Jack Parson’s copy of The Equinox

Currently on sale at Weiser books – for $20,000 – a full set of the first (and arguably only real) volume of Aleister Crowley’s periodical, The Equinox, as used by Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard in the Babalon Working:

From the site’s description:

A complete set of the ten numbers which make up the first series (or ‘volume’) of “The Equinox,” published biannually between 1909 & 1913. This set is the ‘Standard’ issue, which comprised an edition of 1000 copies for the early numbers, and less (probably 500) for the later nos. Crowley was of course the editor and principal author of most of the volumes of The Equinox, which contained a variety of poetry, fiction, and reviews – generally with esoteric themes – alongside a number of articles of occult instruction. It is widely acknowledged as one of the landmarks of occult literature, and comprises ten huge volumes – over 4400 pages – including numerous colour and black and white illustrations, tables etc.

The set originally belonged to Wilfred Talbot Smith, a long term associate of Aleister Crowley, and subject of Martin Starr’s biography “The Unknown God.” The cloth backed paper-covered boards of “The Equinox” series are notoriously fragile, and Smith had the set rebound in sturdy cloth. Smith had been effective second in command of “Agape Lodge” of the Ordo Templi Orientis, in Vancouver, and went on to found “The Church of Thelema,” and to head the “Agape Lodge” in California. In June 1944 Smith presented the set to Jack Parsons (1914 – 1952), rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology and co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who had succeeded him as head of Agape Lodge in 1942. At the time Smith inscribed “Aurevoir Jack Parsons from W.T.S 6/18/44).” It was obviously a “working set” as is evidenced by a dribble of wax on the boards of No. 10 and other signs of use. In the final years of his life Parsons, who was struggling financially after being forced out of JPL and toyed with the idea of emigrating, either sold or gave the set to Gabriel Montenegro Vargas (1907-1969). “Monty” – also known as “Frater Zopiron” a IX member of the O.T.O., was the last person to be initiated into Agape Lodge. Each volume also has his Thelemic bookplate on the inside front cover.

Jack Parsons by Marjorie Cameron
Jack Parsons by Marjorie Cameron

The Babalon Working was a ritual carried out by Marvel Whiteside “Jack” Parsons (rocket propulsion genius, founder of the Jet Propulsion Lab at CalTech and leader of the Californian Thelemite Agape Lodge) and Hubbard (you know who he is) to summon the Scarlet Woman with whom Parsons would usher in the Age of Horus as prophesied by Crowley in The Book of the Law. This was no small beer. When the flame-haired Marjorie Cameron shortly came into their lives, the ritual was declared a success, and they proceeded to attempt to create a moonchild. More successful, however, was Hubbard’s attempt to fuck off in a boat he’d tricked Parson into paying for. You can read the story in John Carter’s Sex and Rockets (Feral House, 1999) which may not be the most academic, but is a great read.

UPDATE: It’s been sold. Please comment below if you know who bought it.

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3 thoughts on “Jack Parson’s copy of The Equinox

  1. Carole Cusack February 8, 2012 / 12:33 pm

    David, such synchronicity. I was in Bowral (in the Southern Highlands, about two hours from Sydney) a few weeks ago, and bought George Pendle’s Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons (2006), which I recommend unreservedly (particularly as we wandered the tree-lined avenues of Pasadena while staying in Los Angeles last year). It was $65, more than I’d usually spend, but worth every cent. Cheers Carole

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