The Complete Alternate History Of Jack Parsons

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“Only in the irrational and unknown direction can we come to wisdom again.”
–Jack Parsons

Note: I originally serialized this “imaginatively cogitated” version of the life of Jack Parsons in four parts…But you lucky devils, you’re gonna get the whole thing here—the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

PART ONE: WARRIOR LORD OF THE FORTIES

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“Expect him not from the East, nor from the West; for from no expected house cometh that child.”
–Aleister Crowley, “The Book Of The Law”

John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons was a rocket engineer and one of the key figures in what would become America’s space program. He was also an occultist of no small accomplishment, who might have helped impact the world in a completely different (though…sort of related) way.

What I am going to write here is an “alternative” history of Parsons. That means I am going to add things here for which I have no immediate hard-and-fast historical facts to cite in defense of my claims. In other words: I might be outright making shit up.

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what Imaginative Cognition might look like

The methodology with which I am using to construct this narrative I’ve borrowed from a one Dr. Walter Johannes Stein of “Spear Of Destiny” fame: Imaginative Cognition.

Author Trevor Ravenscroft based a significant portion of The Spear Of Destiny—the history of the fabled Spear of Longinus’ impact on world history, particularly World War II—on the Imaginative Cognition of Dr. Stein. In such a practice (I.C. for short), you sorta…make shit up.

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As for Ravenscroft, it is alleged that he admitted years after the publication of The Spear Of Destiny that he never actually met Dr. Stein (as claimed in the book)…but rather, communicated with him through a psychic medium. This is sort of like Imaginative Cognition…once removed.

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I cannot here assure you that what I am about to write is either legit Imaginative Cognition (first removed or not removed), a creative exercise, or may actually have some bearing somewhere in some sort of hard-and-fast reality. I may just be attempting to try to entertain you. Maybe I’m letting loose this little baby idea-virus into the world.

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Maybe I seriously have nothing else to write at the moment.

Anyway, here it is, and let’s start with an interesting fellow…Aleister Crowley.

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Aleister Crowley, who would go on to be the mentor of Jack Parsons

As author/philosopher Robert Anton Wilson has pointed out, there is a common thread of humor in the works of Aleister Crowley, if you have the eyes to see it. But The Book Of The Law, channeled in 1904 by Crowley via an entity called Aiwass, had an odd sort of “gravity” to it, one that kind of creeped out even him.

As he declared in the introduction of the book, the veracity of its contents would be proven by “the use of cipher or cryptogram in certain passages to set forth recondite facts, including some events which had yet to take place, such that no human being could possibly be aware of them…”

And indeed, The Book Of The Law feels like an apt and uncanny description of our current era—pronounced “The Aeon Of Horus” by Crowley/Aiwass:

“He rules the present period of 2,000 years, beginning in 1904. Everywhere his government is taking root. Observe for yourselves the decay of the sense of sin, the growth of innocence and irresponsibility, the strange modifications of the reproductive instinct with a tendency to become bisexual or epicene, the childlike confidence in progress combined with nightmare fear of catastrophe, against which we are yet half unwilling to take precautions.”

Much has also been made over the reference to “the warrior Lord of the Forties”—I’ve seen this often explained as a prediction of Hitler’s rise to power.

But I don’t think it was about Hitler, actually—though if you are interested in narratives about such augurs, do check out the Imaginative Cognition-driven tome The Spear Of Destiny.

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Instead, I think it referred to Parsons and his Horus-like energy/impact on the world via his technological discoveries and his magickal rituals.

And I think the second line of the “prophecy” immediately after, “the Eighties cower before me,” actually foretells his return to this reality of which we know (though for that little excursion, an entirely different prophet will be accessed).

Because Parsons’ discoveries in the field of rocketry didn’t just have to be restricted to the noble cause of space exploration, of course…

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…they could also be used as weapons of war.

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But here’s the beauty of The Book Of The Law—I believe it was not only a prophecy regarding the coming of Parsons, but a “guidebook,” if you will, for the man himself.

Whether or not Jack—and I think I’m going to call him “Jack” from this point (if you don’t mind)—thought The Book Of The Law was about him specifically, he did take inspiration from it to go on to do his own occult workings…in the Forties…

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“The present age is under the influence of the force called, in magical terminology, Horus. This force relates to fire, Mars, and the sun, that is, to power, violence, and energy. It also relates to a child, being innocent (i.e. undifferentiated)…

This force is completely blind, depending upon the men and women in whom it manifests and who guide it. Obviously, its guidance now tends towards catastrophy.

The catastrophic trend is due to our lack of understanding of our own natures. The hidden lusts, fears, and hatreds resulting from the warping of the love urge, which underly the natures of all Western peoples, have taken a homicidal and suicidal direction.

This impasse is broken by the incarnation of another sort of force, called BABALON. The nature of this force relates to love, understanding, and dionysian freedom, and is the necessary counterbalance or correspondence to the manifestation of Horus…

The background of this material may be found in the Book of the Law, the Comment thereon, and other writings of Aleister Crowley…”
–Jack Parsons, “The Book Of Babalon”

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Aleister Crowley would go on to be a real-life “mentor,” of sorts, to Jack (who had become a member of his Church Of Thelema)—referring to the young man, at one point, as “the most valued member of the whole Order, with no exception!”

It is quite easy for me to engage in some Imaginative Cognition and pick up the “vibe” of this sort of situation, that Jack found himself in. Because he was “the chosen one.”

And Crowley—as much as I like some of his work, as much as I think he has been misunderstood—was Emperor Palpatine.

Because if you were to say there was one “fatal” flaw in Jack, out of many you could possibly suss out from what materials are available regarding that particular lifetime…it was that he desperately sought out a “guru,” a master, somebody to validate his work and show him the Way.

PART TWO: THE BEAST AND THE GEEK

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“When I ordered the hit on you, I was worried that I was killing the golden goose. But, you see, it was just fate that you survived it, leaving one last golden egg to give. You really think that just because you have an idea, it belongs to you? Your father, he helped give us the atomic bomb. Now what kind of world would it be today if he was as selfish as you?”
–Obadiah Stane, “Iron Man”

The very best scenario—if you are so inclined—is that you are the “New Messiah.” The second best scenario is that you are the exclusive prophet of the New Messiah.

A far more troubling scenario is one in which you are the prophet of the New Messiah, but consider him to be somewhat “beneath” you—you consider him to be a punk, a nerd, a neurotic, a weakling, somebody unworthy of the title.

In such cases, a heavy sense of the unfairness of the Universe descends…and in my alternate history of Jack Parsons, it was no other than Aleister Crowley who felt he was “cheated.”

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Jack Parsons and Aleister Crowley

He would not be the last to feel such a way about Jack.

If Crowley represented the culmination of a modern magickal movement that started at the tail end of the 19th Century,—then Jack was the truly the New Messiah of the 20th.

And the dominant vehicle of universal mythos and meme-magick in the 20th Century was…

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collage art by Howard Hallis

Comic books.

There are relatively few original images of Jack Parsons to be found—such a dearth paradoxically adding to his overall “mystique.” Since (in our alternate history, at any rate) Jack was the Horus-like New Messiah of the 20th Century and perhaps beyond, his energy sort of “demanded” more of a presence within the pop-culture zeitgeist—easily-reproduced iconography and ideas for us to consider and possibly “worship.”

Enter: Iron Man.

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Jack Parsons and Tony Stark

Like Jack, Tony Stark was a genius inventor with wavy jet-black hair and a mustache; a tech wizard whose inventions could send humankind to the stars, be used as deadly weapons, or quite possibly both.

Iron Man co-creator Stan Lee described how he created the superhero as a creature very much of the start of the Cold War…the era where Jack lived and created: “It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military….So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree.”

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Though Lee specifically credited millionaire industrialist Howard Hughes (who eventually had his own highly bizarre conspiracy-tinged history) as the inspiration for Tony Stark, by the time the character reached movie theaters in 2008 he couldn’t help but take on a much more “Jack” type of vibe. (check out Loren Coleman’s Twilight Language blog for a deeper analysis of the Hughes/Tony Stark comparisons)

This is clearest in the casting choice of Dominic Cooper as Tony’s father Howard in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger

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I mean, it’s pretty much identical.

But even back in 2008’s Iron Man, the character of Tony Stark sort of resonated Jack (Jack, whose given name at birth was “Marvel” like the publisher of the comic book)…with the scene in the beginning with the rockets…the explosion causing Tony’s crucial injury (shades of Jack’s unfortunate demise)…even his struggle against his late father’s friend Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges with a Crowley-esque bald head):

In Iron Man, Stane literally pulls paralyzed Tony’s heart out, informing him with glee that his discoveries will be used for evil. That Tony was just a pawn; his inventions and discoveries not truly his own, but rather part of a “bigger plan.”

Similarly, in my alternate history of Jack Parsons, Crowley knowingly used Jack…”weaponized” him. Crowley himself would not be the ultimate New Messiah of the coming age, but he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to steer this “ship” anyway.

And Jack was “easy,” in the sense that he was like this overly enthusiastic kid, this kid without his own father’s regular presence in his life or approval…I mean, he was an adult, but he was also highly manipulatable. And he was a natural adept—his was the destiny to give humanity the crucial equipment to take them to the stars. So naturally gifted in magick, so blessed with an intuitive intellect…perhaps he could have been like the successful Tony Stark of the movies (he who created the Avengers).

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But he was corrupted. Purposely corrupted. He was, as I will discuss in later posts, “broken open” by Crowley’s eventual rejection as well as a long list of other failures that would befall him within a very short period of time.

Because if there was one thing that Crowley knew about: it was that sometimes you need to “crack somebody open” in order to have them achieve their full potential.

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If Crowley (in the alternate history) was forced to “justify” what he did…the path he set Jack on…he might have said something like this:

“His name is Jack, and he had been operating free, relatively under-the-radar, for quite some time now. No way of knowing just how destructive, albeit unintentionally, that had been.

But the reality of the situation is that he possesses omega-level abilities that should never have been left unattended, unsupervised. The reality is that he had placed himself in an overly-permissive environment that did not have the capacity & imagination to grasp what it was exactly they were dealing with.”

So at least, people like Crowley had that vision: which was, of course, to kick off the New Aeon, the Aeon of Supermen. To break open the “doors”—to rip Earth from the “quarantine”—and let all nature of beings just flood in and alter our reality forever.

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But that’s the alternate history, at any rate.

PART THREE: FINDING BABALON

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“BABALON is too beautiful
for sight of mortal eyes
She has hidden her loveliness away
in lonely midnight skies…”
—Jack Parsons, “The Book Of Babalon”

At this point, it might be helpful to review who Babalon is. According to the Thelemic religion, founded by Aleister Crowley, she is the basic female impulse—the “liberated woman.” You could call her Mother Earth, the mother goddess, the one basic Goddess template…the personification of yin energy, creative energy.

You could also link her with the “Whore of Babylon” from the Biblical Book Of Revelations…where you will also find The Beast. You could also equate the “Phoenix Force” energy from the X-Men comics with her. You could get really creative with it.

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But Crowley believed that Babalon could manifest as a human host on Earth, being this really hot-to-trot chick the Scarlet Woman—her liberation being largely sexual in nature. This Scarlet Woman would copulate with the agent of Horus on Earth, The Beast—which conveniently would be Crowley himself.

Per Crowley:

“It is necessary to say here that The Beast appears to be a definite individual; to wit, the man Aleister Crowley. But the Scarlet Woman is an officer replaceable as need arises.”

That’s a pretty good deal. For him.

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And so the Beast would have sex with the Scarlet Woman in this grand ritual, and the Aeon of Horus would begin. That was the plan, at any rate.

But it was Jack Parsons who would finally get it done. Because he probably had a better “handle” on where Babalon was really to be found.

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Marjorie Cameron

And so starting in December of 1945 Jack began a series of rituals which he would call the Babalon Working, with the hope that he would create the Earthly incarnation of the goddess (referred to as a “Moonchild,” from the book by Crowley of the same name).

A large portion of these rituals involved him masturbating onto magical tablets while his buddy L. Ron Hubbard kept his eyes out for any significant paranormal activity that might indicate the Goddess was afoot.

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Marjorie Cameron and Jack Parsons

The Babalon Working climaxed in the Mojave Desert in late February 1946, and apparently when Jack got back home fire-haired Marjorie Cameron was waiting for him—as if she was created out of thin air, the actual “Moonchild” of the ritual.

The ritual worked! The woman Jack sought was finally here!

Cameron was to become Jack’s Scarlet Woman—and Jack was to become the Beast (fuck Crowley), the Antichrist. And together they would evoke and evoke and evoke.

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But while Cameron, who would go on to be an important occult figure in her own right, might have been the “avatar” of Babalon—according to the alternate history, she wasn’t the Babalon, the source of the frightening amount of energy raised that day in the Mojave Desert.

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From the graphic novel about Parsons, “The Marvel”

As a child, Jack Parsons was a constant victim of bullies, who considered him weak and effeminate. When grew up, he decided to project a very “manly” and macho attitude so he would never be so thought of again.

And so he suppressed this feminine energy; as every person has the potentiality for both feminine and masculine energies within, both energies combining to create The World.

But when Jack did these magickal workings, both before and after he met (“materialized”) Cameron…it is the belief of the alternate history that the gate through which he “pulled out” Babalon was himself.

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Where do we find some of the most powerful energies? In our “shadow selves,” in that which we repress. Because each of us are microcosms of the Whole.

In the book Ozma of Oz (Oz resonating Aleister Crowley, Liber OZ), the little boy Tip finds out at the very end of the book that he was secretly Ozma all along. That’s a pretty surprising ending to an old children’s book. But in a way, that’s sort of what happened to Jack.

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The Beast and Babalon are just opposite sides of the same coin. That’s the secret. When the avatars of these two powerful archetypal symbols merge, they create one Whole through which both currents run and are interchangeable.

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divine androgyne (couple)

As Jack himself wrote in his Book of Babalon (emphasis mine):

It is indicated that this force is actually incarnate in some living woman, as the result of the described magical operation. A more basic matter, however, is the indication that this force is incarnate in all men and women, and needs only to be invoked to free the spirit from the debris of the old aeon, and to direct the blind force of Horus into constructive channels of understanding and love.

This must mean, then, that the force of nature called The Beast might work in a similar, necessarily reversed, manner.

Don’t tell Crowley that, though.

PART FOUR: THE ONCE AND FUTURE JACK PARSONS

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“The world, though, was not ready for Jack Parsons.”
–Peter Levenda, “Sinister Forces Book One”

And so here we have John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons, who essentially fulfilled the Horus mission by giving humanity the building blocks they needed to go to the stars. He was like Prometheus, like Enki…like Lucifer, bringing the fire of enlightenment to humanity.

Reading his texts, I think he had only a partial understanding of what role he was to play. He called himself the Antichrist, but…what does that even mean? If his “channeled” poem “The Birth Of Babalon,” from his Book Of Babalon, is any judge (there was also mentioned “a prophecy which I shall not write here”)…it seems rather bleak. It seems like war and an orgy and shit.

“I have lain my my love and smashed my heart
and filled her cup with blood,
That blood might flow from the lions of woe
to the cup of brotherhood.

The cities reel in the shout of steel
where the sword of war is drawn.
Sing ye saints for the day is come
in the birth of BABALON.”

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Like…what was hoped to be accomplished, here? In his Freedom Is A Two-Edged Sword, which he wrote several years later, Parsons had these really powerful concepts concerning freedom, and liberty, and equality for all. It’s such a ground-breaking document for its time (admittedly with some seriously eyebrow-raising bits, though that’s to be expected), and its overall vision of a benevolent New Age led by this archetypal Feminine feels triumphant.

But the “damage” was done with the Babalon Working, wasn’t it? And that…wasn’t a working that was really going to do anything constructive or peaceful for humanity. It might have opened “doors” for all sorts of new “notions” and ideas to flood into the Zeitgeist…but these were notions that could liberate us, doom us, or most likely both at the same time in a grand flood of chaos. And The Book Of Babalon/The Book Of The Antichrist, like Aleister Crowley’s own The Book Of The Law…it’s the same feeling I get, reading all of them.

I can read these books, and get something out of them esoterically, and learn a lot, and stuff…but these were not books dictated in order to lift up Humanity. They certainly give some info that I think is true. They certainly show the way to acquire some level of personal self-empowerment. But these books seem to me to be ultimately dictated by some non-human (well, I mean obviously), “superior” (in a sense) entity/entities that are not interested in lifting up humanity as we know it. Rather, they look towards another age—a “post-human” age.

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And some might say: “Well it is inevitable that we eventually become post-human. It’s just evolution.”

But then why do I feel so bad about it? Like…”sad” about it?

Why should it bother me?

And how did Parsons get to this point (I mean, in my speculative “alternate” history)?

I think it was, in part, that because he felt utterly betrayed and fucked-over by so many people (including being defrauded by his former friend & magick partner L. Ron Hubbard); and that subconsciously, that chipped away at his connection to humanity.

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As Peter Levenda comments in Sinister Forces Book One:

“…it certainly seems as if Parsons was victimized by most people in his life. He expected people to behave with honor, reasonably, to the extent that he, himself, treated them nobly. From what evidence we can find, Parsons was treated well and honorably only by those who respected and admired his intelligence, his seriousness, and his brilliance; his fellow rocketeers. Yet, when involved in the one aspect of American life virtually guaranteed to disappoint the idealist—the occult underground, with its petty jealousies, inflamed egos and unstable emotions—he was ripped apart.”

And as Parsons himself writes in The Book Of The Antichrist,

“…I was stripped of my fortune (the sum of $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.

And on the 31st of October, 1948, BABALON called on me again, and I began the last work, that was the work of the wand.”

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Among other things, Parsons had lost his career as a rocket scientist, blacklisted from the industry. And so he shifted most of his attention from that to the occult—along with some work for Israel (that put him firmly on the radar of the American investigative authorities) and as a pyrotechnics expert for Hollywood special effects.

On June 17, 1952, a day before leaving on a planned trip to Mexico (he hoped to restart his rocket research there) with his wife Marjorie Cameron, Parsons died in an explosion in his California lab. It has been popularly speculated that “Babalon” herself came back to give Parsons his “due” (though I don’t know why she would have been so shitty to him after how he carried out all her instructions). But author Peter Levenda speculates that the might also have met foul play, as he was up to his ears at that point in possible foreign intrigue (and domestic suspicion).

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And that’s it then, I guess. That was the life of Jack Parsons, both the “official” and a bit of my embroidering. Nowadays he is a bit of a “cult” figure; some sort of TV miniseries or whatnot is even planned to dramatize his story. And people so inclined can even look up his Book Of Babalon and try to “ape” some of his rituals. How many self-styled Parsons are there in the world right now? Probably loads. And why not? He was cool, right?

If Parsons was alive right now, in our world—what would he think, given all his past experiences? What would he do? Would he regard our fast-approaching Singularity with excitement, recognizing it as the fulfillment of all he worked towards with Babalon? Would he have a change of heart, seeing things differently now with the aid of hindsight; being horrified not only for the deals he made with “Babalon,” but to see his rocket technology put to such violent uses?

And would he consider his work “finished?”

Or unfinished?