Which really came first--The Process Church or Scientology?
So yes, they are still here, albeit in the guise of a pet sanctuary. I though this was good:
March 2004, the Rocky Mountain News outed the people running Best
Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, as The Process in its latest
incarnation. The Cone of Silence had been raised, and the Best Friends
management felt the need to 'fess up.
A few days later, they added a
section to its website, mostly written by Michael Mountain and giving
their own version of the past. This is still (as of August 2005)
available at [link to www.bestfriends.org]
it, I had a strange sense of deja vu, from around 1969. In that year,
the Sunday Times in England picked up the story of how in the late 1940s
L. Ron Hubbard, before starting Dianetics and Scientology, had been
involved, magically and financially, with the rocket fuel scientist and
noted Thelemite, Jack Parsons. The newspaper had learned how, after some
ritual workings to create a magical Moonchild, Hubbard took off with
Parsons' girlfriend, a boat they'd all invested in, and a bunch of cash.
It was classic Fleet Street muckraking at its salacious best.
response was a glorious farrago of a letter to the Sunday Times that
began: "Hubbard broke up black magic in America..." Ron, it turned out
(according to the Church of Scientology, and quoted in Russell Miller's
Bare Faced Messiah) had been sent in by the U.S. government to smash up
this dangerous ring of occultists with which Parsons was involved.
Naturally, he succeeded magnificently. A stolen girlfriend? No, not at
all. "Hubbard rescued a girl they were using."
In sum, the facts were all covered off. It was only the truth that was missing in action.
recall Michael Mountain (Father Aaron as he was in the 1970s) as a
charming man who was often irreverent, and fun to be around. The Best
Friends account of the early days shows he still has the ability to
charm, even if, as with the C of $ story about Hubbard, the truth and
the facts have some distance between them.
It might be unfair to
critique details almost 40 years after the events happened, but I feel
otherwise. When someone publishes 8,000 words of well-spun baloney, a
theurgically (and otherwise) skeptical person like myself can't resist
teasing it a little.
The primary fiction is that The Process
consisted of a bunch of 1960s counter-cultural seekers, consensually
choosing a bohemian, back-to-nature lifestyle. No-one who left England
for the Bahamas in 1966, then went on to the Yucatan and Xtul was
arguing about it, but the cult-like nature of the group is carefully
erased in Mountain's description. Does anyone recall the alliterative
headlines in the British press about "The Mindbenders of Mayfair"? Only
me, it seems. But then, back before I joined, I collected all this
And while Robert De Grimston is airily
dismissed as "the so-called 'Teacher' of The Process, who had written a
number of books and was becoming well known in academic and theological
circles," his wife Mary-Ann (see Mary-Ann's photo and Moon Unseen, from
June 2005) remains "She Who Must Not Be Named". The Goddess of The
Process, its core, is unmentioned in its own published history.
so it goes on. What, us spread Robert's teachings all over Europe and
North America? All of us wear the Cross and the Goat of Mendez on our
chests or collars? Go out every day and sell those books by the
"so-called Teacher"? Musta been some other guys, or some other so-called
Even when I was in The Process (1970-72), the legends
around Xtul, "The Place of Miracles" were being embroidered. An
abandoned salt factory became a Mayan ruin, for example. Away from their
civilised backgrounds, but living still in a soup of heightened
consciousness, people had let their inner barriers drop and insights,
synchronistic happenings and visions came in plenty. The primal
presences or psychological realities called the Gods of The Process made
Beyond that blanket statement, or something
like it, I doubt anyone today could give a fair account of the weeks and
months spent at Xtul. The three ex-members whom I've interviewed all
give varying stories.
Mountain's account adds a fresh spin. As
the group came to Xtul, he says, they encountered an old man who "just
smiled and said, 'Es para vosotros,' ('It is for you.') And he waved
good-bye and continued on down the trail."
Neat - except, as
anyone who's learned Spanish finds out, "vosotros" as a second-person
plural form is today used nowhere in Latin America, only in Spain
Later, the same man appeared, Mountain says, as The Process were all pulling out.
are leaving,' he said. 'But one day there will be another place for
you. It is a beach without an ocean. And the sand is all red. And there
are animals. Muchos animales.' "For someone who had never seen red rock
canyons and the pink sands that go with them, it was a fair enough
description of Angel Canyon, the future home, 20 years later, of Best
Friends Animal Society."
Not bad. I just can't find anyone who
was at Xtul but left the group who remembers a thing about that
'prophecy'. Zip - or rather, nada.
Mountain's aim, it seems, and
that of the other members who wrote this story, is to make it plain that
everything before caring for animals was just prologue, or a youthful
exuberance. There was, he notes, a Christian ministry phase of helping
other people, as indeed there was - after a Christ-and-Satan phase of
that, plus a neo-Jewish one, neither of which is mentioned. Animal
welfare was the direction in which things were guided.
animals were beginning to take over! For many of us, they'd always
really been our passion. And when a few of us got together one evening
at the ranch to talk about what next and where next, we were all feeling
that it was time to devote ourselves to that true passion."
can't say this is wholly false. Brits (the remaining core leadership
group is mostly British) are famously dotty about dogs and animals
generally, and She Who Must Not Be Named always had strong feelings
about cruelty to animals. What decent human doesn't? But to claim animal
welfare was the central concern in that first crazy decade spent as The
Process? Or for The Foundation during much of the second? Back then,
the End of the World and redemption therefrom overrode all other
ideological messages, even if anti-vivisection was a cause we
As noted elsewhere on this blog, I had a
remarkable experience out of it all, though the group's most austerely
head-messing phase was over when I joined. I'm not the only ex-member
with mixed but still fond memories of the community, the sense of inner
calm and purpose, and the humour we brought to it all. It's impossible
to tell today from the teachings available on-line, but The Process
could be fun, and very funny. You needed to accept the premise of the
joke - humanity's utter absurdity - but that done, a lot of things about
life came to seem less tragic. Perhaps the absence of such candid
detachment about the past is what saddens me here.
clearly, is a well-run operation, however much its location miles from
any cities compromises its mission. It's an honest endeavour even if it
does support the aging remnant of a failed cult. We all gotta live, and
the BF operation pulls its own weight.
The roots of my own main
beef date back to a visit four years ago, when I briefly reconnected
with some of the people I'd known three decades before. What I found was
that it was all just like Mountain's story would later turn out to be.
The "P word" was not mentioned at all, and almost nobody would share any
personal stories or opinions unless they involved saving or helping
Had anyone learned anything spiritually? Well, everyone
was much happier now than before. What did people feel it was all about,
that wild Gnosticism, that fervent preaching about an End that never
came? Well, it had been a long journey for everyone. What wisdom had
they all learned? We need to be less cruel to animals. And so on.
drove out of that beautiful Utah canyon frustrated at feeling
stonewalled, with my conception of shallowness permanently redefined.
I've not been back. Other ex-Processeans do visit and maintain
friendships, but I couldn't be bothered to go again.
under their neo-Romulan cloaking device, yet have some kind of wisdom,
the way we did, or felt we did, 30 years ago? They won't say in Angel
Canyon. All who stayed surrendered their personal histories for a
distorted collective one.
From Scientology, The Process borrowed
the idea that all life consists of games, played as parts of larger
collective games, and all ultimately part of a cosmic Game of the Gods. A
personal game might be: I am always ill; or, I will make $15-million in
real-estate then find my kids hate me; or I will struggle for human
rights. Regardless of the circumstances or activities involved, they're
all about gaining knowledge; about experiencing all things that are
possible to experience.
In visiting Kanab, after an hour, I could
almost say "Yes, I remember you" in exactly the same, affect-less
manner everyone I met used. I had three different people apologise to me
spontaneously for what had been done to me in the past - all of them in
a slightly beaten-dog tone, and using the same sequence of words. I'd
gone in high anticipation, and without any grievance or hurt to air, but
I came away with one.
It was all supposed to be about accepting
our own reality in its fullness, and thus open to God. The modus
operandi today has become a sweet, well-intended deception that seems to
have lost what spiritual truth or honesty was once present. Best
Friends is, as any ex-member can see, not a rejection of the structure
of The Process or The Foundation, but a continuation. The sadness I feel
is that while the externals have changed, the core game is the same as
it ever was: a bunch of people believing they are an Elect of some kind,
grouped around an aging avatar, very aware of human motivations yet
hopelesly blind about their own. Saving animals is the latest version of
this, and a nice one, but at bottom, it's just another game.
animals, I've heard it said, are a major comfort for the dozen or so
remaining Processeans (most people at Kanab were never involved in the
original group). Animals' natural dignity and unaffected joy are easily
superior to the human animal's meaner nature. For someone who has spent
40 years tied to a cult, that must be reassuring. Personally, I'm
grateful, regardless of whatever regrets and disappointments I've
accumulated, that I can tell my own story, and don't have to follow a
cultic party line nor distort my own memories to comply with one.
wish the Kanabians were able to do that. Instead, they still feel
compelled to diss their former associate, Robert, like Stalinists
dumping on Trostky, and to pretend that so many years of their earlier
lives were a mere bohemian misadventure. It shows that, rather than
seeing and accepting those years clearly, and truly moving on, they are
endlessly perpetuating them.
Oh well. The dogs and cats, at least, clearly appreciate it. Give 'em that.