John Whiteside Parsons: Anti-Christ Superstar
"All stories are true, every last one of them. All myths, all legends, all fables. If you believe them true, then they are true. If you don't believe them, then all that can be said is that they are true for someone else." - Dave Sim, Cerebus.
When the history of the American space program is finally written, no figure will stand out quite like John Whiteside Parsons. Remarkably handsome, dashing and brilliant, Jack Parsons was one of the founders of the experimental rocket research group at Cal Tech and the groups seven acre Arroyo Seco testing facility would eventually become Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA's rocket design center.
Werner von Braun claimed it was the self-taught Parsons, not himself, who was the true father of the American space program for his contribution to the development of solid rocket fuel. Although Parsons has been memorialized with a statue at JPL and has had a crater on the dark side of the moon named in his honor, his story remains shrouded in mystery, for what is little known about this legend of aerospace engineering is that Parsons was an avid practitioner of the occult sciences, and for several years, Aleister Crowley's hand-picked leader of the US branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis, the Southern California-based Agape Lodge.
Parsons was born in Los Angeles on October 2, 1914, the son of a wealthy and well connected family living in a sprawling mansion on Pasadena's Millionaire Row. His father worked for Woodrow Wilson. After his parents' divorce, the solitary childhood of Parsons imbued him with a deep hatred of authority, and a contempt for any sort of interference in his activity. Parsons interest in the occult apparently commenced at an early age and in one of his diaries he claimed to have visibly evoked Satan at the tender age of 13.
After discovering Crowley's philosophy of Thelema (Greek for true will), Parsons joined the Agape Lodge in 1941. Wilfred T. Smith, the expatriate Englishman who started the order in the early 1930s with a charter from the Great Beast himself, wrote of Parsons in a letter to Crowley: "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."
Another member of the Lodge, Crowley's old friend, actress Jane Wolfe described Parsons as "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 rose quickly through the ranks, taking over the Agape Lodge from Smith at Crowley's decree within a year.
"For I am BABALON, and she my daughter, unique and there shall be no other women like her." - The Book of Babalon, verse 37
In one of the most celebrated feats in magickal history, Parsons and pre-Dianetics L. Ron Hubbard (whose role is too complicated to describe in this short essay) performed The Babalon Working, a daring attempt to shatter the boundaries of time and space and intended to bring about, in Parsons' own words, "love, understanding, and Dionysian freedom [...] the necessary counterbalance or correspondence to the manifestation of Horus."
The above reference recalls Crowley's announcement of the Aeon of Horus, described in his Book of the Law (Liber AL vel Legis), a blasphemous, strangely beautiful, prose poem which Crowley received from a discarnate entity called Aiwass in Cairo in 1904. Crowley, self-styled Great Beast 666, considered himself the avatar of the Antichrist and the Book of the Law is a proclamation that the era of the slave gods (Osiris, Mohammed, Jesus) had come to an end and that the Age of Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child had begun. In its infancy, Crowley predicted, the Aeon would be characterized by the magickal formula of bloodshed and blind force, the tearing down of the established orders to make way for the new. Crowley held the two World Wars as evidence of this, but did not see the Horus-force as evil, rather as embodying the innocence of a hyperactive child who is like a bull in a china shop. Babalon, a Thelemic counterpart of Kali or Isis, was described by Parsons as, "... black, murderous and horrible, but Her hand is uplifted in blessing and reassurance: the reconciliation of opposites, the apotheosis of the impossible."
The impossible was precisely what Jack Parsons, the scientific sorcerer, had in mind.
In its initial stages, The Babalon Working was intended to attract an elemental to serve as a partner for Parsons elaborate sex magick rituals. The method employed was that of the solo VIII Degree working of the O.T.O, the quasi-Masonic organization reformulated by Crowley in the earlier part of the century in accordance with his Do What Thou Wilt mythos of Thelema. Parsons used his magickal wand to whip up a vortex of energy so the elemental would be summoned. Translated into plain English, Parsons jerked off in the name of spiritual advancement whilst Hubbard (referred to as The Scribe in the diary of the event) scanned the astral plane for signs and visions.
Apparently, it worked. In a letter to Crowley dated February 23, 1946, Parsons exclaimed, "I have my elemental! She turned up one night after the conclusion of the Operation, and has been with me since."
The elemental was a green-eyed, flaming redhead named Marjorie Cameron, (later of Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome film, an artist of some reknown and a primary force in the New Age Goddess movement). Cameron was only too happy to participate in Parsons' sex magick and now Parsons could get down to the real business of the Babalon Working: the birthing of a moonchild or homunculus. The operation was formulated to open an interdimensional doorway, rolling out the red carpet for the appearance of the goddess Babalon in human form, employing the Enochian Calls [angelic language] of Elizabethan magus John Dee and the attraction of the sex force of the duo's copulation to this end.
As Paul Rydeen points out in his extended essay Jack Parsons and the Fall of Babalon: "The purpose of Parsons' 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. To wit: Babalon incarnate as a living female, the Scarlet Woman as consort to the Antichrist, bride of the Beast 666. In effect, Parsons also claimed the mantle of Antichrist for himself, as the magickal heir of Crowley prophesied in Liber AL: 'The child of thy bowels, he shall behold them [the mysteries of the Apocalypse]. Expect him not from the East, nor from the West, for from no expected house cometh that child.'"
Without the Scarlet Woman, the Antichrist cannot make his manifestation, the eschatological formula must first be complete. In whiter words, with the magickal rites of the Babalon Working, it was Parsons' goal to bring on the Apocalypse.
James Dean of the Occult
Parsons' Babalon gambit was dazzling to say the least: If the earth must first be covered in evil before the return of the Christ consciousness and the final triumph of good, what better way to hasten the uplifting of humanity than to rip an alchemical hole in the fabric of reality and invite the very spawn of Hell in for a rip-snorting orgy of howling madness?
So much is written of Parsons as a psychotic lunatic, but I put it to you dear reader, is the Babalon Working the product of a deranged mind or the ultimate exploration of the absolute furthest reaches of consciousness, putting the pedal to the metal for the living end in revolutionary chic and mind expansion?
Parsons' perverse imitation of Christ was intended to disrupt, oppose, and subvert the established order of things. It's the age old Manichaean battle between good and evil, the forces of order and chaos, the status quo versus revolutionary tendencies. But in the 20th century, these lines have become significantly blurred: If you consider the New World Order multinational corporate monoliths poisoning the planet and reducing mankind to the level of wage slavery for the benefit of the very few to be representative of the good, then the Babalon Working must sound like the most outright evil deed ever perpetrated by a human being. But if you're like me, and would dearly love to see the vile, puss-ridden edifice of Western society burned to the ground, you should see Parsons as the penultimate style icon of psycho-sexual/magickal insurrection, a truly American original if ever there was one. This darkly handsome, genius scientist, was, I submit, the James Dean of the Occult: one spectacularly cool motherfucker.
"Only in the irrational and unknown direction can we come to it [wisdom] again." - Jack Parsons, in a letter to Marjorie Cameron, late 1940s.
The question must be asked: Who is the greater hero -- he who prolongs the agony of this pathetic existence or he who opens wide the Pandora's Box of perdition knowing that this is how the final eschatological chapter must play itself out?
Isn't the Great Work, the cosmic perfection of mankind, the final goal of the alchemists? Just as the rocket scientist Parsons was willing to play dice with heavy explosives, Parsons, the nuclear age warlock was willing to play with fire of a very different sort. Parsons rests firmly in the tradition of the fraternity of Western Magi who include Moses, Solomon, Jesus Christ, John Dee, Adam Weishaupt, Crowley, Gurdjieff and Timothy Leary - great revolutionaries and liberators all.
Parsons wrote in his Manifesto of the Anti-Christ: "An end to the pretence (sic), and lying hypocrisy of Christianity. An end to the servile virtues, and superstitious restrictions. An end to the slave morality. An end to prudery and shame, to guild and sin, for these are of the only evil the sun, that is fear. An end to all authority that is not based on courage and manhood, to the authority of lying priests, conniving judges, blackmailing police, and an end to the servile flattery and cajolery of mods, the coronations of mediocraties, the ascension of dolts."
Amen to that! Parsons was clearly willing to put his money where his mouth was! Abbie Hoffman, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos and Che Guevara seem total pussies in comparison.
Forget your Conspiracy Theory 101, the Illuminati are *not* the bad guys and George Bush was never a member and neither is Henry Kissinger. If, in the words of Christ, it is by their fruits and works that men shall be judged, would you want the Mai Lai massacre or the Gulf War slaughter staining your karma?
Hey, being the Antichrist is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
It's not such a black and white world anymore.
A Magickal Call to Arms"Parsons opened a door and something flew in." - Kenneth Grant, Outside the Circles of Time.
Did the Babalon Working actually work? For the sake of argument, if you believe it to be true, its true enough. As a metaphor or a myth to explain the psychic and atmospheric turbulence taking place in the world today, it certainly works for me. What has long been prophesied by the world's major spiritual traditions is now coming to pass. Turn on CNN for a couple of hours for ample proof: wars, killer viruses, floods, famines, violent crime, earthquakes, Armageddon cults armed with nerve gas, suicide bombers; Heaven's Gate; the list goes on and on. Certainly Parsons' untimely death in a 1952 chemical explosion would leave the crown of the conquering child unclaimed to this day as Thelemites continue to await their Chaos Messiah, but perhaps Parsons was an Antichrist and his particular mission was to crack open the Apocalyptic gateway and activate the occult forces necessary for the upheaval of consciousness.
The apostles of the new forms of gnosis unearthed by the Babalon Working will be art, the inspired initiator of sacred science and the torch of Gods appearing in new and unexpected forms in the unfolding of the divine drama. The poets, artists, philosophers and thinkers will form the first ranks of perfected humanity and no rules will apply save for freedom and nobility beyond the Kali Yuga.
But this will not happen without a struggle between the forces of control, black magick, and oppressive boredom on one hand and the Luciferian agents of wisdom, unleashed creativity and anarchic rebellion on the other. What we have been brainwashed to believe is good: patriotism, so-called free enterprise, private property, Christianity (not the teachings of Christ, but the hateful travesty that the religion bearing his name has become thanks to the likes of Pat Robertson and his filthy ilk), is now beginning to be seen by the emerging generation of the crowned and conquering child to be the deathtrip bullshit it truly is.
A whole culture is collapsing and a new one is about to be born. Jack Parsons would be pleased.
Richard Metzger is the editor of DisInformation and would like to gratefully acknowledge the valuable conversations with Grant Morrison and the enigmatic being known only as Brother Blue (formerly found at www.brotherblue.org) that helped in preparation of this essay.