Alessandro Papa’s excellent new book, The Process: Archives, Documents, Reflections and Revelations, is an indispensable addition to the small number of publications devoted to the 60s apocalypse cult, The Process Church of the Final Judgement.
When I say small, I refer only to the handful of books—well, three—that includes Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment and Propaganda and the Holy Writ of The Process Church of the Final Judgment, both published by Feral House in recent years, along with William S. Bainbridge’s sociological study of the organization, Satan’s Power: A Deviant Psychotherapy Cult, which came out in 1978. Not a lot.
The Process is the subject of fascination for many people—I’m one of them—because of how dark their theology was, and a desire to understand what caused the well-educated middle class members to join up with such a group in the first place. What weirdos! Although they appeared at first blush to be a Satan-worshipping cult—something Ed Sanders’ lurid Manson book The Family is partially to blame for—this view is very widely off the mark. The Processean tenants sought to harmonize the notion of the Christian eschaton with the carnage the cult’s young adherents had literally been born into, the bombed out ruins of post-WWII Europe. Christ would return and team up with Satan for the final judgement of mankind. After what had just gone down, would this have seemed so incredibly far-fetched? In this sense, the poetic Process theology, most of it coming via the inspired pen of the group’s charismatic leader, Robert DeGrimston, was firmly grounded in Judeo-Christian imagery and the thanatonic impulses of eschatological beliefs in general.
DeGrimston’s “Game of the Gods” described a universe where Lucifer, Satan and Jehovah battle it out on a cosmic chess board where we—and all of history—are just their pawns. This idea of the trio’s endtime “unity” comes from a not-so-esoteric reading of The Book of Revelation. I’m not saying this is exactly the same sort of energy that’s been channeled into the Left Behind book series, but there IS a certain similar impulse at play. Christians LOVE them a little end of the world, right, so how surprising would it be that something like The Process would sprout up in postwar Britain, where the participants were probably all raised as Christians? (This is a very difficult thing to shake, as many of you reading this can no doubt attest to.) That Charles Manson’s prophecy of a coming race war would find inspiration in DeGrimston’s end of the world sermonizing isn’t that surprising, either.
The thing is, I think people who are fascinated by the Process want them to be “darker” than they actually were. Based on the dramatic—indeed the infernal—prose of DeGrimston, they probably expect to find “rites” or Crowleyan sex magick rituals, when the reality was much closer to a “Jesus freak” coffee house with newsletters, folk singers and veggie burgers. Setting aside any “mindfucking” that authoritarian cults tend to engage in, viewed in retrospect, the Processeans actually seem pretty tame, an ascetic, gentle and devotional lot.
Papa’s book makes good use of his extensive collection of Process memorabilia. As the shadowy cult’s narrative history unfolds, he is able to refer to, quote from extensively and even reproduce from the vast amount of literature they produced. In doing so, Papa is able to give his readers an accurate picture of what actually transpired, cleaving the myth from the history and presenting the most objective portrait of The Process yet, even when it can be a little goofy.
The Process: Archives, Documents, Reflections and Revelations has been published in a limited edition of just 555 copies. You can order it from End of Kali-Yuga editions via eBay.
Below, a 2010 interview that I conducted with former Process member and author, Timothy Wylie