Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment by Timothy Wyllie, edited by Adam Parfrey, from Feral House.
I had previously read W.S. Bainbridge’s study of the Process Church, titled Satan’s Power, in my quest for information on this fascinating cult with roots in Scientology, Christian apocalypticism, and Western occultism. While Bainbridge’s book was helpful, and probably the best account in print at that time, the Feral House multiple memoir and archival anthology Love Sex Fear Death totally puts it in the shade by furnishing insider dope from a variety of personal perspectives, along with organizational literature, glossy color propaganda reproductions, and photos of key players.
The words of the title, while seeming to offer two independent clauses in the imperative mood, were titles of four themed issues of The Process magazine, which have their cover art and various contents reproduced in the second part of this book. Roughly the first half of the volume is the Processean memoir of Timothy Wyllie, onetime designer and editor of The Process, an early and enduring member who was part of the group’s inner circle, but who—according to his own account—always occupied a marginal position relative to the group’s social core and theological identities. Following Wyllie’s piece are an assortment of shorter reflections and reports from former Processeans. Between these and the archival reprints, there is an essay by Genesis P-Orridge regarding the Process Church influence on TOPY, and the ways in which TOPY history reflected its predecessor.
Reading these stories certainly de-glamorized the Process for me to a considerable degree, I had less sympathy for their internal practices and mores than brief previous exposures had led me to think I would. The Process Church of the Final Judgment is a sort of “kissing cousin” to Thelema, as demonstrated by their harmonization in TOPY, and by the fact that the first chartered master of an O.T.O. camp of my acquaintance was a former Processean with very fond memories of his time in the Process. They paid their wry respects to the Beast in various events and publications, and their psychological theories were keyed to the work of Adler, whom Crowley noted as the best of the psychoanalytic pioneers of his own period. The Process was also a notable feature of the Chicago counterculture, having had a conspicuous presence in this area from their first efforts to spread in the US (circa 1970) until the eventual quiet implosion of their successor group the Foundation in 1976.
Still, the old Process literature continues to impress with its bravura. The archival materials here also include sheet music for some charming Processean liturgical tunes, like “Christ and Satan Joined in Unity.” The varied memoirs, while sometimes pointing up the shortcomings of the organization and its leaders, still show the nobility of the aspirations among the membership, and their ability to benefit from radical social experimentation. This is an excellent collection for anyone interested in new religious movements generally, and the countercultural moment of the 1960s and 70s particularly. [via]