Typos p. 277: venemous [= venomous]
The Causes of Degeneration and the Remedy
- p. 271 -
The More Remote Causes of Modern Male Degeneracy Part I
The causes of degeneration which are constantly active, which have long been established among us, and which affect both male and female are:
(1) The dysgenic influence of Christianity.
(2) The hostility of Christianity to sex, and to the joys of the body (Puritanism).
(3) The influence of the democratic contempt of blood and family (miscegenation).
(4) The faulty co-ordination of our bodies.
(5) The false conceptions of modern medicine.
(6) The selection of type which operates in commercial and industrial conditions.
The causes of degeneration which, while constantly active, affect especially the male, are:
(8) Specialization in occupation.
(9) Selection operating under too limited an idea of true manliness.
These causes will now be discussed in the order in which they have been enumerated.
(1) The dysgenic influence of Christianity may con-
(a) The exaltation of the soul above the body, to the extent of making soul attributes the principal criterion of human worth, is of the very essence of Christianity. It permeates all the values, and therefore all the civilizations that Christianity has created, and is the chief feature distinguishing that religion from Paganism, Judaism, and most of the heathen cults of savage races. The idea of soul-value, as opposed to body-value, is said to have arisen out of the dualistic view of the universe the well-known dichotomy of spirit and matter which, according to some authorities, 1 seems, in its ascetic form, to have characterized the philosophic speculations of oriental peoples and of Greece at the moment of their decline. In India, for instance, the origin of this dualistic view is ascribed to the settled despondency that appears to have come over the people through their subjugation by powerful invaders of a mental calibre lower than their own. And in Greece, where it may, or may not, have had an independent origin, its appearance is also connected with the beginning of Hellenic decadence.
The ascetic idea of dualism does indeed savour of depression and despondency; because, by depreciating matter in favour of spirit, it suggests the need of a flight from the world and its material concerns. Thus, the early ascetics of India, who were the protagonists of ascetic dualism, regarded matter as corrupt and the work, in whole or in part, of a being other than the creator of the soul, while they regarded spirit as incorrupt and as divine in origin. In this view of life, the soul of man was held to be the higher part of him, imprisoned in corrupt matter his body, and purity or holiness was
1 See, for instance, the authors of the articles on "Asceticism" in Hastings' Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics.
This ascetic ideal was widely disseminated long before the appearance of Jesus Christ in Palestine; and both Brahminism and Buddhism in India, but particularly the latter, six hundred years before our era, set up a severe ascetic ideal for the achievement of holiness.
Whereas, however and this is the important distinction in Brahminism and Buddhism, asceticism, while remaining a strict discipline in bodily mortification for the priesthood, was never upheld as an idea for the lay world, it also never led to the neglect of bodily demands, or to a disregard of the essentials for healthy breeding. Roughly speaking, therefore, we may say of India, that despite the priestly valuation of the body as corrupt, this remained an esoteric doctrine, which never operated as a dysgenic influence among the lay population. It never led to the neglect of primary bodily considerations, even in that part of the priestly code which was directed at regulating lay life, and thus the masses continued to be safeguarded against the worst evils of body contempt, although body contempt was implicit in the national philosophy.
Thus, in the Laws of Manu, which constitute the holy book of the Brahmins, not only are the dysgenic effects of miscegenation carefully guarded against, but very stringent rules are laid down to prevent marriages between people of unsound constitutions. A young Hindu may not marry a girl whose family has thick hair on the body, or is subject to hæmorrhoids, phthisis, weakness of digestion, epilepsy, or white or black leprosy. He may not marry a maiden who has a redundant member, or who is sickly, or has red eyes (presumably conjunctivitis). He has to marry a girl who is free from all bodily
In Buddhism, while there is a distinct relaxation of the Hindu regulations against miscegenation, 2 the provisions against deterioration of stock by neglect of the bodily defects in marriage, continue to be enforced. A man must marry a girl whose parents are not afflicted with any hereditary disease, such as leprosy, madness, cancer, syphilis, etc., 3 and those children of a marriage, moreover, who are defective or of equivocal sex are not allowed to benefit fully under the will of their father. 4
Likewise in Plato, whereas the dichotomy, soul and body, and the superiority of the former are fully admitted, 5 we read in the Republic of all kinds of regulations for securing sound human stock. No children bearing the stigmata of degeneration are to be reared, and only sound people are to be mated.
Thus among three peoples, the Hindus, the Buddhists, and the later Greeks, the condemnation and contempt of matter and the body were never allowed to lead to a frivolous neglect of bodily concerns, and the sound and realistic view of the essentials of healthy physical mating was never superseded by the romantic and sentimental notion of the union of two souls.
The Egyptians and the Israelites need not be reckoned with, because with them asceticism played no part. The very notion that the body must at all costs be preserved
1 See Book III of the Laws of Manu.
2 See Notes on Buddhist Law, II Marriage, by Sir J. Jardine (Rangoon, September 14, 1882), p. 2.
3 In Notes on Buddhist Law, III Marriage, by Sir J. Jardine (Rangoon, December 12, 1882), pp. xii and xiv. See also p. 23 of the former publication (Rangoon, September 14, 1882).
4 See Notes on Buddhist Law, V Inheritance, by Sir J. Jardine (Rangoon, March 15, 1883), p. 3.
5 No such feelings existed in Greek life before the age of Hesiod, and asceticism is supposed to have sprung from a pessimistic outlook upon earthly existence in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.
Now, through the influence both of the oriental and late Greek thought, the whole of the Near East had, in pre-Christian days, probably become familiar with asceticism, and the Essenes and the Theraputæ, both ascetic sects, were probably the extreme expression of this widespread cult of other or super worldliness.
Certain it is that, from the very first, Christianity embodied the ideas and ideals of the ascetics, and there is no doubt that John the Baptist, for instance, was a thoroughgoing example of the oriental ascetic type.
The New Testament is full of references to the castigation and crucifixion of the body for the attainment of virtue and holiness, and throughout its various books emphasis is repeatedly laid on the vileness of this world and the flesh, and the superiority of the soul. Indeed, the consequences of the lengths to which the early Christians went in accepting this view of life, greatly embarrassed the early Church, and it might even be said that, certainly in the first four centuries of its existence, the Church was faced by the following extraordinary dilemma was it to expire through the ascetic
1 See Lev. xxi. 1623.
In spite of the fact that the Old Testament remained part of the Christian's Holy Book, its more sound teaching regarding the body was unable to prevail against the lethal asceticism of such men as Paul and the early Fathers; and the consequence was that in Christianity Europe embraced a religion which, while it possessed the most unhealthy elements of oriental philosophy the vilification of the body and of matter as corrupt it entirely lacked the wise corrections of Hindu, Buddhistic and Platonic teaching.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 (I remind the reader that this is not an exhortation directed at an ascetic priesthood alone, but at the whole body of believers.)
"Flesh is death. Spirit is life and peace. The body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of
1 I John ii. 1516.
This last jewel of ascetic negativism comes from Paul, the most venemous of body-haters that has ever existed.
"And they that are Christ," he says on another occasion, "have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." 2 And so on ad infinitum. Paul would like us to believe that the Almighty could have had no part in the creation of man's body precisely the teaching of the Indian ascetics, but how very much more dangerous now it was divorced from the rest of the Laws of Manu!
There is much more in the same strain in the New Testament, and the upshot of it all is that the soul is exalted at the expense of the body, and body contempt becomes the main pillar of the creed.
We are not so much concerned here, however, with the absurdity of this theological reasoning about the soul and body, and with the still less savoury conclusions drawn from it by Paul and the early Church Fathers, as we are with investigating its consequences; and these, it cannot be denied, have been quite as disastrous as we might have expected them to be.
The inevitable result of exalting the soul to this extent, and of despising and condemning the body, was obviously to pave the way for the ultimate neglect of all physical concerns. Care about food, about sound mating, sound selection, and caution in all physical matters, naturally went by the board the moment soul values became the only criterion of worth. A hunchback, an epileptic, a congenital deaf-mute, could, provided they were loved by the Lord and believed in Him, regard themselves, and, what is more, be regarded, as quite as desirable as any other men; for that part of them which had value their soul was approved of by the Church. And seeing that in Christian tradition
1 Rom. viii. 613.
2 Gal. v. 24. See also Col. iii. 5.
Not only that, but it was also inevitable that through the reiteration of the importance of soul values, and of the unimportance of body values, a generation of men should have been born, who like ourselves, have not only lost all sound taste where human stock is concerned, but who have also lost all shame about our own and other people's bodily defects. With soul values as the only important values, why should a man feel ashamed of artificial aids like false teeth, spectacles, aperients? The Church encourages shame in regard to impurity of the soul. Does it ever mention shame about impurity of breath?
Every day we can see marriages consummated by Christian communities, which on every conceivable physical ground ought to be forbidden the marriage of cripples, blind people, deaf and dumb people in fact, the physiologically bungled and botched of every description. 1
Is there anything in the Christian faith or doctrine to forbid, or prevent this evil? We know there is nothing. On the contrary, every tenet of the creed makes physiological considerations quite superfluous. It is no longer
1 See R. Austin Freeman (Op. cit., p. 244): "Lunatics are permitted to marry and do marry. Thus out of the total of 117,274 lunatics in the United Kingdom shown by the Census returns of 1901, no less than 46,800 were married or widowed. . . . And not only are there no impediments, in many cases degenerate persons are encouraged to marry. A clergyman connected with an institution for deaf-mutes mentioned to me the number of happy marriages that had been arranged by him between the inmates; and among the feeble-minded marriage is often encouraged on 'moral' grounds." Mr. Freeman might also have referred to the congenitally blind who are also allowed to marry.
That is why Christianity is dysgenic in its influence. By opposing no moral or religious barrier to dysgenic mating, but rather by encouraging such mating through its exaltation of soul above body values, it has been in the past, and is still, one of the most potent causes of degeneration. And the Eugenic Society may last a very long while and yet fail to make any appreciable headway, so long as it remains so far from recognizing this primary fact as to include upon its council an avowed and official Christian like Dean Inge. 1
Of course everybody will appreciate how difficult it is nowadays to come out into the open with an attack upon Christianity on its moral and non-dogmatic side. 2 And the kind of treatment I have received both at the hands of the Press and the Public for my consistent exposure of the evils of Christian morality (which almost every modern person is taught to regard as the most creditable aspect of the religion) is not of the kind that would encourage others to follow my lead. 3 Nevertheless, the fact remains that all the eugenic legislation in
1 Dean Inge is well aware that his position as a eugenist may provoke astonishment, hence his eager but very feeble efforts in Outspoken Essays to prove that Christianity is not dysgenic in its influence. But let him look about him! Qui s'excuse s'accuse!
2 The difficulty Huxley and the Darwinians had in fighting the dogma is as nothing compared with the difficulty of fighting the values of Christianity.
3 It is interesting to note in this respect that, as far as I have been able to discover, such works as Mr. Freeman's Social Decay and Regeneration, Mr. Stoddart's Revolt Against Civilization and the other books on physical deterioration already quoted, never draw the logical conclusion that Christian values are equally responsible with the more commonly described influences of Industrialism and Urbanization for our degeneration. Mr. Freeman (Op. cit., pp. 2756) does indeed get very near to an open admission of this fact; but he is still too cautious to do more than leave the reader to draw his own inferences, and he nowhere dares to state definitely how and why Christianity must be dysgenic.
(b) In its false and unsocial teaching of pity Christianity also exercises a powerful dysgenic influence.
Pity should be a means of increasing or preserving the strength of a human group or community. It is the emotion which is provoked by a member of a group falling, collapsing, or otherwise failing in the fulfilment of his social function. And the group, by feeling pity and by being provoked to help him up and to restore him to a sound and upright position, adds to, or rather preserves, its own strength. In this sense pity is a vital emotion, a useful emotion, a social need.
It is easy to see, however, that if pity be "perverted into a mere reflex action of sympathy at the sight of all suffering, it may become a very noxious influence in society and one which may even require disciplinary removal.
To adopt for the moment the analogy of the human body to the body politic, it is obvious that, so long as a man feels he can save or restore to serviceableness a particular member or part of his body that has become diseased, his compassion for that part and for himself, may induce him to take very expensive and drastic measures to procure a remedy. The moment, however, there is no hope of healing, and the health of the body demands that the part should either be healed or removed, then, the wise man, who wishes to survive, naturally decides to have the diseased part of his body removed. In the language of the emotions, he ceases to feel any pity for the diseased part or member, because his attachment to the healthy remainder is greater than it is to the unhealthy part. Therefore to spare the remainder he sacrifices the diseased part.
Now what Christianity has done is practically to impose pity, in the sense of an irrational reflex at the sight of suffering, upon the whole of civilized mankind as a moral duty. Pity must be forthcoming whether its expression promotes or hinders the welfare of society. And, since the active expression of pity is to succour, Christian pity means in practice that every kind of human wreckage, no matter whether it is the wreckage of congenital rot, or of useful service, no matter whether its continued existence endangers or does not endanger the health or welfare of the remainder, must be succoured, tended and salved. This, however, is to make pity a source of weakness to the community instead of a source of strength.
It is conceivable and arguable that society has a duty to those of its members who, having in the fulfilment of a useful purpose become wreckage, are nevertheless beyond the power of healing, and can never be restored to the strength of the community. Pity appears to lose its sanction here, but it does not really do so. Because, although the human wreckage in this case may never be restored to the strength of the group, to neglect to tend and care for it might deter others from working for the group, for fear lest a similar fate might overtake them.
It is inconceivable, however, except on Christian grounds, that society has a duty to those of its members, who, having at birth shown themselves to be wreckage and beyond the power of healing, can not only never be restored to the strength of the community, but can also only burden it uselessly as long as they survive. For while society may owe them protection, it can only do so to the extent to which it does not cease to protect
But at this point the doctrine of irrational pity (as an automatic reflex) receives support from the further Christian doctrine that it is noble and desirable to sacrifice the greater to the less. Thus, according to Christian ethics, it cannot be wrong to penalize and jeopardize the lives of the sound, the promising and the better stocks, for the support of the unsound, the unpromising and the decadent; and the whole of the rational attitude towards sacrifice is reversed. If sacrifice there must be and society cannot survive without it the act of sacrifice, again, should be a source of strength to the community and not a source of weakness. With the doctrine of irrational pity, however, it is always the more desirable and sounder elements that are sacrificed for the less desirable and less sound, and the consequence is that sacrifice where it is practised, becomes a further source of weakness to the group.
The farmer, when contemplating his crops, endeavours to spare the more valuable plants, and to protect them from the weeds and the parasites. When he sees a crop of wheat overrun with dodder or any other weed, his pity goes out to the wheat. And when he thinks of sacrifice, it is to the dodder that he turns his attention, He does not think it a shame that the wheat is not allowing more sunlight to reach the dodder; he thinks it a shame that the dodder is hindering the healthy growth of the wheat.
A Christian community, however, confronted by a similar spectacle in the human world feels no pity for
The rise of the power of women, who very quickly and by nature came to regard Christian irrational pity as the loftiest emotion, has, of course, done a good deal in recent years to promote the kind of unthinking humanitarianism which is destroying the nation's stamina and health. But even the males in a Christian community must, in their attitude to pity and sacrifice, act in a manner which is destructive of their fellows' ultimate welfare; and in this sense, the Feminist power has only aggravated an influence which would in any case have caused havoc among mankind.
In its inculcation upon all of the duty of pity as an irrational reflex, and as a source of weakness instead of a source of strength to the community, Christianity is once more, therefore, shown to constitute a dysgenic influence; and when it is remembered that its distortion of pity is coupled with an utterly dysgenic view of sacrifice, it must be obvious that no headway can possibly be made against the forces of degeneration, so long as there is no frontal attack on Christian values.
(c) In its exaltation of moral over æsthetic values, to the extent of utterly ignoring the latter, Christianity also exercises a further dysgenic influence on society,
The mere inability or disinclination to act is thus set higher than the inevitable overflow of wanton strength and spirits, and the same valuation applies to man and woman. The girl of passion and beauty is placed lower than the passionless and ugly girl, if it can be shown that the latter leads a pure negative life, while the former perseveringly seeks the environment in which her passion can find expression.
This does not mean that in a society free from Christian values, anarchy in the relations of the sexes would necessarily prevail; for we have only to study anthropology to discover innumerable societies where there has been and is still perfect order in the sex relations, without any of that disdain for æsthetic values which characterizes Christianity.
It simply means that, where moral values alone are considered in estimating human value, as they have been in Christianity, the æsthetic aspects of human beings are not only neglected, but are also frequently regarded as obstacles to "holiness" and "purity," and thus tend to become eliminated.
When Prynne wrote: "Man's perfect Beautie consists in the inward Endowments, Ornaments, Trappings, Virtues, and the Graces of the Mind and Soul. . . . This is the only Comelinesse and Beautie, which makes us Amiable and Beautiful in the sight of God," 1 he spoke not only as a Puritan but as a Christian.
Again, when he wrote: "A Studious, Curious, Inordinate and Eager Affection of Beautie must needs be sinful and Abominable," 2 he voiced not a personal sentiment, but the sentiment of a great and powerful religion.
1 The Unlovelinesse of Lovelocks (1628), p. 51.
2 Ibid., pp. 55, 56.
In ugliness and repulsiveness, however, many of the principal signs of degeneracy are frequently proclaimed. Facial asymmetry, for instance, which is a universal sign of degeneracy, is generally one of the most potent causes of personal ugliness. According to strict Christian teaching, however, such ugliness does not in the least detract from a man's value, because, since it cannot be traced to any individual moral trespass, it is beyond the scope of Christian criticism. The whole of the critical apparatus of Christianity is concerned with man's moral value; it pays no heed to his body and his face, let them be ever so revolting.
There is, moreover, this fatal consequence of favouring moral at the cost of æsthetic values, and that is that each individual with his own judgment values himself only according to moral values. Thus while shame is felt about moral depravity, as I pointed out in my Lysistrata, no shame is felt about physiological depravity. A man or woman, morally depraved, may not only feel prevented from gaining access to certain social circles, but if he or she invaded such circles uninvited, the latter would quickly rectify the act of intrusion by a rigid ban amounting to ostracism or exile.
Is there any such barrier against a man or a woman physiologically depraved? May not he or she go anywhere, be seen anywhere, and be welcomed anywhere? Does a man with false teeth or any other socially accepted physiological depravity, feel any compunction in declaring his love to a girl who is free from such stigmata of
Thus in favouring moral at the cost of æsthetic values, Christianity has given us a conscience only for moral depravity.
In this way the first natural checks to degenerative mating, which would be applied instinctively by a group of healthy men and women the taste which recoils from ugliness, deformity, physical inferiority, bodily defects, etc., and the standards which would cause healthy people to feel nausea rather than love in the presence of false teeth, glasses, impure breath, nervous debility, etc. have all been broken down, and the values behind them transvalued. Here again, therefore, Christianity is seen to exercise a dysgenic influence, and one of the essential prerequisites to any eugenic reform would have to be the reinstatement of æsthetic considerations in the estimation of human beings, and the refutation of the position assumed by Christianity in regard to moral and æsthetic value.
(2) Christianity's hostility to sex and to the joys of the body is so well known, and so easily read from the Church's doctrine and the Scriptures upon which it is
1 To argue that physiological depravity is condoned because it cannot be helped, and that moral depravity is not condoned because it can be helped, is, in the light of modern knowledge, no longer possible. The very nature of this plea reveals how much more rigidly we are ruled by moral than by æsthetic values.
As a rule Christians reply to the charge of sex-phobia that their religion should not be confounded with Puritanism, and that there is nothing in Christianity to justify the extremes to which the Puritans go. This, however, is hardly candid, and it is a rejoinder that can easily be refuted.
We have already pointed out that Oriental asceticism was adopted by Christianity without any of the eugenic safeguards which prevented the contempt of the body from leading to degeneration. It will now be our object to show that precisely the same influence of asceticism occurred in the domain of sex and bodily joys without, in Christianity, being saved from absurdity by the wise differentiation between priests and laity which characterised Brahminism and Buddhism.
True, the ascetic Brahmin priest was forbidden any sort of sexual experience and to him the body of woman was pronounced impure. To the lay world, however, the joys of the body were recommended as an essential experience, plurality of wives was allowed, and that man alone was pronounced perfect who had wife and children. To the layman, moreover, the mouth and body of woman was pronounced pure, and woman herself was condemned if she remained unmated.
"To be mothers were women created," says the Holy Book of the Hindus, addressing the laity, "and to
"He only is a perfect man who consists of three persons united, his wife, himself, and his offspring." 3
"The mouth of a woman is always pure." 4 "Pure is the mouth of a goat and of a horse, pure is the back of a cow, pure are the feet of a Brahmana; but women are pure in all parts." 5
And finally, there is this jewel of friendliness to human love: "A woman is not defiled by a lover." 6
In Buddhism, which admittedly carried asceticism much further than did Brahminism, there is the same careful doctrinal differentiation between the laity and the priesthood in the matter of sex.
"Although like St. Paul," says Sir J. Jardine, "Gautama felt that celibacy was alone consistent with his spiritual vocation, and made that state the rule for the religious, there is nothing to show that he ever treated marriages among the laity with disrespect;" 7 and although the command, "Thou shalt not be unchaste," meant for the priests and nuns celibacy, for the lay world it was only a prohibition of adultery. 8
In an extract from the Marriage Feast at Jambunada there is a passage which gives a very good idea of Gautama's ruling on this question in so far as he addressed himself to the laity. 9
"The greatest happiness which a mortal man can imagine," he is said to have declared on this occasion, "is the bond of marriage that ties together two loving hearts."
Thus, although for the bhikkhu (the Buddhist priest) the observance of complete chastity is essential, the
1 Laws of Manu, IX, 96.
2 Ibid., IX, 4.
3 Ibid., IX, 45.
4 Ibid., V, 130. (See also Institutes of Vishnu, XXIII, 49.)
5 Vasishtha, XXVIII, 9.
6 Ibid., XXVIII, 1.
7 Op. cit. (September 14, 1882), p. 7, Introduction.
8 Hastings' Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics.
9 Gospel of Buddha (LXXXI), by P. Carus, 1917.
How different from this is the atmosphere of Christianity! For, in the religion of revelation, not only is sexual intercourse sin, and all bodily pleasures so much devilry, but there is also no attempt to differentiate between the laity and the priesthood in the ban that is placed on the so-called carnal lusts.
When Paul said, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman," 3 he was not addressing priests or probationers alone, but the world at large. And this is true also of his advice to the unmarried and widows, to the effect that it is good for them to remain, like himself, a total sex-abstainer. 4 He maintained that it was good for a man to remain a virgin, 5 and for this reason, that he who is unmarried "careth for the things that belong to the Lord; but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world. . . . The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy in body and in spirit, but she that is married careth for the things of the world." 6
Speaking of the virgin, Paul said: "He that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better." 7
The Essenes had said these things already, and had practised the principles on which they were based, and Christianity has on that account been regarded by some
1 See A Buddhist Catechism, by Subhadra Bhikshu (approved by the Venerable the High Priest of Buddhism), p. 75, note.
2 A Buddhist Catechism.
3 I Cor. vii. 1.
4 I Cor. vii. 8.
5 I Cor. vii. 26.
6 Cor. vii. 32, 33, 34.
7 I Cor. vii. 38.
Scores of early Christians took this passage very seriously, and proceeded without delay to carry it into practice, and among the leaders of the early Church, Origen (A.D. 185253) was the first to castrate himself for the faith. It is said that he regretted it afterwards, but when the matter came to the ears of his Bishop, Demetrius, so far from inflicting any punishment, this prelate urged him still more to devote himself to the work of Christian instruction. 3 Seeing, however, that Origen was to become the Father of the Church's Science, and the founder of the theology which was to be perfected in the fourth and fifth centuries, the fact that he emasculated himself when he was still a layman shows to what extent the slander of the body and of the sexual life had been carried by the early Christians, and how convinced they must have been of the correctness of the Christian attitude.
Truth to tell, the school of Origen flourished unchallenged till the end of the third century, and sexual abstinence and the slander of the sexual life were regarded by it as the great original contribution of Christianity to ethics. Thus the state of virginity came to be exalted above every other state, and there was a general stampede into monastic and celibate institutions. Hermit settlements were founded in Egypt in the third and fourth centuries, where people who had renounced all carnal pleasures, adopted voluntary exile and seclusion
1 Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, Article "Essenes and Theraputæ."
2 Matt. xix. 12.
3 Dictionary of Christian Biography.
According to the Christian Fathers, original sin was nothing more or less than concupiscence, or the sexual passion, and thus to function sexually amounted simply to perpetuating sin on earth. Methodus of Olympus, who came after Origen, taught that the cunning serpent had excited us to the sin of concupiscence, to which we had become a prey. He gives no other explanation of original sin. 2
But had not Paul himself said: "To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace"? 3 Had he not also said: "They that are in the flesh cannot please God"? 4
How else could the Early Fathers and their followers interpret these passages except as a general defamation of the bodily and particularly of the sexual side of life?
Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Pacian of Barcelona, all regarded this attitude as essential to a Christian life; and as, among these leaders of the Church, there were not a few who, like Jerome, appear to have been acquainted with Buddhism, 5 the influence of asceticism
1 See Lecky (Op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 1057): "Towards the close of the fourth century, the monastic population in a great part of Egypt was nearly equal to the population of the cities. Egypt was the parent of Monachism, and it was there that it attained both its extreme development and its most austere severity; but there was very soon scarcely any Christian country in which a similar movement was not ardently propagated. . . . There is, perhaps, no phase in the moral history of mankind of a deeper and more painful interest than this ascetic epidemic. A hideous, sordid, and emaciated maniac, without knowledge, without patriotism, without natural affection, passing his life in a long routine of useless and atrocious self-torture, and quailing before the ghastly phantoms of his delirious brain, had become the ideal of the nations which had known the writings of Plato and Cicero, and the lives of Socrates and Cato."
2 See Otten, Manual of the History of the Dogmas, Vol. I, p. 360.
3 Rom. viii. 6.
4 Rom. viii. 8.
5 See Lea, Sacerdotal Celibacy, p. 34.
Augustine was of opinion that original sin must consist in concupiscence. "This concupiscence (especially sexual passion)," he said, "is an evil with which every man is born." And Augustine's teaching was restated in practically the same terms by Pope Gregory I, and thenceforth it was universally accepted and defended by Western theologians until the end of the eleventh century.
So profoundly imbedded in Christian doctrine is this condemnation of the body and the sexual life, that even the custom of eating fish on fast days, which is almost universal in Christian communities, is based upon the fact that, since fish do not copulate, they are supposed to be free from the taint which pollutes all animals qua copulatione generantur.
Anselm in the eleventh century slightly modified Augustine's doctrine of original sin, and gave it a less
1 As late as the twelfth century, however. Clement III relaxed the canons against self-mutilation in favour of a priest of Ravenna, who had followed the example of Origen, and in the sixteenth century, a Dominican friar, Ambrosio Morales, is said to have taken Origen's effectual means of extinguishing his passions.
It is interesting to point out, however, that whatever Thomas may have meant about the nature of original sin, he certainly maintained that matrimony is essentially complete without the act of procreation 1 (presumably this is the origin of the famous nonsense about the union of two souls, which has done so much havoc to matrimony in Western civilization); and in the Council of Trent, which is based upon his principles, virginity is held to be higher than the state of matrimony.
Thus Canon X of the Council of Trent is as follows: "If anyone saith that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity or in celibacy than to be united in matrimony, let him be anathema."
Nor must the importance of the Council of Trent be underrated. Its labours in dogma and ecclesiastical law conditioned the whole of the future of the Holy Catholic Church, and the above canon may be regarded as the ultimate and existing ruling of the Church on the relative value of the virginal and the matrimonial state.
Protestantism did not alter this position; in fact it intensified it; for, in addition to abandoning many of
1 Otten, Op. cit., Vol. II (Mediæval Theology).
Wickliffe (132084), who may be regarded as a pioneer Reformer, upheld the superiority of virginity over marriage, even to the extent of suggesting the fanciful etymology of clibates from the state of the beati in clo; 1 and the Lollards, and later the Hussites, who were the precursors of the Reformation, professed the same ascetic principles. John Huss was indeed a disciple of Wickliffe, while the Lollards supplied Wickliffe with the majority of his followers.
In view of the above facts, it is idle to maintain that Puritanism, or hostility to sexual intercourse and to the joys of the body, is something foreign to Christianity, or that it is a recent and heretical development of the original credo. And, when it is said that Christianity has for the last two thousand years in Europe taught sex-phobia to its followers, it is not possible to refute that statement.
Only the enormous age and vigour of the sex instinct in man could have resisted the lethal influence of this teaching all this time; but there are signs which seem to show that the values are at last taking deeper effect than merely to constrain and limit indulgence these signs have already been discussed in a previous chapter.
But in order further to convince ourselves of the sex-phobia at the root of Christian doctrine, we have only to think of the numerous sects which, consisting of poor deluded believers in the Scriptures, who were logical enough to act up to their beliefs, have been formed in Europe during the last thousand years, with the object of practising total sexual abstinence.
The Priscillianists in Spain in the fourth century
1 See his Trialogues, chapter on "Sensibility and Chastity."
It is all very well for Catholic and Church of England divines to point out that these sects were regarded as heretical by orthodoxy. So they were, but such defenders of Christianity know perfectly well that the exaltation of asexuality and virgin purity by the Scriptures and the Church made the Church itself and not these so-called heretics appear illogical when it became necessary to check their multiplication. We must remember to what odious extremes Paul himself was driven when he cast about him for an excuse for matrimony. He could only think of this, that "it is better to marry than to burn." 1 "If they cannot contain," he said, "let them marry." 1 In other words, marriage was only to be a last shift for those unfortunate people who were impure enough to be troubled by their sex.
After all, there were only two possible rejoinders to the Church. Either one resented bitterly this slander and befoulment of the most basic, most sacred, most beautiful and most pleasurable of life's functions, and boldly resisted the whole of Christianity's prurient attack on the body and on sex, or else one accepted its principles and proceeded to carry them to their logical conclusion. The fact that this last alternative led to race extermination was not the fault of the believers but of the Christian doctrine, and the Church's attempt to compromise
1 I Cor. vii. 9.
But the list of ascetic sects is not finished. There were the Petrobrusians of Brittany and Belgium in the first half of the twelfth century, who rejected marriage. There were the Waldenses of Lyons in 1181, who strongly recommended complete sexual abstinence. There were the Fraticelli of Italy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, who abhorred sexual intercourse as much as Paul did, and finally there were the Puritans, who with very solemn reluctance acquiesced in God's method of propagating the human kind, only on condition that it was confined to the married state, and that it was not pursued for pleasure.
Later on came the Chlysty and Skoptzy in Russia. The former vowed never to commit carnal sin, which meant that they must never marry; they were founded by a peasant and carried on by Iwan Saslow, somewhere between 1645 and 1649. 1 The latter, taking Matthew xix. 12 and Romans xiii. 14 quite literally practised castration, and their name is derived from the Russian Skopets, which is a eunuch. Founded in 1772 by two self-mutilated peasants, who persuaded others to abjure all sexual pleasure, they were soon joined by nobles, soldiers, naval officers, civil servants, and merchants from all parts of the country; and in 1874 the sect numbered at least 5,444, including 1,465 women, and of these 703 men and 160 women had mutilated themselves. Some of the sect migrated to Roumania, and there became known as the Liporans. In 1835, 163 men and 13 women were sent to Siberia for having practised castration, 2 but in 1911 Skoptzysm still held its own in
1 Symbolik oder Christliche Konfessionskunde, by Fried. Looss, Leipzig, 1902, p. 189.
2 Ibid., p. 181.
To argue that these unfortunate and deluded people entirely misunderstood Christianity is to proclaim oneself singularly ignorant not only of the whole of the early history of the Church, but also of the attitude of the Scriptures and of orthodoxy itself, both towards the body and sexual intercourse; and that is why any attempt at drawing a sharp distinction between Christianity and Puritanism is wholly unscientific and disingenuous.
The effect of thus poisoning the very springs of life, however, has been so disastrous to human health and happiness that, where the more Pagan elements of European tradition have been lost, as in England, northern Europe and North America, the abnormality of the sexual life and the misery and misunderstanding of woman have led to every species of social and political enormity. The innocence of sexual relations having vanished from Western civilization, the prevailing culture has become one of repressions and nervous morbidity, in which the relations of the sexes have been strained almost to snapping point, and in which a degeneration of the sexual instinct its atrophy has been pursued with fixed determination. The men of this civilization, particularly those belonging to the areas where Christianity has been most fiercely enforced, have not only ceased to attain to the normal standard in sexual potency, and lost all knowledge of the sexual arts and of female psychology, but they have also, on that very account, become effeminate and despised, and are now leading their women to a general revolt against every condition of the modern world.
We should also not forget the effect that Christianity has had upon human selection. For, where shame and guilt are associated with the sex function, there is likely to be a marked reluctance and timidity about selecting the type who bears the stamp of wanton spirits
Thus the taste of the age is directed to a type lacking in vitality, and degeneration occurs through the influence of a consistent bias in favour of abnormality. This bias can be traced in the history of the pictorial arts, and I have myself been responsible for an outline of it. 2 But it is now so well established in our popular values, that people stare in astonishment when one denies that their selected beauties make any claim upon our admiration from the standpoint of voluptuousness or vitality, and this attitude is reflected even on the stage.
It may be asked why, if the Puritanism of Christianity is so hostile to the deepest instincts of humanity, and to their enjoyment of life, it has flourished so long and has continued to maintain its sway. I suggest two possible causes of this phenomenon.
In the first place, it should never be forgotten that, although the dogma and metaphysical side of Christianity are no longer accepted by the majority of intelligent mankind, the morality of Christianity, its method of valuing, which, apart from Nietzsche's work, has so far
1 Dangerous Ages, p. 8. Scores of other examples might be taken from modern fiction. But there is no point in emphasizing a fact that must be obvious to everyone.
2 See my Nietzsche and Art.
Now this morality, as I have shown, is Puritanical in its foundation. And as long as civilized men continue consciously or unconsciously, and whether as atheists or agnostics, to adhere to the ethical side of the religion of revelation, they will persist in their Puritanism.
The second cause is, I suggest, the power and influence of old people. Owing to delicate scruples based on courtesy and considerations of politeness, much too little has been said and written hitherto about the influence of the old upon conventions and legislation; and yet, the whole of a very large volume might be filled with this subject alone, and the historical and anthropological instances that might be adduced to illustrate it. The truth is, the subject is unpleasant and unflattering to the old. And, as the old are very powerful, it has not yet been ventilated.
The old people of each generation, however, like the rest of mankind, will always be found to exercise their power in gratifying their strongest impulses, whether conscious or unconscious. And since, vis-à-vis of youth and wanton spirits, particularly of joyful sexuality, the old are secretly, and frequently, quite unbeknown to their conscious minds, extremely jealous, it would amount to a piece of psychological shallowness to suppose that this jealousy does not motivate them in exercising whatever power they possess. Particularly is this true of old men. And, in estimating the causes of the continuation of Puritanism, despite the decline in the power of Christian dogma and metaphysics, we must reckon,
1 For instance, an intellectual man like Lecky does not hesitate to endorse Christianity's defamation of the body and sex, as if it represented an obvious and generally accepted point of view. He says (Op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 1078): "In its central conception that the purely animal side of our being is a low and degraded side, it reflects, I believe with perfect fidelity, the feelings of our nature." (The italics are mine. Lecky forgets that "our nature" is the product of two thousand years of Christian teaching.)
I have called attention to the treatment by mature and old monkeys of the younger males who venture to enjoy any sexual intercourse before their senior is deposed, and I have spoken of the difficulty experienced by young monkeys in procuring young or even old females at any time.
The toothsome, appetizing young virgin is a source of great attraction to the old male of the quadrumana, and he will, if he can, monopolize all the young females of his horde and deprive the young male of a mate as long as possible. When the monkey merges into the man, however, we find that the same love of youthful womanhood, and the same bitter jealousy of the young male, causes among old savages exactly similar restrictions and harsh suppression in regard to their junior rivals, as we find among monkeys, and the monopolization of the young females of a tribe by the older men has repeatedly been noticed by travellers.
Writing about a number of tribes in Australia, among which the principal are the Deiri, the South Central Tribes, the Wolfal and the Geawe, Dr. B. Malinowski says: 1 "In Australia old men secure the young females for themselves . . . and young men obtain for wives some old repudiated wife of one of the old men."
This is also true of the Angas, among whom the old men get the youngest and comeliest women, whilst old and haggard females are left to the young men. 2 The tribe of the Euahlayi and the tribes near Victoria River Downs observe the same customs; while "in the tribes of King George Sound, the old men seem partly to monopolize the young females." 3
Innumerable other instances might be given of this jealous appropriation by old men of the young females
1 See his The Family Among the Australian Aborigines, pp. 2601.
2 Ibid., p. 261.
3 Ibid., p. 202. See also Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer and F. S. Gillen (Op. cit.).
Now what are we to gather from this greedy monopolization of the younger females by the old men in so many savage communities? Are we to be so simple as to suppose that because man has become civilized that he has therefore lost his deep-rooted and long-practised tendency to endeavour in his maturity and old age to snatch the youngest and comeliest women from his juniors and to enjoy them himself? And are we to suppose that, when the conventions of his society prevent him from indulging his desires, like the old monkeys and the savages, that he therefore cheerfully resigns himself to the situation that is to say to his middle-aged or aged wife? Does he feel no bitter jealousy of youth? Has all that gone? And since his hands are now tied, does he feel no wish to retaliate for his lost privileges?
To reply in the negative to these questions may be pleasant and acceptable at a dinner-table, but it would hardly be profound. For, truth to tell, old men, however much they may try to conceal or to misinterpret their secret emotions, feel to-day very much as they have always felt about the fresh virgin, and there can be no doubt therefore that they are racked by the most acute jealousy of all junior males. But and this is the important point as this jealousy may no longer manifest itself unsocially in deeds of violence, suppression, constraint, or in the appropriation of the comely virgin, it takes advantage of the sex-phobia of Christianity in order to express itself in every kind of Puritanical restriction, whether legislative or merely conventional.
This hostility and jealousy, which the old feel towards the young, may not be obvious to all, but there are many signs, quite apart from Puritanical legislative measures, which, if they were generally observed, would convince the most stubborn disbelievers of its existence.
Turn now to the columns of The Times and read the letters that poured into them from sexagenarians, septuagenarians, and octogenarians, imploring the authorities to continue the war at all costs, when there was some talk of peace at the end of 1916. These people were exhilarated and uplifted by the war, chiefly because, for a brief space, their secret and mortal jealousy of youth was receiving its most gratifying relief. At last the order of decease was for a while reversed. They who had hitherto been in the front rank on the edge of the grave, were watching their juniors being brought from the rear and tumbled into the darkness, long before the appointed time. It is a mistake to suppose that bitter spinsters were the only people who read the Roll of Honour at their breakfast tables with feelings of secret triumph. 1
All this probably sounds very hard and unkind, particularly to people who are wont to sentimentalize over grey locks and wrinkled faces; but sentimentality is hardly ever a suitable pathway to truth.
The best proof, however, if any were needed, of this jealousy of youth felt by old people, and of the resulting exhilarating effect of the war on everybody over military age in England, is a comment made by the Registrar-
1 Mr. E. S. P. Haynes, in the Enemies of Liberty, p. 143, notes the attitude of the spinster, but is not so clear about old people, and he never refers to the possible influence of senile jealousy on legislation. He says, for instance: "Election agents tell me that nothing appeals to the spinster voter so forcibly as conscription of the men who have remained indifferent to her charms." But in the Decline of Liberty (pp. 133 and 135), when he points to Puritanism as to a great extent created by jealousy, he makes no special allusion to the influence of senile jealousy.
"The sudden increase in the mortality of old age at the commencement of the war, and its complete disappearance before the war was over, form a curious incident in the history of our time. If altered conditions of physical life had been the cause, the increase of mortality should have been progressive, attaining its maximum, instead of disappearing in 1918, when shortages were at their maximum. It seems reasonable, therefore, to regard the growth and decline of this mortality as of mental rather than physical origin, though the explanation of the cause remains obscure."
Conflicting views may be held about the explanation of this strange disappearance of the increase in the mortality of old age during the war. But I think the Registrar-General is right in arguing that the cause was probably mental rather than physical, and I have hinted at its possible nature above.
Whatever may be the truth about this matter, however, it seems clear that old people's profound jealousy of youth, and particularly their jealousy of the sexual joys of youth (the most secret part of senile rancour), has not yet been sufficiently appreciated in accounting not only for the long survival of Puritanism, but also for most Puritanical legislation. And now that old women have been added to the legislature, so that our gerontocracy is reinforced by a graocracy of middle-aged and old women like Lady Rhondda, Lady Astor, Lady Frances Balfour, and Mrs. Bertrand Russell, the advent of increased restraints upon the young of both sexes is a certainty. Indeed, during the last few years, as I point out in my Lysistrata, the legislation influenced or brought in by old women has been entirely Puritanical.