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Marvel Whiteside Parsons, who later changed his first name to John, but was better known as Jack, (1914–1952) was an American rocket scientist and founding member of the American Jet Propulsion Laboratory (which was later absorbed by NASA). Parsons was briefly a Marxist, but dropped it when he converted to Thelema in 1939. He was a lifelong feminist and advocate of personal liberties who believed that magick was explainable through quantum physics. Parsons headed his own commune at the Agape Lodge of Pasadena, which was part of Ordo Temple Orientalis. He funded Aleister Crowley by donating most of his paycheck to the temple.
Parsons's occult activities were regarded as eccentric at first but eventually led to his being dismissed from the JPL. He would often begin rocket tests by reciting Crowley's hymn to Pan for good luck.
After his second wife left their open relationship for his friendly neighbor L. Ron Hubbard in 1945, he began studying voodoo and witchcraft, hoping to summon a more magical girlfriend, an elemental with fiery red hair. During this time he witnessed a number of mysterious events, including floating orbs, ghosts and disembodied voices haunting his home. Jack Parsons said that Hubbard had great innate magical abilities, so Parsons had him act as his scribe while he masturbated on a sacred tablet, as part of an Enochian ritual.
On 18 January 1946 his prayers were conveniently answered in the form of Marjorie Cameron, a former US Army cartographer and propaganda film wardrobe mistress. The two were instantly attracted to each other, and spent the next two weeks in Parsons' bedroom practicing sex magic. The goal, unknown to Cameron, was to produce a child born to another woman 9 months later through immaculate conception. It was at this time she reported a UFO, which she believed to be a manifestation of psychic energy.
Having already stolen his second wife, Hubbard proceeded to steal Parsons' life savings and left him. Despite having known the entire time that he was a former Marxist, the American government's position on Parsons suddenly changed during the McCarthy trials. He was stripped of his security clearance and had to work at various odd jobs. In 1951 he was accused of violating the espionage act and left unable to work in rocketry. He was acquitted the next year and was able to become a consultant for Israel's rocket program. He began his own Thelemic group that incorporated Sophia and the Demiurge from Gnosticism.
Death and legacy
Jack Parsons died in 1952 from an explosion at his home in an incident involving mercury fulminate; the police ruled it as an accident, though those close to him continued to allege murder or suicide. Chemical engineer George Santymer said the explosion must have originated from beneath the floorboards.
Whatever else he was Parsons was a good rocket scientist and a crater is named in his honor on the far side of the Moon (37.3°N 171.2°W).
- Carter, John; Wilson, Robert Anton (2000). Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons. Feral House. ISBN 978-0922915569.
- Pendle, George (2005). Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297848530.
- Carter, pp. 181-182 p. vii–x.
- Pendle, pp. 146-147
- Pendle, p. 238
- Pendle, p. 29
- Carter, p. 135
- Carter, pp. 170-172
- Pendle, p. 29
- Carter, pp. 181-182
- Pendle, pp. 11-12