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Chapter IV. The Development of Conjugial Love

What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Matthew 14: 6

IT has been shown that marriage love begins with the natural love of the sex directed to one of the opposite sex. It follows, therefore, that this love is at first a natural affection in spite of the romantic bliss which attends the period of courtship and the early period of married life, and which is so often mistaken for the real spiritual union which has to be achieved. That this is so is explicitly taught in the following statements:

The first love, by which is meant the love previous to the wedding and immediately after the wedding, partakes somewhat of the love of the sex, and thus of the ardour belonging to the body not as yet modified by spiritual love. CL 145.

The first heat of marriage does not conjoin, for it partakes of the love of the sex which belongs to the body and thence to the spirit, and what is from the body in the spirit does not last long; but the love which is from the spirit in the body does last. CL 162.

It cannot then be too strongly emphasised that a successful, satisfying and happy marriage is bound up with spiritual development, and that truly conjugial love is something which has to be achieved; it is not given in the first romantic attachment. The illusion that a full union is obtained from the start, or that it comes from the experience of falling in love, is due to the exalted state of happiness which usually accompanies the period of courtship. This state is not conjugial love itself, but an image of it, and a foretaste of that deeper union and deeper joy which is to be gradually won. How this deeper union and joy is attained is indicated in the following passage:

Spiritual love is insinuated into the souls and minds of married partners together with friendship and confidence. When these two things (friendship and confidence) conjoin themselves with the first love of marriage, the love becomes conjugial; and this love opens the bosoms and inspires into them the sweetnesses of love, and this more and more inwardly in proportion as those two things adjoin themselves to the first love. CL 162.

Something more, then, is needed than that first romantic love which is the familiar theme of poets, novelists and song-writers, and whose waning intensity is the butt of so much shallow joking on the music-halls and elsewhere. It is true that the ecstatic delights of the courtship period usually give place later to more sober states of mind as incompatibilities appear, and as the trials and responsibilities of married life arise. Yet those same passionate delights of early love, though somewhat external, will have served their purpose of initiating the lovers into that union of souls which is the very essential of marriage, and this union will develop more and more in so far as there is a corresponding union of minds brought about by facing life's experiences together, and in so far as husband and wife advance in regeneration. If these points were more clearly realised there would be less misunderstanding and disillusion among married couples, who, when the first quarrel comes, imagine that their marriage has been a mistake. Discrepancies of one kind and another, due to differences in outlook, upbringing and endowment, are inevitable, except in rare cases where the two are so perfectly matched that they see eye to eye on everything. Indeed, even in the case of those who never disagree, if such there be, this is not necessarily an indication that they are capable of achieving the conjugial union; for a state of outward harmony is not necessarily an indication of an ever deepening spiritual union. Nor, on the other hand, are the little disagreements which arise any indication that the flame of conjugial love is extinguished. As the following passage states:

There are marriages in which conjugial love does not appear, and yet it exists; and there are marriages in which conjugial love seems to appear, and yet it does not exist. CL 531.

Needless to say, this does not mean that a state of external harmony is not something to be desired, or that a quarrelsome pair are making the most progress towards that inner union of mind and soul which conjugial love requires. What it does mean is that we cannot judge according to appearances, and that, as a psychological fact, those who desire a real spiritual union are anxious to correct one another's faults, so that they may be more inwardly united; whilst, on the other hand, those who care only for external things will maintain a shallow external harmony by taking the line of least resistance, and by agreeing to "live and let live." As already said, the inward spiritual union is dependent on something more than external satisfactions. There must be a striving of the spirit to attain a deeper understanding of one another and a more perfect way of life; and this means that religious principles and ideals must be present with the married pair. It is indeed the absence of religion more than anything else which is the root cause of disunion in marriage, not the external discrepancies which mutual endeavour, confidence and love can easily remove.


On this point, namely, the importance of religion in marriage, we have the following teaching. Swedenborg is speaking of the causes of coldness between man and wife. He points out that there are both internal and external causes, but that the external causes usually spring from the internal ones which are due to the absence or incompatibility of religious beliefs. Thus we read:

The first of the internal causes of cold is the rejection of religion by both the married partners. CL 240.

The second of the internal causes of cold is that one of the married partners has religion, and the other has not. CL 241.

The third of the internal causes of cold is that one of the married partners has a different religion from the other. CL 242.

It may be supposed that these statements concerning the fundamental influence of religion in marriage are not borne out in actual life, since there appear to be any number of happy marriages without any definite religious beliefs held either by one or by both of the partners; also there are marriages between people of different religious persuasions which appear to be quite successful. But, as already pointed out, a state of external harmony is no necessary criterion of an internal union of souls and minds, and we cannot judge from the outward life of a married pair what their internal state is like, any more than we can tell for certain whether a man who lives an outwardly good life is genuinely good at heart. The disjunction caused by lack of religion, or by different religions, affects the internal state; it may not affect the external state when other factors, such as mutual interests, the care of children, natural affection, and other such external ties, conspire to produce an external union. Hence we read:

If the causes thus far pointed out . . . which are the causes of coldness in the internals, were to produce a similar coldness in the externals, as many separations would ensue as there are states of internal cold. . . And yet it is known that many such partners live together as if they were bound by love and friendship for there are several causes which unite the dispositions, but still do not conjoin the souls. CL 244.

Because of this:

There are apparent love and friendship which are conjugial simulations. . . . These are praiseworthy because they are useful and necessary. CL 278 and 9.

As regards external causes of coldness in marriage, these are many and various; the chief ones may be listed as follows:

  • Unlikeness of disposition and manners: as when an uncultivated man marries a well-bred woman, and vice versa.
  • Disdain for conjugial chastity by one or both of the married pair.
  • The attempt by either husband or wife to dominate the other.
  • A rooted dislike of work, so that either the husband neglects his occupation or the wife her duties in the home.
  • Extreme inequality in age, social standing, and wealth. CL 246-250.

In all such cases, of course, the marriage should not have taken place at all, and it is one of the duties of parents to protect their sons or daughters, as far as they can, from forming attachments of that kind. Undoubtedly, however, the majority of marriages are of the right kind externally, and remain successful externally, even if there is no conjugial union within. Hence we read:

There is a certain communion between married partners which is implanted in both from the first covenant of marriage, and which, notwithstanding disagreement in disposition, still remains implanted; as, for example, a communion of possessions, of uses, of the various necessities of the house, hence also a communion of thoughts and of certain secrets. There is also a communion of bed and of the love of children. From these originate especially those external affections which resemble the internal ones. CL 277

Thus we see there are natural or external marriages, and there are spiritual or internal marriages; and with the latter there will be an ever closer approximation to that perfect union of the masculine and feminine souls, thus of love and wisdom, which is an image of the union of Love and Wisdom in the Lord. Such marriages are not for this world only, but for heaven and thus for eternity.

On this last point, i.e., that true marriages continue to all eternity in heaven, it is necessary to add that the statement in the gospel,

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. Matthew 22: 30. does not mean that there are no married pairs in heaven, or that sexual differences cease to exist after death. The Lord is here speaking about merely external marriages such as were common in those days, and still are, and saying that such external unions cannot exist in heaven. For all who dwell in heaven are so united by conjugial love that They are not two, but one angel. CL 52.

The truth is, as has already been shown, that man and woman are not complete by themselves. Each needs the other in order to become perfect "man," and for this reason there are also marriages which take place in heaven for those who are capable of conjugial love but who have not found their soul's mate here upon earth.

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