Jack Parsons

Every year around this time my appetite for all things supernatural increases to a staggering degree. In search of spooky shit that happens to be close to me geographically I usually resort to Google searches for terms like "occult", "spooky", and "haunted", affixed to various nearby locales. Sadly, I rarely find anything new, exciting, or of great interest.

A couple years back I happened to search for "witchcraft" here in Springfield, Massachusetts when I was introduced to the tale of Mary and Hugh Parsons. The pair were two of the earliest cases of folks unfortunate enough to be accused of witchcraft here in Massachusetts, specifically my home base of Springfield, during the mid-1600's. Both were acquitted of the charges of witchcraft, but Mary, having fallen into mental instability, wound up incarcerated on charges that she'd murdered her young child, and died in prison awaiting trial.

Shortly thereafter I came across another Mary Parsons, this one married to Cornet Joseph Parsons, one of both Springfield and nearby Northampton's "founding fathers", who was also accused of witchcraft prior to the Salem "witch hysteria" of 1692. I don't know if it was coincidental that both women were named Mary Parsons, or if one case influenced the other, but this Mary Parsons, Mary (Bliss) Parsons, was accused of witchcraft twice, and acquitted both times! Eventually whatever negative associations that may have followed the Parsons name fell away, and her family, which was quite wealthy, went on to produce civil servants and notable citizens across the region for generations.

This gave me pause, as I knew all too well that the parents of noted rock scientist, occultist, freethinker, and witchcraft enthusiast Jack Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons on October 2, 1914, in Los Angeles, California) originated here in Springfield, Massachusetts. His mother Ruth Virginia Whiteside being the daughter of Walter Hunter Whiteside who ran the Stevens-Duryea automobile corporation, the first American firm to build gasoline powered automobiles. While his father Marvel H. Parsons came from a family who was regarded as having played a role in founding the city and had money in real estate and the Eastern States Refrigeration Company.

Could it be that it was just a coincidence that this man, with roots in Springfield, and a deep connection to the occult, was also a Parsons? Was it possible that Jack Parsons, who was born, lived, and died 3,000 miles away in California, was actually a descendant of Mary Bliss Parsons, accused and acquitted of witchcraft in Northampton and Springfield, Massachusetts three centuries before? These questions started to nag at me, so I decided to do the simple thing and trace the lineage of this scientist and student of Aleister Crowley. I started with Jack's father Marvel H. Parsons and clicked through the family trees, from son to father, until I arrived at Cornet Joseph Parsons, husband of none other than Mary (Bliss) Parsons! Jack was her direct descendant!

The story of Mary (Bliss) Parsons, not to mention the other Mary Parsons, are rarely spoken of here in Western Massachusetts. There are no monuments or memorials to these women, nor are people regaled with tales of the witchcraft that haunted the woods of the region in those earliest days of European settlement. They're largely unremembered, and they, and similarly eldritch topics, just aren't discussed. It seems as though Springfield and the surrounding area would rather bury any connections this region might have to the strange, weird, spooky, or occult. But is it possible that within the Parsons clan the story remained alive long enough to inspire a young Jack Parsons?

It's been alleged that he began experimenting with witchcraft, supposedly attempting to summon The Devil, while still in high school. And, while a member of Corwley's Ordo Templi Orientis, he became so interested in the iconography of witchcraft that concern was raised among fellow members. Actress and Thelemite Jane Wolfe even wrote to Crowley at one point to complain that "our own Jack is enamored with Witchcraft, the houmfort, voodoo. From the start he always wanted to evoke something—no matter what, I am inclined to think, as long as he got a result." That sounds like a soul searching for something long-lost, and long lusted-after, but long-unattainable as well.

Could it be Jack was searching for that which his ancestor had already found but was so ruthlessly hounded for? Did he, in addition to making scientific breakthroughs in rocketry, actually re-discover the lost lore? Sadly, we'll never know as his life was cut short in a fiery explosion, thought to be caused by an accident involving rocketry-related chemicals he stored in his home in Pasadena, California, on June 17th, 1952, at the age of 37. He remains an influential figure in magickal circles, amongst freethinkers, and in the field of jet propulsion. In 1972 the International Astronomical Union named a crater on the Moon in his honor.
Posted by El Keter
At 09:31 PM on 09/28/14
Filed under Esoterica

This week's Monday Magick comes courtesy of no less a purveyor of occult-inspired Rock than the grandaddies of Heavy Metal themselves, Black Sabbath. The song, "Behind the Wall of Sleep", took its name from a short story by the creator of the Cthulhu Mythos himself, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and appeared on the band's self-titled 1970 debut.

I first discovered "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" myself, not due to any infatuation with the occult or Lovecraft (which would both come later), but my earliest obsession, with Hip-Hop, DJing and vinyl culture. As a pre-teen bedroom DJ I purchased a bootleg breakbeat compilation at local vinyl purveyor The Music Center and found it featured "Wall of Sleep" alongside dodgy-sounding recordings of breakbeat chestnuts like "Just Begun" and "Smokin' Cheeba Cheeba". "Wall of Sleep" quickly became a favorite of mine, first due to the massive drum break courtesy of Bill Ward, but also Ozzy's unhinged vocal, and Tony Iommmi's riff of doom.

Thanks to that initial exposure to "Sleep" I sought out Sabbath's early catalog which got me familiarized with their other classics, like "War Pigs" and "Paranoid", among others. And you can imagine the smile that crept across my face when I, slightly older and infinitely wiser, eventually discovered the Lovecraft connection!

Music is magick!
Posted by El Keter
At 11:48 PM on 09/22/14
Filed under Music

Apparently it's been available On Demand for about a month now, and even got a short theatrical run earlier this month, but I only just now caught wind of IFC Midnight's 'At the Devil's Door'.

The trailer caught my attention by focusing on story, and then trowing the creepy right in your face like "WHAT? YOU DIDN'T THINK THE DEVIL WAS IN OUR MOVIE? HERE'S SOME GLOWING EYES IN THE DARK FOR THAT ASS! AND, OH SHIT, HERE'S A FUCKING MONSTER!"

I'll be checking it out on VOD this week for sure.

'At the Devil's Door'
Posted by El Keter
At 06:30 PM on 09/21/14
Filed under Cinema

A young card-sharp travels through time & space in an effort to defeat Old Scratch at his own game in the new video for "Jonathan", the booming new single from Aesop Rock & Rob Sonic's collaborative effort Hail Mary Mallon.

"Jonathan" is the first single from Hail Mary Mallon's forthcoming sophomore long player 'Bestiary', which is due out on the Rhymesayers Entertainment label November 11th, 2014, and is available for pre-order in a dizzying array of special packages.

Hail Mary Mallon
Posted by El Keter
At 06:15 PM on 09/21/14
Filed under Music

With his new Kenny Segal-produced single "Eat Rich" and its Brent Weinbach-directed video Busdriver continues to be one of the most challenging wordsmiths in Hip-Hop while maintaining an equal amount of creativity in the visual presentation of his music.

"Eat Rich" is the fourth single from the Good Life/Project Blowed/Hellfyre Club/Flash Bang Greneda emcee's eighth solo studio album 'Perfect Hair', which dropped September 8th, and is still in stores everywhere on the Big Dada label.

Posted by El Keter
At 11:42 PM on 09/15/14
Filed under Music

It was only a matter of time before a Monday Magick entry focused on one of the most important, and most original, Illuminist/Gnostic philosophers to ever grace the music industry, electronic alchemist Bruce Haack. His 1969 Columbia Records LP 'The Electric Lucifer' was one of the boldest statements, both musically and metaphysically, in the history of modern "popular" music. I profiled it in these pages several years ago after discovering Haack, here's an excerpt...

A quick Google search brought immediate results in the form of a fan-page with a description of the LP and excerpts from the liner notes (which the author of the site describes as being quite similar in style and tone to a Dr. Bronner's bottle), a photo of the album cover (pictured above) and the name of the artist responsible for the album's creation, Bruce Haack. I had never heard of Haack, but with the trippy cover artwork and allusions to the album's blend of ahead-of-it's-time synthesizer technology and out-of-this-world philosophical content I was determined to find out more about this mad musical scientist and if I could, get my hands on his only major label release, 1970's 'The Electric Lucifer.' A little more searching turned up a wealth of information which would seem to indicate that Haack, who had a dysfunctional childhood in rural Alberta, Canada, was some sort of unrecognized genius-savant. He reportedly showed a gift for music from an early age (he was giving others piano lessons at age 12), played in bands throughout his teens, hosted his own radio shows, earned a degree in Psychology from Edmonton University and eventually attended Juliard on scholarship before ultimately dropping out to compose music (which incorporated forward-thinking electronics and tape-samples), build his own instruments and develop his unique socio-spiritual philosophical concepts.

Which is really where 'The Electric Lucifer' comes into play. As a suite of songs it's not unlike the boroque jazz-fusion rock-operas David Axelrod composed both for his solo LPs and his work with the Electric Prunes. What distinguishes Haack's 'The Electric Lucifer' from Axelrod's tributes to William Blake, environmental warnings set to music and modern re-imaginings of Catholic masses though is the fact that Haack's music is almost entirely electronic and far more original in it's immediate social message and universal metaphysical purpose. I know, you're probably thinking "big deal, he made electronic music." But what you're failing to realize is that he made almost entirely electronic music in 1970, a time when things like synthesizers and drum machines were still virtually unknown, and that he did so using synthesizers which he mostly built entirely himself out of cheap commercial components and household appliances! Bruce Haack had no formal knowledge of electronics, yet he built a number of his own, totally unique, electronic instruments bearing such fanciful names as The Magic Wand, The Dermatron (a synthesizer that allowed the human body to be played as an instrument by leading an electrical current through skin contact with another person) and the People-odion. He even built and used his own 12-voice polyphonic synthesizer (it can be heard on 'The Electric Lucifer') during a time when the widely available commercial synthesizers other brave musicians were using (he was using them too), such as the legendary Moog, were only monophonic. His mastery of these electronic instruments is evident throughout 'The Electric Lucifer' as songs drenched in intricate synth textures, manic keyboard melodies, bouncing analog basslines, sweeping electronic noises, crunchy drum machine beats and liberal use of the vocoder pour out of the speaker awash in dubbed out tape echo, lending the whole project the feeling of some plug-in infused masterpiece of modern day lo-fi lap-pop electronica. The wholly electronic nature of the album's soundscape (which prefigures everything from Kraftwerk to Zapp, Radiohead to Daft Punk, J. Dilla to Postal Service) is so thoroughly ahead-of-it's-time that you might actually have a hard time believing it was released before most mavens of up-to-date electronic music were even born. Take into account that some time around 1968 Haack allegedly expressed to a personal friend his belief that there would be "a time when all people would create and share their music ELECTRONICALLY without record company involvement" and the man's ability to foreshadow the future (which puts me in mind of Nicola Tesla in a lot of ways) becomes a little scary.

This neo-futurism is reflected in the subject matter of the music found on 'The Electric Lucifer' as well, which blends metaphysics and electronics into an apocalyptic stew which may in fact be the only thing that can prevent war and destruction, not just here on Earth, but across the universe. The basis of the album is a simple anti-war, pro-love, humanist philosophy Haack called "Powerlove." But it's backed by a slightly more complicated eschatological mythology (which incorporates traditional Judeo-Christian religiosity, various world religions and mysticism while reaching towards the ideas expressed in the "ancient astronaut" theories of Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin) involving "the Lucifer people" being forced out of heaven (or off of another planet according to the liner notes) only to reside here on Earth. It's not clear if we, as humankind, are in fact these "Lucifer people;" children of the heavens given a place in space to perfect ourselves only to return to the stars to find forgiveness (the liner-notes state that through "Powerlove" even "Lucifer, the eternal underdog" will be forgiven) and unite the heavens through "Powerlove." But that's the impression I get. And the song "Cherubic Hymn," where two voices shout "we will learn that we are one with God and universal man, and then return with understanding to the world where we began," seems to bolster that idea. What's more striking is that Haack seems to think the change in spiritual consciousness that will have such a profound effect on humankind, and by turn "the Gods" and the rest of the universe, will come about, at least partially, through electronic communication, computers (children are even likened to programmable computers on the song "Program Me") and electricity. He talks in terms of universal electronic communication that remind this listener a whole helluva lot of what we know today as the internet. And I can't help but think, if more people used the electronic medium (whether it be the now commonplace synthesizer music that Haack basically birthed on this album or the universal electronic communication and information sharing tools we have at our disposal in the form of personal computers and the internet) to spread messages of love, sharing and personal connection as Haack suggested so many years ago that humanity could actually summon a force as powerful and affecting as the "Powerlove" he dreamt of.

"Electric to Me Turn", an anthem dedicated to Haack's "Powerlove" concept, opens 'The Electric Lucifer' like a bolt of lightning hurled by The Electric Lucifer himself to open the hearts and minds of the "Lucifer people" stranded here on Earth. This message of a love so powerful it can redeem even "The Devil" obviously echoes several millennia-old Gnostic heresies, with an obvious Hippie twist, while also sharing a bit in common with the Illuminati "history" of Graud as detailed in Wilson and Shea's 'Illuminatus!' trilogy. And it's certainly more appealing than the judgmental power trips offered by the traditional "big three" religions.

Haack had a vibrant career and released a plethora of albums, for both adults and children, from his pre-'Lucifer' debut in 1963 until his death in 1988.

Music is magick.
Posted by El Keter
At 11:21 PM on 09/15/14
Filed under Music

Gareth Edwards parlayed his work on the DIY Sci-Fi/Horror flick 'Monsters' into gigs directing the recent 'Godzilla' reboot and an upcoming 'Star Wars' spinoff.

His approach was markedly subtle, opting to keep the monsters hidden for most of the film in an effort to build suspense before the "big reveal".

While Edwards' style was effective on 'Monsters', and to a certain extent 'Godzilla', it appears his successor, Tom Green, has opted to go balls-to-the-wall with a full-on invasion of Lovecraftian monsters in the sequel, 'Monsters: Dark Continent'.

You know I love me some be-tentacled beasties, so it should come as no surprise that I'm really looking forward to this flick's November 28th release.

Posted by El Keter
At 12:34 AM on 09/13/14
Filed under Cinema

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