John Whiteside Parsons: Sex, Rockets, and Magick

John Whiteside Parsons: Sex, Rockets, and Magick


I was born October 2nd, 1978. Therefore Astrologically speaking, that makes me a Libran.They say us Libras have a tendency to balance things. They also say we’re eccentric and luxurious. I guess those things apply to me in some way or another. I can definitely identify with the ‘keeping the balance thing’. The other side of the Libra, the bad side, tends to use ingenious ways to get revenge or express anger. No physical violence. That would violate the pure essence of the scale-weary Libran. The tend to do violent things in a destructive manner powered by the tenacity to hold onto a grudge.

John Whiteside Parsons was born October 2nd, 1914. The quintessential Libra, Parsons struggled with keeping the balance of things throughout his life. However, for the man who was to become the father of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Parsons had a deeper and darker obsession with balancing his monumental intelligence and his obsession with sex, drugs, rockets, and dark Magick.

The Man

John Whiteside Parsons was born Marvel Whiteside Parsons. He came from a a very rich family that had some social clout in what was Pasadena’s high society. When Parsons was still a young boy his father walked out their victorian mansion, one of many in the affluent suburb of West Pasadena. The abandonment left the young Parsons with a tremendous sense of hatred and betrayal. Years later Parsons would say that he had built “…a hatred of authority and a spirit of revolution”.

John_Whiteside_ParsonsThe relationship between Parsons and his mother began turning into an Oedipal one. In the biography “Sex and Rockets: The Occult World Of Jack Parsons” the author writes about a mysterious black box that was found after Parsons’ death. The box contained several reels of film which showed Parsons and his mother engaging in acts of strange sex. Even more disturbing was the rumor of a certain reel that contained footage of Parsons, his mother, and her dog engaged in acts of bestiality.

Parsons’ educational life was also plagued with problems. He dropped out of the University of Southern California and Parsons found himself a prestigious job at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory (GALCIT), part of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Under the supervision of Frank Malina and Theodore Von Kármán, both well respected pioneers in aeronautical engineering. The lack of a formal education didn’t matter for Parsons’ employers and colleagues. He showed a high aptitude in physics, math, and especially chemistry.

 The Rocket Scientist

Parsons began making waves in rocket research from the beginning of his career. He was a pioneer and helped develop rocket fuel (solid fuel) as well as JATO units (Jet Assisted Take-Off). The man was a genius with rockets, propulsion and thermodynamics. The young genius co-founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA’s JPL) in Pasadena. He was so influential in the field of rocketry that people sometimes called JPL the Jack Parson’s Laboratory. Parsons’ contributions in the development of parsonssolid fuel helped shape the space age and was crucial with the success of the Apollo 11 mission that put us in the moon.

Just like his rockets, Parsons professional career quickly propelled him to the top. NASA even named one of the moon’s craters the ‘Parsons Crater‘. Appropriately enough, the crater sits on the dark side of the moon.

The Occultist

Around the height of his career Parsons began to develop an obsession with the occult . His readings of the Thelema and involement with OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) gave Parsons a new perspective in chemistry and what he came to know as Magick.

By 1942 Parsons was appointed as the head of the Agapé Lodge by Aleister Crowley. It was then that Parsons made several important breakthroughs in solid fuel technology. Guided or inspired by Crowley, who himself was very knowledgeable in chemistry, Parsons began using asphalt and the highly reactive potassium perchlorate instead of black powder in his rocket engines. This mixture helped streamlined rockets and eventually pushed America right at the front of the space age.

Parsons’ colleagues often talk about his loyalty to Crowley and the occult. It’s said that before every test launch, Parsons would invoke Crowley’s Hymn to Pan.

Thrill with lissome lust of the light,
O man! My man!
Come careering out of the night
Of Pan! Io Pan!
Io Pan! Io Pan! Come over the sea
From Sicily and from Arcady!
Roaming as Bacchus, with fauns and pards
And nymphs and satyrs for thy guards,
On a milk-white ass, come over the sea
To me, to me,


Aleister_CrowleyParsons also began writing letters to Aleister Crowley, addressing him as his “Most Beloved Father”. As Parsons built a rapport with Crowley, the leadership at the OTO was falling apart. Hence Crowley’s choice to appoint a new leader and bring life back into the Order. In April of 1935, Parsons married Helen Northrup.

Not soon after their marriage, the founder of the OTO (Wilfred T. Smith) was having an affair with Helen. The love affair flared because Parsons was himself busy with Helen’s sister, Sara Northrup. That was the excuse Crowley and Parsons needed to kick Smith out of the Order. He left. Taking with him Parason’s first wife.

Around that time, Parsons was living in his 11-room mansion (bequeathed from his father’s will). Nicknamed The Parsonage, The spacious victorian home became a hostel of some sorts to strange and eccentric characters. One of the more infamous of its tenants was none other than L. Ron Hubbard himself.


Sex, Magick, and The Parsonage

1003 S. Orange Grove Ave. in Pasadena, CA. The well manicured lawns and spacious back yards in the affluent part of Pasadena was the ideal setting for Parsons to live out his fantasies. The Parsonage had become the headquarters for the OTO and within the first few meetings, rumors began to spread about weird goings on inside the gothic mansion. The Parsonage was known throughout the neighborhood for holding late night rituals in the back yard, most of which included ominous robed figures chanting around an open fire. Reports of naked women dancing around the fires became almost a weekly thing.

Burton Wolfe writes of a sixteen-year-old boy who reported Parsons to the police. He told them that Parsons’ followers had forcibly sodomized him during a Black Mass at the house. The police investigated. They found Parsons’ cult to be little more than an organization dedicated to religious and philosophical speculation, with respectable members such as a Pasadena bank president, doctors, lawyers, and Hollywood actors.” At one point the FBI became involved after receiving some anonymous letters. One bore the signature, “An American Soldier.” The police again cleared Parsons of all charges. They would later stand by their findings when further accusations arose. –Source:

Parsons had always been a fan of science fiction. He often read Unknown, a fantasy pulp magazine that had printed several articles by an unknown writer named L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard eventually ended up meeting Parsons and took up residence in The Parsonage. Soon after, the two men began to share the obsession with Crowley’s teachings as well as Parsons’ mistress. Hubbard participated in the rituals that eventually progressed into nightly ceremonial acts of magic. Under Aleister Crowley’s guide and with Hubbard at his side, Parsons began working on what would become his ultimate obsession: Producing a magickal child.

Babalon Working and the end of The Parsonage

Crowely and his followers believed that a magickal child would help lead them through the Aeon of Horus. Which in Thelema, was believed to be the time when humanity would enter a self-realization and self-actualization mode. Crowley had instructed Parsons  on how to create the magickal Moonchild with the aid of a ‘scarlet woman’. Enter Marjorie Cameron.


Marjorie Cameron

Marjorie Cameron was a Navy drop out. She met Parsons while staying in Pasadena and the two instantly hit it off. Marjorie had an interest in the occult since she lived back in Iowa and was drawn in by the OTO’s teachings. Parsons wrote to Crowley and told him about Hubbard and the progress of Babalon Working on a weekly basis. From what he knew through Parsons’ writings, Crowley did not trust Hubbard and considered him a conman. Being thousands of miles away, Crowley’s disapproval was ignored by Parsons.

The allure of sex and power seemed to fuel the Babalon Working project and it was Parsons who pushed for the ritual with full-on interest. The ‘Elemental Mate’ had been finally found and Parsons couldn’t be more ecstatic. Soon the two began an affair that would consist of animalistic sex acts throughout the night, while Hubbard himself watched and took notes.

The acts of sexual deviance continued inside The Parsonage in futile efforts to produce this so-called Moonchild, or the Thelemic Messiah. Cameron and Parsons’ affair continued even after the failure to produce a physical moon child. The two later married.

Shortly after the failed conception a boating business venture went south between Hubbard, Parsons, and Sara Northrup. Hubbard allegedly stole money from Parsons and skipped town with Sara in tow.  They were detained by the U.S. Coast Guard in Florida and were ordered by court to repay their debt to Parsons.

This was something that Aleister Crowley had predicted and warned Parsons about. Soon after Hubbard’s betrayal, Parsons resigned as the leader of the Agapé Lodge. Dismantling the OTO from The Parsonage and eventually selling the old mansion in 1946.

Feds, rockets, and the death of a genius

The FBI had already a substantial report on Parsons and his work inside as well as outside the laboratories. They had investigated Parsons before and were keeping a close eye on him and other tenants at the Parsonage. It was after the court battle with Hubbard parsons-blastand the dismantling of the OTO that Parsons lost a good chunk of his fortune. He bought a smaller house and continued his work with rockets and volatile chemicals.

On the morning of June 17th, 1952, Parsons was killed by an explosion inside his home laboratory. A careless chemical reaction ignited and blew half of the house away, gravely injuring Parsons. He died a few hours after the explosion.

Upon hearing the news of his death, Parsons’ distraught mother committed suicide.

Although his intelligence helped shaped the American space age, it also harbored a darker side. A side that would be satisfied only by ritualistic magick, acts of sexual depravity and his eternal love for rockets.