From Rituals to Rockets – The Cosmic Trickster Archetype in Space Research - Troubled Minds Radio
Thu Nov 30, 2023

From Rituals to Rockets – The Cosmic Trickster Archetype in Space Research

Jack Parsons (1914-1952) was an American rocket engineer and chemist who made breakthroughs in solid-state rocket fuel technology in the 1930s and 40s. He was one of the founding members of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the leading center for unmanned space missions today.

However, Parsons had a lesser known parallel interest in the occult. In 1939, he joined the California branch of Aleister Crowley’s magical order, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). Crowley was a famous British occultist who viewed magic as a way to unleash the inner potential of the self. Parsons became immersed in Crowley’s unorthodox rituals and practices.

Seeking to invoke supernatural entities through magical rites, Parsons began the Babalon Working rituals in 1946 along with his mystical partner L. Ron Hubbard, the future founder of Scientology. Their ritual was aimed at incarnating the goddess Babalon to usher in a new age.

After the rituals, Parsons became convinced his lover Marjorie Cameron was the earthly aspect of Babalon. However, Hubbard betrayed him by running away with his money and girlfriend. The bitter split was closely followed by the establishment of NASA and JPL under U.S. government management in 1958.

Parsons’ occult fixations led to him being stripped of his security clearance. But his legacy in rocketry remained integral to NASA’s space program. The link between Parsons’ shadowy magical ideas and NASA’s scientific space missions endures as an intriguing confluence between mysticism and technology in early American rocketry, evoking mankind’s eternal fascination with space’s unknown frontiers.

While Parsons’ occult mindset may seem at odds with NASA’s image as a foundation of rational science, it speaks to the long history of space travel as something crossing over from science fiction to reality. The continuity exemplified by figures like Parsons resonates with the public’s imagination and NASA’s spirit of exploration.

Jack Parsons’ strange double life epitomized the intermingling of science fiction and science fact in the early space age. As one of America’s pioneering rocket engineers, Parsons was a founding figure of JPL, which became NASA’s vanguard for unmanned space exploration after 1958. Yet Parsons inhabited a realm beyond rockets and propulsion systems. He was an avid follower of Aleister Crowley, living at the occultist’s commune in California while immersing himself in the OTO’s bizarre rituals and occult philosophies. Crowley’s Thelema religion centered on summoning one’s True Will through magic and unbridled sexuality.

Seeking to manifest his fantasies and ambitions, Parsons pursued occult experiments like the Babalon Working in 1946. This series of perverse magical rites, enacted with L. Ron Hubbard, aimed to incarnate the divine feminine spirit of Babalon through a woman who became Parsons’ lover. To Parsons, engineering space-faring rockets and performing magic sex rituals were both gateways to unlocking humanity’s potential. His zealous pursuit of occult magics paralleled his scientific contributions to rocketry in an age when space travel still seemed fantastical.

Parsons’ trajectory resonated with the public imagination as fiction gave way to fact in the Space Age. Although cast out by the government for his suspect occult ties, Parsons’ legacy persists in NASA’s ongoing Voyager missions and robot explorers, launched on rockets whose foundations trace back to occult-dabbling pioneers entranced by space’s limitless possibilities.

The story of Parsons and JPL evokes the mythic undertones of NASA’s measured, rational space programs. NASA probes the heavens for knowledge rather than supernatural forces. But a lingering spark of quasi-mystical imagination endures as space retains its grip on humanity’s soul. NASA’s founding built upon the fusion of magic and mechanism embodied by figures like Parsons at the dawn of the space age.

The Babalon Working was a series of occult rituals conducted in 1946 with the goal of summoning an incarnation of the goddess Babalon. The rituals were devised by Jack Parsons, an eminent rocket engineer who was also a devotee of Aleister Crowley’s mystical religion Thelema. Parsons outlined the magical workings in a document entitled The Book of Babalon.

The Babalon Working rituals took place over several nights in January and March at Parsons’ mansion in Pasadena, California. Parsons was aided in performing the rites by his friend L. Ron Hubbard, the future founder of Scientology. The ceremonies involved Parsons and his lover Marjorie Cameron chanting incantations, drawing magical symbols, and engaging in intoxication and sexual acts to open a portal for the spirit of Babalon.

In Thelema, Babalon represented the liberated feminine divine, often associated with the Scarlet Woman depicted in the biblical Book of Revelation. Parsons intended the ritual to conceive a “moonchild” with Cameron, understood as a mystical being to usher in a new era. Hubbard served as the scribe, writing down instructions and visions from Babalon as described by Parsons during states of trance.

After concluding the working, Parsons felt he had successfully invoked Babalon into Cameron for conception. However, no tangible supernatural results occurred. Parsons’ Babalon Working became one of his most infamous occult experiments, exemplifying his dual identity as both pioneering rocket engineer and magical adept in the early space age.

In a world where information is often laid bare, where every secret seems just one click away from revelation, the allure of mystery grows ever more potent. Jack Parsons, with his forays into the occult, and NASA, with its early classified projects, both dwell in this aura of enigma. Parsons, who delved into arcane rituals and whispered incantations in the secrecy of candle-lit rooms, seemed to live on the threshold of other realms. His life was a tapestry woven from threads of both demonstrable science and ineffable mysticism. Meanwhile, NASA, especially in its embryonic stages, operated under veils of classified information, its missions steeped in a secrecy that went beyond mere national security to touch the edges of humanity’s greatest unknowns: the cosmos itself.

These shrouds of secrecy and mysticism do more than simply titillate the public’s imagination; they serve as a mirror reflecting our collective fascination with the unknowable. The secrecy surrounding many of NASA’s projects—whether concerning moon landings, spy satellites, or covert operations—creates a narrative tension akin to a mystery novel. What are they not telling us? What wonders or horrors might be concealed behind the stamped seal of “classified”? Just as Parsons’ occult activities raised eyebrows and sparked whispers, NASA’s veiled endeavors stir the pot of public curiosity, setting the stage for endless speculation and myth-making.

Yet, it is precisely in this interplay between the hidden and the revealed that the connection between Parsons and NASA becomes all the more compelling. Each, in their own way, beckons us toward the liminal space where knowledge meets the unknown. Parsons, by engaging with the occult, invited us to consider realms of reality that science alone might never penetrate. NASA, through its clandestine projects, asked us to ponder what marvels or terrors the universe might hold—questions that not even the most advanced telescopes can fully answer.

This dynamic intertwining of secrecy and mystery serves to deepen our engagement with both figures. It lends a mythic quality to their endeavors, turning scientific projects and mystical rituals alike into quests for hidden truths. And in this quest, the boundaries between the rational and the mystical blur, inviting us to expand our understanding of what is possible, what is knowable, and what might forever remain shrouded in enigma. Thus, Parsons and NASA become co-authors in a narrative larger than themselves—a narrative that challenges us to look beyond the surface, to question the obvious, and to revel in the eternal allure of the unknown.

Let us entertain the possibility that Parsons’ interest in the occult wasn’t merely a dalliance or a youthful indiscretion but a form of inquiry just as meaningful as his experiments with rocket propellants. After all, who says the study of physics is the only way to probe the mysteries of the universe? When Parsons involved himself with Aleister Crowley and the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), he was venturing into a world that promised different kinds of answers. Crowley himself saw magic as a mechanism for unlocking human potential—a sentiment that could easily be mirrored in the ambitions of space exploration.

Then comes the enigmatic Babalon Working rituals, performed in collaboration with L. Ron Hubbard, another figure whose influence would later permeate society in unexpected ways. They aimed to invoke the goddess Babalon to usher in a new age, an endeavor that transcends mere spiritual longing. Now, think about it. What if they were onto something? What if the invocation of a mystical entity was more than a symbolic gesture but a very real, albeit unproven, method to manipulate the fabric of reality?

As for Hubbard’s betrayal and the subsequent loss of Parsons’ security clearance, one can’t help but think of the ancient stories where hubris and human folly derail grand quests. But unlike mythical tales, this one led to the formation of NASA and the JPL under U.S. governance, proving that even when wrapped in layers of controversy, Parsons’ foundational work in rocketry couldn’t be denied.

It’s tantalizing to think that the early days of American space exploration were influenced by a man so deeply entwined with mystical practices. While mainstream narratives would have you believe that the realms of science and the supernatural are mutually exclusive, Parsons’ life stands as a counterpoint. Could it be that our current understanding of reality is too rigid, constrained by dogmas that prevent us from seeing the broader tapestry that includes not just atoms and molecules but also magical rites and invoked deities?

As we look toward the endless sky, pondering what secrets it holds, Parsons serves as a reminder that the quest for understanding our universe might necessitate a diverse array of tools, some scientific, some mystical. And perhaps, just perhaps, the real voyage isn’t just to reach other planets but to transcend our limited understanding of what is truly possible.

In the annals of history, alchemy and rocket science are seldom mentioned in the same breath. Yet, when one considers the life of Jack Parsons, these seemingly disparate fields of inquiry converge in the most unexpected ways. Parsons, an instrumental figure in the development of solid-state rocket fuel technology, was also an ardent follower of mystical traditions. This duality is not a mere quirk of character but might be viewed as a modern manifestation of alchemy. In the medieval world, alchemists were not just attempting to turn lead into gold; they were also engaged in spiritual purification, seeking to elevate the human soul to a divine state.

Take a moment to envision the laboratory of an alchemist. Amidst retorts and crucibles, they toiled to transform base substances, all while drawing upon esoteric symbols and incantations. Now, consider Parsons in his laboratory, surrounded by beakers and rocket components. Like the alchemist, he too was working with base materials—chemicals and metals—but his aim was to create rocket fuel capable of propelling humanity into the cosmos. And much like his alchemical predecessors, Parsons didn’t stop at the material. Through his involvement in occult practices, he aimed to transcend the limits of the human soul, to reach new heights of consciousness and perhaps even touch the divine.

Now, let’s bring NASA into the equation. On the surface, this emblem of rational scientific inquiry seems worlds apart from the shadowy arcana of alchemy. Yet, the essence of alchemy—the transformation of the base into the sublime—resonates through NASA’s endeavors. The agency takes raw materials from Earth to construct intricate machinery that soars through the heavens. Is this not alchemy in another guise? The same impulse that drove ancient sages to unlock the mysteries of matter drives NASA to unlock the secrets of the universe. The same yearning that led Parsons to explore the frontiers of inner space compels NASA to chart the boundless expanses of outer space.

So, could it be that Parsons was an alchemist in the truest sense, one whose life’s work found its ultimate expression not just in rocketry but also in NASA’s grand mission? Whether we consider the quest for higher states of consciousness or the exploration of distant galaxies, the common thread is transformation. Alchemy, in its highest form, seeks to transmute not just metals but the very fabric of reality itself. While NASA may not explicitly acknowledge this spiritual lineage, its dedication to turning the ‘base’ stuff of this Earth into vehicles of cosmic discovery echoes the alchemist’s age-old dream. The spirit of alchemy, it seems, is very much alive, finding its modern expression in the unlikeliest of places—from the mystical rituals of an eccentric rocket scientist to the lofty ambitions of a national space agency.

Dive deep into the subatomic realm, and the laws of classical physics give way to a world of probabilities and paradoxes. Quantum mechanics presents us with a reality far removed from our everyday experiences, one where particles exist in multiple states at once and entanglements defy the very notion of space and time. This is a domain that invites mysticism to dance with science, a threshold where reality seems to shimmer with possibilities both mathematical and magical. Now consider Jack Parsons, a man known for his alchemical blend of rocket science and occult rituals. Could it be that his mystical pursuits were an intuitive foray into the quantum realm?

Imagine Parsons in his occult ceremonies, invoking deities and channeling energies. While it’s easy to dismiss these rituals as arcane theatrics, what if they were something more? What if, through his mystical practices, Parsons was tapping into quantum states, those nebulous zones of probability and potential? In a sense, he could have been acting as a quantum mystic, manipulating subatomic variables to influence events on a macroscopic scale. Skeptics may scoff at the notion, but the world of quantum mechanics is replete with phenomena that defy logical explanation. And who’s to say that Parsons, with his unique blend of scientific acumen and mystical curiosity, wasn’t onto something that we’ve yet to fully comprehend?

Now, let’s extend this thread of speculation to NASA. The agency, driven by empirical data and rigorous testing, might seem like an unlikely heir to Parsons’ quantum mysticism. Yet, what if NASA’s achievements are subtly influenced by the quantum ripples set in motion by Parsons’ rituals? Could the success of certain missions, the inexplicable triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds, be a manifestation of these altered quantum states? The agency, focused on the measurable and the verifiable, may be unaware of this hidden undercurrent, much like a ship unaware of the deep-sea currents that hasten its journey.

The idea is tantalizing, if thoroughly speculative. Yet, it opens the door to a new way of thinking about the intersection of science, mysticism, and reality itself. In a universe governed by quantum rules, the lines between the scientific and the supernatural are not just blurred; they are fundamentally intertwined. And figures like Parsons, standing at this liminal space, may serve as conduits between the seen and the unseen, the calculated and the intuited. Perhaps the next breakthrough in our understanding of the cosmos won’t come solely from equations and telescopes, but from an unexpected synthesis of quantum science and ancient mysticism. After all, in a quantum universe, the most outlandish possibilities are but a superposition away from becoming reality.

The realm of archetypes is a fascinating landscape where symbolism and psychology meet, a place where ancient myths resonate with modern quests. In his mystical rituals, Jack Parsons sought to invoke Babalon, a goddess figure symbolizing divine femininity and transformative power. This was not mere theatrics or spiritual escapism; this was an attempt to channel an archetypal energy that transcends time and culture. Babalon, in all her complexity, serves as a cosmic blueprint for transformative change, embodying the essence of creation, destruction, and renewal.

Now, let’s turn our gaze skyward to the celestial odyssey of NASA. The agency has set its sights on our planetary neighbors, notably Venus and Mars, often referred to as “Mother Earth’s” celestial sisters. While the scientific goals focus on atmospheric studies, geological formations, and the search for extraterrestrial life, could there be an underlying archetypal narrative? Are these missions, in some intangible way, influenced by the same energy Parsons sought to invoke?

Venus, named after the goddess of love and beauty, echoes many attributes associated with divine femininity. Mars, traditionally the god of war but also a figure of great transformative energy, likewise carries an archetypal resonance. Could it be that NASA’s missions to these planets are guided, perhaps unconsciously, by the need to engage with these archetypal energies? The exploratory zeal that drives scientists to probe the atmospheres of Venus or seek signs of water on Mars may be the same impulse that drove Parsons to invoke the goddess Babalon—a quest for transformation and a deeper understanding of universal energies.

It’s tempting to dismiss such ideas as poetic musings, a fanciful overlay on the hard realities of rocket science and planetary exploration. Yet, the psyche operates on levels we barely understand, and archetypes have a way of manifesting in the world, whether through ancient myths, religious rituals, or even the trajectories of space probes. The power of the archetypal narrative, ingrained deeply in the collective human psyche, could very well be influencing our endeavors in ways that are not immediately obvious.

If we allow ourselves to entertain this notion, we add another layer of depth to our understanding of space exploration. It’s not merely about the expansion of scientific knowledge or the potential colonization of other planets. It’s also a journey into the archetypal realms, a cosmic dance with energies and symbols that have captivated humanity since time immemorial. In this nuanced perspective, Parsons and NASA become part of a timeless quest, figures in a larger narrative that seeks to engage with the most primal and potent forces of the universe. It’s a story that is still unfolding, written in the language of rockets and rituals, equations and invocations.

In the tapestry of myth and folklore, the Trickster is a captivating figure. This shape-shifting entity dances on the edge of order and chaos, a mischievous catalyst that upends the status quo even as it brings new wisdom or tools to humanity. From Loki in Norse mythology to Coyote in Native American tales, the Trickster is an archetype that resonates across cultures. Now, transpose this ancient character onto the enigmatic figure of Jack Parsons. A pioneer in rocket technology, a devotee of occult practices, a man whose life seemed a volatile mix of brilliance and recklessness—Parsons embodies the essence of the Trickster archetype for the realm of modern space exploration.

Parsons offered gifts of undeniable value to the field of rocketry; his innovative work on solid-state fuels paved the way for advancements that would eventually be crucial to NASA’s success. Yet, these gifts came with a heavy dose of chaos. His dalliances in the occult, his controversial personal life, and the infamous circumstances of his untimely demise added layers of complexity and cautionary elements to his legacy. Like the Trickster, who gifts fire to humans but also plays pranks that can backfire, Parsons presented both opportunities and challenges.

In many ways, NASA has had to navigate the chaos left in Parsons’ wake. Striving for a pristine image of scientific integrity and rational exploration, the agency would undoubtedly prefer a lineage free from the shadowy realms of the occult and personal scandal. But history is not so easily sanitized. The Trickster energies that Parsons brought into the world of rocket science can’t be entirely divorced from the technologies and insights that NASA inherited from him. And perhaps there’s a hidden wisdom in this entanglement.

The Trickster teaches us that growth often comes from the unpredictable, that wisdom is not solely the province of order and rationality. By embodying this chaotic but generative force, Parsons serves as a constant reminder that the path to knowledge is rarely straightforward. In its quest to explore new frontiers, NASA too has faced its share of unexpected challenges and inexplicable phenomena—each one an invitation to adapt, to learn, and to grow.

So, as we ponder the unfolding narrative of humanity’s venture into space, the figure of Parsons looms like a cosmic Trickster—provocative, unsettling, but ultimately enlightening. His life and legacy offer a complex lesson in the duality of existence, where gifts and pitfalls, clarity and confusion, are inextricably intertwined. In that sense, Parsons bequeaths to NASA and to us all a quintessentially Trickster-like gift: the realization that the quest for understanding is a journey fraught with paradox, and that perhaps it’s within this very paradox that the deepest truths are to be found.

In the vast expanse of outer space, anomalies abound. Signals that defy explanation, objects that dance on the edge of possibility, and data sets that stubbornly resist fitting into any known model—these are the enigmas that keep astronomers awake at night and send ripples through the scientific community. But what if these perplexing phenomena are not mere glitches or errors? What if they are the cosmic fingerprints of a Trickster archetype, manifesting in the arena of space exploration to challenge our assumptions and expand our horizons?

Take, for example, the infamous “Wow! signal,” an unexplained radio signal detected by a SETI project that has never been replicated or understood. Or consider the mysterious behavior of Tabby’s Star, whose inexplicable dimming and brightening have baffled astronomers. Could these instances be the Trickster’s way of winking at us, a cosmic nudge that urges us to question our existing frameworks? Just as the Trickster in folklore disrupts the status quo and introduces chaos to catalyze change, these puzzling phenomena could be cosmic curveballs intended to jolt us out of scientific complacency.

And in this grand game, NASA finds itself in the role of the earnest seeker, the agency that must grapple with these disruptions as it aims to chart the unknown. Each enigmatic signal or puzzling data point becomes a riddle to be solved, a paradox to be unraveled. But unlike a mere obstacle, the Trickster’s disruptions are transformative. They force a reevaluation of principles once thought unshakeable, nudging science toward paradigm shifts that might not have occurred otherwise. Whether it leads to a revisiting of the laws of physics, a renewed interest in multidisciplinary studies, or the exploration of audacious new theories, the Trickster’s touch is a catalyst for intellectual evolution.

The beauty of this perspective lies in its reenchantment of the scientific quest. Rather than being a sterile pursuit of objective facts, the journey becomes imbued with a sense of cosmic playfulness. Unexplained phenomena are no longer roadblocks but invitations to expand the scope of human understanding. They remind us that the universe is not a static puzzle to be solved but a dynamic, ever-changing tapestry that resists easy categorization. And in this intricate dance between the known and the unknown, between the rational and the inexplicable, we find the Trickster’s ultimate gift—a challenge that pushes us to explore not just the outer reaches of space, but also the limitless potential of human curiosity and imagination.

In the annals of scientific discovery, serendipity often takes center stage. Penicillin, X-rays, even the ubiquitous Post-it note—each came into being not through meticulous planning but rather through a fortuitous accident, a deviation from the expected that led to something groundbreaking. In the realm of space research, these “happy accidents” are no less potent. Unexpected findings from telescopic observations or unplanned data from space missions can send scientists scurrying back to the drawing board, rethinking theories and reevaluating assumptions. But what if these unplanned discoveries are not mere accidents? What if they are the workings of the Trickster, that archetypal force that delights in upsetting the apple cart only to reveal hidden treasures?

Imagine a space mission designed to study the atmosphere of a distant planet, but due to some ‘malfunction,’ the instruments end up capturing data about the planet’s magnetic field—data that revolutionizes our understanding of planetary magnetism. Or consider an Earth-monitoring satellite that, thanks to an ‘error,’ captures images that reveal an unknown environmental phenomenon. While the initial reaction might be one of consternation or even failure, these unexpected outcomes could be the Trickster’s gifts in disguise, catalysts meant to spur new lines of inquiry and open doors that scientists didn’t even know existed.

The Trickster is a master of inversion, turning setbacks into opportunities and apparent misfortunes into strokes of luck. In this light, what might first appear as chaos in the research process becomes a form of cosmic guidance. It’s as if the Trickster is saying, “Look here, not there. Understand this, not just that.” Such unplanned discoveries challenge the rigidity of scientific protocols, inviting a more fluid, adaptable approach. They disrupt the illusion of control, reminding us that the universe operates not like a well-oiled machine but more like a dynamic, ever-unfolding narrative with plot twists at every turn.

By attributing these happy accidents to the Trickster’s influence, we add a layer of mythic depth to the scientific endeavor. The research process becomes not just an intellectual exercise but a journey filled with trials, revelations, and unexpected boons. It becomes a story where each unexpected finding is a clue, a signpost pointing toward a greater, still-unfolding cosmic truth. And in this story, the Trickster is not a mere disruptor but a guide, leading us away from tunnel vision and toward a landscape rich with possibilities.

So, as space agencies like NASA continue their quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe, the Trickster’s hidden hand may be guiding them toward discoveries yet unimagined. And in accepting these unplanned gifts, we may find that the path to understanding is not a straight line but a spiral, looping back on itself in complex patterns that only the Trickster could weave.

In the annals of scientific discovery, serendipity often takes center stage. Penicillin, X-rays, even the ubiquitous Post-it note—each came into being not through meticulous planning but rather through a fortuitous accident, a deviation from the expected that led to something groundbreaking. In the realm of space research, these “happy accidents” are no less potent. Unexpected findings from telescopic observations or unplanned data from space missions can send scientists scurrying back to the drawing board, rethinking theories and reevaluating assumptions. But what if these unplanned discoveries are not mere accidents? What if they are the workings of the Trickster, that archetypal force that delights in upsetting the apple cart only to reveal hidden treasures?

Imagine a space mission designed to study the atmosphere of a distant planet, but due to some ‘malfunction,’ the instruments end up capturing data about the planet’s magnetic field—data that revolutionizes our understanding of planetary magnetism. Or consider an Earth-monitoring satellite that, thanks to an ‘error,’ captures images that reveal an unknown environmental phenomenon. While the initial reaction might be one of consternation or even failure, these unexpected outcomes could be the Trickster’s gifts in disguise, catalysts meant to spur new lines of inquiry and open doors that scientists didn’t even know existed.

The Trickster is a master of inversion, turning setbacks into opportunities and apparent misfortunes into strokes of luck. In this light, what might first appear as chaos in the research process becomes a form of cosmic guidance. It’s as if the Trickster is saying, “Look here, not there. Understand this, not just that.” Such unplanned discoveries challenge the rigidity of scientific protocols, inviting a more fluid, adaptable approach. They disrupt the illusion of control, reminding us that the universe operates not like a well-oiled machine but more like a dynamic, ever-unfolding narrative with plot twists at every turn.

By attributing these happy accidents to the Trickster’s influence, we add a layer of mythic depth to the scientific endeavor. The research process becomes not just an intellectual exercise but a journey filled with trials, revelations, and unexpected boons. It becomes a story where each unexpected finding is a clue, a signpost pointing toward a greater, still-unfolding cosmic truth. And in this story, the Trickster is not a mere disruptor but a guide, leading us away from tunnel vision and toward a landscape rich with possibilities.

So, as space agencies like NASA continue their quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe, the Trickster’s hidden hand may be guiding them toward discoveries yet unimagined. And in accepting these unplanned gifts, we may find that the path to understanding is not a straight line but a spiral, looping back on itself in complex patterns that only the Trickster could weave.