Wisdom, Or Is It Love, In Women?
One of the most challenging topics to explore is that of the wisdom of women. The reason for this difficulty is described by the wives sitting in a rose garden in heaven:
Dear friend, you do not know the wisdom and prudence of wives, because they hide it altogether from men and keep it hidden precisely in order to be loved by them. For every man who is not spiritually rational and moral but only naturally so possesses a coldness towards his wife, such a coldness being inherent in him in his inmost elements. This coldness a wise and prudent wife acutely and keenly notices, and she then conceals her conjugial love, withdrawing into her heart so much of it and hiding it there so deeply that not the least bit of it appears in her face, her tone of voice, or gesture. She does this, because to the extent her love appears, to that extent a man’s coldness with respect to marriage pours forth from the inmost elements of his mind where it resides and descends into its outmost expressions, producing a total frigidity in the body and an urge to separate himself therefore from the bed and bedroom. (CL 294)
In this age of iron mixed with clay men are cold to conjugial love and therefore deny themselves access to the wisdom of their wives. This is because women are wisdom’s accompanying love, thought’s accompanying affection, and intellect’s accompanying will (CL 175) and so when they hide these their wisdom is veiled as well. This is seen in the fact that women do not speak from intellectual wisdom “but in gatherings of men where matters like this are being discussed, they keep silent and only listen. Nevertheless, wives still have these things in them inwardly, as is apparent from the fact that they do listen, inwardly recognizing and concurring with those things which they hear and have heard from their husbands” (CL 165). In this passage it is clear that women approach exchanges of knowledge more for the sake of connection with other people and less for the sake of knowledge. Therefore, when they perceive that entering into the conversation would not connect them with someone, they are content to listen and affirm what is right, in what the men are saying. This is but one example of why men have not seen what wisdom is in women.
It was mentioned earlier that the fact that men are forms of intellect or understanding does not infer a lower IQ on the part of women. This is confirmed in that “the intelligence of women is by nature modest, gracious, peaceable, compliant, soft and gentle, while the intelligence of men is by nature critical, rough, resistant, argumentative, and given to intemperance” (CL 218). However, it should be seen that this difference in quality stems from the fact that intelligence is not the same in the two genders. Where men have a rational sight from higher light, women have a perception of love from a higher warmth.
This perception is a wisdom that the wife has. A man is not capable of it, neither is a wife capable of her husband’s intellectual wisdom. This follows from the difference that exists between masculinity and femininity. It is masculine to perceive from the intellect, and feminine to perceive from love. Moreover, the intellect also perceives those sorts of matters which transcend the body and the world – it being the nature of intellectual and spiritual sight to move in that direction – while love does not perceive beyond what it feels. When it does, its perception draws on its union with the intellect of a man, a union established from creation. For the intellect has to do with light, and love with warmth, and concerns that are matters of light are seen, whereas concerns that are matters of warmth are felt. It is apparent from this that, because of the universal difference which exists between masculinity and femininity, a husband is not capable of his wife’s wisdom, nor is a wife capable of her husband’s wisdom. Women are not even capable of a man’s moral wisdom to the extent that it springs from his intellectual wisdom. (CL 168)
With respect to moral wisdom
a wife’s union with men’s moral wisdom exists outwardly, because the virtues of this wisdom are akin for the most part to similar virtues in women, and they spring from the husband’s intellectual will, with which the wife’s will unites and forms a marriage. And because a wife recognizes these virtues in her husband better than he recognizes them in himself, we say that a wife’s union with them exists outwardly. (CL 165)
From this it is clear that women have perception from love, which appears in the external very similar to the rational sight of truth. This appearance convinces some people that women can see truth from a higher light. However:
they have been persuaded of this opinion by what some educated female poets have written. But when the works of these female poets were examined in their presence in the spiritual world, they were found to be works, not of judgment and wisdom, but of cleverness and a facility in the use of language. And works which result from these two gifts, because of the elegance and skill in the way the words are put together, appear as though they were lofty and intelligent – but only to people who take any kind of cleverness and call it wisdom. (CL 175)
The warning here is clearly against obscuring the internal distinction between masculine and feminine wisdom. Masculine wisdom is a wisdom from truth. Feminine wisdom is a wisdom from good. Too often this passage has been interpreted to mean that women do not have intelligence or wisdom. This is simply not the case. Rather, it is a fact that just as men have an intellect and will both of which reside in their intellect – women have an intellect and will both of which reside in their will. There are strengths and weaknesses to both genders because they were designed from creation to be joined into one. Therefore the weaknesses of one are supported by the strengths of the other. Beware of thinking of them as if they are in competition with each other. For this sort of thinking arises from hell.
A woman’s wisdom comes from a perception of love from a higher warmth, by which is meant “conjugial love, because spiritual warmth, which emanates from the sun of that world, in its essence is love, and in women is love that unites itself with the intelligence and wisdom in men” (CL 188). Therefore, “the elevation into a higher warmth in women is an elevation into a more and more chaste and pure conjugial love, and this continually towards the conjugial ideal which from creation is innate in their inmost beings” (CL 188). This is the case with good women. The challenge here lies in the fact that women’s judgment and wisdom is directly related to their quality of life. This is a strength if they are pursuing chastity and are supported in this pursuit by a good husband. It can be a weakness if they get themselves into evils which compromise their ability to see the truth. However, it is a fundamental truth that conjugial love cannot be utterly destroyed in any woman, because it constitutes her very nature. Rather, their decisions may cause it to be intercepted in its reception. More on this will be seen later.
Perhaps the best description of feminine wisdom is found in the recounting of a conversation that Emanuel Swedenborg had with angel wives in heaven. Swedenborg asked the wives to reveal something concerning conjugial love. They replied that these were secrets, some of which could not be understood by the intellect of men. They continued their discussion saying,
You men vaunt yourselves over us on account of your wisdom, but we do not vaunt ourselves over you on account of ours – even though our wisdom is superior to yours because it enters into your inclinations and affections and sees, perceives and feels them. You know nothing at all about the inclinations and affections of your love, and this despite the fact that it is because of them and in accordance with them that your intellect thinks, consequently that it is because of them and in accordance with them that you have your wisdom. Yet wives know these things in their husbands so well that they see them in their husband’s faces and hear them in the intonations of the speech of their mouth – indeed so well that they feel them with the touch of their hands on their husbands’ breasts, arms and cheeks. But from a zealous love for your happiness and at the same time our own, we pretend as if we do not know these things, while at the same time moderating them so discreetly that whatever our husbands’ wish, pleasure or will, we accede to it by allowing and enduring it, and only redirecting it when possible, but never compelling. (CL 208)
They explain that this wisdom is implanted in women:
from creation and so from birth. Our husbands liken it to an instinct, but we say it comes of Divine providence, in order that men may be made happy through their wives. Our husbands have told us that it is the Lord’s will that the masculine sex act in freedom in accord with reason; and since a man’s freedom involves his inclinations and affections, therefore the Lord Himself moderates his freedom from within, and through his wife from without, and so forms the man and his wife together into an angel of heaven. Besides, if love is compelled, its fundamental nature changes and it becomes no longer the same love … We are moved to this – that is, to a discreet moderation of the inclinations and affections of our husbands, so discreet that it seems to them that they act in freedom in accord with their own reason – because we feel delight from their love, and we love nothing more than for them to feel delight from our feelings of delight. But if these feelings become matters of indifference in them, they also begin to fade in us. (CL 208)
from these few illustrations you can see that we know better than men whether all is well with them or not. If they are cold to their wives, all is not well with them, but if they are warm to their wives it is. Wives are therefore continually turning over in their minds ways of inducing their men to be warm to them and not cold, and they do this with a keenness of perception incomprehensible to men. (CL 208)
There are many things to be seen in this passage:
- Conjugial love transcends masculine understanding
- Feminine wisdom, from this love, is superior to masculine wisdom
- Feminine wisdom perceives inclinations and affections, or what is the same, people’s desires and willingness to change because of something.
- Masculine wisdom does not see inclinations or affections
- Women conceal their wisdom from men because men are inwardly cold toward marriage
- Whereas masculine wisdom is acquired, feminine wisdom is inborn
- Feminine wisdom is driven by the sensation of delight
- Men should be wary of allowing their feeling of delight in their wife’s delight to fade, for this lessens a wife’s wisdom as she can then no longer feel the state of her husband.
The work Conjugial Love was written to reveal such truths as these so that men would once again look to their wives for love. Men need to read and reflect on the truths contained in this work and alter their interactions with women accordingly, especially because women may not support these truths until men do. This is seen at the end of the previous passage when the angel wives say “ Perhaps you will expose to men the secrets you have heard.” And Swedenborg replies, “That is my intention, what harm will it do?” The wives then tell him:
Disclose them if you wish. We are not unacquainted with the power of persuasion possessed by wives. Indeed, they will say to their husbands, ‘The man is fooling. They are fictions. He is trying to amuse with appearances and the usual nonsense typical of men. Do not believe him; believe us. We know that you are the lovers and we your humble servants. (CL 208_
From this it is clear that women may not be free to confirm the truths about the masculine, the feminine, and marriage until men are actively pursuing a knowledge of them and a life according to them. Remember, this passage was written at the height of the age of iron mixed with clay. Those wives who will persuade their husbands that they are the lovers and that the teachings of Conjugial Love are but fictions, were wives who were driven to this by the coldness toward marriage in their husbands. For in a true marriage, one that is looking to the Lord, the man acknowledges that he is a receiver of love from his wife. In this case the wife would acknowledge that just as she is in a higher heat than her husband, he is in a higher light than her. Therefore, decisions are to be made by couples from their collective wisdom and judgment, the wife lending her perception from love, and the husband his rational sight of truth.