Those who are familiar with actors like John Travolta, Jenna Elfman, and Tom Cruise, might also be familiar with Scientology although not necessarily with the O.T.O. (Order of Templars Orientalis) and its offshoots.
The influence of Crowley and the OTO has long been a controversy within Scientology. Hubbard wrote Dianetics just a few years after his Pasadena escapades, and founded the Church of Scientology in the mid-1950s. His son Nibs has said that the OTO's "black magic" was the "inner core" of Scientology, and Hubbard is also on record calling Crowley a "friend." But Scientologists say there is no relationship between the two spiritual systems.
Still, it's hard to deny that Crowley had a strong influence over Hubbard, and many of the trappings of the OTO's system appear in altered form in Scientology. You might say that Scientology is the science fiction version of the supernatural horror that was the OTO. So the religions may be different genres, but they have a lot in common.
The nineteenth century had seen all manner of new religions rise and fall in the United States. A fascination with what the religious historian Sydney Ahlstrom called "harmonialism"-a belief that spiritual, physical, and even economic well-being flow from a person's connection with metaphysical forces of the cosmos-manifested itself in such new forms of thought as Spiritualism, Christian Science, New Thought, and Theosophy. These radical religions abandoned much traditional Christian doctrine and prospered on a mixture of charismatic founders, complex internal hierarchies, secret doctrines, and elaborate rituals. Like the mystical societies of Victorian Britain, many of these new religions incorporated aspects of Eastern religions. These had been brought to the. United States' attention not only by the Japanese and Chinese immigrants who had flocked to the Pacific Coast, but by Hindu missionaries who had appeared at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.
While they introduced the American people to such new words as reincarnation, nirvana, and Karma, the new religions also echoed the creed of self-reliance that had been an article of faith in American religion and culture for almost a century. This "new age in religion" found particularly strong footing in Los Angeles, where an aspirational population desperately sought a philosophy that offered the spirit what California had offered the body. Drawn by the promises of instant gratification inherent in the gold and health rushes that had prompted their exodus west, Angelenos expected the same from their religions.
Such a powerful demand was met with alacrity. The Church of Light disseminated its "Religion of the Stars" through classes preaching the use of tarot cards and astrology. The Institute of Mentalphysics, founded by Edwin Dingle, a former student of Tibetan monks and author of Breathing Your Way to Youth, offered to teach secret Oriental laws through its correspondence course. Just off Hollywood Boulevard, the lotus-scented Vedanta Society told how to transcend the limitations of self-identity through the study of ancient Hindu scriptures. Authors Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood would later seek instruction in its techniques. Few establishments were as grandiose as that of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), whose Egyptian museum in San Jose took up an entire city block. It stressed the virtues of reason and science while also suggesting that ancient Egyptian wisdom would allow its followers to release the hidden powers inherent in man.
A number of religious groups assimilated the new wonders of science into their teachings. The Superet Light Church, founded in 1925 by the "atoms aura scientist" Josephine C. Trust, taught of good and evil atoms, invisible spectrums and the spiritual significance of favorite colors. Others focused on direct individual improvement in health. The Church of Divine Science preached the gospel of "perfect action and perfect thinking ... perfect breathing and perfect circulation, perfect digestion and perfect generation, perfect voice and perfect speaking."
There was a multitude of movements to choose from-the "I Am," Mankind United, the New Thought Alliance, the Christ-Way College of Occult Science, and The Occult Science of Christ Church.
In, The Unknown God (2003), Martin Starr presented the first detailed study of Crowley’s followers in North America during the years between roughly 1910 and 1950 and thus a necessary starting point for anybody that likes to investigate further. Starr has had access to personal correspondence and other unpublished documents, as well as first hand accounts of people who witnessed many of the events recorded in his book.
Starr’s subdued prose tells the story of a movement that seems truly extravagant even by the standards of minority religions. The philosophy of Thelema encouraged the members of the commune to experiment with rampant promiscuity and with a range of psychoactive drugs. In all probability, it was that antinomianism which attracted a range of alienated individuals, including some who, at least to a lay reader, appear to have gone certifiably insane.
The dynamics of the occult underground, composed of many diminutive groups competing for potential recruits and material resources, led to an all too familiar situation. People who were motivated by an ideology which promised to imbue them with the most remarkable magical powers and bring about a dramatic spiritual transmutation, ended up spending much of their time involved in petty intrigues and constant squabbles about money.
The Church of Thelema at 1746 North Winona Boulevard was registered and incorporated by W.H.Smith in 1934. Its neighborhood was poor but already religious: the house was located near both the Vedanta Institute and a nunnery.
When Crowley later decided to get rid of Smith, he did so by proclaiming that Smith was the incarnation of an unknown god, and that he therefore must go into immediate retreat in order to ascertain precisely what deity had taken on this human shape. Hence the title of Star’s book.
A persistent theme in Starr’s account of the American Thelemites is the way in which Crowley, who had only rarely visited the group and had met few of them at first hand, attempted to micromanage their affairs by means of a vast correspondence filled with detailed instructions, threats and verbal abuse. Crowley’s missives and publications are also evidence of his recurrent badgering for money.
On February 26, 1939, while the Agape Lodge had about ten practicing members, a former Zeigfeld Follies dancer attending drama classes at Los Angeles City College was attacked on campus and died from her wounds. Although there was no connection between the girl's murder and the OTO, an avalanche of newspapermen soon descended on the house, keen to get the scoop on what had been termed the "Purple Cult." Headlines such as HIGH PRIESTESS IS COLLEGE TEACHER and PURPLE CULT RITES BARED sprawled across the newspapers. Smith did his best to make the most of the publicity, inviting reporters to watch the mass and allowing pictures to be taken like the one that follows:
However L.Ron Hubbard moved in to the ‘Agape House’ shortly after a young scientist named Jack Parsons had started to become a leading light of the Crowlean lodge-and moved to Pasadena to a larger house, hence titled “1003”.
When Jack Parsons first visited the Agape group he told that as a scientist he found that Crowley's magick teachings seemed to correlate with the work of "the `quantum' field folks." The illogical nature of the newly coined quantum physics, in which the simple act of observation seemed to affect the physical world, and in which changes performed on one physical system could have an immediate effect on another quite unlinked system (the theory of nonlocality).
Bypassing Wilfred Smith, Crowley had written to Parsons that he should take over some of Smith's duties, notably the distribution of Crowley's new manifesto for the OTO called Liber Oz. Crowley believed that this work would finally boost Agape Lodge's membership in California, something he no longer thought Smith could achieve by himself. It was a great honor to receive a personal letter from Crowley, but Parsons was disturbed by the manifesto's contents.
Little more than a pamphlet, Liber Oz professed the familiar Crowley doctrine: "Man has the right to live by his own law, to live in the way that he wills to do: to work as he will: to play as he will: to rest as he will: to die when and how he will." But unusually, it went further: "Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights." If one of Aerojet's military associates should see a copy of this at the party, Parsons would likely have been judged unfit for his job. He asked the other members to remove all evidence of Liber Oz. His request was something of a disappointment to those who had considered him the order's great new proselytizer, but Parsons recast his caution as evidence of his grand vision. He told them that he was not being censorious, nor did he disapprove of Crowley's work; rather when he did become a martyr or get sent to jail, he wanted "to make headlines, and at present such an action would not cause a ripple in the public consciousness."
The gesture was typically romantic and self-aggrandizing, but Parsons succeeded in winning the long-standing loyalty of many members of the house, including Jane Wolfe. "He knows his power, he knows what he wants, and he knows his royalty," she wrote. The party was a success, ending in a drunken dance at the pergola. One by one, OTO member or not, the guests stripped off their clothes and cavorted around the fountain naked.
Parsons' caution over Liber Oz was not groundless. Soon after the party, the Pasadena police received a letter from San Antonio, Texas. Signed "A Real Soldier," it stated that a "black magic" cult flourished at 1003 Orange Grove Avenue, practicing "Crowleyism" and "Sex Perversion." The letter also named one of the house's inhabitants, Frederick Mellinger, as an "enemy alien." When FBI officers came to investigate, Parsons gave them a tour and smoothly explained that 1003 housed a fraternal study group who discussed "philosophy, religion, personal freedom and the mysteries of life and eternity." In the ensuing years the police and the FBI would investigate 1003 time and again, but they would never find anything incriminating.
Within the house angry members pointed fingers of suspicion as they debated the identity of this "Real Soldier." Many assumed that the still-jealous Regina Kahl or one of her scandalized relatives had sent the letter: Kahl had gone to Texas to recuperate from a persistent illness, which had been exacerbated by the lodge politics and the hard work of communal living. However, any number of disgruntled souls might have informed on the Lodge. Parsons' science fiction friend Grady McMurtry, for one, had become upset by events at 1003. Soon after McMurtry and his wife Claire had been initiated into the OTO, their marriage had disintegrated as Claire gave herself over to the licentiousness of the Lodge, sleeping with both Parsons and Smith. Parsons eventually helped to pay for an abortion when Claire discovered that she was pregnant (something he would also do later for Betty.) McMurtry was shocked by his former idol's callousness.
Crowley tried to patch up the two men's relationship, exhorting McMurtry to fight against the jealousy he felt. Even so, with his marriage destroyed and now himself drafted into the army, McMurtry could make only infrequent trips back to 1003. When he did, his visits filled him with unease. He had been rather surprised, when talking to Smith, to find that the mass had not been performed since the OTO had moved into 1003. From his army base he wrote Parsons a letter describing the group which now hung out at 1003 as "a bunch of empty-headed Athenians" (a phrase he pointedly chose from Crowley's Konx Om Pax).
L.Ron Hubbard had made a brief visit to 1003 earlier that year, and Parsons had extended an open invitation to return. Thus, no one was surprised when L. Ron Hubbard, another fantasy writer, announced his plans to move into 1003. Parsons offered him a bed in the main building, sharing a room with the gadfly Himmel.
Soon Hubbard was absorbed quite happily in the house's activities. When he was not writing, he spent much time in the company of Parsons, who excitedly explained to him the laws and sanctions of Thelema. Hubbard impressed Parsons with his immediate understanding of Crowley's work and with his insight-most likely garnered through his years of fantasy writing-into magic.
Thus Parsons wrote to Crowley: “He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our own principles”( John Symonds, The King of the Shadow Realm , 1989, 562-3).
Before long, however, the house residents realized that Hubbard's magnetism extended well beyond the genial. "He was irresistible to women, swept girls off their feet. There were other girls living there with guys and he went through them one by one," remembered Himmel( See also Robert Heinlein, Agape and Eros, preface to Theodore Sturgeon's Godbody , 1986 p. 12).
Jack Williamson had heard Hubbard's naval tales before at meetings of the Maiïana Literary Society. "I recall his eyes, the wary, light-blue eyes that I somehow associate with the gunmen of the old West, watching me sharply as he talked as if to see how much I believed," said Williamson "(see Williamson, Wonder's Child, p. 185).
Not much." Nieson Himmel enjoyed pointing out discrepancies in his stories, much to Hubbard's irritation. "I can't stand phoneys and he was so obviously a phoney. But he was not a dummy. He could charm the shit out of anybody."
Hubbard had been at the house for little more than two months when Grady McMurtry arrived back from Europe, fresh from the war and from studying at the hoof of the Great Beast. Crowley had asked him to write a report on the activities of the Agape Lodge based on interviews with every member. In the report, still in the OTO archives, McMurtry bears unwitting witness to the early stages of the disruption Hubbard would inflict on Parsons.
He described watching Parsons and Hubbard fence against each other one evening, as usual not wearing masks. "The light was very poor and they kept tangling with the rugs but, as both men know something of the sport, it was not exactly mortal combat." Betty Parson’s wife was watching from the sidelines, eyeing Hubbard and growing more restless by the minute. When Parsons offered her the chance to try her hand with his foil, she snatched at it and launched into a wild attack on Hubbard, lunging dangerously at Hubbard's unprotected face with a fierceness that shocked the watching McMurtry, who "thought someone was going to get killed." Hubbard, regaining his composure after the initial ferocity of the attack, fought the formidable Betty back a few steps and stopped the assault by rapping her smartly across the nose with his foil.
It seemed more like foreplay than fun and games. And in fact, Hubbard "soon fastened on to Betty," remembered Himmel. Bob Cornog remembered stumbling into Parsons' room one morning to find Hubbard and Betty entwined, "like a starfish on a clam." Now all eyes turned to Parsons, whose devotion to Betty had been absolute, to see how he would react.
In the manner of a true follower of Thelema, Parsons had always prided himself on his ability to renounce jealousy.
Parsons put on a grand show of remaining friends with her. They hugged and talked as before, and he accompanied Betty and Hubbard on trips as "the genial elder brother," but when nighttime came, Parsons was excluded from her bed. For Alva Rogers, as for the rest of the house, it was obvious that "Jack was feeling the pangs of a hitherto unfelt passion, jealousy." (McMurtry, Report on the Order in Southern California, 25 January 1946, OTO).
There were other houseguests who were more than willing to fill Betty's place, but Parsons was enveloped in emotions which he could not, for once, conquer. The loss of Betty was not made easier by the loose sexual lifestyle Parsons had encouraged at the lodge. Soon Hubbard was "making out with her right in front of Par Group meals were no longer quite the frivolous affairs the once been. "The hostility between Hubbard and Parsons was tangible," remembered Himmel.
Driven to distraction by the loss of Betty and without the incessant work of wartime rocket research to absorb his attention, Parsons threw himself into the only other part of his life he could control: his magic. He had been turning his interests to the more perverse branches of occultism in his quest to conjure up actual spiritual phenomena. As far back as 1943, Crowley had warned Parsons, "I don't like at all what you say about witch-craft. All this black magic stuff is 75% nonsense and the rest plain dirt. There is not even any point to it." Black magic was traditionally recognized as a form of ritual magic practiced for evil or harmful purposes. Although the press frequently accused Crowley of being a "black magician," he envisioned his magick as a discipline designed to aid in the individual's mental and mystical development.
At the time of the following developments Parsons claimed according to old Hermetic beliefs , to be impregnating statuettes with "a vital force" by magical invocation (1) and then selling them, leading many of the OTO to worry about the demonic forces he might unleash upon 1003. And a form of group hysteria started to grip the OTO members in the house, and they began performing "banishing rituals"-those intended to clear the psychic atmosphere-on a regular basis.
Meeka Aldrich, an OTO member who had recently moved into the house, believed that something "alien and inimical" lurked in the house's wood paneling. Others sensed the presence of "troublesome spirits," especially on the third floor.
In recent meetings of the Agape Lodge, Parsons had read aloud from British author William Bolitho's book Twelve Against the Gods. It was a metaphor-laden treatise on the "adventurer," the person-such as Alexander the Great, Casanova, or the prophet Mohammed-who sets himself on an unalterable path to a grand destiny. "The adventurer is an individualist and an egotist, a truant from obligations. His road is solitary, there is no room for company on it. What he does, he does for himself ... The adventurer is within us, and he contests for our favour with the social man we are obliged to be"( William Bolitho, Twelve Against the Gods: The Story of Adventure, 1929 p.1).
And Parsons indeed embarked on an adventure that he hoped would allow him to enter the ranks of Bolitho's heroes. He planned a series of magical rituals-a magical working-more ambitious than any he had attempted before. He would later call it the defining work in his life.
Alva Rogers remembered being awakened on a bleak morning in December "by some weird and disturbing noises seemingly coming from Jack's room which sounded for all the world as though someone were dying or at the very least were deathly ill." He went on: We went out in to the hall to investigate the source of the noises and found that they came from Jack's partially open door. Perhaps we should have turned around and gone back to the bed at this point, but we didn't. The noise which by this time, we could tell was a sort of chant-drew us inexorably to the door which we pushed open a little further in order to better see what was going on. What we saw I'll never forget, although I find it hard to describe in any detail. The room, in which I had been before, was decorated in a manner typical to an occultist's lair, with all the symbols and appurtenances essential to the proper practice of black magic. It was dimly lit and smoky from a pungent incense; Jack was draped in a black robe and stood with his back to us, his arms outstretched, in the center of a pentagram before some sort of an altar affair on which several indistinguishable items stood. His voice-which was not actually very loud-rose and fell in a rhythmic chant of gibberish which was delivered with such passionate intensity.
Parsons generally kept poor records of his life, but he documented the next three months in extravagant detail in, The Book of Babalon (unpublished).
In fact Parsons was trying to conjure up a magical being, not to avenge the loss of Betty, but to replace her. "In December 1945," wrote Parsons later, "I performed certain operations to obtain an Elemental mate."
He was to keep comprehensive records of each day's rituals, rather as if he were working on a rocket experiment. But instead of straining to catch gauge readings, Parsons would be attuning his mind to less predictable phenomena. In order to summon his elemental, Parsons used an old magical system known as Enochian Magic that had been devised by Dr. John Dee, the royal astrologer to Elizabeth I, and that came highly recommended by Crowley. Dressed in robes and possibly under the influence of a narcotic, Parsons carefully consecrated one of his daggers for an operation as complicated and dangerous in his mind as mixing rocket fuel or firing a rocket. He began by tracing five pointed stars in the air and reciting ancient invocations in both English and Enochian, the strange singsong language that Dee thought was passed down to him from angels. Strewn around him on the floor were paper "tablets" covered with arcane symbols and languages. He recited line after line of ominous and obscure scripture: "Dear Thou Me, for I am the Angel of Paphro Osorronophris; this is Thy True Name, handed down to the Prophets of Ishrael." The ritual called for focused masturbation-what The Golden Bough would have recognized as "sympathetic magic"-as Parsons tried to "fertilize" the magical tablets around him and bring his elemental to life. Finally, he per formed the banishing rites, a symbolic erasing of all the previous rituals, by retracing in reverse all the pentagrams and hexagrams he had drawn in the air. The entire process took some two hours, and it invariably left Parsons both physically and mentally exhausted.
He performed the ritual repeatedly over the following week, so thirsty for results that soon he was invoking his elemental twice each day. He liked to play Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto on his gramophone as an accompaniment. He started using his own blood instead of semen, and, his mind sensitive with anticipation, he began to record any phenomena he thought were related to his actions. A violent windstorm followed the first ritual. On another night he was awakened by a series of loud and rapid knocks, and a table lamp across from his bed was thrown violently to the floor, even though the windstorm had died out. In a letter to Crowley he announced, "I have been extremely careful and conscientious in this ritual, lending all my will and scientific training to its precision and preparation. Yet nothing seems to have happened ... The wind storm is very interesting but that's not what I asked for."
A few days later he performed the ritual twice more and observed further unexplained phenomena. At around 9:00 P.m. the electricity failed, and Hubbard, who was in the kitchen at the time, called out to Parsons, saying he had been "struck strongly on the right shoulder." Parsons hurried to Hubbard's side and, in Parsons' words, the two observed "a brownish yellow light about seven feet high in the kitchen." Parsons ran back to his bedroom, grabbed one of the swords hanging from the wall, and hurried back to the kitchen to perform a banishing ritual, burning sulphur and tobacco to aid him in his task. The figure "seemed to diminish" and Parsons followed it into the library, all the while drawing pentagrams in the air with his sword. Finally, the form dwindled into nothing. Parsons diligently noted that Hubbard's right arm remained paralyzed for the rest of the night.
Parsons was already impressed by Hubbard's grasp of Crowley's teachings, but now he became convinced of Hubbard's magical sensitivity. The distress Parsons felt about Hubbard's relationship with Betty was quickly overcome by his remarkable will to believe. He invited Hubbard to sit in on his future rituals and the visions continued to appear. On one occasion Hubbard said that he saw an apparition of Wilfred Smith materialize behind Parsons; before Parsons knew what was happening, Hubbard "pinned it to the door with four throwing knives, with which he [was] expert." Later, in his room, Parsons heard the strange raps again and "a buzzing metallic voice crying, `Let me go free'.
In fact Hubbard had taken over Smith's old bedroom across the hall, so he and Betty would have been ideally positioned to stage "supernatural occurrences," especially with the help of the house's secret passageways. If Hubbard was using his imaginative skills to give Parsons satisfaction, then Parsons was all too willing to accept the gift.
However, Parsons did not care to speculate about any underhanded tactics. Instead he wrote in his record, "I felt a great pressure and tension in the house that night, which was also noticed by the other occupants." The tension might, of course, just as easily have been caused by Parsons' insistence on burning sulphur in the kitchen and swinging a sword through the living room, not to mention the twice daily rituals chanted loudly in the Enochian tongue.
After two weeks Parsons and Hubbard traveled into the Mojave Desert together. It had been some time since Parsons had come out here for his rocket experiments. More recently he had escaped to the desert for seclusion in which to meditate and practice his magic. His favorite place was marked by the intersection of two massive power lines, their source and goal lost in both horizons. The sagging cables emitted an ominous drone, as if they were the antennae of an almighty cicada buried deep beneath the ground. At sunset the two men stood beneath them and suddenly Parsons felt the tension snap. "I turned to him and said `It is done', in absolute certainty that the operation was accomplished. I returned home, and found a young woman answering the requirements waiting for me." Parsons thought, now, he had summoned his elemental.
Next, by using a student (Lodge member) Parsons believed he could also incarnate an actual goddess on earth, a female messiah named Babalon. Its spelling "corrected" by Crowley from Babylon to provide it with a more auspicious cabbalistic number, first appears as a character in literature in the Revelation, where she is described as a scarlet woman riding on the back of the Great Beast.
Parsons now believed that his Babalon would also ride on the back of the Beast-Crowley-and augment Crowley's teachings. He hoped that this "Babalon Working" would resound his own name through the ages like the name of a William Bolitho hero.
His companions in the OTO had little idea of what Parsons was trying to achieve. Jane Wolfe, writing to Crowley, admitted his magical work was "much too personal for me, and beyond most of my actual knowledge." Crowley was intrigued by Parsons' undertaking, but he also wondered about his pupil's extreme enthusiasms. "It seems to me that there is a danger of your sensitiveness upsetting your balance. Any experience that comes your way you have a tendency to over-estimate. The first fine careless rapture wears off in a month or so, and some other experience comes along and carries you off on its back. Meanwhile you have neglected and bewildered those who are dependent on you, either from above or from below ... At the same time, you being sensitive as you are, it behoves you to be more on your guard than would be the case with the majority of people.
Parsons paid no heed to this warning. He immersed himself deeper and deeper in his magic with an excitement that bordered on mania. His letters and notes from the time reveal his exaggerated self-esteem, racing thoughts, persistent agitation, and, in the case of Hubbard's visions, poor judgment-all could have been signs of some form of manic episode. His letters to Crowley came at a more furious pace than ever before, and they were full of feverish, staccato sentences and biblical exaltation. "Thrice blessed, I stand beyond pity or passion, my heart in the light, my eyes turned to the highest. Glory, I cry, Glory unto the Beast and unto Babalon, and Hail to the Crowned and Conquering CHILD."
When the pupil named Marjorie Cameron, embarked on a brief trip to New York, Parsons went out into the desert once more. There he heard a voice speaking to him, dictating to him just as a spirit had dictated Crowley's own Book o f the Law. Sitting in the desert, Parsons began writing down a long list of lamentations, declarations, and ritual instructions to form what he called the Book of Babalon. Parsons intended his divinely inspired book to be a fourth additional part to Crowley's own volume. But Parsons' book is a jumble of archaisms and colloquialisms, its sole coherent thread the repeated references to flame and madness. It lacks the cohesion of Crowley's work, the grim biblical authority; the text proceeds as a whirlwind stream-of-consciousness rant straight from the darker, sensual regions of Parsons' mind. "Yea it is even I BABALON and I SHALL BE FREE. Thou fool, be thou also free of sentimentality. Am I thy village queen and thou a sophomore, that thou shouldst have thy nose in my buttocks? ... It is I, BABALON ye fools. My time is come, and this my book that my adept prepares is the book of BABALON."
Parsons returned from the desert driven to perform the rituals he had been "given," and Hubbard began seeing visions once more. Hubbard was a master storyteller and a quick thinker, but he had now been performing magic with Parsons for nearly two months. According to Parsons' record of the time, Hubbard was exhausted and often left pale and sweating from his exertions. Finally, a fatigued Hubbard saw a vision calling an end to the working. In a fragment from his writings, Parsons, exhausted and exultant, declared his work a success. He believed that Babalon, in the manner of the Immaculate Conception, was due to be born to a woman somewhere on earth in nine months time. "Babalon is incarnate upon the earth today, awaiting the proper hour for her manifestation," he wrote. "And in that day my work will be accomplished, and I shall be blown away upon the Breath of the father."
Feeling the wide-eyed exhaustion of the desert prophet, Parsons declared that he had to return to reality. He would need to distance himself from the OTO if he was ever to get his affairs in order, explaining to Crowley, "I must put the Lodge in [other] hands; prepare a suitable place and carry on my business to provide the suitable material means [money]."
On March 16, 1946, Parsons wrote a group letter to all the members of the OTO, alluding cryptically to the Babalon working he had just performed, "In the coming months the world approaches one of its greatest crises, and Agape Lodge may well have a basic role in this history. I hope and trust that your own part will help to make this role possible, in the time when the Lodge and the world needs you most." This new aeon, paradoxically, was to start with the end of an era. He announced that he planned to sell the house at 1003 and that anyone living there would have to move out by June 1.
After The Sunday Times (London) published an article in December 1969 revealing the Hubbard-Parsons connection, the Church of Scientology issued a statement claiming that the above (although the war was long over) was all in line with “counterintelligence during the war” L.Ron Hubbard: A Chronicle, http:// www.scientology.org/html/en US/l-ron-hubbard/chronicle/pg006.html.
Hubbard, Occult Investigator or Con-Man?
Parsons' attachment to Hubbard, despite the loss of Betty, had only been intensified by the central role Hubbard played throughout his magical workings. Thus Parson also agreed to become business partner with Hubbard, and he invested close to his entire savings-$20,970.80. Hubbard did the same, although his savings, at $1,183.91, were considerably less. Betty contributed nothing.
Parsons' financial role in the OTO had long ago proven his generosity, but this new undertaking also seemed tinged with desperation: Despite Candy his new pupils presence (later to become his wife) he still wanted to win back Betty's affections. As he wrote to Crowley, "I think I have made a great gain, and as Betty and I are the best of friends, there is little loss." He was soon proved entirely wrong.
Hubbard’s proposal for the new venture was simple. He and Betty would travel to Miami to buy three yachts. Once they found crews, they would sail the yachts back through the Panama Canal and sell them on the West Coast at a much higher price. As told by Hubbard, with his naval background, the plan sounded both eminently practical and glamorously adventurous, and Parsons was easily persuaded by his friend's confidence and by Betty's entreaties (see; Parsons v. Hubbard and Northrup, Case No. 101634, Circuit Court, Dade County, Florida, 11 July 1946).
Not everyone bought Hubbard's plan, especially not the OTO members who remained at 1003. They feared that their one-time "Rich Man of the West" risked making himself poor very quickly. Grady McMurtry, now based in San Francisco but keeping an eye on Agape Lodge, warned, "It would seem more of an adventure than a business proposition." Jane Wolfe joined in the chorus of dissatisfaction. "I am wondering," she wrote , "if Ron is another Smith?"
Even Parsons, blind to all suspicion, might have recognized the danger had he seen the letter Hubbard now wrote to the chief of naval personnel, requesting permission to leave the United States "to visit Central & South America & China" for the purpose of "collecting writing material" under the auspices of Allied Enterprises. Hubbard was preparing for a world cruise, not a business trip. Ignorant of these plans, Parsons waved good-bye to his best friend and his ex-lover as they headed east with over $20,000 of his money in their pockets. (L. Ron Hubbard, Naval Personnel Record, file number 113392, www.lermanet//-Ron Hubbard).
As the weeks passed, Parsons' explosives work dwindled to a halt-he had no money for supplies. He began to worry. He told friends that he was going to persuade Hubbard and Betty to return to Pasadena immediately so they could dissolve the partnership; he realized it had been a mistake to invest all his money in such a scheme. But when he received a phone call from Hubbard, collect from Miami, his manner changed immediately. Parsons succumbed once more to Hubbard's ebullient persuasiveness, swinging from anger and distrust to acquiescence and an almost childlike respect. Louis Culling, one of the remaining OTO members, was shocked to hear Parsons end the conversation "eating out of Ron's hand," telling Hubbard, "I hope we shall always be partners."
The other members of the household saw the dangers of the situation clearly. Culling wrote to Crowley, expressing his frustration at Parsons' gullibility, "Ron and Betty have bought a boat for themselves at Miami Florida for about 10,000 dollars and are living the life of Riley, while Bro John is living at Rock Bottom, and I mean Rock Bottom. It appears that originally they never secretly intended to bring this boat around to California coast to sell at a profit, as they told Jack, but rather to have a good time on it in the east coast" (Parsons, letter to Crowley, 5 July 1946, at the Yorke Collection at the Warburg Institute).
Crowley needed no more evidence. In a cable to Karl Germer, he cast his judgment: "Suspect Ron playing confidence trick Jack Parsons weak fool-obvious victim prowling swindlers." When Parsons heard this assessment, he finally shook himself out of his indecisive stupor. With the last of his money, he bought a plane ticket to Miami.
Hubbard and Betty had been busy. They had bought three sailing yachts, the Harpoon, the Blue Water II, and the Diane, and were only waiting for Hubbard's latest navy disability check to arrive before they set sail.
Parsons, meanwhile, was hot on their heels. He checked into a cheap hotel in Miami Beach and began scouring the marinas and yacht clubs for any information about the two or their purchases. It did not take long before he traced the sale of the Harpoon to a harbor on County Causeway, but Betty and Hubbard were nowhere to be seen. On July 1, Parsons managed to place a temporary injunction and restraining order on Hubbard and Betty to stop them from leaving the county, selling the yachts, or touching any other assets of Allied Enterprises. Now all he could do was wait for them to appear.
After four days of pacing in his hotel room, Parsons received a phone call from the marina. Hubbard and Betty, presumably having heard of his presence in Miami, had rigged up the double masted Harpoon and sailed out of the harbor with the aid of a crew paid for with Parsons' money.
According to Hugh B. Urban, “Hubbard turned out to be a devious charlatan” who ran of with Parson’s partner “Betty and $10,000 of his money.” (Urban, Magia Sexualis, October 4, 2006, P.137)
Parsons' pursuit of Hubbard had been closely followed by Hubbard's fellow science fiction writers. For L. Sprague de Camp, a Caltech graduate in aeronautical engineering and now one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy writers of the day, the events confirmed his already low opinion of Hubbard. In a letter to Isaac Asimov, he wrote:
The more complete story of Hubbard is that he is now in Fla. living on his yacht with a man-eating tigress named Betty-alias-Sarah, another of the same kind ... He will probably soon thereafter arrive in these parts with Betty-Sarah, broke, working the poor-wounded-veteran racket for all its worth, and looking for another easy mark. Don't say you haven't been warned. Bob [Robert Heinlein] thinks Ron went to pieces morally as a result of the war. I think that's fertilizer, that he always was that way, but when he wanted to conciliate or get something from somebody he could put on a good charm act. What the war did was to wear him down to where he no longer bothers with the act (letter to Isaac Asimov, 27 August 1946). 1.
Yet Hubbard was not as washed-up as de Camp had thought. Indeed, Hubbard was about to begin the greatest work of his life. Succeeding exactly where Crowley had failed, he would found a worldwide religion.
For the May 1950 edition of Astounding Science Fiction, Hubbard wrote an article entitled "Dianetics-The Evolution of Science." The magazine's editor, John W. Campbell, prefaced the story with a glowing testimonial that praised Dianetics as a truly "scientific method" of mental therapy. Hubbard described Dianetics as a form of psychotherapy that he had discovered through his "dabbles" in mysticism and through a lifetime of mingling with "the shamans of North Borneo, Sioux medicine men," and, most notably, "the cults of Los Angeles." Dianetics depicted the human brain as an "optimum computing machine" in which there are "aberrative circuits"-traumas from the past-introduced to it from the outside world. If these circuits could be swept away, the "optimum brain" could be revealed and the subject would become "clear."
Astounding Science Fiction didn't class Hubbard's essay as fiction, but its language was clearly tailored to the science fiction fan. Like the Charles Atlas bodybuilding advertisements that also ran in the pulp's pages, Dianetics promised to transform the reader's `normal' brain into an "optimum" brain and thus help man "continue his process of evolution toward a higher organism." Stutters could be eliminated, bad eyesight corrected, learning disabilities overcome, intelligence boosted. Even schizophrenia and criminal behavior could be cured.
Although some of Hubbard's fellow science fiction authors might have disapproved of him, Dianetics became an immediate success with the fans. Forrest Ackerman, the heart and soul of the LASFS remembered, "Here in Los Angeles we felt we were going to have a brave new world. That everyone was going to be a `clear,' were going to take off all their glasses, there would be no more colds, one fella even had a finger missing from a hand and he felt like a chameleon that he was going to be able to grow a new finger."
Within months Hubbard published a book, an expanded version of his essay, which became a national best-seller. It was easy to see why. Dianetics denied the complexities of psychiatry and instead proposed a much simpler model of the mind. Adherents needed no formal education and could begin practicing the techniques after only a few hours of training. Over the ensuing months, thousands converted to Hubbard's creed. The public were invited to come to the newly formed Dianetics Institute and undergo a ten-day "auditing" for only $600. During this period an "auditor" (the therapist) would encourage the patient to relive traumatic shocks (known as "engrams") that they had received as children or even in the womb. Hubbard claimed these shocks were the cause of all mental aberrations in later life. When pinpointed, he explained, the shocks could be erased. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that "Hubbard has become in a few swift months, a personality of national celebrity, and the proprietor of the fastest growing movement in the US." Within two years Hubbard had elaborated a religion around his book. Dianetics would become the central text of Scientology, which echoed the themes of the pulps in concerning itself not only with this life but with past lives spent on other planets.
Soon to die in an accident Jack Parsons also started formulating a new religion, one that would replace the "clap-trap" and "indirection" that he felt had compromised the OTO. His religion was to be created for the "modern spirit" and consist of "an austere simplicity of approach." He named it the "Witchcraft"; it seemed to combine elements of Crowley's teaching with Parsons' own Babalon prophecy, while also drawing heavily on Parsons' favorite Jack Williamson story, "Darker Than You Think." He priced a basic course of instruction at ten dollars; a modest sum when compared to the six hundred dollar cost of a ten-day Dianetics program.
It is hard to ignore certain similarities between Crowley's Thelema and Hubbard's Scientology. Both religions have as leaders charismatic men with logorrheic tendencies. Both preach that man is an immortal spiritual being, that his capabilities are unlimited, and that his spiritual salvation depends upon his attainment of a "brotherhood with the universe." While Thelema was born of the Old World, however, Scientology was distinctly a product of the New. The OTO arose out of the Victorian fascination with mysticism, magic, and the secret societies of Europe. Scientology was a direct product of the twentieth century's childlike trust in scientific knowledge, the success of scientific fantasy, and the Californian desire for self-improvement. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two was in popularity. While Crowley struggled throughout his life to popularize the OTO, the Church of Scientology became hugely successful, and now claims over eight million members in some 3,000 churches spread across fifty-four countries. It is said to make more than $300 million a year, and Hubbard's numerous writings are central to its success. It is, in short, everything Crowley had wanted the OTO to be. (Critics claim that the Church of Scientology membership numbers are much lower. See Russ Coffey, "It worked for Travolta. Would it work for me?," The Times, London, 18 February 2004).
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