THE WOMEN'S COMPANION TO 'CONJUGIAL LOVE' Numbers 1-13
Updated: Oct 31
Word Cloud for Conjugial Love Numbers 1-13:
Summary of the Numbers: The beginning of this section, while implying it is all about love, starts with examples of
how misinformed many people are about the life after death. This section spends time
covering the kinds of misinformation that people have. Overall, these people, new to the
spiritual world felt, after life's sometimes tedious journeys, that they have "earned"
some form of rest for eternity. But not all are immediately in the presence of angels.
One story mentioned the newcomers being taught by evil preachers, who wanted the
people to continue praying forever! It is interesting that these evil preachers were used
to teach the novitiates the realities of the spiritual world. Thankfully, they were then
rescued by angels, who taught them the reality of that world.
What the newcomers to the afterlife learned, after just a few days of only feasting,
resting, praying etc., was that this way of life was awful, and they longed to get back to
their homes and occupations. They were told, in several ways, that heaven is about
usefulness, and it is this that gives us joy, that restfulness is secondary. Summary of the Responses: One reader pointed out the idea that joy comes from usefulness did not mean we should be subservient to others, which can lead to a pathological slavery. She was concerned that the "Doctrine of Use" could be used that way. There clearly needs to be balance between usefulness to others and rest.
One reader remarked “I will never really know how the process unfolded for
Swedenborg, but I can know the effect these stories have on me. For me, the effect is
…how misinformed we can be about happiness, a rather direct hint that the book is not
really about marriage as an interpersonal relationship, and my complicated feelings
when I notice how very male-centric Swedenborg’s lenses are as he tells the stories.
The literal message of the stories is that we humans really don't understand what true
happiness is, and we can learn through experiences and direct instruction. The stories
are about the blessings that people expect to experience in heaven, and that they
believe define heaven. Given the title of the book, it's not too much of a stretch to
conclude that the point of the stories is that we humans don’t really understand what
true happiness in intimate relationship is, and we can learn through experience and
direct instruction….true happiness comes from marrying loving intentions with well
formulated, clear thinking in healthy useful service (or as number 8.5 says, 'the
marriage of love and wisdom in service') not necessarily the kind of expected or forced
tasks that women over the millennia have found themselves confined to or sometimes
drowning in, but some form of life-giving, personally meaningful activity,"
The writer goes on further about other aspects of her life that have been hurt by the
literalistic approach of this book, particularly in marriage. She mentions later on that she
understood that Swedenborg appears sexist by today’s standard, but that was not true
at the time.
Others, too, felt that Conjugial Love is really about the marriage of love and wisdom,
goodness and truth, charity and faith, rather than earthly marriage.
Yet other readers questioned why it is that people in the afterlife should be so
misinformed about it in the first place. Could it be that, prior to the Writings, there was
minimal information about the life after death? Some people may have been with loved
ones as they were dying and experienced their loved ones speaking to those on the
other side. But even those experiences do not tell us what life is like on the other side.
Some recent writers, like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, have suggested that this life is like a school:
"when we get it right, we graduate!" (And now she is on the other side I am sure she is
rejoicing about her new experience!) But even that does not tell us what living on the
other side is like. Since Conjugial Love was written there have been readers of Swedenborg, some perhaps who never connected with other readers or found a church, who would surely
lighten the spirits of angels when they entered the spiritual world and knew what heaven
was all about.
One person remarked about this part of the book that it appeared that the people
spoken of were men. Was that an accurate reading? Or was that because of the
translators? Or does it reflect the era where women were not considered to be wise (the
previous reader remarked). Several people remarked about these issues.
One person spoke of reading Divine Love and Wisdom and feeling a new revelation.
She spoke of the passage that said, "Divine Love and Divine Wisdom cannot be
considered by themselves individually. Love and wisdom are connected such as the
heart and lungs are in the human body." She remarked that "the reality is that without
the one, the other cannot even exist. So, male wisdom and female love are not actually
Some asked, "Is it selfish to think we have 'earned' a specific afterlife?" This could
indeed be selfishness, one reader noted, though that only seemed to be applicable to
the evil preachers by this reader, who wanted the people to continue praying forever!
To summarize: the fact that Swedenborg told the story of people entering the spiritual
world with many wrong ideas of what it would be like could lend credence to the idea
that the book is more about how we should lead a heavenly life. The importance of
believing in a loving creator, who wants to be joined with us, and serving our neighbors
with kindness is the centric message for us. The ideas Swedenborg brought to marriage
were certainly novel at the time, where high class women were regarded as property by
their parents and were married into the family with whom they wished to connect.
Marrying someone because they loved them, and wanted to spend eternity with them
was not part of the conversation. Word Cloud of the Responses:
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