We must assume that sexual intercourse was irregular and haphazard up to the dawn of history. Every woman—within the limits of her own tribe, probably—belonged to every man. Whether this assumption is universally applicable or not, must remain doubtful; later ethnologists, more particularly von Westermarck, deny it because it does not apply to every savage tribe of the present day. Herodotus tells us that promiscuity existed in historical times in countries as far removed from each other as Ethiopia and the borders of the Caspian Sea. There can be no reasonable doubt that sexual intercourse took the form of group-marriage, the exchange or lending of wives, and other similar arrangements.
The relationship between mother and child having been established by Nature herself, the first human family congregated round the mother, acknowledging her as its natural chief. This continued even after the causal connection between generation and birth had ceased to be a mystery. In all countries on the Mediterranean, more especially in Lycia, Crete and Egypt, the predominance of the female element in State and family is well attested; it is reflected in the natural religions of the Eastern races—both Semitic and Aryan—and we find innumerable traces of it in Greek mythology. The merit of discovering this important stage in the relationship of the sexes is due to Bachofen. "Based on life-giving motherhood," he says, "gynecocracy was completely dominated by the natural principles and phenomena which rule its inner and outer life; it vividly realised the unity of nature, the harmony of the universe which it had not yet outgrown.... In every respect obedient to the laws of physical existence, its gaze was fixed upon the earth, it worshipped the chthonian powers rather than the gods of light." The children of men who had sprung from their mother as the flowers spring from the soil, raised altars to Gaea, Demeter and Isis, the deities of inexhaustible fertility and abundance. These early races of men realised themselves only as a part of nature; they had not yet conceived the idea of rising above their condition and setting their intelligence to battle with its blind laws. Incapable of realising their individuality, they bowed in passive submission to nature's undisputed sway. They were members of a tribe, and the fragmentary existence of the single individual was of no importance when it clashed with the welfare of the clan. The family—centred round the mother—and the tribe were the real individuals, in the same way as the swarm of bees, and not the individual bee, makes the whole. They lived in complete harmony with nature; they had no spiritual life, no history, for civilisation and the creation of intellectual values which are the foundation of history depend on the rise of a community above primitive conditions. Differentiation had hardly begun to exert its modifying influence; all men (not unlike the Eastern Asiatics of our day) resembled each other in looks, character and habits.
The inevitable result of a one-sided glimpse at historical facts would have been a history of love, an undertaking for which I lack both ability and inclination. On the other hand, had I written a merely psychological treatise, disregarding the succession of periods, I should have laid myself open to the just reproach of giving rein to my imagination instead of dealing with reality.
I have availed myself of historical facts to demonstrate that what psychology has shown to be the necessary phases of the evolution of love, have actually existed in historical time and characterised a whole period of civilisation. The history of civilisation is an end in itself only in the chapter entitled "The Birth of Europe."
My work is intended to be first and foremost a monograph on the emotional life of the human race. I am prepared to meet rather with rejection than with approval. Neither the historian nor the psychologist will be pleased. Moreover, I am well aware that my standpoint is hopelessly "old-fashioned." To-day nearly all the world is content to look upon the sexual impulse as the source of all erotic emotion and to regard love as nothing more nor less than its most exquisite radiation.
My book, on the contrary, endeavours to establish its complete independence of sexuality.
My contention that so powerful an emotion as love should have come into existence in historical, not very remote times, will seem very strange; for, all outward profession of faith in evolution notwithstanding, men are still inclined to take the unchangeableness of human nature for granted.
The facts on which I have based my arguments are well known, but my deductions are new; it is not for me to decide whether they are right or wrong. In the first (introductory) part I have made use of works already in existence, in addition to Plato and the poets, but the second and third parts are founded almost entirely on original research.