by Havelock EllisApril 8th, 2023
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The Conception of Sexual Love—The Attitude of Mediæval Asceticism—St. Bernard and St. Odo of Cluny—The Ascetic Insistence on the Proximity of the Sexual and Excretory Centres—Love as a Sacrament of Nature—The Idea of the Impurity of Sex in Primitive Religions Generally—Theories of the Origin of This Idea—The Anti-Ascetic Element in the Bible and Early Christianity—Clement of Alexandria—St. Augustine's Attitude—The Recognition of the Sacredness of the Body by Tertullian, Rufinus and Athanasius—The Reformation—The Sexual Instinct regarded as Beastly—The Human Sexual Instinct Not Animal-like—Lust and Love—The Definition of Love—Love and Names for Love Unknown in Some Parts of the World—Romantic Love of Late Development in the White Race—The Mystery of Sexual Desire—Whether Love is a Delusion—The Spiritual as Well as the Physical Structure of the World in Part Built up on Sexual Love—The Testimony of Men of Intellect to the Supremacy of Love. It will be seen that the preceding discussion of nakedness has a significance beyond what it appeared to possess at the outset. The hygienic value, physically and mentally, of familiarity with nakedness during the early years of life, however considerable it may be, is not the only value which such familiarity possesses. Beyond its æsthetic value, also, there lies in it a moral value, a source of dynamic energy. And now, taking a still further step, we may say that it has a spiritual value in relation to our whole conception of the sexual impulse. Our attitude towards the naked human body is the test of our attitude towards the instinct of sex. If our own and our fellows' bodies seem to us intrinsically shameful or disgusting, nothing will ever really ennoble or purify our conceptions of sexual love. Love craves the flesh, and if the flesh is shameful the lover must be shameful. "Se la cosa amata è vile," as Leonardo da Vinci profoundly said, "l'amante se fa vile." However illogical it may have been, there really was a justification for the old Christian identification of the flesh with the sexual instinct. They stand or fall together; we cannot degrade the one and exalt the other. As our feelings towards nakedness are, so will be our feelings towards love.
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Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 6 by Havelock Ellis is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. THE VALUATION OF SEXUAL LOVE


The Conception of Sexual Love—The Attitude of Mediæval Asceticism—St. Bernard and St. Odo of Cluny—The Ascetic Insistence on the Proximity of the Sexual and Excretory Centres—Love as a Sacrament of Nature—The Idea of the Impurity of Sex in Primitive Religions Generally—Theories of the Origin of This Idea—The Anti-Ascetic Element in the Bible and Early Christianity—Clement of Alexandria—St. Augustine's Attitude—The Recognition of the Sacredness of the Body by Tertullian, Rufinus and Athanasius—The Reformation—The Sexual Instinct regarded as Beastly—The Human Sexual Instinct Not Animal-like—Lust and Love—The Definition of Love—Love and Names for Love Unknown in Some Parts of the World—Romantic Love of Late Development in the White Race—The Mystery of Sexual Desire—Whether Love is a Delusion—The Spiritual as Well as the Physical Structure of the World in Part Built up on Sexual Love—The Testimony of Men of Intellect to the Supremacy of Love.

It will be seen that the preceding discussion of nakedness has a significance beyond what it appeared to possess at the outset. The hygienic value, physically and mentally, of familiarity with nakedness during the early years of life, however considerable it may be, is not the only value which such familiarity possesses. Beyond its æsthetic value, also, there lies in it a moral value, a source of dynamic energy. And now, taking a still further step, we may say that it has a spiritual value in relation to our whole conception of the sexual impulse. Our attitude towards the naked human body is the test of our attitude towards the instinct of sex. If our own and our fellows' bodies seem to us intrinsically shameful or disgusting, nothing will ever really ennoble or purify our conceptions of sexual love. Love craves the flesh, and if the flesh is shameful the lover must be shameful. "Se la cosa amata è vile," as Leonardo da Vinci profoundly said, "l'amante se fa vile." However illogical it may have been, there really was a justification for the old Christian identification of the flesh with the sexual instinct. They stand or fall together; we cannot degrade the one and exalt the other. As our feelings towards nakedness are, so will be our feelings towards love.

"Man is nothing else than fetid sperm, a sack of dung, the food of worms.... You have never seen a viler dung-hill." Such was the outcome of St. Bernard's cloistered Meditationes Piissimæ.[45] Sometimes, indeed, these mediæval monks would admit that the skin possessed a certain superficial beauty, but they only made that admission in order to emphasize the hideousness of the body when deprived of this film of loveliness, and strained all their perverse intellectual acumen, and their ferocious irony, as they eagerly pointed the finger of mockery at every detail of what seemed to them the pitiful figure of man. St. Odo of Cluny—charming saint as he was and a pioneer in his appreciation of the wild beauty of the Alps he had often traversed—was yet an adept in this art of reviling the beauty of the human body. That beauty only lies in the skin, he insists; if we could see beneath the skin women would arouse nothing but nausea. Their adornments are but blood and mucus and bile. If we refuse to touch dung and phlegm even with a fingertip, how can we desire to embrace a sack of dung?[46] The mediæval monks of the more contemplative order, indeed, often found here a delectable field of meditation, and the Christian world generally was content to accept their opinions in more or less diluted versions, or at all events never made any definite protest against them.

Even men of science accepted these conceptions and are, indeed, only now beginning to emancipate themselves from such ancient superstitions. R. de Graef in the Preface to his famous treatise on the generative organs of women, De Mulierum Organis Generatione Inservientibus, dedicated to Cosmo III de Medici in 1672, considered it necessary to apologize for the subject of his work. Even a century later, Linnæus in his great work, The System of Nature, dismissed as "abominable" the exact study of the female genitals, although he admitted the scientific interest of such investigations. And if men of science have found it difficult to attain an objective vision of women we cannot be surprised that medieval and still more ancient conceptions have often been subtly mingled with the views of philosophical and semi-philosophical writers.[47]

We may regard as a special variety of the ascetic view of sex,—for the ascetics, as we see, freely but not quite legitimately, based their asceticism largely on æsthetic considerations,—that insistence on the proximity of the sexual to the excretory centres which found expression in the early Church in Augustine's depreciatory assertion: "Inter fæces et urinam nascimur," and still persists among many who by no means always associate it with religious asceticism.[48] "As a result of what ridiculous economy, and of what Mephistophilian irony," asks Tarde,[49] "has Nature imagined that a function so lofty, so worthy of the poetic and philosophical hymns which have celebrated it, only deserved to have its exclusive organ shared with that of the vilest corporal functions?"

It may, however, be pointed out that this view of the matter, however unconsciously, is itself the outcome of the ascetic depreciation of the body. From a scientific point of view, the metabolic processes of the body from one end to the other, whether regarded chemically or psychologically, are all interwoven and all of equal dignity. We cannot separate out any particular chemical or biological process and declare: This is vile. Even what we call excrement still stores up the stuff of our lives. Eating has to some persons seemed a disgusting process. But yet it has been possible to say, with Thoreau, that "the gods have really intended that men should feed divinely, as themselves, on their own nectar and ambrosia.... I have felt that eating became a sacrament, a method of communion, an ecstatic exercise, and a sitting at the communion table of the world."

The sacraments of Nature are in this way everywhere woven into the texture of men's and women's bodies. Lips good to kiss with are indeed first of all chiefly good to eat and drink with. So accumulated and overlapped have the centres of force become in the long course of development, that the mucous membranes of the natural orifices, through the sensitiveness gained in their own offices, all become agents to thrill the soul in the contact of love; it is idle to discriminate high or low, pure or impure; all alike are sanctified already by the extreme unction of Nature. The nose receives the breath of life; the vagina receives the water of life. Ultimately the worth and loveliness of life must be measured by the worth and loveliness for us of the instruments of life. The swelling breasts are such divinely gracious insignia of womanhood because of the potential child that hangs at them and sucks; the large curves of the hips are so voluptuous because of the potential child they clasp within them; there can be no division here, we cannot cut the roots from the tree. The supreme function of manhood—the handing on of the lamp of life to future races—is carried on, it is true, by the same instrument that is the daily conduit of the bladder. It has been said in scorn that we are born between urine and excrement; it may be said, in reverence, that the passage through this channel of birth is a sacrament of Nature's more sacred and significant than men could ever invent.

These relationships have been sometimes perceived and their meaning realized by a sort of mystical intuition. We catch glimpses of such an insight now and again, first among the poets and later among the physicians of the Renaissance. In 1664 Rolfincius, in his Ordo et Methods Generationi Partium etc., at the outset of the second Part devoted to the sexual organs of women, sets forth what ancient writers have said of the Eleusinian and other mysteries and the devotion and purity demanded of those who approached these sacred rites. It is so also with us, he continues, in the rites of scientific investigation. "We also operate with sacred things. The organs of sex are to be held among sacred things. They who approach these altars must come with devout minds. Let the profane stand without, and the doors be closed." In those days, even for science, faith and intuition were alone possible. It is only of recent years that the histologist's microscope and the physiological chemist's test-tube have furnished them with a rational basis. It is no longer possible to cut Nature in two and assert that here she is pure and there impure.[50]

There thus appears to be no adequate ground for agreeing with those who consider that the proximity of the generative and excretory centres is "a stupid bungle of Nature's." An association which is so ancient and primitive in Nature can only seem repulsive to those whose feelings have become morbidly unnatural. It may further be remarked that the anus, which is the more æsthetically unattractive of the excretory centres, is comparatively remote from the sexual centre, and that, as R. Hellmann remarked many years ago in discussing this question (Ueber Geschlechtsfreiheit, p. 82): "In the first place, freshly voided urine has nothing specially unpleasant about it, and in the second place, even if it had, we might reflect that a rosy mouth by no means loses its charm merely because it fails to invite a kiss at the moment when its possessor is vomiting."

A clergyman writes suggesting that we may go further and find a positive advantage in this proximity: "I am glad that you do not agree with the man who considered that Nature had bungled by using the genitals for urinary purposes; apart from teleological or theological grounds I could not follow that line of reasoning. I think there is no need for disgust concerning the urinary organs, though I feel that the anus can never be attractive to the normal mind; but the anus is quite separate from the genitals. I would suggest that the proximity serves a good end in making the organs more or less secret except at times of sexual emotion or to those in love. The result is some degree of repulsion at ordinary times and a strong attraction at times of sexual activity. Hence, the ordinary guarding of the parts, from fear of creating disgust, greatly increases their attractiveness at other times when sexual emotion is paramount. Further, the feeling of disgust itself is merely the result of habit and sentiment, however useful it may be, and according to Scripture everything is clean and good. The ascetic feeling of repulsion, if we go back to origin, is due to other than Christian influence. Christianity came out of Judaism which had no sense of the impurity of marriage, for 'unclean' in the Old Testament simply means 'sacred.' The ascetic side of the religion of Christianity is no part of the religion of Christ as it came from the hands of its Founder, and the modern feeling on this matter is a lingering remnant of the heresy of the Manichæans." I may add, however, that, as Northcote points out (Christianity and Sex Problems, p. 14), side by side in the Old Testament with the frank recognition of sexuality, there is a circle of ideas revealing the feeling of impurity in sex and of shame in connection with it. Christianity inherited this mixed feeling. It has really been a widespread and almost universal feeling among the ancient and primitive peoples that there is something impure and sinful in the things of sex, so that those who would lead a religious life must avoid sexual relationships; even in India celibacy has commanded respect (see, e.g., Westermarck, Marriage, pp. 150 et seq.). As to the original foundation of this notion—which it is unnecessary to discuss more fully here—many theories have been put forward; St. Augustine, in his De Civitate Dei, sets forth the ingenious idea that the penis, being liable to spontaneous movements and erections that are not under the control of the will, is a shameful organ and involves the whole sphere of sex in its shame. Westermarck argues that among nearly all peoples there is a feeling against sexual relationship with members of the same family or household, and as sex was thus banished from the sphere of domestic life a notion of its general impurity arose; Northcote points out that from the first it has been necessary to seek concealment for sexual intercourse, because at that moment the couple would be a prey to hostile attacks, and that it was by an easy transition that sex came to be regarded as a thing that ought to be concealed, and, therefore, a sinful thing. (Diderot, in his Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville, had already referred to this motive for seclusion as "the only natural element in modesty.") Crawley has devoted a large part of his suggestive work, The Mystic Rose, to showing that, to savage man, sex is a perilous, dangerous, and enfeebling element in life, and, therefore, sinful.

It would, however, be a mistake to think that such men as St. Bernard and St. Odo of Cluny, admirably as they represented the ascetic and even the general Christian views of their own time, are to be regarded as altogether typical exponents of the genuine and primitive Christian view. So far as I have been able to discover, during the first thousand years of Christianity we do not find this concentrated intellectual and emotional ferocity of attack on the body; it only developed at the moment when, with Pope Gregory VII, mediæval Christianity reached the climax of its conquest over the souls of European men, in the establishment of the celibacy of the secular clergy, and the growth of the great cloistered communities of monks in severely regulated and secluded orders.[51] Before that the teachers of asceticism were more concerned to exhort to chastity and modesty than to direct a deliberate and systematic attack on the whole body; they concentrated their attention rather on spiritual virtues than on physical imperfections. And if we go back to the Gospels we find little of the mediæval ascetic spirit in the reported sayings and doings of Jesus, which may rather indeed be said to reveal, on the whole, notwithstanding their underlying asceticism, a certain tenderness and indulgence to the body, while even Paul, though not tender towards the body, exhorts to reverence towards it as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

We cannot expect to find the Fathers of the Church sympathetic towards the spectacle of the naked human body, for their position was based on a revolt against paganism, and paganism had cultivated the body. Nakedness had been more especially associated with the public bath, the gymnasium, and the theatre; in profoundly disapproving of these pagan institutions Christianity discouraged nakedness. The fact that familiarity with nakedness was favorable, rather than opposed, to the chastity to which it attached so much importance, the Church—though indeed at one moment it accepted nakedness in the rite of baptism—was for the most part unable to see if it was indeed a fact which the special conditions of decadent classic life had tended to disguise. But in their decided preference for the dressed over the naked human body the early Christians frequently hesitated to take the further step of asserting that the body is a focus of impurity and that the physical organs of sex are a device of the devil. On the contrary, indeed, some of the most distinguished of the Fathers, especially those of the Eastern Church who had felt the vivifying breath of Greek thought, occasionally expressed themselves on the subject of Nature, sex, and the body in a spirit which would have won the approval of Goethe or Whitman.

Clement of Alexandria, with all the eccentricities of his over-subtle intellect, was yet the most genuinely Greek of all the Fathers, and it is not surprising that the dying ray of classic light reflected from his mind shed some illumination over this question of sex. He protested, for instance, against that prudery which, as the sun of the classic world set, had begun to overshadow life. "We should not be ashamed to name," he declared, "what God has not been ashamed to create."[52] It was a memorable declaration because, while it accepted the old classic feeling of no shame in the presence of nature, it put that feeling on a new and religious basis harmonious to Christianity. Throughout, though not always quite consistently, Clement defends the body and the functions of sex against those who treated them with contempt. And as the cause of sex is the cause of women he always strongly asserts the dignity of women, and also proclaims the holiness of marriage, a state which he sometimes places above that of virginity.[53]

Unfortunately, it must be said, St. Augustine—another North African, but of Roman Carthage and not of Greek Alexandria—thought that he had a convincing answer to the kind of argument which Clement presented, and so great was the force of his passionate and potent genius that he was able in the end to make his answer prevail. For Augustine sin was hereditary, and sin had its special seat and symbol in the sexual organs; the fact of sin has modified the original divine act of creation, and we cannot treat sex and its organs as though there had been no inherited sin. Our sexual organs, he declares, have become shameful because, through sin, they are now moved by lust. At the same time Augustine by no means takes up the mediæval ascetic position of contemptuous hatred towards the body. Nothing can be further from Odo of Cluny than Augustine's enthusiasm about the body, even about the exquisite harmony of the parts beneath the skin. "I believe it may be concluded," he even says, "that in the creation of the human body beauty was more regarded than necessity. In truth, necessity is a transitory thing, and the time is coming when we shall be able to enjoy one another's beauty without any lust."[54] Even in the sphere of sex he would be willing to admit purity and beauty, apart from the inherited influence of Adam's sin. In Paradise, he says, had Paradise continued, the act of generation would have been as simple and free from shame as the act of the hand in scattering seed on to the earth. "Sexual conjugation would have been under the control of the will without any sexual desire. The semen would be injected into the vagina in as simple a manner as the menstrual fluid is now ejected. There would not have been any words which could be called obscene, but all that might be said of these members would have been as pure as what is said of the other parts of the body."[55] That, however, for Augustine, is what might have been in Paradise where, as he believed, sexual desire had no existence. As things are, he held, we are right to be ashamed, we do well to blush. And it was natural that, as Clement of Alexandria mentions, many heretics should have gone further on this road and believed that while God made man down to the navel, the rest was made by another power; such heretics have their descendants among us even to-day.

Alike in the Eastern and Western Churches, however, both before and after Augustine, though not so often after, great Fathers and teachers have uttered opinions which recall those of Clement rather than of Augustine. We cannot lay very much weight on the utterance of the extravagant and often contradictory Tertullian, but it is worth noting that, while he declared that woman is the gate of hell, he also said that we must approach Nature with reverence and not with blushes. "Natura veneranda est, non erubescenda." "No Christian author," it has indeed been said, "has so energetically spoken against the heretical contempt of the body as Tertullian. Soul and body, according to Tertullian, are in the closest association. The soul is the life-principle of the body, but there is no activity of the soul which is not manifested and conditioned by the flesh."[56] More weight attaches to Rufinus Tyrannius, the friend and fellow-student of St. Jerome, in the fourth century, who wrote a commentary on the Apostles' Creed, which was greatly esteemed by the early and mediæval Church, and is indeed still valued even to-day. Here, in answer to those who declared that there was obscenity in the fact of Christ's birth through the sexual organs of a woman, Rufinus replies that God created the sexual organs, and that "it is not Nature but merely human opinion which teaches that these parts are obscene. For the rest, all the parts of the body are made from the same clay, whatever differences there may be in their uses and functions."[57] He looks at the matter, we see, piously indeed, but naturally and simply, like Clement, and not, like Augustine, through the distorting medium of a theological system. Athanasius, in the Eastern Church, spoke in the same sense as Rufinus in the Western Church. A certain monk named Amun had been much grieved by the occurrence of seminal emissions during sleep, and he wrote to Athanasius to inquire if such emissions are a sin. In the letter he wrote in reply, Athanasius seeks to reassure Amun. "All things," he tells him, "are pure to the pure. For what, I ask, dear and pious friend, can there be sinful or naturally impure in excrement? Man is the handwork of God. There is certainly nothing in us that is impure."[58] We feel as we read these utterances that the seeds of prudery and pruriency are already alive in the popular mind, but yet we see also that some of the most distinguished thinkers of the early Christian Church, in striking contrast to the more morbid and narrow-minded mediæval ascetics, clearly stood aside from the popular movement. On the whole, they were submerged because Christianity, like Buddhism, had in it from the first a germ that lent itself to ascetic renunciation, and the sexual life is always the first impulse to be sacrificed to the passion for renunciation. But there were other germs also in Christianity, and Luther, who in his own plebeian way asserted the rights of the body, although he broke with mediæval asceticism, by no means thereby cast himself off from the traditions of the early Christian Church.

I have thought it worth while to bring forward this evidence, although I am perfectly well aware that the facts of Nature gain no additional support from the authority of the Fathers or even of the Bible. Nature and humanity existed before the Bible and would continue to exist although the Bible should be forgotten. But the attitude of Christianity on this point has so often been unreservedly condemned that it seems as well to point out that at its finest moments, when it was a young and growing power in the world, the utterances of Christianity were often at one with those of Nature and reason. There are many, it may be added, who find it a matter of consolation that in following the natural and rational path in this matter they are not thereby altogether breaking with the religious traditions of their race.

It is scarcely necessary to remark that when we turn from Christianity to the other great world-religions, we do not usually meet with so ambiguous an attitude towards sex. The Mahommedans were as emphatic in asserting the sanctity of sex as they were in asserting physical cleanliness; they were prepared to carry the functions of sex into the future life, and were never worried, as Luther and so many other Christians have been, concerning the lack of occupation in Heaven. In India, although India is the home of the most extreme forms of religious asceticism, sexual love has been sanctified and divinized to a greater extent than in any other part of the world. "It seems never to have entered into the heads of the Hindu legislators," said Sir William Jones long since (Works, vol. ii, p. 311), "that anything natural could be offensively obscene, a singularity which pervades all their writings, but is no proof of the depravity of their morals." The sexual act has often had a religious significance in India, and the minutest details of the sexual life and its variations are discussed in Indian erotic treatises in a spirit of gravity, while nowhere else have the anatomical and physiological sexual characters of women been studied with such minute and adoring reverence. "Love in India, both as regards theory and practice," remarks Richard Schmidt (Beiträge zur Indischen Erotik, p. 2) "possesses an importance which it is impossible for us even to conceive."

In Protestant countries the influence of the Reformation, by rehabilitating sex as natural, indirectly tended to substitute in popular feeling towards sex the opprobrium of sinfulness by the opprobrium of animality. Henceforth the sexual impulse must be disguised or adorned to become respectably human. This may be illustrated by a passage in Pepys's Diary in the seventeenth century. On the morning after the wedding day it was customary to call up new married couples by music; the absence of this music on one occasion (in 1667) seemed to Pepys "as if they had married like dog and bitch." We no longer insist on the music, but the same feeling still exists in the craving for other disguises and adornments for the sexual impulse. We do not always realize that love brings its own sanctity with it.

Nowadays indeed, whenever the repugnance to the sexual side of life manifests itself, the assertion nearly always made is not so much that it is "sinful" as that it is "beastly." It is regarded as that part of man which most closely allies him to the lower animals. It should scarcely be necessary to point out that this is a mistake. On whichever side, indeed, we approach it, the implication that sex in man and animals is identical cannot be borne out. From the point of view of those who accept this identity it would be much more correct to say that men are inferior, rather than on a level with animals, for in animals under natural conditions the sexual instinct is strictly subordinated to reproduction and very little susceptible to deviation, so that from the standpoint of those who wish to minimize sex, animals are nearer to the ideal, and such persons must say with Woods Hutchinson: "Take it altogether, our animal ancestors have quite as good reason to be ashamed of us as we of them." But if we look at the matter from a wider biological standpoint of development, our conclusion must be very different.

So far from being animal-like, the human impulses of sex are among the least animal-like acquisitions of man. The human sphere of sex differs from the animal sphere of sex to a singularly great extent.[59] Breathing is an animal function and here we cannot compete with birds; locomotion is an animal function and here we cannot equal quadrupeds; we have made no notable advance in our circulatory, digestive, renal, or hepatic functions. Even as regards vision and hearing, there are many animals that are more keen-sighted than man, and many that are capable of hearing sounds that to him are inaudible. But there are no animals in whom the sexual instinct is so sensitive, so highly developed, so varied in its manifestations, so constantly alert, so capable of irradiating the highest and remotest parts of the organism. The sexual activities of man and woman belong not to that lower part of our nature which degrades us to the level of the "brute," but to the higher part which raises us towards all the finest activities and ideals we are capable of. It is true that it is chiefly in the mouths of a few ignorant and ill-bred women that we find sex referred to as "bestial" or "the animal part of our nature."[60] But since women are the mothers and teachers of the human race this is a piece of ignorance and ill-breeding which cannot be too swiftly eradicated.

There are some who seem to think that they have held the balance evenly, and finally stated the matter, if they admit that sexual love may be either beautiful or disgusting, and that either view is equally normal and legitimate. "Listen in turn," Tarde remarks, "to two men who, one cold, the other ardent, one chaste, the other in love, both equally educated and large-minded, are estimating the same thing: one judges as disgusting, odious, revolting, and bestial what the other judges to be delicious, exquisite, ineffable, divine. What, for one, is in Christian phraseology, an unforgivable sin, is, for the other, the state of true grace. Acts that for one seem a sad and occasional necessity, stains that must be carefully effaced by long intervals of continence, are for the other the golden nails from which all the rest of conduct and existence is suspended, the things that alone give human life its value."[61] Yet we may well doubt whether both these persons are "equally well-educated and broad-minded." The savage feels that sex is perilous, and he is right. But the person who feels that the sexual impulse is bad, or even low and vulgar, is an absurdity in the universe, an anomaly. He is like those persons in our insane asylums, who feel that the instinct of nutrition is evil and so proceed to starve themselves. They are alike spiritual outcasts in the universe whose children they are. It is another matter when a man declares that, personally, in his own case, he cherishes an ascetic ideal which leads him to restrain, so far as possible, either or both impulses. The man, who is sanely ascetic seeks a discipline which aids the ideal he has personally set before himself. He may still remain theoretically in harmony with the universe to which he belongs. But to pour contempt on the sexual life, to throw the veil of "impurity" over it, is, as Nietzsche declared, the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost of Life.

There are many who seek to conciliate prejudice and reason in their valuation of sex by drawing a sharp distinction between "lust" and "love," rejecting the one and accepting the other. It is quite proper to make such a distinction, but the manner in which it is made will by no means usually bear examination. We have to define what we mean by "lust" and what we mean by "love," and this is not easy if they are regarded as mutually exclusive. It is sometimes said that "lust" must be understood as meaning a reckless indulgence of the sexual impulse without regard to other considerations. So understood, we are quite safe in rejecting it. But that is an entirely arbitrary definition of the word. "Lust" is really a very ambiguous term; it is a good word that has changed its moral values, and therefore we need to define it very carefully before we venture to use it. Properly speaking, "lust" is an entirely colorless word[62] and merely means desire in general and sexual desire in particular; it corresponds to "hunger" or "thirst"; to use it in an offensive sense is much the same as though we should always assume that the word "hungry" had the offensive meaning of "greedy." The result has been that sensitive minds indignantly reject the term "lust" in connection with love.[63] In the early use of our language, "lust," "lusty," and "lustful" conveyed the sense of wholesome and normal sexual vigor; now, with the partial exception of "lusty," they have been so completely degraded to a lower sense that although it would be very convenient to restore them to their original and proper place, which still remains vacant, the attempt at such a restoration scarcely seems a hopeful task. We have so deeply poisoned the springs of feeling in these matters with mediæval ascetic crudities that all our words of sex tend soon to become bespattered with filth; we may pick them up from the mud into which they have fallen and seek to purify them, but to many eyes they will still seem dirty. One result of this tendency is that we have no simple, precise, natural word for the love of the sexes, and are compelled to fall back on the general term, which is so extensive in its range that in English and French and most of the other leading languages of Europe, it is equally correct to "love" God or to "love" eating.

Love, in the sexual sense, is, summarily considered, a synthesis of lust (in the primitive and uncolored sense of sexual emotion) and friendship. It is incorrect to apply the term "love" in the sexual sense to elementary and uncomplicated sexual desire; it is equally incorrect to apply it to any variety or combination of varieties of friendship. There can be no sexual love without lust; but, on the other hand, until the currents of lust in the organism have been so irradiated as to affect other parts of the psychic organism—at the least the affections and the social feelings—it is not yet sexual love. Lust, the specific sexual impulse, is indeed the primary and essential element in this synthesis, for it alone is adequate to the end of reproduction, not only in animals but in men. But it is not until lust is expanded and irradiated that it develops into the exquisite and enthralling flower of love. We may call to mind what happens among plants: on the one hand we have the lower organisms in which sex is carried on summarily and cryptogamically, never shedding any shower of gorgeous blossoms on the world, and on the other hand the higher plants among whom sex has become phanersgamous and expanded enormously into form and color and fragrance.

While "lust" is, of course, known all over the world, and there are everywhere words to designate it, "love" is not universally known, and in many languages there are no words for "love." The failures to find love are often remarkable and unexpected. We may find it where we least expect it. Sexual desire became idealized (as Sergi has pointed out) even by some animals, especially birds, for when a bird pines to death for the loss of its mate this cannot be due to the uncomplicated instinct of sex, but must involve the interweaving of that instinct with the other elements of life to a degree which is rare even among the most civilized men. Some savage races seem to have no fundamental notion of love, and (like the American Nahuas) no primary word for it, while, on the other hand, in Quichua, the language of the ancient Peruvians, there are nearly six hundred combinations of the verb munay, to love. Among some peoples love seems to be confined to the women. Letourneau (L'Evolution Littéraire, p. 529) points out that in various parts of the world women have taken a leading part in creating erotic poetry. It may be mentioned in this connection that suicide from erotic motives among primitive peoples occurs chiefly among women (Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft, 1899, p. 578). Not a few savages possess love-poems, as, for instance, the Suahali (Velten, in his Prosa und Poesie der Suahali, devotes a section to love-poems reproduced in the Suahali language). D. G. Brinton, in an interesting paper on "The Conception of Love in Some American Languages" (Proceedings American Philosophical Society, vol. xxiii, p. 546, 1886) states that the words for love in these languages reveal four main ways of expressing the conception: (1) inarticulate cries of emotion; (2) assertions of sameness or similarity; (3) assertions of conjunction or union; (4) assertions of a wish, desire, a longing. Brinton adds that "these same notions are those which underlie the majority of the words of love in the great Aryan family of languages." The remarkable fact emerges, however, that the peoples of Aryan tongue were slow in developing their conception of sexual love. Brinton remarks that the American Mayas must be placed above the peoples of early Aryan culture, in that they possessed a radical word for the joy of love which was in significance purely psychical, referring strictly to a mental state, and neither to similarity nor desire. Even the Greeks were late in developing any ideal of sexual love. This has been well brought out by E. F. M. Benecke in his Antimachus of Colophon and the Position of Women in Greek Poetry, a book which contains some hazardous assertions, but is highly instructive from the present point of view. The Greek lyric poets wrote practically no love poems at all to women before Anacreon, and his were only written in old age. True love for the Greeks was nearly always homosexual. The Ionian lyric poets of early Greece regarded woman as only an instrument of pleasure and the founder of the family. Theognis compares marriage to cattle-breeding; Alcman, when he wishes to be complimentary to the Spartan girls, speaks of them as his "female boy-friends." Æschylus makes even a father assume that his daughters will misbehave if left to themselves. There is no sexual love in Sophocles, and in Euripides it is only the women who fall in love. Benecke concludes (p. 67) that in Greece sexual love, down to a comparatively later period, was looked down on, and held to be unworthy of public discussion and representation. It was in Magna Græcia rather than in Greece itself that men took interest in women, and it was not until the Alexandrian period, and notably in Asclepiades, Benecke maintains, that the love of women was regarded as a matter of life and death. Thereafter the conception of sexual love, in its romantic aspects, appears in European life. With the Celtic story of Tristram, as Gaston Paris remarks, it finally appears in the Christian European world of poetry as the chief point in human life, the great motive force of conduct.

Romantic love failed, however, to penetrate the masses in Europe. In the sixteenth century, or whenever it was that the ballad of "Glasgerion" was written, we see it is assumed that a churl's relation to his mistress is confined to the mere act of sexual intercourse; he fails to kiss her on arriving or departing; it is only the knight, the man of upper class, who would think of offering that tender civility. And at the present day in, for instance, the region between East Friesland and the Alps, Bloch states (Sexualleben unserer Zeit, p. 29), following E. H. Meyer, that the word "love" is unknown among the masses, and only its coarse counterpart recognized.

On the other side of the world, in Japan, sexual love seems to be in as great disrepute as it was in ancient Greece; thus Miss Tsuda, a Japanese head-mistress, and herself a Christian, remarks (as quoted by Mrs. Eraser in World's Work and Play, Dec., 1906): "That word 'love' has been hitherto a word unknown among our girls, in the foreign sense. Duty, submission, kindness—these were the sentiments which a girl was expected to bring to the husband who had been chosen for her—and many happy, harmonious marriages were the result. Now, your dear sentimental foreign women say to our girls: 'It is wicked to marry without love; the obedience to parents in such a case is an outrage against nature and Christianity. If you love a man you must sacrifice everything to marry him.'"

When, however, love is fully developed it becomes an enormously extended, highly complex emotion, and lust, even in the best sense of that word, becomes merely a coördinated element among many other elements. Herbert Spencer, in an interesting passage of his Principles of Psychology (Part IV, Ch. VIII), has analyzed love into as many as nine distinct and important elements: (1) the physical impulse of sex; (2) the feeling for beauty; (3) affection; (4) admiration and respect; (5) love of approbation; (6) self-esteem; (7) proprietary feeling; (8) extended liberty of action from the absence of personal barriers; (9) exaltation of the sympathies. "This passion," he concludes, "fuses into one immense aggregate most of the elementary excitations of which we are capable."

It is scarcely necessary to say that to define sexual love, or even to analyze its components, is by no means to explain its mystery. We seek to satisfy our intelligence by means of a coherent picture of love, but the gulf between that picture and the emotional reality must always be incommensurable and impassable. "There is no word more often pronounced than that of love," wrote Bonstetten many years ago, "yet there is no subject more mysterious. Of that which touches us most nearly we know least. We measure the march of the stars and we do not know how we love." And however expert we have become in detecting and analyzing the causes, the concomitants, and the results of love, we must still make the same confession to-day. We may, as some have done, attempt to explain love as a form of hunger and thirst, or as a force analogous to electricity, or as a kind of magnetism, or as a variety of chemical affinity, or as a vital tropism, but these explanations are nothing more than ways of expressing to ourselves the magnitude of the phenomenon we are in the presence of.

What has always baffled men in the contemplation of sexual love is the seeming inadequacy of its cause, the immense discrepancy between the necessarily circumscribed region of mucous membrane which is the final goal of such love and the sea of world-embracing emotions to which it seems as the door, so that, as Remy de Gourmont has said, "the mucous membranes, by an ineffable mystery, enclose in their obscure folds all the riches of the infinite." It is a mystery before which the thinker and the artist are alike overcome. Donnay, in his play L'Escalade, makes a cold and stern man of science, who regards love as a mere mental disorder which can be cured like other disorders, at last fall desperately in love himself. He forces his way into the girl's room, by a ladder, at dead of night, and breaks into a long and passionate speech: "Everything that touches you becomes to me mysterious and sacred. Ah! to think that a thing so well known as a woman's body, which sculptors have modelled, which poets have sung of, which men of science like myself have dissected, that such a thing should suddenly become an unknown mystery and an infinite joy merely because it is the body of one particular woman—what insanity! And yet that is what I feel."[64]

That love is a natural insanity, a temporary delusion which the individual is compelled to suffer for the sake of the race, is indeed an explanation that has suggested itself to many who have been baffled by this mystery. That, as we know, was the explanation offered by Schopenhauer. When a youth and a girl fall into each other's arms in the ecstacy of love they imagine that they are seeking their own happiness. But it is not so, said Schopenhauer; they are deluded by the genius of the race into the belief that they are seeking a personal end in order that they may be induced to effect a far greater impersonal end: the creation of the future race. The intensity of their passion is not the measure of the personal happiness they will secure but the measure of their aptitude for producing offspring. In accepting passion and renouncing the counsels of cautious prudence the youth and the girl are really sacrificing their chances of selfish happiness and fulfilling the larger ends of Nature. As Schopenhauer saw the matter, there was here no vulgar illusion. The lovers thought that they were reaching towards a boundlessly immense personal happiness; they were probably deceived. But they were deceived not because the reality was less than their imagination, but because it was more; instead of pursuing, as they thought, a merely personal end they were carrying on the creative work of the world, a task better left undone, as Schopenhauer viewed it, but a task whose magnitude he fully recognized.[65]

It must be remembered that in the lower sense of deception, love may be, and frequently is, a delusion. A man may deceive himself, or be deceived by the object of his attraction, concerning the qualities that she possesses or fails to possess. In first love, occurring in youth, such deception is perhaps entirely normal, and in certain suggestible and inflammable types of people it is peculiarly apt to occur. This kind of deception, although far more frequent and conspicuous in matters of love—and more serious because of the tightness of the marriage bond—is liable to occur in any relation of life. For most people, however, and those not the least sane or the least wise, the memory of the exaltation of love, even when the period of that exaltation is over, still remains as, at the least, the memory of one of the most real and essential facts of life.[66]

Some writers seem to confuse the liability in matters of love to deception or disappointment with the larger question of a metaphysical illusion in Schopenhauer's sense. To some extent this confusion perhaps exists in the discussion of love by Renouvier and Prat in La Nouvelle Monadologie (pp. 216 et seq.). In considering whether love is or is not a delusion, they answer that it is or is not according as we are, or are not, dominated by selfishness and injustice. "It was not an essential error which presided over the creation of the idol, for the idol is only what in all things the ideal is. But to realize the ideal in love two persons are needed, and therein is the great difficulty. We are never justified," they conclude, "in casting contempt on our love, or even on its object, for if it is true that we have not gained possession of the sovereign beauty of the world it is equally true that we have not attained a degree of perfection that would have entitled us justly to claim so great a prize." And perhaps most of us, it may be added, must admit in the end, if we are honest with ourselves, that the prizes of love we have gained in the world, whatever their flaws, are far greater than we deserved.

We may well agree that in a certain sense not love alone but all the passions and desires of men are illusions. In that sense the Gospel of Buddha is justified, and we may recognize the inspiration of Shakespeare (in the Tempest) and of Calderon (in La Vida es Sueño), who felt that ultimately the whole world is an insubstantial dream. But short of that large and ultimate vision we cannot accept illusion; we cannot admit that love is a delusion in some special and peculiar sense that men's other cravings and aspirations escape. On the contrary, it is the most solid of realities. All the progressive forms of life are built up on the attraction of sex. If we admit the action of sexual selection—as we can scarcely fail to do if we purge it from its unessential accretions[67]—love has moulded the precise shape and color, the essential beauty, alike of animal and human life.

If we further reflect that, as many investigators believe, not only the physical structure of life but also its spiritual structure—our social feelings, our morality, our religion, our poetry and art—are, in some degree at least, also built up on the impulse of sex, and would have been, if not non-existent, certainly altogether different had other than sexual methods of propagation prevailed in the world, we may easily realize that we can only fall into confusion by dismissing love as a delusion. The whole edifice of life topples down, for as the idealist Schiller long since said, it is entirely built up on hunger and on love. To look upon love as in any special sense a delusion is merely to fall into the trap of a shallow cynicism. Love is only a delusion in so far as the whole of life is a delusion, and if we accept the fact of life it is unphilosophical to refuse to accept the fact of love.

It is unnecessary here to magnify the functions of love in the world; it is sufficient to investigate its workings in its own proper sphere. It may, however, be worth while to quote a few expressions of thinkers, belonging to various schools, who have pointed out what seemed to them the far-ranging significance of the sexual emotions for the moral life. "The passions are the heavenly fire which gives life to the moral world," wrote Helvétius long since in De l'Esprit. "The activity of the mind depends on the activity of the passions, and it is at the period of the passions, from the age of twenty-five to thirty-five or forty that men are capable of the greatest efforts of virtue or of genius." "What touches sex," wrote Zola, "touches the centre of social life." Even our regard for the praise and blame of others has a sexual origin, Professor Thomas argues (Psychological Review, Jan., 1904, pp. 61-67), and it is love which is the source of susceptibility generally and of the altruistic side of life. "The appearance of sex," Professor Woods Hutchinson attempts to show ("Love as a Factor in Evolution," Monist, 1898), "the development of maleness and femaleness, was not only the birthplace of affection, the well-spring of all morality, but an enormous economic advantage to the race and an absolute necessity of progress. In it first we find any conscious longing for or active impulse toward a fellow creature." "Were man robbed of the instinct of procreation, and of all that spiritually springs therefrom," exclaimed Maudsley in his Physiology of Mind, "that moment would all poetry, and perhaps also his whole moral sense, be obliterated from his life." "One seems to oneself transfigured, stronger, richer, more complete; one is more complete," says Nietzsche (Der Wille zur Macht, p. 389), "we find here art as an organic function: we find it inlaid in the most angelic instinct of 'love:' we find it as the greatest stimulant of life.... It is not merely that it changes the feeling of values: the lover is worth more, is stronger. In animals this condition produces new weapons, pigments, colors, and forms, above all new movements, new rhythms, a new seductive music. It is not otherwise in man.... Even in art the door is opened to him. If we subtract from lyrical work in words and sounds the suggestions of that intestinal fever, what is left over in poetry and music? L'Art pour l'art perhaps, the quacking virtuosity of cold frogs who perish in their marsh. All the rest is created by love."

It would be easy to multiply citations tending to show how many diverse thinkers have come to the conclusion that sexual love (including therewith parental and especially maternal love) is the source of the chief manifestations of life. How far they are justified in that conclusion, it is not our business now to inquire.

It is undoubtedly true that, as we have seen when discussing the erratic and imperfect distribution of the conception of love, and even of words for love, over the world, by no means all people are equally apt for experiencing, even at any time in their lives, the emotions of sexual exaltation. The difference between the knight and the churl still subsists, and both may sometimes be found in all social strata. Even the refinements of sexual enjoyment, it is unnecessary to insist, quite commonly remain on a merely physical basis, and have little effect on the intellectual and emotional nature.[68] But this is not the case with the people who have most powerfully influenced the course of the world's thought and feeling. The personal reality of love, its importance for the individual life, are facts that have been testified to by some of the greatest thinkers, after lives devoted to the attainment of intellectual labor. The experience of Renan, who toward the end of his life set down in his remarkable drama L'Abbesse de Jouarre, his conviction that, even from the point of view of chastity, love is, after all, the supreme thing in the world, is far from standing alone. "Love has always appeared as an inferior mode of human music, ambition as the superior mode," wrote Tarde, the distinguished sociologist, at the end of his life. "But will it always be thus? Are there not reasons for thinking that the future perhaps reserves for us the ineffable surprise of an inversion of that secular order?" Laplace, half an hour before his death, took up a volume of his own Mécanique Celeste, and said: "All that is only trifles, there is nothing true but love." Comte, who had spent his life in building up a Positive Philosophy which should be absolutely real, found (as indeed it may be said the great English Positivist Mill also found) the culmination of all his ideals in a woman, who was, he said, Egeria and Beatrice and Laura in one, and he wrote: "There is nothing real in the world but love. One grows tired of thinking, and even of acting; one never grows tired of loving, nor of saying so. In the worst tortures of affection I have never ceased to feel that the essential of happiness is that the heart should be worthily filled—even with pain, yes, even with pain, the bitterest pain." And Sophie Kowalewsky, after intellectual achievements which have placed her among the most distinguished of her sex, pathetically wrote: "Why can no one love me? I could give more than most women, and yet the most insignificant women are loved and I am not." Love, they all seem to say, is the one thing that is supremely worth while. The greatest and most brilliant of the world's intellectual giants, in their moments of final insight, thus reach the habitual level of the humble and almost anonymous persons, cloistered from the world, who wrote The Imitation of Christ or The Letters of a Portuguese Nun. And how many others!

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