Little Essays of Love and Virtue
by Havelock Ellis
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STUDIES IN THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SEX Six Volumes Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company

MAN AND WOMAN London: Walter Scott New York: Charles Scribners' Sons

THE TASK OF SOCIAL HYGIENE London: Constable and Company Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company

IMPRESSIONS AND COMMENTS First and Second Series London: Constable and Company Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company


THE NEW HORIZON IN LOVE AND LIFE With a Preface by EDWARD CARPENTER and an Introduction by MARGUERITE TRACY London: A. and C. Black, Ltd.


A. & C. BLACK, LTD. 4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W. 1 1922

COPYRIGHT 1922 In Great Britain by A. and G. Black, Ltd., London In America by George H. Doran Co., New York


In these Essays—little, indeed, as I know them to be, compared to the magnitude of their subjects—I have tried to set forth, as clearly as I can, certain fundamental principles, together with their practical application to the life of our time. Some of these principles were stated, more briefly and technically, in my larger Studies of sex; others were therein implied but only to be read between the lines. Here I have expressed them in simple language and with some detail. It is my hope that in this way they may more surely come into the hands of young people, youths and girls at the period of adolescence, who have been present to my thoughts in all the studies I have written of sex because I was myself of that age when I first vaguely planned them. I would prefer to leave to their judgment the question as to whether this book is suitable to be placed in the hands of older people. It might only give them pain. It is in youth that the questions of mature age can alone be settled, if they ever are to be settled, and unless we begin to think about adult problems when we are young all our thinking is likely to be in vain. There are but few people who are able when youth is over either on the one hand to re-mould themselves nearer to those facts of Nature and of Society they failed to perceive, or had not the courage to accept, when they were young, or, on the other hand, to mould the facts of the exterior world nearer to those of their own true interior world. One hesitates to bring home to them too keenly what they have missed in life. Yet, let us remember, even for those who have missed most, there always remains the fortifying and consoling thought that they may at least help to make the world better for those who come after them, and the possibilities of human adjustment easier for others than it has been for themselves. They must still remain true to their own traditions. We could not wish it to be otherwise.

The art of making love and the art of being virtuous;—two aspects of the great art of living that are, rightly regarded, harmonious and not at variance—remain, indeed, when we cease to misunderstand them, essentially the same in all ages and among all peoples. Yet, always and everywhere, little modifications become necessary, little, yet, like so many little things, immense in their significance and results. In this way, if we are really alive, we flexibly adjust ourselves to the world in which we find ourselves, and in so doing simultaneously adjust to ourselves that ever-changing world, ever-changing, though its changes are within such narrow limits that it yet remains substantially the same. It is with such modification that we are concerned in these Little Essays.


London, 1921



I Children and Parents 13 II The Meaning of Purity 37 III The Objects of Marriage 63 IV Husbands and Wives 75 V The Love-Rights of Women 102 VI The Play-Function of Sex 116 VII The Individual and the Race 134 Index 183




The twentieth century, as we know, has frequently been called "the century of the child." When, however, we turn to the books of Ellen Key, who has most largely and sympathetically taken this point of view, one asks oneself whether, after all, the child's century has brought much to the child. Ellen Key points out, with truth, that, even in our century, parents may for the most part be divided into two classes: those who act as if their children existed only for their benefit, and those who act as if they existed only for their children's benefit, the results, she adds being alike deplorable. For the first group of parents tyrannise over the child, seek to destroy its individuality, exercise an arbitrary discipline too spasmodic to have any of the good effects of discipline and would model him into a copy of themselves, though really, she adds, it ought to pain them very much to see themselves exactly copied. The second group of parents may wish to model their children not after themselves but after their ideals, yet they differ chiefly from the first class by their over-indulgence, by their anxiety to pamper the child by yielding to all his caprices and artificially protecting him from the natural results of those caprices, so that instead of learning freedom, he has merely acquired self-will. These parents do not indeed tyrannise over their children but they do worse; they train their children to be tyrants. Against these two tendencies of our century Ellen Key declares her own Alpha and Omega of the art of education. Try to leave the child in peace; live your own life beautifully, nobly, temperately, and in so living you will sufficiently teach your children to live.

It is not my purpose here to consider how far this conception of the duty of parents towards children is justified, and whether or not peace is the best preparation for a world in which struggle dominates. All these questions about education are rather idle. There are endless theories of education but no agreement concerning the value of any of them, and the whole question of education remains open. I am here concerned less with the duty of parents in relation to their children than with the duty of children in relation to their parents, and that means that I am not concerned with young children, to whom, that duty still presents no serious problems, since they have not yet developed a personality with self-conscious individual needs. Certainly the one attitude must condition the other attitude. The reaction of children against their parents is the necessary result of the parents' action. So that we have to pay some attention to the character of parental action.

We cannot expect to find any coherent or uniform action on the part of parents. But there have been at different historical periods different general tendencies in the attitude of parents towards their children. Thus if we go back four or five centuries in English social history we seem to find a general attitude which scarcely corresponds exactly to either of Ellen Key's two groups. It seems usually to have been compounded of severity and independence; children were first strictly compelled to go their parents' way and then thrust off to their own way. There seems a certain hardness in this method, yet it is doubtful whether it can fairly be regarded as more unreasonable than either of the two modern methods deplored by Ellen Key. On the contrary it had points for admiration. It was primarily a discipline, but it was regarded, as any fortifying discipline should be regarded, as a preparation for freedom, and it is precisely there that the more timid and clinging modern way seems to fail.

We clearly see the old method at work in the chief source of knowledge concerning old English domestic life, the Paston Letters. Here we find that at an early age the sons of knights and gentlemen were sent to serve in the houses of other gentlemen: it was here that their education really took place, an education not in book knowledge, but in knowledge of life. Such education was considered so necessary for a youth that a father who kept his sons at home was regarded as negligent of his duty to his family. A knowledge of the world was a necessary part, indeed the chief part, of a youth's training for life. The remarkable thing is that this applied also to a large extent to the daughters. They realised in those days, what is only beginning to be realised in ours,[1] that, after all, women live in the world just as much, though differently, as men live in the world, and that it is quite as necessary for the girl as for the boy to be trained to the meaning of life. Margaret Paston, towards the end of the fifteenth century, sent her daughter Ann to live in the house of a gentleman who, a little later, found that he could not keep her as he was purposing to decrease the size of his household. The mother writes to her son: "I shall be fain to send for her and with me she shall but lose her time, and without she be the better occupied she shall oftentimes move me and put me to great unquietness. Remember what labour I had with your sister, therefore do your best to help her forth"; as a result it was planned to send her to a relative's house in London.

[1] This was illustrated in England when women first began to serve on juries. The pretext was frequently brought forward that there are certain kinds of cases and of evidence that do not concern women or that women ought not to hear. The pretext would have been more plausible if it had also been argued that there are certain kinds of cases and of evidence that men ought not to hear. As a matter of fact, whatever frontier there may be in these matters is not of a sexual kind. Everything that concerns men ultimately concerns women, and everything that concerns women ultimately concerns men. Neither women nor men are entitled to claim dispensation.

It is evident that in the fifteenth century in England there was a wide prevalence of this method of education, which in France, a century later, was still regarded as desirable by Montaigne. His reason for it is worth noting; children should be educated away from home, he remarks, in order to acquire hardness, for the parents will be too tender to them. "It is an opinion accepted by all that it is not right to bring up children in their parents' laps, for natural love softens and relaxes even the wisest."[2]

[2] Montaigne, Essais, Bk. I., ch. 25.

In old France indeed the conditions seem similar to those in England. The great serio-comic novel of Antoine de la Salle, Petit Jean de Saintre, shows us in detail the education and the adventures, which certainly involved a very early introduction to life, of a page in a great house in the fifteenth century. We must not take everything in this fine comedy too solemnly, but in the fourteenth century Book of the Knight of the Tour-Landry we may be sure that we have at its best the then prevailing view of the relation of a father to his tenderly loved daughters. Of harshness and rigour in the relationship it is not easy to find traces in this lengthy and elaborate book of paternal counsels. But it is clear that the father takes seriously the right of a daughter to govern herself and to decide for herself between right and wrong. It is his object, he tells his girls, "to enable them to govern themselves." In this task he assumes that they are entitled to full knowledge, and we feel that he is not instructing them in the mysteries of that knowledge; he is taking for granted, in the advice he gives and the stories he tells them, that his "young and small daughters, not, poor things, overburdened with experience," already possess the most precise knowledge of the intimate facts of life, and that he may tell them, without turning a hair, the most outrageous incidents of debauchery. Life already lies naked before them: that he assumes; he is not imparting knowledge, he is giving good counsel.[3]

[3] If the Knight went to an extreme in his assumption of his daughters' knowledge, modern fathers often go to the opposite and more foolish extreme of assuming in their daughters an ignorance that would be dangerous even if it really existed. In A Young Girl's Diary (translated from the German by Eden and Cedar Paul), a work that is highly instructive for parents, and ought to be painful for many, we find the diarist noting at the age of thirteen that she and a girl friend of about the same age overheard the father of one of them—both well brought up and carefully protected, one Catholic and the other Protestant—referring to "those innocent children." "We did laugh so, WE and innocent children!!! What our fathers really think of us; we innocent!!! At dinner we did not dare look at one another or we should have exploded." It need scarcely be added that, at the same time, they were more innocent than they knew.

It is clear that this kind of education and this attitude towards children must be regarded as the outcome of the whole mediaeval method of life. In a state of society where roughness and violence, though not, as we sometimes assume, chronic, were yet always liable to be manifested, it was necessary for every man and woman to be able to face the crudest facts of the world and to be able to maintain his or her own rights against them. The education that best secured that strength and independence was the best education and it necessarily involved an element of hardness. We must go back earlier than Montaigne's day, when the conditions were becoming mitigated, to see the system working in all its vigour.

The lady of the day of the early thirteenth century has been well described by Luchaire in his scholarly study of French Society in the time of Philip Augustus. She was, he tells us, as indeed she had been in the preceding feudal centuries, often what we should nowadays call a virago, of violent temperament, with vivid passions, broken in from childhood to all physical exercises, sharing the pleasures and dangers of the knights around her. Feudal life, fertile in surprises and in risks, demanded even in women a vigorous temper of soul and body, a masculine air, and habits also that were almost virile. She accompanied her father or her husband to the chase, while in war-time, if she became a widow or if her husband was away at the Crusades, she was ready, if necessary, to direct the defences of the lordship, and in peace time she was not afraid of the longest and most dangerous pilgrimages. She might even go to the Crusades on her own account, and, if circumstances required, conduct a war to come out victoriously.

We may imagine the robust kind of education required to produce people of this quality. But as regards the precise way in which parents conducted that education, we have, as Luchaire admits, little precise knowledge. It is for the most part only indirectly, by reading between the lines, that we glean something as to what it was considered befitting to inculcate in a good household, and as what we thus learn is mostly from the writings of Churchmen it is doubtless a little one-sided. Thus Adam de Perseigne, an ecclesiastic, writes to the Countess du Perche to advise her how to live in a Christian manner; he counsels her to abstain from playing games of chance and chess, not to take pleasure in the indecent farces of actors, and to be moderate in dress. Then, as ever, preachers expressed their horror of the ruinous extravagance of women, their false hair, their rouge, and their dresses that were too long or too short. They also reprobated their love of flirtation. It was, however, in those days a young girl's recognised duty, when a knight arrived in the household, to exercise the rites of hospitality, to disarm him, give him his bath, and if necessary massage him to help him to go to sleep. It is not surprising that the young girl sometimes made love to the knight under these circumstances, nor is it surprising that he, engaged in an arduous life and trained to disdain feminine attractions, often failed to respond.

It is easy to understand how this state of things gradually became transformed into the considerably different position of parents and child we have known, which doubtless attained its climax nearly a century ago. Feudal conditions, with the large households so well adapted to act as seminaries for youth, began to decay, and as education in such seminaries must have led to frequent mischances both for youths and maidens who enjoyed the opportunities of education there, the regret for their disappearance may often have been tempered for parents. Schools, colleges, and universities began to spring up and develop for one sex, while for the other home life grew more intimate, and domestic ties closer. Montaigne's warning against the undue tenderness of a narrow family life no longer seemed reasonable, and the family became more self-centred and more enclosed. Beneath this, and more profoundly influential, there was a general softening in social respects, and a greater expansiveness of affectional relationships, in reality or in seeming, within the home, compensating, it may be, the more diffused social feeling within a group which characterised the previous period.

So was cultivated that undue tenderness, deplored by Montaigne, which we now regard as almost normal in family life, and solemnly label, if we happen to be psycho-analysts, the Oedipus-complex or the Electra-complex. Sexual love is closely related to parental love; the tender emotion, which is an intimate part of parental love, is also an intimate part of sexual love, and two emotions which are each closely related to a third emotion cannot fail to become often closely associated to each other. With a little thought we might guess beforehand, even while still in complete ignorance of the matter, that there could not fail to be frequently a sexual tinge in the affection of a father for his daughter, of a mother for her son, of a son for his mother, or a daughter for her father. Needless to say, that does not mean that there is present any physical desire of sex in the narrow sense; that would be a perversity, and a rare perversity. We are here on another plane than that of crude physical desire, and are moving within the sphere of the emotions. But such emotions are often strong, and all the stronger because conscious of their own absolute rectitude and often masked under the shape of Duty. Yet when prolonged beyond the age of childhood they tend to become a clog on development, and a hindrance to a wholesome life. The child who cherishes such emotion is likely to suffer infantile arrest of development, and the parent who is so selfish as to continue to expend such tenderness on a child who has passed the age of childhood, or to demand it, is guilty of a serious offence against that child.

That the intimate family life which sometimes resulted—especially when, as frequently happened, the seeming mutual devotion was also real—might often be regarded as beautiful and almost ideal, it has been customary to repeat with an emphasis that in the end has even become nauseous. For it was usually overlooked that the self-centred and enclosed family, even when the mutual affection of its members was real enough to bear all examination, could scarcely be more than partially beautiful, and could never be ideal. For the family only represents one aspect, however important an aspect, of a human being's functions and activities. He cannot, she cannot, be divorced from the life of the social group, and a life is beautiful and ideal, or the reverse, only when we have taken into our consideration the social as well as the family relationship. When the family claims to prevent the free association of an adult member of it with the larger social organisation, it is claiming that the part is greater than the whole, and such a claim cannot fail to be morbid and mischievous.

The old-world method of treating children, we know, has long ago been displaced as containing an element of harsh tyranny. But it was not perceived, and it seems indeed not even yet to be generally recognised, that the system which replaced it, and is only now beginning to pass away, involved another and more subtle tyranny, the more potent because not seemingly harsh. Parents no longer whipped their children even when grown up, or put them in seclusion, or exercised physical force upon them after they had passed childhood. They felt that that would not be in harmony with the social customs of a world in which ancient feudal notions were dead. But they merely replaced the external compulsion by an internal compulsion which was much more effective. It was based on the moral assumption of claims and duties which were rarely formulated because parents found it quite easy and pleasant to avoid formulating them, and children, on the rare occasions when they formulated them, usually felt a sense of guilt in challenging their validity. It was in the nineteenth century that this state of things reached its full development. The sons of the family were usually able, as they grew up, to escape and elude it, although they thereby often created an undesirable divorce from the home, and often suffered, as well as inflicted, much pain in tearing themselves loose from the spiritual bonds—especially perhaps in matters of religion—woven by long tradition to bind them to their parents. It was on the daughters that the chief stress fell. For the working class, indeed, there was often the possibility of escape into hard labour, if only that of marriage. But such escape was not possible, immediately or at all, for a large number. During the nineteenth century many had been so carefully enclosed in invisible cages, they had been so well drilled in the reticences and the duties and the subserviences that their parents silently demanded of them, that we can never know all the tragedies that took place. In exceptional cases, indeed, they gave a sign. When they possessed unusual power of intellect, or unusual power of character and will, they succeeded in breaking loose from their cages, or at least in giving expression to themselves. This is seen in the stories of nearly all the women eminent in life and literature during the nineteenth century, from the days of Mary Wollstonecraft onwards. The Brontes, almost, yet not quite, strangled by the fetters placed upon them by their stern and narrow-minded father, and enabled to attain the full stature of their genius only by that brief sojourn in Brussels, are representative. Elizabeth Barrett, chained to a couch of invalidism under the eyes of an imperiously affectionate father until with Robert Browning's aid she secretly eloped into the open air of freedom and health, and so attained complete literary expression, is a typical figure. It is only because we recognise that she is a typical figure among the women who attained distinction that we are able to guess at the vast number of mute inglorious Elizabeth Barretts who were never able to escape by their own efforts and never found a Browning to aid them to escape.

It is sometimes said that those days are long past and that young women, in all the countries which we are pleased to called civilised, are now emancipated, indeed, rather too much emancipated. Critics come forward to complain of their undue freedom, of their irreverent familiarity to their parents, of their language, of their habits. But there were critics who said the very same things, in almost the same words, of the grandmothers of these girls! These incompetent critics are as ignorant of the social history of the past as they are of the social significance of the history of the present. We read in Once a Week of sixty years ago (10th August, 1861), the very period when the domestic conditions of girls were the most oppressive in the sense here understood, that these same critics were about at that time, and as shocked as they are now at "the young ladies who talk of 'awful swells' and 'deuced bores,' who smoke and venture upon free discourse, and try to be like men." The writer of this anonymous article, who was really (I judge from internal evidence) so distinguished and so serious a woman as Harriet Martineau, duly snubs these critics, pointing out that such accusations are at least as old as Addison and Horace Walpole; she remarks that there have no doubt been so-called "fast young ladies" in every age, "varying their doings and sayings according to the fopperies of the time." The question, as she pertinently concludes is, as indeed it still remains to-day: "Have we more than the average proportion? I do not know." Nor to-day do we know.

But while to-day, as ever before, we have a certain proportion of these emancipated girls, and while to-day, as perhaps never before, we are able to understand that they have an element of reason on their side, it would be a mistake to suppose that they are more than exceptions. The majority are unable, and not even anxious, to attain this light-hearted social emancipation. For the majority, even though they are workers, the anciently subtle ties of the home are still, as they should be, an element of natural piety, and, also, as they should not be, clinging fetters which impede individuality and destroy personal initiative.

We all know so many happy homes beneath whose calm surface this process is working out. The parents are deeply attached to their children, who still remain children to them even when they are grown up. They wish to guide them and mould them and cherish them, to protect them from the world, to enjoy their society and their aid, and they expect that their children shall continue indefinitely to remain children. The children, on their side, remain and always will remain, tenderly attached to their parents, and it would really pain them to feel that they are harbouring any unwillingness to stay in the home even after they have grown up, so long as their parents need their attention. It is, of course, the daughters who are thus expected to remain in the home and who feel this compunction about leaving it. It seems to us—although, as we have seen, so unlike the attitude of former days—a natural, beautiful, and rightful feeling on both sides.

Yet, in the result, all sorts of evils tend to ensue. The parents often take as their moral right the services which should only be accepted, if accepted at all, as the offering of love and gratitude, and even reach a degree of domineering selfishness in which they refuse to believe that their children have any adult rights of their own, absorbing and drying up that physical and spiritual life-blood of their offspring which it is the parents' part in Nature to feed. If the children are willing there is nothing to mitigate this process; if they are unwilling the result is often a disastrous conflict. Their time and energy are not their own; their tastes are criticised and so far as possible crushed; their political ideas, if they have any, are treated as pernicious; and—which is often on both sides the most painful of all—differences in religious belief lead to bitter controversy and humiliating recrimination. Such differences in outlook between youth and age are natural and inevitable and right. The parents themselves, though they may have forgotten it, often in youth similarly revolted against the cherished doctrines of their own parents; it has ever been so, the only difference being that to-day, probably, the opportunities for variation are greater. So it comes about that what James Hinton said half a century ago is often true to-day: "Our happy Christian homes are the real dark places of the earth."

It is evident that the problem of the relation of the child to the parent is still incompletely solved even in what we consider our highest civilisation. There is here needed an art in which those who have to exercise it can scarcely possess all the necessary skill and experience. Among trees and birds and beasts the art is surer because it is exercised unconsciously, on the foundation of a large tradition in which failure meant death. In the common procreative profusion of those forms of life the frequent death of the young was a matter of little concern, but biologically there was never any sacrifice of the offspring to the well-being of the parents. Whenever sacrifice is called for it is the parents who are sacrificed to their offspring. In our superior human civilisation, in which quantity ever tends to give place to quality, the higher value of the individual involves an effort to avoid sacrifice which sometimes proves worse than abortive. An avian philosopher would be unlikely to feel called upon to denounce nests as the dark places of the earth, and in laying down our human moral laws we have always to be aware of forgetting the fundamental biological relationship of parent and child to which all such moral laws must conform. To some would-be parents that necessity may seem hard. In such a case it is well for them to remember that there is no need to become parents and that we live in an age when it is not difficult to avoid becoming a parent. The world is not dying for lack of parents. On the contrary we have far too many of them—ignorant parents, silly parents, unwilling parents, undesirable parents—and those who aspire to the high dignity of creating the future race, let them be as few as they will—and perhaps at the present time the fewer the better—must not refuse the responsibilities of that position, its pains as well as its joys.

In our human world, as we know, the moral duties laid upon us—the duties in which, if we fail, we become outcasts in our own eyes or in those of others or in both—are of three kinds: the duties to oneself, the duties to the small circle of those we love, and the duties to the larger circle of mankind to which ultimately we belong, since out of it we proceed, and to it we owe all that we are. There are no maxims, there is only an art and a difficult art, to harmonise duties which must often conflict. We have to be true to all the motives that sanctify our lives. To that extent George Eliot's Maggie Tulliver was undoubtedly right. But the renunciation of the Self is not the routine solution of every conflict, any more than is the absolute failure to renounce. In a certain sense the duty towards the self comes before all others, because it is the condition on which duties towards others possess any significance and worth. In that sense, it is true according to the familiar saying of Shakespeare,—though it was only Polonius, the man of maxims, who voiced it,—that one cannot be true to others unless one is first true to oneself, and that one can know nothing of giving aught that is worthy to give unless one also knows how to take.

We see that the problem of the place of parents in life, after their function of parenthood has been adequately fulfilled, a problem which offers no difficulties among most forms of life, has been found hard to solve by Man. At some places and periods it has been considered most merciful to put them, to death; at others they have been almost or quite deified and allowed to regulate the whole lives of their descendants. Thus in New Caledonia aged parents, it is said by Mrs. Hadfield, were formerly taken up to a high mountain and left with enough food to last a few days; there was at the same time great regard for the aged, as also among the Hottentots who asked: "Can you see a parent or a relative shaking and freezing under a cold, dreary, heavy, useless old age, and not think, in pity of them, of putting an end to their misery?" It was generally the opinion of the parents themselves, but in some countries the parents have dominated and overawed their children to the time of their natural death and even beyond, up to the point of ancestor worship, as in China, where no man of any age can act for himself in the chief matters of life during his parents' life-time, and to some extent in ancient Rome, whence an influence in this direction which still exists in the laws and customs of France.[4] Both extremes have proved compatible with a beautifully human life. To steer midway between them seems to-day, however, the wisest course. There ought to be no reason, and under happy conditions there is no reason, why the relationship between parent and child, as one of mutual affection and care, should ever cease to exist. But that the relationship should continue to exist as a tie is unnatural and tends to be harmful. At a certain stage in the development of the child the physical tie with the parent is severed, and the umbilical cord cut. At a later stage in development, when puberty is attained and adolescence is feeling its way towards a complete adult maturity, the spiritual tie must be severed. It is absolutely essential that the young spirit should begin to essay its own wings. If its energy is not equal to this adventure, then it is the part of a truly loving parent to push it over the edge of the nest. Of course there are dangers and risks. But the worst dangers and risks come of the failure to adventure, of the refusal to face the tasks of the world and to assume the full function of life. All that Freud has told of the paralysing and maiming influence of infantile arrest or regression is here profitable to consider. In order, moreover, that the relationship between parents and children may retain its early beauty and love, it is essential that it shall adapt itself to adult conditions and the absence of ties so rendered necessary. Otherwise there is little likelihood of anything but friction and pain on one side or the other, and perhaps on both sides.

[4] The varying customs of different peoples in this matter are set forth by Westermarck, The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, Ch. XXV.

The parents have not only to train their children: it is of at least equal importance that they should train themselves. It is desirable that children, as they grow up, should be alive to this necessity, and consciously assist in the process, since they are in closer touch with a new world of activities to which their more lethargic parents are often blind and deaf. For every fresh stage in our lives we need a fresh education, and there is no stage for which so little educational preparation is made as that which follows the reproductive period. Yet at no time—especially in women, who present all the various stages of the sexual life in so emphatic a form—would education be more valuable. The great burden of reproduction, with all its absorbing responsibilities, has suddenly been lifted; at the same time the perpetually recurring rhythm of physical sex manifestations, so often disturbing in its effect, finally ceases; with that cessation, very often, after a brief period of perturbation, there is an increase both in physical and mental energy. Yet, too often, all that one can see is that a vacuum has been created, and that there is nothing to fill it. The result is that the mother—for it is most often of the mother that complaint is made—devotes her own new found energies to the never-ending task of hampering and crushing her children's developing energies. How many mothers there are who bring to our minds that ancient and almost inspired statement concerning those for whom "Satan finds some mischief still"! They are wasting, worse than wasting, energies that might be profitably applied to all sorts of social service in the world. There is nothing that is so much needed as the "maternal in politics," or in all sorts of non-political channels of social service, and none can be better fitted for such service than those who have had an actual experience of motherhood and acquired the varied knowledge that such experience should give. There are numberless other ways, besides social service, in which mothers who have passed the age of forty, providing they possess the necessary aptitudes, can more profitably apply themselves than in hampering, or pampering, their adult children. It is by wisely cultivating their activities in a larger sphere that women whose chief duties in the narrower domestic sphere are over may better ensure their own happiness and the welfare of others than either by fretting and obstructing, or by worrying over, their own children who are no longer children. It is quite true that the children may go astray even when they have ceased to be children. But the time to implant the seeds of virtue, the time to convey a knowledge of life, was when they were small. If it was done well, it only remains to exercise faith and trust. If it was done ill, nothing done later will compensate, for it is merely foolish for a mother who could not educate her children when they were small to imagine that she is able to educate them when they are big.

So it is that the problem of the attitude of the child to its parents circles round again to that of the parents to the child. The wise parent realises that childhood is simply a preparation for the free activities of later life, that the parents exist in order to equip children for life and not to shelter and protect them from the world into which they must be cast. Education, whatever else it should or should not be, must be an inoculation against the poisons of life and an adequate equipment in knowledge and skill for meeting the chances of life. Beyond that, and no doubt in the largest part, it is a natural growth and takes place of itself.




We live in a world in which, as we nowadays begin to realise, we find two antagonistic streams of traditional platitude concerning the question of sexual purity, both flowing from the far past.

The people who embody one of these streams of tradition, basing themselves on old-fashioned physiology, assume, though they may not always assert, that the sexual products are excretions, to be dealt with summarily like other excretions. That is an ancient view and it was accepted by such wise philosophers of old times as Montaigne and Sir Thomas More. It had, moreover, the hearty support of so eminent a theological authority as Luther, who on this ground preached early marriage to men and women alike. It is still a popular view, sometimes expressed in the crudest terms, and often by people who, not following Luther's example, use it to defend prostitution, though they generally exclude women from its operation, as a sex to whom it fails to apply and by whom it is not required.

But on the other hand we have another stream of platitude. On this side there is usually little attempt either to deny or to affirm the theory of the opposing party, though they would contradict its conclusions. Their theory, if they have one, would usually seem to be that sexual activity is a response to stimulation from without or from within, so that if there is no stimulation there will be no sexual manifestation. They would preach, they tell us, a strenuous ideal; they would set up a wholesome dictate of hygiene. The formula put forward on this basis usually runs: Continence is not only harmless but beneficial. It is a formula which, in one form or another, has received apparently enthusiastic approval in many quarters, even from distinguished physicians. We need not be surprised. A proposition so large and general is not easy to deny, and is still more difficult to reverse; therefore it proves welcome to the people—especially the people occupying public and professional positions—who wish to find the path of least resistance, under pressure of a vigorous section of public opinion. Yet in its vagueness the proposition is a little disingenuous; it condescends to no definitions and no qualifications; it fails even to make clear how it is to be reconciled with any enthusiastic approval of marriage, for if continence is beautiful how can marriage make it cease to be so?

Both these streams of feeling, it may be noted, sprang from a common source far back in the primitive human world. All the emanations of the human body, all the spontaneous manifestations of its activities, were mysterious and ominous to early man, pregnant with terror unless met with immense precautions and surrounded by careful ritual. The manifestations of sex were the least intelligible and the most spontaneous. Therefore the things of sex were those that most lent themselves to feelings of horror and awe, of impurity and of purity. They seemed so highly charged with magic potency that there were no things that men more sought to avoid, yet none to which they were impelled to give more thought. The manifold echoes of that primitive conception of sex, and all the violent reactions that were thus evolved and eventually bound up with the original impulse, compose the streams of tradition that feed our modern world in this matter and determine the ideas of purity that surround us.

At the present day the crude theory of the sexual impulse held on one side, and the ignorant rejection of theory altogether on the other side, are beginning to be seen as both alike unjustified. We begin to find the grounds for a sounder theory. Not indeed that the problems of sex, which go so deeply into the whole personal and social life, can ever be settled exclusively upon physiological grounds. But we have done much to prepare even the loftiest Building of Love when we have attained a clear view of its biological basis.

The progress of chemico-physiological research during recent years has now brought us to new ground for our building. Indeed the image might well be changed altogether, and it might be said that science has entirely transferred the drama of reproduction to a new stage with new actors. Therewith the immense emphasis placed on excretion, and the inevitable reaction that emphasis aroused, both alike disappear. The sexual protagonists are no longer at the surface but within the most secret recesses of the organism, and they appear to science under the name of Hormones or Internal Secretions, always at work within and never themselves condescending to appear at all. Those products of the sexual glands which in both sexes are cast out of the body, and at an immature stage of knowledge appeared to be excretions, are of primary reproductive importance, but, as regards the sexual constitution of the individual, they are of far less importance than the internal secretions of these very same glands. It is, however, by no means only the specifically sexual glands which thus exert a sexual influence within the organism. Other glands in the brain, the throat, and the abdomen,—such as the thyroid and the adrenals,—are also elaborating fermentative secretions to throw into the system. Their mutual play is so elaborate that it is only beginning to be understood. Some internal secretions stimulate, others inhibit, and the same secretions may under different conditions do either. This fact is the source of many degrees and varieties of energy and formative power in the organism. Taken altogether, the internal secretions are the forces which build up the man's and woman's distinctively sexual constitution: the special disposition and growth of hair, the relative development of breasts and pelvis, the characteristic differences in motor activity, the varying emotional desires and needs. It is in the complex play of these secretions that we now seek the explanation of all the peculiarities of sexual constitution, imperfect or one-sided physical and psychic development, the various approximations of the male to female bodily and emotional disposition, of the female to the male, all the numerous gradations that occur, naturally as we now see, between the complete man and the complete woman.

When we turn the light of this new conception on to our old ideas of purity,—to the virtue or the vice, accordingly as we may have been pleased to consider it, of sexual abstinence,—we begin to see that those ideas need radical revision. They appear in a new light, their whole meaning is changed. No doubt it may be said they never had the validity they appeared to possess, even when we judge them by the crudest criterion, that of practice. Thus, while it is the rule for physicians to proclaim the advantages of sexual continence, there is no good reason to believe that they have themselves practised it in any eminent degree. A few years ago an inquiry among thirty-five distinguished physicians, chiefly German and Russian, showed that they were nearly all of opinion that continence is harmless, if not beneficial. But Meirowsky found by inquiry of eighty-six physicians, of much the same nationalities, that only one had himself been sexually abstinent before marriage. There seem to be no similar statistics for the English-speaking countries, where there exists a greater modesty—though not perhaps notably less need for it—in the making of such confessions. But if we turn to the allied profession which is strongly on the side of sexual abstinence, we find that among theological students, as has been shown in the United States, while prostitution may be infrequent, no temptation is so frequent or so potent, and in most cases so irresistible, as that to solitary sexual indulgence. Such is the actual attitude towards the two least ideal forms of sexual practice—as distinguished from mere theory—on the part of the two professions which most definitely pronounce in favour of continence.

It is necessary, however, as will now be clearer, to set our net more widely. We must take into consideration every form and degree of sexual manifestation, normal and abnormal, gross and ethereal. When we do this, even cautiously and without going far afield, sexual abstinence is found to be singularly elusive. Rohleder, a careful and conscientious investigator, has asserted that such abstinence, in the true and complete sense, is absolutely non-existent, the genuine cases in which sexual phenomena of some kind or other fail to manifest themselves being simply cases of inborn lack of sexual sensibility. He met, indeed, a few people who seemed exceptions to the general rule, but, on better knowledge, he found that he was mistaken, and that so far from being absent in these people the sexual instinct was present even in its crudest shapes. The activity of sex is an activity that on the physical side is generated by the complex mechanism of the ductless glands and displayed in the whole organism, physical and psychic, of the individual, who cannot abolish that activity, although to some extent able to regulate the forms in which it is manifested, so that purity cannot be the abolition or even the indefinite suspension of sexual manifestations; it must be the wise and beautiful control of them.

It is becoming clear that the old platitudes can no longer be maintained, and that if we wish to improve our morals we must first improve our knowledge.


We have seen that various popular beliefs and conventional assumptions concerning the sexual impulse can no longer be maintained. The sexual activities of the organism are not mere responses to stimulation, absent if we choose to apply no stimulus, never troubling us if we run away from them, harmless if we enclose them within a high wall. Nor do they constitute a mere excretion, or a mere appetite, which we can control by a crude system of hygiene and dietetics. We better understand the psycho-sexual constitution if we regard the motive power behind it as a dynamic energy, produced and maintained by a complex mechanism at certain inner foci of the body, and realise that whatever periodic explosive manifestations may take place at the surface, the primary motive source lies in the intimate recesses of the organism, while the outcome is the whole physical and spiritual energy of our being under those aspects which are most forcible and most aspiring and even most ethereal.

This conception, we find, is now receiving an admirable and beautifully adequate physical basis in the researches of distinguished physiologists in various lands concerning the parts played by the ductless glands of the body, in sensitive equilibrium with each other, pouring out into the system stimulating and inhibiting hormones, which not only confer on the man's or woman's body those specific sexual characters which we admire but at the same time impart the special tone and fibre and polarity of masculinity or femininity to the psychic disposition. Yet, even before Brown-Sequard's first epoch-making suggestion had set physiologists to search for internal secretions, the insight of certain physicians on the medico-psychological side was independently leading towards the same dynamic conception. In the middle of the last century Anstie, an acute London physician, more or less vaguely realised the transformations of sexual energy into nervous disease and into artistic energy. James Hinton, whose genius rendered him the precursor of many modern ideas, had definitely grasped the dynamic nature of sexual activity, and daringly proposed to utilise it, not only as a solution of the difficulties of the personal life but for the revolutionary transformation of morality.[5] It was the wish to group together all the far-flung manifestations of the inner irresistible process of sexual activity that underlay my own conception of auto-erotism, or the spontaneous erotic impulse which arises from the organism apart from all definite external stimulation, to be manifested, or it may be transformed, in mere solitary physical sex activity, in dreams of the night, in day-dreams, in shapes of literature and art, in symptoms of nervous disorder such as some forms of hysteria, and even in the most exalted phases of mystical devotion. Since then, a more elaborate attempt to develop a similar dynamic conception of sexual activity has been made by Freud; and the psycho-analysts who have followed him, or sometimes diverged, have with endless subtlety, and courageous thoroughness, traced the long and sinuous paths of sexual energy in personality and in life, indeed in all the main manifestations of human activity.

[5] "The man who separated the thought of chastity from Service and made it revolve round Self," wrote Hinton half a century ago in his unpublished MSS., "betrayed the human race." "The rule of Self," he wrote again, "has two forms: Self-indulgence and Self-virtue; and Nature has two weapons against it: pain and pleasure.... A restraint must always be put away when another's need can be served by putting it away; for so is restored to us the force by which Life is made.... How curious it seems! the true evil things are our good things. Our thoughts of duty and goodness and chastity, those are the things that need to be altered and put aside; these are the barriers to true goodness.... I foresee the positive denial of all positive morals, the removal of all restrictions. I feel I do not know what 'license,' as we should term it, may not truly belong to the perfect state of Man. When there is no self surely there is no restriction; as we see there is none in Nature.... May we not say of marriage as St. Augustine said of God: 'Rather would I, not finding, find Thee, than finding, not find Thee'?... 'Because we like' is the sole legitimate and perfect motive of human action.... If this is what Nature affirms then it will be what I believe." This dynamic conception of the sexual impulse, as a force that, under natural conditions, may be trusted to build up a new morality, obviously belongs to an indefinitely remote future. It is a force whose blade is two-edged, for while it strikes at unselfishness it also strikes at selfishness, and at present we cannot easily conceive a time when "there is no self"; we should be more disposed to regard it as a time when there is much humbug. Yet for the individual this conception of the constructive power of love retains much enlightenment and inspiration.

It is important for us to note about this dynamic sexual energy in the constitution that while it is very firmly and organically rooted, and quite indestructible, it assumes very various shapes. On the physical side all the characters of sexual distinction and all the beauties of sexual adornment are wrought by the power furnished by the co-operating furnaces of the glands, and so also, on the psychic side, are emotions and impulses which range from the simplest longings for sensual contact to the most exalted rapture of union with the Infinite. Moreover, there is a certain degree of correlation between the physical and the psychic manifestation of sexual energy, and, to some extent, transformation is possible in the embodiment of that energy.

A vague belief in the transformation of sexual energy has long been widespread. It is apparently shown in the idea that continence, as an economy in the expenditure of sexual force, may be practised to aid the physical and mental development, while folklore reveals various sayings in regard to the supposed influence of sexual abstinence in the causation of insanity. There is a certain underlying basis of reason in such beliefs, though in an unqualified form they cannot be accepted, for they take no account of the complexity of the factors involved, of the difficulty and often impossibility of effecting any complete transformation, either in a desirable or undesirable direction, and of the serious conflict which the process often involves. The psycho-analysts have helped us here. Whether or not we accept their elaborate and often shifting conceptions, they have emphasised and developed a psychological conception of sexual energy and its transformations, before only vaguely apprehended, which is now seen to harmonise with the modern physiological view.

The old notion that sexual activity is merely a matter of the voluntary exercise, or abstinence from exercise, of the reproductive functions of adult persons has too long obstructed any clear vision of the fact that sexuality, in the wide and deep sense, is independent of the developments of puberty. This has long been accepted as an occasional and therefore abnormal fact, but we have to recognise that it is true, almost or quite normally, even of early childhood. No doubt we must here extend the word "sexuality"[6]—in what may well be considered an illegitimate way—to cover manifestations which in the usual sense are not sexual or are at most called "sexual perversions." But this extension has a certain justification in view of the fact that these manifestations can be seen to be definitely related to the ordinary adult forms of sexuality. However we define it, we have to recognise that the child takes the same kind of pleasure in those functions which are natural to his age as the adult is capable of taking in localised sexual functions, that he may weave ideas around such functions, sometimes cultivate their exercise from love of luxury, make them the basis of day-dreams which at puberty, when the ideals of adult life are ready to capture his sexual energy, he begins to grow ashamed of.

[6] Perhaps, as applied to the period below puberty, it would be more exact to say "pseudo-sexuality." Matsumato has lately pointed out the significance of the fact that the interstitial testicular tissue, essential to the hormonic function of the testes, only becomes active at puberty.

At this stage, indeed, we reach a crucial point, though it has usually been overlooked, in the lives of boys and girls, more especially those whose heredity may have been a little tainted or their upbringing a little twisted. For it is here that the transformation of energy and the resulting possibilities of conflict are wont to enter. In the harmoniously developing organism, one may say, there is at this period a gradual and easy transmutation of the childish pleasurable activities into adult activities, accompanied perhaps by a feeling of shame for the earlier feelings, though this quickly passes into a forgetfulness which often leads the adult far astray when he attempts to understand the psychic life of the child. The childish manifestations, it must be remarked, are not necessarily unwholesome; they probably perform a valuable function and develop budding sexual emotions, just as the petals of flowers are developed in pale and contorted shapes beneath the enveloping sheaths.

But in our human life the transmutation is often not so easy as in flowers. Normally, indeed, the adolescent transformations of sex are so urgent and so manifold—now definite sensual desire, now muscular impulses of adventure, now emotional aspirations in the sphere of art or religion—that they easily overwhelm and absorb all its vaguer and more twisted manifestations in childhood. Yet it may happen that by some aberration of internal development or of external influence this conversion of energy may at one point or another fail to be completely effected. Then some fragment of infantile sexuality survives, in rare cases to turn all the adult faculties to its service and become reckless and triumphant, in minor and more frequent cases to be subordinated and more or less repressed into the subconscious sphere by voluntary or even involuntary and unconscious effort. Then we may have conflict, which, when it works happily, exerts a fortifying and ennobling influence on character, when more unhappily a disturbing influence which may even lead to conditions of definite nervous disorder.

The process by which this fundamental sexual energy is elevated from elementary and primitive forms into complex and developed forms is termed sublimation, a term, originally used for the process of raising by heat a solid substance to the state of vapour, which was applied even by such early writers as Drayton and Davies in a metaphorical and spiritual sense.[7] In the sexual sphere sublimation is of vital importance because it comes into question throughout the whole of life, and our relation to it must intimately affect our conception of morality. The element of athletic asceticism which is a part of all virility, and is found even—indeed often in a high degree—among savages, has its main moral justification as one aid to sublimation. Throughout life sublimation acts by transforming some part at all events of the creative sexual energy from its elementary animal manifestations into more highly individual and social manifestations, or at all events into finer forms of sexual activity, forms that seem to us more beautiful and satisfy us more widely. Purity, we thus come to see is, in one aspect, the action of sublimation, not abolishing sexual activity, but lifting it into forms of which our best judgment may approve.

[7] We may gather the history of the term from the Oxford Dictionary. Bodies, said Davies, are transformed to spirit "by sublimation strange," and Ben Jonson in Cynthia's Revels spoke of a being "sublimated and refined"; Purchas and Jackson, early in the same seventeenth century, referred to religion as "sublimating" human nature, and Jeremy Taylor, a little later, to "subliming" marriage into a sacrament; Shaftesbury, early in the eighteenth century, spoke of human nature being "sublimated by a sort of spiritual chemists" and Welton, a little later, of "a love sublimate and refined," while, finally, and altogether in our modern sense, Peacock in 1816 in his Headlong Hall referred to "that enthusiastic sublimation which is the source of greatness and energy."

We must not suppose—as is too often assumed—that sublimation can be carried out easily, completely, or even with unmixed advantage. If it were so, certainly the old-fashioned moralist would be confronted by few difficulties, but we have ample reason to believe that it is not so. It is with sexual energy, well observes Freud, who yet attaches great importance to sublimation, as it is with heat in our machines: only a certain proportion can be transformed into work. Or, as it is put by Loewenfeld, who is not a constructive philosopher but a careful and cautious medical investigator, the advantages of sublimation are not received in specially high degree by those who permanently deny to their sexual impulse every natural direct relief. The celibate Catholic clergy, notwithstanding their heroic achievements in individual cases, can scarcely be said to display a conspicuous excess of intellectual energy, on the whole, over the non-celibate Protestant clergy; or, if we compare the English clergy before and after the Protestant Reformation, though the earlier period may reveal more daring and brilliant personages, the whole intellectual output of the later Church may claim comparison with that of the earlier Church. There are clearly other factors at work besides sublimation, and even sublimation may act most potently, not when the sexual activities sink or are driven into a tame and monotonous subordination, but rather when they assume a splendid energy which surges into many channels. Yet sublimation is a very real influence, not only in its more unconscious and profound operations, but in its more immediate and temporary applications, as part of an athletic discipline, acting best perhaps when it acts most automatically, to utilise the motor energy of the organism in the attainment of any high physical or psychic achievement.

We have to realise, however, that these transmutations do not only take place by way of a sublimation of sexual energy, but also by way of a degradation of that energy. The new form of energy produced, that is to say, may not be of a beneficial kind; it may be of a mischievous kind, a form of perversion or disease. Sexual self-denial, instead of leading to sublimation, may lead to nervous disorder when the erotic tension, failing to find a natural outlet and not sublimated to higher erotic or non-erotic ends in the real world, is transmuted into an unreal dreamland, thus undergoing what Jung terms introversion; while there are also the people already referred to, in whom immature childish sexuality persists into an adult stage of development it is no longer altogether in accord with, so that conflict, with various possible trains of nervous symptoms, may result. Disturbances and conflicts in the emotional sexual field may, we know, in these and similar ways become transformed into physical symptoms of disorder which can be seen to have a precise symbolic relationship to definite events in the patient's emotional history, while fits of nervous terror, or anxiety-neurosis, may frequently be regarded as a degradation of thwarted or disturbed sexual energy, manifesting its origin by presenting a picture of sexual excitation transposed into a non-sexual shape of an entirely useless or mischievous character.

Thus, to sum up, we may say that the sexual energy of the organism is a mighty force, automatically generated throughout life. Under healthy conditions that force is transmuted in more or less degree, but never entirely, into forms that further the development of the individual and the general ends of life. These transformations are to some extent automatic, to some extent within the control of personal guidance. But there are limits to such guidance, for the primitive human personality can never be altogether rendered an artificial creature of civilisation. When these limits are reached the transmutation of sexual energy may become useless or even dangerous, and we fail to attain the exquisite flower of Purity.


It may seem that in setting forth the nature of the sexual impulse in the light of modern biology and psychology, I have said but little of purity and less of morality. Yet that is as it should be. We must first be content to see how the machine works and watch the wheels go round. We must understand before we can pretend to control; in the natural world, as Bacon long ago said, we can only command by obeying. Moreover, in this field Nature's order is far older and more firmly established than our civilised human morality. In our arrogance we often assume that Morality is the master of Nature. Yet except when it is so elementary or fundamental as to be part of Nature, it is but a guide, and a guide that is only a child, so young, so capricious, that in every age its wayward hand has sought to pull Nature in a different direction. Even only in order to guide we must first see and know.

We realise that never more than when we observe the distinction which conventional sex-morals so often makes between men and women. Failing to find in women exactly the same kind of sexual emotions, as they find in themselves, men have concluded that there are none there at all. So man has regarded himself as the sexual animal, and woman as either the passive object of his adoring love or the helpless victim of his degrading lust, in either case as a being who, unlike man, possessed an innocent "purity" by nature, without any need for the trouble of acquiring it. Of woman as a real human being, with sexual needs and sexual responsibilities, morality has often known nothing. It has been content to preach restraint to man, an abstract and meaningless restraint even if it were possible. But when we have regard to the actual facts of life, we can no longer place virtue in a vacuum. Women are just as apt as men to be afflicted by the petty jealousies and narrownesses of the crude sexual impulse; women just as much as men need the perpetual sublimation of erotic desire into forms of more sincere purity, of larger harmony, in gaining which ends all the essential ends of morality are alone gained. The delicate adjustment of the needs of each sex to the needs of the other sex to the end of what Chaucer called fine loving, the adjustment of the needs of both sexes to the larger ends of fine living, may well furnish a perpetual moral discipline which extends its fortifying influence to men and women alike.

It is this universality of sexual emotion, blending in its own mighty stream, as is now realised, many other currents of emotion, even the parental and the filial, and traceable even in childhood,—the wide efflorescence of an energy constantly generated by a vital internal mechanism,—which renders vain all attempts either to suppress or to ignore the problem of sex, however immensely urgent we might foolishly imagine such attempts to be. Even the history of the early Christian ascetics in Egypt, as recorded in the contemporary Paradise of Palladius, illustrates the futility of seeking to quench the unquenchable, the flame of fire which is life itself. These "athletes of the Lord" were under the best possible conditions for the conquest of lust; they had been driven into the solitude of the desert by a genuine deeply-felt impulse, they could regulate their lives as they would, and they possessed an almost inconceivable energy of resolution. They were prepared to live on herbs, even to eat grass, and to undertake any labour of self-denial. They were so scrupulous that we hear of a holy man who would even efface a woman's footprints in the sand lest a brother might thereby be led into thoughts of evil. Yet they were perpetually tempted to seductive visions and desires, even after a monastic life of forty years, and the women seem to have been not less liable to yield to temptation than the men.

It may be noted that in the most perfect saints there has not always been a complete suppression of the sexual impulse even on the normal plane, nor even, in some cases, the attempt at such complete suppression. In the early days of Christianity the exercise of chastity was frequently combined with a close and romantic intimacy of affection between the sexes which shocked austere moralists. Even in the eleventh century we find that the charming and saintly Robert of Arbrissel, founder of the order of Fontevrault, would often sleep with his nuns, notwithstanding the remonstrances of pious friends who thought he was displaying too heroic a manifestation of continence, failing to understand that he was effecting a sweet compromise with continence. If, moreover, we consider the rarest and finest of the saints we usually find that in their early lives there was a period of full expansion of the organic activities in which all the natural impulses had full play. This was the case with the two greatest and most influential saints of the Christian Church, St. Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi, absolutely unlike as they were in most other respects. Sublimation, we see again and again, is limited, and the best developments of the spiritual life are not likely to come about by the rigid attempt to obtain a complete transmutation of sexual energy.

The old notion that any strict attempt to adhere to sexual abstinence is beset by terrible risks, insanity and so forth, has no foundation, at all events where we are concerned with reasonably sound and healthy people. But it is a very serious error to suppose that the effort to achieve complete and prolonged sexual abstinence is without any bad results at all, physical or psychic, either in men or women who are normal and healthy. This is now generally recognised everywhere, except in the English-speaking countries, where the supposed interests of a prudish morality often lead to a refusal to look facts in the face. As Professor Naecke, a careful and cautious physician, stated shortly before his death, a few years ago, the opinion that sexual abstinence has no bad effects is not to-day held by a single authority on questions of sex; the fight is only concerned with the nature and degree of the bad effects which, in Naecke's belief—and he was doubtless right—are never of a gravely serious character.

Yet we have also to remember that not only, as we have seen, is the effort to achieve complete abstinence—which we ignorantly term "purity"—futile, since we are concerned with a force which is being constantly generated within the organism, but in the effort to achieve it we are abusing a great source of beneficent energy. We lose more than half of what we might gain when we cover it up, and try to push it back, to produce, it may be, not harmonious activity in the world, but merely internal confusion and distortion, and perhaps the paralysis of half the soul's energy. The sexual activities of the organism, we cannot too often repeat, constitute a mighty source of energy which we can never altogether repress though by wise guidance we may render it an aid not only to personal development and well-being but to the moral betterment of the world. The attraction of sex, according to a superstition which reaches far back into antiquity, is a baleful comet pointing to destruction, rather than a mighty star to which we may harness our chariot. It may certainly be either, and which it is likely to become depends largely on our knowledge and our power of self-guidance.

In old days when, as we have seen, tradition, aided by the most fantastic superstitions, insisted on the baleful aspects of sex, the whole emphasis was placed against passion. Since knowledge and self-guidance, without which passion is likely to be in fact pernicious, were then usually absent, the emphasis was needed, and when Boehme, the old mystic, declared that the art of living is to "harness our fiery energies to the service of the light," it has recently been even maintained that he was the solitary pioneer of our modern doctrines. But the ages in which ill-regulated passion exceeded—ages at least full of vitality and energy—gave place to a more anaemic society. To-day the conditions are changed, even reversed. Moral maxims that were wholesome in feudal days are deadly now. We are in no danger of suffering from too much vitality, from too much energy in the explosive splendour of our social life. We possess, moreover, knowledge in plenty and self-restraint in plenty, even in excess, however wrongly they may sometimes be applied. It is passion, more passion and fuller, that we need. The moralist who bans passion is not of our time; his place these many years is with the dead. For we know what happens in a world when those who ban passion have triumphed. When Love is suppressed Hate takes its place. The least regulated orgies of Love grow innocent beside the orgies of Hate. When nations that might well worship one another cut one another's throats, when Cruelty and Self-righteousness and Lying and Injustice and all the Powers of Destruction rule the human heart, the world is devastated, the fibre of the whole organism, of society grows flaccid, and all the ideals of civilisation are debased. If the world is not now sick of Hate we may be sure it never will be; so whatever may happen to the world let us remember that the individual is still left, to carry on the tasks of Love, to do good even in an evil world.

It is more passion and ever more that we need if we are to undo the work of Hate, if we are to add to the gaiety and splendour of life, to the sum of human achievement, to the aspiration of human ecstasy. The things that fill men and women with beauty and exhilaration, and spur them to actions beyond themselves, are the things that are now needed. The entire intrinsic purification of the soul, it was held by the great Spanish Jesuit theologian, Suarez, takes place at the moment when, provided the soul is of good disposition, it sees God; he meant after death, but for us the saying is symbolic of the living truth. It is only in the passion of facing the naked beauty of the world and its naked truth that we can win intrinsic purity. Not all, indeed, who look upon the face of God can live. It is not well that they should live. It is only the metals that can be welded in the fire of passion to finer services that the world needs. It would be well that the rest should be lost in those flames. That indeed were a world fit to perish, wherein the moralist had set up the ignoble maxim: Safety first.



What are the legitimate objects of marriage? We know that many people seek to marry for ends that can scarcely be called legitimate, that men may marry to obtain a cheap domestic drudge or nurse, and that women may marry to be kept when they are tired of keeping themselves. These objects in marriage may or may not be moral, but in any case they are scarcely its legitimate ends. We are here concerned to ascertain those ends of marriage which are legitimate when we take the highest ground as moral and civilised men and women living in an advanced state of society and seeking, if we can, to advance that state of society still further.

The primary end of marriage is to beget and bear offspring, and to rear them until they are able to take care of themselves. On that basis Man is at one with all the mammals and most of the birds. If, indeed, we disregard the originally less essential part of this end—that is to say, the care and tending of the young—this end of marriage is not only the primary but usually the sole end of sexual intercourse in the whole mammal world. As a natural instinct, its achievement involves gratification and well-being, but this bait of gratification is merely a device of Nature's and not in itself an end having any useful function at the periods when conception is not possible. This is clearly indicated by the fact that among animals the female only experiences sexual desire at the season of impregnation, and that desire ceases as soon as impregnation takes place, though this is only in a few species true of the male, obviously because, if his sexual desire and aptitude were confined to so brief a period, the chances of the female meeting the right male at the right moment would be too seriously diminished; so that the attentive and inquisitive attitude towards the female by the male animal—which we may often think we see still traceable in the human species—is not the outcome of lustfulness for personal gratification ("wantonly to satisfy carnal lusts and appetites like brute beasts," as the Anglican Prayer Book incorrectly puts it) but implanted by Nature for the benefit of the female and the attainment of the primary object of procreation. This primary object we may term the animal end of marriage.

This object remains not only the primary but even the sole end of marriage among the lower races of mankind generally. The erotic idea, in its deeper sense, that is to say the element of love, arose very slowly in mankind. It is found, it is true, among some lower races, and it appears that some tribes possess a word for the joy of love in a purely psychic sense. But even among European races the evolution was late. The Greek poets, except the latest, showed little recognition of love as an element of marriage. Theognis compared marriage with cattle-breeding. The Romans of the Republic took much the same view. Greeks and Romans alike regarded breeding as the one recognisable object of marriage; any other object was mere wantonness and had better, they thought, be carried on outside marriage. Religion, which preserves so many ancient and primitive conceptions of life, has consecrated this conception also, and Christianity—though, as I will point out later, it has tended to enlarge the conception—at the outset only offered the choice between celibacy on the one hand and on the other marriage for the production of offspring.

Yet, from, an early period in human history, a secondary function of sexual intercourse had been slowly growing up to become one of the great objects of marriage. Among animals, it may be said, and even sometimes in man, the sexual impulse, when once aroused, makes but a short and swift circuit through the brain to reach its consummation. But as the brain and its faculties develop, powerfully aided indeed by the very difficulties of the sexual life, the impulse for sexual union has to traverse ever longer, slower, more painful paths, before it reaches—and sometimes it never reaches—its ultimate object. This means that sex gradually becomes intertwined with all the highest and subtlest human emotions and activities, with the refinements of social intercourse, with high adventure in every sphere, with art, with religion. The primitive animal instinct, having the sole end of procreation, becomes on its way to that end the inspiring stimulus to all those psychic energies which in civilisation we count most precious. This function is thus, we see, a by-product. But, as we know, even in our human factories, the by-product is sometimes more valuable than the product. That is so as regards the functional products of human evolution. The hand was produced out of the animal forelimb with the primary end of grasping the things we materially need, but as a by-product the hand has developed the function of making and playing the piano and the violin, and that secondary functional by-product of the hand we account, even as measured by the rough test of money, more precious, however less materially necessary, than its primary function. It is, however, only in rare and gifted natures that transformed sexual energy becomes of supreme value for its own sake without ever attaining the normal physical outlet. For the most part the by-product accompanies the product, throughout, thus adding a secondary, yet peculiarly sacred and specially human, object of marriage to its primary animal object. This may be termed the spiritual object of marriage.

By the term "spiritual" we are not to understand any mysterious and supernatural qualities. It is simply a convenient name, in distinction from animal, to cover all those higher mental and emotional processes which in human evolution are ever gaining greater power. It is needless to enumerate the constituents of this spiritual end of sexual intercourse, for everyone is entitled to enumerate them differently and in different order. They include not only all that makes love a gracious and beautiful erotic art, but the whole element of pleasure in so far as pleasure is more than a mere animal gratification. Our ancient ascetic traditions often make us blind to the meaning of pleasure. We see only its possibilities of evil and not its mightiness for good. We forget that, as Romain Rolland says, "Joy is as holy as Pain." No one has insisted so much on the supreme importance of the element of pleasure in the spiritual ends of sex as James Hinton. Rightly used, he declares, Pleasure is "the Child of God," to be recognised as a "mighty storehouse of force," and he pointed out the significant fact that in the course of human progress its importance increases rather than diminishes.[8] While it is perfectly true that sexual energy may be in large degree arrested, and transformed into intellectual and moral forms, yet it is also true that pleasure itself, and above all, sexual pleasure, wisely used and not abused, may prove the stimulus and liberator of our finest and most exalted activities. It is largely this remarkable function of sexual pleasure which is decisive in settling the argument of those who claim that continence is the only alternative to the animal end of marriage. That argument ignores the liberating and harmonising influences, giving wholesome balance and sanity to the whole organism, imparted by a sexual union which is the outcome of the psychic as well as physical needs. There is, further, in the attainment of the spiritual end of marriage, much more than the benefit of each individual separately. There is, that is to say, the effect on the union itself. For through harmonious sex relationships a deeper spiritual unity is reached than can possibly be derived from continence in or out of marriage, and the marriage association becomes an apter instrument in the service of the world. Apart from any sexual craving, the complete spiritual contact of two persons who love each other can only be attained through some act of rare intimacy. No act can be quite so intimate as the sexual embrace. In its accomplishment, for all who have reached a reasonably human degree of development, the communion of bodies becomes the communion of souls. The outward and visible sign has been the consummation of an inward and spiritual grace. "I would base all my sex teaching to children and young people on the beauty and sacredness of sex," wrote a distinguished woman; "sex intercourse is the great sacrament of life, he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh his own damnation; but it may be the most beautiful sacrament between two souls who have no thought of children."[9] To many the idea of a sacrament seems merely ecclesiastical, but that is a misunderstanding. The word "sacrament" is the ancient Roman name of a soldier's oath of military allegiance, and the idea, in the deeper sense, existed long before Christianity, and has ever been regarded as the physical sign of the closest possible union with some great spiritual reality. From our modern standpoint we may say, with James Hinton, that the sexual embrace, worthily understood, can only be compared with music and with prayer. "Every true lover," it has been well said by a woman, "knows this, and the worth of any and every relationship can be judged by its success in reaching, or failing to reach, this standpoint."[10]

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