CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH PURITY TEACHING IS BEST GIVEN: REMEDIAL AND CURATIVE MEASURES.
We have now seen that impurity is almost universal among boys who have been left without warning and instruction; that, under these conditions, it is practically inevitable; that its direct results are lowered vitality and serious injury to character, its indirect results an appalling amount of degradation and misery; finally, that there is nothing in sex knowledge, when rightly presented, which can in the least defile a child's mind. All that now remains is for us to consider by whom and under what circumstances instruction on this subject should be given, and what assistance can be rendered to boys who desire to lead chaste lives.
Without doubt, instruction should be given to a boy by his parents in the home. When young children ask questions with regard to reproduction, parents should neither ignore these question nor give the usual silly answers. If the occasion on which the question is asked is not one in which an answer can appropriately be given, the child should be gently warned that the question raised is one about which people do not openly talk, and the promise of an answer hereafter should be made. Then, at the first convenient hour, the child can either be given the information he seeks or told that he shall hear all about the matter at some future specified time, as for example, his sixth or eighth birthday.
In the absence of questions from a child, the ideal thing would be for the child, at the age of six, seven, or eight, to learn orally from his mother the facts of maternity and to receive warning against playing with his private parts. Whether at this time it is best to teach him the facts of paternity is, I think, doubtful. Canon Lyttelton is strongly of opinion that the father's share in the child's existence should be explained when the mother's share is explained, and there is much weight in what he says. If the question of paternity is reserved, it should not be on the ground that there is anything embarrassing or indelicate about the matter, and, when the facts are revealed, the child should clearly understand that they have been withheld merely until his mind was sufficiently developed to understand them. The only safe guide in such matters is experience, and of this as yet we have unfortunately little.
The question next arises: should it be the mother or the father who gives this instruction? As regards the earlier part of the instruction a confident reply can be made to this question. The information should be given by the parent whose relations with the child are the more intimate and tender, and whose influence over him is the greater. This will, of course, usually be the mother. The subject of paternity may, if reserved for future treatment, be appropriately given by the father, provided that he and his son are on really intimate terms. If timely warning is given to a child about playing with his private parts, no reference need be made to self-abuse until a boy leaves home for school, or until he is nearing the age of puberty.
There are many mothers whose insight and tact will enable them to approach these questions in the best possible way and to say exactly the right thing. There are others—a large majority, I think—who would be glad of guidance, and there are not a few who would certainly leave the matter alone unless thus guided. It was mainly to assist parents in this work that I published last year a pamphlet entitled Private Knowledge for Boys.[D] This embodies just what, in my opinion, should be said to an intelligent child, and it has, in my own hands, proved effective for many years past. In the case of young children the teaching should certainly be oral, provided that the mother knows clearly what to say, has sufficient powers of expression to say it well, and can talk without any feeling of embarrassment. Unless these conditions co-exist I recommend the use of a pamphlet. As I have found that children often do not know what one means by the "private parts," I make this clear at the outset.
Some into whose hands this book may come and who have boys of twelve and upwards to whom they have never given instruction, may possibly be glad of advice as to the manner in which the subject can best be dealt with in their case. For boys of this age, I am strongly of opinion that it is better in most cases to make use of a pamphlet than to attempt oral instruction. Probably they already have some knowledge on the subject; possibly some sense of guilt. If so, it will be found very difficult to treat the matter orally without embarrassment—a thing to be avoided at all costs. I was interested to find that on receipt of my pamphlet Professor Geddes—one of the greatest experts on sex—placed it at once in the hands of his own boy, a fact from which his opinion on the relative merits of oral and printed instruction can easily be inferred.
Many of my readers who have boys of fourteen and upwards to whom they have hitherto given no instruction will, I hope, feel that they must now do this. I venture, therefore, to give a detailed account of the manner in which I should myself act in similar circumstances. I should arrange to be with the lad when there was no danger of interruption, and in such circumstances as would put him at his ease. I should tell him that I was conscious of unwisdom in not speaking to him before about a subject of supreme importance to him; that I took upon myself all blame for anything he might, in ignorance, have said or done; that through ignorance I had myself fallen and suffered, and that I should like him now to sit down and read through this pamphlet slowly and carefully. When he finished I should try by every possible means to make him sensible of my affection for him. I should associate myself in a few words with the sentiments of the writer, and should invite the lad to tell me whether he had fallen into temptation, and if so to what extent. A confidence of this kind assists a boy greatly and establishes a delightful intimacy.
There are several points with regard to purity-teaching which need to be emphasised.
Such teaching can hardly be too explicit. "Beating about the bush" is always indicative of the absence of self-possession. The embarrassment manifested is quickly perceived even by a young child, and is certain to communicate itself to the recipient. It is of paramount importance that the child should, from the first, feel that the knowledge imparted is pure; anything which suggests that it is indelicate should be studiously avoided. The introduction of a few science terms is advantageous in several ways: amongst others it relieves the tension which the spiritual aspect of the question may engender, it gives a lad a terminology which is free from filthy contamination.
It is important that the information given should be full, otherwise the boy lives in a chronic state of curiosity, which, to his great detriment, he is ever trying to satisfy. If the reader feels that the information is dangerous, and aims, therefore, at imparting as little as possible, he is not fitted to do the work at all.
No greater mistake can be made than that of taxing a boy with impurity as though it were a conscious and egregious fault. I have already expressed my strong opinion that, in almost every instance, the boy is a victim to be sympathised with, not a culprit to be punished. This opinion is shared, I believe, by everyone who has investigated the subject. It is certainly the opinion of Canon Lyttelton and Dr. Dukes. It is, indeed, easy to exaggerate the conscious guilt even of boys who have initiated others into masturbation. Apart from the injustice to the boy of an attitude of severity, it is certain to shut the boy's heart up with a snap.
If a pamphlet is used it should, without fail, be taken from a boy when he has read it. Much harm may, I fear, result from supplying boys with the cheap pamphlets which well-meaning but inexperienced persons are producing.
Should the time ever come when parents give timely warning and instruction to boys, a very difficult problem will be solved for the schoolmaster. But in the meantime what ought the schoolmaster to do? The following plan commends itself to some eminent teachers. As soon as a boy is about to enter the school a letter is sent to his parents advising them to give the boy instruction, and a pamphlet is enclosed for this purpose. This plan has the decided advantage of shifting the responsibility on to the shoulders of those who ought to take it. The weakness of the plan arises from the fact that most parents do not believe in the prevalence of impurity among boys, and are quite confident that their own boys need no warning. Hence they may do nothing at all, or merely content themselves with some vague and quite useless statement.
The traditions of most boys' schools make it impossible for those intimate and respectful relations to exist between masters and boys without which confidential teaching of this kind may be even worse than useless. Where masters are invariably referred to disrespectfully if not contemptuously, where a teacher's most earnest address is a "jaw" which the recipient is expected to betray and mock at with his companions; where to shield profanity, indecency, and bullying from detection is the imperative duty of every boy below the Sixth; where failure to avert from a moral leper the kindly treatment which might restore him to health and prevent the wholesale infection of others is the one unpardonable sin, only one or two teachers of a generation can hope to do much, and the risk of failure is immense. I can hardly believe that the present race of teachers will long tolerate the system I here advert to. Public opinion can be organised and enlisted as strongly on the side of Right as it is now, but too often, on the side of Evil. Mr. A.C. Benson is very moderate when he writes: "To take no steps to arrive at such an organisation, and to leave it severely alone, is a very dark responsibility."
The question is not free from difficulty even when the general atmosphere of the school is healthy and helpful. If one dared to leave this instruction until the age of puberty, the lad would be capable of a much deeper impression than he is at an earlier age, and the impression would be fresh just at the time at which it is most needed. In the case of boys who have come to me at nine or ten I have sometimes ventured to defer my interview for four or five years, and have found them quite uncorrupted. On the other hand, within an hour of penning these lines I have been talking to a little boy of eleven who commenced masturbation two years ago while he was under excellent home influence. One such boy may, without guilt, corrupt a whole set, for impurity is one of the most infectious as well as the most terrible of diseases. The ideal state in a school is not reached until periodical addresses on purity can be given to all with the certainty that by all they will be listened to and treated reverently and respectfully. Such addresses cannot well be made the vehicle of sex information, but they can be so constructed as to guide those to whom individual instruction has not yet been given, and to strengthen those who, spite of full instruction, periodically need a helping hand.
What results may we reasonably expect from adequate and timely instruction? I have so rarely met a case in which this has been given at home that I can only infer what these results might be from the cases in which my own instruction has been given in time. In almost every instance I feel sure that the results have been beneficial, that the temptation to impurity has been little felt, and that a healthy and chaste boyhood has resulted. Canon Lyttelton writes: "The influences of school life have been found to be impotent to deprave the tone of a boy who has been fortified by the right kind of instruction from his parents." This I can well believe, for, if the schoolmaster can do much, there can be no limit to a power which has been cradled in the sanctity of home and cherished by a mother's love. This appears to be the emphatic opinion also of Dr. Dukes. Of a boy thus favoured, Canon Lyttelton writes: "He will feel that any rude handling of such a theme, even of only its outer fringe, is like the profaning of the Holy of Holies in his heart, and he will no more suffer it than he would suffer a stranger to defile the innermost shrine of his feelings by taking his mother's or his sister's name in vain. All the goading curiosity which drives other boys to pry greedily into nature's laws, in blank ignorance of their mighty import, their unspeakable depth, and spiritual unearthly harmonies, has been for him forestalled, enlightened, and purified."
It is a sad step down from such a boy to the lad who has been given warning after corruption has begun. Most boys feel such shame in confessing to failure that one has to accept with reserve the statements made by even the most truthful of those who are treading the upward path. After making due allowance for this source of error, my experience enables me to say confidently that, if a boy has not been long or badly corrupted, a radical change of attitude may be expected in him at once, and the habit of self-abuse will be instantly or rapidly relinquished. Very different is the case of a lad who has long practised masturbation, or who has practised it for some time after the advent of puberty, or who has associated sexual imaginations with the practice. Few such boys conquer the habit at once, however much they desire to, and, if the above conditions co-exist, a boy's progress is very slow, and years may pass without anything approaching cure. If in addition to the temptations from within he has foes also without in the form of companions who sneer at his desire for improvement, controvert the statements made to him, and throw temptation in his way, his chance of cure must be enormously decreased. Of such cases I know nothing; for my experience lies solely among boys who have, outside their own hearts, little to hinder and very much to help. As I have dealt elsewhere with the question of aids to chastity, I will make only a brief reference to it here.
The mind is so much influenced by the body that purity is impossible when the body is unduly indulged. No man exists who could inhale the vapour of chloroform without an irresistible desire to sleep. Under these conditions the strongest will would not avail even if the victim knew that by surrender he was sacrificing everything he reverenced and held dear. The lad past the age of puberty who has much stimulating food, who drinks alcohol, who sleeps in a warm and luxurious bed and occupies it for some time before or after sleep, is certain, even if he takes much exercise, to be tempted irresistibly. Dr. Dukes considers that a heavy meat meal with alcohol shortly before bedtime is in itself sufficient to ensure a lad's fall.
Meanwhile, no abstinence which it not unduly rigorous, can save a boy from impurity if he gets into the habit of exchanging glances with girls who are socially inferior, if he reads suggestive books, looks at stimulating pictures and sights, and falls into the hopeless folly of entertaining sexual thoughts even momentarily. He who has not the strength to tread out a spark is little likely to subdue a conflagration.
The best and most timely teaching will never make carelessness in these matters justifiable, and a boy who has once been corrupted and desires to master his lower nature has no chance of self-conquest unless he gives them his constant and careful attention.
It is very important to fill a boy's leisure with congenial occupation. Idleness and dullness make a boy specially susceptible to temptation. On the other hand, the fond parent who satisfies a boy's every whim and encourages the lad to think that his own enjoyment is the chief thing in life does his utmost to destroy the lad's chance of purity—or, indeed, of any virtue whatever.
Can anything be done for boys and young men who have become the slaves of self-abuse to such an extent that they groan in the words of St. Paul: "The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.... I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Can anything be done for the lad who has become so defiled by lustful thoughts that his utmost efforts fail to carry him forward, and even leave him to sink deeper in the mire. There are many, many such cases, alas! for as Dr. Acton says, "The youth is a dreamer who will open the floodgates of an ocean, and then attempt to prescribe at will a limit to the inundation."
Yes there is a remedy—I believe a specific—which can rapidly and, I think, finally restore strength to the enfeebled will and order the unclean spirit to come out of the man. It is hypnotic suggestion. Let not the reader, however, think that the matter is a simple one. In all ages any great advance in the art of healing has, by the ignorant, been attributed to the powers of darkness. The Divine Healer Himself did not escape from the charge of casting out devils by the prince of the devils, and, while hypnotic suggestion has long been used for therapeutic purposes on the Continent and is now practised in Government institutions there, the doctor or clergyman or teacher who uses it in England runs great risks; for in this subject, as in all others, it is those who are entirely without experience who are most dogmatic.
In the case of the schoolmaster, its use in this connection is practically excluded. If he applies to a parent for permission to use it he probably runs his head against a blank wall of ignorance; for hypnotism, to most people, means a dangerous power by which an unscrupulous, strong-willed Svengali dominates an abnormally weak-willed Trilby whose will continues to grow weaker until the subject becomes a mere automaton; and most of us would rightly prefer that a boy should be his own master—even if he were rushing to headlong ruin—than that he should be the mere puppet of the most saintly man living. The human will is sacred and inviolable, and we do unwisely if we seek to control it or to remove those obstacles from its way by which alone it can gain divine strength. Meanwhile the stimulus by which the mind acquires self-mastery usually comes from without in the form of spiritual inspiration; and to remove from a boy's path an obstacle which blocks it and is entirely beyond his own strength is equally desirable both in the physical and in the spiritual realm. Those who think that without this obstacle a boy's power of self-control is likely to receive insufficient exercise will, of course, object to the instruction advocated in this book. If it is unwise to remove this obstacle from a boy's path it is equally unwise so to instruct him as to prevent the obstacle from arising. In trustworthy hands hypnotic suggestion is a beneficent power which has no dangers and no drawbacks, and to decline to use it is to accept a very serious responsibility.
For the teacher a further difficulty—not to mention that of time—is that, without betraying a boy's confidence or inducing him to allow his admissions to be passed on to his father, it is impossible to give his parents an idea of the urgency of the case.
Altogether the time for hypnotic suggestion in education is not yet, but the day must come when its use is recognised not only in physical cases such as nocturnal emissions and constipation, but in all cases in which the will-power is practically in abeyance, as it is in bad cases of impurity.
For intelligent parents the difficulties are far less, and if any such care to pursue the subject farther, I would refer them to the volume on Hypnotism in the People's Books series or to one of the larger medical works on the subject, such as Hypnotism and Suggestion, by Dr. Bernard Hollander.
To those who know boys well and love them much, there is something intensely interesting and pathetic about the spiritual struggle through which they have to pass. The path of self-indulgence seems so obviously the path to happiness; self-denial is so hard and self-control so difficult. "The struggle of the instinct that enjoys and the more noble instinct that aspires" is ever there. The young soul reaches out after good, but its grasp is weak. It needs much enlightenment, much encouragement, much inspiration, much patient tolerance of its faults, much hopeful sympathy with its strivings, if it is ever to attain the good it seeks. In the past it has met, without light or aid, unwarned and unprepared, the deadliest foe which can assail the soul. An appetite which has in all ages debased the weak, wrestled fiercely with the strong, and vanquished at times even the noble, is let loose upon an unwarned, unarmed, defenceless child. Oh, the utter, the utter folly of it!
For life after death the writer has no longing. Immortality, if vouchsafed, appears to him to be a gift to be accepted trustfully and humbly, not to be yearned after with a sort of transcendental egoism. But to him the wish to—
"Join the choir invisible
grows ever stronger as the inevitable end draws nearer.
To save young lives from the needless struggles and failures of my own, to secure healthy motherhood or maiden life to some whom lust might otherwise destroy, to add, for some at least, new sanctity to human passion—these have been my hopes in penning the foregoing pages. It has been my privilege and joy, in my own quiet sphere, to preserve boys from corruption and to restore the impure to cleanness of heart. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity these pages afford of extending this delightful work. When the hand which writes these lines has long been cold in death, may the message which it speeds this day breathe peace and strength into many an eager heart.