalt therapy.
Group marriage.
Group problem solving.
Non-monogamous relationships.
Polyfidelity.
Problem solving -- Drama.
Self-actualization (Psychology)
Social justice.
Utopian socialism.

Genres and Forms

Circulars (fliers)
Correspondence.
Handbills.
Manifestoes.
Newsletters.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Kerista Commune Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 2012.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 10 Sep 2012
Revision history: 05 May 2015 - bio updated (MRC)

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Inventory

Background information
Box 1 Articles of incorporation for World Academy of Keristan Inc. (WAKEINC) 2003
Box 1 Basic 17 standards - for the University of Utopia / Storefront Classroom Growth Co-op
Box 1 Dissolution - informal reflections on the dissolution of the Commune from Paul Acciavati (email or web posting, unclear), Jud Presmont (cartoon/text), Craig "Salty Keg" Lombardi (newsletter-type statement)
Box 1 Polyfidelity article / Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson 1981
Box 1 Questionnaires - on why the Commune dissolved, includes responses from Presmont
Correspondence
Box 1 From Presmont 1994, 2007-2008, undated - includes letters to John F. Kennedy, Jr. and to Jeff Ellers, White House Director of Media Affairs
Newsletters
Box 1 Utopian Eyes 1979
Box 1 Worker's Paradise 1993, undated
Presmont material
Box 1 Business cards - Jud Presmont business cards
Box 1 Escape to the future game - civic healing, techno-utopia, formation/foundation of "the creative class"
Box 1 Health, happiness and the righteous high - culture sculpture, the World-Brain Module, spiritual utopianism, Business-Driven Peace Corps
Box 1 Holistic collaborative living - University of Utopia, plan to redesign Bay Area and the US Government
Box 1 How do we utopianize the earth? - book outline, "Utopia or Oblivion" cartoon, Movement for Altruistic Social Transformation (MAST)
Box 1 Illusions of grandeur - Social Capital Formation, Keristahill, World War III, University of Utopia, back page has an ad for Bro Jud's cable access show
Box 1 Introduction to a dialog by Revery Presmont Barnes (to my 3 sisters) - attempt by Presmont's daughter to open a dialog with him regarding problems in their relationship, the last four pages are Presmont's response
Box 1 Justice under democracy - personal statement, about Presmont's goals and intention to work with Dr. Richard Burton at the San Francisco V.A. Hospital
Box 1 Operation Snowball - "A musical comedy in multimedia"
Box 1 Operation Transformation
Box 1 The philosophy of Bro. Jud Presmont - collection of one-page "statements," many of which appear elsewhere
Box 1 Proactive homeland security project - "diligent and vigilant security utilizing citizen involvement"; Neo-pragmatism, artistic homeland security, gaming towards Utopia, Scientific Utopian News Syndicate
Project files
Box 1 Abacus Community - aka the Egalitarian Futurists Alliance; "prosperity plan" and some printed envelopes
Box 1 Big Rock Candy Mountain monumental art project - mission statement, Wonderland of Knowledge Multimedia Interactive Electronic Encyclopedia, "gold collar" workers
Box 1 Far Out West: The first utopian comic strip (photocopy) - underground comic originally published in 1975 or 1976, featuring the character Polly Morfus; written and drawn by Even Eve
Box 1 Gestalt-o-rama / Gestalt-o-drama - 88 basic standards; polyamory research network; fantasy theatre; brochures; etc.
Box 1 Jud play, by Joanne Devivo - 6-page script of a discussion between characters on "how to live the utopian dream"
Box 1 KATCHNEST (Kibbutz/Ashram-Type Communal Habitat as a Neotribal Educational Systems Trust) - "The Largest Planned Intelligent Housing Project...Utopian Estate Networks...a world-brain module set inside a larger world-brain context"
Box 1 Kerista Global Village - Operation Give-Back; overview of phases; Knowledge Navigator Teams; Craig Lombardi of Tucson is listed as second contact
Box 1 Library Sciences Research Project - Health Education Library for Patients (HELP); Global Peace Gaming Research; Research Revolution Frontier; Veterans with a Vision
Box 1 Mayors' Task Force on Creative Innovation - not in fact an actual task force but rather "a three-act musical comedy" involving the Museum of Utopian Art and a Business-Driven Peace Corps; includes several lengthy presentations / slide shows
Box 2 North California Rocco Siffredi Fan Club - overcoming sexual ignorance, sexual fantasy as tool for creative visualization, etc.
Box 2 Presmont Plan - three lengthy presentations / slide shows
Box 2 Solutions Building - plan for a creation of "a hub to serve the citizens of all neighborhoods"; issues mentioned include homelessness, volunteeres, storefront classrooms, etc.
Box 2 Theater Verite - "the Cosmic Opera"; "a new social invention which connects, networks and augments 52 million householders in America"; four lengthy presentations / slideshows
Box 2 Veterans - "Veterans with a Vision"; affordable housing for veterans
Box 2 World Academy of Keristan Education (WAKEINC) - overview, explanation
Box 2 Miscellaneous - single-page fliers, brochures, broadsides, handbills, etc on a wide variety of topics, courses, events, etc.

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