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  • Roslyn Taylor

THE WOMEN'S COMPANION TO 'CONJUGIAL LOVE' Numbers 94-115

Word Cloud for Conjugial Love Numbers 94-115:

Summary of the Numbers: These numbers conclude the topic of "The Derivation of Conjugial Love from the Marriage of Good and Truth." Swedenborg contrasts merely sexual love, which he associates with the outer person, with conjugial love, which he associates with the inner person and with spiritual

pleasure. He elaborates on the point that sexual love in a human being is not the source of

conjugial love, but is its first phase, and then clarifies that this is the case for male humans only, not females. His assertion that when conjugial love has been implanted, sexual love turns

upside down and becomes chaste sexual love, probably also refers to males only, though in

previous numbers (cf #55) he indicates women can have chaste sexual love.

Swedenborg then gives an abbreviated description of the way that males model truth and

females model good, functioning together in a way that resembles the marriage of good and

truth, as they individually progress spiritually to the point of being able to receive truly conjugial love. The purpose of this arrangement, Swedenborg writes, is so that a husband can

understand truth and be wise. He also offers a succinct explanation of how the marriage of good and truth influences both individuals and couples from the inmost soul level, through the mind and then out to the body. In this context, he defines conjugial love more broadly, as the totality of the way the marriage of good and truth from the Divine works from soul level out to body level.

The first of the two experiences that conclude this section is about an exploration by men from nine European countries and the African continent about the source of conjugial love, and its strength or potency. The men from Africa give the best explanation, identifying its source in the God of heaven and earth. The second tale is about an angel teaching people in the world of spirits about how the marriage of good and truth permeates everything in creation, both in

heaven and on earth. Summary of the Responses: For this section there were four contributors. Three main themes that emerged in the responses were wrestling with concepts related to wisdom, cultural considerations when reading Swedenborg, and the value of seeing the teachings as applying more widely to spiritual life. When dealing with concepts related to wisdom, contributors discussed gender differences and similarities in relation to wisdom, emphasizing that everyone (including those with female energy) grow spiritually through wisdom, though each in their own way. A refreshing explanation was detailed for how wisdom is used as the basis of spiritual marriage unions in a way that doesn’t limit the wisdom of women to the cache of wise thinking belonging to the males in their lives. The writers also considered the foibles of “the wise” who are actually foolish, especially from the supposedly learned strata of European cultures. An example of this disdain is in Secrets of Heaven #2588:9, where Swedenborg speaks of the “insanity” of some learned people.

Cultural considerations, with the inherent difficulty in discerning what is revelation and what is not, again drew the contributors’ attention. There was even exasperation at having to constantly sort out what is actually spiritually valuable. A particular focus was on the inappropriateness of using these teachings to define men’s and women’s roles today.

As one contributor said, this section provides a beautiful commentary on spiritual life. The

writers felt the teachings should not be restricted to the context of marriage or gender-defined

social expectations, but yet spent time unpacking the implications for committed relationships

today. Direct Quotes from Contributors:

"[T]rue wisdom is good living based on spiritual principles, not just learning, which is how it tends to be used in the world."

*

"Yet his description of the inward or spiritual person as becoming 'more intelligent and wise' sounds like male attributes of spirituality in Swedenborg's usual binary paradigm. If he really means 'all men' when he says 'everyone' ignoring female spirituality as he often does, then I wonder if there is something different about the process for women as we progress spiritually. Rather than more intelligent and wiser, do we become more connected to others, or motivated more by purer love?"

*

"[W]e can mentally transcend our survival instincts and reflect on how we want to deal with them. This is true of all people, women and men, so that we can become truly human as we regenerate and become spiritual beings. This truth is important to remember when trying to

understand later parts of the book which imply that only men are capable of raising their intellect above their native intentions. As women, maybe our mechanism for intellect raising is different from men's because our mental and spiritual structure is different from men. Maybe the multiple connections between the hemispheres of our brains, of which males have far fewer, is a correspondential clue to how differently we function mentally and spiritually. When raising our intellect, we might be involving our entire mental capacity, not just our intellect."

*

"I feel like I'm making a big deal about the many times Swedenborg is treating women and men the same in respect to wisdom, the love or thirst for wisdom, and the path to conjugial love through wisdom. I'm aware that I'm pushing back against the interpretations of these teachings that have dominated the thinking in more conservative Swedenborgian faith communities. In my experience in those communities, there is a belief that wisdom is solely an attribute of males, and that females are limited if not lacking in wisdom, and need males to teach or guide them in truth and wisdom. For me it's affirming and refreshing to hear over and over again that all humans advance further in spiritual growth and conjugial love through their love for, thirst for, and pursuit of wisdom…A shocker in this number is the statement that these specific remarks 'do not apply to the female sex.' That assures me that Swedenborg will explicitly state when observations he is making apply only to men or to women, so it's legitimate to generalize from all his statements. That would include his statements about all people who are thirsting for wisdom will grow in wisdom and spirituality."

*

"This paragraph focuses, as usual, on the process for males as they move through the

intermediate steps of lust and sexual love to conjugial love. I can imagine a complementary

process for females. Before a partner is found, there is a generalized attraction towards the

preferred gender (usually male). Because of social customs, marriage is delayed until after the

woman is educated and has established her chosen career or work. Meanwhile her desire for

emotional intimacy becomes more disciplined, limited to one sexual partner at a time.

Emotionally intimate sexual relationships are engaged in up to the point which is conducive to

emotional health. When a marriage partner is found, a disciplined desire for emotional intimacy becomes the means which realizes the primary objective of a truly conjugial, committed marriage relationship."

*

"Everyone has at their inmost soul level a tendency for joining into one, regardless of personal sexual orientation or gender identity. It's a sacred, Divine-given proclivity or drive that should be honoured in everyone, regardless of whom they choose to join with. Heterosexual marriage relationships imitate or resemble the Divine marriage because of the dynamic that Swedenborg has been explaining. My conclusion is that committed non-heterosexual relationships, whether legally married or not, also imitate or resemble the marriage of good and truth but in a different way, possibly less closely. Those relationships arise from the Divine-given 'tendency to become joined into one' that everyone has. Each couple is different, but I trust the Divine that there is a way that what is good or what is true within each person in a committed relationship can be used to bring them into close alignment with the person they love and who loves them."

*

"My belief is that the bond between husband and wife is limited and defined by the truth that he has been able to receive from the Divine One. Therefore, for the health and strength of that marital bond, it's a good idea to ensure that the husband understands truth and can become wise. And it's also a good idea for the wife to be growing wise, growing in her love of wisdom, and growing in her ability to discern what is wise in her husband so she can put her love energy where his truth is, for the sake of their relationship. The unity they experience as a couple is not so much in that they 'think alike' or 'feel the same way about,' but that her 'feeling about' matches up with his 'thinking about.'"

*

"I will always be confused as to when Swedenborg is speaking from what he heard and saw in heaven, what is revelation and what is his logic or cultural belief. He does not always clarify this and makes it very difficult for us to discern this. It is clear what he thinks conjugal is and where it comes from. Since this comes from an interior place, it is hard for me to comment, though some things are reflected in our natural actions. To make this a marriage manual, I think, is a grave mistake. I do think it is a beautiful commentary on spiritual life. I do think we need to take out putting this into men and women's roles and if these things happen in heaven, we will know it then."

*

"Overall noticing that these experiences match very much for the people of that century. The idea of the importance of the sperm being vastly more than what women provide (intimated, not actually said) matches the science of the day."

*

"At this point in our readings I’m noticing how the consistent lack of female perspective in this book really gets me down. I’m tired of checking the Latin to see if Swedenborg was writing

about everyone (homo) or just males (vir), and then wondering if his homo really means males

anyway, since he so systematically excludes women. I’m tired of reminding myself that he was a typical male writer of his time, writing for a male audience, in a European culture where women had few if any rights. He may have been tasked with observing and reporting on the realities of the spiritual world in an effort to redirect the Christian faith community to a better path. But today I’m tired of dealing with the thoughts and emotions that invariably come up as I read, so as to tease out what is spiritually valuable for me in what he has written.

"The spiritual encounter that Swedenborg reports on in paragraphs #103 -114 gave me lots of opportunities to go through the process that tires me out. Only males were selected for their intellectual prowess for the discernment exercise, and "of course" they only considered male experiences of sexuality, sex drive, and intimate marriage relationships. The European males came up with some laughable conclusions about the source of conjugial love and its power. In typical eighteenth century Eurocentric fashion, which is part of the hierarchical and patriarchal paradigm in which Swedenborg operated, the wise males from Africa were kept apart from the white guys and had to beg to be heard. When they were allowed into the process, it turned out they had the best answer."

*

"One way I can understand the whole episode is as a metaphor for how each one of us comes to terms spiritually with the ways that truly conjugial love shows up in our lives. Swedenborg describes people from African countries as being celestial elsewhere in his writings, and people from European countries as being spiritual. African people would therefore be characterized in general by love, and European people by wisdom. The celestial African 'in me' is at the heart of me, closest to that place where the Divine is present with me. The spiritual Europeans 'in me' are more external and connected to the truth oriented parts of my mind, and are therefore further from the Divine in me. My internal African has great love for and wisdom about conjugial love, and knows the true source and strength of the union of what is good with what is true within me. My internal Europeans have rather mundane and inaccurate ideas about conjugial love, sometimes even entirely focused on the sexual manifestation of the true alignment of what is true with what is good. When I'm in my internal European state of natural mind, I don't appreciate or even know about the wisdom of my internal African. But I can recognize it for its veracity when I'm willing to open up and really see and hear it."

*

"The angel with the document about the Marriage of Good and Truth talks about that marriage among married couples. He starts with the familiar assertion that the husband is truth and the wife is the good of that truth. Since this is how we are formed, in Swedenborgian teaching, and in my opinion this is how we experience our consciousness, it makes sense to me that the husband is a truth form, and the wife is a good form, within the context of their marriage. In a conjugial marriage of a human who experiences consciousness or identity in their emotional state, with a human who experiences consciousness or identity in their cognitive state, it is understandable that the shorthand version could be the former 'is good' and the latter 'is truth.' I'm emphasizing this is in the context of their marriage, because in this context the wife is 'the good of that truth.' To me that means that she resonates emotionally with his thinking in specific life arenas that are relevant in their relationship, and is the one who recognizes that resonance and uses it to bring them closer together. An example might be that he values clear verbal communication because he thinks it's a good idea to have clarity. She resonates with that thinking because she loves clarity in communication since it facilitates a better quality relationship and a better life for their children."

*

"I'm not entirely sure that most husbands even have a goal of facilitating mutual participation in building their life and marriage. That sounds more like the goal of someone who is gifted with relationship wisdom, like a wife. But if he did have that goal, his best strategy might be to follow his wife's wisdom for accomplishing that goal. Her wisdom would be a manifestation of her own love for a productive and healthy marriage relationship. Dr Leon James contributed a fascinating essay expounding this strategy, entitled 'The Doctrine of the Wife,' which was published in Healing Words: A Sampler of Wholeness Theology."

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: Rev. Roslyn Taylor

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