The Process Church of the Final Judgment was one of the more enigmatic of the Aquarian-age neo-Jesus cults to bubble up from the psychic well of the 1960s.
It is my belief that there are points in history when societal structures — cultural mores, spiritual tenets, control apparatuses — go haywire, resulting in a funhouse reflection of human behavior. At times like these, distortions appear in the patterns of the mundane, creating a seasick feeling in all but those willing to indulge in the existential pandemonium. The ’60s and early ’70s were such times, and I dare say we’re on the cusp of a new freak-out. I mean, just look at the teabaggers, populist Christianites, elite fundamentalists and wrath-addled “patriots.” Something is fucking happening out there, and it ain’t flower-power.
As George W. Bush, disgraced saint of Manifest Destiny 2.0 once said, “bring ’em on.” But I digress.
The Process Church was an offshoot of Scientology, formed by a pair of L. Ron Hubbard-worshiping lovers named Robert DeGrimston and Mary Anne MacLean. Like any sensible cult leader, Hubbard did not tolerate splinter groups that might siphon off his followers, so he declared DeGrimston and MacLean “suppressive persons.” By doing so, he inadvertently midwifed one of the most fascinating counter-culture cults of the era.
Occult historian Gary Lachman (who we’ve written about before) published a summary history of The Process, which is a good place to start learning about the movement and the cultural context that fueled its ascendancy.
The Process took the idea of hippie “love” to a creatively cosmological level. At heart, it’s not really all that different from the reconciliation of opposites described by Carl Jung and countless alchemists and magicians. But let’s skip the hocus-pocus for a minute and look at what Process theology actually represented. The Church believed in theurgical henosis, which is to say, they sought to syncretize the Three Great Gods of the Universe (four, if you count Christ, their emissary): Jehovah, Lucifer and Satan. By flower-power logic, loving everyone necessarily includes loving the Adversary. “Come Together,” dig?
Here’s the breakdown, cribbed from Wikipedia:
- Jehovah, the wrathful God of vengeance and retribution, demands discipline, courage and ruthlessness, and a single-minded dedication to duty, purity and self-denial.
- Lucifer, the Light Bearer, urges us to enjoy life to the full, to value success in human terms, to be gentle and kind and loving, and to live in peace and harmony with one another. Man’s apparent inability to value success without descending into greed, jealousy and an exaggerated sense of his own importance, has brought the God Lucifer into disrepute. He has become mistakenly identified with Satan.
- Satan, the receiver of transcendent souls and corrupted bodies, instills in us two directly opposite qualities; at one end an urge to rise above all human and physical needs and appetites, to become all soul and no body, all spirit and no mind, and at the other end a desire to sink beneath all human codes of behavior, and to wallow in a morass of violence, lunacy and excessive physical indulgence. But it is the lower end of Satan’s nature that men fear, which is why Satan, by whatever name, is seen as the Adversary.
In the original 1960s literature of the church, Christ, Lucifer, Satan, and Jehovah were all arranged on a mandala, with Christ at the top opposite Satan on the bottom and Jehovah on the left opposite Lucifer on the right.
In between these Three Great Gods and man, is an entire hierarchy of Gods, beings and superbeings, angels and archangels, demons and archdemons, elementals and guides, and fallen angels and watchers.
The main doctrine of The Process is the unity of Christ and Satan, who exist as opposites. Jehovah and Lucifer exist as opposites and when Christ and Satan are united this will unite Jehovah and Lucifer.
The Process folks had a lovely eye for design and editorial, borne out by their groovy newsletter, which featured contributions from luminaries like Marianne Faithfull, George Clinton, Mick Jagger and everyone’s favorite boogeyman, Charles Manson. And, like any successful cult, they knew how to recruit. At its peak, The Process had chapters in a number of metropolitan areas, where members did all manner of “good works” while stealthily indoctrinating noobs.
After the Manson Family killings, the Church began to suffer from bad press. Later, an unfounded connection to “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz further damaged their reputation. DeGrimston, getting more and more into the Satanic side of the cult’s cosmology, was ousted. Mary Anne MacLean divorced him and started — along with her loyal followers — a more traditional Jesus sect called the Foundation Faith of the Millennium. At some point, MacLean realized that you can raise more money through social appeals, and her group eventually became the Best Friends Animal Society — a multi-million dollar nonprofit that even has a show on the National Geographic Channel. Perhaps this is a way to atone for the cult’s previous engagement in the gory sacrifice of dogs?
DeGrimston supposedly got a job with AT&T. I’m guessing he runs the company’s joint venture with the NSA.
Although the original Process Church archives were destroyed following the great schism, if you do a little digging on the interwebs, you’ll find some fascinating documents, like these crypto-Satanic missives by DeGrimston. And, if you’re ready for the cult motherlode, check out this PDF of more than 500 Process internal documents, uploaded by someone calling themselves “Process Friend.”
My renewed interest in The Process comes via a Contrarian supporter who tipped me off about a new book on the notorious Feral House imprint called Love Sex Fear Death: the Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment. I purchased it this morning, and am very much looking forward to reading it.
This Christmas, why not take a moment to consider the origins of the holiday you’re celebrating? You may be surprised at where you end up…