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Eighteenth-century philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg had a unique definition of married love—we join host Curtis Childs and guest co-host Chelsea Odhner to learn what this love really is.
Chelsea frequently has the opportunity to have interfaith conversations through The Common Heart Project, where a Jewish woman asked her to explain the Trinity. From her understanding, it was pretty complicated, but for Swedenborgians it’s simple—Jesus is the human manifestation of God. Chelsea was glad to find that it made sense to the woman she was talking to, too!
When Curtis was in college, he tried to share one of Swedenborg’s books with a philosophical friend of his, and this friend just didn’t connect with it. Then Curtis invited another friend onto his radio show, and they got to chatting. At the end, his friend said, “I’ll have to check out Swetisplorg some more.”
Weekly Swedenborg Keywords
In this section, Curtis and Chelsea discuss Swedenborg’s specific understanding of married love. It’s not as simple as love in a marriage, and it’s definitely more than what you see in a romantic comedy.
Sometimes called “conjugial love,” Swedenborg’s understanding of marriage love was built around a Latin word—conjugialis. Though it simply means “love pertaining to marriage,” its literal translation represents the idea of being yoked together.
Marriage love traces its origin to the marriage of divine goodness and truth and therefore to the Lord himself. The fact that this is the source of marriage love is not apparent to the senses or the intellect but can be seen from the way that love inflows, from its correspondence, and also from the Word. Inflow: Heaven is compared to marriage and is called a marriage because of the bond between goodness and truth, which flows in from the Lord. Correspondence: When goodness united to truth flows down into a lower realm, it presents itself as a union of minds. When it flows into a still lower realm, it presents itself as marriage. So the union of minds that develops out of the union between goodness and truth provided by the Lord is marriage love itself. (Secrets of Heaven §2728)
Truly conjugial love is nothing but a union of love and wisdom. Two married partners who have this love between them and in them at the same time are a reflection and image of it. (Conjugial Love §65)
Marriage love can exist on a number of different levels. One point that’s important to understand is that in Swedenborg’s thought, marriage love is not necessarily something that happens between two people; it can also refer to a marriage of goodness and truth inside a single person. This union is the basis of regeneration, or spiritual growth.
Chelsea demonstrates the way that divine providence is working to bring goodness and truth together inside us by using a pendulum made from golf balls on strings. The process of building a marriage—whether it’s with another person or inside yourself—can sometimes be chaotic and sometimes be in sync.
Every change of state we go through is leading us to the Lord. Sometimes everything in us feels wildly chaotic, but it will increasingly align and eventually reveal the divine design. We may not know fully what path divine providence will take, but we can trust that there is a plan.
No union or partnership between two exists unless each party moves closer to the other. Every partnership in the entirety of heaven, in all the world, and throughout the human form is the result of two parties moving into a closer relationship with each other until both parties intend the same things. This leads to a similarity, harmony, unanimity, and agreement in every detail between the parties. This is how our soul and our body form a partnership with each other. This is how our spirit forms a partnership with the sensory and motor organs of our body. This is how our heart and our lungs form a partnership. This is how our will and our intellect form a partnership. This is how all our parts and organs form partnerships, both within themselves and with each other. This is how the minds of people who deeply love each other form a partnership. It is an integral part of all love and friendship. Love wants to love and it wants to be loved. (True Christianity §99)
Marriage love, when it happens between two people, is the type of love we’d imagine between two soulmates. This is different from mutual love, which is the kind of love that parents show to their children and that we should show when we seek to do good. Or, as Swedenborg puts it, “Married love is the desire to be part of another person’s life, as one with that person; but mutual love is wishing better to others than to ourselves” (Secrets of Heaven §2738). These are two different ways of giving your whole self to another.
Marriage love is available to everybody, whether or not they are married. In fact, understanding and feeling marriage love is an important step in being able to love others. In the next life, anyone who needs or wants a soulmate will find them, but in the meantime, there are important spiritual lessons to be learned by being open to this type of joining within ourselves.
Spiritual World Road Trip
Swedenborg traveled through the ages of humanity and studied how married love acted in each era. In his era, he felt no one had any understanding of true married love. In this journey, he encountered an angel who explained that married love and religion are intertwined: in an age where spiritual truths are turned into lies, people will also abandon the idea of truly loving each other.
In Swedenborg’s time, truth was so hidden that people could not see any true love in relationships—or any wrong in adultery. He and the angel were feeling down about this when they learned that there is something new and better coming: a new spiritual age, the one that we are currently in. We can see the evidence of this all around us in the ways that our relationships have advanced since Swedenborg’s time: better treatment of women and children, for example.
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Here’s what they asked—just click a question to see the answer:
- Can marriage love occur instantly on earth? As in “love at first sight”?
- I asked myself to marry me. After careful study and reflection, I said yes! I’m perfectly happy being alone. Does that mean I don’t have balance? I have lots of friends and family. I’m a widow.
- My wife passed on Christmas day last year. When it’s my time, will she meet me or will I have to ask for her?
At the beginning, we asked viewers about experiences they’ve had trying to tell people about Swedenborg. Here are some of the answers.
- They think I’m in a cult. They don’t believe me because it’s too wonderful.
- They don’t get it. It was much easier to talk about offTheLeftEye.
- They think I’m crazy.
- They don’t care or won’t listen. My parents just say he’s crazy and I shouldn’t trust him, it’s really sad.
- The more you share, the less eyes glaze over. I emulate Curtis, good humor goes a LONG way.
- A constant gaze of incredulity cast in my direction.
- I usually just send them the short clip, “Who Was Swedenborg?”
- My pastor said he was worried about me when I told him about Swedenborg.
- My friend said, “Yeah, that name does sound from north Europe” then “the weather is really great today.”
- If they’re a “born again Christian” then I am in a cult. If they’re agnostic, they ask “Why bother?”
- Most people won’t listen but my sister and niece like it.
- I found it to be easier to tell others about OTLE whenever someone has a question about God, life, or someone who has passed.
- I remember telling my good Catholic friend about it in 9th and 10th grade. He was very cool about it and supportive.
- I tell them of his background, his profession, and his NDE and most people are intrigued. Then follow up with links to your YouTube channel.
- Invited my mom over this weekend to share her first Swedenborg and Life episode. Chose to start with how to feel the presence of angels. She loved it!
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
Related Swedenborg and Life Videos
“Will Earthly Spouses Still Be Married after Death?” (short clip)
“Did Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?” (short clip)
“Regeneration: How Radical Love Is Born”
“The Spiritual History of the Human Race”
“Who Was Swedenborg?”
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About Swedenborg and Life
In a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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