John Whiteside Parsons was born in 1914, a child of wealth and privilege in unholy Los Angeles. His father took a hike while Parsons was a teen, and like so many other kids, young Jack successfully summoned Satan to assuage his loneliness. Hey, haven’t we all been there?
The departure of his father also left Parsons with an Oedipal fixation on his mother, according to his biography Love and Rockets (the author adds that later in life, Parsons is rumored to have filmed himself working through his complex through the novel approach of actually having sex with Mom).
Parsons was a bit of a wunderkind in two key areas — the occult and rocket science. Parsons legitimate claim to fame was in the latter field. He was by all accounts a brilliant chemist, who made major breakthroughs in designing the chemical composition of liquid rocket fuels.
Parsons’ fuel mixtures eventually helped America land on the moon (Ha! A likely story!) According to countercultural journalist Richard Metzger, Werner von Braun claimed that Parsons (a high-school dropout) was the true father of the American space program. Parsons helped create the famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena (the JPL, also affectionately called the “Jack Parsons Lab”).
You would think all this scientific achievement would be enough for one person in one lifetime, but Parsons had a much loftier set of ambitions. He wanted to tear down the walls of time and space, and he had an entirely non-scientific set of ideas on how to do it.
Parsons had always been interested in occultism, but his path to notoriety really started in 1941, when he joined the California-based Agape lodge of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. Parsons threw himself into the Eastern-inspired mysticism and hormonally inspired sex magic of Thelema, the religion Crowley had either devised or channeled from beyond, depending on your point of view.
Parsons was an immediate success. He quickly took over the Agape lodge. Crowley and his associates spoke of him as a potential successor to the Great Beast himself.
One of Parsons’ best pals in the OTO was a young L. Ron Hubbard. They shared a zest for the work, as well as a mistress. One of their big projects was the notorious Babalon Working. The ritual was supposedly intended to create a new age of free love by shattering the confines of four-dimensional space time, but the major portion of it appears to have been primarily focused on getting Parsons laid.
The first stage of Babalon involved invoking an “elemental mate” — which, fortuitously enough for Parsons, turned out to be a voluptuous redhead named Marjorie Cameron, who would later emerge as a star of occult-oriented films by experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger.
Flush with the thrill of success, Parsons and Cameron set out to perform part two of the Babalon working, with Hubbard taking notes: Wild monkey sex with the goal of creating a “moonchild.” A moonchild in this context is best described as an Thelemic messiah, a magic homonculus monster child along the general lines of “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Phase Two collapsed on itself when Hubbard left town with a mistress and (allegedly) a substantial sum of money, both of which had previously been attached to Parsons. So if you’re angrily wondering why the Earth isn’t currently sex-soaked carnal paradise of peace, you can blame Hubbard.
Parsons got into a bit of a funk in the post-Hubbard era, which is reflected in the evolution of his magical work. Parsons’ next big project turned out to be the “Book of the Antichrist,” which is unsubtle making the connection clear:
“Now it came to pass even as BABALON told me, for after receiving Her Book I fell away from Magick, and put away Her Book and all pertaining thereto. And I was stripped of my fortune (the sum of about $50,000) and my house, and all I Possessed. Then for a period of two years I worked in the world, recouping my fortune somewhat. But that was also taken from me, and my reputation, and my good name in my worldly work, that was in science.”
Parsons “swore the Oath of the Abyss, having only the choice between madness, suicide, and that oath. (then) I took the oath of a Magister Templi, even the Oath of Antichrist before Frater 132, the Unknown God. And thus was I Antichrist loosed in the world; and to this I am pledged, that the work of the Beast 666 shall be fulfilled.” Who knew it was so easy?
Apparently noting that Antichrist is only a few letters away from “anarchist,” the manifesto that follows is in large part an exhortation to “do what thou wilt” in most things bodily-fluid-drenched, economic and/or political. The goal of all these efforts, according to Metzger, was to bring on the Apocalypse, since in theory things can only get better from there.
By now you may be thinking “What a load of crap!” But the FBI, none too keen about the notion that Parsons’ taxpayer-funded salary might be supporting the Antichrist and the hastening of the Apocalypse, took it seriously enough to open an investigation.
Documents recently released through the Freedom of Information act make up 130 pages of heavily redacted text in which G-Men try to make sense of Parsons’ religious beliefs and document his frequently careless handling of classified materials.
Parsons died in 1952 in his home laboratory, in an explosion generally characterized as “mysterious.” Various theories suggest that the explosion was the result of old grudges by his enemies, a sinister plot by the FBI, a magical experiment gone bad, the fact that his garage was filled with lots of explosive chemicals, or some combination of the above.
As for Babalon? Well, the jury is still out on the Apocalypse, but it’s worth noting that within two years of the Babalon workings, which began in 1946, the first Atomic Bomb was detonated, the Roswell crash sparked a rash of UFO sightings that continues to this day, and LSD was invented.
In other words, things got a lot weirder, and they’re getting weirder every day.
Parsons is legitimately one of the fathers of the space program, after all, which is no small thing. Maybe he knows something we don’t… or maybe, in the end, he was just a sex-crazed maniac.
Perhaps it’s best to just decide how weird you want reality to be, and judge accordingly.
In a world where rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs can co-host “Live” with Regis Philbin, anything is possible.