Jack Parsons, Magician and Rocket Man

By C. Marguerite Hafeman, © 2006-09

Back in 1917 under the sloe-gin skies of Los Angeles, there was born a most extraordinary boy. He was very smart, loved to read science fiction and when only thirteen years of age he and his best friend began to experiment with small, solid-fuel rockets in the back yard. That year was also the first time he performed magic, allegedly invoking Satan in order to ward off the harassment of other children. As he grew up he applied his natural flair for chemistry and science into pioneering work in rocketry, counterbalanced with being an active political dissident who enjoyed ever more complex adventures in the occult lifestyle.

Jack Parsons subsequently became the one single individual who contributed the most to modern rocket science. Several original fuel and rocket engine patents include his name; he also helped organize the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena and was a founding father of the Aerojet Corporation. But Parsons was also an active member in the magical Ordo Templi Orientis for much of his adult life; he financially supported the infamous sorcerer Aleister Crowley for several years until the man"s death. His book Freedom Is a Two-Edged Sword continues to be a source of inspiration to libertarian and anarchist political movements today.

Parson's large house on South Orange Avenue in Pasadena was well-known by the police for its strange activities and weird tenants. One never knew when chanting women in filmy robes might be out on the porch dancing ‘round a bubbling caldron; Jack also believed in open marriage. He hobnobbed with several famous science fiction writers including Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein. Later he got into a messy financial and romantic tangle with future Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, the first in a cascade of events which eventually brought a drastic downturn in fortune. Surely the horoscope chart for a man of Jack's unique caliber should yield a few interesting clues about what made him tick.(1)

Note the overall distribution of planets and points within the chart; the majority of planets are located beneath the mutable horizon. More of Jack was hidden than was seen in the public eye but that didn't save him in the long run. Several trine aspects represent an easy flow of energy that might have taken much for granted, while the few squares present involve planet and sign combinations not usually associated with an overly grounded person. Jack was probably very volatile emotionally, however could direct himself with intense focus into sustained bouts of action.

Gemini on the Ascendant indicates dexterity, diversified action, intellectual drive, the potential for diffusion in effort and above all a flexible and skeptical attitude. Parsons always juggled two separate concepts at the same time, e.g. sex magic and rocket science. He was a non-conformist who resisted regulations, a smooth talker of youthful appearance. He had the good motor coordination necessary for handling highly explosive materials. Ruling planet Mercury (communication, transportation) is in mysterious and sexy Scorpio, sparking up the fifth house of love, creativity and speculation, conjunct Mars (masculine assertive drive) traditional ruler of Scorpio. Jack was forcefully magnetic in speech and appearance; very seductive to the ladies.

Libra Sun in the fifth house indicates someone who loved to be loved for the sake of the exercise; Jack sought out relationships of all kinds with all sorts of people. He was probably bisexual or even latently homosexual, however preferred beautiful women over men. His Sun-Moon combination is nearly in opposition. This phase indicates crisis in relationship; Jack was indeed torn between pursuing deep commitment to one person, versus honoring an equal drive for independence. However this aspect between the luminaries can be very dynamic for being able to actualize one's creative products out in the world.

The Jupiter-Uranus conjunction (expansion of original and revolutionary new technological concepts) in the ninth house of higher mind supplies an easy symbol for his innovative and eccentric genius as applied to pioneering work performed within the exotic new field of rocket science. This combination trine his Sun aligns in easy harmony with his charming personality and Libran sense of social responsibility. Asteroid Ceres (productive work, nurturing, and attachments) also in humanitarian Aquarius is placed in most elevated position of the chart; Jack truly was a "mother of invention", making a huge impact on the development of both defense weaponry and rocket staging designed for outer space exploration.

Scorpio as co-ruler of the fifth house is the consummate occult sign; some astrologers maintain that many planets in Scorpio or a strongly placed Pluto indicate past lifetimes spent as a warlock, involved in the arcane field of sex (Scorpio) magic. The Mercury-Mars-Vertex combo trines an extremely powerful Saturn-Pluto team in the first house of instinctual self and basic presentation. Saturn-Pluto here in emotional Cancer can represent a determined, ruthless drive directed towards empowering the self, rooted in collective feelings of emotional insecurity, fear and lack of sufficient nurturance; the combination also represents someone who could be obsessive and compulsive in actively realizing their goals. The duo square the Moon (emotions, feelings, intuition, mother),planetary ruler of Cancer, suggests that for Jack creativity in various life-and-death dealing arenas was both an emotion-driven security need and an essential part of his identity; we also might wonder at the true nature of his relationship with his mother.

Scorpionic Venus (females in a man's life, pleasure, money, values) sits in the natal sixth house of work, health and unresolved issues in trine aspect to the angular Pisces Moon. The placement implies a preoccupation with sexual issues; once again we feel the breath of maternal influences, exposure to a parent who could seduce and manipulate without necessarily being involved emotionally. Venus also rules Jack's twelfth house of karma and self-undoing; Taurus on the cusp suggests a propensity for getting lost in sensual attractions, perhaps holding on to various attachments for too long.

The position of Venus only 27° ahead of Mars indicates that this life marked a relatively new learning cycle in sexual experience. Scorpio energy in general is passionate and controlling, Scorpio Mars and Venus can be jealous and vengeful if crossed; loyalty must be earned and with Jack's choice of partners it never was. He adored women but had difficulties with them; he maintained serial relations, however lost the love of his life to another man, due to not being able to speak up for what he wanted. Parsons also could not see associates clearly for what they were, thus was used and betrayed financially several times.

Strangely for a man who worked closely with all things ignitive, only Neptune (ideals, cosmic insight, glamour, the mystic,) is situated in a fire sign and at that located just barely into flamboyant Leo; the deep, other-worldly, psychic-intuitive influence of Cancer was probably still active within the Neptunian octave. The emphasis on emotion-feeling-intuition is further augmented by six natal planets placed in water signs; clearly Jack was an intuitive, visionary sort of genius. The square from Neptune to the Mars-Mercury conjunction indicated potential problems with communicating intensions clearly or a tendency to get sidetracked by diffuse interests. Neptune also opposes Uranus (high tech, sudden change and revolution, lightening-bolt inspirations from higher dimensions) in the ninth house of higher mind and trines Pisces Moon in the tenth house of public life, career and reputation. This combination certainly suggests mystic vision and the use of intuition to contact higher planes of cosmic intelligence; however Jack was also prone to self-deception in career matters and otherwise could be taken in by the appearance of intelligence, occult skills or beauty. He was sincerely dedicated to the ritual, costuming and glitzy atmosphere of high magical workings, all of which certainly helped in seducing desirable women.

Jack's birth data translates into quite a difference in planetary house placement between the Koch and Placidus house systems. The Koch chart seems more reflective of the man but it contains some unusual features. The Pisces-Virgo axis is intercepted within the fourth house of early home life and unconscious psyche and the tenth house of career and reputation. Within the Pisces interception is an already elusive Moon, asteroid Chiron the wounded healer retrograde and the North Node, echoed by the South Node intercepted in Virgo across the way. The Moon's Nodes located within an interception is not very common. According to the Rev. Alice Miller this placement is reflective of the child who is regarded as an object to be molded, with no intrinsic value assigned to one's own self. One must develop a powerful soul and spirit just to survive. There can be spinal cord problems related to blocks in the Kundalini bioelectrical energy flow, which is innately sexual in nature.(2)

The Moon as representative of mother can provide some additional clues. Intercepted Moon can symbolize difficulty with channeling emotional energy into functional form. The energy tends to scatter, therefore attracting parasites. Perhaps the mother is distracted by other issues; therefore no emotional bond is formed with the child. Especially as reinforced by Pisces, one may have profound feelings but doesn't know what they are, therefore can't express them properly. Boundary issues abound, especially if Saturn is involved as it is in Jack's chart; addiction to sexual activity is another symptom of intercepted Moon dysfunction. Consistent regulating of resources can be a problem; Jack did have many financial ups and downs in course of life, which eventually contributed to his ruin.

Jack's mother divorced his father soon after Jack's birth, due to Mr. Parsons conducting an adulterous affair on the side. Mrs. Parsons never remarried; she lived with her well-to-do parents until they died. According to Jack she cultivated a hatred of the father in the son, which encouraged a spirit of revolution and hatred of authority. Jack claimed a full-blown Oedipus complex which he admittedly channeled into a love of witchcraft. His grandfather acted as a male role model, but Jack must have missed the presence of his father far more deeply than he realized. His mother was sacrificially devoted to her son, providing a good education and much exposure to the world through travel, but Jack's feelings toward her remained complex and ambivalent all his life.

If we go with the Koch chart, the same zodiac sign placed on seventh and eighth house cusps indicates that relationships would be put to the test as they induced personal regeneration. Jack sought out intense and sometimes mysterious involvements with others, thereby invoking hard karmic lessons of discrimination in choice of associates. He also endured many hard experiences out of needing to be more in tune with joint goals, instead of doing just as he pleased. The house and sign placement of the Moon's Nodes in general point to a need on one hand to see the big picture clearly and integrate one's ideals and visions with the practical reality of public life, on the other hand to give up certain habits of negative judgment in private life, getting lost in details or driving oneself compulsively towards dubious ends.

Per the placement of asteroid Chiron, Jack's public expression included presenting himself as a "wounded healer" someone who was trying to overthrow the more cruel manifestations of female suppression under modern patriarchy, re-uniting the split that has occurred between nature, God and man. Taurean Black Moon Lilith (living true to one's soul purpose on earth) in the eleventh house of community groups, friends, and wishes is a classic placement for someone attempting to reawaken the active feminine creative principle, from within occult group activities that were quite taboo in the community at the time. Note the Black Moon's opposition to the Vertex of fated events and Mars (sex drive), sextile to Saturn-Pluto (the Great Mother actualized within self) and in harmonious aspect to the Nodes (past lives and path of future growth), all in signs of classic occult significance. Jack was indeed an archetypal representative of the original nature-worshipping, matriarchal currents active in our distant past.

However Parsons was unsure of his own identity as it should integrate appropriately with function and reputation in public life. Jack didn't feel the need to attend college; as it turned out he was so naturally brilliant and pioneering in spirit, he was initiated into the front row of aerospace and missile research with little resistance. However his eccentric magical and radical political preoccupations did not sit well with the conventional, hierarchal institutions and people that bankrolled rocketry research. After his original brilliant achievements in booster and propulsion design set the hallmarks for subsequent product development, Jack's inventive genius was no longer an easily marketed commodity.

Eventually the dual life of Jack Parsons caught up with him. He made some bad business decisions; scandal associated with certain private activities resulted in loosing the government clearance necessary to do his work. At the lowest point Jack worked at a gas station while undergoing further magical initiation through a lengthy ordeal out in the desert. He eventually made his way back into a lucrative rocketry project, only to be discharged again after being caught making deals with the Israelis; he simply could not be trusted.

At age 37 Jack died in a home laboratory explosion under extremely suspicious circumstances.(3) His mother, faithful to the end committed suicide a few hours later. Perhaps Parsons was purposefully eliminated due to having so much expertise in working with explosives; he wanted to operate essentially unchecked as an independent agent in a discipline where loose cannons are not tolerated. The moral here being, expect strange things to happen when mixing sex magic with your rockets. Two years before his death in a letter to his wife Cameron, Jack noted: "The secret strength is actually in death, in the link with eternity we wear in our bones. Our true self moves in life and death, in eternity and duality, as we move in sunlight and shadow, and with as much concern. We dance to the pipe of Pan, whether we know it or not we dance, and the last and greatest truth is the joy - the pure, sheer joy of the dance...Only the cry - the whine of the self keeps us from it - forgetting that, and we step into it as easily as across the door. Remember this, my dear - what your Karma has put upon you no one knows but your deep self. It may be to set the world on fire, or to know - to keep your counsel, and be at peace and in joy. But none of these are to be sought after. It is only to know yourself - to find yourself - to be yourself. That and that alone is the way."(4)

(1). Jack Parsons B. Oct. 2, 1914, 8:45 pm PST +8:00, Los Angeles, CA, Koch Houses. Sex and Rockets – The Occult World of Jack Parsons, by John Carter, Feral House, Los Angeles, CA 2004.

(2). Intercepted Signs in Astrology, Presentations by the Rev. Alice Miller, NCGR Rocky Mtn.Chapter meetings Oct. 3, 2003 and Oct. 7, 2005.

(3) Death of Jack Parsons, June 17th 1952, 5:45 pm PDT +7:00, Pasadena, CA, Koch Houses. Sex and Rockets – The Occult World of Jack Parsons, by John Carter, Feral House, Los Angeles, CA 2004.

(4) Excerpt from a letter to Cameron, written Feb. 6, 1950, by Jack Parsons. http://www.babylon.net/jwp/camltrs.html

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