The Sacred Fire, by B.Z. Goldberg, , at sacred-texts.com
p. 196 p. 197
BETWEEN the Temple of the Gods and the House of the Lord lay a great stretch of thought and sentiment. In the Temple, man came to live this life for all that it had to offer him in sensuous pleasure and delight. To live was the only purpose of being. Beyond life, if there was anything, it was a shadowy existence, nothing to look forward to. Man came into the Temple of the Gods like the drunkard into the hostelry; he drained his cup to the very bottom and relished every drop of it.
In the House of the Lord, man came not to live, but to prepare for death. Death was not the end of life, but its true beginning. Beyond it lay the great hereafter, unspoiled by suffering and remorse, unlimited by time, unbounded in its divine pleasure and heavenly bliss. In comparison with the eternal happiness, this life was but a passing moment of misery. All one could do in this brief span of years was to prepare as well as possible for the great life to come.
Far apart as the Temple and the House stood, they still had some common ground between them. Preceding the House of the Lord in time and surpassing it in extent, the Temple left it an inheritance of which it has as yet been unable to dispose. This is the attitude toward woman and sex.
In the Temple of the Gods, there was no quarrel with
the sexual function of man just as there was no quarrel there with any other phase of human nature. There was no idea of restraint in matters of sex. Venus bathed in the foam of the waves; man was to bathe in the sea of Venus. Sex was brought to the very altar of the gods as the greatest offering man could make, as the object closest to his heart. This pagan, positive attitude toward the sexual life, the House did not accept.
However, there were other tendencies toward sex and woman in the Temple. They were decadent, negative, introvertive, wavering between orgy and denial. When the drunkard has had too much to drink, he suffers a headache. He has a disagreeable taste in his mouth and his whole body is enervated. He despises the very liquor he so greatly cherished before. He loves the drink and he hates it; while the person who drinks in moderation has a more wholesome and normal attitude toward it. Like the drunkard, they who raised sex to its place upon the altar of the gods also dragged it down into the gutter. They who sanctified it with libations also defiled it with muck. Sex was not only the most beautiful flower but also the most despicable weed. It was god itself, yet it was anathema.
A similar condition obtained in the attitude toward the carrier of sex—woman. Peoples who never placed woman upon a pedestal never thought her quite so unclean. They who saw her as a goddess could not see her again as a human being. Woman was a goddess because of sex; she was a demon for the same reason. One's estimate of woman depended upon his view of sex, for the two concepts were inseparable. Man's view of sex was bound to come down from its divine plane. The world was becoming
secularized, commercialized, and, with it, love became a commodity one bought at a price in the market. Along with sex, woman also came down into the scum of the market-place. Like sex, woman as a person, an individual, was degraded and placed below human values. The daughters of man suffered greatest humiliations at the hands of their former most ardent admirers, the worshippers in the Temple of the Gods.
This negative attitude toward sex and woman not only found its way into the House of the Lord but once there it was bound to grow and to expand. It corresponded perfectly with the general negative view of life held by the believers in the Lord. Struggling against this life for the one to come, the keepers of the faith saw in love their arch-enemy, Satan or the Anti-Christ. For love is an intrenchment of the physical, of earthliness. However it begins, it inevitably ends in carnal pleasure. It drags man down to the animal plane; it does not permit him to rise to the heights of the divine. In fact, love's very inception was in sin and its first experience led to the fall of man.
It was the serpent, the tempter, that first manifested love to God's children. Eve stooped to listen to words of love; then she disobeyed. In her disobedience lay the ruination of all mankind. Forsaking the word of God for the taste of an apple, Eve gave up spiritual values for material gains and sold her soul to please her body. Succumbing to the attentions of the serpent, she broke the laws of God and man for a brief moment of carnal passion. The serpent, symbolizing sexual love, was, then, the source of all evil in the world and the cause of man's downfall
And so it behooves man, today and every day until the trumpet sounds the call to judgment, to cleanse his soul of the original sin. He is to resist all temptations of the flesh and, above all, the call of sex. In sexual union man fell, and every union draws both individual and humanity downward, causing them to sink into the abyss of sin and perdition. The very suggestion of sex must therefore be fought as desperately as the greatest temptation set by the devil. Consequently, man must be on his guard against woman. Like the serpent, she is the great tempter. It is she who disturbs man's thinking and turns his heart away from God. It is she who fires his veins with passion and calls him to a life that offers physical joys but brings in return eternities of punishment. Her very existence is a reminder of the flesh, of the physical, of carnal desires. Woman has drawn man down; she will not let him rise again.
And yet, weak was the flesh and ill the heart of man from his very youth. Everyone had a bit of love in his life. It could no more be entirely shut out than could the sunshine. Even in the House of the Lord, the young man's fancy turned to thoughts of love; and the heart of the maiden beat faster and stronger when her eyes fell upon the youth of her dreams. As the youth was drawn to the maiden, love gained the upper hand; it asserted itself above and despite all interdicts. Love broke out in the very House of the Lord.
And so, the keepers of the faith, whether Jew or Christian or Moslem, had to suffer the young people to do love's bidding and to allow man his way in sex. Love was permitted under conditions. It was considerably limited and circumscribed. It was first to be sanctioned
by the Lord and blessed by the priest. It was not to be entered into for carnal pleasure, but it was to be consecrated to a pious end, to further the heavenly purpose of keeping the world populated. Not for his own weary, lonesome, longing soul was man to cross the threshold of love, but for the fulfillment of the word of the Lord. "Be fruitful and multiply."
And thus it was that, having banished love . through the door, the keepers of the faith had to call it back through the window. However justified and accounted for, once love entered the House of the Lord it overfilled the sacred dwelling. The very walls are set upon a foundation of love, and Cupid's arrows are all over the place. There is the tremor of love in every voice calling to God. There is the sigh of love in every cry of the weary soul for peace and salvation. Love was crucified by the keepers of the faith, but it returned all the more glorious, with a crown of beauty upon its head.
Jehovah, God of Battles (Early Christian Conception)