Where is the harm in watching porn?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Watching pornIt is sometimes argued that watching porn helps some adults with a low libido become more sexually aroused, and also that with some people it reduces anxiety and even adds spice and novelty to their sex life with their partner. However, such ideas perhaps need to be treated with caution, given the wide continuum of what is nowadays considered as porn: from the soft porn of striptease to the hard porn of brutal violent sex.

Today, with a few clicks on the internet, a lot of watching porn is possible for free in the form of photos and videos. Many social conservatives see watching porn as an inherent social evil. But can there be any harm in watching porn as sexual entertainment?

Children watching porn

Children find it easy to access porn: age of first exposure is getting younger as they  learn to browse the internet. One concern is that the innocence of childhood is taken away prematurely by watching porn with its arousing sexual scenes.

Another concern is about what the individual child learns to find erotic. You see something, and it stays with you. You can never erase it from memory. The question is asked whether patterns of early sexual arousal might tend to stick for life? Can scenes that children are exposed to affect the way they see themselves in later sexual roles? Does it lead them to believe they should behave in this way in order to social conform and be seen as cool.

The love ideology

A roving sexual appetite can be regarded as a natural ‘wired’ state of particularly the male mind. Watching porn is clearly a natural pleasure. Porn tends to be created from a male perspective and so the men have only one thing on their minds, and the women are there solely to satisfy the men’s needs. Does this not make men more prone to see women as sex objects? Women are regularly portrayed as ready, willing, and able to do whatever the man might choose. Teenage boys accept this more or less uncritically. This means no thought is given to the sexual pleasure of the female partner.  Women can also be drawn into porn where it indulges and adds to their own sexual fantasies.

A concern about people watching porn without the emotional involvement of the sexual partners, is that one sees sex not as a wonderful expression of love but as a natural pleasure divorced from its spiritual dimension. Swedish sex researchers Lofgren-Martenson, L. and S. S.A. Mansson found that most teenage girls embrace what the researchers call “the love ideology” — the idea that love legitimates sex. These teenage girls disapproved of porn because it represents sex without the emotional involvement of a loving relationship.

Watching porn may “facilitate orgasm but it can also leave the individual feeling empty and disconnected afterwards.” (clinical psychologist, Leon F. Seltzer).

According to spiritual philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg, if a man grows spiritually there is a change in his male attitude. As he forms an exclusive relationship with a woman, love of sex is transformed into love of one of the sex. Mature love means concern for the pleasure of the partner as well as one’s own. In this way the erotic delight of both is increased.

Swedenborg maintains that as adults we all have an innocence to us — the innocent child in us — and once sullied it is damaging to our spiritual health. Those watching hard core porn seem to require more and more extreme scenes to arouse and satisfy their erotic desire. They are becoming sex addicts. Has not the sex addict a lessened ability to forge a deeper union with someone else?

The mature sexual relationship

Swedenborg writes that a spiritual attitude is a deep desire for a one to one relationship. It involves not wanting to hurt your partner by having sexual activity outside the partnership or by fantasizing about such behaviour.

In his book Conjugial Love he maintains that a person’s love and respect for a lasting partnership, can become more and more purified. He also says that purification takes place to the extent that people stay away from what is impure. There was no widespread pornography when he wrote in the eighteenth century but he said this impurity includes not only infidelity and loose sexual conduct but also things like smutty thoughts about someone. The more “chaste” our thoughts and intentions are, the more we are led by the Spirit towards happiness in an enduring relationship. In other words impure sexual thoughts are perversions of the chaste attitude of conjugial love.


The internet is revealing that life is more fascinating than we had ever imagined. However, it also seems it is uglier in the real world than many of us realised.

Why not ask the lawmakers to ensure that internet feeds are porn-free unless adults, who are free to choose for themselves, specifically request it. Sign in rather than sign out. It might be argued that the internet is uncontrollable. But Iceland’s government are hoping to do something. Perhaps where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems



Posted on7th March 2013CategoriesEthics, Private EthicsTags, , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

More than Presence: Conjunction

From Conjugial Love ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

There are two things which make the Church and thence heaven with man – the truth of faith and the good of life.  The truth of faith effects the Lord’s presence, and the good of life according to the truths of faith, effects conjunction with Him and thus makes the Church and heaven. That the truth of faith effects the Lord’s presence is because it pertains to light, spiritual light being nothing else. That the good of life effects conjunction, is because it pertains to heat; nor is spiritual heat anything else, for it is love, and the good of life pertains to love.
It is well known that all light, even that of winter, effects presence, and that heat united with light effects conjunction; for gardens and flower-beds are seen in all kinds of light, but do not blossom and bear fruit except when heat conjoins itself to light.  The conclusion is evident, that not those who merely know the truths of the Church are endowed by the Lord with love truly conjugial but those who both know its truths and do its goods.

(Conjugial Love 72)
 March 31, 2017


< Chapter XVIII. Man at Birth. ^ Discrete Degrees ^ Chapter XIX. Growth During Infancy. >


As a Supplement to the foregoing and a Preliminary to childhood preparation for regeneration we add that even at birth the very initial of this preparation has already been taken, by influx of innocence and peace from the LORD through heaven into the infant during the entire period of gestation. The prenatal state qualified by celestial innocence and peace is the essential in every subsequent state and progression. In Arcana Coelestia we read, –
“The internal man with every one is of the LORD alone. There the LORD stores up goods and truths with which He gifts man from infancy. By these He flows into the interior or rational man and by this into the exterior [or natural man], thus it is given to man to think and to be a man.”-AC 1707.

In this passage the internal man is the inmost A, the interior or rational man is B, the exterior is C D E F which together are called the natural or external man.

That this inmost is stored with heavenly principles from man’s very conception is evident from these considerations:

(1.) The inmost is the primordial degree of man’s structure into which the LORD first enters by influx of good and truth as one. From this degree He forms the will and understanding and flows into them when formed. (Inf. 8.)

(2.) The LORD conjoins Himself to man at first conception and forms in him two receptacles to be habitations for Himself in man, one for love the other for wisdom. (D. W. in AE III.)

(3.) Did not the LORD flow into this first degree He could not flow into the degrees below or even form them. Thus from conception this highest degree is filled with the Divine Love and Wisdom from which the LORD operates to form the faculties below and prepare them for the work to be accomplished after birth.

That man at birth is imbued with the beginnings of innocence and peace which are the inmost principles of good and truth of every degree appears from the Writings:

“The LORD through the inmost heaven insinuates conjugial love, the angels there being in peace above others. Peace in the heavens is like spring in the world which gives delight to all things, it is the celestial itself in its origin. The angels who are there, are the wisest of all, and from innocence appear to others like infants; they also love infants far more than their fathers and mothers do. They are present with infants in the womb and by them the LORD takes care that infants are nourished and perfected, thus they preside over those who carry in the womb.”-AC 5052

“Love truly conjugial is derived from the love of the LORD toward the Church and from the love of good and truth which love is the love of the angels of the third heaven, wherefore love truly conjugial which thence descends as the love of that heaven, is innocence, which is the very esse of all the good in the heavens; hence embryos in the womb are in a state of peace, and infants after they are born are in a state of innocence. “-AE 985.

“This celestial love flows in out of heaven with mothers while they carry in the womb as also with the embryos, hence exists the love of infants with mothers and innocence with infants.”-AE 710[a].

“By the womb is signified inmost conjugial love and thence celestial love in every complex…. The embryo in the womb derives more from the good of innocence than after it is born.”-AE 710[a].

These embryo states of innocence and peace being first in order are related to the following states as the seed is related to that which grows from it.

Previous: Chapter XVIII. Man at Birth. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Chapter XIX. Growth During Infancy.


Happy marriage — How can this happen?

happy marriageA Jane Austin novel seems to end at the altar as if the wedding were all that is necessary for a happy marriage for all time. Yet these days a lot of marriages seem to finish up on the scrap heap and you might have a sneaky feeling that perhaps a well-known film star was right in her opinion.

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”(Katherine Hepburn)

So is achieving a happy marriage simply a matter of selecting the right mate in the first place, or is it about finding a successful formula for living together? Or perhaps you think it is all to do with good luck?

Experience of happy marriage

Rather than study just failed relationships, several psychological researchers have actually looked at successful marriages. For example the late Judith Wallerstein, reported in her book The good marriage: How and why love lasts, that happily married men and women both tend to report the same basic experiences.

We worked it out. To love, you must feel emotionally safe — totally accepted, respected, and supported. Therefore, we don’t criticize or strike out in anger, instead we gently request a change.”

“We do so much together and agree on most issues, but we have a clear sense of self and do things by ourselves”

“We cherish our time together, expressing our appreciation of each other for little acts of kindness as well as major sacrifices. We treasure our memories and frequently remind each other of the good times.”

This is only a glimpse of what some contented partners have known in their happy marriage.

Mature love needed for a happy marriage

Clearly a lasting relationship is something more than mere sexual pleasure, romantic sentiment, or emotional infatuation.

“You can tell that it’s infatuation when you think that he’s as sexy as Paul Newman, as athletic as Pete Rose, as selfless and dedicated as Ralph Nader, as smart as John Kenneth Galbraith and as funny as Don Rickles. You can be reasonably sure that it’s love when you realize he’s actually about as sexy as Don Rickles, as athletic as Ralph Nader, as smart as Pete Rose, as funny as John Kenneth Galbraith and doesn’t resemble Paul Newman in any way — but you’ll stick with him anyway.” (Judith Viorst)

Immature love has been called trying to fill loneliness or an emotional vacuum with a love relationship. Some psychotherapists have written about immature love saying it follows the principle “I love because I am loved” and “ I love you because I need you.” On the other hand they say that mature love, its opposite, follows the principle “I am loved because I love,” and “I need you because I love you.” Sadly, not a recipe for a happy marriage.

Not surprisingly, mature love is said to imply concern for the partner’s emotional and bodily needs, respect for their uniqueness, seeing them as they really are and helping them to grow and unfold in their own ways, for their own sake and not for serving oneself. We are told it involves entering and become familiar with the private world of the lover, to live in the other person’s life and sense his or her meanings and experiences.

Commitment and happy marriage

Mature love involves commitment. But the issue of commitment seems difficult to many.

Importantly, there is commitment to the exclusive nature of the relationship. Infidelity is a ‘no no.’ In line with the teachings of the world’s major religions, illicit sex and unchaste thoughts are to be avoided.

Over time, any deception destroys intimacy, and without intimacy couples cannot have true and lasting love.” (Bonnie Eaker Weil).

An affair is a betrayal of the trust that has been shared in marriage that is extremely hurtful to the innocent partner.

Neither can a lack of commitment to work on the relationship be seen as good news. There are bound to be problems in any sexual union and so if one gives up easily one could end up living with several partners without giving any of them a proper chance.

“Patience gives your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails. When a mistake is made, it chooses to give them more time that they deserve to correct it. It gives you the ability to hold on during the rough times in your relationship rather than bailing out under the pressure.” (Stephen Kendrick).

Origin of mature love

So where does mature love come from?  According to Emanuel Swedenborg it has a divine origin. This he calls ‘conjugial love’ which he says is a spiritual gift: it only flows into where it is wanted but when it flows it creates a deep sense of joy, contentment, and delight that lasts for ever. You might wonder whether this is the ‘happy ever after’ many have dreamed about?

Swedenborg maintains that if ‘conjugial love ‘is to be received it requires a man to be prepared to be influenced by his wife’s subjective feelings of care and sensitivity to personal issues. He needs to listen to her practical wisdom. And it requires a woman to be willing to learn from her husband’s objective and rational thinking.  On the other hand,

“When a woman thinks her husband is a fool, her marriage is over. They may part in one year or ten; they may live together until death. But if she thinks he is a fool, she will not love him again.”  (Philippa Gregory).

In other words a lasting happy marriage requires a suitable love match where the two partners can progress together in their personal inner journey, being willing to prioritise each of their needs and humbly learn from each other by celebrating their different strengths.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Gay Pride and Straight Talk.

gayWhether to allow gay bishops is currently a hot issue in the Church of England. In line with British equality law, the Church cannot allow sexual orientation in itself to be grounds for preventing a priest being promoted to the role of bishop. However, consistent with provisions contained within the Act for a religious organisation to operate in accordance with its doctrine, the document, ‘Choosing Bishops – The Equality Act 2010’, makes clear that those considered for promotion must be celibate and to have been celibate during their time as a priest.

Many people feel puzzled by this reluctance to embrace homosexuality by strands of organised religion. And some feel angry and want to promote the idea that gay people should be proud of their sexual orientation feeling this is their natural inclination.

The same idea about natural inclination of course could be said of those attracted to the opposite sex who feel they have no conscious choice in the matter. However although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no firm findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles.

From a spiritual perspective, we might ask whether a gay partnership has the same potential for human happiness as that of a heterosexual one. So what does Swedenborg have to say about it?

Conjugial principle and gay partnership

Swedenborg coined a new word ‘conjugial’ by adding an ‘i’ to the old legal term ‘conjugal’. He did this to distinguish a quality of love that unites a couple as one in heart, mind and life. When the understanding of what is true in one person makes one with the affection of what is good in the other, there is said to be a union of the two minds into one.

A deep union between two people is said to be characterized by spiritual states of peace, tranquility, intimate friendship, full trust, joy and sexual pleasure. According to Swedenborg this state of ‘conjugial love,’ has a spiritual source ie the divine union of what is good and what is true. Without this harmony there would be inner tension — thinking one thing but wanting another. Hence in so far as the partnership is a conjugial one, there is a profound joy because the divine harmony is present within the relationship.

Given that each of us has both of some of what is good and true within us, it might be asked whether the conjugial principle has the potential to apply equally to the relationship between two people of the same sex in the same way as between two of the opposite sex. In other words can there be conjugial love in a gay marriage between masculine and feminine natures in each person if we assume we all have both masculine and feminine within us?

Gender difference

The idea there is both masculine and feminine in each person came from Carl Jung. On the contrary, although Swedenborg says that both sexes have thinking heads and feeling hearts and should be equally valued, he nevertheless maintains they are not the same. In his book Conjugial Love (section 32) he says there is an essential difference between male and female and that after death a male lives on as a male and a female as a female.  He goes on to describe the underlying psycho-spiritual difference between male and female minds.

According to Swedenborg, both sexes are capable of intelligent thought and empathy. At the same time, his contention is that men are more naturally inclined towards using their heads and taking an objective stance. On the other hand, women are said to be more likely to observe what is going on with their intuition and take a subjective perspective. Whilst the man is suited to thinking about what is right for longer in the light of understanding, the woman is suited to sustaining a warm feeling for what is good in the heat of love.

Heterosexual love

This supposed gender difference is Swedenborg’s rationale for heterosexual love. Just as opposites attract, the love between a man and a woman can be deeper because it can be between an understanding and its corresponding affection. And so each complements the other. This difference offers the potential to enter deeply and unite them. Also (in his book Conjugial Love section 181), he contends that conjugial love can only happen in the relationship between a man and a woman.

If Swedenborg is right about the difference between men and women, then love between two people of the same sex cannot be the same as the love between those of the opposite sex.

Gay love

We might wonder if these ideas from the eighteenth century have anything to teach us in this day and age. The marriage statistics show that there are lots of people in less than satisfactory heterosexual relationships. Some gay partnerships last longer than heterosexual ones. And given the sexual prejudice still around, one might argue that to persist as a gay couple requires a better inner resilience in the partnership.

Swedenborg doesn’t address the issue of gay partnerships – there was no word for it in his day. However one thing he does state (in his book Conjugial Love section 55) is that the love of a man for a man or that of a woman for a woman cannot be a deep one. He may have got it wrong, but he says that the love of a man for a man and of a woman for a woman make relatively superficial contact not leading to any deep inner union of the two.

In other words according to this view the love between two men is more about the association between one way of thinking and another way of thinking – between one understanding and another understanding. The love between two women is more about the association of one state of feeling and another state of feeling.

In aspiring to reach the heavenly condition of what Swedenborg calls conjugial love, one could argue that people stand a better chance within a heterosexual rather than a gay partnership.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems



A Sermon by Rev. Jan H. Weiss Preached in Boston on February 23rd 1997

And lo, a chariot was seen descending from the highest heaven, and in it was seen a single angel, but as it drew near, two were seen (CL42:2).

This passage in Conjugial Love expresses “die Sehnsucht der Mensch”, the age old longing of human beings, the longing for marital oneness and agreement. After the description of many visual appearances, we also find this statement: “When the husband was speaking, he spoke at the same time as though from his wife, and when the wife, she spoke at the same time as though from her husband”.

It does not say that the husband was speaking from his wife, or the wife from her husband. Instead it says that when the husband spoke, he spoke at the same time as though from his wife. And when the wife spoke, she spoke at the same time as though from her husband.

Marital oneness does not require that each partner loses individual identity and individual opinion. But marital oneness does require repeated and continual conjunction of an individual man and an individual woman, who are committed in love to each other. After each conjunction this oneness becomes more perfect, and this to eternity.

The concept of oneness applies to many forms of humanity. The heavens are as one before the Lord. There is a oneness between angels in a society, between angelic societies in a heaven. Oneness also applies to the human body and all its individual parts. But marital oneness is very different concept. Marital oneness is only possible between one man and one woman, because conjugial love is mutual and reciprocal (AC2740). Marital oneness is different because it is a oneness between two very different and complimentary forms of Divine life, namely between the male and the female mind. Marital oneness is different and unique also because its first being is from the marriage of good and truth (AC10168).

Two more descriptions of this ideal marital oneness, before we descend into the reality of marital life. He or she loves what the other thinks and wills and does, and he or she loves to will as the other does, to be united to the other, and to become as one man (AC10169).

Her life is in me and mine in her. Our union is like the union between the heart and lungs of the human body, where heart means love and lungs wisdom. So that she is the love of my wisdom and I am the wisdom of her love. Her love veils my wisdom from without, and my wisdom is in her love from within (CL75:5).

Now the reality of our married life while we are living with these ideals in our mind. These ideals are far from realization within our church. Our marriages are not in a blissful peace, where the wife says what the husband thinks and the husband says what the wife feels.

There are a number of circumstances that can bring strife and disturbances. The first is the fact that we do not see clearly the difference between men and women. We either do not see any difference, or we believe in a difference, but we each have incorrect ideas, about which the partners disagree. In other words, we either see ourselves as two hearts or two lungs, or we do not quite see the connection between the heart and the lungs.

The second circumstance is the fact that we do not sufficiently focus our love on the other, and we allow this focus to be diverted or distracted. This leaves the other partner in a deep quandry as to what our focus is. An example of such a mistake is when women find it difficult to give up girl friends, and men find it difficult to give up male friends from the past. Not that we have to give up our friends, but we have to recognize that our marriage is all important and that our partner and children come first before anyone else.

The third circumstance is the fact that we do not welcome and tackle temptations and that we do not suffer ourselves to be purified. We avoid spiritual contacts, we refuse to listen to the other, and so spiritual conjunctions do not take place. Oneness only grows out of such repeated conjunctions.

The fourth circumstance is the fact that we are embroiled in heated discussions and interior struggles for supremacy. Conjugial love looks to union of wills and thus to liberty of agreement. But rivalry for supremacy or rule, removes these two objects from the marriage. It divides and separates the wills of the partners, and changes free agreement into servitude. So long as this rivalry continues, the spirit of the one meditates violence against the other (CL248).

The fifth circumstance is the fact that there is not enough time for listening and talking and not enough time for the conjunction of minds. Many wives in our society are working, either because they have to work, or because they want to work. In either case there is interference with the normal husband- wife communication.

For while it is normal for the wife to think constantly and perpetually about conjunction, when she is at work in a pressure- cooker situation, her normal feelings are interrupted, and upon her return to the home, there are too many distractions that block marital communication.

In a marriage, the husband wants to propagate his own truths, and the love of wisdom with his wife, feels that nothing is more pleasing than to receive these truths as though in a womb, and to carry them in a womb and bring them forth (CL115). But this is the case in heaven. On earth the husband is frustrated in this propagation, because there is no time for reception and conception, no time for bringing forth. In many cases the husband and wife have no time for serious communication, no time for marital conjunction.

The opposite is also true. A wife wants to receive from the husband, but that husband is not interested in giving, and so the wife is frustrated and left hanging.

And so the following teaching from Conjugial Love takes on a special meaning. Love truly conjugial is so rare at this day that it is not known what it is and that it is (CL58). In times of temptation we may wonder if we are married to our eternal partner. But the Lord urges us to realize that it is not important to know whether or not our present partner is going to be our eternal partner. What is important is that you husbands are going to be a heavenly partner for your wife, and you wives are going to be a heavenly partner for your husband. The Lord urges us to focus our love on the other, to purify it, and walk towards heaven by ourselves. Then He will take care of the rest. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Selections for lesson from the Writings.

5. That conjunction is inspired into the man by the wife according to her love, and is received by the man according to his wisdom.

6. That from the first days of marriage this conjunction is effected successively, and with those who are in love truly conjugial, more and more deeply to eternity.

7. That the conjunction of the wife with the rational wisdom of the husband is effected from within, but with his moral wisdom from without.

8. That with this conjunction as an end, the wife is given a perception of the affections of the husband and also the highest prudence in moderating them.

9. That for causes which are necessities, wives store up this perception with themselves and conceal it from their husbands, in order that conjugial love, friendship, and confidence, and thus the blessedness of cohabitation and the happiness of life, may be firmly established.

10. That this perception is the wife’s wisdom, and that it is not possible with the man; nor is the man’s rational wisdom possible with the wife.

11. That from her love, the wife is continually thinking about the inclination of the man to herself with the purpose of conjoining him to herself, not so the man.

12. That the wife conjoins herself to the man by applications to the desires of his will.

13. That the wife is conjoined to her husband by the sphere of her life going forth from her love.

14. That the wife is conjoined to the husband by the appropriation of the forces of his manhood, but that this takes place according to their mutual spiritual love.

15. That the wife thus receives into herself the image of her husband, and hence perceives, sees, and feels his affections.

16. That there are offices proper to the man and offices proper to the wife; and that the wife cannot enter into the offices proper to the man, nor the man into the offices proper to the wife, and rightly perform them.

17. That according as there is mutual aid, these offices also conjoin the two into a one, and at the same time make one home.

18. That according to the above-mentioned conjunctions, married partners become more and more one man.

19. That those who are in love truly conjugial feel themselves to be a united man and as one flesh.

20. That, regarded in itself, love truly conjugial is a union of souls, a conjunction of minds, and an effort to conjunction in breasts and thence in the body.

21. That the states of this love are innocence, peace, tranquillity, inmost friendship, full confidence, and a mutual desire of animus and heart to do the other every good; and from these, blessedness, happiness, delight, pleasure; and from the eternal fruition of these, heavenly felicity.

22. That these are by no means possible except in the marriage of one man with one wife (CL156:3).

They said that the prolific things expended by husbands are received by wives universally and add themselves to their life; that wives thus lead a life unanimous with their husbands, and successively more unanimous; and that hence the union of souls and conjunction of minds exists in effect (CL172).

The wisdom of the man which makes his soul may be appropriated to the wife, and that thus they may become one flesh (CL172).

The wife thus receives into herself the image of her husband, and hence perceives, sees, and feels his affections (CL173). Something of the husband is continually being transcribed into the wife and is inscribed upon her as her own (CL173).

Love truly conjugial is a union of souls, a conjunction of minds, and an effort to conjunction in breasts and thence in the body (CL179).

The sphere of conjugial love is received by women, and through women is transferred to men, and this because women are born loves of the understanding of men and the understanding is a recipient (CL393).

It is from this that the conjugial of one man with one wife is called the precious jewel of human life. This is confirmed by What was said above, namely, That with one wife, because there is union of minds there is also truly conjugial friendship, confidence, potency; that in and from that union are the celestial blessings, spiritual happiness, and thence natural delights which have been provided from the beginning for those Who are in love truly conjugial; that it is the fundamental love of all celestial and spiritual loves, and thence of all natural loves, and that into it are gathered all joys and gladness from their first to their last (CL457).

We are one; her life is in me, and mine in her. We are two bodies, but one soul. There is between us a union like that of the heart and the lungs; she is my love, and she is the love of my wisdom, and I am the wisdom of her love (CORO37:5).

The love between a husband and wife is tempered when the husband is perfected in wisdom and the wife loves that wisdom in her husband. This tempering is effected by and according to the uses which each of them with mutual aid perform in society. Delights then follow in accordance with the tempering of wisdom and its love (CL137:3).



A Sermon by Rev. Douglas M. Taylor Preached in Bryn Athyn October 30, 1994

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

For centuries there has been but one standard interpretation of this teaching given by the Lord. It has been regarded as an unassailable proof that the Lord taught that there was no such thing as a married couple in heaven, that angels are not characterized or distinguished by sexes, that consequently all marriages are dissolved at death, and are never to be resumed in the other life. This is the way that people have thought when thinking from the doctrine of their church, though many, when thinking from common perception or common sense, have expressed belief in the idea that they will be re-united with their married partners. When thinking in this way, they invariably, and rightly, think of the partner as remaining of the same gender as he or she was while on earth. The notion that men in the other life are anything else but men, or women anything else but women, mercifully does not then enter their heads. Nor does the doctrine that prevails in the Christian world concerning our text come into the thought while one is thinking from common perception.

It is good that this is so, that common perception prevails over the common doctrine, because few things destroy a marriage of love truly conjugial more readily than does the notion that there is to be no marriage lasting into eternity. The teaching on this point ought to be clear, and indeed it is; for we are definitely taught that unless there is in the mind an idea of what is eternal in marriage, that is, an eternal companionship, the woman becomes less than a wife, and the man something less than a husband, and conjugial love perishes (see SD 6110:16, CL 216).

Yet the error of supposing that there are no married partners in heaven, while very serious, is nonetheless understandable. If once it is supposed, as is often done, that a human being is a human being from his body rather than from his mind or spirit, then it is fatally easy to fall further into error, the error of thinking that with bodily differences erased by death, those in the other world will be neither male nor female. If, further, it is thought that the married state is something less than perfect, a kind of natural permission for the sake of the propagation of the human race on earth if, in other words, marriage is held to be inferior to the state of celibacy, as has been taught for centuries and is still being taught then it is only to be expected that people would believe that angels would certainly not have anything to do with marriage. Such false and twisted ideas concerning life’s most precious jewel, a marriage of love truly conjugial, such falsities act like a pair of distorting spectacles before the eyes of many who read in the Word that the Lord said: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (text). Such false assumptions distort the vision of many readers of these words, causing them to see things there that were never written.

For example, it is not said there, nor anywhere else in the Word, that there are no married partners in heaven. It is said that after death they are like “the angels of God in heaven.” It is not said that the angels are a race apart from the human race, or that they live in a state of celibacy. That is an unwarranted assumption made unthinkingly for hundreds of years. Yet this is nowhere stated. The text does not say that there is no such thing as the state of marriage in the other life. For all joys from first to last, we are frequently taught and reminded in the Writings, are gathered into conjugial love; it is the container of all other delights. So it is that all in heaven are in the married state, and that in the Word heaven is actually compared to a marriage (see Matt. 22:2).

If married couples, while living together on earth, have begun to receive from the Lord a spiritual love of marriage, i.e. conjugial love, and if they have continued steadfastly in it and in the Lord’s commandments until the end of their days on earth, then their marriage will be resumed in the other world. They enter into heaven married. It is not necessary for them to marry or be given in marriage, for they are as the angels of God in heaven. But if a married couple, believing in the eternity of marriage and having love truly conjugial as their ideal, nevertheless find in the other life that there is a hitherto unsuspected internal dissimilarity that separates them, they will each be provided with a suitable partner with whom they may live as married partners in heaven. But note: it is not that they married or were given in marriage in heaven. The suitable partner is provided on the basis of the person’s ruling love, on the basis of the love that he or she attained while on earth. The partner has to be suitable to our degree of regeneration, for regeneration and acquiring conjugial love walk hand in hand. So the criterion is the same; it is our life on earth that determines the nature and quality of our married state in the other life. The marriage takes place before we come into heaven or it does not take place at all. “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (text).

This leads us to consider another kind of marriage that is also to be understood by the Lord’s words on this occasion. What the Lord was referring to inmostly was the marriage that has to take place in every human mind: the marriage or wedding of the will to the understanding. The mind consists of two parts, the will or affectional side, and the understanding or thinking side. The will is made up of affections or feelings, while the understanding is made up of thoughts and reasonings. The whole effort of our life on earth should be to make these two the will side of the mind and the understanding to act as one, to be no longer two but one flesh. This is done when we act according to what we believe and understand to be good and true. The understanding is first instructed in what is good and true, and then begins the struggle to bring the will into line with this new vision of heavenly life. What the understanding sees as the true and good way of life, the will must learn to love and live. Or, as the Writings express it, the doctrine of life in the understanding must become the life of doctrine in the will. In this way, when every deed matches our creed, our mind is united and at peace. One part is no longer battling with the other; the will and understanding work together in conjunction. They are wedded together, married to eternity.

It was this kind of marriage to which the Lord was primarily referring when He said that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” This marriage of good and truth, of will and understanding, of deed and creed, must take place in this life or it will never take place. In the resurrection it will be too late. After death, the will and the understanding do not marry nor are they given in marriage. They must be united in this life.

But why did not the Lord explain this to the Sadducees when they tried to trap Him with their question about marriage in the afterlife? Why did not the Lord explain plainly that there is certainly a heavenly marriage, though it differs from an earthly one? Why did He allow the Christian Church, founded upon the words of His Gospel, to remain in such obscurity with regard to marriage? Could He not have given (at that time) the unambiguous explanation He has now given in the Writings?

No. That would have been worse than useless. The Lord in His infinite wisdom and mercy could perceive that mankind in general was incapable at that time of seeing such interior truths. Even the disciples, who were allowed to see more than the multitude, were unable to see the heavenly meaning of the parable of the sower, and needed to have it explained to them (see Luke 8:9). There were many things that they could not bear, including the doctrine about the spiritual marriage of good and truth, and the idea of a happy marriage to eternity. This was simply over the heads of the disciples.

Still less could the bodily-minded Sadducees have grasped even an introductory idea of a spiritual marriage. They were renowned for their complete denial of the afterlife. Concerning the nature of such people, we read: “When a man is such that he does not believe that he will live after death, he also disbelieves that there is anything internal which is spiritual and celestial; and such are those who live in mere lusts, because they live a mere life of the body and of the world, especially those who are immersed in loathsome avarice” (AC 1201).

These Sadducees were like that, and because their idea of marriage was manifestly restricted to the plane of the body, the concept of conjugial love, a love pure and clean above any other love of which mankind is capable, the concept of a spiritual kind of marriage, was quite beyond them. Even the Lord’s Divine wisdom itself on this subject would have been like thick darkness to their carnal minds. It was better, then, to let them think that there was no marriage in heaven than to have them defile the idea of a heavenly marriage with their gross, bodily ideas. For certain it is that there is no such thing in heaven as the kind of marriage the Sadducees had in mind. There is no such thing in heaven as marriage simply and solely for the sake of the propagation of physical offspring. The Lord’s words were literally true when applied to the Sadducees’ concept of marriage, and that is another reason for His speaking in the way He did.

In the work Heaven and Hell there is a passage explaining these words of the Lord with regard to marriage in the afterlife, in which it is said that while there are indeed married people in heaven, such marriages differ from those on earth. They differ principally in this, that there is no propagation of offspring. We read: “The procreation of offspring is another purpose of marriages on earth, but not of marriages in heaven, since in heaven the procreation of good and truth takes the place of the procreation of offspring … In heaven marryings are spiritual, and cannot properly be called marryings, but conjunctions of minds from the conjunction of good and truth. But on earth there are marryings, because these are not of the spirit alone but also of the flesh” (HH 382b).

It should not be supposed from this, however, that in the other world the inhabitants are bodiless minds without shape or form. Let us recall the familiar teaching that there is a spiritual body as well as a natural body, and that when the natural body is put off by death, we live in the spiritual body, and this is an exact replica of the mind, a beautiful mind being represented or manifested by a beautiful spiritual body, a masculine mind being manifested in a male spiritual body, a feminine mind in a female spiritual body. So it is that in the heavens also the conjunction of minds resulting from the conjunction of good and truth descends into the body, the spiritual body, the only difference being that there is, in the nature of the case, no propagation of physical offspring, but instead the propagation of spiritual offspring, that is, of new affections and delights belonging to good and truth.

These and many other detailed teachings about marriages in heaven are given in the Writings, notably in the works Heaven and Hell and Conjugial Love, in both of which works a whole chapter is devoted to the subject. Besides this, there are sundry other references scattered throughout the Writings.

But to what purpose were such details with regard to a blissful marriage to eternity revealed? The answer has already been given in a general way. We have already seen the teaching of the Writings that unless there remains in the mind an idea of what is eternal with regard to marriage, that is, an eternal conjunction of minds, the woman is reduced to something less than a wife, the man becomes something less than a husband, and conjugial love perishes. It is of the utmost importance for the men and women of the New Church to understand this teaching and the implications of it, so that they can use it, because it is promised that to the New Jerusalem will be restored that precious jewel of life, conjugial love.

But this is not attained simply by being a member of a church organization. Conjugial love is given by the Lord according to His laws, according to His way of operation. It is received by mankind only in the proportion that what is contrary to conjugial love is shunned and rejected. And one of the forces most destructive of conjugial love in the world is the notion that there is no marriage in the afterlife, that marriage has nothing of eternity in it. Likewise, in a particular marriage, the failure to keep before the mind the ideal of a happy marriage continuing into eternity causes the loss of conjugial love in that marriage. To entertain constantly the idea that one’s married partner in this life is probably not going to be one’s conjugial partner in the spiritual world is to cause conjugial love to dry up in that particular marriage, leaving an inward coldness even if outwardly there is agreement.

Such is the teaching of the Writings, especially in the following passage: “The reason why those who are in love truly conjugial look to what is eternal is that there is eternity in that love; and its eternity is from the fact that this love with the wife and wisdom with the husband increase to eternity, and in their increase or progression married partners enter more and more deeply into the blessings of heaven, which their wisdom and its love at the same time store up within them. If therefore the idea of what is eternal were eradicated, or if in any case it were to escape from their minds, it would be as if they were cast down from heaven … They are disunited as far as conjugial love is concerned, though not at the same time as to friendship, for this dwells in external things, but [conjugial love] in internals. It is the same in marriages on earth. There, when married partners tenderly love each other, they have what is eternal in their thoughts with regard to the covenant, and nothing at all of its end by death; and if they do think of this, they grieve, and yet in thought are comforted with the hope of its continuance after death” (CL 216a).

The same number from Conjugial Love goes on to give the experience of one couple in the spiritual world who sometimes believed that they would be eternal partners, but at other times lost this belief, the reason being that internally they were really dissimilar. When this became quite clear after death, they separated; but because they both believed in the eternity of marriage, each was provided with a partner who was internally similar.

So the conclusion is that it is the general denial of anything eternal in any marriage that destroys conjugial love. With regard to one’s own married partner in this life, the thought that he or she is internally dissimilar and will not be one’s eternal partner puts an end to any conjugial love in that particular marriage. However, if there remains the general acknowledgment that there is marriage in the heavens, a suitable partner can be provided in the other life; but under no circumstances can this be done if there is a confirmed denial of the eternity of conjugial love; for to deny this is to deny the inmost bliss of heaven.

The practical purpose for which the Lord has revealed so much about the nature of marriage in the heavens ought now to be clear. We are to hold steadfastly to the ideal of the eternity of marriage. We are to enter into our marriage with the conviction that it will last to eternity, and at all times we are to abhor the corroding thought that it will end at death. We are to act as if we know for certain that we are eternal partners, for only in this way can conjugial love, the container of all joys from first to last, be given by the Lord and preserved upon the earth. Amen.

Lessons: Matthew 22:1-33; HH 382a&b, 383

Heaven and Hell

382 a&b. In the inmost heaven there is genuine marriage love because the angels there are in the marriage of good and truth, and also in innocence. The angels of the lower heavens are also in marriage love, but only so far as they are in innocence; for marriage love viewed in itself is a state of innocence; and this is why consorts who are in the marriage love enjoy heavenly delights together, which appear before their minds almost like the sports of innocence, as between little children; for everything delights their minds, since heaven with its joy flows into every particular of their lives. For the same reason marriage love is represented in heaven by the most beautiful objects. I have seen it represented by a maiden of indescribable beauty encompassed with a bright white cloud. It is said that the angels in heaven have all their beauty from marriage love. Affections and thought flowing from that love are represented by diamond-like auras with scintillations as if from carbuncles and rubies, which are attended by delights that affect the interiors of the mind. In a word, heaven itself is represented in marriage love because heaven with the angels is the conjunction of good and truth, and it is this conjunction that makes marriage love.

Marriages in heaven differ from marriages on the earth in that the procreation of offspring is another purpose of marriages on the earth, but not of marriages in heaven, since in heaven the procreation of good and truth takes the place of procreation of offspring. The former takes the place of the latter because marriage in heaven is a marriage of good and truth; and as in that marriage good and truth and their conjunction are loved above all things, so these are what are propagated by marriages in heaven. And because of this, in the Word births and generations signify spiritual births and generations, which are births and generations of good and truth; mother and father signify truth conjoined to good, which is what procreates; sons and daughters signify the truths and goods that are procreated; and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law conjunction of these, and so on. All this makes clear that marriages in heaven are not like marriages on earth. In heaven marryings are spiritual, and cannot properly be called marrying, but conjunctions of minds from the conjunction of good and truth. But on earth there are marryings because these are not of the spirit alone but also of the flesh. And as there are no marryings in heaven, consorts there are not called husband and wife, but from the angelic idea of the joining of two minds into one, each consort designates the other by a name signifying one’s own, mutually and reciprocally. This shows how the Lord’s words in regard to marrying and giving in marriage in Luke 20:35,36 are to be understood.

383. I have also been permitted to see how marriages are contracted in the heavens. As everywhere in heaven those who are alike are united and those who are unlike are separated, so every society in heaven consists of those who are alike. Like are brought to like not by themselves but by the Lord (see above, n. 41, 43, 44, seq.); and equally consort to consort whose minds can be joined into one are drawn together; and consequently at first sight they inmostly love each other and see themselves to be consorts, and enter into marriage. For this reason all marriages in heaven are from the Lord alone. They have also marriage feasts; and these are attended by many, but the festivities differ in different societies.