The Last Alchemist: A Cover Story Interview With Art Kunkin From The June 2008 Issue Of The English Magazine, Fortean Times
The Last Alchemist
(Fortean Times, Issue #235, June 2008)
Mark Berry meets Art Kunkin, self-styled ‘King of the Hippies’, and discovers that, far from having abandoned his Sixties ideals, the legendary creator of The Los Angeles Free Press is gearing up for immortality.
“I would have shown you Timothy Leary’s ashes, but I think I’ve lost them,” admits metaphysical guru Art Kunkin. “Or maybe they’ve been stolen. I’m sure they’ll turn up.”
The sprightly 79-year-old points in the direction of a huge pile of papers and a three foot-high golden statue of Buddha where the remains of the legendary counterculture figure were last seen. The creator of The Los Angeles Free Press, the broadsheet paper first published in 1964 and considered by many as the original Beatnik Bible, now lives tucked away in a trailer at The Institute of Mentalphysics, a heady retreat in the hippie mecca of Joshua Tree, California. Surrounded by a mountain of literature, folk records, laboratory equipment and spiritual paraphernalia, Art studies alchemical science while continuing to write on social and political concerns.
Known affectionately by its jazz cigarette-smoking coffee house readership as ‘The Freep,”the LA Free Press was one of the most widely distributed underground newspapers of the Sixties (eventually circulating 120,000 copies a week). It broke journalistic ground by rigorously questioning the the actions of the government, promoting personal freedoms such as the legalization of marijuana and being actively involved in all the major left-wing counter-cultural movements, from Civil Rights to Vietnam. The Free Press championed Timothy Leary’s experimentation with psychedelic drugs and boasted the likes of boozy Charles Bukowski as one of its regular columnists. Its 20,000- strong fundraising concerts, complete with clouds of cannabis, featured the Mothers of Invention’s first live performance and the paper was responsible for spawning LA’s Beatnik coffee scene by having its office in the back of a smoky café on Sunset Strip.
The Freep was the kind of paper that published a list of all the narcotic agents in California (complete with home addresses).However, when sued both by California (for $25 million) and the Narcs for invasions of privacy, Art took the whole sorry mess to the Supreme Court to somehow emerge as a triumphant victor.
For the last 30 years though, Art has been continuing the Sixties quest for spiritual enlightenment through his chemical laboratory research – not through narcotics but by studying alchemy in the hope of discovering the Philosopher’s Stone, the legendary substance that was reputedly capable of turning base metals into gold and unlocking the door to immortality.
His quest began in 1980, when he traveled on a journalistic assignment to Salt Lake City to interview the alchemist Frater Albertus at the Paracelsus Research Society. So impressed was he with that alchemist’s experiments, Art joined the famed school, which boasted that it provided access to teachings previously available only to members of secret societies as the Rosicrucians. Then he became editor of the alchemical journal produced by PRS.
“Frater Albertus – Brother Albert, Frater is a Latin word coming from the Rosicrucian tradition – was teaching how to make herbal medicines in a totally different way,” explains Art. “His idea was that if you made a separation of the components of a plant and were still capable of preserving its life energy, then at the end of it you would not only wind up with a medicine, you would end up with something alive, an alchemical Herbal Stone. The whole theory of alchemy is that the principle of life can be found in its simplest form in the mineral kingdom – that minerals are really alive and evolve one into another. If you can extract this life principle from a mineral, then you could change one metal into another through a transmutation. Then you could process this life principle further into a medicine to rejuvenate the human body. This is the Philosopher’s Stone.”
“For thirty years, I collected a library of 1,000 alchemical books and I experimented, replicating the methods written about in ancient documents. But nothing was successful. I then worked with mercury, lead and antimony (the latter features heavily in the works of medieval alchemist monks) and still nothing. The one thing that really kept me interested in alchemy in all these discouraging years was a book I found called "Biological Transmutations" (Louis Kervran), and this spoke of a metallic transmutation using soil bacteria. In replicating Kervran's work, I used a soil bacteria called Leptothrix that I found in a puddle at the UCLA campus and then pure cultured. After feeding these bacteria some manganese, the manganese turned into iron. I successfully accomplished this experiment twice, the second time with the help of the Hughes research laboratory, and from that time on there was little I wanted to do other than learn and master Alchemy.”
Although the would-be alchemist had been successful in using soil bacteria to transmute manganese into iron (a result he discovered was also achieved by the U.S. Army at a Virginia laboratory when it was researching new batteries; the transmutation produces surplus energy), Art isn’t interested in getting rich with mountains of precious metals. Now that he is 80 years old, he’s more concerned with extending human life and invigorating his body with new energy.
Incredibly, by pulling together the strands of his research, he now believes he has created the mythical Philosopher’s Stone, and for the last year has been preparing and eating a special herbal medicine with startling results. Art has just released an e-Book, "Alchemy, The Secret of Immortality Finally Revealed," so that whole world can have the chance to live forever. He maintains that the public disclosure of this incredibly beneficial information means that politicians who would want to keep this longevity information for their own private use are less likely to try and bump him off.
“I’m almost 100 per cent sure I’ve succeeded,” he beams, with a youthful glint in his eye. “Two years ago, I got an email from Albert Cau, a French professor of chemistry who wanted to share his work with me. He was working with a mineral that no alchemist had looked at, because it was a radioactive mineral, and there was no basis for the alchemists in the Middle Ages or earlier to even detect radioactivity. Gold and platinum miners would dig this mineral and throw it away. It’s called Pitchblende and consists of uranium oxide. It looks like an ordinary rock of absolutely no commercial value but is giving off low-level radiation. Non-ionizing radiation is all around us, mainly from the Sun, and radiation is probably responsible for how life originally developed from the energy in inorganic minerals like this.”
“I also researched the works of Zechariah Sitchin. He is a scientific researcher who found evidence that long ago on Earth some people had knowledge of radiation. It’s bizarre, but Sitchin believes that there is historical reality behind the Sumerian documents of 8,000 years ago that speak of people coming from another planet in our solar system and needing a workforce to mine gold. These Sumerian documents speak about these "aliens" genetically mixing seed from a male animal already existing on Earth with seed from a woman on the spaceship. Sitchin points out that the advanced scientists who could do this advanced genetic experimentation also knew about radiation. Sitchin observes that these 8,000 year old documents also shows that these aliens evidently conducted wars with each other using nuclear weapons. In his books, Sitchin even shows photographs of the vitrified glass characteristic of a nuclear explosion that were taken at the site of one of these ancient wars. It’s totally anachronistic, (all of this presumably taking place at the very beginning of human history and then recorded by the Sumerian slaves of the "aliens."). Sitchin even reproduces Sumerian drawings that show the use of radioactive instruments and radioactive healing.”
“If this is correct, this would be how alchemy and legends of transmutations and immortality first started with humans observing a master race,” surmises Art. “These alchemical legends speak of beings who made the Stone and lived for 1,000 years. Evidently, at some point, there was even someone traveling around medieval Europe doing demonstrations of metallic transmutations. There are museums that actually contain alchemical gold. This is metal that obviously hasn’t been mined, gold with a different specific gravity. There are objects made out of this and nobody has been able to explain this. My theory is that if an ancient civilization existed where nuclear energy and genetic work were known, this knowledge may eventually have become the property of human priests who transmitted it from one generation to another until finally it got lost. That knowledge was passed on through ancient Egypt and various clandestine societies like the Gnostics and Rosicrucians and Freemasons until the secrets of Pitchblende and radiation were lost.”
“In recent years, scientific evidence has accumulated showing that low-level doses of radiation could be beneficial rather than harmful to the human body. An article in National Geographic of January 2004 revealed that a number of purported ‘miracle cures’ were happening in underground mines in Montana. Doctors in Montana are even signing medical prescriptions permitting people to sit inside those mines for several hours a day to improve their health by exposure to the radiation produced by the radon gas found there, a radiation far higher than government safety standards.”
“There is a lot of research that a certain level of radiation is good for you – like homeopathy where a large amount of a substance can be deadly but a tiny amount of that same substance can heal,” notes Art. “A very small amount of radiation greater than normal background radiation seems to be healthy for the human body. For example, researchers have discovered that in Japan there are pockets of people who are super healthy although, obviously, many people died from the atomic explosions there. Evidently, these healthy people received only an increased level of radiation that was healing but not enough to injure or kill them. Then there are the spas in Europe where people have been bathing for hundreds of years because of the healing properties of that water. Up until now those healings were thought to occur because of the sulphur in the heated waters. But all those baths are now advertised in Europe as containing radioactivity. I have been accumulating brochures from these spas showing this advertising.”
In his studies, Art found that the U.S. Army’s research into the mechanism by which soil bacteria turned manganese into iron focused on the mitochondria inside the cells of the bacteria. Mitochondria are the organelles in all living cells that use the ever present low-level radiation in the environment to create adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the substance used by living cells as the energy for metabolism. Art combined this modern scientific insight with his knowledge that the ancient alchemical texts speak of a ‘secret fire’ necessary to create the Philosopher’s Stone and that this Stone was eaten in the form of fruit. So Art began experimenting with adding applies and pears into the Pitchblende concoction.
“It’s a very simple procedure. I have a jug full of Pitchblende rocks and I put a pear or apple in. I’ve been eating a piece of this fruit every week for nearly a year now, taking a risk at this point because I really don’t know how strong the radioactivity is. The latest theory of aging has to do with mitochondria, saying that while they are the source of life and energy for the body, they also kill each other off in the process of producing the ATP. What I am assuming is that the radiation is affecting the mitochondria inside the still living apples or pears that are in my jug, helping those mitochondria to be healthy and reproductive . Then when I eat this fruit, I am absorbing healthy mitochondria that transmit their energy to my mitochondria, a process of adding life energy to my body from the inside out. This is an energetic process far different from that of simply replacing depleted chemicals in our body by eating food or vitamins or using medicinal hormones. I explain in my book the exact safe methods by which I handle this otherwise dangerous radiation."
The modern-day alchemist says he’s achieved some startling results. Already sporting a thicker head of hair than the average 20-year-old, Art now claims it grows twice as fast. So do his fingernails. He’s admittedly a workaholic, but Art's everyday energy has now increased to the point where he has been known to work at his computer for 30 hours straight without eating or sleeping. With one previous purported owner of a Philosopher’s Stone being the infamous Count St Germain (who hinted at being centuries old; see Fortean Times 146:40-44), perhaps this freethinking mover and shaker may now have all the necessary tools to complete the task started by his progressive Flower Power peers back in the Sixties. But in a world of war and injustice, why would a peace-loving hippie want to live indefinitely.
“One of our problems is that people die when they are just getting mature. Our lifetimes are just too short. Hopefully, if we can become more adult then we have the time in which our social problems can be solved. If I’m right, the Philosopher’s Stone is going to cause a lot of social problems. If people live for 200 years or more, overpopulation may be a result – the system of capitalism is going to have to change. Our present politicians are like immature children. I anticipate that if older and hopefully wiser people are available to be our representatives, that we can have a more peaceable and just world.”
It’s commendable that Art continues to pursue the hippie ideals of his Free Press heyday while so many of his peers have exchanged pot for profit, renouncing their peace-and-love dreams for lives of capitalistic excess. Art describes his position as the editor and creator of ‘The Freep’ as being in the center of a spider’s web, feeling the impulses of the underground culture and collecting Beat writers and anti-establishment legends like flies. Firm friends with figureheads like Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, Are and his ‘Freep’ were in the thick of every historical events of the Sixties. It was a paper of record, existing in a time of political demonstrations by students, the growth of the feminist and anti-war movement and experiments with psychedelic drugs like LSD. “I was the King of the Hippies,” he declares. Although Art lost financial control of the LA Free Press in 1980, the radical broadsheet is now back in the hands of its creator, once again tackling the issues of the day and acting as a catalyst for social change.
With a bell jar brimming with herbal medicine that might prolong his life indefinitely, who can say how much more the septuagenarian Art Kunkin might still accomplish.
http://www.artkunkin.com/ (Art's bi-monthly blog)
Author Biography: Mark Berry is an English writer, photographer and graphic designer currently carving an outré niche as the LA Editor for Bizarre and freelancing for SFX, Darkside, and The Guardian. He irregularly produces and edits Naked-Magazine of The Weird and Wonderful, and formerly was film programmer at Bristol’s maverick microplex, The Cube Cinema.