Interview with a Cult Survivor

Cult SurvivorIn the ’60s and ’70s, The Process Church preached the union of Christ and Satan, seducing wayward, occult-inclined hippies into a community that was at once terrifying and inspiring. Timothy Wyllie, then a young architecture student at London’s Regent Street Polytechnic, was one of them. A writer and former art director of The Process magazine, the cult survivor tells his story in a Feral House publication: Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgment.

Tanja M. Laden: What inspired you to write this book 35 years after the fact?

Timothy Wyllie: Feral House was planning to put out a facsimile edition of Process magazine, which of course interested me since it was my graphic work that was being recognized. It quickly became apparent to both of us that there was a much deeper and more fascinating story that the magazine was merely the tip of.

TML: What was your role in creating The Process magazines?

TW: As art director, I was in overall charge of what the magazine looked like, and I created most of the graphics. Some of the graphic ideas came out of a group process, but the end result was left up to me.

cult survivorFather Christian, aka Father Gabriel, reads the Holy Missal.

TML: How did your architectural background affect the aesthetics behind the magazine?

TW: I’d been interested in a very minor style of English architecture that flowered briefly and died as fast, called “Bowelism,” and I suspect it led to some of the more primitive, rotund aspect of some of the graphics. It’s acid and DMT more than architecture that I suspect shape my graphic style.

TML: Could you describe the magazine’s design process? How long did it typically take to create an issue, from beginning to end?

TW: Since we weren’t reliant on definitive publication dates — you’ll not find the date mentioned on any of the covers – we took as long as it took. The three main people were Malachi, editor; Phineas, production manager; and myself as art director. At some points we took in other peoples’ work, but almost all the work was done by us, working acetate on acetate to create multicolor images.

love sex fear deathSatan, Christ, The Omega. From the “Fear” issue.

TML: How do you feel about Photoshop?

TW: I love it for the simple stuff – layout and graded washes, etc. — but don’t choose to use it in my current graphic work. I believe there is a direct morphogenic wavefront created by the direct application of hand to paper — the spirit reaches through — whereas I’m inclined to feel that the spirit can easily get lost or become degraded in the fuzz of binary digits which separates my signal from the viewer.

TML: You and other members of The Process Church have said that the organization’s theology came second to the sense of belonging and identity that it bestowed upon individuals. What do you feel it was about the ’60s that enabled young people to feel the need to belong to something? Do you think this is a timeless phenomenon?

TW: I suspect it is, as you say, a timeless phenomenon. Every culture throughout history has extruded cults, a few of which actually take hold. Perhaps it is as if the spirit of history needs to check out every avenue of the social human experience without disturbing the progress of the collective.

While it may have been so that The Process gave some of the members a collective identity, it certainly wasn’t true for me. If anything, I was embarrassed by the identity — I was a loner, an outsider. Like some of the others, I simply felt intuitively drawn to it. As for the times, of course the ’60s are regarded as a time of great exploration. The Process was merely one of these paths. Perhaps some of the junior members who joined later on did so out of wanting to be part of something special, but hanging around street corners with a cross emblazoned with a red serpent and two Mendes badges on our shirts was not an identity many would want to identify with.

cult survivorFather Dominic reads from the Holy Missal.

TML: What were some of the most meaningful and/or beneficial things that you took away from your cult experience?

TW: Certainly a few of the central issues of The Process remain central to my life. The thing I most appreciate is that I came through it relatively intact; that I’ve been able to see meaning in it and that I’ve been able to profit by what I have found valuable about its teachings, and that I’ve been able to follow my own path for the last 32 years since I left.

Originally posted by Tanja M. Laden on Flavorwire.