Friday, June 14, 2024

Thelemic Magic in America: The Emergence of an Alternative Religion by Gordon Melton

December 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Evidence

The Agape Lodge

Smith and another Frater who was his co-worker at the Southern California Gas Company built up the Agape Lodge to include an active membership of over eighty devotees.[CML 1] Each Sunday evening they conducted a performance of a Gnostic Mass, the text of which Crowley wrote and to which the public was invited. News reporters described these events and interviewed local residents from whom they learned of an alleged “immoral relationship” involving three members living at the Lodge. The subsequent published article brought unwanted notoriety. Smith and his partner were demoted from their jobs, and most of the membership resigned from the Lodge.

The reduced membership of the Agape Lodge continued its quiet existence and did not begin to grow again in numbers until the advent of Jack Parsons in 1939.[CML 2] He was a research chemist, a man of great energy and imagination and one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He proposed that they rent a large residence and create their own Abbey of Thelema, thus allowing Smith to assume full-time leadership of the group.

In the highly charged emotional atmosphere of the Abbey, which included both the additional pressures on the members involved in magical training and the ego development implicit in the thelemic philosophy, relationships began to fracture. In thelemic groups, one tends to do sex magick with a single magical partner, usually one’s spouse. After the Abbey was established, however, the rituals of sexual magick began to involve multiple partners. Regina Kahl, Smith’s partner, moved to Texas, and he began to do his rituals with Parsons’ wife by whom he fathered a child. Parsons, in turn, took Betty, his former wife’s sister, in magical partnership.[CML 3]

Parsons soon complained to Crowley that Smith was becoming lax in his duties at the Abbey. Crowley reacted and chose to handle the problem with a uniquely magical method. He wrote Liber 132 in which he related that Smith, because of his unusual astrological chart, was not a human being at all, but the incarnation of some god. Therefore, said Crowley, Smith should begin an immediate magical retirement during which he was to discover the god dwelling within him. Smith obediently moved to a quiet country place where he experienced the “Mark of the Beast” on his body. He had little contact with other members of the Order, but reported to Karl Germer, who had moved to New York after his escape from the Nazis.

Meanwhile, Jack Parsons became acting head of the Agape Lodge in Pasadena and continued to work sexual magick with his new consort, Betty, but was unwilling or unable, to bring more converts into the movement. In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, Parsons formed a friendship with L. Ron Hubbard,* an ex-naval officer, writer of pulp fiction, undercover agent, amateur philosopher and theologian, and later founder of the Church of Scientology.[CML 4] [1][CML 5]

Hubbard began to frequent the Lodge and Betty attached herself to him. His friendship with Parsons did not seem disrupted by this switch of allegiance on Betty’s part.[CML 6] Hubbard never joined the Lodge, but he assisted Parsons in a series of magical rituals, with the intention of locating a new magical partner for Parsons.[CML 7] During one of these they encountered a spirit entity they identified as Wilfred Smith. Parsons used his expertise to pin Smith’s body to the temple floor with four throwing knives.[CML 8] Soon after these rituals Marjorie Cameron appeared. She became Parsons’ new magical sex partner and eventually his wife. He and Hubbard took her arrival as confirmation of their course of action.

  • Publisher’s Note The Church of Scientology maintains that L. Ron Hubbard was not spiritually connected to the OTO. His only connection to the OTO was through his investigation of it as a part of his job as a member of the Los Angeles Police Department which requested the investigation. As a police officer, Mr. Hubbard assisted one woman who wanted to leave the group.[CML 9]

Once Candy (as Marjorie became known) settled in, Parsons began a set of sexual magick rituals with the intention of producing the magical child that Achad had failed to be. Seeing Candy as the Scarlet Woman, Parsons hoped to produce the one who would unlock the hidden messages of The Book of The Law. During the course of these rituals, Hubbard acted as a clairvoyant[CML 10] describing the happenings on the astral. Parsons was convinced that he had now contacted the spirit entity. Babalon, who was mentioned in The Book of The Law and that from this contact, the magical child destined to lead all humanity to true freedom would appear nine months later.

The events of the next nine months produced quite the opposite results for Parsons. He and Hubbard, after a series of both personal and business disagreements, had a complete break in their relationship.[CML 11] Crowley, learning through his voluminous correspondence with California thelemites of Parsons’ activities, felt, that he was pursuing dangerous paths. He appointed Grady McMurtry (Frater Hymanaeus Alpha), a member of the Lodge he had met during World War II, as his representative to investigate and reform the situation if necessary.[CML 12] Along with Germer, McMurtry conducted an investigation which produced no conclusions, only a heightened distrust among those involved. The break with Hubbard, the rebuke from Crowley, and the actions of McMurtry and Germer greatly weakened Parsons’ position in the movement. At this point the owner of the Pasadena building, rented by the Lodge, ordered their eviction so that he could demolish the building and replace it with a hotel. [CML 13] With this action, the California Abbey of Theleme ceased to exist. Headquarters of the Lodge moved to Parsons’ residence, but the interest waned and the Lodge never recovered.[CML 14]

Gordon Melton references

  1. The story of Hubbard’s relationship with Parsons has been a matter of great controversy, yellow journalism and numerous lawsuits. See the cautious statements of Roy Wallis, The Road To Total Freedom (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), pp. 22, 111.

Fichter, J. H., & Bainbridge, W. S. (1983). Alternatives to American mainline churches. Barrytown, N.Y.: Unification Theological Seminary. Worldcat


CML notes

  1. The Agape Lodge was incorporated April 4 and its first meeting was held on 21 September 1935. Carter, J. (1999). Sex and Rockets. Venice, California, Feral House.
  2. Parsons first contacted Crowley ca. 1939, regarding Crowley’s Konx Om Pax. Carter, J. (1999). Sex and Rockets. Venice, California, Feral House. In May 1943, Parsons took over from Smith as Lodge Master. Cornelius, J. E., Ed. (2005). In The Name Of The Beast A Biography of Grady Louis McMurtry, disciple of Aleister Edward Crowley. Red Flame A Thelemic Research Journal, RedFla.
  3. “Betty” was Sara Northrup, whom Hubbard later seduced away from Jack Parsons and married bigamously while still married to his first wife, Polly. Carter, J. Sex and Rockets (p. 94); [| Bare-faced Messiah
  4. Hubbard and Parsons became acquainted in the spring of 1945. Symonds, J. (1997). The Beast 666 (p. 570)
  5. The Road to Total Freedom by Roy Wallis
  6. Accounts of residents indicates otherwise with respect to Parsons lack of “disruption.” See Carter, J. (1999). Sex and Rockets. Venice, California, Feral House. (p. 102)
  7. Meanwhile, Hubbard had seduced Betty.
  8. Citation? This incident is not recorded in The Book of Babalon by Jack Parsons
  9. This claim is false. Scientology elsewhere dates Hubbard’s involvement with the LAPD as 1947-1948, long after the Babalon Working. See L. Ron Hubbard A Chronicle: 1941-1949. The woman Hubbard “assisted to leave” was Sara Northrup, whom Hubbard seduced away from Parsons and then married bigamously on 10 August 1946, while he was still married to Polly. Miller, R. (1987). Bare-Faced Messiah The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard.
  10. Parsons described Hubbard as “Scribe”; nevertheless Hubbard acted as the senior role as “Seer” in part of the Babalon Working at least.
  11. The “disagreement was a confidence scam that parted Parsons from his girlfriend, his life savings and the highest secrets of the OTO.
  12. Crowley asked McMurtry to do this investigation in a personal meeting on 16 June 1945 at Crowley’s residence in England. At that time, Crowley gave McMurtry the title of “Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the Order.” McMurtry did an in person investigation and on 26 January sent his intelligence report to Crowley.
  13. The sale of the Pasadena property was connected with the Allied Enterprise scam. Parsons realized $25,000 from the sale of the property. The new owner was a developer who razed the buildings in the late 1940’s to make room for an apartment complex. Cornelius, J. E., Ed. (2005). In The Name Of The Beast A Biography of Grady Louis McMurtry, disciple of Aleister Edward Crowley. Red Flame A Thelemic Research Journal. Berkeley, RedFla. (p. 96-7);
  14. The headquarters of the Lodge was at Parsons residence until Parsons and his new “Scarlet Woman,” Marjorie Cameron left in late 1946. Meetings continued at other locations. Karl Germer closed the Lodge officially in 1953. Carter, J. (1999). Sex and Rockets. Venice, California, Feral House; Ordo Templi Orientis Mysteria Mystica Maxima The ‘Caliphate’ The Swiss O.T.O.

Comments are closed.