The Sacred Rite of Magickal Love
by Maria De Naglowska
Edited by Donald Traxler
|Publisher:||Inner Traditions, Vermont, 2012|
Reviewed by Lux Ad Mundi
Donald Traxler, the translator of Maria De Naglowska's the Sacred Rite of Magickal Love, terms the work an "initiatic novelette." It was originally published in installments in the newspaper she published, La Fleche, then republished as a single work.
As with her other writing, the Sacred Rite of Magickal Love is at once romantic, mysterious and somewhat confusing. De Naglowska was writing for her students and disciples and not for a general audience and apparently felt free to present her metaphysical doctrines in a deliberately obscure, literally "occult" manner. No doubt, students received further teachings and pointed clarifications as necessary at her paid lectures and private sessions.
The basic narrative of the Sacred Rite of Magickal Love involves a young Russian woman, named Xenophanta, probably still in her teens. While strolling in the gardens of her family estate, she experiences a mystic visitation from some vast, ancient, and despairing entity who, having been vanquished in some celestial combat in the distant past, mourns for his former powers and holdings. Xenophanta immediately falls in love with this being and pledges herself to its service, attracted by its immense sadness (yes, it's very Russian!); they arrange another meeting for later that night.
To prepare herself, Xenophanta heads to her room to nap. While she sleeps, she's raped unawares by Misha, the son of visiting neighbors, who lingers in her room till she awakens and informs her that she now belongs to him. A" er expelling Misha, she channels instructions for drawing a strange diagram which somehow explains the processes her preternatural lover seeks to involve her in. Suddenly she realizes she's been raped, decides that her rapist will play a part in her mystic tryst that night and begins to form an affection for him as well.
Eventually, the two of them take off into the woods for their rendezvous, Misha thinking he'll be facing down an earthly rival. Along the way, he also experiences visions, comes to understand his part in her quest and starts undergoing a strange transformative process. Etc.
The Sacred Rite of Magickal Love appears to be De Naglowska's attempt to craft a foundation myth for her religion the "Doctrine of the third Term of the Trinity." A number of practices she lays out in her other books the Light of Sex and Advanced Sex Magic appear in this narrative: the role of women as passive, preferably unconscious vessels during sex; the importance of men male avoiding ejaculation; the underlying precept that under proper conditions, the male participant encounters the Divine in the sex act and achieves both enlightenment and power thereby. Finally, that the gain of any individual benefits all the other members of the human race. De Naglowska concludes the Sacred Rite of Magickal Love with the lines "Other things combined later with this first event, which, determined, forever my spiritual orientation." the implication appears to be that, while perhaps romanticized, this story reflects events in the author's life which inspired her unique religious stance.
There are many principles of her Doctrine of the third Term of the Trinity readily discernible in the Sacred Rite of Magickal Love; that there is a divine process that endlessly repeats itself – the Fall of the Divine into matter, the Devil and mankind's rejection of the material and yearning to return to the perfected state, the realization that the Divine is in fact immanent in all matter and so everything is equally sacred whether incarnate or discarnate – so that disdaining the material actually is denigrating the Divine. Then there's the sexual technology already mentioned that gives mankind access to the Eternal.
However, many elements in the story remain simply confounding even when viewed in light of her other teachings, possibly because these teachings themselves are somewhat vague and confused in places. There are principles De Naglowska supports with various portentous quotations from her own writings! there are intricate mathematical formulae given to "prove" for other dogma that don't actually add up or even to operate according to a consistent interior logic. In effect you just have to take De Naglowska at her word that all this is true.
It's possibly that De Naglowska did her best to describe a gnosis that's simply beyond description by human language, even approximately. It's also possible that she was trying to express it with occult jargon that she didn't fully grasp.
Nonetheless the Sacred Rite of Magickal Love is a fascinating read, does bear some interesting nuggets of sex Magickal technique which was pertinent to the currents flowing through the work of antecedents like Ida Craddock. At worst, it still gives us a glimpse into the mindset of the early 20th century's occult world which still provides much of the foundation of modern Magickal theory and practice.