Chapter II. Love Truly Conjugial, and the Love of The Sex
For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife.
The love of the sex is a merely natural instinct which human beings, in common with the animals, have for the opposite sex in general. It is not to be confused with that spiritual love, called "conjugial love" which exists between a married pair who are united in true marriage love. The sexual instinct in itself is not impure, as has been wrongly taught in the Christian Church, but it is rendered impure by the fact that man is a fallen creature who tends, before regeneration, to indulge his natural and sensual desires to the exclusion of the higher claims of the mind and soul. Man is essentially a spiritual being, and the sexual appetite, like all the natural appetites and desires, should be kept subservient to the needs of the soul.
Concerning the nature of the love of the sex and its relation to conjugial love, we read:
The love of the sex with man is not the origin of conjugial love, but its first manifestation. . . . Conjugial love indeed commences from the love of the sex, or rather by means of it, but still it does not originate in it; for it originates in the proportion in which wisdom advances. . . . The reason why conjugial love commences by means of the love of the sex is that, before a consort is found, the sex is loved in a general way, and regarded with a loving eye. CL 98.
Again, it is said:
Conjugial love is in the love of the sex as a gem is in its matrix. CL 97.
We see, then, that conjugial love and the love of the sex are not by any means the same thing, and that the former is not just a heightened form of the latter, but owes its origin to man's progress in wisdom, and in the love of good and truth. For this reason the term "conjugial" acquires a specific meaning distinct from ordinary marriage or conjugal love, as is thus stated:
The subject here treated of is truly conjugial love, not the common love which is also called conjugal, but which with some is nothing but the limited love of the sex. Truly conjugial love exists only with those who earnestly desire wisdom, and who, therefore, progress more and more into wisdom. CL 98.
In other words, the love of the sex belongs to the merely natural man and woman, and remains such even in marriage if there is no progress in wisdom; thus, no development of the spiritual mind by regeneration. But with the spiritual man and woman, the love of the sex, though still remaining, is purified of its grossness, and into it, as into a matrix, is instilled the spiritual love of wisdom whereby the union of mind and soul, which is conjugial love, is effected. Even so, there is but one universal conjugial sphere which produces both the love of the sex and conjugial love, as the following passage teaches:
From the influx of the union of good and truth from the Lord comes the love of the sex and conjugial love. . . The universal conjugial sphere proceeds from the Lord and pervades the universe from its primes to its ultimates, thus from angels even to worms. CL 92. The reason why conjugial love also is thence, is that this sphere flows into the form of wisdom with men, and also with angels . . . and this form receives the love of one of the sex, not the general love of the sex; for with one of the sex it can be united to the inmosts in which heaven is with its felicities, and this union is conjugial love. CL 93.
In this last citation, reference is made to the love of one of the sex which should be kept before the mind to counteract the roving spirit of the general love of the sex. This brings us to the teaching on the sin of fornication; that is, 'the indulgence of the sexual appetite with one or several of the opposite sex apart from marriage.
Fornication is defined as "the lust of a grown-up youth, before marriage, with a loose woman" (CL 444), and it is said to be not opposite to conjugial love as adultery is. . . it may also be wiped away, provided only that conjugial love be regarded, wished for, and sought after, as the chief good. CL 449.
It should be obvious that sexual evils, like any other forms of evil, are of different degrees, and much depends upon the spirit in which they are committed. There is, for example, a radical distinction between wilfully leading an immoral life from a cynical disregard of marriage and its ideals, and an occasional lapse due to strong temptation "by reason of superabundance" or "venereal excitement," (CL 450), or to weakness in withstanding the allurements of the senses. In both cases a sin is committed, but in the one case it is grievous, since it springs from the will; in the other case it is light, so long as it is repented of, and so long as a lasting union with one of the opposite sex is still desired at heart. Hence it is said:
Fornication is light in proportion as it looks towards conjugial love. . . and grievous in proportion as it looks towards adultery. CL 452.
Light or grievous, however, it is still "a lust of the natural man not yet purified" (ibid.), and therefore evil. But in the one case the youth or girl, from being impure, can become pure; in the other case, he or she is gradually coming into a confirmed state of opposition to conjugial love.
The love of the sex is at first impure with everyone because of mankind's fallen state, and because of the "inordinate desires which flow in from the allurements of the flesh" (CL 102). It only becomes pure to the extent that man is purified by regeneration; when, from being corporeal and sensual, he becomes rational and spiritual; as the following passage declares:
Every man is born corporeal and becomes more and more interiorly natural; and, in proportion as he loves intelligence, he becomes rational. Afterwards, if he loves wisdom, he becomes spiritual. . . As man progresses from knowledge into intelligence, and from intelligence into wisdom, his mind changes its form. For it is opened more and more, and conjoins itself more closely with heaven, and through heaven with the Lord; hence it becomes more enamoured of truth, and more studious of the good of life.
If, therefore, man halts at the threshold in the progression to wisdom, the form of his mind remains natural, and receives the influx of the universal sphere of the marriage of good and truth in no other way than as it is received by beasts and birds. This is what is meant by the statement that the love of the sex belongs to the external or natural man, and is common to every animal.
But conjugial love belongs to the internal or spiritual man. . . for the more intelligent and wise man becomes . . the more the form of his mind is perfected, and this form receives conjugial love. For then man perceives and feels in this love a spiritual delight which is full of blessedness within. CL 94, 95.