“Be blessed in the name of man. And if any god deny you for this, I will deny that god.”
– Jack Parsons
On June 14, 2018 e.v. the CBS All Access service premiered Strange Angel, a streaming series based on George Pendle’s book, Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons.
There have been several reviews from the usual media outlets (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, etc.) as well as some preliminary dismissive comments online from my fellow Thelemites with regards to its historical accuracy, and the critics, Thelemic and otherwise, have been decidedly mixed in their opinions. So was the show any good? This first ever media portrayal of one of the most prominent Thelemites in the 20th century, who helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory — how was his history, his memory treated in this first of its kind program?
Yes, it was a fictionalized account with most of the characters names changed from their real life counterparts, or in some cases new people invented out of whole cloth. But the pilot’s inherent narrative, its juxtaposed elements of science and magick, and its full throated embrace of Thelema itself is what stood out to me. “Do what thou wilt” is not just used in the show’s advertising as a summer series catchphrase — it actually provides a link to the narrative that is important in establishing the main themes of the pilot.
The cast is solid, the writing is allowed to take its time and explore the world of the series, and, visually, the show is a typical treat we have come to expect from Ridley Scott, who also produces The Man in the High Castle, which shares this show’s high end production values. Honestly, it was weird, surreal watching this, after having been in the O.T.O. for so long, recognizing the many easter eggs left for Thelemites, it seems, a small group of fanboys and fangirls to cater to, but what the hell. I noticed that they were quoting Class A stuff directly, and, God love ‘em, they even got the “A Ka Dua” mantra right. Now, they did modify the rituals, of course, which I frankly expected — it’s that the pilot was able to get so much right that was surprising. Yes, it’s weird watching what is essentially a streaming soap opera set in the early world of Magick and Thelema, but maybe now, after all these years of dwelling in the countercultural underground, perhaps it is time for the story of Jack Parsons and the O.T.O. to come out of the shadows.
Frater From Another Mater