Ordo Templi Orientis
The Babalon Working
Michael Staley, 1989
If there is a pantheon of personalities in the recent history of Thelema, then Jack Parsons can be regarded as one of the most glamorous. Perhaps a special glamour attaches itself to those who die young, and in rather mysterious circumstances. Parsons was 37 years old when he died, and regarded by many as Crowley's most promising pupil. He seems to have regarded himself as being Crowley's "Magical Son", often addressing Crowley in his letters as "Most Beloved Father", and signing them "Thy Son, John". Crowley, whilst having a high regard for Parsons, appears not to have reciprocated the relationship [Additional remark by P.R. Koenig: Crowley addressed Friedrich Mellinger as his "beloved son" and signed his letters to Mellinger with "a Father's Blessings". For a History of the O.T.O. in America see: Song of the Whitewash: Mysteria Mystica Maxima]. Having by that time seen many potential successors come and go, he perhaps wished to defer judgement and allow events to take care of the succession.
Parsons was by profession a brilliant scientist, specialising in the area of explosives and jet fuel. It was as a scientist that he was first attracted to Thelema. One of the most disheartening things about Thelema is how often people seem to confuse it with Crowleyanity, the cult of personality. Contrary to the opinion of detractors such as Symonds, it is evident that Crowley could not take seriously those who made this mistake. There is the oft-quoted passage from The Winged Beetle where he speaks scathingly of those who "... come to worship Crowley". Parsons certainly seems to have been devoted to Crowley. His writings, though, reveal that he was more interested in exploring and developing the ramifications of Thelema. Thus he neither confused Thelema with Crowleyanity, nor regarded Crowley as being central to it. In this alone, his work is therefore of special interest to us.
Probably the incident best known amongst occultists about Parsons is the Babalon Working, which took place in 1946. He was assisted in this by L.R* H*** - the future founder of Sc*** - and Marjorie Cameron, who later married Parsons. In the course of this Working Parsons received a text of seventyseven short verses which purported to be a communication from the goddess Babalon. One of the early verses also claims it to be the fourth chapter of The Book of the Law. This claim was a matter for contention amongst Parsons' peers, to say the least. They saw no need for a fourth chapter, let alone one which was channelled through someone as capricious as Jack Parsons. However, Parsons remained steadfast in his championing of the claim, and there is no doubt that he viewed the Babalon Working as the most important event in his life - much as Crowley regarded the Cairo Working as being the climax of his life.
Parsons, however, was no usurper or heretic. To him, the claim was rooted in the succession of the Aeons. In this scheme of things, it seemed to him a necessity that the Aeon of Horus be fulfilled by a passive complement to Horus, and he saw this complement as being the force glyphed by the goddess Babalon. This goddess is very prominent in the Thelemic pantheon of deities. She is the apotheosis of the Scarlet Woman, who is accordingly her avatar or incarnation. On one level the complement or polarity is subsumed as Atu XI, "Lust", in which Babalon and the Beast are conjoined. This symbolises, amongst other things, the harnessing of the sexual drive for magical and mystical ends. This relationship is explored in Liber 418, The Vision and the Voice, in which the Babalon Working is firmly rooted.
The purpose of the Babalon Working was the earthing of the force of Babalon to produce an avatar, incarnation or Daughter of Babalon. This would redeem and bring to fruition the Aeon of Horus, or so Parsons thougth. At the same time, it seems that Parsons expected the manifestation to be imminent; if this were so, then he was to be disappointed. Soon after the Working, however, H*** ran off with Parsons' girlfriend and a great deal of his money. Reduced though he was to living in abject poverty, it still took a while for Parsons to accept that he had been defrauded by his erstwhile magical partner - the man whom he had described to Crowley as "... the most Thelemic person I have ever met ...". How he proceeded to deal with the situation has been recounted at length elsewhere. Afterwards, Parsons had no further contact with H***, although he must have been aware of the blossoming of H***'s subsequent career.
The Babalon Working and its aftermath finally convinced Crowley that Parsons, his potential notwithstanding, was "... a weak-minded fool ..." and henceforth he viewed him as one more failure. Parsons, however, continued to regard himself as Crowley's apostle, and had some eventful years before his explosive end in 1952. He remained deeply enamoured of Babalon - some might say obsessed. The expected Daughter of Babalon did not, though, manifest. He had been told that she would come to him bearing a sign that he alone would recognise. On the other hand, he had also been told that he would become "living flame" before Babalon incarnated; and it was this latter prophesy that proved to be chillingly correct. On the afternoon of 17 June 1952 Parsons dropped some highly unstable explosive, and died of horrific injuries an hour later.
After his death, Marjorie Cameron took up his mantle to some extent. A 1955 review of Kenneth Anger's film "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome", in which she featured, referred to her as "... Crowley's self-confessed successor-elect, Mrs Cameron Parsons, Californian widow of the Beast's own 'godson'." There is also a reference to her in Ithell Coiquhoun's The Sword of Wisdom as heading something called "O.T.O. Lunar Lodge" in California around 1960. Details about Parsons have, however, remained scant, and his surviving works are still largely unpublished. Perhaps the best account given to date is included in The Magical Revival by Kenneth Grant. It is to be hoped that someone will attempt a thorough study of Parsons before too long, since his work merits attention.
The core of this issue of Starfire is a presentation of The Book of Babalon [not on-line], which is largely an account of the Babalon Working. In the course of the Working, he was told to prepare a book of instruction for the expected incarnation or Daughter, who would initially be tutored by him. Whether or not he actually fulfilled this requirement, a complete Book of Babalon does not survive. Most of the surviving work is here presented. Some of this material has been in circulation previously, but in a form that is at times corrupted. Its presentation here, therefore, is something of a restoration, minor though these restorations have been.
As well as an account of the Working, The Book of Babalon was to have included an extended essay of several sections, dealing with various aspects of Babalon and the purpose of the Working. Most of this material has been lost, and two sections of the remainder have been retained for this edition. They are the Foreword, which Parsons addressed to the expected Daughter, and which contains some useful background information; and a piece entitled "The Star of Babalon", printed here as an addendum, [ not on-line] giving additional information as it does on the nature of Babalon.
The account of the Babalon Working is interesting, and consists of three sections. The first is an outline of the Operation which Parsons devised and performed as an elemental summons. This is followed by Liber 49, the text of seventy-seven verses which he received in the Mojave desert. Some of the early verses of this text are missing, since a page of the original manuscript was lost. Verse ten is published correctly for the first time: the word 'perilous' was misread by the original typist of the manuscript as 'penelous', and the error has remained ever since. This correction has been validated from an unpublished essay, incidentally, where Parsons gives the correct rendition. The third section is an account of the ritual work arising from the instructions given in Liber 49. The invocations used in these rituals derived, for the most part, from various passages in Crowley's writings. The Enochian Call of the Seventh Aire was also used, and is here given in a corrected form, rather than the corrupted rendition given in the typescript upon which this edition of The Book of Babalon is based. An invocatory poem called "The Birth of Babalon" ends this section; it may well be incomplete, however. Finally, Parsons seems to have decided to delete certain parts of the text, and the consequent omissions are denoted by asterisks.
In order to set The Book of Babalon in some sort of context, it is preceded by an introductory article on Parsons, entitled Belovèd of Babalon. This gives an account of Parsons' magical development, a consideration of the background to the Babalon Working and its aftermath, and subsequent events in the last few years that remained to Parsons. An appendix to the article sets forth some extracts from Parsons' writings, in order to give a flavour of the range and style of his writing. No attempt has been made, in the course of this introductory article, at an evaluation of Parsons. Such an evaluation is clearly beyond the scope of an introduction, and must be reserved for future issues of Starfire.
Belovèd of Babalon
An introduction to J.W. Parsons
Following part also was in:
Adam Parfrey, Ed.: "Apocalypse Culture", Michael Staley, Sorcerer of Apocalypse, An Introduction to John Whiteside Parsons, LA 1987, pages 172-189.
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
to his mother. He felt withdrawn and isolated as a child, and was
by other children. This gave him, he thought, " ...the requisite
contempt for the crowd and for the group mores ...". Parsons was
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 Agapé Lodge of the O.T.O. in California. He was taken along by one of his fellow scientists. At that time Agapé Lodge used to give weekly performances of the Gnostic Catholic Mass, seeing this as both a sacrament and a recruiting front. Agapé 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 Stansfeld 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 the Warburg Institute is a collection of over 200 letters exchanged between Growley 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 Thelema through the nuptials 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 of which I learned after making my own decision. So the time must be propitious.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 than myself - O yes, I know it would not necessarily have to be very good to be better than mine ...The last sentences in this quotation throw light on an important factor in the affairs of Agapé 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 Agapé 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 Agapé 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 too clearly the need to replace him as head of Agapé 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 presence 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 of him once and for all; and this will include the Parsons, unless they dissociate themselves immediately from him, without reservations.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 events in 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 Schneider, 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 objectively.In the course of a letter to Jane Wolfe, in December 1943, Crowley made the following assessment:
Jack is the Objective (Smith is out, an affaire classée: anybody who comunicates 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 principles. And no more of this 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 hindrance. 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.In February 1944 he wrote in somewhat similar spirit to Mr and Mrs Burlinghame, who were Lodge members:
... 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 particularly 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".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 to 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 implicitly or explicitly - 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 rather 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 identity. 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 a 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 Agapé 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 warrant 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 in order to make ends meet, and he scandalised the neighbourhood 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 confirmation in the Law of Thelema.We get a further 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.Phyllis Seckler, from whose account this passage of Jane Wolfe's has been drawn, adds her own memories to this:
Meeka also reported to i-ane 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 thoroughly frightened.Into this maelstrom came a very fateful contact. In August 1945 Parsons met L.R** H***, the future founder of Sc***, who at that time was known as little more than a writer of pulp stories and something of an eccentric. At the time that 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 H***. H***, for his part, was interested in psychism and magic. As anyone will know who has read the critical biography of H***, Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller, he was a very bizarre character indeed. For all his charisma, charm and eccentricity, H*** appears to have been little other than a confidence trickster, and from his point of view Parsons was just one more victim to be exploited. There is a certain parallel with Parsons' relationship with Smith - the more so because H*** and Betty started a passionate affair. In spite of this, Parsons' admiration of and enthusiasm for H*** 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 Angel ... 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 in mind ...The "magical partner" is a reference to H*** - not to a shakti or 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 own words:
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 describable as an air of fire type with bronze red hair, fiery and subtle, determined and obstinate, sincere and perverse, with extraordin ary personality, talent and intelligence.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 H*** 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, H*** 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 voite, trance, or inspired writing, he does not say. The answer probably lies in his Magical Record for 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 explanation unnecessary, since 49 is a number sacred to Babalon. Chapter 4,9 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 given 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 by 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 further 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.Parsons spent the rest of his life devoted to Babalon - some would say that he became obsessed by Her.
Liber 49 contains instructions for the earthing of this Babalon current in the form of an avatar, daughter or manifestation of Babalon, who was to appear amongst us. It would seem that Parsons was expecting a full-blown incarnation, and not simply the inauguration of a force. The second verse of the text declares it to be the fourth chapter of The Book of the Law, and it is worth quoting this verse in full:
And this is my book, that is the fourth chapter of the Book of the Law, Hé completing the Name, for I am out of NUIT by HORUS, the incestuous sister of RA-HOOR-KHUIT.In terms of content, level of inspiration, and style, Liber 49 is nothing like The Book of the Law; and on this basis alone, the claim can be looked at askance. We could expect, I think, that a fourth chapter would evince some sort of continuity with the three chapters received by Crowley, and this is not at all evident in Liber 49. However, the key to the claim lies in the reference, in the quoted passage, to "the Name". The name is Tetragrammaton, IHVH; and the "Hé completing" is the Hé final. On this basis, Parsons considered it axiomatic that Father-Mother-Son, IHV, was incomplete without the Daughter, the Hé final; this he considered to be Babalon, the natural complement of Vau, the Son, Horus. Consideration of this is, I can appreciate, something of a hiccup to a straight narrative of Parsons and the Babalon Working. However, it is so central to his thinking that it really ought to be outlined now.
I can best give the flavour of this by quoting a couple of passages from one of his essays that has yet to be published. He discusses the break-up of patriarchy in the dawn of the twentieth century, and the beginnings of a new age - the age of Horus. The nature of this is seenas disruptive, bringing confusion and terror. He instances two terrible wars, the atomic bomb, and an increase in epicene and homosexual tendencies. He continues as follows:
But the great event of the aeon, which will bring with it the possibility of redemption to the whole of the western world, has not yet been made manifest. We, who contain the knowledge of this event among Ourselves until the time is right, and who were in fact the instruments of its gestation, give these present indications.There is another passage from this same essay which may be helpful. It summarises his ideas about Tetragrammaton and its bearing on a complement to Horus or Vau:
Among the ancient Hebrews the name of God was ... IHVH. This is perhaps the most magnificent formula ever devised for symbolising at once the whole process of nature and the highest secrets of magic. Yod symbolises God as the primal father, the solar-phallic creative will, or fire. Hé symbolises God as the mother, the feminine generative principle, the passive will, or water. Vau symbolises God as the son, the male child of the father and mother, the will. to go, air. Hé final symbolises God as the daughter, Babalon, She who is to come, earth, the virgin who unites with the father, stimulates him to reactivity, and begins the generative process all over again. The cycle is closed, the process is eternal, and contains within itself the seeds of all possibility.I haven't come across any material written by Parsons prior to the Babalon Working. However, the probability must be that ideas similar to this - the need for a complement to Horus - were on his mind before 1946.
A few days after receiving Liber 49, Parsons put in hand the ritual preparations as indicated in the text. Again in his own words:
On March 1 and 2, 1946, I prepared the altar and equipment in accordance with the instructions in Liber 49. The Scribe, R** H***, had been away about a week, and knew nothing of my invocation of BABALON, which I had kept entirely secret. On the night of March 2 he returned, and described a vision he had had that evening, of a savage and beautiful woman riding naked on a great cat-like beast. He was impressed with the urgent necessity of giving me some message or communication. We prepared magically for this communication, constructing a temple at the altar with the analysis of the key word. He was robed in white, carrying a lamp; and I in black, hooded, with the cup and dagger. At his suggestion we played Rachmaninov's Isle of the Dead as background music, and set an automatic recorder to transcribe audible occurrences. At approximately 8 am he began to dictate, I transcribing directly as I received.H***'s vision sounds a bit too glib to me. It sounds rather like he'd seen a copy of The Book of Thoth Atu XI, Lust, showing the Whore astride the Beast. There would have been at least one copy of The Book of Thoth around Parsons' place, I would have thought. Interestingly, in spite of H*** being referred to as "the Scribe", it was H*** who was giving utterance to "astral communications", and Parsons writing them down. As far as the Babalon Working is concerned, H*** is the joker in the pack, the factor infinite and unknown. His whole career, both before and after his involvement with Parsons, shows him to have been a confidence man par excellence. Events after the Babalon Working, when he effortlessly swindled Parsons out of thousands of dollars, demonstrate that Parsons was as readily taken in as anyone. It is surely legitimate for us to wonder, therefore, to what extent H***'s undoubted talents for deceit - both of himself and of others - coloured the whole Working. This is not to invalidate it, or to declare it abortive, but to sound a cautionary note. After all, Edward Kelly seems by some accounts to have been a person of dubious repute, to put it mildly; but this does not automatically negate the worth of the Workings which he conducted with John Dee. There is another interesting parallel between H*** and Kelly, as we shall see later.
The Workings arising from Liber 49 continued for several nights, and they contained instructions for further rituals. These rituals were intended to facilitate the earthing of Babalon. Some of the communications received in the course of these Workings are of a fierce, intense beauty, as a few excerpts will illustrate:
She is flame of life, power of darkness, she destroys with a glance, she may take thy soul. She feeds upon the death of men.The rituals used included, for the most part, passages adapted from Crowley's works. For instance, there is material drawn from The Gnostic Mass, The Vision and the Voice, and Tannhäuser. This is not plagiarism on the part of Parsons. The rituals had to be drawn up quickly, and these passages were to hand. Parsons had a beautiful and lucid writing style of his own, and would have been more than capable, in different circumstances, of devising his own invocations.
Some of the communications received in the course of the Babalon Working have very forceful sexual expression, bordering on the rapacious. Consider, for instance, this passage:
In verse seven verses of seven lines, seven magick words. Stand and chant seven times. Envision thyself as a cloaked radiance desirable to the Goddess, beloved. Envision Her approaching thee. Embrace Her, cover Her with kisses. Think upon the lewd lascivious things thou couldst do. All is good to BABALON. ALL.We should be wary of seeking to draw too close an analogy between differing systems, and particularly between deities from those systems. Bearing this in mind, however, an analogue does suggest itself between Kali and Babalon; perhaps Babalon is more sexually loaded. In any case, all are aspects of the One Goddess, and Babalon is a particular aspect of Nuit. Verse 22 of the first chapter of The Book of the Law says "Now, therefore, I am known to you by my name Nuit, and to him by a secret name which I sh all give him when at last he knoweth me ...". This secret name was the correct spelling of Babalon, which was given to Crowley whilst he was scrying the 12th Aethyr; until then, he had been using the Biblical form - "Babylon". By Gematria, Babalon enumerates as 156; and in a note to his account of the 12th Aethyr Crowley tells us that "the formula of 156 is constant copulation or samadhi on everything". It is the blind, sexual passion that carries all before it - dionysian. There is a close connection between Babalon and Pan. In a note to the account of the 2nd Aethyr, Crowley observes:
From this it would appear BABALON (who is speaking through one of her ministers) is the feminine (or androgyne) equivalent and not merely the complement of Pan. This is shewn in many of her images.This is echoed elsewhere by Parsons, who wrote:
But I say that that perfect image in the heart of man is patterned by the awful lust in space-time that shapes all women, the insatiable and eternal lust of Pan that is BABALON.After the Babalon Working had been concluded, all that Parsons could do was watch and wait. He had been told that the Operation had succeeded, that conception had occurred, and that in due course the avatar or Daughter of Babalon would come to him, bearing a secret sign that Parsons alone would recognise, and which would prove her authenticity. H***, though, had rather more mundane considerations on his mind, and several weeks later he and Betty absconded with a vast amount of Parsons' money. This amounted to many thousands of dollars as an investment in Allied Enterprises, a fund set up by Parsons, Betty and H***, and into which Parsons was pursuaded to sink most of his savings. Parsons eventually managed to track them down, and recovered a fraction of his money after taking legal action. Parsons had no further contact with either H*** or Betty after this.
He was, though, beset with other problems. Preoccupied with the Babalon Working as he had been, he had neglected his duties towards Agapé Lodge and its members. This was perhaps the final straw for many of his peers. I get the impression that many of them considered him something of a primadonna, were tired of his waywardness, and saw an opportunity to cut him down to size. The various members of the Lodge never seemed to have much compunction in telling tales on each other to Crowley, and he received reports from several different sources on this latest escapade of Jack Parsons. From these reports, Crowley concluded that Parsons' flaws had finally overcome his promise, and that Parsons was a gullible fool beyond redemption. He was, furthermore, infuriated by Parsons' intimations that, in the interests of secrecy, he could not provide a full account of what had transpired during the Babalon Working. Parsons was suspended from his position as head of the Lodge, and departed soon after.
It is hard to know in greater detail just what did go on at this time. I have seen a letter which Crowley wrote in January 1946 - some weeks prior to the Babalon Working - in which he names someone other than Parsons as Grand Master of Agapé Lodge. Be that as it may, I have also seen a reference to Parsons being called to account, at a special Lodge meeting, over certain things with which his colleagues were unhappy - such as coming up with a text which purported to be the fourth chapter of The Book of the Law, an act of heresy for which he was lucky not to be burnt at the stake. It is certain that he departed the O.T.O. at around this time, though he continued to regard himself as a member of the A.·. A.·. He remained on friendly terms with many of his colleagues, and he continued to correspond with Germer until his death.
Not so with Crowley, however. Crowley must have been bitterly disappointed with Parsons. He had had a high regard for his abilities, as well as a keen awareness of faults such as impulsiveness and recklessness - faults which, as Cmwley now saw it, had led to an inevitable downfall. Two short letter extracts show tffis- di~ointment - both, as it happens, to Louis T. Culling. In the course of a letter dated October 1946, he said:
About J.W.P. - all that I can say is that I am sorry - I feel sure that he had fine ideas, but he was led astray firstly by Smith, then he was robbed of his last penny by a confidence man named H***.His last words are in the course of a letter of December 1946:
I have no further interest in Jack and his adventures; he is just a weak-minded fool, and must go to the devil in his own way. Requiescat in pace.Although Parsons and H*** went their separate ways after the court settlement, that is not quite the end of the story as far as H*** is concerned. Mention was made above of a further parallel between H*** and Kelly. In the course of a letter in January 1950, Parsons drew attention to an interesting similarity. In the course of the Babalon Working, the rituals included the Enochian Call of the Seventh Aire. This was in line with a passage in Liber 49, where Parsons was urged to "... seek me in the Seventh Aire". Parsons continued:
I have the text of Dee's skrying in the Seventh Aire, which as he said "... so terrified me that, beseeching God to have mercy upon me, I finally answer that I will from this day forward meddle no more herein". The voice, speaking from Kelly, resulted in a sinister dissociation of Kelly's personality. The parallel with my own Working with Roi is appalling. After this Kelly robbed Dee, absconded with his wife, and developed a criminal confidence career. This is the voice:Quite how much of this is true, I don't know. The passage as quoted in the letter does differ in some ways from the passage as published in Meric Casaubon's selection of the Dee diaries, "A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed For Many Years Between Dr John Dee and Some Spirits", published in 1659. For instance, the concluding phrase "... in the Age that is to come" does not appear. Also, I have yet to ascertain how true the account is of Kelly's exit from Dee's life and his subsequent career. Nevertheless, it is an intriguing thought that H***'s life could have been disrupted through the Babalon Working. After reading the critical biography about H*** (Bare-Faced Messiah, by Russell Miller) it seemed to me that the time with Parsons was a definite watershed for H***. Prior to it, he seemed basically a colourful, mendacious eccentric; after it, he seemed to slide into ***. There is no sharp dividing line, but the difference is clear.
In 1969, the "Sunday Times" newspaper published an article on the lines of "Founder of Scientology involved in Black Magic", in which they recounted details of the Babalon Working. The article was based on details gleaned from the Gerald Yorke Collection at the Warburg Institute, to which the reporters had gained access. Hubbard instituted legal proceedings for libel, and the "Sunday Times" for reasons of their own decided not to fight it. Subsequently, Yorke withdrew from the Warburg those papers relating to the Working. They were, incidentally, returned some years ago, following Yorke's death, but are under a 25-year seal. At the time of the action, the Church of Scientology made a statement alleging that Hubbard had been sent in as an FBI agent to break up a "Black Magic group" which had included several prominent scientists. The operation had, they continued, succeeded beyond the wildest expectations: he rescued a girl that they were "using", and the group was dispersed and never recovered.
The activities of Parsons during the next few years are not at all clear. I have only been able to catch glimpses through letters and the like. In 1948 Parsons lost his security clearance to perform classified government defence work, and for a man of his profession this was the virtual withdrawal of his livelihood. This action was stated to be "because of his membership in a religious cult ... believed to advocate sexual perversion ... organised at subject's home ... which had been reported subversive". Parsons commented later that he was suspended on charges of belonging to the O.T.O. and circulating Liber OZ. Parsons defended himself in closed court, and the charges were dropped. In the meantime, Marjorie Cameron left him; their estrangement lasted several years. What lay behind this rift I do not know, but it did seem final at the time. In the document referred to earlier, Analysis by a Master of the Temple, he makes the following allusion - again, he is speaking in the third person:
Candy appeared in answer to your call, in order to wean you from wetnursing. She has demonstrated the nature of woman to you in such unequivocal terms that you should have no further room for illusion on the subject."Candy" is short for Candida, the Magical Name of Marjorie Cameron. There was a reunion in late 1949 or early 1950, and they resumed living together as man and wife.
As mentioned earlier, Parsons still considered himself a member of the A.·. A.·. In December 1948 he took the Oath of a Magister Templi, and the name Belarion, Antichrist. This oath was taken in the presence of Wilfred T. Smith, with whom he had evidently retained some sort of relationship. In 1949 he issued The Book of the Antichrist. This is a short text, and in it he relates how he was stripped of everything that he had and was, and then rededicated to Babalon. This was, he considered, a recharging of the current generated by the Babalon Working. He also pledged that the work of The Beast 666 would be fulfilled, and he seems to have seen that work as being, at least in part, a subversion of Christian ethics. He further prophesied that within seven years Babalon would manifest, so bringing his work to fruition.
In September 1950 his employment at Hughes Aircraft Corporation was terminated. He was found to be in possession of a number of classified documents - several of them, as it happens, being co-written by him and dating from his days at Cal. Tech. A lengthy investigation by the State Attorney followed, in which the FBI were involved. Parsons, it emerged, was hopeful of finding employment in Israel. To this end he was seeking to pursuade them of the case for building a jet-propulsion factory complex, and had been using the documents for background information. It was eventually concluded that there were insufficient grounds for prosecution, many of the documents containing information that should by then have been declassified anyway. However, there were repercussions. The Appeals Board, who had reinstated his security clearance in March 1949, informed him that in their view he no longer had the requisite honesty and integrity; accordingly, the clearance was again withdrawn in January 1952. This would have been the end of Parsons' career in that particular scientific area.
From some incomplete essays that survive from this period, it seems that Parsons was working towards building up some sort of teaching Order with a Thelemic core, but relating to paganism and witchcraft, and was preparing papers of instruction for such an Order. By profession he was now building his own chemicals practice. He had sold the main part of his property - the mansion itself - for redevelopment some time earlier, and occupied the coach-house. The garage he had converted into a laboratory, equipped with chemicals and equipment. There was a plan to move to Mexico for a while, both to pursue mystical and magical research and to further his chemicals practice. He and Cameron had actually vacated the coachhouse, and Parsons went back and forth over the course of several days, moving out his chemicals onto a trailer. On one such visit, on the afternoon of 17 June 1952, he dropped a container of fulminate of mercury, a highly-unstable explosive. The resulting explosion was powerful and devastating, destroying most of the coachhouse. Parsons was seriously injured; horrifically enough, though, he was still conscious when his rescuers got to him. He died an hour later, in hospital.
Controversy has remained over his death. Many regarded it as highly unlikely that a scientist of his experience could so mishandle such a powerful explosive. During those last days he wrote what was probably his last letter, to Karl Germer.
It is bizarre, and merits quoting in full, since it perhaps casts light on his frame of mind at the time:
No doubt, you will be delighted to hear from an adept who has undertaken the operation of his H.G.A. in accord with our traditions.The manner of Parsons' death brings to mind the association of Babalon with flame. The lengthy passage quotet earlier from The Vision and the Voice uses the idea of flame, as did the material communicated during the Babalon Working. The passage "...for She shall absorb thee, and thou shalt become living flame before She incarnates..." is particularly haunting. In some of his letters written in the years after The Babalon Working, Parsons seemed to be expecting a violent death, and he almost certainly had this and similar passages in mind. A fragment survives from an earlier version of The Book of Babalon, which is interesting in this connection:
... because of this mystery BABALON is incarnate upon the earth today, awaiting the proper hour for Her manifestation. And this my book, that is dedicated to Her, is preparation and a portent for that time. And in that day my work will be accomplished, and I shall be blown away upon the Breath of the Father, even as it is prophesied. And thus I labour lonely and outcast and abominable, and he-goat upon the muck heaps of the world. Yet am I content with my lot, since though I am clothed with barncloth, yet shall I come in power and purple, for of this also am I contemptuous. Yea, I am.Whatever the truth of this matter, Jack Parsons has remained over the years a, figure of fascination to many. I have attempted in the course of this essay to summarise the events of the last fifteen or so years of his life. A more considered evaluation of his life and work requires a lot more research and experience, and remains a labour of love for someone. To that person, Belovèd of Babalon is offered as a foundation.
STARFIRE I,3, 1989 |
London WC1N 3XX
Start of the "New Caliphate" and transformation of all previous "provisional IXth degrees" into "full Ninths". The transformation of McMurtry's "Caliphate" into a firm by its self-styled "OHO", William Breeze, through an election of 'Caliphate'IX°s becoming provisional X°s electing a 'Caliph' who is provisionally a X° and suddenly turning into a "OHO" is documented via All we want is a 'Caliph': Minutes of the Special Ninth Degree Caliphate Election Held September 20/21, 1985
Who possesses and executes the Crowley-copyrights? National Grandmasters and OHOs of the O.T.O.
The Gnostic Catholic Church Boast or How William Breeze lost his Apostolic Succession
History of the O.T.O. in the USA, aka the 'Caliphate'
Material on and from the Typhonian O.T.O. (Kenneth Grant, Michael Staley), e.g.:Karl Germer's correspondence with Friedrich Mellinger about Hermann Joseph Metzger, Felix Lazerus Pinkus, Eugen Grosche and Heinrich Traenker
Karl Germer about Theodor Reuss and succession
Das Milieu des Templer Reichs - Die Sklaven Sollen Dienen. Hanns Heinz Ewers - Lanz von Liebenfels - Karl Germer, Arnoldo Krumm-Heller - Martha Kuentzel - Friedrich Lekve - Hermann Joseph Metzger - Christian Bouchet - Paolo Fogagnolo - James Wasserman. Unbequeme Aspekte in der Geschichte des O.T.O. und Thelema
English Version The Templar's Reich
Gabriel Montenegro's correspondence with European Thelemites in the 1960s
A section called "Collections of Re-Collections" where 36 thelemites recall 'how they became member' or remember other experiences with HOOR, the Society O.T.O., the 'Caliphate', the OTOF, Steve Englehart etc.
Playgame of an O.T.O.-Fatamorgana, Statistics, Censorship, Name Dropping
Gaps in the Script of Esotericism: Hypocrisy and Hypercrisis – Oscar Wilde: Ambition is the last resort of failure
Fetish, Self-Induction, Stigma and Rôleplay
back to the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis overview
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