The Magical Revival by Kenneth Grant
The author has at his disposal the entire body of Aleister Crowley’s writings (published and unpublished), and wishes to thank Mr. John Symonds–Crowley’s literary executor–for allowing complete freedom in the use of it.
John W. Parsons, head of the Pasadena Lodge of the O.T.O. between 1940 and 1945 observed that Kelley’s life of crime, sparked off by the Angel’s communication, resembled closely what occurred to himself while working with the same Aethyr (i.e. the 7th). Parsons invoked this Aethyr in 1945 with appropriate rituals backed up by the powerful sexual magick of the VIIIo OTO., which means that he added his own magnetic emanation to the materials used in the magical ceremony. Shortly afterwards, his scribe absconded with his wife and tricked him out of his money and possessions. Parsons, who was at the time working in an air-rocket factory, died disasterously when he dropped a phial of fulminate of mercury. His scribe, however, is still at large, having grown wealthy and famous by a misuse of the secret knowledge which he had wormed out of Parsons. (p.107)
Jack Parsons had ceased sending money to Helen because he had lost all his possession to a confidence trickster who had wormed his way into the O.T.O. on the pretence of being interested in Magick. (p.161)
The case of John (known as Jack) W. Parsons (Frater 210) is, perhaps, stranger still. Imbued with the idea of the Kingly Man, as that expression is understood in the Cult of Thelema, Parsons bent his not inconsiderable energies, physical and intellectual, to the discovery of his True Will.Born on October 2, 1914, in Los Angeles, he lived a lonely childhood, due in part to his parents’ broken marriage. He spent a great deal of his youth reading and day-dreaming, and nurturing a growing resentment of all interference, especially of the kind posing as “authority”. He developed strong revolutionary tendencies and when he encountered Crowley’s writings–which he first did through Wilfred T. Smith—-he was instantly alive to the significance of Thelema. He joined Smith’s Agapé Lodge (O.T.O.), and, at the same time, became a Probationer, 1°= 10▫, of the A.’.A.’.
Shortly afterwards, Helen Parsons had a child by Smith, and because of this Parsons directed his affection to Helen’s younger sister, Betty, who became his mistress and magical partner in the Ceremonies of Agapé Lodge.
While Parsons was engaged in these matters a certain Frater X appeared on the scene, and such was his fascination that Parsons–who had gained admission to the highest grades of the O.T.O.–was persuaded to break his Oath of Secrecy and X came into possession of the secrets of the Order although he was not at any time properly initiated. These secrets comprise the psycho-sexual and magical techniques to which reference has already been made. .
Frater X then persuaded Parsons to form a tripartite Trust with Betty and himself. This Agreement was called “Allied Enterprises”. Parsons put the lion’s share of the money into it, Frater X contributing a merely nominal sum, and Betty, nothing at all. Parsons was then persuaded to sell the property which constituted the headquarters of the Agapé Lodge, and on the proceeds–plus the money invested in Allied Enterprises–Frater X and Betty absconded, leaving Parsons under the impression that they intended to buy a yacht which they would eventually sell to the advantage of all three.
The yacht was duly purchased, but instead of returning to California, Frater X and Betty sailed round the East Coast together, “living the life of Riley”, as a member of the Order graphically expressed it.
In a letter to Crowley dated July, 1945, Parsons wrote:
About three months ago I met X, a writer and explorer of whom I had known for some time … He is a gentleman (sic!); red hair, green eyes, honest and intelligent, and we have become great friends. He moved in with me about two months ago, and although Betty and I are still friendly, she has transferred her sexual affections to him.
Although he has no formal training in Magick he has an extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field. From some of his experiences I deduce he is in direct touch with some higher intelligence, possibly his Guardian Angel. He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our principles. He is also interested in establishing the new Aeon, but for cogent reasons I have not introduced him to the Lodge.
We are pooling our resources in a partnership which will act as a limited company to control our business ventures. I think I have made a great gain, and as Betty and I are the best of friends there is little loss. I cared for her rather deeply but I have no desire to control her emotions, and I can I hope control my own.
I need a magical partner. I have many experiments in mind… The next time I tie up with a woman it will be on my own terms.
His wife, Helen, had been filched by Smith; now, Frater X had stolen his mistress. Having lost confidence in women, Parsons decided to attract an Elemental Spirit to take Betty’s place and to assist him in his magical workings.
The instructions which accompany the Eighth Degree of the O.T.O. contain methods for evoking an Elemental, or familiar spirit. It is said to be an easy matter to attract such a spirit because the souls of the Elements desire constantly to be absorbed into the cycle of human evolution, this being the only way in which they can achieve salvation and perpetuity of existence. On being appropriated by a human organism, the elemental finally becomes absorbed in the immortal principle in man. Crowley applies similar reasoning to the practice of eating animals: “We have a right to eat animals,” he says, “because it is the kindest thing that we can do to them. Thus, and only thus, can we enable them to fulfil their ambition by building up their tissue into that of a higher organism.”
In the matter of calling forth an Elemental Spirit, the Adept is advised on several points:
(1) That he choose wisely a reasonable soul, docile, apt, beautiful, and in all ways worthy of love.
(2) That he fall not away from love of the Great Goddess into love of this inferior, but give only as a master and of his mercy, knowing that this also is service to the Goddess.
(3) That of such familiar spirits he have but four. And let him regulate their service, appointing hours for each.
(4) That he treat them with kindness and firmness, being on his guard against their tricks.
“This being said, it is enough; for to have them is but the pains to call them forth from their homes. And the Spirits of the Elemental Tablets given by Dr. Dee and Sir Edward Kelley are the best, being very perfect in their nature and faithful, affectioning the human race. And if not so powerful as, they are less dangerous than, the Planetary Spirits; for these are more boisterous, and by disastrous stars easily perturbed and afflicted.
“Call them therefore by the Keys of Enoch as is written in the Book ye know of; and let there be after the Calls’ an Evocation by the Wand; and let the Marrow of the Wand be preserved within the pyramids of the letters that make up the name of the Spirit…”
In January, 1946, Parsons wrote again to Crowley and referred to the Operation which he had performed:
“I have diligently followed the VIII° instructions as (a) creation of new orders of beings with consecrated talismanic images. Possible connective result: increase in writing output; (b) Invocation of Mother Goddess, using Priest’s call in mass and silver cup as talisman; sometimes using suitable poetry such as Venus. Possible connective result: loss of Betty’s affections as preliminary to (c) Invocation of Air Elemental Kerub… in Enochian Air Tablet.”
He goes on to give details of the rite he used; it ended with a command that the Spirit appear visibly in human form before him, as a familiar spirit and as a mate.
Parsons recognized a possible connective result of the Operation in the form of a wind storm which-—for the first three days of the Working with the Air Tablet—-was excessively violent and “unnatural”. He says that although he bent all his will and scientific knowledge to the correct performance of the rite, “nothing seems to have happened. The wind storm is very interesting, but that is not what I asked for.”
His disappointment was a little premature, however, for a few days later he wrote:
“An interesting incident. Frater X attempted to escape me by sailing at 5 p.m., and I performed a full invocation to Bartzabel within the Circle at 8 p.m. 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 to port, where I took the boat in custody. I am not greatly impressed, but it is interesting.”
Still not the desired result, but owing to the above he was able to say of Frater X and Betty:
“I have them well tied up; they cannot move without going to jail. However, I am afraid that most of the money has already been dissipated. I will be lucky to salvage $3,000-5,000.”
Then, on February 23, 1946, Parsons wrote triumphantly to Crowley:
“I have my elemental! She turned up one night after the conclusion of the Operation, and has been with me since, although she goes back to New York next week. She has red hair and slant green eyes as specified. If she returns she will be dedicated as I am dedicated! All or nothing—-I have no other terms. She is an artist, strong minded and determined, with strong masculine characteristics and a fanatical independence …”
This woman’s name was Marjorie Cameron. She became Parsons’ second wife and led him deeper into occult waters from which he never emerged. Crowley warned him several times of the dangers he was courting; and in a letter to him, dated March 15,1946, Crowley wrote:
“I am particularly interested in what you have written to me about the elemental, because for some little time past I have been endeavouring to intervene personally in this matter on your behalf. I would however have you recall Levi’s aphorism: ‘The love of the Magus for such things is insensate and may destroy him’. Warns him that because of his sensitiveness he should be more on his guard than the majority of people.”
At about this time, Parsons—-in the course of his Magical Workings-—contacted an Intelligence that was to disrupt his existence entirely and cause Crowley to write him off as yet another failure.
Between the second and the fourth of March, Parsons recorded what he described as
‘the most devastating experience of my life. I believe it was the result of the IX° working with the girl who answered my elemental summons. “I have been in direct touch with One who is most Holy and beautiful, mentioned in The Book of the Law. I cannot write the name at present.”
He received certain instructions from this Intelligence, first directly, then through Frater X, who had returned and who had been forgiven. Frater X acted as a Seer on several occasions when Parsons contacted denizens of other dimensions. Frater X declared that he was overshadowed by an “Angel”, a beautiful winged woman with red hair whom he called The Empress. She guided him at all times and—-so he claimed—-saved his life on several occasions.
Wilfred T. Smith, after his expulsion from the O.T.O., and his failure to identify the god within him, conceived an enmity for Parsons and attacked him astrally. On one occasion, Frater X, who had not met Smith, described him as clad in a black robe and having an evil pasty face. An expert with the throwing knife, Frater X pinned the phantom figure to the door with four knives. Later the same night, Parsons was awakened by a feeling of oppression. He heard a distinct sound in the room, though no one but himself was present. A muffled yet metallic voice screamed “Let me go free!” Parsons, recalling the strange events of the evening, gave the License to Depart and freed Smith’s astral body from the transfixing knives.
Parsons looked forward to the result of his secret illumination, which was to occur in nine month’s time with the birth of a magical child “mightier than all the kings of the Earth”, as had been prophesied in The Book of the Law more than forty-years earlier. He believed that this child—-and not Frater Achad—-was to be the child destined to lead mankind to true freedom. Parsons continued to receive revelations through the agency of his elemental, whom he named Babalon, the Scarlet Woman, and such was the coherence of the material obtained from the spirit world that he claimed that it actually constituted the fourth and final chapter of The Book of the Law.
During the receipt of these communications, Parsons—-reduced to penury by the indefatigable Frater X—-had been earning his living by working for an aircraft company. He wrote to Crowley:
“It has now been almost a year since I last wrote—-at that time I was near mental and financial collapse. Since that time I have laboriously gained some sort of mental equilibrium and gradually regained something of a position in my old field in a large aircraft company. My one aim is to rebuild myself.”
Crowley, dying slowly in England, was unable to follow the wild stories about revelations and initiations too secret and too holy even to be mentioned. He replied, on April 19,1946:
“You have got me completely puzzled by your remarks about the elemental—-the danger of discussing or copying anything. I thought I had a 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.”
And to Karl J. Germer, his right-hand man in California, he wrote:
“Apparently he, or Frater X, or somebody, is producing a Moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts.”
Not long afterwards, Parsons took the Oath of the Abyss. He adopted the magical name Belarion, and in 1949 issued The Book of Anti-Christ, which he divided into two parts: The Black Pilgrimage, and The Manifesto of the Anti-Christ. In the first part he alludes to his interior struggles and the ordeal of disillusionment which he suffered in the external world. These were experienced by him when he was stripped of his fortune, his house, his wife, his mistress; all that he possessed. He undertook the Black Pilgrimage when this disillusionment had made him realize the futility and impermanence of phemenona. He had the choice between madness, suicide, and the Oath of the Abyss.
Surviving the ordeals which plunged him into the Abyss for forty days, he took the Oath of Anti-Christ before his erstwhile Superior in the Order, “Wilfred T. Smith. In his Manifesto he identifies himself personally with the anti-Christ and declares war upon “all authority that is not based on courage and manhood”, and calls a halt to “the authority of lying priests, conniving judges, blackmailing police”. He further called “an end to restriction and inhibition … conscription, compulsion, regimentation, and the tyranny of false laws”. He claimed that he would bring all men to the Law of the Beast 666: “And in His Law I shall conquer the world.”
Apart from these laudable intentions, other—-more esoteric—-purposes were declared in the Manifesto which reveals Parsons as an ardent advocate of total freedom, and a loyal though somewhat fanatical devotee of Crowley’s Thelemic principles. Had he lived he would today no doubt be among the foremost of fighters for individual liberty.
In the ritual instructions which he received in connection with The Book of Babalon, which formed, so he claimed, the fourth chapter of The Book of the Law, appeared the following:
“She is flame of life; power of darkness; she destroys with a glance; she may take the soul. She feeds upon the death of men.
“Concentrate all force and being in Our Lady Babalon. Light a single light on Her altar, saying Flame is our Lady; flame is Her hair. I am flame.”
It was not very long after the Babalon Working that Parsons dropped a phial of fulminate of mercury, and was in truth devoured by flame.  Parson’s papers show that he had the makings of a genuine magician. Apart from his correspondence with the Scarlet Woman, which is of great interest both magically and psychologically, he left some essays on Magick which deserve to be preserved in permanent form.
It is unfortunate that Crowley was too ill to appreciate the situation and all its implications. He died in Hastings in 1947 before the first act of the drama in California had played itself out. He regarded Parsons as one more failure, and wrote about the matter to Karl Germer on the 31st May, 1946. His remarks were prompted by the re-appearance on the scene of Frater Achad, who had written to Germer concerning a series of initiations which he (Achad) was currently undergoing:
“Thanks for yours of May 23rd enclosing one from Frater Achad. It is very good that he should come crawling back to the penitent’s form after thirty years, but I do not quite see how it is going to make up for the time he has wasted on his insane vanity, and you might let him know this view.
“I am glad that his submission should have taken place at this moment, however, because his case serves as very useful to quote in discussing the business of Jack Parsons…
“The question of Frater 210 [i.e. Parsons] seems to me very typical. He reminds me up to a point—-though he is on a much lower plane than they—-of two men who joined the Order shortly after I took it over: both cases seem to me to have certain significance if applied to the present position of Frater 210.
“Both cases were alike in this—-that after a very short period of training both had more than fulfilled their early promise; they could claim not only attainment, but achievement-—and that in no small degree. I am sorry that there is no possibility of making any similar claim on behalf of Frater 210.
“The elder of the two men rashly took the oath of a Master of the Temple. He must have failed to expel the last drop of blood into the Cup of Our Lady Babalon, for a comparatively few months later he got an initiation by his own account so marvellous that it superseded our own work altogether. It was, of course, much too sacred for him to give even the least hint of its nature.
“What was the result? From that moment his attainment stopped; his achievement stopped; he never produced anything from that hour to this which was worthy a moment’s consideration. Now, after thirty years he has realized his mistake, he has come crawling back in penitence, but that will not do him the service of filling up the gap of thirty wasted years.
“The second case was really much simpler. Now, his attainment and his achievement were on the whole of a higher class than that of the other man. But what happened to him? He got into the clutches of a vampire.
“The result was identical; from that hour his attainment stopped; his achievement stopped; he lived a miserable life—-the life of a slave under the unfluence of this appalling old woman, and some half-dozen years ago death relieved him from his sufferings; that is, sufferings of that kind.
“It seems to me on the information of our Brethren in California that (if we may assume them to be accurate) Frater 210 has committed both these errors. He has got a miraculous illumination which rimes with nothing, and he has apparently lost all his personal independence. From our brother’s  account he has given away both his girl and his money—apparently it is the ordinary confidence trick.
“Of course, I must suspend judgement until I have heard his side of the story, but he promised me quite a long while ago to write me a full explanation, and to date I have received nothing from him …”
The poet, Victor Neuburg; the soldier, J. F. C. Fuller; the mathematician, Norman Mudd; the Magical Son of the Beast 666, Charles Stansfeld Jones; the Lancashire bricklayer, Frank Bennett; the ritualist, Wilfred Smith; the scientist, John Parsons, are a few of the many who tried—-and tried wholeheartedly—-to discover the identity of the Hidden God, to discover their True Will and to put their discovery to some use. Of these few, perhaps Norman Mudd and Stansfeld Jones came nearest to achieving their aim. They did indeed come nearest to understanding the essential doctrines of Thelema, as is proved by the voluminous correspondence between Crowley and Mudd, and in the works, published and unpublished, of Frater Achad.
Crowley himself, the greatest sphinx of all-—even to himself—-did not live to see his Will prevail in terms of humanity’s acceptance of the Law of Thelema. Within him, the constant conflict between Magick and Mysticism was never wholly resolved, and gradually widened the rift between his inner experience of Truth and the outer dull clay of Cosmos to which he tried so courageously to transmit the fire of his immense fervour. He was an Advaitan at heart, and, despite all his protestations, the Way of the Tau brought him inevitably to the Way of the Tao. (pp.162-72)
- ↑ See, in particular, Chapter 2, supra.
- ↑ The Spirit of Mars. See The Equinox I, ix, where this Invocation is given in full.
- ↑ i.e. Marjorie Cameron
- ↑ The License to Depart is given to the Spirit before the Magician banishes it back to its proper dimension. See Magick, Chapter xvii, for an account of this operation.
- ↑ An account of his death appeared in The Independent, a newspaper published in Pasadena, California, June 19,1952.
- ↑ The two men to whom Crowley refers are Frater Achad (Charles Stansfeld Jones), and Frater Lampada Tradam (Victor B. Neuburg).
- ↑ Charles Stansfeld Jones
- ↑ This brother was Louis T. Culling. He has written several books on Magick.
- ↑ As the anonymous author of The Canon has shown: “Every scholar knows that the letter Tau, or cross, was the emblem of the Phallus.”
Grant, K. (1991). The magical revival. London: Skoob Books Pub.