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Jack Parsons (rocket engineer) (wikipedia.org)
61 points by lproven 31 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments

Past related threads:

Jack Parsons and the Occult Roots of JPL - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18715733 - Dec 2018 (63 comments)

The Last of the Magicians: On Jack Parsons and JPL - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8831746 - Jan 2015 (5 comments)

Jack Parsons: Occultist involved in early rocketry - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7641580 - April 2014 (97 comments)

I quite enjoyed the TV series made about Jack Parsons a few years back; Strange Angel


Unfortunately it ended (cancelled) just when L Ron Hubbard knocked on the door and things started to get interesting.

There's also a book about him by the same title.

Our society doesn't welcome people like this anymore. I'm amazed we managed to make use of Mr Parsons at all; just the great luck of having someone in authority notice him when they needed a gifted pyromaniac prophet.

Humans rely heavily on social proof and familiarity to make decisions. There is social pressure to be normal and stick with the herd or only try small innovations on or close to the bounds of acceptable thought. But in contrast it is difficult to make serious contributions to state-of-the-art without being some combination of insane, obsessive or twisted. It can be done, but someone who just wants to set fire to everything is just going to learn more about fire than everyone else. While normal people don't learn how to do abnormal things.

The whole trick is setting up a society where strange people can make outsized constructive contributions even if society at large is trying to hit them with all the bullying tools it uses to make people stand in line. That is part of why liberty is so important, and why it is necessary to accept people even if they are just wrong about a belief.

> a society where strange people can make outsized constructive contributions even if society at large is trying to hit them with all the bullying tools it uses to make people stand in line

This is a huge generalisations: what "bulling tools" and what "strange"-ness? Social pressure can be used for bad, but it can also be used for good - it binds the fabric of society together.

There's that principle in tech of "not tolerating assholes/toxic people". How does someone strange differ (according to all opinions" from a (perceived) asshole?

> not tolerating assholes/toxic people

Both of those descriptions are metaphorical. I don't know what you mean, and neither do most of the people reading the comment because different people use the words very differently.

So while I do put in an effort to respond to questions in this case I cannot.

I'm not sure they are metaphorical, beyond the sense that nearly all words are. But in any case, isn't it the point that this is subjective? But so is what constitutes a "strange [person]". Is an anti-vaxer "strange", or an "asshole"?

It's not like every society is based on well defined unambiguous rules, sometimes (not) sticking to convention is what discriminates the geniuses and serial killers alike.

> Amid McCarthyism, Parsons was accused of espionage and left unable to work in rocketry.

I would say his own society wasn’t very welcoming of him. As I recall he kept his occult interests mostly under wraps and his career was finished once it no longer was, subsequently dead during the McCarthy era.

What is it is the other way around?

That he progressed so far because of his occult roots, but that we don't hear about this sort of thing so much nowadays?

PS I personally find it, erm, disconcerting, that someone with a background in magic was able to reach these sorts of heights.

> someone with a background in magic was able to reach these sorts of heights

Per sibling comment, it doesn't seem surprisingly that someone willing the push the bounds of scientific knowledge also pushed the bounds of thought.

And ultimately, that's what experimental science is supposed to be about -- either the thing works or it doesn't. No consideration of the inventor's other qualities.

On the other, non-scientific hand, I would have been surprised if he wasn't rejected for a security clearance though!

The though was unconventional, but I wouldn't necessarily say it was innovative - arguably scientific principles are more innovative and unintuitive than the occult philosophies that preceded them.

> that's what experimental science is supposed to be about

science is supposed to build up knowledge. You shouldn't really be testing things without establishing its basis, otherwise you can't really evaluate the results anyway.

I think that ordering is a modern science vs early science distinction.

Most of the early principles of gravity, motion, electricity, and magnetism were observed and experimentally tested before having a basis to evaluate them.

Heck, even quantum mechanics was (and arguably, still is, in un-unified form) experimentally characterized before an explanation (see: double-slit results).

sure, but the occult appears to take e.g. the existence of certain spirits/deities as granted, despite having no experimental confirmation.

How would a ritual dependant on such lore be objective?

He was tuned a bit more open that is ideal, though. And by a bit I mean way way more open.

Behind the bastards has a hilarious episode about it https://www.iheart.com/podcast/105-behind-the-bastards-29236...

This series has recently been recommended to me, but I haven’t had a chance to get into it. Thanks for the specific recommendation.

Aleister Crowley is now mostly forgotten, but he seemed to be fairly influential in his time.

Maybe he still is: https://unherd.com/2021/09/satanism-is-everywhere/ He called himself the most influential person of the 20th century.

I'm surprised the scientol ogists haven't managed to remove all the deeply unflattering references to Hubbard in that Wikipedia article.

I'm a big fan of this audio retelling of a bit of his life:


Subject of a cool song by The Claypool Lennon Delirium


When I read more about the Thelema occult, I hardly could find anything particular to justify it as an occult. Is not almost everyone today trying to find his/her true will?

The answer is that people don't ever think for themselves. If you say to them that something is occultist, or a cult, or a conspiracy theory, then that's what they think, and they won't consider it. In reality, 'occult' belief systems like Thelema or even Satanism are far less mystical than mainstream religions like Christianity, with its con/transubstantiation etc.

My guess is the wife swapping. Nothing offends age of Osiris leaders more than the idea of someone else sleeping with their wife.

This is easily the most amazing read on Wikipedia.

Honestly I would love to see a movie about his life!

I am very sorry for the shameless plug, but if you look for more amazing reads on Wikipedia, I built a little site which aggregates and ranks interesting Wikipedia artices. [0]

For example it's the reason I read this article.

[0] https://www.mostdiscussed.com/

I thought so too! That's why I posted it, of course. Every paragraph had something new to make my eyebrows reach for the sky.

Same thing but in form of a song -

Blood and Rockets https://youtu.be/XcOHiGonWwU

There was a comic-book format biography not too long ago.

He wasn't, apparently, clinically insane. He just got his brain taken over by demanding memes. Not so different from QAnon or Flat Earth sufferers today. (Or, really, lots of religions.)

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