The Fallen: Playing to the Void
Having just read his biography, Strange Angel, I was inspired to pose Prinny with a painting of John Whiteside Parsons, pioneering, intuitive rocket scientist, poet, and erstwhile Thelemite who accidentally blew himself up a few years after conducting a series of Black Magick rituals called the Babalon Working with some megalomaniac named L. Ron Hubbard. The initial phase of the Babalon Working was intended to conjure up for Jack an elemental mate, and amazingly, a women matching the elemental’s description was waiting for him at home upon the ritual’s completion. Although the second phase of the working did not have any apparent results, he married the woman, an artist named Marjorie Cameron, who painted him as the above dark angel a few years before he died.
Jack Parsons was never accepted by the establishment due to his lack of academic credentials, and even though he invented solid rocket fuel and was a founding member of the JPL (Jet Propulsion Labratory), in the paranoia after WWII he was banished from rocketry partially due to his weirdness and dubious personal life. L.Ron Hubbard stole his girlfriend and life savings, and as his fortunes fell, his later solitary occult experimentation took on a frenetic and desperate quality. Author of Strange Angel, George Pendle, characterizes Parsons’ later rituals thusly;
“It seems symptomatic of some form of psychosis that as Parsons’ emotional life had been thrown into chaos and his professional achievements retreated further into the past, he would cling to his magic as if it were a raft on a raging sea. His writings of this period contain oblique expressions of deep self-loathing as well as repeated references to all-consuming flames and his own death. Parsons seemed to be casting himself in the role of doomed hero in a cosmic drama that was coherent only to his own mind. Alienated from the OTO, seperated from his wife and friends, he seemed to be preaching to himself, declaiming to an empty room, playing to the void.”
Strange Angel is very thoughtfully written and I find this description compelling, but incomplete. I see a futility in deconstructing madness and emotional trauma at times, although not always. It serves to reason that spiritual crisis would follow emotional trauma, in any event, or vice versa. Although Pendle writes very evenly about Parsons’ occult activies in general, here he almost doesn’t seem to consider Thelema an authentic spiritual tradition. I would not be in a position to argue that one way or another, but I can’t see how Parsons was necessarily misguided by aiming to reinvent himself, alone. It seems his goals were transformation and increased understanding, even if his methods were questionable and results unappreciable. What I perceive, rather, is a classic case of The Dark Night of the Soul. He would hardly be the first guy brought to his knees in confusion by the fleeting and insubstantial nature of his own ego attachments, after all..
I’ve now lived long enough that not many subjects left seem truly weird, so I am happy to share what I think is one of them. Its too bad that Parsons’ weirdness is one of the main reasons he wasn’t accepted and isn’t really remembered, although they finally gave him a crater on the dark side of the moon at some point. His violent end resulted in theories of goverment conspiracy or a vengeful fire demon, of course. But when something ends like that, it matters little to the outcome if its direct cause was subversive, figurative, or literal. In the end, the effect is the same.
Robert Anton Wilson is on the below linked interview calling Parsons one of the most important libertarian philosophers of the 20th century. I’m not so big on politics anymore, but that sounds impressive. He was only 38 when he died, four years younger than me. What I admire most about Parsons was his sense of wonder and imagination and I find his accomplishments inspiring. I prefer to contemplate puppies and rainbows as much as the next person, but another part of me can identify with Parsons’ ‘doomed hero’ archetype, and my picture and poem are meant to unify those inspirations. Prinny’s red wig is in honor of Parsons’ flame-haired goddess Babalon.
The Fallen, written several years ago, is my favorite original poem because its supposed to express a potential for healing, if not precisely hope, amidst an experience of grief or loss. I don’t know if its the highest quality or technically correct poem I ever wrote, but that is why it means the most to me.
“I’m not finished.”
– Rumored last words of Jack Parsons, surviving a few hours after the deadly blast.