Peter Grey on the Babalon and Antichrist Workings
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In this interview we are delighted to chat with Peter Grey about the Parsons/Cameron/Crowley/Hubbard story. We get to the bottom of one of modern Occultism’s great historical legends and discuss magick, trickery, ideology, and thelema.
John Whiteside Parsons was a rocket scientist, instrumental in the American effort to reach the stars, and became the head of the California Agape Lodge of Crowley’s Ordo templi orientis, pretty much the only working Crowleyan thelemite order at the time. Into the heady milieu of post-Trinity-test rocketry, California bohemianism, science-fiction, and ceremonial magick prevailing at Jack’s place (‘the Parsonage’, a big mansion in Pasadena) came one Lafayette Ron Hubbard, a tricksterish man with an eye for the main chance. Hubbard and Parsons start doing magick together.
We discuss several phases of Jack’s life, defined by major magickal workings. The Babalon Working, undertaken in part with Hubbard, resulted in Parson’s receiving ‘channelled’ communications from the goddess Babalon herself, comprising, among other things, the hitherto-unknown fourth chapter of the Liber Al vel Legis, Crowley’s Book of the Law. This high-octane magickal activity culminated in the appearance of Marjorie Cameron – muse, elemental, and extremely talented artist – and defined a period which ended with Hubbard running off with Jack’s money, his girlfriend, and a yacht, on his way to found Scientology.
Meanwhile, Jack – now broke and in increasing trouble with his bosses in the military-industrial complex on account of, well, his being a ritual magician, soldiered on. In 1948 he returned to magick with the Star Working, a complex sex-magickal ritual, and the Antichrist Workings, undertaken by Jack on his own in an attempt to push to the next level of self-realisation. Seemingly, it worked; he was getting his life on track, living with Cameron, and continuing his lab-based research. Then he dropped a vial of fulminate of mercury (or ‘lightning of Hermes’, to take its etymological sense) and blew himself up.
If you haven’t checked it out, be sure to listen to Blood and Rockets: The Making of an Occult Music Video, our interview with Rich Ragsdale, who made a video for the Lennon Claypool Delerium song inspired by the Parsons saga, Interview 1 in the SHWEP Living Esoteric Culture Series.
Peter Grey is a magician, scholar of esotericism, and part of Scarlet Imprint, occult publishers to the stars (heh). His latest book, The Two Antichrists, is out now.
Works Cited in this Episode:
Aleister Crowley. The Book of the Law: Technically Called Liber al vel legis sub figura CCXX. Thelema Publications, Kings Beach, CA, 1973.
Idem. Liber NU sub figura XI; available online at the Hermetic Library.
Peter Grey. The Two Antichrists. Scarlet Imprint, 2021.
Jack Parsons: Parsons never published his manuscripts. We actually do not know where his manuscripts are (the Yorke Collection of the Warburg Institute does not list them in the catalogue); if anyone knows, please get in touch for the sake of bibliographic completeness. All the texts mentioned in the interview can however be found online at the Hermetic Library.
The Book of Babalon/Liber 49.
The poem ‘The Birth of Babalon’ is appended to the above.
The Book of the Antichrist, containing the Manifesto of the Antichrist.
Jack Williamson ‘Crucible of Power’, published in Astounding Science Fiction, Feb. 1939. Cf ‘Darker than you Think’, a werewolf-story which seems to have been folded into Jack’s religious thinking about red-haired, sensual women riding big cats.
Peter J. Carroll: representative publications are Peter J. Carroll. Liber Null & Psychonaut. Weiser, York Beach, MN, 1987 and Idem. Liber Kaos. Weiser, York Beach, MN, 1992.
Check out the Cameron Parsons Foundation online.
John Carter. Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons. Feral House, Port Townsend, 2004.
Spencer Kansa. Wormwood Star: The Magikal Life of Marjorie Cameron. Mandrake, Oxford, 2020.
Damon Lycourinos. Sexuality, Magic(k) and the Ritual Body: A Phenomenology of Embodiment and Participation in a Modern Magical Ritual. Journal of Ritual Studies, 31(2):61–77, 2017.
Alec Nevala-Lee. Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Harper Collins, New York, NY, 2018.
John Whiteside Parsons. Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword and Other Essays. Ordo templi orientis/Falcoln Press, New York, NY/Las Vegas, NV, 1989.
George Pendle. Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2005.
Martin P. Starr. The Unknown God: W.T. Smith and the Thelemites. Teitan Press, Bolingbrook, IL, 2003.
Hugh Urban. Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2006.
Idem. The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2011.
Manon Hedenborg White. The Eloquent Blood: The Goddess Babalon and the Construction of Femininities in Western Esotericism. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2019.
ThemesAleister Crowley, Cameron, Enochian Magick, Jack Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard, Occultism, Ordo Templi Orientis, Scientology, Sexual Magic, Thelema, Witchcraft