The Light of Sex
Initiation, Magic and Sacrament
by Maria De Naglowska translated by Donald Traxler
|Publisher:||Inner Traditions (2011)|
Reviewed by Frater Lux Ad Mundi
Maria De Naglowska's life has been as colorful, improbable and mysterious as you could ask for. She was born a Russian noble, lost her father to a nihilist assassin and her mother to illness at any early age. Her extended family saw to it that she was amply provided for and given an excellent liberal education (for a woman in that era) but she became estranged from them by having an affair with a Jewish violinist, subsequently eloping and marrying in Vienna. After fathering three children with her, her husband, a passionate Zionist of longstanding, deserted the family and moved to Palestine. De Naglowski was left to raise and support her brood as a single mother. She took her children to Geneva, then Basel and Berne, spent several years in Rome, moved on to Egypt before settling in Paris. Maria earned her keep as a journalist, teacher, author of a French grammar for Russians, and translator of a Rasputin biography and several scholarly works including a translation-cum-annotated compilation of P.B. Randolph's Magia Sexualis (a work ONLY known through her translation). On her arrival in Paris, she was refused a work permit and turned to lecturing and self-publishing to support herself (probably with financial assistance from her now-grown children). Maria died in Zurich in 1936 at the age of fifty-two having reputedly foretold her own death the year before.
There are reports (some substantiated, some not) of her crossing paths with a wide range of occult figures and groups including Rasputin, the Russian Khlisty cult, Pagan revivalist Julius Evola and the Theosophical Society. It was in Paris that De Nagloska's interests in such matters coalesced and blossomed. Taking up residence in a cheap hotel in the seamy but colorful turning point that involves some manner of major catastrophe. An initiated elite is responsible for effecting a fundamental change in consciousness and the course of human events; the bulk of humanity is only be able to comprehend a fraction of this new philosophy but even that change is be enough to save most from the impending disaster and to inaugurate a new epoch.
De Naglowska's "Doctrine of the Third Term of the Trinity" revolves around the idea of a cycle of eras: first there is a descent of the Divine into manifested reality that continues downwards until all awareness of the Divine and its Creation is overpowered by human Reason; this gives way to the Heart's emotional urge towards transcendence by denying of the material via conscious training and application of the Reasoning powers; finally there comes a new direct appreciation -- or "Intelligence Without Learning" -- of the Divine presence through its Creation i.e. the manifest world animated by Life (de Naglowska considered this to be the nature of God). She represents this "Intelligence Without Learning" by initiated Sex and makes some unusual and apparently unsupported statements about Life being potentiated by humanity's denial through its Reason which is an expression of the "Satanic" force. For De Naglowska Satan = Death, but death means a rejection of the material in the pursuit of liberation and transcendence. So to her way of thinking, the Christ was essentially serving the Satanic force. She is insistent that the struggle between these opposing forces is absolutely necessary to their continued existence and that the prolonged victory of either one of them would basically void all reality.
De Naglowska portrays the task of the initiate as transcending the mundane/profane mode of existence wherein one acts primarily on feelings and learned prejudices, training the Reason and denying the animal impulse to merely live and breed and get by. At the peak of one's initiatic ascent all intentions and desires are shed except that of drawing nigh to the Divine, which -- according to another one of De Naglowska's unsupported tenets -- is so inherently toxic to God that the aspirant is struck down in an act of Divine self-defense and is further transformed; all their Satanic virtue showers down
It's a fascinating doctrinal system but full of apparent contradictions and unresolved issues. Though, as noted before, it's difficult to discern whether this is due to a lack of her understanding of the system or the inadequacy of language to convey the Gnostic truths she had directly experienced.
The Second part of The Light Of Sex depicts a elaborate, dramatic, highly impractical and very likely completely fabricated ritual into the Second Degree of Satanic Initiation of the Confraternity of the Knights of the Golden Arrow. It is a LOVELY, romantic ceremony involving orchestras, elaborate silken costumes, a huge ritual space with cathedral high ceilings and mechanisms for raising and lowering a large banquet table into and out of the space (laden with a generous, exotic and no doubt expensive feast as well as a naked female initiate) from a distant ceiling. There are many rousing speeches and declarations made finally leading up to the main ordeal: ritual sex without ejaculation whose orgasmic force lights a candle - the price of failure to do so being death.
This account of such an elaborate initiation is almost certainly pure fantasy as De Naglowska was living in a cheap hotel room during her time in Paris, often depending on the hand-outs from café owners, holding her soirees at their establishment for her daily bread, and was reported to only have a total of two First Degree initiates. She certainly didn't have the means, or likely any realistic prospects, of staging such a ritual, hence it reads as part wish-fulfillment (especially her account of provisions for the feasting, a far cry from the croissants and café au lait she lived on day-by-day) and part highly romanticized occult fiction (and erotic to boot). No doubt it found an enthusiastic audience in Montparnasse whose Surrealist artists and painters were notoriously obsessed with both magick and sex. Nonetheless the ceremony is well-written, proceeds logically, is orchestrated quite masterfully to achieve its intended end -- a visitation from the Virile Force of The No. Its sexual element is appropriate to the work at hand. Additionally, the suppression of ejaculation has been very popular in occult circles (outside of the O.T.O.) from the late 19th century onwards.
Whether De Naglowska's "Doctrine of the Third Term of the Trinity" is a workable dogma or not I leave up to the reader. But there's no question that it is fresh and thought-provoking look at metaphysical issues that should be of interest to all, and a point of entry into a chapter of modern occult history that has been largely and notably obscure.