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

Chapter III. Betrothals

I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me.

The Song of Solomon 7: 10

It is a common saying that love is blind, young love especially, because the judgment in early life can so easily be overborne by the ardour of the love of the sex and by the delights of the senses. For this reason a period of courtship is necessary in order that the young lovers may get to know one another better. For this reason, also, it is right and fitting that the advice and guidance of parents should be sought. Thus it is said concerning a daughter that she should consult her parents because her judgment is not yet able to discern clearly the characters of men from their tastes . . . or to search out such things as belong to the habits and peculiarities of her suitor. CL 299.

We note that it is the girl, or daughter, who is particularly required to consult her parents. This is because it rests with the girl to give consent to her suitor's proposal of marriage. For it is the place of the man to court a girl, he being at first "in the general love of the sex" (CL 296), whereas a girl has the innate love of uniting herself with one of the opposite sex (ibid.). Thus the all-important decision of accepting a suitor, who may be one of several, rests with the girl; and it is generally the case that when a girl once "gives her heart" she does so utterly; whereas the man, being at first in the general love of the sex, can more easily transfer his affection to another if his suit is rejected. Then, again, woman, being a form of affection, and being in the innate desire of uniting herself with one of the opposite sex, is more likely to be led astray by this desire and by her affections, as the following passage observes: Man is horn to be understanding, woman to be love; also with men there is the general love of the sex, but with women the love of one of the sex. . . . Nevertheless, women have the right of choosing one of their suitors. . . Because men are born to be understanding, they can see clearly agreements and disagreements, and distinguish them, and from judgment choose what is suitable. It is otherwise with women because they are born for love, and do not possess the clearsightedness of that light; consequently, their determinations to marriage proceed from the inclinations of their love. If they have a knowledge of how to distinguish between men, still their love is drawn towards appearances. CL 296.

It is for these reasons that daughters in particular should be willing to be guided to some extent by their parents in their choice of a husband; though it goes without saying that daughters ought nevertheless to deliberate on the matter with themselves before they consent, lest they should be led against their will into a connection with an unloved man. CL 299.

It is a common complaint that in the Victorian age parents were too much given to arranging their daughter's marriage; often for worldly reasons. Nowadays, the tendency is to exercise little or no control over a daughter's love affairs. Many an injudicious marriage could have been prevented by the avoidance of both these extremes. As for sons, they too should not ignore their parents' views. Indeed, young men are often more in need of guidance in these matters than women, because of their susceptibility to outward charm. Obviously, the teaching outlined above concerning masculine discernment and feminine impressionability will not apply to exceptionally impressionable and weak-minded men or to exceptionally strong-minded and perspicacious women.


It may be asked, "Is there such a thing as love at first sight ?" Undoubtedly there is, as the following passage implies:

The Lord provides likenesses for those who desire truly conjugial love, and if they do not exist on earth, He provides them in the heavens. . . . In what manner they are provided in the heavens I have heard described by the angels thus. . . . It is provided that conjugial pairs be born, and that they be educated continually for their marriage under the Lord's auspices, neither the boy nor the girl being aware of this; and after the required time, when she has become a marriageable maiden, and he a young man fitted for marriage, they meet somewhere as if by fate, and see each other, and then they know at once, as by a kind of instinct, that they are consorts; and from a kind of inner dictate they think within themselves, the young man that she is mine, and the maiden that he is mine. And when this thought has been seated some time in the minds of both, they deliberately accost each other and betroth themselves. It is said, as by fate, by instinct, and by dictate; but the meaning is, by Divine Providence; for, while the Divine Providence is unknown, it has such an appearance; for the Lord opens internal likenesses so that they may see one another. CL 229.

This statement is made of meetings in the spiritual world; thus, of children who have died in infancy and been educated in heaven. Yet as the opening sentence implies, they can also take place on earth. Even so, such love at first sight is still no more than the pure love of the sex which "emulates truly conjugial love" (CL 58), and which develops by the orderly process of courtship, betrothal and marriage, into real conjugial love.


As regards the extent of the courtship period, this will naturally vary according to circumstances, but it should be sufficient to allow the first external attraction to develop into something deeper. Then, when a certain degree of union of soul and mind has been reached, the engagement, or betrothal, takes place by mutual consent and with the giving of a ring and any other pledge of the intention to belong to one another and to be wed. Among the deep spiritual reasons for betrothal are these:

  • That after betrothal the souls of both may mutually incline towards each other.
  • That the interior affections may be mutually known and conjoined.
  • That the spirits of both may enter into a marriage and be more closely associated.
  • That thereby conjugial love may progress regularly from its first heat even to the nuptial flame. CL301

Thus, there is to be a mingling of souls and minds, and an ever ripening acquaintance; but not, of course, any consummation of this inner union as yet in the body. For so we read:

By means of betrothal, the mind of the one is united with the mind of the other, so that a marriage of the spirit may be effected before the marriage of the body. CL 303.


Within the time of betrothal it is not allowable to be united corporeally. CL 305.

And the passage continues:

For in human minds there are three regions of which the highest is called the celestial, the middle the spiritual, and the lowest the natural. In this lowest region man is born, but he ascends into the higher or spiritual region by a life according to the truths of religion, and into the highest region by the marriage of love and wisdom. In the lowest region reside all evil desires and lasciviousness. In the higher or spiritual region there are no evil desires, nor any lasciviousness; man is brought into this region by the Lord when he is re-born. In the supreme or celestial region there is conjugial chastity in its own love; into this region man is elevated by the love of uses; and as the most excellent uses are from marriage, he is elevated into it by truly conjugial love.From these considerations it may be seen that conjugial love must be elevated from the first beginnings of its heat out of the lowest region into the higher region, in order that it may become chaste, and that thereby it may be let down from what is chaste through the middle and lowest regions into the body. When this happens, the lowest region is purified of its unchaste elements by the descent of what is chaste. Now, if the successive order of this love is hurried on by conjunctions of the body before the proper time, it follows that the action is from the lowest region which by birth is unchaste; and it is known that thence arises coldness towards marriage, and neglect of one's partner accompanied with loathing. CL 305.

We read further:

Conjugial love hurried on without order and the modes thereof, corrupts the inmost recesses of the mind and body. . . This comes to pass if the man and woman hurry on the marriage without order, by not looking to the Lord, by not consulting reason, by rejecting betrothal, and by obeying the flesh only. If this love commences from the ardour of the flesh, it becomes external . . . such love may be called fleshly, lean and dry, because emptied of its genuine essence. CL 312.

We conclude this section with the following weighty reasons why the marriage ceremony should be

held in the church, and not in a registry office.

The marriage ought to be consecrated by a priest because marriages in themselves are spiritual and, therefore, holy; for they descend from the heavenly marriage of good and truth, and conjugial things correspond to the Divine marriage of the Lord and the Church; hence they are from the Lord Himself. Now, since the ecclesiastical order on earth administers the things which belong to the priesthood with the Lord, that is, which belong to His love, and so also to blessing, it is needful that marriage should be consecrated by His ministers, and as they are then the chief witnesses, that the consent to the covenant should also be heard, accepted, confirmed and thus established by them. CL 308.

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


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