Three Misconceptions About Marriage


An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

The origin of Conjugial Love is the marriage of Good and Truth. (CL 83)

  1. Introduction
    1. That wonderful song says, “from fire that melts and welds the twain in one; a perfect union, all the dross consuming. Behold one angel when its work is done.” (Hymn number 53, by Evelyn E. Plummer)
      1. A beautiful ideal. A wondrous vision, but is it what the Writings really teach about Conjugial Love?
        1. How do the Writings themselves define Conjugial Love? (Don’t worry – when recently polled, most ministers got this one wrong.) The Writings define Conjugial Love as “the marriage between one man and one woman”1 – and then go on to describe at some length how that can be raised from the natural to a spiritual relationship.
    2. Have we inadvertently turned the Doctrine of Conjugial love into an unattainable ideal? Have we created something in our own imaginations that no one can ever hope to understand or live up to, and so we stop trying? How can we approach the Doctrine of Conjugial Love so that it is both realistic, obtainable, and comforting to each of us, either in our own marriages, or in our potential marriages?
      1. What we are going to do today is address three of the most common misconceptions about the Doctrine of Conjugial Love in the hope that in so doing, the doctrine will be demystified and seen to be most practical in our daily lives.
  2. The Three Misconceptions
    1. Misconception #1: Conjugial Love is Romantic Love
      1. You don’t have to be married to be in Conjugial Love (although you don’t experience it in fullness until you are)
        1. One partner may be in it but not the other
      2. Conjugial Love is not outside of self.
        1. Conjugial Love is being the right person, not finding the right person. Do you want to know who your conjugial partner is? Look at the name on the marriage license.
    2. Misconception #2: Conjugial Love is the Conjunction of Two People.
      1. It may be seen from reason that it is not conjunction into one, but adjunction, near and close according to the love, and in the case of those who are in love truly conjugial even to contact. (CL 158)
      2. You remain two distinct individuals. The two individual natures touch each other “when the loves agree.”
      3. CL 44 says, “as though one.”
        1. Conjugial Love is not conjunction but adjunction.
        2. Conjugial Partners Will and Think alike
          1. The statement, “one as to thought and affection” which is found in the wedding ceremony is not actually found in the Writings themselves (although there are a lot of passages that are real close to that idea).
            1. They love it when it happens, but it does not happen all the time.
            2. Such an idea takes away from the wonder of the union of complimentaries or even of opposites.
        3. Conjugial Love is when two people become one.
          1. Conjugial love is not attained by giving up one’s own personality in a marriage. You are, and always remain, individuals.
            1. Identity Loss, Fusion, Enmeshment
              1. The partner asks, “Who am I in this relationship?”
                1. Professional marriage counselors say that most often, it is the wife who leaves a marriage, because it is more likely that she cannot find a way to express her own needs and personality in a satisfying way. Modern society is set up to allow men to do this through their work, but women have no equally satisfying outlet. If, in such a marriage, a loss of personal identity occurs, the person may seek to reestablish their identity by leaving the marriage.
              2. A symptoms of such a problem is the need to suppress the individual’s own feelings to the point of becoming a nonentity. Even when married, we are individuals with our own unique characters, loves, and uses, that need to be expressed for the sake of mental health. If we are constantly withholding and submerging our self-expression and identity, eventually the personality becomes ill and bizarre behavior can result.
              3. One partner very responsible, while the other is irresponsible.
                1. Either there is the inability to take a stand on any issue and fight it out, or there is endless fighting between the partners: The partner struggles to establish the personal identity which has been lost by conflict with the marriage identity which has replaced it, and yet does not wish to change the basic flawed relationship because there is a need to sacrifice self to the ideal of the “we-ness” of marriage.
                  1. Symptoms of a dysfunctional family will show up in the children’s behavior with their friends, and at school. For the sake of your children, you need to have a healthy, adult marriage relationship.
                  2. A feeling that the partner is there to provide happiness: By submerging their personality into the “we-ness” of the marriage, a person can come to believe that the marriage (and therefore the partner) is responsible for their happiness, and if they are unhappy, the fault is with either the marriage or the partner. The fact is that a healthy person recognizes that they are responsible for their own happiness and act in responsible, caring ways to achieve it.
                  3. In the words of the Writings, we would say that unhappiness is caused by our own evils, and these cannot be removed by anyone else, neither by our partner, our parents, or the Lord Himself. We alone are responsible for our own self-examination, repentance, and reformation.
                  4. This is a danger of thinking that in marriage we become one person; we then put the responsibility of shunning our own evils on someone else, and when they are not by the partner (or the Lord), as they cannot be, we are unhappy, and blame our partner (or the Lord) instead of our unrealistic expectations.
    3. Misconception #3: Conjugial Partners agree on everything and never fight.
      1. Working out differences is the essential work of marriage, and will lead to the regeneration of both partners.
        1. A related misconception is that anger has no place in the Conjugial relationship
          1. We need to sanction the marital fight
            1. When self-identity is lost in a relationship, there comes a belief that couples should agree in all or most things and should never express their disagreements with each other or fight.
            2. Open disagreement and the working out of differences is the essential work of marriage, for this fosters and encourages the individual regeneration of the partners.
            3. By working together toward this common goal, and by working through the areas of disagreement with the resulting spiritual growth by both partners, they will draw closer to each other.
            4. How are the bonds of friendship actually forged? In shared conflict. In working together towards a common goal in spite of difficulties. If you played sports in school, you are more likely to remember the other people on the team than the members of one of your academic classes because you opposed a common foe together in the mock combat of sport. Fifty five years after the end of World War II, men still travel great distances to reunite with their old units. Such friendships overrule such considerations as race and religion. Surely, we can see that this extends to marriage, and that if partners are to become eternal friends, it is through their sharing the battle against hell – spiritual death – in their own lives.
          2. Zeal
            1. Zeal is a God-given energy to correct what is wrong or harmful in a relationship.
            2. It is a fundamental error to believe that all the solutions to life’s problems are to be found outside of self, in other people, things or experiences.
            3. Too often we believe that by just getting married we will solve our problems, that the other person will fulfill all our needs, and we can relax.
            4. For example, one of the greatest issues facing young people is the control of their sexual drives. Marriage apparently solves this by giving society’s sanction to what had been forbidden. But marriage is not a life of sexual license. Even in marriage such drives have to be confined and controlled, and if frustrated, the tendency is the blame the other for being inadequate and insensitive, rather than looking to self for self-control, for the discipline and maturity that will allow the Lord to turn love of the sex in general into the love of one of the sex, the lovely, eternal relationship with one that is promised to those who live chastely.
          3. Such an attitude of blaming others for our problems leads to “co-dependence” which often leads to all kinds of addictive behavior because we ignore the fact that the only one who can solve our problems is ourselves.
  3. Conclusion
    1. All the above misconceptions are inflamed by a fundamental error that all the solutions to life’s problems are to be found outside of self, in other people, things, or experiences.
      1. This is the fundamental lie of hell. In psychological jargon, it is called co-dependence. Doctrinally, this is the doctrine of faith alone.
      2. The Heart and Lungs
        1. If you want to know about the relationship between will and understanding in marriage, look at the heart and lungs. (CL 223)
        2. No one could ever mistake a heart for a lung
          1. They are completely and utterly different
            1. Yet they must perform in perfect cooperation for there to be life.
            2. The blood from heart to lungs lacks oxygen, truth
            3. The blood from lungs to heart lacks pressure, good
            4. Only when each does his own, individual use does the body live.
      3. We marry the one who is capable of healing us by love
        1. Why do we chose the partner we do? How many of us have looked at the choices made by others and said, “why did he/she chose him/her?” Because the Lord leads us to find the one who will give us what we need to finish the job of becoming human.
        2. Tell your partner specific behaviors you need and want
          1. As each adjusts, through self examination, repentance, and reformation, true love grows
          2. The giving heals, as does the receiving
          3. This brings cooperation, not competition
      4. Conjugial Love is regeneration
        1. The True Christian Religion is the “Universal Theology for the New Church”
          1. Yet Conjugial Love is not discussed
          2. Not necessary, because of Self Examination, Repentance, Reformation, and Regeneration
    2. Summarize the three misconceptions:
      1. Conjugial Love is Romantic Love
      2. Conjugial Love is the Conjunction of Two People
      3. Conjugial Partners agree on everything and never fight.

No one can come into Conjugial Love and be in it except those who approach the Lord, love the truths of the Church, and do its goods, because that love is from its origin celestial, spiritual, holy, pure, and clean, … and these cannot exist except with those who are conjoined to the Lord by means of good according to truth in the Word. (Paraphrase of CL 70, 71) AMEN.


1st Lesson: GEN 2:18-25

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” {19} Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. {20} So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. {21} And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. {22} Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. {23} And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” {24} Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. {25} And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Amen.

2nd Lesson: MAR 10:1-12

Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. {2} The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him. {3} And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” {4} They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” {5} And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. {6} “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ {7} ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, {8} ‘and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. {9} “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” {10} In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. {11} So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. {12} “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Amen.

3rd Lesson:


Every man consists of soul, mind, and body. Being man’s inmost, the soul from its origin is celestial; being his mediate, the mind from its origin is spiritual; and being his ultimate, the body from its origin is natural. Things which from their origin are celestial, and those which from their origin are spiritual, are not in space but in the appearances of space. This, moreover, is known in the world; wherefore it is said, that neither extension nor place can be predicated of things spiritual. Since, therefore, spaces are appearances, distance and presence also are appearances.

That in the spiritual world the appearances of distance and presence are according to the nearness, relationship, and affinity of love, has been frequently pointed out and confirmed in treatises on that world.

It is mentioned here, that it may be known that the souls and minds of men are not in space as are their bodies; for from their origin, as said above, they are celestial and spiritual. And, not being in space, they can be conjoined as into a one, though not at the same time their bodies. This is especially the case between married partners who inmostly love each other. But because woman is from man, and this conjunction is a kind of reunition, it can be seen from reason that it is not conjunction into a one but adjunction, near and close, according to the love, and, in the case of those who are in love truly conjugial, even to contact. This adjunction may be called spiritual cohabitation, and it exists with partners who tenderly love each other, however distant they are in body. There are many evidences of experience even in the natural world which confirm this.


1Conjugial Love 44:6, 48:1

Degrees of Government

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you. (DEU 7:6-8)

Our lesson from Deuteronomy spoke in the literal sense about how the Lord was choosing the children of Israel to be His own special people. But it is interesting that in the New King James version of the Bible, the heading is given as “A Chosen People” not “The” chosen people. The choice of words is significant because it indicates not that the children of Israel were the only chosen people, but that Word teaches us how we as a church can become a chosen people, and how we as individuals before the Lord can become “chosen,” or saved.

The reading gave a whole list of acts (such as idolatry and intermarriage with the Canaanites) which the children of Israel were to avoid if they wished to be a chosen people. The internal sense of these acts tells us the kinds of things that we must avoid if we wish to prepare ourselves for heaven. But that is not really the reason for choosing this particular passage as a lesson. It was selected because it contained the idea that a people (or a person) is not chosen because they are already good, but because they are loved by the Lord in spite of being in and of themselves, the “least of all peoples” (text), and because the Lord knows that through self-discipline and obedience to His Divine laws, we can become a “chosen people.”

In the writings of the New Church we are told that creation functions from firsts to lasts and thence into intermediates, which means that creation comes through this order: that it starts with the Lord who is the first, the most important, the highest. He then proceeds with His love or influx, and His life flows in to the world. What happens then? it flows into the basic materials of the natural world. Our life is formed on an organic body. Our life is received in our organic body and then from the beginning, from first of all being little children who have no spiritual knowledge or intelligence (they have spiritual life but they don’t have a conscious mind), we begin to grow. We acquire truths, we acquire information, we have experiences and so we become new people. Our characters are built and we prepare ourselves for heaven, and we see that the life flows from the Lord, from heaven, from firsts into the things of the world which we call the lasts and thence we raise up with them, back up into intermediates.

This is the orderly structure the Lord has provided for the world. That’s how creation works. Creation is happening every instant. It’s not something that happened a million years ago, or in 4 004 BC or whenever. It’s not just something that is a single event, but the whole world exists and continues to exist every moment because it is being re-created every moment by the Lord.

This orderly structure of influx, the Lord’s life flowing in, is the means by which our own minds can come from being natural to become rational, spiritual, and eventually celestial. The same doctrine works in the government of the world. It’s called the Doctrine of Degrees, and we’re told that there are two kinds of degrees. The first are called continuous degrees, or degrees of latitude, which have to do with the concept of “more” and “less.” When you use a thermometer to take someone’s temperature and when you pull it out and look and see where the mercury or the alcohol is, you’re looking at something that is more or less. There are certain markings that you can use to judge about what the temperature is, but you can’t say that it is exactly this or exactly that. An analog clock is the same kind of thing. The hand moves around and as it passes certain markings we can say that its a certain time, but its always an estimate because the movement is continuous.

On the other hand there are discrete degrees, and they can be best described as levels, they’re things that are completely different one from another and are a progression. They’re like steps. One of the classic examples that we speak about all the time in the church are the three heavens. The highest is the celestial heaven, then comes the spiritual, and the natural is the lowest and they are distinctly different because the people in each of the heavens have different ruling loves. The people in the highest heaven are there because their most important love, the thing that rules their character is their desire to love the Lord, and everything they do focuses around their love of the Lord. Discretely different and on a lower degree are those people who love the neighbor and everything in their lives is focused around being kind to the neighbor and serving them, and that’s the spiritual heaven. Then distinctly different again is the natural heaven where there are people who love to obey, who don’t want to study much, who wish to live pretty much as they lived in this world but they are willing to obey, simply obey what the Lord teaches.

These degrees, continuous and discrete, apply to every aspect of creation and every aspect of our life and there are even degrees of government. The Lord’s government begins with Him. The Divine Wisdom flows into the natural form of this world and then comes up again in higher forms.

We read the passages in Deuteronomy that talks about the different commandments, where it said that there were judgements and statutes and so forth. This is what the Apocalypse Explained says about that:

In these passages “commandments” mean the laws of life, especially those contained in the Decalogue, which are therefore called the Ten Commandments; while “statutes” mean the laws of worship which related especially to sacrifices and holy ministrations; and “judgments” mean civil laws; and as these laws were representative of spiritual laws, they signify such Divine truths as are in the Lord’s spiritual kingdom in the heavens. (AE 946:4)

What we see here is an example from our reading in Deuteronomy that there are different kinds of laws on different levels and these are discretely different. The divine flows in from Himself from the Divine above the heavens into the world of nature to the lowest things, in an orderly way. We can’t see the influx, we can’t necessarily feel it, but we can see the evidence of its passing. We see that the heavens are organized and governed. We see that there are governments in the world, and there are even governments among the animals in the natural kingdom. An amazing passage from The Divine Love and Wisdom 355 reads as follows:

Any one may confirm himself in favor of the Divine from things seen in nature by giving attention to what is known about bees: that they know how to collect wax and suck honey from herbs and flowers, and to build cells like little houses, and set them in the form of a city, with streets through which to come in and go out; that they scent at long distances the flowers and herbs from which they collect wax for their houses and honey for food, and laden with these fly back in a direct line to their hive; thus providing themselves with food and habitation for the coming winter, as if they had foresight and knowledge of it. (DLW 355 port.)

In the Lord’s spiritual kingdom there are various forms of government differing in different societies, the variety being in accord with the functions performed by the societies, and the functions of these are in accord with the functions of all things in man to which they correspond.

The heavens are organized as a man, and that in the same way that a single man represents a community or a society so the heavens are in that form. For example, there are societies that perform the function of welcoming spirits into the spiritual world when they die. We’re told that those are the spirits in the society corresponding to the mouth. There are spirits who are in love more than in anything else and they’re in the society corresponding to the heart. There are others who are in the love of truth. They represent the lungs, and so on. Every angel has a different function or use. Every society has these different functions.

The body itself is held together and protected by a skin. Now the skin, people sometimes forget, is the largest organ in the body. It’s the most obvious and the one we think of least. The body of the church on earth is held together by its skin which is its external order and organization.

I’ve talked a lot about how government inflows from the Divine itself into the world and how in each of the different degrees it has a different expression. The difficulty, of course, is when we receive that influx into the world. When government by influx is received its not always clear to us exactly what forms it should take and so what we do is we gather together and we discuss these things, and we each compare our own enlightenment, our own knowledge, our own experience to each other and we try and create a structure which is of such a form that it can receive that influx.

That’s what they’re trying to do, and if that influx, if that form is built correctly then everyone benefits because it is a principle of government received in the world, if it’s from the Lord’s influx it receives it correctly then we read that all forms of government agree in this that they look to the public good as their end, and in that good to the good of the individual.

We’re told that our mind is like a house. In the word where it talks about a house it represents the human mind. When we go to build a house we don’t start with the roof, we start with the foundation. We lay the foundation first then we build the walls then the roof goes on the top.

Now listen to how this structure works, how the human mind is built in a similar way. This reference is from Heaven and Hell no 468

There are three kinds of truths, civil, moral, and spiritual. Civil truths relate to matters of judgment and of government in kingdoms, and in general to what is just and equitable in them. Moral truths pertain to the matters of every one’s life which have regard to companionships and social relations, in general to what is honest and right, and in particular to virtues of every kind. But spiritual truths relate to matters of heaven and of the church, and in general to the good of love and the truth of faith.

[2] In every man there are three degrees of life. The rational faculty is opened to the first degree by civil truths, to the second degree by moral truths, and to the third degree by spiritual truths. But it must be understood that the rational faculty that consists of these truths is not formed and opened by man’s knowing them, but by his living according to them.

[3] All this shows how man becomes rational, namely, that he becomes rational to the third degree by a spiritual love of the good and truth which pertain to heaven and the church; he becomes rational to the second degree by a love of what is honest and right; and to the first degree by a love of what is just and equitable. (HH 468)

The house, which is our mind, is built by first laying a foundation of civil truth and once that civil truth is known and done, because it says that you don’t become rational by knowing things but by doing them, then on that foundation can be laid moral truths and on that wall, if you will, then the roof of spiritual truth can be built. It has an order, it has a distinct order, and a foundation is essential. We can’t just wish to be spiritual, wish to be celestial. We have to begin with the civil truth, with the external order, with the outer form.

We prepare for becoming spiritual and celestial by living out our full responsibilities in the natural world. To not only know and do truth but to struggle and to hope the Lord will change our affections so that we can learn to love truth for its own sake.

We also have to take part in those structures of government that have been provided. We’re told that heaven is perfected in its unity by the variety of uses that it contains. The government of our church society is, we hope in some small way, a reflection of that heavenly government. For the Lord’s own government is present in all degrees of life by influx as we saw in the passage in The Divine Love and Wisdom which spoke about the bees.

This week we all have an opportunity to take an active, responsible part in the government of the church. The things that will be discussed and decided at the Annual General Meeting are sometimes mundane but they form the foundation for the structures that are to be established and the decisions that are to be made throughout the whole year. The government and administration of the affairs of our church society will be perfected and unified by the greater variety of views presented in charity at the appropriate time and place. We read again from Heaven and Hell no 217

But all these forms of government agree in this, that they look to the public good as their end, and in that good to the good of the individual. And this is so because every one in the whole heaven is under the auspices of the Lord, who loves all, and from Divine love ordains that there shall be a common good, from which each individual shall receive his own good. (HH 217) AMEN.

Lessons: DEU 7:1-11, HH 217

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