Why should one lock up a man or a woman who walked stark naked in the
street? and why is no one shocked by absolutely nude statues, by
pictures of the Madonna and of Jesus that may be seen in some churches?
It is probably that the human species lived long without being clothed.
People unacquainted with clothing have been found in more than one
island and in the American continent.
The most civilized hide the organs of generation with leaves, woven
Whence comes this form of modesty? is it the instinct for lighting
desires by hiding what it gives pleasure to discover?
Is it really true that among slightly more civilized nations, such as
the Jews and half-Jews, there have been entire sects who would not
worship God save by stripping themselves of all their clothes? such
were, it is said, the Adamites and the Abelians. They gathered quite
naked to sing the praises of God: St. Epiphanius and St. Augustine say
so. It is true that they were not contemporary, and that they were very
far from these people's country. But at all events this madness is
possible: it is not even more extraordinary, more mad than a hundred
other madnesses which have been round the world one after the other.
We have said elsewhere that to-day even the Mohammedans still have
saints who are madmen, and who go naked like monkeys. It is very
possible that some fanatics thought it was better to present themselves
to the Deity in the state in which He formed them, than in the disguise
invented by man. It is possible that they showed everything out of
piety. There are so few well-made persons of both sexes, that nakedness
might have inspired chastity, or rather disgust, instead of increasing
It is said particularly that the Abelians renounced marriage. If there
were any fine lads and pretty lasses among them, they were at least
comparable to St. Adhelme and to blessed Robert d'Arbrisselle, who slept
with the prettiest persons, that their continence might triumph all the
But I avow that it would have been very comic to see a hundred Helens
and Parises singing anthems, giving each other the kiss of peace, and
All of which shows that there is no singularity, no extravagance, no
superstition which has not passed through the heads of mankind. Happy
the day when these superstitions do not trouble society and make of it a
scene of disorder, hatred and fury! It is better without doubt to pray
God stark naked, than to stain His altars and the public places with