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courtship. In man it is only modified because in man sexual needs are not
entirely concentrated in reproduction, but more or less penetrate the
whole of life.
While from the point of view of society, as from that of Nature, the end
and object of the sexual impulse is procreation, and nothing beyond
procreation, that is by no means true for the individual, whose main
object it must be to fulfil himself harmoniously with that due regard for
others which the art of living demands. Even if sexual relationships had
no connection with procreation whatever--as some Central Australian tribes
believe--they would still be justifiable, and are, indeed, an
indispensable aid to the best moral development of the individual, for it
is only in so intimate a relationship as that of sex that the finest
graces and aptitudes of life have full scope. Even the saints cannot
forego the sexual side of life. The best and most accomplished saints from
Jerome to Tolstoy--even the exquisite Francis of Assisi--had stored up in
their past all the experiences that go to the complete realization of
life, and if it were not so they would have been the less saints.
The element of positive virtue thus only enters when the control of the
sexual impulse has passed beyond the stage of rigid and sterile abstinence
and has become not merely a deliberate refusal of what is evil in sex, but
a deliberate acceptance of what is good. It is only at that moment that
such control becomes a real part of the great art of living. For the art
of living, like any other art, is not compatible with rigidity, but lies
in the weaving of a perpetual harmony between refusing and accepting,
between giving and taking.
The future, it is clear, belongs ultimately to those who are slowly
building up sounder traditions into the structure of life. The "problem of
sexual abstinence" will more and more sink into insignificance. There
remain the great solid fact of love, the great solid fact of chastity.
Those are eternal. Between them there is nothing but harmony. The
development of one involves the development of the other.
It has been necessary to treat seriously this problem of "sexual
abstinence" because we have behind us the traditions of two thousand years
based on certain ideals of sexual law and sexual license, together with
the long effort to build up practices more or less conditioned by those
ideals. We cannot immediately escape from these traditions even when we
question their validity for ourselves. We have not only to recognize their
existence, but also to accept the fact that for some time to come they
must still to a considerable extent control the thoughts and even in some
degree the actions of existing communities.
It is undoubtedly deplorable. It involves the introduction of an
artificiality into a real natural order. Love is real and positive;
chastity is real and positive. But sexual abstinence is unreal and
negative, in the strict sense perhaps impossible. The underlying feelings
of all those who have emphasized its importance is that a physiological
process can be good or bad according as it is or is not carried out under
certain arbitrary external conditions, which render it licit or illicit.
An act of sexual intercourse under the name of "marriage" is beneficial;
the very same act, under the name of "incontinence," is pernicious. No
physiological process, and still less any spiritual process, can bear such
restriction. It is as much as to say that a meal becomes good or bad,
digestible or indigestible, according as a grace is or is not pronounced
before the eating of it.
It is deplorable because, such a conception being essentially unreal, an
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