( Originally Published 1923 )
WHEN this universe was created, its Creator paid special attention to all things that would ensure conservation of the lives of mankind and of the lower animals. This is plainly shown by the fact that he implanted in the breast of every creature two instincts which dominate it in an overwhelming and irresistible manner, holding it, as it were, in fetters of iron, viz., hunger and the sexual impulse.
Of these two instincts the latter would appear to be the more powerful. For a watch dog, if he is a dutiful animal, will perhaps reject a most delicious morsel of food and not allow himself to be tempted by it. But a sexual temptation is certain to prove too much for him and lead him completely to disregard his duties to his master.
From this example we see how this instinct triumphs over the other and how sexual attraction dominates that of the palate. It is really a species of bait which nature offers to man and animals in order to induce them to procreate.
In this we are afforded a splendid opportunity to admire the great sagacity and admirable fore- sight with which nature furthers her ends. Satisfaction of the sexual appetite being connected with great pleasure, the bait thus offered may lead to an immoderation which, in its further consequences, might perhaps even endanger the existence of the whole of mankind.
It seems, however, that nature especially favors mankind, and that the conservation of the human race is the object of special care and preoccupation on her part for all that is connected with it. For instance, the structure of the sexual organs them-selves is ordered with such foresight and wisdom that it cannot but provoke the admiration of the most impious materialist.
Nature has found ways and means to impose moderation in sexual activity. While she dispenses pleasure with one hand, she knows also how to punish with the other. Through punishment of the immoderate, the disobedient, and the imprudent, she seeks to warn and admonish others. Thus, immoderate activity in this direction often entails great dangers to bodily health. It is capable of leading in women to very serious disturbances of the sexual organs, with consequences highly prejudicial to their fertility and longevity. In fact it often shortens their lives. In men, likewise, such immoderation may produce serious changes in the nervous system, and also, in consequence of the close relationship between the nervous system and circulatory apparatus, the early appearance of arteriosclerosis.
Through frequent sexual intercourse, especially in the case of single men, certain infectious diseases, such as gonorrhea, are easily acquired. In such instances, nature may impose moderation through the after effects to which gonorrhea some-times leads. For not infrequently the chronic gonorrheal inflammation of the posterior portion of the urethra, especially when the prostate gland is involved, leads to a more or less pronounced impotence. This occurs more easily in nervous persons, especially such who had been addicted to self-abuse in their younger years, or, it may occur as a species of punishment in those who have been committing sexual excesses through a considerable period of time.
It should be noted that all kinds of sexual irritations are likely to produce a hyperemic condition of the urethra and prostate gland, and favor diseased conditions of these structures.
Impotence may thus be the result of chronic inflammation, of undue irritation, of infection, and of abuses of the reproductive organs. If, then, many a roué, in his distress over his sexual weakness, which keeps him from enjoying the sexual pleasures that allure him, rebels against God and nature, we have in such an event one reason more to admire the foresight and wisdom of nature, whereby, while punishing the reckless and the immoderate, she warns others and thus prevents deterioration and extermination of the human species.
For this purpose nature employs still more formidable deterrents to immoderate and indiscriminate sexual activity. While offering with one hand a cup of joy in the shape of sexual pleasure, she holds in the other a cup of poison in exchange for the pleasures enjoyed. She strikes the victim with a terrible disease, consequent upon sexual infection, which leads to the most excruciating, cutting, boring, and fearfully torturing pains, probably the most severe of all diseases to which human beings are exposed, viz., tabes dorsalis or locomotor ataxia.
This is a sequel of syphilis, and considering the fearful pains it produces, there is scarcely any other disease to be compared with it. To this day I retain vividly in memory the fearful cries I heard, as a boy of six years, coming from a neighboring house, where such a tabetic patient was writhing on his sickbed with the most torturing kind of pains.
That which renders syphilis such a terrible disease, moreover, is not merely the severe bodily pains it may provoke in its aftermath, as in tabes, but also the fact, which is still worse, that it may lead to insanity. That to which syphilis may lead can best be realized when one has had the opportunity to see a paretic patient wallowing like an animal in his own dejecta. It seems a tragic fate for man that the same agency which is capable of granting him the highest degree of enjoyment should at the same time lead him to perdition and be the source of the severest tortures and of destruction of his body and mind.
Happily only a comparatively small number of syphilitics fall victims to such an unfortunate fate-especially those amongst them who for years have been leading a life of dissipation, irregular habits and debauch, and who at the same time have been addicted to alcohol and strong tobacco.
But not even all of the remainder get off easily.
Certain examinations by P. Schrump f4 at the Polyclinic in Berlin showed that about 10 per cent. of all the patients who lay there with different kinds of internal diseases owed their malady to syphilis, which they had contracted some time be-fore. Strange to note, a considerable number of these patients had no idea that they had had syphilis.
According to the statistics of the different life insurance companies, there is scarcely any other disease that shortens life so frequently in persons of middle or elderly age as syphilis. Either by its direct consequences or indirectly, syphilis frequently leads to premature death. Therefore insurance companies with reason demand, as a rule, a higher premium from such persons, as their chances as regards longevity are considerably impaired.
The disorder is ascribed to the small animalcule, the spirochetes, which establish themselves by preference in the smallest blood-vessels and spread along the vessels to all the tissues of the body, gaining a foothold therein. With the enormous magnification afforded by the ultramicroscope, these diminutive beasts of prey can be seen to at once attack the blood cells and destroy them.
Or, perhaps, the blame may in many cases be placed on excessive doses of powerfully acting drugs, introduced in repeated and prolonged courses of treatment, as though to drive out the devil with Beelzebub.
At all events, the general system in such per-sons does not have the same resisting power against various infections as that of other individuals, and it is not surprising that, as a result, premature death takes place in the former, frequently even from diseases not of such nature as to threaten life, and which would have been easily withstood by others.
Thus, whoever has once contracted syphilis often continues to have reminders of it throughout life, although fortunately, the severe, life-shortening sequelae can be guarded against by the early use of specific remedies in the very first stage of the disease, before the whole of the body has been contaminated and also occasionally in the later stages.
The majority who are not completely cured, how-ever, are in many instances exposed to premature death. Very often this takes place in an insidious, obscure manner, without any previous prolonged confinement to bed. How often one hears of an apparently healthy man of forty-eight or fifty years suddenly sinking to the floor while in the midst of a social gathering, and dying immediately after. Such cases are nearly always instances of sudden death the result of arteriosclerosis, the commonest sequel of syphilis among the internal disorders to which it gives rise.
Sudden death in this particular manner may occur all the more unexpectedly in that many per-sons are completely ignorant of the fact that they are infected with syphilis or have ever been through the disease. Indeed, syphilis not infrequently continues on its course for a long period, even years, without any apparent manifestation of disease, or with only slight disturbances, which are often overlooked.
What makes syphilis so exceedingly serious in its consequences is the fact that it is capable of reacting harmfully on subsequent generations. The sins of the parents are thus very often visited, as stated in Holy Writ, upon the offspring even unto the seventh generation. Syphilis has not infrequently played at least a partial role in the pre-mature extinction of many a proud and powerful princely house with the last male heir, and thus exerts its influence, no less than does alcohol, in the great realm of world history. Thus a victorious general may have contracted syphilis in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, or a captain of finance in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, and one hundred, two hundred, or more years later there may be born in the glorious lineage of the general or in the fabulously wealthy family of the financial magnate an idiotic, deaf and dumb, or otherwise defective child, or one who, while apparently having normal eyes, is unable to see out of them.
Or, again, some form of a freak or cripple may see the light of day as a silent accuser of the faults of his ancestors. These fatal hereditary influences may become further aggravated through incest and marriage among relatives. "You can't expect to see a rose grow from a repulsive onion or a hyacinth from a gray horseradish," as the ancient Greek poet, Theognis of Megara, correctly remarked.
How often it happens that in such families children are born who are excessively nervous, and very easily excited and irritated. Diseases of the mind and nervous system, metabolic disorders like diabetes, gout, obesity, etc., and likewise tuberculosis, frequently occur in these families and play havoc in them through centuries of time. If, then, many an offspring of a highly aristocratic or formerly opulent family is found dying in a lunatic asylum or poorhouse, or mayhap even in prison lunacy and crime are closely connected he may lay the blame for it on one of his ancestors who met with misfortune in one of his love adventures or drank heavily.
Now, it is only natural and altogether human that, when we mortals meet with hard luck, we should at once begin to rail at the cruelties of nature even though all our misfortune and bad luck is due rather to ourselves. Nature is not the culprit, nature has not been cruel, but we have been cruel to ourselves and to our descendants, transmitting disease to them as a curse for centuries.
We are obliged to answer for all our deeds and actions, not only in what we do to ourselves, but also to those whom we bring into this world, those who are blood from our blood and flesh from our flesh. All our good and bad deeds are passed down to them as a kind of fatal inheritance.
Poor, deluded human being, that plunges head-long into ruin in his intoxication of the senses, like the moth into the scorching flame of light ! Little does he reek, in his sensual intoxication, that he is pushing over the precipice not only himself, but also his unfortunate descendants, and that there will remain, as his legacy to the world and as mute evidence of his excesses and his love of Venus and Bacchus, a series of cripples, lunatics, beggars, and criminals !
At the moment he sees only the joys of rapture, with its arms alluringly outstretched towards him. But many years later, when the pains of body and mind torment him and when his innocent children are dying at a tender age, then he and all his companions in fate clench their fists toward heaven, and charge God, bountiful nature, and the entire creation with being the source of his self-inflicted misfortune.
Our own, human short-sightedness is evidenced in that we only notice the misfortune which lies immediately before us, and are unable to grasp the fact that all misfortune and all evil in the world is merely the legitimate end-result, as it were, of a long chain of evil or imprudent deeds and actions committed a long time, even centuries, before by us or those of our own flesh and blood whose unfortunate heirs we happen to be.
There is no need to hold all-provident nature responsible for all these things.
I am among those who are entirely convinced that this world has been created with the greatest possible wisdom and that everything in it is disposed with the utmost care and foresight, as any one can readily see by looking through a micro-scope into the intimate structure of any of our tissues, such as those of the inner parts of the eye. One sees there, as in a kind of kaleidoscope, wonders untold passing before his eyes such master pieces as even the most gifted artists, including even the great masters of the Renaissance, Leon-ardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Raphael, or Titian, would be unable to contrive.
At the first sight, many things that happen in nature seem unintelligible and at times repulsive to us. Sometimes we are even tempted to accuse nature of injustice or actual cruelty. But if we take the trouble to obtain a better insight into the doings and actions of nature, and search for the real reason for many features and peculiarities, and the different manifestations of nature's activity that at first seem strange to us, we then find at the bottom of it all the highest degree of wisdom, harmony, and justice. We mortals may err, but those who know how to read in the book of nature, and who are able to understand the language in which she is speaking to us, know best that nature never errs.
Nature speaks to us in the sounds made by animals, in the buzzing of the insects, the singing of the birds, and the colors and odors of the flowers. She speaks to us through the instincts which govern all our thoughts and actions in a greater or less degree. She speaks to us also through the pains she sends us, which are the warning symptoms of many diseases of the body or mind.
If we disregard her warnings, she brings upon us severe punishments, in the form of diseases which are really naught else but manifestations of her love to her children. I have shown in my book, "Old Age Deferred," that diseases are, in fact, merely the expression of efforts on the part of our body to cure itself and defend itself against poisons or microbes of different kinds, which are removed or destroyed by the disease manifestations, such as fever, sweating, vomiting, eruptions, etc. Through the distressing diseases nature inflicts as well as through the disgraceful end to which many a sensuous man comes after contracting the terrible disorders to which sexual infection leads, thousands of the unwary are warned and guarded from a similar fate.
Let us specify, however, what we mean by sexual excess. I do not call a man a voluptuary and, indeed, as a physician, I would have even the less right to do so when the sexual instinct gets the upper hand over him and he seeks to satisfy his craving. I am not a clergyman, and as a physician I have neither the right nor the wish nor spirit anything hypocritical is most abhorrent to me to cast stones at him. By voluptuousness I mean exaggeration in this direction, as exemplified in men like Don Juan, the hero of the famous opera of the immortal Mozart.
His real name was Don Miguel Manara Vicentello de Leca. He belonged to the aristocracy of Spain, and was endowed by nature with all the gifts that seduce the soul and body of woman. He had great wealth and an eminently attractive exterior, and was a regular dare-devil, having no fear nor scruple in obtaining his ends, viz., the enticement and seduction of women. Yet, not satisfied with having triumphed over their virtue and afterwards abandoned them, he even killed their relatives when they tried to secure reparation by force of arms in defending the honor of their families.
After he had led this life of debauchery and volupty for a long time, repentance came upon him. He obtained an insight into the futility, evanescence, and emptiness of all these worldly pleasures, and in this repentant mood and let us hope that he was driven to it solely by ethical and religious considerations and not by physical necessity he entrusted to a famous painter, Valdes Leal, the task of expressing his thoughts in a painting. Valdes Leal created a masterpiece.
If you have read the celebrated works of Washington Irving and ever visited that earthly paradise, Andalusia, and in its heart, beautiful Sevilla, you may go to the Hospedal de la Caridad there and see this picture, which one of the nuns will show you.
But look at it only if you are a man and your nerves can stand it, and do not look at it for heaven's sake if you are a woman! For tender woman, I think, should be as far as possible spared such terrible sights. The average woman should see only the sunny side of our life, and not the side in which shade and darkness prevail.
When the nun removes the veil from the picture one starts back in horror. One sees there the bodies indeed mainly the heads of two persons, in a state of complete decay and putrefaction, and so natural is the sight that, as the famous painter, Murillo, remarked, one feels tempted to put his fingers to his nose to exclude the horrible odor ex-haled from the putrefying remains. Innumerable worms are swarming in the putrescent flesh, crawling out from all its pores. In the background is to be seen a heap of skulls, and above the picture is the inscription : Finis gloria mundi!
These two bodies, covered with a magnificent cloth as far as the head, had belonged, while in life, to the mightiest men of the earth. The one was a ruler of the things of this world, the other a ruler of the things of the world to come; the one, a commander of the bodies, the other, of the souls; the one, reigning over things material, the other, over things spiritual. The one was a king, the other, a bishop.
But only when they were living.
For after their death, in putrefaction their bodies looked exactly the same, and were just as much devoured by the worms, as that of the least beggar or outcast could have been. Worms feed on kings and beggars alike. Finis gloriae mundi!
Reference is here made to this horrible picture merely to present another instance of the admirable foresight shown by nature in all her actions.
Putrefaction may be a horrible sight to our eyes and offensive to our nostrils, and yet it is these putrescent matters that are likely to produce the choicest scents and the finest aromas in flowers and fruits, for which they constitute the best fertilizers.
Indeed, putrefaction is the necessary condition for the creation of new life; for, as a much quoted dramatic proverb says: "New life arises from the ruins." Death and putrefaction precede the creation of new life. Through putrefaction the different particles, molecules, and atoms of which each body is composed are set free, their liquid as well as their solid parts pass into the soil and are there taken up by the plants and enter into their structure, and when these are eaten by animals, may become flesh again. A constant circulation of these matters thus takes place, life being, indeed, naught other than the continuous transformation and migration of different substances, which disappear and later come to life again.
If the rich of this earth, not satisfied with the immortality of their souls taught by religion, should like also to insure the perpetuation of the substances of which their bodies are composed, they should prefer to be buried in the soil like the poor instead of enclosing their bodies in sarcophagi or having them cremated, thus consigning them to eternal annihilation!
After this long digression from the subject of sexual indiscretion to that of putrefaction, there may be a few who will think that these two subjects are not entirely foreign to one another.
But let us return to our original subject.
Voluptuousness is, as above explained, an exaggeration of the instinct planted by nature in the breast of every creature man, animals and even plants to procreate its kind. This instinct craves satisfaction, but the latter should be permitted only within reasonable, i.e., physiological, limits, as is more fully specified in the chapters on sexual life and its abnormalities, in my book, "Old Age Deferred."
While nature has implanted in man this desire which is frequently the cause of his ruin, she has also, by imparting to him a higher degree of reasoning power, placed in his hands the means of moderating it and keeping it within bounds. Since, however, human prudence is incapable of getting the better of sexual desire and pruriency, she has brought into play an influence which had been in existence a very long time before even before the human race made its appearance on the earth.
As the Holy Writ teaches, in harmony with findings of exact science, man was created only after the animals had already been in existence. Among the latter were a number of species, e.g., many kinds of birds, that lived in strict marital relationship, with but one female to each male, that is, in a state of monogamy. Even now the stork may serve to many human beings as a model example of the good husband.
As it is not possible, however, for every human being to enter into matrimony, and while not every one can muster the will power to control this form of desire, he may at least remove with some degree of security the serious risks attending gratification by observing cleanliness a measure of which nature, in her living creations, affords a number of instructive examples, and which has been originally instilled by her into every animal.
Even the hog is a cleanly animal. It would certainly not wallow in the mud if it had clean water at its disposal for its daily bath. It is just as fond of its daily bath as the ladies and gentlemen of high estate, and when clean water is not supplied to it for the purpose, even puts up with the dirty water.
Now a very simple, and very often effective, measure against venereal infection is thorough local cleansing immediately after sexual congress, especially if the cleansing is carried out with antiseptic agents such as potassium permanganate, or better, as concerns syphilis, with a weak solution of corrosive sublimate.
During the late world war, as regimental surgeon, I had under observation many thousands of artillerymen, and in spite of the fact that they were vigorous young men, it was only very rarely that I encountered a single case of syphilitic infection, as they were most strongly admonished to employ the precautionary measure above referred to. When a case of disease came under observation, it was, as a rule, accounted for by inattention to the instructions given as to cleanliness.