Celibacy Quotes

Blavatsky's Review of
Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata

On today's perverse relations between the sexes. Excerpts on continence, marriage, etc.

From: DIAGNOSES AND PALLIATIVES. Lucifer, Vol. VI, No. 35, July, 1890, pp. 353-364

A summary of Tolstoy's story can be seen here: enotes.com

H. P. Blavatsky

See Blavatsky Links on this page.

... It is not 'monasticism' but the law of continence as taught by Jesus (and Occultism) in its esoteric meaning - which most Christians are unable to perceive - that he preaches. Nothing can be more moral or conducive to human happiness and perfectibility than the application of this law. It is one ordained by Nature herself. Animals follow it instinctively, as do also the savage tribes. Once pregnant, to the last day of the nursing of her babe, i.e., for eighteen or twenty months, the savage squaw is sacred to her husband; the civilised and semi-civilized man alone breaking this beneficent law. Therefore, speaking of the immorality of marriage relations as at present practised, and of unions performed on commercial bases, or, what is worse, on mere sensual love, Pozdnisheff [the main character] elaborates the idea by uttering the greatest and the holiest truth, namely, that:

'For morality to exist between men and women in their daily life, they must make perfect chastity their law. In progressing towards this end, man subdues himself. When he has arrived at the last degree of subjection we shall have moral marriages. But if a man as in our Society advances only towards physical love, even though he surrounds it with deception and with the shallow formality of marriage, he obtains nothing but licensed vice.'

A good proof that it is not 'monasticism' and utter celibacy which are preached, but only continence, is found on page 84 where the fellow traveller of Pozdnisheff is made to remark that the result of the theory of the latter would be 'that a man would have to keep away from his wife except once every year or two.' Then again there is this sentence:

'I did not at that time understand that the words of the Gospel as to looking upon a woman with the eyes of desire did not refer only to the wives of others, but especially and above all to one's own wife.'

'Monastics' have no wives, nor do they get married if they would remain chaste on the physical plane. Tolstoy, however, seems to have answered in anticipation of British criticism and objections on these lines, by making the hero of his 'grimy and revolting book' (Scot's Observer) say:

'Think what a perversity of ideas there must be, when the happiest, the freest condition of the human being, that of (mental) chastity, is looked upon as something miserable and ridiculous. The highest ideal, the most perfect condition to be attained by woman, that of a pure being, a vestal, a virgin, provokes, in our society, fear and laughter.'

Tolstoy might have added - and when moral continence and chastity, mistaken for 'monasticism,' are pronounced far more evil than 'the marriage system taken even as the vile thing for which he (Tolstoy) gives it us.' Has the virtuous critic of Vanity Fair or the Scot's Observer never met with a woman who, although the mother of a numerous family, had withal remained all her life mentally and morally a pure virgin, or with a vestal (in vulgar talk, a spinster) who although physically undefiled, yet surpassed in mental, unnatural depravity the lowest of the fallen women? If he has not - we have.

We maintain that to call Kreutzer Sonata pointless, and 'a vain book,' is to miss most egregiously the noblest as well as the most important points in it. It is nothing less than wilful blindness, or what is still worse - that moral cowardice which will sanction every growing immorality rather than allow its mention, let alone its discussion, in public. It is on such fruitful soil that our moral leprosy thrives and prospers instead of being checked by timely palliatives. It is blindness to one of her greatest social evils of this kind that led France to issue her unrighteous law, prohibiting the so-called 'search of paternity.' And is it not again the ferocious selfishness of the male, in which species legislators are of course included, which is responsible for the many iniquitous laws with which the country of old disgraced itself? e.g., the right of every brute of a husband to sell his wife in a market-place with a rope around her neck; the right of every beggar-husband over his rich wife's fortune, rights now happily abrogated. But does not law protect man to this day, granting him means for legal impunity in almost all his dealings with woman?

Has it never occurred to any grave judge or critic either - any more than to Pozdnisheff - 'that immorality does not consist in physical acts alone but on the contrary, in liberating one's self from all moral obligations, which such acts impose'? (Kreutzer Sonata, p. 32.) And as a direct result of such legal ' liberation from any moral obligations,' we have the present marriage system in every civilized nation, viz., men 'steeped in corruption' seeking 'at the same time for a virgin whose purity might be worthy' of them (p. 39); men, out of a thousand of whom 'hardly one could be found who has not been married before at least a dozen times'

Aye, gentlemen of the press, and humble slaves to public opinion, too many terrible, vital truths, to be sure, are uttered by Pozdnisheff to make the Kreutzer Sonata ever palatable to you. The male portion of mankind - book reviewers as others - does not like to have a too faithful mirror presented to it. It does not like to see itself as it is, but only as it would like to make itself appear. Had the book been directed against your slave and creature - woman, Tolstoy's popularity would have, no doubt, increased proportionately. But for almost the first time in literature, a work shows male kind collectively in all the artificial ugliness of the final fruits of civilisation, which make every vicious man believe himself, like Pozdnisheff, 'a thoroughly moral man.' And it points out as plainly that female dissimulation, worldliness and vice, are but the handiwork of generations of men, whose brutal sensuality and selfishness have led woman to seek reprisals. Hear the fine and truthful description of most Society men:

'Women know well enough that the most noble, the most poetic love is inspired, not by moral qualities, but by physical intimacy ... Ask an experienced coquette ... which she would prefer, to be convicted in the presence of the man she wishes to subjugate, of falsehood, perversity, and cruelty, or to appear before him in a dress ill-made ... She would choose the first alternative. She knows very well that we only lie when we speak of our lofty sentiments; that what we are seeking is the woman herself, and that for that we are ready to forgive all her ignominies, while we would not forgive her a costume badly cut ... Hence those abominable jerseys, those artificial protrusions behind, those naked arms, shoulders and bosoms.'

Create no demand and there will be no supply. But such demand being established by men, it ... explains this extraordinary phenomenon: that on the one hand woman is reduced to the lowest degree of humiliation, while on the other she reigns above everything ...'Ah, you wish us to be merely objects of pleasure? Very well, by that very means we will bend you beneath our yoke,' say the women [who] like absolute queens, keep as prisoners of war and at hard labor nine-tenths of the human race; and all because they have been humiliated, because they have been deprived of the rights enjoyed by man. They avenge themselves on our voluptuousness, they catch us in their nets ... [Why? Because] 'the great majority look upon the journey to the church as a necessary condition for the possession of a certain woman. So you may say what you will, we live in such an abyss of falsehood, that unless some event comes down upon our head ... we cannot wake up to the truth.''

The most terrible accusation, however, is an implied parallel between two classes of women. Pozdnisheff denies that the ladies in good society live with any other aims than those of fallen women, and reasons in this wise:

'If human beings differ from one another by their internal life, that ought to show itself externally; and externally, also, they will be different. Now compare women of the most unhappy, the most despised class, with women of the highest society; you see the same dresses, the same manners, the same perfumes, the same passion for jewellery, for brilliant and costly objects; the same amusements, the same dances, music, and songs. The former attract by all possible means; the latter do the same. There is no difference, none whatever.'

And would you know why? It is an old truism, a fact pointed out by Ouida, as by twenty other novelists. Because the husbands of the 'ladies in good Society' - we speak only of the fashionable majority, of course - would most likely gradually desert their legitimate wives were these to offer them too strong a contrast with the demi-mondaines whom they all adore. For certain men who for long years have constantly enjoyed the intoxicating atmosphere of certain places of amusement, the late suppers in cabinets particuliers in the company of enamelled females artificial from top to foot, the correct demeanor of a lady, presiding over their dinner table, with her cheeks paintless, her hair, complexion and eyes as nature made them - becomes very soon a bore. A legitimate wife who imitates in dress, and mimicks the desinvolture of her husband's mistress has perhaps been driven at the beginning to effect such a change out of sheer despair, as the only means of preserving some of her husband's affection, once she is unable to have it undivided. Here, again, the abnormal fact of enamelled, straw-haired, painted and almost undressed wives and girls in good Society, are the handiwork of men - of fathers, husbands, brothers. Had the animal demands of the latter never created that class which Baudelaire calls so poetically les fleurs du mal, and who end by destroying every household and family whose male members have once fallen a victim to their hypnotism - no wife and mother, still less a daughter or a sister, would have ever thought of emulating the modern hetaera. But now they have. The act of despair of the first wife abandoned for a demi-mondaine has borne its fruit. Other wives have followed suit, then the transformation has gradually become a fashion, a necessity. How true then these remarks:

'The absence of women's rights does not consist in being deprived of the right of voting, or of administering law; but in the fact that with regard to matters of affection she is not the equal of man, that she has not the right to choose instead of being chosen. That would be quite abnormal, you think. Then let men also be without their rights. . . . . At bottom her slavery lies in the fact of her being regarded as a source of enjoyment. You excite her, you give her all kinds of rights equal to those of man:* but she is still looked upon as an instrument of pleasure, and she is brought up in that character from her childhood. . . . She is always the slave, humiliated and corrupted and man remains still her pleasure-seeking master. Yes, to abolish slavery, it is first of all necessary that public opinion should admit that it is shameful to profit by the labor of one's neighbor; and to emancipate woman it is necessary that public opinion should admit that it is shameful to regard her as an instrument of pleasure.'

Such is man, who is shown in all the hideous nakedness of his selfish nature, almost beneath the 'animals' which 'would seem to know that their descendants continue the species, and they accordingly follow a certain law.' But 'man alone does not, and will not, know. . . . . The lord of creation - man; who, in the name of his love, kills one half of the human race! Of woman, who ought to be his help-mate in the movement of Humanity towards freedom, he makes, for the sake of his pleasures, not a helpmate but an enemy. . . .'
And now it is made abundantly clear, why the author of the Kreutzer Sonata has suddenly become in the eyes of all men - 'the most conspicuous case out of Bedlam.' Count Tolstoy who alone has dared to speak the truth in proclaiming the whole relation of the sexes to each other as at present 'a gross and vile abomination,' and who thus inteferes with 'man's pleasures' - must, of course, expect to be proclaimed a madman. He preaches 'Christian virtue,' and what men want now is vice, such as the old Romans themselves have never dreamed of. 'Stone him to death' - gentlemen of the press. What you would like, no doubt, to see practically elaborated and preached from every housetop, is such articles as Mr. Grant Allen's 'The Girl of the Future.' Fortunately, for that author's admirers, the editor of the Universal Review has laid for once aside 'that exquisite tact and that rare refinement of feeling which distinguish him from all his fellows' (if we have to believe the editor of the Scot's Observer). Otherwise he would have never published such an uncalled-for insult to every woman, whether wife or mother. Having done with Tolstoy's diagnoses we may now turn to Grant Allen's palliative.

* This, only in 'semi'-civilised Russia, if you please. In England she has not even the privilege of voting yet.

But even Mr. Quilter hastens while publishing this scientific effusion, to avoid identifying himself with the opinions expressed in it. So much more the pity, that it has seen the light of publicity at all. Such as it is, however, it is an essay on the 'problem of Paternity and Maternity' rather than that of sex; a highly philanthropic paper which substitutes 'the vastly more important and essential point of view of the soundness and efficiency of the children to be begotten' to that 'of the personal convenience of two adults involved' in the question of marriage. To call this problem of the age the 'Sex Problem' is one error; the 'Marriage Problem,' another, though 'most people call it so with illogical glibness.' Therefore to avoid the latter, Grant Allen. . . . 'would call it rather the Child Problem, or if we want to be very Greek, out of respect to Girton, the Problem of Paedopoietics.'

After this fling at Girton, he has one at Lord Campbell's Act, prohibiting certain too decollete questions from being discussed in public: after which the author has a third one, at women in general. In fact his opinion of the weaker sex is far worse than that of Pozdnisheff in the Kreutzer Sonata, as he denies them even the average intellect of man. For what he wants is 'the opinions of men who have thought much upon these subjects and the opinions of women (if any) who have thought a little.' The author's chief concern being 'the molding of the future British nationality,' and his chief quarrel with the higher education of women, 'the broken-down product of the Oxford local examination system,' he has a fourth and a fifth fling, as vicious as the rest, at 'Mr. Podsnap and Mrs. Grundy' for their pruderie, and at the 'university' ladies. What, then, he queries:

'... Rather than run the risk of suffusing for one moment the sensitive cheek of the young person, we must allow the process of peopling the world haphazard with hereditary idiots, hereditary drunkards, hereditary consumptives, hereditary madmen, hereditary weaklings, hereditary paupers to go on unchecked, in its existing casual and uncriticized fashion, for ever and ever. Let cancer beget cancer, and crime beget crime: but never for one moment suggest to the pure mind of our blushing English maiden that she has any duty at all to perform in life in her capacity as a woman, save that of gratifying a romantic and sentimental attachment to the first black moustache or the first Vandyke beard she may happen to fall in with. . . .'

Such weakness for one 'black moustache' will never do. The author has a 'nobler,' a 'higher' calling for the 'blushing English maiden,' to wit, to keep herself in readiness to become a happy and proud mother for the good of the State, by several 'black' and fair moustaches, in sequence, as we shall see, if only handsome and healthy. Thence his quarrel with the 'higher education' which debilitates woman. For -

'. . . . the question is, will our existing system provide us with mothers capable of producing sound and healthy children, in mind and body, or will it not ? If it doesn't then inevitably and infallibly it will go to the wall. Not all the Mona Cairds and Olive Schreiners that ever lisped Greek can fight against the force of natural selection. Survival of the fittest is stronger than Miss Buss, and Miss Pipe, and Miss Helen Gladstone, and the staff of the Girls' Public Day School Company, Limited, all put together. The race that lets its women fail in their maternal functions will sink to the nethermost abyss of limbo, though all its girls rejoice in logarithms, smoke Russian cigarettes, and act Aeschylean tragedies in most aesthetic and archaic chitons. The race that keeps up the efficiency of its nursing mothers will win in the long run, though none of its girls can read a line of Lucian or boast any thing better than equally-developed and well-balanced minds and bodies.'

Having done with his entree en matiere, he shows us forthwith whither he is driving, though he pretends to be able to say very little in that article; only 'to approach by a lateral avenue one of the minor outworks of the fortress to be stormed.' What this 'fortress' is, we will now see and by the 'lateral' small 'avenue' judge of the magnitude of the whole. Mr. G. Allen, having diagnosed that which for him is the greatest evil of the day, now answers his own question. This is what he proposes for producing sound children out of sound - because unmarried - mothers, whom he urges to select for every new babe a fresh and well-chosen father. It is you see -

'. . . . what Mr. Galton aptly terms 'eugenics' - that is to say a systematic endeavor towards the betterment of the race by the deliberate selection of the best possible sires, and their union for reproductive purposes with the best possible mothers. [The other] leaves the breeding of the human race entirely to chance, and it results too often in the perpetuation of disease, insanity, hysteria, folly, and every other conceivable form of weakness or vice in mind and body. Indeed, to see how foolish is our practice in the reproduction of the human race, we have only to contrast it with the method we pursue in the reproduction of those other animals, whose purity of blood, strength, and excellence has become of importance to us.
'We have a fine sire of its kind, be it stallion, bull, or bloodhound, and we wish to perpetuate his best and most useful qualities in appropriate offspring. What do we do with him? Do we tie him up for life with a single dam, and rest content with such foals, or calves, or puppies as chance may send us? Not a bit of it. We are not so silly. We try him freely all round a whole large field of choice, and endeavor by crossing his own good qualities with the good qualities of various accredited mares or heifers to produce strains of diverse and well-mixed value, some of which will prove in the end more important than others. In this way we get the advantage of different mixtures of blood, and don't throw away all the fine characteristics of our sire upon a single set of characteristics in a single dam, which may or may not prove in the end the best and fullest complement of his particular nature.'

Is the learned theorist talking here of men and women, or discussing the brute creation, or are the human and animal kinds so inseparably linked in his scientific imagination as to disable him from drawing a line of demarcation between the two? It would seem so, from the cool and easy way in which he mixes up the animal sires and dams with men and women, places them on the same level, and suggests 'different mixtures of blood.' We abandon him willingly his 'sires,' as, in anticipation of this scientific offer, men have already made animals of themselves ever since the dawn of civilization. They have even succeeded, while tying up their 'dam' to a single 'sire' under the threat of law and social ostracism, to secure for themselves full privileges from that law and Mrs. Grundy and have as great a choice of 'dams' for each single 'sire,' as their means would permit them. But we protest against the same offer to women to become nolens volens 'accredited mares and heifers.' Nor are we prepared to say that even our modern loose morals would publicly approve of or grant Allen the 'freedom' he longs for, 'for such variety of experimentation,' without which, he says it is quite 'impossible to turn out the best results in the end for humanity.' Animal humanity would be more correct, though he explains that it is 'not merely a question of prize sheep and fat oxen, but a question of begetting the highest, finest, purest, strongest, sanest, healthiest, handsomest, and morally noblest citizens.' We wonder the author does not add to these laudatory epithets, two more, viz., 'the most respectful sons,' and men 'proudest of their virtuous mothers.' The latter are not qualified by Grant Allen, because, perchance, he was anticipated on this point by the 'Lord God' of Hosea (i, 2) who specializes the class from which the prophet is commanded to take a wife unto himself.

In a magazine whose editor has just been upholding the sacredness of marriage before the face of the author of the Kreutzer Sonata, by preceding the Confession of Count Tolstoy with an eulogy on Miss Tennant, 'the Bride of the Season' - the insertion of 'The Girl of the Future' is a direct slap in the face of that marriage. Moreover, G. Allen's idea is not new. It is as old as Plato, and as modern as Auguste Comte and the 'Oneida Community' in the United States of America. And, as neither the Greek philosopher nor the French Positivist have approached the author in his unblushing and cynical naturalism - neither in the Vth Book of the Republic, nor 'the Woman of the Future' in the Catechisme Positiviste - we come to the following conclusion. As the name of Comte's 'Woman of the Future' is the prototype of G. Allen's 'Girl of the Future,' so the daily rites of 'mystic coupling' performed in the Oneida, must have been copied by our author and published, with only an additional peppering of still crasser materialism and naturalism. Plato suggests no more than a method for improving the human race by the careful elimination of unhealthy and deformed children, and by coupling the better specimens of both sexes; he contents himself the 'fine characteristics' of a 'single sire' and 'a single dam,' and would have turned away in horror at the idea of 'the advantage of different mixtures of blood.' On the other hand the high-priest of Positivism, suggesting that the woman of the future 'should cease to be the female of the man,' and 'submitting to artificial fecundation,' thus become 'the Virgin Mother without a husband,' preaches only a kind of insane mysticism. Not so with Grant Allen. His noble idea for woman is to make her a regular brood-mare. He prompts her to follow out:

'. . . .the divine impulse of the moment, which is the voice of Nature within us, prompting us there and then (but not for a lifetime) to union with a predestined and appropriate complement of our being . . . [and adds] If there is anything sacred and divine in man surely it is the internal impetus which tells him at once, among a thousand of his kind, that this particular woman, and no other is now and here the one best fitted to become with him the parent of a suitable offspring If sexual selection among us (men only, if you please), is more discriminative, more specialized, more capricious, and more dainty than in any other species, is not that the very mark of our higher development, and choosing for us anatomically the help most meet for in our reproductive functions?'

But why 'divine'? And if so, why only in man when the stallion, the hog and the dog all share this 'divine impulse' with him? In the author's view 'such an occasional variation modifying and heightening the general moral standard' is ennobling; in our theosophical opinion, such casual union on momentary impulse is essentially bestial. It is no longer love but lust, leaving out of account every higher feeling and quality. By the way, how would Mr. Grant Allen like such a 'divine impulse' in his mother, wife, sister or daughter? Finally, his arguments about 'sexual selection' being 'more capricious and dainty in man than in any other species of animal,' are pitiable. Instead of proving this 'selection' 'sacred and divine' he simply shows that civilized man has descended lower than any brute after all these long generations of unbridled immorality. The next thing we may be told is, that epicureanism and gluttony are 'divine impulses,' and we shall be invited to see in Messalina the highest exemplar of a virtuous Roman matron.
This new 'Catechism of Sexual Ethics' - shall we call it? - ends with the following eloquent appeal to the 'Girls of the Future' to become the brood mares of cultured society stallions: -

'This ideal of motherhood, I believe, under such conditions would soon crystallize into a religious duty. The free and educated woman, herself most often sound, sane, and handsome. would feel it incumbent upon her, if she brought forth children for the State at all, to bring them forth in her own image, and by union with a sympathetic and appropriate father. Instead of yielding up her freedom irrevocably to any one man, she would jealously guard it as in trust for the community, and would use her maternity as a precious gift to be sparingly employed for public purposes, though always in accordance with instinctive promptings, to the best advantage of the future offspring.
. . . . If conscious of possessing valuable and desirable maternal qualities, she would employ them to the best advantage for the State and for her own offspring, by freely commingling them in various directions with the noblest paternal qualities of the men who most attracted her higher nature. And surely a woman who had reached such an elevated ideal of the duties of sex as that would feel she was acting far more right in he coming the mother of a child by this splendid athlete, by that profound thinker, by that nobly-moulded Adonis, by that high-souled poet, than in tying herself down for life to this rich old dotard, to that feeble young lord. to this gouty invalid, to that wretched drunkard, to become the mother of a long family of scrofulous idiots.'

And now gentlemen of the Press, severe critics of Tolstoy's 'immoral' Sonata, stern moralists who shudder at Zola's 'filthy realism,' what say you to this production of one of your own national prophets, who has evidently found honor in his own country? Such naturalistic articles as 'The Girls of the Future,' published in the hugest and reddest Review on the globe, are, methinks, more dangerous for the public morals than all the Tolstoy-Zola fictions put together. In it we see the outcome of materialistic science, which looking on man only as a more highly developed animal, treats therefore its female portion on its own animalistic principles. Steeped over the ears in dense matter and in the full conviction that mankind, along with its first cousins the monkeys, is directly descended of an ape father, and a baboon mother of a now extinct species, Mr. Grant Allen must, of course, fail to see the fallacy of his own reasoning. E.g., if it is an 'honor for any woman to have been loved by Shelley. . . . and to have brought into the world a son by a Newton,' and another 'by a Goethe,' why should not the young ladies who resort to Regent Street at the small hours of night and who are soaked through and through with such 'honors,' why should not they, we ask, receive public recognition and a vote of thanks from the Nation? City squares ought to be adorned with their statues, and Phryne set up hereafter as an illustrious example to Hypatia.
No more cutting insult could be offered to the descent women and respectable girls of England. We wonder how the ladies interested in the Social problems of the day will like Mr. Grant Allen's article!

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