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Great moments in Scientology journalism: When Alex Mitchell blew the lid off ‘Babalon Working’

[Occultist Aleister Crowley and his American pupil]

Our helper who tracks down old newspaper clippings about Scientology sent us a real classic this week, something we haven’t seen in a while. It’s one of the most epic journalistic exposes in Scientology’s history, and one that every serious Scientology watcher should have a copy of — Alex Mitchell’s 1969 Sunday Times of London piece that revealed L. Ron Hubbard’s involvement with rocket scientist Jack Parsons and their 1946 sex magick rituals which Parsons referred to as “The Babalon Working” experiments.

Today, it’s one of those things we take for granted, that Hubbard and his Pasadena pal spent 1946 turning the ideas of English occultist Aleister Crowley into a series of odd rituals in pursuit of a “moonchild.” But it was an Australian journalist, Mitchell, who first brought that information to the world in a piece that still holds up very well.

We had the pleasure of meeting Alex in Sydney on our book tour in 2015. Journalists Steve Cannane and Bryan Seymour included Mitchell in our appearance at the Giant Dwarf in a sold out show. Mitchell told a hilarious story about the time he was so determined to get an interview with Hubbard, he followed him into the toilet at a Moroccan restaurant and tried to question him while the Commmodore was at a urinal taking a whizz.

Talk about dedication. And that’s why Mitchell produced a series of big scoops on Scientology at the time. So we thought we’d pay him homage and give our thanks to all of the great journalists who have worked so hard to get stories out of this secretive group. We dropped him a line, asking him to introduce for us his classic piece. Here’s what he sent us…

When I arrived in London in the late 1960s to work on the Sunday Times, media articles about L Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology tended to fall into two distinct categories. They were either about distraught parents whose children had been “captured” by the organisation or bizarre revelations from refugees who had fled the group. In 1969, two of my editors at the Sunday Times, fellow Australian Bruce Page and Magnus Linklater who later became editor of The Scotsman in Edinburgh, wanted me to pursue quite different angles. They tasked me to research who was behind the formation of Scientology, how was it founded and what was its philosophy?


I spent weeks gathering material from the London organisation in Tottenham Court Road and the UK headquarters in East Grinstead, Sussex. I interviewed dozens of Scientologists but the real pay dirt came from ex-members who had used their time in the organisation to study it in depth, to ask questions, to listen to “old war stories” from senior cult members and to hoard newsletters, internal manuals, magazines and books. I filled boxes with information.

My most intriguing discovery, however, was the post-World War II connection between unimpressive science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, a notorious fabulist, and rocket scientist Jack Parsons, who dabbled in erotic sex and the occult. Their friendship was quite eccentric, but one of my London contacts took the Hubbard-Parsons connection a step further when he added British occultist Aleister Crowley to the mix. In the UK, Crowley’s reputation was unshakably established as “The Beast,” the country’s leading Satanist and Fleet Street’s “wickedest man in the world.” Crowley, who died in 1947, had founded his own religion called Thelema based on ancient Egyptian ceremony, supernatural spirits and the occult. He attracted an upper class following because he also coloured his “religion” with exotic costumes and erotic sex. In California, Hubbard and Parsons became devotees too and the seeds of the Church of Scientology were sewn.

My investigation, “The Odd Beginning of Ron Hubbard’s Career,” published in the Sunday Times on 5 October 1969, caused panic and havoc in the ranks of Scientology. I received a rash of phone calls from the Sunday Times switchboard – this was well before the existence of mobile phones, emails, or laptops – asking me to phone reporters from other London newspapers and from news desks in New York and Los Angeles. They were pleading for commentary, more leads, and additional information. I checked with my editors who advised that I should do nothing. They were adamant: “You’ve written your story, it has been checked and re-checked, the lawyers have passed it, reporters should be calling Ron Hubbard and not you.”


[Alex Mitchell a few years ago when his memoir was published, and as a young reporter]

Thanks very much for that, Alex. And now, here’s his great piece of investigative journalism…


Revealed for the first time…
The odd beginnings of Ron Hubbard’s career

By Alexander Mitchell
Sunday Times of London
October 5, 1969

In 1946 Aleister Crowley, the sorcerer and mystic whose dabblings in black magic earned him the title The Wickedest Man in the World, found a new disciple and welcomed him to one of his occult communities in California. The extraordinary activities of this new and enthusiastic disciple are described in a vast collection of papers owned by a former admirer of Crowley, which we have examined. The man in question is Lafayette Ron Hubbard, head of the now notorious Church of Scientology.

John Whiteside Parsons, a brilliant rocket fuel scientist, joined the American branch of Crowley’s cult in 1939. He struck up earnest correspondence with “The Beast 666,” as Crowley was known by his followers, and soon became his outstanding protege in the United States. by January, 1946, Parsons was impatient to break new frontiers in the occult world. He decided to take the spirit of Babalon, the “whore of Babylon,” and invest it in a human being.

But to carry out this intricate mission Parsons needed a female sexual partner to create his child in the astral (spiritual) world. If this part of the fixture went successfully Parsons would be able to call down the spiritual baby and direct it to a human womb. When born, this child would incarnate the forces of Babalon. During his magical preparations for this incarnation Parsons found himself overwhelmed with assistance from a young novitiate named Ron Hubbard.

Parsons wrote to Crowley at the beginning of 1946. “He (Hubbard) is a gentleman, red hair, green eyes, honest and intelligent and we have become great friends. Although he has no formal training in magic he has an extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field. Ron appears to have some sort of highly developed astral vision. He describes his angel as a beautiful winged woman with red hair whom he calls the Empress and who has guided him through his life and saved him many times.” He concluded almost ecstatically, “He is in complete accord with our own principles. I have found a staunch companion and comrade in Ron.”

But within two months the bonds of friendship were under some strain: Ron claimed Parsons’ girl-friend, Betty [a/k/a Sara Northrup]. With admirable restraint Parsons wrote to Crowley, “She has transferred her sexual affection to Ron. I cared for her rather deeply but I have no desire to control her emotions.” As if to cement their loyalties Parsons, Hubbard and Betty decided to pool their finances and form a business relationship.

Meanwhile preparations for the mystical mission were well under way. From January 4 to 15, 1946, Parsons and Hubbard engaged in a nightly ritual of incantation, talisman-waving and other black magic faithfully described in Parsons’ diary as Conjuration of Air, Invocation of Wand and Consecration of Air Dagger. With a Prokofiev violin concerto blaring away the two of them pleaded with the spirits for “an elemental mate” — a girl willing to go through sexual rites to incarnate Babalon in the spirit world.

Parsons mentions that windstorms occurred on a couple of nights and one night the power supply failed. But nothing seriously responsive until January 14, when Ron was struck on the right shoulder and had a candle knocked out of his hand. “He called me,” Parsons wrote, “and we observed a brownish yellow light about seven feet high. I brandished a magical sword and it disappeared. Ron’s right arm was paralyzed for the rest of the night.”

The following night was even more portentious. Hubbard apparently saw a vision of one of Parsons’ enemies. Parsons wrote, “He attacked the figure and pinned it to the door with four throwing knives with which he is expert.” For four days Parsons and Hubbard were in a state of tension. Then, on January 18, Parsons turned to Ron and said, “It is done.” He added, “I returned home and found a young woman answering the requirements waiting for me.”

The incarnation ritual set out in Parsons’ manuscript, The Book of Babalon, is difficult reading for the unconfirmed spiritualist. Broadly interpreted, Parsons and Hubbard constructed an altar and Hubbard acted as high priest during a series of ceremonies in which Parsons and the girl shared sex. The owner of the documents, who is an expert on Crowley’s magic, says that Parsons at this stage was completely under Hubbard’s domination. How else can one explain Hubbard’s role as High priest in the rites after only a few weeks in the trade?

For the first of the birth ceremonies which began on March 1 Hubbard wore white and carried a lamp while Parsons was cloaked in a black, hooded garment carrying a cup and dagger. At Hubbard’s suggestion they played Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead as background music.

Parsons’ account of the start of the birth ritual is as follows: “The Scribe (Hubbard) said ‘The year of Babalon is 4063. She is the flame of life, power of darkness, she destroys with a glance, she may take thy soul. She feeds upon the death of men. Beautiful — horrible.’ The scribe, now pale and sweating, rested awhile, then continued.” There are two possible reasons why Hubbard showed anxiety at this stage of the ceremony, the owner of the papers says. He was either deeply moved by the spiritual depth of the ceremony or he couldn’t think what to say next.

Hubbard further instructed Parsons: “Display thyself to our lady; dedicate thy organs to her; dedicate thy heart to her; display thy mind to her; dedicate thy soul to her, for she shall absorb thee. Retire from human contact until noon tomorrow. Discuss nothing of it. Consult no book but thine own mind. Thou art a god. Behave at this altar as one god before another.”

On the third day the ritual began four hours before dawn. Ron tells his companion, “Lay out a white sheet. Place upon it blood of birth. Envision her approaching thee. Think upon the lewd, lascivious things thou coulds’t do. All is good to Babalon. All. Preserve the material basis. The lust is hers, the passion yours. Consider thou the Beast raping.” These invocations along with other passages in the ritual indicates that Parsons had collected specimens of his own sperm and the girl’s menstrual fluid.

The climax of the ceremony occurred the following day with Ron at the altar working his two subjects into a sexual frenzy. Over Rachmaninoff he intoned such gems as:

Her mouth is red and her breasts are fair and her loins are full of fire,
And her lust is strong as a man is strong in the heat of her desire.

An exalted Parsons wrote the next day, “Babalon is incarnate upon the earth today awaiting the proper hour of her manifestation. And in that day my work will be accomplished and I shall be blown away up on the breath of the father even as it is prophecied.” (In fact, Parsons was “blown away” in a rocket fuel explosion at his experimental laboratory in Pasadena in 1952).

Unable to contain his joy, Parsons decided to tell Crowley what had happened. On March 6 he wrote, “I can hardly tell you or decide how much to write. I am under command of extreme secrecy. I have had the most important devastating experience of my life.” Crowley was dumbfounded by the news of the incarnation ceremony. He wrote back, “You have me completely puzzled by your remarks. I thought I had the most morbid imagination but it seems I have not. I cannot form the slightest idea what you can possibly mean.”

With a distinct note of concern he dashed off a letter on the same day to the head of his American cult saying, “Apparently Parsons or Hubbard or somebody is producing a Moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts.” (This acid rebuke comes for a man whose activities were once summed up by a judge like this: “I have never heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous and abominable stuff as that which has been produced by the man who describes himself as the greatest living poet.”)

By May that same year Crowley was not only concerned about Parsons’s spiritual wellbeing. There was a small matter of certain moneys. When the trio formed their business enterprise, Parsons is believed to have put in 17,000 dollars, Hubbard about 1,000 dollars and Betty nothing. Using about 10,000 dollars of the money, Hubbard and his newly-acquainted girlfriend, Betty, bought a yacht. A report to the head of the American branch by another cult member says, “Ron and Betty have their boat at Miami, Florida, and are living the life of Riley, while Brother John (Parsons) is living at rock-bottom, and I mean rock-bottom.”

In a more sinister way the report added, “Let us consider this matter of the magical child which Jack Parsons is supposed to turn loose on the world in nine months (now seven). Ron the Seer, was the guy who laid down the main ideas, technic (sic), etc., of said operation.”

On reading Parsons’s accounts of the ceremony and the reports from branch headquarters in America, Crowley cabled his U.S. office on May 22: “Suspect Ron playing confidence trick — Jack Parons weak fool — obvious victim prowling swindlers.” In a letter a few days later he said, “It seems to me on the information of our brethren in California that Parsons has got an illumination in which he lost all his personal independence. From our brother’s account he has given away both his girl and his money. Apparently it is the ordinary confidence trick.”

A much-chastened Parsons wrote to Crowley on July 5: “Here I am in Miami pursuing the children of my folly. I have them well tied up. They cannot move without going to jail. However, I am afraid that most of the money has already been spent. I will be lucky to salvage 3,000 to 5,000 dollars.” Just how Parsons managed to capture the errant lovers is in keeping with the other extraordinary chapters of this story. “Hubbard attempted to escape me,” Parsons wrote, “by sailing at 5 p.m. and performed a full invocation to Bartzabel within the circle at 8 p.m. (a curse). At the same time, however, his ship was struck by a sudden squall off the coast which ripped off his sails and forced him back to port where I took the boat in custody.

Parsons recovered financially and possibly as a backlash to his experience with Hubbard he took the Oath of the Anti-Christ in 1948 and changed his name to Belarion Armiluss Al Dajjal AntiChrist. In his scientology publications Hubbard says of the period, “Crippled and blinded at the end of the war I resumed studies of philosophy and by my discoveries recovered so fully that I was reclassified in 1949 for full combat duty.”

Hubbard claims that more than two dozen thinkers, prophets and psychologists influenced scientology (which he launched in 1951); everyone from Plato, Jesus of Nazareth to Sigmund Freud whome he say he studied under in Vienna. The record can now be righted with the inclusion of Aleister Crowley, the Beast 666.


HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,656 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,253 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,293 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,005 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 472 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,590 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,760 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,080 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,055 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 411 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,713 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 820 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,222 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,095 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 676 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,181 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,425 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,534 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 7, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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