Originally Published in Starfire: A Magazine of the New Aeon, Vol 1, No. 3 1989.
“But I say that that perfect image in the heart of man is patterned by the awful lust in space-time that shapes all women, the insatiable and eternal lust of Pan that is BABALON.”
— J.W. Parsons
“About J.W.P. — all that I can say is that I am very sorry — I feel sure that he had fine ideas, but he was led astray firstly by Smith, then he was robbed of his last penny by a confidence man named Hubbard … I have no further interest in Jack and his adventures; he is just a weak-minded fool, and must go to the devil in his own way…”
— A. Crowley
John Whiteside Parsons was born on 2 October 1914 in Los Angeles, California. His mother and father separated whilst he was quite young and Parsons said later that this left him with “…a hatred of authority and a spirit of revolution”, as well as an Oedipal attachment to his mother. He felt withdrawn and isolated as a child, and was bullied by other children. This gave him, he thought, “…the requisite contempt for the crowd and for the group mores…”. Parsons was born into a rich family, and sometime in his youth there was what he referred to as a loss of family fortune. This loss must only have been a temporary one, though — perhaps caused by the break-up of the family — since in the 1940’s he inherited from his father a large, Victorian-style mansion in the well-to-do area of Pasadena. During adolescence, Parsons developed an interest in science, especially physics and chemistry, and in fact he went on to develop a career as a brilliant scientist in the fields of explosives and rocket-fuel technology. His achievements as a scientist were such that the Americans named a lunar crater after him when they came to claim that territory for their own. Appropriately enough, Crater Parsons is on the dark side of the moon.
Parsons made contact with the O.T.O. and the A.’.A.’. in December 1938, whilst visiting Agape Lodge of the O.T.O. in California. He was taken along by one of his fellow scientists. At that time Agape Lodge used to give weekly performances of the Gnostic Catholic Mass, seeing this as both a sacrament and a recruiting front. Agape Lodge was by then a moderately thriving and expanding concern, having been founded in the mid-1920’s by Wilfred T. Smith, an expatriate Englishman. Smith had many years earlier been an associate of Charles Stansfield Jones (Frater Achad) in Vancouver, Canada. Crowley seems to have had, at least to begin with, a high regard for Smith, and expected great things of him. Over the years, however, he grew increasingly disillusioned. Crowley felt that the O.T.O. should have flowered in California, given imaginative leadership. Smith was simply not capable of delivering, he thought, and perhaps even deliberately impeding things. By the time that Parsons joined the Lodge in 1939, together with his wife Helen, relations between Smith and Crowley were already in terminal decline, and Crowley was casting around for someone else to take over headship of the Lodge. One of the items in the Yorke Collection at Warburg Institute is a collection of over 200 letters exchanged between Crowley and Smith, in which the steady decline in their relationship is starkly illustrated.
At this time, the Lodge was firmly in the grip of Smith and his mistress, Regina Kahl. They were very authoritarian, and ruled things with the proverbial rod of iron. At the weekly performances of the Mass, Smith was the Priest and Regina Kahl the Priestess. The Parsons were initiated into the O.T.O. in 1939 and like many entrants of the time they took up membership of the A.’.A.’. as well. Jack Parsons took as his motto “Thelema Obtentum Procedero Amoris Nuptiae”, an interestingly hybrid phrase which conveys the intention of attaining Thelema through the nuptial of love; the initials transliterated into Hebrew give his Magical Number, 210. He seems to have made quite an impression on his fellow members. Jane Wolfe, who had spent some time with Crowley at Cefalu, was an active member of the Lodge at the time. The following entry is from her Magical Record during December 1940:
“Unknown to me, John Whiteside Parsons, a newcomer, began astral travels. This knowledge decided Regina 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” (the mysteries hidden therein. AL, 54-5).
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 labratories 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. 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.”
Jack Parsons seems to have had something of a reverential attitude towards Smith, perhaps seeing him as some sort of father figure — the relationship between them seems to have had that sort of ambiguity. In later years, he described how he felt an alternate attraction and repulsion where Smith was concerned; and Smith, whatever his limitations and faults may have been, was evidently a cherismatic man. Parsons, for his part, evidently made a strong impression on Smith. In a letter to Crowley during March 1941, Smith wrote as follows:
“…I think I have at long last a really excellent man, John Parsons. And starting next Teusday he begins a course of talks with a view to enlarging our scope. He has an excellent mind and much better intellect then myself — O yes, I know it would not necessarily have to be very good to be better than mine…
John Parsons is going to be valuable. I feel sure we are going to move ahead in spite of Max Schneider’s continual efforts to discredit me. He still exhibits your letters as proof that I am a number one son of a bitch. I thought you were going to write to tell him to clamp down…”
The last sentences in this quotation throw light on an important factor in the affairs of Agape Lodge — the turmoil and personal friction that was a constant emotional backdrop, and which seems finally to have invalidated all their efforts. The Lodge was constantly riven by personal feuding and upheaval, and Crowley’s influence over the course of events seems in reality to have been marginal. The nucleus of Agape Lodge was some sort of forerunner of a hippie commune. Apart from anything else, Smith appears to have regarded the women members of the Lodge as constituting his personal harem, and of course this added to the friction. Crowley was in correspondence with many of the members at this time, and seems to some extent to have encouraged people to tell tales on each other. No doubt he saw it as a good way of keeping in touch with what was going on, but it tended to inflame the widespread personal clashes that were going on. He did try to make openness and honesty a policy — laying down a rule that if “A” wrote to “B” attacking “C”, then “A” was duty-bound to copy the letter to “C” as a matter of course. This seems to have happened but rarely, however.
In his attempts to assert his authority over the Lodge generally, and Smith in particular, Crowley was frustrated by the loyalty — despite all the bitchiness around — to Smith and Kahl. On the face of it, he should have been able to exert his authority easily enough. Karl Germer, his trusted right-hand man, was in New York; whilst his colleague from the Cefalu days — Jane Wolfe — was a member of the Lodge. Jane Wolfe was the same age as Crowley, but she was very weak and indecisive. Reading about the course of the Agape Lodge during the 1930’s and 1940’s is a bewildering experience. The whole thing, despite the glamour that time and mystery now lend it, seems to have been a mess. It is as well for us to bear in mind that Jack Parsons — his obvious gifts notwithstanding — was part of this melodramatic flux and flow.
Although Crowley grew increasingly despairing of and impatient with Smith, and saw all too clearly the need to replace him as head of Agape Lodge, the problem for Crowley — quite apart from HOW to get rid of Smith — was with whom to replace him. In the course of a letter to Crowley of March 1942, Jane Wolfe made her recommendations:
“Incidentally, I believe Jack Parsons — who is devoted to Wilfred — to be the coming leader, with Wilfred in advisory capacity. I hope you two get together some day, although your present activities in England seem to have postponed the date of your coming to us. Jack, by the way, comes in through some inner experiences, but mostly, perhaps, through the world of science. That is, he was “sold on the Book of the Law” because it foretold Einstein, Heisenberg — whose work is not permitted in Russia — the quantum field folks, whose work is along the “factor infinite and unknown” lines, etc. You two would have a whale of a lot of things to talk over. He and Helen are lock, stock and barrel for the Order.”
By 1943, Crowley appears to have decided that some definite course of action was necessary to get rid of Smith, and that his continued presences in the Lodge was harmful. In a letter of May 1943, to a member called Roy Leffingwell, he wrote:
“I think that Smith is quite hopeless. I am quite satisfied with what you say about his reactions to your family. It is all very well, but Smith has apparently nothing else in his mind. He appears to be using the Order as a happy hunting ground for “affairs”. You say the same thing, and I have no doubt that it is quite correct. I think we must get rid of him once and for all; and this will include the Parsons, unless they dissociate themselves immediately from him, without reservations.”
At this time Helen Parsons was having an affair with Smith, and also supplanting Regina Kahl as Priestess in the public performances of the Gnostic Mass. Jack Parsons retained his strong feelings of loyalty towards Smith, although perhaps a little confused by events. Crowley, determined to get rid of Smith, viewed with concern the extent to which Parsons — of whom he seems to have held a high opinion — was under the spell of Smith. Whilst having a high regard for Parsons, Crowley was also keenly aware of his faults, which he hoped Parsons would outgrow in the course of time and experience. In view of subsequent events in the life of Parsons, these perceptions are interesting and important. Once again, they can best be conveyed, perhaps, by extracts from several letters that Crowley wrote. In a letter of July 1943 to Max Scheider, we read:
“As to Jack; I think he is perfectly alright at the bottom of everything; but he is very young, and he has at present nothing like the strength to deal with matters within his jurisdiction objectively.”
In the course of a letter to Jane Wolfe, in December 1943, Crowley made the following assessment:
“Jack is the Objective (Smith is out, an affaire classe’e: anybody who communicates with him in any way is out also; and that is that, and the best plan is to sponge the whole slate clean, and get to work to build up Thelema on sound principals. And no more brothel-building; let’s use marble, not rotten old boards!). Jack’s trouble is his weakness, and his romantic side — the poet — is at PRESENT a hinderance. He gets a kick from some magazine trash, or an ‘occult’ novel (if only he knew how they were concocted!) and dashes off in wild pursuit. He MUST learn that the sparkle of champagne is based on sound wine; pumping carbonic acid into urine is not the same thing.
“I wish to God I had him for six months — even three, with a hustle — to train in Will, in discipline. He must understand that fine and fiery flashes of Spirit come from the oganization of Matter, from the drilling of every function of every bodily organ until it has become so regular as to be automatic, and carried on by itself deep down in the Unconscious. It is the steadiness of one’s Heart that enables one to endure the rapture of great passion; one doesn’t want the vital functions to be excitable.”
In February 1944 he wrote in somewhat similar spirit to Mr. and Mrs. Burlinghame, who were Lodge members:
“…I am very glad indeed of your offer to co-operate practically in any way possible. I have left Jack Parsons in charge; he is quite all right in essence, but very young and easily swayed by passing influences. I shall look to you to help in keeping him up to the mark.”
And more expansively, in the course of a letter to Jack Parsons himself in March 1946:
“I am particulary interested in what you have written to me about the Elemental, because for some little while past I have been endeavouring to intervene PERSONALLY on your behalf. I would however have you recall Levi’s aphorism ‘the love of the Magus for such beings is insensate, and may destroy him’.
It seems to me that there is a danger of your sensitiveness upsetting your balance. Any experience that comes your way you have a tendency to over-estimate. The first fine careless rapture wears off in a month or so, and some other experience comes along and carries you off on its back. Meanwhile you have neglected and bewildered those who are dependent on you, either from above or from below.
I will ask you to bear in mind that you have one fulcrum for all your levers, and that is your original oath to devote yourself to raising mankind. All experiences, all efforts, must be referred to this; as long as it remains unshaken you cannot go far wrong, for by its own stability it will bring you back from any tendency to excess.
At the same time, you being as sensitive as you are, it behooves you to be more on your guard than would be the case with the majority of people.”
Resolved though Crowley was to get rid of Smith, it was a long and difficult manoeuvre, and had to be approached piece-meal at first. Many of the Lodge members remained loyal to Smith, and were reluctant to see him go. Smith was only too happy to hang on, in the hope that what he saw as “popular opinion” would persuade Crowley to retain him after all. Throughout all this, Smith seemed unable to understand the depths of Crowley’s hostility towards him; his letters to Crowley of this period carry the tone — whether implicity or explicity — of some wretch having to bear the gratuitous beatings of his master. Some sort of dual authority apparently operated between Smith and Parsons for a while — to the reluctance of Parsons, himself still very much a Smith loyalist. Eventually, Crowley seems to have hit upon a novel way to remove Smith; he declared that Smith was the avatar of some god and should go away on a Magical Retirement until he had realised his true identity. To this end Crowley wrote a document of instruction for Smith to follow, “LIBER 132”. Smith made an attempt at this Operation but had no joy at all in plumbing the depths of his divinity. It seems doubtful if Crowley intended him to; I have seen another letter from Crowley to an American correspondent at the time, in which Crowley came as close as he could to admitting the Machiavellian thrust of the whole affair.
The way was now clear for Crowley to appoint Parsons as head of Agape Lodge. If he had hoped that the Lodge would be more stable without Smith in charge, however, he was wrong. Smith continued to live there for some time after, despite all attempts by Crowley and Germer to declare him a leper, contact with whom would warrant immediate expulsion. Parsons remained unhappy at what he considered to be the unjust treatment of Smith. In late 1943 he wrote to Crowley attacking him on this point, and offering his resignation. Crowley’s esteem of Parsons may be gauged from the fact that he declined to accept the resignation, and asked Parsons to reconsider. Parsons agreed to remain as head of the Lodge.
Parsons had by this time inherited a large, Victorian-style mansion from his father, in a well-to-do area of Pasadena. He needed to rent out some rooms to make ends meet, and he scandalised the neighborhood by ensuring that only bohemians and the like were accepted. By the summer of 1943 Helen had had a child by Smith, and divorce was in the air. Jack Parsons took up with Helen’s younger sister Sara Northrup, known as Betty. This time was one of turmoil for Parsons. We can get a glimpse of it from a document he wrote some years later, “ANALYSIS BY A MASTER OF THE TEMPLE”, where he speaks of himself in the third person. It includes the following allusion to this time:
“Betty served to effect a transference from Helen at a critical period. Had this not occurred, your repressed homosexual component could have caused a serious disorder. Your passion for Betty also gave you the magical force needed at the time, and the act of adultery tinged with incest seemed as your magical conformation in the Law of Thelema.”
We get a futher glimpse of Parsons’ uncertainty in the course of a letter from Jane Wolfe to Crowley, early in 1945. She wrote:
“Last evening, when Jack brought me these various papers for me to post to you, I saw, for the first time, the small boy, or child. This is it that is bewildered, does not quite know when to take hold in this matter, or where, and is completely bowled over by the ruthlessness of Smith — Smith, who has a master-hand when it comes to dealing with this boy.”
However, Parsons was also beginning to be seen in something of a sinister light. In the course of a letter to Karl Germer, Jane Wolfe wrote about a strange atmosphere that was manifesting. The following comes from the end of 1945:
“There is something strange going on, quite apart from Smith. There is always Betty, remember, who hates Smith. But our own Jack is enamoured with Witchcraft, the houmfort, voodoo. From the start he always wanted to evoke something — no matter what, I am inclined to think, as long as he got a result.
According to Meeka yesterday, he has had a result — an elemental he doesn’t know what to do with. From that statement of hers, it must bother him — somewhat at least.”
Phyllis Seckler, from whose account this passage of Jane Wolfe’s has been drawn, adds her own memories to this:
“Meeka also reported to Jane that another two persons always had to do a lot of banishing in the house. They were sensitive and knew that there was something alien and inimical there. When I had been there during the summer of 1944, I also knew there were troublesome spirits about, especially on the third floor. It got so I couldn’t stand being up there, and a friend of mine couldn’t even climb the stairs that far, as the hair on the back of her neck began to prickle and she got thoroughly frightened.”
Into this maelstrom came a very fateful contact. In August 1945 Parsons met L. Ron Hubbard, the future founder of Scientology, who at that time was known as little more than a writer of pulp stories and something of an eccentric. At the time he met Parsons he was a naval officer on leave, and Parsons invited him to stay at his house for the remainder of his leave. They had quite a lot in common. Parsons was very interested in science-fiction, as was Hubbard. Hubbard, for his part, was interested in psychism and magic. As anyone will know who has read the critical biography of Hubbard, BARE-FACED MESSIAH by Russell Miller, he was a very bizarre character indeed. For all his charisma, charm and eccentricity, Hubbard appears to have been little other than a confidence trickster, and from his point of view Parsons was one more victim to be exploited. There is a certain parallel with Parsons’ relationship with Smith — the more so because Hubbard and Betty started a passionate affair. In spite of this, Parsons’ admiration of and enthusiasm for Hubbard remained unabated. In a letter to Crowley of late 1945 he wrote:
“Although he has no formal training in Magick, he has an extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field. From some of his experiences I deduce that he is in direct contact with some higher intelligence, possibly his Guardian Angel… He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met, and is in complete accord with our own principles… I think I have made a great gain, and as Betty and I are the best of friends there is little loss. I cared for her rather deeply, but I have no desire to control her emotions, and I can, I hope, control my own. I need a magical partner. I have many experiments in mind…”
The “magical partner” is a reference to Hubbard — not to a Scarlet Woman, as might at first be supposed. In January 1946 Parsons devised an Operation to, as he put it, “…obtain the assistance of an elemental mate”. The core of this Working consisted of the utilisation of the Enochian Tablet of Air, or rather a specific angle of it. This was to be the focus of VIIIø sexual magick, with the purpose of giving substance to the elemental summons. Parsons continued with this for eleven days, evoking twice daily. He noted various psychic phenomena during this period, but felt discouraged by the apparent failure of the Operation. However, success followed several days later. In his own words:
“The feeling of tension and unease continued for four days. Then on January 18 at sunset, whilst the Scribe and I were on the Mojave Desert, the feeling of tension suddenly stopped. I turned to him and said ‘it is done’, in absolute certainty that the Operation was accomplished. I returned home, and found a young woman answering the requirements waiting for me. She is describable as an air of fire type with bronze red hair, fiery and subtle, determined and obstinate, sincere and perverse, with extraordinary personality, talent and intelligence.
During the period of January 19 to February 27 I invoked the Goddess BABALON with the aid of magical partner (Ron Hubbard), as was proper to one of my grade.”
In case any reader has just beamed down from another planet, perhaps it should be mentioned that the “young woman” referred to was Marjorie Cameron. The more romantic amongst us will perhaps be disappointed to learn that she seems to have existed prior to Parsons’ elemental summons. She and Parsons married in October 1946; and the certificate gives her age as then 24, her birthplace as Iowa, and her profession as an artist. At one time she had served in the U.S. Navy. At the time of this Working she was on a visit from New York, where her mother lived, and she returned there after the Babalon Working for a while.
The passage by Parsons just quoted is a striking one, for several reasons. It is notable that, even with the advent of Marjorie Cameron he continued to regard Hubbard as being his magical partner. I don’t think that Parsons ever considered that he had conjured her from thin air, so to speak. However her appearance is accounted for — synchronicity, sheer coincidence, magical manipulation of events, or whatever — is irrelevant. the aim of the Operation as a whole was to invoke Babalon, and obtaining the services of a suitable Scarlet Woman by elemental summons was — at least at the time — a means to this over-riding end. This needs to be borne in mind, because otherwise there is a temptation to see Parsons and Cameron as constituting the love-story of the century; in fact, the relationship was rather more complex than that.
At the end of February 1946, Hubbard went away for a few days. Parsons went back to the Mojave Desert and invoked Babalon. He gives no further details of this, unfortunately. All he does say is that during this invocation “…the presence of the Goddess came upon me, and I was commanded to write the following communication…” This communication, which purports to be the words of Babalon, consists of 77 short verses. Whether it was direct voice, trance, or inspired writing, he does not say. The answer probably lies in his Magical Record of this period, but as far as I know it has not survived.
This communication of 77 verses he entitled ” LIBER 49″. He does not explain the title, but no doubt considered such explanation unnecessary, since 49 is a number sacred to Babalon. Chapter 49 of Crowley’s THE BOOK OF LIES is a panegyric to Babalon. The connection is evident in THE VISION AND THE VOICE, in which Babalon is a strong and alluring current, and indeed the core of the series of visions. In the account of the 27th Aethyr the symbol of Babalon is as a blood-red rose of 49 petals — red with the blood of the saints who have squeezed every last drop into the Cup of Babalon. In the aforementioned 27th Aethyr we read:
“O Mother, wilt thou never have compassion on the children of earth? Was it not enough that the Rose should be red with the blood of thine heart, and that its petals should be 7 and by 7?”
Crowley’s note to this adds:
“This is the use to which Babalon puts the blood of the Masters of the Temple (see 12th Aethyr) to vivify the rose of eternal creation; i.e. the attainment of the Master of the Temple fills the world with life and beauty…”
Since it casts further light on the symbolism of Babalon, and shows how firmly rooted this Babalon Working is in “THE VISION AND THE VOICE”, it will be useful to quote one futher passage, this time from the account of the 15th Aethyr:
“There appears immediately in the Aethyr a tremendous column of scarlet fire, whirling forth, rebounding, crying aloud. And about it are four columns, of green and blue and gold and silver, each inscribed with writings in the character of the dagger. And the column of fire is dancing among the pillars. Now it seems that the fire is but the skirt of the dancer, and the dancer is a mighty god. The vision is overpowering.
As the dancer whirls, she chants in a low, strange voice, quickening as she goes: Lo! I gather up every spirit that is pure, and weave him into my vesture of flame. I lick up the lives of men, and their souls sparkle from mine eyes. I am the mighty sorceress, the lust of the spirit. And by my dancing I gather for my mother NUIT the heads of all them that are baptised in the waters of life. I am the lust of the spirit that eateth up the soul of man. I have prepared a feast for the adepts, and they that partake thereof shall see God.
Now it is clear what she has woven in her dance; it is the Crimson Rose of the 49 Petals, and the Pillars are the Cross with which it is conjoined. And between the pillars shoot out rays of pure green fire; and now all the pillars are golden. She ceases to dance and dwindles, gathering herself into the centre of the Rose.”
Parsons spent the rest of his life devoted to Babalon — some would say that he became obsessed by Her.
“LIBER 49” contains instructions for the earthing of this Babalon current in the form or an avatar, daughter or manifestation of Babalon, who was to appear amongst us. It would seem that Parsons was expecting a full-blown incarnation, and not simply the inauguration of a force. The second verse of the text declares it to be the fourth chapter of “THE BOOK OF THE LAW”, and it is worth quoting this in full:
“And this is my book, that is the fourth chapter of the Book of the Law, He completing the Name, for I am out of NUIT by HORUS, the incestuous sister of RA-HOOR-KHUIT.”
In terms of content, level of inspiration, and style, “LIBER 49” is nothing like “THE BOOK OF THE LAW”; and on this basis alone, the claim can be looked at askance. We could expect, I think, that a fourth chapter would evince some sort of continuity with the three chapters received by Crowley, and this is not at all evident in “LIBER 49”. However, the key to the claim lies in the reference, in the quoted passage, to “the Name”. The name is Tetragrammaton, IHVH; and the “He completing” is the He final. On this basis, Parsons considered it axiomatic that Father-Mother-Son, IHV, was incomplete without the Daughter, the He final; this he considered to be Babalon, the natural complement of Vau, the Son, Horus. Consideration of this is, I can appreciate, something of a hiccup to a straight narrative of Parsons and the Babalon Working. However, it is so central to his thinking that it really ought to be outlined now.
I can best give the flavour of this by quoting a couple of passages from one of his essays that has yet to be published. He discusses the break-up of patriarchy in the dawn of the twentieth century, and the beginnings of a new age of Horus. The nature of this is seen as disruptive, bringing confusion and terror. He instances two terrible wars, the atomic bomb, and an increase in epicene and homosexual tendencies. He continues as follows:
“But the great event of the aeon, which will bring with it the possibility of redemption to the whole of the western world, has not yet been made manifest. We, who contain the knowledge of this event among Ourselves until the time is right, and who were in fact the instruments of its gestation, give these present indications.
The Aeon of Horus is of the nature of a child. To perceive this, we must conceve of the nature of a child without the veil of sentiment- ality — beyond good and evil, perfectly gentle, perfectly ruthless, containing all possibilities within the limits of heredity, and highly susceptible to training and environment. But the nature of Horus is also the nature of force — blind, terrible, unlimited force. That is why the West stands in imminent danger of annihilation. that is why the West also stands in the possibility of the most rapid and tremendous evolution that the world has ever known. The balance must be love and understanding, or else all else fails. Now We have said enough for this place.
Then let the student read and meditate upon the ritual of Horus, constructing the total nature of Horus out of the polyphony of the component concepts. And, if he dare, let him invoke Horus and partake of the power and energy that is his right under the New Aeon. And let him also consider the love whereby Horus may be fulfilled and dignified; and meditating on this, let him prevision and invoke that which is to come.”
I haven’t come across any material written by Parsons prior to the Babalon Working. However, the probability must be that ideas similar to this — the need for a complement to Horus — were on his mind before 1946.
A few days after receiving “LIBER 49”, Parsons put in hand the ritual preparations as indicated in the text. Again in his own words:
“On March 1 and 2, 1946, I prepared the alter and equipment in accordance with the instructions in “LIBER 49”. The Scribe, Ron Hubbard, had been away about a week, and knew nothing of my invocation of BABALON, which I had kept entirely secret. On the night of March 2 he returned, and described a vision he had had that evening, of a savage and beautiful woman riding naked on a great cat-like beast. He was impressed with the urgent necessity of giving me some message or communication. We prepared magically for this communication, constructing a temple at the alter with the analysis of the key word. He was robed in white, carrying a lamp; and I in black, hooded, with the cup and dagger. At his suggestion we played Rachmaninov’s “Isle of the Dead” as backround music, and set an automatic recorder to transcribe audible occurrences. At approximately 8pm he began to dictate, I transcribed directly as I received.”
Hubbard’s vision sounds a bit too glib to me. It sounds rather like he’d seen a copy of “THE BOOK OF THOTH” Atu XI, “LUST”, showing the Whore astride the Beast. There would have been at least one copy of “THE BOOK OF THOTH” around Parsons’ place, I would have thought. Interestingly, in spite of Hubbard being referred to as “the Scribe”, it was Hubbard who was giving utterance to “astral communications”, and Parsons writing them down. As far as the Babalon Working is concerned, Hubbard is the joker in the pack, the factor infinite and unknown. His whole career, both before and after his involvement with Parsons, shows him to have been a confidence man par excellence.
Events after the Babalon Working, when he effortlessly swindled Parsons out of thousands of dollars, demonstrate that Parsons was as readily taken in as anyone. It is surely legitimite for us to wonder, therefore, to what extent Hubbard’s undoubted talents for deceit — both of himself and of others — coloured the whole Working. This is not to invalidate it, or to declare it abortive, but to sound a cautionary note. After all, Edward Kelly seems by some accounts to have been a person of dubious repute, to put it mildly; but this does not automatically negate the worth of the Workings which he conducted with John Dee. There is another interesting parallel between Hubbard and Kelly, as we shall see later.
The Workings arising from “LIBER 49” continued for several nights, and they contained instructions for futher rituals. These rituals were intended to facilitate the earthing of Babalon. Some of the communications received in the course of these Workings are of a fierce, intense beauty, as a few excerpts will illustrate:
“She is flame of life, power of darkness, she destroys with a glance, she may take thy soul. She feeds upon the death of men.
“The first ritual. Tomorrow the second ritual. Concentrate all force and being in Our Lady BABALON. Light a single flame on Her alter, saying: Flame is Our Lady, flame is Her hair, I am flame.
Display thyself to Our Lady; dedicate thy organs to Her, dedicate thy heart to Her, dedicate thy mind to Her, dedicate thy soul to Her, for She shall absorb thee, and thou shalt become living flame before She incarnates. For it shall be through you alone, and no-one else can help in this endeavour.”
The rituals used included, for the most part, passages adapted from Crowley’s works. For instance, there is material drawn from “THE GOTHIC MASS”, “THE VISION AND THE VOICE,” and “TANNHAUSER”. This is not plagiarism on the part of Parsons. The rituals had to be drawn up quickly, and these passages were at hand. Parsons had a beautiful and lucid writing style of his own, and would have been more than capable, in different circumstances, of devising his own innovations.
Some of the communications received in the course of the Babalon Working have very forceful sexual expression, bordering on the rapacious. Consider, for instance, this passage:
“In verse seven verses of seven lines, seven magick words. Stand and chant seven times. Envision thyself as a cloaked radiance desirable to the Goddess, beloved. Envision Her approaching thee. Embrace Her, cover Her with kisses. Think upon the lewd lascivious things thou couldst do. All is good to BABALON. All.
“Then rest, meditating on this:
“Thou as a man and as a god hast strewn upon the earth and in the heavens many loves. These recall; concentrate, concentrate each woman thou hast raped. Remember her, think upon her, move her into BABALON. This verse shall be used in worship when She appears.
“Then meditate upon thy desire, think upon Her, and, touching naught, chant these verses. Recall each lascivious moment, each lustful day, all set then into the astral body, touching naught.
“Preserve the material basis… The lust is Hers, the passion yours. Consider thou the Beast raping.
“Leaving thy casual loves — all belongs to BABALON, thy lust is BABALON’s. She is with thee three days. The sign is Hers, secret, and no man knows its correspondences. Guard.”
We should be wary of seeking to draw too close an analogy between differing systems, and particularly between deities from those systems. Bearing this in mind, however, an analogue does suggest itself between Kali and Babalon; perhaps Babalon is more sexually loaded. In any case, all are aspects of the One Goddess, and Babalon is a particular aspect of Nuit. Verse 22 of the first chapter of “THE BOOK OF THE LAW” says “Now, therefore, I am known to you by my name Nuit, and to him by a secret name which I shall give him when at least he knoweth me…”. This secret name was the correct spelling of Babalon, which was given to Crowley whilst he was scrying the 12th Aethyr; until then, he had been using the Biblical form — “Babylon”. By Gematria, Babalon enumerates as 156; and in a note to his account of the 12 Aethyr Crowley tells us that “the formula of 156 is constant copulation or samadhi on everything”. It is the blind, sexual passion that carries all before it — dionysian. There is a close connection between Babalon and Pan. In a note to the account of the 2nd Aethyr, Crowley observes:
“From this it would appear BABALON (who is speaking through one of her ministers) is the feminine (or androgyne) equivalent and not merely the complement of Pan. This is shewn in many of her images.”
This is echoed elsewhere by Parsons, who wrote:
“But I say that that perfect image in the heart of man is patterned by the awful lust in space-time that shapes all women, the insatiable and eternal lust of Pan that is BABALON.”
After the Babalon Working had been concluded, all that Parsons could do was wait. He had been told that the Operation had succeeded, that conception had occurred, and that in due course the avatar or Daughter of Babalon would come to him, bearing a secret sign that Parsons alone would recognise, and which would prove her authenticity. Hubbard, though, had rather more mundane considerations on his mind, and several weeks later he and Betty absconded with a vast amount of Parsons’ money. This amounted to many thousands of dollars as an investigation in Allied Enterprises, a fund set up by Parsons, Betty and Hubbard, and into which Parsons was pursuaded to sink most of his savings. Parsons eventually managed to track them down, and recovered a fraction of his money after taking legal action. Parsons had no further contact with either Hubbard or Betty after this.
He was, though, beset with other problems. Preoccupied with the Babalon Working as he had been, he neglected his duties towards Agape Lodge and its members. This was perhaps the final straw for many of his peers. I get the impression that many of them considered him something of a prima donna, were tired of his waywardness, and saw an opportunity to cut him down to size. The various members of the Lodge never seemed to have much compassion in telling tales on each other to Crowley, and he received reports from several different sources on this latest escapade of Jack Parsons. From these reports, Crowley concluded that Parsons’ flaws had finally overcome his promise, and that Parsons was a gullible fool beyond redemption. He was, furthermore, infuriated by Parsons’ intimations that, in the interests of secrecy, he could not provide a full account of what had transpired during the Babalon Working. Parsons was suspended from his position as head of the Lodge, and departed soon after.
It is hard to know in greater detail just what did go on at this time. I have seen a letter which Crowley wrote in January 1946 — some weeks prior to the Babalon Working — in which he names someone other than Parsons as Grand Master of Agape Lodge. Be that as it may, I have also seen a reference to Parsons being called to account, at a special Lodge meeting, over certain things with which his colleagues were unhappy — such as coming up with a text which purported to be the fourth chapter of “THE BOOK OF THE LAW”, an act of heresy for which he was lucky not to be burned at the stake. It is certain that he departed the O.T.O. at around this time, though he continued to regard himself as a member of the A.’.A.’. He remained on friendly terms with many of his colleagues, and he continued to correspond with Germer until his death.
Not so with Crowley, however. Crowley must have been bitterly disappointed with Parsons. He had had a high regard for his abilities, as well as a keen awareness of faults such as impulsiveness and recklessness — faults which, as Crowley now saw it, had led to an inevitable downfall. Two short letter extracts show this disappointment — both, as it happens, to Louis T. Culling. In the course of a letter dated October 1946, he said:
“About J.W.P. — all that I can say is that I am very sorry — I feel sure that he had fine ideas, but he was led astray firstly by Smith, then he was robbed of his last penny by a confidence man named Hubbard.”
His last words are in the course of a letter of December 1946:
“I have no further interest in Jack and his adventures; he is just a weak-minded fool, and must go to the devil in his own way. Requiescat in pace.”
Although Parsons and Hubbard went their separate ways after the court settlement, that is not quite the end of the story as far as Hubbard is concerned. Mention was made above to a further parallel between Hubbard and Kelly. In the course of a letter in January 1950, Parsons drew attention to an interesting similarity. In the course of the Babalon Working, the rituals included the Enochian Call of the Seventh Aire. This was in line with a passage in “LIBER 49”, where Parsons was urged to “…seek me in the Seventh Aire”.
“I have the text of Dee’s skrying in the Seventh Aire, which as he said ‘…so terrified me that, beseeching God to have mercy upon me, I finally answer that I will from this day forward meddle no more herein’. The voice, speaking from Kelly, resulted in a sinister dissociation of Kelly’s personality. The parallel with my own Working with Ron, is appalling. After this Kelly robbed Dee, absconded with his wife, and developed a criminal confidence career. This is the voice:
‘I am the Daughter of Fortitude, and ravished every hour from my from my youth. For behold, I am Understanding, and Science dwelleth in me; and the heavens oppress me. They cover and desire me with infinite appetite; few or none that are earthly have embraced me, for I am shadowed with the Circle of the Stars, and covered with the morning clouds. My feet are swifter than the winds, and my hands are sweeter than the morning dew. My garments are from the beginning, and my dwelling place is in myself. The Lion knoweth not where I walk, neither do the beasts of the field understand me. I am deflowered, yet a virgin; I sanctify, and am not sanctified. Happy is he that embraceth me: for in the night season I am sweet, and in the day full of pleasure. My company is a harmony of many symbols, and my lips sweeter than health itself. I am a harlot for such as ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not. Purge your streets, O ye of men, and wash your houses clean; make yourselves holy, and put on righteousness. Cast out your old strumpets, and burn their clothes, and then I will come and dwell amongst you; and behold, I will bring forth children unto you, and they shall be the Sons of Comfort in the Age that is to come.’
In view of the fact that this MSS was unknown to Hubbard and I, the parallelism is really extraordinary. I have found another prophecy in “KHALED KHAN”, which I shall send later…”
Quite how much of this is true, I don’t know. The passage as quoted in the letter does differ in some ways from the passage as published in Meric Casaubon’s selection of the Dee diaries, “A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed For Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits”, published in 1659. For instance, the concluding phrase “…in the Age that is to come” does not appear. Also, I have yet to ascertain how true the account is of Kelly’s exit from Dee’s life and his subsequent career. Nevertheless, it is an intriguing thought the Hubbard’s life could have been disrupted through the Babalon Working. After reading the critical biography about Hubbard (“BARE-FACED MESSIAH”, by Russell Miller) it seemed to me that the time with Parsons was a definite watershed for Hubbard. Prior to it, he seemed basically a colorful, mendacious eccentric; after it, he seemed to slide into insanity. There is no sharp dividing line, but the difference is clear.
In 1969, the “Sunday Times” newspaper published an article on the lines of “Founder of Scientology involved in Black Magic”, in which they recounted details of the Babalon Working. The article was based on details gleaned from the Gerald Yorke Collection at the Warburg Institute, to which the reporters had gained access. Hubbard instituted legal proceedings for libel, and the “Sunday Times” for reasons of their own decided not to fight it. Subsequently, Yorke withdrew from the Warburg those papers relating to the Working. They were incidentally, returned some years ago, following Yorke’s death, but are under a 25-year seal. At the time of the action, the Church of Scientology made a statement alleging that Hubbard had been sent in as an FBI agent to break up a “Black Magic group” which had included several prominent scientists. The operation had, they continued, succeeded beyond the wildest expectations: he rescued a girl that they were “using”, and the group was dispersed and never recovered.
The activities of Parsons during the next few years are not at all clear. I have only been able to catch glimpses through letters and the like. In 1948 Parsons lost his security clearance to perform classified government defense work, and for a man of his profession this was the virtual withdrawal of his livelihood. This action was stated to be “because of his membership in a religious cult … believed to advocate sexual perversion … organised at subject’s home … which had been reported subversive”. Parsons commented later that he was suspended on charges of belonging to the O.T.O. and circulating “LIBER OZ”. Parsons defended himself in closed court, and the charges were dropped. In the meantime, Marjorie Cameron left him; their estrangement lasted several years. What lay behind this rift I do not know, but it did seem final at the time. In the document referred to earlier, “ANALYSIS BY A MASTER OF THE TEMPLE”, he makes the following allusion — again, he is speaking in the third person:
“Candy appeared in the answer to your call, in order to wean you from wetnursing. She has demonstrated the nature of woman to you in such unequivocal terms that you should have no further room for illusion on the subject.
The suspension and inquisition was my opportunity — one of the final chains in the link. At this time you were enabled to prepare your thesis, formulate your Will, and take the Oath of the Abyss, thus making it possible (although only partially) to manifest. The exit of Candy prepares for the final stage of your initial preparation.”
“Candy” is short for Candida, the Magical Name of Marjorie Cameron. There was a reunion in late 1949 or early 1950, and they resumed living together as man and wife.
As mentioned earlier, Parsons still considered himself a member of the A.’.A.’. In December 1948 he took the Oath of Magister Templi, and the name Belarion, Antichrist. This oath was taken in the presence of Wilford T. Smith, with whom he had evidentaly retained some sort of relationship. In 1949 he issued “THE BOOK OF THE ANTICHRIST”. This is a short text, and in it he relates how he was stripped of everything that he was, and then rededicated to Babalon. This was, he considered, a recharging of the current generated by the Babalon Working. He also pledged that the work of The Beast 666 would be fulfilled, and he seems to have seen that work as being, at least in part, a subversion of Christian ethics. He further prophesied that within seven years Babalon would manifest, so bringing his work to fruition.
In September 1950 his employment at Hughes Aircraft Corporation was terminated. He was found to be in possession of a number of classified documents — several of them, as it happens, being co-written by him and dating from his days at Cal. Tech. A lengthy investigation by the State Attorney followed in which the FBI were involved. Parsons it emerged, was hopeful of finding employment in Israel. To this end he was seeking to pursuade them of the case for building a jet-propulsion factory complex, and had been using the documents for backround information. It was eventually concluded that there were insufficient grounds for prosecution, many of the documents containing information that should by then have been declassified anyway. However, there were repercussions. The Appeals Board, who had reinstated his security clearance in March 1949, informed him that in their view he no longer had the requisite honesty and integrity; accordingly, the clearance was again withdrawn in January 1952. This would have been the end of Parsons’ career in that particular scientific area.
From some incomplete essays that survive from this period, it seems that Parsons was working towards building up some sort of teaching Order with a Thelemic core, but relating to paganism and witchcraft, and was preparing papers of instruction for such an Order. By profession he was now building his own chemicals practice. He had sold the main part of his property — the mansion itself — for redevelopment some time earlier, and occupied the coach-house. The garage he had converted into a labratory, equipped with chemicals and equipment. There was a plan to move to Mexico for awhile, both to pursue mystical and magical research and to further his chemical practice. He and Cameron had actually vacated the coachhouse, Parsons went back and forth over the course of several days, moving out his chemicals onto a trailer. On one such visit, on the afternoon of 17 June 1952, he dropped a container of fulminate of mercury, a highly-unstable explosive. The resulting explosion was powerful and devastating, destroying most of the coachhouse. Parsons was seriously injured; horrifically enough, though, he was still conscious when rescuers got to him. He died an hour later, in the hospital.
Controversy has remained over his death. Many regarded it as highly unlikely that a scientist of his experience could so mishandle such a powerful explosive. During those last days he wrote what was probably his last letter, to Karl Germer. It is bizarre, and merits quoting in full, it perhaps casts light on his frame of mind at the time:
“No doubt you will be delighted to hear from an adept who has undertaken the operation of his H.G.A. in accord with our traditions.
The operation began auspiciously with a chromatic display of psychosomatic symptoms, and progressed rapidly to acute psychosis. The operator has altered satisfactorily between manic hysteria and depressing melancholy stupor on approximately 40 cycles, and satisfactory progress has been maintained in social ostracism, economic collapses and mental disassociation.
These statements are mentioned not in any vainglorious spirit of conceit, but rather that they may serve as comfort and inspiration to other aspirants on the Path.
Now I’m off to the wilds of Mexico for a period, also in pursuit of the elusive H.G.A. before winding up in the guard (room) finally via the booby hotels, the graveyard, or —? If the final, you can tell all the little practicuses that I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”
No one. Once called 210.
The manner of Parsons’ death brings to mind the association of Babalon with flame. The lenghty passage quoted earlier from the “THE VISION AND THE VOICE” uses the idea of flame, as did the material communicated during the Babalon Working. The passage “…for She shall absorb thee, and thou shalt become living flame before She incarnates…” is particulary haunting. In some of his letters written in the years after the Babalon Working, Parsons seemed to be expecting a violent death, and he almost certainly had this similar passage in mind. A fragment survives from an earlier version of “THE BOOK OF BABALON”, which is interesting in this connection:
“…because of this mystery BABALON is incarnate upon the earth today, awaiting the proper hour for Her manifestation. And this my book, that is dedicated to Her, is preparation and a portent for that time. And in that day my work will be accomplished, and I shall be blown away upon the Breath of a Father, even as it is prophesied. And thus I labour lonely and outcast and abominable, and he-goat upon the muck heaps of the world. Yet I am content with my lot, since though I am clothed with barncloth, yet shall I come in power and purple, for of this also am I contemptuous. Yea, I am.”
Whatever the truth of this matter, Jack Parsons has remained over the years a figure of fascination to many. I have attempted in the course of this essey to summarise the events of the last fifteen or so years of his life. A more considered evaluation of his life and work requires a lot more research and experience, and remains a labour of love for someone. To that person, “BELOVED OF BABALON” is offered as a foundation.