Initiatic Eroticism

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Initiatic Eroticism: and Other Occult Writings from La Flèche introduced and translated by Donald Traxler from articles in Maria de Naglowska’s La Flèche. This is the fourth volume in the series of Maria de Naglowska material being released by Inner Traditions and Donald Traxler.

Maria de Naglowska Donald Traxler Julius Evola Initiatic Eroticism from Inner Traditions

In common with most Anglophone occultists, my principal knowledge of Parisian sybil Maria de Naglowska prior to the appearance of Donald Traxler’s translations was occasional brief mention as a French translator of some writings by Victorian American sex magician Paschal Beverly Randolph. As it turns out, she occupied a vital node in the esoteric communications of 1930s Paris, maintaining her own small “Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow” while also being actively engaged with Traditionalists, Surrealists, Theosophists, and individual occultists such as William Seabrook. Traxler presents this volume as the fourth of five in his major translation of Naglowska’s work, but it was my starting place, and I would recommend it as a worthy point of entry.

The book presents articles from the twenty numbers of Naglowska’s periodical La Flèche (“The Arrow”), an “Organ of Magical Action,” as she subtitled it. These represent the way in which she chose to express her esoteric ideas to the general public at the time that she was also composing book-length works addressed to formal aspirants and initiates. In addition to expository articles, there are a small number of poetic and narrative pieces, and a final section gives two essays written for La Flèche by Julius Evola. All of this material is quite interesting, and my favorite pieces are probably “The Magic Square,” “The Priestesses of the Future,” and “Masculine Satanism, Feminine Satanism.”

Naglowska’s central doctrine of the “Third Term” is a pristine example of twentieth-century occult neo-Joachimism. In Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the Nineteenth Century, scholars Reeves and Gould demonstrate in the world of modern letters a revival of the medieval Joachim’s trinitarian prophetic theory of history, with proponents such as Yeats and D.H. Lawrence. This phenomenon was so widespread that by the 1930s, when Naglowska was writing, it is hard to know how mediated (and by what thinkers) any specific instance might be, even when it is as clear a reflection as the one found in Naglowska’s Third Term. Her Holy Spirit (the Third Term of the Trinity) is emphatically female, and so her teachings also align with the French Neognosticism of Jules Doinel and his successors.

In Evola’s Metaphysics of Sex, he pairs Naglowska with Aleister Crowley as examples of sexual mystics in the contemporary world. Seeing the errors in Evola’s presentation of Crowley’s ideas, I am leery of his reading of Naglowska, although he was certainly on more familiar terms with her. It seems almost unbelievable that Naglowska and Crowley could not at least have known of one another, and yet I’ve seen no evidence that either took such note. In any case, Naglowska’s “Third Term” teaching of the Golden Mass is, I think, a useful way for adherents of Crowley’s Gnostic Catholic Church to understand the role of our own Mass: a synthesis that transcends the white and black masses of the previous age.

I learned a number of useful things from this book, and it was entertaining into the bargain. I will read further in Traxler’s translations of Naglowska. [via]