Bio of Jack W. Parsons (part of )
-= Beloved of Babalon =-
An introduction to J. W. Parsons
Part II of IV
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 eventsin 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
In the coures 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 mambers:
"...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
yourlevers, 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 behoves you
to be more on your guard than would be the case with the majority of
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 idenity. 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 warrent
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 guaged from the fact that he decined 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
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 was 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 throughly 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 victem 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 Angle... 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
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 VIII 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
"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 decribable as an air of fire type
with bronze red hair, fiery and subtle, determined and obstinate,
sincere and perverse, with extraordinary personality, talent and
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 explaination
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
afore-mentioned 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.
* This concludes "PARSONS.II", part II of IV.