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   Chapter 10 PURITY

Religion And Health By James J. Walsh Characters: 36619

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Nothing has worked so much detriment to the health of mankind for many centuries as the habits that may be generalized under the term impurity. Until recent years it has been the custom to suppress the knowledge of the immense physical evil that was being worked to humanity by the venereal diseases. A generation ago it was only imperfectly known, but now we recognize that no set of diseases are more important for the race and its health than those which usually occur as the direct result of violations of the moral code. Their ravages have increased just in proportion to the gradual diminution of the influence of religion during the past few generations. They have probably worked greater havoc on the better classes than on the poorer classes. There are nations like the Irish, over whom religion has a strong hold, in which the injury worked by these diseases has been almost negligible. There have been classes of men like the clergymen, deeply under the influence of religion, who have escaped almost entirely the awful, destructive effects of these affections. We have only just waked up to the realization of how much this element of conduct, so profoundly influenced by religion, has meant for suffering and death among men.

In spite of the fact that there was a conspiracy of silence with regard to the venereal diseases, something of their {185} fearful effectiveness in adding to mortality lists came to be known, at least by those who were interested in the subject, a generation ago. Though every possible excuse was taken not to list death as due to these diseases during the twenty-five years before nineteen hundred, when, just after the smug mid-Victorian period, the conspiracy of silence was at its highest and was particularly hide-bound in England, no less than sixty thousand deaths from venereal disease were registered by the English registrar general. Nearly twenty-five thousand of these were females. Over two thousand deaths a year is a pretty heavy toll, but such statistics give only the very faintest hint of the awful ravages of these diseases. It is not alone death that occurs as a consequence of them but long years of suffering and crippling of various kinds, the blinding of children and the birth of dead or idiotic children, or of other poor little ones who grow up to be epileptic or to become insane in early adult life, or to exhibit other sad marks of the diseases of their parents.

Civil statistics of these diseases mean very little, especially in English-speaking countries, because of our prudery with regard to them. Army medical statistics, however, have had to be rigorously kept because of the amount of military inefficiency due to these affections. The statistics of the last generation in England show that it was not an unusual thing for nearly one in four of the soldiers in a regiment to be admitted to the hospital each year because of venereal disease. Actually nearly one in five of the effective strength of regiments was constantly in a hospital because of these diseases. It is improbable that soldiers are notably more immoral than civilians of the same class, except that perhaps there has been in the army a tradition of greater contempt for these affections. So {186} far as large cities are concerned, many good medical authorities are convinced that the average young men of the population suffer to about the same extent as soldiers. Actually something more than three out of five in the English army suffered at some time from these diseases, and as they are extremely difficult to cure and often continue to have serious effects for years, as well as being contagious for others, we get some idea of what an immense amount of harm has been worked by them.

It might possibly be thought that conditions in America were better than in Europe in this regard, but our experience during the war did not justify any such optimism. Nearly six per cent of the men mobilized for the army in the United States actually showed signs of these diseases when they were admitted for examination on arrival in camp. This percentage does not include those who had been cured prior to their examination. From some of the cities of this country the proportion of young men actually suffering at the time of their enlistment from these diseases was more than one in ten, and from certain of the southern cities it actually approached very close to one in five. According to the statement of the Surgeon General of the War Department, diseases due to impurity constituted the greatest cause of disability in the army. When the physicians were given the opportunity to make a more careful examination of the second million of the draft than had been possible for the first, the percentage of diseased men ran up notably, in spite of the fact that warnings in the matter led a great many of those who were drafted to seek proper treatment before presenting themselves at the camps.

We have waked up at last to something like the full significance of these diseases in the destruction of the race. {187} The American Social Hygiene Association in its Publication No. 250, "Conquering an Old Enemy", dared to tell the story of these affections very straightforwardly. There are many physicians connected with this association and its opinions are thoroughly conservative and not at all hysterical. We get a striking idea of the destructiveness of these diseases from an early paragraph of the publication:

"In these United States and in this year of peace 1920, more lives than the whole empire of Great Britain lost during any year of the Great War will be flicked out by two diseases which are curable and preventable diseases. Nor will the year 1920 stand alone. In the four and a half years of intensive warfare between 1914 and 1918, the fifteen civilized nations which fought at Armageddon gave to these twin scourges a heavier toll than they did to bullets, shells, gas, air-bombs, all the ghastly, wholesale killers of modern battle."

The more important of these diseases is estimated by authorities to kill annually in the United States more than 300,000 people. It is far more deadly than tuberculosis and carries off every year nearly, if not quite, as many lives as influenza at the height of its epidemicity. France lost during the four years and four months of Armageddon 1,350,000 lives in battle. We lost almost as many during the same time from this affection which a few years ago we were ostrich-like hiding from ourselves by refusing to look at it. The other of these affections is probably responsible for more serious suffering in women and female complaints that require operation as well as blindness in children than any other single factor that we have in modern life. There is no element that has so seriously interfered with the simple joys of existence, the {188} raising of children and family life in peace and happiness, as this affection.

When it is realized how many complications and sequelae may develop from these diseases, but above all how much harm may be done to innocent wives and children, some notion of the suffering that has thus been inflicted on mankind will be obtained. The one significant factor in the control of this source of ill health has been religion. Just in proportion as religion has lost its hold over the rising generation, there has been a marked increase in this particular mode of ill health. The only effective brake on human passion has been religious feeling, but above all religious training. If religion had done nothing else than limit to a noteworthy extent the irregular living consequent upon yielding to passion, that would be sufficient of itself to make not only personal but community health greatly indebted to religion. Other motives have at times been appealed to and sometimes with apparently good results for the time being, but never with any enduring effectiveness against the flood tide of feeling which comes over those who have had no practice in self-repression and who have not learned to appeal to the higher motives to help them in this matter.

For a great many young men, "sowing their wild oats" has been sowing a crop of seeds whose products have meant the ruination of their own lives, but unfortunately also only too often of the lives of their future wives and their unborn children. We know now that the great majority of all the blind children in our blind asylums owe their blindness to one of these venereal affections. Three out of five at least of the imbeciles and epileptics in our institutions derive their mental trouble from the other {189} of these diseases. We hear a good deal about young folks "seeing life", but for many the process which has been thus lightly glossed over should be described literally as "seeing death."

Since the unfortunate breakdown of religion to a considerable extent in the last few generations and its tendency to change into a mere social influence at most, there has been a great increase in the prevalence of these diseases. Some of this is undoubtedly due to our modern city life and its temptations, but the individual attitude toward life means more. St. Theresa said, "When the individual is well grounded in faith, the temptation means little." An attempt has been made to control the power of temptations and repress the passions of men by other means. Above all, knowledge of the awful sex disease dangers which they were running has been turned to as a hopeful remedy in this matter. It was thought that young folks could be terrified by the knowledge of the hideous possible consequences of their acts into avoiding the lapses which occasion them.

In spite of the fact that practically all of our prominent psychologists have opposed any such method as this, a great many people who have very little right to an opinion have insisted that this policy must be followed in our schools. There is probably nothing that could do more harm than this. The diffusion of the knowledge of the immense amount of serious, even fatal, disease consequent upon sex irregularities suddenly thrust upon the world has made a great many people a little hysterical and has tempted them to turn to remedies which are not only not likely to be helpful but are almost sure to be vicious in their consequences. It is like finding {190} that a child has swallowed some poison and in the excitement administering another with the vague hope that one may neutralize the other.

Professor Foerster of the department of psychology and ethics at the University of Munich does not hesitate to say that such teaching is sure to do harm and not good. He has suggested that "in making use of the intellect to restrain sex instincts there is every danger of the intellect itself, through excessive familiarization with details of such knowledge, being captured and employed in the service of the enemy." He praises the older teachers, "The great educators of the past who have all been instinctively aware of this truth and have hence strongly insisted on the importance of cultivating a sense of shame; for they have realized that the chief task of sexual education is not to attract the attention of the young to sex matters, but as far as possible to distract them from it."

Professor Münsterberg of Harvard University took very strong ground against the teaching of sex hygiene in public schools and stated his opinion quite as emphatically as Professor Foerster that such teaching, even though it be given with the best of intentions, is sure to do much more harm than good. He said: "The cleanest boy and girl cannot give theoretical attention to the thoughts concerning sexuality without the whole mechanism for reinforcement automatically entering into action. We may instruct with the best intention to suppress, and yet our instruction itself must become a source of stimulation which unnecessarily creates a desire for improper conduct. The policy of silence showed an instinctive understanding of this fundamental situation. Even if that traditional policy had had no {191} positive purpose, its negative function, its leaving at rest the explosive sexual system of the youth, must be acknowledged as one of those wonderful instinctive procedures by which society protects itself....

"A nation which tries to lift its sexual morality by dragging the sexual problems to the street for the inspection of the crowd without shyness and without shame, and which wilfully makes them objects of gossip and stage entertainment is doing worse than Munchausen when he tried to lift himself by his scalp."

It would be perfectly easy to give many other quotations from prominent psychologists who agree with Foerster and Münsterberg in this matter. What is forgotten is how large a r?le suggestion plays in all matters relating to conduct, but particularly sex conduct. The exhibition of such ordinary crimes as "second-story work", climbing porches in order to steal while the family are at meals, the picking of pockets and the like, on the reels of moving pictures has been found to be followed over and over again by the occurrence of such crimes among the boys and even the girls in the neighborhood where the exhibition was given. Girls see a woman's reticule cleverly rifled in a street car or on a crowded corner and, tempted by the cleverness of it, they are led to imitate the action. In many cities the police refuse to allow such reels to be exhibited unless the punishment for the crime completes the picture. Even with this, however, it has been found that such exhibitions prove criminally suggestive, for the young folks remember the cleverness and think of the fun that one can have with the money, while the punishment is, if not forgotten, at least so pushed into the background of memory as to have comparatively little deterrent effect.


If this is true with regard to indifferent actions of this kind, the temptations to which are more or less artificial or but of comparatively slight allurement, it is easy to understand how serious and profound can be the suggestive power of sex knowledge for which there is likely to be so prurient a curiosity and with regard to which there are in the best-regulated healthy individuals, bodily stirrings almost as soon as the mind begins to be occupied with them. For that is the danger,-that even in the best of men the physical sex impulse may be awakened. In those who for professional reasons are quite familiar with sex matters, as for instance the physician, the dwelling on sex subjects even in matters of disease may arouse physical elements in the system, and these may react to deepen the attention until other considerations may be quite pushed into the background of consciousness. If this is true for older people, how much more so for the young, who have not yet been disillusioned on sex subjects and whose inhibitions are likely to be so much weaker. A great many of the people who are so intent on sex education apparently do not realize that their very tendency to occupy themselves with this subject so much is due to unconscious physical stirrings within themselves, consequent upon the preoccupation of mind with these subjects to the exclusion of healthier considerations.

The imparting of knowledge often serves only to awaken sleeping passions unsuspected before in the organism. Everyday experience shows how little knowledge helps. The people whose sex divagations get most frequently into our courts are those between thirty-five and fifty years of age. There is no question at all that they know enough to keep them right if knowledge made {193} for righteousness. I have said elsewhere, and I know it to be true, that medical students, in spite of their knowledge of the consequences of venery, are not better, but on the average a little worse in these matters than other students in the universities. Their knowledge, like all knowledge, acts as a suggestion to evil much more than as a protection against vice. When temptation comes they are likely to think of the possibility of avoiding the worst evils and of the powers of medicine, and anyhow youth always feels in the expressive French phrase. On meurt! les autres! People die! Oh, yes, other people.

The one factor in life that will give the most precious aid in the protection of humanity against sexual temptations is religion. All the higher religions have emphasized the virtue of purity, that is, of freedom from sex vice, as of the greatest importance. For Christianity this has been a corner stone of the spiritual life without which righteousness, to use the good old-fashioned word which indicated that a man went "right" in life, was impossible. We are a little afraid of these old-fashioned religious words in our time, and we use such expressions as "go straight", somewhat as during the war the soldiers used the expression "go west" in order not to have to mention the solemn word death, but the old-fashioned words express exactly the meaning that we want, and they often carry valuable suggestion with them. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ held out His highest rewards in heaven for those who practiced purity. He insisted, however, not on purity of body alone, but on purity of mind and heart when He said, "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God."

The head master of Harrow, the great public school {194} in England, proclaimed a very great truth that we all know, but need to be reminded of, when he said to his young men at Harrow that "The Bible does not so much speak as thunder against impurity, and it is no injustice to a secularistic morality to say that purity received from the lips of Jesus Christ a dignity, nay, a paramount authority which it cannot receive from human lips. Nor is personal chastity the same thing if it be taken to be a sanitary, or conventional, or moral practice, as if it be a duty resulting from the sanctity of the body as the temple of the indwelling Spirit of God."

Doctor Norman Porritt, in his book on "Religion and Health", does not hesitate to say that religion is the only factor that can be helpful in this extremely important matter of the prophylaxis of sex disease. He goes so far as to say that "Give to the tempted the reinforcement of reli

gion, and you place him in a position well-nigh impregnable." It has been well said that if the man who first wrote "honesty is the best policy" meant that people should be honest because that was sure to rebound to their own benefit in the end, he was a rascal at heart. In something the same way Doctor Porritt suggests that to teach that purity is the best policy is to take an extremely low motive for the purpose of combating one of the most alluring temptations that man has. He says very emphatically and yet surely with a great deal of common sense: "And what is to be the remedy for the scourge which is incapacitating and crippling a fifth part of the nation's manhood, checking the natural expansion of population and sweeping unknown thousands to untimely graves? There are many remedies. We may look to the creation of a public sentiment which shall regard immorality as a disgraceful thing, to be {195} ashamed of rather than proud of; we may learn to point the finger of scorn at the tempter as readily as we spurn his victim; we may prove, both by precept and our own example, that chastity is compatible with health, and that impurity-even when no gross disease follows-tends to deterioration and disorder; that the reasoning which gives a sanatory sanction to immorality and vice is a subtle sophistry. We may cultivate the manly exercises and stamp out impurity by wholesome books, elevating amusements, and noble ambitions; we may endeavour to check the spread of these diseases by legislative restrictions; we may inculcate teetotalism and banish enervating habits and too stimulating foods. Each of these measures may do something. Some of them may do much. But all of them have one fatal defect. They are all tarred with the brush of expediency. Expediency, and not wrong-doing, is the danger signal they show. And when the hot blood surges through young veins in the struggle with an imminent temptation, what becomes of expediency?"

Many people are ready to declare that the conspiracy of silence which has characterized the old-fashioned attitude of mind with regard to sex matters generally is due to the Church more than to any other agency. I think that from what we have said the Church's insistence on reticence with regard to sex subjects as the policy most likely to do good in the long run is now recognized by psychologists as being founded on motives that are the basis of natural defense by human nature in an extremely thorny matter. Ignorance is not innocence, but a saving lack of knowledge may spare a great many evil suggestions that would otherwise work harm. You cannot neutralize sex temptations by the {196} provision of knowledge, you cannot even minimize them, and you may tactlessly add not a little to their danger.

There is a prudery which is not proper reticence that is cultivated by some people who happen incidentally to be religiously inclined. They would not call a spade a spade for the world. They would not hint at the fact that conjugation is always the origin of life for worlds. They would not use certain plain words that must be used in order to express very definite ideas without the feeling that they had smirched themselves by saying such things. If they had gone through Europe in the old days and seen the public comfort arrangements, they would have collapsed then and there. All this is sheer prudery and when applied to sex matters represents really a neurosis of excessive precaution and inhibition with regard to some of the most natural things in the world.

Any one who understands even a little of the religious attitude toward marriage will appreciate readily that such a state of mind is as far as possible from being that of the Church. Marriage is termed holy and blessed, and the ministers of the sacrament are the married persons themselves. Only those who fail to comprehend religious teaching in these matters have suggested that religious reticence with its conservation of that supreme reverence which even the great pagan teacher Quintilian recognized as due to youth represented an unfortunate cultivation of harmful ignorance. On the contrary, it is a part of that great tradition of age-long reticence which represents the highest wisdom of humanity. Hence the reversion to that mode of dealing with the question which has characterized the teaching of conservative psychologists in the last few years.


The greatest safeguard of purity with all that it means for the preservation of health and strength is the practice of self-denial with regard to the luxuries of life. No element in life has emphasized that and encouraged its practice so much or so constantly, and so persistently tried to train her children in it from youth as religion. It is almost impossible, for young people particularly, to keep right in this matter if they constantly indulge in luxuries. The very word luxury has come to be defined as "lust and lasciviousness and indulgence in lust", because there is such an almost inevitable connection between the exuberance of animal spirits which develops in connection with indulgence in luxuries of various kinds that the two words have almost necessarily come to have an intimate association. The word is applied to the friskiness or wantonness of animals, and it is very easy to understand its application. Men as well as animals who take more food than their occupations in life enable them to dispose of properly become similarly wanton or out of control. In Scriptural words they "wax fat and kick."

Religion has encouraged innocent enjoyment of every worthy sort as a distraction of mind and an outlet for youthful energy, but has discouraged in every way possible that complete gratification of the senses or of bodily desires which is so likely to be fatal to such strength of will as will enable people to control themselves. Clarke says, "Luxury does not consist in the innocent enjoyment of any of the good things which God has created to be received with thankfulness, but in the wasteful abuse of them to vicious purposes in ways inconsistent with sobriety, justice or charity."

Professor Foerster, whose books on the subject of the {198} training of youth and especially on sex matters in youth attracted so much attention shortly before the war, faced frankly this problem of the necessity for the practice of mortification, or as he did not hesitate to call it, genuine asceticism, the exercise of the virtues of self-control and self-denial as the most important factor for the protection of youth. He said: "All solutions of the sex problem which tend to emancipate sex feeling from the control of moral and spiritual law (instead of making it the chief aim to place the spirit in a position of mastery over the sex nature) are essentially hostile, not only to our whole social evolution and to the development of individual character, but to actual physical health in the sphere of sex. To secure the mastery of man's higher self over the whole world of animal desire is a task, however, which demands a more systematic development of will-power and the cultivation of a deeper faith in the spiritual destiny of humanity than are to be found in the superficial intellectualistic civilization of to-day. To achieve such a result it will be necessary not only to have recourse to new methods and new ideals, but to make sure that we do not allow what is valuable and in any way worthy of imitation, in the old, to be forgotten. The ascetic principle in particular is to-day in danger of being undervalued."

The cult of the body which has become so much the occupation of the present generation, which refuses to make the necessary effort of mind to secure intellectual pleasures, has always been the special deprecation of the Church. A great many of the words in the language show the effect of that religious attitude very clearly. Sensuousness, while its original meaning is only anything connected with the senses, has come to mean the quality {199} of being particularly alive to the pleasure that is received through the senses and therefore by implication, at least, not particularly intellectual. The Edinburgh Quarterly?reviewer long ago, in the famous article which Byron suggested as having snuffed out the "fiery particle" of Keats' soul, hurt him most by suggesting his lack of intellectuality and declaring that he was "too soft and sensuous by nature to be exhilarated by the conflict of modern opinions", hence "he found an opiate for his despondency in the old tales of Greek mythology." Sensuality even more than sensuousness has come to mean under the sway of the senses and the bodily desires rather than of the mind. Pope spoke of men "sensualized by pleasure" like those who were "changed into brutes by Circe."

There is probably no epithet that a man of intelligence resents more than to be called a sensualist. Goldsmith summed it up when he spoke of "the vulgar satisfaction of soliciting happiness from sensual enjoyment alone." Religion has particularly emphasized the danger and the actual degradation of human nature which this brought about. Bishop Atterbury declared that "No small part of virtue consists in abstaining from that in which sensual men place their felicity." Longer ago Shakespeare summed up the degeneration of the sensualist when he said

"Those pampered animals

That rage in savage sensuality."

This is quite literal degeneracy, for as man is both animal and rational, overindulgence in the pleasures of the senses drags him down toward his animal nature, that is, toward the genus below the genus homo to which man belongs. No wonder men resent the epithet "degenerate."


As the result of the influence of religion other words such as carnal, worldly, have come to be stamped with a meaning which makes people understand much better than would otherwise be the case the real significance of indulgence in bodily or mere earthly pleasure. The words are no longer fashionable, but that is because the deeds which they represent have become quite fashionable, and those who affect them do not want to have the innuendo of decadence and wrongful indulgence which necessarily goes with them applied to their acts. Religion has thus created a state of the public mind that has been extremely helpful against sensual pleasures and their power to ruin health, so long of course as religion held its place of influence over men.

Above all religion has insisted, and it is almost the only agency which continues to do so, that there can be no purity with its power for good for the health of both mind and body if the excitants of sensuality are indulged in. There must not only be no doing of evil, but there must be, as far as possible, no thinking about it, and especially there must be no dwelling on sensual pleasure, for bodily cravings will almost surely be aroused that make temptation almost insuperable. To think of delicate viands when one is hungry causes a flow of saliva, making the mouth water, but we know now that it causes a flow of what are called the appetite juices in the stomach which adds materially to the feeling of hunger and would make it very hard to resist taking food if it were placed before one, even though there might be some rather serious dangers connected with its taking. The thirsty soldier finds it extremely difficult to obey military laws with regard to not drinking any water that has not been examined and declared wholesome by the medical regime {201} of the army, and if he should dwell much on his thirst it would make it ever so much harder to restrain if water from outside military sources should be offered to him.

Other pleasures of sense are even more likely to become the subject of almost insuperable temptations if the objects of them are dwelt on. Religion therefore has insisted, and is still insisting, on the necessity of avoiding attendance at such theaters as quite inevitably set up sensual excitation.

Fashion, which is another word for the world-and religion has always pointed out that the three great enemies of the development of the spirit of man are the world, the flesh, and the devil-has always set itself in opposition to religion in the approval of sensual gratification. That conflict is unending. A great many people declare that they would rather be out of the world than out of fashion, and it is surprising what insensate things fashion leads people to. The present fashion for the slow dance with the partners closely wrapped in one another's arms, for that is of course the essence of all the modern dances, no matter what their varying names may be, is only another development of the unending opposition between fashion and religion. Here once more, as with regard to the theater, religion presents the only serious protest. Dame Fashion insists that she sees no harm in it, but that is of course only a fashion of speech. It is quite impossible for a physician to watch the dancing without becoming convinced that human passions must be aroused by such close contact of human bodies of opposite sexes.

In this, however, as in so many other phases of life, only religion can interfere or protest with any hope of success. Her protest remains often unheard; fashion {202} may be almost all powerful even against the higher calls of duty as well as against common sense. Certainly religious influence has had more to do with keeping a great many women from following the dictates of fashion in emphasizing their sex and therefore exciting the men with whom they come in contact than any other single factor. It has not been entirely successful, it never will be; the conflict will go on and worldliness will constantly come to the surface in some form or other, often to the detriment of health; and religion when properly vital will continue to be the most important factor in keeping evil from gaining such ascendancy as would be seriously detrimental to the healthy mind in a healthy body.

Religion is the only agency in the modern time that tries to regulate the reading of young folks and indeed of others in this dangerous matter of sex excitation. A great many books seem to be written at the present time for no other purpose than to excite sex feeling,-and thereby to make money. They depend for their sale entirely on the fact that for a great many people there is a distinct physical pleasure in reading about sex subjects. This is particularly true of women. A great many of them, and especially those who have not very much else to do and who therefore have no proper outlet for animal spirits and for the energies that tend to accumulate in them because they feed well and sleep long, are prone to indulge in this sort of luxury. Most of them would resent the suggestion that it was wrong for them to indulge their feelings in this way, but religion has always taken a decided stand and insisted that the fomenting of desire and the toying with alluring thoughts and the inviting of temptation are of themselves actually sinful. As John Boyle O'Reilly said,


"Temptation waits for all, and ills will come;

But some go out and ask the devil home."

Physicians have always insisted that the sexual erethism which is excited by the reading of books on sex subjects, the attending of sex problem plays and of shows of various kinds is the worst possible background for healthy living. Such frequent titillation of delicate nervous mechanisms plays sad havoc with general nervous control. Unfortunately just those who are indoors a great deal, who take very little exercise, and who live on dainties are most likely to indulge in these habits of life with regard to reading and the theater and dancing and the like which are most harmful for them. They are irritable in the nervous sense and excitable, and this erethism increases their nervous instability which responds by craving further excitement. A vicious circle is formed which very often leads to nervous breakdown. Just now we are hearing much about sexual repression as the cause of nervous disorders, but sexual repression is as almost nothing in its tendency to produce neurotic or psycho-neurotic affections compared to the partial tantalizing, sexual indulgence which comes from sensual reading or lascivious shows. The plays that are seen, the jokes that are heard, the sex problems that are dwelt on, the stories that are read must get more and more spicy and contain more and more sex "pep" to afford any satisfaction, and the consequence is a disturbance of delicate parts of the nervous system which react more or less seriously to lessen the control over the whole nervous mechanism of the body.

When Doctor S. Weir Mitchell pointed out two generations ago that not only headache, but rather serious nervous disturbance involving often the gastro-intestinal {204} tract and sometimes other large organs like the brain itself, as well as even mental operations, might come from so small a cause as disturbance of accommodation in the eye, most physicians refused to believe that such far-reaching symptoms could come from what was apparently so trivial a factor. The accommodation mechanism of the eye is extremely delicate, however, and requires such nice adjustment that any interference with it causes a waste of nervous energy that is likely to make itself felt at almost any part of the nervous system. In our day disturbances of the eye are confessed by all to be extremely important. In something of the same way disturbances of the sexual system of the body are reflected throughout the whole nervous system.

Religion has counseled, commanded and thundered against any practices, however simple they might seem in themselves, that would serve as excitants for the sex feelings. Without her influence even more harm would have been done than has been. It is the waning of religious power over public morality and public opinion that has led to the orgy of indulgence in sexual excitation, which has had such bad effects and which unfortunately so often leads to sexual acts which are fraught with the hideous dangers of venereal disease, because passion excited will find its satisfaction. Society heedlessly arouses passion but apparently cares not what happens afterwards.


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