Typos p. 4: offsprings' [= offspring's]; p. 11, n. 2: ETUDES [= ÉTUDES]; p. 15, n. 1: Woolstonecraft [= Wollstonecraft]; p. 21: PILGRIMS ON THE RHINE [= PILGRIMS OF THE RHINE]
- p. xxiii -
- p. 1 -
On Choice in General and the Obstacles in the Way of a Sound Choice
This book deals with the only phase in the adult relationship of the sexes, which has retained its natural features almost unimpaired. Choice, chase, capture these are its three exciting stages, upon which even the most unhappy couples look back with delight. We may even suspect that conjugal infidelity is more often due to the wish to experience this joyous phase over again with some new quarry, than to any conscious desire to start a fresh permanent union with another partner.
No aspect of the sex question, however, could, in its complexity, be more baffling to the modern civilized being, than the choice of a mate, because, as we shall see, there are exceptional conditions which now make a permanent association with a member of the opposite sex perhaps more hazardous than it has ever been before.
It was never an easy undertaking. "S'aimer toujours," said Balzac, "est le plus téméraire des entreprises." 1 And few who have tried it are in any doubt as to the large range and variety of its pitfalls.
To be so romantic as to choose a mate as if you proposed entering heaven together, when you are only entering matrimony, is, therefore, as sensible as choosing garments for a ball when you only intend using them for gardening.
To enter matrimony, in fact, in the spirit with which people pursue pleasure, is hardly rational. 2 And yet what with the romantic tradition in fiction and the films, and the reprehensible reluctance of middle-aged folk to speak out truthfully before their juniors about marriage, modern youth is usually given a picture of matrimony which is no more like reality than a fairy tale.
1 P.M., p. 21.
2 See S.M., p. 13, where Keyserling says: "Marriage as a solution of the problem of happiness is misconceived from the start."
It may be that marriage, as we know it, has always been an undertaking too difficult and exacting for ordinary people. Where families have a dynasty or proprietary rights to secure, it is not unfair that a price should be paid for such enviable preoccupations. Where, however, no such preoccupations exist, marriage certainly loses much of its meaning and many of its advantages. 1 The lower it descends in the social scale, the smaller the advantages, and the greater the burdens of matrimony become; for the poor man has none of the paramount interests and motives which tend to reconcile the rich and the ruler to the condition.
Indeed, there are some grounds for supposing that marriage was once the exclusive privilege of a class or caste, and that it was restricted to kings and very important people, 2 of whom it was reasonable to expect tiresome and lifelong feats of endurance in exchange for the benefits they enjoyed. It seems probable, moreover, that it was only the invincible snobbery of the common people and the middle-classes that ever led them to imitate their betters and thus to universalize the institution. 3
There is certainly much evidence in Ernest Crawley, 4 in Hocart himself, 5 and in Ploss and Bartels 6 in support of Hocart's theory, and Rabindranath Tagore also makes an important statement to the same effect. 7 Nor do our own wedding ceremonies
1 Thus Balzac spoke of "la plaie profonde de nos mariages," as if marriage were a Western plague, and says, "le mariage ne vaut pas tout ce qu'il coûte." The last remark may be true of poor people's marriages. It is not true of those of rulers and the rich, who secure by marriage something that bears no necessary relation to happiness. See P.M., p. 145.
2 See A. H. Hocart: KINGSHIP (Oxford, 1927, pp. 100112).
3 According to Hocart, some of the lower orders have escaped: "Originally a ceremony observed by the King and Queen, it spread downwards to the lower classes; but not always so far down" (op. cit., p. 101). And he gives various instances of peoples whose lower classes have no marriage.
4 C.M.R., p. 300.
5 Op. cit., p. 100.
6 D.W., II, pp. 198199.
7 B.M., p. 108.
But, whatever its origin may be, marriage will probably have to be retained, if only for the purposes of order and social administration. That is why it is most important to tell youth the truth about it. To do this, it is not necessary to dwell only on its dark and forbidding aspects. This would amount merely to imitating the romantics who go to the opposite extreme. Everybody knows, everybody has met, couples who have been conspicuously successful in matrimony. But a reasonable instructor of youth would point out that, wise as it may be to keep such cases in mind and to aspire to their example, they constitute, like genius, a minority. 1
Permanent association, even with friends, is known to be difficult. But even if full weight is given to the sex factor as modifying such a relationship in favour of the married, sex is by no means an inexhaustible source of concord.
To recommend caution in the choice of a life-mate, therefore, is but an obvious beginning. But a wise choice can hardly be made, no matter how cautious we may be, unless we are clear regarding the object we wish to achieve by marriage, and have some knowledge of how to choose the mate best suited to that object.
We may know that a hunter or a good hack is the best mount for a certain journey; but we also need to know how to choose such a horse from among other horses.
To those who object that whereas the choice of a horse presupposes specialized knowledge, the choice of a mate can safely be made by instinct, I reply, what is meant by instinct in this connexion?
When my bitch, Sukie, unaided and uninstructed, severs one of her puppies from the placenta by biting through the umbilical cord, she performs this operation by instinct. This instinct might be termed "primary" and is an inborn tendency to react in a way useful to the individual or the species, in response to
1 Balzac asks: "Pourquoi un mariage heureux est-il donc si peu fréquent?" And he replies: "par la raison qu'il se rencontre peu de gens de génie" (P.M., p. 89). See also W.S.H., p. 14, where Friedländer says: "Education should do away with conventional bias . . . and with the concealment of the fact that really happy marriages are rare."
Thus, although all instinct is, at bottom, of the same order as a reflex, we must distinguish those reflexes which are conditioned by our nature, as handed down to us by our ancestors, from those which are subsequently conditioned by the disciplines and circumstances of our lives. The first we may call "naturally-conditioned reflexes" (or primary instincts), the second "artificially-conditioned reflexes" (or secondary instincts).
But the proper and automatic working of a reflex, whether naturally- or artificially-conditioned, presupposes an environment similar to that in which the reflex was reared.
A rodent's primary instinct to gnaw cannot function in a glass or granite box. Neither can my bitch's secondary instinct to cross roads only on hearing my word "Go!" function on a moor. And, if she were kept always on a moor, this secondary instinct would certainly be lost.
Among our standardized domestic animals only the naturally-conditioned reflexes are similar; the artificially-conditioned will tend to be dissimilar. For instance, although my bitch, like all bitches, disposes of her offsprings' excreta orally during lactation, only one registered wire-haired bitch in England has the artificially-conditioned reflex to answer to the name of "Sukie". In modern civilized man, however, at least as far as our present problem. Mating, is concerned, we have a creature in regard to whom primary instinct, secondary instinct and environment are inconstant and incalculable.
It is unlikely that he has more than one, or at most two, overpowering naturally-conditioned reflexes causing him to react sexually in a way advantageous to himself or the species, and he has few artificially-conditioned reflexes adjusted to the same end. Moreover, his environment cannot possibly be similar to that in which his naturally- or artificially-conditioned sexual reflexes were reared, even if he possessed such uniformly with other men. 1
Modern man, in fact, is a creature differentiated often con-
1 See E. R. Jaensch's EIDETIC IMAGERY (London, 1930, p. 24): "Primitive organisms can always respond to their environmental influences with the same reactions as their ancestors, since these influences remain to a very wide extent constant for them. But for higher organisms, particularly for man, the changing environmental conditions that arise in the course of a generation become an important factor."
In plain English, modern man is unlike his neighbour not only because of his individual blend of different strains and tendencies, but also because of his purely personal disciplines, adaptations. and prejudices. Besides which, his reactive tendencies, which are also individual, are met by stimuli to which he was not necessarily reared, either naturally or artificially.
To speak of primary instinct, or a naturally-conditioned reflex, as controlling him in the choice of a mate is, therefore, to suppose a most unlikely state of affairs. He may have, in common with other animals, the pre-vertebral primary instinct which makes one sex turn to the other (the genetic instinct), and there is probably in all sound people too a primary instinct which makes them seek their like. But to claim more would be to misunderstand the nature and function of instinct (primary and secondary) and of environment to-day.
Not only must each individual in our hotch-potch of races and types be controlled by different primary instincts (where such exist) according as he departs morphologically and psychologically from the rest; but he must also be influenced by different artificially-conditioned reflexes according to:
(a) The unique degree of his personal psycho-physical abnormality.
(b) The unique nature of his personal values, prejudices, tastes.
(c) The extent to which his environment harmonizes or clashes with (a) or (b).
Think of the baffling variety and inequality of these factors, and try to compute the chances that one male has of finding a female differentiated in such a way from the rest as to present to him exactly the stimuli to which his reflexes would have been reared to react among a standardized community and in a stable environment!
Even if we could postulate the existence in one individual of sound primary instincts, how could they prevail against those secondary or acquired instincts which differ so widely in in-
This is the outcome, not only of the anarchy of values and the absence of any standardized taste and judgment, but also of the infinite number of permutations and combinations to which the mixture of races, nationalities, classes, types aye and diseases, have led.
Truth to tell, it is not unlikely that the very idea of exercising choice at all in mating is the result of the steady increase in individual differentiation. For if standardization of type, values and tastes, existed, and marked differences, whether in stature, beauty, health and psyche, were so rare that a young person blindfolded could be certain of picking out a suitable mate, merely by reaching out to a group of waiting men or girls, as the case might be, choice would be of no consequence whatsoever. 1
Indeed, Professor Richard Wilhelm, who writes with such authority on China, says that owing to "the great similarity of personalities, it does not make much difference to a man which woman he marries, for they are all more or less alike," 2 and Crawley mentions similar instances in other parts of the world. 3
How different is the position of the modern European!
While, however, the prerequisite of free choice may be differentiation and variety, choice is not simplified by the fact that such variety exists. To assume that it is, would mean that, failing the necessary instincts and the stable environment, sound criteria of choice are to hand and accessible to all. But this is not so, and here we touch on the most defective of all branches of general knowledge. To make a sound choice from the standpoint of health alone to-day, the average lay person's knowledge is wholly inadequate. This is also true of the morphological, psychological and many other standpoints.
The matter is now so extremely complicated that it almost meets the extreme of simplicity possessed by the other state (that of complete standardization), and we may wonder whether the
1 According to Athenæus (THE DEIPNOSOPHISTS, trans. by C. D. Yonge, B.A., London, 1854, Bk. III, Chap II) some such practice existed in Sparta; for he writes: "Hermippus stated . . . that at Lacedemon all the damsels used to be shut up in a dark room, while a number of unmarried young men were shut up with them, and whichever girl each of the young men caught hold of be led away as his wife."
2 B.M., p. 133.
3 C.M.R., p. 295.
As an alternative this is not so absurd as it seems, seeing that there appears to be no such relation between the amount of free choice exercised and the happiness secured, as would indicate free choice as the method to be preferred.
The Jews, whose marriages so often depend on parental authority, and among whom in Poland, a young man often marries a girl he has never previously seen, 1 divorce each other less often than the Gentiles about them, whose marriages are presumably free. 2 And even if divorce statistics prove little, it would be hard to maintain that Jewish marriages are less often successful than other marriages.
A careful observer, Walter Heape, says: "I doubt if there are more cases of unhappy marriages in countries where the parents choose their children's mates than in our own country, where we no longer follow that custom." 3 While Professor Richard Wilhelm writes: "It cannot be asserted that even the most personal European marriage, based entirely on mutual affection, is any happier or more peaceful than Chinese marriage, which rests on parental authority." 4
If, however, we appreciate the difficulties of choice at the present day in England, we know that things could hardly be otherwise. For, where ignorance, inexperience and individual caprice combine in selecting from the motley throng of odd
1 See Joseph Jacobs: JEWISH STATISTICS (London, 1891, p. 6). Also Elkan N. Adler: SOME QUAINT JEWISH CUSTOMS (London, 1914, p. 8). These cases cannot, of course, cover cousin marriages, which are about 7.52 per cent of Jewish marriages, nor apply to Jews strictly observing the Talmud, which forbids the marrying of a woman without first seeing her. But they prove how little choice is valued in a standardized community.
2 I could find only figures for Central Europe between 1862 and 1875, which show divorces in 5.1 per cent of Jewish against 6.1 per cent of Protestant and 5.7 per cent of Catholic marriages. But so many other factors are involved that divorce statistics are not very conclusive. The great recent rise in American and British divorces hardly indicates, however, that extreme freedom of choice in mating makes for happiness.
3 P.F.M., p. 112. See also Flora Annie Steele (THE MODERN MARRIAGE MARKET, London, 1898, p. 119), who says of India, where mating is not free: "My personal experience is that, even with polygamy superadded, the percentage of rational happiness derived from wifehood and motherhood is as high in India as it is in England."
4 B.M., p. 132. See also Thomas Mann (B.M., p. 258): "To-day 90 per cent of all marriages are unhappy." Dr. A. C. Magian, the distinguished gynæcologist (S.W.P., p. 168), estimates "that 50 per cent of marriages are definitely unsatisfactory from both a sexual and domestic point of view," and believes only 10 per cent of marriages are perfectly happy.
Many exceptionally wise people have favoured the method of parental choice. Among strict Jews the parents of both parties arrange everything, and the age at which a daughter was and often still is married precludes free choice. The MISHNAH fixes thirteen as the age of puberty for boys, and twelve and a day for girls, 1 and early marriages are enjoined. 2 The custom, still prevailing in Eastern Europe, of a father-in-law taking his son-in-law into his own house with free board and residence, shows that a husband was not even old enough to be established in life. 3 At such ages, young people cannot resist their parents' wishes. Alexander von Horst, however, tells us that parents' wishes were rarely resisted, 4 and the young bride often saw her husband for the first time under the "huppah". 5
In regard to Indian marriage, Rabindranath Tagore says definitely that "room cannot be found for the personal wishes of the people concerned"; 6 but again here the practice of betrothing young adolescents makes parental authority supreme.
The "Gandharva" rite of marriage, which springs from choice, is stigmatized by Manu as a "blamable marriage", and the offspring from it are supposed to be undesirable. 7 The father's authority is supreme in the marriage of his daughter, and only when he fails to find her a husband is she allowed to choose one for herself. 8 But in that case both daughter and father suffer penalties. 9
Dr. Hans Licht says of the Greeks that it is improbable that young people saw much of each other before betrothal, 10 while both F. Warre Cornish and Letourneau state that in Greece marriage was settled by the parents of the parties. 11
1 Trans. by H. Danby, D.D. (Oxford, 1933), NIDDAH, V, 6.
2 T.J.C.p. 33.
3 Ibid., p. 34.
4 LA VIE FAMILIALE JUIVE (Brussels, 1922, p. 37).
6 B.M., p. 108.
7 L.M., III, 32.
8 L.M., VIII, 205, and IX, 4, and 88.
9 L.M. IX, 9092, 93.
10 S.L.A.G., p. 39.
11 A COMPANION TO GREEK STUDIES (Cambridge, 1905, p. 519, and Miss Harrison's confirmation in the same vol.) and THE EVOLUTION OF MARRIAGE (London, 1891, p. 195).
Among the modern Moors, even the girl's consent is not expected, and her parent marries her as he chooses. 3
Where great individual differentiation prevails, as it does to-day, parental, which means experienced choice, is probably more often correct than the free choice made by an ignorant youth or maiden. And where there is no great individual differentiation, parental choice cannot be felt as oppressive. In the latter case, we must seek the advantages of the method in economic and social considerations, which older people would judge more wisely than their juniors.
At all events, the prevalence of the method and its duration for it endured for a long time in England as well indicate that it worked satisfactorily, and its evanescence in certain parts of Europe may probably be ascribed either to the great increase in individual differentiation, the growth of romanticism (only one soul-mate for every soul), or else to the decline of the genetic powers of the race, or perhaps to all three factors.
Among the communities mentioned, the Jews 4 and the Romans certainly insisted or. the consent of the parties. But if a girl loves and trusts her parents, her consent is no more than a ratification of their choice, and where there is high standardization, at least of health, why should she wish to refuse? Her natural reaction to a man, and his to her, in an environment that has not reached our insane degree of differentiation, if only in morbidity, would necessarily be positive, because one of her oldest naturally-conditioned reflexes (the genetic instinct) would, if she were normally passionate, receive its adequate stimulus from the man, and vice versâ. 5
1 NUMA AND LYCURGUS COMPARED. See also P.L.R., p. 32.
2 Dr. James Donaldson: WOMAN: HER POSITION AND INFLUENCE IN ANCIENT GREECE AND ROME AND AMONG THE EARLY CHRISTIANS (London, 1907, p. 114), and Ed. Laboboulaye, RECHERCHES SUR LA CONDITION CIVILE ET POLITIQUE DES FEMMES (Paris, 1843, p. 15), and P.L.R., p. 32, where Marquardt says: "It was, however a matter of principle to obtain the consent of all parties concerned the son's as well as the daughter's before the marriage was consummated."
3 Westermarck: MARRIAGE CEREMONIES IN MOROCCO (London, 1914, pp. 1618).
4 Letourneau (op. cit., p. 189).
5 Basil Hall Chamberlain (THINGS JAPANESE, London, 1905, pp. 309310) says consent "after the mutual seeing" is also expected of both parties in Japan.
The machinery in antiquity and the Middle Ages for rearing these reflexes (race and class prejudice) in the whole population was very elaborate, and, as among strict modern Jews and the whites of some States in North America, may still be seen in action. It prevented young people from reacting positively to a member of a foreign people or race, or of a different class, however fine a specimen he or she might be, and thus imposed apparently voluntary limits upon choice, quite apart from parental authority. 1
And these limits, by seeming voluntary, were not felt as harsh or onerous, but were defined by natural and spontaneous feelings which surged up in every heart, in response to the relevant stimulus.
The artificially-conditioned reflexes behind race and class prejudices declined in the ancient world, and to their decline historians like Otto Seeck ascribe the downfall of the civilizations of antiquity. 2 But they have suffered a similar decline in our own civilization, and to-day, but for middle-class women, who still remain stubbornly class-conscious, both race and class prejudices may be regarded as more or less dead. Prejudice based on purse has perhaps completely superseded both. The removal of these two negative reactions, by widening the field of choice, has not simplified it, and what with the other doors that have been flung open, a state of anarchy has been reached from which wise choice and matrimony itself cannot help suffering.
The reflex against the foreigner is not perhaps entirely due to artificial-conditioning, although this may strengthen it; for in the lower animals and primitive races of man there are signs indicating that a primary instinct exists against unfamiliarity and strangeness. And in this way Nature avoids the dangers which would follow the failure of like to segregate. In natural and relatively stable conditions, the struggle for existence or power, rigid adaptation, and the absence of artificial
1 For ancient Hindu, Egyptian, Jewish, Greek and Roman measures for rearing artificially-conditioned reflexes against race and class mixture, see my DEFENCE OF ARISTOCRACY, Chap. VI. For mediæval English measures see my DEFENCE OF CONSERVATISM, Chaps. III and IV. Regarding Anglo-Saxons, see p. 53 infra.
2 GESCHICHTE DES UNTERGANGS DER ANTIKEN WELT (1895, I, Chaps. III and IV).
The tendency of like to attract like, which I shall deal with fully in the sequel, moreover, prevents misalliances of a gross character. It is true that among some animals exceptions to this rule have been observed. I have myself witnessed a male turkey trying to fertilize a domestic hen. I have also noticed strange antics between male dogs and female cats and vice-versâ, when bred under one roof. J. C. Huzeau speaks of a much-married drake who nevertheless frequently tried to fertile a domestic hen, and of a dog who pursued a sow (in season) for hours, without success however. 2 Darwin records similar instances between blackbirds and thrushes, black grouse and pheasants, and cases of the pairing of distinct species and varieties in domestication geese, ducks, domestic fowls, etc.; but ascribes these irregularities to the exceptional conditions of the animals at the time, or to "vitiated instincts". 3 Lord Lymington also informs me that game bantam-cocks have been known to try to pair with pigeons on his home-farm near Basingstoke.
A more disturbing example of aberrant sexual choice is given by Rémy de Gourmont, who states that the male rabbit often pursues female hares and wears them out with his libidinous fury, though he knows of no fertilizations from such matings. 4 Truth to tell, such crosses have been successful, though the first cross, according to Darwin, proved difficult. 5
Nevertheless, generally speaking, it is true to say that there is a regular proportion between sexual attraction and zoological affinity, i.e. that like attracts like, 6 and that among the reasons
1 That sub-normality too may lead to better adaptation was pointed out by Herbert Spencer fifty years ago (ESSAYS: SCIENTIFIC, POLITICAL AND SPECULATIVE, 1901, I, p. 379) and confirmed by J. B. S. Haldane recently in THE CAUSES OF EVOLUTION (London, 1932, pp. 139, 152154).
2 ETUDES SUR LES FACULTÉS MENTALES DES ANIMAUX (Mons, 1872, II, p. 396). He also gives (p. 399) an interesting example of genuine sex-attraction excited in apes and monkeys at the Jardin des Plantes by a girl.
3 V.A.P.U.D., I, p. 245, and D.O.M., pp. 414416. Darwin also speaks of "several well authenticated cases of the female tiger breeding with the lion" (V.A.P.U.D., II, p. 133), but these, of course, refer to animals in captivity.
4 P.L., p. 195.
5 V.A.P.U.D., I, p. 109. A. de Quatrefages (THE HUMAN SPECIES, London, 1903, p. 76) mentions the difficulty of successfully crossing the rabbit and hare, and says it can only be done with human interference.
6 V.A.P.U.D., II, pp. 8082, and Quatrefages (op. cit., p. 67).
In animals and man in a state of nature, therefore, and often even in civilized man, free choice or random mating can hardly go wrong because (a) the environment presents no aberrant types for selection, or very few; and if it does, (b) there are primary or secondary instincts in the chooser, which cause aberrant types to be rejected.
Now, we know that human beings need a certain mutual attraction to stimulate reactions favourable to successful sexual congress. This is also true of some animals. It might seem, therefore, that where freedom of choice is denied, or is inoperative owing to extreme standardization, this necessary factor for fruitful mating would be absent.
But in conditions of extreme standardization, the girls and men who are confronted for mating can hardly fail to see in each other their racial, æsthetic and psychological affinity, and to love accordingly. And this is bound to be so, because sexual love is more subjective than many imagine.
When both sexes possess normally strong genetic instincts, each has a subjective desire impelling him or her to the other, which disposes one in favour of the other, irrespective of the latter's individual peculiarities (always faint in a standardized community). Thus the personal charm of the sex-object is so much reinforced by the subjective pressure in the prospective mate, that we must imagine sexual attraction and love, not as one stationary thing drawing to itself another by sheer force, but as two objects converging on each other under their own steam, as it were, and on lines or metals already laid down by Nature.
Only a very vain or inexperienced man imagines, if a normal nubile young woman "falls in love" with him, that it is due wholly to his personal attraction, and only a very vain or inexperienced young woman imagines that the attraction is all the other way round. In each case the sexual object is only the stimulus on which a latent force unloads itself.
Propinquity is the circumstance which releases the longing for sexual attachment in each case, plus the fact that at the time one happens to be the sexual object willing to respond.
The large proportion of marriages occurring between people
Thus marked satisfaction over having been fallen in love with is almost always exaggerated except in a person of obviously inferior parts. A man beneath a waterfall might as well flatter himself that he is attracting the downpour, or Victoria Station might as well fancy that it is attracting the trains from Brighton. Gross exaggeration of the attractive power of the sexual object is equally unsound. A train from Brighton might as well rhapsodize about the irresistible attraction of Victoria Station.
Of course, this applies chiefly to people of normal health and appearance. If, however, a decline in genetic power overtakes a people, a more critical choice becomes customary, because coldness requires unusual stimulation.
From the outset, therefore, it is as well to be clear about the fact that, even where free choice is exercised, in the best or worst circumstances, the critical or discriminating faculty exercises a much smaller influence than both parties fondly imagine. 3 And this should be made known to healthy young people. For by discounting the native impulse to the sexual object, and the latter's native impulse to oneself, the precise degree of its attraction, and of one's own attractiveness can be more calmly estimated.
The consent which Roman and Jewish legislators insisted on from both parties in a match arranged by parents was merely a means of allowing either party (in the case presumably of a bad biological specimen, selected by the parents for perhaps venal motives) to say whether he or she could release the latent native longing for attachment upon the particular object presented.
Thus, although it is unlikely that no freedom of choice, even where no standardization of type prevails, necessarily leads to
1 The evidence is overwhelming. But the following was taken by chance from the French ANNUAIRE STATISTIQUE for 1928: in 1926, of 345,415 marriages, 193,952 were between people of the same commune, and 157,463 between people of different communes. To suppose that the larger figure was due to a greater incidence of objective factors of attraction in the local lovers would, nowadays, be fantastic.
2 All who, like myself, have been among the poor of a great city, have noticed this.
3 This explains why one so often sees an attractive girl of ardent sensibilities throwing herself away on an obviously biologically inferior male and vice versâ.
(1) Withholding freedom of choice in a standardized human environment.
(2) Withholding it in an unstandardized human environment.
(3) And withholding it in a human environment such as exists in this country to-day, which is not only highly differentiated and presents strange and aberrant types almost to infinity, but also hardly offers any standard of normality whatsoever, and in which the chooser, in addition to lacking sound primary instincts (reflexes naturally-conditioned) for mating, and subjected to no education in sound prejudice (reflexes artificially-conditioned), is moreover confronted by possible mates in whom ill-health is also a differentiating factor, is himself or herself presumably unsound in some respect, and moreover probably suffers, together with those round about, from a minus of genetic power. 1
(1) In the first, the mutual attraction necessary to happy and fruitful mating may be relied upon to arise, if not spontaneously by mere confrontation, at least in due course, when attraction has warmed to sympathy and devotion; because a racial, psycho-physical and æsthetic affinity exists between the parties before they meet.
(2) In the second, mutual attraction follows confrontation, provided the consent of the parties is an essential condition of parental choice. Then, as with the Jews, the Romans, the Japanese and the English of the Middle Ages, though differentiation may be so far-reaching that little biological affinity exists between the parties, health and genetic power may be assumed to be good enough to release in each party that lust of attachment which, as we have seen, is not over critical, and tends to explain the mutual attraction, as the result of a number of qualities which really play but a minor part. The importance of consent in such an environment of highly differentiated human individuals lies in the fact that only the parties concerned can tell whether the individual chosen by the parent is an object on which he or she can unload the pent-up force within.
(3) In the third, the situation is more complicated. Not only is consent an essential prerequisite, but, owing to (a) the intricate and baffling confusion of shapes, sizes, types and features,
1 There is much evidence of a decline of genetic power, at least in Anglo-Saxon countries. This will appear in the sequel. The most original writer on this subject is Corrado Gini (P., p. 42).
What are these most favourable conditions?
Absolute freedom of choice, so that many may be reviewed and their least significant as well as their more important features weighed. For, owing to the comparative feebleness of the genetic instincts, the natural movement towards the sexual object is less violent, consequently its alleged attractions are more narrowly scrutinized. This does not mean that there is necessarily greater wisdom in assessing the value of these attractions, because even rigorous criticism may be conducted along false lines. It simply means that a cooler estimate is possible, a more fastidious taste displayed in regard to possibly quite unsound desiderata and consequently it is less than ever likely that consent will be given to any choice except that exerted by the parties themselves.
In such an environment, therefore, to withhold freedom of choice would mean not only greatly to reduce the number of marriages, but also to cause an enormous amount of misery, much of it imaginary, but misery all the same.
As I have already suggested above, therefore, it seems that, apart from the spread of Liberal ideas and the emancipation of females, 1 freedom of choice probably arose in Western civilization as the outcome of extreme differentiation, and in an age of low genetic power it is a sine qua non of fertile mating.
The lack of free choice was certainly felt and, to some extent, allowed for in feudal France and England, when property laws made freedom in this matter precarious. And the evidence of history, biography and fiction shows that, as rime went on, this lack came to be regarded as more and more of a hardship. If my surmise is right, this means that mankind had already become highly differentiated in the early Middle Ages.
Few would deny that this state of affairs has since been seriously aggravated. What with the growing complication of life, race-mixture (this difficulty did not exist in mediæval
1 Or rather of children, from parental authority. For, as I show in another chapter, child-marriages, implying parental choice, prevailed in England for centuries; and even as late as 1792, so liberal-minded a woman as Mary Woolstonecraft took parental authority in mating for granted, both for girls and young men. See A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN (Dublin, 1793, p. 200).
If, then, freedom of choice to-day does not appear to lead more frequently to successful marriages than no freedom of choice in a more standardized environment, this must be due, at least partly, to the enormous difficulty of exercising prudent, not to mention, wise, choice where such extreme differentiation prevails, and to the complete ignorance and inexperience with which young people are allowed to meet this difficulty. Because, I repeat, even if it be true that genetic power has declined, and therefore that a cooler, more critical estimate can now be made of the sexual object, it does not follow that this more fastidious scrutiny is conducted along sound lines.
Thus I am led to the conclusion that if freedom of choice is retained in mating and there is small chance of its being abolished in these emancipated days, even if its abolition were desirable the young are in dire need of a clear statement of the criteria by which their choice should be directed.
Thus I may formulate my task as follows:
1. To break down those prejudices (artificially-conditioned reflexes) operating in the direction of unhealthy and unwise choice.
2. To condition new reflexes (prejudices) operating towards healthy and wise choice.
3. To provide precise criteria of choice.
4. To impress on the young mind the effect of subjective sexual forces upon scrutiny and criticism.
No. 3 is by far the most difficult, and I am well aware of the imperfect manner in which I have carried it out. My only defence is to remind the reader of the deplorable state of our knowledge regarding the whole subject of human "points". But, even if I have failed to satisfy those who need every step to be indicated in advance, I hope I have at least met the expectations of the less exacting reader.
The advantages of even such imperfect guidance as I do offer are, I suggest, the following:
(a) It places freedom of choice on a surer footing.
1 See my DEFENCE OF CONSERVATISM, Chaps. III and IV.
(c) Although no sensible person would claim that such infallible rules of choice can be given as to make free choice fool-proof, youth can at least be spared the worst consequences of ignorance.
(d) Even if the intellectual equipment regarding human "points" provided in this book is not used for the purpose of mating, it can be turned to advantage in making the reader a more enlightened and, therefore, a more accurate judge of his fellows.
Let none fancy, however, that guidance, no matter how sound, can guarantee "happy" marriages. Even when the wisest discrimination has been exercised, and the utmost allowance made for subjective promptings in choice, marriage remains a supremely difficult relationship. Although we should always keep before us the example of those who have successfully mastered it, we should be foolish if we supposed that the love that endures and deepens with the years can be a more common possession than any other form of greatness.
I cannot keep within the compass of one volume if I deal with such questions as the best mate for a cripple, a diabetic, a sexagenarian, or a blind person. I must make certain assumptions, and shall, therefore, assume that my reader is a healthy, normal person, youthful and nubile if a girl, still young and eligible if a man, and I shall write as if he or she wished to marry a worthy normal partner with whom a life, not of perpetual honeymoons, but of some harvest moons could be lived.
What are the obstacles (some of them in the reader's own mind) which prevent a wise choice to such an end?
I cannot deal with such obvious obstacles as:
(1) The redundance of women, and the way this forces thousands of girls to put up with a third, fourth or fifth-rate mate.
(2) The general degeneracy of the modern male, and the dilemma of women, who often have to choose between childless celibacy and fertilization by an unworthy mate.
(3) The economic reasons which may make a person enter a misalliance, which eugenically is a crime.
(4) The social reasons leading to the same result.
Turning, therefore, to those obstacles which people can remove in themselves and in the outside world, the first step is to take stock of our own criteria of criticism and selection. What is the precise nature of our own personal foot-rule?
What are the values which, unknown to the modern man and girl, have artificially-conditioned the reflexes that react favourably or unfavourably to other individuals in the outside world?
Do the healthy man and woman approach their fellows with healthy prejudices or not?
As primary instincts, or naturally-conditioned reflexes (except the genetic and the homogamic 3) are almost inoperative, the paramount force which, like the wind, invisibly generates movement in this case towards a sexual object is chiefly of an artificially-conditioned kind. It is the outcome of prevailing or pre-existing tastes and values.
It is difficult to convince young people of this, because of the unconscious manner in which prevailing values and tastes are absorbed and accepted. Thus they will often defend as jealously as if of their own vintage a valuation or prejudice, the origin of which can very simply be traced to a generation long before they existed.
Hence the struggle when prejudice and the artificially-conditioned reflexes it rears, are attacked. The person whose reflex is attacked always thinks he or she is wholly responsible for the reflex manifested, and that it is, like a nose or an ear, an essential part of his or her nature. This explains the angry defence of it.
Allowing for the vast difference in intellect, and supposing she could talk, the same attitude would be found in my bitch, Sukie. Challenged to explain why she waited for my word "Go!" before crossing the road, she, having forgotten the process of
1 See W.V. and M.A.I.
2 I fully appreciate the lamentable frequency with which desirable girls have silently to resign themselves to third and fourth bests. This repeated martyrdom of modern women, however, can never be relieved until we cultivate higher ideals of health and manliness. But all this I have discussed in other works. I am now concerned, not so much with mistakes that cannot be helped, or that we make knowingly in the choice of a mate, as with those that can be helped and are unwittingly made.
3 That favouring the choice of like.
For instance, despite all their boasted emancipation from their elders, it would be most difficult to persuade many young people to-day that their conviction regarding the desirability of (t a sense of humour "was not a piece of their own vintage, and was not a truth arrived at by their own free perception.
And this is true of most prejudices and reactions due in them to their British, modern, post-War, Class and Christian prejudices.
This makes discussions about taste and prejudice (particularly with people who are not widely read or very conscious) exceedingly difficult. Because, even when people are reasonable enough to admit that their reactions may be due to prejudices acquired from prevailing values, they are often disinclined to believe that the acceptance of new values will lead them to react in exactly the same "inevitable" manner, though to different things.
Most people imagine, for instance, that civilized man has an innate feeling for what is termed the "picturesque". And yet, if they were familiar with their de Quincey, 1 and had read Mahaffy 2 and J. A. Symonds, 3 they would know that taste veered in favour of the picturesque in nature at a very definite period in European history, and that it was then something quite fresh and new. The modern generation, however, reacts with secondary instincts (artificially-conditioned reflexes) to the picturesque, and thinks its taste for the latter is of its own vintage.
The same remarks apply to the admiration and love of mountain scenery. Friedländer 4 shows that the birth of this sentiment occurred in modern Europe somewhere in the eighteenth century, and he is confirmed by W. H. Riehl. 5 Gibbon gives us almost the precise date of the birth; for, whilst apologizing for having visited only the towns, churches, arsenals, libraries, etc., of Switzerland in 1755, he writes in 1780: "The fashion of climbing the mountains and reviewing the Glaciers had not yet [i.e. in
1 COLLECTED WORKS OF THOMAS DE QUINCEY (London, A. and C. Black), VI, p. 290.
2 WHAT HAVE THE GREEKS DONE FOR CIVILIZATION? (London, 1909, p. 11).
3 STUDIES OF THE GREEK POETS, II, p. 257.
4 UEBER DIE ENTSTEHUNG UND ENTWICKLUNG DES GEFÜHLS FÜR DAS ROMANTISCHE IN DER NATUR (Leipzig, 1873, pp. 4, l0).
5 CULTURSTUDIEN AUS DREI JAHRHUNDERTEN (Stuttgart, 1859, p. 57).
Thus, although the modern European began to see beauty in mountains owing to a new valuation created chiefly by Romanticists of the eighteenth century, above all Rousseau, the average young person of to-day thinks and feels as if the admiration of mountain scenery were the most eternal of human sentiments. 2
The changes of taste relating to the human body will be dealt with later; but these examples may suffice to show how often the taste and choice which seems the most necessary expression of our being, is really only an artificially-conditioned reflex, due to a fashion of the day, and, consequently, that changes of fashion generally alter our artificially-conditioned reflexes. The docile manner in which women change their taste in clothes, and show genuine horror at the fashions of a previous decade, is a case in point.
Why is all this important? Because many of the artificially-conditioned reflexes of to-day are unhealthy and unsound, and since they must be superseded if choice in mating is to be wholesome, it is important for the reader to see that, no matter how spontaneous and deep they appear to be, they are neither necessary nor natural nor particularly sound, and that healthier reflexes can and must take their place.
The process of substitution is not easy. If, however, we are healthy, it is not our deepest nature, but only the surface that has been affected.
Let us, therefore, take stock of our criteria of choice and of the values controlling them.
What are these values? Largely the product of the philosophic and religious thought of Europe during the last two thousand five hundred years.
How do they condition unhealthy reflexes? In manifold ways.
If modern man feels no horror at the spectacle of degeneracy and disease, if he can be thoroughly ill and yet thoroughly respectable; if he can be the victim of a foul disease and yet remain one of the "best people", it is because of these values.
If modern man thinks the physiologically botched can speak words of wisdom, and tolerates a load of taxation which to a
1 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE AND WRITINGS (Oxford, 1907, pp. 7677).
2 For a fuller discussion of this, see my NIETZSCHE AND ART (London, 1911, Lecture II, Part III).
Furthermore, if modern people tend to undervalue fundamental desiderata in their fellows or mates good natural teeth, good eyesight, 1 sweet breath, sexual vigour and constitutional stamina and savouriness in favour of alleged precious mental gifts, such as cleverness, a sense of humour, broadmindedness, or whatever fashion extols; if they are not shocked by ugliness or asymmetry, but, like the lovers in Lord Lytton's novel, PILGRIMS ON THE RHINE, or Maggie in THE MILL ON THE FLOSS, are able to love the morbid and deformed, and to despise a creature like Alda in Charlotte Yonge's PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, who takes a sound attitude of dislike towards her idiot brother, Theodore, 2 it is wholly and exclusively due to these values.
Turning to sex, if modern people are fanatically convinced that botanical sexuality is more beautiful and above all more mentionable than human sexuality; if every middle-class matron to-day would execrate Rodin for challenging this one-sided concentration on botanical sexuality in his "Iris", and condemn the Greeks for having allowed their unspoiled virgins (the Canephoræ) openly to carry an effigy of the male organ of generation at certain festivals, while she will bury her nose self-righteously in a rose if these sentiments seem natural and inevitable to-day, it is wholly and demonstrably due to these values.
And many other examples could be given.
Whence do these values hail?
Although they are not wholly Christian, Christianity has been their chief purveyor and inculcator. By zealously garnering most of the morbid, ftid and decrepit elements in antiquity, Christianity has been a sort of cold-storage depot for almost every decomposed vestige of the ancient world, and has thus doled out from its refrigerators to every generation the worst by-products of Pagan decay.
It seems not to be widely enough known that every essential
1 Thus the manager of one big stores told a newspaper correspondent that "horn-rimmed glasses often enhance a girl's appearance" (Daily Press, 1.8.27).
2 Charlotte Yonge means Alda to be condemned for this attitude. (See Chaps. XVI and XIX especially), and, in a boat accident, Felix, the eldest brother and mainstay of the family, devotes his first efforts at rescue to Theodore, the idiot, and Cherry, the lame sister.
It would take too long, under the guidance of a scholar like Rhode, to trace the evolution of these ideas from primitive animism; but suffice it to say that it was not until the decadence of ancient Greece that these four positions, as we know them, were fully outlined; and Plato, under the influence of Socrates, was the first philosophically to insist on the fundamental independence of body and soul, and to formulate the theory of psycho-physical dualism.
Meanwhile, amid much that was still healthy in Greek culture, there had developed a tendency to exalt the soul at the expense of the body. This position was assumed with great force by Xenophanes in the late sixth century B.C., but he never succeeded in getting the dangerous doctrine across.
This task was left to Socrates, who was admirably fitted to accomplish it.
In a culture which, in spite of much unhealthy speculation about the two-fold aspects of man, in spite of universal homosexuality, feminism and general disintegration, was still healthy enough to value man as a whole, and unable to separate beautiful looks from a beautiful character he who was kalos was necessarily agathos hence the expression kalos k'agathos, beautiful, therefore good there appeared a man who, besides being endowed with little of the current health, besides being steeped in the most morbid elements of Greek life and thought (he had been the male prostitute of Archelaus, wherein he did not differ much from his contemporaries), possessed two qualifications which eminently fitted him to popularize the four positions described above.
He was of low origin, and he was the most repulsive man of his Age. This man was Socrates.
In a beautiful city of beauty-worshippers, he, therefore, found himself at a terrible disadvantage. Judged by the healthiest values of his Age, he was bound to stand at the very bottom of the scale.
Unfortunately for mankind, he had a very shrewd mind. He would have made a first-class journalist, an ideal writer of best-sellers. And he determined to get himself across, i.e. to create values by which he himself and his type could be regarded as desirable.
And this he proceeded to do. It was the old hoax of the fox that had lost its tail. But he got away with it. True, he succeeded only with a dolt like Xenophon, and a middle-class Liberal like Plato; but he did succeed. And although the best of his contemporaries condemned him to death for it, his two apprentices most unfortunately survived him, and constituted the channel through which we became contaminated by this monster's unscrupulous bluff to save his self-esteem.
He admitted at his trial that he had spent his whole life teaching men to prize the soul above the body. 1 True, in Plato's SYMPOSIUM he first speaks of beauty more or less in the orthodox Greek style, and refers to it as "accordant with the divine", whilst ugliness "is discordant with whatever is divine." 2 But this is a mere concession to his listeners; for, in a later passage, he produces his own pet doctrine and argues persuasively that the beauty of the body is but a slight affair, and that man's highest achievement is to set a higher value on the beauty of the soul. 3 His bosom friend, Alcibiades, at the same banquet, declared that Socrates despised a man's beauty more than anything, 4 and to this same friend Socrates declared that the only true lover is he who loves the soul; to love a person's soul is to love him for his own sake, and not for his bodily beauty which is not himself. 5
The logical consequence of this attitude was, of course, to make Socrates no longer despicable. But it had other consequences, which Socrates himself did not fail to see. It made bodily defects respectable. It made disease almost a distinction. And, indeed, Socrates said as much. He declared to Glaucon: "If there be any merely bodily defect in another, we will be patient of it and will love the same." 6
These notes were later taken up by Christianity and sustained in all octaves, until the whole of Europe rang with them. And it is more or less true to say that Christianity is merely Platonism for the mob. 7
1 THE APOLOGY (Trans. by F. J. Church, 30, A. and B.).
2 Trans. by W. R. M. Lamb, 206, D.
3 Ibid., 210, B. & C.
4 Ibid., 216, B.D. & E.
5 ALCIBIADES, I (trans. by Jowett, 131).
6 REPUBLIC (trans. by Jowett, III, 402).
7 The idea that the most characteristic doctrines of Socrates formed the chief planks in the Christian platform is, of course, not merely my own. It is found in
A cripple, a hunchback, a person with any deformity or stigma of degeneracy, became as desirable as a normal man, because it could be argued on Socratic lines that his blemish, his stigma was not "himself" (whatever that meant!) and that his real self was hidden, and redeemed everything. In vain did the saner people of all civilizations protest, as even science is protesting now, that to divide up man in this way, and to lay all the stress on his soul, was a gross misinterpretation of the truth. Too many outcasts and toads saw their advantage m this Socratic hoax to relinquish it.
"The body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. . . . If through the spirit ye do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. . . . They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." 1
Thus cried Paul, the Socratic body-hater, and thus did contempt of the body become a household value in Europe. Everybody began to believe the lie that "beauty is only skin deep"; it has artificially-conditioned a number of unwholesome reflexes in modern man, and the young of to-day who go forth to choose a mate should beware of these reflexes.
Although the only sane course is to value man biologically and æsthetically as well as morally, through Socrates a wholly biological and æsthetic standard was converted into a wholly moral method of valuing him.
most authorities on Christianity and on Socrates. See Justin Martyr's APOLOGY, where the constant implication is that Socrates and his like were Christians before Christ. See the STROMATEIS, by Clement of Alexandria. See Dr. C. E. Robinson in EVERYDAY LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE, who says: "The creed of the Christian Church was formulated in terms drawn from the Greek philosophers." See Marsilio Ficino, who, in 1476, writing on Christianity, said: "the life of Socrates is a continual symbol of the life of Jesus," so that "the doctrines of the one are identical with those of the other." See Coleridge's TABLE TALK (1830), and his remark to Crabb Robinson to the effect that "Jesus was a Platonic philosopher." Above all, see Professor A. E. Taylor, the great authority on Socrates, who says: "Socrates created the intellectual and moral tradition by which Europe has ever since existed. . . . It was Socrates who . . . created the conception of the soul which has ever since dominated European thinking. . . . The direct influence, indeed, which has done most to make the doctrine of Socrates familiar to ourselves is that of Christianity" (SOCRATES, London, 1932, pp. 132133).
1 ROM. viii. 613; GAL. v. 24; COL. iii. 5.
Presumably a man can help being a thief, a seducer, a murderer. But he cannot help being a congenital degenerate. Therefore, since no moral stigma attaches to congenital degeneracy, no stigma whatever attaches to it. It is washed out because it cannot form the subject of an indictment.
This shows how the purely moral valuation promotes degeneracy and disease. For, in assessing the value of a mate, the modern person is prepared to forgive stigmata which are nobody's fault, and quite forgets that in thus soft-heartedly forgiving, he or she is cruelly foisting an undesirable parent on his or her offspring.
Add to this Christian pity, which is quite indiscriminate and makes people react with love and charity to all who suffer, irrespective of their value to posterity, and you have a combination of evils which makes complete degeneracy a calculable certainty.
In any relation Christian pity is sentimental self-indulgence, but in mating it is criminal self-indulgence.
This does not mean that as an emotion pity should be suppressed altogether. The Church tried to malign Nietzsche by falsely interpreting him as having made this claim. It simply means that it should be differently conditioned from the way Christianity has conditioned it.
It should not be indiscriminate and uncontrolled. It should not be turned chiefly towards human rubbish. And it should not be self-indulgent.
The quality of pity should be measured according to the worth to humanity and posterity of the creature pitied.
The farmer cares not a rap for the "rights" of weeds, or whether they can help being weeds. He pities the nobler plant in its struggle against the ignoble, and refuses to sacrifice the former to the latter.
Every sixpence paid by a desirable couple in taxation and rates for the upkeep of human rubbish is a sacrifice of the greater to the less, and if such a desirable couple curtail their family to meet national expenditure for degenerates, we plainly kill the best to save the worst.
But at least we must free the choice of a mate from these artificially-conditioned Christian reflexes, bred in the ftid atmosphere of Europe for the last two thousand years. To the male, uncontrolled Christian pity is particularly dangerous, because it often lends an extra fillip to his instinctive lust to protect and succour the female. Thus it may, and unfortunately often does, make the frail, delicate, sickly female more alluring, because she makes a heightened appeal to male strength. To the female, uncontrolled Christian pity is also dangerous, because it may, and often does, alas! stimulate the maternal instincts in her, and delude her into supposing that the increase in emotion thus generated is really an increase in love.
I have found this disastrously common among many fine working girls, and it seems to me as if the Eugenic Society were merely beating the air so long as, in its fight against dysgenic mating, it cautiously refrains from a frontal attack upon Christian and Socratic values, and the unhealthy reflexes that proceed from them. 1
True, one does not gain popularity by assuming this attitude. But I am writing a book for the guidance of young people in mating, and I cannot, therefore, honestly observe the caution observed by the Eugenic Society.
In regard to the sexual instinct itself, young people should also be on their guard against the artificially-conditioned reflexes of Christian sex-phobia.
Many English divines and Christian apologists, taking advantage of an uninformed gallery, have tried to defend Christianity against this charge. But their attempt is neither disingenuous nor candid; for sex-phobia, the loathing of sex, its joys, and everything connected with it, is fundamental in Christianity, and the charge is so fair and deserved that nothing could be more unconvincing than the struggles of the more rabid Christians to rebut it. 2
1 I again remind the reader that people who display this uncontrolled Christian pity to-day are by no means necessarily church-goers or believers in the dogmata of Christianity. These values have become part of the being of modern people, whether they are conscious of it or not, and even so-called atheists and agnostics are infected with them, as the case of Thomas Huxley proved.
2 The testimony from scholars and thinkers is overwhelming. See, for instance, the evidence collected from various sources in M.A.I., Chap. X. See Heine (H.S.W., Vol.
Another is Mr. G. W. Coutts's effort to scout the whole issue by concentrating on the actual words of Jesus. 2
Seeing that there is, according to Professor Guignebert, not a shred of evidence to prove that Jesus ever said anything he is alleged to have said, 3 that Christianity is and must be a matter of interpretation, and that, therefore, we are primarily concerned with what Christianity means as interpreted through the ages by the Churches, it is rather fatuous to refer to the ipsissima verba of Jesus, in the hope that we shall be induced to accept Mr. Coutts's private impression of what Christianity means.
My time is better occupied in warning youth against the sex-phobia bred in them by a religion one of whose earliest founders said: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman," 4 "it is good for a man to remain a virgin", 5 and "he who gives a woman in marriage does well, but he who gives her not in marriage does better"; 6 a religion which made fish suitable food for fast-days and holidays because fish were supposed to be free from the taint polluting all animals that copulate (quae copulatione generantur); a religion, in fact, which so much encouraged total sexual abstinence that surgeons were once besieged in order to perform the operation of castration among the faithful, and Origen himself, one of the leading Fathers of the Church, emasculated himself for Christ's sake. It was only when, faced with the extinction of its congregation, Christianity saw the need of forbidding these extreme measures, that a less rabid sex-phobia began to prevail. But it is dishonest to claim that a fundamentally friendly attitude to sex therefore supervened in the Church. For as late as the Council of Trent (15451563), which conditioned the whole future of the Catholic Church, virginity and celibacy were still set above matrimony. 7
VII, p. 70), Nietzsche's DER ANTICHRIST, Lecky's HISTORY OF EUROPEAN MORALS, Dr. Esther Harding's THE WAY OF ALL WOMEN (London, 1933, pp. 222223), René Guyon (S.L.S.E., pp. 123124), J. F. Nisbet (M.H., p. 48), Dr. R. Briffault (MO., III, pp. 252 sq. and 372 sq.), Ploss and Bartels (D.W., III. pp. 273274), Iwan Bloch (D.P., p. 616). etc.
1 CHRISTIANITY AND SEX (London, 1930).
2 THE CHURCH AND THE SEX QUESTION (London, 1926).
3 LE CHRISTIANISME ANTIQUE (Paris, 1921, Chap. I).
4 I COR. vii. l.
5 Ibid., 26.
6 Ibid., 32.
7 See my M.A.I., p. 293.
And yet your Couttses, your Dawsons, your Dean Inges and Dr. Alingtons, driven into a corner by the New Psychology, and by people like myself, who, at great personal loss, have spared no pains to reveal to their contemporaries the dangerous side of Christianity, now begin to retort, none too convincingly, that Christianity is not sex-phobic.
I can quote Jesus too, if Mr. Courts insists on referring to him. Jesus said: "There be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake." 2 How could he have admitted such a possibility, if the two ideas had not been connected in his mind? This is assuming, of course, that he ever said anything of the sort. But that proviso applies to everything he is alleged to have said in the Gospels.
Mr. Coutts tries to get round this and says it does not mean what it reads as meaning. But whom are we to consider the greater authority Mr. Coutts or St. Cyprian, one of the most illustrious bishops of the Church and also one of its martyrs, who uses this very text from Matthew xix in order to support his plea for celibacy and rigid continency? 3
I cannot go into the whole evidence again, it is massive and overwhelming. I can but refer to my MAN: AN INDICTMENT, where the reader will find all the facts and references he may need to satisfy him that Christianity is, and always has been, sex-phobic.
It is all the more surprising, therefore, to find in a book recently written by Dr. Cyril Alington, late Head Master of Eton, and sponsored by Dean Inge, another attempt at rebutting this charge of sex-phobia, which I and a handful of other reformers have not ceased to hurl at Christianity.
Dean Inge speaks highly of the book in his Introduction, and says that Dr. Alington "has answered the popular arguments
1 TABLE TALK OR FAMILIAR DISCOURSE (trans. by W. Hazlitt, London, 1848, DCCLII, p. 307).
2 MATTHEW xix. 12.
3 TREATISES OF ST. CYPRIAN ON THE DRESS OF VIRGINS (trans. by Rev. Ch. Thornton, p. 118).
I have never shared the popular regard for Dean Inge's intellect, but, even so, was astonished that this extremely shallow book could satisfy him.
Dr. Alington makes one reply to my charge. He says: "There is no doubt that there was a period when Christian teachers gave a prominence to the question which seems to us exaggerated, nor that they lent themselves to her heresy that sex was in itself an unclean subject. It is as obvious that they do not take this latter view to-day as it is . . . etc." 2
And again: "No sane Christian to-day shares the horror of any sexual relationship which once drove thousands from the world."
So that in reply to my charge that Christianity has polluted the very spring of life by its disgusting sex-phobia. Dr. Alington says, in effect: "Nonsense! That is old fashioned! Modern Christianity takes a wholly different attitude." And he shrewdly but very misleadingly sums up his denial by saying: "No sane Christian to-day shares the horror of any sexual relationship," etc.
I propose to demonstrate the disingenuousness and lack of candour in this reply by merely asking the question: "How long is it since this alleged change took place? And on whose authority was it made?"
For, if we turn to the reports about missionaries now preaching and spreading the same creed as that defended by your Alingtons, Inges, Couttses and Dawsons, we find that whatever changes may have come over Christianity in England, engaged in a life and death struggle with critics like myself, we certainly do not find that Christian missionaries sent out from England have got hold of them. They still teach the innocent savage to be ashamed of the organs presumably given him by the Christian god for the purpose of procreation. They still teach the native women of Africa, Melanesia, Polynesia, to cover up the breasts presumably given them by the Christian god to suckle their offspring. "Couvrez ce sein que je ne saurais voir. Cela fait venir de coupables pensées!" And they carry on their teaching so consistently that their insistence on concealing the nakedness of the savage even of the tropics, and the disease it causes, are constantly mentioned
1 THE FOOL HATH SAID (London, 1933, p. vi).
2 Op. cit., pp. 124125.
Most travellers condemn Christian missions on this score; but evidence is not always easy to find, as in England, owing to the influence of the Church on the Universities and the Press, it is impossible for a man who exposes the shameful side of Christianity to get fair treatment.
We accordingly invite Dr. Alington and his sponsor to explain how they can candidly claim that sex-phobia is really vieux jeu in Christianity.
But the more important question is, how does Christian sex-phobia influence youth unsoundly in the choice of a mate?
In the first place, by a persistent adverse selection against people normally sexed, it has produced a people largely deficient in genetic instincts, 2 and has thus substantially reduced human happiness.
Secondly, by making youth ashamed of their own sexual promptings (hence the enormous amount of repression, nervous debility, and auto-eroticism), it has also made them apprehensive of marked signs of sexuality in the sexual object, so that in England and countries like it, the asexual type, male and female, has come to be regarded as the desirable type.
Recently, this influence has led to a tendency in men to seek the "boyish" or "infantile" girl, with a minimum of sexual development, 3 and a tendency in girls to select the meek, rather soft and gentle type of youth.
1 See particularly N.E. (pp. 6, 51, 52) where Bryk condemns the missionaries for clothing the African native and refers to the Baganda women converts being taught that it is offensive to expose their breasts. See also John R. Baker (DEPOPULATION IN ESPIRITA SANTO, NEW HEBRIDES, Journ. Roy. Anthro. Inst., VIII, p. 79); ESSAYS ON THE DEPOPULATION OF MELANESIA (Cambridge, 1922), by the Rev. W. J. Durrad (pp. 8, 9, 10). On p. 9, he says: "In the encouragement of the wearing of clothes we are not the only offenders. The Presbyterian missionaries with far less excuse . . . have taught their converts to dress in European clothes." And see Felix Speiser's essay in the same volume (p. 31). By far the most stirring and convincing account of the sex-phobia of Christianity as now preached outside England is to be found in William Albert Robinson's DEEP WATER AND SHOAL (London, 1932, especially Chap. XVIII), because, in this book, the reader will find the opinions of a recent, wholly unbiased traveller, whose very simplicity and moderation make his charges of sex-phobia against the missionaries all the more formidable. At any rate all this evidence shows to what shifts Dr. Alington and his sponsor are driven in defending Christianity before an uninformed gallery at home.
2 P., where Gini finds this especially in Anglo-Saxon countries. See also S.L.S.E., p. 124, and HYMEN, OR THE FUTURE OF MARRIAGE, by Dr. Norman Haire (London, 1927, pp. 2021).
3 See Part II, Chap. III, infra. See also most modern novels; for instance. Rose Macaulay's DANGEROUS AGES, where the desirable heroine is described as follows:
This means an oblique bias in favour of low sexuality in mating, which necessarily causes great unhappiness in marriage, quite apart from its deleterious affect on the race.
The same bias also creates a phobia against beauty; because, since sexual intercourse with a healthy, good-looking specimen is, of course, known to be more enjoyable than with an ugly, unhealthy specimen, it is felt to be more sinful. Hence the slanders flung at beauty by all Christian fanatics! 1
Listen to one of the fathers of English Puritanism inveighing against physical beauty!
"The Graces of the Minde and the Soul . . . this is the only comlinesse and Beautie, which makes us Beautiful, and Resplendent in the Sight of God, of men and Angels," it is "the only culture and Beautie which the Lord respects." 2
"A studious . . . and eager Affection of Beautie . . . must needs be sinful and abominable . . . because it proceeds most commonly from an Adulterous, unchast, and lustful Hart." 3
"Those who have continent and chast affections," Prynne continues, "as they deeme this corporall and outside Beautie a needlesse and superfluous thing . . . they would rather obscure
"There was a look of immaculate sexless purity about Gerda, she might have stood for the angel Gabriel, wide-eyed and young and grave." See also THREE CAME UNARMED, by E. Arnot Robinson (London, 1933), where the heroine is described thus: "In Nonie, narrow of hip and thigh and light of build. Nature had for once forgotten to over-emphasize the utilitarian design of the normal female figure. . . . But Nonie's body was exquisite enough to be judged fairly outside the canons of sex. . . . Such loveliness does not depend on suitability for any particular function." Elsewhere Nonie's figure is said to be glorious "as that of a young athlete's". For a full appreciation of all the popular errors in this portrayal see Part II, Chap. III, infra, where other examples are given, particularly pp. 373374.
1 We must always bear in mind that what most disturbs the sleep of the Christian sex-phobic is the thought that his neighbour may be having a good time sexually. He covers this envy up by pretending that he is anxious only to suppress "excessive" sexual indulgence. But those who know him, appreciate that he does not possess that love of humanity which makes a man solicitous about another's health. What he cannot endure is that another is having pleasure. See on this point, S.L.S.E. p. 123.
2 Prynne's UNLOVLINESSE OF LOVELOCKS (1628, p. 51).
3 Ibid., pp. 55, 56. See also pp. 182184 infra.
The attitude behind these passages has coloured our culture much more than most people recognize, and owing, as we shall see, to the profound relation between beauty and health, and between beauty and desirable qualities of body and mind, it represents a dangerous perversion of the truth.
Thirdly, Christian sex-phobia has so poisoned the art of life that for the first time in history a generation of men has arisen which, by its lack of sex-mastery, has weaned woman from her primary and fundamental pastime. Getting no "kick" out of sex (a fact they will admit in private), they naturally turn to other interests.
Fourthly, in Anglo-Saxon countries, which have suffered most from Christianity, there has been no attempt to organize suitable conditions to enable young men of all classes to enjoy safe sex-experience before marriage. 2 Most young men consequently postpone their first normal hetero-sexual intercourse much too long, sometimes until marriage.
This has a threefold effect.
(a) It rears monsters who may be guaranteed to alienate the most passionate girl from sex after their first twenty-four hours of clumsy, ignorant experimentation upon her. In fact, it makes sexual congress as unattractive as the most rabid Puritan could wish to have it.
(b) It leads to an enormous amount of auto-eroticism, which again causes much matrimonial misery. For the girl, who gets one of these chaste young men, usually marries an habitual masturbator. 3
(c) It makes healthy young men too eager in love, so that they grossly exaggerate the desirability of a particular sexual object.
1 Ibid., p. 57.
2 See W.V., p. 172.
3 See S.E., pp. 156157, where Prof. Michels says: "We have to ask ourselves, when the interests of a pure young girl have to be considered, whether a man who has had a tender and passionate love experience is not after all preferable to the habitual masturbator . . . it must honestly be recognized that sexually abstinent young men, as they present themselves to-day, cannot offer to girls any guarantee of a happy marriage. . . . Generally speaking, the men who remain chaste are men of little worth." See also M.M. and M.A.R. (pp. 458459, and 496). See also TAL. (Qiddusin, 29b), where Rabbi Hisda declares that "he who is 20 years old and unmarried [without heterosexual experience is implied] lives in sin."
Tumescence is blind, especially when it has not been relieved except guiltily for years and years.
This, of course, leads to a good deal of dysgenic and ill-assorted mating.
The boy thinks the girl a goddess. But he is not really sane. The subjective momentum in him, driving him to the sexual object, is so powerful, that those about him, not suffering from his unrelieved tumescence, cannot understand his mania, and are not surprised when later on he comes round to their adverse view of the girl. 1 But this, of course, means a disastrous marriage.
Now normal pre-nuptial intercourse would obviously remove this evil; but it is important to insist that such sexual experience should not destroy the fillip that desire for a particular girl, chosen with greater sanity, gives to ambition in young men. 2 And it should not jeopardize their health.
What about girls?
In a young nubile female, inexperienced in sex, there is no such thing as chronic mechanical tension aching for relief. 3 There is a subjective momentum towards the male, but it becomes rather less than more discriminate with sexual intercourse. Indeed, the danger with the female is that the first sexual experience with an undesirable and unequal mate may increase rather than lessen her attachment. Besides which, when once the process of procreation is engaged, the instinct is gratified. 4
Thus Arno Gasberg said: "Woman does not love as we do. Her inclinations prove that inasmuch as a father is necessary for
1 The classical example of the changed view that comes over a sex-starved man who achieves detumescence with a girl he has transfigured is, of course, to be found in 2 SAMUEL xiii. 4, 14, and 15, which describes how Amnon ached with love for Tamar, and how, when he had lain with her he hated her more than he had loved her previously.
2 For a detailed discussion of this, see my NIGHT HOERS, pp. 205207.
3 See S.P.W., p. 70: "The average healthy and unattached adult woman, who is a virgin and has not been addicted to perverse habits can scarcely be said to suffer much from definite sexual desire. That is to say, she does not usually experience an uncontrollable desire for coitus." See also p. 71.
4 Schopenhauer understood this. He says (W.W.V., II, Chap. 44);. "The love of the man declines noticeably from the moment he gratifies his desire. That of the woman, on the contrary, increases from that moment."
Provided he is competent sexually, the man in possession, no matter what he is like otherwise, enjoys a wonderful advantage with a young inexperienced woman.
Many authorities take the view that the unspoilt girl's impulse to the male, unlike his to her, is not a conscious desire for sexual gratification.
Count Keyserling says, "Only in exceptional cases does a woman's passionate nature awaken itself." 2 Havelock Ellis says: "The sexual impulse of woman shows great external passivity. It is more complicated, less readily arises spontaneously, more frequently needs external stimuli." 3 Rémy de Gourmont declares that "La femelle dort jusqu'au moment où le mâle la réveille"; 4 while Dr. Fritz Lenz says: "Fortunately the innocent and immaculate maiden does not as a rule suffer from [sexual] abstinence . . . the majority of sexually untouched girls do not experience any direct sexual longing." 5 According to Dr. L. Löwenfeld, "the lack of sexual impulse persists in girls for an indeterminate time even after puberty, as long as they remain free from all experience of sexual stimulation." 6 And Dr. Herbert says: "Women being more passive in their sex lives, bear sexual abstinence on the whole much more easily, especially if the sex passion has not been roused in them by actual experience." 7
The girl's desire for the male is, therefore, different from his for her. His is a conscious hunger for sexual relief, and in cases of long abstinence, it blots out all considerations of taste and caution. Hers is less conscious, and not necessarily aware of the nature of the relief sought. Thus it is more easily educated prior to sexual experience, more amenable to wise criteria of choice, 8
1 A SURVEY OF THE WOMAN PROBLEM, by Rose Mayreder (London, 1913, p. 160). P.F.M., p. 75: "Sexual passion in a man tends to be an end in itself, while in a normal woman it is really only a means to an end."
2 B.M, p. 39.
3 S.P.S., III, p. 255.
4 P.L., p. 10.
5 M.A.R., pp. 458483.
6 S.L.W., p. 174.
7 AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PHYSIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY OF SEX. (London, 1917, p. 117), also p. 126: "With women the problem of abstinence is, on the whole, less urgent, as their sex passion, if not prematurely aroused, awakens much later, and is even then generally not quite so volcanic."
8 Hence some authorities think women have a more objective judgment of men than vice-versâ. Prof. Holle, for instance, says: "Woman thinks more biologically [in mating] for the simple reason that she is closer to nature" (W.S.H., p. 90).
Thus, in the male, sexual experience prior to choice is a sine qua non of sobriety and wisdom in selection. In the female sexual experience only tends to increase attachment hence the sometimes staggering contentment of superior women with inferior males. 2
This is not to say that women are less sensual or less able to enjoy sexual intercourse than men, although these conclusions have been quite unjustifiably drawn by many from the circumstance that the unspoilt virgin does not consciously pursue the male for sexual relief. 3 Woman is normally just as sexual as man often, in my opinion, more so. She is just as able to enjoy her sex experience and no less seriously injured than he is by a long wait after puberty before normal functioning begins.
That great authority. Dr. E. H. Kisch, sums the matter up very well by saying: "According to the general opinion, the sexual impulse is not so strongly developed in women as it is in men. . . . I do not believe this view of the slight intensity of the sexual impulse in women in general is well grounded, and can admit only this much, that in adolescent girls who are inexperienced in sexual matters, the sexual impulse is less perfect than in youths of the same age who have undergone sexual enlightenment. From the moment when the woman also has been fully enlightened as to sexual affairs, and has actually experienced sexual excitement, her impulse towards intimate physical contact and towards copulation is just as powerful as that of man." 4
While unspoilt, therefore, the virgin is more easily educated in choice than the sex-starved male. The chief factor that blinds
Ludwig Klages (DIE GRUNDLAGE DER CHARAKTERKUNDE, Leipzig, 1928, p. 89) says: "Contrary to a very widespread prejudice, woman, at least in her judgment of persons, is usually more objective than man."
1 S.P.W., p. 106: "In the young girl the cerebral sex-centre is more or less dormant unless it has been unnaturally stimulated."
2 Hence the view of some thinkers that women are indifferent to male beauty. See L.M., IX, 14: "Women do not care for beauty . . . it is enough that he is a man, they give themselves to the handsome and the ugly." See also C. Lombroso and G. Ferrero (LA FEMME CRIMINELLE ET LA PROSTITUÉE, Paris, 1896, p. 121): "En général la beauté et l'intelligence la laissent indifférente." See pp. 170171, infra.
3 P.F.M., p. 82. Hegar, Litzmann and P. Müller make the same mistake. See also Dr. Harry Campbell (DIFFERENCES IN THE NERVOUS ORGANISATION OF MAN AND WOMAN. London, 1891, pp. 209210): "The sexual instinct is very much less intense in woman than in man." See Part II, Chap. III infra.
4 S.L.W., p. 168.
If she is very vain, the first unworthy male, by abolishing her self-doubts, will so much elate her, that she runs the risk of regarding him as just as "perfect" as the sex-starved man regards the inferior girl.
This does not mean that excessive vanity may not act similarly with men. But whereas a girl without undue vanity and inferiority feelings (they always go together) will be more sober in choice than the sex-starved male, the male, in order to be sober in choice must be free from both undue vanity, inferiority feelings and chronic tumescence.
It is now necessary to deal with one other aspect of Christian influence on human life. I refer to the doctrine of selfishness and unselfishness, especially in so far as it may lead a person to suppose he or she can be loved for his or her "self" as that bluffer Socrates put it, or "unselfishly".
From the very beginning it would be well for all young people to recognize that on this question of unselfishness and selfishness and the praise and blame commonly accorded to each, Christian teaching is psychologically false. Owing to its early appeal to the pariah and the outcast, 1 this religion constantly reveals a psychology framed more on demagogic appeal than actual fact. The very command, "Love one another!" like the Mosaic command, "Honour thy father and thy mother", is based on a misunderstanding of normal mental processes.
Love and honour are not voluntary; they are a natural, inevitable and quite involuntary reaction to the lovableness and honourableness of the object, whether neighbour or parent.
No command can make one love anyone who is not lovable. 2 "Seek neighbours that are loveable so that you may inevitably love them", would have been more sensible. "Love one another!" is shallow and reveals a poor, almost benighted grasp of human psychology.
You might just as well say, "Admire one another", or "Esteem one another". These reactions depend on certain
1 For data supporting this, see my WHO IS TO BE MASTER OF THE WORLD? (London, 1909).
2 TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, V, 2. "Love will not be spurred to what it loathes."
The same remarks apply to the Mosaic "Honour thy father and thy mother!" The proper command would have been: "Parents, make yourselves honourable in the sight of your children!"
Even as a child I knew that any honour I paid to my parents was purely reactive. Thus very early I appreciated the fact that in supposing love and honour to be voluntary, the Christian saviour and his putative father had gone astray. Evidently psychological insight is not a strong point with the holy family.
I was not surprised, therefore, when later on I found further errors in Christian psychology.
I take it that all intellectually honest persons know that in everything they do, they act either under compulsion, from inclination, or from self-interest. There is no such thing as a consistent course of so-called "unselfish" conduct that is not pursued for some kind of self-gratification. Charity is the most transparent of these. 2
Everybody, therefore, is consistently "selfish". The wise, however, are "enlightened egoists", i.e. they are "selfish" only up to the point when self ceases to be best served by "selfishness", as, for instance, in their relationship to immediate dependents who can minister to their happiness, in their relationship to menials, retainers, and friends, all of whom may make life happy or the reverse, for a central figure. And the unwise are "unenlightened egoists", i.e. they carry "selfishness" to a point which turns their environment against them, so that, in the end, "self" gets badly served and is made unhappy as the result of "selfishness".
The mistake is to suppose that the "enlightened egoist" is "unselfish", and that the "unenlightened egoist" is "selfish". Both are "selfish" if the word has any meaning at all, but whereas the former is so with intelligence, the latter is so as a dolt and dullard.
Or consistent "unselfish" behaviour may be the outcome of abnormal congenital impulses masochism, for instance. But
1 See that great psychologist Stendhal (D.A., p. 12): "L'amour est comme la fièvre, il naît et s'éteint sans que la volunté y ait la moindre part."
2 Those who would understand its true nature, especially when it comes prominently before the public in gifts to hospitals, good works, etc., should observe how constantly "charitable" people behave with the utmost meanness and callousness to relatives and friends, gifts to whom have no chance of becoming generally known.
Truth to tell, however, it is life's chief charm and beauty that the acts which constitute the greatest benefit to all the work of the good artist, the good legislator, the good actor, the good inventor are unquestionably "selfish". They please the performer before the beneficiary.
Beside them, the acts of the officious spinster, who bustles interferingly about her parish, killing time by trying to stamp her importance on the minds of her neighbours, are wholly fatuous; yet these are called "unselfish".
This disposes of the antithesis. Now let us examine certain particular aspects of it.
In the home "selfish" means merely not doing what the person who uses the word wishes you to do, and "unselfish" means doing that same thing. Women are the chief abusers of these terms, and when they are dealing with a man who believes that "selfish" and "unselfish" mean something more than I have stated, they usually get their own way.
In the religious sense "selfish" means that you do not covet the Church's approval of how you live or the way you spend your money, i.e. that you regard yourself as the best judge of how your power should be exercised.
In the social sense, "selfish" means that you are not constantly fretting about what your neighbour thinks of you, or trying to seduce him to a good opinion of you. This offends the neighbour. If he is middle-class, the worst insult he will hurl at you is to call you "selfish". Because, unconsciously, what the neighbour likes best is the "vain" person who does worry about what others think of him. Such a man is not "selfish".
The terms are thus a sort of impolite sham, based on unsound psychology, and bear no relation to reality.
The beauty of Life and Nature is that all the most useful, vital, and important actions are so-called "selfish" actions. A so-called "unselfish" action (if it were possible at all) could not be relied on; because what ensures the punctual performance of the "selfish" act is that the performer wishes to perform it, and to take risks to perform it. Schopenhauer was shrewd enough to see this. 1
1 W.W.V., Chap. 44.
People, like Spencer, who see altruism in a mothers care for her young, are self-deceivers, and betray the century of their origin by propagating such errors. 1
To see altruism or "unselfishness" in the exercise of a function for which a creature is equipped from head to foot, and who realizes her life-destiny, who secures her health and normal life-processes by having and suckling young, is almost as sensible as to see altruism in sweating, growing hair, or eating.
Even the fact that many women now lose their lives and suffer the tortures of the damned in childbirth does not make motherhood an altruistic undertaking. The breakdown or morbidity of a "selfish" function does not make it an "unselfish" function. The whole idea is, therefore, the most arrant nonsense, and based upon a foolish masculine view of womanhood. It was, however, largely reinforced as a superstition by the belief current in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that women not only derived no pleasure from sex, 2 but also that if they did, it was not decent or politic to admit it.
Fichte, one of the most influential exponents of these ideas, writing about the end of the eighteenth century, said:
"Only one sex is active in procreation. The other, however, is simply passive. 3 . . . It is, therefore, not unreasonable for the first sex [the male] to be bent on gratifying their sexual instinct . . .; but it is absolutely unreasonable for the second sex to be bent on gratifying their sexual instinct, because that would mean that they were making suffering an object to be striven after. 4 . . . Man can without loss of dignity, acknowledge his sexual instinct and seek its gratification. . . . But woman may not so acknowledge her sexual needs." 5
Scores of minor voices intoned the same chant, and the belief that the female sex-cycle is one long trial in "unselfishness" endures in thousands of unenlightened minds to this day.
1 See B.M., p. 33, where Keyserling, who is often tiresomely early Victorian, says: Woman "is the primarily altruistic clement in humanity." Such a phrase is meaningless; but it betrays a prejudice and a generation.
2 This led many thinkers, including Lecky, to regard woman as the virtuous and moral sex. For, if you believed motherhood was self-sacrifice, it must be "unselfish" and therefore virtuous.
3 SÄMTLICHE WERKE (Berlin, 1845, II, Sect. 2, p. 329).
4 Ibid., I, Sect. 2, p. 307.
5 Ibid., p. 309.
Tell your girl you proposed, not because you wanted her badly, or because it pleased you to have her, or because you thought your happiness would be best served by her, but because you loved her "unselfishly" and for her own sake, i.e. you did not yourself want her a bit, but merely wished to rescue her from her typing, or from her preposterous mother, or from her lonely back room. Tell her this, and see what she will say!
Imagine too a girl saying that she accepted you, not because she wanted you badly, or because she thought she would be happy with you, but because she thought you needed a housekeeper and a companion, and that she was prepared to sacrifice her taste and instincts in order to marry you. You would think her either gratuitously offensive, or else a liar.
Thus "unselfishness" cannot be made to find a place in this connexion any more than elsewhere. And beware of the lover, male or female, who prates about it. Give him or her a wide berth.
A girl wishes the man to want her "selfishly"; otherwise his attentions are an insult.
A man also wishes to be wanted because his girl thinks she will be happier with him than with another. Any other basis for a girl's attachment is an affront.
The beauty and magic of the sexual relationship lies precisely in the fact that each party gratifies the other by pursuing purely "selfish" aims. And the moment this changes to "unselfishness" the relationship is on the rocks. It means that the parties have ceased to inspire sufficient attachment in each other to make a small or great service a pleasure and a gratification of desire.
Most acquaintances of my generation know that for years I nursed my mother in illness. With pleasure I performed the most menial services for her. But let those who suppose that I was for one moment "unselfish" in that period, go to some training school in elementary psychology!
Thus the whole antithesis "selfish" and "unselfish", which springs from Christian ethics, and on which Christianity lays so much stress, is seen to be a huge bluff. Desirable as the demise of Christianity may be, it is even more desirable that this abortive offshoot of hers should pre-decease her. Only then will human relationships become crisp, clear-cut and clean. 1
1 When, later on, I discuss the desirable character in a mate, the reader will not,
Most civilizations seem to have provided for a period during which each party to a marriage contract could take careful measure of the other and determine whether the other could be tolerated as a permanent mate. But in England a legal process, differing in certain particulars from any other system of law, defeats the object of this probationary period. I refer to actions for breach of promise.
Since every available means should be used to find out as much as possible about the mate, a period of engagement seems admirably suited to provide the necessary opportunities for mutual trial and scrutiny.
If, however, at the end of such a period it is impossible, without the risk of an expensive lawsuit and possibly heavy damages, to come to the negative of the only two conclusions which lend some sense to the interval after betrothal, and if it is safe only to confirm the choice made before opportunities for close acquaintance and scrutiny occur, the engagement period becomes merely a fruitless, formal delay of marriage.
To reply that young people should know their own minds before they become engaged, is to forget that in a well-ordered household they are not allowed private and constant association with each other and each other's families before the engagement.
In the working classes, where the "walking out" period provides for intensive mutual scrutiny, breach of promise actions are rare. But in the middle-classes the engagement period really provides the first chance of becoming better acquainted.
In France and Germany, where breach of promise has not the consequences it may have in England, a foolish convention makes it almost as difficult to break off an engagement. This is the stigma which is supposed to attach to the parties, or to one of the parties, concerned.
In a book of remarkable essays, from which I shall often quote, no less than four contributors Professor Friedländer, Dr. Fricke, Dr. Lorentzen and Dr. Julius Kleeberg independently call attention to this, plead for a more rational attitude to broken engagements, and cogently argue that the utility of engagements
in view of the above, expect me to join in the popular parrot cry in favour of "unselfish" love, or of "unselfishness" in the spouse. And I hope that my failure to allude to such spurious desiderata will not be felt as a serious lack.
An action would seem to lie if a girl is jilted after an unduly long engagement, running into three or four years; because in that case her chances may be ruined. But even if this is conceded, a time limit should be set, and a part of the engagement period, say a year or perhaps nine months, should still be struck off as necessary probation. And it should be impossible to sue for damages if the breach occurs within that period. This would amount merely to modifying the present Common Law procedure so as to make only such breaches as occur after nine months actionable surely a modification with which few would wish to quarrel.
Naturally, if a girl has been seduced under a promise of marriage, damages and heavy damages would be only fair, no matter how long the engagement had lasted. But that either party (usually the man nowadays) 2 should, after a necessary and approved period of probation, be liable to pay heavy damages if he or she changes an earlier opinion, is little less than insane, and makes engagements a farce.
We shall see in the sequel how much there is to find out and to learn about the mate and the stock and family history of the mate, for which the period of engagement provides the only opportunity. To attempt to cull some of this information if the intentions, at least of the man, were not serious, would be a piece of impertinence.
There can be little doubt I have a few cases in mind as I write that many an unwise union is consummated against the better judgment of one of the parties as the result of this ridiculous legal machinery, and the sooner it is repealed or modified the better it will be for English life.
1 W.S.H., pp. 20, 51, 61 and 98. See also an eloquent plea for better opportunities of mutual study and scrutiny before actual engagement, in WOMAN IN TRANSITION, by Annette M. B. Meakin (London, 1907, pp. 5253).
2 The law allows for compensation to either sex, and as late as 1689 a man was awarded £400 damages for breach of promise (LORD RAYMOND'S REPORTS OF KING'S BENCH, I. p. 386), a sum equal to £1000 in modern currency. But nowadays, with the gynomania of judges, juries and the Press, such an award would be impossible, and it is only the woman who can hope to get damages in a breach action.