JPL’s Jack Parsons
and his BABALON Brethren
Occultist Aleister Crowley, Pasadena JPL’s Jack Parsons & Scientology’s L.Ron Hubbard
“That’s the way they all became the BABALON Bunch©”
Brother Jack Parsons: The Magickal Scientist and His Circle
by Paul Rydeen1
“[The angel] carried my spirit away to the desert. I saw the scarlet woman sitting on the beast with seven heads and ten horns, covered with blasphemous names. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and gilded with gold and precious stones and pearls, with a golden cup in her hand filled with the abominations and the unclean things of her fornication. On her forehead a name had been written, ‘A Mystery: Babalon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.’ I saw the woman was drunk from the blood of the saints, and from the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. Seeing her, I wondered greatly.”
I shall I write of the mystery and the terror, of the wonder and pity and splendor of the sevenfold star that is Babalon? I shall tell of the tragic life of her most devoted disciple and beloved son, Jack Parsons. In doing so, I will correct previous misconceptions while correlating the known facts and wild legends that lie in several far-flung sources.
Kenneth Grant gives a good description of Parsons in The Magical Revival: “Imbued with the idea of the Kingly Man, as that expression is understood in the Cult of Thelema [Crowley’s invention], Parsons bent his not inconsiderable energies, physical and intellectual, to the discovery of his True Will.
Born on October 2, 1914, in Los Angeles [descendant of a HellFire Club founder, according to Michael Hoffman], he lived a lonely childhood, due in part to his parents’ broken marriage. He spent a great deal of his youth reading and day-dreaming, and nurturing a growing resentment of all interference, especially of the kind posing as “authority.” He developed strong revolutionary tendencies and when he encountered Crowley’s writings — which he first did through Wilfred T. Smith — he was instantly alive to the significance of Thelema. He joined Smith’s Agape Lodge [OTO], and, at the same time, became a Probationer, 1ø = 10ø, of the A:. A:.
Smith was a member of Frater Achad’s (Charles Stansfeld Jones) OTO lodge in Vancouver. He met Crowley there in 1915. Smith moved to California in 1930. He immediately founded the Agape Lodge in Pasadena. Frater Achad kept the Vancouver lodge open during this period, under a different name. It would later close. In “Alchemical Conspiracy and the Death of the West” Michael Hoffman writes of Parsons. Hoffman tells us that the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) had a temple on nearby Mount Palomar. The local Indians regarded the mountain as holy. Hoffman says, “The OTO believed that Palomar was the sexual chakra of the Earth.” Parsons commuted regularly between Palomar and Pasadena. The Mount Palomar Observatory opened in 1949. Smith probably consecrated his temple on Palomar soon after his move to California in 1930, before the Observatory was planned.
Palomar lies just minutes north of the 33rd parallel. This is significant because 33 is an important number in Masonic symbolism. It is the number of the highest grade of the Scottish Rite. It is also the number of years Christ walked on the earth. Hoffman mentions the 33 bones of the human spinal cord. This brings to mind kundalini yoga. Crowley’s OTO was a quasi-masonic order. The higher grades show esoteric Hindu influences of a sexual nature.
Parsons first met Smith in 1939. He joined the Agape Lodge in 1941. Parsons was to be its head during the turbid 1940s (ca. 1942-1947). Smith was known in the Lodge as Frater Velle Omnia Velle Nihil (aka Fra. 132). He was an expatriate Englishman. Smith had a reputation for womanizing that equalled Crowley’s. Parsons saw Smith as a second father. The two stayed close throughout their lives.
Smith wrote to Crowley in March, 1941, “I think I have at long last a really excellent man, John Parsons. And starting next Tuesday he begins a course of talks with a view to enlarging our scope. He has an excellent mind and much better intellect than myself…John Parsons is going to be valuable.”
Soror Estai (actress Jane Wolfe) had been with Crowley at Cefalu [Italian island where Crowley had previously set up residence before being kicked out by the local authorities] before coming to California. She recorded her first impression of Parsons in her Magical Record for December, 1940:
“Unknown to me, John Whiteside Parsons, a newcomer, began astral travels. This knowledge decided Regina [Kahl] 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’ [i.e., the Mysteries. See the Book of the Law I: 54-55].
“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. Lover of music, which he seems to know thoroughly. I see him as the real successor of Therion [Crowley]. 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.”
Parsons’ father died in 1942. He left his son a mansion in an expensive part of Pasadena. This may have been his way of making up to his son for his childhood. Parsons shocked the staid residents of this well manicured neighborhood when he started renting out rooms to less-than-desirable tenants. “Only atheists and those of a Bohemian disposition,” his newspaper ad stated. The frequent visitors, noisy parties, and questionable goings-on raised many eyebrows. Parsons needed the extra income these renters paid. His progress with rockets had yet to yield any success.
Alva Rogers was a long-time resident of the Parsons house on Orange Street. Rogers became associated with the house after attending several science fiction meetings there. Parsons held these informal meetings regularly on weekends. Rogers wrote, “Mundane souls were unceremoniously rejected as tenants. There was a professional fortune teller and seer who always wore appropriate dresses and decorated her apartment with symbols and artifacts of arcane lore. There was a lady, well past middle age but still strikingly beautiful, who claimed to have been at various times the mistress of half the famous men in France. There was a man who had been a renowned organist in the great movie palaces of the silent era. They were characters all. [From the rent they paid] Jack admitted that he was one of Crowley’s main sources of money in America.”
At one point local police came to investigate an alleged backyard ceremony. A pregnant woman had reportedly jumped nude through a fire nine times. The police made it clear how absurd they thought the claim was. Parsons easily assured them of his community standing. He was an important rocket scientist with a professional reputation to uphold.
Burton Wolfe writes of a sixteen-year-old boy who reported Parsons to the police. He told them that Parsons’ followers had forcibly sodomized him during a Black Mass at the house. The police investigated. They found Parsons’ cult to be little more than an organization dedicated to religious and philosophical speculation, with respectable members such as a Pasadena bank president, doctors, lawyers, and Hollywood actors.” At one point the FBI became involved after receiving some anonymous letters. One bore the signature, “An American Soldier.” The police again cleared Parsons of all charges. They would later stand by their findings when further accusations arose.
Wilfred Smith’s mistress of many years was Regina Kahl. She was also his High Priestess of the Gnostic Mass. Separate photos of her and Smith are in The Equinox Vol. III, no. 10. Smith had a charming personality, a strong affinity for the opposite sex, and what Grant calls “something more than an aptitude for magick.” One of Smith’s conquests was Soror Grimaud, aka Helen Northrup. She was Parsons’ first wife.
Helen bore Smith a child in 1943. Crowley decided that was enough of Smith’s sexual infidelity. His affairs were a detriment to the Order. Crowley expelled him through an ingenious means. Crowley drew up a horoscope for Smith based on the unusual circumstance of his birth. Smith’s horoscope had a complex of eight planets. One could interpret this horoscope as if Smith were an avatar of some god. This was something Crowley had found in only one other instance, that of Shakespeare.
Crowley sent Smith on a Grand Magical Retirement to find the god within himself. Crowley wrote Liber Apotheoosis (aka Liber 132) for Smith to use as his guide. Smith’s Retirement took place on Temple Hill at Rancho Royale, not Mount Palomar. Helen accompanied him. Crowley formally expelled Smith in late 1943. Parsons then became Acting Head of the Lodge. Regina Kahl would die during Smith’s Magical Retirement, in late 1945 or early 1946. Her untimely death deeply depressed him.
Parsons divorced Helen in 1943. In the meantime he struck up a relationship with her younger sister Betty. Like Helen, Betty acted as Parsons’ priestess at the Gnostic Mass. She was also his partner in the performance of 9th Degree magic. This is the magic of inducing altered states through prolonged sexual ecstasy. At Parsons’ urging the teenage Betty left the University of Southern California (USC), to her parents’ chagrin.
Enter “Frater H.” Grant refers to him as “a confidence trickster who had wormed his way into the OTO on the pretense of being interested in Magick.” He was “still at large , having grown wealthy and famous by a misuse of the secret knowledge which he had wormed out of Parsons.” Other writers refer to him merely as “Frater X.” The late Frater X’s identity is now clearly a matter of public record. I see no reason to do anything other than call him by name. He was L.Ron Hubbard: philosopher, world traveller, science fiction author, and founder of Scientology.
Parsons was young and impressionable. He had gone through repeated upheavals during his short life. He was vulnerable. Hubbard made a big impression on him. Parsons forgot his obligation and violated his oath to the Order. He revealed to Hubbard the secrets of the highest grades of the OTO.
Parsons wrote to Crowley in July, 1945, “About three months ago I met [Hubbard], a writer and explorer of whom I had known for some time [because he wrote science fiction]…He moved in with me about two months ago, and although Betty and I are still friendly, she has transferred her sexual affections to him…We are pooling our resources in a partnership that will act as a limited company to control our business ventures. I think I have made a great gain, and as Betty and I are the best of friends there is little loss…I need a magical partner. I have many experiments in mind…”
The magical partner Parsons envisioned was to be his partner in a 9th Degree working. Grant writes, “Having lost confidence in women, Parsons decided to attract an Elemental Spirit to take Betty’s place…” These spirits are called Elementals because of their association with the four elements of the ancients. To summon one requires a large amount of magical energy, the kind generated by an 8th Degree working. The practice of the 8th Degree is a solo sexual rite.
Says Grant, “The instructions that accompany the eighth Degree of the OTO contain methods for evoking an Elemental, or familiar spirit. It is said to be an easy matter to attract such a spirit because the souls of the elements desire constantly to be absorbed into the cycle of human evolution, this being the only way in which they can achieve salvation and perpetuity of existence. On being appropriated by a human organism, the elemental finally becomes absorbed in the immortal principle in man.” Compare Jim Morrison’s remark to an interviewer that the air around us is full of spirits. “They know we exist, and envy us our bodies.”
Grant quotes from the instructions for the 8th Degree, written about the adept desirous of performing such an operation:
* “(1) That he choose wisely a reasonable soul, docile, apt, beautiful, and in all ways worthy of love.
* “(2) That he fall not away from love of the Great Goddess into love of this inferior, but give only as a master and of his mercy, knowing that this also is service to the Goddess.
* “(3) That of such familiar spirits he have but four [one for each element?]. And let him regulate their service, appointing hours for each.
* “(4) That he treat them with kindness and firmness, being on his guard against their tricks.
“This being said, it is enough; for to have them is but the pains to call them forth from their homes. And the Spirits of the Elemental Tablets given by Dr. Dee and Sir Kelley are the best…”
In 1943 Parsons published a brief poem in the Oriflamme, an OTO publication. At this point it bears repeating:
“I hight don Quixote, I life on peyote,
marijuana, morphine and cocaine.
I never know sadness, but only a madness
that burns at tle 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.”
Symonds and Wilson have documented that narcotics and hallucinogens were a basic staple of Crowley’s magical diet. It is easier to induce astral vision when one alternately dulls and excites the senses by chemical means. One cannot underemphasize the role of drugs here. I suspect they were a part of the Babalon Working. Combined with sex magick, this makes a powerful tool.
Using the “Angelick” language channelled by Elizabethan astrologer John Dee and his scribe Edward Kelley, Parsons began his operation. He recited the Seventh Aire (or Aethyr) in the original Enochian. Per Crowley’s advice, he kept diligent records. Parsons would later compare some of the curious results to Kelley’s own criminal life. The surviving fragments of Parsons’ Babalon Working are now the property of the OTO. Parsons’ second wife Marjorie Cameron holds the copyright to Freedom Is A Two-Edged Sword.
The preliminaries began January 4, 1946 at 9 pm. Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto played loudly on the phonograph. The formal working would begin the following evening. Russell Miller refers to it as eleven nights of “talisman waving.” Later that month Parsons would write Crowley describing his progress. He noted a spontaneous windstorm as a curious side-effect. It began the second day and lasted throughout the Babalon Working. Parsons awoke on the sixth day of the Working, January 10. He heard nine loud, unexplainable knocks. I note a similarity to the nine regular knocks that Whitley Strieber felt confirmed the existence of his Visitors [interesting correlation here, no? -B:.B:.]. Parsons got out of bed. He noticed a lamp lay smashed on the floor. The knocks were repeated on the 15th.
January 15 was the eleventh and final day. Hubbard perceived a spirit “clad in a black robe and having an evil pasty [“grey” -B:.B:.] face.” Grant says this was Smith, who had failed to identify the god within himself. Grant says Smith astrally attacked Parsons in revenge. The electricity went out as they began invoking and something struck Hubbard on the right shoulder. It knocked a candle from his hand. “He called me,” Parsons wrote, “and we observed a brownish-yellow light about seven feet high. I brandished a magical sword, and it disappeared. Ron’s right arm was paralyzed for the rest of the night.” Parsons awakened later that night after hearing a “buzzing, metallic” [“alien” -B:.B:.] voice. The voice cried, “Let me go free!” Parsons sleepily performed the brief magical operation (nonsexual) known as the License to Depart. It is in the Goetia, or Lesser Key of Solomon. Smith’s spirit was free to return to his body.
Parsons wrote Crowley, “I have diligently followed the VIIIth Degree instructions as:
* (a) creation of new orders of beings with consecrated talismanic images. Possible connective result: increase in writing output;
* (b) Invocation of Mother Goddess, using Priest’s call in mass and silver cup as talisman; sometimes using suitable poetry such as Venus. Possible connective result: loss of Betty’s affections as preliminary to
* (c) Invocation of Air Elemental Kerub [Cherub]…in Enochian Air Tablet.”
The rite ended with Parsons commanding the spirit to appear in human form. On January 18 they went into the Mojave Desert to recuperate. Parsons turned to Hubbard at the end of the trip and said simply, “It is done.”
On February 23, 1946 Parsons triumphantly wrote to Crowley, “I have my elemental! She turned up one night after the conclusion of the Operation, and has been with me since.” The Elemental was Marjorie Cameron, sprung from Parsons’ head like Sophia from the Godhead or Pallas Athena from Zeus. She adopted the magical name “Candida,” [candida — a vaginal and occasionally intestinal parasitic yeast/fungus -B:.B:.] calling herself “Candy” for short. Soon she married Parsons, and helped him with his magick.
Crowley sent Parsons an admonishment about Cameron. He reminded him of Eliphas Levi’s advice that, “The love of the Magus for such things [Elementals] is insensate and may destroy him.” Be aware that Crowley considered himself to be the reincarnation of Levi. Crowley also claimed to have intervened personally on Parsons’ behalf, presumably on the astral plane. He does not say. It is possible Crowley knew someone who could send a girl like Cameron to Parsons. Cameron was from New York, though she had been born in Iowa and raised in the “Cthulhu Country” of Wisconsin. Crowley had spent some time in New York during World War I. Cameron spent most of her February back in New York visiting her mother. Hubbard was out of town on business.
On February 28, Parsons made a solo trip back to the desert and received Liber 49 in an unexplained manner. Jacques Vallee says Parsons claimed to have met a Venusian there in 1945 or 1946. Without the exact date, one cannot tell if the Venusian was the implied source of Liber 49. Parsons took this to be an affirmation of the need to produce a magickal child. When Hubbard returned he channelled a message from a red-haired, green-eyed angel ordering them to “Light first flame at 10pm, March 2, 1946. The year of Babalon is 4063.” That would be 2118 BC, the significance of which I have not determined. Cameron returned from New York and moved in with Parsons. She was now to be an integral part of the Babalon Working. After Parsons’ initial contact with the Beyond, Hubbard began acting as seer. Parsons called him Scribe in his notes. I do not know whether Hubbard actually participated in the higher workings of the OTO. Based on other sources I will discuss shortly it is clear he was present when Parsons did.
The operation began as directed on March 2. That evening a fire started in Parsons’ chimney. Later he decided it had occurred when he had smashed an image of Pan as a sacrifice. The idol had been a favorite personal possession. The papers containing the Seventh Aire that he burned may have had something to do with the fire as well. Parsons expressed his confidence, but wrote, “Now I can do no more than pray and wait.”
Between the second and fourth of March, 1946, Parsons recorded in a letter to Crowley what he described as “the most devastating experience of my life. I believe it was the result of the IXth Degree working with the girl who answered my elemental summons. I have been in direct communication with one who is most Holy and beautiful, mentioned in The Book of the Law. I cannot write the name at present.” Secretly he did write her name. He called her Babalon. [Hence the latter-day “BVM” apparitions of Fatima, Lourdes and Medjugorje (read: strife-torn Bosnia) which, though ostensibly benign, caused “the most devastating experience of Parson’s life” and ushered in the current wave of “UFO/ET” phenomenology via the soon afterward Roswell crash, Ken Arnold and George Adamski (et al) sightings — giving birth to the modern “UFO” mythos. All this from the apocalyptic “great whore of Babylon.” -B:.B:.] The one identified in The Book of the Law is the Egyptian goddess Nuit. In Liber 49 Babalon says she is the incestuous daughter of Nuit and Horus. Her avatar on earth is the Scarlet Woman. Babalon is not mentioned in The Book of the Law. The Scarlet Woman is.
Parsons documented the working in The Book of Babalon, of which a little survives. Liber 49 he came to see as a heretical fourth chapter of The Book of the Law. There are only three. He saw the four chapters as corresponding to the four letters of the ineffable name of God: YHWH, the Hebrew Yod He Vau He. He assigned one chapter to each letter and to what each letter represented. Unknown to Parsons, Frater Achad would proclaim the Aeon of another goddess in Vancouver, the Egyptian Maat. Crowley expelled Achad from the Order as well.
Return to Liber BABALON Master Index
Jack Parsons and the Fall of Babalon [$7.00 postpaid]
P.O.B. 1371, Kerrville, TX 78029-1371.
- V.H. Fra. B.R.H., B:.B:. (n.d. ). Liber Babalon Liber VI Publication in Class B An Holy Observer of the Babalon Bunch©. www.brotherblue.org. Retrieved 8 July 2010 from http://web.archive.org/web/19980424203242/www.brotherblue.org/brethren/parsons.htm ↩