Jack Parsons (1914-1952) is a legendary figure in American aeronautics circles. His main scientific achievements were in the field of rocketry; in the '30s and early '40s, he pioneered the use of solid fuels in large-scale rocketry, and provided key research into liquid fuels as well. His institute, the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at Caltech (or GALCIT), was later renamed to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A statue of Parsons is on the main JPL grounds.

But he wasn't so legendary for his scientific and engineering breakthroughs. He was more famous then for the naked, pregnant woman who ran through hoops of fire in his backyard.

Wait, wait, wait. Before you go off and come up with crazy explanations for why a 'naturally dressed' femme with a muffin in the oven would go diving through flames, let me explain. It's all very simple.

It was part of a sex magick ritual, and Jack Parsons was a cult leader.

There. All makes sense now, eh?

The cult in question is the Ordo Templi Orientis, or the OTO. Yeah, the cult of Aleister Crowley. (Not that is was his, mind you; the OTO was supposedly a Masonic organ for centuries before that. But I digress...) Parsons and his wife, Helen, were main figures in the West Coast incarnation of the Order. Their suburban home was used for various rumored rituals, orgies, and what have you.

This focus on occultism gets glossed over by anyone who talks about Parsons' scientific work, so it's hard to say exactly how seperate his home and work lives were. The only supposed fact I read was that Parsons would invoke a hymn to Pan, the one and only fertility god, before every launch of his next phallic rocket.

Parsons led an attempt to create the Moonchild, whom Crowley prophesized would be 'mightier than all the kings of the earth'. Aleister probably wasn't too happy that someone was performing rituals that could usurp his power, so in 1946, Jack Parsons was removed from the OTO, and his mentor Wilfred Smith was declared a 'god' by Crowley, which was a simple and effective way of stripping his power within the cult.

The rituals and research continued; he is said to have kicked it old-school with L. Ron Hubbard and A. E. van Vogt, the two science fiction writers and seminal figures in the forthcoming Church of Scientology. And occultist conspiracy buffs take note; Parsons left this mortal coil in 1952 due to an unexplained explosion while researching rocket fuel in his garage.

One day, you may come across someone muttering darkly about the strange origins of the American space program; Jack Parsons is one big reason for that.

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