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Whether the menstrual flow is sudden.

Whether such a flow causes infection in the eyes.

Whether it accelerates the aging process.

Further one inquires whether the menstrual flow is sudden.

1. And it seems not. For every sudden occurrence is injurious to nature, but according to Avicenna that which occurs gradually is agreeable to nature. Since, then, the menstrual flow is gradual, it will be neither sudden nor injurious to nature.

2. In addition, nature acts and proceeds against disease in

The Philosopher says the opposite.

Second, one inquires whether such a flow causes infection in the eyes.

And it seems not. For that which is a source of cleansing is not also a source of infection. But the menstrual flow cleanses a woman. Therefore, it does not cause infection.

The Philosopher says the opposite.

Third, one inquires whether the emission of semen and of the menses diminishes the memory and accelerates the aging process.

1. It seems not. The purification of the spirits contributes to memory, and the expulsion of crude and undigested superfluities postpones or retards the aging process. But the spirit is purified by the emission of semen and of the menses, and the aforementioned superfluities are expelled. Therefore, it contributes to memory and retards the aging process.

2. In addition, according to the Philosopher in the twelfth book of this work, fat blocks sensation and shortens life. Therefore, in a contrary way, being thin will be a cause of their opposites. But the emission of seed and of the menses makes a person thin; therefore, etc.

The Philosopher says the opposite.

To the first question one must reply that the menstrual flow can be natural or unnatural. The natural flow arises from the strength of nature and the obedience of material, but an unnatural flow arises along with weakness of power and from recalcitrance [inobedientia] of the material. But every sudden action that arises from a strong power in an obedient material comes, with respect to the action that is arising, from an opposite cause, and is not sudden in an absolute sense. And this is why the Philosopher understands that the natural menstrual flow almost seems sudden, because it occurs over a short period of time, for it ends in three or four days. But the flow is unnatural when it arises slowly and is completed slowly, for example, over four months' time, or when it ends in death.

1. And with this a solution to the first argument is apparent, because every sudden act arising against nature's inclination is injurious. But the menstrual flow does not arise in this way, especially when it is a natural flow.

2. To the second argument one must reply that the division and digestion of matter are related to expulsion in the way generation is related to alteration. And thus, just as alteration occurs gradually over time, generation, which is its end, occurs suddenly and in an instant. Analogously, then, the expulsion of noxious matter appears to be almost sudden compared to division and digestion.

To the second question one must reply that just as among those having an affinity [symbolum] a mutual transition is easier, so too among those not having an affinity a mutual infection or alteration is easier. Now, then, the eye is particularly in agreement [convenit] with the brain, because it is cold and moist; and because the brain is diminished by the emission of the seed and the menstrual flow, sight is also diminished, since what injures one injures the other. And this is why in those people who have very frequent intercourse the first telltale sign appears in the eyes. Similarly, the eye is a very passive member, and at the time of menstruation the menses flow particularly to the eyes and infect them. And this is why if the eyes' object is clean, like a polished mirror or the eye of another person, it will immediately be infected by the eye of the one menstruating, since that one's eyes infect the air, and this air infects other air, and this infects still other air, as far as the mirror.[1]

Therefore, to the present question one must respond that although the menstrual flow and its expulsion cleanses a woman, nevertheless when it remains in the body it infects all the members and especially the eyes and, in the same way, their object.

To the third question one must reply that an emission of this sort weakens memory for three reasons, because inordinate desires cloud the senses, according to Aristotle in the Ethics. But when sperm and the menses are emitted frequently, they cause desires to burn excessively in a person, and as a result they obfuscate the senses, and so too the memory.

Moreover, memory flourishes in the posterior part of the brain. But this part of the brain is particularly diminished by the emission, and as a result memory is weakened.

The sensitive nerves are also debilitated by this emission and, as a result, so too are the motive nerves, because sensation is the principle of motion, and it thus induces aging because the consumption and evacuation of the radical moisture is the cause of aging. But by their frequent emission not only is what is superfluous evacuated, but also that which is agreeable to nature is expelled along with it, and this accelerates aging. Still, one should make a distinction concerning the body, because if there are superfluities in the body that nature does not need, but these are, rather, contrary to nature, then such an operation and expulsion contributes to the health and goodness of the intellect, by purifying the brain and [the faculty of] fantasy, without which there is no intellect. And very often it contributes to growth, because the heat is dulled by superfluities like these, and heat is the effective principle of growth, and this is why the heat flourishes and grows more freely once they have been expelled. If however the body is well disposed, and does not have excess and superfluous spermatic moisture, whatever it may be, then an operation like this is contrary to the aforementioned things, or it introduces contrary dispositions.

  • [1] The tainting of a mirror by a menstruating woman was a widespread belief. Cf. DA (SZ 1: 646).
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