Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


§ I.

This word is scientific, and a little obscure, signifying small witnesses. Sixtus V., a Cordelier become pope, declared, by his letter of the 25th of June, 1587, to his nuncio in Spain, that he must unmarry all those who were not possessed of testicles. It seems by this order, which was executed by Philip II., that there were many husbands in Spain deprived of these two organs. But how could a man, who had been a Cordelier, be ignorant that the testicles of men are often hidden in the abdomen, and that they are equally if not more effective in that situation? We have beheld in France three brothers of the highest rank, one of whom possessed three, the other only one, while the third possessed no appearance of any, and yet was the most vigorous of the three.

The angelic doctor, who was simply a Jacobin, decides that two testicles are “de essentia matrimonii” (of the essence of marriage); in which opinion he is followed by Ricardus, Scotus, Durandus, and Sylvius. If you are not able to obtain a sight of the pleadings of the advocate Sebastian Rouillard, in 1600, in favor of the testicles of his client, concealed in his abdomen, at least consult the dictionary of Bayle, at the article “Quellenec.” You will there discover, that the wicked wife of the client of Sebastian Rouillard wished to render her marriage void, on the plea that her husband could not exhibit testicles. The defendant replied, that he had perfectly fulfilled his matrimonial duties, and offered the usual proof of a re-performance of them in full assembly. The jilt replied, that this trial was too offensive to her modesty, and was, moreover, superfluous, since the defendant was visibly deprived of testicles, and that messieurs of the assembly were fully aware that testicles are necessary to perfect consummation.

I am unacquainted with the result of this process, but I suspect that her husband lost his cause. What induces me to think so is, that the same Parliament of Paris, on the 8th of January, 1665, issued a decree, asserting the necessity of two visible testicles, without which marriage was not to be contracted. Had there been any member in the assembly in the situation described, and reduced to the necessity of being a witness, he might have convinced the assembly that it decided without a due knowledge of circumstances. Pontas may be profitably consulted on testicles, as well as upon any other subject. He was a sub-penitentiary, who decided every sort of case, and who sometimes comes near to Sanchez.

§ II.

A word or two on hermaphrodites. A prejudice has for a long time crept into the Russian Church, that it is not lawful to say mass without testicles; or, at least, they must be hid in the officiator’s pocket. This ancient idea was founded in the Council of Nice, who forbade the admission into orders of those who mutilated themselves. The example of Origen, and of certain enthusiasts, was the cause of this order, which was confirmed a second time in the Council of Arles.

The Greek Church did not exclude from the altar those who had endured the operation of Origen against their own consent. The patriarchs of Constantinople, Nicetas, Ignatius, Photius, and Methodius, were eunuchs. At present this point of discipline seems undecided in the Catholic Church. The most general opinion, however, is, that in order to be ordained a priest, a eunuch will require a dispensation.

The banishment of eunuchs from the service of the altar appears contrary to the purity and chastity which the service exacts; and certainly such of the priests as confess handsome women and girls would be exposed to less temptation. Opposing reasons of convenience and decorum have determined those who make these laws.

In Leviticus, all corporeal defects are excluded from the service of the altar — the blind, the crooked, the maimed, the lame, the one-eyed, the leper, the scabby, long noses, and short noses. Eunuchs are not spoken of, as there were none among the Jews. Those who acted as eunuchs in the service of their kings, were foreigners.

It has been demanded whether an animal, a man for example, can possess at once testicles and ovaries, or the glands which are taken for ovaries; in a word, the distinctive organs of both sexes? Can nature form veritable hermaphrodites, and can a hermaphrodite be rendered pregnant? I answer, that I know nothing about it, nor the ten-thousandth part of what is within the operation of nature. I believe, however, that Europe has never witnessed a genuine hermaphrodite, nor has it indeed produced elephants, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, and many more of the animals which inhabit Asia, Africa, and America. It is hazardous to assert, that because we never beheld a thing, it does not exist.

Examine “Cheselden,” page 34, and you will behold there a very good delineation of an animal man and woman — a negro and negress of Angola, which was brought to London in its infancy, and carefully examined by this celebrated surgeon, as much distinguished for his probity as his information. The plate is entitled “Members of an Hermaphrodite Negro, of the Age of Twenty-six Years, of both Sexes.” They are not absolutely perfect, but they exhibit a strange mixture of the one and the other.

Cheselden has frequently attested the truth of this prodigy, which, however, is possibly no such thing in some of the countries of Africa. The two sexes are not perfect in this instance; who can assure us, that other negroes, mulatto, or copper-colored individuals, are not absolutely male and female? It would be as reasonable to assert, that a perfect statue cannot exist, because we have witnessed none without defects. There are insects which possess both sexes; why may there not be human beings similarly endowed? I affirm nothing; God keep me from doing so. I only doubt.

How many things belong to the animal man, in respect to which he must doubt, from his pineal gland to his spleen, the use of which is unknown; and from the principle of his thoughts and sensations to his animal spirits, of which everybody speaks, and which nobody ever saw or ever will see!

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01