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 Excerpt from:

August Horneffer, Der Priester: Seine Vergangenheit und seine Zukunft, Erster Band, Jena 1912.

pp. 28-37

3. Disharmony

We return to the psychology of the male priest. The obligation of chaste or lascivious living, which is imposed on priestly women, is not lacking for the male priest, either. It is demanded of him that his sexual feeling and his way of life should be different from that of other human beings, and he is therefore driven into the most calamitous abnormalities: humanity honored abnormal sexual orientation and held those afflicted with such an orientation as graced and particularly suited to the priestly occupation. In the Siberian polar people of the Chukches, some of the priests are alleged to be women-men. It is reported to us that during the developmental years some boys suddenly conceive the idea that they are girls. They put on feminine clothing, let their hair grow, and do feminine work. They marry men, like women, and have intercourse with them. And in most cases these "transformees" devote themselves to the shamanistic occupation. The people are convinced that a bodily transformation has taken place, and in many cases they themselves may also be convinced of that; such hallucinatory notions occur on the basis of auto-suggestion and psychopathic orientation. The changed sexual feelings engender deceptive bodily sensations. In addition, among passive homosexuals sometimes an actual retrogression of the male parts takes place, if they were not already abnormal to begin with, which also occurs.

This combination of sexual abnormality with the priestly occupation is not limited to this one people. We hear similar things about other peoples. Religious giftedness is closely connected, in the view of these peoples, with sexual perversion, or at least perversity. Herodotus tells of priestly women-men among the Scythians. Westermarck ("Ursprung und Entwicklung der Moralbegriffe") emphasizes that the magicians "who have become women" are feared the most and are considered far more powerful in magic and more demonic than the normal ones. Bethe (in the Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, vol. 62) thoroughly presented the religious meaning of Dorian pederasty and contributed much by way of explanation of this phenomenon. Among the Greeks, these are not priests, but men's associations which among many peoples assume the tasks of priests entirely or partially. Every strictly closed association of men naturally promotes homosexual aberrations; the proof of this is brought not only by religious associations, but also by other associations in the most varied periods [in history].

How do we explain the connection of religion with abnormal sexual feeling? We feel only pity for the homosexual at best, or we feel repulsed by the wrongness of his drives; but we do not see any advantage in his orientation and we do not make him a priest. The reasons are probably not hard to find. At one time the primitive human being perceived contrasts of a sexual and moral kind less sharply than we do. Aberration was more possible; the drives and conceptions were still unsolidified and could easily be diverted and led onto a wrong track. The psychic and magical belief favored such aberrations. Abnormals had imitators and admirers. They appeared to be of a demonic nature; the unnatural was perceived as supernatural. The primitive human being drew the conclusion - and in many ways modern man follows him in this: whoever feels differently and is different from the majority, is greater than them, is able to do more, stands in close connection with secret powers. Therefore when one feels under pressure from these powers or needs help from them, one turns to the abnormals. Thus he becomes a mediator. The reversal of his drives, the transformation that occurs with him, clearly proves in the opinion of primitive human beings the interest that these powers have in him. Without their intervention, without magic, such a process appears to be inexplicable. His magical power is thus demonstrated; the gods mark him as their own, they take possession of him.

The affected person himself shares this opinion. He too is unable to explain his difference, his deviation from the norm, except by magic, or in more developed mythology: by the divine will. He senses special forces within himself, senses that he is not different from the others for no reason, that this outsider status contains a distinction. When he notices, then, that the others do not understand him and fear him, that hostile and contemptuous feelings are aroused against him, which is inevitable after all, then he is pushed further into himself, compelled to contemplation and questioning, and steered toward the gods who appear to have done this to him. He comes closer to God, he becomes conscious of his status as opposite to the normal human being. Thus begin those dreadful battles between good and evil consciousness, between heavenly and hellish feelings, by which the priest is haunted everywhere on earth, the battles which lead him to God and to himself, which make him mature and profound, but also tired and sick. He becomes the ostracized, whom one yet cannot do without, the disdained, before whom one ends up kneeling. Even the one who loves him, feels the chasm between himself and him, and his own love is of a different kind from that of the many. He retreats more and more into his realm, inaccessible to the normals, reinforces himself in his abnormal drives and inclinations, finds them purer and more divine than those of the profane crowd, but without being able to banish the feeling that he is aberrant, marked.

I am thinking here not only of homosexuality, but even more of other deviations from the norm that the priestly sensibility and way of life exhibits. The priest always stood in some sense apart from the normals, who go their prescribed way in health and peaceful security. His physical weakness and awkwardness alone, his mind oriented toward the spiritual, set up a partition. To this are added the morbid raptures and trances to which he must surrender himself in his profession; then the ascetic exercises; hunger, loneliness, mistreatment of self, sleeplessness, and many other obligations destructive of health. The fact that he subjected himself to all these things, that he himself invented them and proudly performed them, by itself points toward an abnormal psychic and neurological constitution in the priest. If there were no morbid characteristics in the priestly nature, in conflict with normal urges, then certainly human religion would not have been the scene of so many morbid events and such grave psychic battles. I know well that much good has also come to humanity from these priestly characteristics, and it is far from my intention to make the priest seem contemptible when I raise the abnormal and pathological in his character and lifestyle. Later on we shall not fail to characterize these sides of his being as necessary accompanying phenomena of his power and greatness, and thus to justify them. The object here is merely a simple description of the facts, and whoever is unbiased enough must admit that the abnormal traits in the priestly nature are indisputable facts.

How abnormal is the life of the unmarried Catholic priest to this day! He is never allowed to have one of the most important and natural experiences of every healthy human being! The world of sexual sensations must remain foreign to him; in his own body he learns to experience love only as a temptation, as a damned, ungodly, feeling. However, since god Eros does not allow himself to be so easily defrauded of his rights over the human being, grave battles of conscious can scarcely fail to appear, and a pathological stance of confrontation to nature is practically unavoidable, assuming the priest is dead serious about his vows. Eros knows how to avenge himself when he is met with scorn. He will find the place at which to apply his claws. He punishes the rejection of normal amorous intercourse with sexual oversensitivity, with perverse lusts of many different kinds. Or the unsatisfied sexual drives divert themselves into the spiritual and call forth that hysterical form of religiosity which we find among so many saints of both sexes. The dangers of forced celibacy have been discussed and described for a long time, particular in recent times; it has been asserted that masturbation, homosexuality, and sexual lasciviousness were never so common as among the Catholic clergy; even the wallowing in erotic obscenity, practiced theoretically in Jesuit moral theology and practically in the confessional, points toward morbidly intensified and oriented sexuality.

These are, of course, assertions which according to the nature of the matter cannot be proven. We will likely have to agree with Moll ("Die kontrSre Sexualempfindung") when he says: it should make sense that primarily those people choose the priestly occupation who feel little inclination toward the other sex. This absent inclination says nothing about whether an inclination toward the same sex is present or gradually develops, nor about whether other phenomena will form which are sometimes connected with compulsory abstention. After all, we must consider that among a number of human beings the erotic drive is scarcely developed and appears only when it is actively awakened and aroused. Since, however, it is the express goal of the higher religions to prevent the awakening and arousal of the erotic drive among priests as far as possible, I do not doubt that many Catholic priests hold to their vows faithfully and without wavering. Buddhism and early Christianity even aimed to remove the sexual feeling of priests completely; they required mortification, prescribed a debilitating way of life and alimentation, and sought to cultivate a kind of human being who was merely soul and not at all body.

Thus those other-worldly saints of both sexes appeared in the earth, who had no drives or only totally spiritualized ones. They are the true fulfillers of the ideal of chastity, and no person of refined sensitivity will be able to pull himself away from the fascination of these pure and majestic figures. Their sexlessness is like a transfiguration of the way a child feels; for the child is also sexless, provided it is not a precocious, neuropathic nature. Recently, of course, the psychiatrist Freud attributed to children an active sexual feeling and built much upon that; not without reason, but the infantile (and senile) sexuality is still of a completely different kind than that of the adult. Even in old age, a certain sexlessness sometimes returns, a reflection of the property of the childlike soul. But as highly as we will honor this childlikeness, we must declare it abnormal in human beings at the age of sexual maturity and we must express openly that the ideal of sexlessness (or rather: spiritualized sexuality) is contrary to life and nature. We must also recall the heavy price which man has had to pay for the beauty of this ideal. How much health has been destroyed, how much power has been broken, in order to bring these heavenly blossoms to light! What a darkening of life proceeded from it, what degeneration it carried with itself! How near lay heaven here to hell! How there lurked behind God's shining visage the devil's grimace!

Catholic Christians, of course, do not admit to that. They do not wish to acknowledge the necessary connection between their eccentric ideal and degeneracy. Nonetheless, they have not been uninfluenced by the ideal of full humanity which has won out more and more over the last centuries. While they hold to the older ideal of pure spirituality, still they feel the need to prove to us that both sexless and sexually regulated morality basically lead to the same thing. They are far removed, they claim, from aspiring to and admiring the unnatural per se. Maybe so; but then earlier eras were more honest and consistent on this point. Early Christianity and many earlier civilizations confessed openly and without embarrassment that they admired what was perverse, that they adored the abnormally oriented, that they honored the degenerate and mentally ill, the ascetic raging against himself, the sleepless hunger artist, the stammering ecstatic, as the highest and most beautiful type of human being. They chose without hesitation the sexless one incapable of procreation as mediator between God and man. There was likely mixed, with the reverence that they felt, a bit of horror, and perhaps this horror of the un-nature was more original than the reverence and love. But the earlier humanity sensed an inner connection between abnormality and supranormality; it looked with anticipation into the depths of human aberrance and degeneracy because it knew that from these depths grew something exquisite and marvelous. It inhaled the intoxicating vapors of dangerous poisonous plants, because it owed its most inspiring feelings and experiences to the intoxication. It made the sick and weak one to be its leader because it understood that sickness and weakness can bring forth achievements of feeling, imagination, thought, indeed even achievements of intention and action, which remain ever unattainable to the healthy and normal. - Later we will have to devote a thorough consideration to this strange-sounding thought.

The priest perceives his difference not only as a distinction, but also as a debt and a burden. He suffers under it, because his relationship to people and the relationship of people to him is rendered uncertain and unnatural by it. In particular, he does not achieve a natural relationship to the female sex. Woman is to him a seductress or a goddess, an object or fear or of religious fancy. But he suffers even more under the fact that his difference is coterminous with an inner dichotomy in his own soul. The priest is a person of unsolved and insoluble disharmonies. He is torment and desolation. His drives and the arousals of his will do not work together but against one another; the health in him defends itself against the sickness, his sensuality contends with his spirituality. In the nature of the priest is a never-ending unrest and dissatisfaction, and from this unrest and dissatisfaction an unnamable longing for rest and peace wrestles forth. He attempts over and over to master his discord, his longing becomes more and more consuming, to see the sun of peace rise over the battlefield of his soul; but it is all in vain. There are irreconcilable contrasts in him which cannot be brought into balance. It is difficult to say what the properties of these contrasts are in specific. They appear in the most varied forms. Now it is more of a tear in the emotional life which expresses itself then in an alternation between depression and overexcitement, now it is more an conflict of an intellectual nature which expresses itself as a battle between rational thought and hallucinatory imagination, now an imbalance in the intentional life which appears as a compulsion to act and an inhibition against action, as stiffness and lack of will.

The priest feels unhappy; he is a pessimist. The world seems to him sad and pointless, human beings bad and sinful. He sighs in the shackles of his own imperfection; his battles and defeats become the occasion for self-accusation, for the most profound self-contempt. He is disgusted by life. But this mood cannot be maintained throughout life by any person. If it does not lead to a catastrophe, then it dissolves into its opposite in a more or less sudden turnaround. The so-called religious crisis occurs, the conversion, a process which was excellently described and documented with many examples from religious history by William James in his work about religious experience (German translation by Wobbermin). The tortured one is suddenly permeated by a beaming feeling of happiness, the darkness is transformed to light, everything is filled with peace, beauty and goodness; God's grace has descended on the world and the human being, and above all on the priest himself. The psychological explanation of this miraculous experience constitutes one of the most important tasks facing the science of the soul [psychology]. We are not able to deal with this in detail here and only wish to establish that the religious crisis becomes understandable only when one alludes to certain symptoms of illness in the explanation. Probably only the psychopathically-oriented person experiences fully developed crises of this kind.

Our objective here is to answer another question, namely how the priest religiously evaluates the condition of his soul and the sudden or even the gradual turnaround in his feeling. In so doing, we must consider above all that this turnaround is rarely a one-time experience in life. It repeats itself; backslides occurs; there can be a back and forth between exaltation and depression, between a feeling of redemption and a feeling of sinfulness. It is on this psychic foundation that the dualistic doctrine of a good and an evil power, fighting with one another in the world and in the human being, is based. In the most varied priestly and philosophical systems this doctrine has found expression and has undergone many mythological disguises. We will have to admit that a correct and generally applicable psychic experience underlies it; for in every person, even the most normal, a battle of drives takes place. Nature and human society instigate and nourish this battle. There are defeats and victories, depressed and elevated conditions of the soul; in short, the feeling of life changes and fluctuates. That is why the human being transfers this change and struggle to the universe as well; he will believe that a duality or plurality of forces acts in the world and will be inclined to view the balancing of them as the goal of all life.

The only question remaining is how these opposites should be described in detail, how sharply contrasted and profound they are conceived to be, and above all with what interpretation the human being observes the battle, with what will he takes part in it. The dual, religious human being who feels himself thrust upwards from the darkest depths to the height of unspeakable ecstasy, only to fall back again to his feeling of pain and nothingness, will give this world view of the eternal battle an entirely different expression from the human being who is able to bring his forces into equilibrium. The former will tear open an unfillable void between good and evil, God and the devil, and conceive of the relationship between the forces and beings in the world, between God and the human being, soul and body as a tyrannical oppression and muzzling. He will see despotism and slavery everywhere, and view himself as an unfortunate hybrid between slave and overseer. He will perceive the dissonances in the universe as an unbearable torment and try either to drown them out or to forget them.

How does the priest drown out the battle in his soul and the world? By working himself up into highly-flying emotional states, exciting himself, whipping himself up, until he is "beside himself," that is, in ecstasy. Later we will get to know precisely the numerous natural and artificial intoxicants that he uses for this. In this way, he appears to set aside the battle, he appears to conquer the evil spirits in the world and in himself. In intoxication, he soars up to God, becomes himself a god, and can now enslave and oppress what he was not strong enough to use and control.

How does the priest forget the unbearable battle? By tuning down his feeling of life as much as possible, putting his passions to sleep, weakening himself to the point of deepest exhaustion. In this way, silence, harmony, divine peace enter into him. He closes his eyes, and his spirit conjures pleasant images instead of the harsh and cruel reality. In order to reach this state, he also uses many different weakening and intoxicating agents.

In short, he seeks to withdraw himself from the battle which is a torture to him and in which he fears to be defeated, by putting himself into conditions of intoxication or sleep. These conditions are very close to one another and often overlap. - Accordingly, the priest imagines the goal of all events and the actual nature of the world either as an intoxication-like, painfully tense existence, or a sleep-like, softly relaxed nirvana. All serious priestly philosophy turns around these two poles. Excitation and anesthetization are the keys to understanding the priestly spiritual life.

In this way the priest manages to produce in appearance the unity that he misses. But it is only an apparent unity, only a temporary victory; because all intoxications dissipate, and all sleepers at some point reach the hour of awakening. But then, whatever was intended to be drowned out or forgotten comes back with even greater strength and even more agonizing perseverance. New and stronger intoxicants and sleeping agents are needed in order to recreate the happy condition, and the priest sighs: oh, if only the intoxication could last forever, if only one could sleep without waking! This wish has sometimes been fulfilled, namely when the mistreated brain and the mistreated body were permanently and ultimately destroyed. Then the lasting intoxication occurred that we call mental illness, and the eternal sleep that we call death. The priest did not fear to strive towards these two conditions with full awareness; he praised the mentally ill, the one permanently "transformed" and beside himself, as the highest, divinely-graced human being, and praised the cessation of life, the death of the soul and body, as the highest, divinely-fulfilled life. Loudly and without reservation, he has declared a raging against the healthy body and the healthy soul as the way to salvation, the way to God.

He has not always gone so far. The natural drives of the species, from which even he has been unable to free himself, held and called him back. The unnatural always separates itself from the human race. The species renews and rejuvenates itself continually, and so it again and again forced the priest back onto the path of normalcy. But he resisted and went as far as he could to satisfy his tendency to self-destruction, he calls it deification. His disharmonious nature drove him again and again in this direction. Life rose up in front of him as an insurmountable mountain. He was unable to overcome it through liberating action, patient practice, or sober work. Nor was he strong enough to master life in another way.

In what other way? In the way of the artist. The typical priest is not able to rise to art; he is unable to structure the fermenting disharmonies in his soul and to bring them thereby at least temporarily to resolution. Never has a typical priest brought forth a great, that is, a classical art work, as much as art is indebted to the priest. The priest does not organize the world, but flees from it; he does not wish to give clear representation to the conflicts and dissonances under which he suffers and bring them to the light of day, but rather he conceals them and pushes them out of his consciousness as far as he is at all able. As an artist he is always a Romantic; his art works may have sublimity, but not beauty; he know well how to inspire, knows how to grab the hearers and overpower them, but he does not know how to move them with victorious clarity and pure simplicity. Ultimately, that lies in the unresolved dissonances which he does not master. Therefore, he is unable to bless the eternal battle with a design, therefore his whole human being, his whole nation, the entire world never resounds in his art works as a powerful foundation of resonance. We only ever hear the tyrannical oppressor speak, celebrating a triumph over repressed drives, we only hear the fantastical dreamer carrying his extravagant desires into the world, or the moral fanatic, seeking to annihilate the flourishing life in the world.

The priest cannot bless without cursing. He is unskilled in the unconditional blessing that is spoken out of every classical art work. He cannot say yes. His longing is never silent, and one who longs cannot say yes unconditionally. He cannot embrace everything evil and good with conscious love and justify it with a blessing.