This section is from the book "Free Love: Or, A Philosophical Demonstration Of The Non-Exclusive Nature Of Connubial Love", by Austin Kent. Also available from Amazon: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures.
Friend Ballou :
I proceed in my reasoning from the nature of the mind. I may and am required to love a man "as myself," with the same kind of love. I may love another man more or less than myself, in degree, according to what he is. If he is on the whole not so good a man, I should not love him as much; for I am not required to be partial either way. Nature knows no false humility or false modesty, but only truth. If he is better than myself, and I have the ability to know and appreciate goodness beyond my absolute goodness, then I may, and normal and well-developed mind requires and prompts me to, love and regard him better than myself. This is possible and natural; it is truth. Any state but this is so far falsehood. But if I have not the ability to know and measure his goodness, beyond my own goodness, then I can not love him better than myself. My standard of love, in either or any case, is never absolute truth for another, but simply obeying the command of nature to me. Another should vary in accordance with his ability. God does not require any two men to love Him alike in degree. Each is to love with his whole heart, and mind, etc. That is, up to this capacity. The same law prevails as to my love for woman; and more.
I should not only love her as myself, but differently, perhaps exclusively from myself; and if I may not, as a general rule, love her better pr more than myself, I have a greater ability to be useful to her than to myself, and in this I promote my own greatest felicity. I may love some one man more than any other man, but I should not, I can not love him exclusively from every other man: so of woman. I may love some one man religiously or socially more than any other man in the same sense: so of woman. It is naturally possible, (but perhaps never a truth as a fact in Providence,) for me to love some one man more, mentally, religiously and socially, than any other man, but never to love any of these parts exclusively from the same parts in other men: so of woman. We some times, as a fact, love some one woman mentally or socially, or amatively, more than any other woman in the same sense; and were it ever a fact, as it can be conceived naturally possible to be, for us to love one woman in all these particulars more than any other, it would be unnatural and impossible to love such a person exclusively from her sisters, - from others of her sex. We can not do it in either or all of these phases of love.
Then where in nature is exclusive marriage? Nowhere! I think I am understood here, and invite the closest scrutiny. All of these loves for man or woman, and in man and woman, may be in a very perverted and impure state; or they may all be the most pure and chaste. My religious love may be religious selfishness and sectarianism. My sexual love may be the greater love for sexual self, or what is the same thing, lust. My affinities, from the highest to the lowest, may be all adultery in some of its definitions, But the form or order of their manifestations does not necessarily indicate their purity or impurity. Normal love is pure and chaste in its origin, in its living action, and as much so in all its ultimates. And the ultimates of love should correctly represent their cause. If love cannot be exclusive in the mind, it should not be held to be in its manifestations - in its consummations. The outgoing or ultimates of love should image forth its interior life. The reader will observe that in these letters, thus far, I have aimed to prove -
1. That our lore for others cannot be exclusive on any one point towards any one person.
2. I draw the inference, as a self-evident proposition, and as one which I believe is universally admitted, - that the manifestation of love should be a true image of itself. This will be the case, when nature is left entirely and absolutely free.
Does the fact of experience, or the consciousness of the mind sustain our position? Many desire to receive this exclusive love, and the lowest of the race, who regard love in any proper way, are the most tenacious in this desire. Such persons are nearly equally jealous of all the love of a mate - religious and mental as well as sexual. But these persons are not as ready to return this exclusive love. Many of these neither see the necessity nor feel the propriety of confining their affections, except as they find it enjoined and enforced in the law of marriage, and in the public sentiment which marriage has created. With these the demand is unjust, and selfish, and proves them in a state of disease of the affections; at least they are unbalanced and inharmonious. Many others - the number is more than is generally supposed - ask no exclusive love. They desire none. These, in the average, have a more elevated phrenological development than the first class named. I leave room in this statement for the many exceptions. Some of these last would suffer as much with a mate who should be disposed to bestow all her life on him, as the man of the opposite desire would with one who withheld it. Let elevated humanity judge which is the more noble and truthful state of mind.
I add, man is conscious of the same ability to be attracted to the opposite sex in general, as much in physical amativeness, as in the mental and spiritual. He has the power in a great degree to concentrate all the affections. So he has the power, in nearly or quite the same degree, to confine or direct all. If he be well balanced or well disciplined, he may suspend, indefinitely, all amative desire or attraction towards any woman - his own wife not excepted. This is possible for some minds, placed in almost any conceivable circumstances, and without all the safeguards of the Shakers. But all this is not normal, or natural. It is not truthful or commendable. I repeat; in a normal state of the affections, we are conscious of their universality, and not of their entire exclusiveness in any one particular. Our ability to control, confine or suspend their inward or outward action towards the many, or the one, does not stifle, or silence the voice of this consciousness.
I most respectfully invite the friends of exclusive marriage, who believe that the mind is God's Book, and that its healthy attractions are his laws, to carefully observe the main arguments in the two preceding letters, and to bear with what may seem to them, too much repitition. My proposition stands in the gap between all contending parties. It is the main hinge on which this great question turns. I am not touching the doctrine of expediency for diseased man, or giving any counsel concerning him. The latter is an after and side question. I aim to go back of all disease, or "misdirection" and forward to the full health of progression and final manhood. It is not a question of lust, but of Love - of normal attraction. It is of vast importance, and cannot be longer evaded. I will not detain the reader, by going too much into side issues. I must be full here, even at the expense of some repetition. I must leave no possible chance for misconception. It will only protract the discussion, which is sure to come; and I have suffered too much from misconception already.
We shall, then, press the inquiry upon the mind of the candid reader. Is love on any one point absolutely exclusive? Is it so in amativeness? Is it more so in amativeness than in adhesiveness? - or in any different sense? If our opponent says yes, and he must; will he give us fully and clearly his philosophy - his mind argument? We have said no, and we believe we have demonstrated our reply. We court honest and manly criticism; no other. We aver that we are not seeking personal victory, - but truth. - We do not know how to argue with any man to prove that two and two make four; we place it before the man of figures, and we think he cannot help seeing it. So, we believe, we have placed the laws of the mind, before the reader's mental vision, and we think he cannot help seeing them. We think he cannot help seeing, that minds alike will attract alike; - and that so far as minds are alike, they will attract alike. That this must be true of mind as mind, and so true of all its parts. (We have not argued in the preceding letters, by the analogy, that because one faculty of the brain was non-exclu. sive, so another must be.
We left that for a coming letter.) So, as all minds are more or less alike, - and as each faculty in one mind is some like the same faculty in another mind, there can be no entire exclusiveness: - and as each and every man, and each and every woman, are more like every other man and every other woman, than they are unlike them, a general attraction, union, and love, must be the rule, in a healthy state of the race. "Repulsion" (or hatred) is a negative; - it represents less attraction. It is a lesser power in mind - is the exception, - and follows the same law with love, as to its non-exclusiveness.