Sexual Symbolism of the Cross

Around this symbol and the cult which it symbolized gathered the first civilization of the human race, the first feeble aspirations of savage humanity toward beauty, grace and unselfishness. For the cross, in whatsoever land it be found—and it or some one of its correlated emblems is reverenced in every civilized nation or savage tribe yet met with upon the earth—is an old, old symbol of the relation resulting from that mysterious attraction between man and woman which is called sexual love. To this mighty passion—stronger than even hunger or the fear of death—the animal world owes the acquisition, through natural selection, of grace in form or beauty in coloring, of perfumes, as in the muskdeer, of splendid crests and gorgeous plumage, as in the male birds of many species. The magnificent antlers of the stag, the exquisite music of the canary, are alike the result of sexual selection. In man, the higher animal, this force has acted on a more extended scale still. The graceful contour of women, their soft voices and coquetries, are but a few of those secondary differences of sex intensified by masculine selection through long centuries. But it is on the mind and heart that sexual attraction has always exerted its greatest power, leading each sex to practice every grace it possessed in order to attract the other. Primitive man perforce abated his rude savagery to become tender and considerate toward the woman he desired to possess; and primitive woman, endowed by Nature with an Amazonian strength which in a state of savagery rendered her the physical equal of the man, laid aside her virgin fierceness to meet him more than halfway in unselfish tenderness, and, for love of him, to become less his equal and more his slave as the ages rolled on. Whatever errors or immoralities may have gradually crept into the relationship of the sexes, Nature has more than counterbalanced them by making the law of sexual attraction the chief educator of the race in acquiring with every generation increased sensibilities, physical, intellectual, moral, aesthetic, and in many cases spiritual.

For this reason, we need not wonder that the euphemistic symbol of sexual union, the Cross, should command universal reverence. Its meaning has long since been forgotten, save by a few of the educated; nevertheless, its symbolism still survives in a thousand ways in the folklore of the people, and in the religions of learned priests everywhere, whatsoever those religions be; and though ignorantly, it (or some one of its correlated emblems) is none the less loyally honored, and rightly so, as a sacred symbol throughout the world.

(pp. 109-110)

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