Chapter VII. Conjugial Love and the Love Of Children
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. Genesis 1: 28.
Next in importance to the conjugial union is that other fundamental purpose of marriage, namely, the production of offspring for the sake of "the propagation of the human race, and hence of the angelic heaven." CL 68.
We are instructed that the end of creation is that there should be a heaven of angels from the human race, whereby the love of God can be reciprocated and expressed. And since the Divine Love is infinite, it follows that an unlimited number of human beings is required for this end. Hence the strength of the sexual instinct, occasioned by the "sphere of procreation" proceeding from God. For there are, we read,
Two universal spheres proceeding from the Lord to preserve the universe in its created state; the sphere of procreation and the sphere of protecting what has been procreated. CL386
Further, it is said:
These two spheres make one with the sphere of conjugial love and the sphere of the love of children. CL 387.
Yet it is also true that
These two spheres . . . flow into all things of heaven and of the world. CL 388.
And that the sphere of protecting offspring
affects both the evil and the good. CL 392.
For, as is well known, bad parents can love their children too, and this is of Divine Providence, otherwise the human race could hardly continue. Yet, essentially, the genuine love of children is bound up with conjugial love, that is, with parents who are spiritual and interiorly united, for so we read: The love of children is always conjoined with conjugial love. CL 385.
It is the true love of children which is meant in this last statement, and which can only exist with those who are in conjugial love. For though externally-minded parents love their children, they do so only in a self-centred sort of way, and because of the natural delights which the possession of children affords, whereas spiritually-minded parents are chiefly concerned for their children's moral and spiritual development. Thus both types of parents delight in, and are affected by, the innocence and charm of children, but the former look upon children as part of themselves and care little how they develop spiritually so long as they can obtain their affection. They excuse their faults, close their eyes to their misdeeds, and are indignant if anyone so much as hints that their children need correction. One can see how this merely natural and self-centred love of children accounts for the lack of parental responsibility which is such a besetting problem of this age. The following passage should be impressed upon the minds of all who have the care and responsibility of children in their earlier and later years:
With spiritual married partners, the love of children, to all appearance, is like the love of children with natural married partners. . . . But spiritual fathers and mothers, after they have sipped the sweetness of innocence in their little ones, love their children as they become older quite differently from what natural parents do. Spiritual parents love their older children on account of their spiritual intelligence and moral life: thus, they love them on account of their piety of life and on account of their affection for and application to uses which are of service to society; consequently, from the virtues they possess. It is chiefly from the love of these things that they provide for, and minister to, their necessities. Wherefore, if they do not see such things in them, they alienate their minds from them, and only do anything for them from a sense of duty.
With natural fathers and mothers the love of children is indeed also from the innocence in little children . but afterwards . . . when innocence is no longer operative, they do not love them on account of any fear of God and actual piety, nor on account of any rational and moral intelligence in them. And they regard very slightly, if at all, their internal affections, and thence their virtues and good morals, but only their externals which they favour. To these externals their love is adjoined . . - hence, also, they close their eyes to their faults, excusing and favouring them. The reason is that with such parents, the love of their offspring is also the love of self. CL 405.
From what has been said concerning the need of the Divine Love, which is infinite, for an unlimited number of creatures who can reciprocate that love, it follows that it is incumbent upon married partners to have as many children as they can manage to bring up properly, and without undue strain on the mother. Spiritual parents will not need any urging on this score, and what limitations, if any, they set on their procreative powers will be regulated by the best of motives, not by merely natural, still less selfish, considerations. In this modern age, with its opportunities for women to engage in public duties, and its many inducements for both sexes to pursue a worldly life, many parents shirk the responsibility of bringing up children, either having none at all, or else limiting their offspring to one or two at the most. In such matters, of course, people must be left in freedom; so also, as regards the use of contraceptives, about which there is no specific guidance in the doctrines of the New Church. Yet it is clear that anyone who uses contraceptives merely for self-indulgence and for avoiding children altogether is living in a state of sin. Ideally, where birth-control is needed, it should be by self-control, not by artificial means. Spiritual parents who need to limit the mother's fecundity, will exercise self- control as much as possible, making as little use as they can of contraceptives.
The question arises as to whether intercourse should be only for the sake of producing children. Biologically this might seem so, but psychologically and spiritually it is not so. For the act of coition is an ultimation of the outgoing and flowing together of the souls of man and wife; and their love-making is not just for the purpose of propagation as it is with animals. And yet, such is the intimate relationship between this outflowing of love and the love of having offspring that in all true love both these essentials are present. This is because of the spiritual law that the union of love and wisdom is always associated with the production of effects in the form of good uses and clearer perceptions of truth. And so it is that we are taught that in heaven, where there are no natural offspring, for all children are born on the earth, there are spiritual offspring which are affections of good and perceptions of truth; as the following passage declares:
Married partners (in heaven) enjoy similar intercourse with each other as in the world, but more delightful and blessed; yet without prolification, in place of which they have spiritual prolification, which is that of love and wisdom. . . - For after death man is a man as before, neither is there anything lacking either in the male or the female, as to form and as to affections and thoughts. What else, then, follows but that they must enjoy similar intercourse; also, that since conjugial love is chaste, pure and holy, this intercourse must be full? CL 51
Again, in one of his memorable experiences, dealing with three newcomers into the spiritual world who wanted to know what the state of married partners was after death, Swedenborg writes:
The three newcomers asked, "Is there a similar love between married partners in heaven as upon earth ?" And the two angelic spirits replied that it was exactly similar. And as they perceived that the newcomers wished to know whether in heaven there were similar ultimate delights, they said that they were exactly similar, but much more blessed because angelic perception and sensation are much more exquisite. - The newcomers then asked whether offspring were born from the ultimate delights of that love in heaven, and if not, of what use were those delights. To which the angelic spirits replied that no natural offspring were born, but spiritual offspring. And the newcomers asked, "What are spiritual offspring?" And they replied, "Two married partners by means of the ultimate delights are more united in the marriage of good and truth - . . and love and wisdom are the offspring which are born of that marriage; and since in heaven the husband is wisdom, and the wife is the love thereof, and both are spiritual, therefore no other than spiritual offspring can be conceived and begotten there. Hence it is that the angels, after the delights, do not become sad as some do on earth, but cheerful, resulting from a continual influx of fresh energy which renovates and enlightens." CL 44.
Such, then, is the spiritual and eternal purpose of marriage and of the marriage act, and with those who are in conjugial love on earth such spiritual effects take place whether or not natural offspring are forthcoming. Nevertheless, there is no conjugial love where there is no desire for natural offspring and no love of rearing children both for life in this world and in heaven after death. And should any parents lose a child through its early decease, they may know that they have been instrumental in adding one more human soul to the vast concourse of the heavens. For every child who dies in infancy or childhood is received into heaven and grows up there, eventually becoming an angel of heaven; as we read:
Children at death are raised into heaven and committed to the charge of angels of the female sex who in the life of the body had loved children and at the same time had feared God. These, since they have loved all children with a maternal tenderness, receive them as their own, and the children love them as their own mothers. CL 410.
And further, it is said:
Many people suppose that children who die young remain children and become angels immediately after death. But it is intelligence and wisdom that make an angel; wherefore, so long as children do not possess intelligence and wisdom they are indeed among angels, but they are not angels. They first become angels when they become intelligent and wise. CL 413. Wherefore they are perfected in intelligence, and so grow in stature and appear more adult. . . - But they do not grow beyond their first age (i.e. of mature youth), but stop in that age and remain in it to eternity. And when they are in that age they are given in marriage, which is provided by the Lord. And the marriage is celebrated in the heaven in which the young man resides, though he presently follows his wife into her heaven, or into her house if they belong to the same society. CL 411