The Process Church of the Final Judgment has often been accused of many diabolical things. Invariably, the accusations have proven unfounded. Its Baroque flamboyance is often the reason why the extinct counterculture cult continues to attract so much attention and it explains why its controversial iconography is still with us in some academic respects. It had iconography. That is the key word. Film, TV, magazine layouts, our own minds, need something to look at, need something to capture our attention. The first thing I learned in 1999 when TV started beating down my door because of my real life adventures is that they need something to film. Sitting at your desk typing away doesn’t interest them and frankly it wouldn’t interest an audience.
Processeans’ odd, arcane and convoluted philosophy has faded, but their thin figures, black slacks and turtlenecks over which were draped the crimson surcoats fit for medieval knights are not something quickly to be forgotten. They had a love for use of symbols in a decade that loved symbols. They mixed Christian symbols with sinister occult symbols. The result was a shocked society.
They mixed the Goat of Mendes with Christian staging of the Pieta. They had a cross on one side of their worship altar and their unusual “4 P” symbol on the other– it represented the 4 “gods” of The Process. But it rather looked like a swastika without serifs. They wore the symbol on their crimson surcoat, about breast level. The top echelon wore the “Omega” symbol on a purple surcoat. It was a cult with a secret higher order that regular members knew little about. This is always exciting!
Although The Process never did anything heinous as a group, did their odd philosophy and Hammer Film ambiance inspire others? At issue here, of course, is the ‘Zodiac’ Killer– that odd hood of his, that need to knife a couple at Lake Berryessa, his strange claims of victims as slaves in his afterlife, the iconography on his hood, its elaborate design. Why was all this necessary if he was only a thrill killer?
One of the symbols The Process used and mixed was the celestial Zodiac symbol and the cross. Though they did not wear hoods, one drawing shows a hypothetical and elaborate hood. The mixture of the symbols can be seen on the hood between the eyes. It was theoretically planned for some ceremony that involved their adulation of dogs, in particular German Shepherds.
This isn’t the place to try and understand The Process’ complex philosophy, but it is clear by how they mixed their iconography that it was a convoluted one. What is of interest here is how their philosophy may relate to being a possible inspiration for the ‘Zodiac’ Killer. Let’s put a few things in place.
During the momentous Summer of Love, The Process had only one chapter in the world– in New Orleans. They were quite a stark contrast to that partying French city. They walked around in their black slacks and turtlenecks and were always thin. There is something diabolical about thin in black. During their ritual, teaching and proselytizing they wore the crimson cloak and those Omegas wore the purple cloak. Processeans had long hair , beards, and had taken religious names, usually Biblical names– another odd mix with occult symbols. The leader, the aloof Robert DeGrimston and his wife Mary Ann, walked their German Shepherds about the city. Dogs, and especially German Shepherds, were a big deal.
In November 1967, there had been a revelation– they were to go to the Haight in San Francisco. In December, Father Moses and Father Cain arrived in Bloomtown. Flower power was still pollinating the area. They tried to forge some association with Anton LeVey, but he dismissed them as kooks. The rest of the Processeans arrived in February 1968 and set up residence at 407 Cole Street. Within a few months (by June 1968) they had decamped and went to Los Angeles. (Other sources will say that The Process remained until the end of 1968.) California, I guess, wasn’t really welcome to their philosophy, so they went to New York. Some say they left because threats were made to turn some of them in for having expired visas.
They were English, you see. The core, fundamental group– the “Inside Processeans” and Omegans at least– were almost all English. They had begun in posh Mayfair, London in 1962. They then went to Xtul in the Yucatan for a few years, survived more than one hurricane, received higher attainments in their philosophy, and then in 1966 returned to England. Their philosophy was quite complex now. They had left England with only Jehovah and returned with the 4 gods concept of Satan, Jehovah, Christ and Lucifer. To reconcile these opposites would bring inner peace and this would prepare them for the final judgment to come. It was fulfilling Christ’s words to “love thine enemies.”
From London they came to New Orleans. Failing West of the Mississippi, they went to New York, then they opened a chapter around Boston, then Chicago, in Toronto, then back in New Orleans and also in Miami. They had more success here and remained until about late 1974 before they dissipated. The gritty urban reality of the disillusioned but nostalgic 1970s wasn’t truly conducive to this Beat religion and its Baroque façade.
For all of their short time in San Francisco, did the man who would soon call himself the ZODIAC visit their mission or read their tracts? It is possible. Wherever they went they attracted news, from London rags to the Chicago Tribune. They printed monthly magazines. They printed brochures. They had an editorial staff. Despite being only one of many oddball cults in the Haight, they stood out the most. After they decamped from their locations they left disciples behind.
I am more than idly speculating. I will soon get to what suggests ZODIAC stole and twisted inspiration from them and perhaps even tried to implicate them.
Processeans actually did some good works, so my next comment is not a negative. They simply were not a “do-gooder” movement. If you grasp Proceasseans’ complex metaphoric ideology you realize it is an introverted one. The first thing you might ask is “Why not just stick to ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’? OR: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ The Golden Rule solves everything, does it not? The Golden Rule, however, is the extrovert’s way of bringing unity and peace. It’s the sociological approach. The Process did not teach unity by actions to others. The Process was the evolution of a psychoanalysis technique, and psychoanalysis is not sociology. It was the introvert’s way of bringing unity by uniting within oneself the disparate and dichotomous attributes metaphorically represented in the Christian west by Satan, Jehovah, Christ and Lucifer. The motif was Christian, but the philosophy was actually Eastern– unite opposites to bring unity.
It is obvious that Processean philosophy would be easy to twist. The Christian West finds the Golden Rule much simpler and more efficacious. The psychoanalysis of The Process was too peculiar, at least when overlaid on a Christian motif. What does it mean for Satan to love Jehovah? How does that manifest itself? The last question again is from a sociological point of view. It is anticipating action. Yet The Process was psychoanalysis.
By character, in Processean ideology, each person favored one of the 4 extremes. Each Processean became “advocates” for that particular “god.” Those who wrote little tractates or advice columns, wrote from the point of view of being “The Advocate” of Christ or “the Advocate” of Lucifer. Those who were advocates of Christ had certain qualities we would find laudible. Those advocating for Jehovah were stern, disciplinarians. They condemned sensuality and sex. Those “Advocating” for Lucifer were the most sensual of the lot. Those “Advocating” for Satan were the most, well, Satanic. Any form of perversion was all right.
The Processeans were supposed to accept and indulge in their character but not stop there. They were then to unite all these opposites to bring perfect unity within themselves. But what if one didn’t go that far as to unite?
Their monthlies are hard to find. Some are on the web, but only a handful. In one issue the “Advocate” for Lucifer, named Eden, likens him to death and rebirth, following the ancient regard for Venus which is actually the planet Lucifer referred to in the Bible as the “son of the morning.” Venus would rise early, the brightest of the stars and eventually through the year would sink over the horizon before being reborn again and being the brightest star.
You can see that some of those who listened to their philosophy could twist it and get confused, especially those who had a dark streak in them and thought that they by “advocating” for Satan might be able to do anything dark they fancied. In addition to this, someone of a haughty mind might view the Processeans as horribly naïve in their introvert attempt to unite the metaphorical opposites. This evil person might be emboldened to form a darker cult of his own.
ZODIAC certainly had a haughty mind and to some extent a Baroque façade. His bizarre hood at Lake Berryessa carried with it some occult ceremonial meaning bearing the celestial Zodiac symbol. He had his own rituals, to say the least. His boasts in cryptograms seem false, but he tried to convince his readers he followed some strange cult wherein his victims would be his slaves in his afterlife. He would be reborn and be a master over others because he had killed them. Yet he was also contradictory. At other times he needled the police as though he was a common thug with base lingua urbis.
Amongst all the cults in Haight, why should it be The Process that inspired his bizarre modus operandi and signature? As I said it was the most flamboyant and literary, but there is another reason. Peculiarly, his letters showed he consistently used some British words or expressions– “kiddies” is pretty thin, but he also spelled “clues” as “clews.” It is not a misspelling. It is the British spelling. He used “Happy Christmass”– much more British. He quoted from Gilbert & Sullivan– very English– and he let us know he had seen the Beatles new movie in 1969, The Yellow Submarine. We know this because he used the expression from the film “blue meannies.”
An Omegan. The lines on the cross also have the circle at the center. The Process subtly mixed many symbols. It is the cross, the celestial Zodiac, and then 4 circles concentrically place. You can gather what those represent.
One could almost think this was a Processean gone bad, since many of the teachers (the inner circle) were English. But by December 1968 The Process was long gone from the Bay Area. By the time ZODIAC developed his terror campaign via his nasty letters it was the summer and then fall of 1969.
However, this does not preclude that ZODIAC had some Process pamphlets or had sat in on some meetings. Moreover, it was speculated he himself might be of English or Welsh origin.
Were ZODIAC’s letters complete ruses? Did he want to cast suspicion away from his real and very American identity? It would be rather thin to think anybody reading his letters in San Francisco would also think of The Process. Perhaps some might and call the police. But the greater question would be, why write the letters to begin with? One can say he wanted to put out false clues. But why bother with false clues? He was simply taking unnecessary risks.
Unless almost everything in his letters was intended as false clues it doesn’t make any sense that he continued to write them and subtly convey both an English background, an unlearned background, a strange ritual cult motive, and just plain thrill killing. It makes sense only if he accidently had killed someone he really knew. Only then would he need an elaborate character disguise. Did he actually know Dee Ferrin? It is after her murder that the letters and the whole publicity game begins.
Theorizing on this makes for much more interesting reads. There are those who love the idea of a genuine connection between the ‘Zodiac’ Killer and Darlene Ferrin. I find it awfully hard to believe. But it is a fact that ZODIAC’s publicity game developed slowly. Another problem with believing it was all publicity is that he wore the hood at Lake Berryessa. This indicates there was something to ZODIAC’s game. Remember, his victims were not meant to survive. We were not to know he had worn that hood. It meant something to him.
Strolling the Haight probably gave ZODIAC inspiration for some of the symbolism and ideas for his publicity campaign, but what gave him the motive to kill people at lovers’ lanes and then a cab driver? Then, on top of this, what motivated ZODIAC to suddenly stop?
On the surface the ‘Zodiac’ Killer’s crime spree doesn’t look too complex. But it evolved before our eyes and began to suggest the Haight, the occult, and some ulterior motive than just thrill killing. It is the most frustrating thing to try and explain. Now that I am 60,000 words into HorrorScope, I must grapple with more than identifying ZODIAC. I must explain not only the motive but the shifts in his MO. It all comes down to that bloody hood at Lake Berryessa. It truly meant something to him. That nut really had some ulterior motive and believed in his persona as The ZODIAC.
* * *
Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.