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Shocktober: Babalon Working
To begin the strange story of one of Pasadena's most beloved sons we must go back a bit, and begin in England on October 12, 1875. That was the birthday of Aleister Crowley, magician and occult thinker who is at the beginning of this tale. Crowley began his life's work upon his introduction into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; following the dissolution of the Golden Dawn, Crowley studied magick, Kabbalah, alchemy, tarot, astrology, and yoga. Ultimately, those studies led to his takeover of the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis), which he reformed around his Book of the Law with the organizing principle of his Law of Thelema: "Do what thou wilt."
The Great Beast, as Crowley was known later in his life, had many disciples who led chapters of the OTO and performed magickal rites per the holy books of Thelema. Foremost among these disciples in the United States was a young, self-educated scientist named John "Jack" Whiteside Parsons. Born to wealthy parents amongst the lavish mansions of Pasadena's Millionaire Row, Jack Parsons was a rebellious child who harbored contempt for authority and an early interest in the occult. His unique interests did not stop the young Parsons from a lengthy self-education in chemistry; he went on to co-found Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) and invent the solid rocket fuel which made space flight possible. His good looks and charm earned him the nickname "The James Dean of Chemistry."
His amazing scientific achievements aside, Parsons was an avid student of the occult. He joined the OTO's Agape Lodge in 1941 and quickly proved himself to be worthy of Crowley's attention—he was appointed head of the Lodge within a year per a decree from the Great Beast himself. The appointment cemented Parsons' importance to Crowley and the OTO, and his status within the order allowed him to perform advanced magickal rites.
In his Book of the Law, Crowley writes of the coming Age of Horus, a time typified by bloodshed and chaos, which would usher in a new, enlightened age. For his part, Parsons wrote a ritual called the Bablon Working, intended to attract an elemental who would serve as a partner in the sex magick ritual necessary to birth a moonchild, or antichrist. To accomplish this end, Parsons worked with his close associate L. Ron Hubbard (yes, that L. Ron Hubbard) to create the vortex of energy necessary to summon the elemental.
The ritual was successful: the green-eyed, red-haired elemental appeared on his doorstep at 1003 South Orange Grove late one night, ready to perform the rites necessary to create the homunculus—the Thelemic messiah, "a living being in form resembling man, and possessing those qualities of man which distinguish him from beasts, namely intellect and power of speech, but neither begotten and born in the manner of human generation, nor inhabited by a human soul." The birth of this moonchild was the event that would perform the real magick of the Bablon Working: employing Enochian Calls (angelic language) which would open an inter-dimensional doorway, welcoming the goddess Babalon in human form to the Earth.
In simple terms, Parsons was opening a gate to Hell in an attempt to kickstart the Apocalypse.
Keep reading after the jump for in-depth accounts of the twelve-night magickal right of the Babalon Working.
"It does not take much imagination to understand what Hubbard was watching Parsons do. The ritual took place over twelve consecutive nights in January 1946. To the strains of a Prokofiev violin concerto, Parsons made a series of eleven invocations, including the 'Conjuration of Air,' the 'Consecration of Air Dagger' and the 'Invocation of Wand With Material Basis on Talisman.' John Symonds, in his book The Great Beast, explains that 'wand' is a Crowleyism for 'penis.'
Parsons wrote to Crowley 'nothing seems to have happened.' One night, there was a power failure, but nothing more eventful, until January 14, when a candle was knocked from Hubbard's hand. Parsons said, 'He [Hubbard] called me, and we observed a brownish yellow light about seven feet high in the kitchen. I banished with a magical sword, and it disappeared. His [Hubbard's] right arm was paralized [sic] for the rest of the night.'
The next night, Hubbard saw a vision of one of Parsons' enemies. Parsons described this in a letter to Crowley, adding: 'He attacked this figure and pinned it to the door with four throwing knives, with which he is expert.' In the same letter, Parsons spoke of Hubbard's guardian angel again: 'Ron appears to have some sort of highly developed astral vision. He described his angel as a beautiful winged woman with red hair, whom he calls the Empress, and who has guided him through his life and saved him many times .... Recently, he says, because of some danger, she has called the Archangel Michael to guard us .... Last night after invoking, I called him in, and he described Isis nude on the left, and a hint figure of past, partly mistaken operations on the right, and a rose wood box with a string of green beads, a string of pearls with a black cross suspended, and a rose.'
Parsons performed rituals which led up to 'an operation of symbolic birth.' Then he settled down to wait. For four days he experienced 'tension and unease .... Then, on January 18, at sunset, while the Scribe [Hubbard] and I were on the Mojave desert, the feeling of tension suddenly snapped .... I returned home, and found a young woman answering the requirements waiting for me.' The woman was Marjorie Cameron. Parsons wrote to Crowley: 'I seem to have my elemental. She turned up one night after the conclusion of the operation and has been with me since .... She has red hair and slant green eyes as specified.'
Parsons continued to invoke Babalon. On February 28, he went out to the Mojave on his own, and 'was commanded to write' a 'communication' from Babalon, supposedly the fourth chapter of the Book of the Law. This rambling 'communication,' similar in style to Crowley's 'inspired' writings, describes Babalon, and the tribute she seeks to exact. Further, it describes the ritual which Parsons is to perform. Babalon is to provide a daughter, and Parsons is charged with a significant task:
'In My Name shall she have all power, and all men and excellent things, and kings and captains and the secret ones at her command .... My voice in thee shall judge nations .... All is in thy hands, all power, all hope, all future .... Thy tears, thy sweat, thy blood, thy semen, thy love, thy faith shall provide. Ah, I shall drain thee like the cup that is of me, BABALON .... Let me behold thee naked and lusting after me, calling upon my name .... Let me receive all thy manhood within my Cup, climax upon climax, joy upon joy.'
During the first two days of March 1946, Parsons prepared an altar and equipment according to the instructions he had just received. Hubbard has been away for a week, but: 'On March 2 he returned, and described a vision he had that evening of a savage and beautiful women riding naked on a great cat like beast.' Hubbard and Parsons set to work immediately. As Parsons described it, 'He was robed in white, carrying the lamp, and I in black, hooded [right], with the cup and dagger. At his suggestion we played Rachmaninoff's "Isle of the Dead" as background music, and set an automatic recorder to transcribe any audible occurrences. At approximately eight PM he began to dictate, I transcribing directly as I received.'
Hubbard launched into a stream of suitably mystical outpourings, for example: 'She is flame of life, power of darkness, she destroys with a glance, she may take thy soul. She feeds upon the death of men. Beautiful - Horrible.'
Hubbard continued, instructing Parsons:
'Display thyself to our lady; dedicate thy organs to Her, dedicate thy heart to Her, dedicate thy mind to her, dedicate thy soul to Her, for She shall absorb thee, and thou shall become living flame before She incarnates. For it shall be through you alone, and no one else can help in this endeavour.
. . . Retire from human contact until noon tomorrow. Clear all profane documents on the morrow, before receiving further instructions. Consult no book but thine own mind. Thou art a god. Behave at this altar as one god before another . . .
Thou art the guardian and thou art the guide, thou art the worker and the mechanic. So conduct thyself. Discuss nothing of this matter until thou art certain that thine understanding embraces it all.'
Using a mixture of his earlier desert inspiration, Hubbard's instructions, and a large helping of Crowley, Parsons began the rituals to incarnate the daughter of Babalon.
The next day, Hubbard once more acted as Babalon's medium, and gave instructions for the second and third rituals. During the second ritual, Parsons was to gaze into an empty black box for an hour when a 'sacred design' would become apparent which he was to reproduce in wood. Then, robed in scarlet ('symbolic of birth') with a black sash, Parsons was to invoke Babalon yet again.
The third ritual was to start four hours before dawn. Parsons was to wear black, and to 'lay out a white sheet.' Hubbard's instructions continued:
'Place upon it blood of birth, since she is born of thy flesh, and by thy mortal power upon earth .... Envision thyself as a cloaked radiance desirable to the Goddess, beloved. Envision her approaching thee. Embrace her, cover her with kisses. Think upon the lewd lascivious things thou couldst do. All is good to Babalon. ALL .... Thou as a man and as a god hast strewn about the earth and in the heavens many loves, these recall, concentrate, consecrate each woman thou hast raped. Remember her, think upon her, move her into BABALON, bring her into BABALON, each, one by one until the flame of lust is high.
Preserve the material basis .... The lust is hers, the passion yours. Consider thou the Beast raping.'
A commentator has noted that the 'material basis' was probably a mixture of semen and menstrual blood. On March 6, Parsons sent an excited letter to Crowley:
'I am under the command of extreme secrecy. l have had the most important - devastating experience of my life between February 2 and March 4. I believe it was the result of the 9th [degree] 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.
First instructions were received direct through Ron - the seer. I have followed them to the letter. There was a desire for incarnation. 1 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. Forgetfulness was the price. I am to act as instructor guardian guide for nine months; then it will be loosed on the world. That is all I can say now. There must be extreme secrecy. I cannot tell you the depth of reality, the poignancy, terror and beauty I have known. Now I am back in the world weak with reaction .... It is not a question of keeping anything from you, it is a question of not dwelling or even thinking unduly on the matter until the time is right. Premature discussion or revelation would cause an abortion.'
Parsons obviously thought Babalon was gestating in Marjorie Cameron's womb; it all smacks of horror tales like The Omen and Rosemary's Baby. Crowley thought so too, and said as much to Parsons: 'You have me completely puzzled by your remarks about the elemental - the danger 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 who you can possibly mean.' A curious admission from the author of The Moonchild, and the 'IXth degree magic,' of which 'Of the Homunculus' is a major part.
Crowley wrote to his deputy in New York: 'Apparently he [Parsons] or Ron or somebody is producing a Moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts.'
Crowley's 'IXth degree' ritual, which was performed by Parsons, Hubbard and Cameron, says this of the Homunculus: 'Now then thou hast a being of perfect human form, with all powers and privileges of humanity, but with the essence of a particular chosen force, and with all the knowledge and might of its sphere; and this being is thy creation and dependent; to it thou art Sole God and Lord, and it must serve thee.'"
Though there is obviously no proof that the ritual was successful, Parsons and Hubbard both refused to ever speak of that night again, and their friendship dissolved soon after. Parsons' Scarlet Woman, Marjorie Cameron, went on to star in Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, and became an occult figure in her own right, as explained in Brian Butler's essay "Cameron: The Wormwood Star." Parsons lived until 1952, when he was fatally injured by the blast of an explosion in his carriage house laboratory at 1071 South Orange Grove. Parsons has the distinction of being the only twentieth-century magician to have had a crater on the moon named after him. Appropriately enough, it is located on the dark side of the moon.
Text quoted above from "A Piece of Blue Sky."
[Ed. note: In the interest of keeping things short, many details of Crowley's and Parson's work have been simplified. This story gets even creepier if you do some more reading. Sadly, the mansion that once stood at 1003 South Orange Grove—the site of Parsons' occult work—was demolished in the '50s to make room for condos.]
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