COLUMN EIGHTY-TWO, JANUARY 15, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
MYSTIC IN PARADISE
[Lionel Rolfe is the author of the just released third edition of Literary L.A. He also wrote Fat Man on the Left and Art Kunkin: Mystic in Paradise.]
My old coffeehouse buddy
from the coffeehouses of the "60s who started the Underground Press Movement
when he began publishing the Los Angeles Free Press is a metaphysical guru who
lives in the high desert these days.
If you lived in Los Angeles
during those heady years, you might remember the Free Press, which was
also affectionately known as the Freep. The seed money for the paper was
put up by Steve
He resides in a trailer
surrounded by his books and records and 400 acres of high desert at The
Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree. Some nearby sheds and an abandoned
farmhouse are his satellite facilities for storing his books and papers.
The institute has a number
of beautiful auditoriums, meditation centers and lodging, some of which were
designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Art regularly lectures there on 'turning Lead
But the work for which he
has a particular passion is bringing together
a multimillion dollar grant to house his material in a real library.
Art's library is not limited to the underground press; it includes rare copies
of books on alchemy dating back to the 1600s. History, politics, philosophy,
medicine, science and metaphysics are covered in great depth in his collection.
He wants to create a state-of-the-art digital interactive library for the
edification of future generations.
Although the Free Press
is preserved on microfilm at various repositories, he has many of the actual
negatives from which more than 100,000 copies of the paper were printed each
week and, unlike today's so-called alternative papers, were sold for a quarter
when the Los Angeles Times was
Today's claim by the alternative press
that it descended from the Underground Press Movement is a vague claim---besides
today's alternative press has to give their
papers away while readers contributed a good share of the cost of publishing
papers like the Free Press.
Those were heady
times---the civil rights struggle and then the anti-war movement which
characterized the "60s and early "70s.The Free Press was not only the
nation? first underground
The paper struggled along until the riots on Sunset Strip, and
suddenly the hippy paper was sometimes more influential than the Times.
It did so by the simple expedience of telling the truth.
People liked the new kind
of journalism. They were tired of the Big Lie told by the status quo. Kunkin
said that the reason his paper prospered so was because he sensed the coming
You may laugh, but I worked at the old Free Press and got a weekly paycheck more or less on time, and a fairly good one at that. The paper had incredible readership and got its good
not to tell you'
called them in. The city's establishment came to tremble at the paper's
power. And everyone in town read and talked about it each week.
Those days are forever
gone. Now Art reads the Times, mainly
to find out which of his old Marxist comrades has died. He attributes the fact
that he's still going when many of them are not to their inability to develop
After the Freep, he
first turned up as a journalism professor at Cal State University, Northridge.
Then he was president of the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles (on
Kunkin insists he has not
lost his political concerns. But there are also other things, and says most of
his former fellow politicos just couldn't understand that.
He's equally harsh on his
"Most are charlatans, but
a few of them really have it, are the real thing."
Kunkin, who was a close
friend of Timothy Leary, thinks Uri Geller "has it," for example.
Kunkin does not feel the
political situation is really as hopeless as it now looks.
"Dynasties like the
Bushes? are loosing their grip---and partly it's because the American people
are much more conscious than they used to be," he insists.
And he includes
fundamentalists Christians in that. He believes when someone proclaims Christ as
their savior, that is a legitimate expansion of their consciousness.
He says people just have to
be educated to understand that they don't need Jesus to obtain consciousness,
and eventually more enlightenment.
Kunkin dates his becoming
metaphysical from the early "70s, when he was under incredible strain, trying
to keep the Freep alive. After he published the home addresses of various
state narcotics agents (who were busy framing and busting often-times innocent
people for political reasons), he was jailed, no one would print the paper, and
just to blow off some steam he disappeared to the Mexican border with a young
woman, and did drugs and other tantric things in a motel room for several days.
It was when Kunkin was
offered an all-expenses paid junket to San Francisco to attend a mind control
event that he became a convert to the metaphysical. After some powerful
Do the Tibetans believe in
reincarnation? He was asked this question by my friend Mary Elizabeth Raines, a
hypnotist by trade, who accompanied me to the desert.
This gave Kunkin a chance
to explain that the Tibetans don't believe in reincarnation in the sense that
the term is usually understood. After death, most of the energies, from the
emotional to the intellectual, return to take other life forms, but the specific
individual is not returned---except in very rare cases.
A few anointed souls are
able to transform their soul into another body, he says.
He explains that is not
something to be taken lightly. He prefers not even to mention the name of the
process for fear it will be published in any article I write.
But there is an ancient way
of doing such things, he assures us.
"And it has a name, I
just prefer not to tell you."
On the other hand, if you take one of his courses, you might convince him to tell you the name of the process by which to obtain immortality. ##
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