Social Construction from Within: Satan's Process

by William Sims Bainbridge

Pages 297-310 of The Satanism Scare edited by
James T. Richardson, Joel Best, and David G. Bromley.
New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991.

The social construction of Satanism is not an activity solely engaged in by hack journalists seeking lurid topics for stories, self-aggrandizing clergy seeking helpless victims for crusades, and confused members of the general public seeking simplistic explanations for contemporary evil. Satanists actually exist, and they construct the meaning of Satan for themselves. A coalition of forces in conventional society can come to believe in imaginary folk devils and even convince individuals to accept deviant roles scripted for them. But players in this Satanist drama have considerable freedom to improvise in their roles (Thompson 1967; McIntosh 1972; Bainbridge 1983). Among the most creative actors to play the role of devil-worshipper were the few hundred Processeans, members of The Process - Church of the Final Judgement (Bainbridge 1978).

I first met The Process on the streets of Boston and Cambridge in the fall of 1970. Popular consensus held that they were dangerous Satanists, and their black cloaks and the red man-goat heads they wore on their chests gave no lie to this image. An antisatanic book claimed to know the truth about the group: "Savage and indiscriminate sex is forced on the entrants into the cult not as a means of religious communion but as a means of purging any residue of Grey Forces that might be latent in them" (Lyons 1970:133). Another accuser added: "The Process Church of the Final Judgement is an English occult society dedicated to observing and aiding the end of the world by stirring up murder, violence and chaos, and dedicated to the proposition that they, the Process, shall survive the gore as the chosen people" (Sanders 1971:81).

In the early spring of 1971, I began a 5-year ethnographic study of this fantastic and fascinating group (Bainbridge 1978). I soon learned that the Satan of The Process bore little resemblance to Satan as constructed by conventional society. There was no violence and no indiscriminate sex, but I found a remarkably aesthetic and intelligent alternative to conventional religion. For Processeans, Satan was no crude beast but an intellectual principle by which God could be unfolded into several parts, accomplishing the repaganization of religion and the remystification of the world.


The founders of The Process, Robert and Mary Ann de Grimston, met in London in the early 1960s. At first, there was nothing obviously religious about their aims or assumptions. Each sought a way of understanding the human personality and a technique for achieving greater personal satisfaction. Each had been excited by the theory of life goals proposed by Freud's renegade disciple, Alfred Adler, and each saw promise in the therapy processes devised by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. Adler had based his "individual psychology" on the premise that each person was guided by a single hidden desire, and if compulsive distortions could be cleared away the person would achieve his particular life's goal (Adler 1927, 1929). Hubbard had amassed a huge collection of mental techniques, inventing some, ransacking the rest from therapies, cults, and science fiction stories (Wallis 1976; Stark and Bainbridge 1985; Bainbridge 1987).

Working as therapists in the London branch of Scientology, Robert and Mary Ann became partners in a quest for improved versions of Hubbard's treatment processes, and they soon broke with the Scientology organization to go into business for themselves. Calling their practice Compulsions Analysis, they recruited clients through Robert's friendship network and set about inventing a distinctive psychotherapy designed to raise normal individuals up to superior levels of functioning. Some of the work was very much like psychoanalysis, and they frequently employed the E-Meter lie detector device used in Scientology. Whatever the techniques did for individual psyches, they produced very powerful emotional bonds linking clients with the two therapists and, through group sessions, with each other.

Soon, they had leased an elegant building in the fashionable Mayfair district of London, where they held activities and a few clients could live communally. Newspapers began calling them "mind-benders of Mayfair," and a rough description of one of their therapy processes was publicized:

The object was to discover the clients' "goals," the hidden desires that motivate them. Among constructive goals were: "to create," "to discover," "to organize;" among destructive ones: "to annoy," "to damage," "to cheat." The theory was that people must be stripped down mentally until they reached their bottom goal of all, after which they could rise to the top. Many clients found this immensely exhilarating (Hart-Davis 1966).

My interviews with original clients drew a picture of fantastic excitement and hope, and the intense social rewards participants received were new experiences for many of them. Every day, they discovered new facets of their personalities, and the intensely positive emotions were taken as proof that the group was on the right track. Having placed all their hopes in therapy techniques which Hubbard had often called "processes," they came to think of their group as a grand process - The Process, pronounced with a long OH in the English fashion. The dreams encouraged by therapy grew without limit, and soon they began to take on a religious quality. Late in 1965, Robert told a reporter, "The Process started off purely as psycho-therapy. But the more we worked with our clients, the more we realized we were closer to a religious approach. Nearly everyone kept coming up with their religious goals - with their own concept of God."

Nearly 30 clients became so involved that they lost interest in ordinary pursuits and underwent what I call a social implosion. Social bonds linking participants grew rapidly stronger, while those with nonparticipants reciprocally weakened, until their social relations collapsed into an isolated group of high solidarity. Now a world unto themselves, they began creating a novel culture (Bainbridge 1985), complete with a special vocabulary and set of emblems. Their mutually supported hopes knew no limits, and they came to believe they were the vanguard of a new civilization, or of a new age that would follow the destruction of the present world. Finding London a miasma of indifference and incomprehension, they resolved to escape to a tropical island paradise.

After an unsatisfactory sojourn in Nassau, they were led by images received in group meditations to a ruined coconut plantation on the northern shore of the Yucatan. Calling the place Xtul (pronounced shtool), they continued their social implosion in almost complete isolation, and the religious aspects grew. Some members began identifying with Old Testament figures or with Saints, and a few took new names to express these identifications. The great power of nature, represented by a hurricane they endured outdoors as well as by the food they freely plucked from land and ocean, was identified with Jehovah, a deity for whom Mary Ann felt a special affinity.

After some months, exhaustion of the excitement at Xtul and a legal challenge that carried away three of the younger members brought The Process back to Mayfair. Emboldened by their experiences, Processeans began evangelizing their new myths and exploiting the considerable interest the public showed in their weird performances. On a trip through the United States, they met with Anton LaVey and discussed Satanism. I could never quite learn how important LaVey's influence was with The Process, but soon Satan had been placed alongside Jehovah in the pantheon, and a third deity, Lucifer, emerged as Robert's foil to Mary Ann's Jehovah. In 1969, a series of London newspaper articles called Processeans "Satan worshippers" who "play Satan's game" (Maxwell 1969a,b,c).

Hovering around the Three Goat Gods of the Universe was their Emissary, Christ, not to be confused with Jesus who was but one of Christ's many manifestations. The theology was constantly changing, and Christ became a coequal fourth deity. I never saw Processeans worship their gods, because the gods were inner realities rather than external deities. But much of the Processeans' day was devoted to service of "our Lords Christ, Jehovah, Lucifer, and Satan."

At various times The Process had communes in London, San Francisco, New Orleans, Paris, Munich, and Rome, but in 1970 they settled in the United States and Canada, first in Boston and Chicago, then in New Orleans again, as well as New York and Toronto. During three years of wandering, exoticism had served them well with the general public, and they fitted in well with the explosion of radical movements that marked the late 1960s. But as rooted urban residents they needed money, and the easiest source was begging on the streets as members of a formally incorporated church. The Satan image now hurt, rather than helped, and the stigma deepened when they were falsely accused of having trained Charles Manson in the Satanism that led him to order his followers on a murder spree (Lyons 1970; Sanders 1971; Bugliosi and Gentry 1974).

The Processeans responded by pulling in their horns. They changed their style of dress, adopting nondescript gray uniforms in complete contradiction to their doctrines but in pursuit of public acceptance, with tiny Satan goats on the lapels replacing the huge one on their chests. A period of general depression set in, as members were forced to realize that their grand hopes had achieved nothing more than a temporary high adventure. Robert had composed most of the group's radical scripture, and he remained committed to it, spinning ever more complex intellectual structures that seemed to others ever more removed from the reality that oppressed them. A rift developed between Robert and Mary Ann, and in 1974 he and a few others left to recreate the classical Process afresh, complete with all the Gods, while Mary Ann's much larger group turned to pure Jehovianism.

To protect it from mass media accusations concerning their "satanic" past, I have called Mary Ann's group The Establishment (they did take a new name very similar to this). In each chapter house, Establishment priests went with bell, book, and candle to exorcise the negative spirits, Satan and Christ. Lucifer was dismissed as a theological mistake. Frantically, the Establishment struggled to construct a new set of symbols, vocabulary, practices, and doctrines practically overnight (Bainbridge 1985). At the end of 1974, Father Aron told a New York Times reporter that members "have almost no beliefs at all, except we believe in God and working for God and that the Messiah is coming" (Blau 1974). Rituals became more like conventional worship services, and the Establishment sought to garner laity by becoming an eclectic psychic supermarket.

For a while, Jewish members held influential positions, because it was believed they were closer to Jehovah. Later, they were demoted when the Jehovian rule proved little more successful than the era of the four gods. Some Jewish members went off to Phoenix, Arizona, to start an independent Jews for Jesus movement. At the end of 1978, the Establishment abandoned its $900,000 headquarters in New York, losing it to debts, and moved to a canyon near Tucson to meditate and seek a new vision. Today, small Establishment groups survive in Texas and Utah.

Robert's second Process was a more chaotic experiment that produced high drama but no stable group. In New Orleans he attempted to challenge the Establishment, then in Boston and Toronto he presided over dissident members trying to create communes, and finally in London he tried to spread his message through a correspondence course culled from his voluminous scriptures. A year after my book was published in 1978, he sent me a somewhat angry letter from Egypt, where he was exploring yet another spiritual possibility. Occasionally I hear from someone who wants to begin The Process again and revive the Great Gods of the Universe. Even in failure, The Process has bequeathed lasting images of how God might be divided into gods, including among them a highly provocative Satan.


Process theology was a logical structure explaining the nature of existence and showing how people of different natures could cooperate to bring a quartet of warring Gods together and establish a new age of harmony. Satan cannot be understood apart from the other three. In the Sabbath Assembly, Satan was described as The Great God of Ultimate Destruction, whose role was "to release the powers of Destruction in the world of men, that the debt of pain and suffering might be repaid in full." This debt was partly humanity's guilt for crucifying Jesus, but more generally our betrayal of the divine plan. Thus, Satan desires "An End and a New Beginning. The End of Hatred and the Beginning of Love."

The separate deities had different roles in a grand process, beginning with the birth of the universe and progressing through the end of the present age to a new beginning. Although bearing a familiar name, Satan was not the Devil imagined in more conventional creeds. As a 1969 internal teaching document, BI-8 (Brethren Information 8), explains, Satan was formerly the Adversary, but has been "raised up and reunited with His counterpart and one time enemy, Christ, so that They might begin to become One again." Now, humanity, in its blindness and self-deception, has taken over the role of Adversary. For Processeans, "Humanity is the Devil," Satan, thus comes to cleanse the world of the Devil. As the hymn, "Christ in the World of Men" explained in 1968: "The evils of the world of men are perishing, Satan's hordes consume them. Out of the ashes of the old shall arise the beginnings of a New Age."

No longer the Adversary, Satan was free to play his new role in unity with Christ, "The Chant of Unity" sang: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah. The Unity of Lamb and Goat, the Power of Release; Christ and Satan are at One, the Brotherhood of Life." Christ has said we should love our enemies. Christ's enemy was Satan. As "The Unity" in the Sabbath Assembly explained, "Through Love Christ and Satan have destroyed Their enmity and come together for the End; Christ to judge, Satan to Execute the Judgement." The Unity of Christ and Satan had three aspects. First, it encouraged acceptance of one's darker, socially suppressed impulses, private and subconscious longings that a Freudian might call primary process phenomena connected with the id. Second, it was an attempt to bridge the gaps between people of very different needs and personalities, to achieve cooperation where hostility had reigned. Third, it was a structural theory of the origins of existence, part of an intellectual world.

Processeans used the gods as a personality theory, holding that different individuals were closer to one or two of the deities than to the others. While some members personified the gods, leaders and the more intellectual members saw them as principles describing psychological orientations and feelings. Once, Sister Olivia told me her perspective on the Christ and Satan within her:

To feel mostly Christ is a very calm and tranquil, in-tune and warm feeling. It's ,a very healthy thing. It's a very childlike thing, a very animal-like thing in a way. To feel mostly Satan is full of energy, is full of visions, hallucinations, and awareness of the power of destruction. And also, on the other side of that, a detachment from things that are going on in the world, and detachment from the whole conflict of the mind, from any desire to figure things out - very much of an intuitive awareness of things that are happening.

Satan had two aspects, the higher and the lower. On the abstract level Satan was the principle of separation, for example of conflict between two people. According to The Universal Law, "As you give, so shall you receive." Thus, because Satan gives separation, Satan receives separation and splits into the two aspects. A book titled The Cods and Their People [included in the appendix of this article] presents this image of a dual Satan:

SATAN, the receiver of transcendent souls and corrupted bodies, instills in us two directly opposite qualities; at one end an urge to rise above all human and physical needs and appetites, to become all soul and no body, all spirit and no mind, and at the other end a desire to sink beneath all human values, all standards of morality, all ethics, all human codes of behavior, and to wallow in a morass of violence, lunacy and excessive physical indulgence. But it is the lower end of satan's nature that men fear, which is why SATAN, by whatever name, is seen as the Adversary.

Satan's lower aspect represented Sub-Humanity, gripped by lust, abandon, violence, excess, and indulgence. The higher aspect represented Super-Humanity, evaporating into detachment, mysticism, otherworldliness, magic, and asceticism. In terms of psychopathology, Jehovah and Lucifer were neurotic, the former being obsessive-compulsive, and the latter hysterical. Theirs was the "conflict of the mind."

While Satan relates to Christ through their coming Unity, he also stands in a definite relationship to Jehovah and Lucifer, representing a pair of escapes from conflict. The Game of the Gods explains that each individual is torn apart by this conflict. Jehovah demands self-discipline and dedication to duty. Lucifer, in contrast, urges self-indulgence, harmony, and peace, Satan's lower aspect is an intensification of Luciferianism, while the higher aspect is an intensification of Jehovianism.

The relationships between the Gods were reflected in relationships between people. Once Christ had been elevated to the status of coequal god, each person was believed to manifest one of four "god patterns" - not one for each god but one for each pair of gods who were not locked in conflict as were Christ and Satan, Lucifer and Jehovah. Thus, the four kinds of persons were the Jehovian-Christian, the Jehovian-Satanic, the Luciferian-Christian, and the Luciferian-Satanic, often simply identified by their initials: JC, JS, LC, and LS. Robert was an LC personality, and Mary Ann was its exact opposite, JS. Through the Union of Jehovah and Lucifer, and through the Unity of Christ and Satan, they could come together in harmony, combining their psychological assets rather than falling into violent disagreement.

Ultimately, the Great Gods of the Universe are parts of God. In the beginning, there was only God, and no universe. Although standard Christianity conceives of the world as partly outside God, something created by God but not itself divine, for Processeans God created the universe by splitting himself into fragments. Time and space were created when pieces of God placed themselves at opposite ends of each dimension. In 1969, BI-13 explained: "There is division; and from the initial division of GOD and antiGOD, there springs the fragmentation of all things, and the scattering of all parts of One throughout the Universe of Time and Space." According to The Gods, the fragments of God must by reunited:

1.5 And whilst the Three Great Gods are divided then the concept of GOD is no more than a concept. Like a shattered mirror it lies in pieces and the pieces are scattered throughout the Universe.

1.6 But if Jehovah, Lucifer and Satan are brought together, united in a common understanding, a common knowledge, a common bond of awareness and unconflicted intention, then the concept of GOD becomes a reality.

The parts are come together to complement each other and make a whole, and the whole is Totality.

1.7 So GOD is the reuniting of the Gods.

The key element in the reunion is Christ, for "Christ is the Unifier." The failure of Christianity, for Processeans, was the failure of Christ to realize that he must become unified with Satan, before he can fulfill his purposes both for humanity and for the God of which he is part. Thus, we must "resist not evil" but join with it to dissolve it in Christ's name. The unity of Christ and Satan will also bring unification to Satan's separated halves, as BI-28 says: "When Christ and Satan come together, then the two halves of Satan must also come together." The unification of Satan will draw together Jehovah and Lucifer, of whom Satan is an exaggerated reflection, and they will achieve the Union.

This combination theology and psychology thus has little to do with the Satanism constructed by non-Satanists. Despite the failure of The Process, its theology was a logical approach toward solving dilemmas faced by every person and society, drawing on ideas from ancient religion and modern psychoanalysis. In my book (Bainbridge 1978) I suggested that the failure of the cult was unnecessary, coming from a few poor leadership decisions, primarily from the abandonment of the recruitment techniques that served so well in the beginning. To be sure, Processeans hoped to achieve too much with their grand new system, but in their wild dreams we may all recognize pans of ourselves.


When 1 began my research with The Process, I had just completed half a year of research inside Scientology, which was in great measure a reflection of the personality of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Some cults are outgrowths of the founder's personality and thus can be described in terms of a particular psychiatric syndrome (cf. Stark and Bainbridge 1985:173-177). Scientology could usefully be diagnosed as obsessive or paranoid - or Apollonian, to use Nietzsche's (1872) terminology - and I thought it would be fascinating to study an opposite group, one exhibiting hysteria or Dionysianism.

The hallmark of a hysterical cult is histrionics - a great stress on drama and the playing of roles (Shapiro 1965). The Processeans, with their splendid costumes, alternative personal identities, and scripted group performances, looked about as histrionic as a cult could get. Considered as theater, The Process was what opera composer Richard Wagner called a total work of art (Newman 1924). Wagner believed that all the arts should be combined into a seamless aesthetic tapestry, and he attempted to achieve this in his music dramas, notably Tristan und Isolde. However, Wagner himself slighted the visual arts, and it was left to later generations to fulfill his ideal. The Process is a good example, because the true total work of art would be an artistically created human community with a distinctive lifestyle and culture. One would not achieve a really total work of art merely by combining drama with music; one must go all the way and add the domestic arts, creating living human personalities and an aesthetic community to house them.

The concept of belief distance, an extension of Goffman's (1961) concept of role distance, describing the refusal to identify oneself completely with one's creed, is useful to understand The Process. Almost every time I lecture about the group, someone in the audience asks, "But could they really believe all that?" My reply is that the concept of belief, as used in Western religions, is a strange one. In Christianity, for example, one must have faith. The question is less one of whether Christian beliefs are true than it is of whether one is going to be true to the beliefs. Unlike many religions, Western faiths demand loyalty, and they make exaggerated demands on the convictions of their members. The Western concept of belief, construed in terms of loyalty or conviction, had nothing to do with The Process. Theirs was not a creed of belief, but of willing suspension of disbelief, a world like that of drama and the other arts.

For Processeans, the idea that the believer had a duty to believe is pure Jehovianism, and in its great schism, one half of The Process turned toward Jehovah partly to consolidate control over its small band of followers. Lucifer is the god of hypotheses, and the Luciferian-Satanic individual is very much a persona of masks and role-playing. The test of truth in the early days of The Process was the degree of excitement and hope that an idea could generate - an epistemology of possibilities rather than of certainties. The Processeans took their great chances, literally betting their lives on the Great Gods of the Universe, but they never had faith in the traditional Western sense.

The construction of deviant reality in The Process can be understood from a traditional anthropological perspective called cultural relativism (Cancian and Cancian 1974; cf. Benedict 1934). This is a doctrine promulgated by a number of scholars early in this century concerning the variability of human norms. It appeared that almost any conceivable custom could be found in some society. In their politically righteous crusade to make the world respect even the most feeble and primitive society, the cultural relativists made it seem that every primitive culture was a nearly perfect human adaptation to the environment. In its extreme form, cultural relativism held that all cultures were equally good.

From the perspective of cultural relativism, the Processean gods were alternative cultures. Each had a different set of commandments. Each was at war with one of the others, but the ideology asserted that the gods were nonetheless coming together for "an End and a New Beginning." Robert de Grimston's theology was Hegelianism in the extreme. For every thesis (Christ, Jehovah) there was an antithesis (Satan, Lucifer), and the cult aimed to achieve a final synthesis of all these dichotomies in the rebirth of GOD.

Through their psychotherapy, they were trying to help individuals transcend their compulsive conflicts; on the social level they sought to bring antagonistic people together with the help of the gods, and on the supernatural plane they hoped the gods could also transcend their tremendous differences. They occasionally said that the ultimate salvation was the salvation of God - that God needed saving - and Processeans could save God, with the help of the several gods that were the conflicted aspects of their own psyches. The case of this modern, polytheistic religion provides insights about the limits of cultural relativism.

Consider the comparative intellectual merits of monotheism and polytheism. Monotheism is probably more comforting to the individual believer, because it typically suggests that a single, benevolent god is in control of the individual's ultimate fate. The polytheist must always worry about becoming a pawn in a game played between warring deities, none of whom particularly wish him or her well. Monotheism probably supports political unity and strengthens any state that compellingly claims to act on behalf of the one, true God. Indeed, one explanation offered for the rage of European witch trials is that it was a tool by which central governments strengthened themselves through establishment of orthodoxy of belief (Lamer 1984), something much harder to do when the official pantheon contains gods who themselves fail to agree.

Empirical studies show a historical trend toward monotheism (Underhill 1975; Swanson 1975). There are strong reasons why religious traditions should tend to move the divine further and further away from the world of experience and to reduce the number of gods and demigods, merely given a sufficiently long-lived religious tradition for these slow changes to occur (Stark and Bainbridge 1987). For one thing, religious organizations risk disconfirmation of adherents' faith if they promise to provide worldly rewards they cannot in fact deliver. Put another way, it is dangerous to be in the business of performing magic, because clients can test one's claims all too easily. Indeed, one way of explaining the failure of The Process is to note that it promised a Heaven on earth to members, yet it delivered something less.

Religions promising many magical benefits typically postulate many lesser gods (Stark and Bainbridge 1987:111), each with its own functions. At the other extreme, a religion with one god of infinite scope can no longer make specific, convincing supernatural promises, and thus it will have little to offer most people. Those Christians for whom Satan exists as a meaningful foil for God possess a faith that has not yet rendered the divine irrelevant for human hopes. The minimum number of gods that can be the basis of a popular religion is two, one good and the other evil, although Christianity pretends to withhold full deity status from Satan. The reduction of the number of gods to one, and removal of the god from the world of human affairs if tantamount to secularization. For centuries Christianity avoided the disadvantages of monotheism, while claiming its advantages, by postulating the Devil and a collection of saints ambiguously poised between humanity and divinity. But the emergence of one lonely god, as in Unitarianism, marks the gradual collapse of a particular religious tradition.

Historians have noted that Western monotheism may have been an essential precondition for the rise of modern science. In seventeenth-century England, many scientists saw the world as a mechanical creation based on logical principles (Merton 1970; Westfall 1958). One, good, logical God created the world, then withdrew leaving man free to choose good or evil. Whereas a polytheistic religion might attribute every natural phenomenon to a different deity and assume no coordination between them, the monotheist is more likely to see the world as a unified system. As Christianity has become progressively more monotheistic in practice, the world has become demystified and disenchanted, in the sense that it no longer seemed the playground of supernatural forces (cf. Weber 1958). These developments prepared the way for science.

Monotheism is a poor explanation for the natural world. It says almost nothing about why things are as they are. Manifestly, the world is not a unity. The forces and entities postulated by physicists are many, and each person experiences many conflicting social and psychological pressures. Polytheism is a better explanation of phenomena than is monotheism, and thus it is a greater foe of modern science. By unfolding God into distinct gods, The Process sought to explain the world of experience, and through its explanations to transform the world magically. In so doing, it remystified and reenchanted human experience.

In this context, Satan had nothing whatsoever to do with the Devil. Rather, the traditional existence of some supernatural being other than Jehovah was an opportunity to reestablish polytheism. A third god, Lucifer, could also be found in the old tradition, although Processeans had to explain again and again to newcomers that Lucifer and Satan were not the same, citing separate mentions of them in the Bible and suggesting that the Bible itself was propaganda on behalf of only two of the gods: Jehovah in the Old Testament and Christ in the New Testament, Christ entered Process theology first as the Emissary of the Gods, working to bring them together, then was elevated to a fourth coequal deity on the basis of his importance in Process personality theory.

As Father Malachi told me, the fact that Processeans came from Christian and Jewish backgrounds meant that concepts of Christ and Jehovah were already familiar to them. Why were the other two gods identified as Satan and Lucifer? "I think basically because those names were there. I think we were looking for opposites."


Again and again, popular writers have selectively quoted Processean scripture - for example, extracting the most horrendous passages from Satan on War - and presented it as proof that members of the cult were murderers, or worse. But the cult's doctrines held that destructive impulses lurked within every one of us, not within members alone, and they used the imagery of Satan's "lower aspect" to analyze this part of human nature. The scriptures employed dynamic metaphors and emotional dramatizations of abstract concepts; it is a poor writer indeed who fails to recognize poetic symbolism when he or she reads it.

One difference between Satanism as constructed by Processeans and by self-conscious antisatanists is that the latter impose their twisted image on other people, while the former created a myth to inhabit themselves. Harmless to others, Processeans and their kin in similar cults place only themselves at risk when they take their great spiritual leap into darkness. On average, one of them told me, life as a Satanist had been no better or worse than normal life, only the extremes were greater, ranging from deepest depression to highest ecstasy. In my years of observation, I did occasionally see harm done, but no more than I would expect to see in any group of a few hundred people, probably far less than among an equal number of journalistic or evangelical Devil-hunters.

In earlier eras, society projected its fears and private sins onto Jews and other out-groups who were falsely accused of every possible evil. Today, thankfully, norms of tolerance render antisemitism and similar prejudices unacceptable, at least when familiar groups are the potential victim. In part, Satanism is a fiction, imagined out of whole cloth by unscrupulous or ignorant people, accepted as truth by credulous consumers of the latest mass media myths. But it is also true that real Satanists exist, and many of them are as innocent and admirable as the Processeans. To the extent that we accept the antisatanist's construction of Satanism, we do injury to the brave souls who have explored the possibilities for repaganization of religion afforded by alternatives to Christ and Jehovah, and we miss the often enlightening results of their spiritual experimentation.


1. For popular press discussions of The Process see Beckett (1971), Lipsky (1972), Mano (1974), Melton (1978), Tenner (1979), and Weissman (1979).


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