In 2015 Heinz Schott, Professor Emeritus of the University of Bonn in Germany, published a short academic paper. It appeared in a journal entitled Cultural and Religious Studies (July-Aug. 2015, Vol. 3, No. 4, 211-216 doi: 10.17265/2328-2177/2015.04.004) under its full title “Mesmerism, Sexuality, and Medicine: “Karezza” and the Sexual Reform Movement”.

Schott points out that sexuality was traditionally seen as a natural urge that had to be reined in for moral reasons. In other words, the human will had to crack the whip as a kind of disciplinarian in order to prevent sexual “immorality. The “sexual revolution” of the 20th century called off the disciplinarian. Yet it also abandoned the notion of a “natural” (as in normal, healthy) sexual drive. If anything, the sexual revolution radicalised sexuality more than ever. Experts now portrayed uninhibited sexuality as liberating and healthy.

Schott’s focus is not on the undeniable potency of the human sex drive, but rather on the power of the human mind to arbitrate and moderate physiological processes. In this context Schott examines Stockham’s Karezza in his Cultural and Religious Studies article below. Sadly, as Schott points out in his other work, the idea that sexuality can be creatively shaped by the human mind and thus become a never-ending source of happiness is as unpopular today as the interest in tracing this notion’s mythological and religious counterparts.

In the article below, Schott praises Alice Bunker Stockham MD’s concept of sexual control (or “mind over matter”) as a worthy alternative model to the one currently en vogue among sexologists. (Again, the current model advocates that sex is not, and should not be, under our control lest we suffer the effects of unhealthy repression.)

Stockham was a part of the New Thought movement

Using historical sources, Schott shows how Stockham was a part of the New Thought movement of her era. Like some of her peers in the United States and abroad, she emphasised that humans have the freedom to choose “voluntarily and consciously” between the spiritual and material roads. This applied to passion as much as any other aspect of life.

In Schott’s view, Stockham’s key motto claimed: “In no way does man’s dominion yield him richer return than in control, mastery and consecration of sex energy. […] Through love, training and self-control […] the married may not only attain the same conservation and appropriation [as the unmarried] but also by the union of the spiritual forces of their two souls, greatly augment them.” Karezza would teach the “supreme action of the will over the sexual nature, as well as the complete appropriation of the creative energy to high aims.”

Schott concludes that it is time, “that the scientific community recognizes [Stockham’s] important idea of a spiritual or mental emancipation from sexual bestiality. … It is time to rediscover her life and work”.

Read Schott’s full article below

In a hurry? Here’s an excerpt:

Stockham’s concept of Karezza poses a great challenge for modern sexology and sexual medicine: It follows another anthropology than science and medicine do since the late 19th century, when biology and naturalism impressed by Darwinism and the experimental (natural) sciences ignored the power of the mind over bodily functions. So, sexuality, in particular sexual intercourse and orgasm, were understood as quasi automatic physiological processes, involuntary reflex mechanisms. This biologistic view predominated also sexology and the sexual reform movement in the early 20th century up to the so-called sexual revolution starting in the 1960s. Sexual emancipation was then thought as the liberation from the (bourgeois) moralistic inhibition of the living out the sexual instinct. Therefore, the Karezza method opposing those doctrines means a unique alternative to cultivate sexual practice as a voluntary social act. Investigating the history of this idea within its cultural and scientific context may become essential for reflecting the anthropological conditions of sexuality today.