In The Name Of The Beast: The Devil
Cornelius, J. E. (2005). In The Name Of The Beast: A Biography of Grady Louis McMurtry, disciple of Aleister Edward Crowley. A Thelemic Research Journal. (Vol. One 1918-1962, pp. 93-109). Red Flame Productions, Berkeley.
Posted with permission.
The Angel stood on Gilead
His Wings a coursing flame
Two eyes of piercing fire he had
With folded arms he came
The Angel stood on Gilead
Pure number was his name.
Lt. McMurtry’s stay in New York was very short. He knew right from the start that it was only going to be a brief stop over. Like many Americans, his main ambition was to go home now that the war was over. After saying his good-byes to the Germers, Grady found himself flying out of Newark Airport on an old DC-4 bound for California. His flight left on November 20th 1945. He wrote Crowley that he was planning on spending “a few days with his parents near Fresno.” After leaving his father and mother Grady headed to southern California and to the Agape Lodge to act as a Sovereign Grand Inspector General as
Lt. McMurtry would send Aleister Crowley one of his final letters from France in October of 1945. In this he wrote,
“Yours of the 27th and 24th Sept., in that order, have found me still in France. I suppose you received the V-mail saying I had gone to the U.S. That was one of the unfortunate incidents accompanying transfer of personnel. A new mail clerk unwittingly posted those completed forms. Even so we did not expect to be here long. This delay of a month in redeployment caught us right behind the 8-ball … Apparently my only prospect of seeing you will be to procure a passport and come to England after my release from the Army. Being caught in the toils of red tape involved in redeploying millions of men I doubt if I could arrange a stopover in England. Will try every possibility, however. It would probably be best if I were a civilian, anyway, and to be released from active duty I will have to go home.”
Unfortunately, Grady McMurtry would never have the opportunity to visit Aleister Crowley again. He soon found himself on a troopship bound for America. He arrived in New York on the 17th and arranged for two nights leave. He wrote in his diaries, “AWOL to see Karl & Sascha.” Grady was pleased to finally have the opportunity to play chess with Karl Germer, if only one game. He later wrote Crowley, “I won!” He also showed Germer copies of some of his latest poems, like the completed version of Space-Tides.
Crowley had requested. In the meantime Karl Germer received a letter from Crowley dated December 5th. In this letter Crowley wrote,
“I am very glad Grady has got in contact with you; he seemed to me to be developing splendidly in every respect.”
He then tells Germer his plans, that he’d like Grady,
“to go to all the various adherents, whether actually in the Lodge, or out of it.”
Adding harshly in parenthesis,
“with, of course, the exception of Smith, who is to be completely ignored.”
Crowley goes on to add that it is, of course, part of Grady’s
“duty as a (VII°) Sovereign Grand Inspector General to do just this job of running round summing everything and everybody up, and reporting to you.”
Years later Grady would regret never having any official document to prove that he was ever granted this position. However, as just pointed out, Crowley clearly stated in this letter that Grady was a Sovereign Grand Inspector General so this is no longer in dispute.
Grady wrote Crowley that he was hoping to leave by the 8th for Los Angeles, but he records in his diaries,
“17 Dec. San Francisco to L.A.”
Grady remained in southern California until January 20th, gathering information about Agape Lodge. One evening at the Lodge, Grady witnessed his old friend Jack Parsons do some fencing with another man who had recently moved into the Lodge. His name was L. Ron Hubbard and he arrived in an old Packard, hauling a house trailer that he intended to live in. However, within days of Hubbard’s arrival, someone moved out of the house and he moved in. Grady wrote that during the evening Hubbard and Jack Parsons
“decided to do some fencing – without masks. The light was very poor and they kept tangling with the rugs but, as both men know something of the sport, it was not exactly mortal combat.”
It was an interesting evening until Betty Sara Northrup, the sister of Parson’s wife, walked into the room. Grady continued saying she
“took a foil against Hubbard, I thought that someone was going to be killed. They finally desisted after she had been rapped smartly across the nose.”
Just plain fun at the Agape Lodge.
The science-fiction author Alva Rojers wrote an interesting article for the pulp magazine Lighthouse No.5 that appeared in February of 1962. Alva Rojers had been living at Agape Lodge with his girlfriend Margo in the room across the hall from Jack’s during this whole period. In his article, titled “Darkhouse”, he shared some interesting memories. Of interest is when he wrote,
“Ron was a persuasive and unscrupulous charmer not only in a social group, but with the ladies. He was so persuasive and charmingly unscrupulous that within a matter of a week he brought the entire House of Parsons down around poor Jack’s ears. He did this by the simple expedient of taking over Jack’s girl for extended periods of time.”
He added that Jack never seemed to care about her
“previous amorous adventurings” but “this time it seemed somehow different to him inasmuch as Ron was supposedly his best friend, and this was more than Jack was willing to tolerate.”
According to Alva, Jack
“was unable to disguise the fact that Betty and Ron’s betrayal of him was deeply felt, and although the three of them continued to maintain a surface show of unchanged amicability, it was obvious that Jack was feeling the pangs of a hitherto unfelt passion, jealousy.”
From a magickal point of view,
“Karma is a bitch.”
What Jack did with Grady’s wife Claire was coming back to haunt him and rip his soul asunder. There is no indication that Grady ever knew the torment that Jack was feeling about his wife Betty sleeping with Hubbard. Jack may have kept this from Grady out of fear of having his nose rubbed in the obvious.
In a letter to Crowley, Jane Wolfe wrote,
“McMurtry passed through on his way to San Francisco; arrived at 1003 on a Tuesday and left Thursday. I did not see him, but he expects to return January 5, when I shall do so. I was very happy to learn from him that your health is better, barring the asthma. He also stated that he used his last furlough to go all over London looking for ‘The Yogi and the Commissar’, a copy of which I mailed you long ago!! Damn, and twice damn.”
Crowley greatly enjoyed reading this book, had recommended it to Grady because of an essay in book, which was titled ‘The Yogi and the Commissar.’ It had inspired him to further think about the twin poles of the Caliphate and the OHO. The book had been written by a Hungarian named Arthur Koestler and it traced the author’s responses to the world crises through which he lived from the early 1930s to the mid-1940s. Koestler’s symbols for the two opposing poles of his attitude toward life are that of the Yogi who tries to solve problems by change from within, through spiritual means, and the Commissar who tries changing everything from without by revolution, or “radical reorganization of the system.” It was Koestler’s belief that between these two extremes most of us waver.
Even though this is a biography about Grady, it is important at this stage to discuss a little more about Jack Parsons because the implications involved everyone. Parsons had been doing serious magical rituals at the Agape Lodge for eleven straight days, some of which occurred while Grady was visiting. These rites would become known as the infamous Babalon Workings. The first stage of these elaborate rituals began on January 5th 1946 and they continued till the 15th. They began precisely at nine o’clock every night, often performed with Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto Number 2 as an accompaniment. To prepare for his ordeal, Jack Parsons first consecrated numerous magical weapons, along with Enochian Tablets and Talismans. Everything seemingly centered around the Elemental Forces of Air. The rituals themselves were rather elaborate – Air Invocations, The Born less Ritual, Consecration rites and numerous Enochian evocations. Jack Parsons also incorporated the secret instructions and practices taught to him in the Eighth Degree Grade Papers of the OTO. Briefly, Parsons was attempting to invoke and incarnate an Elemental or Familiar Spirit … a ‘Moonchild’ in the purest sense. Parsons’ records have very little of the actual rituals except comments like,
“Jan.5 A Strong windstorm continued intermittently all day and night”, or “Jan.6 Invoked Twice. Wind subsided”, and “Jan.8 Invoked twice, using blood.”
All dates record only brief comments and center around ‘air’ or wind, that being the elemental force that Jack Parsons had evoked. He ended his rites on January 15th. For the next four days he recorded that an uneasy feeling of tension hung heavy in the air. It is also important to note that while these rituals were in full swing Jack Parsons decided to sell his estate at 1003 Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena on January 1 lth 1946. This would later be a bane to Crowley and others. They would argue that due to the degree that Jack Parsons now held within the Order that he had promised that he would sign over the property to the OTO. As it turned out, he hadn’t. He sold it out from underneath the Order. Crowley would chastise him later in the year for this, writing;
“I must insist that you had no right to dispose of the property at 1003, the transfer of which to the Order was to be fulfillment of your obligations to the 7th Degree of O.T.O.”
Parsons further recorded that on January 18th,
“at sunset, while the Scribe (L. Ron Hubbard) and I were in the Mojave Desert, the feeling of tension suddenly snapped.”
A calm came over the air and at this stage Jack Parsons turned to L. Ron Hubbard and told him that he felt
“It is done.” He felt “in absolute certainty that the operation was accomplished.”
What is really strange is that upon returning home, he wrote that he
“found a young woman answering the requirements waiting for me”
at the door. What Jack fails to write is that this woman had just been in a car accident near his house and was simply looking for help. Yes, the Gods work in strange ways but, regardless of the circumstances as to why she knocked at his door, Jack Parsons honestly believed that with the appearance of this woman he had obtained his Familiar Spirit. Others argue to this day that Jack Parsons might have missed the signs and instead of getting what he actually wanted, he fell sway of a demon. Crowley warns that “to every Neophyte of the Order of A.’.A.’. appeareth a demon in the form of a woman to pervert him.” But that’s another story. Jack described his ‘familiar’ as
“an air of fire type with bronze red hair, fiery and subtle, determined and obstinate, sincere and perverse, with extraordinary personality, talent, and intelligence.”
The woman whom Jack Parsons was referring to is Marjorie Cameron, born in Belle Plain, Iowa on April 23rd 1922. She had recently been released from the Navy where she worked as a mapmaker for top military commanders, later termed the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The next day, January 19th, Jack Parsons and his magical partner, the scribe L. Ron Hubbard, began invoking the Goddess Babalon on a regular basis. Now that their Elemental Spirit or ‘earthly vehicle’ had manifested, the next stage was to prepare her to be the ‘Mother of Babalon.’ These rituals would continue till February 17th. In the mean time, Jack Parsons’ attempts at selling his house proved fruitful. On January 25th, the deal was finalized and Jack received $25,000. Individuals who were renting parts of the house were asked to move and find another place to live. Part of the deal was that Jack and a few others would be allowed to remain in the garage, rent free, using it as living quarters. The Agape Lodge would also use this location as its meeting room.
On the same day of the sale, Grady, who had by now taken an apartment at 1661 Sacramento Street in San Francisco, finished writing his official ‘Agape Lodge’ Grand Inspector General Report to be submitted to Aleister Crowley which detailed the shenanigans going on under its roof. Jack Parsons would later refer to this report in his Black Pilgrimage as the “inquisition.” Be that as it may, the report is very lengthy and contains affidavits made by many of the Agape Lodge members as to their views about the present affairs of the Lodge. It serves no purpose in this biography to go in-depth into all the gossip, worries and fears put forth by each member in these signed statements. It’s just safe to say that Crowley definitely liked the report because it was first time he received honest answers. It also gave him one of the earliest written accounts of what was really going on. Something that Parsons and Smith had tried to keep from him. On a humorous note, the report ends with the statement that this is “The end of the report on Hodge-Podge-Lodge – otherwise known to its inmates as Ghastly Gables.”
The most important piece of information mentioned in this Grand Inspector General report occurs when Grady discusses the future of the OTO in California. He talks about Jack Parsons and others who were still planning on incorporating the OTO. He writes;
“Under this plan O.T.O., Inc. would be the central organization in California with the power to grant charters to chapters throughout the state. Thus Jack would have Agape Lodge in Pasadena, I could have Thelema Lodge in San Francisco, and Max (Schneider) could have a chapter in Beverly Hills if he so desired.”
The rest of the talk is basically incorporation fluff but what is important to note is that as far back as 1945, and early 46, Grady McMurtry was thinking about establishing an OTO body in the Bay Area to be called Thelema Lodge but he would not see this dream come to its fruition until October of 1977.
Grady also sent off three letters on the 26th. One was to Jack Parsons simply stating,
“Thought I would let you know that I got the report off to A.C. today.”
The other was to Aleister Crowley, stating,
“my report [is] ready to be mailed. … It will come toddling along one of these days and there is no point in dragging out here what it took me pages and pages to say there. I have sent a copy of the report to Karl for his information.”
Regarding his comment about ‘toddling along’ meant that he sent the package surface mail to England. In other words, it would take awhile to get there. Also in his letter to Crowley he added:
“O yes, the Army finally got around to promoting me just before I got out. I am now a Captain. Something like sending flowers to my funeral.”
The third letter on the 26th was sent to Karl Germer. It also contained the report. In another letter early the next month (2/19/46) he wrote,
“Yes, the promotion comes in very handy. Mostly because it will be gratifying to be able to step in as a Captain in the next war instead of having to fight my way up from the ranks again. Me thinks that the army may be the safest place to be in the next war.”
What is most interesting about the letter written to Crowley on January 26th is Grady’s paragraph that deals with his “little figure” or image that he had designed. Previously he had written Crowley years earlier, in November of 1943, about this symbol. Now Grady, with a great sense of humor, elaborates his views on the symbol and actually had the nerve to ask Crowley to
“Be a nice Beastie and tell me what to do with it.”
It’s amazing ‘Beastie’ didn’t. Rather, in his reply letter, Crowley ignored the ‘Beastie’ comment and simply stated
“I do not see exactly how I can help you about your squiggle; it seems to me that you have worked it out extremely well, especially the complete seal at the bottom.”
This ‘squiggle’ that Grady draws in the letter for Crowley is one that he further states,
“contains a great deal of mystical meaning.”
Grady wrote a whole paragraph about this symbol and further elaborated that he’d like “to make a seal ring” claiming that he’s thinking of having this design produced onto a ring. He describes the design,
“Thus I would have the feather of Thoth-Maat at the prow and the hawk of Horus at the helm, with the sun and the star representing Hadit and Nuit.”
He would later use this symbol on occasion as his signature at the bottom of letters. Grady also drew this symbol in green pencil in the center of a small tombstone, which has a tiny little worm crawling across the top. This drawing is located on the top of an original typed copy of one of his undated poems, A Worm in Earnest. The drawing might imply that the “little worm who burrows, burrows” is crawling across the top of Grady’s own tombstone.
Regarding the Grand Inspector General Report, Jane Wolfe wrote Crowley a letter dated January 29th 1946 explaining her views about it. She wrote,
“I met Grady McMurtry on the 17th, at which time he, Jack, Ray Burlingame and myself assembled at 1003. Roy could not be there, but he had previously discussed matters with Grady & Jack, and Dick Cainright had that day come down with the flu. The result of this meeting was another entirely new program – which may or may not have been posted yet. Grady also interviews the members separately – his notes to go to Headquarters. The notes of my interview – read back to me and which I signed – seemed rather mixed, but Grady put certain questions and these only were answered.”
In truth, the actual Grand Inspector General Report is very cold, only relating the ‘facts’ which portrays a military touch that Grady learned well during the war. His entire report was in this fashion and, if it had to be summoned up in a nutshell, it simply portrayed that the Lodge was wallowing with no direction or leadership.
On February 2nd 1946, Grady received his official discharge papers from the army. During this month he also began making plans to attend the University of California at Berkeley on the G.I. Bill. He wanted to take up ‘classical studies.’ So he changed his major, which had been Engineering Physics at Pasadena Junior College, to Philosophy. With time he would look for “something more practical” as he would call it and he began taking up Political Theory. He was eager to get on with his life. There is only one poem extant from this period –End Run – dated February 17, 1946, but presumably Grady wrote others.
Strange twists of fate were slowly unfolding in Southern California. On February 20th, Jack Parsons decided to take $20,970.80 of his $25,000 along with $1,183.91 from L. Ron Hubbard and deposited it into an account called ‘Allied Enterprises.’ Sara Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Northrup contributed nothing into this account but she, Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard would share equally in this project. The money was to be invested in a scheme to buy a sailing vessel in Miami and then sail it to California for resale at a good profit. It seemed like a good business venture. Anyway, as previously stated, Jack and L. Ron Hubbard had begun invoking Babalon on a regular basis beginning on January 19th. The last of these particular rituals occurred on February 27th. The following day, February 28th, Jack Parsons headed into the Mojave Desert alone. It appears that L. Ron Hubbard had gone to New York with Jack’s wife Betty on business and was not present during this particular ritual. After the appropriate invocations, Parsons wrote,
“the presence of the Goddess came upon me, and I was commanded to write…”
It appears from the surviving records that Parsons had obtained some kind of illumination but to this day it is debatable as to what he actually manifested, or became obsessed with. During this illumination, or ‘Communication’ as Jack Parsons would later call it, seventy-seven verses, a full chapter of a book was received. Jack would later call this Liber 49, The Book of Babalon. It is very fascinating to read, although the most outrageous claim is in Verse 2 where it states,
“And this is my book, that is the fourth chapter of The Book of the Law.”
It appears that Crowley’s three previously manifested Chapters of Liber AL vel Legis represents Yod-He-Vau, the Father, Mother and Son – Babalon now communicated the fourth and final chapter, that of the Daughter, the final He. At least that was the belief that Jack Parsons presented.
On March 1 st and 2nd Jack Parsons prepared a special altar in accordance with the instructions found in Liber 49. Little was obtained this evening but one warning would later manifest with frightening consequences. The scribe recorded,
“Beware the use of profaned rituals. She (Babalon) is the flame of life, power of darkness, she destroys with a glance, she may take thy soul. She feeds upon the death of man.”
It continued with commands to perform another ritual the next day, concentrating all one’s energy and being in Our Lady Babalon. Parsons was required to light a single candle on ‘Her’ altar, saying:
“Flame is Our Lady, flame is her hair. I am flame.”
The story regarding these Babalon Workings could encompass an entire book. It is unfortunate that space limits us here – there are more rituals, more gifted writings and fascinating stories as yet untold. Outside of the Great Beast, Jack Parsons is truly one of the more fascinating individuals to have crossed Grady McMurtry’s path.
On March 6th, Jack Parsons sent Aleister Crowley a rather cryptic ‘circular letter’, as it was called, claiming
“I hardly know how to tell you, or how much to write. I am under the command of extreme secrecy.”
He continued by informing Crowley that he had “the most important and devastating experience” of his entire life between February 28th and March 4th. He was referring of course to his Babalon Workings. He goes on to tell Crowley,
“I have been in direct touch with One, who is most Holy and Beautiful, mentioned in The Book of the Law.”
He further informed Crowley that he couldn’t tell him her name because it is secret. But there
“was a desire for incarnation. I was the agency chosen to assist the birth, which is now accomplished. I do not yet know the vehicle, but it will come to me, bringing a secret sign I know.”
Luckily he decided that it was best not to send Crowley all the information, keeping out the Fourth Chapter to Liber AL vel Legis. Many believe that this was one of his wisest decisions. Later that evening, at the monthly Agape Lodge Meeting, Jack Parsons told everyone that he was stepping down as the Lodge Master. A special notice was given to this effect stating that Brother Roy Leffingwell
“would henceforth act as executive head of Agape Lodge.”
Within the next few days Jack would send out two more circular letters dated the 15th and the 16th. These three ‘circular letters’ were sent to five people; namely Aleister Crowley, Karl Germer, Grady McMurtry, Jane Wolfe and Roy Leffingwell. In the second circular letter, Parsons makes it official, stating:
“Since I last wrote you, final arrangements have been made with Brother Roy, for him to act as executive head of Agape Lodge while I carry forward the magical and material tasks which I have undertaken.”
Although everyone believed Parsons had made the right decision by stepping down, some of the information he sent left everyone perplexed. When Crowley received Jack’s circular letters he wrote back on April 19th:
“You have got me completely puzzled by your remarks about the elemental – the dangers of discussing or copying anything. I thought I had the most morbid imagination, as good as any man’s. But it seems I have not. I cannot form the slightest idea what you can possibly mean.”
He would write Germer a more pointed letter,
“Apparently he, or Hubbard, or somebody, is producing a Moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these goats.”
He would make similar comments later in the year to Grady in a letter dated June 14″‘, with added humor.
By now Crowley had received the Grand Inspector General Report. However, in a letter dated March 14th he acknowledged,
“I have not been through your report properly yet. I have been out of sorts for the last few weeks; and every time I pick up a long serious document I just sigh and put it down again.”
He also told Grady,
“I do not really know what is happening with Jack.”
Crowley admitted that one of Jack’s shortcomings was that
“he always expects me to know what the actual position is down there without any sort of information whatever.”
Grady was not quite sure what to think about Jack, believing that he often acted too rapidly for a fair comment. He wrote to Germer stating that the circular letters that Jack Parsons had sent out were
“a little too deep for me so I leave it to more capable hands.”
Germer replied March 30th. In his letter he stated that he too was not going to judge Parsons’ spiritual experience, leaving such to more capable hands than his. In regards to Leffingwell assuming the position of Lodge Master he told Grady,
“My view is that as Roy Leffingwell has actually taken over, and as this change has led to a first step towards unification of the various groups which so far worked at cross-purpose, we ought at least give him a chance. I have never met him. I don’t think he has the personality and drive that Jack has. But at least he can’t do any harm; and he is more mature, and there won’t be the interference in matters of the Work which spoiled all efforts so far.”
He continued by telling Grady,
“I am still thinking of going to California this summer, and before arriving in Los Angeles I will have had a chance to meet you in San Francisco.”
Just before receiving Germer’s letter mentioned above, Grady received the first of two important documents from Aleister Crowley. It arrived on March 22nd. In the cover letter Crowley wrote,
“I shall enclose with this letter the authorization which you require. I think it best to leave as much in your hands as possible, as you are more or less on the spot and appear to be full of youth and energy as ever.”
He then quoted Eliphas Levi:
“You should act as if you had omnipotence at your command and eternity at your disposal.”
The document appointed Grady
“as Our personal representative in the United States of America, and his Authority is to be considered as Ours, subject to the approval, revision, or veto of Our Viceroy Karl Johanness Germer IX (degree) OTO …”
However, before Grady could ever do anything with this new authority, Crowley finished not only the Grand Inspector General Report but had received Parsons’ circular letters and came to a conclusion that something more drastic must be done with the Agape Lodge and California. Crowley recorded this in his diary;
“April 10th, Wrote H.A. authority in U.S.A.”
The second document is dated April 11th, 1946, and briefly states,
“This is to authorize Frater Flymenaeus Alpha (Capt. Grady L. McMurtry) to take charge of the whole work of the Order in California to reform the Organization in pursuance of his report of Jan. 25, ’46 e.v. subject to the approval of Fr. Saturnus (Karl J. Germer). This authorization is to be used only in emergency.”
Of course, the report mentioned is his Grand Inspector General Report of, as Grady called it, the “Hodge-Podge-Lodge.” Grady would later explain how, in this Report, one of the members commented
“That she does not think that the Lodge will ever be much of a success until some duly accredited person from outside Los Angeles comes in and organizes the work.”
He speculates that Crowley took this comment seriously and came to the same conclusion. In other words, someone from the outside had to come in and take charge and, in a way, Crowley had been grooming Grady for this position for years.
Grady admitted that upon receiving the authorization he
“was tremendously flattered by the compliment, & completely floored at the unexpected responsibility.”
However, he was quick to point out that he
“was also completely unable to do anything about it … & for that matter completely inadequate.” Adding, that he “was in absolutely no position to do anything like that. Here I am, in school at U.C., living in San Francisco, only income is from GI Bill [and] Foxie working.” He asks, what was I supposed to do; “go winging over L.A. like superman & line up Jack & Roy & Max” in an attempt to clear up the whole “mess”? Then, answering his own question, he simply said, “Impossible.”
Instead he did the next best thing. He “wrote a few letters & forgot it.”
Also, one of the main reasons why Grady thought so very little of these ‘authorizations’ at the time was because he felt, like Germer, that Agape Lodge’s situation had tentatively diffused itself by Parsons stepping down and with the appointment of Roy Leffingwell as the new Lodge Master. Although Crowley and Germer both knew Roy, they were not sure he’d make a good leader. So everything became a ‘wait and see how Roy does’ situation, rather than asking Grady to use his authorization to take charge of the affairs in California. In fact, Grady was quite comfortable with this idea, as he had no ambition to run the Lodge. School was far more pressing. Candidly, Grady would later write to Crowley in a letter, dated May 12th 1946, about this ‘authorization’ stating,
“Let us hope that it may not be necessary for me to use it.”
Yes, it is true Leffingwell was not a great or inspiring Lodge Master. He was fair at best, but he would run the Lodge successfully for almost seven years. However, the authority which Aleister Crowley bestowed upon Grady during these months was never taken away. Years later a new emergency would present itself in California in which these two documents would prove to be the most powerful and convincing pieces of evidence that Grady Louis McMurtry not only had the authorization but the personal trust from Aleister Crowley needed to take charge and re-establish an almost dead OTO in the state of California.
Grady published one of his poems during this period. It appeared a magazine published by students at the University of California, where he had enrolled. The poem was titled The Cyclops (written in 1942), and it appeared in the Spring 1946 issued of The Occident, A Literary Magazine.
On April 13th Grady received a rather disturbing letter from Maria Prescott, another old time Agape Lodge member who had taken Minerval Initiation back in September of 1935. Maria had recently resigned as Lodge Secretary and Treasurer. She sent similar letters to Crowley, Germer and Jane Wolfe. She wrote a great deal about L. Ron Hubbard, Jack and Betty Northrup and their company, Allied Enterprises. She voiced concern that Hubbard was ‘bleeding dry the money’ from the sale of Jack’s house. She wrote,
“I am afraid, that if this money is dissipated in wild adventurous schemes, Jack will have met his Waterloo.”
This was the first written indication that all was not right between Hubbard and Parsons.
Grady and Crowley continued to exchange many letters during the postwar period, but most were simply friendly correspondence rather than official business. One particular letter which Grady wrote to Crowley, dated May 12th 1946, is worth quoting because he ‘finally’ acknowledged receiving
“the authorization to ‘take over’ [i.e. the OTO] in case of emergency”
in California and also because it contained news about his wife, Marjorie Fox. She was pregnant and expecting to give birth “to a new McMurtry in October.” What might have made Crowley cringe was his brief comment, shades of Parsons, wherein he wrote,
“I have reason to believe that this child is the outcome of a ninth degree operation. If so we may have super-man on our hands one of these days.”
Crowley would later reply,
“Your domestic news is very interesting, but do not for heaven’s sake get into the habit of making a magical song and dance out of perfectly normal events. You may say that that contradicts the injunction in the Oath, ‘I will interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul,’ – but there is a great gulf fixed between these points of view. Do not fall into this error.”
In the same letter of May 12th Grady wrote,
“Here is a copy of Space Tides, my latest effort in the line of poetry. Had hoped to make it longer but I had to cut it short as I wanted to enter it in a poetry contest over at the University. Then I found a copy of the poem that won last year’s prize and decided that I didn’t have a chance.”
A few days later he wrote Germer a letter dated May 15th, explaining,
“Here is a copy of “Space-Tides, the final form of that poem I was showing you and Sascha when I was in New York.”
Jane Wolfe kept in touch with Karl Germer over the years, informing him in graphic detail of the affairs at Agape Lodge. In a letter dated May 16th, she told Karl that Jack Parsons was heading for a serious fall. She discussed Parsons’ financial dealings with L. Ron Hubbard who had been in New York on a business trip. She writes that Parsons’
“handling of money is altogether wrong. For himself, as well as for the work. I have heard – at secondhand – from Marie Prescott, who still lives at 1003 – that he has been pretty thoroughly milked by L. Ron Hubbard and Betty, who have been floating along the Atlantic Seaboard, from New York to Miami, on some boat proposition.”
Germer had also been receiving information from other Agape Lodge members as to the affairs of the area, especially regarding Wilfred T. Smith whom Germer and Crowley thought had been ordered to ‘go away’ and leave Parsons and the Lodge alone. He was not pleased with what he was hearing. Germer also received notice from Crowley of Grady’s appointment regarding California. He sent Grady a letter dated May 24th. Most of it discussed the affairs of Agape Lodge but he did add,
“I want you to be fully informed, as 666 holds you in charge of the Californian activities, with any steps you decide to be taken with my approval. He may not realize that you can’t jump up and down the west coast, and you will hardly be able to keep your fingers on the pulse any better than I from here. However, you know all the people personally, while I know only Max and Jane. Let us cooperate fully.”
Of course, this was easier said than done. In time it would become apparent that cooperation with Germer meant being subjected to his whims and dictatorship.
Germer fired off another letter to Grady in early June dated the 11th. In this letter Germer made a harsh statement when he told Grady,
“It seems now that Jack has clearly turned traitor.”
Germer explained that Parsons had tried for some time to get Crowley to send him all the upper degree OTO rituals, which he did not already possess. For some reason Crowley was suspicious and decided to withhold the papers. It turns out that this was a good idea as Jack Parsons had other motives for the papers. Karl Germer explained this by dropping a bomb shell to Grady, telling him that
“It now turns out that Jack has kept in touch with Smith right along, and has been working and operating under his orders.”
Crowley’s suspicions seemed apparently well founded. Wilfred T. Smith had long fallen out of Crowley’s grace and stepped down as the Lodge Master of Agape some time earlier. In fact, when Crowley picked Jack Parsons to replace Wilfred Smith he made Parsons pledge that he would break off all relations with Smith, which Jack agreed in order to become Lodge Master. Now it appeared that both had remained friends all along. Germer was implying to Grady that Wilfred T. Smith might have been conspiring to get OTO papers through Parsons’ connection with Crowley, explaining,
“I don’t remember in my fairly long life of any case as brazenly treacherous as this, while he [Parsons] was enjoying the open, frank, and full confidence of A.C., who spontaneously sent him all kinds of MSS, books, and what not.”
In one of the letters Crowley sent, dated June 18th, he plainly reminds Germer that if Parsons becomes too much of a problem he can either be suspended or expelled. He continued,
“My original appointment of you as my viceroy and Plenipotentiary covers everything even apart from you, Frater 11.A. has an authority which enables him to supersede Frater 210 [Parsons] whenever he pleases. The only limitation on his power in California is that any decision which he takes is subject to revision or veto by yourself.”
“I do not wish to advise either you or Frater H.A. to take any definite action. You are more or less on the spot and in a position to form your own judgment and to exercise your authority as you deem fit.”
Of course, at this point in time both Karl Germer and Grady decided that the best action against Jack was to take no action at all.
In a letter dated June 14th 1946, Crowley replied to Grady’s previous letter of May 12th. He made no mention of Space Tides or what his views were on this rather lengthy poem. But he did mention Jack Parsons rather in-depth, stating in no uncertain terms that be believed that Jack has got himself
“under the influence of a person whom I believe to be an ordinary Con Man.”
Crowley further added that
Jack, Ron “or somebody, is producing a Moon Child. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these goats.”
Although in all fairness, Crowley humorously added in parenthesis
“I apologize to goats.”
In recent times many people assume that Crowley knew everything regarding Jack Parsons but, in the end, it turns out they were mistaken. Crowley was as shocked as everyone with what he was hearing about Parsons’ experiments. This frustration about being uninformed is apparent in the many letters he sent off to Jack, Grady, Jane Wolfe and Karl Germer. Grady mailed Karl Germer a brief letter dated June 25th, in response to Germer’s of the 11th, stating,
“Thought I would drop you a few lines in hopes of catching you before you leave New York. You must forgive me for not writing sooner but school has just ended and I was simply snowed under getting through my final examination.”
Grady continued by telling Germer that what he has recently been told about Jack Parsons “is a real blow.” However, Jack would not be out of grace for long and would make amends with everyone within the month.
THE HIGH PRIESTESS
The silent god Harpocrates
Has spoken on the Deep
The Sphinx screams in his agonies
Locked in the donjon-keep
The Angel’s wing has stirred the breeze
The space-warped cruisers leap.
In late June of 1946, as previously planned, Karl and Sascha Germer flew to California for a brief visit as well as to personally inspect the affairs of the Agape Lodge. There were many letters exchanged between Grady and Germer regarding the trip, discussing which flight they were coming in on, where they were going to stay and, of course, detailing Germer’s views on everyone he wanted to visit. Originally Karl was staying at Max Schneider’s house in Beverly Hills, but his trip also extended north to San Francisco. In addition to Order business, the Germers did some sightseeing. They sent Grady a post card from the Rocky Mountain National Park letting him know to expect them in San Francisco around July 27th. By late August or early September the Germers were back in New York. Unfortunately, less than five days after returning Sascha had an accident and broke her leg. Germer wrote to Grady
“After having travelled 13,000 miles without a hitch – she is now using a wheel chair and crutches.”
In late June, L. Ron Hubbard and Sara finally headed to Florida after a brief stay in New York. Once in Miami they were going to purchase a ship with some of the money in the Allied Enterprises account. The plan was to bring the ship back to California in order to sell it at a profit. But Parsons began suspecting foul play, especially since he couldn’t get a straight answer out of Hubbard in regards to the company’s financial accounting. Parsons soon discovered that the bank account for Allied Enterprises was almost depleted. Being thoroughly disenchanted and feeling conned by a friend, Parsons decided to head for Florida. Parsons’ doubts were fully justified as on April 1st Hubbard, who was still in the Naval Reserve, wrote to the Chief of Naval Personnel to request permission to leave the United States. He stated that he wanted to go to South America and then to China. Hubbard had never planned to return to California.
Once in Miami, it didn’t take Parsons long to discover that L. Ron Hubbard had taken almost all the money, leaving about $5,000, and bought not one but three rather large boats. However he couldn’t find any trace of L. Ron or Sara Northrup anywhere in the city. They appeared to have vanished or at least they were avoiding Jack Parsons at all cost. A few days later Parsons received a phone call from Howard Bond’s Yacht Harbor where one of the ships was docked. Around five o’clock L. Ron Hubbard and Sara appeared, boarded the schooner named Harpoon and fled. Jack Parsons immediately notified the Coast Guard and then decided to get the gods involved as well. In his Miami hotel room, a little after eight o’clock in the evening, Parsons put on his magical robes, prepared a specific private ritual to summon his ‘Air elemental.’ He then performed the evocation of the Martian Spirit of Bartzabel with the goal to restrain his fleeing partners. He would later write to Aleister Crowley,
“At the same time, so far as I can check, his ship was struck by a sudden squall off the coast, which ripped off his sails and forced him back into port, where I took the boat in custody.”
Apparently the ritual worked, but there was never any doubt that Jack Parsons was a good magician.
Across the country in California, on July 1st of 1946, Grady had taken a new job as a Reservation Clerk for United Airlines on 400 Post Street in San Francisco. He held this job for about six months. This same day, Jack Parsons filed a lawsuit against L. Ron Hubbard in an effort to retrieve some of his money. A restraining order was issued against Hubbard to prevent him from selling the boats and the remainder of Allied Enterprises’ assets was frozen. He wrote Crowley that
“Here I am in Miami pursuing the children of my folly. I have them tied up: they cannot move without going to jail. However I am afraid that most of the money has already been dissipated.”
According to Grady, who heard the story directly from Jack Parsons, when Jack mentioned litigation to Hubbard, he joked with “Jack-baby” and told him to go ahead and sue. Grady further mentioned, that Hubbard told Jack [or words to the effect],
“When you do, don’t forget that I’m going to see to it that you are brought up on a morals charge in California in re Betty & she will testify, in court, that you are guilty of statutory rape, because she was underage when your sexual relations began with her, & you will go up for 20 years.”
Grady added that Hubbard was clearly “black-mailing” Jack
“for his fortune because, if his friend didn’t pay up, the girl [Sara Northrup] would testify in court that [his] friend was guilty of statutory rape, since she had been under the age of consent when their sexual relations began.”
In the end, Jack “caves in” and was forced to drop any thoughts of a lawsuit and had to settle for possession of the schooner Blue Water II and the yacht Diane along with a promissory note of $2,900 from Hubbard who was allowed to keep the two-masted schooner Harpoon and an undisclosed amount of money. Shortly afterwards, Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard separated and went their own ways. On July 11th, court documents were signed dissolving the partnership of Allied Enterprises.
There are a few important events that occurred in August of 1946. On August 10th in Chestertown, Maryland, L. Ron Hubbard and Jack Parson’s ex, Sara Elizabeth Northrup, were married. Of course some historians are quick to point out that this possibly made Hubbard a bigamist since his divorce from his first wife, Margaret, would not become official for at least another year. Also, around this time, Grady was visiting Los Angeles and made arrangements to visit with Jack. Not much is known about what transpired but shortly afterwards there was a special Agape Lodge Meeting called on the 14th. Grady not only reiterated his authority given to him by Crowley but he made it very clear that Roy Leffingwell was still in charge of the Lodge. Grady also mentioned his meeting with Jack. The official Lodge Minutes state that Grady had hoped the meeting was “satisfactory”, but it turned out that it was “not as satisfactory as they had hoped.” They also discussed the fact that Jack was selling some of his private collection of Aleister Crowley’s “unpublished manuscripts.” They voiced concern that this was a “dangerous, illegal thing to do.” Everyone had begun to realize that something was seriously wrong with Jack Parsons. Things then took a turn for the worse. With his life in turmoil, Parsons wrote a rather sorrowful letter to Aleister Crowley dated August 20th, which began,
“This will constitute my formal resignation in full from the Ordo Templi Orientis, otherwise known as the O.T.O., to take effect as of this date.”
It was a bitter blow to everyone, especially Grady who valued Jack Parsons as a close friend. After all, he was the man who had introduced Grady to Aleister Crowley. […]
Cornelius, J. E. (2005). In The Name Of The Beast: A Biography of Grady Louis McMurtry, disciple of Aleister Edward Crowley. A Thelemic Research Journal. (Vol. One 1918-1962, pp. 93-109). Red Flame Productions, Berkeley.