Safeguards of Marriage
by Rev. Hugo Lj. Odhner
The Pharisees were tempting the Lord, seeking to trap Him into statements contrary to the law of Moses, which permitted the Jews to put away their wives for any cause. But the Lord's answer showed that this civic provision was a permission given because of the hardness of their hearts, since the Jews knew nothing of the marriage of truly conjugial love. "From the beginning it was not so."
What the Lord came to restore was the moral and spiritual law of marriage, a monogamous marriage possible only between one man and one woman, a marriage looking to eternal cohabitation, a marriage in which the partners were joined by God. Such a marriage the Jews could not even imagine. When the Sadducees, who did not believe in an after-life, sought to confuse the issue by asking whose wife a widow would be after the resurrection if she - according to the Jewish law - had married several brothers in turn, the Lord could simply say that "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22: 30). For no such marriage as that which the Jews had in mind could possibly survive death.
The time was not ready when the Lord could reveal anything concerning the heavenly marriages of those who would become angels of God in heaven. To speak of the ideals of conjugial love to the Sadducees would be casting pearls before swine.' And even to the disciples the Lord could but hint that all could not receive His doctrine, "save they to whom it was given."
But in the revelations of the Lord's second advent the secrets of angelic life are laid bare for those who are able to receive. And those are able to receive who enter into the spirit of the Lord's teaching, and inquire what it is that God hath joined together. For let us note this well, that the institution of marriage is holy, ordained by God to serve as the seminary of the human race and thus of the angelic heaven. Quite irrespective of whether the two partners are destined to live one angelic life in heaven, marriage on earth is holy because of its exalted and essential uses. It is indeed the case, now as in the time of the Pharisees, that - owing to spiritual blindness and self-centered love - few find their eternal partner while on earth, and thus that few marriages are contracted which are not dissolved shortly after death. Nonetheless the doctrine is explicit that "matrimonies in the world are to continue to the end of life." "Marriage is a covenant. for life" (CL 276). This is from the Divine law, given in the Gospel and the Writings with precise qualifications as to when divorce is permissible. It is also from rational law, because reason is founded in spiritual laws, and the Divine law and the rational law are one. Viewing the matter from the Divine law, our reason can clearly recognize what an enormously destructive effect the break-up of marriages has upon society (Ibid.).
And the work on Conjugial Love also points out that because marriage is a covenant for life, it follows that where conjugial love is not genuine it must yet be affected; and that appearances of lave and friendship between partners are not only necessary but useful; and with a spiritual person may be assumed from justice and judgment; and thus from a sincere internal affection, differing entirely from hypocritical pretenses (CL 276, 279, 280).
It is, of course, obvious that most marriages within our degenerate race would perish soon after the ardor of first love' has cooled, unless each partner strove to make adjustments which might cover over internal disagreements and compensate for broken hopes. This is made easier by the communion of interests and uses which marriage creates - a partnership in needs and possessions, common concerns and consultations, and mutual cares and responsibilities. For a community of interests develops common affections, even if these be external and transient so that they have to be replaced as conditions change (CL 277).
No one can enter into marriage and come out the same man or woman. The roots of marriage are deep and ineradicable. The responsibilities assumed with the nuptial vow cannot be shifted. With it the pair becomes a unit of society. Marriage is the supreme and most comprehensive of all natural uses, in which the powers of the two sexes are united in a chain of uses which irrevocably involve the whole life-time of a man and a woman.
This is the merciful provision of the Creator for man's reformation and regeneration. For only by forgetting one's self in the duties and obligations that we owe to others can we escape the vices and follies into which our inborn self-will would plunge us. Only so can we redeem our human status as rational beings. And in marriage we are most naturally and pleasantly introduced into such a redeeming web of uses, into a sphere and current of necessities by which the Divine providence can avert many of the evils that might otherwise endanger our lives.
Marriage by itself brings no salvation, and no protection from interior evils. It is an ultimate of order and of use and can invite the spheres of heaven; but like all ultimates, all outward forms, it can be abused, profaned and turned into its opposites. The Writings show that there are infernal marriages, not only in the hells of the after-life, but here on earth. There are, marriages, brought about by passion or worldly cupidity, in which the partners pose as friends yet burn with intestine hatred. For there is then a constant rivalry as to rights and authority, without any conscience concerning conjugial love and no perception of its blessedness. If the husband succeeds in obtaining mastery, the wife, crushed into subjection, becomes but a slave and is held in contempt. But men may also unconsciously contract so great a fear of their wives that they become vile in their own sight. For the physical courage of man is no match for the obstinate persistence of a woman who - if she wishes - by alternate scalding and favoring, coldness and friendliness, can subject a man to the yoke of her authority, so that he dare not speak lest he offend her, when yet he cherishes against her a deadly hatred and a rankling bitterness (CL 291, 292).
The external status of matrimony can thus hide the most terrible evils - crimes against the very uses which marriage is meant to promote. Marriage then is often looked upon by one or both of the partners, or by each in turn, as a hateful form of human bondage. Yet in such cases, where the internal bonds of conscience and conjugial love are absent, external bonds are needed lest evils become rampant. If the bonds of matrimony could be shaken off at will, marriages would be entered into with callous disregard for their real purpose, and the institution of the home could no longer be the safe nursery of the future.
"What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Few would dare to deny that monogamous marriage is the noblest institution of civilized human life. But multitudes deny in heart that it is of Divine origin and ordination. Many who pay lip service to God would alter the laws of marriage to suit themselves. Few have any real perception of the profound blessedness, wisdom, and peace which a love truly conjugial would restore to mankind, or how to attain that love.
This is the reason why the Lord in His new advent has revealed that truly conjugial love comes from Him alone, and is possible only with those who look to Him and follow His commandments. For while the first flush of love brings to most couples a foretaste of heaven, as a loan and a promise, yet this burst of self-less warmth will prove a false spring unless their hearts are mutually centered upon the Lord as the only source, of true love. A chill steals over their spirits, and each begins to demand more and more for himself or herself and will give less and less to the other.
This spiritual coldness has many causes, some internal, some external, some deeply seated, some incidental and passing. The internal causes stem from the states of the partners in respect to their religious life. For where there is no religion there is no conjugial love, but only a love of the sex limited by prudence. And love of the sex, with the natural man, looks to self, and loves the partner only as a source of delight for one's self. There may indeed be, in such marriages, natural heat, but within this there is spiritual cold (CL 240).
When the soul of one partner, from a true religion, is open for the reception of conjugial love, but the mind of the other is closed to such influx, the latter is in spiritual cold which gradually turns into indifference, contempt and aversion, and which cannot be dissipated except by the reception of religious ideals and aims congruous with those of the devout partner. Otherwise such marriages are dissolved from within, and actually so after death. Differences of religious faith have a similar effect, making a union of souls impossible and increasing the states of spiritual and natural cold. For falsity in spiritual things takes away religion and with it the possibility of any conjugial love if genuine truths are falsified. And with those who have no genuine truths it defiles religion so that only a remnant of conjugial love can be preserved (CI; 241, 242).
But, as is well known, love may find obstructions also in more external dissimilitudes - in differences of temperament, station, education and heredity, culture, manners, and tastes. Where love rules, and where there is a yearning for a true friendship, such differences are easily discounted as unimportant. But where marriage is not regarded as holy there arises an emulation for super-eminence, that is, a contest for dominion between the partners, where frictions continue to gnaw while one or the other is reduced into a servile state and nothing conjugial remains; for love cannot abide except in freedom (CL 246, 248).
This is, of course, made to support the complaint by natural men that they have been chained to a partner by legal bonds and that love is no more free. But such persons have no real conception of what freedom is. What they want is a license without responsibility, a licentious freedom that actually places their spirit in bondage to the flesh. But those who are in love that is truly conjugial have their covenant written in their hearts. They can see that freedom - the inmost and utmost freedom - is provided for their love only in marriage, which is established for its protection, its nourishment, growth, blossoming, and fruitfulness.
Where love has departed from a home, its responsibilities still remain. Necessity demands that the master and mistress of the house agree, lest the society of the home be rent asunder and order, which is basic to every use, perish. Harmony can be maintained only by representative conjugial friendship between the partners, by the presence of mutual aid, courtesy, and favor. A common love of children, even a natural love, demands such appearances of mutual respect. On the part of men, whose spirits and health depend on finding a refuge of tranquility at home with their wives, there is often a willingness to show their wives such conjugial simulations, even where neither love nor conscience exist. And wives - instinctively knowing how to assuage the moods of men - for their own reasons accept these peace-offerings without demur (CL 283, 285).
The rivalry of the sexes, which is a symptom of spiritual cold, comes from the proprium of each, which is self-conscious of all slights and, although it dare only claim equality, is constantly striving for superiority. The male sex, unless disillusioned by doctrine, believes that man, not woman, dispenses conjugial love. The feminine sex resents the implications of the saying that woman was built from the rib of man. Temptations and fluctuations, from the irritability of the proprium and the impatience of the body, come even to conjugial partners to test and confirm their love. There is indeed the desire on the part of each to defend their own use against encroachments. Yet a spiritually minded person makes no point of being superior to others, knowing that the only true measure of superiority is the measure in which one shuns one's evils as sins; and this no man can truly estimate. He knows that there are no equalities in the created universe, but that all things are interwoven into a shifting scheme of mutual dependence, of action and reaction, of giving and receiving. And in human marriage this cooperative interplay finds its most perfect fulfillment.
In a marriage of truly conjugial love there is indeed from the beginning an inner confidence and assurance that the partners will live together to eternity. It is this hope, this looking towards an eternal life together, that resists the entrance of spiritual colds. But with this hope there comes to each also the realization of how unworthy he or she is of such great mercies, how unready their minds are, and how unregenerate their states. What they must do is to prepare for the journey heavenward hand in hand. Each step is attended by temptations, natural and spiritual. Only through the conquest of self, only through the purification of their natural mind and its affections, can heaven be brought down within their sphere of life.
The inspired teachings given in the work on Conjugial Love show how a marriage between partners who are not both in conjugial love must be maintained to the end of life by the keeping up of an appearance of love and friendship, and by a wise prudence which seeks to lighten the burdens of the other and mitigates the differences in their tastes and temperaments, so that internal dissimilitudes will not offend. Indeed, where such an appearance is made a duty, there might yet be hope that an internal love might come.
Yet a similar need of prudence and consideration is clearly present even with those who are in conjugial love and look to an eternal union. For in externals, there are with both affections and interests that may readily conflict. But with such it is love itself that dictates the prudence to be employed as a servant. Love gives wisdom and perception, and conjugial love arouses a conscience more tender than any other love, and more enlightened by heavenly truths. It causes each to feel the joy of the other as joy in himself or herself. It endows each with a clear appreciation of the distinctive sphere and use of the partner, and of his or her peculiar needs and requirements. And it leads each into a greater freedom and both into a common love, a common self.
"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother" - relinquish any evil or falsity of the past which may confuse his conscience and defile his understanding, and instead conjoin his purified thought with the correspondent affection which belongs to the wife. And they twain shall be one flesh - one affection in the sight of God, one love of what is good and true (AE 710: 26). This is the purpose of marriage, the: purpose of re generation, the end to which creation looks. So far as this spiritual marriage is accomplished, the duty of man is to protect it from the ravages of self-will and of the pride of the intellect. "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
-New Church Life 1952;72:319-324