My name is Solomon Keal. I am a minister for the General Church of the New Jerusalem, which is a Swedenborgian Christian denomination. These are some of my thoughts about the Lord, the symbolic meanings in the Bible, life after death, faith, charity, usefulness, loving the Lord and one's neighbor, the 2nd Coming, Swedenborg's Writings, and other theological stuff.
Monday, March 8, 2010
The Process of Marriage Love
The purpose of this paper is to examine the process of conjugial (or marriage) love. This paper will attempt to answer the following questions: What is conjugial love? Where does it come from? How is it a process? What does this process look like? How does one go about doing it? Who is involved in this process? How does this process relate to the process of regeneration, both with individuals and the church as a whole?
The terms “good and truth” have many synonyms and other terms for related ideas. So in this paper the terms: good, love, will, charity, conjugial love, and women have a relation to each other. And likewise, the terms: truth, wisdom, intellect, understanding, faith, rational wisdom, and men have a relation to each other.
What is Conjugial Love?
“Conjugial love in its essence is nothing else but the wish of two to be one.” (CL 215) When a husband and wife wish to be truly one, then they are looking towards the ideal of conjugial love. But simply wishing to be one isn’t enough to actually become one. There is also a process involved in becoming one. “Love regarded in itself is nothing but a desire for and consequent effort to conjunction, and conjugial love is a desire for and effort to conjunction into one.” (CL 37) So the process involves effort towards conjunction. In this paper we will examine that process.
The Origin of Conjugial Love
Conjugial love has its origin from the marriage of good and truth from the Lord, and the marriage of the Lord and His Church. (see CL 60-64, 222) And conjugial love ‘descends as an offshoot’ from these two marriages. (CL 64) Because conjugial love comes from these two marriages in origin, and in fact corresponds to them, it shares similar qualities with them. Later in the paper we will examine how they relate.
The Marriage of Love and Wisdom in a Husband and Wife
So if conjugial love has its origin in the marriage of good and truth (or love and wisdom), then what does that look like in the marriage of a husband and wife? How do a man and a woman in marriage come to be an image of the union of love and wisdom?
“When love is added to wisdom or united with it, then love becomes loving. And when wisdom conversely is added to love and united with it, then wisdom becomes wise. True conjugial love is nothing but a union of love and wisdom. Two married partners who have this love between them and in them at the same time are a reflection and image of it.” (CL 65)
So love and wisdom - or good and truth - are really not true and complete unless they are conjoined into one.
Men and women as individuals each have a will and understanding that are capable of receiving love and wisdom from the Lord. So both men and women already have love and wisdom in them. But at first the love and wisdom are not conjoined and not balanced. They are not conjoined because the will and understanding are at first not married. They become married (in love and wisdom) through the process of regeneration. But they are also not balanced. They are not balanced because men are oriented or formed in one way, and women in another way. Men are forms of love clothed with wisdom, and women are forms of wisdom clothed with love. (See CL 32-33) So men are intellect-oriented, and women are will-oriented.
But all the parts (love, wisdom, will, understanding, men, women) are only forms and images of the reality. Men and women are forms of what is truly human, and they only become truly human when united together. They only become truly loving and wise when united together. God is the perfect marriage of love and wisdom. We are only potential and/or imperfect marriages of love and wisdom. Thus women being one form and men being the opposite or complementary form. They each only approximate the perfect marriage in God.
Fortunately, these puzzle pieces have a desire to be put back together. “Wives are forms of love, and husbands its receivers.” (CL 161) The way that love and wisdom fit together is that wisdom is the expression of love, and love is the essence of wisdom. So because women are forms of love, they need a specific wisdom (expression of love) to fill their specific love. That wisdom comes from their husband, beginning with his pursuit of her. Likewise, because men are forms of wisdom, they need a specific love (essence of wisdom) to fill their wisdom. That love comes from their wife, beginning with her consent to him. The specific love that women provide for their husbands is conjugial love, and the specific wisdom that men provide for their wives is rational wisdom. “An intellect-oriented form does not have the capacity to develop a marital warmth on its own, but can do so only from the associated warmth of another in whom this has been implanted from creation.” (CL 223) So wives introduce their husbands into the warmth of conjugial love from the Lord, and husbands introduce their wives into the light of rational wisdom from the Lord. And by doing so they each become more human.
Nouns or Verbs?
In the Writings the words ‘love and wisdom’ are often used as nouns. Love has to do with something’s substance, while wisdom is its form. But as we know, love is also a verb. “I love you” is a statement using a verb. But it is not just about having an affection for someone. In the Writings, the word ‘love’ as a verb has more to do with an effort to conjoin. Can wisdom also be a verb? Wisdom is a way in which one lives one’s life:
“The question arises, what wisdom of life is. In brief summary, it is this: to refrain from evils because they are harmful to the soul, harmful to the state, and harmful to the body, and to do good things because they are of benefit to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body. This is the wisdom that is meant by the wisdom to which conjugial love attaches itself.” (CL 130)
So the marriage of love and wisdom is the way in which one lives one’s life in order to conjoin with people and the Lord. And this is a process which is chosen by us, and completed by the Lord in us.
Conjugial Love and Regeneration
The fact that conjugial love is a process may become more clear when it is related to the process of regeneration or rebirth.
“People know that every person is merely flesh-oriented at birth, and that from being flesh-oriented he becomes more and more deeply natural, and thus rational, and finally spiritual. The reason for such a progressive development is that the fleshy element is the soil, so to speak, in which natural, rational, and spiritual qualities are planted in turn. A person thus becomes more and more human. Almost the same sort of thing happens when one enters marriage. A person then becomes a more complete human being, because he is united with a partner with whom he may act as one person. In the first state, however, this is reflected in a kind of image, as mentioned before. In similar fashion he then starts from the fleshy element and progresses into the natural, only this time in respect to married life and so union into one.” In the case of spiritual people, “the first state of marriage is an introduction to continuing states of happiness, which advance as the spiritual rationality of the mind and consequently the natural sensuality of the body in one partner join and unite with these same qualities in the other.” (CL 59)
Conjugial love, like regeneration, is a process that makes a person more and more human (see also CL 316, 432). The process by which a person is regenerated (the marriage of good and truth in an individual) is affected by means of religion because it is a spiritual process. And because this is true, the process of conjugial love is also affected by means of religion, because it too is a spiritual process. In the Writings it is said that:
“The origin of the church and the origin of conjugial love have the same seat in a person, and that they are locked in a continual embrace.... People were created to be able to become more and more interior beings, thus to be introduced or elevated nearer and nearer to a marriage of good and truth and so into conjugial love, to the point that they feel its state of bliss. The only means by which they can be introduced or elevated is religion.” (CL 238)
The only means by which we can have conjugial love, be regenerated, and be saved is religion. This makes perfect sense when we think about what the word religion means: Religion comes from the Latin “re-ligare” meaning “to reconnect.” Religion is what reconnects good and truth. Religion takes things that should be married and shows them how to be married.
The Creation Story as a Model
Religion is what teaches us how to regenerate. The Writings of the New Church explain that the 6 days of Creation are a symbol for the 6 stages of our regeneration. (AC 6-13) Though the Writings only talk about this story as a model for regeneration, knowing that conjugial love is a process related to regeneration we might speculate on how that story applies to the process of conjugial love as well: The first day there is light, when we first become aware of the ideal of conjugial love. On the second day, when the waters are separated, we begin to recognize that conjugial love is not the love of the sex. On the third day when plants are created, we begin repentance and speak of living the life of conjugial love (though it is not actually living yet, but merely inanimate like plants). On the fourth day with the sun and moon, we are affected in some way by actual love and wisdom, perhaps in our own marriage. On the fifth day when birds and fishes are created, we begin to actually live the life of conjugial love. And on the sixth day when animals and humans are created, we actually love the life of conjugial love.
The second chapter of Genesis also offers us a model for regeneration and conjugial love in the creation of Eve. “A woman is actually transformed into a wife according to the description in the book of creation.” (CL 193)
“It follows from this that woman was created from man by a transmission and replication of his distinctive wisdom, which is formed from natural truth, and that man’s love for this wisdom was transferred to woman so as to become conjugial love; moreover, that the purpose of this was to replace love of self in man with love for his wife, who, from a nature innate in her, cannot help but turn the love of self in man into his love for her.” (CL 193)
So with both the process of regeneration and conjugial love, there is a replacement of love of self with a love for the neighbor, and in the case of conjugial love: a love for one’s closest neighbor which is their spouse.
The Process of Conjugial Love Aids the Process of Regeneration
Because regeneration and conjugial love are related processes, they aid each other. They are both processes by which we become more human. That the process of conjugial love aids the process of regeneration is apparent from the following statements:
“Marriage is the completion of a person, for by marriage a person becomes a complete person.” (CL 156)
“The more a person is in a state of conjugial love, the more spiritual he is; and the more spiritual he is, the more human he is.” (CL 230)
“There is, moreover, no love... which opens the interior recesses of minds more forcefully and adeptly, than conjugial love.” (CL 302)
“The marital union of one man with one wife is the precious jewel of human life and the repository of Christian religion.” (CL 457)
A repository is a receptacle where things are stored. So the Christian religion (which is arguably all about regeneration) is stored in the marriage of husbands and wives.
The Process of Regeneration Aids the Process of Conjugial Love
The process of regeneration, in which one prays to the Lord, reads the Word, and shuns evils as sins against the Lord, is the same process that introduces people into conjugial love.
“No others come into this love and no others can be in it but those that go to the Lord and love the truths of His church and do the good things it teaches; that this love comes from the Lord alone, and consequently is found in people who are of the Christian religion; and that this love depends on the state of the church in a person, because it depends on the state of his wisdom.” (CL 458)
When the process of regeneration is applied to a husband and wife, then the couple can have conjugial love. When they are both looking to the Lord, reading the Word, and shunning adultery, this allows for them to be in conjugial love. The process of regeneration is a process in which people become spiritual, and since conjugial love is a spiritual (and celestial) love, it requires people to be open to the spiritual level of their minds. (See CL 145)
“There are in human minds three regions, the highest of which is called celestial, the intermediate one spiritual, and the lowest one natural. A person dwells by birth in the lowest region, but he ascends into the next higher one, called spiritual, by living according to truths of religion, and into the highest one by achieving a marriage of love and wisdom. All kinds of evil and lascivious lusts reside in the lowest region, which is called natural. In the next higher region, however, which is called spiritual, there are not evil and lascivious lusts, for this is the region into which a person is led by the Lord when he is born anew. And in the highest region, which is called celestial, one finds conjugal chastity surrounded by its love. A person is raised into this last region by a love of serving useful ends, and because marriage serves the most excellent ends of all, by conjugial love.” (CL 305)
The Marriage of the Lord and His Church
As was mentioned above, conjugial love has its origin from the marriage of good and truth, and the from the marriage of the Lord and His Church. As we have discussed, both the processes of regeneration and conjugial love depend on religion. And religion is also related to the marriage of the Lord and His Church. So all three processes are intricately intertwined.
“The church is formed by the Lord in the man, and through the man in his wife. And after it has been formed in the two together, the church is complete, for then a full conjunction of good and truth takes place, and the conjunction of good and truth is the church.... The inclination to conjunction, which conjugial love is, exists in the same degree as the conjunction of good and truth, which is the church.” (CL 63)
Comparing Conjugial Love, Regeneration, and the Marriage of the Lord and His Church
So now we can see this spiritual process even more clearly when we compare all three:
Conjugial love is the wish of two to be one (CL 215), just as regeneration is the conjoining of love and wisdom in the will and understanding, and the Lord’s wish is to be conjoined with His Church. (CL 68, 386)
Conjugial love is introduced by the love for the opposite sex, just as we are encouraged to regenerate by the promise of heavenly happiness. There are mediate goods and ‘intermediate steps’ in all of these processes. (CL 98)
If neither married partner is spiritual, then conjugial love cannot grow, however it is not closed off to them unless they choose to love adultery. Similarly, if a person is in ignorance as to truth, and also has hereditary evils in their will, heaven is not closed off to them unless they choose to act evilly. (see CL 282)
In natural marriages there is often a power struggle between the husband and wife over who should be in charge. This is similar to the power struggle within us during regeneration over who is in charge: the will or the understanding. If the old will is in charge then we will do evils. If the understanding is in charge, but the will is still selfish, then we will be critical and judgmental of others. A conjunction is only possible when both parties represent love and wisdom. Similarly in the church, faith alone is destructive, as is indiscriminate charity, and the concept of salvation by merit alone. (see CL 291)
In the process of conjugial love, the man must court the woman, just as in the processes of regeneration we must first learn truths from the Word, and then learn to live the life of heaven. “Rationality thus opens,” and so the church becomes a true Church by means of conjunction with the Lord in His Word, and our will becomes a new will by being conjoined with our elevated understanding, and the woman becomes a wife by means of conjunction with her husband. (see CL 102, 122, 168)
“An image of the husband is formed in the wife” (CL 173). Likewise, an image of the Lord is formed in His Church. An image of wisdom is formed in our loves. An image of the understanding of truth is formed in our new will. An image of faith is formed in our acts of charity.
“It follows from this that conjugial love has its seat in chaste wives, but that their love depends on their husbands.” (CL 216 repeated) Similarly, regeneration has its seat in the changing of the will, but it depends on the truths of the understanding. And the church has its seat in a life of charity, but it depends on the truths of faith.
“Where conjugial love exists, this atmosphere is received by the wife, and by the husbands solely through the wife.” (CL 224) The love that conjoins the will and understanding comes through the will being opened to and by the Lord. Salvation comes through living a good life, and not by faith apart from that life.
And so the process is complete in which conjugial love, regeneration and the marriage of the Lord and His Church have all been achieved, and these all coexist in heaven within people.
We have now examined the process of conjugial love in relation to its origin in the marriage of good and truth from the Lord, and we have also seen its relationship to the process of regeneration, and the process of the Lord’s conjunction with His Church.
“Conjugial love is a desire for and effort to conjunction into one.” (CL 37)