A Study in Social Evolution
The Edward Carpenter Archive
by Simon Dawson

Chapter 3 - AS INVENTORS OF THE ARTS AND CRAFTS | Comment and Feedback

Forward to Chapter 4 - Hermaphrodism

I HAVE already said that I think there is an original connection of some kind between homosexuality and divination; but in saying this, of course, I do not mean that everywhere and always the one is associated with the other, or that the relationship between the two is extremely well marked; but I contend that a connection can be traced and that on a priori grounds its existence is quite probable.

And first, with regard to actual observation of such a connection, the fact of the widespread belief in it, which I have already noted as existing among the primitive tribes of the earth, and their founding of all sorts of customs on that belief, must count for something. Certainly the mere existence of a widespread belief among early and superstitious peoples - as for instance that an eclipse is caused by a dragon swallowing the sun - does not prove its truth; but in the case we are considering the matter is well within the range of ordinary observation, and the constant connection between the choupan and the angakok, the ke'yev and the shaman, the berdashe and the witch-doctor, the ganymede and the temple-priest, and their correspondences all over the world, the basir among the Dyaks, the boy-priests in the temples of Peru, the same in the Buddhist temples of Ceylon, Burma and China - all these cases seem to point to some underlying fact, of the fitness or adaptation of the invert for priestly or divinatory functions. And though the tendency already alluded to, of a later religion to ascribe devilish potency to earlier cults, must certainly in many instances shed a sinister or sorcerous glamour over the invert, yet this exaggeration need not blind us to the existence of a residual fact behind it; and anyhow to a great many of the cases just mentioned it does not apply at all, since in them the question of one religion superseding another does not enter.

To come to more recent times, the frequency with which accusations of homosexuality have been launched against the religious orders and monks of the Catholic Church, the Knights Templars, and even the ordinary priests and clerics, must give us pause. Nor need we overlook the fact that in Protestant Britain the curate and the parson quite often appear to belong to some "third sex" which is neither wholly masculine nor wholly feminine!

Granting, then, that the connection in question is to a certain degree indicated by the anthropological facts which we already possess - is there, we may ask, any rational ground for expecting this connection a priori and from psychological considerations? I think there is.

In the first place all science now compels us to admit the existence of the homosexual temperament as a fact of human nature, and an important fact; and not only so, but to perceive that it is widely spread among the various races of the earth, and extends back to the earliest times of which we have anything like historical knowledge. We can no longer treat it as a mere local and negligible freak, or put it in the category of a sinful and criminal disposition to be stamped out at all costs. We feel that it must have some real significance. The question is what that may be. The following is a suggestion that may cover part of the ground, though not, I think, the whole.

In the primitive societies the men (the quite normal men) are the warriors and hunters. These are their exclusive occupations. The women (the normal women) attend to domestic work and agricu1ture, and their days are consumed in those labors. But in the evolution of society there are many more functions to be represented than those simple ones just mentioned. And we may almost think that if it had not been for the emergence of intermediate types - the more or less feminine man and similarly the more or less masculine woman - social life might never have advanced beyond these primitive phases. But when the man came along who did not want to fight - who perhaps was more inclined to run away - and who did not particularly care about hunting, he necessarily discovered some other interest and occupation - composing songs or observing the qualities of herbs or the processions of the stars. Similarly with the woman who did not care about house-work and child-rearing. The non-warlike men and the non-domestic women, in short, sought new outlets for their energies. They sought different occupations from those of the quite ordinary man and woman - as in fact they do to-day; and so they became the initiators of new activities. They became students of life and nature, inventors and teachers of arts and crafts, or wizards (as they would be considered) and sorcerers; they became diviners and seers, or revealers of the gods and religion; they became medicine-men and healers, prophets and prophetesses; and so ultimately laid the foundation of the priesthood, and of science, literature and art. Thus - on this view, and as might not unreasonably be expected - it was primarily a variation in the intimate sex-nature of the human being which led to these important differentiations in his social life and external activities.

In various ways we can see the likelihood of this thesis, and the probability of the intermediate man or woman becoming a forward force in human evolution. In the first place, as just mentioned, not wholly belonging to either of the two great progenitive branches of the human race, his nature would not find complete satisfaction in the activities of either branch, and he would necessarily create a new sphere of some kind for himself. Secondly, finding himself different from the great majority, sought after by some and despised by others, now an object of contumely and now an object of love and admiration, he would be forced to think. His mind turned inwards on himself would be forced to tackle the problem of his own nature, and afterwards the problem of the world and of outer nature. He would become one of the first thinkers, dreamers, discoverers. Thirdly, some of the Intermediates (though certainly not all) combining the emotionality of the feminine with the practicality of the masculine, and many other qualities and powers of both sexes, as well as much of their experience, would undoubtedly be greatly superior in ability to the rest of their tribe, and making forward progress in the world of thought and imagination would become inventors, teachers, musicians, medicine-men and priests; while their early science and art (for such it would be) - prediction of rain, determination of seasons, observation of stars, study of herbs, creation of chants and songs, rude drawings, and so forth - would be accounted quite magical and divinatory.

With regard to the early beginnings of poetry and music, we know that dancing had an important place; and there is an interesting passage in Leguevel de Lacombe's Voyege a Madagascar (vol. i., pp. 97, 98), which indicates the connection of these arts, among the Tsecats of Madagascar, with sexual variation.

"Dancers form a distinct class in Madagascar, though they are not very numerous. They have their own manners and customs, and live apart; they do not marry, and even affect dislike for women - although they wear the dress of the latter and imitate their voice, gestures, and general habits. They wear large ear-rings of gold or silver, necklaces of coral or coloured beads, and bracelets of silver; they carefully extract the hair of their beards, and in. short play the part of women so well that one is often deceived. For the rest these dancers have simple manners, and are very sober in their habits; they are continually on the move, and are well accepted wherever they go; sometimes, indeed, they receive considerable presents. I have seen chiefs who have been amused by them for some days make them a present, on their departure, of two or three slaves. They are the poets or the bards of the island, and they improvise rhapsodies in praise of those who are generous to them."

[2 vols. (Paris, 1840).]

Very similar customs connecting the wandering life of dancers, actors, and singers with a certain amount of inversion of temperament, are known to have existed among that strange and remarkable people, the Areoi of Polynesia: of whom Wm. Ellis, the missionary already quoted, says that they were honoured as gods, and were supposed to be inspired by the gods to become members of the Areoi society; also that their initiations began by submission to service and to various ordeals, and ended by a ceremonial in which the candidate snatched and appropriated the cloth worn by the chief woman present!

In all this - whether relating to primitive science or primitive art - there would, of course, really be nothing miraculous. It is easy to see that certain individuals, whose interests or abilities were turned in special or unusual directions, would seem to the general herd as having supernatural intuitions or powers. The "rain-maker's" predictions in South Africa to-day may date from no more weather-lore than those of a British farmer; but to his tribe he appears a magician. Magic and early science have almost everywhere been interchangeable terms. The intermediate or Uranian man, from this point of view, would be simply an ordinary member of the tribe who from his double temperament would be rather more observant and acute and originative than the rest. There is, however, another point of view from which he might be credited with something distinctly additional in the way of faculty.

For, in the fourth place, I believe that at this stage an element of what might really be called divination would come in. I believe that the blending of the masculine and feminine temperaments would in some of these cases produce persons whose perceptions would be so subtle and complex and rapid as to come under the head of genius, persons of intuitive mind who would perceive things without knowing how, and follow far concatenations of causes and events without concerning themselves about the why - diviners and prophets in a very real sense. And these persons - whether they prophesied downfall or disaster, or whether they urged their people onward to conquest and victory, or whether by acute combinations of observation and experience they caught at the healing properties of herbs or determined the starry influences on the seasons and the crops - in almost all cases would acquire and did acquire a strange reputation for sanctity and divinity - arising partly perhaps out of the homosexual taboo, but also out of their real possession and command of a double-engine psychic power.

The double life and nature certainly, in many cases of inverts observed to-day, seems to give to them an extraordinary humanity and sympathy, together with a remarkable power of dealing with human beings. It may possibly also point to a further degree of evolution than usually attained, and a higher order of consciousness, very imperfectly realised, of course, but indicated. This interaction in fact, between the masculine and the feminine, this mutual illumination of logic and intuition, this combination of action and meditation, may not only raise and increase the power of each of these faculties, but it may give the mind a new quality, and a new power of perception corresponding to the blending of subject and object in consciousness. It may possibly lead to the development of that third order of perception which has been called the cosmic consciousness, and which may also be termed divination.

"He who knows the masculine,"

says Lao-tsze,

"and at the same time keeps to the feminine, will be the whole world's channel. Eternal virtue will not depart from him, and he will return again to the state of an infant."

To the state of an infant! - that is, he will become undifferentiated from Nature, who is his mother, and who will lend him all her faculties.

It is not, of course, to be supposed that the witch-doctors and diviners of barbarian tribes have in general reached to the high order of development just described, yet it is noticeable, in the slow evolution of society, how often the late and high developments have been indicated in the germ in primitive stages; and it may be so in this case. Very interesting in this connection is the passage already quoted (Chapter 1) from Elie Reclus about the initiations of the Esquimaux angakok and the appearance to him of his own Genius or Double from the world beyond, for almost exactly the same thing is supposed to take place in the initiation of the religious yogi in India - except that the god in this latter case appears to the pupil in the form of his teacher or guru. And how often in the history of the Christian saints has the divinity in the form of Jesus or Mary appeared to the strenuous devotee, apparently as the culminating result of his intense effort and aspiration, and of the opening out of a new plane of perception in his mind! It may be that with every great onward push of the growing soul, and every great crisis in which as it were a sheath or a husk falls away from the expanding bud, something in the nature of a metamorphosis does really take place; and the new order, the new revelation, the new form of life, is seen for a moment as a Vision in glorious state of a divine being within.

(It is probable also that the considerable degree of continence, to which many homosexuals are by nature or external necessity compelled, contributes to this visionary faculty.)

Forward to Chapter 4 | Return to Top of Page