British passport number 348489A was issued in the spring of 1973. The holder was Mr Terrence W. Abbott, a salesman born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, in 1942. The passport photograph shows the face of a man who could be anything from Mexican to Middle Eastern: thick nostrils and a Zapata moustache below smooth, dark hair. He was much travelled, as the stamps in the visa section show. Part of the time he was in the Middle East, flitting in and out of Lebanon. There were also trips to Holland and Sweden. But the stamps stop early in 1975.
Acting on a tip, Italian police arrested Mr Abbott at the Grand Hotel Baglioni in Bologna with his family, in connection with drug trafficking. Their preliminary search after the arrest uncovered a strange coincidence: an American passport in the name of Mr Abbott issued from the American Embassy in London in the late 1960s. To give the puzzle a further international twist, there was also an international driving licence issued in Paris. Telexes and telegrams flowed between Bologna, London and Washington. The man was identified as the long-lost Ronald Stark.
On the face of it, the Italians were dealing with a straightforward smuggling team. Stark was involved with a group of Sicilians in a variation of the now dated methods used by the Brothers. Good-quality cars were stolen abroad and imported into Italy through Palermo with hidden Moroccan and Lebanese hash. Other loads came into Europe through Amsterdam. Stark also negotiated for the use of a yacht to sail cargoes from the Middle East into Italian ports.
But the picture of Stark's activities began to broaden with the discovery of a vial of liquid and a cache of papers kept in a Rome bank deposit box. The vial was sent for forensic examination. The scientists reported back that they could not precisely identify the drug it contained. At best, they put it close to LSD. Perhaps it was the synthetic THC Stark had dreamt of creating; the papers included formulae for the synthesis. There were also plans for the bulk purchase of hemp seeds and calculations for shipments, investments and plant installation. Some of the papers went back to the Brotherhood days but they gave no details of his LSD operations after the Belgian episode. They did show that his range of interests in the drug world had expanded to include narcotics. There were details of the synthesis of cocaine.
Outside Italy, much of Stark's activities lay in the Middle East, as the passport showed. That area was the source for the cargoes moved into Europe, and Stark cultivated contacts in the Lebanon in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. It was widely believed in California that he kept a supply of ergotamine hidden in Lebanon which in those days was the great Bourse of the Arab world. He also had plans for an experimental laboratory to make a substitute for LSD. He became a fixer for at least one of the royal Arab families. Other connections were less aristocratic. Stark travelled widely in the Baalbek region of the country, where the Brothers had bought hash. Among Stark's contacts was Imam Musa Sadr, who apparently possessed semi-feudal control over a section of the Shi-ite branch of the Moslem faith and boasted a personal army of 1,000 men. The area controlled by the Imam was said to include training camps used by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Bordering on Syria, the region offered some safety from the harassment of punitive Israeli raids. The PLO and the Imam were said to live together amicably.
In Italy, Stark often lived in the luxury hotels of Milan, Bologna and other cities. His permanent companion was now an American girl, who had borne him a daughter. Stark's evening haunts, however, belong to another world: dressed in faded jeans and a dirty sweater, he would disappear to the clubs and bars used by young leftwing groups. How this might link with his interests in drugs and his contacts in the Middle East only began to emerge months after his arrest.
Few people outside Italy have heard of Renato Curcio, but very few can fail to have heard of his creation—the Red Brigade. A radical terrorist group on the lines of West Germany's Baader-Meinhof organization, the Red Brigade first appeared in 1972. Within a few years, it had established itself in the industrial cities of northern Italy with a string of attacks including kidnapping, wounding, murder and arson. In 1974, Curcio was caught, then freed by his organization a few months later, and caught again. In the spring of 1976, he was being held in Don Bosco prison in Pisa, awaiting trial. There he made the acquaintance of Ronald Stark, who was also awaiting trial.
In prison Stark was working for the prison barber, to earn pin money. Often a member of prisoners' groups demanding extra rights or comforts, his knowledge of languages had also given him status as an unofficial translator. Despite the strong security measures surrounding Curcio, Stark managed to introduce himself and persuade the terrorist leader to confide in him. Stark must have been able to use the knowledge and names he had gleaned in the backstreet clubs, but there is no clear reason why Curcio should have trusted him, although one man arrested with him claimed that Stark was involved in the escape of two PLO men after an attack on an El Al aircraft in Rome. Yet trust him he did, and so apparently did other Red Brigade members who gave Stark messages to pass on.
A few months before Stark was due to face trial, he asked the prison guards to put him in touch with a lawyer. He was taken to see Pisa's chief attorney. Curcio had told him, Stark claimed, that the chief attorney of Genoa was to be killed by the Red Brigade. There was also a long-term plan to kidnap an important politician who was known to live in Rome.
Whatever their thoughts about Stark's information, the authorities took no chances and moved him to another prison. In June 1976, the chief attorney was indeed killed as a means to halt the trial of Curcio and fifty-two others. A month later, Stark was given fourteen years' imprisonment and a $60,000 fine. No one seems to have taken much notice of his second piece of information. Eighteen months later, Signor Aldo Moro, five times Italian premier, was kidnapped from his Rome home and eventually killed.
Stark's role as informer does not seem to have got back to the Red Brigade. In prison he received postcards from several leading radicals who were living in Paris.
If his connections with the Red Brigade were curious, his performance at his appeal against sentence was equally difficult to fathom. At his trial, Stark had refused to recognize the court. Now he claimed not only that he was not Terence Abbott but that he was not Ronald Stark either. He told his lawyer and the court he was 'Khouri Ali', a Palestinian. The appeal was turned down.
It was just as well because the secret police and the security forces were finally taking a closer look at Stark. What prompted them was the capture of a terrorist who had a hand-drawn map of a guerilla terrorist camp near Baalbek. The map, the man told the police, had come from Stark, and he produced a note in Arabic which was supposed to be a coded introduction. It translated as: 'I would like to see the father of Layla'. Layla was the name of Stark's daughter.
A fresh police investigation was opened and, in October 1978, Stark was charged with 'armed banditry'. Despite a charge bordering on terrorism, seven months later he was a free man, released on parole and living in Florence. The magistrate who gave him parole said: 'Many circumstances suggest that from 1960 onwards Stark belonged to the American secret services.' Stark's own lawyer was less certain but had no real idea who his client was. The prosecutor for the drugs charge felt the whole espionage link was nothing more than the work of a smart confidence trickster who played both sides to his own advantage.
A few weeks after his release, the man who could provide the answers vanished again. Stark simply failed to report to the local police in Florence where he had chosen to stay. Nothing more was heard from him until a letter arrived at the American consul in the city with a note from Stark, returning money he had borrowed. Then silence again.
Which of the Italian lawyers was right? Was Stark, during his years in the drug world, in reality an American agent? Was he feeding back intelligence on the counter culture which the federal agencies were desperate to infiltrate in the late 1960s and early 1970s? Or could he have been a banker investing and transporting money destined for 'black' operations beyond the drug world?
On more than one occasion Stark let slip hints of connections with the espionage world. There was the story about working for the Defense Department, and another that he closed down the French operation through a CIA tip. He began work with the Brothers at just the time when they were involved with the Weathermen in the United States. Equally timely, he was in Paris during the May 1968 riots and haunted the radical fringes of London in the early 1970s, when there was yet another curious example of his interest in radicalism/terrorism.
Two American journalists were working on a feature for Frendz magazine, an anarchistic offshoot of Rolling Stone, on Belfast violence. A rising Provisional IRA man, James McCann, obliged them with copy by trying to firebomb part of Queens University in the town. McCann and the journalists were arrested. The latter were eventually released -but not before a surprising intervention by Stark, who took their London lawyer to lunch at the Oxford and Cambridge Club to discuss their Plight, offering to pay their fees and bail.
In fact the meeting did not lead to anything, but Stark had taken a great interest in Frendz, which was deeply involved in revolutionary politics and was something of a clearing house at the junction between drugs and the other sides of the underground. Stark's interest in McCann certainly contributed to an interest in the American himself by MI5. When Lee began searching for Stark, he found the secret service had been there before him. For McCann, having escaped from jail, set up as a cannabis dealer in Holland to supply the IRA with money for guns. One of the men sent by the British to find out more about him was a former Oxford student called Howard Marks. Perhaps it is only coincidence, but Marks, who set up in his own right as a cannabis dealer, was eventually arrested after dealing with the remnants of the Brotherhood in California.
Stark is one of the figures in the story of the Brotherhood whose origins do not link directly or tenuously back to Millbrook. When the DEA were putting together a case against Stark in 1972, they had great difficulty in pinning down his personal details and were never able to get his FBI file from New York. Their reports in California and the details passed on to Europe only showed what Stark was not, not what he actually was.
The silence was finally ended late in 1982. Stark was arrested in Holland on a charge involving 16 kilos of hashish. In the summer of 1983, he was released from custody and thrown out of Holland where he had claimed to be a Lebanese bound for New York. He was arrested on arrival in the United States on a passport violation and DEA agents began to reconstruct the original San Francisco LSD case against him. They found it impossible to do so after such a long time and Stark was released.
The Esalen Institution is a metaphysical 'human potential' center based out of Big Sur noted for its mineral baths and rotating staff of noted philosophers, artists, psychologists and gurus. It has also attracted any number of fringe elements and potential intelligence assets over the years. Manson was one of the first, who made his way there on August 3rd, 1969, mere days before the Tate killings. Ed Sanders notes:
"Manson had brought his guitar to the Esalen Institute, and later, during his murder trial, told one of the defense attorneys he had been 'rejected' in some way at the Institute. The Esalene had been 'rejected' in some way at the Institute. The Esalen Institute had been founded back in 1962 on the grounds of the old Big Sur Hot Springs, well known to readers of Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac. By 1968 and 1969 it had become popular among middle-class seekers for its seminars and encounter sessions, and feature articles had been written on Esalen in Life and the New York Times Sunday magazine section. Abigail Folger had attended seminars at Esalen, and someone at the house on Cielo Drive had phoned Esalen on the afternoon of July 30, 1969. There was never any indication that anyone from the house of Sharon Tate was at Esalen the weekend that Manson was there."
(The Family, pg. 191)
The 'house on Cielo Drive' is where the Tate murders occurred while Abigail Folger, a member of the coffee dynasty, was one of the victims at that site, for those unaware. Further, there was much more going on at the Esalen Institute than Sanders lets on. Adam Gorightly goes a few steps further, stating:
"... Folger attended Esalen Institute seminars. Process founder Robert DeGrimston lectured at Esalen, and Manson made at least one appearance there, crooning groovy tunes with his guitar to a less than receptive audience... Esalen -like many another human potential center -was co-opted by the intelligence community, to one degree or another, just as Stanford and other universities -funded by the CIA -were using street shamans and anybody else they could get their hands on for experimental purposes, dispensing to them LSD and other drugs under clinical conditions at their research facilities.
"At such human potential centers as Esalen, group 'dissonance' or stress was introduced to destroy an individual's previous beliefs, and to replace the destroyed personality with a new-group oriented personality. These so called 'group encounters' and 'sensitivity programs' were used in much the same way that Manson programmed his flock, systematically breaking down an individual's personality to be reconstructed along the lines of the group-mind. The enigmatic Ronald Stark -big-time LSD entrepreneur and possible MK-ULTRA operative -was an Esalen financial supporter. Keep in mind that many people involved in the human potential movement -who were often bankrolled by CIA front organizations like the Human Ecology Fund -brought good intentions into their endeavors, although there can be no argument that the intelligence community were using the likes of Tim Leary and others of his ilk as test subjects in behavior modification experiments."
(The Shadow Over Santa Susana, pg. 164)
This puts the Esalen Institute in contact with three of the more notorious cults of the late 60s, one obviously being Manson. Another would be the Process Church of Final Judgement, an off-shoot of Scientology, of which Robert DeGrimston was the co-founder of. For the sake of brevity I will not go into the Process Church to much, but will state that they've had links to numerous serial killers over the years, that also included Son of Sam in addition to Manson. Researchers such as Ed Sanders in the original version of The Family and Maury Terry in The Ultimate Evil have speculated that the Process controlled a national crime syndicate that included drug trafficking, kidnapping, and smut films. Others see them as a giant red herring. Either way, Process members rubbed shoulders with their fair share of notorious figures in the 60s and 70s.
The other late 60s cultic group I was referring to in association with Esalen was the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. Timothy Leary, who lectured at Esalen for a time, was their resident guru and was eventually sprung from prison with the Brotherhood's aid. Then there's Ronald Stark, who became the Brotherhood's chief financial backer on his way to becoming one of the largest drug dealers in the world. Then in 1980 he was arrested in Italy, then released by a judge who ruled that he had been under the employment of 'the American secret services' since at least 1960. As previously noted, much more information is available on Stark and the Brotherhood in this article and these two YouTube videos available here and here.
This would hardly be the Esalen Institute's last run-in with convicted murderers, intelligence assets and the bizarre. For instance, it became involved with the phenomenon of 'the Nine' in 1970s. 'The Nine', of which I've written a great length here, were extraterrestrial beings claiming to be the gods of ancient Egypt channelled by a series of individuals such as Andrija Puharich with close ties to the intelligence community. Through Esalen this clique would find itself involved in nothing less than the fall of the Soviet Union, apparently:
"...the Nine, channelled by Jenny O'Connor, were listed as members of staff. According to Einhorn, 'she took over running Esalen through the Nine', and such was the influence of the Nine that they ordered the sacking of its chief financial officer and reorganized the entire management structure. In the late 1970s the Esalen Soviet Exchange program was developed, initially to share parapsychological research, in which rising Soviet stars of academia and politics were invited to the United States. This was to have enormous, far-reaching influence on world politics, as many of the Soviets who went to Esalen in the 1980s were to become instrumental in the shake-up that would end the Cold War and bring about the fall of communism. It is reasonable to assume that an organization whose members made regular trips to Moscow in the days of the Cold War must have been made use of by US intelligence, or at least been monitored. Almost incredibly, several Soviet officials who would later rise to high office in the Gorbachev regime attended Jenny O'Connor's Nine seminars, together with psi enthusiasts Congressman Charlie Rose and Ira Einhorn."
(The Stargate Conspiracy, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, pg. 234)
Simulist wrote:John Lilly was both brilliant and brave. A few of his drug-induced "delusions" might even have served as something of an antidote to the dangerous and frighteningly common delusions that beset us all — IF our entire culture weren't comprised of such a high percentage of cowardly boors who come by their delusions — not as intrepid explorers, but — through an altogether banal process of absorption from the surrounding Petri dish.
American Dream wrote:Leading members of the entheogenic community abound- especially in the first half::
Testimony of Gordon Todd Skinner at Trial
Feb 5, 2003
http://www.neurosoup.com/pickardtrialtr ... I-edit.pdf
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