Here’s a book review posted at All Uncle Joe’s Expressos of a French publication, a book titled Mojave Epiphany, a secret history of the American space program , by Ewen Chardronnet. This details the history of Jack Parsons and the Suicide Squad and their pioneering work in rocketry. This book is only available in French. Here’s a Google translation.
Everything could start with a photograph, which is reproduced in the iconographic notebook placed at the end of Mojave Epiphany: five young people lying or sitting in front of a curious metal assembly from which cables escape, with, slightly behind -plan, a stack of what appear to be sandbags. We must recognize here the initial team of the “Rocket GALCIT Research Group”, during the “first test of October 31, 1936”. The small group gives the impression of the most perfect relaxation. There is really nothing to do with it, because sometimes it jumps … Testing rocket fuel and handling highly explosive and unstable chemicals is a pretty random safety activity: Jack Parsons, the star of group, will leave life there.
Ewen Chardonnet has subtitled this very remarkable essay “a secret history of the American space program” and not “the secret history of the American space program”: there is a nuance, and it is important. Stories, secret or not, there are many, some excellent. But none is like Mojave Epiphany, at least in the French language. And even in the English language, moreover, I am not sure that we find a synthesis of this quality, managing to make coherent an adventure with the unexpected developments and the repercussions as varied as distant, touching the fields of the technique, sciences, politics, philosophy, arts, and even occultism, covering the period 1935-1955.Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons (2004), by John Carter, and Strange Angel, the Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons (2005), by George Pendle -, Ewen Chardonnet seems to me the first to propose a painting as clear and complete the baroque epic of these pioneers with such singular personalities, as well as the complex and rapidly evolving scientific, political and cultural background in which it fits.
The sci-fi lover will see a lot of well-known names: Jack Parsons and his “suicide squad” friends were usually passionate about the genre. It will be question of Ray Bradbury, Jack Williamson – Jack Parsons, was fascinated by his classic novel Darker than you think – Cleve Cartmill – less famous than these two masters, but as we know mixed, with his body defending , to an alleged affair of atomic espionage – and of course Robert A. Heinlein, of which we can say that he was just as original as his friend Jack Parsons, even though much less crazy (although it can be discussed … ). (Robert A. Heinlein is anyway a key figure of the time, it is enough to be convinced to read Solution unsatisfactory, the essential collection published in 2009 under the leadership of Éric Picholle in the “Hyperboles” collection of Éditions du Somnium).
Equally inevitable, but much less recommendable, Lafayette Ron Hubbard will be a part of Jack Parsons’ entourage for too long and will actively participate in his “enochian” magic sessions: the rocket scientist was an enthusiastic supporter of English mage Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) and the esoteric-sexual ceremonies that go with … By and large, Parsons was playing John Dee, and Ron Hubbard playing Kelley. For Jack Parsons, magic was not a joke, it was a philosophy of life, and most importantly, it works. A world where magic works as indisputably as applied science, this is an idea that Robert Heinlein will use to feed John Campbell’s Unknown magazine as a complement to Astounding. Jack Parsons really lived in this kind of universe.
If Jack Parsons gets attention by his eccentricities, his friend Frank Joseph Malina seems cut in quite a different stuff. His career will be much longer – he died in 1981, while Parsons died in 1952 in an accidental explosion – but also significantly richer. Ewen Chardronnet is also largely interested in his steps to lead the narrative, and we feel that he feels a lot of sympathy for this engineer who has become a senior UNESCO official who, at some point in his life, will opt for artistic activity. Thanks to the reading of Mojave Epiphany, I admit to having discovered the “kinetic art”, which Frank Malina, who will become a close friend of Ray Bradbury, has promoted, and the Leonardo Journal that he founded in 1967,
Another fascinating figure of these American pioneers of astronautics is actually … a Chinese. Studied in the United States, Tsien Hsue-shen (1911-2009) should have become one of the pioneers of American space research, without the “red fear”, the hysterical hunt for Communists of which he will be a victim, as well as , to varying degrees, all his colleagues and friends at the time (Parsons will be a little bit bored for his alleged sectarian activities, but just a little bit, because we still feel that it is much less serious than being forced to leave the United States in 1955 because of unfounded accusations, he will become one of the main leaders of the Chinese space program. One feels that there is still a great deal to be written about the too discreet career – seen from France – of this Son of Heaven.
And then, there are women … “And what women! Exclaimed, admiringly, the erotomaniac friend who urged me to read Mojave Epiphany, whom I thank here respecting his anonymity for understandable reasons and whom I suspect were more impressed by the the atmosphere of sexual freedom in Jack Parsons’ entourage only by the secret history of the American space program itself … The period of the war was conducive to women’s emancipation, with women gaining access to positions previously exclusively reserved for men, which helped to bring down many inhibitions. Marjorie Cameron (1922-1995), once the wife of Jack Parsons, is unquestionably the most flamboyant. She will play a Babalon – Crowley’s “Scarlet Woman” – quite convincing, at enochian magic ceremonies held in the early 1940s in the “Parsonage” (South Passadena, California), nickname of the property of Jack Parsons. Her occultist convictions will permeate the artistic career she will pursue later, whether in the field of poetry, painting or film. His portrait of Jack Parsons, “The Dark Angel,” is a testament to the time of his debut among rocket launchers.
The quality of a study of this type is often reflected in its notes, in that they should not only shed light on the subject under discussion, but also open new fields of investigation. So, in an ultimate attempt to sharpen the reader’s curiosity, in case the foregoing would not be enough, I will quote in full the note (1) on page 111 of Mojave Epiphany, regarding Crowley’s supposed political ideas and their connection. eventual with his occultist vision (highly problematic subject). Ewen Chardronnet is brought to mention the existence of the current of “communist spiritualists”, an expression that can disconcert … And yet:
“The protean character of the various readings of a spiritualist communism contemporary with the Russian revolution is difficult to summarize. But we can evoke the “hylozoist” way of the French Christian Rose-Croix, French Communist François Jollivet-Castelot; that of the heirs of the cosmos of the Orthodox Nikolai Fyodorov, who claimed that a peasant with feet in the ground was just as initiated as a scholarly scholar, who was against any hierarchy in spiritual initiation and thought the “common cause »; that of the old Bolsheviks “builders of God” or “empirio-monists”; that of the defenders of the egalitarian egalitarianism of the shamanic primitive community; the passion for naked Doukhobor walkers of the sects specialist of the Bolshevik Party Vladimir Bontch-Bruyevich; that of clairvoyants of the Kremlin or, more generally, architects of a red esotericism conceived as a clever inversion of gnosis. “
This is a great departure from the US space program, but probably announces a substantive work to come from Ewen Chardronnet on the “spiritualistic communism” … Those that this type of movement leaves doubtful can read meanwhile the test of Roger Facon, Fulcanelli & the Red Alchemists, which has just been published by Editions de l’Oeil du Sphinx, and which demonstrates its existence in France. Decidedly, the readings of the summer lead to everything!
The review is posted here: http://www.actusf.com/spip/L-expresso-de-L-oncle-Joe-30.html.
Thanks to Hymenaeus Beta for the tip!