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Chapter I. The Origin And Purpose Of Sex

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness... so God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1: 26, 27

For a proper understanding of the meaning and purpose of sex we must enquire why mankind has been created twofold, male and female. It is natural to suppose that this is for the sake of propagation and the continuance of the human race. But though this is indeed the case, it is not the only, nor indeed the fundamental, reason for the existence of the two sexes. It is conceivable, for instance, that God could have created beings of one kind only, able to propagate without sexual intercourse, like some of the lower forms of life. Biologists regard sex as a means devised by nature for the continuance of life, yet it is well known that the production of offspring without mating occurs among these lower forms of life even where both male and female forms exist. Thus, as Professor F. A. E. Crew points out in An Outline of Modern Knowledge (1931):

The Indian stick insect, Dixippus, exists in both the male and female forms, but the male is exceedingly rare and the mating of male and female has never been observed. The female lays a great number of eggs which develop without having been fertilised.

Manifestly, therefore, sexuality is not essential for reproduction throughout nature, and the foregoing example serves to show that differences of sex exist even where the function of propagation is not served thereby; so that there must be some other explanation to account for the two sexual forms.

What, then, is the origin and purpose of sex? The answer is to be found in the twofold nature of God by Whom all things were created and in Whose image man has been formed. God is a Being of Love and Wisdom, and the impress of this duality is to be seen in all creation, but supremely in man. It appears, for example, in the terraqueous globe of land and sea, in the light and heat proceeding from the sun, in acids and alkalis, in positive and negative electricity, and in the male and female counterparts in flowers. In the animal kingdom this duality appears in the sexes with their distinguishing features, more noticeable in some creatures than in others. The cock and the hen, and the lion and his mate, are easily distinguishable; the gander and the goose much less so. Distinctions in the appearance of the sexes increase as we climb the scale of creation, and it is when we come to man that these differences are most clearly marked; not so much as regards physical features (in which respect some animals and birds are as clearly differentiated as human beings), but as regards the mind. There are mental differences, of course, among animals; cows, for example, are more docile than bulls. But it is in the human mind that these differences are most far-reaching; going, as they do, to the roots of human nature. For sex is not of the body only, but of the mind and soul, and all the rich variety and subtle contrasts shown by the male and female mind are due to the initial and fundamental distinction between the soul of man and woman.

It is evident on the surface that the masculine mind differs from the feminine in that the former is more robust, forceful and intellectual than the other. But the fundamental distinction between man and woman lies in the fact that

The male is born into the affection of knowing, understanding and becoming wise, and the female is born into the love of conjoining herself with that affection in the male. CL 33*

From this underlying distinction of soul proceed all other differences between man and woman, both as to mind and body. In general, we may say that in man the intellect predominates, and in woman, the affections.

To quote Milton:

For contemplation he and valour formed; For softness she and sweet attractive grace.

Paradise Lost, Book IV, lines 296 and 7.

Yet, strange as it may appear, it is man who is created in the image of Divine Love, and woman in the image of Divine Wisdom. The explanation for this is that the essence of a man's soul is love; that is, the love of wisdom; whereas the essence of a woman's soul is the wisdom which she derives from man, and which underlies her desire to be united with a man. Thus we read:

The inmost in the male is love, and its covering is wisdom; or what is the same, the male is love covered or veiled by wisdom. The inmost of the female is the wisdom of the male, and its covering is love thence derived. But this love is feminine love, and it is given by the Lord to the wife through the wisdom of the husband; whereas the former love is masculine love, and is the love of growing wise, and it is given to the husband according to the reception of wisdom. Hence it is that the male is the wisdom of love, and the female the love of that wisdom. CL 32.*

(*This and all subsequent quotations marked "CL" are from the work Conjugial Love by Emanuel Swedenborg.)

It will be noticed that this analysis of the masculine and feminine soul refers particularly to a husband and wife. This is because the marriage union is the primary purpose for which the sex distinction exists, and only in the true marriage state do the masculine and feminine souls realise their full potentialities and enjoy that mutual interrelation of love and wisdom described above. Yet, even apart from marriage, it is evident that men and women are complementary to each other; the female sex being more passive and receptive where knowledge and judgment are concerned, and the male sex being more active and originative. On the other hand, by their interest in man's achievements and their stronger moral sense, women tend to direct man's intellectual bias into channels of useful activity, and to foster good manners. Thus, by their different natures, men and women serve different yet interrelated uses both to each other and to the community. Needless to say, there are many exceptions to this generalisation so far as external life is concerned. Some men are more practical than many women, and many women engage in public duties on an equal footing with men. Nevertheless, the root differences remain, and marriage is the all-important means, Divinely ordained, whereby man and woman attain their proper state and fulfil the purpose of their creation. As another passage declares:

The male human being and the female have been so created that out of two they may become as it were one human being . . . and when they become one they are then a human being in fullness; for without such conjunction each is like a divided or half human being. CL 37.


In every true marriage there is a spiritual union of love and wisdom whereby a married pair become one human being in the sight of God, and an image of the perfect union of Love and Wisdom in God. This union is effected chiefly through the wife in the following way. By her love for her husband and her innate inclination to unite herself with him, the wife receives her husband's wisdom into herself the effect of this being to bring about a change in both the man and his wife. With the husband the change consists in the purging of his mind from the conceit of self-intelligence, thus in softening and humanising his intellectual pride. His love of wisdom, that is, of knowing, understanding and becoming wise, is then no longer actuated by self-love, but by the love of good which makes one with the love of his wife, and by her love for him. For a true wife cannot "warm" towards her husband unless his knowledge and abilities are directed outwards to good ends and not turned inwards upon himself. Thus, he sees the quality of his wisdom not from himself but in his wife's regard for him, and his desire for this regard is the measure both of his love for his wife and of his love of wisdom.

As for the wife, she becomes a true consort by receiving her husband's wisdom into herself; this wisdom then forming her innermost being. Thus, the wife's soul is fashioned from the wisdom of her husband, as is signified by the story in Genesis of the rib taken from Adam and formed into a woman; wherefore Adam said, "She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Gen. 2. 23. And so we read:

It is therefore evident that woman is created out of man * (i.e. spiritually created) by the transfer of his wisdom.. that is, by the transfer of the love of this wisdom from man to woman that it might become conjugial love; and that this was done in order that there might not be the love of himself in man, but the love of his wife, who, from the nature innate in herself, cannot but convert man's love of himself into his love for her. CL 193.
*(lnterpolations in brackets, in this and other quotations, are supplied by the original writer)

Note, however, that the man's wisdom which the wife receives into herself and by which she is united with her husband, is not his knowledge and intellectual attainments, but his attitude towards life formed from a right appreciation of what is true and good; this latter we may call practical or moral wisdom. For there are two kinds of wisdom, rational and moral; the former belonging to the intellect, the latter to the will. Thus we read:

With the man there are rational and moral wisdom, and the wife unites herself with those things which belong to the moral wisdom with the man. Those things which belong to the rational wisdom constitute the man's understanding, and those which belong to moral wisdom constitute his will. CL195.

Concerning the virtues of moral wisdom with which the wife is especially conjoined to her husband, we read:

The things which belong to moral wisdom with men are all the moral virtues which concern life, and also the spiritual virtues which flow out from love to God and love towards the neighbour. The virtues which belong to moral wisdom are various, as, for example, temperance,

uprightness, benevolence, friendship, modesty, sincerity, willingness, civility; also industriousness, skill, alacrity, generosity, courage and prudence; besides many others. The spiritual virtues with men are, love of religion, charity, truth, faith, conscience, innocence, etc. CL163, 164.

However, notwithstanding that a wife's union with her husband is especially with his moral wisdom, she is also united with his rational wisdom by a kind of perception without actually entering into the particulars of his intellectual attainments. Thus, it is said:

The union of the wife with the rational wisdom of the husband is effected from within, but with his moral wisdom from without. CL163.

This is explained as follows:

The reason why the union of the wife with the man's rational wisdom is from within is that this wisdom is peculiar to the intellect of men, and climbs into a light in which women are not. For this reason women do not speak from that wisdom, but remain silent in the society of men and only listen when intellectual matters are being discussed. That, nevertheless, such matters are with wives from within is evident from their listening, and from their inward recognition of what has been said, and their favourable inclination towards those things which they hear and have heard from their husbands. CL 165.

Concerning the union of the wife with man's moral wisdom, we read:

The reason why the union of the wife with the moral wisdom of men is from without is that the virtues of that wisdom are for the most part akin to similar virtues with women, and partake of the man's intellectual will, with which the will of the wife unites itself and makes a marriage. And since the wife knows those virtues with the man more than the man knows them himself, it is said that the union of the wife with those virtues is from without. Ibid.

Such, then, is the nature of the marriage union whereby man and wife become an image and likeness of God; and such is the primary purpose of sex. Our next step is to consider the nature of the love of the sex in relation to true marriage love.

Previous: Preface Up: The Doctrine of the New Church on Sex and Marriage Next: Chapter II. Love Truly Conjugial, and the Love of The Sex


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