LA Times: The Man Behind The Religion
Hubbard’s intense curiosity about the mind’s power led him into a friendship in 1946 with rocket fuel scientist John Whiteside Parsons.
Parsons was a protege of British satanist Aleister Crowley and leader of a black magic group modeled after Crowley’s infamous occult lodge in England.
Hubbard also admired Crowley, and in a 1952 lecture described him as “my very good friend.”
Parsons and Hubbard lived in an aging mansion on South Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena. The estate was home to an odd mix of Bohemian artists, writers, scientists and occultists. A small domed temple supported by six stone columns stood in the back yard.
Hubbard met his second wife, Sara Northrup, at the mansion. Although she was Parsons’ lover at the time, Hubbard was undeterred. He married Northrup before divorcing his first wife.
Long before the 1960s counterculture, some residents of the estate smoked marijuana and embraced a philosophy of promiscuous, ritualistic sex.
“The neighbors began protesting when the rituals called for a naked pregnant woman to jump nine times through fire in the yard,” recalled science fiction author L. Sprague de Camp, who knew both Hubbard and Parsons.
Crowley biographers have written that Parsons and Hubbard practiced “sex magic.” As the biographers tell it, a robed Hubbard chanted incantations while Parsons and his wife-to-be, Cameron, engaged in sexual intercourse intended to produce a child with superior intellect and powers. The ceremony was said to span 11 consecutive nights.
Hubbard and Parsons finally had a falling out over a sailboat sales venture that ended in a court dispute between the two.
In later years, Hubbard tried to distance himself from his embarrassing association with Parsons, who was a founder of a government rocket project at California Institute of Technology that later evolved into the famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Parsons died in 1952 when a chemical explosion ripped through his garage lab.
Hubbard insisted that he had been working undercover for Naval Intelligence to break up black magic in America and to investigate links between the occultists and prominent scientists at the Parsons mansion.
Hubbard said the mission was so successful that the house was razed and the black magic group was dispersed.
But Parsons’ widow, Cameron, disputed Hubbard’s account in a brief interview with The Times. She said the two men “liked each other very much” and “felt they were ushering in a force that was going to change things.”