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After a series of profound spiritual experiences, Emanuel Swedenborg came to believe that marriage is a union that connects everything in the universe—from the lowest material combinations to the highest spiritual levels. He came away with an immense respect for “de amore conjugiali” (Latin for “the love of marriage”)—and authored a book called Conjugial Love, also translated as Marriage Love, so that others could learn how two souls can reflect and express the fundamental connection of the universe, leading them to the greatest joy a human being can experience.
In this episode of Swedenborg and Life, host Curtis Childs and featured guests review Swedenborg’s writings about the union of marriage and how it’s paired with all that is good and true in our world and in the afterlife.
The Union in Everything
Throughout his writings, Swedenborg identified quite a number of mutually interdependent unions that exist in our lives. Curtis dubs this concept “the grand duality” and listed a few obvious ones we see in the world today:
- Love and wisdom
- Substance and form
- Good and truth
- Heat and light
- Charity and faith
- Will and understanding
- Heart and lungs
- Feelings and thoughts
- Male and female
Featured guest and founder of the Out of Body Travel Foundation, Marilynn Hughes, joined Curtis to share how Swedenborg’s concepts about the spiritual purpose of marriage have resonated with her own mystical experiences and interpretations.
One of Swedenborg’s most intriguing thoughts about marriage is that it can exist on many levels. Curtis goes on to introduce a fan of the show named Jordan who submitted a video about how Swedenborg’s concept about marriage saved him from a desperate search to find “the one” right now, knowing that he’ll have eternity to find true love in the afterlife. Yes, Swedenborg does have some unconventional ideas about marriage after death, and Curtis covers that topic next.
Till Death Do Us Part?
When Jesus was questioned about the survival of marriage after death, he said:
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 20:34–38
Many have pointed to this passage as a definitive “no” from Jesus in regards to marriage in the afterlife. But Swedenborg had a different interpretation of this Bible passage, which he addressed very directly in Conjugial (Marriage) Love.
Naturally, the idea of marriage in the spiritual world brings up one of two reactions depending on the experience you had with your partner on earth: Overwhelming joy or overwhelming concern. Fear not. Swedenborg saw that partners have the option to stay together or part in the next life.
When earthly partners love each other tenderly they think of their covenant in terms of eternity, with no thought whatever that it will end at their death. If that thought does occur to them they are grieved until they are revived by hope at the thought that it will indeed continue after their decease.—Conjugial Love 216
We’re talking about marriage between spouses in this episode, but Swedenborg says marriage exists in everything in the universe because the Lord made all things. Curtis introduces an animated excerpt from Conjugial Love 60 to explain how Swedenborg identifies the source of marriage love.
The reason everything in the universe goes back to goodness and truth and the reason for their mutual union is that both come from the Lord, and they come from the Lord as one. The two things that come from the Lord are love and wisdom, and they come from the Lord because they are the Lord.—Conjugial Love 60
It’s worth noting that mutual union requires mutual agreement. That’s the whole point of free will. Without it, we could not enter into any mutual union (with God or a spouse). Featured guest Dr. Soni Werner joins the conversation to elaborate on the importance of the mutual aspect of marriages.
These two marriages, from which the love of marriage issues like a twig, are the very embodiments of holiness; so if a love of marriage is accepted from its Author, the Lord, holiness from him comes in its train, a holiness that constantly exalts and purifies it. If there is then in our intentions a longing and effort toward that love, it becomes clean and pure daily, forever.—Conjugial Love 64
Marriage may be the most joyous expression of love we can experience on earth, but there sure are times when it can feel challenging. Swedenborg would say that’s because hell is constantly trying to influence our marriages since hell seeks to create division, not union. As you can see in this animated excerpt from Apocalypse Explained 986, Swedenborg was able to see the differences in heavenly and hellish spirits through their thoughts and feelings about love and marriage.
Even modern mystics have seen the influence hell can have on marriage. Marilynn Hughes says the dark side will seek and find any weakness to create a wedge between unions, which you can see manifest as lust, control, and power. It’s of the utmost importance for us to be able to identify truth over deception. Marilynn says that approaching marriage as a joint effort to serve God can offer protection from the influences of hell, which is reflected in Swedenborg’s writings as well.
Wherefore, as the Lord continually protects heaven and the church from the evils and falsities that rise up from the hells, so He protects all those who are in love truly conjugial, because heaven and the church are with these only. For heaven and the church are the marriage of good and truth, from which is conjugial love, as said above. Hence it is, that man by conjugial love has peace, which is inmost joy of heart, arising from security of every kind against the hells, and from protection against the infestations of evil and falsity therefrom.—Apocalypse Explained 999
Swedenborg, who never married, said that you don’t have to be married to another person to experience the Lord’s expression of goodness and truth because it also exists through the love of marriage you have within. That’s right, you can be married to yourself. How is that possible? By having a mutual agreement between your outer self and inner self to outwardly act on the good intentions within that serve God and others.
So yes, anyone can work on marriage love at any time—in a partnership with another or yourself. Swedenborg described marriage love as a triangle. As we work on ourselves, we’re drawn closer to God at the center, and that force at the center pulls us closer to our potential soul mate on the opposite side of the triangle. So while we work on our relationships with ourselves and with God, our ability to love others gets stronger and stronger.
Swedenborg provides many instructions about marriage love throughout his writings, but perhaps his greatest instruction came from Conjugial Love 531 in which he implores us to not judge anyone else’s form of marriage because no one but God can see what’s in their hearts. Whether someone is unmarried, engaged in an extramarital affair, or in a relationship with someone of the same sex, “Do not judge, or you yourself shall be condemned.”—Matthew 7:1
The Gathering of All Joy
Swedenborg says one of the reasons marriage love is the deepest, most joyous love is because it comes so naturally. Partnership allows love to manifest to its fullest potential. Marriage love is so powerful that we on earth are hardly able to experience it fully. Since angels in heaven have the complete ability to witness, feel, and express marriage love, Curtis lets them do the talking in this animated excerpt from Conjugial Love 69.
Though it may be challenging for us to fully experience the marriage love Swedenborg and the angels described, it’s still worth striving for. Our next featured guests explain how they took Swedenborg’s instruction to “do each other every good” and applied it to their 37-year marriage.
The states of this love are innocence, peace, serenity, a most profound friendship, absolute trust, and the mutual desire in soul and heart to do everything good for each other.—Conjugial Love 180
Swedenborg describes unions in the next life as so complete that there is a oneness in the souls of two angels which makes them almost look like they are one spirit. This animated excerpt from Conjugial Love 75 describes Swedenborg’s vision of partnership in heaven.
A true love of marriage is nothing more nor less than the union of love and wisdom. Two married partners who share this love within or between them are an image and form of it. All the people in heaven, where faces bear the true impress of their love’s feelings, are likenesses of it. . . Since, then, with respect to image and form two married partners are that love, it follows that every love that springs from that love is an image of it; so if the love of marriage is heavenly and spiritual, then the loves that issue from it are heavenly and spiritual as well.—Conjugial Love 65
Related Swedenborg and Life Video: Everything Is About Getting Back Together
Questions from Viewers
In the last segment, Curtis answers these questions from our viewers:
- My husband passed on with brain cancer two years ago. Will he be changed because of his cancer, or will he be the same as I always knew him when we finally meet again?
- Does God or do angels ever intervene or steer romantic relations?
- What would Swedenborg say about: Can there be true love without forgiveness?
- So if people are living together for years is this considered a deadly sin?
- If someone never married on earth is it because they just missed their soul mate?
- What if your soul mate got killed by a car? Is there a back up soul mate?
- After death, would you meet a past love that was not your married partner?
- Are spirits in hell married?
- How does one work on the relationship with a spouse who has passed over? Through prayer and meditation?
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About Swedenborg and Life
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 in a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format.
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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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