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.