Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

31. The Instincts of Love

Recognizing the face of a friend in the midst of a crowd allows each of us to observe that all of mankind is based on the same nature and yet each individual is unique. The reason behind this phenomenon is the fact that the union of two reproductory cells, each equipped with the same chromosomes but with different genes, provides each descendant with an unprecedented grouping.

Both the species and the individual benefit from this: the individual receives his biological personality and the species a practically inexhaustible diversity without disruption of its basic unity. On the other hand, the members of the species are divided into two distinct categories, male and female. It only remains to unite the two and there exists an amazing variety of instincts for this purpose.

Take fish for an example: all the possibilities seem to have been covered, from total ignorance between the two parents as is the case when the male scatters his milt over eggs laid freshly by he knows not what female up to a most elaborate seduction rite observed with the nuptial swim of the male stickleback inviting the female to visit his nest. Even the supposedly impossible exists with seahorses where, after a hurried courtship, the female lays her eggs in the male's ventral pouch where they are fertilized in passing and it is thus the male who is "pregnant" and later gives birth to baby seahorses complete with labour pains!

Each species has its own manner, and each individual is endowed from birth with all the instincts required in order to adopt the appropriate behaviour for love when the time comes. The exact programme to be followed is written into the nerve cell wiring circuits by the genotype (genetic heritage) with the same precision as for the determination of the body's form and physiology.

Animal behaviour in this field provides us with practically unadulterated forms of the four instincts of love: sexual desire, choice of mate, protection of offspring and the instinct of fidelity.

Sexual Desire

Controlled by hormones and regulated by the seasons, it is sexual desire which sets the male in search of a female and leads to her acceptance to mate. The mere mention of springtime and its implications is sufficient to illustrate that the mating season exists for us as well, even though its extension over the entire year gives rise to many questions.

All sorts of signals come into play in the search for a partner. From the female fire-fly's little lantern to the song of the enamored nightingale, all the senses are called upon. Sometimes a single one of them is enough, as is the case for certain butterflies whose antennae are so sharply sensitive to the female scent that they can detect the presence of a single molecule of it. The male will travel for miles to court the emitting party, even if it is only a phial containing a bit of the alluring fragrance!

With man, nothing is left out either, from the charms of dress and ornamentation to the intoxication of perfumes, not to forget music and dance and all the other arts brought together.

Choice of Mate

The attraction between the two sexes is the absolute rule as an instinct can only be passed on if it is propitious to propagation. This explains why everyday language describes all homosexual practices as "unnatural". Homosexuality is practically non-existent with animals at liberty, but can be observed with those in captivity. For humans, with the exception of some extremely rare cases of constitutional defects and poorly defined genital organs (genetic or chromosomic anomalies), it seems that homosexuality can be more accurately described as a captivity of behaviour rather than a pathological deviation.

There are essentially two possible explanations for this erroneous course, both of which certainly include part of the truth.

Cerebral sexuality - It is known that the network of filaments which interconnect nerve cells, or the cerebral wiring circuit, is not exactly identical in the male and in the female. With birds, a glance at a cross section of the brain enables one to identify a singer, i.e. a mate. This cerebral dimorphism is now well known and recognized for various members of the mammal species from the rat up to man.

Although the genetic sex is defined as soon as fertilization has taken place, this cerebral wiring is only gradually established. The injection of female hormones into a newborn male rat can reverse his behaviours and his cerebral wiring circuit takes on the female pattern without causing any change to the sexual organs.

The reciprocal inversion can be obtained with a newborn female rat (by injecting male hormones).

Practically nothing is known about this type of effect insofar as our own species is concerned. But it is possible that the maturation of our brain and nervous cell system occurs later on in development than it does with rats. The emotional and intellectual upset observed at puberty allows us to assume that the circuits are perfected and definitively established once this critical period is passed.

Following this line of reasoning, it is possible that a hormone disturbance could lead to imperfections, hesitations or even an inversion in the wiring network.

Similarly, it is not known what effect might be produced by the introduction of an excess of female hormones in girls and of male hormones in boys.

No doctor would apparently dare to undertake an experiment of this nature. And yet thousands of young girls at or close to puberty are offered chemical contraception in all legality. The "pill" does not contain natural substances, but synthetic molecules with certain properties which imitate the action of female hormones.

What will be the result of this pseudo-hormonal impregnation on the development of their cerebral wiring circuits? How will their behaviour be affected: more feminine or more feminist? More motherly love or more egocentricity? Or no effect at all? Absolutely no one knows, but we will be in a position to make observations ten or twenty years from now.

Learning sexual identity - In addition to the role played by hormones, initiation and apprenticeship shape our habits and thereby modify the structure of the cerebral system. A well-known example is the story of the crow fed and tamed by Lorentz. Having known only his adoptive parent to the exclusion of any crows, the poor bird ended up behaving as though crows were men and men crows.

A child is certainly even much more sensitive to moulding than a bird and one can imagine the degree to which the family atmosphere, upbringing and the example of parental behaviour can influence the harmonious development of sexual identity. It seems obvious that it is only fair to our children to raise the boys as boys and the girls as girls, in spite of theories as to the merits of a unisex education, which does not exist anyway.

Protection of Offspring

The marvels of the maternal instinct and the protection of his offspring on the part of the male are so deeply inscribed in nature that there is practically no need to mention them. A female defending her babies, a male bird sitting on the eggs or feeding the little ones or a bristling primate covering the retreat of his horde under attack are images of life itself.

But instincts as powerful and as highly integrated in an effective behaviour system as these are sometimes set off by very simple signals. The hen, for example, which represents the attentive mother if there ever was one, hurries towards her desperately chirping little one, but remains quite blind to the chick if a plate of glass prevents his call from reaching her.

Anyone who has heard a newborn baby's first cry can testify to the profoundly irresistible calling force it represents. If certain legislative authorities allow abortion, could this not simply be because the parental instinct is not set off when the rejected little one is not strong enough to cry out?

The Instinct of Fidelity

Raising babies and providing them with their basic upbringing demands the persistence of their regular protectors, which is the reason for monogamy, whether seasonal or definitive. The longer the offspring require assistance, the longer monogamy is assured.

Within the monogamic species, so frequently encountered among birds and numerous higher mammals, the discretion of the finances followed by the stability of the couples formed would seem to be fairy tales if they were not facts directly observed in nature. The crows' engagement ceremony and indissoluble union, or the surprising folly which overcomes the female gray goose subsequent to an adultery illustrate that the old-fashioned colloquial French expression "une petite oie blanche" (a little white goose = an innocent young girl) was originally not at all derisive, but quite a natural comparison.

When fidelity extends through all generations and all members of a clan, we can see the cohesion and resistance that this instinct confers on the group as a whole. Our ignorance of the mechanisms responsible for this instinct of fidelity to the family in the broad sense of the term is a possible explanation for the periodic reappearance of proposals of euthanasia for defective young ones or the "over-aged", proposals which are invariably rejected each time but always crop up again.

Sexological Theories

Human instincts are every bit as powerful as those of animals, the difference being that once we are aware of them, it is up to us to control them by using our reasoning capacities.

Two possibilities exist. One is to adopt what is thought to be the most reasonable line of conduct; this is the common sense way discussed later on. The other consists of trying to rationalize whatever the chosen line of conduct; this is the problem with theoreticians.

Similar to the way in which modern geometricians generalize a system, modern sexologists decide to abandon some obvious fact or other in order to adopt some other one which has received their intentional preference. Several examples easily illustrate the results of this method.

To start with, sexual desire can be presented as an absolute principle, thereby underrating or even doing away with the other three tendencies entirely (choice of mate, protection of offspring and instinct of fidelity).

The consequences of this choice are direct.

In its simplest form, where sexual desire is the unique factor, solitary pleasure is channeled into a dead end, i.e. inveterate onanism.

If the choice of mate is still accepted as having a role to play but without the love of offspring, the result is egotism of the couple.

If the fidelity factor is played down, promiscuity becomes the rule and the family disappears.

Putting aside the choice of mate denies the very existence of the sexes and respect for one's fellow human beings totally disappears.

The extreme limit would be to imagine that pleasure alone remains. The relationships in a society based on this principle would be limited to a series of voluptuous performances as intense as possible, repeated ad infinitum.

Pleasure and procreation could also be separated entirely (by means of voluntary sterility) and equality of the sexes would be accomplished at long last (because all females would work). This is a much praised vision for the future by some people.

In fact, this society already exists and is even older than ours. It dates from the Tertiary Era and was invented by the so-called social insects.

The females, who are emancipated thanks to infernal work cadences (ants practically never stop working), are free from any concerns about procreation (worker ants are sterile). Only one female remains a slave to reproduction: the Queen.

However, the infertile females have permanent access to the keenest sensual pleasure. By means of unceasing mutual tickling of their antennae which provokes the supreme enjoyment of regurgitation, they compose a kind of immense social equivalent of a partial oesophageal ectasis that we call their society!

Balancing the love instincts

The most reasonable line of conduct still remains to be chosen. There are two possible solutions which provide a balance for the instincts guiding our behaviour. One consists of avoiding their stimulation: this is the case of chaste celibacy. The other consists of stimulating and satisfying the four instincts simultaneously; this is the state of matrimony.

In the case of celibate chastity, the instincts of sexual desire, choice of mate and protection of offspring do not receive any direct solicitation. Fidelity is the only one which can find an outlet (parents and relatives).

In order to balance the other three which remain unsatisfied, the instinct of fidelity must be elevated, magnified, extended to the reaches of love itself. Only dedication to the other, greatest, most perfect, most powerful and who, mysteriously, presents himself under the aspect of the poorest, weak and deprived, can bring the unsatisfied tendencies into line. In short, the love of one's fellow beings becomes a necessity. Celibacy can only be accomplished within a context of total charity. This is as much a fact of nature as it is a theological precept.

On the other hand, marriage stimulates and satisfies all the instincts of love, although unequally in time and/or place. The potential fecundity of a healthy couple represents ten or fifteen children, largely exceeding modern day requirements. This is where family planning comes in.

A woman's fecundity is intermittent, dependent on the ovarian cycle. Therefore, it is evident that precise knowledge of the fertile periods provides a natural means of control.

Without any modification of physiology, as occurs when chemical methods are used, or disturbance of the act of love itself, as occurs when physical methods are used, periodic abstinence gives parents the means of procreating according to their own freely made decision.

The price of this freedom is the temporary - but often repeated curbing of sexual desire. This conscious repression of one of the instincts of love is nevertheless accomplished to the obvious benefit of the three others as it is in order to obtain improved conditions for their development that satisfaction of sexual desire is postponed from time to time.

It is apparent here as well that total harmony can only be established through an increase in fidelity, in respect for the child, respect for the husband or wife and respect for fellow human beings in general.

To use the laws of procreation in moderation is implicitly to acknowledge that we are creatures and, from this recognition, to be prepared to rediscover within each of us the image and likeness of our Creator.

by Professor Jerome Lejeune

Professor Jerome Lejeune, Professor of Fundamental Genetics of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris, Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (Laboratoire de Genetique Fondamentale, 149 rue de Sevres, 75015, PARIS).

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