John Carter,
Sex & Rockets:
The Occult World of Jack Parsons

(Feral House, 2000, 2005)

Jack/John Parsons was a polarized man with expansive influences in modern America. As John Parsons, he was a father of solid rocket fuel, the third most influential man in rocket history (according to pioneer Theodore von Karman) and a co-founder of both NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Aerojet Corp. He was a self-taught experimenter whose work rivaled that of Ph.Ds.

As Jack Parsons, on the other hand, he called himself the Antichrist and ran an occult lodge practicing Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orrentis and the Thelemic rituals. With L. Ron Hubbard (later founder of Scientology), he practiced dark Babalon rituals to raise spiritual elementals and gain a higher awareness.

Author John Carter uses public records, media sources, books, NASA archives, letters and more to recount the life of the enigmatic Parsons. He is painfully meticulous in his telling of the story (some details are a bit too much unless you are an extreme fanatic of either rockets or Crowley). In chapters 7 and 8, for example, every second of the Babalon rituals, lasting 12 days in one case, is recounted. The author even fills in portions of the ritual that are missing from Parsons's own notes. As a contribution to the occult record, these may be significant to get on paper once, but they are very trying for the armchair aerospace enthusiast to absorb.

The author's research has revealed untruths in other published accounts, and he has the facts to back up his version of the events. Carter gives all his sources in footnotes and several extensive appendices, as well as references within the text to other worthwhile sources.

Carter seems to be a bit inexperienced as a writer. He does some odd foreshadowing that seems to hang. He searches for "coincidences" where there are none. For example, he makes note that a girlfriend of Parsons, Hubbard and author Robert Heinlein (who met Parsons just once) were all in the Navy. With the cast of dozens of scientists, occultists and hangers-on that appear in this book, it hardly seems significant that three unrelated people did Navy duty at one time. Another "coincidence" is that Parsons's acid-aniline fuel mix was later used in the Titan missle, and Crowley sometimes referred to himself as Teitan (original Greek spelling). Considering Parsons was long gone from the military and DoD by the time the Titan missle was named, and Crowley used dozens of names and symbols in his many writings, this seems completely superfluous.

The book suffers slightly for the lack of writing quality but, if you can make it past the tedious amount of detail in spots, this is a worthwhile read. Parsons deserves notice for his genius, for being influential and for just being "out there," and this is one of the best sources for reading about his life in government reseach and in the occult.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
28 April 2007

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