THE WOMEN'S COMPANION TO CONJUGIAL LOVE Numbers 70-82
Updated: Dec 16, 2022
Word Cloud for Conjugial Love Numbers 70-82:
Summary of the Numbers: Having defined the concept of "conjugial love" in the previous section of numbers (57-69), in this section, Swedenborg goes on to describe a set of spiritual experiences he had. In these he visits the people of five different ages with an angelic guide, and is shown the quality of their marriages and hears them describe their beliefs about marriage. In the heaven of the Golden Age, Swedenborg and his guide meet a community of tent-dwellers who live on a mountain. From afar, they appear as children—signifying innocence—but up close they are adults. Swedenborg speaks with a married couple who claim to be "one soul." The husband claims he remains chaste in his thoughts towards the wives of his friends by viewing them through his own wife’s eyes. Swedenborg observes a golden light in their tent and is told it represents the love and wisdom of conjugial love. He sees a similar light in their place of worship, which appears like a tabernacle. He asks the husband if any of the people there in life had more than one wife, and the man tells him thinking that way gets people thrown out of their country. Finally, the man gives Swedenborg a pomegranate filled with golden seeds, and he departs. In the heaven of the Silver Age, Swedenborg and his guide pass by many carved images which Swedenborg initially takes for idols, but is then told they represent moral virtues and spiritual truths. They also pass horses and chariots, which signify the rational intelligence of the age. Entering into the city, they see buildings and homes made of various types of stone and precious stones, and Swedenborg learns the stone represents natural truths and the precious stone spiritual truths. They walk around the city and eventually a married couple invites them in. The husband discusses the love of truth and putting form to truth that characterizes the Silver Age. About marriage, he extols the virtues of monogamous marriage and its correspondence to good and truth. He calls it a "sacrament" and non-monogamy a "sacrilege." Swedenborg is then shown some artwork symbolizing marriage, which involves color-changing lights in shades of white, purple and blue. This seems mysterious to him, but the man assures him it’s not a mystery to the people of his age. He gives Swedenborg a parting gift of white grapes with silver leaves. In the heaven of the Copper Age, which is guarded by giants, Swedenborg and his guide notice the homes are made of various kinds of wood. This, and copper, signify natural goods. Swedenborg learns the people of this age have the Ancient Word, which has been lost on the earth and preserved in "Great Tartary." When Swedenborg asks one of the inhabitants about marriage, they tell him the rules for monogamy were passed down to them by older civilizations, who they consider their ancestors. For that reason, they obey their rules and cast out adulterers, polygamists and fornicators. Swedenborg is shown the ancient writings where these rules are spelled out, and gifted with a bundle of sweet-smelling bronze twigs tipped with gold before they leave.
The afterlife area (it’s not clear whether this is still considered a "heaven") of the Iron Age, Swedenborg learns, is fully natural—men who look like bears and leopards (which have a natural representation) guard it from any who are spiritual. The streets are irregular, the building materials appear to be bricks, and the inhabitants appear to worship idols without the knowledge of what moral virtues they once corresponded to. Swedenborg is unimpressed with their style of dress and finds it clownish. When a leading citizen of the town agrees to speak with Swedenborg, Swedenborg is dismayed to learn that the man is a polygamist, has no understanding of conjugial love, and considers women to be servants and not equals. He asks about the idolatry and is told the inhabitants have a difficult time lifting their minds from the physical forms of the idols, but that the town does have an ancient angel who visits routinely, to remind the people not to worship the idols, because the powers they ascribe to idols actually come from one God. Swedenborg does not get a beautiful souvenir from this community. He leaves concerned, but his guide expresses the hope that conjugial love will yet be rekindled on the Earth.
In the afterlife area of the Age of Iron Mixed with Clay, Swedenborg attempts to speak with the citizens about religion and marriage, but they laugh at him and mock him. Although they are not permitted by law to live with more than one wife, they brag openly about their affairs, and consider all women prostitutes. Some notice that Swedenborg and his guide look out of place (because they do not align spiritually with the rest of the inhabitants) and demand they be brought to court. At court, more questions are asked, and the crowd grows angry at Swedenborg’s answers—they consider him stuck-up with all his fancy ideas about religion and conjugial love. Swedenborg tells the crowd they are not wise, because they consider conjugial love and its opposite ("scortatory" love) to be the same. This angers the crowd and it looks like there will be a riot. Swedenborg and his guide escape by holding out their hands and using a power given to them by God to manifest fiery snakes and dragons, which chase away the inhabitants. Swedenborg’s guide tells him newcomers from Earth arrive to this location daily. In the sixth and last experience, Swedenborg ruminates on his distress that conjugial love has fallen so far from its once-blessed state, and relates it to the end times described in the Bible—a world where all truth has been lost and corrupted. Suddenly, the heavens open up and he begins hearing praises sung to God. Swedenborg begins to understand that there will be another church, and that God will revive conjugial love on the Earth. This fills him with joy. Afterwards, another spirit comes up to Swedenborg, and wants to know what this new religion is that he’s thinking about. Swedenborg says it will have five tenets: 1. God is one. 2. Saving faith is believing in Him. 3. Evil actions are to be shunned, because they come from the devil. 4. Good actions are to be done, because they come from God. And 5. People must perform these good actions as if of themselves, but must believe that they come from God. The spirit argues with Swedenborg about the nuances of these five points for a while, but finally gives up and goes away in an angry mood.
Summary of the Responses: Three contributors participated for this section. Swedenborg’s evocative descriptions of the various afterlife societies were described as “a written photojournal.” They provoked comments about art, with one respondent wondering why, given these inspiring descriptions, Swedenborgians don’t produce more of it. At the same time, another felt grateful for the effort and creativity involved in Swedenborgian church events designed to uplift marriage. Another theme in the contributions was about how some of Swedenborg’s concepts and phrases are influenced by his culture. For example, his use of "the devil" in the five tenets of faith he describes, and also a phrase ("taking his pleasure") based on a commonly-held belief in his day that we now know is not the case (that respectable women do not experience pleasure during sex.) This theme has recurred over several blogs now, but the authors feel it is important to put these ideas and phrases into historical context, because without understanding why Swedenborg wrote the way he did, Swedenborgian believers may internalize misunderstandings about the world from reading what Swedenborg wrote. A variety of additional subjects were mentioned without overlap between respondents, probably because this set of numbers encompassed so many intriguing ideas and there was so much to respond to. Below are a sample of the more interesting points our contributors made. Direct Quotes from Contributors: "Lots of vivid imagery for artists to contemplate. Material for a film, however thousands of movies have already explored these themes of relationships between men and women… If artists, poets and writers had a role in building church communities, schools, and governing bodies probably we would have more accessible and developed organizations, just like if women ran the world things would be different... I do find spiritual ideas being explored in films, books, etc, but not as a part of any church sponsored activity. With a presumption that the arts are far more than for beauty or entertainment. But a tool that advances human evolution better than other ways like lectures, rituals, and the like."
* "There is hope that the ancient holiness of marriage might be brought back to the human family. I appreciate the efforts of those in the Swedenborgian/New Church faith communities who try to facilitate this return of truly conjugial love between married partners, such as 'Caring for Marriage' conferences. I also appreciate the marriage support communities beyond the Swedenborgian world that bring hope for healthy relationships and marriages. I see unhealthy patriarchal-style marriages being dismantled through divorce, and a choice for single-parenting, and domestic violence laws. What I'm appreciating is evidence of the 'descent of the Holy City, New Jerusalem to earth' which is what many Swedenborgians today are hoping to facilitate."
* "Swedenborg alludes to sex in heaven in rather polite language, but nevertheless describes it in the traditional terms you might expect from a man of his times. He sees an angel (presumably male) 'taking his pleasure with his partner.' Women were believed to not experience pleasure during sex, at least not dignified women or angel women. I'd rather read 'approach an angel couple who were taking and giving their pleasure with each other.' For many women, I think the pleasure in sex is not so much from the physical pleasure, which can often be experienced simultaneously with pain, but more from the pleasure of true intimacy with their partner." * "I prefer a many layered reading of the book [Conjugial Love], because that way it becomes inclusive instead of excluding everyone except heterosexual males living in patriarchal cultures. Everyone can have an internal conjugial union of love and wisdom and can express that in all their relationships, whether female, single, same-sex attracted, transgender, queer, unhappily married heterosexual, or identified in any other way." * "This number [#82] contains a concise but somewhat surprising statement of faith for the church meant by the New Jerusalem. Surprising to me because of the primacy of faith in salvation, and the mention of the devil. It’s also a very Christian formulation of teachings. I would expect the teachings to be more inclusive if the New Jerusalem is intended for all people… I’m wondering if Swedenborg could only be present in Christian heavens, unless on a field trip to ancient pre-Christian heavens, because of who he was and his Christian faith. Perhaps like everyone else, in the spiritual world he gravitated to people who were similar to him, and to environments that felt comfortable to him. In #80 the angel claims that the special quality belonging to Christians is the principles of marriage. Most of the people he has spoken with thus far in the book refer to 'the church' and 'the Lord' and other Christian concepts. If he was in the company of people who had been Christian on earth, he could teach to their and his spiritual culture. Swedenborg’s Christocentrism, a big part of his cultural lenses, may be at play here, despite the pluralism elsewhere in Swedenborgian theology." *
Referring to [#75:5-6] “In… the passage where the husband from the Golden Age couple says '... she is the love of my wisdom and I am the wisdom of her love.' For some reason I read this as ‘.. she is the love pertaining to my wisdom and I am the wisdom pertaining to her love.’ This came from the way 'of' is used in Swedenborg in, say 'the good of truth' or ‘the truth of good’, which to me seems to mean the good pertaining to truth or the truth pertaining to good… For me the idea that the wife is supposed to be the 'love of her husband’s wisdom,' or that she is supposed to love his wisdom, has always had a feeling of love as a clinging vine twined around the steady rock of wisdom (which was always, of course, somehow better than love as I grew up in the General Church). Reading 'the love of my wisdom' as 'the love pertaining to my wisdom’ took the clinging vine sense out of this, and put it on an equal footing with 'the wisdom pertaining to her love.' The phrase I am the wisdom of her love’ in the translation I saw also communicated to me that the wife’s love was somehow empty and that its real core was the husband’s wisdom. 'Pertaining to' removes that sense. Someone in a previous entry used the phrase 'love aligned with wisdom,' which nicely accomplishes the same thing… Idon’t know how many other places this “love of wisdom and wisdom of love” thing comes up, but I would like to see it discussed with the sense of pertaining to or aligning with, and with the awareness of avoiding clinging vine sense." * [Referring to #78.4] "It’s pretty obvious that this is *not* what marriage is supposed to like - the concept that the husband is the king of the house and the wife the servant, an idea that seems to be abroad in some sectors of society today. It’s also rather interesting that this group appears to be in or around heaven, suggesting that there is a variety of types of marriage associated with heaven. In fact, all of the trips to the gold, silver etc. ages imply this. I didn’t get the impression that the iron mixed with clay society was heavenly, though." * Word Cloud of the Responses:
Please Comment! What was your experience reading these numbers from Conjugial Love? Your thoughts and responses are valuable and welcomed. Just sign up in the comment section to be a Deborah’s Tree site member, and then add your comments. Site membership is free, but you are welcome to give a donation if you like what you find in this blog! https://www.deborahstree.org/donate-and-volunteer Today’s Blog by: Liz Kufs