Conjugial Love #156

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156. 14. The state of marriage is preferable to a state of celibacy. This follows from what has been said so far about marriage and celibacy. The state of marriage is preferable because it exists from creation; because the origin of it is the marriage between good and truth; because it corresponds to the marriage of the Lord and the church; because the church and conjugial love are constant companions; and because the use it serves is more excellent than the uses served by anything else in creation, seeing that it results, according to order, in the propagation of the human race, and also of the angelic heaven, since heaven exists from the human race. In addition to this, marriage is the completion of a person, for by marriage a person becomes a complete person, as we show next in the following chapter. 1 None of these things is true of celibacy.

(References: Ezekiel 20:48, 21:4-5; Genesis 1:27, 2:22-24, 3:22-24, 5:1-2, 6:12-13, 6:17, 6:19; Isaiah 40:5-6, 49:26, 66:16, 66:23-24; Jeremiah 14:5, 25:31, 32:27, 45:5; Matthew 19:4-6, 19:4-5)

[2] On the other hand, if one takes the proposition that a state of celibacy is better than the state of marriage and turns it over to an inquisition to approve and confirm by arguments, then these arguments lead to the following conclusions: That marriage is not sacred, nor can any marriage be chaste. Indeed, that chastity in the female sex is possible only in the case of those who refrain from marrying and take a vow of perpetual virginity. And moreover, that people who take a vow of perpetual celibacy are the kind of people meant by "eunuchs who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:12). Besides many other conclusions which, stemming from an untrue premise, are also untrue.

"Eunuchs who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God" mean spiritual eunuchs, and these are people who in their marriages abstain from the evils of licentious relationships. The statement plainly does not mean Italian castrati. 2

151r. [Numbering was repeated by the author] 3 To this I will append two narrative accounts. This is the first:

As I was returning home from the school of wisdom spoken of above in no. 132, on the way I saw an angel dressed in blue.

He attached himself to my side and said, "I see that you have come from one of the schools of wisdom and that you were pleased by what you heard there. I perceive, too, that you are not fully in this world, because you are at the same time in the natural world. You are therefore also not acquainted with our Olympian gymnasia, where sages of old meet and learn from newcomers from your world what changes and progressions the state of wisdom has gone through and is presently undergoing. This being the case, if you wish, I will take you to a place where many of the sages of old live, together with their descendants or disciples."

He then took me to a border region between the north and the east. And when from an elevation I looked out toward it, suddenly a city appeared, and on one side of it two hills, with the hill nearer the city being lower than the other.

And the angel said to me, "That city is called Athenaeum, the lower hill Parnassium, and the higher one Heliconeum. They are called by these names because in the city and around it live wise men of old from Greece, such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Aristippus, and Xenophon, along with their disciples and pupils."

I then asked about Plato and Aristotle. The angel said that they and their followers lived in another region, because they taught matters of reason having to do with the intellect, while the ones here taught matters of morality having to do with life.

[2] The angel said that scholarly envoys are frequently sent out from the city of Athenaeum to educated Christians, to find out from them what people presently think about God, the creation of the universe, the immortality of the soul, the nature of man compared to the nature of animals, and other things which are matters of interior wisdom. And the angel said that today a herald had announced an assembly, a sign that the envoys had found newcomers from the earth from whom they had heard some interesting news.

We then saw many people coming out of the city and from the surrounding area, some wearing laurel wreaths on their heads, some holding palm branches in their hands, some with books under their arms, and some with pens under the hair of the left temple.

We slipped in among them and together ascended. And lo, on the hill there was an octagonal palace, which they called the Palladium, and we went in. And behold, we saw there eight hexagonal alcoves, each with a set of bookcases in it, and also a table, at which the people with the laurel wreaths sat. Moreover, in the Palladium itself we saw benches carved out of stone, on which the rest of the people took their seats.

[3] And then a door opened on the left, through which two newcomers from earth were ushered in. And having first greeted them, one of those wearing the laurel wreaths asked: "What news do you have from earth?"

So the newcomers said, "The news is that some people resembling beasts, or beasts resembling people, have been found in a forest. From their facial and physical features, however, it has been reportedly learned that they were born human, and that they were lost or left in the forest when they were about two or three years old.

"According to the report," the newcomers said, "they are unable to express any thought verbally, nor are they able to learn how to articulate sound into the form of any word. Nor did they know what food was suitable for them, as animals do, but they thrust into their mouth things they found in the forest, both things fit to be eaten and things unfit - to mention only some of many other similar discoveries. As a result of these findings, some of the learned among us have formed a number of conjectures, and others conclusions, about the nature of human beings compared to the nature of animals."

[4] When they heard this, some of the sages of old inquired, "What conjectures and conclusions do they draw from these discoveries?"

The two newcomers then replied that there were a number of them, but that they could be reduced to the following:

1. By his own nature and also from birth, the human being is more stupid and thus worse off than any animal, and that is the way he turns out if he is not educated.

2. He can be educated because he learned how to make articulate sounds and thus to speak, and by that means began to express thoughts, and this gradually more and more, until he was able to formulate laws of society, though many of these laws are imprinted on animals from birth.

3. Animals have the same faculty of reason as human beings.

4. Therefore if animals could talk, they would reason on any subject as cleverly as human beings. It is an indication of their ability that they think in accordance with the same reason and prudence as human beings.

5. The intellect is no more than a modified form of light from the sun, aided by warmth, by means of the ether, so that it is only an activity of interior nature, and this activity can be raised to the point that it appears as wisdom.

6. It is therefore vain to believe that a person lives after death any more than an animal - unless perhaps, owing to an exhalation of the life of the body, he may possibly appear for several days after death as a vapor resembling a ghost, before it evaporates back into nature - in much the same way as a bush raised from the ashes appears in a likeness of its prior form.

7. Consequently, religion, which teaches life after death, is an invention to keep simple people in bondage from within by its laws, as they are kept in bondage from without by laws of the state.

To this the newcomers added, that that was merely how some clever people reasoned, but not the intelligent ones.

Their listeners then asked, "What is the reasoning of the intelligent ones?"

The newcomers answered that they had not heard, but it was what they supposed.

152r. 3 On hearing these things, the people who were sitting at the tables all said, "Oh, what the times are like on earth now! Alas, what changes wisdom has undergone! Has wisdom become ingenious nonsense? The sun has set and now stands beneath the earth diametrically opposite its zenith!

"From the evidence of the people left and found in the forest, who cannot see that that is what a human being is like without education? Is he not as he is taught? Is he not born in a greater state of ignorance than animals? Does he not have to learn to walk and talk? If he did not learn to walk, would he stand erect upon his feet? And if he did not learn to talk, would he mutter anything he thought? Is everyone not as he is taught, irrational from being taught falsities, and wise from being taught truths? And one who is irrational from being taught falsities - is he not entirely caught up in the fantasy that he is wiser than one who is wise from being taught truths? Are there not fools and lunatics who are no more human than the people found in the forest? Are persons without memory not similar to them?

[2] "From these considerations and observations, we ourselves conclude that a person without education is not human, and not an animal either, but that he is a form of life which can receive into himself that which makes a person human. And thus we conclude that he is not born human, but becomes human; and that a person is born such a form of life in order that he may be an organism receptive of life from God, so that he may become a vessel into which God can introduce every kind of good and which by union with Himself He can bless to eternity.

"We perceive from what you have said that wisdom today has become so nonexistent or nonsensical that people know nothing at all about the nature of the life of human beings compared to the nature of the life of animals. That is why they also do not know the nature of man's life after death. Nevertheless, those who could know it, but do not wish to know it and therefore deny it, as many of your Christians do - we can liken them to the people found in the forest. Not that they have become that stupid from a lack of education; but by relying on misconceptions of the senses, which are dark shadows of truths, they have made themselves that stupid."

153r. [repeated] 3 At this point, however, someone in the middle of the Palladium stood up, holding a palm branch in his hand, and said, "Explain, please, this mystery, how a human being, created in the image of God, could be changed into the form of a devil. I know that angels of heaven are images of God and that angels of hell are images of the devil; and the two forms are opposite each other, angels of hell being forms of madness, angels of heaven forms of wisdom. Tell us, therefore, how a human being, created in the image of God, could pass from the light of day into such darkness of night that he could deny God and eternal life."

[2] To this the masters replied in turn, first the Pythagoreans, then the Socratics, and afterwards the rest.

But there was among them a certain Platonist. He spoke last, and his opinion prevailed. He said that people of the Saturnian period or golden age knew and acknowledged that they were recipient forms of life from God, and wisdom was therefore engraved on their souls and hearts. And consequently, from the light of truth they saw truth, and through truths perceived good from the delight of a love for good.

"However," he said, "in subsequent ages, the human race fell away from acknowledging that all truth of wisdom and consequent goodness of love in them continually flowed in from God; and as they fell away from this acknowledgment, they ceased to be dwelling places of God. Moreover, speech with God and association with angels also then ceased. For the orientation of the inner faculties of their minds, which had been directed upwards by God to God, became more and more bent in a slanting direction outward to the world, so that it was directed by God to God through the world; and finally it was turned upside down in the opposite direction, which is downwards to self. And because God cannot be regarded by a person who is inwardly upside down and thus turned away, people separated themselves from God and became forms of hell or the devil.

[3] "It follows from this that, in the first ages, people acknowledged with their heart and soul that all goodness of love and so truth of wisdom came to them from God, and also that these virtues were virtues of God in them, so that they themselves were merely recipients of life from God and for this reason were called images of God, sons of God, and born of God. But it follows then that, in succeeding ages, they no longer acknowledged this with their heart and soul, but did so owing to a certain conviction of belief, and then as a result of traditional faith, and finally with the lips alone. And to acknowledge something like this with the lips alone is not really acknowledging. Indeed, it is to deny at heart.

"Consequently it can be seen what wisdom is like today on earth among Christians - even though with their written revelation they could be inspired by God - when they do not know the difference between man and animal. And because of this, many of them believe that if a person lives after death, so will an animal. Or, because an animal does not live after death, so neither will a person. Has not our spiritual light, which enlightens the sight of the mind, become darkness in them? And their natural light, which enlightens only the sight of the body - has it not become their refulgence?"

154r. 3 After this the people all turned to the two visitors and thanked them for their coming and for their account; and they begged them to report to their comrades what they had heard.

Then the visitors replied that they would convince their friends of this truth, that they are human to the extent that they attribute every good of charity and truth of faith to the Lord and not to themselves; and that in the same measure they become angels of heaven.

155r. 3 The second account:

One morning I was awakened by the sound of very sweet singing from some height above me. And being therefore in the first moment of awakening, which is more internal, peaceful and gentle than any other moment of the day, I could be kept for a while in the spirit, as though outside the body, and could attend keenly to the affection which was being expressed in song. (A song in heaven is nothing but an affection of the mind which is expressed vocally as a melody, for it is the sound of one speaking without spoken words, coming from the same affection of love which gives life to speech.)

In that state I perceived that it was an affection having to do with the delights of conjugial love, which was turned into song by wives in heaven. I noticed that this was so from the sound of the singing, in which those delights were variously expressed in marvelous ways.

After this I arose and looked out into the spiritual world. And lo, in the east, beneath the sun there, I saw what seemed to be golden rain. It was morning mist, descending in such quantity that, struck by the rays of the sun, it presented to my eyes the appearance of golden rain. Being still more fully awakened on account of it, I went out in spirit, and then, meeting by chance an angel, I asked him whether he saw the golden rain coming down from the sun.

[2] Answering, he replied that he saw it whenever he was thinking about conjugial love and then turned his eyes in that direction.

He said further, "That rain falls upon a hall where there are three husbands with their wives, who live at the center of an eastern paradise. This kind of rain seems to be falling from the sun upon that hall, because abiding in those husbands and wives is wisdom concerning conjugial love and its delights - in the husbands, wisdom concerning conjugial love, and in the wives, wisdom concerning its delights.

"But since I perceive that you are thinking about the delights of conjugial love, I will take you to that hall and introduce you."

So he led me through areas befitting a paradise to houses which were built with boards of olive wood, with two columns of cedar in front of the entrance; and having introduced me to the husbands, he asked that I be allowed, in their presence, to speak with their wives.

They then nodded and called their wives.

The wives looked searchingly into my eyes. So I asked, "What are you looking at?" They said, "We can see keenly what attraction you feel and therefore what affection you have, which is where your thought concerning love for the opposite sex comes from. And we see that although you are thinking about it intently, still you are thinking chastely." They then said, "What do you want us to tell you about it?"

So I replied, "Please tell me something about the delights of conjugial love."

And the husbands nodded, saying, "Reveal to them something about these delights, if you wish. Their ears are chaste."

[3] So they asked, "Who told you that we were the ones to ask about the delights of that love? Why not our husbands?"

Then I replied, "This angel who is with me, he told me privately that wives are vessels receptive of and sensitive to those delights, because they are born forms of love, and all delights have to do with love."

Smiling at this they answered, "Be discreet, and do not say such a thing unless it can be interpreted in more than one way, because it is a point of wisdom kept deeply hidden in the hearts of our sex, which is not revealed to any husband except to one who is in a state of truly conjugial love. There are many reasons for this, which we conceal within and keep to ourselves."

At that the husbands then said, "Our wives know all the states of our mind, nor is anything hidden from them. They see, perceive and feel whatever comes from our will. And we in turn know nothing of this in our wives. Wives have this gift, because they have very tender loves and feelings of almost blazing zeal for the preservation of the friendship and trust in marriage and thus for the preservation of both partners' happiness of life. This happiness they watch over for their husbands and themselves from a wisdom inherent in their love - wisdom which is so full of discretion that they will not and therefore cannot say that they are the lovers, but that they are the recipients of love."

I then asked why wives will not and so cannot say this.

The wives replied that if the least suggestion of anything like this were to slip from their lips, their husbands would be invaded with coldness, which would separate them from their bed, bedroom, and sight.

"But this happens," they said, "in the case of people who do not hold marriage sacred, and who therefore do not love their wives with a spiritual love. It is different with those who do. This love in their minds is spiritual, and in the body becomes natural as a result of that. We here in this hall experience the natural love as a result of a spiritual one, and consequently we confide to our husbands secrets about the delights we feel having to do with conjugial love."

[4] At this point, I respectfully asked them to reveal something of these secrets to me as well. And immediately they looked toward the window to the south, where suddenly a white dove appeared. Its wings shone as though with silver, and its head was adorned with a crown seemingly of gold. It was standing on a branch, which had an olive growing out from it.

As they saw the dove engaged in an attempt to spread its wings, the wives said, "We will reveal something. When that dove appears, it is a sign to us that we may."

They then said, "Every man has five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. But we have also a sixth sense, which is a sense of all the delights of conjugial love in our husbands. We have this sense in the palms of our hands, whenever we touch our husbands' breasts, arms, hands or cheeks - especially their breasts - and also when we are touched by them. All the happy and pleasant states of the thoughts of their mind, and all the joys and delights of their heart, and the merry and cheerful feelings in their breast - these are then transmitted from them to us, taking form in us and becoming perceptible, discernible, and tangible. Moreover, we discern these things as keenly and as clearly as the ear discerns the melodies of songs, or as the tongue does the flavors of exquisite foods.

"In a word, the spiritual delights of our husbands take on a kind of natural embodiment in us. And for that reason, our husbands call us the sensory organs of chaste conjugial love and therefore of its delights. But this sense in our sex appears, continues, remains, and rises in the measure that our husbands love us for our wisdom and judgment, and in the measure that we love them in return for the same qualities in them. In heaven, this sense in our sex is called the interplay of wisdom with its love and of love with its wisdom."

[5] I was stirred by this with a desire to ask more questions, such as about the variety of the delights.

Answering, they said, "The variety is endless. However, we do not wish to say any more, and therefore we cannot, because the dove outside our window, with the olive branch under its feet, has flown away."

I then waited for its return, but in vain. Meanwhile, I asked the husbands, "Do you have a similar sense of conjugial love?"

And they replied, "We have one in general, but not in particular. We have a general sense of bliss, of delight, and of pleasant contentment, owing to the particular sensations of these in our wives. And this general sense, which we have from them, is like a peaceful serenity."

At these words, suddenly through the window a swan appeared, standing on the branch of a fig tree; and spreading its wings, it flew off.

Seeing this, the husbands said, "That is a sign for us to be silent about conjugial love. Come back from time to time, and perhaps more will be disclosed."

They then withdrew, and we departed.


1. See "The Conjunction of Souls and Minds by Marriage," nos. 156b ff.

2. Male singers, especially in the 18th century, castrated before puberty to prevent the soprano or contralto voice range from changing.

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Inbound References:

Conjugial Love 166, 173, 182, 202, 207, 208, 214, 258, 334

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True Christian Religion 692

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Thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem for the permission to use this translation. The full title of this translation is "DELIGHTS OF WISDOM RELATING TO CONJUGIAL LOVE".