When L. Ron Hubbard Stole The Occultist’s Mistress (And Married Her)
“No philosophy, theory, religion, or system of thought can be absolute and infallible. They are relative only. One man’s opinion is just as good as another’s.”
John Whiteside Parsons (October 2, 1914 – June 17, 1952), better known as Jack Parsons, was an American rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology. He was one of the principal founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Aerojet Corp. He was also anoccultist and one of the first Americans to take a keen interest in the writings of English author and Thelema‘s founder Aleister Crowley. In this capacity, he joined and eventually led an American lodge of Crowley’s magical order, Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.).
Sara Northrup was a major figure in the Pasadena branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), a society founded by the English occultist Aleister Crowley. From 1941 to 1945 she had a turbulent relationship with John Whiteside Parsons, the head of the Pasadena OTO, who was married to her sister Helen. Although she was a committed member of the OTO, to whom she was known as “Soror [Sister] Cassap”, she acquired a reputation for disruptiveness that prompted Crowley to denounce her as a “vampire“.
It was in 1942, the same year Parsons was appointed as head of the Agapé Lodge by Aleister Crowley (who himself had studied chemistry), that Parsons made the crucial breakthrough in the development of rocket solid fuel.
Parsons saw no contradiction between his scientific and magical pursuits. Before each rocket test launch, Parsons would chant Crowley’s hymn to the Greek god Pan. In 1942 Parsons was chosen by Aleister Crowley to lead Agapé Lodge of OTO in California following Crowley’s expulsion of Wilfred Smith from the position.
Sara Northrup (aka “Sarah Elizabeth” or “Betty” Northrup), began living with Parsons and Parsons’ wife, Sara’s half-sister Helen Northrup; later, Parsons and Sara became involved in an affair, which caused strife with Helen and eventually led to Helen leaving with Wilfred Smith.
Parsons’ 11-room home, nicknamed “The Parsonage”, became a boarding house for a variety of artists and eccentrics, including journalist Nieson Himmel, physicist Robert Cornog, and author and future Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard became involved with Parsons’ mistress Sara Northrup and they would later marry.
Sara Northrup began a relationship with L. Ron Hubbard, whom she met through the OTO, in 1945. It led to the couple eloping with a substantial amount of Jack Parsons’ life savings and marrying bigamously a year later while Hubbard was still married to his first wife Margaret. Sara played a significant role in the development of Dianetics, Hubbard’s “modern science of mental health”, between 1948 and 1951, during which time she was Hubbard’s personal auditor and one of the seven members of the Dianetics Foundation’s Board of Directors, alongside Hubbard himself. However, their marriage broke up in extremely acrimonious circumstances amid accusations of kidnapping and Communist plots, which prompted lurid headlines in the Los Angeles newspapers. She subsequently married one of Hubbard’s former employees, Miles Hollister, and moved to Hawaii and later Massachusetts.
Fritz Zwicky, a member of the original Aerojet team, disliked Parsons, and described him as a “dangerous man.” This pronouncement would prove prophetic, at least for Parsons himself. On 17 June 1952 Parsons was killed by an explosion of fulminate of mercury at his home laboratory. Though gravely injured, he survived the immediate explosion, but he died of his wounds a few hours later. Distraught, Parsons’ mother killed herself just hours after he died.
Unsubstantiated rumors of suicide, murder, or a magical ritual gone wrong have attempted to explain Parsons’ death. However, Parsons did store many volatile chemicals and compounds in his laboratory and had been working to finish a contract for a special effects firm.
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