Nevertheless, something about him and his followers seemed far more menacing and important than I could justify in terms of a few sensationally gory killings. As if warned in a forgotten nightmare, I felt that I had expected someone like Manson to appear on the scene. All that I read about him confirmed this eerie, elusive anxiety.
Besides that, much like Jim Garrison, Charles Manson was a paranoid. Nowhere is this more evident than on page 129 of The Family, where he is quoted as saying: "Christ on the cross, the coyote in the desert -- it's the same thing, man. The coyote is beautiful. He moves through the desert delicately, aware of everything, looking around. He hears every sound, smells every smell, sees everything that moves. He's always in a state of total paranoia and total paranoia is total awareness. You can learn from the coyote just like you learn from a child. A baby is born into the world in a state of fear. Total paranoia and awareness...." Once again I was grappling with the riddle of a man who appeared to act on the basis of a supreme confidence in the validity of his own delusions.
Escalation of the Vietnam war had radicalized me, once again, politically, so Charlie Manson's affinity for right-wing organizations was something else that alarmed me. Most particularly I was spooked by allegations about links between Manson's people and the Process Church, for when I had returned to New Orleans in order to clear myself, unsuccessfully, of Jim Garrison's suspicions, I encountered the Process Church there -- in circumstances giving me ample reason to suspect they were at least partially involved in framing me.
So as to avoid the mistakes of people like Garrison and Manson, it seemed essential to study psychology. That was another subject I found more fascinating than conspiracy theories about the John F. Kennedy assassination. Already acquainted with Freud and other pioneers of psychoanalysis, I began devoting my attention to more recent trends. That the older theories were unconsciously tainted with reactionary ideology was frequently mentioned in my political readings.
In 1972 I discovered a psychology book that dovetailed beautifully with my political opinions, by then both anarchist and left of center. A collection of readings compiled by Jerome Agel and the Radical Therapist newspaper staff, The Radical Therapist Anthology found the roots of nearly all neurosis and psychosis outside the individual, lodged firmly and visibly in the authoritarian class structure of society. As a sociology major at Georgia State University, I had already begun to suspect as much.
There was only one hitch, best summed up in "The Radical Psychiatry Manifesto" by Claude Steiner: "Paranoia is a state of heightened awareness. Most people are persecuted beyond their wildest delusions."
I wondered if that could be true. Certainly it was not without personal relevance, in terms of my own very unsatisfactory adjustment to the John F. Kennedy murder mystery. Perpetually fearing that my radical friends would think I was a C.I.A. agent because of what Garrison had said, and yet afraid that I would become paranoid if I delved into the unanswered questions about Oswald too deeply, I walked an uncomfortably narrow line.