New CBS All Access series Strange Angel will explore science and the occult.
Based on George Pendle's 2006 book of the same name and developed for CBS All Access by Mark Heyman (Black Swan, The Wrestler), Strange Angel follows the mysterious-yet-brilliant double life of Jack Parsons in Los Angeles during the 1940s.
By day, he works as an acclaimed scientist in the then-unknown world of rocketry.
But, by night, he moves into a darker realm, experimenting with sex magick alongside occultist Aleister Crowley.
Strange Angel will be produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Scott Free Productions.
Mark Heyman, David DiGilio, Ridley Scott, and David W. Zucker will serve as Executive Producers; Clayton Krueger will serve as co-Executive Producer; and David Lowery (A Ghost Story, Pete's Dragon) will direct and executive produce.
Jack Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons; 1914 – 1952) was an American rocket engineer and rocket propulsion researcher, chemist, and Thelemite occultist. Associated with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Parsons was one of the principal founders of both the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Aerojet Engineering Corporation. He invented the first rocket engine to use a castable, composite rocket propellant, and pioneered the advancement of both liquid-fuel and solid-fuel rockets.
Born in Los Angeles, Parsons was raised by a wealthy family. Inspired by science fiction literature, he developed an interest in rocketry in his childhood and in 1928 began amateur rocket experiments. He dropped out of Pasadena Junior College and Stanford University due to financial difficulties during the Great Depression, and in 1934 he united with Forman and graduate student Frank Malina to form the Caltech-affiliated Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory (GALCIT) Rocket Research Group, supported by Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory chairman Theodore von Kármán. In 1939 the GALCIT Group gained funding from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to work on Jet-Assisted Take Off (JATO) for the U.S. military. Following American entry into World War II, in 1942 they founded Aerojet to develop and sell their JATO technology; the GALCIT Group became JPL in 1943.
In 1939, Parsons converted to Thelema, the English occultist Aleister Crowley's new religious movement. In 1941, alongside his first wife Helen Northrup, Parsons joined the Agape Lodge, the Californian branch of the Thelemite Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). At Crowley's bidding, he replaced Wilfred Talbot Smith as its leader in 1942 and ran the Lodge from his mansion on Orange Grove Avenue.
Parsons was expelled from JPL and Aerojet in 1944 due to the Lodge's infamy and allegedly illicit activities, along with his hazardous workplace conduct. In 1945 Parsons separated from Helen after having an affair with her sister Sara.
Parsons met a fellow sci-fi aficionado named L. Ron Hubbard, who soon moved in at Agape Lodge, where he took an interest in Betty. Though jealous, Parsons didn’t junk Hubbard. They even partnered in an 11-day ritual called Babalon Working in which Parsons attempted to conjure the goddess Babalon or the “Scarlet Woman.” With Hubbard acting as a scribe to record Jack’s revelations. The appearance of a red-haired woman named Marjorie Cameron at the house one day convinced Parsons that he had indeed conjured up the figure. The couple began a series of rituals intended to produce a magical “moon child” with superior powers and intellect, who would be born in the astral plane. Parsons married Marjorie in 1946.
After Hubbard and Sara defrauded him of his life savings, Parsons resigned from the O.T.O. and went through various jobs while acting as a consultant for the Israeli rocket program. Amid the climate of McCarthyism, he was accused of espionage and left unable to work in rocketry.
Jack Parsons died on June 17 1952, at the age of 37 in a home laboratory explosion that attracted national media attention; the police ruled it an accident, but many associates suspected suicide or assassination.
Parsons' occult and libertarian polemical writings were published posthumously, with Western esoteric and countercultural circles citing him as one of the most significant figures in propagating Thelema across North America. Although academic interest in his scientific career was originally negligible, in subsequent decades historians came to recognize Parsons' contributions to rocket engineering. For these innovations, his advocacy of space exploration and human spaceflight, and his role in the founding of JPL and Aerojet, Parsons is regarded as among the most important figures in the history of the U.S. space program.
A crater is named in his honor on the far side of the Moon (37.3°N 171.2°W).