8. Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword by John Whiteside Parsons
Publication Date: 1989
John Whiteside (Jack) Parsons (1914-1952) was a rocket scientist, occultist and member of Agape Lodge of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. His eloquent writing on the human condition and the crisis in American society convey passion, intelligence and deep conviction. Written around 1950, these essays are now, decades later, still strikingly prophetic. His introductory essays on magick and witchcraft are classics of lucidity. This volume makes available for the first time all of Parsons’ surviving essays, edited by his wife and student, Cameron, in collaboration with Frater Superior Hymenaus Beta, the head of O.T.O.
Why Counterculture Conservatives Should Read It:
Jack Parsons was one of Crowley’s most devoted practitioners of his magical system. He too embraced Crowley’s radical individualism and understood the connections to political liberty. His essay Freedom is a Two-Edged sword sets the standard for the pro-American, anti-Marxist, anti-Fascist, classical liberal, counterculture polemic. It reverberates with Parson’s distinct prose. Here’s an excerpt from a passage some might find still relevant more than 60 years later:
Freedom is a two-edged sword. He who believes that the absolute rightness of his belief is an authority to suppress the rights and opinions of his fellows cannot be a liberal. Liberalism cannot exist where it violates its own principles. It cannot exist where the emergency monger or the utopia salesman can obtain a suspension of rights, whether temporary or permanent. Liberty cannot be suppressed in order to defend liberalism.
If we are to achieve a democracy, the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of states must be openly defined and ardently defended. It is inconceivable that men who fought and died in a war against totalitarianism did not know what they fought for. It seems a fantastic joke that the institutions they believed in and defended have turned, like a nightmare, into home-grown tyrannies. A generation went down in blood and agony to make the world “safe” but the evil that makes the world “unsafe” still goes undefeated, plotting new sacrifices of misery and blood. The guilt lies not entirely with the warmongers, plutocrats and demagogues. If a people permit exploitation and regimentation in any name, they deserve their slavery. A tyrant does not make his tyranny. It is made possible by his people and not otherwise.
Much of our modern thought is characterized by pretenses and evasions, by appeals to ultimate authorities which are non- liberal, superstitious and reactionary. Often we are not aware of these thought processes. We accept ideas, authorities, catch- phrases and conditions without troubling to think or investigate and yet these things may conceal terrible traps. We accept them as right because they have a surface-level agreement with the things in which we believe. We welcome the man who is for liberalism, against communism, without troubling to inquire what else he is for or against. In our blindness we leave ourselves open to exploitation, regimentation and war.
9. Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons by George Pendle
Publication Date: February 6, 2006
ROCKET SCIENTIST KILLED IN PASADENA EXPLOSION screamed the headline of the Los Angeles Times. John Parsons, a maverick rocketeer who helped transform the rocket from a derided sci-fi plotline into a reality, was at first mourned as a scientific prodigy. But reporters soon uncovered a more shocking story: Parsons had been a devotee of black magic.
George Pendle re-creates the world of John Parsons in this dazzling portrait of prewar superstition, cold war paranoia, and futuristic possibility. Fueled by childhood dreams of space flight, Parsons was a leader of the motley band of enthusiastic young men who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a cornerstone of the American space program. But Parsons’s wild imagination also led him into the occult- for if he could make rocketry a reality, why not magic?
With a cast of characters including Howard Hughes, L. Ron Hubbard, and Robert Heinlein, Strange Angel explores the unruly consequences of genius.
Why Capitalist Wizards Should Read It:
In future editions of this list I’ll move this title to a collection of biographies (and also compare it with a competing book, Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons). But I chose to include this thoroughly-researched biography here because Parsons the occultist and Classical Liberal needs to be understood also in the context of Parsons the major rocket scientist, Parsons the wealthy self-made entrepreneur, Parsons the countercultural inspiration to science fiction authors, and Parsons the psychologically disturbed fool fighting personal demons, conned out of his savings by a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard. All of these pieces need to be understood as interrelated. We need to learn from the mistakes of those who came before us — including how to recognize and fight demons, the subject of Ann Coulter’s 2011 book Demonic…