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Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons Paperback – March 10, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Feral House (March 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0922915970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0922915972
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Scientist, poet, and self-proclaimed Antichrist, Jack Parsons was a bizarre genius whose life reads like an implausible yet irresistible science fiction novel. Sex and Rockets looks at his short life and dual career as cofounder of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and leader of the Agape Lodge of Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). Author John Carter scours primary documents and interviews surviving friends and contemporaries to deliver an intriguing portrait of a dreamy, driven man equally interested in rocketry and magick. From his early childhood and deep attachment to his mother (who killed herself hours after he died) through his nonacademic research and brilliant innovations in solid fuels to his mysterious 1952 demise in a garage-laboratory explosion at the age of 37, the reader gets the impression of a man whose obsession with explosives and propellants was nearly single-minded. Yet this same man found spiritual fulfillment through Crowley's Law of Thelema, conducted magickal operations with L. Ron Hubbard, and signed an oath asserting himself to be the Antichrist--clearly Parsons wasn't a boring guy in a white coat. Carter pulls off the difficult task of integrating Parsons's disparate drives into one compelling story; though there are some rough spots and awkward transitions, one gets the sense that this illuminates the man's life better than a smooth, flawless work would. Robert Anton Wilson's introduction is smart and funny as always, initiating the uninformed into the basics of Crowleyanity while placing Parsons in the context of his times. While it might not be possible to read universal themes into Parsons's life, Sex and Rockets is an excellent study of a passionate life fully lived. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Basically, it's a technical book that I feel didn't quite hit the mark.
steven g.
In addition, Parsons was friends for a time with the creator of scientology and science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
New Age of Barbarism
I was nauseated by reading it and never even finished the intro but skipped right to the book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
_Sex and Rockets_, a new book from Feral House about Jack Parsons, is rich with previously undocumented biographical information about this fascinating and talented genius, whose scientific career is no less interesting than his career as an occult initiate. This literal "son of Captain Marvel" (Marvel H. Parsons) was himself given the name Marvel at birth. Later his mother began calling him John, and he came to be known as Jack by his friends. In general Carter's book seems pretty well-researched. I appreciate the fact that _Sex and Rockets_ focuses more on the subject of Jack and his life than earlier literary efforts which have exploited the mythos surrounding Jack and his infamous Babalon Working to propagate highly speculative, only vaguely and loosely associated fringe agendas on the part of various writers. Carter has done a good job sticking to the subject.
The research in _Sex and Rockets_ focuses primarily on Jack's scientific career and secondarily on the Babalon Working itself. Of the former, the author traces a clear path detailing, validating and celebrating Parsons' contributions to the field of rocket fuel technology. Carter succeeds in his mission to carefully excavate and restore the previously almost-buried name and contributions of this scientist to their rightful stature in history. Of the latter, the author draws a clear juxtaposition between Cameron's view of the Babalon Working and Jack's own understanding.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Dean James on February 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Formulated by British humorist Stephen Potter circa 1950, thedoctrine of one-upmanship states quite simply that it is the businessof every intelligent man, no matter what situation he finds himself in, to be "one up" on the other chap. It is a philosophy that Jack Parsons, who died some two years later, would have benefited immensely by adopting. For a brilliant scientist Parsons was capable of remarkable naivete and as Gerald Suster delicately puts it, often had ideas "in excess of his ability to deal with them." In addition to being a rotten judge of character he wasn't conspicuously overburdened with common sense and had a knack amounting almost to genius for placing himself "one down" in relation to what Aleister Crowley called "our Brethren in California." Chief among these "Brethren in California" was of course Scientology founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard, who bamboozled Parsons with a series of "inspired" messages relating to the incarnation of Babalon, which he claimed to receive straight from the horse's mouth. Nowadays most sensible people associate Hubbard with the other end of the horse, but in the early Forties he was still an unknown quantity and seemingly had no trouble in swindling Parsons out of his money, his wife and his credibility in Crowley's eyes. ("It is the ordinary confidence trick.") Parsons was a potent but wildly erratic writer whose surviving material veers from elegiac beauty to surpassing daftness. If any constant can be traced through his work, good, bad or indifferent, it is that of schoolboy rebellion against "all authority not based on courage and manhood." Among other qualities, he shared with Crowley a conviction that "the key of joy is disobedience," and "conjured up" Marjorie Cameron to help him live it to the full.Read more ›
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bill Wallace on August 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What a frustrating book . . . . An incredibly fascinating set of locales, ideas and characters: magick, rockets, early sci fi utopian dreamers, and a writing style that manages to make it all about as interesting as a history of, say, the ball-bearing industry. The book truly comes across as someone's notes for a book they never quite got around to writing. NOTHING comes to life in it; there is no vitality in any of the descriptions, no attempt to make any kind of meaning out of the details of Parsons' life. R.A. Wilson's lively intro only makes you realize how flat and colorless the rest of the book is. Still, for a glimpse into a world that begs for better documentation, this is worthwhile reading. Where else can you get a straightforward account of L. Ron Hubbard as a wife-stealing conman? Sex-magick Crowleyites in 1940s suburbia? Frontiers of science, magick, and social experimentation, all happening at the same time and the same place?
Worthwhile as a map, but not much fun as a journey . . ..
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Lux on January 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jack/John Parsons was a polarized man with expansive influences in modern day America. As John Parsons, he was a father of solid rocket fuel, the third most influential man in rocket history (according to pioneer Theodore von Karman), and a co-founder of both NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Aerojet Corporation. He was a self-taught experimenter whose work rivaled that of PhDs. As Jack Parsons, on the other hand, he called himself The Antichrist and ran an occult lodge practicing Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orrentis and the Thelemic rituals. With L. Ron Hubbard (later founder of Scientology), he practiced dark Babalon rituals to raise spiritual elementals and gain a higher awareness.

Author Carter uses public records, media sources, books, NASA archives, letters, and more to recount the life of the enigmatic Parsons. He is painfully meticulous in his telling of the story (some details are a bit too much unless you are an extreme fanatic of either rockets or Crowley). In Chapters 7 and 8, for example, every second of the Babalon rituals, lasting 12 days in one case, is recounted. The author even fills in portions of the ritual that are missing from Parsons's own notes. As a contribution to the occult record, these may be significant to get on paper once, but they are very trying for the armchair aerospace enthusiast to absorb. The author's research has revealed untruths in other published accounts, and he has the facts to back up his version of the events. Carter gives all his sources in footnotes and several extensive appendices, as well as references within the text to other worthwhile sources.

Carter seems to be a bit inexperienced as a writer. He does some odd foreshadowing that just seems to hang.
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