Beloved of BABALON
A Psych Profile of JPL's Magickal Scientist
[from "StarFire" magazine, a Thelemic publication]
"But I say that that perfect image in the heart of man is patterned
by the awful lust in space-time that shapes all women, the
insatiable and eternal lust of Pan that is BABALON."
"About J.W.P. - all that I can say is that I am very sorry
feel sure that he had fine ideas, but he was led astray firstly by
Smith, then he was robbed of his last penny by a confidence man
named Hubbard ... I have no further interest in Jack and his
adventures; he is just a weak-minded fool, and must go to the devil
in his own way..."
John Whiteside Parsons was born on 2 October 1914 in Los Angeles,
California. His mother and father separated whilst he was quite
young and Parsons said later that this left him with "...a hatred of
authority and a spirit of revolution", as well as an Oedipal
attachment to his mother. He felt withdrawn and isolated as a child,
and was bullied by other children. This gave him, he thought,
"...the requisite contempt for the crowd and for the group
Parsons was born into a rich family, and sometime in his
youth there was what he referred to as a loss of family fortune.
This loss must only have been a temporary one, though - perhaps
caused by the break-up of the family - since in the 1940's he
inherited from his father a large, Victorian-style mansion in the
well-to-do area of Pasadena.
During adolescence, Parsons developed
an interest in science, especially physics and chemistry, and in
fact he went on to develop a career as a brilliant scientist in the
fields of explosives and rocket-fuel technology. His achievements as
a scientist were such that the Americans named a lunar crater after
him when they came to claim that territory for their own.
Appropriately enough, Crater Parsons is on the dark side of the
Parsons made contact with the
O.T.O. and the
A.'.A.'. in December
1938, whilst visiting Agape Lodge of the O.T.O. in California. He
was taken along by one of his fellow scientists. At that time Agape
Lodge used to give weekly performances of the Gnostic Catholic Mass,
seeing this as both a sacrament and a recruiting front.
was by then a moderately thriving and expanding concern, having been
founded in the mid-1920's by Wilfred T. Smith, an expatriate
Englishman. Smith had many years earlier been an associate of
Charles Stansfield Jones (Frater Achad) in Vancouver, Canada.
Crowley seems to have had, at least to begin with, a high regard for
Smith, and expected great things of him.
Over the years, however, he
grew increasingly disillusioned. Crowley felt that the O.T.O. should
have flowered in California, given imaginative leadership. Smith was
simply not capable of delivering, he thought, and perhaps even
deliberately impeding things.
By the time that Parsons joined the
Lodge in 1939, together with his wife Helen, relations between Smith
and Crowley were already in terminal decline, and Crowley was
casting around for someone else to take over headship of the Lodge.
One of the items in the Yorke Collection at Warburg Institute is a
collection of over 200 letters exchanged between Crowley and Smith,
in which the steady decline in their relationship is starkly
At this time, the Lodge was firmly in the grip of Smith and his
mistress, Regina Kahl. They were very authoritarian, and ruled
things with the proverbial rod of iron. At the weekly performances
of the Mass, Smith was the Priest and Regina Kahl the Priestess. The
Parsons were initiated into the O.T.O. in 1939 and like many
entrants of the time they took up membership of the A.'.A.'. as
well. Jack Parsons took as his motto "Thelema Obtentum Procedero
Amoris Nuptiae", an interestingly hybrid phrase which conveys the
intention of attaining Thelema through the nuptial of love; the
initials transliterated into Hebrew give his Magical Number, 210. He
seems to have made quite an impression on his fellow members. Jane
Wolfe, who had spent some time with Crowley at Cefalu, was an active
member of the Lodge at the time.
The following entry is from her
Magical Record during December 1940:
"Unknown to me, John Whiteside Parsons, a newcomer, began astral
travels. This knowledge decided Regina to undertake similar work.
All of which I learned after making my own decision. So the time
must be propitious.
Incidentally, I take Jack Parsons to be the child who "shall behold
them all" (the mysteries hidden therein. AL, 54-5).
26 years of age, 6'2", vital, potentially bisexual at the very
least, University of the State of California and Cal Tech., now
engaged in Cal. Tech. chemical laboratories developing "bigger and
better" explosives for Uncle Sam. Travels under sealed orders from
the government. Writes poetry - "sensuous only", he says.
music, which he seems to know thoroughly. I see him as the real
successor of Therion. Passionate; and has made the vilest analyses
result in a species of exaltation after the event. Has had mystical
experiences which gave him a sense of equality all round, although
he is hierarchical in feeling and in the established order."
Jack Parsons seems to have had something of a reverential attitude
towards Smith, perhaps seeing him as some sort of father figure -
the relationship between them seems to have had that sort of
ambiguity. In later years, he described how he felt an alternate
attraction and repulsion where Smith was concerned; and Smith,
whatever his limitations and faults may have been, was evidently a cherismatic man. Parsons, for his part, evidently made a strong
impression on Smith.
In a letter to Crowley during March 1941, Smith
wrote as follows:
"...I think I have at long last a really excellent man, John
Parsons. And starting next Teusday he begins a course of talks with
a view to enlarging our scope. He has an excellent mind and much
better intellect then myself - O yes, I know it would not
necessarily have to be very good to be better than mine...
John Parsons is going to be valuable. I feel sure we are going to
move ahead in spite of Max Schneider's continual efforts to
discredit me. He still exhibits your letters as proof that I am a
number one son of a bitch. I thought you were going to write to tell
him to clamp down..."
The last sentences in this quotation throw light on an important
factor in the affairs of Agape Lodge - the turmoil and personal
friction that was a constant emotional backdrop, and which seems
finally to have invalidated all their efforts.
The Lodge was
constantly riven by personal feuding and upheaval, and Crowley's
influence over the course of events seems in reality to have been
marginal. The nucleus of Agape Lodge was some sort of forerunner of
a hippie commune. Apart from anything else, Smith appears to have
regarded the women members of the Lodge as constituting his personal
harem, and of course this added to the friction.
Crowley was in
correspondence with many of the members at this time, and seems to
some extent to have encouraged people to tell tales on each other.
No doubt he saw it as a good way of keeping in touch with what was
going on, but it tended to inflame the widespread personal clashes
that were going on. He did try to make openness and honesty a policy
- laying down a rule that if "A" wrote to "B" attacking "C", then
"A" was duty-bound to copy the letter to "C" as a matter of course.
This seems to have happened but rarely, however.
In his attempts to assert his authority over the Lodge generally,
and Smith in particular, Crowley was frustrated by the loyalty -
despite all the bitchiness around - to Smith and Kahl. On the face
of it, he should have been able to exert his authority easily
enough. Karl Germer, his trusted right-hand man, was in New York;
whilst his colleague from the Cefalu days - Jane Wolfe - was a
member of the Lodge. Jane Wolfe was the same age as Crowley, but she
was very weak and indecisive. Reading about the course of the Agape
Lodge during the 1930's and 1940's is a bewildering experience. The
whole thing, despite the glamour that time and mystery now lend it,
seems to have been a mess. It is as well for us to bear in mind that
Jack Parsons - his obvious gifts notwithstanding - was part of
this melodramatic flux and flow.
Although Crowley grew increasingly despairing of and impatient with
Smith, and saw all too clearly the need to replace him as head of
Agape Lodge, the problem for Crowley - quite apart from HOW to get
rid of Smith - was with whom to replace him.
In the course of a
letter to Crowley of March 1942, Jane Wolfe made her
"Incidentally, I believe Jack Parsons
- who is devoted to Wilfred
- to be the coming leader, with Wilfred in advisory capacity. I
hope you two get together some day, although your present activities
in England seem to have postponed the date of your coming to us.
Jack, by the way, comes in through some inner experiences, but
mostly, perhaps, through the world of science. That is, he was "sold
on the Book of the Law" because it foretold Einstein, Heisenberg
whose work is not permitted in Russia - the quantum field folks,
whose work is along the "factor infinite and unknown" lines, etc.
You two would have a whale of a lot of things to talk over. He and
Helen are lock, stock and barrel for the Order."
By 1943, Crowley appears to have decided that some definite course
of action was necessary to get rid of Smith, and that his continued
presences in the Lodge was harmful.
In a letter of May 1943, to a
member called Roy Leffingwell, he wrote:
"I think that Smith is quite hopeless. I am quite satisfied with
what you say about his reactions to your family. It is all very
well, but Smith has apparently nothing else in his mind. He appears
to be using the Order as a happy hunting ground for "affairs". You
say the same thing, and I have no doubt that it is quite correct. I
think we must get rid of him once and for all; and this will include
the Parsons, unless they dissociate themselves immediately from him,
At this time Helen Parsons was having an affair with Smith, and also
supplanting Regina Kahl as Priestess in the public performances of
the Gnostic Mass.
Jack Parsons retained his strong feelings of
loyalty towards Smith, although perhaps a little confused by events.
Crowley, determined to get rid of Smith, viewed with concern the
extent to which Parsons - of whom he seems to have held a high
opinion - was under the spell of Smith. Whilst having a high regard
for Parsons, Crowley was also keenly aware of his faults, which he
hoped Parsons would outgrow in the course of time and experience. In
view of subsequent events in the life of Parsons, these perceptions
are interesting and important. Once again, they can best be
conveyed, perhaps, by extracts from several letters that Crowley
In a letter of July 1943 to Max Scheider, we read:
"As to Jack; I think he is perfectly alright at the bottom of
everything; but he is very young, and he has at present nothing like
the strength to deal with matters within his jurisdiction
In the course of a letter to Jane Wolfe, in December 1943, Crowley
made the following assessment:
"Jack is the Objective (Smith is out, an affaire classe'e: anybody
who communicates with him in any way is out also; and that is that,
and the best plan is to sponge the whole slate clean, and get to
work to build up Thelema on sound principals. And no more
brothel-building; let's use marble, not rotten old boards!). Jack's
trouble is his weakness, and his romantic side - the poet - is at
PRESENT a hindrance. He gets a kick from some magazine trash, or an
'occult' novel (if only he knew how they were concocted!) and dashes
off in wild pursuit. He MUST learn that the sparkle of champagne is
based on sound wine; pumping carbonic acid into urine is not the
"I wish to God I had him for six months
- even three, with a hustle
- to train in Will, in discipline. He must understand that fine and
fiery flashes of Spirit come from the organization of Matter, from
the drilling of every function of every bodily organ until it has
become so regular as to be automatic, and carried on by itself deep
down in the Unconscious. It is the steadiness of one's Heart that
enables one to endure the rapture of great passion; one doesn't want
the vital functions to be excitable."
In February 1944 he wrote in somewhat similar spirit to Mr. and Mrs.
Burlinghame, who were Lodge members:
"...I am very glad indeed of your offer to co-operate practically in
any way possible. I have left Jack Parsons in charge; he is quite
all right in essence, but very young and easily swayed by passing
influences. I shall look to you to help in keeping him up to the
And more expansively, in the course of a letter to Jack Parsons
himself in March 1946:
"I am particulary interested in what you have written to me about
the Elemental, because for some little while past I have been
endeavouring to intervene PERSONALLY on your behalf. I would however
have you recall Levi's aphorism 'the love of the Magus for such
beings is insensate, and may destroy him'.
It seems to me that there is a danger of your sensitiveness
upsetting your balance. Any experience that comes your way you have
a tendency to over-estimate. The first fine careless rapture wears
off in a month or so, and some other experience comes along and
carries you off on its back. Meanwhile you have neglected and
bewildered those who are dependent on you, either from above or from
I will ask you to bear in mind that you have one fulcrum for all
your levers, and that is your original oath to devote yourself to
raising mankind. All experiences, all efforts, must be referred to
this; as long as it remains unshaken you cannot go far wrong, for by
its own stability it will bring you back from any tendency to
At the same time, you being as sensitive as you are, it behooves you
to be more on your guard than would be the case with the majority of
Resolved though Crowley was to get rid of Smith, it was a long and
difficult manoeuvre, and had to be approached piece-meal at first.
Many of the Lodge members remained loyal to Smith, and were
reluctant to see him go. Smith was only too happy to hang on, in the
hope that what he saw as "popular opinion" would persuade Crowley to
retain him after all. Throughout all this, Smith seemed unable to
understand the depths of Crowley's hostility towards him; his
letters to Crowley of this period carry the tone - whether
implicitly or explicitly - of some wretch having to bear the
gratuitous beatings of his master. Some sort of dual authority
apparently operated between Smith and Parsons for a while - to the
reluctance of Parsons, himself still very much a Smith loyalist.
Eventually, Crowley seems to have hit upon a novel way to remove
Smith; he declared that Smith was the avatar of some god and should
go away on a Magical Retirement until he had realized his true
identity. To this end Crowley wrote a document of instruction for
Smith to follow, "LIBER 132". Smith made an attempt at this
Operation but had no joy at all in plumbing the depths of his
divinity. It seems doubtful if Crowley intended him to; I have seen
another letter from Crowley to an American correspondent at the
time, in which Crowley came as close as he could to admitting the
Machiavellian thrust of the whole affair.
The way was now clear for Crowley to appoint Parsons as head of
Agape Lodge. If he had hoped that the Lodge would be more stable
without Smith in charge, however, he was wrong. Smith continued to
live there for some time after, despite all attempts by Crowley and
Germer to declare him a leper, contact with whom would warrant
Parsons remained unhappy at what he considered
to be the unjust treatment of Smith. In late 1943 he wrote to
Crowley attacking him on this point, and offering his resignation.
Crowley's esteem of Parsons may be gauged from the fact that he
declined to accept the resignation, and asked Parsons to reconsider.
Parsons agreed to remain as head of the Lodge.
Parsons had by this time inherited a large, Victorian-style mansion
from his father, in a well-to-do area of Pasadena. He needed to rent
out some rooms to make ends meet, and he scandalized the
neighborhood by ensuring that only bohemians and the like were
accepted. By the summer of 1943 Helen had had a child by Smith, and
divorce was in the air. Jack Parsons took up with Helen's younger
sister Sara Northrup, known as Betty. This time was one of turmoil
for Parsons. We can get a glimpse of it from a document he wrote
some years later, "ANALYSIS BY A MASTER OF THE TEMPLE", where he
speaks of himself in the third person.
It includes the following
allusion to this time:
"Betty served to effect a transference from Helen at a critical
period. Had this not occurred, your repressed homosexual component
could have caused a serious disorder. Your passion for Betty also
gave you the magical force needed at the time, and the act of
adultery tinged with incest seemed as your magical conformation in
the Law of Thelema."
We get a further glimpse of Parsons' uncertainty in the course of a
letter from Jane Wolfe to Crowley, early in 1945. She wrote:
"Last evening, when Jack brought me these various papers for me to
post to you, I saw, for the first time, the small boy, or child.
This is it that is bewildered, does not quite know when to take hold
in this matter, or where, and is completely bowled over by the
ruthlessness of Smith - Smith, who has a master-hand when it comes
to dealing with this boy."
However, Parsons was also beginning to be seen in something of a
sinister light. In the course of a letter to Karl Germer, Jane Wolfe
wrote about a strange atmosphere that was manifesting. The following
comes from the end of 1945:
"There is something strange going on, quite apart from Smith. There
is always Betty, remember, who hates Smith. But our own Jack is
enamoured with Witchcraft, the houmfort, voodoo. From the start he
always wanted to evoke something - no matter what, I am inclined to
think, as long as he got a result.
According to Meeka yesterday, he has had a result
- an elemental he
doesn't know what to do with. From that statement of hers, it must
bother him - somewhat at least."
Phyllis Seckler, from whose account this passage of Jane Wolfe's has
been drawn, adds her own memories to this:
"Meeka also reported to Jane that another two persons always had to
do a lot of banishing in the house. They were sensitive and knew
that there was something alien and inimical was there. When I had
been there during the summer of 1944, I also knew there were
troublesome spirits about, especially on the third floor. It got so
I couldn't stand being up there, and a friend of mine couldn't even
climb the stairs that far, as the hair on the back of her neck began
to prickle and she got throughly frightened."
Into this maelstrom came a very fateful contact.
In August 1945
Parsons met L. Ron Hubbard, the future founder of Scientology, who
at that time was known as little more than a writer of pulp stories
and something of an eccentric. At the time he met Parsons he was a
naval officer on leave, and Parsons invited him to stay at his house
for the remainder of his leave.
They had quite a lot in common.
Parsons was very interested in science-fiction, as was Hubbard.
Hubbard, for his part, was interested in psychism and magic. As
anyone will know who has read the critical biography of Hubbard,
"BARE-FACED MESSIAH", by Russell Miller, he was a very bizarre
For all his charisma, charm and eccentricity,
Hubbard appears to have been little other than a confidence
trickster, and from his point of view Parsons was one more victem to
be exploited. There is a certain parallel with Parsons' relationship
with Smith - the more so because Hubbard and Betty started a
passionate affair. In spite of this, Parsons' admiration of and
enthusiasm for Hubbard remained unabated.
In a letter to Crowley of
late 1945 he wrote:
"Although he has no formal training in Magick, he has an
extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field.
From some of his experiences I deduce that he is in direct contact
with some higher intelligence, possibly his Guardian Angel... He is
the most Thelemic person I have ever met, and is in complete accord
with our own principles... I think I have made a great gain, and as
Betty and I are the best of friends there is little loss. I cared
for her rather deeply, but I have no desire to control her emotions,
and I can, I hope, control my own. I need a magical partner. I have
many experiments in mind..."
Enochian Air Tablet
The "magical partner" is a reference to Hubbard - not to a Scarlet
Woman, as might at first be supposed. In January 1946 Parsons
devised an Operation to, as he put it, "...obtain the assistance of
an elemental mate".
The core of this Working consisted of the utilisation of the Enochian Tablet of Air, or rather a specific
angle of it. This was to be the focus of VIIIų sexual magick, with
the purpose of giving substance to the elemental summons. Parsons
continued with this for eleven days, evoking twice daily. He noted
various psychic phenomena during this period, but felt discouraged
by the apparent failure of the Operation.
However, success followed
several days later. In his own words:
"The feeling of tension and unease continued for four days. Then on
January 18 at sunset, whilst the Scribe and I were on the Mojave
Desert, the feeling of tension suddenly stopped. I turned to him and
said 'it is done', in absolute certainty that the Operation was
accomplished. I returned home, and found a young woman answering the
requirements waiting for me. She is describable as an air of fire
type with bronze red hair, fiery and subtle, determined and
obstinate, sincere and perverse, with extraordinary personality,
talent and intelligence.
During the period of January 19 to February 27 I invoked the Goddess
BABALON with the aid of magical partner (Ron Hubbard), as was proper
to one of my grade."
In case any reader has just beamed down from another planet, perhaps
it should be mentioned that the "young woman" referred to was
The more romantic amongst us will perhaps be
disappointed to learn that she seems to have existed prior to
Parsons' elemental summons. She and Parsons married in October 1946;
and the certificate gives her age as then 24, her birthplace as
Iowa, and her profession as an artist. At one time she had served in
the U.S. Navy. At the time of this Working she was on a visit from
New York, where her mother lived, and she returned there after the Babalon Working for a while.
The passage by Parsons just quoted is a striking one, for several
reasons. It is notable that, even with the advent of Marjorie
Cameron he continued to regard Hubbard as being his magical partner.
I don't think that Parsons ever considered that he had conjured her
from thin air, so to speak.
However her appearance is accounted for
- synchronicity, sheer coincidence, magical manipulation of events,
or whatever - is irrelevant. the aim of the Operation as a whole
was to invoke Babalon, and obtaining the services of a suitable
Scarlet Woman by elemental summons was - at least at the time - a
means to this over-riding end. This needs to be borne in mind,
because otherwise there is a temptation to see Parsons and Cameron
as constituting the love-story of the century; in fact, the
relationship was rather more complex than that.
At the end of February 1946, Hubbard went away for a few days.
Parsons went back to the Mojave Desert and invoked Babalon. He gives
no further details of this, unfortunately.
All he does say is that
during this invocation,
"...the presence of the Goddess came upon me,
and I was commanded to write the following communication..."
communication, which purports to be the words of Babalon, consists
of 77 short verses. Whether it was direct voice, trance, or inspired
writing, he does not say. The answer probably lies in his Magical
Record of this period, but as far as I know it has not survived.
This communication of 77 verses he entitled " LIBER 49". He does not
explain the title, but no doubt considered such explanation
unnecessary, since 49 is a number sacred to Babalon. Chapter 49 of
Crowley's " THE BOOK OF LIES" is a panegyric to Babalon. The
connection is evident in " THE VISION AND THE VOICE", in which
Babalon is a strong and alluring current, and indeed the core of the
series of visions.
In the account of the 27th Aethyr the symbol of
Babalon is as a blood-red rose of 49 petals - red with the blood of
the saints who have squeezed every last drop into the Cup of Babalon. In the afore-mentioned 27th Aethyr we read:
"O Mother, wilt thou never have compassion on the children of earth?
Was it not enough that the Rose should be red with the blood of
thine heart, and that its petals should be 7 and by 7?"
Crowley's note to this adds:
"This is the use to which Babalon puts the blood of the Masters of
the Temple (see 12th Aethyr) to vivify the rose of eternal creation;
i.e. the attainment of the Master of the Temple fills the world with
life and beauty..."
Since it casts further light on the symbolism of Babalon, and shows
how firmly rooted this Babalon Working is in "THE VISION AND THE
VOICE", it will be useful to quote one futher passage, this time
from the account of the 15th Aethyr:
"There appears immediately in the Aethyr a tremendous column of
scarlet fire, whirling forth, rebounding, crying aloud. And about it
are four columns, of green and blue and gold and silver, each
inscribed with writings in the character of the dagger. And the
column of fire is dancing among the pillars. Now it seems that the
fire is but the skirt of the dancer, and the dancer is a mighty god.
The vision is overpowering.
As the dancer whirls, she chants in a low, strange voice, quickening
as she goes: Lo! I gather up every spirit that is pure, and weave
him into my vesture of flame. I lick up the lives of men, and their
souls sparkle from mine eyes. I am the mighty sorceress, the lust of
the spirit. And by my dancing I gather for my mother NUIT the heads
of all them that are baptised in the waters of life. I am the lust
of the spirit that eateth up the soul of man. I have prepared a
feast for the adepts, and they that partake thereof shall see God.
Now it is clear what she has woven in her dance; it is the Crimson
Rose of the 49 Petals, and the Pillars are the Cross with which it
is conjoined. And between the pillars shoot out rays of pure green
fire; and now all the pillars are golden. She ceases to dance and
dwindles, gathering herself into the centre of the Rose."
Parsons spent the rest of his life devoted to Babalon
- some would
say that he became obsessed by Her.
"LIBER 49" contains instructions for the earthing of this Babalon
current in the form or an avatar, daughter or manifestation of
Babalon, who was to appear amongst us. It would seem that Parsons
was expecting a full-blown incarnation, and not simply the
inauguration of a force.
The second verse of the text declares it to
be the fourth chapter of "THE BOOK OF THE LAW", and it is worth
quoting this in full:
"And this is my book, that is the fourth chapter of the Book of the
Law, He completing the Name, for I am out of NUIT by HORUS, the
incestuous sister of RA-HOOR-KHUIT."
In terms of content, level of inspiration, and style, "LIBER 49" is
nothing like "THE BOOK OF THE LAW"; and on this basis alone, the
claim can be looked at askance.
We could expect, I think, that a
fourth chapter would evince some sort of continuity with the three
chapters received by Crowley, and this is not at all evident in
"LIBER 49". However, the key to the claim lies in the reference, in
the quoted passage, to "the Name". The name is Tetragrammaton, IHVH;
and the "He completing" is the He final.
On this basis, Parsons
considered it axiomatic that Father-Mother-Son, IHV, was incomplete
without the Daughter, the He final; this he considered to be
Babalon, the natural complement of Vau, the Son, Horus.
Consideration of this is, I can appreciate, something of a hiccup to
a stright narrative of Parsons and the Babalon Working. However, it
is so central to his thinking that it really ought to be outlined
I can best give the flavour of this by quoting a couple of passages
from one of his essays that has yet to be published. He discusses
the break-up of patriarchy in the dawn of the twentieth century, and
the beginnings of a new age of Horus. The nature of this is seen as
disruptive, bringing confusion and terror. He instances two terrible
wars, the atomic bomb, and an increase in epicene and homosexual
He continues as follows:
"But the great event of the aeon, which will bring with it the
possibility of redemption to the whole of the western world, has not
yet been made manifest. We, who contain the knowledge of this event
among Ourselves until the time is right, and who were in fact the
instruments of its gestation, give these present indications.
The Aeon of Horus is of the nature of a child. To perceive this, we
must conceve of the nature of a child without the veil of sentiment-
ality - beyond good and evil, perfectly gentle, perfectly ruthless,
containing all possibilities within the limits of heredity, and
highly susceptible to training and environment. But the nature of
Horus is also the nature of force - blind, terrible, unlimited
force. That is why the West stands in imminent danger of
annihilation. that is why the West also stands in the possibility of
the most rapid and tremendous evolution that the world has ever
known. The balance must be love and understanding, or else all else
fails. Now We have said enough for this place.
Then let the student read and meditate upon the ritual of Horus,
constructing the total nature of Horus out of the polyphony of the
component concepts. And, if he dare, let him invoke Horus and
partake of the power and energy that is his right under the New
Aeon. And let him also consider the love whereby Horus may be
fulfilled and dignified; and meditating on this, let him prevision
and invoke that which is to come."
I haven't come across any material written by Parsons prior to the
Babalon Working. However, the probability must be that ideas similar
to this - the need for a complement to Horus - were on his mind
A few days after receiving "LIBER 49", Parsons put in hand the
ritual preparations as indicated in the text.
Again in his own
"On March 1 and 2, 1946, I prepared the alter and equipment in
accordance with the instructions in "LIBER 49". The Scribe, Ron
Hubbard, had been away about a week, and knew nothing of my
invocation of BABALON, which I had kept entirely secret. On the
night of March 2 he returned, and described a vision he had had that
evening, of a savage and beautiful woman riding naked on a great
cat-like beast. He was impressed with the urgent necessity of giving
me some message or communication.
We prepared magically for this
communication, constructing a temple at the alter with the analysis
of the key word. He was robed in white, carrying a lamp; and I in
black, hooded, with the cup and dagger. At his suggestion we played Rachmaninov's "Isle of the Dead" as backround music, and set an
automatic recorder to transcribe audible occurrences. At
approximately 8pm he began to dictate, I transcribed directly as I
Hubbard's vision sounds a bit too glib to me. It sounds rather like
he'd seen a copy of "THE BOOK OF THOTH" Atu XI, "LUST", showing the
Whore astride the Beast.
There would have been at least one copy of
"THE BOOK OF THOTH" around Parsons' place, I would have thought.
Interestingly, in spite of Hubbard being referred to as "the
Scribe", it was Hubbard who was giving utterance to "astral
communications", and Parsons writing them down. As far as the Babalon Working is concerned, Hubbard is the joker in the pack, the
factor infinite and unknown. His whole career, both before and after
his involvement with Parsons, shows him to have been a confidence
man par excellence.
Events after the Babalon Working, when he effortlessly swindled
Parsons out of thousands of dollars, demonstrate that Parsons was as
readily taken in as anyone. It is surely legitimite for us to
wonder, therefore, to what extent Hubbard's undoubted talents for
deceit - both of himself and of others - coloured the whole
This is not to invalidate it, or to declare it abortive,
but to sound a cautionary note. After all, Edward Kelly seems by
some accounts to have been a person of dubious repute, to put it
mildly; but this does not automatically negate the worth of the
Workings which he conducted with John Dee. There is another
interesting parallel between Hubbard and Kelly, as we shall see
The Workings arising from "LIBER 49" continued for several nights,
and they contained instructions for futher rituals. These rituals
were intended to facilitate the earthing of Babalon.
Some of the
communications received in the course of these Workings are of a
fierce, intense beauty, as a few excerpts will illustrate:
"She is flame of life, power of darkness, she destroys with a
glance, she may take thy soul. She feeds upon the death of men.
"The first ritual. Tomorrow the second ritual. Concentrate all force
and being in Our Lady BABALON. Light a single flame on Her alter,
saying: Flame is Our Lady, flame is Her hair, I am flame.
Display thyself to Our Lady; dedicate thy organs to Her, dedicate
thy heart to Her, dedicate thy mind to Her, dedicate thy soul to
Her, for She shall absorb thee, and thou shalt become living flame
before She incarnates. For it shall be through you alone, and no-one
else can help in this endeavour."
The rituals used included, for the most part, passages adapted from
For instance, there is material drawn from "THE
GOTHIC MASS", "THE VISION AND THE VOICE," and "TANNHAUSER". This is
not plagiarism on the part of Parsons. The rituals had to be drawn
up quickly, and these passages were at hand. Parsons had a beautiful
and lucid writing style of his own, and would have been more than
capable, in different circumstances, of devising his own innovations.
Some of the communications received in the course of the Babalon
Working have very forceful sexual expression, bordering on the
Consider, for instance, this passage:
"In verse seven verses of seven lines, seven magick words. Stand and
chant seven times. Envision thyself as a cloaked radiance desirable
to the Goddess, beloved. Envision Her approaching thee. Embrace Her,
cover Her with kisses. Think upon the lewd lascivious things thou
couldst do. All is good to BABALON. All.
"Then rest, meditating on this:
"Thou as a man and as a god hast strewn upon the earth and in the
heavens many loves. These recall; concentrate, concentrate each
woman thou hast raped. Remember her, think upon her, move her into
BABALON. This verse shall be used in worship when She appears.
"Then meditate upon thy desire, think upon Her, and, touching
naught, chant these verses. Recall each lascivious moment, each
lustful day, all set then into the astral body, touching naught.
"Preserve the material basis... The lust is Hers, the passion yours.
Consider thou the Beast raping.
"Leaving thy casual loves
- all belongs to BABALON, thy lust is
BABALON's. She is with thee three days. The sign is Hers, secret,
and no man knows its correspondences. Guard."
We should be wary of seeking to draw too close an analogy between
differing systems, and particularly between deities from those
Bearing this in mind, however, an analogue does suggest
itself between Kali and Babalon; perhaps Babalon is more sexually
loaded. In any case, all are aspects of the One Goddess, and Babalon
is a particular aspect of Nuit.
Verse 22 of the first chapter of
"THE BOOK OF THE LAW" says,
"Now, therefore, I am known to you by my
name Nuit, and to him by a secret name which I shall give him when
at least he knoweth me...".
This secret name was the correct
spelling of Babalon, which was given to Crowley whilst he was
scrying the 12th Aethyr; until then, he had been using the Biblical
form - "Babylon". By Gematria, Babalon enumerates as 156; and in a
note to his account of the 12 Aethyr Crowley tells us that "the
formula of 156 is constant copulation or samadhi on everything". It
is the blind, sexual passion that carries all before it - dionysian. There is a close connection between Babalon and Pan.
note to the account of the 2nd Aethyr, Crowley observes:
"From this it would appear BABALON (who is speaking through one of
her ministers) is the feminine (or androgyne) equivalent and not
merely the complement of Pan. This is shewn in many of her images."
This is echoed elsewhere by Parsons, who wrote:
"But I say that that perfect image in the heart of man is patterned
by the awful lust in space-time that shapes all women, the
insatiable and eternal lust of Pan that is BABALON."
After the Babalon Working had been concluded, all that Parsons could
do was wait.
He had been told that the Operation had succeeded, that
conception had occurred, and that in due course the avatar or
Daughter of Babalon would come to him, bearing a secret sign that
Parsons alone would recognize, and which would prove her
authenticity. Hubbard, though, had rather more mundane
considerations on his mind, and several weeks later he and Betty
absconded with a vast amount of Parsons' money.
This amounted to
many thousands of dollars as an investigation in Allied Enterprises,
a fund set up by Parsons, Betty and Hubbard, and into which Parsons
was persuaded to sink most of his savings. Parsons eventually
managed to track them down, and recovered a fraction of his money
after taking legal action. Parsons had no further contact with
either Hubbard or Betty after this.
He was, though, beset with other problems. Preoccupied with the
Babalon Working as he had been, he neglected his duties towards
Agape Lodge and its members. This was perhaps the final straw for
many of his peers. I get the impression that many of them considered
him something of a prima donna, were tired of his waywardness, and
saw an opportunity to cut him down to size.
The various members of
the Lodge never seemed to have much compassion in telling tales on
each other to Crowley, and he received reports from several
different sources on this latest escapade of Jack Parsons. From
these reports, Crowley concluded that Parsons' flaws had finally
overcome his promise, and that Parsons was a gullible fool beyond
He was, furthermore, infuriated by Parsons' intimations
that, in the interests of secrecy, he could not provide a full
account of what had transpired during the Babalon Working. Parsons
was suspended from his position as head of the Lodge, and departed
It is hard to know in greater detail just what did go on at this
I have seen a letter which Crowley wrote in January 1946 - some
weeks prior to
the Babalon Working
- in which he names someone
other than Parsons as Grand Master of Agape Lodge.
Be that as it
may, I have also seen a reference to Parsons being called to
account, at a special Lodge meeting, over certain things with which
his colleagues were unhappy - such as coming up with a text which
purported to be the fourth chapter of "THE BOOK OF THE LAW", an act
of heresy for which he was lucky not to be burned at the stake. It
is certain that he departed the O.T.O. at around this time, though
he continued to regard himself as a member of the A.'.A.'. He
remained on friendly terms with many of his colleagues, and he
continued to correspond with Germer until his death.
Not so with Crowley, however. Crowley must have been bitterly
disappointed with Parsons. He had had a high regard for his
abilities, as well as a keen awareness of faults such as
impulsiveness and recklessness - faults which, as Crowley now saw
it, had led to an inevitable downfall. Two short letter extracts
show this disappointment - both, as it happens, to Louis T.
In the course of a letter dated October 1946, he said:
"About J.W.P. - all that I can say is that I am very sorry
feel sure that he had fine ideas, but he was led astray firstly by
Smith, then he was robbed of his last penny by a confidence man
His last words are in the course of a letter of December 1946:
"I have no further interest in Jack and his adventures; he is just a
weak-minded fool, and must go to the devil in his own way.
Requiescat in pace."
Although Parsons and Hubbard went their separate ways after the
court settlement, that is not quite the end of the story as far as
Hubbard is concerned.
Mention was made above to a further parallel
between Hubbard and Kelly. In the course of a letter in January
1950, Parsons drew attention to an interesting similarity. In the
course of the Babalon Working, the rituals included the Enochian
Call of the Seventh Aire. This was in line with a passage in "LIBER
49", where Parsons was urged to "...seek me in the Seventh Aire".
"I have the text of Dee's skrying in the Seventh Aire, which as he
said '...so terrified me that, beseeching God to have mercy upon me,
I finally answer that I will from this day forward meddle no more
herein'. The voice, speaking from Kelly, resulted in a sinister
dissociation of Kelly's personality. The parallel with my own
Working with Ron, is appalling. After this Kelly robbed Dee,
absconded with his wife, and developed a criminal confidence career.
This is the voice:
'I am the Daughter of Fortitude, and ravished every hour from my
from my youth. For behold, I am Understanding, and Science dwelleth
in me; and the heavens oppress me. They cover and desire me with
infinite appetite; few or none that are earthly have embraced me,
for I am shadowed with the Circle of the Stars, and covered with the
morning clouds. My feet are swifter than the winds, and my hands are
sweeter than the morning dew. My garments are from the beginning,
and my dwelling place is in myself. The Lion knoweth not where I
walk, neither do the beasts of the field understand me. I am
deflowered, yet a virgin; I sanctify, and am not sanctified.
is he that embraceth me: for in the night season I am sweet, and in
the day full of pleasure. My company is a harmony of many symbols,
and my lips sweeter than health itself. I am a harlot for such as
ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not. Purge your
streets, O ye of men, and wash your houses clean; make yourselves
holy, and put on righteousness. Cast out your old strumpets, and
burn their clothes, and then I will come and dwell amongst you; and
behold, I will bring forth children unto you, and they shall be the
Sons of Comfort in the Age that is to come.'
In view of the fact that this MSS was unknown to Hubbard and I, the
parallelism is really extraordinary. I have found another prophecy
in "KHALED KHAN", which I shall send later..."
Quite how much of this is true, I don't know.
The passage as quoted
in the letter does differ in some ways from the passage as published
in Meric Casaubon's selection of the Dee diaries, "A True and
Faithful Relation of What Passed For Many Years Between Dr. John Dee
and Some Spirits", published in 1659. For instance, the concluding
phrase "...in the Age that is to come" does not appear.
Also, I have
yet to ascertain how true the account is of Kelly's exit from Dee's
life and his subsequent career.
Nevertheless, it is an intriguing
thought the Hubbard's life could have been disrupted through the Babalon Working. After reading the critical biography about Hubbard
("BARE-FACED MESSIAH", by Russell Miller) it seemed to me that the
time with Parsons was a definite watershed for Hubbard. Prior to it,
he seemed basically a colorful, mendacious eccentric; after it, he
seemed to slide into insanity. There is no sharp dividing line, but
the difference is clear.
In 1969, the "Sunday Times" newspaper published an article on the
lines of "Founder of Scientology involved in Black Magic", in which
they recounted details of the Babalon Working. The article was based
on details gleaned from the Gerald Yorke Collection at the Warburg
Institute, to which the reporters had gained access.
instituted legal proceedings for libel, and the "Sunday Times" for
reasons of their own decided not to fight it. Subsequently, Yorke
withdrew from the Warburg those papers relating to the Working. They
were incidentally, returned some years ago, following Yorke's death,
but are under a 25-year seal. At the time of the action, the Church
of Scientology made a statement alleging that Hubbard had been sent
in as an FBI agent to break up a "Black Magic group" which had
included several prominent scientists.
The operation had, they
continued, succeeded beyond the wildest expectations: he rescued a
girl that they were "using", and the group was dispersed and never
The activities of Parsons during the next few years are not at all
clear. I have only been able to catch glimpses through letters and
the like. In 1948 Parsons lost his security clearance to perform
classified government defense work, and for a man of his profession
this was the virtual withdrawal of his livelihood.
This action was
stated to be "because of his membership in a religious cult ...
believed to advocate sexual perversion ... organized at subject's
home ... which had been reported subversive". Parsons commented
later that he was suspended on charges of belonging to the O.T.O.
and circulating "LIBER OZ". Parsons defended himself in closed
court, and the charges were dropped. In the meantime, Marjorie
Cameron left him; their estrangement lasted several years. What lay
behind this rift I do not know, but it did seem final at the time.
In the document referred to earlier, "ANALYSIS BY A MASTER OF THE
TEMPLE", he makes the following allusion - again, he is speaking in
the third person:
"Candy appeared in the answer to your call, in order to wean you
from wetnursing. She has demonstrated the nature of woman to you in
such unequivocal terms that you should have no further room for
illusion on the subject.
The suspension and inquisition was my opportunity
- one of the
final chains in the link. At this time you were enabled to prepare
your thesis, formulate your Will, and take the Oath of the Abyss,
thus making it possible (although only partially) to manifest. The
exit of Candy prepares for the final stage of your initial
"Candy" is short for Candida, the Magical Name of Marjorie Cameron.
There was a reunion in late 1949 or early 1950, and they resumed
living together as man and wife.
As mentioned earlier, Parsons still considered himself a member of
the A.'.A.'. In December 1948 he took the Oath of Magister Templi,
and the name Belarion, Antichrist. This oath was taken in the
presence of Wilford T. Smith, with whom he had evidently retained
some sort of relationship. In 1949 he issued " THE BOOK OF THE
This is a short text, and in it he relates how he was
stripped of everything that he was, and then rededicated to Babalon.
This was, he considered, a recharging of the current generated by
the Babalon Working. He also pledged that the work of The Beast 666
would be fulfilled, and he seems to have seen that work as being, at
least in part, a subversion of Christian ethics. He further
prophesied that within seven years Babalon would manifest, so
bringing his work to fruition.
In September 1950 his employment at Hughes Aircraft Corporation was
terminated. He was found to be in possession of a number of
classified documents - several of them, as it happens, being
co-written by him and dating from his days at Cal. Tech. A lengthy
investigation by the State Attorney followed in which the FBI were
involved. Parsons it emerged, was hopeful of finding employment in
To this end he was seeking to persuade them of the case for
building a jet-propulsion factory complex, and had been using the
documents for background information. It was eventually concluded
that there were insufficient grounds for prosecution, many of the
documents containing information that should by then have been
declassified anyway. However, there were repercussions.
Board, who had reinstated his security clearance in March 1949,
informed him that in their view he no longer had the requisite
honesty and integrity; accordingly, the clearance was again
withdrawn in January 1952. This would have been the end of Parsons'
career in that particular scientific area.
From some incomplete essays that survive from this period, it seems
that Parsons was working towards building up some sort of teaching
Order with a Thelemic core, but relating to paganism and witchcraft,
and was preparing papers of instruction for such an Order. By
profession he was now building his own chemicals practice.
sold the main part of his property - the mansion itself - for
redevelopment some time earlier, and occupied the coach-house. The
garage he had converted into a laboratory, equipped with chemicals
and equipment. There was a plan to move to Mexico for awhile, both
to pursue mystical and magical research and to further his chemical
practice. He and Cameron had actually vacated the coach house,
Parsons went back and forth over the course of several days, moving
out his chemicals onto a trailer.
On one such visit, on the
afternoon of 17 June 1952, he dropped a container of fulminate of
mercury, a highly-unstable explosive. The resulting explosion was
powerful and devastating, destroying most of the coach house. Parsons
was seriously injured; horrifically enough, though, he was still
conscious when rescuers got to him. He died an hour later, in the
Controversy has remained over his death. Many regarded it as highly
unlikely that a scientist of his experience could so mishandle such
a powerful explosive. During those last days he wrote what was
probably his last letter, to Karl Germer.
It is bizarre, and merits
quoting in full, it perhaps casts light on his frame of mind at the
"No doubt you will be delighted to hear from an adept who has
undertaken the operation of his H.G.A. in accord with our
The operation began auspiciously with a chromatic display of
psychosomatic symptoms, and progressed rapidly to acute psychosis. The
operator has altered satisfactorily between manic hysteria and
depressing melancholy stupor on approximately 40 cycles, and
satisfactory progress has been maintained in social ostracism,
economic collapses and mental disassociation.
These statements are mentioned not in any vainglorious spirit of
conceit, but rather that they may serve as comfort and inspiration
to other aspirants on the Path.
Now I'm off to the wilds of Mexico for a period, also in pursuit of
the elusive H.G.A. before winding up in the guard (room) finally via
the booby hotels, the graveyard, or --? If the final, you can tell
all the little practicuses that I wouldn't have missed it for
No one. Once called 210.
The manner of Parsons' death brings to mind the association of
Babalon with flame. The lenghty passage quoted earlier from the "THE
VISION AND THE VOICE" uses the idea of flame, as did the material
communicated during the Babalon Working. The passage "...for She
shall absorb thee, and thou shalt become living flame before She
incarnates..." is particularly haunting. In some of his letters
written in the years after the Babalon Working, Parsons seemed to be
expecting a violent death, and he almost certainly had this similar
passage in mind.
A fragment survives from an earlier
version of "THE
BOOK OF BABALON", which is interesting in this connection:
"...because of this mystery BABALON is incarnate upon the earth
today, awaiting the proper hour for Her manifestation. And this my
book, that is dedicated to Her, is preparation and a portent for
that time. And in that day my work will be accomplished, and I shall
be blown away upon the Breath of a Father, even as it is prophesied.
And thus I labour lonely and outcast and abominable, and he-goat
upon the muck heaps of the world. Yet I am content with my lot,
since though I am clothed with barncloth, yet shall I come in power
and purple, for of this also am I contemptuous. Yea, I am."
Whatever the truth of this matter, Jack Parsons has remained over
the years a figure of fascination to many. I have attempted in the
course of this essay to summarize the events of the last fifteen or
so years of his life. A more considered evaluation of his life and
work requires a lot more research and experience, and remains a
labour of love for someone.
To that person, "BELOVED OF BABALON" is
offered as a foundation.
JPL's Sorcerous Scientist
Jack Parsons: Sorcerous Scientist
Strange Magazine #6, ISSN 0894-8968
P.O. Box 2246, Rockville, MD 20847
"The [Babalon] Working began in 1945-46, a few
months before Crowley's death in 1947, and just
prior to the wave of unexplained aerial phenomena
now recalled as the 'Great Flying Saucer Flap'...
Parsons opened a door and something flew in.
"A Gateway for the Great Old Ones has already been
- and opened - by members of the O.T.O.
who are en rapport with this entity [Lam, an extra-
terrestrial being whom Crowley supposedly contacted
while in America in 1919]."
-Kenneth Grant, O.T.O.
The Sorcerous Scientist
"I hight Don Quixote, I live on peyote,
marijuana, morphine and cocaine,
I never know sadness, but only a madness
that burns at the heart and the brain.
I see each charwoman, ecstatic, inhuman,
angelic, demonic, divine.
Each wagon a dragon, each beer mug a flagon
that brims with ambrosial wine." (1)
-John Whiteside (Jack") Parsons (1943)
The preceding poem is the most famous written work of John Whiteside
He helped make science fiction into fact, yet
this dark and handsome man, born of a well-to-do Los Angeles family,
made his private life "visionary" in a different way, being as
involved with ceremonial magic outside of working hours as he was
with rocketry research during the day. In the mid-to-late 1940s, his
major accomplishments behind him, magic came to obsess him all the
Frank Malina, one of his colleagues at Caltech (California Institute
of Technology) in Pasadena, has chronicled John (Jack) Parsons'
contributions to rocketry. (2) In 1936, Parsons and Edward S. Forman
came upon a report of a GALCIT (Guggenheim Aeronautical
Laboratory-Caltech) lecture concerning the idea of a rocket-powered
airplane. Parsons, though a self-trained chemist, had powers of
imagination that proved to be invaluable in all of his pursuits
(whether scientific or magical). He and Forman (a mechanic) bad
together been making small black-powder rockets.
They wanted to experiment with a liquid propellant rocket motor, so
(lacking the funds) they approached Caltech. As a result, Malina (in
1936) came up with a proposal for his doctoral thesis on rocket
propulsion and performance in-flight. Theodore von Karman (who
headed GALCIT) gave Malina permission to collaborate with Forman and
Parsons, even though the latter two were neither students nor staff
members of the institute.
Even so, funds were scarce, and the three experimenters chipped in
necessary funds for the materials.
They conducted the tests at
Arroyo Seco, behind the Devil's Gate Dam in Pasadena (very near the
present-day Jet Propulsion Laboratory), a site that, unbeknownst to
them, had previously been used by rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard. (Forteans
should make special note of the 'Devil's Gate' place-name.)
The "Suicide Squad"
Weld Arnold and Hsue Shen Tsien soon joined GALCIT rocket research,
completing the well-remembered team.
The group became known as the
'suicide squad" because of a 1937 test misfire in which a nitrogen
dioxide/alcohol cloud caused a thin layer of rust to appear on much
lab equipment. Henceforth, the small scale rocket motor responsible
was moved from the building. The failed experiment, providentially,
gave Parsons an important idea (to be recounted shortly).
In the summer of 1938, the staff decreased, leaving Malina, Forman
and Parsons as remaining core members. A few months later, the
National Academy of Science (NAS) Committee on Army Air Corps
Research commenced study with the GALCIT rocket research group, with
the express interest of finding ways to assist the takeoffs of
heavily-laden aircraft by using rocketry.
A $10,000 contract was thus awarded by the NAS to Caltech to develop
"jet" (actually rocket) propulsion to be used to provide
"super-performance" for propeller aircraft. Liquid and solid
propellant rocket engines were part of this research. Von Karman
took charge, with Malina, Parsons and Forman being the major members
of his staff. In 1940, Parsons was able to show the Air Corps that
red-fuming nitric acid was a better oxidizer than liquid oxygen
(making use of knowledge gained from the 1937 misfire). (3) This led
to important later developments.
As can be seen, Parsons was already invaluable to the development of
the technology that eventually got America into outer space.
The Secret Parsons
But he had a secret life, which appeared totally at odds with his
public one, and it came to further dominate his life as the '40s
Jack Parsons and his wife Helen bad come into contact with the Agape
lodge of the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis international magical
fraternity) in Los Angeles in 1939, and had joined it in 1941. It
was under the leadership of Wilfred Talbot Smith, a Britisher who
had founded this particular lodge about a decade earlier, circa
Smith and Parsons' wife hit it off nicely and he was soon not
much in evidence around the house and the O.T.O. Gnostic Mass temple
in the attic. This latter space was fully fitted out, and even had a
copy of the Egyptian 'Stele of Revealing,' venerated by followers of
the famous magician Aleister Crowley. It was the only such temple in
the world at that time which was properly functioning.
Crowley, the world head of the O.T.O., took action that increased
Parsons' stature in the Order. Circa 1943-44, he convinced Smith,
via a paper entitled 'Is Smith a God?' that astrological research
had shown that Smith was not a man, but actually an incarnation of
Taking the hint that Crowley wanted him out, the "god"
went into private magical practice, eventually with reportedly
rewarding results, remaining head of the lodge in name only. Parsons
became acting master of the lodge. (4) Why did Crowley in effect
kick Smith upstairs? The ostensible reason seemed to be the danger
that the man was turning the Order into (as Crowley put it) 'that
slimy abomination, a love cult'." (5)
Actually, Crowley, who was unable to emigrate to the United States,
was isolated from the only successful O.T.O. lodge in the world.
Because of this frustration, bad blood resulted, despite the fact
that Smith was probably the best field commander Crowley ever had.
Parsons had lost his wife to Smith, yet remained on good terms with
her. He was kept busy by Order activities, one of the most important
of which was the sending of money to Crowley, for both the old man's
minimal upkeep and the O.T.O. publishing fund. A good percentage
came from Parsons' own pocket." (6)
Crowley, who brought actual fame to the O.T.O. (which was already
well-known in Masonic circles), was one of Parsons' major
inspirations in life. The elderly man's accomplishments had been
many: as a poet, publisher, mountain climber, chess master, and
bisexual practitioner of sexual magic (or "Magick," as he termed
it). Made famous by yellow journalists as the "Wickedest Man in the
World," he considered his central identity to be the "Great Beast
666" as referred to in the book of "Revelation" in the Bible, though
he was not leaning on that work particularly in his religious ideas.
Needless to say, Crowley felt that the Bible had misconstrued the
meaning of the Beast and the Whore of Babylon necessary elements of
the succession to the Aeon of Horus, the Aeon of the Crowned and
Crowley synopsized human development thusly:
"Within the memory of man we have had the Pagan period, the worship
of Nature, of Isis, of the Mother, of the Past; the Christian
period, the worship of Man, of Osiris, of the Present. The first
period is simple, quiet, easy, and pleasant; the material ignores
the spiritual; the second is of suffering and death: the spiritual
strives to ignore the material....The new Aeon is the worship of the
spiritual made one with the material, of Horus, of the Child, of the
Renowned as the most noted master of the occult of the last century,
Crowley's work is still influential (his books are sometimes stocked
even in New Age bookstores).
According to most accounts, when Parsons' father died (circa the
early '40s), Parsons inherited a mansion and coach-house at 1003
South Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena, California. To the shock of
the neighbors, the place became a haven for Bohemians and atheists,
who were the sort of people to whom Parsons liked to rent out rooms.
The lodge headquarters was moved to this location, making use of two
rooms in the house: the bedroom (which became a properly decorated
temple), and a wood-panelled library dominated by an enormous
portrait of Crowley.
According to a story told by L. Sprague DeCamp (most recently
appearing in the June 24, 1990 Los Angeles Times, p. A35), at one
point the police - who had heard neighbors' reports of a ritual in
which a nude pregnant woman jumped nine times through a fire in the
yard - came to investigate, but Parsons put them off by emphasizing
his scientific credentials.
His Career Rockets
Returning to the events of 1940, the explosions of many of Parsons'
rockets on the test stand caused second thoughts among many involved
in the government-financed project. After work by Von Karman and
Malina on the differential equations involved on the theoretical
side, Parsons was given permission to keep on with his tests, and a
few months later the earliest "jet-assisted takeoff" rockets were
These were the direct forerunners of the modern large
The first American rocket-assisted takeoff (August 12,1941) made use
of a Parsons-developed solid-propellant (GALCIT 27 - which provided
a 28 lb. maximum thrust for 12 seconds). But tests showed that GALCIT 27 would explode when stored for long periods, so Parsons,
Mark M. Mills and Fred S. Miller came up with a more stable fuel (GALCIT
53) in June 1942.
At the same time, others were working with Parsons' idea for a
red-fuming nitric acid-gasoline engine (a liquid propellant rocket).
On April 15, 1942, the first American flight of an aircraft making
use of such rocket engines to assist takeoff was accomplished.
The previous month, Malina, Parsons and Forman, with the advice of
von Karman's attorney, had set up the Aerojet Engineering
Corporation in March 1942, for the express purpose of properly
exploiting the developments that they had been making.
was one of the vice-presidents at the time of incorporation and
helped supervise the changeover to full-scale production. (8)
Parsons' High Ideals
Also a science fiction enthusiast, Parsons met fellow fan Alva
Rogers, who romanced another resident of Parsons' house.
found Jack's insistence that he believed in, and practiced, magic
hard to reconcile with his educational and cultural background,"
He originally thought that Parsons was just doing it
to shock his friends until he saw letters from Crowley, and
evidences of Parsons' funding of the guru. (9)
Parsons' magical idealism becomes clear if one peruses his writings.
In the 1946 essay "Freedom is a Two Edged Sword" (newly reprinted in
an anthology of the same title, published by Falcon Press) he writes
of the deeper meanings of his quest:
"[The individual] must go down like Moses, into his unknown self
...into the labyrinths of the dark land. There he will meet the
Mother and hear her final question, which is not a silly riddle but
the most wonderful and terrible of all questions: 'what is man?'
"And thereafter ...he may find the Graal, ultimate consciousness
...For it is he, wonderful monster, embryo god, that has swum in the
fish....peered from the eyes of serpents, swung with the ape, and
shaken the earth with the tramp of the tyrannosaurus hoof. It is he
who has cried out on all crosses, ruled on all thrones, grubbed in
all gutters. It is he whose face is reflected and distorted in all
heavens and hells, he, the child of the stars, the son of the ocean,
this creature of dust, this wonder and terror called man." (10)
After having lost Helen Parsons to Smith in 1944, Parsons soon fell
for her younger sister, Sara Northrup (a.k.a. Betty), who was 18
year old and a student at USC. Parsons encouraged her to drop out of
school and come live with him (not exactly thrilling her parents).
She joined the O.T.O. and was not monogamous, since she agreed with
Parsons that jealousy was a base emotion not fit for the
Delineating such beliefs, he once wrote that,
"...by debasing the
mother image into a demon-virgin-angel, it has denied each daughter
the possibility of her fulfillment," and that "...by imputing the
concepts of nastiness, dirt, shamefulness, guilt, indecency and
obscenity to the entire sexual process, it has poisoned the life
force at its source." (11)
He tried his hardest to live up to his philosophy, but events put
him to the extremest possible test, leading as they did to his
eventual estrangement from Betty.
During this period, also (circa 1945), Parsons became friends with
science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, with whom he shared many
interests. Details of their friendship can be found in the
biographies of Hubbard.
The Scarlet Woman
Parsons and an associate attempted to bring about some sort of
incarnation of the goddess Babalon.
To understand Parsons' attitude
towards Babalon, one can refer to his "Freedom..." essay:
"She will come girt with the sword of freedom, and before her kings
and priests will tremble and cities and empires will fall, and she
will be called BABALON, the scarlet woman....And women will respond
to her war cry, and throw off their shackles and chains, and men
will respond to her challenge, forsaking the foolish ways and the
little ways, and she will shine as the ruddy evening star in the
bloody sunset of Gotterdamerung, will shine as a morning star when
the night has passed, and a new dawn breaks over the garden of Pan"
Parsons performed rituals (reportedly to the background music of
Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff records) for 11 days in a process known
as the "Babalon Working." On the second and third days he got an
unwanted result, writing to Crowley that "the wind storm is very
interesting, but that is not what I asked for." (13)
On the seventh day of the Working, Parsons was awakened by seven
loud knocks. Getting up, he soon discovered a smashed table lamp.
Other phenomena occurred on subsequent nights, including an
(alleged) attack by an entity against one of their group which
knocked a candle out of the man's hand and paralyzed his right arm
overnight. Parsons banished-by gesturing at it with a magical
sword-what they took to be a seven-foot-tall, brownish- yellow
light. It is rumored that he thought the apparition to be Wilfred T.
On January 18, 1946, Parsons returned from a magical undertaking,
finding the needed "Scarlet Woman" (Marjorie Cameron) waiting for
him at the house. Parsons was overjoyed and wrote to Crowley:
have my elemental! ...She has red hair and slant green eyes as
Parsons, on February 28, 1946, went out into the Mojave Desert in
order to invoke Babalon, thus taking down 77 clauses of what came to
be known as his Book of Babalon.
Further work at the home temple produced more instructions for an
imminent ritual, the directions for which were supposedly emanating
from the astral plane.
The rituals (whose objective was to produce a magical child,
"mightier than all the kings of the earth") continued for two days.
Parsons was confident of their effectiveness, and wrote an exultant
letter to Crowley, whose response was not what would have been
wished. Parsons was upset by his mentor's lack of comprehension.
Crowley immediately wrote a letter to Karl Germer (who was the head
of the O.T.O. in the U.S. at that time) stating that,
Parsons...or somebody is producing a Moonchild. I get fairly frantic
when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts." (16)
Crowley reorganized the lodge on the basis of these actions removing
Parsons from power.
Parsons, Betty, and a key magical associate activated Allied
Enterprises (a yacht business of theirs), the intent of which was to
buy boats in the East in order to sail them to California - where
they could command a higher price.
The business had been founded some time earlier. But, as it
eventually worked out, Parsons was undergoing financial hardship in
the West, and went after his partners to find out why they had not
shown up in California. They were nowhere to be found. He soon
discovered that they were out at sea. From within a Miami, Florida
hotel room, Parsons invoked Bartzabel (the spirit of Mars and war).
A squall forced his associates back to port. (17)
Dade County, Florida court records reveal that Parsons filed a
lawsuit. (18) The result: Parsons got two of the boats back and made
an arrangement with his partners, so that they could pay him off for
the third. He never saw them again. Betty continued to think well of
Parsons (despite their estrangement), calling him a "truly great
man." Even so, she married the other business partner. One can
easily imagine Parsons' feelings about this turn of events. Both had
been key people in his personal, magical and business lives.
Because of the O.T.O. disaster, Parsons changed his magical emphases
to "the Witchcraft." (19)
He sold the main house at South Orange Grove, moving (with Marjorie
Cameron-whom he later married) into the coach-house on the property.
Several of the original incorporators of Aerojet sold out their
stock in the company to General Tire in 1952. Frank Malina did not
do so, and became, as a result, very rich. (20) It is rumored that
Jack Parsons had sold his shares in the mid-1940s.
In 1949, with, surprisingly, Wilfred T. Smith as witness, Parsons
took the Oath of the Abyss, to unite himself with the Universal
consciousness, taking the magical name of Belarion Armiluss Al
John Symonds, a biographer of Crowley, has stated
that Parsons had by now become psychotic (21) (but it should be kept
in mind that Symonds is a man of generally harsh judgments). On the
contrary, Parsons' writings from the late 1940s and early 1950s show
a sparkling lucidity.
Take, for example, this again-timely comment from "Freedom...":
"Religious groups, backed by a publicity conscious press, are
constantly campaigning for the prohibition of art and literature
which, as if by divine prerogative, they term, 'indecent,' immoral
"It would seem that all organizations are devoted to one common
purpose, the suppression of freedom. Nor is their sincerity any
excuse. History is a bloody testament that sincerity can achieve
atrocities which cynicism could never conceive." (22)
In a 1950 Introduction to the essay, he writes:
"We are one nation,
and one world....We cannot suppress our brothers' liberty without
murdering ourselves. We will stand together, as men, for human
freedom and human dignity, or we will fall together, simians all,
back to the swamp." (23)
Parsons' answer to the dilemma was magick, discussed in his essay
"It may be stated," he writes, "that magick is the
method of training individuals towards total consciousness by the
stimulation of various centers of the mind and by the cultivation of
field thinking. The object of this training is the manifestation of
initiated leadership towards a more conscious, better integrated,
and more interesting and significant social culture. In short the
object of magick is the unfoldment of the individual in all the ways
of love; and the enlightenment of society to accept all the
commitments of this unfoldment as the necessary conditions of
If these are the writings of a madman, then many people are mad,
including a number of those promoting the New Age way of life.
Sorcery And Science: An Explosive Combination
On June 20, 1952, Parsons was working in the private experimental
laboratory in his garage. At 5:08 p.m., the place exploded. The
general opinion was that he had dropped fulminate of mercury (25)).
His shattered body lay within the destroyed edifice.
It has been rumored that this was the end result of building
psychological pressures. Otherwise, why would he have dropped what
he was said to have, when a trash can containing cordite and
wrappers of fulminate of mercury was nearby? Especially since he was
about to travel to Mexico to test a new explosive he had devised,
which was "more powerful than anything yet invented." George
Santmeyers, who had worked with him for five years on industrial
projects (and did not believe in the rumors of his magical
activities) did not think an accident plausible, considering
Parsons' technical knowledge. (26)
But there were other theories.
In Nat Freedland's book The Occult
Explosion, Renate Druks, an artist and educational filmmaker (who
once, at her Malibu beach house, hosted Marjorie Cameron) related an
"I have every reason to believe that Jack Parsons
was working on some very strange experiments, trying to create what
the old alchemists called a homunculus, a tiny artificial man with
magic powers. I think that's what he was working on when the
accident happened." (27)
As magical work does not usually lead to explosions, nor deal with
explosives, this seems unlikely. Having lost his security clearance
because of providing Israel some secrets of his wartime work,
Parsons was doing movie special effects work at this time, but of
the explosive variety, not the fantastical. (28)
There were rumors of self-inflicted death or even murder connected
with Parsons' demise. Sources close to Parsons have suggested that
there was not just one explosion, but two. It is said that Parsons
and Cameron would mix dynamite and other explosives in the many vats
in the lab. Why then, it has been asked, was the first explosion
supposedly from under the floorboards?
This would seem to hint that a bomb bad been planted there. There
has been some speculation that the rumored perpetrator was neither a
friend nor associate of Parson's, but rather an individual who must
have bad a strong motive such as revenge.
Nevertheless, if Parsons' death was not a suicide, it becomes even
sadder. He and Cameron had many plans for the future, having
intended to travel to Mexico-and next perhaps to Spain or Israel,
according to what Cameron told others. (29)
Whatever actually caused Parsons' death, and whether there was any
public distortion of the truth or not, in regard to what happened
next there has been no dispute. His mother, Ruth Virginia Parsons,
after hearing the tragic news, committed suicide with an overdose of
sleeping tablets, in front of a frightened, crippled ftiend who
could not move to help her. (30)
Many men of genius have behaved quirkily in their private lives.
Parsons' tragedy was that his brand of idealism was often 'rewarded'
by betrayal. Yet, while his delvings into magic may not have been as
beneficial to society as his rocketry research, they have left us
with some points to consider.
Frater H.H.D. introduced his
"By applying to occultism the scientific acumen
so intrinsic to his professional research, he anticipated the
ontological implications of current quantum physics concerning the
nature of reality." (31) While this claim may be debatable (and
similar ones have been advanced towards other modern mystics),
Parsons did keep careful records of his magical work, thus allowing
the generations that follow to have some chance of evaluating his magick experiments, designed to make use of alleged unknown aspects
Some have tried to make sense of it already. Kenneth Grant, a
British magician, has made some - to say the least - astounding
inferences about Parsons' Babalon Working. He writes that: 'The
Working began in 1945-46, a few months before Crowley's death in
1947, and just prior to the wave of unexplained aerial phenomena now
recalled as the "Great Flying Saucer Flap." Parsons opened a door
and something flew in...." (32)
Grant's associates have kept busy in this regard. Grant states that:
"A Gateway for the Great Old Ones has already been established -
and opened - by members of the O.T.O. [an English splinter group]
who are en rapport with this entity [Lam, an extra-terrestrial being
whom Crowley supposedly contacted while in America in 1919].
Crowley's portrait of Lam has been reproduced in [Grant's] The
Magical Revival....(33) Crowley's rendition, by the way, resembles
the typical representation of an UFO entity."
If these suggestively "Lovecraftian" details turn out to have any
merit, Parsons may have helped us contact outer space in more ways
At the present time, however, such ideas seem highly
debatable. Certainly, neither Crowley nor Parsons were of the
opinion that their work concerned extraterrestrials of the Lovecraftian or the UFO varieties (though Cameron once sighted a
Yet, having turned what had been termed "science fiction" into
science fact, is it conceivable that Parsons' work may someday do
the same for elements of "fantasy?"
His imaginative powers had solved tricky scientific problems and
thus paved the way for space travel. Yet, perhaps because of his
lack of accredited training, and the fact that the scientific papers
to which he contributed were often unpublished (due to wartime
secrecy), his name is not to be found in the scientific "who's who"
(though a crater on the moon - 37' N. 171' W. was in 1972 named for
But his name has often been noted in the histories of magic.
Will further examination of the full extent of his work make him
more of a name to conjure with-a man who led the way to inner as
well as outer space?
Some corrections and clarifications by OTO's Bill Heidrick
John W. Parsons, from a poem printed in the Oriflamme, Journal of
the O.T.O., 21 February 1943.
Frank J. Malina, "Origins and First Decade of the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory," in The History of Rocket Technology, ed. Eugene Morlock
Emme. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1964), pp. 46-59.
Ibid., pp. 46-54.
Francis King and Isabel Sutherland, The Rebirth of Magic (London:
Corgi Books, 1982), p. 180; and Hymenaeus Beta, in 22 July 1990
telephone conversation with Mark Chorvinsky and Douglas Chapman.
John Symonds, The Great Beast (Frogmore, St. Albans, Herts:
Mayflower Books, Ltd., 1973), p. 445.
lbid; and Hymenaeus Beta, 22 July 1990.
Aleister Crowley, "Synopsis," The Holy Books of Thelema (York Beach,
Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1983), p. xxxi.
Malina, pp. 54-59.
Alva Rogers, Darkhouse, 1962.
Jack Parsons, "Freedom is a Two Edged Sword," in Freedom is a Two
Edged Sword, ed. Cameron and Hymenaeus Beta. (Las Vegas: Falcon
Press, 1989), p. 35.
Jack Parsons, "On Magick," in Freedom is a Two Edged Sword, ed.
Cameron and Hymenaeus Beta. (Las Vegas: Falcon Press, 1989), p. 48.
Parsons, "Freedom," pp. 43-44.
Symonds, p. 447.
Hymenaeus Beta, 22 July 1990.
Symonds, p. 447.
Ibid., p. 448.
King and Sutherland, p. 181.
Case No. 101634, Circuit Court, Dade County, Florida.
King and Sutherland, p. 182.
The Frank J. Malina Collection at the California Institute of
Technology - Guide to a Microfiche Edition, ed. Judith R. Goodstein
and Carol H. Bugd. (Pasadena, CA: Institute Archives, Robert A.
Millikan Memorial Library, California Institute of Technology,
1986), p. 17.
Symonds, p. 449.
Parsons, "Freedom," p. 18.
Ibid., p. 10.
Parsons, "On Magick," p. 47.
Symonds, p. 449.
Nat Freedland, The Occult Explosion (New York: Berkley, 1972), pp.
Ibid., p. 164.
Hymenaeus Beta, 22 July 1990.
Pasadena Star News, 21 June 1952 and 5 July 1952.
Magick, Gnosticism and the Witchcraft. Ed. Fra. H.H.D. (South
Stukely, Quebec: 93 Publishing, 1979).
Kenneth Grant, Outside the Circles of Time (London: Frederick Muller
Limited, 1980), p. 50.
Ibid., p. 228. [Grant also reproduces this picture on Plate 13 of
Hymenaeus Beta, 22 July 1990.