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 Role of Wisdom in Marriage Love
When we look around at the world today we often see things that trouble us: Divorce rates climbing, children and adults being abused, men and women being unabashedly lustful and adulterous. It may even be our own marriages or relationships that are cold and unhappy. These do not seem like situations in which love is thriving. But wait; love is thriving in those situations, it just tends to be a selfish love or love of the world. So what is it that’s missing in those situations? What is actually missing is wisdom.
The book “Conjugial (or Marriage) Love” by Emanuel Swedenborg, is all about the true love that can exist between a man and a woman. Conjugial love is that love in marriage that conjoins a husband and wife so that they are “no longer two but one flesh.” (Matt 19:6) It is the real “true love” that is spoken of in fairy tales. What is it that makes conjugial love so special; that sets it apart from other loves? It is wisdom. The book is in fact called “The Delights of Wisdom relating to Conjugial Love.” So what is wisdom? What is its role in conjugial love? How can it help our marriages become better? How can it help the world become a better place? This paper will attempt to answer those questions.
Part 1: Wisdom in General
In the New Church we know that wisdom is one side of the proverbial ‘two-sided coin.’ Love and wisdom are the two parts of the duality that comprise everything. The Lord is the marriage of Divine love and wisdom. The Church is the marriage of faith and charity. We are regenerated through a marriage of our will and understanding in love and wisdom. The entire created universe comes about through the marriage of good and truth. These are all facts that are good to know. But how do we understand them? What does ‘wisdom’ mean? How is it defined?
Is Wisdom the Same as Knowledge?
The word ‘wisdom’ has a range of meanings. Someone who is considered wise could simply be someone who knows a lot of facts, such as a history professor. Or it could be someone who is really intelligent; someone who can think on their feet, such as a lawyer or a judge. It could be someone with a lot of experience, such as a wise old grandparent that we go to for advice. Or it could be someone who thinks about deep abstract things such as a philosopher or a sage. It could even be the kid on the street who is ‘street-wise’ and knows the ins and outs of a city. The Writings say that “people are capable of knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. Knowledge has to do with concepts, intelligence with reason, and wisdom with life. Regarded in its fullness, wisdom has to do with concepts, reason and life at the same time.” (CL 130)
Knowledge vs. Life
So wisdom has more to do with life than simply with knowledge. One might recall the story from Genesis of the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:16,17). Just like Adam and Eve, we may be tempted to think that wisdom comes from eating of the latter, when it actually comes from eating of the former. Wisdom is of life, not simply knowledges, and so true wisdom involves a recognition that all life is from the Lord (eating of the Tree of Life) and not ourselves (eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). (See TCR 39, CL 135, 444, AC 128) Later in the paper we will discuss what a wisdom of life looks like.
Wisdom is Innocence
If we think we are wise, then we probably are not, because wisdom has nothing to do with having pride in the intelligence of ourselves (CL 193, 331). But rather wisdom has to do with being humble (SS 91), and being willing to be led by the Lord, which is a state of innocence. And the Lord is Wisdom Itself (CL 414, HH 341).
Wisdom Comes From The Church
Since wisdom comes from the willingness to be led by the Lord, then where do we go to be led by the Lord? We need to go to the truths of His Word in the Church. Wisdom “is inseparably bound up with the church [because]... concerns that have to do with the church and are called spiritual have their seat in the inmost recesses in a person, because they are connected with heaven and through heaven with the Lord.” (CL 130) As Moses said,
“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom.” (Deut. 4:6)
Wisdom is a Useful Life
So what are the spiritual concerns that the church teaches? What is the life of wisdom?
In brief summary, it is this: to refrain from evils because they are harmful to the soul, harmful to the civil state, and harmful to the body, and to do good things because they are of benefit to the soul, the civil state, and to the body.” (CL 130)
‘Doing good things’ is also known as ‘useful service.’
Useful services are spiritual when they have to do with love toward God and love for the neighbor.... People who concern themselves with the first useful services, which are spiritual... these people are wise.” (CL 19)
In many ways wisdom is more like a verb than an noun. It has to do with how we live our life.
Wisdom is the Form and Container of Love
And so we come to find that wisdom has to do with love, specifically love to the Lord and love to the neighbor. True wisdom has these loves within it. Wisdom is the form and container of these loves. Wisdom is the expression of love (Cl 493). Wisdom is the way of love and the way of spiritual life. Wisdom is the means by which love can do its job. “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” (Psalm 107:43)
So we have now determined that true wisdom is a recognition that all life and all truth is from the Lord through His Word in the Church, and that it is not only about acquiring knowledges and intelligence from that truth, but it is about applying these things to a life of useful service which is an expression of love the Lord and the neighbor.
Part 2: The Specific Wisdom that unites with Conjugial Love
So if wisdom is the way that love is expressed, then what is the way that conjugial love is expressed? It must also be wisdom. But since conjugial love is a specific love, there must be a specific wisdom that expresses it. This leads us to the nature of the difference between men and women.
Forms of Love and Wisdom
‘Conjugial Love’ number 32 states that the nature of masculinity is that it is love clothed with wisdom, while femininity is that wisdom clothed with love. So men - in their outer, conscious self - are focused on wisdom. And that wisdom stems from an innate love of growing wise. While women - in their outer, conscious self - are focused on love. And that love stems from an innate wisdom of their relationship with men. Thus men tend to be focused on truths and the relationships of ideas, while women tend to be focused on emotions and the relationships of people. (CL 168) Even the scientific world is aware of this difference between men and women. Studies have shown that men and women use their brains differently, and that women tend to have E-brains (Empathizing), and men tend to have S-brains (Systemizing).1
This is how men and women operate individually. But because men and women are predominantly intellect-oriented, and will-oriented, respectively, there is a recognition of there being an imbalance. There is a recognition that the other has something which they do not, and that true balance come with a sharing of what they have. “Therefore from creation there was implanted in both male and female a love of uniting into one.” (CL 32) Though it might not be conscious, this desire to be united is because love is not truly loving without wisdom, and wisdom is not truly wise without love. (CL 65)
It should be said here that everyone receives love and wisdom from the Lord, and is capable of having that love and wisdom united in their will and understanding. But there is a specific love that only women receive from the Lord. That love is conjugial love. (CL 224) That is the love that unites a husband and wife in marriage. Men can experience that love in their marriage to their wives, but it is not innate in them, as it is with women.
Because women have this specific love from the Lord, there must also be a specific wisdom in men which balances it, and unites with it. From the examination above, we know that this wisdom in general must involve the willingness to be led by the Lord into His truths, and love for growing wise in those truths that lead to a life of useful service. (CL 130, 183:8) But this is the wisdom that unites with true love in general. What is the specific wisdom that unites with conjugial love? To find out, we need to briefly examine what conjugial love is.
Conjugial love is “nothing else but the wish of two to be one.” (CL 215). On a philosophical, general sense, this is talking about the wish for love and wisdom to be one. But in a specific sense this is talking about the wish of one man and one woman to be one. This is the specific love that is given to women. So the specific wisdom that unites with that love must be the wisdom that leads to a life of conjoining with one spouse.
The Expression of Love for One Wife
Men tend to like to think about abstract ideas. This is the intellect at work. But wisdom comes when those ideas are applied to life. In a similar way, men can use their intellect to discover that the Lord teaches about the benefits and usefulness of conjugial love. This is the man using his rational wisdom. And when the man then applies that wisdom to life, it is an expression of his moral wisdom. Women are attracted first to the moral wisdom, but innately within them they recognize that their ability to unite with a man as a husband must stem from his rational wisdom, or in other words from his ability to recognize truths as coming from the Lord alone. (CL 102, 163-165) Women therefore conjoin externally to the life that men lead (moral wisdom), as well as internally to the awareness in men that their moral virtues are inspired by higher principles (rational wisdom). Its interesting to note that the word ‘virtue’ stems from the Latin word ‘virtus’ which also means ‘manliness.’
So taken in its entirety (a man’s moral wisdom containing within it rational wisdom), this wisdom expresses itself in the desire to unite with just one woman in marriage. In other words, a man who loves the life of monogamy has rational wisdom. (CL 217, 293)
In the 1999 movie entitled “The Bachelor,” a wise elder gentleman describes two imaginary places to live: Bachelorville and Husbandtown. Most men want to live in Bachelorville. Even some husbands want to live in Bachelorville. But as he says in the movie, “A good proposal comes not only from love, but from the desire to be a husband.” A man who has rational wisdom is a man who wants to live in Husbandtown.
Conjugial Love Depends on Wisdom
Women have a love for conjugial love directly from the Lord. Men have the ability for rational wisdom directly from the Lord. When a husband and wife love each other in marriage from this rational wisdom and conjugial love, they then experience the delights of conjugial love. The Writings even say that conjugial love is the “offspring of wisdom.” (CL 145) In reality conjugial love can only actually exist between two people. And the experience of that love depends on wisdom. (CL 69, 98, 161) There’s even a test to determine if one has true conjugial love or not:
A husband’s receiving the conjugal atmosphere solely through his wife is the mark by which true married love is recognized and differentiated from married love that is illusory, feigned, or cold.” (CL 224)
And the only way for a man to receive conjugial love from his wife is if he provides the proper form for it to exist in, namely: rational wisdom, or living a life that expresses love for one wife.
What About Wisdom in Women?
“What does a wise man or wisdom have to do with a woman?” Swedenborg asked this question of some angels in heaven. The angels laughed at this and said, “What is a wise man or wisdom apart from a woman or apart from love? A wife is the love of a wise man’s wisdom.” (CL 56). Just like the experience of conjugial love in the couple depends on rational wisdom from the husband, the experience of rational wisdom in the couple depends on conjugial love from his wife. It is a mutual, reciprocal, organic process. A man can experience conjugial love because of his wife, and a wife can experience rational wisdom because of her husband. The Writings even say that “wives still have these things [rational wisdom] in them inwardly.” (CL 165)
And along with that shared experience of rational wisdom (a life based on spiritual, monogamous principles), women also have their own special innate wisdom relating to the particular affections and delights of conjugial love in both themselves and their husbands. (CL 155 repeated, 208) The counterpart to that innate wisdom in women, is very likely mens’ innate love for growing wise.
Part 3: Wisdom in Married Couples
It was said above that conjugial love is the offspring of wisdom. This is the first step in the process. The next step is that more wisdom is then the offspring of conjugial love. It is an upward spiral. Conjugial love opens people’s minds to more spiritual growth. (CL 302)
“A capacity for growing wise increases with those who are in a state of true married love, because it is as a result of wisdom and in accordance with it that this love exists in married couples.” (CL 211)
So through the intimate relationship that a husband and wife have in conjugial love, they are each capable of becoming more wise. “In the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)
How Can Wisdom Bring Love Back To My Marriage?
The book, “Conjugial Love” is full of truths that can be applied to life, which then creates a life of wisdom that is capable of receiving conjugial love. As an example, let us look at the chapter on ‘Cold States, Separation, and Divorce,’ (CL 234). If conjugial love is dependent on a state of wisdom, then it follows that cold states, separation and divorce are dependent on states of foolishness (to varying degrees). We may often complain that we don’t feel love in our marriage any more. Since love is dependent on wisdom (a religious way of life), we can determine that the reason or cause for why love isn’t felt anymore is a lack of wisdom. And we also now know that the feeling of love can return if we return to a life of wisdom; if we give that love a place to live. This is why things like reading the Word together, praying together, attending marriage support groups and marriage counseling are so important. This is also why the things we say to our spouse should always be guided by religious principles. For example, are the things we say kind, true, and useful?2 These are methods by which we can be reminded of the fact that the life of wisdom is what conjugial love unites itself with. If we can get ourselves back into the ways of the wisdom of life, then we can again become forms receptive of conjugial love, and so then we can eventually feel and experience the delights of it.
Every chapter in the book, “Conjugial Love,” talks about some form of wisdom to adopt in order to receive conjugial love, or some form of foolishness or insanity to avoid in order receive conjugial love. And shunning evils is just the first step. After that we also have to love the life of good, or specifically in this case, we have to love marriage. (CL 139, 217)
Wisdom and Foolishness in Society
“It may appear to a great number of people what monstrous and destructive ruinations of society and dissolutions of marriage would result if divorcings of wives were at the good pleasure of husbands prior to death.” (CL 276)
In some ways the above passage describes our current society all too well. It describes the problem; but fortunately the Lord is hard a work on the solution. Even people who have never read “Conjugial Love,” (but are arguably still within the sphere of the New Church) are catching on to the wisdom that is needed for true love to exist. And so we see books like, “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus,” “The Five Love Languages,” “The Case for Marriage,” and many more. These are both secular and religious books that contain elements of the wisdom needed for true conjugial love to thrive in couples. With the presence of the Lord’s New Church, people are starting to catch on that a life and society without marriage love, is not wise.
“Only those people know the blissful delights of married love who reject the horrible delights of adultery. And no one can reject these except one who is wise from the Lord, and no one is wise from the Lord unless he performs useful services from a love of doing them.” (CL 137)
And the specific useful service that provides for conjugial love is: living a life based on religious principles from the Lord that expresses a love for marriage with one spouse. That is the wisdom of conjugial love. Wisdom provides a place for true love to live, in both a single married couple, and also our society in general.
“The marital union of one man with one wife is the precious jewel of human life and the repository of Christian religion.” (CL 457)