MARIA de Naglowska (1883-1936), little known authoress of The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament, recently had her work translated into English for the very first time. Naglowska, once thought to be the lover of Italian thinker Julius Evola (1898-1976) – a rumour which, despite being repeated in this new edition by translator Donald Traxler, has never been substantiated – was a Russian occultist active in the Parisian underground of the 1920s and 1930s. It does remains a fact, on the other hand, that Evola made reference to her in his Metaphysics of Sex (1958) and the pair were said to have co-authored a publication entitled La Parole Obscure du paysage intériere: Poeme a 4 voix. The rest, of course, is pure conjecture. Naglowska was also known for her 1931 translation of Magia Sexualis by Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875), a controversial work by one of the first American Rosicrucians and a text centred on various magico-sexual theories.
Born in St. Petersburg, unlike her comparatively more famous compatriot, Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), Naglowska used her own esoteric investigations to focus on the spiritual attributes relating to human sexuality. Robert North, who died in July 2010, used his popular New Flesh Palladium website to publish an entire trilogy of Naglowska’s works, including The Grimoire of Maria de Naglowska, The Satanic Rituals of Maria de Naglowska and The Occult Mentors of Maria de Naglowska, each of which has been translated from the original French into English.
Naglowska – who was also known as ‘La Sophiale de Montparnasse’, as well as operating behind several other pseudonyms – incorporated her work on sex magick into a unique Luciferian system and established a group called the Confrerie de la Fleche d’Or, or Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow. Naglowska went on to have a profound influence on the likes of the writer and poet, André Breton (1896-1966), the artist and photographer, Man Ray (1890-1976), the avant-garde philosopher, Georges Bataille (1897-1962) and the Surrealist poet, Ernest Gengenbach (1903-1979).
Contrary to the views of her feminist contemporaries, however, Naglowska believed that the true fulfilment of womanhood is best expressed through the role of the Priestess and Mother. The former brings to fruition the ‘Light of Sex’ through the process of transformative love, ritual and magick, whilst the latter achieves the physical creation of life itself. Interestingly, both Evola and Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) also equated birth and motherhood with the magickal process.
The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament expands upon Naglowska’s so-called Doctrine of the Third Term of the Trinity. This system was apparently revealed to her by a mysterious Catholic monk, who drew a triangle on a piece of cardboard that apparently explained the true nature of the Holy Trinity. Two sides were said to represent the Father (Judaism/Reason) and the Son (Christianity/Heart), whilst the third was a feminine interpretation of the Holy Spirit that had distinctly sexual connotations.
Naglowska used these concepts to reconcile the light and dark forces of nature. The mainstay of her idea is that there is nothing in the universe which may be regarded as immobile or static, let alone perfect or absolute. Catholic dogma, she argues, has persistently used this erroneous notion in order to set nature and the Divine at one another’s throats and thus force a dangerous separation between Man and God. What, after all, is the role of the Christian priesthood, if not to set itself up as mediator between these two essential components?
The Doctrine of the Third Term of the Trinity, therefore, is centred on the perception of God as Life and not, as the Abrahamic religions infer, something which exists both above and beyond our understanding. Naglowska believed that most individuals remain ignorant of this fact and are living in the shadows, completely taken in by the false doctrines of this profane spirituality and unable to realise that it is time to adopt a new attitude. But Naglowska does not set out to address those unthinking individuals that comprise the robotic automatons of mass humanity, she is aware that a fresh attitude must be led by an elite. She rejects, however, the heads of government and politics that merely set out to deceive the “blind mass” and who cannot offer any true inspiration or leadership.
Naglowska believed that whilst Christianity has, to a large extent, been rejected by Western society, its pernicious ethics – discussed forty years earlier by the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) – continue to endure and therefore implore people to choose between the dualist notions of “good” and “evil”. Once this moral system has been reinforced by Divine Law, of course, most people inevitably find themselves incapable of retaining their individuality and therefore behave as a single, conglomerated mass. Naglowska ‘s work speaks to those she describes as the “very rare ones”, a superior type “who do not govern and who themselves are not governed at all”. Her system, therefore, is directed towards those who wait on the periphery – “the heirs of the future” – and not the materialistic hordes with their shallow trends, passing fads and transient values. The progenitors of the new epoch, this forthcoming elite, are compared to the trunk of a tree, something that must necessarily develop new branches in order to continue to grow and prosper. Once these outsiders recognise their destiny and the unique role they have to perform, “Day and Night will be changed” and they will be unperturbed by the restrictive laws and values which contain the rest of humanity.
Contrary to the blind faith that one always finds in religion, the inextricable relationship that exists between Life and God, Naglowska suggests, must not be accepted by the members of her Brotherhood without a serious examination of the facts and grasping the meaning behind the reality of “the Triangle” demands much study and reflection. To presume that her views on the connection between God and Life fulfil the Hermetic maxim “as above, so below”, however, is to miss the point. The earth, she insists, is viewed rather differently from above and it is far more accurate to view something from this vantage point than from below. Particularly, of course, when you are trying to ascertain the nature of that which is below in the first place. Furthermore, it is impossible to perceive truth simply by applying our terrestrial knowledge to that which presently lies unseen as Divine Nature. An understanding of Life, therefore, should not imply that it is always possible to gain an understanding of God. It is possible for some people to achieve this understanding, on the other hand, but only “by first projecting oneself into the very soul of the Universe (= God)”. If, hypothetically speaking, the masses were to attempt this process, Naglowska tells us that it would result in the “neutrality of Life itself, that is to say, the annihilation of God.”
The fact that God forbade mankind to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and obtain the secrets of Creation prevented His own destruction and therefore the end of all Life. But the pursuit of Truth is carried out in accordance with Reason, because humans are naturally attracted by spirituality. They may not always comprehend it and much of religion is inevitably steeped in unobtainable “mysteries”, but people instinctively know that Truth lies somewhere within the realms of the spirit. Reason, however, whilst acting as a basic human spur towards the perception of Truth, is also seen as the main cause of the rift between the earthly and the Divine.
The discovery or attainment of spirituality often symbolises the death of the individual, which Naglowska compares with the symbolism of the Hanged Man in the Tarot. Man can only ascend so far and, once he comes face to face with the “Law of Death”, soon realises that he can never become like God and must inevitably experience a Fall of some kind. Any attempt by man to achieve personal divinity is known as “the Lie”, something which is spread by human Reason. The process of continual rise and decline echoes the birth-death-rebirth cycle that one finds in nature, something Naglowska compares to the noonday sun constantly moving towards midnight and from there to another noon the following day. This is known as “the triangular course”.
Once the basic meaning of “the Triangle” has been understood, the Initiate must come to terms with what Naglowska describes as “the Three Angles”. Naglowska tells us that the biblical story of Genesis is true because man is unable to use his Reason as a means of comprehending the claim that God created the world in just six days. This divine act is also said to accord with “the Law of the Triangle” and is connected with three angles:
The departure point – nonexistent – where perfect Light reigns; Heaven and Earth, forming the first Angle of the Base after the first shadows; the second Angle of the Base formed by the separation of the waters and determining the line of the elevation to the meeting of the Light, symbolised by the plants.
Naglowska believes that this creative process represents the forging of the first Triangle, although she does not really accept that there was an initial beginning of any kind and that it is merely a poetic device to confuse and befuddle the persistent menace of human Reason. In the wake of the first Triangle comes the inevitable Fall, which is soon followed by the formation of another base of Light, yet further angles and the eventual creation of a new Triangle. The seventh day of creation, the Sabbath, is a period that must be experienced as a moment of completion, a momentary triumph of will. If this fleeting state were not permitted, of course, Reason would have nothing to strive for. Naglowska explains that six days of labour is punishment for man’s original transgression and views the more leisurely Sabbath as “a concession granted to mankind”.
In reply to the question of whether Reason, and therefore man himself, can really be considered as a potential threat to both God and the entire universe, Naglowska argues that this is indeed the case in a symbolic sense. That which is visible, in other words, can never be part of God. One of the reasons for man’s inability to fully conceive of Life – and therefore God – is his preoccupation with Death, which merely represents God’s Shadow.
Naglowska is often labelled a “Satanist”, but her approach to the whole issue of Satanism rests on the belief that Satan resides within us and not, as many believe, outside of ourselves. For Naglowska, this concept “is proper to idolaters” because the Satan within is responsible for Reason and is actually necessary for the overall dichotomy that sustains Life. The Satan inside man represents an inverse form of God which, in turn, also denotes Life. This is described as “the Calvary of Satan” and, once again, it can also be viewed in terms of a Calvary of Reason. This, the endless quest for liberation – “it struggles Day and Night against God” – always leads to a war against Life itself. The fact that Reason will never triumph is neither here nor there, but the important point to remember is that without the crucial involvement of Satan the world would be plunged into a state of pure Nothingness. This eternal tragedy, set on a slippery slope, rests on the participation of those few who are willing to sacrifice themselves in the full knowledge that ultimate defeat is the only possible outcome.
Naglowska says there “is no Initiate who does not serve Satan before serving God” and immediately prior to the moment of the Fall the participant obtains a fleeting sense of the Divine. Almost, perhaps, like a moth who flies too close to the flame or Icarus when he flew too close to the sun. What is achieved here is not a form of duality, but an incessant quest for Unity with something that has no beginning. Anything less, such as the reconciliation of God and Satan outside of the Self, would be mere “idolatry”. Even Jesus, Naglowska claims, had to serve Satan and thus sacrifice himself before he could experience even a vague semblance of Union with the Divine. At this precise moment, however brief, the Son is born of the Father.
The two-fold concepts that permeate Naglowska’s work demonstrate that without hate there can be no love; without cruelty there can be no pity; and without desolation there can be no joy. The key is Balance, something represented by the manner in which the heart has the ability to both attract and expel the blood, refusing to distinguish between the various factors that it may encounter. From Balance comes Justice, but which side does Justice take in the struggle between God and Satan, Life and Reason? According to Naglowska:
It is not given to us to choose between these two alternatives: Justice belongs to the stronger one, because that is the one that imposes its Law.
The Will is always triumphant, although it still remains a fact that “Death cedes to Life, since the world continues to exist” and therefore Life itself – or God – must always be the victor. It is Life which lays down the Law of the Ten Commandments, something Naglowska herself claims to endorse, but man – as in the case of Moses – naturally turns against God and must be guided to the summit by Satan.
The importance of recognising the Satanic aspects inherent within one’s own Self, which is essential for the development of Reason and the concomitant urge to reach God at the uppermost angle of the Triangle, is only achieved when the Initiate has discovered his “Eve” and partaken of the apple that grows upon the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As we have seen, the battle between God and Satan leads to the birth of the Son at the apex of the Triangle and Naglowska tells us that “at the very instant when the Son is born, the Negator invites him to die”. But the Son, in turn, emanates the so-called “Third Hypostasis” which brings into being the Holy Spirit. This, we are reliably informed, has an essentially feminine nature, because if
Man were alone, without Woman, and composed only of the Heart, which presides over Balance and Reason, which tends towards nullity, none of the things that make up the Universe could maintain themselves.
This idea is reinforced by the manner in which one of Adam’s ribs is said to have been used to create his female counterpart, thereby helping to fulfil the role that must be performed by an opposing force. The feminine lies beyond notions such as Justice, Balance and Reason. Intelligence (Woman) is feminine and Reason (Man) is masculine, but each is dependant upon the another for the sake of the world. Intelligence, Naglowska believes, is representative of pure feminine wisdom, but with Reason and masculinity came the first seeds of doubt and this is absolutely essential for the process to go beyond the purely feminine state:
If the Woman, the pure virgin, had been able to triumph in conformity with the hopes of certain Gnostic schools, Satan would have disappeared, because the Reason of the Man would then have been vanquished.
This, of course, would have paved the way for the total destruction of the world and Naglowska therefore accepts that it was necessary for Satan – in the guise of a Serpent – to tempt Eve in the way that He did. The Will to Life was counter-balanced by the Will to Death and the struggle between the sexes thus commenced:
Since that time this struggle has been within the human couple. The head of the Man belongs to Satan (-), the head of the Woman to God (+), the sex of the Woman to Satan (-), the sex of the Man to God (+).
Naglowska agrees with the Christian view that Man and Woman were subsequently punished by God for this act of disobedience and forced to endure both work and childbirth respectively, something which offers similar opportunities for redemption.
The doubt that Man begins to experience during the course of his life stems from the dissatisfaction and restlessness that Naglowska attributes to the wiles of Satan. But this angst is necessary, she contends, because the development of Reason must lead towards the apex of the Triangle. This “Calvary of Reason”, despite being initiated by Satan, inevitably serves a Divine purpose because it allows the Initiate to scale the ecstatic heights that immediately precede the sacrificial act of the Fall.
Naglowska’s idea of the Doctrine of the Third Term of the Trinity also rests upon one of four tests that she names “the White Charger”. This, however, is simply a euphemism for sexual energy and Naglowska is keen to stress that any ritualistic undertaking – in this case, that of sex magick – must only be performed by those who are in good physical condition. This relates to one’s acceptance into the Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow. During the initiatory stage of her system, which is clearly inspired by Tantra, “a Sweeper” (or participant of the First Degree) must subordinate his will to that of “a Master”. The initiate is then presented before a council of “Warriors” and must answer various questions, similar to the role undertaken by Masonic candidates, complete with ritual washing, colourful ceremonial garb and readings taken from a book known as the Satanic Ethics. But the sexual energy, or “Charger”, must be controlled at all times because it represents opposition to Life.
Naglowska’s The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament provides a detailed and lengthy testimony of an initiate’s progress through “the Court of the Knights of the Golden Arrow” in 1935, including an oath to Satan and a declaration of the symbolic task that lay ahead:
Star of the Morning, O You who announce the Awakening after the Dark Night, guide the movements and the acts of this young Freedman, who will go away now to hunt the Lion in the wild forest of humanity. Guide his steps in the terrible Test of the Water and bring him back here victorious. This evening he will light his votive lamp in the Temple, by means of his sacred Taper.
This is followed by a communal meal and the preparation of a Round Table upon which are placed three cushions bearing a five-pointed star (Morning Star), a triangle (Sacred Triangle) and a golden arrow (Third Term of the Trinity) respectively. The initiate – now on the Second Degree stage, which had been adapted from something known previously as l’équerre magique – is presented with a naked female which, in the grander scheme of things, obviously represents the Woman, and is expected to control his sexual urges:
For it is written in our study books: “You will not permit your sacred force to be crystallised in mortal liquid.”
The success of this operation is seen as a triumph and the initiate experiences a vision in which he sees a face crowned with a Lunar Crescent. This emanation represents the Virile Force, which has been expressed purely as Light and not through sexual fluids. This victory of the spirit over the biological – again, rather like the orgasmic suspension process used in Tantra – is an act of supreme will-power and self-denial which is designed to embody the sacrificial Hanging at the apex of the Triangle. The latter is also represented by the pubic triangle of the female.
The initiate is then seated beside his companions in the Brotherhood and watches as thirty-five females in thin silk enter the Temple and perform the mysterious Water Dance. The performance involves a series of bending and straightening movements, similar to Yoga, but is meant to imitate the rise and fall of waves. There is also a distinctly racial component to this affair:
All our priestesses had very long hair, for they were chosen that way, and all were blondes, because the Morning Star cannot come from the mixed races, nor from the southern races. The Morning Star belongs to the artic region of the north.
But Naglowska, whilst having blonde hair and blue eyes herself, does not include this testimony in her book in order to deliberately set out to arouse consternation in her readers:
Brown-haired and black-haired women should not be offended, for this is a Law, and a human preference will not change anything.
Nothing is due to human pleasure, and each race has its duty and its crowning.
The dancers light candles from a central candelabra and eventually disappear. The sleeping Woman on the Round Table awakens and the initiate once again denies his sexual energy and the ritual comes to an end. Naglowska, writing in Issue 12 of La Fleche under the pseudonym ‘Auguste Apotre’, expressed the meaning behind the initiation in the following verse:
He who shall have subdued the White
Charger, symbol of sex in its wild state,
that one shall be recognised as
Master in the kingdom of Life.
According to Henri Meslin’s interpretation of Naglowska’s teachings, written in 1938 under the name ‘B. Anel-Kham’:
As one can see, this curious doctrine regulates the intimate relations of the couple, spiritualises love while keeping its sexual character, and to sum up, synthesises the yonic and phallic cults in one.
Julius Evola, on the other hand, discussing Naglowska in 1969, was also forced to admit that her work contained a degree of value:
Even though it may not seem so, there is something more here than mere fantasy (quite apart from the inevitable ‘Satanic’ which is absolutely out of place here).
Naglowska, however, despite having translated Randolph’s Magia Sexualis, was always keen to distance her own occult system from his:
Randolph, still bathing himself in Hindu idolatry, believes, as theosophists of all nuances do, in the independent and individual and life and evolution of each soul particle – a concept that leads in the last analysis to dreadful reinforcement of the spiritual egotism of men and women – I rise up with all my energy, because such is the Divine Teaching that has been given to me, against this disastrous idea, erroneous and generator of all the evils of humankind.
Naglowska believed that nothing can be individual or personal, let alone set itself up in opposition to something else. Her vision was centred entirely on Unity, a condition that has existed from the beginning of time itself and which, in turn, “never happened”. This idea was certainly unpopular with Naglowska’s fellow occultists, because their teachings often depended on a thoroughly dualistic Satan that existed outside of the Self. Donald Traxler believes that Naglowska’s choice of words are rather unique:
It seems, on the face of it, as though the word Satanism could be replaced by metaphysics, theology, religio-philosophical thinking, or perhaps even rational discourse.
Naglowska also accepts the existence of a Feminine Satanism that only becomes manifest once Female attempts to stifle the Male urge – or “solar phallus” – lead to intense suffering in the world. At this point, the Woman utters the Word that replenishes Life and both Male and Female become one:
I crush the head of the Serpent, Masculine Satanism, and I proclaim the triumph of the Solar Shaft in the mouth of Female Satanism.
To conclude, Naglowska’s Doctrine of the Third Term of the Trinity seems to closely follow the pattern of nature and in this regard it is based on simple common sense. Her belief in the creation of the Triangle which represents an endless progression from Midnight to Midnight, is in complete accordance with the cycle of life-death-rebirth. However, whilst Naglowska’s praxis is very interesting, her theoretical ideas are a thinly-veiled form of Christianity – not in a dualist capacity, but certainly in terms of accepting the story of the Fall – and therefore fairly unoriginal. But I would still urge readers to examine Naglowska’s work for themselves, if only for the intelligent concepts explained by the symbolism of the Triangle. In the meantime, and in accordance with Naglowskan tradition, it is essential for those few of us to hurl ourselves at the apex and thus fulfil our destinies.
1. Donald Traxler, “Eyewitness Accounts” in Maria de Naglowska, The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament (Inner Traditions, 2011), pp.100-1.
2. Maria de Naglowska, The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament, op.cit, p.12.
3. Ibid., p.13.
7. Ibid., p.16.
9. Ibid., p.17.
10. Ibid., p.19.
11. Ibid., p.20.
13. Ibid., p.22.
15. Ibid., p.24.
16. Ibid., p.26.
17. Ibid., p.27.
19. Ibid., p.28.
20. Ibid., p.31.
21. Ibid., p.32.
22. Ibid., p.36.
23. Ibid., p.37.
24. Ibid., p.39.
25. Ibid., p.41.
26. Ibid., p.68.
27. Ibid., p.81.
28. Ibid., p.88.
30. Ibid., p.97.
31. B. Anel-Kham (Henri Meslin), Théorie et pratique de la magie sexuelle (Librairie Astra, 1938), pp.40-4.
32. Julius Evola, The Metaphysics of Sex (Inner Traditions, 1983), pp.261-3.
33. Maria de Naglowska, “Appendix B: Masculine Satanism, Feminine Satanism” in The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament, op.cit., p.104.
35. Donald Traxler in Maria de Naglowska, The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament, op.cit., p.105.
36. Maria de Naglowska, “Appendix B: Masculine Satanism, Feminine Satanism” in The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament, op.cit., p.106.
37. Ibid., p.107.
B. Anel-Kham (Henri Meslin), Théorie et pratique de la magie sexuelle (Librairie Astra, 1938).
John Patrick Deveney & Franklin Rosemont, Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist (SUNY Press, 1996).
Julius Evola, The Metaphysics of Sex (Inner Traditions, 1983).
Hans Thomas Hakl, “Maria de Naglowska and the Confrérie de la Fleche d’Or” in Politica Hermetica 20 (2006).
Maria de Naglowska, The Grimoire of Maria de Naglowska (New Flesh Palladium, 2010).
Maria de Naglowska, The Satanic Rituals of Maria de Naglowska (New Flesh Palladium, 2010).
Maria de Naglowska, The Occult Mentors of Maria de Naglowska (New Flesh Palladium, 2010).
Maria de Naglowska, The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic and Sacrament (Inner Traditions, 2011).
Marc Pluquet, La Sophiale: Maria de Naglowska, sa vie – son oeuvre (Editions Gouttelettes de Rosée, undated).
Paschal Beverly Randolph, Magia Sexualis (Robert Télin, 1931).
René Thimmey, La Magie a Paris (Les Editions de France, 1934).