There must be Chains and the Lash for the Scowling Id

“ ’Tis a very foolish piece of business; good for nothing but to promote idleness and the getting of bastards.”  (Isaac Bickerstaff, Love in a Village: A Comic Opera (1767).)

Utopias fail for two reasons.  Actually, they fail for the one reason of utopianism, but at the head of the utopian agenda, there are always these two fatal items:

Less work
More sex

If a utopian sets his ideas down in a manifesto, these two items will be described in terms of economic and sexual freedom, and likely trimmed out with any amount of high-falutin philosophy, poetry and science; but huddled beneath all of these euphemisms and rationalizations, there will be nothing but the scowling human id, and its smoldering hatred of work and monogamy.

The purpose of civilization is to daunt this scowling id with whips and chains; the purpose of utopianism is to throw it a treat, make it smile, and then wait for the millennium. Civilization is built on a stern regimen of economic compulsion and sexual repression, utopia on an easy dream of free eats and free love.

Christians who read the epistles of St. Paul know where these easy dreams take us, but that scowling id is a very backwards student.  Ineducable, in fact.

* * * * *

Economic compulsion can take the form of outright slavery, in which case those who fail to work are whipped, or it can take the form of free labor, in which case those who fail to work are starved.  Yes, this is very cruel, and bleak, and sad, but it is the only way much of anything will ever get done in this world.  Nothing but the fear of whips and starvation gets sluggard man out of bed in the morning, and so it will be ’til the end of the world.

Achille Murat was a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte who emigrated to the United States in 1821, shortly after his father was shot by a reactionary firing squad.  Murat became a naturalized citizen, travelled about the new country, and then settled in Florida, where he wrote a book describing what he had seen.  Of especial interest is a remark he made about the utopian disciples of Robert Owen at New Harmony, Indiana.  Murat tells us that the Owenites had been vexed to discover that,

“It was easier to find artists, doctors and naturalists, than laborers, cooks, and sentimental shoe-blacks.”

Imagine their dismay when they discovered that this world is not abundantly supplied with,

“Well educated young men who feel a natural taste for brushing clothes or mixing mortar during a part of the day, in order to pass the remainder in literary and philosophical conversations . . . [and the] pure and refined pleasures of sentimental love” (1)

What this world is abundantly supplied with is well-educated young men who would like to take on lofty conversation and sentimental love as their full-time job.  Consequently, when the lash of economic necessity was lifted by free eats at New Harmony, a swarm of prattling philanderers came out of the woodwork.  For wherever eats are free, there will be a pestilence of poets, philosophers and shiftless troubadours.  As another visitor to New Harmony observed,

“Mr. Stephens, who at that period had charge of the cattle at Harmony, told me that he was the very person who was sent with the message to the young lady, who was then singing and playing in the presence of the Duke, to remind her that milking the cows was her duty” (2).

Everyone is familiar with Boxer, the workhorse who toiled until he dropped because he believed in the promise of Animal Farm.  New Harmony had Boxers like Mr. Stephen, but it also had a large and growing population of parasites like this young lady, who proposed to do her share by flirting with visitors and strumming her guitar.  What Boxers like Mr. Stephen learned was that socialism is defenseless against such human parasites (unless, of course, it resorts to slavery).

“The great error with which they all charge Mr. Owen, was his receiving into the society, persons of all descriptions and of all countries, without any inquiry into character, and the consequent mixture of many persons of dissolute lives, and of no principle, and who were possessed of no property, with those [the Boxers] who joined the society from a belief that a system of equality and community was practicable, and who were willing to make considerable sacrifices of fortune, with a view to give it a fair trial” (3).

The Boxers of New Harmony learned that St. Paul had been neither a skinflint nor a fool when he commanded the Thessalonians to “withdraw yourself from every brother that walketh disorderly”—these disorderly brothers being those men and women who worked “not at all,” but were instead mere “busybodies.”  I daresay the busybodies of Thessaloniki greatly resembled the loafing poets of New Harmony, since both groups were composed of sluggards on temporary holiday from the chastening fear of whips and starvation.

St. Paul of course told the hard-working Thessalonians to cut the sluggards off.

“If any would not work, neither should he eat” (4).

It astonishes me how few Christians understand the meaning of these words.  St. Paul “commands” Christians to ensure that all men live in constant fear of slavery or starvation, and that no man be suffered to fatten on free eats (5).

* * * * *

When Achille Murat spoke of “sentimental love,” he meant sexual intercourse unconstrained by vows of monogamy.  Explaining the “peculiar doctrines” of New Harmony to the visiting Duke of Saxe Weimar, Robert Owen said,

“that it was an absurdity to promise a never-ending love upon marriage, [and] that children would cause no impediment to a separation, as they would belong to the community from their second year” (6).

Owen’s doctrine is what utopian radicals in the nineteenth-century called “free-love.”  Calvin Blanchard was one of these radicals, and a New York bookseller who trafficked in radical, infidel and pornographic literature. In his book Religion of Science, published on the eve of the Civil War, Blanchard told his readers that,

“The greatest want of the world is the conditions requisite to amorous freedom” (7).

And the conditions requisite to amorous freedom were, in the words of another nineteenth-century apostle of free love, replacement of the “ugly domestic knot” of marriage with “a free compact, dissolvable at will” (8).  Along with all of the other radical social doctrine of that time, free love had a curious connection to spiritualism, so that a “free compact dissolvable at will” was also known as a “spiritual marriage.”

“To constitute true spiritual marriage, two congenial souls must be irresistibly attracted and perfectly conjoined, not merely by the function of a priest, magistrate, or legislator, but by the spiritual, natural law of affinity(9).

The irresistible attraction of the “natural law of affinity” is what less enlightened ages knew to call lust. In 1849, for instance, a Massachusetts spiritualist named Thomas Haskins abandoned his wife of many years, and took as his “spiritual wife” a young woman with the fitting name of Love Easton.  The hopelessly unspiritual magistrate promptly arrested Haskins and Easton for “lewd and lascivious relations” (10).

More than a decade earlier, a man named Theophilus Ransom Gates had organized the free-love “Battle Axe” sect in Philadelphia.  Their name came from the line where Jeremiah (51: 20) says of Israel:

“Thou art my battle axe and weapon of war:
For with thee I will break in pieces the nations,
And with thee I will destroy kingdoms . . .”

Gates taught his followers that Christ had returned, the millennium had begun, and the “binding rules respecting relationships between the sexes no longer existed.”  As one historian of the Battle Axe sect described it,

“A number of men unhappy in their present state unceremoniously approached women of their choice announcing they had been directed by God to present themselves as soul-mates.  Some women approached men in like manner with like results.  Sometimes one or both parties were already married, but this was immaterial to the ‘Battle-Axer’” (11).

In 1837, Philadelphia was not ready for the spiritual marriages of the Battle Axers, so Gates and his followers were forced to move about thirty miles out of town, where they started a rural commune at the foot of Chestnut Hill, just above the Schuylkill River.  For the next twenty years, their encampment was known as “Free Love Valley.”  Here the Battle Axers practiced nudism, made a rite of mixed skinny-dipping in Sixpenny Creek, and exchanged partners when the Holy Spirt moved them to do so.

Free love is indeed like a battle axe that can break up nations and destroy kingdoms.  Like free eats, it lays a blade to the very roots of civilized life.

As Robert Owen admitted in his conversation with the Duke of Saxe Weimar, amorous freedom naturally results in a proliferation of bastards.  Owen proposed to raise these bastards at public expense, but this equalization of the cost of amorous freedom was not accompanied by an equalization of its enjoyment.  Men in particular signed on to free-love communes with an expectation that, freed from monogamy, their scowling id would be treated to a banquet of sex; but many of these men were sorely disappointed when they discovered that sexually liberated females limited the banquet to a few top dogs.

In some cases, sexual revolutionaries institutionalize female hypergamy as formal polygamy.  Mormons are not nowadays thought of as sexual revolutionaries, but they certainly began as a utopian sect undertaking one of the many sexual experiments of the 1830s and 40s.  Here is how that turned out.

“The most desirable women are appropriated by a few prominent men and hence so many single men in Utah” (12).

* * * * *

So, we see that utopianism is indeed “a very foolish business,” and that it is “good for nothing but to promote idleness and the getting of bastards.”  If we supply men with free eats, we will make them into loafing poets, and in time there may be no eats to supply.  If we supply men with free love, many will be consigned to celibacy, cuckoldry, and paying the bills of other men’s bastards.  And if we supply them with neither, they will howl like beaten dogs, for the scowling id has a smoldering hatred for both work and monogamy.

(1) Achille Murat, A Moral and Political Sketch of the United States of North America (London: E. Wilson, 1833), pp. 140-141

(2) James Stuart, Three Years in North America, two volumes (Edinburgh: R. Cadell, 1833), vol. 2, p. 411.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Thessalonians 3: 6-12.

(5) “In order that he may eat to-day and be clothed to-morrow, [the Jamaican Negro] will work a little; as for anything beyond that, he is content to lie in the sun. Emancipation and the last change in the sugar duties have made land only too plentiful in Jamaica . . . . And it is only too fertile.  The negro, consequently, has had unbounded facility of squatting, and has availed himself of it freely.  To recede from civilization and become again savage—as savage as the laws of the community can permit—has been to his taste.  I believe that he would be altogether retrograde if left to himself . . . . “It would be very well if we could so contrive that he should not live without work . . . . We would not have our friend a slave; but we would fain force him to give the world a fair day’s work for his fair day’s provender if we knew how to do so without making him a slave.” Anthony Trollope, The West Indies and the Spanish Main (London: Chapman and Hall, 1860), pp. 64, 67.

(6) Stuart,Three Years, vol. 2, p. 409-410.

(7) Calvin Blanchard, The Religion of Science (New York: Calvin Blanchard, 1860), p. 131.

(8) H. Heywood, Cupid’s Yoke (Princeton, Mass.: Cooperative Publishing, n.d.).

(9) B. Brittan, “Marriage and Free Love,” The Spiritual Telegraph, vol. 3 (New York: Partridge and Brittan, 1854), pp. 239-246.

(10) “More of the Millerite Spiritual Wife Affair,” Boston Herald (March 29, 1849): 4.

(11) T. A. Ferm, An Encyclopedia of Religion (Pattrson, N. J.: Littlefield Adams, 1959), p. 59.

(12) Catherine Van Valkenburg Waite, Adventures in the Far West and Life Among the Mormons (Chicago: C. V. Waite and Co., 1882), p. 303.




32 thoughts on “There must be Chains and the Lash for the Scowling Id

  1. Pingback: Why There Must be Chains and the Lash for the Scowling Id | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: Why There Must be Chains and the Lash for the Scowling Id | Reaction Times

      • The proof of the rule: Freemasons. What began as a guild of workmen ended as a conspiracy of leisure by being usurped by Gnosticism.

      • That’s a good example of entryism. It went from a trade union to a social club to a subversive conspiracy in a couple hundred years.

  3. In Plato’s Utopia (sorry: Republic), there would be no poets but a whole class of philosopher kings to order society for the (their) best.

      • Yes and no.
        The first was obtained in happy ignorance; the second is to be achieved with hard-won understanding.

      • Forgive my lack of knowledge, I am speaking in my own limited terms. Societal bliss is neither the purpose, nor the tool, nor a sensible end goal. I can’t think of a single teaching, from Christianity to Yoga, going from the outside in. Utopia only makes sense in a world where social sciences are an exhaustive representation of reality and man is nothing but a lost piece of matter.
        Or, to put in Christian terms, it’s a slip like any idolatry. Same as described by Zippy in the case of political freedom becoming a value in and of itself. In our case, moving from a revelation, which can only be personal, to some… societal revelation? A miracle?

      • ‘Utopia only makes sense in a world where social sciences are an exhaustive representation of reality…’

        …which is not, I think, this world.

  4. This country has idolized work. The idea that we do much less of it is honestly a refreshing notion, at least to me. I don’t buy into the idea, planted by Calvinists and their work ethic, that if we do less work our depraved natures will magnify. Or, that if we do less work – or even no work – our lives are without meaning so that only through work do we find purpose. This is in fact the idea used by the merchant class to subdue working class people into betraying their commitments and loyalties to family and God in favor of a false pursuit of worth outside the truly valuable things in life.

    If I recall correctly, Marx thought the same about work – that work is what made us human. That’s why he fought so hard for the rights of workers.

    • I would say that this country idolizes jobs more than work. Many people are pretty idle at their jobs, and work pretty hard in their free time. We should think in terms of work versus idleness, versus job versus free time. You mention time with one’s family. Some of the best “family time” occurs while working together as a family, whereas some of the worst family time occurs while idling together. This doesn’t just mean running a family business or working on the family farm. Camping as a family is good because there is always work to do around a campsite. Humans need rest, but idleness will make them subhuman.

      • In that case, work is being used pretty broadly. My mother does the same thing. I find it fascinating that what we might have called “leisure” centuries ago, like gardening in the case of my mom, we prefer to call work nowadays.

        I think Pieper touches on this in his Leisure, the Basis of Culture. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

        “Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.” – Pieper

      • I’m defining work as activity to some end, and idleness as simply letting the time pass by. I know leisure has been conflated with idleness in many people’s minds, but I think of leisure as the time when a man can work towards ends he has chosen for himself. I think young people say more than they know when they call idleness “chilling” and “vegging out.” The first term suggests the behavior of a corpse on a mortuary slab, the second something decidedly sub-human.

      • I believe your distinction between leisure time and idleness is an important one to make, and precisely correct, Prof. Smith. As I have grown older I have been (happily) afforded more leisure time, which time I strive to use to some productive end. I have also noted in my reading of old books that some of the authors define leisure time and idleness exactly as you do.

    • You said a mouthful there, Dennis. Others do not of course define civilization as I do. Someone once asked me whether I meant *Christian* civilization when I used the latter term in our conversation. My answer was, “is there any other kind?”

  5. Yet there was work to be done in paradise. Adam who dressed and kept the Garden. Whose work is not drudgery but a labor of love. The best of work without the worst.

    • A man is certainly happiest when fully engaged in satisfying work. Idleness is bearable only when it is rest after, and reflection on, a good days work. This is not to say that he is happiest while “at work,” since his job may be a mix of drudgery, degradation, and tedium.

      • ”since his job may be a mix of drudgery, degradation, and tedium.”

        I look forward to seeing all that removed at the Eschaton.

      • Examples of the echo of the eschaton. Is that the best video games that men find so fun is that they are at their best simulations of the best of work.

        They may be “play” but the very fact that they are virtual accomplishments occurring through action make them a simulation of work.

  6. Have you read Montaillou, by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie? It’s a study of a particular village in the Pyrenees in the fourteenth century, written primarily from Inquisition records (because those are the records which exist, and they’re meticulous).

    This particular village was infested with Cathars, which is why this description of utopianism reminds me of it. Latter-day American utopianism (it is our particular export) is just Gnosticism in its philosophies and social behaviours, except with an added intellectual cowardice that makes them shy from the hard core of the gnostic doctrines. (Very few Utopians wall themselves up in caves and starve to death.)

    • I read it many years ago, and, I’m afraid, now remember mostly that there was photograph of sheep on its cover. The Cathars are worth studying, since they are precursors to so many modern movements. If a modern writer is horrified by the Albigensian crusade, it’s a pretty good tip-off that they are a gnostic themselves.

      • I don’t remember Ladurie being horrified by the Inquisition or the Crusade, but it has been a number of years for myself as well.

        What I do remember is how well his book, while trying to do something completely different, dispelled any vestiges of the old English prejudice against the Inquisition or any tolerance I might have theoretically had for the Cathars. An evil religion for evil people, that.

        Aside, I think it may offer something of a ray of hope to us latter-day Catholics. There were two or three stubbornly Catholic families in Montaillou, in the face of persecution from the whole village and even an openly heretical and depraved priest.

        The Church won out in the end, in large part (in that local scene) because of the faith, perserverance, and testimonies of those peasant Catholics.

        Yet you have to think: from their perspective, the Inquisition was entirely too lenient.


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