Remember my preference

About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part V:  The Meaning of Sweat as Part of the Curse

Chapter 2

The Sweating of Fallen Man

     IT IS CUSTOMARY to associate the sweating of man with the Fall. Yet it must be apparent from the very brief survey already made that it seems to be performing a vital, albeit natural, function for him. The question is, To what extent can we say that man sweats only because he is a fallen creature? Can we say this at all, in fact? The answer, I think, is undoubtedly Yes. Moreover, the affirmative applies especially to that type of sweating which is most copious, namely, thermal sweating. But it also applies to emotional and mental sweating and, as we shall see, in one particular area of the body uniquely so. This one area we consider in the final chapter. Let us here examine the situation in its other aspects.

     First of all, it should be said that, while we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made with a fantastic number of self-regulating physiological feedback mechanisms to ensure the maintenance of health, our bodies are not particularly efficient. Nor, for that matter, are engines of human design. A steam engine has an efficiency of about 9 percent, the rest of the available power in the fuel that is consumed being "wasted". A highly refined aircraft engine may go up to 40 percent or a little better, which still leaves much to be desired. The human body has an efficiency of about 20 percent; the other 80 percent of the energy available in the "fuel" we consume is lost from the body in the form of heat. To be more exact, it is not all lost, for a certain percentage is used to accelerate chemical reactions and thus render the body slightly more efficient in times of stress. However, it remains that something like 75 percent of the energy which would presumably be available to a body that was perfect is not available to us. The efficiency of animals, on the other hand, is remarkable.

     pg 1 of  8     

On a few seeds and some stored resources a bird may make an unbroken flight of several thousand miles. A fish weighing several hundred pounds may swim the ocean on about ten pounds of food. Domesticated animals suffer in the process of domestication because of the artificial foods and an artificial environment.
     One might ask whether, if man uses only one-fifth of the energy in the food he eats, could he not perhaps eat only one fifth of the normal intake and be just as well off? There are two problems with this. The first is that the body can extract only this small percentage of available energy whether he eats much or little. This is not strictly true, but it is nearly so and suffices for the present discussion. Some people's bodies are more efficient than others and they seem to have enormous energy reserves accompanied by a small appetite. Others stuff themselves endlessly yet continue without energy. All of which means only that the figure of 20 percent applies to that non-existent individual, the "average man".
     The second point is that if we only ate one-fifth of what is normal for us, we should be everlastingly hungry. Only man has a hunger which regularly exceeds the absolute requirement of his body. Animals seem to know not merely when they have had enough but exactly how much and of what foods to eat. This has been remarkably demonstrated in certain studies, referred to in another Doorway Paper
(1) which the reader may wish to pursue for himself. What has been said of hunger applies equally to thirst. Man is the only creature that drinks when it is not thirsty. Conversely, when he becomes dehydrated for any reason, he will not drink more than about one-third of what he needs. The sense of thirst is then satisfied, and the impulse to drink more is lost. On the other hand, animals such as the dog or burro will drink until they have all the water they require, thirst being regulated by water lost. It is evident that man's thirst and appetite have somehow gotten badly out of kilter with his physiological needs. But not so the animals.
     This line of reasoning seems to me to imply that a perfect man would either need less to eat or would have the same appetite but an enormously increased vitality. Is it possible that the patriarchs who lived to such great ages not merely had more energy in the sense that this is reflected in longevity, but also had more energy in the simple sense that they were stronger? Were their bodies more efficient, it is also possible that they had a lower

1. "Nature as Part of the Kingdom of God", Part II in Man in Adam and in Christ, vol.3 of The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.

     pg.2 of  8     

metabolic rate, for experiments with animals show that a reduced metabolic rate results in longer life. Although the life span declined after the Flood, nevertheless those people may have retained a physical vigour far in excess of our own, and the vast monuments of antiquity with enormous stones cast about as though by veritable giants may just possibly be accounted for in some such way. It was not that these men were necessarily taller, but rather that the same muscle fibers had greatly increased contractile strength. While it is perfectly true that this strength seems now to be dependent upon the level of blood supply rather than the actual volume of muscle, this may not be the whole story; for them, nearer to Adam, the muscle fibers themselves may have had greater strength.
     Following along this line of thought, there is evidence -- quite apart from Scripture -- that man may have changed his diet at one time, having originally been herbivorous rather than omnivorous as he now is. His now-troublesome appendix, according to George A. Dorsey, may have at one time aided him in the management of a more fibrous diet. The eating of meat does not seem to have been a part of the habit of antediluvian man. If man was able to do in those days what he is now able to do in the way of sustained activity with his mixed diet, then he must have had a more efficient body. It is well known to those acquainted with the ways of such animals as horses and deer, whose diet is entirely herbivorous, that they must be eating a large part of the time since such "fuels" are low in energy value relative to meats. It is because of this that Indians were able to run down horses, merely by keeping the horse moving so that he could not stop to eat but ultimately tired out and surrendered. Perhaps it is because man's life span dropped so seriously and his possibilities of achievement were thereby so drastically reduced that God, in His wisdom, saw fit to appoint him flesh for meat with its more highly concentrated energy sources. But this was to accommodate a fallen creature. Quite apart from the fact that his appendix troubles him because of the change, he pays another penalty as a direct result, which is nearer to our present subject. A vegetable diet normally provided less concentrated energy and fewer calories than a diet containing meat, so that the tempo of his life was slower; but the higher metabolic rate resulting from his now-mixed diet, while it allowed a higher sustained tempo of activity, also necessitated the elimination of more heat and consequently a higher sweating rate. The original diet may have elicited very little sweating indeed. 

     pg.3 of   8   

     Bearing in mind that, for every 100 calories of potential energy ingested, man must somehow rid himself of about 75 in the form of heat, as long as the environmental conditions permit him to rid himself of this heat load he maintains the proper deep body temperature and gets along fairly well. He may possibly make some adjustments to a perpetually higher or lower temperature by a slight reduction or increase in his metabolic rate. But the rest of this excess heat must be removed by one of four avenues: convection, conduction, radiation, and evaporative cooling. He gets convective cooling in a cool breeze or where the heat from his body is allowed to rise and there is no heat gain from the surrounding air. Conductive cooling results more directly through such agencies as cold water or standing on a cold floor or getting wet in the cold so that the clothing becomes waterlogged. Heat loss by radiation occurs whenever the objects in the environment directly in line with the body are at a lower temperature than the skin surface. An example of this might be an underground tunnel, even though the air in the tunnel is artificially heated above skin temperature. These are merely examples to show the kind of avenues that may present themselves. But for most of the time for probably most people in the world, it is the evaporation of sweat that provides men with the best protection against a temperature rise in the body. Sweating, therefore, is a critical requirement for man as he now is, and especially if he is to be active. This is an important qualifying factor, for in very hot weather most animals in nature keep cool by reducing their activities. Of course, they have other means as we have seen, but these other means are contributory rather than dominant. Man is such a restless creature, so filled with ambitions and aspirations when he is in normal health, that being human and having the capacity for a high level of sweating are almost synonymous terms.
     In summary, then, the tempo of life of unfallen man would probably have been much slower, metabolism greatly reduced, and the need for thermal sweating very much less than it now is.

     So much for thermal sweating. What about emotional sweating? Well, here we are on less secure ground. We do not know exactly what is the function of emotional sweating, but we do know that as a rule it is the only kind of sweating associated with that rather unpleasant accompaniment which the deodorant manufacturers find most profitable to exploit -- body odour. Emotional sweating occurs chiefly under the arms, as we have seen, and the turbid fluid secreted is very different from the pure fluid of thermal sweat. These

     pg.4 of  8    

glands are referred to as osmidrotic, which means simply that the secretion has an odour. The substances in this fluid become the food of bacteria, and in time the odour becomes strong, acrid, and unpleasant. The interesting thing is that before the age of puberty -- one might almost say before the age of accountability -- children either do not produce this sweat at all or only in greatly reduced quantities.
     Now, almost everyone is aware of the acute sensitivity of animals to odours. Everyone knows how sensitive dogs are to the scent of things associated with humans, for example. Years ago in England I used to indulge in the ancient sport of fox hunting with my parents. We were always warned as children that if we had observed a fox passing along a certain route nearby we should never under any circumstances cross its trail. It is a simple matter of fact that the leading dogs of a full pack of as many as sixty or one hundred animals hot on the scent of the fox may lose the trail at that point where a human has stepped across it, especially when there is dew on the ground. Such is the animal organ of smell. It has further been observed that animals are able to detect when a human is afraid of them. Animal lovers often remark upon this, and those who have had the doubtful privilege of associating with bulls in a barnyard will know that somehow this doughty warrior responds in a rather characteristic way to the attitude of any human in its immediate presence. It may be quite docile and friendly in the presence of fearlessness, or perhaps better, in the absence of fear -- which is not quite the same thing. But in the presence of fear it appears to be disturbed or downright aggressive!
     It is equally a matter of common experience for adults to find that the hostility which they often meet with in a strange dog of mean disposition may be totally absent in the presence of young children. In fact, the indignities which some animals will endure with apparent indifference at the hands of children is often a matter of surprise.
     I have a theory about this. My theory is that the emotional response of fear in humans elicits an axillary sweating with its characteristic odour. Most of the time we are unaware of this odour. I say "most of the time" because it is not always so. A friend of mine who is a major in a paratroop company has told me that before a drop, the cabin of the aircraft develops an almost overpowering odour which is most unpleasant and which seems to result from the tension and anxiety of the men who are about to make the jump. In this case, the level of anxiety is great (even though concealed if possible) and the odour correspondingly readily detected by other humans. In the case of fear which is mild or perhaps even almost unconscious, psychic sweating may be very low indeed -- but it is readily detected by animals. 

     pg.5 of  8    

     When I suggest that animals react to this odour, I mean, of course, at an entirely unconscious level. They are not aware of the cause of their reaction. But their response is one of hostility or uneasiness, causing them to be aggressive and to attack, or to flee.
     But not so with very young children, partly because children do not "know enough" to have any fear. Consequently, a little child may walk up to a thoroughly bad-tempered dog and slap its face or pull its tail and the dog will walk away almost as though ashamed of itself. The absence of fear is accompanied by an absence of emotional sweating, and the absence of this stimulus to the animal permits a far more harmonious relationship between them. Subsequently, when the sweat glands have developed fully, this natural harmony may be disrupted. This suggests to me, since fear is cast out by perfect love, that were we able to love perfectly, our relationship to the animals might very well be just that which Isaiah pictures for us during the Millennium. And as their moral governor, this "declaration of peace" might extend itself within the animal kingdom so that even the wolf and the lamb, the lion and the ox would dwell together in peace and a little child lead them.
     Nor can we leave this thought altogether without remarking upon one further fact regarding sweating. Older people tend to have this emotional sweating reaction depressed with age, a phenomenon which may not be altogether unrelated to their gradual recovery in many cases of certain childlike qualities. Ambition is largely past in such people, and a certain unsophisticated trustfulness and simplicity may replace the hostilities of former years. The tensions of middle age are relaxed, so with this relaxation, emotional sweating is reduced -- one more justification for referring to this period of life as a second childhood.

     There is another interesting discovery in connection with fear and sweating rates and pain. It is found that a clear distinction can be made between the stimulus of an experience which is both fearful and painful, and the stimulus of an experience which is merely painful. For example, although the sweating reaction in response to pain is very rapid, occurring within one second, so that there is no question as to the specificity of the reaction, quite painful stimuli will often elicit no psychic sweating whatever. In the absence of fear, women in labor have shown little psychic sweating until the contractions are severe and pain has become

     pg.6 of  8     

intense. On the other hand, patients waiting in a dentist's office sweat profusely if they are apprehensive, and this sweating is found to increase markedly as soon as work on the teeth begins even though only slight sensations of pain are experienced. Here is an anomaly: in one case painful contractions which are unaccompanied by fear elicit no sweating response, but a mild dental operation when accompanied by fear elicits profuse sweating. This suggests that an organism as a whole becomes much more highly sensitized to the feeling of hurt when fear is also present. A common illustration of this, of course, is to be seen in the case of sudden and unexpected injury. Such injuries can be exceedingly severe, but in the absence of fear, the sense of pain at the time can be enormously reduced or even absent altogether. A man may lose a whole limb and not even be aware of it at the time, no pain whatever being experienced. When such injuries are both sudden and unexpected, fear is entirely absent. Probably this phenomenon of depressed pain sense is the basis of Dr. Grantly Dick Read's claim that normal childbirth could be much less painful if the mother were so completely prepared for it that the element of fear is reduced to a minimum level. His objective was to have childbirth without fear, rather than childbirth without pain. Indeed, there are not a few experiences in daily life which, though painful in themselves, are accepted without serious discomfort or even with pleasure when unaccompanied by fear. There are other examples. For instance, in rough and tumble sports (boxing, wrestling, and bronco-busting) one accepts hurt with a kind of fierce exultation if it contributes to victory. A painless triumph brings little satisfaction.
     There is also evidence from measurements taken on the footpads of animals that severe pain is required to elicit sweating, a fact which seems to demonstrate clearly that in nature an organism accepts pain without anxiety to a remarkable extent. The outward evidences of suffering which many animals display when injured are really very difficult to interpret because even decerebrate animals, i.e., animals with all the brain entirely removed above the level of the pons -- which therefore have no consciousness whatever, still show signs of suffering when painful stimuli are applied, yet there cannot possibly be any actual experience of pain. So we may surmise that the cruelty of nature is rather more apparent than real.
     My conclusion from evidence of this kind is that an enormous amount of suffering among humans results from fear rather than from the painful stimulus itself. One might perhaps see in this some grounds for believing that while perfect love casts out fear, it may also markedly

     pg.7 of  8    

reduce the experience of pain -- a fact which, if it is true, may throw some light on what appears to the onlooker as an extraordinary fortitude on the part of those who are enduring torture or martyrdom on account of their love for the Lord. We feel in anticipation that such agonies would be beyond our powers of endurance, but we may be overlooking the fact that such experiences are perhaps the last step in the perfection of those who are called upon to endure them. Being made so nearly perfect, fear is virtually cast out by love and with it a large proportion -- perhaps all -- of the pain.

     Would Adam have sweated in such ways, if he had not fallen?
     The answer to this, I think, is Yes and No. He would have sweated naturally, though in great moderation, to maintain thermal equilibrium. This kind of sweating is possible for man in a unique way, and body temperatures are maintained in a changing environment without the slightest discomfort and without our awareness. As we have seen, the fluid secretion of thermal sweat is probably the most dilute fluid the body is capable of producing, so that it may appear on the skin in small quantities as virtually pure water and with no greater discomfort than would be experienced by washing one's hands and face. The refreshing experience of a cool breeze stems very largely from the fact that accelerated evaporation is taking place from the skin. The efficiency of this system of thermal regulation is truly remarkable. Thus thermal sweating in moderation for the maintenance of normal body temperature is a perfectly healthy and harmless physiological experience, as normal as reasonable hunger. There is no odour and no residue. However, when metabolic rates are greatly accelerated due to sustained or violent exercise, or to the specific dynamic action of food taken in excess, then profuse sweating with its much less pleasant accompaniments must take place to remove from the body in the form of heat the wasted energy which our fallen bodies can no longer make use of. Such stresses would presumably never have been the lot of unfallen man, or at least would not have been a necessary element in his eating of his daily bread.
     As for psychic sweating, it is probable that in his pristine glory Adam had no fear to provoke it and therefore maintained perfect harmony with the animals; the mental energies required to cope with the events of each day were handled so easily with his giant mind that mental sweating was equally foreign to his experience. As our bodies have been reduced to an efficiency of about 20 percent, so it seems we now use at the most only an estimated 2 percent or so of the available resources in our minds.
     What if our bodies and our minds were 100 percent efficient. . . ? 

     pg.8 of  8     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter

Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us