Object of Worship

Liane de Pougy was the reigning courtesan of 1890s Paris. Slender and androgynous, she was a novelty, and the wealthiest men in Europe vied to possess her. By late in the decade, however, she had grown tired of it all. "What a sterile life," she wrote a friend. "Always the same routine: the Bois, the races, fittings; and to end an insipid day: dinner!" What wearied the courtesan most was the constant attention of her male admirers, who sought to monopolize her physical charms.

One spring day in 1899, Liane was riding in an open carriage through the Bois de Boulogne. As usual, men tipped their hats at her as she passed by. But one of these admirers caught her by surprise: a young woman with long blond hair, who gave her an intense, worshipful stare. Liane smiled at the woman, who smiled and bowed in return.

A few days later Liane began to receive cards and flowers from a twenty-three-year-old American named Natalie Barney, who identified herself as the blond admirer in the Bois de Boulogne, and asked for a rendezvous. Liane invited Natalie to visit, but to amuse herself she decided to play a little joke: a friend would take her place, lounging on her bed in the dark boudoir, while Liane would hide behind a screen. Natalie arrived at the appointed hour. She wore the costume of a Florentine page and carried a bouquet of flowers. Kneeling before the bed, she began to praise the courtesan, comparing her to a Fra Angelico painting. All too soon, she heard someone laugh—and standing up she realized the joke that had been played on her. She blushed and made for the door. When Liane hurried out from behind the screen, Natalie chastised her: the courtesan had the face of an angel, but apparently not the spirit. Contrite, Liane whispered, "Come back tomorrow morning. I'll be alone."

The young American showed up the next day, wearing the same outfit. She was witty and spirited; Liane relaxed in her presence, and invited her to stay for the courtesan's morning ritual—the elaborate makeup, clothes, and jewelry she put on before heading out into the world. Watching reverently, Natalie remarked that she worshiped beauty, and that Liane was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Playing the part of the page, she followed Liane to the carriage, opened the door for her with a bow, and accompanied her on her habitual ride through the Bois de Boulogne. Once inside the park, Natalie knelt on the floor, out of sight of the passing gentlemen who tipped their hats to Liane. She recited poems she had writ-

Ah! always to be able to freely love the one whom one loves! To spend my life at your feet like our last days together. To protect you against imaginary satyrs so that I can be the only one to throw you on this bed of moss. . . . Well find each other again in Lesbos, and when dusk falls, we'll go deep in the woods to lose the paths leading to this century. I want to imagine us in this enchanted island of immortals. I picture it as being so beautiful. Come, I'll describe for you those delicate female couples, and far from the cities and the din, we'll forget everything but the Ethics of Beauty.

—NATALIE BARNEY, LETTER TO LIANE DE POUGY,QUOTED IN JEAN CHALON, PORTRAIT OF A SEDUCTRESS:THE WORLD OF NATALIE BARNEY, TRANSLATED BY CAROL BARKO

Terrible Natalie, who used to ravage the land of love. Formidable Natalie, feared by husbands since no one could resist her seductiveness. And one could see how women

would abandon their ten in Liane's honor, and she told the courtesan she considered it a mission

husbands, homes, children, to rescue her from the seamy career into which she had fallen. to follow this Circe of

Lesbos -Circes method That evening Natalie took her to the theater to see Sarah Bernhardt was to concoct magic play Hamlet. During the intermission, she told Liane that she identified potions. Natalie preferred with Hamlet—his hunger for the sublime, his hatred of tyranny—which, writing poems; she always r . . r ~ . r . T

, . i i j t for her, was the tyranny of men over women. Over the next few days Liane knew how to blend the physical and the spiritual. received a steady flow of flowers from Natalie, and telegrams with little po-

—-JEAN CHALON, portrait of ems in her honor. Slowly the worshipful words and looks became more a seductress: the world of physical, with the occasional touch, then a caress, even a kiss—and a kiss

NATALIE BARNEY, TRANSLATED , r u j.rr , r T . i . . ...

that felt different from any in Lianes experience. One morning, with

BY CAROL BARKO J f »>

Natalie in attendance, Liane prepared to take a bath. As she slipped out of her nightgown, Natalie suddenly flung herself at her friend's feet, kissing her ankles. The courtesan freed herself and hurried into the bath, only for

There once lived in the town of Gffsa in Embury, Natalie to throw off her clothes and join her. Within a few days, all Paris a very rich man who had knew that Liane de Pougy had a new lover: Natalie Barney. numerous children, among Liane made no effort to disguise her new affair, publishing a novel,

them a lovely and graceful Idylle saphique, detailing every aspect of Natalie's seduction. She had never young daughter called

Alibech. she was not had an affair with a woman before, and she described her involvement with

herself a Christian, but Natalie as something like a mystical experience. Even at the end of her

there were many long life, she remembered the affair as by far her most intense.

Christians in the town,

and one day, having on Renée Vivien was a young Englishwoman who had come to Paris to occasion heard them extol write poetry and flee the marriage that her father was trying to arrange for

the Christian faith and the her. Renée was obsessed with death; she also felt there was something service of God, she asked one of them for his opinion wrong with her experiencing moments of intense self-loathing. In 1900,

on the best and easiest way Renée met Natalie at the theater. Something about the American's kind

for a person to "serve eyes melted Renée's normal reserve, and she began sending poems to Na-

God," as they put it. He talie, who responded with poems of her own. They soon became friends.

answered her by saying that the ones who served Renée confessed that she had had an intense friendship with another God best were those who woman, but that it remained platonic—the thought of physical involve-

put the greatest distance ment repulsed her. Natalie told her about the ancient Greek poet Sappho, between themselves and

earthly goods, as happened who celebrated love between women as the only love that is innocent and in the case ofpeople who pure. One night Renée, inspired by their discussions, invited Natalie to her had gone to live in the apartment, which she had transformed into a kind of chapel. The room shara^- ^he said 'no was filled with candles and with white lilies, the flowers she associated with more about it to anyone, Natalie. That night the two women became lovers. They soon moved in

but next morning, being a together, but when Renée realized that Natalie could not be faithful to her, very simple natiircd her love turned into hatred. She broke off the relationship, moved out, and creature of fourteen or r

thereabouts, Alibech set out vowed to never see her again.

aU alone, in secret, and Over the next few months Natalie sent her letters and poems, and made her way toward the showed up at her new home—all to no avail. Renée would have nothing to desert, prompted by

nothing more logical than a do with her. One evening at the opera, though, Natalie sat down beside strong adolescent impulse. her and gave her a poem she had written in her honor. She expressed her

A few days later, regrets for the past, and also a simple request: the two women should go on exhausted from fatigue and

hunger, she arrived in the a pilgrimage to the Greek island of Lesbos, Sappho's home. Only there heart of the wilderness, could they purify themselves and their relationship. Renée could not resist.

On the island they retraced the poetess's steps, imagining they were transported back into the pagan, innocent days of ancient Greece. For Renée, Natalie had become Sappho herself. When they finally returned to Paris, Renée wrote her, "My blond Siren, I don't want you to become like those who dwell on earth. ... I want you to stay yourself, for this is the way you cast your spell over me." Their affair lasted until Renée's death, in 1909.

Interpretation. Liane de Pougy and Renée Vivien both suffered a similar oppression: they were self-absorbed, hyperaware of themselves. The source of this habit in Liane was men's constant attention to her body. She could never escape their looks, which plagued her with a feeling of heaviness. Renée, meanwhile, thought too much about her own problems— her repression of her lesbianism, her mortality. She felt consumed with self-hatred.

Natalie Barney, on the other hand, was buoyant, lighthearted, absorbed in the world around her. Her seductions—and by the end of her life they numbered well into the hundreds—all had a similar quality: she took the victim outside herself, directing her attention toward beauty, poetry, the innocence of Sapphic love. She invited her women to participate in a kind of cult in which they would worship these sublimities. To heighten the cultlike feeling, she involved them in little rituals: they would call each other by new names, send each other poems in daily telegrams, wear costumes, make pilgrimages to holy sites. Two things would inevitably happen: the women would start to direct some of the worshipful feelings they were experiencing toward Natalie, who seemed as lofty and beautiful as the things she held up to be adored; and, pleasantly diverted into this spiritualized realm, they would also lose any heaviness they had felt about their bodies, their selves, their identities. Their repression of their sexuality would melt away. By the time Natalie kissed or caressed them, it would feel like something innocent, pure, as if they had returned to the Garden of Eden before the fall.

Religion is the great balm of existence because it takes us outside ourselves, connects us to something larger. As we contemplate the object of worship (God, nature), our burdens are lifted away. It is wonderful to feel raised up from the earth, to experience that kind of lightness. No matter how progressive the times, many of us feel uncomfortable with our bodies, our animal drives. A seducer who focuses too much attention on the physical will stir up self-consciousness, and a residue of disgust. So focus attention on something else. Invite the other person to worship something beautiful in the world. It could be nature, a work of art, even God (or gods—paganism never goes out of fashion); people are dying to believe in something. Add some rituals. If you can make yourself seem to resemble the thing you are worshiping—you are natural, aesthetic, noble, and sublime—your targets will transfer their worship to you. Religion and where, catching sight of a small hut in the distance, she stumbled toward it, and in the doorway she found a holy man, who was astonished to see her in those parts and asked her what she was doing there. She told him that she had been inspired by God, and that she was trying, not only to serve Him, but also to find someone who could teach her how she should go about it. • On observing how young and exceedingly pretty she was, the good man was afraid to take her under his wing lest the devil should catch him unawares. So he praised her for her good intentions, and having given her a quantity of herb roots, wild apples, and dates to eat, and some water to drink, he said to her: • "My daughter, not-very far from here there is a holy man who is much more capable than i of teaching you what you want to know. Go along to him. " And he sent her upon her way. • When she came to this second man, she was told precisely the same thing, and so she went on until she arrived at the cell of a young hermit, a very devout and kindly fellow called Rustico, to whom she put the same inquiry as she had addressed to the others. Being anxious to prove to himself that he possessed a will of iron, he did not, like the others, send her away or direct her elsewhere, but kept her with him in his cell, in a corner of which, when night descended, he prepared a makeshift bed out ofpalm leaves, upon which he invited her to lie down and rest. • Once he

—LIANE DE POUGY

had taken this step, very spirituality are full of sexual undertones that can be brought to the surface

little time elapsed before once you have made your targets lose their self-awareness. From spiritual temptation went to war against his willpower, and ecstasy to sexual ecstasy is but one small step.

after the first few assaults,

finding himself Come back to take me, quickly, and lead me far away. Pu-

outmaneuvered on all rify me with a great fire of divine love, none of the animal fronts, he laid down his , , , T/ r i

, , , kind. You are all soul when you want to be, when you feel arms and surrendered. J ' J

Casting aside pious it, take me far away Sum my body.

thoughts, prayers, and penitential exercises, he began to concentrate his mental faculties upon the youth and beauty ofthe Keys to Seduction girl, and to devise suitable ways and meansfor approaching her in such a eligion is the most seductive system that mankind has created. Death

fashion that she should not is our greatest fear, and religion offers us the illusion that we are im-

think it lewd of him to mortal, that something about us will live on. The idea that we are an infini-

make the sort of proposal ^

he had in mind. By tesimal part of a vast and indifferent universe is terrifying; religion putting certain questions to humanizes this universe, makes us feel important and loved. We are not ani-

her, he soon discovered that mals governed by uncontrollable drives, animals that die for no apparent she had never been

intimate with the opposite reason, but creatures made in the image of a supreme being. We too can be sex and was every hit as sublime, rational, and good. Anything that feeds a desire or a wished-for il-

innocent as she seemed; lusion is seductive, and nothing can match religion in this arena.

and he therefore thought of a possible way to persuade Pleasure is the bait that you use to lure a person into your web. But no

her, with the pretext of matter how clever a seducer you are, in the back of your targets' mind they serving God, to grant his are aware of the endgame, the physical conclusion toward which you are desires e began by heading. You may think your target is unrepressed and hungry for pleasure, delivering a long speech in which he showed her how but almost all of us are plagued by an underlying unease with our animal powerful an enemy the nature. Unless you deal with this unease, your seduction, even when suc-

devil was to the Lord God, cessful in the short term, will be superficial and temporary. Instead, like and followed this up by

impressing upon her that of Natalie Barney, try to capture your target's soul, to build the foundation of all the ways of serving a deep and lasting seduction. Lure the victim deep into your web with

God, the one that He most spirituality, making physical pleasure seem sublime and transcendent. Spiri-

appreciated consisted in

putting the devil back in tuality will disguise your manipulations, suggesting that your relationship is

Hell, to which the timeless, and creating a space for ecstasy in the victim's mind. Remember

Almighty had consigned that seduction is a mental process, and nothing is more mentally intoxicat-

him in the first place. • . , . . . . i. 11 1

ing than religion, spirituality, and the occult.

The girl asked him how this was done, and Rustico In Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame fbvaiy, Rodolphe Boulanger visits replied: • "You w111 soon the country doctor Bovary and finds himself interested in the doctor's

find out, but just do beautiful wife, Emma. Boulanger was brutal and shrewd. He was some-whatever you see me doing hr the present. "And so thing of a connoisseur: there had been many women in his life." He senses

saying, he began to divest that Emma is bored. A few weeks later he manages to run into her at a

himself ofthe few clothes county fair, where he gets her alone. He affects an air of sadness and he was wearing, leaving himseff compieteiy naked, gloom: Manys the time Ive passed a cemetery in the moonlight and asked

The girl followed his myself if I wouldn't be better off lying there with the rest. ..." He men-

example, and he sank to tions his bad reputation; he deserves it, he says, but is it his fault? "Do you his knees as though he really not know that there exist souls that are ceaselessly in torment?" Sev eral times he takes Emma's hand, but she politely withdraws it. He talks of love, the magnetic force that draws two people together. Perhaps it has roots in some earlier existence, some previous incarnation of their souls. "Take us, for example. Why should we have met? How did it happen? It can only be that something in our particular inclinations made us come closer and closer across the distance that separated us, the way two rivers flow together." He takes her hand again and this time she lets him hold it. After the fair, he avoids her for a few weeks, then suddenly shows up, claiming that he tried to stay away but that fate, destiny, has pulled him back. He takes Emma riding. When he finally makes his move, in the woods, she seems frightened and rejects his advances. "You must have some mistaken idea," he protests. "I have you in my heart like a Madonna on a pedestal. ... I beseech you: be my friend, my sister, my angel!" Under the spell of his words, she lets him hold her and lead her deeper into the woods, where she succumbs.

Rodolphe's strategy is threefold. First he talks of sadness, melancholy, discontent, talk that makes him seem nobler than other people, as if life's common material pursuits could not satisfy him. Next he talks of destiny, the magnetic attraction of two souls. This makes his interest in Emma seem not so much a momentary impulse as something timeless, linked to the movement of the stars. Finally he talks of angels, the elevated and the sublime. By placing everything on the spiritual plane, he distracts Emma from the physical, makes her feel giddy, and packs a seduction that could have taken months into a matter of a few encounters.

The references Rodolphe uses might seem cliched by today's standards, but the strategy itself will never grow old. Simply adapt it to the occult fads of the day. Affect a spiritual air by displaying a discontent with the banalities of life. It is not money or sex or success that moves you; your drives are never so base. No, something much deeper motivates you. Whatever this is, keep it vague, letting the target imagine your hidden depths. The stars, astrology, fate, are always appealing; create the sense that destiny has brought you and your target together. That will make your seduction feel more natural. In a world where too much is controlled and manufactured, the sense that fate, necessity, or some higher power is guiding your relationship is doubly seductive. If you want to weave religious motifs into your seduction, it is always best to choose some distant, exotic religion with a slightly pagan air. It is easy to move from pagan spirituality to pagan earthiness. Timing counts: once you have stirred your targets' souls, move quickly to the physical, making sexuality seem merely an extension of the spiritual vibrations you are experiencing. In other words, employ the spiritual strategy as close to the time for your bold move as possible.

The spiritual is not exclusively the religious or the occult. It is anything that will add a sublime, timeless quality to your seduction. In the modern world, culture and art have in some ways taken the place of religion. There are two ways to use art in your seduction: first, create it yourself, in the target's honor. Natalie Barney wrote poems, and barraged her targets with were about to pray, getting her to kneel directly opposite. • In this posture, the girl's beauty was displayed to Rustico in all its glory, and his longings blazed more fiercely than ever, bringing about the res urrection of the flesh. Alibech stared at this in amazement and said: • "Rustico, what is that I see sticking out in front of you, which I do not possess?" • "Oh, my daughter," said Rustico, "this is the devil I was telling you about. Do you see what he's doing? He's hurting me so much that I can hardly endure it. " • "Oh, praise be to God," said the girl, "I can see that I am better off than you are, for I have no such devil to contend with." • "You're right there;" said Rustico. "But you have something else instead, that I haven't." • "Oh?" said Alibech. "And what's that?" • "You have Hell," said Rustico. "And I honestly believe that God has sent you here for the salvation of my soul, because if this devil continues to plague the life out of me, and if you are prepared to take sufficient pity upon me to let me put him back into Hell, you will be giving me marvelous relief, as well as rendering incalculable service and pleasure to God, which is what you say you came here for in the first place." • "Oh, Father," replied the girl in all innocence, "if I really do have Hell, let's do as you suggest just as soon as you are ready." • "God bless you, my daughter," said Rustico. "Let's go and put him back, and then perhaps he'll leave me alone. " • At which point he conveyed the girl to one them. Half of Picasso's appeal to many women was the hope that he would

of their beds, where he immortalize them in his paintings—for Ars longa, vita brevis (Art is long, life instructed her in the art of is short), as they used to say in Rome. Even if your love is a passing fancy, incarcerating that accursed aend. • Never having put by capturing it in a work of art you give it a seductive illusion of eternity.

a single devil into Hell The second way to use art is to make it ennoble the affair, giving your se-

before, the girl found the duction an elevated edge. Natalie Barney took her targets to the theater, to first experience a little

painful, and she said to the opera, to museums, to places full of history and atmosphere. In such

Rustico: • "This devil places your souls can vibrate to the same spiritual wavelength. Of course

must certainly be a bad lot, you should avoid works of art that are earthy or vulgar, calling attention to

Father, and a true enemy . . ^-p i i .111 1.

your intentions. The play, movie, or book can be contemporary, even a lit-

of God, for as well as J 1 j > > r j plaguing mankind, he even tle raw, as long as it contains a noble message and is tied to some just cause.

hurts Hell when he's Even a political movement can be spiritually uplifting. Remember to tailor driven back inside it. your spiritual lures to the target. If the target is earthy and cynical, pagan-

"Daughter," said Rustico, J r & & JJ>rt>

"it wiii not always be like ism or art will be more productive than the occult or religious piety. that." And in order to The Russian mystic Rasputin was revered for his saintliness and his ensure that it wouldn't, healing powers. Women in particular were fascinated with Rasputin and before moving from the bed

they put him back half a would visit him in his St. Petersburg apartment for spiritual guidance. He dozen times, curbing his would talk to them of the simple goodness of the Russian peasantry, God's

arrogance to such good forgiveness, and other lofty matters. But after a few minutes of this, he effect that he was positively giad to keep surnor he rest would inject a comment or two that were of a much different nature—

of the day. •During the something about the woman's beauty, her lips that were so inviting, the de-

next few days, however, the sires she could inspire in a man. He would talk of different kinds of devil's pride frequently , , roii r-ii 1

love—love of God, love between friends, love between a man and a reared its head again, and the gH ever ready to obey woman—but mix them all up as if they were one. Then as he returned to

the call to duty and bring discussing spiritual matters, he would suddenly take the woman's hand, or

him under control, whisper into her ear. All this would have an intoxicating effect—women happened to develop a taste

for the sport, and began would find themselves dragged into a kind of maelstrom, both spiritually saying to Rustico: • "I can uplifted and sexually excited. Hundreds of women succumbed during

certainly see what those these spiritual visits, for he would also tell them that they could not repent

meant when they said that until they had sinned, and who better to sin with than Rasputin.

serving God was so Rasputin understood the intimate connection between the sexual and

agreeable. I don't honestly the spiritual. Spirituality, the love of God, is a sublimated version of sexual anything la l^JeZ love. The language of the religious mystics of the Middle Ages is M of

much pleasure and erotic images; the contemplation of God and of the sublime can offer a

satisfaction as I get from kind of mental orgasm. There is no more seductive brew than the combi-

putting the devil back in nation of the spiritual and the sexual, the high and the low. When you talk

Hell. To my way of thinking, anyone who of spiritual matters, then, let your looks and physical presence hint of sexu-

devotes his energies to ality at the same time. Make the harmony of the universe and union with

anything but the service of God seem to confuse with physical harmony and the union between two

God is a complete

biockhead." • ... And so, people. If you can make the endgame of your seduction appear as a spiri-

young ladies, if you stand tual experience, you will heighten the physical pleasure and create a seduc-

in need of Gods grace, see tion with a deep and lasting effect.

Symbol: The Stars in the sky. Objects of worship for centuries, and symbols of the sublime and divine. In contemplating them, we are momentarily distractedfrom everything mundane and mortal. We feel lightness. Lift your targets ' minds up to the stars and they will not notice what is happening here on earth.

that you learn to put the devil back in Hell, for it is greatly to His liking and pleasurable to the parties concerned, and a great deal ofgood can arise and flow in the process.

— GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO, THE DECAMERON, TRANSLATED BYG. H. MCWILLIAM

Reversal

Letting your targets feel that your affection is neither temporary nor superficial will often make them fall deeper under your spell. In some, though, it can arouse an anxiety: the fear of commitment, of a claustrophobic relationship with no exits. Never let your spiritual lures seem to be leading in that direction, then. To focus attention on the distant future may implicitly constrict their freedom; you should be seducing them, not offering to marry them. What you want is to make them lose themselves in the moment, experiencing the timeless depth of your feelings in the present tense. Religious ecstasy is about intensity, not temporal extensity.

Giovanni Casanova used many spiritual lures in his seductions—the occult, anything that would inspire lofty sentiments. For the time that he was involved with a woman, she would feel that he would do anything for her, that he was not just using her only to abandon her. But she also knew that when it became convenient to end the affair, he would cry, give her a magnificent gift, then quietly leave. This was just what many young women wanted—a temporary diversion from marriage or an oppressive family. Sometimes pleasure is best when we know it is fleeting.

Continue reading here: Mix Pleasure with Pain

Was this article helpful?

0 0