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Kerista Commune Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 10 Sep 2012

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,

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.

Arrangement of the Collection

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


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.

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.

Subject Headings


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.


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

Genres and Forms

Circulars (fliers)

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.

Table of Contents

Background information



Presmont material

Project files