As with many ideas that float in the air of one's time, this notion shrinks from dogmaticgeneral statement and expresses itself only partially and by innuendo. It seems to me that fewconceptions are less instructive than this re-interpretation of religion as perverted sexuality. Itreminds one, so crudely is it often employed, of the famous Catholic taunt, that the Reformationmay be best understood by remembering that its fons et origo was Luther's wish to marry a nun:-theeffects are infinitely wider than the alleged causes, and for the most part opposite in nature. Itis true that in the vast collection of religious phenomena, some are undisguisedly amatory--e.g., sex-deities and obscene rites in polytheism, and ecstatic feelings of union with the Savior in a fewChristian mystics. But then an aberration of the digestive function,and prove one's point by the worship of Bacchus and Ceres, or by the ecstatic feelings of someother saints about the Eucharist? Religious language clothes itself in such poor symbols as our lifeaffords, and the whole organism gives overtones of comment whenever the mind is strongly stirredto expression. Language drawn from eating and drinking is probably as common in religiousliterature as is language drawn from the sexual life. We "hunger and thirst" after righteousness; we"find the Lord a sweet savor;" we "taste and see that he is good." "Spiritual milk for Americanbabes, drawn from the breasts of both testaments," is a sub-title of the once famous New EnglandPrimer, and Christian devotional literature indeed quite floats in milk, thought of from the point ofview, not of the mother, but of the greedy babe.
Saint Francois de Sales, for instance, thus describes the "orison of quietude": "In this state thesoul is like a little child still at the breast, whose mother to caress him whilst he is still in her armsmakes her milk distill into his mouth without his even moving his lips. So it is here. . . . Our Lorddesires that our will should be satisfied with sucking the milk which His Majesty pours into ourmouth, and that we should relish the sweetness without even knowing that it cometh from theLord." And again: "Consider the little infants, united and joined to the breasts of their nursingmothers you will see that from time to time they press themselves closer by little starts to whichthe pleasure of sucking prompts them. Even so, during its orison, the heart united to its Godoftentimes makes attempts at closer union by movements during which it presses closer upon thedivine sweetness." Chemin de la Perfection, ch. xxxi.; Amour de Dieu, vii. ch. i.
In fact, one might almost as well interpret religion as a perversion of the respiratory function.
The Bible is full of the language of respiratory oppression: "Hide not thine ear at my breathing; mygroaning is not hid from thee; my heart panteth, my strength faileth me; my bones are hot with myroaring all the night long; as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so my soul panteth after thee,O my God:" God's Breath in Man is the title of the chief work of our best known American mystic(Thomas Lake Harris), and in certain non-Christian countries the foundation of all religiousdiscipline consists in regulation of the inspiration and expiration.