Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XV: Of Sexual Intercourse - The Spiritual Physick
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
CHAPTER XV: Of Sexual Intercourse - Rhazes, The Spiritual Physick 
The Spiritual Physic of Rhazes, trans. Arthur J. Arberry (London: John Murray, 1950).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Of Sexual Intercourse
This again is one of the evil dispositions stimulated and induced by passion and the preference for pleasure, involving the man indulging it in all kinds of calamities and evil disorders. It weakens the eyesight, undermines and wears out the body, brings on premature old age, senility and wasting, injures the brain and nerves, and reduces and weakens the strength; quite apart from other ailments too numerous to mention. It is marked by an extreme voracity just like other pleasurable occupations—indeed it is more strongly and powerfully affected than the rest, because the soul remembers how excessively pleasurable it is compared with the others. In addition to this, frequent use of the sexual organ enlarges the testicles and attracts to them much blood, with the result that more and more sperm is generated in them; so the lust and yearning to indulge augments and increases over and over again. Contrariwise, when one diminishes or refrains from intercourse, the body retains that original freshness which is the peculiar property of the substance of the members, with the result that the period of growth and development is extended and the processes of aging, drying up, emaciation and senility are retarded; the testicles contract and cease to demand supplies; the generation of sperm is diminished; distention becomes slight; the male organ recedes; and the appetite falls away, so that its urge is no longer violent and its demands are no more pressing.
It therefore behoves the intelligent man to rein and restrain himself in this respect too, striving with his soul that it may not egg him on and excite him, lest it bring him to a state where it is difficult if not impossible to check and restrain it from indulgence. He should remember and keep in mind all that we have remarked on the reining and restraining of passion, especially our statement in the chapter on greed that the appetite rages and burns and incites and demands gratification even after it has attained and achieved the very limit of what it can possibly endure to enjoy. This is because this idea is even more valid and obvious when applied to the pleasure enjoyed in sexual intercourse than in the case of all other pleasures, because of the superiority it is pictured as having over the rest. For the soul—especially if it be neglected and left to its own devices, undisciplined, or what the philosophers call unrestrained—by no means finds its appetite diminished by the constant indulgence of the sexual urge, neither does frequent resort to concubines in any way lessen its desire and yearning for still others. And because this cannot be infinitely accomplished, such a man is inevitably burnt up by the flame and fire of thwarted enjoyment of the desired object; he suffers and endures the pain of deprivation, while the urge and incentive still rage within him; either for want of money and vigour, or through a natural and constitutional weakness and impotence. It is impossible in any case ever to attain as much gratification of the desired object as the lust demands and urges; as with the two men referred to in the chapter on greed.
This being so, the only right course lies in advancing the event which must in any case occur and be endured—namely the thwarting of enjoyment of the desired object while the incentive and urge still remain—before that enjoyment has been extensively and excessively indulged; in that way one can hope to be saved from its evil consequences, and avert its voracity and wolfishness and violent incitements and demands.
Besides all this, this particular pleasure is in any case the most proper and right of all pleasures to be cast away. This is because it is not necessary for the continuance of life, like eating and drinking, while there is no obvious and palpable pain in giving it up, like the pain of hunger and thirst; whereas its excessive and immoderate indulgence destroys and demolishes the structure of the body. To obey its summons and to go along with it is a sure and certain sign that the passion has triumphed and obliterated the reason—and that is a state of affairs which the intelligent man ought certainly to disdain and rise superior to, not seeking to emulate stallion bucks and bulls and other beasts that are without deliberation and regard for the future.
Moreover the disapprobation evinced by the great majority of mankind for this business, their revulsion against it and the way they hide and conceal it when they do practise it, prove it to be a thing detested by the rational soul. For that general revulsion of men against this affair must be due either to a natural instinct or to education and training; on either count, it is clear that it must be something revolting and evil in itself. That is because it is laid down in the laws of logic that opinions about whose soundness no doubt is to be entertained are those commonly held either by all or the majority or the wisest of mankind.
It is not incumbent upon us to persist in doing the thing that is revolting and hideous; rather it is our duty to leave it alone altogether; or, if we cannot avoid doing it, then we should do it as little as possible, and then with a due sense of shame and self-reproach. To act otherwise is to deny the reason and follow the inclinations of passion; and anyone who so comports himself is reckoned by intelligent men to be baser than the animals, and more subservient to passion than even they, since he prefers to follow and obey the call of passion in spite of the fact that his reason informs and warns him of the disadvantages he will suffer in acting thus; whereas the animal merely follows its natural instincts, having nothing to warn it, or inform it of the disadvantages resulting from its behaviour.