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John Whiteside Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons on October 2, 1914 – died June 17, 1952), was an American rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology and co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Aerojet Corporation. He was also an enthusiastic occultist, and one of the earliest American devotees of Aleister Crowley.
His formal schooling was limited, but Parsons demonstrated tremendous scientific aptitude, particularly in chemistry. His rocket research was some of the earliest in the United States, and his pioneering work in the development of solid fuel and the invention of JATO units for aircraft was of vital importance. Noted engineer Theodore von Kármán, Parsons' friend and benefactor, declared that the work of Parsons and his peers helped usher in the age of space travel.
Additional recommended knowledge
Parsons and the Occult
Parsons was also an avid practitioner of the occult arts, and a follower of Thelema. He saw no contradiction between his scientific and magical pursuits: before each rocket test launch, Parsons would invoke the god Pan.
He was chosen by Aleister Crowley to lead Agape Lodge, the Thelemic Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) in California in 1942 after Crowley expelled Wilfred Smith from the position.
Sarah Elizabeth Northrup (aka 'Betty'), began living with Parsons after his wife, Sarah's half-sister Helen Northrup, left with Wilfred Smith. Sarah Elizabeth Northrup later married L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology and sometime magickal partner of Parsons. Parsons and Hubbard participated in a ritual known as the Babalon Working which is famous in occult circles — loosely, it was an attempt to summon a living goddess and change the course of history. They were aided in this work by Sampson Bennetts of the Rosicrucian Order and his wife Sara Melian Gabriel, a well known spiritualist from India.
In January of 1946, Parsons, Betty, and Hubbard started a boat dealing company named Allied Enterprises. Parsons put in a large sum of approximately $21,000—Hubbard put in $1,200, and Betty nothing. Hubbard eventually abandoned Parsons and their business plans, leaving a port in Florida with the boat and Betty. It is said Parsons retreated to his hotel room and summoned a typhoon in retribution (i.e. evocation of Bartzabel  - intelligence presiding Mars). Legend or not, Hubbard and the ship were washed ashore in a freak storm the same day. A Florida court later dissolved the poorly contracted business, ordered repayment of debts to Parsons and awarded ownership of the boat to Hubbard.
Parsons set out to find another partner, his so called "scarlet woman", a magickal partner with whom he could sire a "Moonchild." The Moonchild is traditionally the incarnation of a god, as prophesied in Crowley's channeled script 'The Book of the Law' (The creation of this Moonchild was covered in Crowley's novel of the same name).
When Parsons met artist and poet Marjorie Cameron, he regarded her as the fulfilment of his magical rituals. This same year he resigned his leadership of the O.T.O.
The Hubbard/Allied relationship lasted until 1947, when Hubbard defrauded Parsons of a sum of money and ran off with Sarah Northrup. Hubbard used much of this money from Allied Enterprises to promulgate and publish his book Dianetics, which later evolved into and was superseded by Scientology.
Jack Parsons died on June 17 1952 in an explosion of fulminate of mercury at his home laboratory which is generally regarded as accidental — he stored many volatile chemicals and compounds in the lab. Though gravely injured, he survived the explosion, only to die of his wounds hours later. Considering Parsons' scientific expertise, it's considered suspicious that he would make such a careless mistake of mixing mercury with another compound known to be explosive. Distraught, Parsons's mother killed herself just hours after he died.
Parsons in popular culture
Jack Parsons has an appearance in Anthony Boucher's murder mystery Rocket to the Morgue (1942) as the character Hugo Chantrelle. The book also includes L. Ron Hubbard as D. Vance Wimpole. His relationship with Hubbard also appears in Paradox's Big Book of Conspiracies and Alan Moore's Cobweb story in Top Shelf asks the big questions.
The Parsons crater on the far side of the Moon has been named after him.
The Books on Jack Parsons:
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Jack_Parsons". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|