Marriage - The Glorious Unfolding
( Originally Published 1931 )
Let knowledge grow from more to more, but more of reverence in us dwell.—TENNYSON.
WE are surrounded in this world by processes and transmutations so amazing that were they not taking place around us hourly they would be scouted as impossible imaginings.
A mind must be dull and essentially lacking in wonderment which, without amazement, can learn for the first time that the air we breathe, apparently so uniform in its invisible unity, is in reality composed of two principal, and several other, gases. The two gases, however, are but mixed as wine may be with water, and each gas by itself is a colorless air, visually like that mixture of the two which we call the atmosphere.
Much greater is the miracle of the composition of water. It is made of only two gases, one of them a component of the air we breathe, and the other similarly invisible and odorless, but far lighter. These two invisible gases, when linked in a proportion proper to their natures, fuse and are no longer ethereal and invisible, but precipitate in a new substance—water.
The waves of the sea with their thundering power, the sparkling tides of the river buoying the ships, are but the transmuted resultants of the union of two invisible gases. And this, in its simplest. terms, is a parable of the infinitely complex and amazing transmutations of married love.
Ellis expresses the strange mystery of one of the physical sides of love when he says :
What has always baffled men in the contemplation of sexual love is the seeming inadequacy of its cause, the immense discrepancy between the necessarily circumscribed regions of mucous membrane which is the final goal of such love and the sea of world-embracing emotions to which it seems the door, so that, as Remy de Gourmont has said, "the mucous membranes, by an ineffable mystery, enclose in their obscure folds all the riches of the inanite." It is a mystery before which the thinker and the artist are alike overcome.
To me, however, the recent discoveries of physiology seem to afford a key which may unlock a chamber of the mystery and admit us to one of the halls of the palace of truth. The hormones (see page 76) in each individual body pour from one organ and affect another, and thus influence the whole character of the individual's life-processes. The visible secretions and the most subtle essences which pass during union between man and woman, affect the lives of each and are essentially vital to each other. As I see them, the man and the woman are each organs, parts, of the other. And in the strictest scientific, as well as in a mystical, sense they together are a single unit, an individual entity. There is a physiological as well as a spiritual truth in the words "they twain shall be one flesh."
In love it is not only that the yearning of the bonds of affinity to be satisfied is met by the linking with another, but that out of this union there grows a new and unprecedented creation.
In this I am not speaking of the bodily child which springs from the love of its parents, but of the super-physical entity created by the perfect union in love of man and woman. Together, united by the love-bonds which hold them, they are a new and wondrous thing surpassing, and different from, the arithmetical sum of them both when separate.
So seldom has the perfection of this new creation been experienced, that we are still far short even of imagining its full potentialities, but that it must have mighty powers we dimly realize.
Youths and maidens stirred by the attraction of love, feel hauntingly and inarticulately that there is before them an immense and beautiful experience : feel as though in union with the beloved there will be added powers of every sort which have no measure in terms of the ordinary unmated life.
These prophetic dreams, if they are not true of each individual life, are yet true of the race as a whole. For in the dreams of youth today is a fore-shadowing of the reality of the future.
So accustomed have we recently become to accept one aspect of organic evolution, that we tend to see in youth only a recapitulation of our race's history. The well-worn phrase "Ontogeny repeats Phylogeny" has helped to concentrate our attention on the fact that the young in their development, in ourselves as in the animals, go through many phases which resemble the stages through which the whole race must have passed in the course of its evolution.
While this is true, there is another characteristic of youth : It is prophetic !
The dreams of youth, which each young heart expects to see fulfilled in its own life, seem so often to fade unfulfilled. But that is because the wonderful powers of youth are not supplied with the necessary tool—knowledge. And so potentialities, which could have worked miracles, are allowed to atrophy and die.
But as humanity orients itself more truly, more and more will the knowledge and experience of the whole race be placed at the disposal of all youth on its entry into life.
Then that glorious upspringing of the racial ideal, which finds, its expression in each unspoiled generation of youth, will at last meet with a store of knowledge sufficient for its needs, and will find ready as a tool to its hand the accumulated and sifted wisdom of the race.
Then youth will be spared the blunders and the pain and the unconscious self-destruction that today leaves scarcely any one untouched.
In my own life, comparatively short and therefore lacking in experience though it be, I have known both personally and vicariously so much anguish that might have been prevented by knowledge. This impels me not to wait till my experience and researches are complete, and my life and vital interest are fading, but to hand on at once those gleanings of wisdom I have already accumulated which may help the race to understand itself. Hence I conclude this little book, for, though incomplete, it contains some of the vital things youth should be told.
In all life-activities, house-building, hunting or any other, where intellectual and oral tradition comes in, as it does with the human race, `instinct" tends to die out. Thus the human mother is far less able to manage her baby without instruction than is a cat her kittens ; although the human mother at her best has, in comparison with the cat, an infinitude of duties toward, and influences over, her child.
A similar truth holds in relation to marriage. The century-long following of various "civilized" customs has not only deprived our young people of most of the instinctive knowledge they might have possessed, but has given rise to innumerable false and polluting customs.
Though many write on the art of managing children, few have anything to say about the art of marriage, save those who have some dogma, often theological or subversive of natural law, to proclaim.
Any fundamental truth regarding marriage is rendered immeasurably difficult to ascertain because of the immense ranges of variety in human beings, even of the same race, many of which result from the artificial conditions and the unnatural stimuli so prevalent in what we call civilization. To attempt anything like a serious study of marriage in all its varieties would be a monumental work. Those who have even partially undertaken it have tended to become entangled in a maze of abnormalities, so that the needs of the normal, healthy, romantic person have been overlooked.
Each pair, therefore, has tended to repeat the blunders from which it might have been saved, and to stumble blindly in a maze of difficulties which are not the essential heritage of humanity, but are due to the unreasoning folly of our present customs.
I have written this book for those who enter marriage normally and healthily, and with optimism and hope.
If they learn its lessons they may be saved from some of the pitfalls in which thousands have wrecked their happiness, but they must not think that they will thereby easily attain the perfection of marriage. There are myriad subtleties in the adjustment of any two individuals.
Each pair must, Busing the tenderest and most delicate touches, sound and test each other, learning their way about the intricacies of each other's hearts.
Sometimes, with all the knowledge and the best will in the world, two who have married find that they cannot fuse their lives ; of this tragedy I have not here anything to say; but ordinary unhappiness would be less frequent than it is were the tenderness of knowledge appplied to the problem of mutual adjustment from the first day of marriage.
All the deepest and highest forces within us impel us to evolve an ever nobler and tenderer form of lifelong monogamy as our social ideal. While the thoughtful and tender-hearted must seek, with ever greater understanding, to ease and comfort those who miss this joyful natural development, reformers in their zeal for side-issues must not forget the main growth of the stock. The beautiful sense for love in the hearts of the young should be encouraged, and they should have access to the knowledge of how to cultivate it, instead of being diverted by the clamor for "freedom," to destroy it.
Disillusioned middle age is apt to look upon the material side of the marriage relation, to see its solid surface in the cold, dull light of everyday experience ; while youth, irradiated by the glow of its dreams, is unaware how its aerial and celestial phantasies are broken and shattered when unsuspectingly brought up against the hard facts of physical reality.
The transmutation of material facts by celestial phantasies is to some extent within the power of humanity, even the imperfect humanity of today.
When knowledge and love together go to the making of each marriage, the joy of that new unit, the pair will reach from the physical foundations of its bodies to the heavens where its head is crowned with stars.