THE WOMEN'S COMPANION TO 'CONJUGIAL LOVE' Numbers 156b-165
Word Cloud of Conjugial Love 156b-165:
Summary of the Numbers:
This section of Conjugial Love covers "The Conjunction of Souls and Minds by Marriage, meant by the Lord's saying that they are no longer two but one Flesh."
It also includes the "Infamous passages about men’s higher light than women's and also regarding women staying quiet," which this writer believes is probably not so relevant today with women being better educated (165). The question surely is "Have things changed a little, a lot, or not at all since Swedenborg wrote Conjugial Love?" Many natural things have indeed changed since the book was written, as mentioned above regarding women. The world has changed a lot since the Last Judgement. This was a good thing: the world was not spiritually free prior to this, though to some it may look messier, and there is still plenty of evil visible. But the world is now freer.
How do we deal with some of the knottier issues in this book? "Loving one's spouse involves recognizing the Divine in them," a quote from Marriage Moats, written by Lori Odhner, which seems to add a kinder approach to the relationship of couples, perhaps than some parts of Conjugial Love? The passages in Conjugial Love go into details as to how men and women relate to each other, sometimes causing confusion for those of us in today’s world.
Overall, it was striking for a number of women that Swedenborg used the literal, allegorical passages about how the story of Adam and Eve was made to explain how women would be made from men, as if they came from man's rib, which is not literally true, and which caused quite a number of remarks as to what that could mean. It certainly felt that it painted a picture of women being inferior to men.
Summary of the Responses:
Most of the responses will be actual quotes, as the picture of women being inferior was not considered a healthy one, and, as one person remarked, was totally inaccurate biologically. Also, it could set up an excuse for misogyny. One writer found it could be better explained as having a spiritual meaning. Overall, much of Swedenborg’s remarks about women would be based on his observation of, probably, the higher nobility ladies of his day. Today, women are more educated and would be able to discuss many more matters of all kinds than eighteenth century women could in their day.
Direct Quotes from Respondents:
A remark regarding 156: "Woman is created out of man is biologically opposite of what happens in fetal development… However, if this text is regarded as a spiritual concept, it makes sense. For example, that a woman becomes a wife through her husband. However, there is an omission of a man becoming a husband through his wife," which many of us have witnessed.
This author noted that there is an omission in Conjugial Love as to the way people are regenerated, which are covered extensively in the other books of the Writings.
Here is a another comment regarding Swedenborg’s use of Genesis: "Why does Swedenborg, knowing that women from men's rib is fictious, base his observation on a literal reading of Genesis 2:22 about a rib being taken out of Adam’s rib to form a woman?"(157) The author goes on to say: "This makes women secondary to and defined by men, instead of independent and equal, as in Genesis 1: 27…this creates division and pain."
(161). This number "speaks of the way wives use deception to protect the secret about their being the source of love." This writer is not sure that applies today, both within and outside the church. Surely those who know and love the teachings and read them would know that women are the source of love from reading this book? In this author’s experience I am certain that in our early days my spouse would have denied that women were the source of love: he had said that to me more than once! However, through our lives and his exit from this earth, he became angelic and attested how much he loved our life together and how he would be with me still during my remaining time on earth, as he has faithfully been.
It is hard to assess how those who are not aware of the teachings feel about their spouses. Some clearly do not think that way as the number of divorces illustrate. However, the ability of women to leave dangerous and abusive marriages is surely a good thing. In Swedenborg’s time, women were unable to leave bad marriages as they would be devastated financially, so they had to adjust the best they could.
Another writer said: "While Conjugial Love often speaks about wives pretending to their spouses that men are the source of love, adding unless the man is angelic, I am glad it finally says that a wise man recognizes the truth, that is, women are the source of love."
Another writer had a different slant, speaking of today being post the descent of the Holy City: "There is a different dynamic today in marriages, due to culture changes and the advent of the Holy City descending. In Swedenborg’s day women had to protect themselves from abandonment, both financially and socially."
From another author "It is a pity there isn’t more emphasis on the developing of the wisdom to really love only one spouse: that would provide less emphasis and veneration of this book." To which this author agrees.
(163 and 164) "There is a need to read these numbers in a new way than in previous times. Previously, authors suggested these passages indicated women didn’t have rational and moral wisdom of their own." This is insulting to all women, who are capable of regenerating with Divine help, even if they are not married or do not have a good marriage. As we read in other parts of the Writings, we all have the capacity to regenerate if we look to the Divine and humbly ask for help. It does not require being married to a regenerating man.
The author continues "I love the gateway to rational ideas and rational wisdom." She balked at the idea that only men could or should have these interests, (as does this author). There was a concern also by this author as to how some conservatives may use this to deter women from these studies. She remarked that she was able to assess what Swedenborg was saying, despite being a woman.
(165) This number contains the passage about men having a higher light than women and how women would stay quiet when men were talking together. Several of us felt that this observation was more likely to be appropriate to the time Swedenborg wrote the book than the core nature of women. Women were not educated the same way as today’s women can be, which might explain that observation. Today, women are able to be educated in the same way as men, and are able to talk about things outside the home, which changes that dynamic.
"There is no indication that wisdom is any different in women, or that they lack moral or rational wisdom. Both are needed for human progress. This number has been used in conservative circles to mean that women’s rational wisdom is never enlightened, if it exists at all! But Swedenborg posits that rational wisdom is quietly present in women and is lifted up into a different light than that into which men’s rational rises: is that still true?" The author states "Men and women differ in respect to the kind or mode of the enlightenment they experience, as well as in respect to the kind or depth of their connection to emotional realities."
A lot of what Swedenborg observed may have been related to education. "Women were almost always in the position of being less educated and knowledgeable – hence their being quiet in discussions. This could also be true for men when women were discussing domestic topics."
"Overall, women are generally more gifted in relationship skills than men…However, Relationship Science has changed things somewhat, so men are much more likely to pay attention to relationship dynamics than in previous times."
Word Cloud of the Responses:
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Today’s Blog By: Rev. Julie Conaron