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  • Writer's pictureRoslyn Taylor


Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Word Cloud of Conjugial Love Numbers 42-48:

Summary of the Numbers:

This selection from Conjugial Love concludes the topic of "Marriages in Heaven," with

Swedenborg telling the story of two experiences he had in the spiritual world, and then

moves on to a discussion of "The State of Married Couples After Death." The spiritual

world stories include one about a time when he was permitted to see an exquisitely

radiant married couple from the highest heaven who were "a picture of conjugial love,"

after which he was commissioned to write about conjugial love. The other experience is

a tale of three (apparently male) newcomers to the spiritual world who were instructed

by two angelic spirits about their remaining fully human after death, the difference

between unchaste sexual and truly conjugial love, and sexual activity in heaven. Two

actual angels then told them that spiritual marriages are marriages of good and truth.

The initial paragraphs of the chapter about married couples in the spiritual world deal

with the continuation of sexuality and conjugial love after death, and the process of

partners meeting up and discerning whether they can remain together or not. An

important concept in this section is that every person has an inner and outer aspect,

and the nature of the inner person is what determines who they are in the spiritual

world. Swedenborg also makes the point that there is wide variation in sexuality, and

each person’s inner sexual love is unchanged after death.

Summary of the Responses:

Four writers responded to this section from Swedenborg. Three themes emerged from

their commentary: reflections on sexuality, the overarching message of Conjugial Love

being about the internal marriage of good and truth, and the perceived emphasis in the

Swedenborgian/New Church faith communities on wisdom and understanding, not love

and kindness.

The reflections on sexuality were at times quite explicit. One writer grappled with the

notion that sexual love in heaven stayed in the heart and mind until sexual activity in

marriage brought it down to the flesh. Another pointed out that what was written in this

section was consistent with the rest of the book, in that it is addressed to a male

readership and addresses sexuality almost exclusively from a male perspective.

As we have seen in previous blog posts, the writers frequently return to the conclusion

that the book is pointing us to the spiritual marriage of good and truth within a person or

angel, deriving from the sacred union of Divine Love and Divine Wisdom. That approach

could be a way of coping with the challenges of finding personal meaning in

Swedenborg’s decidedly aristocratic, 18th Century, Western cultural ways of portraying

marriage relationships between men and women. But in reading what they have written,

I feel that the writers often sincerely sense a highly spiritual meaning that transcends those limitations and brings deep personal meaning.

Direct Quotes from Contributors:

"[I]t then goes on to say that after a couple marry [chaste sexual love in heaven] proceeds downward. Sometimes I think life might be simpler in this world if that were the case here too? I conclude that the need for freedom of choice is tantamount." * "The second experience involves three spirits whose gender is ultimately revealed as male, which one would probably assume anyway given the male-centric nature of the times and this text. As the story develops, here again, only males are valued for their character. I’m really sick of seen as a beauty and sex object, not as an intelligent person becoming wiser and more loving. There are ways in my life that I am valued for my intelligence, but on balance far more times that that aspect of me is overlooked, or not even seen, or seen as an anomaly." *

"'All newcomers' to heaven sounds like it means women and men, but it actually means

just males, again as one might predict. One could conclude that female spirits are not

assessed for the chasteness of their sexual love. The assumption might be that females

just don’t have unchaste sexual love, just as the assumption was that women don’t

experience pleasure during sex because of the lack of nerve endings in the vagina. That

assumption shows up again when the angelic spirits teach the reality of chaste sexual

love, but only mention the male experience of it. Admittedly they were male newcomers

he was instructing, and the text was written for an educated male audience. But women

and girls are also instructed by this book.

"Here's my guess at what the angelic spirits neglected to say: 'Angelic chastity, which is

shared by either sex, prevents that love from passing beyond the barrier of the heart,

but within and above the young woman’s beautiful character enjoys the delights of

chaste sexual love with the good character of the young man.'"


"It is from the wisdom of women in heaven that the instructors draw their lovely discourse

about how truly conjugial love works in heaven. My experience of women and girls is

that we generally relentlessly pursue an intimate and committed relationship in our

earthly life, and are very interested in how other women’s or girls’ relationships are

working out. It confirms the way the instructors report that chaste women in heaven also

value committed unions and feel cold all over at the thought of promiscuous sexual love.

The discreet descriptions of sex in sections 8 and 9 are hopeful for women who have

not had satisfactory sex lives here on earth. There is hope for 'blessed' and 'uplifting'

pleasure that brings the couple closer together, instead of the pain during sex that most

women have experienced at one time or another during their lifetime. Again…the

descriptions about married angel couples'

potency/power/beginning/strengthening/completion sound more like a man’s experience

of sex than a woman’s. To be fair, being 'uplifted' and more close and intimate seem

within the range of how women often feel after sex, as opposed to being sleepy and

'depressed' after sex which seems fairly common for men."


"What does 'sexual love' look like in a woman? As stated in #47, no two people are

exactly the same so there are 'countless differences' in sexual love, which could

include homosexual, bisexual, and pansexual attractions. To some extent, I think sexual

love in women involves noticing and responding to eye candy. But I think more so it

involves looking for and evaluating potential partners for the possibility of a 1:1 truly

intimate relationship. Conjugial love in this scenario is the truly intimate relationship that

follows after sexual love. A desire for intimate relationship is stamped on every detail of

everyone, even those people who experience their gender identity differently. We all

want a safe, loving, intimate relationship that binds us together." *

"This is not to discount the idea of conjunction by means of a woman’s love of her

husband’s wisdom that is imaged in the description of the Golden Age couple. I

perceive that something like that [happens] in my marriage, and my oldest married

daughter has said she has a feeling of that in hers. And definitely not to discount the

value of women’s wisdom, perception and intelligence, which, if her husband has any

sense at all, he will love, though perhaps it is somehow not the main motivating or

conjunctive force in marriage??? But it is to point out the importance of the marriage of

love and wisdom in each person, and the crucial importance of love in that marriage.

And to reinforce the possibility that a lot of material in this book may be talking about the

internal marriage of love and wisdom." *

"#42 The experiences that Swedenborg reports seem so like fairy tales or visions from

the Book of Revelation that I tend to read them more like beautiful metaphorical stories,

rather than stories intended to convey factual information.

"The first part of this paragraph was used as I was growing up to teach that the highest

pleasure and joy in heaven was from the marriage relationship between a man and a

woman. Now I read it as saying the highest pleasure and joy in heaven come from

bringing together love and wisdom in use, at whatever level that dynamic is happening:

within each person, between people, between a person and the Divine, between a

community and the Divine. To help Swedenborg understand that concept better, a

blissfully married couple came down from the highest heaven as a specific and easily

recognizable illustration of that general point." *

"[W]hen I was a teenager being indoctrinated in CL class about roles and what was, at

the time, a patriarchal view of gender roles, I rebelled, intellectually, at the idea that I

was not going to be approved of for choosing a career in Math or other Science. I

quietly believed -- and now, not so quietly -- that when men and women were

designated as having differing roles, that it meant that within a couple, one was more

likely to do (X) and the other more likely to do (Y). In order for it all to make sense to

me, I ignored the separation of "duties" and interpreted them to mean that someone has

to wash the dishes, someone has to go to work (or both someones), someone has to

cut the grass, someone has to bathe the children. But did not assign male or female

roles to any of the categories. I certainly felt the full weight of a male-dominated world,

with men deciding who did the wash and who sat and watched TV. I argued for the view that all roles can be filled by both genders. This did not endear me to many of the

adults in the various capacities that I experienced them. I resented then, and do today,

men’s use of the literal sense of a translation to put women down, to restrict them in the

multiple ways that they do. Whereas some of that male-domineering attitude has

changed, I think that the type of presentation of the meaning of the various comments

and examples in CL must now be put into a proper frame of reference." *

"In the description of the married couple from the Golden Age in section 42, it seems to

me that the description of the wife’s love is so much more vivid and impressive than the

picture of the husband as the image of wisdom. This seems to me to related to 44[10]

in which the marriage of love and wisdom is discussed. It points out that the marriage of

good and truth is possible only on earth. Then it mentions the Biblical 5 maidens who

could not go into the wedding, because they had lamps (truth) but no oil (love). With so

many other sections in the Writings signaling the primary importance of love, I wonder

why we get so many signals in the Church that wisdom is more important." Word Cloud of the Responses:

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Today’s Blog By: Rev. Roslyn Taylor

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