T h is book is an analytic ethnography, a psycho-history of a Satanic cult. A journalist might want to write on this subject because he could exploit public interest in the bizarre. But why should a sociologist care? Surely Satanic cults are rare and unimportant. There is some question if any really exist at all. Sometimes, of course, we can learn about social life by inspect ing a tiny, unusual part of it. Durkheim discovered society behind the solitude of suicide. If a real Satanic cult did exist, perhaps we could learn from its rejection of society’s virtues something new about society and about virtue.
The Power was a Satanic cult, but it was other things as well. It began as a psychotherapy movement and evolved into a religious community. What separates psychotherapy from religion, and what happens at their common border? The Power was born among normal young adults in the English monied classes who fled London to live on a Mexican beach, then wandered the streets of Europe and America begging. How can a cohesive deviant group emerge from a diffuse network of conventional people? The Power began with a few simple assumptions about the nature of the human person ality and evolved a complex culture of Gods, symbols, rituals, songs, and social customs. What are the ways that abundant new culture can be created? The Power followed Satan but also pursued every other God and spirit that promised a way out of the human condition. What are the ways people seek to transcend the lives given them, and what are the results of each kind of attempt? Satan, the God beneath contempt and beyond belief, was an expression of The Power’s will to escape the inhibitions of society. In its erratic quest, the cult explored the margins of conventionality and sojourned in more than one area of deviance.