WASHINGTON: CBS plans to add an explosive new series to its “All Access” paid streaming service called Strange Angel this June. The series begins long before the explosion that rocks an upscale Pasadena neighborhood on June 17, 1952. The chemical blast was so powerful, it ripped off half of a man’s face and all of his right arm.
It’s Jack Parson
Jack Parson’s (Jack Reynor), the subject of this series, soon died of his wounds. The chemical explosives he accidentally set off were for clients in need of pyrotechnics for a Hollywood movie. It was a nice sideline for a man that was an honest to goodness rocket scientist.
One who co-founded Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
But there was something odd about Parsons that The Pasadena Independent felt compelled to include in the scientist’s obituary:
“John W. Parsons, handsome 37-year-old rocket scientist killed Tuesday in a chemical explosion, was one of the founders of a weird semi-religious cult that flourished here about 10 years ago… a man who led a double existence… who dabbled in intellectual necromancy. Possibly he was trying to reconcile fundamental human urges with the inhuman.”
The Thelma Mystical Movement
You see, Parsons was a member of the Thelema mystical movement, founded in the early 1900s by occultist Aleister Crowley; the man a London newspaper called “one of the most blasphemous and coldblooded villains of modern times.”
The CBS series is based on the biography by George Pendle, “Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons.”
Here’s an excerpt:
“Since his childhood attempts to conjure up the devil, Parsons had always been attracted to tales of hidden, magical mysteries that lurked behind the ‘real’ world… The copy of Konx Om Pax that spoke to Parsons so directly had seemed as perfect a starting point for the study of these hidden magical worlds as Robert Goddard’s much lambasted A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes had been for his rocket work.”
Here’s an excerpt from Aleister Crowley’s Konx Om Pax:
“It was midnight and the Devil came down and sat in the midst; but my Fairy Prince whispered: ‘Hush! it is a great secret, but his name is Yahuwah, and he is the Savior of the World.’ And that was very funny, because the girl next to me thought it was Jesus Christ, till another Fairy Prince (my Prince’s brother) whispered as he kissed her: ‘Hush, tell nobody ever, that is Satan, and he is the Savior of the World.’”
Parsons’ occult views clearly inspired his close friend, science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, who founded the Church of Scientology in 1954. “He [Hubbard] is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our own principles,” Parsons wrote in a letter to his occult mentor, Crowley.
Fellow occultist Kenneth Grant even credited Parsons’ mystical endeavors of the mid-1940s with creating the “Great Flying Saucer Flap” that began in 1947.
“Parsons opened a door and something flew in,” said Grant.
When he wasn’t engaging in “sexual magic,” smoking marijuana and snorting cocaine, Parsons also worked on the development of solid-fuel rockets, which are an essential component of modern spaceflight.
In 1972, the International Astronomical Union named a lunar crater for Parsons. Appropriately enough, it sits on the dark, dark side of the moon.
“Everyone is a moon,” said Mark Twain, “and has a dark side which he never shows anybody.”
But rocket-man Parsons reveled in his dark side and in the dark lord on whose behalf he performed the dark arts.
“Strange Angel” begins streaming on CBS All Access June 14.
Top Image: a young Jack Parsons attempts to conjure the Devil. “Strange Angel” screen capture.