Tag Archives: Jules Doinel

Église Gnostique

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Église Gnostique: History, Sacraments and Teachings by Jules Doinel, edited and translated by Rune Ødegaard.

Doinel Ødegaard Église Gnostique

This book from a small Norwegian press collects a variety of texts from the 19th century, chiefly by Jules Doinel, the founding patriarch of the Église Gnostique (or “Church of the Paraclete”). Editor and translator Rune Ødegaard apologizes that he is not a native French speaker, and invites correction regarding his understanding of the texts (16). Alas, on the evidence of spelling, grammar, and typographical errors, he is also not a native English speaker, and this book would definitely have benefited from further proofreading. 

The Église Gnostique was autochthonous, so to speak, emerging from Doinel’s antiquarian researches and his experiences in the seances of Lady Caithness’ circle. Its liturgy was chiefly an effort at Cathar revival (though admittedly less rigorous than the medieval original) and its doctrines drew on what Doinel and his fellow bishops were able to discover about the ancient Gnosis of Simon Magus and Valentinus. The valorization of the divine feminine was a chief mission of the church. Deacons and Deaconesses had complementary functions in ceremony, while male Bishops and female Sophias (“Sophials” in this book) were of equal rank in their sovereignty over congregations. 

Ødegaard supplies an original biography of Doinel and history of his church up to Doinel’s death in 1903. The historical primary documents which make up the remaining two-thirds of the book include creeds, catechisms, sacramental liturgies, homilies and other articles. Much of the doctrinal material was familiar to me from previous study, as were the main ceremonies. This reading did provide my first encounter with the (ultimately unproductive) chivalric component of Doinel’s organizing: the three grades of the Order of Knights of the Dove and the Paraclete. 

Latin hymns and prayers in the liturgies are largely untranslated. Ødegaard claims to have drawn on the archives of the Martinist Ordre Reaux Croix in Oslo for the basis of much of the book’s content, but individual items are not given source citations, and the “Main References” in the end matter specify just three further books, along with an “outdated online mms” regarding Gnostic Church History. Despite the book’s apparent scholarly weaknesses, it is a helpful digest of material from the early history of the modern Neognostic movement.

A preface consists of friendly impressions from an anonymous attendee at a 21st-century Gnostic service among Norwegians working in a filiation from the Église Gnostique. Ødegaard’s afterword laments the later shift of the Neognostic movement to emphasize apostolic succession and high-church liturgies, while downplaying Doinel’s work and visionary experiences. I am curious about what sort of “Sethian” Neognosticism is represented in the other books under Ødegaard’s independent byline.

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]