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S U N SH IN E

OR

NOIR?

mind those ‘superscientists’, the Rosicrucians and Theosophists, as well as more ephemeral sects (the Church of Psychic Science, the Metaphysical Science Association, and so on), who exploited the public’s simultaneous awe and mystification in the face of strange new disciplines like quantum mechanics and psychoanalysis. Before the emergence of a full-fledged, alternative ‘science fiction’ milieu in the 1940s, and in the absence of any truly popular culture of science, they filled in the cracks between ignorance and invention, and mediated between science and theology. A more bizarre liaison, however, directly connected the oldest metaphysic, the Luciferian Magick or Black Art, to Cai Tech and the founders of the American Rocket State, and then, through an extraordinary ménage à trois, to the first world religion created by a science-fiction writer. Cai Tech’s connection with the emergence of Scientology can be briefly retold here (relying heavily on Russell Miller’s account). Sometime during the 1930s one Wilfred Smith founded a Pasadena branch (‘the Agape Lodge’) of the Ordo Templi Orìentis (OTO) - a German-origin brotherhood of magicians (and spies) that had come under the spell of Aleister Crowley, the notorious Edwardian sorcerer and ‘most hated man in England’.106 For several years the Agape Lodge quietly succored Satan and his ‘Great Beast’ (Crowley) with contributions, while secretly diverting Pasadenans with the amusements of sexual necromancy. Then, sometime in 1939, the Lodge fell under the patronage and leadership of John Parsons, a young L. A. aristocrat and pioneer of Cai Tech rocketry (later a founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory). During the day, Parsons worked at the Cai Tech labs or the Devil’s Gate test range with the great Theodore von Karman, perfecting propellant systems for liquid-fuel rockets; at night, he returned to his mansion on Pasadena’ s ‘millionaires row’ (South Orange Grove Avenue) to perform blasphemous rituals (with, for example, naked pregnant women leaping through fire circles) in his secret OTO ‘temple’ under the long­ distance direction of Crowley.107 Aside from being a world-famous rocket pioneer and a secret wizard, Parsons was also a devoted science fiction fan who attended meetings of the Los Angeles Fantasy and Science Fiction Society to hear writers talk about their books. One day in August 1945, to Parsons’s delight, a LAFSFS acquaintance showed up at the Orange Grove mansion with a young naval officer, Lt. Commander L. Ron Hubbard, who had already established a

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