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The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery

One of the weirdest historical confluences you can imagine took place in Pasadena, California, in the 1940s. There, a darkly handsome young man and chemistry autodidact named Jack Parsons had just made a bundle of money by inventing solid rocket fuel and selling it to the military. He was part of a group of explosion-obsessed researchers at CalTech who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where recently the Martian Rovers were made. He was also a goddess-obsessed acolyte and generous financial supporter of the infamous Pagan leader, Aleister Crowley.

Parsons used his defense contract money to convert an old mansion into a group house whose residents included other Pagans, artists, scientists, and writers. One of his boarders was a charismatic science fiction author named L. Ron Hubbard, who became Parsons’ greatest frenemy, participating in rituals of sex magic with the rocket scientist, sleeping with his girlfriend, and finally absconding with all his money. Here is the true story of how Scientology and JPL were both conceived by men under the sorcerer Crowley’s mystical influence.

Illustration by Stoudaa

Like many high-tech entrepreneurs today, Parsons never attended college. He spent most of his teenage years doing backyard experiments with rocket fuel, aided by a childhood friend who later worked with him at CalTech. Parsons’ brilliance with chemical compounds — and fearlessness in the face of explosions — helped him make friends at CalTech, where he became a researcher in the 1930s. By the late 1930s, he’d helped found JPL, invented solid rocket fuel, and was well on his way to becoming an international science superstar. He was also deep into a new project: reaching the highest level in Aleister Crowley’s mystical organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).

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