In 1963, Robert Moore and Mary Ann MacLean met at the Hubbard Institute of Scientology, on Fitzroy Street, London. Both were training to be “auditors.” They married soon after, and in 1964 left Scientology to set up their own system, Compulsions Analysis. They also adopted the name DeGrimston. Robert had been trained as an architect, while Mary Anne had been married to the American boxing champion, Sugar Ray Robinson, before moving to London and running a prostitution ring. Red-haired, with long, silver fingernails, she had connections to the Profumo scandal, and entertained influential men; one of her clients became a lawyer for the Process.
In March 1966, the DeGrimstons were successful enough at siphoning off the excess cash of neurotic English youth to lease a mansion on Balfour Place in Mayfair. Members felt compelled to donate their worldly possessions to the couple, who lived on the top floor. In August that year, the cult decamped to Xtul, Mexico, on the north coast of Yucatan. There they apparently discovered Satan. Returning to London in 1967 and funded by a member’s inheritance, they turned their Mayfair mansion into a Satanic palace, complete with all-night coffee bar, movie house and book store, where they sold issues of their magazine, The Process (editorial policy: Hitler, Satan and gore). Processeans went around in black capes, turtle-necks, and silver crosses. They held telepathy classes, talked about the coming world conflagration and got on their soap box in Hyde Park, preaching apocalypse. They attracted enough attention for the Sunday Telegraph to run an article about them.
From a Church of Scientology premises in the West End, an occult group would emerge that would have links with the pop aristocracy from London to LA: The Process Church of the Final Judgment, commonly known merely as the Process.
They began to target pop-aristos as possible converts. Paul McCartney, actor
Richard Harris, then owner of Crowley’s old London address, Tower House (for which Great Beast devotee Jimmy Page later outbid David Bowie) were approached. But their big catch was Marianne Faithful. “Because of my father, I was quite open to ideas of group mind and power,” she admits today. “I grew up on a commune, so had already been exposed to ideas of this sort. All I did was an interview for their magazine. I was attracted to them at first, mostly because they took me seriously, when nobody else did. The Process people were very admiring of me. They must have recognized that I have got magic powers. All through my life people like this have been trying to get their hands on me. I thought I was being quite sophisticated, but the boys— Mick, Christopher (Gibbs) and the others—told me I had made a mistake. On one level it was a bit like The Prisoner—all these handsome young men in black turtlenecks—but before I went any further a warning bell went off and I backed away. I had a strong feeling that it wasn’t OK, and that it seemed to have something to do with brainwashing. John Michel, the Holy Grail and flying saucers were OK, but there was something almost like fascism about the Process.”
“John Michel, the Holy Grail and flying saucers were OK, but there was something almost like fascism about the Process.”
Late ’67 the Process hit the States; in LA they sidled up to members of the West Coast rock establishment—just as Charlie Manson would soon do. John Phillips and Mama Cass of Mamas And The Papas were approached. So was Warren Beatty. It’s just possible they had a relationship with Sirhan Sirhan, later convicted of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination (Sirhan spoke of “an occult group from London” that he “really wanted to go to London to see”). Another Hollywood figure the Process approached was Terry Melcher. Too late: he had his hands full with Charlie Manson’s gonorrhea-laden hippy chicks at Dennis Wilson’s Brentwood mansion.
Among other LA rockers Melcher might have seen there was Neil Young, who recalled sharing a couch with Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkle, “singing a song. A lot of pretty well known musicians around LA knew him (Charlie), though they’d probably deny it now. He was great. He was unreal. He was really, really good. Scary. Put him with a band that was as free as he was. No one was ever going to catch up with Charlie Manson ‘cos he’d make up the songs as he went along.” And yet… “there was just something about him that stopped anybody from being around him for too long—he was too
intense. He was one of those guys that wouldn’t let you off the hook.” Young was impressed enough with Manson’s music to suggest to Mo Ostin, head of Warner Brothers, that he sign him. It never happened, though Manson did manage to land a tune with The Beach Boys. His Cease To Exist, with its echoes of “turn off your mind” (Charlie, too, thought the ego was bad) appeared as Never Learn Not To Love on The Beach Boys’ Friends, and as a B-side of Bluebirds Over The Mountain.
By the by, Manson’s jail pal at Ohio State Penitentiary in the early ‘60s, Phil Kaufmann, later turns up as Gram Parsons’ roadie (picking up Marianne Faithfull at LAX in summer ’69). This same Kaufmann once put the hex on Charlie, after the Family “creepy-crawled” The Flying Burrito Brothers’ house in Beverly Glen—the band returned to their house once and found the furniture had been moved around. Phil recognized Charlie’s tricks, and put a tombstone with Manson’s name and date of birth on it on the lawn; the date of death he left open. They didn’t return. A few years later Kaufmann would take Gram Parsons’ body from LAX out to the desert in Joshua Tree National Monument and burn it in a pagan ceremony.
Nor were the Process and Manson’s Family alone in the California occult underworld. In 1966, Anton LaVey inaugurated the Church of Satan in San Francisco; members would include Sammy Davis Jr. and Jayne Mansfield, later decapitated in a freak car accident. LaVey’s brand of the satanic combined ’50s film noir atmospherics with a carnival huckster pitch. Even here there’s a Manson connection. Susan Atkins, who killed the pregnant Sharon Tate, worked for a while as a dancer in LaVey’s Topless Witches Review, a vampire girlie show in LA. Weirder still, LaVey was hired as “consultant” for Roman Polanski’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby and played the Devil.
In 1969 Jim Morrison said, “expose yourself to your deepest fear. After that fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” By that summer of ‘69, fear sent the affluent and decadent denizens of LA’s Sunset Strip scurrying out of clubs like the Whisky A Go Go and into heavily secured safe houses. Eyes peered through bamboo-shaded windows for any sign of the maniac who had it in for the rich and privileged. Heavy
drugs like cocaine and heroin, and now Manson, had turned the Good Vibrations of surfin’ ’66 into a fringe-jacketed Apocalypse Now. No-one picked up on this aura of imminent collapse like The Doors.
A few years later Kaufmann would take Gram Parsons’ body from LAX out to the desert in Joshua Tree National Monument and burn it in a pagan ceremony.
From the beginning The Doors were about altered states of consciousness. The name comes from William Blake, by way of Aldous Huxley. Blake unlocked the doors of perception with poetry. Huxley used psychedelics. Morrison brought the two together, creating a kind of rock theatre-of-cruelty- cum-mystery ritual, with the singer as sacrificial god.
If John Lennon was the tripped-out mystic and Jagger suave Jack Scratch, Morrison was the prehistoric shaman, letting rip the ancient gods within. “I obey the impulses everyone else has but won’t admit to,” he said, intoning the ethos of total liberation that was blowing itself out in those final days of ‘69, echoing Robert DeGrimston: “Release the fiend that lies dormant within you, for he is strong and ruthless and his power is far beyond the bounds of human frailty,” as he wrote in one of his epistles to the Process. In the spring of ’68, an issue of The Process magazine hit the Strip. The cover showed a satanic ceremony, a naked girl surrounded by hooded cultists. With his taste for topless bars and things demonic, it’s reasonable to guess that Jim would have seen it being sold on his journeys to and from the Alta Cienega Hotel in West Hollywood, a short roll down the hill from the Strip. Black capes in the warm California sun would be hard to miss.
Did Morrison step into the Galaxy Club, Omnibus or The Melody Room? If so, he may have come across Chuck Summers, alias Charlie Manson. Chuck hung at the Galaxy Club, just up the street from Jim’s regular haunt, the Whisky; the area was claimed by the biker gangs that Charlie and the Process wanted to recruit to the cause.
Morrison had been into magic and ritual for years, first passing through the doors of perception via film. In his collection of jottings made during his UCLA film school days, later published as The Lords, Morrison wrote of “Yoga powers”: “To make oneself invisible and small. To become gigantic and reach to the farthest things… To summon the dead. To exalt senses and perceive inaccessible images.” This last hits the Rimbaud-esque note that
Morrison brought to rock ‘n’ roll, a coupling of the rock star and the poet that later shamans like Patti Smith would emulate. “There are no longer dancers,” Jim complained. “We have been metamorphosized from a mad body dancing on the hillside to a pair of eyes staring in the dark…”
The Lords is full of references to the occult roots of cinema. “Cinema derives not from painting … but from ancient wizardry.” It is the “heir of alchemy, last of an erotic science…” The Lords themselves are a kind of secret society, a hidden hand arranging events behind the scenes. “Fear the Lords who are secret among us.” A later collection of poetry, The New Creatures, is dominated by images of sacrifice and mutilation, evoking “the wet dreams of an Aztec king.”
Nor was Jim the only mystic Door. Robby Krieger and John Densmore were into transcendental meditation. Ray Manzarek’s account of his time with band, Light My Fire, drips with esoterica (Tibetan bardos, the Qabala, you name it): he and Jim exemplified the aesthetic dialectic of Nietzsche— Morrison the wild, mad ecstatic (Dionysus) to Manzarek’s translucent dreamer (Apollo). Ray doesn’t stop there. He was the true psychedelic savant, on 150 mics of LSD invoking the Russian philosopher P D. Ouspensky and the Fourth Dimension to describe the experience.
“I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning.”
And then Jim quit acid and hit the bottle. Morrison saw himself in that unhappy company of the drunk poet—Poe, Fitzgerald, Malcolm Lowry. The bottle opened doors within him that led down to the archetypes—the sun, sea, moon, stars, the long snake, the ancient lake. It brought him down to the dark, watery roots, the swampy, earthy realm of the shadow. “I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning,” he wrote for an Elektra publicity release in 1967. He saw himself as the shaman, who would “intoxicate himself … put himself into a trance by dancing, drinking, taking drugs….” The shaman would go on a “mental travel and describe his journeys to the rest of the tribe.”
The shaman is also a healer, who takes on himself the sickness of the tribe, and through sacrifice, cures it. There’s an atmosphere of finality around The
Doors’ music, some of which can be chalked up to generic adolescent morbidity, but not all. The End. Break On Through. Funeral pyres. Killers on the roam. When The Music’s Over. Blood in the streets. We must, he tells us, “think of The Doors as a seance in an environment which has become hostile to life.”
In 1968, the film The Unknown Soldier premiered at the old Fillmore East in New York’s East Village. It depicts the sacrificial death of Morrison, tied to a stake and shot. Blood pours from his mouth, drenching flowers at his feet. 1968 was that kind of year: Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, race riots, the Chicago Democratic Convention, the student revolts in Paris and Cornell, Street Fighting Man. Another celluloid effort, HWY, is a dark version of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, with Morrison as a maniac hitchhiker on a killing spree in the desert, a theme later reprised in Riders On The Storm. (During the filming in LA, Jim called his poet friend Michael McClure in San Francisco. When McClure answered, Morrison said, “I wasted him,” then hung up.) Afterwards he was filmed urinating from a ledge on the top of the 17-storey 9000 Building on Sunset Boulevard. As Nitz Ga said, “Live dangerously.”
For his marriage to Patricia Kennely on Midsummer Night, 1970, the couple had a Wicca ceremony. Led by a high priestess of a coven, Jim and Patricia prayed and invoked the Moon goddess, then cut their arms, mixed their blood with wine and drank it, before stepping over a broomstick.
There’s an eerie photo of Morrison from the infamous Miami performance. Black-shirted, with long dark hair, thick beard and shades, Morrison holds a white lamb; the image evokes suggestions of some weird ritual slaughter, Jim’s get-up not that far removed from Process haute couture. He did dabble in a few standard occult exercises. For his marriage to Patricia Kennely on Midsummer Night, 1970, the couple had a Wicca ceremony. Led by a high priestess of a coven, Jim and Patricia prayed and invoked the Moon goddess, then cut their arms, mixed their blood with wine and drank it, before stepping over a broomstick. Later, during rehearsals for LA Woman, Morrison got into an affair with Ingrid Thompson, a Valkyrie-like beauty from Scandinavia. Both were heavily into coke at the time, and one night, after going through nearly a film can’s worth, Ingrid remarked to Jim that she sometimes drank blood. Jim insisted they have some immediately. Ingrid managed to slice her
palm. Jim caught it in a champagne glass. They made love, smearing themselves, then danced.
Oh, and during the night of the Tate killings the previous year, the caretaker of 10050 Cielo Drive, William Garretson, said he didn’t hear any screams because he was listening to music: The Doors. By the end of the decade, the occult explosion had turned into a mystical Big Bang. Jimi Hendrix was into flying saucers, and wanted to create a music that could “open people’s eyes to cosmic forces.” Speculating on the occult properties of music, he studied theories of sound-color resonance that harkened back to Theosophical composers like Alexandre Scriabin. At his famous Rainbow Bridge concert on Maui, the audience was seated according to their astrological sign, and chanted “Om” before Hendrix began to wail. The Grateful Dead, pioneers of acid spirituality, went on an “occult world tour” in the early ’70s, taking them to the Pyramids.