I am for you, and you are for me,
Not only for your own sake, but for others' sakes, Envelop'd in you sleep greater heroes and bards, They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.-Walt Whitman.
THE Mystic in his moment of enlightenment attains through the flux of his personality the realization of oneness with the divine forces of the Universe.
To ordinary men and women, however, this mystical ecstasy is unknown, and the ordinary human consciousness is far more aware of its separateness than of its oneness with the vital forces of creation. Yet the glow of half-swooning rapture in which the Mystic's whole being melts and floats in the light of the divine force is paralleled in the rapture of lovers.
When two who are mated in every respect burn with the fire of the innumerable forces within them, which set their bodies longing toward each other with the desire to inter-penetrate and to encompass one another, the fusion joy and rapture is not purely physical. The half swooning sense of flux which overtakes the spirit in that moment at the apex of rapture sweeps into its tides the whole essence of the man and woman, and as it were, the heat of the contact vaporizes their consciousness so that it fills the whole of cosmic space. For the moment they are identified with the divine thoughts, the waves of eternal force, which to the Mystic often appear in terms of golden light.
From their mutual penetration into the realms of supreme joy the two lovers bring back with them a spark of that light which we call life.
And unto them a child is born.
This is the supreme purpose of nature in all her enticing weft of complex factors, luring the two lovers into each other's arms. Only by the fusion of two can the new human life come into being, and only by creating a new life in this way can we hand on the torch which lights our consciousness in the sphere of matter.
This mystical and wonderful fact has never yet found the poet to sing its full glory. But in the hearts of all who have known true love lies the realization of the sacredness that is theirs when they are in the very act of creation.
Were our bodies specifically organized for this supreme purpose, two human beings would only pass through the sacred fire of mutual fusion in order to create a new life. But, however far our spirits have evolved, our bodies are composed of matter which bears the imprint of the many past phases through which we have reached our present position. And because in the world of the lower animals there is an immense wastage of all the young lives created, and it is necessary that myriads should be conceived in order that a small number should reach maturity, so in our bodies (specialized though they are in comparison with the lower animals) both sexes still produce a far larger number of germs awaiting fertilization than can be actually fructified and imbued with individual life.
It is utterly impossible, organized as our bodies are at present, for us to obey the dictates of theologians and refrain from the wasting of potential life. The germ cells of the woman, though immeasurably less numerous than the male germ cells (the spermatozoa), yet develop uselessly over and over again in every celibate as well as in every married woman. And myriads of sperm cells are destroyed even in the process of the act which does ensure fertilization of the woman by the single favored spermatozoön. If the theologians really mean what they say, and demand the voluntary effort of complete celibacy from all men, save for the purpose of procreation, this will not achieve their end of preventing the wastage of all potential life; and the monthly loss of unfertilized ova by women is beyond all the efforts of the will to curb. Nature, not man, arranged the wastage of potential life against which ascetic bishops rage.
If, then, throughout the greater part of their lives the germinal cells of both sexes inevitably disintegrate without creating an embryo, there can be nothing wrong in selecting the most favorable moment possible for the conception of a new life.
What generally happens in marriage where this is not thought of is that one of the very earliest unions results in the fertilization of the wife, so that the young pair have a baby nine months, or a little more, after marriage.
Whereas, were they wise and did they realize the full significance of what they were doing, they would allow at least six months or a year to elapse before beginning the supreme task of their lives, the burden of which falls mainly upon the woman.
For many reasons it is more ideal to have the children spontaneously and early; but if economic conditions are hard, as they so often are in "civilized" life, it may be better to marry and defer the children rather than not to marry.
If the pair married very young, and before they could afford to support children, they might wait several years with advantage. An exceptional case is one of the happiest marriages I know. The pair married while they were young students in the University, and fourteen years later they had their first child, a splendidly healthy boy. Though such a long interval is certainly not to be universally recommended, as it is said that it may result in sterility [preventive measures in themselves never lead to sterility. W. J. R.], in this instance it was triumphantly better for the two to have lived normally satisfied happy lives than to have waited for fourteen years, and risked the man's "fall."
There are many reasons, both for their own and for the child's sake, why the potential parents should take the wise precaution of delay, unless owing to special circumstances they cannot expect to live together uninterruptedly.
The child, conceived in rapture and hope, should be given every material chance which the wisdom and love of the parents can devise. And the first and most vital condition of its health is that the mother should be well and happy and free from anxiety while she bears it.
The tremendous and far-reaching effects of marriage on the woman's whole organism make her less fitted to bear a child at the very commencement of marriage than later on when the system will have adjusted itself to its new conditions and she will have regained her poise and normal health.
Not only for the sake of the child, however, should the first conception be a little delayed, but also to secure the lasting happiness of the married lovers. It is generally (though perhaps not always) wise thoroughly to establish their relation to each other before introducing the inevitable dislocation and readjustment necessitated by the wife's pregnancy and the birth of a child.
In this book I am not speaking so much of the universal sex relation, as to those who find themselves to-day in the highly civilized, artificial communities of English speaking people: and in our present society there is little doubt that the early birth of a child demands much self-sacrifice and self-restraint from the man, one of the reflex vibrations of which is his undefinable sense of loss and separation from his bride. This has been confided to me by many men who have been generous enough to trust me with some of the secrets of their lives. Mr. C. is typical of many others of his class.
He was quiet and refined with a strong strain of romantic love, which was entirely centered in his bride. He was manly and sufficiently virile to feel the need of sex intercourse, but he was unaware (as are so many men) of the woman's corresponding need; and he did not give his wife any orgasm. She took no pleasure therefore in the physical act of union, which for her was so incomplete.
Very shortly after marriage she conceived, and a child was born ten months after the wedding day.
For two years after the birth of the child her vitality was so lowered that the sex act was to her so repugnant that she refused her husband any union; and it was thus three years after their marriage before they met in anything like a normal way. By that time the long separation from sex-life, and the strain on the man, coupled with daily familiarity at home, had dimmed, if not completely destroyed, his sense of romance. The natural stimulation each should exert on the other had faded, so that they never experienced the mutual glow of intense rapture in their sex-union.
Another pair suffered similarly: Mr. and Mrs. D. were prevented for several years by the wife's real and fancied ill-health from having any intercourse. When, after that time, she recovered and passionately desired the true marriage relation, the husband felt it to be impossible. To him it would have been, as he expressed it, "like raping his sister."
Once such a thought has grown into a man's mind it is very difficult "to recapture the first early rapture." And with the loss of that early rapture the two lose, for the rest of their lives, the irradiating joy which is priceless not only for its beauty but for the vitality with which its wings are laden.
On the other hand, if by waiting some months (or even years if they are young) the mated pair have learnt to adjust themselves to each other and have experienced the full and supreme rapture of complete love-making, the disturbance which is caused by the birth of the child is in no sense a danger to their happiness, but is its crown and completion.
A man once said to me – one can endure anything for the sake of a beloved wife. But the wife is only utterly beloved when she and her married lover have not only entered paradise together, but when she fully realizes, through insight gained by her own experiences, the true nature of that of which she is depriving her husband so long as her bodily condition makes sex-unions with him impossible.
Much has been written, and may be found in the innumerable books on the sex-problems, as to whether a man and woman should or should not have relations while the wife is bearing an unborn child. In this matter experience is very various, so that it is difficult or impossible to give definite advice without knowing the full circumstances of each case.
When, however, we observe the admirable sanctity of the pregnant females of the woodland creatures, and when we consider the extraordinary ignorance and disregard of woman's needs which mark so many of our modern customs, we cannot but think that the safe side of this debatable question must be in the complete continence of the woman for at least six months before the birth of the child. I have heard from a number of women, however, that they desire union urgently at this time, and from others that the thought of it is incredible.
[To demand complete continence for at least six months before the child is born is entirely too severe a requirement. As a woman should for several reasons wait six weeks or two months after the birth of the child before resuming sex relations, it follows that with each pregnancy the husband would have to be abstinent for a period of about eight months. Such complete abstinence would be for some husbands difficult, for some unbearable. For some it might result in very unpleasant complications. Nor is it so easy for all wives during the acme of their sex lives to abstinent for eight months, especially if we bear in mind that with some women the sex-urge is extremely insistent during pregnancy. No, such abstinence is unnecessary. Six weeks to two months of abstinence before and the same period after the birth of a child is quite sufficient, and proper, and will not injure husband, wife or child. – See Chapter: Intercourse During Pregnancy in the Editor's "Women – Her Sex and Love Life." W. J. R.]
Tolstoy strongly condemned any sex-contact while the wife was pregnant or nursing, and blamed the husband who "puts upon her the unbearable burden of being at one and the same time a mistress, an exhausted mother, and a sickly, irritable, hysterical individual. And the husband loves her as his mistress, ignores her as a mother, and hates her for the irritability and hysteria which he himself has produced and produces." His view is taken by many of our noblest men.
While the wife feels that she cannot allow her husband to enter the portals of her body when it has become the sacred temple of a developing life, she should also consider the perpetual strain which nature imposes upon him; and the tender and loving wife will readily find some means of giving him that physical relief which his nature needs.
The exquisite unselfish tenderness which is aroused in a man by the sense of mental and spiritual harmony with a wife who sympathizes with, because she understands his needs is one of the loveliest things in marriage. A wife who knows how to waken this tenderness in a man raises him out of the self-centered slough in which so many men wallow unhappily.
With an ardent man, wholly devoted to his wife and long deprived of her, the time will come when it will be sufficient for him to be near her and caress her for relief to take place without any physical connection, if, as every wife should, she has retained after marriage that dainty modesty which renders the sight of her bosom and of her beauty a privilege and a joy to her husband.
After the birth of the first child the health of the mother and of the baby both demand that there should be no hurried beginning of a second. At least a year should pass before the second little life is allowed to begin its unfolding, so that a minimum of about two years should elapse before the second child is born.
The importance of this, both for the mother and for the child, is generally adequately recognized by medical specialists, and some distinguished gynecologists advocate as much as three or five years between the births of successive children. While in the whole human relation there is no slavery or torture so horrible as coerced, unwilling motherhood, there is no joy and pride greater than that of a woman who is bearing the developing child of a man she adores. It is a serious reflection on our poisoned "civilization" that a pregnant woman should feel shame to appear in the streets. Never will the race reach true health till it is cured of its prurient sickness, and the prospective mother can carry her sacred burden as a priestess in a triumphal procession.
Of the innumerable problems which touch upon the qualities transmitted to the children by their parents, the study of which may be covered by the general term Eugenics, I shall here say nothing: nor shall I deal with the problems of birth and child-rearing. Many writers have considered these subjects, and my purpose in this book is to present aspects of sex-life which have been more or less neglected by others.
While throughout I have omitted the consideration of abnormalities, there is one condition which verges on the abnormal but yet touches the lives of some married people who are individually both normal and healthy, about which a few words need to be said.
It not infrequently happens that two healthy loving people, for no apparent reason, seem unable to have a child.
The old-fashioned view was that the fault lay with the woman, and the reproach of being a barren woman is one which has brought untold anguish to many hearts. It is now beginning to be recognized, however, that in a childless union, the "fault," if fault it be, is as often the man's as the woman's, particularly where the husband is a brain-worker in a city.
Though it is natural that there should not be the same joy for the pair in a child which had not arisen from their own supreme fusion, nevertheless, the man who is generous and broad-minded might find much joy in a child of his wife's, were the obtaining of this child not coupled with the yielding of her body to the embrace of another man, which is so generally and so naturally repugnant to a husband. Nevertheless now that women have been successfully impregnated by means of injected semen, a new possibility has arisen for any individual pair who are childless and who long for a little one. Where the injection is undertaken by a woman doctor, the husband need have no feeling that his wife has been violated. And while it is not certain that this method would succeed in giving the child she longs for to the woman, yet there are sufficient records in the medical profession of successful artificial insemination for it to offer much hope to a pair who have been denied perfectly normal parenthood either through the husband's actual sterility or the lack of mutual adjustment in their organs, or from an ill-understood lack of chemical affinity.
[I regret having to disillusion the reader on the subject of artificial impregnation. Many attempts at artificial impregnation of the human female have been made, but the successes have been so few and far between, that the method is never likely to acquire a great vogue. For some centuries to come we will have to depend upon the old-fashioned natural method for the perpetuation of the human race. W. J. R.]
The idea that the soul and character of the child can be in any degree influenced by the mental status of the mother during the months of its development as an embryo within her body, is apt to be greeted with pure skepticism – for it is difficult of proof, and repugnant to the male intellect, now accustomed to explain life in terms of chemistry.
Yet all the wisest mothers whom I know vary only in the degree of their belief in this power of the mother. All are agreed in believing that the spiritual and mental condition and environment of the mother does profoundly affect the character and the mental and spiritual powers of the child.
An interesting fact which strengthens the woman's point of view, is quoted (though not in this connection) by Marshall, who says: "It has been found that immunity from disease may be acquired by young animals being suckled by a female which had previously become immune, the antibody to the disease being absorbed in the ingested milk." This particular fact is explainable in terms of chemistry; but it seems to me more than rash for any one in these days of hormones from ductless glands, to deny the possibility of mental states in the mother generating "chemical messengers," which may impress permanent characters in the physiological reactions of the developing child. Ellis says ("Sex and Society"), "The mother is the child's supreme parent, and during the period from conception to birth the hygiene of the future man can only be affected by influences which work through her."
And Alfred Russel Wallace, the great naturalist, thought the transmission of mental influence neither impossible nor even very improbable. I am convinced that it takes place all the time, molding and influencing the hereditary factors.
Hence I suggest that the husband who is deprived of normal fatherhood may yet make the child of his wife's body partly his own, if his thoughts are with her intensely, supportingly and joyously throughout the whole time of the unborn baby's growth. If he reads to her, plays beautiful music or takes her to hear it, and gives her the very best of his thoughts and aspirations, mystical though the conclusion may seem, he does attain an actual measure of fatherhood.
The converse, where the wife is really barren and the husband capable of having children with another woman, is a much more difficult problem. Then the attainment of children by the man is impossible without the collaboration of another woman in a manner not recognized by our laws and customs. Even if this is done, it is clear that to introduce the child of another woman into the home is demanding a much greater self-abnegation from the wife than is demanded from the husband in the situation we have just considered.
Many people whose ideals are very noble are yet strangely incapable of adapting the material acts of life to the real fulfilment of their ideals. Thus there is a section of our community which insists that there should be no restriction whatever of the number of children born to married people. They think any birth control immoral. They take their stand upon the statement that we have no right to destroy potential life. But if they would study a little human or animal physiology they would find that not only every celibate, but also every married man incessantly and inevitably wastes myriads of germs which had the potentiality of fusion with an ovum, and consequently could have produced a child had opportunity been given them. For the supposed sake of one or two of these myriad spermatozoa which must naturally and inevitably die, they encourage the production of babies in rapid succession, which are weakened by their proximity, while they might have been sturdy and healthy, had they been conceived further apart from each other.
Such people, while awake to the claims of the unborn, nay, even of the unconceived, are blind to the claims of the one who should be dearest of all to the husband, and for whose health and happiness he is responsible. A man swayed by such pseudo-religious ignorance will allow his wife to bear and bring forth an infant annually. Save where the woman is exceptional, each child following so rapidly on its predecessor, saps and divides the vital strength which is available for the making of the offspring. This generally lowers the vitality of each succeeding child, and surely even if slowly, may murder the woman who bears them.
Of course, the effects of this strain upon the woman vary greatly according to her original health and vitality, the conditions of her surroundings and the intensity of the family's struggle for food. A half-starved mother trying to bring up children in the foul air of city slums, loses, as a rule, far more of her family than a comfortable and well-fed woman in the country. Nevertheless, conditions are not everything; under the best conditions, the chances of death of the later children of a large family, which comes rapidly, are far greater than for the earlier children.
Dr. Ploetz found that while the death rate of first born infants is about 220 per thousand, the death rate of the seventh born is about 330, and of the twelfth born is 597 per thousand. So that when "nature" has its way, and twelve children come to sap a woman's vitality, so little strength has she that nearly 60 per cent. of these later ones die. What a waste of vitality! What a hideous orgy of agony for the mothers to produce in anguish death-doomed, suffering infants!
Forel ("The Sexual Question") says: "It seems almost incredible that in some countries medical men who are not ashamed to throw young men into the arms of prostitution, blush when mention is made of anti-conceptional methods. This false modesty, created by custom and prejudice, waxes indignant at innocent things while it encourages the greatest infamies."
It is important to observe that Holland, the country which takes most care that children shall be well and voluntarily conceived, has increased its survival-rate, and has thereby not diminished but increased its population, and has the lowest infant mortality in Europe. While in America, where the outrageous "Comstock Laws" confuse wise scientific prevention with illegal abortion and label them both as "obscene," thus preventing people from obtaining decent hygienic knowledge, horrible and criminal abortion is more frequent than in any other country.
It should be realized that all the proper, medical methods of preventing undesired pregnancy consists, not in destroying an already growing embryo, but in preventing the male semen from reaching the unfertilized egg cell. This may be done either by shutting the semen away from the opening of the womb, or by securing the death of all (instead of the natural death of all but one) of the two or three hundred million spermatozoa which enter the woman. Even when a child is allowed to grow in its mother, all these hundreds of millions of spermatozoa are inevitably and naturally destroyed every time the man has an emission; and to add one more to these millions sacrificed by nature is surely no crime! To render inert the ejaculated spermatozoa which would otherwise die and decompose naturally, is a simple matter, now familiar to every intelligent physician and layman. The knowledge is easily obtainable.
To those who protest that we have no right to interfere with the course of nature, one must point out that the whole of civilization, everything which separates man from animals, is an interference with what such people commonly call "nature."
Nothing in the cosmos can be against nature for it all forms part of the great processes of the universe.
Actions differ, however, in their relative positions in the scale of things. Only those actions are worthy which lead the race onwards to a higher and fuller completion and the perfecting of its powers, which steer the race into the main current of that stream of life and vitality which courses through us and impels us forward.
It is a sacred duty of all who dare to hand on the awe-inspiring gift of life, to hand it on in a vessel as fit and perfect as they can fashion, so that the body may be the strongest and most beautiful instrument possible in the service of the soul they summon to play its part in the mystery of material being.
- This was done by the famous Dr. Hunter at the end of the eighteenth century, and since then various doctors have employed this method. An account of some cases is given by Heape in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1897; see also Marshall's text book of "Physiology of Reproduction," 1910.
- "The Psychology of Reproduction," 1910, p. 566.
- "Nature," 1893, August 24, pp. 389 and 390.