NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the institution that builds everything from rockets to Mars rovers was partially founded by an occult leader, John Whiteside Parson. He was a self-taught chemist who experimented with rocketry for Cal-Tech with other members of his “Suicide Squad.” The name was inspired by the dangerous work they were involved in and their explosive miscalculations. Parson believed in a complimentary relationship between magic and science. Before every launch, he would pray to his occult deity to give his rocket a little extra push.
“By 1938 members of the Suicide Squad, no longer allowed to carry out their experiments on the Caltech campus, were testing their engines outside Pasadena in the Arroyo Seco, which later became the site of JPL. They reveled in their nickname. Parsons would dance and chant poetry—most notably Crowley’s ‘Hymn to Pan’—before rocket tests. (Von Kármán called Parsons a ‘delightful screwball.’)”
At the time, the group was utilizing a powdered form of propellant. However, Parson had a realization that asphalt could be mixed with combustible chemicals to create a solid-state rocket. It would burn slowly and evenly like a cigarette to provide stable predictability. This technology made the group’s work very attractive to the military.
“The first substantial influx of money came from the United States Army Air Corps. The U.S. had not yet entered World War II, but the military wanted small rockets that could lift heavy aircraft off the ground. In August 1941, Frank Malina – one of the original “rocket boys” – headed a group that equipped an Ercoupe plane with rockets. The modified Ercoupe lifted off in half the normal distance. This method was named “Jet Assisted Take-Off,” and the rockets were called JATOs.”
As Parson’s career boomed, so did his status in his occult organization. He led an American lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis, which practiced hedonism and satanic worship. His personal home also became a boarding house to occultists and eccentrics. Among his famous residents, L. Ron Hubbard became his “magical partner.”
“(Ultimately Hubbard would steal Parsons’ girlfriend and allegedly bilk him in a Miami yacht venture.) Years later, when Hubbard had grown famous and realized the antichrist episode didn’t comport with his image as a man of culture and wisdom, he would reportedly claim to have been working on an undercover mission for U.S. Naval Intelligence to investigate black magic.”
Parson lost his money to bad business ventures and his security clearance to bad behavior. The combination of the two forced him to work as a Hollywood pyrotechnics expert. As he toiled in his home lab, Parson accidently mixed the wrong chemicals and lost his life to an explosion.
“Parsons the science-fiction fan didn’t live to see the children of his greatest fuel invention bring man to the moon and man’s machinery to far planets. But some people remembered. A crater on the dark side of the Moon has been named after this man who believed he could summon spirits and who hoped to propel himself into space.”
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It’s surprising to think that someone who played such a large role for the military could keep up this questionable behavior for as long as he did. Are there other historical figures who led double lives?
IT Specialist (Dispute Resolution)
United States Air Force