- Beloved of Babylon - An introduction to J. W. Parsons Part I of IV John Whiteside Parson

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-= Beloved of Babylon =- ------------------ An introduction to J. W. Parsons Part I of IV John Whiteside Parsons was born on 2 October 1914 in Los Angeles, California. His mother and father separated whilst he was quite young and Parsons said later that this left him with "...a hatred of authority and a spirit of revolution", as well as an Oedipal attachment to his mother. He felt withdrawn and isolated as a child, and was bullied by other children. This gave him, he thought, "...the requisite contempt for the crowd and for the group mores...". Parsons was born into a rich family, and sometime in his youth there was what he referred to as a loss of family fortune. This loss must only have been a temporary one, though - perhaps caused by the break-up of the family - since in the 1940's he inherited from his father a large, Victorian-style mansion in the well-to-do area of Pasadena. During adolescence, Parsons developed an interest in science, especially physics and chemistry, and in fact he went on to develop a career as a brilliant scientist in the fields of explosives and rocket-fuel technology. His achievements as a scientist were such that the Americans named a lunar crater after him when they came to claim that territory for their own. Appropriately enough, Crater Parsons is on the dark side of the moon. Parsons made contact with the O.T.O. and the A.'.A.'. in December 1938, whilst visiting Agape Lodge of the O.T.O. in California.He was taken along by one of his fellow scientists. At that time Agape Lodge used to give weekly performances of the Gnostic Catholic Mass, seeing this as both a sacrament and a recruiting front. Agape Lodge was by then a moderately thriving and expanding concern, having been founded in the mid-1920's by Wilfred T. Smith, an expatriate Englishman. Smith had many years earlier been an associate of Charles Stansfield Jones (Frater Achad) in Vancouver, Canada. Crowley seems to have had, at least to begin with, a high regard for Smith, and expected great things of him. Over the years, however, he grew increasingly disillusioned. Crowley felt that the O.T.O. should have flowered in California, given imaginative leadership. Smith was simply not capable of delivering, he thought, and perhaps even deliberately impeding things. By the time that Parsons joined the Lodge in 1939, together with his wife Helen, relations between Smith and Crowley were already in terminal decline, and Crowley was casting around for someone else to take over headship of the Lodge. One of the items in the Yorke Collection at Warburg Institute is a collection of over 200 letters exchanged between Crowley and Smith, in which the steady decline in their relationship is starkly illustrated. At this time, the Lodge was firmly in the grip of Smith and his mistress, Regina Kahl. They were very authoritarian, and ruled things with the proverbial rod of iron. At the weekly performances of the Mass, Smith was the Priest and Regina Kahl the Priestess. The Parsons were initiated into the O.T.O. in 1939 and like many entrants of the time they took up membership of the A.'.A.'. as well. Jack Parsons took as his motto "Thelema Obtentum Procedero Amoris Nuptiae", an interestingly hybrid phrase which conveys the intention of attaining Thelemaa through the nuptial of love; the initials transliterated into Hebrew give his Magical Number, 210. He seems to have made quite an impression on his fellow members. Jane Wolfe, who had spent some time with Crowley at Cefalu, was an active member of the Lodge at the time. The following entry is from her Magical Record during December 1940: "Unknown to me, John Whiteside Parsons, a newcomer, began astral travels. This knowledge decided Regina to undertake similar work. All off which I learned after making my own decision. So the time must be propitious. Incidentally, I take Jack Parsons to be the child who "shall behold them all" (the mysteries hidden therein. ALI, 54-5). "26 years of age, 6'2", vital, potentially bisexual at the very least, University of the State of California and Cal Tech., now engaged in Cal. Tech. chemical laboratories developing "bigger and better" explosives for Uncle Sam. Travels under sealed orders from the government. Writes poetry - "sensuous only", he says. Lover of music, which he seems to know thoroughly. I see him as the real successor of Therion. Passionate; and has made the vilest analyses result in a species of exaltation after the event. Has had mystical experiences which gave him a sense of equality all round, although he is hierarchical in feeling and in the established order." Jack Parsons seems to have had something of a reverential attitude towards Smith, perhaps seeing him as some sort of father figure - the relationship between them seems to have had that sort of ambiguity. In later years, he described how he felt an alternate attraction and repulsion where Smith was concerned; and Smith, whatever his limitations and faults may have been, was evidently a charismatic man. Parsons, for his part, evidently made a strong impression on Smith. In a letter to Crowley during March 1941, Smith wrote as follows: "...I think I have at long last a really excellent man, John Parsons.And starting next Tuesday he begins a course of talks with a view to enlarging our scope. He has an excellent mind and much better intellect then myself - Oh yes, I know it would not necessarily have too be very good to be better than mine...John Parsons is going to be valuable. I feel sure we are going to move ahead in spite of Max Schneider's continual efforts to discredit me. He still exhibits your letters as proof that I am a number one son of a bitch. I thought you were going to write to tell him to clamp down..." The last sentences in this quotation throw light on an important factor in the affairs of Agape Lodge - the turmoil and personal friction that was a constant emotional backdrop, and which seems finally to have invalidated all their efforts. The Lodge was constantly riven by personal feuding and upheaval, and Crowley's influence over the course of events seems in reality to have been marginal. The nucleus of Agape Lodge was some sort of forerunner of a hippie commune. Apart from anything else, Smith appears to have regarded the women members of the Lodge as constituting his personal harem, and of course this added to the friction. Crowley was in correspondence with many of the members at this time, and seems to some extent to have encouraged people to tell tales on each other.No doubt he saw it as a good way of keeping in touch with what was going on, but it tended to inflame the widespread personal clashes that were going on. He did try to make openness and honesty a policy - laying down a rule that if "A" wrote to "B" attacking "C",then "A" was duty-bound to copy the letter to "C" as a matter of course. This seems to have happened but rarely, however. In his attempts to assert his authority over the Lodge generally,and Smith in particular, Crowley was frustrated by the loyalty -despite all the bitchiness around - to Smith and Kahl. On the face of it, he should have been able to exert his authority easily enough. Karl Germer, his trusted right-hand man, was in New York; whilst his colleague from the Cefalu days - Jane Wolfe - was a member of the Lodge. Jane Wolfe was the same age as Crowley, but she was very weak and indecisive. Reading about the course of the Agape Lodge during the 1930's and 1940's is a bewildering experience. The whole thing, despite the glamour that time and mystery now lend it,seems to have been a mess. It is as well for us to bear in mind that Jack Parsons - his obvious gifts notwithstanding - was part of this melodramatic flux and flow. Although Crowley grew increasingly despairing of and impatient with Smith, and saw all to clearly the need to replace him as head of Agape Lodge, the problem for Crowley - quite apart from HOW to get rid of Smith - was with whom to replace him. In the course of a letter to Crowley of March 1942, Jane Wolfe made her recommendations:"Incidentally, I believe Jack Parsons - who is devoted to Wilfred - to be the coming leader, with Wilfred in advisory capacity. I hope you two get together some day, although your present activities in England seem to have postponed the date of your coming to us. Jack,by the way, comes in through some inner experiences, but mostly, perhaps, through the world of science. That is, he was "sold on the Book of the Law" because it foretold Einstein, Heisenberg - whose work is not permitted in Russia - the quantum field folks, whose work is along the "factor infinite and unknown" lines, etc. You two would have a whale of a lot of things to talk over. He and Helen are lock, stock and barrel for the Order." By 1943, Crowley appears to have decided that some definite course of action was necessary to get rid of Smith, and that his continued presences in the Lodge was harmful. In a letter of May 1943, to a member called Roy Leffingwell, he wrote:"I think that Smith is quite hopeless. I am quite satisfied with what you say about his reactions to your family. It is all very well, but Smith has apparently nothing else in his mind. He appears to be using the Order as a happy hunting ground for "affairs". You say the same thing, and I have no doubt that it is quite correct. I think we must get rid him once and for all; and this will include the Parsons, unless they dissociate themselves immediately from him, without reservations." -----------------


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