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The Doctrine of the New Church on Sex and Marriage

by Rupert Stanley, B.A.

Table of Contents



  1. The origin and purpose of sex - The difference between man and woman - The nature of the marriage union
  2. Love truly conjugial and the love of the sex - The improper love of the sex
  3. Betrothals - Love at first sight - Extent of the courtship period - Solemnisation of marriage by the Church
  4. The development of conjugial love - Causes of coldness in marriage - Continuance of true marriage after death
  5. Adultery and divorce
  6. Remarriages
  7. Conjugial love and the love of children - Size of families - The purpose of sexual intercourse
  8. Description of a married couple in heaven


This small volume, which deals with one of the most important and fundamental of all subjects, consists of two parts. The first summarises the doctrine of the New Church on Sex and Marriage, based on Emanuel Swedenborg's book Conjugial Love, and the second treats of the Psychology of Sex and Marriage, based on the doctrine of the New Church.

Though this work has been produced primarily for the use of young people, without as well as within the New Church, it will doubtless be found to be of considerable help to those of maturer years who may read its pages and who are seeking instruction and guidance in these matters. At a time when marriage is widely regarded as a merely natural institution for life in this world, and when immorality is frequently condoned, there is a real need for some presentation of the spiritual principles involved in marriage, such as this book affords.

No attempt has been made to treat of the physiological side of sex, the writers having assumed that their readers will be possessed of a basic knowledge of this subject.

Herbert G. Mongredien,


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.

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.

Matthew 19: 5.

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.

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.

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.

Chapter V. Adultery And Divorce

Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.

Matthew 19: 9

It might be supposed that because the principal purpose of marriage is that there should be a conjugial union of love and wisdom, therefore all marriages which fail in this respect should be dissolved. But from what has been said concerning external communion it is clear that such a procedure is neither desirable nor wise, even supposing it were possible to know for certain in any marriage, except the obvious misfits, that the conjugial union could not be achieved. Moreover, such action would be disastrous to the social order which depends mainly upon the preservation of family life. It is for this latter reason that divorce is not allowed in many countries except for very weighty reasons, such as infidelity, cruelty and desertion. Until a few years ago, divorce in England could only be obtained for adultery; but, since the passing of the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1937, it is granted also for desertion, cruelty and incurable insanity. No doubt these other grievances seem serious enough to justify divorce; yet they should rather be regarded as causes for separation only, as the following teaching implies: The one and only cause of divorce is whoredom, according to the Lord's precept in Matthew 19: 9. To the same cause also belong manifest obscenities which banish decency . . . also malicious desertion which involves whoredom and causes the wife to commit adultery (Matthew 5: 32). CL 468.

And it is added:

The reason why whoredom is the one and only cause of divorce is that it is diametrically opposite to the life of conjugial love, and destroys it even to extermination.

Further, we read that for other objectionable things, such as insanity, mental deficiency, cruelty, criminal conduct, coarse behaviour, neglect of the children, drunkenness, also certain chronic and loathsome diseases which make living together distasteful in the extreme, separation is permitted. CL 252, 253.

As for the interior reason why whoredom, thus adultery (for whoredom on the part of a married person is adultery), is the only sufficient ground for divorce, the following explanation is given:

The soul of every human being is celestial by reason of its origin; wherefore it receives influx directly from the Lord, for it receives from Him the marriage of love and wisdom. . . . Conjugial love, which is in the soul in its spiritual holiness and purity, flows down from the union of souls in marriage into the life of the whole body and fills it with blessed delights, so long as its channel remains open, which is the case with those who are made spiritual by the Lord. That nothing hut adultery closes and blocks up this seat, origin or fountain, and its channel of conjugial love, is evident from the Lord's words that it is not lawful to put away a wife and marry another, except on account of adultery (Matthew 19: 3-9); and also from what is said in the same passage, that he who marries her that is put away commits adultery. CL 482.

From all this it follows that as "the conjugial principle is the jewel of human life" (CL 457) adultery should be abhorred as "the complex of all evils" (CL 356) because it proceeds from a rooted contempt for all that is pure and good. Wherefore, we are also taught that:

As soon as a man actually becomes an adulterer, heaven is closed against him. CL 500

But this applies to adulterers of set purpose; for there are varying degrees of this evil, some being more hurtful to the soul than others. For so we read:

There are mild adulteries, grievous ones, and more grievous ones; and each kind is estimated according to its opposition to, and consequent destruction of conjugial love. CL 454

Those which are accounted mild are such as are committed either in ignorance or from strong incitement, and not from deliberate intent. Thus, a youth who does not know that intercourse with a married woman is a greater sin than fornication commits adultery from ignorance; so, too, does anyone who is extremely simple or mentally deficient. Such persons do not necessarily close heaven against themselves. Neither do those whose guilt consists solely in being overcome by strong seductive enticements; so long, of course, as they afterwards repent. In such cases the sin of adultery is not confirmed in the understanding, and so can be forgiven. The judgment in these cases is the same as that which the Lord pronounced on the woman taken in adultery; "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more." John 8, 11.

Adulteries of the grievous kind are those which are done with the full consent of the understanding; thus when they are not regarded as sins. And those which are more grievous still are such as are committed from an utterly depraved will. (See CL 486-494.) In these cases wrongdoers are basically evil; they lose all spirituality of mind, and on entering the other life they come into the hells where there are no marriage unions, but only the sensual attachments of harlots and libertines.

Chapter VI. Remarriages

In the resurrection whose wife shall she be?

Matthew 22: 28

We have seen that marriage is intended to be an eternal union consequent on the development of conjugial love. It follows, therefore, that in all cases where such a development has taken place, a second marriage after the decease of one of the partners can be excused only on the grounds of very strong external reasons, such as the following passage states:

Those who have lived together in truly conjugial love are unwilling to marry again, except for reasons separate from conjugial love. . . . If they afterwards contract something like marriage, they do so for reasons apart from conjugial love, and these reasons are all external; as when there are little children in the house who require to be cared for, or if the house is large and full of servants of both sexes; or if the calls of business divert the mind from domestic concerns; or if mutual help and services are required as in the case of many kinds of employments and handicrafts. CL 321

But with those who have not been in conjugial love, we read:

There is no obstacle or hindrance to their contracting marriage again. CL 320.

It is obvious that in the case of a husband or wife who has been bound by internal bonds of affection in the first marriage, the second marriage will be merely a "mariage de convenance"; wherefore, on entering the spiritual world, this second marriage will automatically cease and the first marriage will be resumed. On the other hand, with those whose first marriage was merely natural, there will be either another external association like the first or, possibly, a true internal union to take the place of the former unsatisfactory affair. But it would seem that second marriages are rarely internal, for we read: The state of the marriage of a bachelor with a maiden is different from that of a bachelor with a widow . . . for with the former conjugial love is able to proceed in its proper order from its first heat to its flame. . . . But between a bachelor and a widow there is not such an initiation into marriage from first beginnings, nor a like progression in marriage, since a widow is more independent and at her own disposal than is a maiden. Wherefore, a bachelor addresses himself differently to his wife if she has been a widow from what he would if she were a maiden. CL 322.

So, too, in the case of a widower and a maiden.

For a widower has already been initiated into conjugial life, and a maiden has yet to be initiated. And yet conjugial love perceives and feels its pleasantness and delight in mutual initiation. A bachelor-husband and a maiden-wife perceive and feel things ever new in whatever occurs, whereby they are in a kind of continual initiation and consequent loving progression. It is different with the marriage of a widower with a maiden; for the maiden-wife has an internal inclination (to union), whereas with the man that inclination has passed away. CL 323.

However, these statements do not necessarily imply that second marriages cannot be of a truly conjugial kind, but only that they are rare. That truly conjugial love is possible with different types of marriage is definitely stated as follows:

There are infinite varieties with those who are in conjugial love - . . hence the varieties and diversities in marriages of every kind, whether of a bachelor and a maiden, or of a bachelor and a widow, or of a widower and a maiden, or of a widower and a widow. CL 324.

Concerning what happens after death in the case of remarriages, we read:

If a man has had several wives he allies himself with them successively (after death) while he is in the external state (that is, in the first state in which man is after death, similar to his state on earth). But when he enters upon the internal state (that is, the state of his interior self, whereby man is "judged" as to his fitness for heaven or hell) in which he perceives the inclinations of his love, as to their quality, he then either adopts one or else he leaves them all. . . . It is the same with a woman who has had several husbands.

CL 47 (b).

As regards the remarriage of a divorced person, there can be no objection to this when the marriage has been completely annulled for the just and weighty causes given in the teaching on divorce, and when the guilty party has sincerely repented of his sin; wherefore it is said:

By divorce is meant the abolition of the conjugial covenant, and a consequent full separation, and after this full liberty to marry again. CL 468.

But if divorce is allowed by the State for all manner of lesser reasons, as is the case in some countries, the Church may rightly draw the line at consenting to remarry people who to all appearances are incapable of undertaking the duties and responsibilities, public and private, which the matrimonial state requires: each case, of course, being judged on its merits.

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

Chapter VIII. Description of a Married Couple in Heaven

To conclude, let the following description of a married pair in heaven, as seen by Swedenborg, serve to depict conjugial love in its full splendour, such as it will be, though not necessarily in every outward detail, with all who are being more and more interiorly united here upon earth. There appeared a chariot descending out of the highest heaven, in which there appeared one angel; but, as it approached, there appeared two therein. The chariot at a distance glittered before my eyes like a diamond, and to it were harnessed young horses white as snow. Those who sat in the chariot held in their hands two turtledoves, and they called out to me, "Do you wish us to come nearer to you? In that case take care lest the coruscation which flashes out of the heaven from whence we have come, and which is flaming, should penetrate you interiorly." I replied, "I will take care; come nearer." They came nearer, and lo, it was a husband and his wife. And they said, "We are married partners; we have lived in happiness in heaven from the first age which is called by you the golden age, and we have lived perpetually in the same flower of youth in which you see us to-day."

I observed them both closely, for I perceived that they represented conjugial love in its life and in its attire; in its life in their faces, and in its attire in their garments. . . - The husband appeared of an age intermediate between youth and young manhood. From his eyes darted forth sparkling light from the wisdom of love, from which light his face was as it were inmostly radiant; and in consequence of the radiance the surface of his skin shone; hence his whole face was resplendently handsome. He was dressed in a garment reaching down to his feet, and underneath it was a purple garment encircled with a golden girdle upon which were three precious stones, two sapphires at the sides and a fiery stone in the middle. His stockings were of shining linen with threads of silver interwoven, and his shoes were of silk. This was the representative form of conjugial love with the husband. But with the wife it was like this: her face was seen by me, and yet it was not seen. It was seen as beauty itself, and it was not seen because this beauty was inexpressible. For in her face there was a splendour of flaming light, such as the angels in the third heaven have, and this light dimmed my sight; wherefore I was simply lost in astonishment. Observing this, she spoke to me saying, "What do you see ?" I replied, "I see nothing but conjugial love and the form thereof; but I see and do not see." Hereupon she turned herself sideways from her husband, and then I was able to observe her more closely. Her eyes sparkled from the light of her own heaven, which light, as was said, is flaming, and therefore is derived from the love of wisdom. For the wives in that heaven love their husbands from their wisdom and in their wisdom, and the husbands love their wives from that love and in that love towards themselves; and thus they are united. This was the origin of her beauty, which was such that it would be impossible for any painter to reproduce it, for there is no such lustre in his colours, nor is such beauty expressible in his art. Her hair was arranged in beautiful order according to its correspondence with her beauty, and in it were placed diadems of flowers. She had a necklace of fiery gems from which hung a rosary of chrysolites; and she had bracelets of pearls. Her robe was scarlet, and underneath it she had a crimson stomacher fastened in front with clasps of rubies. But what surprised me was that the colours varied according to her aspect towards her husband, being sometimes more glittering, sometimes less. When I had made these observations, they spoke to me again, and when the husband was speaking he spoke at the same time as from his wife, and when the wife spoke she did so at the same time as from her husband. Such was the union of their minds from whence their speech proceeded. Then also I heard the tone of voice of conjugial love, that inwardly it was simultaneous, and also that it proceeded from the delights of a state of peace and innocence. At length they said, "We are recalled, and must depart;" and again they appeared to be carried in a chariot as before. They were conveyed by a paved way between flower beds from which arose orange and olive trees. And when they were near their own heaven, they were met by maidens who welcomed them back with greetings. CL 42



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