Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Sacred Rite of Magical Love: A Ceremony of Word and Flesh by Maria de Naglowska, translated with introduction by Donald Traxler, from Inner Traditions.
This slender volume is the third of Donald Traxler’s translations of the works of Maria de Naglowska, from her writings as a mystic and proponent of sex magic in Paris circa 1930. Its format is something of an inversion of the previous two volumes. Where those contain doctrinal instruction, with practical intimations in the form of fictional narratives about the initiation of a hypothetical candidate, this one is instead a murky pseudo-memoir, somewhat comparable to novels like Paschal Beverly Randolph’s Ravalette: The Rosicrucian’s Story or Franz Bardon’s Frabato the Magician.
A central feature of the reminiscence of “Xenophanta” (the book’s speaker, and the byline of its original serialization under the name Xenia Norval) is her encounter with what certainly appears to be a personified Lucifer character — this, despite Traxler’s continued quotation of Naglowska’s injunction not “to imagine Satan … as living outside of us, for such imagining is proper to idolaters” (xiii). “Xenia’s” attraction to this Other put me very much in mind of The Story of Mary MacLane — and it is not impossible that MacLane’s 1901 confessions (titled in MS I Await the Devil’s Coming) had been accessible to Naglowska, perhaps even in French translation. (As a translator of P.B. Randolph’s work, Naglowska could certainly have read MacLane in the original English, though.)
An enigmatic diagram called the AUM CLOCK is drawn by Xenia under praeternatural inspiration in the course of the story, and it serves as the preoccupation of Naglowska’s explanatory preface. Traxler supplies an appendix in which he analyzes the contradictory details regarding this figure, and then proposes an abstruse astrological interpretation of it. His astrological reasoning leads him to identify certain dates as being indicated, but he doesn’t even go so far as to propose why any dates would be highlighted in this arcane manner.
Another appendix from Traxler investigates Naglowska’s sources. It is gratifying to see him expose the Joachimist bedrock on which her teachings rest, and he is doubtless correct about the influences of Eugene Vintras and Henri Bergson. It was a little disappointing that he omitted the French occult tradition of Sophianic mysticism stemming from the Eglise Gnostique of Jules Doinel, which was even more consequential than Vintras for Jean Bricaud, whom Traxler notes as a possible transmitter of Vintrasian ideas in Naglowska’s milieu.
As with Traxler’s other Naglowska books, this one is an important contribution to the literature of sex magic as developed in the 20th century. [via]