Conjugial Love #155

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155. (xiii) Chastity cannot be predicated of those who have renounced marriages, vowing perpetual celibacy, unless they have and retain a love for a true marital life. Of these there can be no predication of chastity for the reason that after a vow of perpetual celibacy, marital love is thrust out, of which alone, however, is there any predicating chastity. Moreover, from creation and thus by birth, inclination toward the sex is still present, and when this is restrained and repressed, it turns inevitably to heat and with some into a burning, which, though it is bodily, rises into the spirit, infesting and in some befouling it. The spirit so befouled may also befoul the things of religion, casting them from their internal abode where they are in holiness into external things where they become merely words and gestures. The Lord has therefore provided that such celibacy shall exist only with persons who are in external worship, in which they are because they do not approach the Lord or read the Word. With these the life eternal is not imperilled by the imposition of celibacy along with a vow of chastity, as it is with those in internal worship. Add to this that many do not enter the celibate life of their own free will, but some before they enjoy freedom and reason, and some for causes attracting them out of the world.

[2] Of those who take up that condition on account of estrangement of mind from the world to be free for Divine worship, there are those chaste enough, with whom a love of true marital life either existed before that state of life or arises afterward and persists; of the love of that life chastity is predicated. Therefore monastics after death are at length released from their vows and given their liberty, so that in accord with the inward vows and desires of their love they may be led to choose either a married or an unmarried life. If they then enter the married life, those who have also loved the spiritual things of worship are given in marriage in heaven, but those who elect the unmarried life are sent to their like, who live at the sides of heaven.

[3] I have asked angels whether women who have been zealous in piety and have surrendered themselves to Divine worship, and so withdrawn from the deceits of the world and from the lusts of the flesh, and to that end have vowed perpetual virginity, are received into heaven, and whether they then become chief among the happy in accordance with their faith. The angels answered that they are received indeed, but on feeling the sphere of marital love there, become sad and distressed, and that then some of their own accord, some by permission which they have sought, and some by command, leave or are put out; and that, once outside that heaven, a way opens before them to companions who had been in a like state of life in the world, and from being distressed they turn cheerful and are gladdened by one another.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.