Pasadena Babalon

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Pasadena Babalon by George D Morgan.

Morgan Pasadena Babalon

Pasadena Babalon is George Morgan’s 2009 dramatic depiction of the life of rocketry pioneer and occultist Jack Parsons. As such, it was preceded by the 47-minute Jet-Propelled Antichrist (2006) of Ackerman and DuQuette and followed by the ongoing Strange Angel (2018- ) television series of Mark Heyman. Pasadena Babalon debuted onstage at the California Institute of Technology in 2010, and my copy of the book represents the “12/15/2014 draft” of the script.

Most of the play’s characters are historical persons, and the fictional ones are carefully distinguished in the “character breakdown” prefaced to the text. Given the facts that Mason gets right and some of the emphases of his presentation, I suspect that he relied heavily on the 2005 Parsons biography Strange Angel by George Pendle. Like Pendle, Mason starts the story with the explosion in which Parsons died.

The play uses a few “FBI-ish” interrogation scenes with Jack as a suspected Communist to create narrative framing. One invented character is Madam B, a clairvoyant boarder at Parsons’ Pasadena mansion who supplies dramatic irony by accurately telling their fates to those she encounters. There are a few scenes with cleverly-written fugues and montages to represent such developments as the Arroyo Seco rocketry experiments and Jack’s stint at JPL. Another effective dramatic element consists of astral colloquies between Jack and and his spiritual father Crowley.

The script’s representations of Thelemic occultism are largely shallow and unpersuasive. Despite the mention of sex magick, Jack’s ritual praxis is reduced to chants in dog Latin more suited to Harry Potter. The repeated references to “the Babalon Goddess” are clinkers in Thelemic argot. Another is having Helen refer to “the Laws of Thelema.”

In my own reading, I was in part concerned to evaluate the text as a possible candidate for readers theater within a private study group. Ultimately, I decided that it would not serve this purpose well, in part because of the aforementioned fugues, and in part because of the extent to which visual staging elements are intrinsic to the presentation. I did find the read entertaining, and I certainly would go out of my way to attend a full staging of the play.