Sex, Power, and Money: A Lecture from Lois Waisbrooker, Part II
“Kings, priests, principalities or powers of earth–be they what they may–cannot prevent, but must wheel into line or go down in the wreck of the old.”
Anthony Comegna, PhD
Assistant Editor for Intellectual History
In the second half of her 1873 lecture on “The Sex Question and the Money Power,” individualist feminist and anarchist Lois Waisbrooker continued her attempt to convince oppressed men that they in fact needed feminism. In a world abounding with patriarchy and its grisly fruits, Waisbrooker argued that feminism offered a natural and necessary balance to social affairs. Most interestingly, she uses this portion of her lecture to combine Victorian science (including Darwinism, electro‐magnetism, and phrenology) with Christian eschatology, feminist theory, and even spirit mediumship. If only her audience could have channeled the same spirits–communed with “the wise ones of the ages”–they would also see the truth of her message. She believed feminism was quite literally written in the laws of nature, and fighting for the unnatural maintenance of patriarchy was akin to denying evolution, forcing water to flow uphill, or making larger celestial bodies orbit smaller ones. Waisbrooker argues that sexual recombination of individual traits from the male and the female is a simple fact of nature. Men need the influence of the feminine and vice versa. While she and her fellow early Darwinists understood evolution through natural selection, they failed to grasp the mechanism through which offspring inherited parents’ traits. Waisbrooker expresses the belief that ‘mental energies’ formed through the electrical processes in the parents’ brains and bodies combine during copulation. The same sorts of electrical forces that allowed women like Waisbrooker to channel spirits connected the principles of individualist‐feminism and the act of sex, leveling the masculine and feminine both to the level of natural forces. The propagation of the species depended upon pacific, equitable relationships between men and women, right down to the electrical forces that bind us all together with the material world.
In her concluding remarks, Waisbrooker implored her audience to action: “Woman’s freedom is the world’s redemption.” Too few listened, however, and though she remained active and influential in radical circles into the early twentieth century, she died penniless and sick in a world still thoroughly controlled by patriarchal ideals.
Originally delivered as a lecture at Jackson, Michigan (14 December, 1873). See: Three Pamphlets on the Occult Forces of Sex, New York: Murray Hill Publishing Co., 1891.
“The Sex Question and the Money Power: How Shall this Power Be Made to Serve Instead of Ruling Us?” Part II
By Lois Waisbrooker
They tell us that we must have nothing to do with this social question.
Nothing to do with the fountain of life, of power!
No wonder that apathy has reigned and still reigns where once there was life and vigor.
We must have something to do with this thing, with this question, or perish. We cannot escape it if we would; and, as the agitation increases–when the subject of freedom for woman is talked of–as misrepresentations multiply–as honest confession is met with repudiation, while sneaking hypocrisy comes to the front (or tries to) and talks long and loud of purity–we are led to ask, “Why is it? Why all this disturbance? Why is it, when prostitution runs riot on our streets, that leading reformers do not seem particularly distressed? When advertisements for the cure of disease brought on by abuse of the sex functions are posted upon almost every street corner no particular anxiety is manifested about the matter by those who are so afraid of being disgraced if this question is discussed?
Women prostitute their bodies nightly to legal brutes called “husband,” and, thinking themselves virtuous, shrink from the very touch of the garments of the more‐womanly woman who is prostituted illegally–forced thereto by the accursed edict of Respectability because she once loved in purity of soul and trusted illegally.
We know all this to be true; and know, also, that broken health and diseased, discordant children are the legitimate fruits of these legal prostitutions–evils fully as terrible as those that arise from illegal prostitution; and, further, we are all ready to admit that woman is less sensually inclined, loves more from the spiritual than does man. We admit this in theory. Why then is it that when a portion of us try to put this theory into practice by giving woman the control of her own person and demanding that the wealth of the world shall be so used that she’ll not be pressed, either directly or indirectly, into giving herself from the money place; or, in other words, for a support–why is it when we demand this that the spasms of Respectability are so terrible?…
We are shaking the throne of power upon which this money god sits, and…he is riveting the chains of his captives…and talking of doing the will of the Father who is in Heaven. Alas, they cannot serve two masters if they try. And so humanity–a bleeding, dying humanity, stretches its hands to them in vain.
Brothels may exist all over the land; marital infidelity run rampant; sexual diseases poison the very fountains of life; Foeticide lift its red hands dripping with the blood of the innocents–this, all this, and a thousand times more, and yet those who claim to wish for better things are so carried by the tide, so held in the grasp of the dominant power that they seem very little troubled about the matter.
But when it is proposed to set woman entirely free from man’s domination sexually, then the anxiety manifested for the preservation of purity is wonderful to behold. For the preservation of purity? We must first have before we can preserve it; and true purity we never can have so long as we are under the rule of the present order of things.
But purity we must and will have. The hour has come when woman is demanding to be freed from unwilling sex relations; neither will she much longer be held to sex isolation because not owned, because she has not been sealed, delivered over to the keeping of some man, as man‐made statutes direct. Man‐made, for woman has had no voice therein.
Woman must be free to use her sex functions only at the promptings of her love, and then the material of which the throne of the money god is built and sustained will no longer be manufactured. Sex life will nevermore flow forth at the beck of Wealth, of the money which tempts Poverty.
Thus Acquisitiveness will no longer rule, but take its place as the servant of Love — and Love worketh no ill to its neighbor.
But we can see the combined power that will be brought to bear against us in this the grandest work of the ages. Ah, yes, we see it. We behold the thunderbolts of the money god’s wrath, as he hurls them at our uncovered heads. We see the martyrdom which awaits us and may yet be ours. We see the gathering forces that are rallying for the final conflict, ere the millenial can be ushered in.
Though we see and feel all this bearing down upon us, we pale not. We are rebels in the fullest sense of that word. We are determined to overthrow the ruling power, to dethrone it and to place the Christ of love—existing in woman’s soul—upon the throne. That Christ who has worn the crown of thorns and had the wormwood and the gall pressed to the lips, through the ages of the past, has been crucified between the two thieves of Marriage and Prostitution, till the very heavens are black with agony, and the veil of the temple of Hypocrisy is being rent in twain from the top to the bottom. Soon the passion of suffering will be finished and the resurrection morn be ushered in. Already the angels have descended to roll back the stone from the door of the sepulcher.
Yes, we are determined to accomplish this mighty work. The hosts of those who oppose us are many; they have wealth; they have the power of the present order of things upon their side; they may use the prison or the gallows; they will do what they can, for their case is desperate. But those who are with us are more than those who are against us.
Could you see the hosts of the unseen world as they urge us on; could you hear what I have heard, as with my soul’s ears; I have caught the voices of the wise ones of the ages, whose benevolence has agonized till they have learned that they must have the aid of those who have passed through earth’s hells, ere such hells can be removed; could you hear them as they called from the highlands of the other life to these in the valleys of degradation, saying: “come up and help us to solve the problem of redemption;” and could you hear the myriads of those who went down to death with the arms of despair encircling their souls–the drunkard, the outcast, and all of earth’s untimely ones who have been torn from this life and its benefits; yea, the myriad millions, who came and sat upon the seat of council, with their darkened spirits quivering into new life ‘neath the influence of an awakened hope–sat upon the seat of council and told their experiences, opened up the causes which crushed them–and could you have seen the faces of these listening ones, as they have glowed before me in my hours of exaltation–seen them as they gathered up item after item of evidence, till at last they saw the cause of it all—that cause, the slavery of woman.
Could you see the determination written upon their faces and upon the faces of those who, for the first time, realize that they too are needed in this work, you would know that we could not fail—you would know that woman must and will be free—that these myriad hosts have sworn it, and for this they are working. Kings, priests, principalities or powers of earth—be they what they may—cannot prevent, but must wheel into line or go down in the wreck of the old.
For this we live, and for this we will die if needs be. For this we ask your aid, for we know that woman’s freedom is the world’s redemption, and the renovation of the spirit spheres as well; and when it is accomplished there will be such a shout of “peace and good will” as the world has never heard.
A grand culmination! But mankind has been ruled so much through the emotional, have walked so little in the light of underlying and undying principles that I would fain return again to the law controlling this matter and by further illustrations impress it more fully upon your minds.
We have already seen that there are two forces acting in unison to bring into being all forms of life. We call these forces, these unfathomable, ever‐acting life powers, “Father God” and “Mother Nature” or “Father and Mother God.” We find these two forces embodied in the human as male and female, and we know that the union of these two gives another form of life. It is easy to recognize this truth when the form resulting is a physical one–another human being. When we look upon a child we know that there has been between some two persons a union of those two forces in the production of that child. We know this–we do not stop to question, to prove it.
But when we come to the intellectual, to the spiritual, it is hard to realize that all the beauty, all the life we have here, comes also from the fountain of sex. The aroma of the flower is as much a part of it as is the seed ripening in its bosom, and the same elements which blended in the grosser form are necessary in the finer blendings to produce the other; and so of the human.
Every one’s sphere, their magnetic and electric emanations, are as is the sex life, and the sex life is determined as to the direction of its vitalizing power outside the special sex act, by the organ of the brain most active in the individual. The sex life gives strength, power, to said organ, and said organ gives direction to said power…
The forms of all life are determined by the nature of the sex life which gives them form. The sex life, in its concentrated elements, must be like unto the form of life from which it is concentrated, otherwise it could not give the same or a similar form to the life which springs from it, when it is blended with its opposite…
That the diffused elements flowing out from an object, whether animal or vegetable, will also be of the same nature, is also undeniable. We know that this is true of each individual object, and that, flowing out in so rarified a condition, these emanations blend and form a general atmosphere, such as surrounds the earth. This atmosphere we breathe into our lungs, and the health of our bodies depends much upon the elements of which it is composed. If it is loaded down with noxious vapors rising from pools of filth, from decaying vegetation, where there has been much moisture and little sun light; from swamps, where the waters are pent up and become putrid from inaction, then chills follow, fevers prevail and general distress takes the place of health and peace. It is of no use to cover up or turn your backs upon these conditions—the subtle element finds its way into every crack and crevice. Favorable situations and disinfectants may palliate but cannot wholly save from the effects which such putrid conditions generate.
But there is an atmosphere which sustains the same relation to the mental and spiritual as does this of which we have been speaking to the physical. “Whence comes this mental, this spiritual atmosphere? From whence does it obtain its life or death‐dealing power! From the sex life, acting through the brain organs. Those organs of the brain brought into action when the sex act is thought of, or consummated, give character to this atmosphere, make it moral or immoral, degrading or elevating in its vitalizing power.
If we think of this act as something low, enter into it under conditions that our self‐respect disapproves, then we give off a degrading sex atmosphere, for the low thought, acting through the brain, poisons it. The lungs of the soul, or spirit body, breathe in this atmosphere, giving a healthy or diseased action, even as the lungs of the body take in the physical atmosphere, giving health or disease physically.
Would that I could so impress this truth, not only upon your minds but upon the minds of the entire human family, that it could never more pass from their active consciousness. Never since the dawning of creation’s morn has a truth of more importance been announced to a waiting world; never one which showed so fully the destructive tendency of the sex act under any and all conditions but that of mutual sex love…
Again I ask: What are the organs of the brain called into action in most cases under the present order of things? In legal marriage, where there is not mutual sex love it is submission or combative indignation combined with fear and disgust. Woman is, must be, repelled, disgusted, whenever she submits to an unwelcome embrace. This always, but it may be combined with fear and submission, in which the elements of cowardice are furnished ; or it may be combined with fear of results, and bitter, resentful, combative elements accompanying. Is it any wonder that the world has become disgusted with this most beautiful, most holy of all relations, if entered into aright? Is it any wonder that the very air is replete with the elements of war, of red‐handed murder, wholesale and retail?
But the brain organs called into action under such circumstances, on the part of the male, what are they? The combative resistance to the partner’s dislike which overcomes—the persuasiveness which wakes into undue reciprocal action, thus destroying love, as hot house plants die beneath the biting frost; or the enforcement of legal rights—in other words, legal rape.
Is it any wonder that with such a combination of vital elements permeating the mental, the spiritual atmosphere, that society is made up of the oppressor and the oppressed, of tyrants and slaves.
But both in and out of marriage this act is full often—yea, three times out of five the result of acquisitiveness. When a woman is so situated in life that money, support for herself and children, necessarily comes in as one of the chief considerations, even love in such a case is neutralized, or nearly so; but when there is no love then all the sex force called into action during the entire life goes to vitalize the money power — becomes a part of the very breath of the life of this god.
Love outside of legal marriage cannot be consummated only by calling into action the organs of the brain which, in their undue action, furnish the elements of hypocrisy, or of reckless, shameless defiance, except in these few–very few–cases where the law has been ignored from principle, and the parties stand to their acts in a noble self‐approval. Such are the heroes that the world will one day crown with unfading immortelles.
But I will leave this subject with you, feeling that you must see, as I do, that woman’s freedom is the world’s redemption, and, seeing this, that you will aid in bringing it about, either by coming to the front yourselves or by sustaining those who do.