“Sometimes you have to lose your mind to gain your soul”: a magazine ad for America Eats Its Young
One of the most enigmatic aspects of Funkadelic’s career is the group’s short-lived association with the Process Church of the Final Judgment. The occult organization, which provided the liner notes to Funkadelic’s third and fourth albums, achieved notoriety after Ed Sanders devoted a chapter to it in The Family, tying the Process to Charles Manson. The Process sued Sanders’ publisher and succeeded in having the offending chapter removed from subsequent editions of The Family, but the lawsuit seems only to have intensified suspicions that the Process was hiding something about its relationship with Manson.
So not everyone thought the Process was groovy in 1972. Critic Robert Christgau slammed Funkadelic for their association with the Process in his review of America Eats Its Young:
[Funkadelic’s] racial hostility is much preferable to the brotherhood bromides of that other Detroit label, but their taste in white people is suspect: it’s one thing to put down those who “picket this and protest that” from their “semi-first-class seat,” another to let the Process Church of the Final Judgment provide liner notes on two successive albums. I overlooked it on Maggot Brain because the music was so difficult to resist, but here the strings (told you about their taste in white people), long-windedness (another double-LP that should be a single), and programmatic lyrics (“Miss Lucifer’s Love” inspires me to mention that while satanism is a great antinomian metaphor it often leads to murder, rape, etc.) leave me free to exercise my prejudices.
The liner notes to Maggot Brain consist of a lengthy quotation from the “Fear” issue of Process magazine, and America Eats Its Young reproduces the text of a Process “sermon” about America. A taste of the latter:
What is missing? What does America need most? What are her children lacking? How can we banish evil? What can we give to our enemies? Who is Satan? Christ help us: we are lost, lost in our fury, lost in our blame, lost in our apathy, Call to us, call to us!
What can we give to our enemies?
Love? Love our enemies? Love Satan? Love Satan?????
Copy from the America Eats Its Young ad campaign
A few details about how Funkadelic hooked up with the Church of the Final Judgment have come to light in two brief and contradictory firsthand accounts. Process member Timothy Wyllie mentions Clinton’s association with the church in his 2009 memoir Love, Sex, Fear, Death. As Wyllie recalls, the connection was made in Toronto:
George Clinton, the genius behind Funkadelic, became briefly enamored with our beliefs and reprinted one of Robert’s magazine editorials in his album Maggot Brain. Father Malachi made the initial contact and I recall our both spending a fascinating afternoon with George Clinton in a Toronto recording studio. I remember being surprised and impressed by the depth of the man’s intelligence, knowing the outrageous flamboyance of his performances with Funkadelic.
Better still, Clinton himself opens up about the relationship with the Process Church in his 2014 memoir, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?. He says they met not in Toronto, but in Boston:
There was a group called the Process Church that had been founded by a British couple as an offshoot of Scientology, and in the late sixties they started hanging out with the band, mainly in Boston. They would feed the kids in Boston Common and they ran what was basically the first day-care center that I can remember, offering to watch children when mothers went to work. We ended up excerpting some of their thinking in the Maggot Brain liner notes, which seemed fine at the time—it was a form of self-actualization, not an uncommon or unpopular philosophy at the time. We did the same thing for America Eats Its Young, but with far different results. In the summer of 1969, a career criminal (and part-time songwriter) named Charles Manson led a band of followers on a killing spree in upscale residential neighborhoods in Los Angeles, murdering a number of people, including Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate. The killers were under the influence of a crazy-quilt mythology that somehow tied together the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” race war, and Satan worship. There was some thought that Manson had drawn on some of the writings of the Process Church. I thought there was a difference—he talked about something called the Final Church of Judgment, and the group hanging around with us was the Church of Final Judgment—but this was probably too fine a distinction for a public still trying to get a handle on a killing spree. Rolling Stone gave us a hard time for the association in their review.
There were real-life consequences, too. Right around the time we finished up this record, we were out in California. Half of the band must have gotten the same pussy, so one by one they went off to the clinic. Fuzzy Haskins had a bad reaction to the shot, and having heard on the radio all day about the Family murders, he started rambling about the band right there in the clinic, explaining how we weren’t connected to Manson at all but somehow, in his not-entirely-coherent monologue, making it seem like maybe we were. We were strangers in California at that time. People didn’t know shit about us. We looked weird, and we had weird ideas. The notion that we had anything to do with Manson caused a tremendous problem for a little while.
“A Joyful Process” from America Eats Its Young