Charles Manson has declared himself to be Jesus. And Satan. Simultaneously.
Quite a trick, if you ask me.
What does he really believe? Well, there’s this pseudo-environmentalist credo he spouts sometimes that sounds a lot like the Una-Bomber’s manifesto, but I don’t think Charlie is nearly as much of a true believer as Ted Kaczynski. He once had his followers spend irrational amounts of time out in the desert, searching for the Bottomless Pit, but I don’t know what the heck that was supposed to accomplish. Unless he was in his Satanic phase, and looking for some lost real estate.
Too bad he wasn’t exposed to a wholesome and nutritious religion in his youth…
But not everyone is touched by His Noodliness.
Apparently, Charlie did spend time studying Scientology. And Buddhism. And several other things that caught his interest and had something to do with how the mind works. The story goes that Manson was exposed to Scientology back in the early 60’s. Enough so that when he was arrested in 1961, Charlie put it down as his religion.
There’s no mention of how that started, however, or who Manson might have studied with. The first time any of that comes up, it’s 1962 and he’s in the federal pen on McNeil Island, in Puget Sound. That’s where he encountered another convict named Lanier Rayner. Rayner was running group sessions, explaining Scientology to fellow convicts and “auditing” them.
Fact is, I’m not all that familiar with Scientology either.
My contact with it has been limited to the Writers of the Future program, now known as the Writers and Illustrators of the Future. That’s a contest established by L. Ron Hubbard’s will which takes entries from un- or very-little-published writers of spec fic and fledgling artists in the same genres (sci fi, fantasy, horror, etc.). Judges from the field pick out quarterly prize winners. Once a year, the first prize winners for each quarter get to compete for the Grand Prize for that year. Then the prize winners and a few runners-up are invited to take part in a workshop aimed at helping them develop their skills and prepare for a full-time career in the field.
The winning stories and illustrations are put together in an anthology, and you get a check for that as well as your prize money. It’s been a while, but my first published story came out in one of those. A vampire story called “A Winter’s Night” appeared in the 1987 collection, volume IV.
Mind you, when I first got the phone call telling me I’d won a prize for the First Quarter, I just laughed. I had to. They called me about it on April Fool’s Day! But then the check showed up, and it didn’t bounce, and none of my friends could afford to carry a joke that far.
Then I was worried about whether I should accept the invitation, because Scientology was getting a lot of bad press. It still does.
In the end, though, I went, and wound up spending a week with the likes of A.J. Budrys, Orson Scott Card, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, learning the finer points of story structure (thank you, Mary Sue) and catching a clue about things like interviews, research techniques, and career planning. Only heard the word Scientology once, in that entire week. It came up on the last day, during the session re tips on handling interviewers, both friendly and hostile. That’s when they suggested that if we were asked about it, we should just tell the truth – that this was the only time it came up.
Algys Budris, 2 years before I met him – a sweetheart of a man and a hell of a writer.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch, date unknown, is the award-winning author of several series of note in science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance under various noms de plume, and is also a former editor of both Pulphouse and the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Orson Scott Card in 2008, author of Ender’s Game, the Alvin the Maker series and many other books.
I know that some people don’t believe the contest and the Church of Scientology are really separate, funding-wise. I don’t know about that. For me, the workshop, the check, the anthology, and the sheer validation provided by all of that was immensely valuable, and I’m grateful for it. Among other things, it was a chance to meet some people who have either bought my work since or made their own splashes in the field. The Grand Prize Winner that year, for example, was Nancy Farmer, who has since won a slew of awards for her young adult and children’s novels, including the Newbery medal – three times!
John Moore was also part of that group, and Mary Turzillo, and Rod Garcia Y Robertson, all of whom are now much more published. Quite a few other authors have taken that hand up since then, like Jay Lake and John Scalzi. So far as I know, none has become a Scientologist.
I don’t know that Manson ever formally joined, either. He did claim that over the course of his year-long studies with Rayner, he achieved Scientology’s highest level and became a “clear.”
What does that mean?
Well, according to Wikipedia, Scientology is all about dealing with fallout from a dude called Xenu. Check it out for yourself, if you like:
The whole thing was started by the science fiction writer mentioned above, L. Ron Hubbard, in the early 1950s. Hubbard said his goal was to help people overcome toxic thought patterns (my interpretation). Along the way, as those patterns are brought to the surface and eliminated, the subject becomes “clear” and more capable of rational thought. When you get past that stage, and into Operating Thetan levels One and Two. At that stage, you’re let in on the real story of how people got so screwed up…Xenu’s story.
Hubbard wrote about it in a screenplay titled Revolt in the Stars in 1977.
According to Hubbard, Xenu was the ruler of a Galactic Confederacy some 75 million years ago. The Confederacy consisted of 26 stars and 76 planets, including Earth. The planets were overrun by excess population, topping 178 billion (which doesn’t seem like a lot, given that many planets – it works out to 2.34 billion per planet, about a third of Earth’s population right now).
Anyway, things were headed south and Xenu was about to be deposed. To save himself, Xenu called for income tax inspections or audits, and his minions called citizens in by the billions. His henchmen would then paralyze these people and freeze their bodies in a mixture of alcohol and glycol, supposedly so he could capture their souls.
I have no idea why either alcohol or glycol would have any effect on a person’s soul, but that’s how the story goes.
The kidnapped were then loaded up on spacecraft that looked just like DC-8’s but without the fanjets.
Arriving on Earth, then called Teegeeack, the bodies were stacked up like cord wood around our volcanoes. Hydrogen bombs were used to set off eruptions, and caused all kinds of havoc but failed to destroy the thetans (the immortal spirits, or souls) of the slaughtered. Those Thetans were forced to undergo brainwashing by Xenu, corrupting them. And when they were released, they promptly attached themselves to early humans, and are supposedly still haunting us.
Mind you, this stuff is only revealed to members who have already contributed large amounts of money (we’re talking six to seven figures here). Otherwise, the Church of Scientology omits any mention of Xenu in public statements, and has gone so far as to sue people who bring it up for copyright violation and/or theft of trade secrets – oh, my! Kind of cheeky, in my opinion, to claim copyright on behalf of Xenu, let alone attempting to extend that copyright for 75 million years. Even more so when, if asked directly, Scientology officials have either denied or tried to conceal the tale of Xenu.
They have no shame on this point, however. That may explain why and how they have also committed some truly awful science fiction to film.
At any rate, Manson never got that far. He wasn’t told about Thetan Levels One and Two. Still, according to Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote about it in his book, “Helter Skelter,” Charlie was at first so loudly enthusiastic about it that he drove one cell-mate to getting himself thrown into Solitary Confinement for the sake of the peace and quiet it offered. But by the time of Manson’s release from the Federal Penitentiary at McNeil Island, he was all done with Scientology.
Charlie hung on to some of the phraseology, though – ‘auditing’ and ‘coming to the Now’ – and to ideas like karma and reincarnation, which the Bug remarks, “perhaps fittingly, Scientology had borrowed in the first place.” (pp. 144-145)
Manson also picked up recruitment tricks, and came up with the winning combination he used to bring so many of society’s castaways into his Family: affection, acceptance, and the freedom to cast off the past and become someone brand new. Not that any of this was completely new to him. Apparently, when he was only six years old, Manson contrived to get several little girls in his class to beat up another boy he didn’t like. At that tender age, of course, wee Charlie looked like an angel.
After his release from prison, Manson went to Los Angeles. L.A. Times reporters say that he met several local Scientologists there, and that he attended several parties for movie stars, possibly including the July opening of the Church’s so-called celebrity center.
Later, when Manson and his Family were captured, detectives found Scientology literature at the ranch, along with an e-meter.
What’s an e-meter, you ask?
The formal term is electropsychometer. It’s a modified ohmmeter – that means it measures electrical resistance/conductance across the skin. When the subject grabs the silver canisters, one in each hand, it induces an electrical current of 1 to 5 volts, in fractions of a milliamp, and then measures resistance. It’s one of the elements used in lie detectors.
A trained Scientologist is supposed to be able to use an e-meter to detect spiritual impediments resulting from past experiences (including those of the Thetans haunting us). On the one hand, it’s a religious artifact invented by Hubbard himself (not really). On the other, it’s supposed to cure all sorts of physical and mental illnesses. BUT – it’s not in any way a medical device, because then the Church would run afoul of the FDA, which has rules about people practicing medicine without benefit of a license and a medical degree. The e-meter is supposed to measure the mental mass and energy of the subject’s mind, however, something which changes when problem thought patterns are cleared. In fact, Hubbard himself claimed that it was so sensitive, he could use one to detect the pain a tomato feels when it’s sliced.
You can make one for around $5 worth of parts, but if you want the official version with the shiny futuristic case, it’ll run you about four grand. The e-meters used by the Church of Scientology are manufactured by members at their Gold Base facility.
Nobody knows where Charlie got hold of his e-meter…some have even suggested he was actually recruited for some sort of Black Ops unit of Scientology.
Once Manson was arrested for the Tate-LaBianca bloodbath, of course, the Church of Scientology wanted no part of him. Even before that, he seems to have been declared a “suppressive person” by the Scientologists. When he showed up at the L.A. Org’s headquarters (in ’68?), telling them he was “clear” and wanting to know what came next, the receptionist referred him to the Ethics Office. Apparently, this is standard procedure for those perceived to be psychos of some sort. He may have caught on to that, because he never did show up there.
But that outcome may have been nothing to do with his psyche. Maybe Manson’s reception had something to do with his joining the Process.
The Process has been described as a ‘sex and Satan’ sect, and was formally titled The Process Church of the Final Judgment. It was founded by a pair of British Scientologists, Mary Anne (aka Mary Anne MacLean) and Robert DeGrimston (aka Robert Moor), who broke away from Scientology to start their own organization, based on the philosophy first espoused by Alfred North Whitehead.
Robert Moor reinvented himself as Robert DeGrimston, but ended up working for the phone company after his church fell apart.
The general idea was that Jehovah, Lucifer, Christ, and Satan were all aspects of the same godhead. In the end, Satan would become reconciled to Christ, and they would come together at the end of the world to judge humanity, Christ to judge and Satan to execute judgment. That would lead to a further reconciliation between Jehovah and Lucifer.
L. Ron Hubbard did not approve. He personally declared the founders to be ‘suppressive persons’ in December of 1965.
The pair decamped to Xtul in the Yucutan, then New Orleans, and eventually to San Francisco.
The Process wasn’t welcomed by the competition. The DeGrimstons paid a visit to the Black Pope, Anton LaVey, but the head of the Church of Satan did not see them as kindred spirits.
Undeterred, they set up a church at 407 Cole Street in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, ground zero for the flower children of the 1960’s. And a mere two blocks away, at 636 Cole Street, Charlie Manson was already building his own little Family.
Was there any direct contact?
I’d say so. For one thing, elements of the Process turned up in Manson’s little rituals out in the desert. For another, once the authorities had Charlie locked up and awaiting trial for the Tate and LaBianca killings, the Process sent people to visit him in jail.
Now, the purpose of the visit was supposedly to ask Manson about whether he had ever had any contact with Church members or ever received any literature about the Process.
The result? The Church published an article about Manson, with part of it by Manson. It was in the special “Death” edition of their magazine.
You can read the contents here:
Even so, the Process went to great lengths to disassociate themselves from Manson, denying that he’d ever ‘really’ been a member, just like Scientology.
I don’t believe either one, by the way. For one thing, an FBI raid on a Scientology headquarters building yielded some paperwork indicating their records had been vetted not once but twice in order to erase any formal connection with Manson. That says there was something to BE erased.
On the other hand, I don’t blame either Church for what Manson did, or for what his Family did. That is all on HIS head, and on his followers’. Manson certainly did borrow ideas and phrases and symbols and more from Scientology, and from the Process, and probably also from Anton LaVey’s group (one of Manson’s girls was, after all, a dancer in one of Anton’s productions). It’s also possible that Charlie got some kind of logistical assistance from one or more of them, but… if that did happen, I’m pretty sure it was unwitting on their part. Charlie’s agenda was just too crazy, too lethal, and too horrifying. The rabid publicity afterward did none of these groups any good, and I think the people running them were smart enough to know how that would go.
All three groups have rhemselves been accused of some pretty abhorrent stuff in other venues, but I don’t have first-hand knowledge of any of that, and I’m not getting into it here.
What I am going to do, now that we have some background on Charlie’s ‘belief system,’ is take a look at four homicides with direct links to all of this.
Next Up: The Scientology Murders