John Whiteside Parsons
|John Whiteside Parsons|
|Born||Marvel Whiteside Parsons
October 2, 1914
Los Angeles, California
|Died||June 17, 1952
John Whiteside Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons; October 2, 1914 – June 17, 1952), better known as Jack Parsons, was an American rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology and a pioneer in solid rocket fuel research and development. He was one of the principal founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Aerojet Corp.
Parsons was also an occultist and one of the first Americans to take a keen interest in the writings of English author and Thelema's founder Aleister Crowley. In this capacity, he joined and eventually led an American lodge of Crowley's magical order, Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.).
While his formal education was limited, Parsons demonstrated tremendous scientific aptitude and genius, particularly in chemistry. His rocket research was some of the earliest in the United States, and his pioneering work in the development of solid fuel and the invention of JATO units for aircraft was of great importance to the start of humanity's space age. The noted engineer Theodore von Kármán, Parsons' friend and benefactor, declared that the work of Parsons and his peers helped usher in the age of space travel. Parsons co-founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, commonly referred to as JPL. According to von Kármán, Parsons' work in solid fuel research "... made possible such outstanding rockets as the Polaris and the Minuteman."
It was in 1942, the same year Parsons was appointed as head of the Agapé Lodge by Aleister Crowley (who himself had studied chemistry), that Parsons made the crucial breakthrough in the development of rocket solid fuel. Following intuition, Parsons switched from black powder to asphalt and potassium perchlorate.
Parsons and the occult 
Parsons saw no contradiction between his scientific and magical pursuits. Before each rocket test launch, Parsons would chant Crowley's hymn to the Greek god Pan. In 1942 Parsons was chosen by Aleister Crowley to lead Agapé Lodge of OTO in California following Crowley's expulsion of Wilfred Smith from the position.
Parsons and Helen Northrup were married in April 1935.
Sara Northrup (aka "Sarah Elizabeth" or "Betty" Northrup), began living with Parsons and Parsons' wife, Sara's half-sister Helen Northrup; later, Parsons and Sara started an affair, which caused strife with Helen and eventually led to Helen leaving with Wilfred Smith.
Parsons' 11-room home, nicknamed "The Parsonage", became a boarding house for a variety of artists and eccentrics, including journalist Nieson Himmel, physicist Robert Cornog, and author and future Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard became involved with Parsons' mistress Sara Northrup and they later married.
Babalon Working and Marjorie Cameron 
Parsons, a science fiction fan, had read in the fantasy pulp magazine Unknown the 1940 original version of Jack Williamson "Darker Than You Think". Parsons identified the redheaded female love interest of the protagonist with Babalon or the "Scarlet Woman", whom Crowley had prophesied would usher in and help fulfill the Aeon of Horus and end the Aeon of Osiris represented by Christianity, other patriarchal religions, and male-dominated social institutions. In 1946, Parsons and Hubbard (whose works Fear and Typewriter in the Sky, among others, had appeared in Unknown) participated in a work of ceremonial magic known as the Babalon Working. In simple terms, the Babalon Working was a ritual to summon this Scarlet Woman. Paul Rydeen writes:
The purpose of Parson's [sic] operation has been underemphasized. He sought to produce a magickal child who would be a product of her environment rather than of her heredity. Crowley himself describes the Moonchild in just these terms. The Babalon Working itself was preparation for what was to come: a Thelemic messiah.
Crowley, who lived in England at this time and had little say over the matter, disagreed strenuously. Though he had never met him, Crowley had no love for Hubbard and considered him a con artist.
Almost immediately after the first stage of the Babalon Working, Parsons met Marjorie Cameron right in his own home, and regarded her as the Scarlet Woman and the fulfillment of the ritual. Parsons, Hubbard, and Cameron then proceeded to the Working's next stage, in which Cameron acted as Parsons' magical sexual partner with whom he planned to sire a Moonchild. The creation of this Moonchild had been previously covered in fictional form in Crowley's novel Moonchild. Parsons ended the Babalon Working by declaring it successful. A physical child was not conceived, but this did not affect the results and intentions of the ritual. Parsons and Cameron soon married.
Allied Enterprises 
In January 1946, Parsons, Sarah Northrup, and Hubbard had began a boat dealing company named Allied Enterprises. Parsons put in the sum of approximately $21,000 of which Hubbard contributed $1,200. After the Babalon Working, and just as Crowley had predicted, Hubbard eventually abandoned Parsons and their business plans, and left for a port in Florida with the boat and with Sarah. Parsons retreated to his hotel room and attempted to summon a typhoon in retribution (viz., with an evocation of Bartzabel—an intelligence presiding over the astrological forces associated with the planet Mars). A squall developed at sea and ripped the sails from the boat, forcing the ship back to port where Hubbard and Sarah were detained by the U.S. Coast Guard. A Florida court later dissolved the poorly-contracted business, ordered repayment of debts to Parsons, and awarded ownership of the boat to Hubbard. Parsons resigned his leadership of the Agapé Lodge and sold The Parsonage in 1946.
On 17 June 1952 Parsons was killed by an explosion of fulminate of mercury at his home laboratory. Though gravely injured, he survived the immediate explosion, but he died of his wounds a few hours later. Distraught, Parsons' mother killed herself just hours after he died.
Unsubstantiated rumors of suicide, murder, or a magical ritual gone wrong have attempted to explain Parsons' death. However, Parsons did store many volatile chemicals and compounds in his laboratory and had been working to finish a contract for a special effects firm.
Personal life 
Religious beliefs 
Parsons adhered to the occult philosphy of Thelema, which had been founded in 1904 by the English occultist Aleister Crowley following a spiritual revelation that he had in the city of Cairo, Egypt, when—according to Crowley's own accounts—a spirit being known as Aiwass dictated to him a prophetic text known as The Book of the Law.
On July 31, 1945, he gave a speech to the Agape Lodge in which he attempted to explain how he felt that The Book of the Law could be made relevant to "modern life." In this, which was subsequently published under the title of "Doing your Will", he examined the Thelemite concept of True Will, writing that:
- The mainspring of an individual is his creative Will. This Will is the sum of his tendencies, his destiny, his inner truth. It is one with the force that makes the birds sing and flowers bloom; as inevitable as gravity, as implicit as a bowel movement, it informs alike atoms and men and suns.
- To the man who knows this Will, there is no why or why not, no can or cannot; he IS!
- There is no known force that can turn an apple into an alley cat; there is no known force that can turn a man from his Will. This is the triumph of genius; that, surviving the centuries, enlightens the world.
- This force burns in every man.
He identified four obstacles that prevented humans from achieving and performing their True Will, all of which he connected with fear: the fear of incompetence, the fear of the opinion of others, the fear of hurting others, and the fear of insecurity, but he insisted that these must be overcome. He wrote that "The Will must be freed of its fetters. The ruthless examination and destruction of taboos, complexes, frustrations, dislikes, fears and disgusts hostile to the Will is essential to progress."
Politically, Parsons was a staunch and vocal social libertarian, believing strongly in the personal freedoms of the individual. This was in keeping with his religious adherence to Thelema, which holds to the ethical code of "Do what thou wilt." In his article, Freedom is a Lonely Star, he championed the libertarian social views of some of the founding fathers of the United States, which were enshrined in the American constitution, claiming that by his own time these had been:
- sold out by cheap and venal politicians, by benevolent authoritarians, by "loyal" party men, by shrewd and greedy capitalists, by wise guys and smart guys that know all the answers. It has been sold out by the great middle class that prefers its false security and false freedom, by the labor leaders that put power first, and the little man who prefers—at last with at least a decent reason—a full belly, or the promise of a full belly, to freedom turned dangerous and hungry.
- It has been sold out by America, and for that reason the heart of America is sick and the soul of America is dead.
He went on to criticise many aspects of contemporary American society, including the police, whom he felt "are little more than the agents of a corrupt political machine... [for whom] the collection of revenue and the terrorization of opposition is of far greater importance than the suppression of crime." Believing that "The police mind is usually of a sadistic and homicidal trend", he noted that they carried out the "ruthless punishment of symbolic scapegoats in the form of prostitutes, derelicts, Negroes, radicals, drunks, and other helpless and insignificant members of the nation indivisible" under the pretence of a country that had "liberty and justice for all".
Parsons was interested in socialism and communism, but he was sceptical of the ideas of Marxism and how they had been put into action by self-described 'communist' governments of the time, sarcastically writing that "The dictatorship of the proletariat is merely temporary—the state will eventually wither away like a snark hunter, leaving us all free as birds. Meanwhile it may be necessary to kill, torture and imprison a few million people, but whose fault is it if they get in the way of progress?" He was also wary of integration of Marxian ideals into Western governments, prefacing his essay Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword with the warning: "The golden voice of social security, of socialized 'this' and socialized 'that', with its attendant confiscatory taxation and intrusion on individual liberty, is everywhere raised and everywhere heeded." He was critical of the socialist policies instituted in the Soviet Union by the Communist Party under the leadership of Joseph Stalin at the time, believing that like the fascist leaders Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, they led to the "establishment of concentration camps, the murder and torture of free citizens, and the annihilation of all freedom." He was also a zionist and was supportive of the early creation of the State of Israel, making plans to emigrate there when his military security clearance was revoked due to his leftist beliefs and/or for passing technology to Israel, but his attempt to emigrate was prevented by his death.
In order to help bring about a freer society, Parsons believed in bringing about a liberalisation of sexual morality, which at the time was largely constrained by the dominant socially conservative attitudes within the United States. He believed that "The advent of psychonautical sciences and the publication of the Kinsey Report" into sexual diversity had an impact on western society that was "comparable to that of nuclear physics and the advent of the atomic bomb" and that in the future the restrictions on sexual morality within society should be abolished in order to bring about greater freedom and individuality.
Although he commented primarily upon the situation of civil liberties and individual freedoms in his native United States, he believed that such things were of worldwide importance, and that:
- We are one nation but we are also one world. The soul of the slums looks out of the eyes of Wall Street, and the fate of a Chinese coolie determines the destiny of America. We cannot suppress our brother's liberty without suppressing our own and we cannot murder our brothers without murdering ourselves. We will stand together as men for human freedom and human dignity or we will fall together, as animals, back into the jungle.
Parsons in popular culture 
Before his death, Jack Parsons appeared in science fiction writer Anthony Boucher's murder mystery Rocket to the Morgue (1942) under the guise of Hugo Chantrelle. In the same book, a fictional version of L. Ron Hubbard appears as a character named D. Vance Wimpole.
Parsons' relationship with Hubbard also appears in Feral House's Apocalypse Culture, Paradox's Big Book of Conspiracies, Alan Moore's Cobweb story in Top Shelf Asks the Big Questions, and in the Jon Atack nonfiction book A Piece of Blue Sky. He was one of the characters in Craig Baldwin's collage film Mock Up on Mu. A character named Zachary Carsons, based on Parsons, appears in the 2001 film The Profit. Parsons also was the main villain of the Atomic Robo short story "Rocket Science is a Two-Edged Sword," wherein Robo prevents Parsons from attaining godhood through a system of magick infused with science.
He is referenced in Philip K. Dick's novel Dr. Futurity, in which the protagonist is named Jim Parsons. He briefly appears in a 2002 issue of Alan Moore's comic book series Promethea entitled "The Wine Of Her Fornications" where he is one of the adepts in the "city of pyramids" in Moore's version of the Binah sphere of the Tree of Life and is watched over by John Dee. A play about Parsons, Babalon, by Paul Green, was performed in London in December 2005 by Travesty Theatre. A stage play about Parsons by George Morgan, Pasadena Babalon, premiered at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in 2010. It was directed by film and TV actor Brian Brophy. Adam Howden portrays him on a 2012 episode of the Science Channel series, Dark Matters: Twisted But True. He also appears as a major character in his own name in Jake Arnott's 2012 novel The House of Rumour.
- Freedom Is a Two-Edged Sword by John Whiteside Parsons, Edited by Marjorie Cameron and Hymenaeus Beta, ISBN 0-9726583-2-7 (on-line 1976 Edition Edited by C.R. Runyon)
- The Collected Writings of Jack Parsons: The Book of Babalon, The Book of Antichrist, and other writings" including:
- Three Essays on Freedom by John Whiteside Parsons (2008). With an Introduction by Hymenaeus Beta. Teitan Press. ISBN 978-0-933429-11-6
- The Book of Babalon
- The Book of Antichrist
- The Birth of Babalon (poem)
- We are the Witchcraft
- The Woman Girl with a Sword
- Letters to Cameron
- The Manifesto of the AntiChrist 
Books on Jack Parsons:
- Carter, Jack; Sex and Rockets, Feral House, 1999 ISBN 978-0-922915-56-9
- Pendle, George; Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons, Harcourt, 2005
- Testa, Anthony; The Key of the Abyss, Lulu.com, 2006, ISBN 1-4303-0160-0
Parsons' history with L. Ron Hubbard is further detailed in:
Parson appears in the graphic novel:
- Carbonneau, Richard The Marvel: A Biography of Jack Parsons, Cellar Door Publishing, 2011, ISBN 978-0-9766831-4-8
Much of its content can be found at Carbonneau's website: The Marvel: A Biography of Jack Parsons
- Carter, John (2005). Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons. Venice, Calif: Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-97-0.
- Pendle, George (2005). Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons. Harcourt. ISBN 0-297-84853-4. OCLC 59352636.
- Sutin, Lawrence (2000). Do What Thou Wilt: a Life of Aleister Crowley. Macmillan. p. 396. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/0-312-25243-4|0-312-25243-4[[Category:Articles with invalid ISBNs]]]] Check
|isbn=value (help). "Parsons was a brilliant scientist without a college degree."
- Levenda, Peter (2002). Unholy alliance: a history of Nazi involvement with the occult. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 244–245. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/0-8264-1409-0|0-8264-1409-0[[Category:Articles with invalid ISBNs]]]] Check
|isbn=value (help). "Further, it was probably no secret at all to American and British officials..."
- G. Landis, Book review, The Three Rocketeers, American Scientist, July–August 2005
- Starr, Martin P. (2003-11). The Unknown God: W. T. Smith and the Thelemites. Teitan Press. ISBN 0-933429-07-X.
- Pendle, pp. 85-87
- Metzger, Richard (2003-04-08). "John Whiteside Parsons: Anti-Christ Superstar". Retrieved 2009-08-12.
- Alexander Mitchell (October 5, 1969). SCIENTOLOGY: Revealed for the first time... The Sunday Times.
- Carter, John (2004). Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons. Feral House. 157. ISBN 0-922915-97-0.
- Parsons 2008. p. 21.
- Beta 2008. p. x-xi.
- Parsons 2008. p. 67.
- Parsons 2008. p. 69-71.
- Beta 2008. p. xi.
- Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword. Author's preface.
- Parsons 2008. p. 09.
- Beta 2008. p. ix.
- Parsons 2008. p. 11.
- Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword by Jack Parsons; full text
- "The Magical Father of American Rocketry" by Brian Doherty, May 2005, Reason
- Parsons 2008. p. 13.
- Evelyn Barge, " Pasadena Babalon: the World of Jack Parsons, on stage at Caltech," Pasadena Star News February 23, 2010. See Pasadena Babalon page at George Morgan web site (accessed August 21, 2010)
- Carter, John (2000). Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons. Feral House. vii. ISBN 0-922915-56-3.
- Beta, Hymenaeus (2008). "Foreword" to Three Essays on Freedom (J.W. Parsons). York Beach, Maine: Teitan Press.
- Parsons, John Whiteside (2008). Three Essays on Freedom. York Beach, Maine: Teitan Press.
- JPL Early History
- Aerojet corporation
- Cameron-Parsons Foundation website
- Thelemapedia entry on Jack Parsons
- Kaos Magazine 14, dedicated to Jack Parsons and Babalon Working.