Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

In the Classical world, as we have seen, it was not usual to attempt to maintain either state continuously; and, on the whole, if one was to abandon the ideal of balance or measure, then it was the euphoric state which was felt to be attractive. Early Christianity, as I have argued, attempted to institutionalise the euphoric state, but Christianity, as developed by the Church, not only condemned the euphoric state altogether, but held out the depressive state as a permanent ideal. Consequently those groups which went into reaction attempted to maintain euphoria as a continuous ideal. If permanently maintained, both states are, of course, insanities. In euphoria there is an imminent danger of loss of contact with reality in the direction of delusions of grandeur and divinity; in depression, the delusion is likely to be one of unworthiness and persecution. In euphoria, controls on instinctual impulses may be so relaxed as to lead to actions which may prove to have regrettable consequences. In depression, the controls may be so rigid that all spontaneity is lost.

By the same token, Christianity, which regards pleasure as wicked, sees in euphoria the incontrovertible sign of evil. It was clearly this sense of euphoria which led many to be condemned as witches. As one of them put it, “I feel myself to be continually caressed.”

What the Puritans and Calvinists achieved at the Reformation, was the re-establishment of the depressive, guilt-ridden; attitude as the whole source of religion, where the Catholic Church, more realistically, had held out the possibility, however narrowly limited, of passing through depression into euphoria, provided that this euphoria was based on approved Christian imagery. This explains why the Reformation produced not only Calvinism, but many pietist and mystic movements, such as Jansenism, which endeavoured to construct a Protestant mysticism.

On the evidence, it would seem that the lifting of superego control necessary to produce euphoria is more easily attained by matrists, although detailed research would be necessary to establish whether charitic groups were always matrist in character. Dixon, for example, describes the Ebelians as “a female church” and notes Ebel’s somewhat feminine appearance, while a visitor comments on the fact that Prince moved with the grace of a woman. The Cathars, the Adamites, the Beghards, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, all allocated an important place to women. On the other hand, the Quakers and some other sects show a certain patrist strain.