Sunday, June 7, 2009

130. New book on the Process Church by Timothy Wylie

Feral House’s Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgment by Timothy Wylie, et al. has finally been published in the U.S. See or

For me the book was an overall disappointment. Granted, since I am working on a book about Krishna Venta, and since my book includes a section exploring the question of whether Charles Manson’s “Helter Skelter” (if indeed such was really his) was influenced by the Process, Krishna Venta, or neither, I read the book with an agenda. Namely, I read it hoping it might offer some insight into this question.

All I can say is that I was disappointed to see that, even forty years after the fact, Wylie (who offers the lengthiest essay in Love Sex Fear Death) sticks so firmly to the official Process party line. (I was also disappointed to see that the big “revelation” of this book is that Mary Ann MacLean, and not her husband Robert De Grimston, was the leader of Process. It’s fun, though, to read about how MacLean was such a manipulative and egotistical psycho bitch.)

In any event, since the Process is remembered solely because of the Manson allegations, this “review” of the book focuses on Manson’s appearances in it:

1. The "Images" section of the book, which covers 82 pages, includes “From Manson to Muggeridge” – the infamous article from the Process’ magazine which contains original quotations from Manson.

2. pp. 56-57 - "We lauded the extremes of human experience and were exploring the often taboo aspects of subjects like death, fear and sex. We had little thought for the long-term effects of what we were promoting. So much so that when the Ed Sanders book and the articles associating us with the Manson killings started appearing, we were baffled and appalled. How could anyone have thought we would have anything to do with Manson, or the murders? We had never met the man, nor to our knowledge did he ever visit our Coffee House in San Francisco even though, as is frequently trotted out in the conspiracy theory books, he lived several blocks away from Cole Street, and reputedly in the same time frame as we were there. But this was all purely guilt by tenuous association. Yet, had we applied the same harsh rules of responsibility to ourselves as we were preaching to the world, we might well have asked ourselves what we had done to magnetize these terrible lies to us? Or why we took it upon ourselves to interview Manson for the Death issue of the Process magazine? I don’t believe this was ever discussed."

3. p. 63 - "Possibly the rot set in when we lost the English court case against the Ed Sanders book. It was Mary Ann’s idea not to demand a substantial sum in damages when we settled the American case. She would have wanted to impress people with how decent we were and how it wasn’t about the money, but just about clearing the name of The Process. Presumably it was this miscalculation that encouraged the publisher in England to think we were rollovers – which turned out to be perfectly true. The English publisher won the case."

4. pp. 77-78 - "What none of us knew at the time, however, was that Charles Manson was also living with his coterie on Cole Avenue, a few blocks down from where our Chapter was located. Although we didn’t know him or his Family, and had never seen any of them in the Chapter, this unhappy coincidence has long fed the conspiracy theorists intent on proving that we had directly influenced Manson’s paranoid ramblings."

5. p. 79 - "In spite of meeting a wide variety of celebrities I tend to associate Los Angeles with Charles Manson, although the murders occurred in 1969, two years after we’d left the city. And it was 1971 when The Family came out and caused us such grief. With our dark cloaks and apocalyptic rhetoric, we were just too tempting a target. Vincent Bugliosi, the L.A. prosecutor who made his name on the case, thoroughly researched all possible influences on Manson and had completely absolved the Process Church of any association. What has come to be known is that Manson himself told Bugliosi that he’d first encountered Scientology in 1961 and had studied it, maintaining he was a ‘clear.’ Scientology material was also found at the Spahn Ranch when Manson was arrested. Understandably, this was not something Scientology would have wanted known...It took several more years for the Manson tar baby to indelibly stain The Process Church, when The Family hit the shelves. The time delay made this all the more of a shock since we thought the Manson accusations were behind us."

FACT CHECK # 1: Regarding Wylie’s statement about Vincent Bugliosi "completely absolv[ing] the Process of any association [with Manson]," Wylie must own a different edition of Helter Skelter than me; in my copy of the book, Bugliosi writes, "In view of Manson’s curiosity, it appears very likely that he [Manson] at least investigated the Satanists [the Process], and there is fairly persuasive evidence that he 'borrowed' some of their teachings." (p. 636) Bugliosi also writes, "I believe there was at least some contact, in view of the many parallels between Mansons’ teachings and those of the Process, as revealed in their literature." (p. 637)

For those interested, the "many parallels" to which Bugliosi refers is explored by Curt Rowlett in the "Charles Manson, Son of Sam and the Process Church of the Final Judgment" chapter of his book Labyrinth13. Rowlett offers the thesis that, "There is a body of strong circumstantial evidence that tends to show Manson was heavily influenced by the Process." (p. 92), and makes a first rate argument for his case. See or

FACT CHECK # 2: Regarding Wylie’s comment about how Bugliosi "thoroughly researched all possible influences on Manson," I contacted Bugliosi in this regard in order to see if the names Krishna Venta and/or the Fountain of the World were to be found anywhere in his notes circa the Manson trial. Bugliosi could think of no instance of the Fountain being mentioned beyond Paul Watkins testifying at trial that Manson asked Watkins "if he would consent to be crucified on a cross at the Fountain of the World." (see p. 356 of George Bishop’s Witness to Evil) I provided Bugliosi with that reference up front, and beyond that he acted as though the Fountain and Krishna Venta were both heretofore unheard of entities. (This was two about years ago.) So, it’s a stretch to say Bugliosi "thoroughly researched all possible influences on Manson."


  1. There is another 60's guru type that no one has done a biography on yet: Mel Lyman and his Family. There is info on the Net but no one has done one.

  2. We spent decades looking into the Process Church situation, and spoke with dozens about it, including Robert DeGrimston and various people who say that Process was part of Son of Sam and Manson snuff murders, and even read lengthy police reports and interviews with bikers, and transcripts from a British trial against the publisher of The Family overseas. much as I wanted to satisfy the need of people like Shawn Sutherland with sensational murder material,but I could not get a single supporting fact.

    I know that's disappointing to people like him. Sure, the Process was creepy in costume and written material. They didn't treat their followers that well. But murder doesn't seem like a part of the scheme. The book does provide info on a Canadian intelligence agent who investigated, and the speculations by the main author that Mary Ann DeGrimston got an awful lot of leeway from the US government, which he seems to believe points to an intelligence link.

    Shawn writes, "In any event, since the Process is remembered solely because of the Manson allegations, this “review” of the book focuses on Manson’s appearances in it."

    To say this ignores a number of different facts: The Process Church issued hundreds of thousands of books and magazines, and aspects of the "Fear Issue" were reproduced inside two Funkadelic albums. In the '80s, Process Church was profiled in my "Apocalypse Culture" book, which has sold more than a hundred thousand copies.

    Mr. Sutherland should also examine the difference between being associated with someone and exploring its literature. If Manson checked out Process books and magazines, he would be like hundreds of thousands of his contemporaries. Manson also borrowed a lot from Church of Scientology literature, and the sci-fi novel "Stranger in a Strange Land." Would you suggest that Manson had direct associations with Robert Heinlein? If Heinlein wore cloaks and wrote the kind of Luciferian theology that the Process Church issues, you can be sure that they'd be under his microscope.

    Adam Parfrey
    Feral House

  3. The only exception I take to Adam Parfrey's comment about my review is his statement,"Much as I wanted to satisfy the need of people like Shawn Sutherland with sensational murder material, but I could not get a single supporting fact. I know that's disappointing to people like him."

    First off, my issue is with Mr. Wylie, not Mr. Parfrey. So, I'm not sure I understand the tone of Mr. Parfrey's comments.

    Second, I'm not disappointed at all that Wylie didn't say "Yes, Manson was one of us." (Ultimately, I could care less whether there's a Manson/Process link.) So, again, I'm not sure what Mr. Parfrey's comments are all about.

    Instead, what I am disappointed in is the fact that Mr. Wylie makes the statement "Or why we took it upon ourselves to interview Manson for the Death issue of the Process magazine? I don’t believe this was ever discussed" and then blows right past it. What I did want in this instance was for Wylie to hit the "Pause" button for a minute and say, "O.K., since it's never been addressed, this is my opportunity to address it." That is what disappointed me - Wylie treating the Manson issue like the gorilla in the room whose presence no one will acknowledge.

  4. P.S.: Mr. Parfrey's comments are appreciated. It's not often that I have a writer critique one of my reviews!


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