W e ster n c iv il iz a t io n is like an O riental rug. M any hands have contributed to its weaving, and numerous threads of varied hues constitute its pattern. Greek classicism, O ld Testam ent Hebraism, Rom an law, Christianity, T eu tonic tribal customs, these are but a few of the more clearly discernible strands which have been laid upon the loom of the centuries. T w o of these threads are the par ticular concern of this book: their origins and their vicissitudes as they move in and out, back and forth across the weaving. One of them is the thread of naturalism, a term which is used here in a special sense to mean a positive and accepting attitude toward the physical, material world. T h e other is the thread of dualism, de fined as a point of view that regards the realm of matter as illu sory or evil, or both, and displays a marked preference for the ‘spiritual/ Interpretations of sex in the western world have usu ally been characterized by one or the other of these two outlooks. Essentially naturalistic individuals or societies have accepted the sexual nature of man with gratitude and even joy. In some mani festations, there has been an exuberance almost without restraint, as in Rabelais, or Boccaccio, while in others a more dignified mod eration has prevailed, as in Aristotle, or Montaigne. But even the advocates of the golden mean reveal little or no hostility to the erotic as such. T h ey counsel moderation in all things, even in virtue! T h ey do not, like the dualists, regard man's passion as his
problem but as his prize. T h ey glory in the beauty of the naked hum an form, seeking to perfect it in the O lym pic Games, in the sculpture of fifth-century Athens to exalt it, and in the painting of the Renaissance to sanctify it. T h ey write odes to the goddess Eros, from the bibulous banqueteers of Plato’s Symposium, to the flirtatious knights and ladies of Castiglione’s Courtier, to the un inhibited protagonists of Joyce’s Ulysses. T h e scarlet thread of naturalism appears in the first pattern of the weaving, and though it seems, at times, almost to vanish, obscured by the somber and sober blue of dualism, it persists in its undulating presence.