In A Nutshell
Jack Parsons has been called the “true father of the American space race” by no less than the prominent rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. Parsons was a co-founder of Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was a genius in the field of rocketry. But while most of us think of scientists as a rational and skeptical lot who cringe from superstition, Parsons led quite an extraordinary double life as scientist by day and occultist by night.
The Whole Bushel
Born to a wealthy Pasadena family in 1914, Marvel Whiteside Parsons hated his name and preferred to be called simply “Jack.” He was just 14 when he began experimenting with rocket propulsion methods. With his best friend Edward S. Forman, Parsons hung around the Devil’s Gate Dam area of Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, tinkering with experimental rocket motors. Through their connections with the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory, they were able to obtain lab space at Caltech for their experiments in 1937. The hazardous nature of their activities resulted in an inevitable explosion that damaged their equipment, and they were thereafter dubbed “The Suicide Squad.” They were expelled from campus after a second explosion, and Parsons set up an outdoor lab back at Arroyo Seco. It was to become the foundation of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In 1939, Parsons became familiar with the writings of occultist Alistair Crowley, the self-styled “Great Beast” and “wickedest man in the world.” Fascinated by Crowley’s ideas, he became a member of Crowley’s secret society, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), which had a Pasadena branch called Agape Lodge. Parsons took on the alias “Frater 210.” In 1942, Parsons, Forman, and other colleagues formed the Aerojet Corporation which manufactured the Jet Assist Takeoff rocket motors used in military planes in World War II. With money from Aerojet, Parsons acquired a mansion where he transferred the Agape Lodge. Drugs and illicit sex became routine at the house. When Jack’s wife, Helen, became pregnant by another Lodge member, he hooked up with his sister-in-law Betty.
When the war ended, Parsons met a fellow sci-fi aficionado named L. Ron Hubbard, who soon moved in at Agape Lodge, where he took an interest in Betty. Though jealous, Parsons didn’t junk Hubbard. They even partnered in an 11-day ritual called Babalon Working in which Parsons attempted to conjure the goddess Babalon or the “Scarlet Woman.” With Hubbard acting as a scribe to record Jack’s revelations, Parsons would ritually masturbate onto a parchment. The appearance of a red-haired woman named Marjorie Cameron at the house one day convinced Parsons that he had indeed conjured up the figure. The couple began a series of rituals intended to produce a magical “moon child” with superior powers and intellect, who would be born in the astral plane. The rituals included a naked pregnant woman jumping through fire nine times to ensure a safe delivery. Concerned neighbors reported the sinister activities, but responding cops were easily disarmed by the charming Parsons, whose credentials as a respected scientist convinced them that nothing was amiss. Parsons would later marry Marjorie after losing Betty—and thousands of dollars—to the huckster Hubbard.
After an unrewarding court case versus Hubbard, Parsons left OTO and sought out the occult on his own. After one out-of-body experience, he took on the name “Belarion Armiluss al-Dajjal, Antichrist.” In the next few years, while Hubbard shot to fame with his book Dianetics, the core of Scientologist beliefs, Parsons remained virtually penniless and worked small jobs. He died in an explosion in 1952, most likely as a result of a botched experiment. Parsons left behind numerous patents for liquid and solid rocket fuel. In his honor, a crater on the moon was named after him. Yes, the crater is on the dark side of the moon.
Show Me The Proof
Forgotten Newsmakers: Jack Parsons
Space Safety Magazine: Jack Parsons and the Occult Roots of JPL
io9.com: The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery