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

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A Study in Social Evolution




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THE four chapters forming Part I of this book were originally published in Professor Stanley Hall's American Journal of Religious Psychology for July, 1911; and in the Revue d' Ethnographie et de Sociologie of the same date, issued by the International Ethnographic Institute of Paris.

With regard to the Dorian institutions in Part II, I owe much to Professor E. Bethe's learned and authoritative treatise on that subject in the Rheinisches Museum fur Philologie, Frankfurt-a-M., 1907.


THAT between the normal man and the normal woman there exist a great number of intermediate types - types, for instance, in which the body may be perfectly feminine, while the mind and feelings are decidedly masculine, or vice versa - is a thing which only a few years ago was very little understood. But to-day - thanks to the labours of a number of scientific men - the existence of these types is generally recognised and admitted; it is known that the variations in question, whether affecting the body or the mind, are practically always congenital; and that similar variations have existed in considerable abundance in all ages and among all races of the world. Since the Christian era these intermediate types have been much persecuted in some periods and places, while in others they have been mildly tolerated; but that they might possibly fulfil a positive and useful function of any kind in society is an idea which seems hardly if ever to have been seriously considered.

Such an idea, however, must have been familiar in pre-Christian times and among the early civilisations, and if not consciously analysed or generalised in philosophical form, it none the less underran the working customs and life of many, if not most primitive tribes - in such a way that the intermediate people and their corresponding sex-relationships played a distinct part in the life of the tribe or nation, and were openly acknowledged and recognised as part of the general polity.

It is probably too early at present to formulate any elaborate theory as to the various workings of this element in the growth of society. It might be easy to enter into a tirade against sex-inversion in general and to point out and insist on all the evils which may actually or possibly flow from it. But this would not be the method either of common-sense or of science; and if one is to understand any widespread human tendency it is obvious that the procedure has to be different from this. One has to enquire first what advantages (if any) may have flowed, or been reported to flow, from the tendency, what place it may possibly have occupied in social life, and what (if any) were its healthy, rather than its unhealthy, manifestations. Investigating thus in this case, we are surprised to find how often - according to the views of these early peoples themselves - inversion in some form was regarded as a necessary part of social life, and Uranian man accorded a certain meed of honour.

It would seem - as a first generalisation on this unexplored subject - that there have been two main directions in which the intermediate types have penetrated into the framework of normal society, and made themselves useful if not indispensable. And the two directions have been in some sense opposite, the one being towards service in Warfare and the other towards the service of Religion. It would seem that where the homosexual tendency was of the robuster and more manly sort, leading men to form comrade alliances with each other in the direction of active and practical life, this tendency was soon reinforced and taken advantage of by the military spirit. Military comradeship grew into an institution, and the peoples who adopted it became extraordinarily successful in warfare, and overcoming other tribes spread their customs among them. Such was the case with the Dorian Greeks, whose comradeship institutions form the subjects of chapters v., vi., and vii. of this book and such also appears to have been the case in a somewhat different way with the Samurai of Japan (chapter viii.) in the twelfth and succeeding centuries; and in lesser degree with many Mohammedan peoples in Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

On the other hand, it would seem that where the homosexual tendency was of a more effeminate and passive sort, it led to a distaste, on the part of those individuals or groups who were affected by it, for the ordinary masculine occupations and business of the world, and to an inclination to retire into the precincts of the Temples and the services (often sexual) of Religion - which, of course in primitive days, meant not only the religious life in our sense, but the dedication to such things as Magic, learning, poetry, music, prophecy, and other occupations not generally favoured by the normal man, the hunter and the warrior. There are also some considerations which go to show that this class of Intermediate did actually tend to develop faculties like divination, clairvoyance, ecstasy, and so forth, which are generally and quite naturally associated with religion.

This connection of homosexuality with divination and religion I have made the special subject of the first portion of this book; and it certainly is remarkable to find - even from this slight study - how widespread the connection has been among the primitive peoples and civilisations.

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