The Drama of Life and Death

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By Hippolyte Havel.

IN HIS fascinating book on India, Pierre Loti describes his quest after the solution of the riddle of life. Sceptical towards Christianity, he tries to fathom the mystery by means of the ancient wisdom of India as interpreted by the Brahmins or their theosophic disciples. Alas! the search is vain. The portal of the shrine is closed to him. Neither the priest of the ancient gods nor the followers of Madame Blavatsky can quench his thirst for knowledge. Yet, notwithstanding his disappointment, a transformation took place in his soul. His views and beliefs underwent a change. Pierre Loti, after a visit to India, was a different man from the one who started out on the quest the previous year.

A similar experience you can have if you undertake a journey with Edward Carpenter through his new book, "The Drama of Love and Death.<ref>The Drama of Love and Death. By Edward Carpenter. Mitchell Kennerley, New York and London.</ref> You may not find the solution of the riddle, but you will return from an interesting excursion into the invisible world with new vistas of life. Though you may not agree with the author in all his conclusions, you will confess that he has given you a new view of the everlasting problem of life and death.

To be sure, if you still swear by Biichner and Moleschott, if the theological disputes of Bruno Bauer, Feuerbach, Strauss, and Renan are your spiritual armory and Bradlaugh and Ingersoll your leaders in the realm of thought, then you will be disappointed. Carpenter is a heretic in the opposite direction. There is much in the book that may shock your prejudices; some statements will bring a sarcastic smile to your face; some hypotheses will seem to you far-fetched; still you will not return the same from the journey.

The priest of India and Edward Carpenter arrive by different means at the same conclusion. "The dewdrop slips into the shining sea"; the microcosm, released from the finite body, "pervades the universe." The ancient philosophers of the East arrived just as surely at the idea of continuous life in infinite divisions as the most modern philosopher with all his biological proofs before him. The fear of death can only be eliminated by the sublime knowledge that what we regard as death is merely the disintegration of the particles which make up the individual body—after which they are free to pervade all things. "Death is the necessary door by which we pass from one phase to another; and Love is a similar door."

The fear of death is the enemy of life. Disperse the fear of death and you will lead a full life—a life of love, beauty, and harmony. This is the essence of Carpenter's book. He expresses the longings and feelings of thousands and thousands of seekers after harmonious life. These ideas are vibrating throughout the spiritual life of our time. Maxim Gorky expresses a similar idea in his drama "The Children of the Sun"; Protossoff, the main character, cries out:

"The fear of death, this is the only thing which keeps men from being bold, beautiful, and free. It impends over them like a black cloud. It covers the earth with its shadows; it gives birth to spectres. It compels them to stray from the straight path to freedom, from the broad road of experience. It moves them to create hasty and monstrous notions concerning the meaning of life, it frightens the reason, and thought then creates superstitions. But we, we are people, we are the children of the sun, of the radiant source of life, born of the sun, we shall conquer the dark fear of death. We are children of the sun. It is the sun glowing in our veins which gives birth to proud and fiery ideas, illuminating the darkness of our ignorance, it is an ocean of energy, beauty and joy that intoxicates the soul."

* * *

There can be no life without sex. To know life one must understand sex. But when we do gain the knowledge of sex? Only after years of frightful experience, surrounded by the ignorance and stupidity of our parents, wading through muddy streams of lies and hypocrisy. Shall the new generation suffer the same agonies, tramp the same hard road to Golgotha?

A great awakening on matters of sex education is perceptible in all countries—even among professional educators, usually the last to catch up with current thought. The third International Congress for School Hygiene, meeting last year in the Sorbonne, occupied itself mainly with the burning question of sexual initiation. Dr. Chotzen, of Breslau, a German delegate, was in favor of full information, based both on intelligence and sentiment, about sexual functions. Dr. Chotzen's views were supported by Dr. Doleris, who gave an excellent expose of the subject, by Professor Lanson, the President of the Congress, as well as by a great number of the delegates. The discussion caused an attack on the part of Le Temps and a spirited reply from Professor Lanson. The eminent savant had no difficulty in crushing the ridiculous arguments of the editor of Le Temps in favor of "le prix infini de a virginite de lame" and "la poesie de la pudeur et 1'adorable mystere de l'amour."

The result of the controversy is an admirable book from the pen of our comrade-G. Bessede called L'lnitiation Sexuelle<ref>L'Initiation Sexuelle. By G. Bessede. Librarie Art et Science, Paris.</ref> and containing a splendid preface by Dr. L. Brusselle.

The author treats the difficult subject of sexual initiation with great tact and delicacy. His method, based on simple facts which are brought by everyday life to the notice of the child, and laying especial stress on the sexual evolution of the animal world, evolves step by step toward instruction in the human sexual relation. The tact, modesty, simplicity, and clarity with which Bessede treats his subject indicate a true pedagogue.

* * *

Some time ago I was obliged to listen to a lot of tommyrot about criminals. The participants in this discussion were mostly "radicals," among them a professional judge who was especially bitter against the criminal class. I embarassed the goody-goody people with their cheap sympathy for the "lost brothers" when I asked the judge how he would make his living if there were no tramps, outcasts, or criminals. Still more shocked were they when I declared that a criminal is far superior to the man who sentences him. Most of them "saw the beauty of Jesus," and "admired Tolstoi tremendously," yet they were shocked. The pseudo-science of Lombroso, Nordau and their ilk haunted their brains. The exposures of writers like Brand Whitlock in his "Turn of the Balance"; Wm. C. Owen in "Crime and Criminals"; Messrs. Hopper and Bechdolt in "9009" have not had a great effect on them. The confessions of a "real criminal," Donald Lowrie, in "My Life in Prison," may open their eyes.

Lowrie describes his experiences in St. Quentin prison. He might have served his time in any other prison. They are all alike; the treatment of the inmates is dastardly, cruel, inhuman, degenerating, and senseless. Lowrie has a fine understanding for his fellow prisoners. You find more humanity in prison than outside. In a criminal society like ours it is preferable to be a criminal than an "honest, decent citizen." Read Lowrie's description of "Ed" Morrell and you will discover a hero of sublime character. The "professional" criminal "Smoky" is a good Samaritan who would have a place of honor in a free society. The chapter on executions seems to me to be the best. The hangman hides his shame behind the criminal system which makes him a murderous tool. "He can't help it, you know," says the easy "radical," "he has to make his living."

Lowrie has no social views; as far as I can see, he thinks the system is all right, if we only had humane rulers and good jailers! Poor chap.