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

The Second Coming

By every indication, the New Testament seems to suggest that the Lord’s Second Coming was close at hand. Scripture even mentions this happening within the same generation of those who heard Jesus speak. Now, two millennia later, the Lord still has not delivered on His promise of returning. Or did He?

Scripture makes it quite clear that the great battle between the armies of the great red Dragon and Michael during the end times will take place in heaven (Rev. 12:7). The Lord also makes it clear that when He makes His return, people will be unable to point to any particular location when He states: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke, 17:21).

The Second Coming is not a physical event (nor does God kick ass).

So, if there is something truly new to be revealed by God’s Revelation it is that all the spectacular events of the Apocalypse occur within our innermost being and spirit. This is not the view of Christian orthodoxy, which remains in obscurity to a potentially new paradigm shift. The quality of a church is based on its understanding of the Lord’s Word. Therefore, the Lord’s “coming with clouds,” means to break through this obscurity with new and deeper teachings pertaining to His Word.

Scripture is a multidimensional document and contains a quantum vocabulary of discrete and more expanded meanings. The Holy Word contains deeper narratives concerning our spiritual predicament and the way to make our inner world a heavenly abode for the Lord.

The first coming of the Lord is physical. The second is psychical, through a real inner awakening of a higher cognitive function. First we see, next we understand.

The Second Coming can happen to each of us at different times. That is how the Lord can promise His return within a generation, that is, within a person’s lifetime and “make all things anew.” But one risks a personal upheaval (psycho-earthquakes) to his or her current worldview. Armageddon represents our personal resistance to this new dispensation from the Creator.

These ideas are based on the remarkable writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth century scientist, philosopher, mystic and theologian.

Did I cause interesting new synapses in your brain or just step on your toes?

Existence is Relationship

There is a unifying principle in the universe. Physicists seek it in a Grand Unified Theory (or Theory of Everything) and the clergy seek it in God. Therefore, the topic of unity in the universe seems to be a reasonable area where science and religion can begin to have a meaningful encounter with each other. I would even go so far as to say that to the extent to which science and religion cannot be unified one must hold their theories and theologies under suspect. This is the premise I take in my future book, entitled “Proving God.” So, for the purposes of this mini-discussion, I would like to provide a few examples of how existence is founded on relationship.

In the current scientific model of atomic structure everything is held together by an exchange of photons, gluons and quarks. In the human body and other forms of bio-complexity in nature, everything is held together by an exchange of labor. Human society is also held together through an exchange of labor and sharing our special talents as well.

Human cognition involves recognition of ratios and proportions, which are relationships (out of which springs mathematical reasoning). Neuroscience is moving closer to the idea that human affection focuses our attention and shapes our memory by forming new relationships between thoughts and ideas (which lead to creative imagination and abstract thinking).

Marriage between two people is a most intimate sharing of each other’s lives.

It seems that for anything new to come into existence, previous (a priori) things must coexist, that is, form relationships.

Love is relationship. Religion can be looked at as a lawful strategy for taking the unifying dynamic operating in the universe even further. Loving God and the neighbor represents the epitome of relationship forming. Scripture teaches us that all the law of the prophets hangs on these two expressions of love. (I cannot imagine a legitimate religion that is not founded on those two tenets.)

If there be a unifying principle in the universe, LOVE would make a good one! Here’s why. First of all, love is psychical and operates within the human mind. The mind cannot be said to operate in space. Therefore, love gives us a unifying principle of agency that can exist as a special initial condition of a pre-natal universe when time equaled zero (t = 0). Having its domain in pre-space, we are given a unifying principle whereby every created thing can be non-locally connected simultaneously—towards an eternal goal.

Love is the one force that absolutely necessitates the constants of law and a fine-tuned universe because it creates through self-similarity. This self-similarity (correspondence) finds its ultimate expression of unified relationship in the bio-complexities of living organisms and finally the human race through God’s covenant. Love also offers a new way to view top-down causation in a way that preserves self-consistency through discrete operations.

The manifest universe emerged out of a conscious living force. Physics (classical and quantum) has to be reformulated to reflect this principle or it will fail to find the answer to the nature of agency in the universe. Religion also needs a paradigm shift.

Any thoughts?

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In a rut? Is life a slog? Time for inner change.

in a rutAre you finding the going a bit hard these days? Dissatisfied with life without knowing why? In a rut?

“Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields” (John Steinbeck)

Reasons for feeling in a rut

The UK these days has a high pace of life, crowded driving conditions, and high cost of housing. Is this reason enough to be fed up and in a rut? Human existence of course is full of challenges and difficulties and this is normal. However some commentators point to what they see as materialist pressures of an acquisitive society resulting in both men and women spending more time in commuting to their jobs and working long hours, with a consequent squeezing of time available for relaxed living and quality home life. Such stressed people may be vulnerable to the growth of negative thinking about the unfairness of life and so on.

“People find themselves in a rut all the time. You’re in a complacent lifestyle where you work 9 to 5 and then you add a mortgage and kids. You feel trapped, but guess what, brother? You constructed that life. If you’re OK with it, there’s nothing wrong with that.” (Jeremy Renner)

You may not be able to easily alter the external circumstances of home and family life, parenthood, business, and social activity but you have an inkling that something needs to change within your soul but what it is and how to change you do not know.

Meaningful aims in life

Is it not the case that today in western culture adults are faced with a more uncertain future as concepts such as `marriage for life’ or a `job for life’ change, making it harder to achieve intimacy through marriage or identity through work? Is there not  also an increasing tendency for adults to delay commitment to an intimate relationship and to delay having children?

Arguably, healthy development in adulthood is characterised by our guiding and nurturing the next generation. Such a role has the potential to be deeply fulfilling. Of course, this may be done directly, in rearing one’s own offspring, or through a more generalised productivity and creativity. In pursuing such a role, adults will make personal sacrifices but problems arise for them when they do not receive an adequate degree of encouragement and appreciation. Sadly, when in a negative state, the ego demands even more recognition and thanks and fails to notice the happiness that a kind act generates.

According to spiritual theory there are ideas of conscience often hidden at the back of our mind that guide our lives, for example the values of patience, endurance, kindness or the principles of fairness, loyalty, truthfulness. These ideas are all about what one considers to be the important things of life.

Negative thinking when you are in a rut

The trouble is, when you are in a rut, negative thinking can take away the ability to believe in the importance and usefulness of, or interest in, doing any of the things that one is engaged in — whether it be sustaining the relationship with a partner with whom one has just had a row, caring for one’s yelling baby, or putting effort into supporting one’s colleagues at work who seem inadequate to do their job.

Sometimes we need to take our higher principles out into the daylight, give them a dusting down and keep them in sight as we grapple with the mundane and stressful side of things. Love is not always selfish. Doing things for others is not always a way of expiating guilt. Work is not just a means of earning a livelihood but is often something that produces what is good.

Giving thought to deeper issues

The amount of rational thought people can give to such deeper issues will differ according to their natural disposition and their situation in life. Is not the important thing whether the person deliberately shuts them out? Some individuals will be trying to control and deal with the day to day challenges of life in all its bewildering complexity without much  consideration of any higher values or principles. Instead they remain stuck in negative thinking — in a rut with their thoughts of resentment and pessimism.

As you seek to follow higher ideas, about how you should really respond to the difficulties you daily encounter, your old negative thoughts and ways are challenged – are you ready to leave them behind and move on? Or stay in a rut of your own making? I believe if you do respond positively, your growing enlightenment leads to great changes in relationships with others.

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

Posted on12th October 2012CategoriesHealing emotions, Spiritual healingTags, , , , , , , , , ,, , , , ,, , , values,



Marriage in the Resurrection

A sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. MAT 22:30


Famous teaching, apparently about marriage, but it’s not.

It’s actually about the resurrection.

It’s about what you need to do to get ready for heaven,

It’s about what you can do during life in this world so that you will be ready for eternal life in heaven when your earthly body dies

It’s about living a life in this world that unites the will and the understanding (also known as regeneration) because this conjunction cannot be done once the spirit has left the physical body.

Further support is that the passages in the Writings that refer to these passages are all speaking about the reality of life after death, not marriage!

There are three main groups among the Jews who feel threatened by the ministry of Jesus.

The chief priest and the scribes are the establishment, the bureaucracy of the Jewish church. They set the rules and enforce them. The derive a great deal of power from this and they are interested in holding on to that power. Ultimately, it is the chief priest and the scribes who demand that Jesus be crucified.

A second group is the Pharisees. They are politically conservative. They believe in the life after death, and the rule of religious law. They challenge Jesus because He brings new, upsetting interpretations to the law, but they actually have very similar views. In his youth, when he was still known as “Saul” Paul was a Pharisee.

The Sadducees, on the other hand, represent a liberal, humanistic view of the Jewish church. They don’t believe in the life after death, and everyone knows it.

So, when they start asking Jesus about the resurrection we can safely assume that this question was not a legitimate attempt to understand His new doctrine, but instead it was intended to be ridiculous so that any answer to it would also be ridiculous. It was a highly contrived “what if” question designed to complicate and confuse rather than to clarify their understanding. Their purpose was to mock Jesus, not learn, and so the Lord’s answer doesn’t really speak about marriage either, He jumps right over it to addresses the real issue behind the question – the nature of life in this world and how it affects what happens to you when facing your personal resurrection and last judgment.

He does briefly touch on the subject of marriage, but in His answer He is speaking about marriage as those people at that time conceived of it.

Husband having all legal rights of property and ownership, while the wife has none.

The wife herself as property totally governed by the husband

(There is a doctrinal reason for that: In every human being there is a will, represented by the wife, and the understanding represented by the husband. In an unregenerate human, the will has to be kept in obedience to and under the control of the truths from the Word in the understanding. This is something that represents the state of the unregenerated mind, not something that recommends a particular social system.)

A wife “owned” by her husband and treated as property without the right to inherit or own property in her own right is simply not a “marriage.” And the Lord properly states that in heaven there is no such thing as marriage as these people in this time understand it.

In heaven, the marriage between marriage is an equal partnership between minds that compliment each other and form a one, a single angel.

There is another use of the word “marriage” here, the “marriage” of good and truth in every individual human mind.

Each of us is born with our will separate and distinct from our understanding.

Since our will is corrupted by hereditary evils, this is the only way it is possible for us to survive.

We can use our understanding (conscience, rationality) to govern our corrupt will.

We can refuse to do the things we want to do because we have learned from the Word that there is a better way.

When, from conscience and because the Lord asks it of us, we control our corrupt will and act according to God’s laws, He works in secret to take away the delight of evil and replace it with the love of the opposite good.

Over time, with the Lord’ help, we build a new will, and angelic will.

This new will is filled with the loves of good things, and these good loves can be conjoined – married – to the truths we have learned from the Word.

This essential work of self-examination, reformation, and regeneration has to take place in the world of nature, the choices have to be made when they can have an effect on the vessel we are building through our free choices in this world. It can’t be done after death.

Therefore the Lord said that “they are not married or given in marriage in heaven” because He was talking about the marriage of good and truth in the human mind that takes place only in the world of nature.

Why can’t it be done after death?

The 5 Senses feed the mind because they are the only way the mind can discover the world in which it lives.

The mind then makes choices based on the things that have come in through the senses, and each of these experiences and choices causes an organic change in the structure of the brain.

Influx is according to the receiving vessel.

This is the vessel that receives influx from heaven that makes you uniquely you.

It has to be made up of things that partake of the permanence of the natural world (time and space), but that also means that it all has to take place before you die.

No deathbed repentance.

No waiting until you see if heaven is what you really thought before you commit.

Finally, the Lord directs their attention to the much larger question of the resurrection.

Remember that it was asked by the Sadducees, of whom it is said that they do not believe in the resurrection.

His answer was, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (text).

Failure to believe in the life after death is a much larger issue than a “what if” question about marriage.

The whole concept of eternal life was a new idea to most of those people

Some believed in Hades (Greek) or sheol (Hebrew), the shadowy afterlife.

Exemplified by the witch of Endor bringing Samuel back from the afterlife to talk to Saul.

A few believed in reincarnation.

Most knew nothing at all, and so believed in nothing at all.

Because most people knew so little, He had to begin by taking them small conceptual steps. He used simple logic. God said that He was the God if Isaac and Jacob.

If they were dead, if there was no life after death, how could He be their God?

If they are aware of Him, and worship Him, they must therefore be alive.

Therefore, there must be life after death.

This simple logic, using statements of scripture that even the Sadducees had to accept, both answered those who would seek to mock and ridicule Him, and at the same time served to give a simple foundation idea about eternal life: that people live on after the death of the body.

After all, if you don’t believe that much, there’s no point in teaching the rest of the details, is there?

This famous passage has mislead people for a long time because the have failed to see that it’s not about marriage per se.

But it is telling them that the kind of marriage they had in those days would not be tolerated in heaven.

It is about the conjunction of good and truth in a sphere of freedom.

It’s also a warning to all of us. We do not know what the day and hour of our death will be. What a terrible thing to have spent a lifetime gaining the things of the world, and then lose your soul because you haven’t had time to pay attention to those things yet.

LUK 12:19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, [and] be merry.” ‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’”

First Lesson: GEN 38:6-11

Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. {7} But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him. {8} And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.” {9} But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. {10} And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also. {11} Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. Amen.

Second Lesson: MAT 22:23-33

The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, {24} saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. {25} “Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. {26} “Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. {27} “Last of all the woman died also. {28} “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” {29} Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. {30} “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. {31} “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, {32} ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” {33} And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. Amen.

Third Lesson: CL 41:7

Spiritual marriage is meant by the Lord’s words, that after the resurrection they are not given in marriage.

In the Gospels we read the following: …But Jesus, answering, said to them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who shall be held worthy to attain the second age, and the resurrection from the dead, shall neither marry nor be given in marriage; nor can they die any more, for they are like the angels, and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. Moreover, that the dead rise again, even Moses showed in reference to the bush, when he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So, then, He is not God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.” (Luke 20:27-38; cf. Matthew 22:23-32, Mark 12:18-27)

The Lord taught two things by these words. First, that a person rises again after death. And secondly, that people are not given in marriage in heaven.

He taught that a person rises again after death by saying that God is not God of the dead but of the living, and that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still alive. So likewise in the parable about the rich man in hell and Lazarus in heaven (Luke 16:19-31).

[2] Secondly …The only kind of marriage meant here is spiritual marriage, and this clearly appears from the words that immediately follow, that they cannot die any more because they are like the angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

By spiritual marriage, conjunction with the Lord is meant, and this is achieved on earth. And when it has been achieved on earth, it has also been achieved in heaven….

[3] To marry means to be conjoined with the Lord, and to go to a wedding means to be received into heaven by the Lord. This appears from the following references: The kingdom of heaven is like a man, a king, who arranged a wedding for his son, and sent out his servants (with invitations to a wedding). (Matthew 22:2,3, to verse 14) …Also from the book of Revelation: The time for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready…. Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:7,9) Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2006 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

The Will and Understanding Work Together Like the Heart and Lungs


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Washington – March 16, 1997

Desiring in my thought to learn about the marriages of the most ancients, I looked now at the husband, now at his wife, and in their faces I observed the unity, as it were, of their souls. So I said, “You two are one.” The man replied: “We are one; her life is in me and mine in her. We are two bodies but one soul. The union between us is like the union of the two tents in the breast which are called heart and lungs, she being my heart and I her lungs. But here, by heart we mean love and by lungs wisdom. Thus she is the love of my wisdom and I am the wisdom of her love. Therefore her love veils my wisdom from without, and my wisdom is in her love from within. Hence, as you said, the appearance in our faces of the unity of our souls” (CL 75:5).

Both in the church and in society at large, people today are struggling to answer the questions that they have about the proper relationship between what is truly masculine, and what is truly feminine. To cover our embarrassment for our confusion we even joke about men and women being from different planets. The Writings have clearly taught that in regard to this, as well as to every other subject, confusion sets in when we try to think from “person” to “essence”, that is, when we think about what we observe in others and what we ourselves like to do, and then try to come up with principles to support our behavior. The correct way is to attack the problem top down, by thinking from essential doctrines and then drawing conclusions about our behavior based on what we know to be true because it is from the Lord in the Word.

We all love to go to weddings, because as each young couple bravely steps forward to begin their exploration of the interior love between husband and wife that we call “love truly conjugial,” we are reminded of how different men and women are, and yet how wonderful it can be when they come together, each complimenting the other’s strengths and capabilities; how each longs for the other because of those things that are missing in each of them. We say that a married couple are actually one, one angel, because neither is truly complete without the other. The wife represents the will and the husband represents the understanding, the two elements that together make up the human mind. We often use this relationship of will and understanding to describe how a husband and wife should share their strengths and responsibilities in an ideal marriage. And yet, “will” and “understanding” are as abstract concepts as are “husband” and “wife.” As it is a principle of the Heavenly Doctrines to illustrate abstract and spiritual concepts with things that are tangible and familiar, we will examine what the doctrines have to say about the heart and lungs to illustrate the relationship between the will and understanding. This in turn should shed some light on the ideal relationship between husband and wife, and perhaps give us some guidance on how we should act while in this world to strengthen conjugial love within our own marriages, or, for those who are not as yet married, to prepare themselves for the conjugial relationship yet to come.

We are told that the whole of the mind relates to the will and understanding, and that the whole of the body relates to the heart and lungs in a similar way. If we reflect on the workings of our own minds, we will quickly agree that everything that happens in our minds has to do with either our thought processes, or our emotional processes: we either think, or feel, or both, but there is no other, third, activity of the mind. For the purposes of our discussion today, all those things that have to do with the process of thinking will be grouped under the heading “understanding” and everything from the emotional or affectional side of our being will be called “will.”

In relation to our body, we know that we are made up of billions of individual cells, and while we live, each of those cells, whether they be part of the brain, the heart itself, or merely a bone in a toe, must be bathed in blood continuously, for the blood carries food and oxygen to each cell, and carries away the waste products after the work is done. When the flow of blood to any part of the body is interrupted, that part of the body dies. The lungs are essential in this cycle for they provide the oxygen that the blood carries to every cell, and this is demonstrated by the fact that the heart has two cycles of flow – one to the lungs alone, and one to the rest of the body. Without the oxygen provided by the lungs, unconsciousness is but moments away, and death but a little longer.

Now since there is a correspondence between the will and understanding with the heart and the lungs, it therefore follows that there is a correspondence between all the things of the mind with all the things of the body. This also makes sense when we think of the way that the soul builds for itself a home in the natural world by using the substances and nourishment provided by the body of the mother to build a containant that perfectly corresponds to its own unique characteristics and needs. Just as the Creator Himself created the universe from firsts (Himself) to lasts (the stars and planets themselves) and then into intermediates (the eternal human mind), so the soul builds from firsts (itself) into lasts (the infant’s body) and then into intermediates (the mind and personality that eventually develop through education and experience). In presenting this teaching, the doctrines add a sad note that these things have not been seen and known widely in the world because “everything of religion, that is, everything called spiritual, has been banished from the sight of man by the dogma of the whole Christian world” (DLW 372:2).

Another way to perceive and understand the relationship between the will and understanding and heart and lungs is to think about the effect that different kinds of thought and speech have on our breathing, and vice versa. For example, we find that when we think silently, we breath silently. If we think deeply, we breath deeply. In general, we breath slowly or quickly, eagerly, gently, or intently, all according to how we are thinking, and also according to how strongly our affections are moved by our thoughts. Perhaps the clearest and most extreme example of the interrelationship of thought and breath is the observation that if we stop breathing we very quickly also stop thinking as we become unconscious.

When we think about how much we think about “love,” and what we “like,” and how we “feel,” and how important our feelings are to us, it is difficult for us to believe the truth that our loves and affections are entirely in the Lord’s hands; we are not able, by ourselves, to love (DLW 385:5), although we can think entirely on our own.

This can be illustrated very simply: can any of us change our moods or our feelings just by thinking about them? Can we become happy or sad in an instant? Can any of us change our pulse by thinking about it? The beauty of this illustration is that it demonstrates the power of illustrating spiritual ideas through their correspondences to the natural world at the same time it demonstrates the point about the Lord’s control of our will, while the understanding remains our own. In a typical group of people, most people are happy to agree that we cannot change our moods by thinking about them, but there would be several in the same group who would challenge the assertion that we cannot change our pulse by thinking about it. The reason for this is that we have a deeper, more intuitive understanding of our own body, and we have observed many times that certain activities, such as heavy work or high excitement, cause our hearts to beat faster. So, when challenged to change our pulse by thought, some of us thought of things we could do that would change our pulse. We acknowledged that we could not do it directly by thought alone, and immediately thought of a way to get around that and achieve the same result.

So, by thinking about the relationship of the heart and lungs, we have learned something about the way to change our moods and our loves. We love evils, but we cannot change that by thinking about it, no matter how hard we try, because we do not have direct control over our loves. However, we do have indirect control. We know truths from the Word. We can choose to live them, even if we don’t want to. We can choose to do what we know is right even though we don’t want to; and when we do, the Lord then acts in secret ways to change our loves for us, to replace the love of evil with the love of the opposite good. When we are in a bad mood, we cannot change it by force of will. The only way to change our mood is to get up and do something useful for someone, and that makes us feel better.

By comparison we can see from the operation of the lungs how easily we control our thoughts, for our breathing is under both voluntary and involuntary control, voluntary for things like speech, singing, and swimming, and involuntary for continued life while we sleep, or at other times when we do not need to control the lungs for other purposes. Our thoughts are constant during our waking hours, but at any time we like we can direct them to any subject we can imagine. Our understanding is under our total control. In marriage, two individuals, each with their own will and understanding, begin the process of becoming one angel. While on earth, we begin the difficult process of letting the thoughts or feelings of another person have precedence over our own. We begin to put away our selfishness as we learn to be flexible, to give and take and find new solutions to problems. Gradually, through trial and error, through study of the Word and lucky guesses, and through a growing confidence that this is something that the Lord wants for us and is leading us towards through His eternal providence, a middle ground is found.

It is difficult for the husband to let go of some of his desires, and to be led by his wife’s affection and intuition, but as he does decide to let her lead in these areas, even though he may not like it, he will find it becomes easier with time. It is also very difficult for a wife to love her husband’s wisdom. In the first place, particularly with a young couple, the man may not have very much wisdom to love. If the wife sees this, and therefore decides that the teachings of doctrine do not apply to her marriage, she will have made a tragic decision that will cause great harm to her marriage. A wife is not so much to love a young husband’s wisdom, but to love his desire to become wise by from study and application of the Lord’s own truth. A wife has the ability to sense this affection for truth in her husband, and it is this that she is to love, respect, and encourage, even when there are as yet few truths within it.

This is difficult at first, because a marriage is first in time a relationship between two individual human beings, both of whom are deeply attached to their own thoughts and feelings. So often they make the mistake of trying to force the partner to change their loves through force of will. The husband tells the wife, “you shouldn’t feel that way,” and tries to convince her through rational argument that she should change her mood to suit him – without reflecting for a moment that he is as incapable of changing his moods and feelings as she is. The wife accuses her husband of being “unfeeling,” because he is unable to sense her moods and adapt to them as she does to his, because he is unable to tell when he is supposed to know that she means really “no” even though she said “yes.” These are just a a few of the normal day-to-day problems that arise as a man and woman struggle to adapt to each other’s different way of looking at the world.

The appearance is that men and women can’t work together because they are too different – but then we must remember the heart and lungs. They too are totally different in their physical structure, their appearance, the type of tissue they are made of, and in every other way imaginable, and yet we cannot imagine a whole, healthy body without both, and without them both working together in perfect harmony. Remember too that the Lord is in charge of the loves of both men and women, and that there is nothing we can do to change them directly – in ourselves or in others. But we can have an effect on them, we can change how and what we think and do, and when we change those things, when we choose to change our life, then the Lord will change our loves to match. So, if we deliberately choose to act with courtesy and respect towards our partner, even when we do not feel like it, the Lord will note our intention, and work in secret ways to reform and regenerate our will so that in time we will feel like acting in that way. We change our loves and feelings by changing our thoughts and actions; we become good by pretending to be good long enough that the pretense become the reality.

Perhaps, someday, if we take the time to study the Word with our partner, if we make the right decisions, and try very hard to be as courteous to our spouse as we are to our business associates or other friends, we will be like the couple that Swedenborg spoke to in heaven, and of whom he said, “And if you were to ask them what love truly conjugial is, I know they would answer that it is not love of the sex but love of one of the sex. This exists only when a young man sees the virgin provided by the Lord, and the virgin the young man, and both feel the conjugial to be enkindled in their hearts, and perceive, he that she is his, and she that he is hers; for when love meets love, it meets itself, and causes it to recognize itself and at once conjoins their souls and then their minds; and from there it enters into their bosoms, and after the nuptials still farther, and so becomes complete love; and from day to day this grows into conjunction until they are no more two but as though one” (CL 44:6). AMEN.

Lessons: GEN 6:1-8, JOH 13:1-17, DLW 381

3rd Lesson:

Divine Love and Wisdom 381

381. The heavens are divided into two kingdoms, one called celestial, the other spiritual; in the celestial kingdom love to the Lord reigns, and in the spiritual kingdom wisdom from that love. The kingdom where love reigns is called heaven’s cardiac kingdom, the one where wisdom reigns is called its pulmonic kingdom. Be it known, that the whole angelic heaven in its aggregate represents a single man, and before the Lord appears as a single man; consequently its heart makes one kingdom and its lungs another. For there is a general cardiac and pulmonic movement throughout heaven, and a particular movement therefrom in each angel. The general cardiac and pulmonic movement is from the Lord alone, because love and wisdom are from Him alone. For these two movements are in the sun where the Lord is and which is from the Lord, and from that in the angelic heavens and in the universe. Banish spaces and think of omnipresence, and you will be convinced that it is so. That the heavens are divided into two kingdoms, celestial and spiritual, see the work on Heaven and Hell (n. 20-28); and that the whole angelic heaven in the aggregate represents a single man (n. 59-67). Amen.

The Betrothal States in Marriage


The Betrothal States in Marriage
A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper
Toronto, January 10, 2010

For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5)

Marriage is the natural state of life for all men and women. Everyone in heaven is married, and remains married to eternity Marriage is the most important relationship we will establish in our lives. It is therefore in our own best interests to learn as much about marriage as possible.

When we look at marriage as a purely natural thing, a customary arrangement for the sake of sorting out the inheritance of offspring, it is very difficult to treat it seriously, to resist the temp-tations to break the marriage vows. If marriage is just a social contract, what harm can there be in a little adultery as long as it is kept quiet so no one is hurt? The low success rate of modern mar-riages is probably the result, at least in part, of the increasingly natural view of marriage as a temporary social contract between two adults that can be easily broken and new relationships arranged.

But marriage is not a purely natural thing:  it originates in God Himself God is Divine Love itself and Divine Wisdom itself From His Divine Love, God wanted to create a heaven from the hu-man race. From His Divine Wisdom, He conceived a plan to accomplish this goal. When the de-sire and the plan were conjoined and made one, the universe was created over a period of time, and in an orderly way. The creation of a heaven full of human beings is God’s greatest pleasure. This is the origin of marriage, for the wife represents the Divine Love, and the husband repre-sents the Divine Wisdom. When they come together in marriage and conjoin themselves, they can create new human beings for heaven. The pleasure of conceiving and rearing children is the greatest delight of human life, and it is a gift from God because it is a correspondence of the great delight He Himself felt in creating the universe.
Marriage seems a natural thing because it involves the fulfilment of so many natural desires. However, the doctrines of the New Church have revealed not only that it is a spiritual creation, but they have also revealed how we can prepare for marriage so that the spiritual things come before the natural things and so the marriage can continue to grow in wisdom and delight to eter-nity We prepare ourselves for a lovely, eternal, spiritual marriage with one through shunning evils as sins, looking to the Lord to provide a partner, and the states of betrothal.

We usually think of betrothal as a ritual that takes place after then engagement and a few weeks or months before a young couple gets married, and that is quite true as far as it goes. But the pur-pose of that ritual is to mark the bride and groom’s mutual belief and consent that they are going to enter into a spiritual marriage before they enter into the natural marriage.

Do these convictions and heartfelt beliefs end with the marriage ceremony? Why do young cou-ples give each other tokens and gifts at the time of betrothal except to mark this important spiri-tual step so it can be remembered for the rest of their lives? Why else do they continue to wear these tokens throughout their life except to remind them of the beautiful, tender first states of mutual love?

The betrothal ceremony marks the beginning of a lifelong effort to bring what is spiritual into marriage so that what is natural can serve its proper use and be in its proper place, supporting and upholding that which is spiritual and eternal, not to be an end in itself.

Let us now review the main states of betrothal so that they can be recognized, cherished, and re-newed.

The first state is that of consent, and it can be argued that when a couple in freedom, and from love, consents to be married, they are – from the spiritual point of view – already married because everything they think and do from that point forward will be to bring that consent into being, into a marriage. That’s why the Heavenly Doctrine goes to such lengths to encourage the young couple to approach that consent very carefully – not just from warm feelings of strong friendship, but knowledge, judgement, and love.

Once a young couple discover each other and fall in love, they begin to think seriously about marriage. The Doctrines tell us that a woman should consult her parents before she consents to marry her young man. The same thing is true for the young man, of course.

There are three reasons given for this:  parents should be consulted because they counsel from judgement, knowledge, and love. From judgement because they are more experienced. They have seen more of life, have themselves made the mistakes their children are inclined to and have already learned those lessons. From knowledge because they know their own children having guided their growth from infancy. From love, because true love wants to make the one who is loved happy.

Those early states of falling in love and planning a life together, and especially the first states of marriage, are full of delightful moments of incredible tenderness and joy. These states are not the result of the couples own spiritual states, but they are “borrowed” from the angels who are drawn near to their innocent and lovely states. The young couple has the opportunity to taste the happi-ness of heaven, long before they have gone through the journey that will earn it for them, so that they will have some sense of what awaits them, some faith that what they are working for is of lasting value and will bring them happiness beyond measure.

Conjugial love ascends and descends:  it ascends first from their minds toward their souls and the effort to conjunction there, and then it descends by influx into their body where it clothes itself with affections for and delights with the married partner. Conjugial love is of the same nature in its descent as it is in the height to which it has ascended If it is in its height (an orderly conjunction of souls) then it descends chaste (and delightful). If it does not ascend so high, but only to the lower parts of the mind, then it descends unchaste, for it picks up its character of the part of the mind in which it resides.

This shows the importance of betrothal, for by focusing the minds of the couple on spiritual prin-ciples of marriage, conjugial love can reach a greater height, and can descend from a more ele-vated and more pure position. If the young couple are only interested in making their sexual pleasures acceptable in the eyes of society, and indulge in them before their marriage, then they cannot expect a spiritual marriage to result as if by magic because they have participated in a church service.

With those who think about marriages from religion, the marriage of the spirit precedes, and that of the body follows. They are thus separated from the love of the sex in general and it is replaced with a tender love of one of the sex as they look to an eternal and everlasting union with one. Those who think only of marriage as a conjunction of bodies during life in the natural world will not be able to elevate themselves into a spiritual marriage because they do not even know that such a thing exists – so how can they work toward it?

Betrothal is not only a state for young lovers, but a state that can and should be enkindled in ma-ture marriages as well. The state of betrothal, the determination to have the spiritual marriage precede the natural marriage, is the spiritual force within a marriage, it represents the desire for an eternal spiritual marriage with one partner. All marriages have states of warmth and cold that fluctuate from time to time as the partners go through their individual trials and temptations in life. In the difficult times, there is value in remembering the promises made during courtship, there is value in remembering the hopes and dreams that made you fall in love with each other. By remembering those early states, by thinking about the tokens of your love for each other, by reading Conjugial Love again, together, you will find that your marriage could be revitalized You can talk about the things you have learned since you were married, and enjoy those “borrowed states” of heaven once again. Such reminders can carry you over the rough spots that naturally occur in every one’s life.

In the New Church, we know that marriage is more than a natural agreement, but the grind of daily life can make us forget our ideals, our spiritual goals. The point is to take time for each other and for the care and feeding of your marriage. Time and personal attention are they key to success in most areas of life, and marriage is no exception. The goal is to restore and uplift the desire for an eternal, spiritual marriage with one.

The conjugial union of one man with one wife is the precious jewel of human life and the reposi-tory of Christian religion. In a word, a person is a living soul as a result of that love (CL 457) AMEN.

First Lesson:  Genesis 29:1-20

(GEN 29:1-20) So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East. {2} And he looked, and saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well’s mouth. {3} Now all the flocks would be gathered there; and they would roll the stone from the well’s mouth, water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well’s mouth. {4} And Jacob said to them, “My brethren, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.” {5} Then he said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.” {6} So he said to them, “Is he well?” And they said, “He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep.” … {9} Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. {10} And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. {11} Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. {12} And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative and that he was Rebekah’s son. So she ran and told her father. … {20} So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her. Amen.

Second Lesson:  CL 71-72

71. No others can be in a state of truly conjugial love but those who receive it from the Lord – namely, those who go to Him directly and live the life of the church from Him – for the reason that this love, viewed in terms of its origin and correspondence, is celestial, spiritual, holy, pure and clean, more than any other love that is found in angels of heaven or people of the church. And these attributes of it cannot exist except in people who are joined to the Lord and brought by Him into association with angels of heaven…

72. Only those people come into truly conjugial love and only those can be in it who love the truths of the church and do the good things it teaches, for the reason that no others are accepted by the Lord. That is because people who love the truths of the church and do the good things it teaches are in a state of conjunction with the Lord, and consequently they can be kept in that love by Him….
The evident conclusion from this is that people are blessed with truly conjugial love not if they only know the truths of the church, but if they know them and do the good things it teaches.