I was teaching at a Roman Catholic school in El Barrio (Hispanic for »the neighborhood«) in Manhattan, New York, USA. The $8,900-a-year salary provided a comfortable living for a single schoolteacher, with surplus enough for exploring the world and the subway system. (I still can’t tell the BMT from the IND.) In those days--the late ‘60s and early ‘70s--Manhattan and the other boroughs hosted the »International Convention of Cults and Curiosities.« I looked into them as eagerly as the first-century Josephus at his inquiries. Josephus missed the Messiah. Not me. I found them all.
When a friend gave me the monthly magazine of a new sect, its cover photograph showing »Processeans« visiting an institute for the developmentally disabled, here, I thought, was another chance to explore a cult.
Next day I was playing chess with a Processean in their plush Manhattan headquarters. He loudly thumped down each piece after each move, the pieces’ felted bottoms notwithstanding. The blatant, intimidating breach of etiquette broke my concentration and stamina. He won the game.
I perused the available literature. The magazine my friend had given me was mere window dressing; this literature was the deep stuff. Processean theology was, and ever is, a dualist game between the gentle power of Jahweh and the power of noisier, more aggressive Lucifer. Elsewhere in the universe the Rivals are reconciled; here on earth the (»good«) news of reconciliation of »truth with lie« and »love with hate« reached us only recently via Processean revelation.
As it is. (The Processean »Amen.«)
My attention shifted to a seemingly gentle young blonde female: she seemed the perfect advertisement for universal reconciliation. Her home, I later learned, was British Bermuda. Cults are often places to meet and greet members of the opposite sex. I knew of a number of cults that provided young women to articulate proper views to and otherwise charm prospective male recruits. The Bermudan may or may not have been such a lure.
»Every religion has its beautiful women,« I reasoned.
But, expanding on this, my immature mind (spurred by my libido) concluded: the religion with the most beautiful women is surely the truest religion. Hadn’t Keats written »Beauty is Truth...«?
In retrospect, by this token, the Bermudan woman was the most compelling claim to the real validity of the Process.
Later, we sang songs in a liturgy which included throbbing drums, the perfunctory symbols of fire and water, a sermon, and a closing blessing.
Disturbed by my thoughts about the Bermudan, I did not go forward to receive a female deacon’s blessing in the names of Jahweh and Lucifer...
The sermon tried to reconcile St. James’ »resist the devil and he will flee from you« (James 4:7) with thoughts on accommodating »conflicting« tendencies in Processean psychology. The claim: Processean theology laid the basis for an adjusted psychology. Mention was made of an ex-nun who had now adopted an exotic agnomen and was prominent among New York City »church members.« Formerly the Bride of Christ, evidently she was now involved with Jahweh and Lucifer in a kind of ménage a trois.
As it is.
Everyone likes a blessing. The blessing of the Process consisted in an easing of internal conflict by means of accommodating, instead of resisting, strong, strange impulses.
As it is.
Every member is free to determine the price of accommodation in his or her own case. Thirty pieces of silver?
In fact, the Process is a paradigmatic religion of modern times; it is part of the Zeitgeist and provides an explicitly non-psychological form. The Processeans turn a sensible insight about occasionally easing up on oneself into possible occasion for total sellout. The original insight is older than any Process.
Later, some of us (including the Bermudan) went down the block for pizza. I wanted to sit next to her, but not wishing to be too obvious, sat next to another, older woman. Her husband screamed at me, and, trembling, I sat by myself. I quickly finished the tomatoey crust and found an excuse to leave the parlor and, with it, the Process.
As it is.
A cute catch phrase.
What do I remember?
I remember the Bermudan in detail and wonder what happened to her.
And, by the way, what happened to the Processeans? The New York Times indicated a leadership rift, with the Process breaking up into splinter groups a few years later. Around that time the Process, led by die-hard loyalists, was proselytizing in Copenhagen and elsewhere in Europe, according to television reports.
As it is.
An update from Denmark on the current status of the Process movement would be nice. As would a letter from the Bermudan.
My job and wife and kid, however, keep me too busy to read any such mail.As it is.