“The power of procreation and the power of conviction together confer on us, thanks to marriage, the combine strength of making epochs.” So writes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (In the Cross of Reality, 212). Marriage infuses new life into society, the possibility of peace. Without marriage, societies “cool down” into rigidity.
Rosenstock expounds on this theme from several angles. Love, he argues, takes an external form: “These external features of love were once called in German Hochzeit [high time – that is, the wedding] and Ehe [marriage], to indicate the union of lovers.” In this older conception, all “high times are marriages; and all feasts of love involve marrying” (202).
On these premises, “marriages are public affairs. At the weddings of the Habsburgs. one married whole empires. That a pair of lovers can pull a whole community along with them and elevate if for all time, is the one feature that separates a concubinate and ‘free love’ from the spring of love that flows into the marriage of the absolute power.” Through weddings, “the world of love overpowers and overwhelms the world of work” (202).
Modern marriage has narrowed to become a union of two lovers: “Society is no longer becoming involved in this bonding of the sexes at weddings.” The wedding is not, as it once was, society’s acknowledgement of “a higher kind of life, to which their daily casual routines are subordinated” (202).
Weddings were “birthdays,” not only for the bride and groom, but for the whole of society: “the toast to the wedding couple brings together not merely the two lovers, but enforced among all the participants the birth of a new spirit and a change of their order” (203). At the wedding, “the settled order of society makes room for the entry of a new pair of bearers of reality, and this results naturally in a new ranking order” (202).
As weddings have become private affairs, and as marriage has been weakened by easy divorce, society gropes around to find a way to organize :”without these infusions of new groups.” Since “society is a cooling-down process, an adjustment to daily routine,” it has to be “reengergized by the process of bonding in marriages.” Today, “we are seeking a collective solution to replace the social impotence of private weddings” (203).
Society cannot survive unless the “Don Juan and the philanderer in every man” is harnessed, along with the “loose woman and the controlling female in every woman.” Society survives only when “men and women . . . decide every day anew to combat their jealousy, their lust, their desires, their craving for domination.” All these destructive powers arise from “the same creative force that constitutes the magnificence of our manhood and womanhood.” But these “greatest joys and the daily genesis of new life are also the sources of the greatest dangers and a daily threat to society” (210).
This deepest cleft in the human race is healed by marriage, and when it isn’t, “humankind suffers devastation”: “An unsuccessful amnesty between man and woman is war par excellence. When Adam showed himself unwilling to take responsibility for his wife’s deed, original sin ensued.” When marriage does bring peace between the sexes, “children learn from their parents that they, too, have been endowed with the strength to endow peace” (211).
Rosenstock finds confirmation of these considerations in Freud. Psychoanalysis “came to prominence after 1880, when the bourgeois family began to fall apart. Sigmund Freud encountered children who perceived their parents as separated sexes, where the man or woman had lovers rather than forming a welded generation; and so they revealed themselves to their children as merely sexually divided creatures” (211).
Marriage renews society also by what Rosenstock calls the “selective breeding” of education. By this phrase, he means the effort to life “a child without a known destiny into a path of time at a unique temporal location.” Marriage combines the “physical act of procreation” with the “educative at of breeding” so that “something happens to the bearer himself, that subsequently bears fruit” (210).
Procreation and the conviction that guides child-rearing are necessary for the constant renewal of society, the renewal that forms epochs of human history.