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beautiful palace, where all the luxuries of life are provided for her
by unseen hands; and at night, after she has retired, an unknown lover
visits her, disappearing again before dawn (_jamque aderat ignobilis
maritus et torem inscenderat et uxorem sibi Psychen fecerat et ante
lucis exortum propere discesserat_).

Now follow some months in which Psyche is neither maiden nor wife.
Even if they had been properly married there would have been no
opportunity for the development or manifestation of supersensual
conjugal attachment, for all this time Psyche is never allowed even to
see her lover; and when an opportunity arises for her to show her
devotion to him she fails utterly to rise to the occasion. One night
he informs her that her two sisters, who are unhappily married, are
trying to find her, and he warns her seriously not to heed them in any
way, should they succeed in their efforts. She promises, but spends
the whole of the next day weeping and wailing because she is locked up
in a beautiful prison, unable to see her sisters - very unlike a loving
modern girl on her honeymoon, whose one desire is to be alone with her
beloved, giving him a monopoly of her affection and enjoying a
monopoly of his, with no distractions or jealousies to mar their
happiness. Cupid chides her for being sad and dissatisfied even amid
his caresses and he again warns her against her scheming sisters;
whereat she goes so far as to threaten to kill herself unless he
allows her to receive her sisters. He consents at last, after making
her promise not to let them persuade her to try to find out anything
about his personal appearance, lest such forbidden curiosity make her
lose him forever. Nevertheless, when, on their second visit, the
sisters, filled with envy, try to persuade her that her unseen lover
is a monster who intends to eat her after she has grown fat, and that
to save herself she must cut off his head while he is asleep, she
resolves to follow their advice. But when she enters the room at
night, with a knife in one hand and a lamp in the other, and sees the
beautiful god Cupid in her bed, she is so agitated that a drop of hot
oil falls from her lamp on his face and wakes him; whereupon, after
reproaching her, he rises on his wings and forsakes her.

Overcome with grief, Psyche tries to end her life by jumping into a
river, but Zephir saves her. Then she takes revenge on her sisters by
calling on them separately and telling each one that Cupid had
deserted her because he had seen her with lamp and knife, and that he
was now going to marry one of them. The sisters hasten one after the
other to the rock, but Zephir fails to catch them, and they are dashed
to pieces. Venus meanwhile had discovered the escapade of her boy and
locked him up till his wound from the hot oil was healed. Her anger
now vents itself on Psyche. She sets her several impossible tasks, but
Psyche, with supernatural aid, accomplishes all of them safely. At
last Cupid manages to escape through a window. He finds Psyche lying
on the road like a corpse, wakes her and Mercury brings her to heaven,
where at last she is properly married to Cupid - _sic rite Psyche
convenit in manum Cupidinis et nascitur illis maturo partu filia, quam
Voluptatem nominamus_.

Such is the much-vaunted "love-story" of Cupid and Psyche!
Commentators have found all sorts of fanciful and absurd allegories in
this legend. Its real significance I have already pointed out. But it
may be looked at from still another point of view. Psyche means soul,
and in the story of Apuleius Cupid does not fall in love with a soul,
but with a beautiful body. This sums up Hellenic love in general. _The
Greek Cupid_ NEVER _fell in love with a Psyche_.


The Greek view that love is a disease and a calamity still prevails
extensively among persons who, like the Greeks, have never experienced
real love and do not know what it is. In a book dated 1868 and
entitled _Modern Women_ I find the following passage (325):

"Already the great philosopher of the age has
pronounced that the passion of love plays far too
important a part in human existence, and that it is a
terrible obstacle to human progress. The general temper
of the times echoes the sentence of Mill."

It is significant that this opinion should have emanated from a man
whose idea of femininity was as masculine as that of the Greeks - an
ideal which, by eliminating or suppressing the secondary and tertiary
(mental) sexual qualities, necessarily makes love synonymous with

There is another large class of persons who likewise consider love a
disease, but a harmless one, like the measles, or mumps, which it is
well to have as early as possible, so as to be done with it, and which
seldom does any harm. Others, still, regard it as a sort of juvenile
holiday, like a trip to Italy or California, which is delightful while
it lasts and leaves pleasant memories thoughout life, but is otherwise
of no particular use.

It shows a most extraordinary ignorance of the ways of nature to
suppose that it should have developed so powerful an instinct and
sentiment for no useful purpose, or even as a detriment to the race.
That is not the way nature operates. In reality love is the most
useful thing in the world. The two most important objects of the human
race are its own preservation and improvement, and in both of these
directions love is the mightiest of all agencies. It makes the world
go round. Take it away, and in a few years animal life will be as
extinct on this planet as it is on the moon. And by preferring youth
to age, health to disease, beauty to deformity, it improves the human
type, slowly but steadily.

The first thinker who clearly recognized and emphatically asserted the
superlative importance of love was Schopenhauer. Whereas Hegel (II.,
184) parroted the popular opinion that love is peculiarly and
exclusively the affair of the two individuals whom it directly
involves, having no concern with the eternal interests of family and
race, no universality (Allgemeinheit). Schopenhauer's keen mind on the
contrary saw that love, though the most individualized of all
passions, concerns the race even more than the individual. "Die
Zusammensetzung der nächsten Generation, e qua iterum pendent
innumerae generationes" - the very composition and essence of the next
generation and of countless generations following it, depends, as he
says, on the particular choice of a mate. If an ugly, vicious,
diseased mate be chosen, his or her bad qualities are transmitted to
the following generations, for "the gods visit the sins of the fathers
upon the children," as even the old sages knew, long before science
had revealed the laws of heredity. Not only the husband's and the
wife's personal qualities are thus transmitted to the children and
children's children, but those also of four grandparents, eight
great-grandparents, and so on; and when we bear in mind the tremendous
differences in the inheritable ancestral traits of families - virtues
or infirmities - we see of what incalculable importance to the future
of families is that individual preference which is so vital an
ingredient of romantic love.

It is true that love is not infallible. It is still, as Browning puts
it, "blind, oft-failing, half-enlightened." It may be said that
marriage itself is not necessary for the maintenance of the species;
but it is useful both for its maintenance and its improvement; hence
natural selection has favored it - especially the monogamous form - _in
the interest of coming generations._ Love is simply an extension of
this process - -making it efficacious before marriage and thus
quintupling its importance. It makes many mistakes, for it is a young
instinct, and it has to do with a very complex problem, so that its
development is slow; but it has a great future, especially now that
intelligence is beginning to encourage and help it. But while
admitting that love is fallible we must be careful not to decry it for
mistakes with which it has no concern. It is absurd to suppose that
every self-made match is a love-match: yet, whenever such a marriage
is a failure, love is held responsible. We must remember, too, that
there are two kinds of love and that the lower kind does not choose as
wisely as the higher. Where animal passion alone is involved, parents
cannot be blamed for trying to curb it. As a rule, love of all kinds
can be checked or even cured, and an effort to do this should be made
in all cases where it is found to be bestowed on a person likely to
taint the offspring with vicious propensities or serious disease. But,
with all its liability to error, romantic love is usually the safest
guide to marriage, and even sensual love of the more refined, esthetic
type is ordinarily preferable to what are called marriages of reason,
because love (as distinguished from abnormal, unbridled lust) always
is guided by youth and health, thus insuring a healthy, vigorous

If it be asked, "Are not the parents who arrange the marriages of
reason also guided as a rule by considerations of health, moral and
physical?" the answer is a most emphatic "No." Parental fondness,
sufficing for the preservation and rearing of children, is a very old
thing, but parental affection, which is altruistically concerned for
the weal of children in after-life, is a comparatively modern
invention. The foregoing chapters have taught us that an Australian
father's object in giving his daughter in marriage was to get in
exchange a new girl-wife for himself; what became of the daughter, or
what sort of a man got her, did not concern him in the least. Among
Africans and American Indians the object of bringing up daughters and
giving them in marriage was to secure cows or ponies in return for
them. In India the object of marriage was the rearing of sons or
daughters' sons for the purpose of saving the souls of their parents
from perdition; so they flung them into the arms of anyone who would
take them. The Greeks and the Hebrews married to perpetuate their
family name or to supply the state with soldiers. In Japan and China
ancestral and family considerations have always been of infinitely
more importance than the individual inclinations or happiness of the
bridal couple. Wherever we look we find this topsy-turvy state of
affairs - marriages made to suit the parents instead of the bride and
groom; while the welfare of the grandchildren is of course never
dreamt of.

This outrageous parental selfishness and tyranny, so detrimental to
the interests of the human race, was gradually mitigated as
civilization progressed in Europe. Marriages were no longer made for
the benefit of the parents alone, but with a view to the comfort and
worldly advantages of the couple to be wedded. But rank, money, dowry,
continued - and continue in Europe to this day - to be the chief
matchmakers, few parents rising to the consideration of the welfare of
the grandchildren. The grandest task of the morality of the future
will be to _make parental altruism extend to these grandchildren_;
that is, to make parents and everyone else abhor and discountenance
all marriages that do not insure the health and happiness of future
generations. Love will show the way. Far from being useless or
detrimental to the human race, it is an instinct evolved by nature as
a defence of the race against parental selfishness and criminal myopia
regarding future generations.

Plato observed in his _Statesman_ (310) that

"most persons form marriage connections without due
regard to what is best for procreation of children."
"They seek after wealth and power, which in matrimony
are objects not worthy even of serious censure."

But his remedy for this evil was, as we have seen (775), quite as bad
as the evil itself, since it involved promiscuity and the elimination
of chastity and family life. Love accomplishes the results that Plato
and Lycurgus aimed at, so far as healthy offspring is concerned,
without making the same sacrifices and reducing human marriage to the
level of the cattle-breeder. It accomplishes, moreover, the same
result that natural selection secures, and without its cruelty, by
simply excluding from marriage the criminal, vicious, crippled,
imbecile, incurably diseased and all who do not come up to its
standard of health, vigor, and beauty.

While claiming that love is an instinct developed by nature as a
defence against the short-sighted selfishness of parents who would
sacrifice the future of the race to their own advantage or that of
their children, I do not forget that in the past it has often secured
its results in an illegitimate way. That, however, was no fault of its
own, being due to the artificial and foolish obstacles placed in its
way. Laws of nature cannot be altered by man, and if the safety valve
is tied down the boiler is bound to explode. In countries where
marriages are habitually arranged by the parents with reference to
rank or money alone, in defiance of love, the only "love-children" are
necessarily illegitimate. This has given rise to the notion that
illegitimate children are apt to be more beautiful, healthy, and
vigorous than the issue of regular marriages: and, under the
circumstances, it was true. But for this topsy-turvyness, this folly,
this immorality, we must not blame love, but those who persistently
thwarted love - or tried to thwart it. As soon as love was allowed a
voice in the arrangement of marriages illegitimacy decreased rapidly.
Had the rights of love been recognized sooner, it would have proved a
useful ally of morality instead its craftiest enemy.[335]

The utility of love from a moral point of view can be shown in other
ways. Many tendencies - such as club life, the greater ease of securing
divorces, the growing independence of women and their disinclination
to domesticity - are undermining that family life which civilization
has so slowly and laboriously built up, and fostering celibacy. Now
celibacy is not only unnatural and detrimental to health and
longevity, but it is the main root of immorality. Its antidote is
love, the most persuasive champion and promoter of marriage. No reader
of the present volume can fail to see that man has generally managed
to have a good time at the expense of woman and it is she who benefits
particularly by the modern phases of love and marriage. Yet in recent
years the notion that family life is not good enough for women, and
that they should be brought up in a spirit of manly independence, has
come over society like a noxious epidemic. It is quite proper that
there should be avenues of employment for women who have no one to
support them; but it is a grievous error to extend this to women in
general, to give them the education, tastes, habits, sports, and
politics of the men. It antagonizes that sexual differentiation of the
more refined sort on which romantic love depends and tempts men to
seek amusement in ephemeral, shallow amours. In plain English, while
there are many charming exceptions, the growing masculinity of girls
is the main reason why so many of them remain unmarried; thus
fulfilling the prediction: "Could we make her as the man, sweet love
were slain." Let girls return to their domestic sphere, make
themselves as delightfully feminine as possible, not trying to be
gnarled oaks but lovely vines clinging around them, and the sturdy
oaks will joyously extend their love and protection to them amid all
the storms of life. In love lies the remedy for many of the economic
problems of the day.

There is not one of the fourteen ingredients of romantic love which
cannot be shown to be useful in some way. Of individual preference and
its importance in securing a happy blend of qualities for the next
generation I have just spoken, and I have devoted nearly a page (131)
to the utility of coyness. Jealousy has helped to develop chastity,
woman's cardinal virtue and the condition of all refinement in love
and society. Monopolism has been the most powerful enemy of those two
colossal evils of savagery and barbarism - promiscuity and polygamy;
and it will in future prove as fatal an enemy to all attempts to bring
back promiscuity under the absurd name of "free love," which would
reduce all women to the level of prostitutes and make men desert them
after their charms have faded. Two other ingredients of love - purity
and the admiration of personal beauty - are of great value to the cause
of morality as conquerors of lust, which they antagonize and suppress
by favoring the higher (mental) sexual qualities; while the sense of
beauty also co-operates with the instinct which makes for the health
of future generations; beauty being simply the flower of health, and

At first sight it may seem difficult to assign any use to the pride,
the hyperbole, and the mixed moods which are component elements of
love; but they are of value inasmuch as they exalt the mind, and give
to the beloved such prominence and importance that the way is paved
for the altruistic ingredients of romantic love, the utility of which
is so obvious that it hardly needs to be hinted at. If love were
nothing more than a lesson in altruism - with many the first and only
lesson in their lives - it would be second in importance to no other
factor of civilization. Sympathy lifts the lover out of the deep
groove of selfishness, teaching him the miracle of feeling another's
pains and pleasures more keenly than his own. Man's adoration of woman
as a superior being - which she really is, as the distinctively
feminine virtues are more truly Christian and have a higher ethical
value than the masculine virtues - creates an ideal which has improved
women by making them ambitious to live up to it. No one, again, who
has read the preceding pages relating to the treatment of women before
romantic love existed, and compares it with their treatment at
present, can fail to recognize the wonderful transformation brought
about by gallantry and self-sacrifice - altruistic habits which have
changed men from ruffians to gentlemen. I do not say that love alone
is responsible for this improvement, but it has been one of the most
potent factors. Finally, there is affection, which, in conjunction
with the other altruistic ingredients of love, has changed it from an
appetite like that of a fly for sugar to a self-oblivious devotion
like a mother's for her child, thus raising it to the highest ethical
rank as an agency of culture.

We are still very far from the final stage in the evolution of love.
There is no reason to doubt that it will continue to develop, as in
the past, in the direction of the esthetic, supersensual, and
altruistic. As a physician's eye becomes trained for the subtle
diagnosis of disease, a clergyman's for the diagnosis of moral evil,
so will the love-instinct become more and more expert, critical, and
refined, rejecting those who are vicious or diseased. Compare the
lustrous eyes of a consumptive girl with the sparkling eyes of a
healthy maiden in buoyant spirits. Both are beautiful, but to a
doctor, or to anyone else who knows the deadliness and horrors of
tuberculosis, the beauty of the consumptive girl's eyes will seem
uncanny, like the charm of a snake, and it will inspire pity, which in
this case is not akin to love, but fatal to it. Thus may superior
knowledge influence our sense of beauty and liability to fall in love.
I know a man who was in love with a girl and had made up his mind to
propose. He went to call on her, and as he approached the door he
heard her abusing her mother in the most heartless manner. He did not
ring the bell, and never called again. His love was of the highest
type, but he suppressed his feelings.

More important than the further improvement of romantic love is the
task of increasing the proportion of men and women who will be capable
of experiencing it as now known to us. The vast majority are still
strangers to anything beyond primitive love. The analysis made in the
present volume will enable all persons who fancy themselves in love to
see whether their passion is merely self-love in a roundabout way or
true romantic affection for another. They can see whether it is mere
selfish liking, attachment, or fondness, or else unselfish affection.
If adoration, purity, sympathy, and the altruistic impulses of
gallantry and self-sacrifice are lacking, they can be cultivated by
deliberate exercise:

Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this.

The affections can be trained as well as the muscles; and thus the
lesson taught in this book may help to bring about a new era of
unselfish devotion and true love. No man, surely, can read the
foregoing disclosures regarding man's primitive coarseness and
heartlessness without feeling ashamed for his sex and resolving to be
an unselfish lover and husband to the end of his life.

A great mistake was made by the Greeks when they distinguished
celestial from earthly love. The distinction itself was all right, but
their application of it was all wrong. Had they known romantic love as
we know it, they could not have made the grievous blunder of calling
the love between men and women worldly, reserving the word celestial
for the friendship between men. Equally mistaken were those mediaeval
sages who taught that the celestial sexual virtues are celibacy and
virginity - a doctrine which, if adopted, would involve the suicide of
the human race, and thus stands self-condemned. No, _celestial love is
not asceticism; it is altruism_. Romantic love is celestial, for it is
altruistic, yet it does not preach contempt of the body, and its goal
is marriage, the chief pillar of civilization. The admiration of a
beautiful, well-rounded, healthy body is as legitimate and laudable an
ingredient of romantic love as the admiration of that mental beauty
which distinguishes it from sensual love. It is not only that the
lovers themselves are entitled to partners with healthy, attractive
bodies; it is a duty they owe to the next generation not to marry
anyone who is likely to transmit bodily or mental infirmities to the
next generation. It is quite as reprehensible to marry for spiritual
reasons alone as to be guided only by physical charms.

Love is nature's radical remedy for disease, whereas marriage, as
practised in the past, and too often in the present, is little more
than a legalized crime. "One of the last things that occur to a
marrying couple is whether they are fit to be represented in
posterity," writes Dr. Harry Campbell (_Lancet_, 1898).

"Theft and murder are considered the blackest of crimes, but
neither the law nor the church has raised its voice against
the marriage of the unfit, for neither has realized that
worse than theft and well-nigh as bad as murder is the
bringing into the world, through disregard of parental
fitness, of individuals full of disease-tendencies."

On this point the public conscience needs a thorough rousing. If a
mother deliberately gave her daughter a draught which made her a
cripple, or an invalid, or an imbecile, or tuberculous, everybody
would cry out with horror, and she would become a social outcast. But
if she inflicts these injuries on her granddaughter, by marrying her
daughter to a drunkard, in the hope of reforming him, or to a wealthy
degenerate, or an imbecile baron, no one says a word, provided the
marriage law has been complied with.

It is owing to these persistent crimes against grandchildren that the
human race as a whole is still such a miserable rabble, and that
recruiting offices and insurances companies tell such startling tales
of degeneracy. Love would cure this, if there were more of the right
kind. Until there is, much good may be done by accepting it as a
guide, and building up a sentiment in favor of its instinctive object
and ideal. I have described in one chapter the obstacles which
retarded the growth of love, and in another I have shown how
sentiments change and grow. Most of those obstacles are being
gradually removed, and public opinion is slowly but surely changing in
favor of love. Building up a new sentiment is a slow process. At first
it may be a mere hut for a hermit thinker, but gradually it becomes
larger and larger as thousands add their mite to the building fund,
until at last it stands as a sublime cathedral admonishing all to do
their duty. When the Cathedral of Love is finished the horror of
disease and vice will have become as absolute a bar to marriage as the

Online LibraryHenry Theophilus FinckPrimitive Love and Love-Stories → online text (page 71 of 78)