Conjugial Love is perhaps Swedenborg’s most controversial work. Following up his consistently maintained theological stance that angels are not a separately created race of genderless beings, Swedenborg asserts that gender characteristics are part of one’s spiritual substance and thus survive death. In contrast to most Christian thinkers, he says not only that there are marriages in heaven, but that such unions involve supremely pleasurable sexual experiences. Here marriage is linked to the deep substructure of the universe by correspondence (Swedenborg’s system of interaction between the spiritual and the material) and achieves a preeminence rarely accorded it today. For example, in Swedenborg’s view, chastity is an attribute that can be possessed to a greater degree by the married than by the celibate.

Idealistic in placing a premium on sexual abstinence before marriage and monogamy afterward, the work also takes a realistic look at the dark aspects of human sexuality. Though its eighteenth-century perspective naturally provides challenges for the twenty-first century reader, Conjugial Love is in many respects a powerful advocate of the equality of the sexes and of the possibility of lasting, and even ever-increasing, love between married partners.

About the Author

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish scientist, nobleman, and theologian who spent his life investigating the mysteries of the soul. Born in Stockholm to a staunchly Lutheran family, he graduated from the University of Uppsala and then traveled to England, Holland, France, and Germany to study the leading scientists of the time. He gained favor with Sweden’s King Charles XII, who gave him the position of overseer of the Swedish mining industry. Later, he was given a seat on the Swedish House of Nobles by Charles XII’s successor, Queen Ulrika Eleonora. Between 1743 and 1745 he began to have visions of heaven, hell, and Jesus Christ which resulted in a stream of books about the nature of God, the afterlife, and the inner meaning of the Bible. He devoted the last decades of his life to studying Scripture and presenting his own unique theology to the world.

The Redesigned Standard Edition is a thirty-volume collection of the only complete edition of Swedenborg’s theological writings currently available from the Swedenborg Foundation. Originally translated and published in the early 1900s, the RSE casebound set was redesigned and printed in a more readable format under the direction of William R. Woofenden.

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