Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

But it would be too much of an over-simplification to distinguish only between excessive superego control and too little. It is more useful to point out that there are three ways of dealing with the sexual instinct: repression, catharsis and sublimation. The Dionysiacs dealt with sex by catharsis — that is, by a periodic wholesale discharge which left them washed out, purified and at peace. The Church attempted to repress sex almost completely; the Charitists the much more difficult task of transcending it.

Just as today the Russians treat all their enemies as one, levelling the same accusations at democracy and fascism alike, so the Church branded both the indulgent phallic and the transcendent charitic groups with the same accusations of licence. It is rather striking how bodies like the Waldenses and the Moravians, which always regarded themselves as within the body of the Church, and whose tenets as far as dogma went were substantially orthodox, were persecuted with just as much fury as phallic worshippers. It would seem that the Church felt that to treat sex as unimportant was just as serious as to treat it as divine.

The striking thing about all these charitic sects is the universal agreement of the unbiased that by the test of behaviour they were what people today often call “Christian in the true sense of the word“. The Quakers’ reputation for piety and charity is well known, and we have already seen in what high repute the Cathars stood. The modern groups receive an equally favourable verdict. Thus Hastings’s Encyclopaedia says of the Agapemonites that they are a blameless company whose praise is sung throughout the whole neighbourhood for their unquestioned piety and fervent charity. Van Arsdale, in the same work, says of the Angel Dancers, that they are noted for their industry, scrupulously honest dealing and immense charity. Orthodox Church members have rarely gained so good a reputation. It should be noted, however, that it has never been the view of the Church that Christianity was to be defined by behaviour: the Protestant Church most specifically rejected the doctrine of “justification by works” in favour of “justification by faith” — belief in the truth of certain propositions — and has never agreed that a man could call himself Christian just because he behaved in an honourable and kindly manner. Quite to the contrary, it has always persecuted such people when they did not subscribe to all the articles of the Christian credo, whenever it has had the power to do so.