John Whiteside Parsons, played by Jack Reynor, is the subject of the CBS All Access series Strange Angel has been a mysterious figure since his death in 1952.
Occultist, Chemist, Rocket Scientist and American pioneer, Jack (as he was known to his friends and family) was a man ahead of his time. Born October 2, 1914, in Los Angeles, CA, Jack was a curios child who had a passion for science fiction and fantasy, particularly the works of Jules Verne.
Jack had another passion, a passion for the occult. He is on record as having claimed to have summoned the devil as a child. As he grew older, Jack’s attentioned switched to more scientific endevours and he and his childhood friend Ed Foreman began building rockets with the intention of traveling to the stars along side Frank Malina, a student at CalTech.
Jack was a founding member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) which in some circles was called the Jack Parsons Laboratory and the Aerojet Engineering Corporation. Around this time, Jack became a student of English occultist Aleister Crowley and the religion of Thelema. Thelema’s core tenet being: Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, Love under will.
Being that this was 1940s/1950s Los Angeles, this religion/cult was deeply underground with the FBI opening file after file on Jack Parsons and the Agape Lodge he belonged too. Eventually, Jack and his first wife Helen (who will be covered in her own post) became the head of the Agape Lodge, turning their mansion into the Lodge’s new home.
Eventually, Jack’s extracorrecual activities drove him out of JPL and CalTech. Jack died on June 17, 1952 in an explosion at his home in Pasadena, CA. The circumstances of the explosion remain a mystery. Some suspect that Jack accidently dropped a chemical he was working on, others suspect that Jack was murdered by a gangster that he had testified against in the 1930s.
Another, more occult theory is that Jack was attempting to summon a fire elemental and it appeared causing the explosion. We may never know. What we do know is that the work in rocketry that Jack and his team performed in the 1930s-1950s paved the way for future rocket scientist to lead humanity to the stars.
The series, Strange Angel, is a fictionalized version of Parsons’ life, many of the characters are either reimagined or made up versions of people from his life and times.
New episodes of Strange Angel now streaming on CBS All Access, Season on availabe on iTunes.
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“Early History.” 2019. Nasa.Gov. 2019. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/jplhistory/early/.
Wikipedia Contributors. 2019. “Jack Parsons (Rocket Engineer).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. June 4, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Parsons_(rocket_engineer).
Keane, Phillip. 2015. “Jack Parsons: Occultism, Magic and the Birth of NASA JPL.” Space Safety Magazine. February 11, 2015. http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/aerospace-engineering/rocketry/jack-parsons-occult-roots-jpl/.