The Beast And The Geek: Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, and Iron Man


“When I ordered the hit on you, I was worried that I was killing the golden goose. But, you see, it was just fate that you survived it, leaving one last golden egg to give. You really think that just because you have an idea, it belongs to you? Your father, he helped give us the atomic bomb. Now what kind of world would it be today if he was as selfish as you?”
–Obadiah Stane, “Iron Man”

(Note: what I present here is an “alternate history” of the entire Jack Parsons/Aleister Crowley mythos. Which is to say: I could be merely speaking out of my ass, engaging in a healthy bit of fan-fictioney mental masturbation. But even if that is really the case—it doesn’t mean it all isn’t also true!)

The very best scenario—if you are so inclined—is that you are the “New Messiah.” The second best scenario is that you are the exclusive prophet of the New Messiah.

Jack Parsons: punk, nerd, neurotic, weakling

A far more troubling scenario is one in which you are the prophet of the New Messiah, but consider him to be somewhat “beneath” you—you consider him to be a punk, a nerd, a neurotic, a weakling, somebody unworthy of the title.

In such cases, a heavy sense of the unfairness of the Universe descends…and it was no other than master occultist Aleister Crowley who felt he was “cheated.”

Jack Parsons & Aleister Crowley

If Crowley represented the culmination of a modern magickal movement that started at the tail end of the 19th Century, then Jack Parsons—literal rocket scientist as well as amateur sorcerer—was truly the New Messiah of the 20th.

And the dominant vehicle of universal mythos and meme-magick in the 20th Century was…

The Comic Book.

collage art by Howard Hallis

There are relatively few original images of Jack Parsons to be found—such a dearth paradoxically adding to his overall “mystique.” Since Jack was the Horus-like New Messiah of the 20th Century and perhaps beyond, his energy sort of “demanded” more of a presence within the pop-culture zeitgeist—easily-reproduced iconography and ideas for us to consider and possibly “worship.”

Enter: Iron Man.

Jack Parsons and Tony Stark

Like Jack, Tony Stark was a genius inventor with wavy jet-black hair and a mustache; a tech wizard whose inventions could send humankind to the stars, be used as deadly weapons, or quite possibly both.

Iron Man co-creator Stan Lee described how he created the superhero as a creature very much of the start of the Cold War…the era where Jack Parsons lived and created: “It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military….So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree.”

A very Parsons-looking Tony Stark

Though Lee specifically credited millionaire industrialist Howard Hughes (who eventually had his own highly bizarre conspiracy-tinged history) as the inspiration for Tony Stark, by the time the character reached movie theaters in 2008 he couldn’t help but take on a much more “Jack” type of vibe. 

This is clearest in the casting choice of Dominic Cooper as Tony’s father Howard in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger

I mean, it’s pretty much identical.

But even back in 2008’s Iron Man, the character of Tony Stark sort of resonated Jack (Jack, whose given name at birth was “Marvel” like the publisher of the comic book)…with the scene in the beginning with the rockets…the explosion causing Tony’s crucial injury (shades of Jack’s unfortunate demise)…even his struggle against his late father’s friend Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges with a Crowley-esque bald head):

In Iron Man, Stane literally pulls paralyzed Tony’s heart out, informing him with glee that his discoveries will be used for evil. That Tony was just a pawn; his inventions and discoveries not truly his own, but rather part of a “bigger plan.”

Similarly, Crowley used Jack…”weaponized” him. Crowley himself would not be the ultimate New Messiah of the coming age, but he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to steer this “ship” anyway.

And Jack was “easy,” in the sense that he was like this overly enthusiastic kid, this kid without his own father’s regular presence in his life or approval…I mean, he was an adult, but he was also highly manipulatable. And he was a natural adept—his was the destiny to give humanity the crucial equipment to take them to the stars. So naturally gifted in magick, so blessed with an intuitive intellect…perhaps he could have been like the successful Tony Stark of the movies (he who created the Avengers).

But he was corrupted. Purposely corrupted. He was “broken open” by Crowley as well as plagued by a long list of other failures that would befall him within a very short period of time.

Because if there was one thing that Crowley knew about: it was that sometimes you need to “crack somebody open” in order to have them achieve their full potential.

So at least, people like Crowley had that vision: which was, of course, to kick off the New Aeon, the Aeon of Supermen (or: Superman, with bald Crowley playing of course Lex Luthor). To break open the “doors”—to rip Earth from the “quarantine”—and let all nature of beings just flood in and alter our reality forever.

For Jack Parsons performed the notorious Babalon Workings.

Tony Stark/Iron Man falling through a rift in the time/space thingie

At this point, it might be helpful to review who exactly Babalon is. According to the Thelemic religion, founded by Aleister Crowley, she is the basic female impulse—the “liberated woman.” You could call her Mother Earth, the mother goddess, the one basic Goddess template…the personification of yin energy, creative energy.

“BABALON is too beautiful
for sight of mortal eyes
She has hidden her loveliness away
in lonely midnight skies…”
—Jack Parsons, “The Book Of Babalon”

You could also link her with the “Whore of Babylon” from the Biblical Book Of Revelations…where you will also find The Beast. You could also equate the “Phoenix Force” energy from the X-Men comics with her. You could get really creative with it.

A *climactic* scene from “The Ninth Gate”

But Crowley believed that Babalon could manifest as a human host on Earth, being this really hot-to-trot chick the Scarlet Woman—her liberation being largely sexual in nature. This Scarlet Woman would copulate with the agent of Horus on Earth, The Beast—which conveniently would be Crowley himself.

Per Crowley:

“It is necessary to say here that The Beast appears to be a definite individual; to wit, the man Aleister Crowley. But the Scarlet Woman is an officer replaceable as need arises.”

That’s a pretty good deal. For him.

And so the Beast would have sex with the Scarlet Woman in this grand ritual, and the Aeon of Horus would begin. That was the plan, at any rate.

But it was Jack Parsons who would finally get it done. Because he probably had a better “handle” on where Babalon was really to be found.

Marjorie Cameron

And so starting in December of 1945 Jack began a series of rituals which he would call the Babalon Working, with the hope that he would create the Earthly incarnation of the goddess (referred to as a “Moonchild,” from the book by Crowley of the same name).

A large portion of these rituals involved him masturbating onto magical tablets while his buddy L. Ron Hubbard kept his eyes out for any significant paranormal activity that might indicate the Goddess was afoot.

Marjorie Cameron and Jack Parsons

The Babalon Working climaxed in the Mojave Desert in late February 1946, and apparently when Jack got back home fire-haired Marjorie Cameron was waiting for him—as if she was created out of thin air, the actual “Moonchild” of the ritual.

The ritual worked! The woman Jack sought was finally here!

Cameron was to become Jack’s Scarlet Woman—and Jack was to become the Beast (fuck Crowley), the Antichrist. And together they would evoke and evoke and evoke.

But while Cameron, who would go on to be an important occult figure in her own right, might have been the “avatar” of Babalon—according to my alternate narrative, she wasn’t the Babalon, the source of the frightening amount of energy raised that day in the Mojave Desert.

As a child, Jack Parsons was a constant victim of bullies, who considered him weak and effeminate. When grew up, he decided to project a very “manly” and macho attitude so he would never be so thought of again.

And so he suppressed this feminine energy; as every person has the potentiality for both feminine and masculine energies within, both energies combining to create The World.

But when Jack did these magickal workings, both before and after he met (“materialized”) Cameron…it is the contention of my alternate narrative of events that the gate through which he “pulled out” Babalon was himself.

Where do we find some of the most powerful energies? In our “shadow selves,” in that which we repress. Because each of us are microcosms of the Whole.

In the book Ozma of Oz (Oz resonating Aleister Crowley, Liber OZ), the little boy Tip finds out at the very end of the book that he was secretly Ozma all along. That’s a pretty surprising ending to an old children’s book. But in a way, that’s sort of what happened to Jack.

The Beast and Babalon are just opposite sides of the same coin. That’s the secret. When the avatars of these two powerful archetypal symbols merge, they create one Whole through which both currents run and are interchangeable.

As Jack himself wrote in his Book of Babalon (emphasis mine):

“It is indicated that this force is actually incarnate in some living woman, as the result of the described magical operation. A more basic matter, however, is the indication that this force is incarnate in all men and women, and needs only to be invoked to free the spirit from the debris of the old aeon, and to direct the blind force of Horus into constructive channels of understanding and love.”

This must mean, then, that the force of nature called The Beast might work in a similar, necessarily reversed, manner.

Don’t tell Crowley that, though.

“The world, though, was not ready for Jack Parsons.”
–Peter Levenda, “Sinister Forces Book One”

And so here we have John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons, who essentially fulfilled the Horus mission by giving humanity the building blocks they needed to go to the stars. He was like Prometheus, like Enki…like Lucifer, bringing the fire of enlightenment to humanity.

Reading his texts, I think he had only a partial understanding of what role he was to play. He called himself the Antichrist, but…what does that even mean? If his “channeled” poem “The Birth Of Babalon,” from his Book Of Babalon, is any judge (there was also mentioned “a prophecy which I shall not write here”)…it seems rather bleak. It seems like war and orgies and shit.

“I have lain my my love and smashed my heart
and filled her cup with blood,
That blood might flow from the lions of woe
to the cup of brotherhood.

The cities reel in the shout of steel
where the sword of war is drawn.
Sing ye saints for the day is come
in the birth of BABALON.”

Like…what was hoped to be accomplished, here? In his Freedom Is A Two-Edged Sword, which he wrote several years later, Parsons had these really powerful concepts concerning freedom, and liberty, and equality for all. It’s such a ground-breaking document for its time (admittedly with some seriously eyebrow-raising bits, though that’s to be expected), and its overall vision of a benevolent New Age led by this archetypal Feminine feels triumphant.

But the “damage” was done with the Babalon Working, wasn’t it? And that…wasn’t a working that was really going to do anything constructive or peaceful for humanity. It might have opened “doors” for all sorts of new “notions” and ideas to flood into the Zeitgeist…but these were notions that could liberate us, doom us, or most likely both at the same time in a grand flood of chaos. And The Book Of Babalon/The Book Of The Antichrist, like Aleister Crowley’s own The Book Of The Law…it’s the same feeling I get, reading all of them.

I can read these books, and get something out of them esoterically, and learn a lot, and stuff…but these were not books dictated in order to lift up Humanity. They certainly give some info that I think is true. They certainly show the way to acquire some level of personal self-empowerment. But these books seem to me to be ultimately dictated by some non-human (well, I mean obviously), “superior” (in a sense) entity/entities that are not interested in lifting up humanity as we know it. Rather, they look towards another age—a “post-human” age.

And some might say: “Well it is inevitable that we eventually become post-human. It’s just evolution.”

But then why do I feel so bad about it? Like…”sad” about it?

Why should it bother me?

And how did Parsons get to this point (I mean, in my speculative “alternate” history)?

I think it was, in part, that because he felt utterly betrayed and fucked-over by so many people (including being defrauded by his former friend & magick partner L. Ron Hubbard); and that subconsciously chipped away at his connection to humanity.

As Peter Levenda comments in Sinister Forces Book One:

“…it certainly seems as if Parsons was victimized by most people in his life. He expected people to behave with honor, reasonably, to the extent that he, himself, treated them nobly. From what evidence we can find, Parsons was treated well and honorably only by those who respected and admired his intelligence, his seriousness, and his brilliance; his fellow rocketeers. Yet, when involved in the one aspect of American life virtually guaranteed to disappoint the idealist—the occult underground, with its petty jealousies, inflamed egos and unstable emotions—he was ripped apart.”

And as Parsons himself writes in The Book Of The Antichrist,

“…I was stripped of my fortune (the sum of $50,000) and my house, and all I Possessed.

Then for a period of two years I worked in the world, recouping my fortune somewhat. But that was also taken from me, and my reputation, and my good name in my worldly work, that was in science.

And on the 31st of October, 1948, BABALON called on me again, and I began the last work, that was the work of the wand.”

Among other things, Parsons had lost his career as a rocket scientist, blacklisted from the industry. And so he shifted most of his attention from that to the occult—along with some work for Israel (which put him firmly on the radar of the American investigative authorities) and as a pyrotechnics expert for Hollywood special effects.

On June 17, 1952, a day before leaving on a planned trip to Mexico (he hoped to restart his rocket research there) with his wife Marjorie Cameron, Parsons died in an explosion in his California lab. It has been popularly speculated that “Babalon” herself came back to give Parsons his “due” (though I don’t know why she would have been so shitty to him after how he carried out all her instructions). But author Peter Levenda speculates that the might also have met foul play, as he was up to his ears at that point in possible foreign intrigue (and domestic suspicion).

And that’s it then, I guess. That was the life of Jack Parsons, both the “official” and a bit of my embroidering. Nowadays he is a bit of a “cult” figure; there’s even a TV series that dramatizes his story. And people so inclined can even look up his Book Of Babalon and try to “ape” some of his rituals. How many self-styled Parsons are there in the world right now? Probably loads. And why not? He was cool, right?

If Parsons was alive right now, in our world—what would he think, given all his past experiences? What would he do? Would he regard our fast-approaching Singularity with excitement, recognizing it as the fulfillment of all he worked towards with Babalon? Would he have a change of heart, seeing things differently now with the aid of hindsight; being horrified not only for the deals he made with “Babalon,” but to see his rocket technology put to such violent uses?

And would he consider his work “finished?”

Or unfinished?