Scientific discovery of Spiritual Laws given in Rational Scientific Revelations

The Doctrine of the Wife


Dr. Leon James



A remarkable revelation given in the Writings of Swedenborg is that the chief spiritual force animating the universe is conjugial love, a love that internally binds the mind and unites the heart of a husband and wife. Conjugial love is called the chief love because it has been designated from creation to rule over all other loves in the universe. Its extending influence can be seen in the male-female bonding of all living species. It has been revealed in the Writings of Swedenborg that God’s purpose in maintaining the universe is to populate heaven with angel couples to the endless future.  We can truly say that this revelation is good news.


However, conjugial love does not come to us easily. Men tend to reject it at first. The Writings reveal the reason:


“This tendency and proneness to evils just mentioned, which is transmitted from parents to their children and descendants, can only be broken down by a person being born anew by the Lord's help, a process called regeneration. Without this not only does the tendency remain unbroken, but it is reinforced by a succession of parents, becoming more prone to evils, and eventually to every kind of evil. (True Christian Religion No. 521)


In other words, we inherit the psychological and moral weaknesses of our parents who inherited the traits of their parents, and so on to a long line of cumulative evils that every generation passes on to the next. An example of how conjugial love is opposed by inherited traits is every young man’s desire for independence. This orientation is based on the idea that the individual is the unit of life and self-fulfillment. When people marry there is often a sense of loss of freedom. As we grow in maturity and wisdom, we begin to see that true freedom lies in marital union, while pre-marital independence is actually a false god that exacts slavery to selfish emotions.


Marriage starts in the “external mind” of the partners through commitment and love for one another. This love is not yet conjugial love, which is a spiritual love, and the relationship is not yet a spiritual one, not yet an inner union of minds. In order for this initial natural love to become spiritual, husband and wife must each remake their inner character by defeating all the inherited forces that are opposed to their union becoming spiritual. The Writings teach that only those couples can be together in heaven who go beyond the external bond of marriage and develop an internal union of minds. How is this to be accomplished?


Natural love between married partners does not go deep enough and even seems to evaporate in a challenging situation, turning itself into something hostile--anger, resentment, or rejection. Due to the spiritual constitution of men and women, there is more resistance to conjugial love on the part of husbands. Women are born with an inclination towards marriage and a desire to move towards an internal or spiritual union, as long as the husband also desires it. Men on the other hand are born with an inclination for having multiple sexual partners and feel constricted by the marriage bond to one wife. As a result, husbands need to practice a special discipline in order to be able to overcome their inborn resistance to union with one woman. The Writings say that conjugial love is “the love of one of the sex,” in contrast to the “love of the sex.” The latter is natural rather than spiritual, and roving rather than fixed on one. The Doctrine of the Wife refers to a spiritual discipline for husbands based on the Writings of Swedenborg and intended to help them overcome their inborn resistance to conjugial love.


This doctrine says that the husband's regeneration (or self-change efforts), must be through his wife. She is to be accepted as the spiritual seeing-eye in the marriage relationship and he needs to agree to voluntarily subjugate all of his resistances to her interior wisdom, rationality, and inner perception in everything pertaining to their relationship. The Writings describe the mechanism whereby the Lord gives a special perception to each wife about her husband's affections and inclinations, knowledge which is not given to the husband so that he is only dimly aware of his own inner tendencies. This is described in the words of an angel as follows:


“In order that this union may be achieved, a wife is given a perception of her husband's affections, and also the highest prudence in knowing how to moderate them.  This, too, is one of the secrets of conjugial love which wives conceal within and keep to themselves - the fact that wives recognize their husbands' affections and discreetly moderate them.” (Conjugial Love No. 166)


It seems to me that the spiritual purpose for this difference in perceptual powers between married partners is to make the husband's regeneration dependent on his wife. It has been revealed that men cannot become heavenly while they love their own wisdom in themselves, for this leads to self-conceit. Therefore it has been given that men should love their wife’s wisdom more than they love their own. The wife’s wisdom comes from a more interior rational perception than the husband’s wisdom because her love is conjugial love and the measure of the wisdom lies in its love. We know that conjugial love is the highest of all loves and therefore the wisdom that belongs to conjugial love is more interior, or higher, than any other wisdom.


Further, the wife receives conjugial love from the Lord while the husband receives it through the wife, and not directly from the Lord. This is the essential reason why the husband must learn to act from the wife’s will. This is a progressive development, and the more he loves to act from the wife’s will the higher the wisdom he receives from the Lord. The wife then unites herself to this higher wisdom, and the cycle repeats itself ever more deeply to eternity. But if the husband continues to love to act from his own will rather than his wife’s will, his wisdom becomes conceit and arrogance and he prevents himself from receiving conjugial love from the Lord through his wife.


The unity of angel couples lies in the perfect reciprocity of their relationship by which the husband acts not from his own will but from the will of his wife, and similarly, the wife acts not from her own wisdom but from the wisdom of her husband, to which she unites herself. To act from the wife’s will is represented in the Old Testament by “cleaving”:


That conjugial love also is expressed by "cleaving" is manifest from the following passages:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Gen. 2:24). 

(Arcana Coelestia No. 3875)


Without following this commandment the husband cannot be regenerated, hence cannot have an eternal marriage in heaven—cannot be of “one flesh” with the spouse.


Another reference for conjugial union that we find in the Old Testament is the expression “hearken unto her voice” which the Lord commanded Abraham when he doubted his wife’s wisdom regarding his relationship to Hagar:


"all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice," signifies that He should act according to spiritual truth” (Arcana Coelestia No. 2662)


For the husband to act from his own will is to act naturally but to act from the wife’s will is to act spiritually because the wife is given spiritual truth that matches her conjugial love. The inner wisdom given to the wife is described by an angel husband in these terms:


"Our wives  know all the states of our mind, nor is anything hidden from them.  They see, perceive and feel whatever comes from our will.  And we in turn know nothing of this in our wives.  Wives have this gift, because they have very tender loves and feelings of almost blazing zeal for the preservation of the friendship and trust in marriage and thus for the preservation of both partners' happiness of life.” (Conjugial Love No. 156)


Still another example of the relative perception of husbands and wives is this remarkable fact revealed in the Writings about what happens when a husband and wife meet in the world of spirits after both when both pass on:


“Let it be known that husbands rarely recognize their wives, but that wives readily recognize their husbands.  The reason is that women have an interior perception of love, while men have only a more superficial perception.” (Conjugial Love No. 48)


The marriage relationship remains natural, external, and temporary until the husband is willing to unite himself to his wife’s will, which means that he refrains from acting and thinking contrary to her affections and inclinations. By acting and thinking only in agreement with his wife’s will, the husband’s spiritual mind is united to the wife’s spiritual mind, and this is an internal union that remains to eternity:


In people who did not have conjugial love there is no spiritual or inner bond, but only a natural or outer one; and if an inner bond does not hold the outer one in its order and course, it does not last." (Conjugial Love No. 320)


Conjugial union depends therefore on the willingness of the two partners to modify their inner character into a form that makes them fit together spiritually.


Men’s Resistance to Conjugial Love


"Every man who is not spiritually rational and moral but only naturally so possesses a coldness towards his wife, such a coldness being inherent in him in his inmost elements. (...) It comes from a lack of rationality on their part in matters of the spirit. Every man who is irrational in matters of the spirit is inmostly cold to his wife and inmostly warm toward harlots." (Conjugial Love No. 294).


Many husbands resist the process of conjugial unification with such intensity and ferocity that it appears they are hell-bent on destroying their marriage. Practicing conjugial disciplines can help husbands become aware of their coldness and lack of desire for a truly conjugial union. Examples will be given below.


The Writings identify the source of men’s resistance to conjugial union:


“Wives love the bonds of marriage, provided that their husbands love them too. (Conjugial Love No. 217)


It is different with husbands. Because they are not born forms of love, but are receivers of that love from their wives, therefore to the degree that they receive it, to that degree their wives enter into them with their love. But to the degree they do not receive it, their wives stand outside with their love and wait.” (Conjugial Love No. 216)


Resistance to conjugial union is fully supported and reinforced by a masculinized society in which men predominate over women in most areas of decision-making--at home, Church, profession--making the final decisions, prevailing in opinion, in short, recreating and maintaining a “man's world.”  Whether you say "ruling over" or "having predominance over" is the same in terms of the actual consequence, which is that the will of the man prevails over that of the woman.


The Doctrine of the Wife prescribes the husband's voluntary and rational submission of his will to that of his wife in all matters pertaining to their relationship and interaction. If he refuses, there is nothing she can do to actually compel him since he has the greater power. In other words, the husband can choose to follow the wife's directives in all things of their joint decision-making. Obviously this must be a voluntary “submission” or subordination on the part of the husband and not a dominion over him by his wife. Dominion of one over the other is destructive of the conjugial union but voluntary submission for the sake of union promotes it and makes it spiritual.


In the Heavenly Doctrine (or the Writings), the Lord has given a number of new commandments to husbands who aspire to become one angel with a conjugial wife. The Doctrine of the Wife is a collection of these commandments and its purpose is to assist regenerating husbands in their difficult task.


Conjugial Commandments


The future of humanity depends on the success of husbands in learning to conjoin to their wife on the internal plane of the mind and not just on the external plane of the body and material possessions. This internal conjunction is called conjugial love and is the basis of all other loves in the universe. All other loves are derivative of this one great love.


Regarded from its origin and correspondence, this love is celestial, spiritual, holy, pure and clean, more so than any other love which exists from the Lord in angels of heaven or people of the church.”  (Conjugial Love No. 64)


The husband cannot from his own self conjoin to his wife in an internal way. He appears to be able to do this externally or socially, but he cannot be conjoined in the internal mind without becoming aware of the existence of the internal mind. This is normally closed to his conscious awareness while he is still in the early stages of regeneration. By acknowledging the Doctrine of the Wife, and then striving to follow it, the husband is spiritually to overcome himself through the act of enthroning the wife in his mind. By doing this, the husband’s internal mind is activated and made operative in his awareness or consciousness. The principles that make up the Doctrine of the Wife make explicit in the husband’s mind that there needs to be an internal relationship with the wife and how he can foster it.


For the husband to “enthrone” the wife means to conjoin his cognitions or reasoning with her affections or needs. This conjunction can be done only by loving her affections more than his own, which means following the wife’s will rather than his own will, since they are often in opposition. By suffering himself to be led by his wife’s affections, the husband receives from the Lord new and higher cognitions that are harmonious with the wife’s celestial affections. These new cognitions are new spiritual truths received internally from the Lord and given to the husband through his acceptance of the wife’s affections as-if his own.


In other words, there is an interplay between the husband’s regeneration and his relationship to his wife. In the historical attitude expressed in the Old and New Testaments there is an impression given that a pious man’s relationship to God is distinct and separate from his relationship to a wife.  There was even the idea alive that women are a source of distraction from piousness, and thus a source of opposition. But in the New Church mentality of the Writings there is a clear break in this Judaeo-Christian cultural tradition. In the Writings the world has received a new revelation about marriage and its relation to faith and salvation. For instance:


(1) All human development is in relation to marriage (Conjugial Love No 191).


Therefore unmarried men are to be considered "pre-husbands" in the sense we think of "preschool" as a state that prepares for the real thing. One implication of this commandment is that the curriculum in biology and psychology needs to introduce all concepts and goals in human behavior as arranged in a hierarchy with the top always being the conjugial union. The hierarchy of affections corresponds to the hierarchy of goals so that the top love is also the primary goal that governs all other goals.


(2) Husbands are wiser and more spiritual than unmarried men (Conjugial Love No 199).


The Lord's commandment in the Old and New Testaments that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, means that the man should dethrone his own affections ("father and mother") and enthrone his wife's affections in his mind, thus to "cleave" unto her (Conjugial Love No 194). The implication of this principle is that every boy’s education and socialization process ought to be oriented towards becoming a husband and letting his wife change his old character called “father and mother” into a new conjoint character called “one flesh.” In order for her to achieve this, he must give her all the help he can muster through daily interactions of a conjoint nature called “cleaving to his wife.” The Doctrine of the Wife is a collection of principles that foster the husband’s angelic development. A single man ought to think of himself as a pre-husband. A single man should look at every woman as someone’s wife. Feminity and feminization ought to be valued as the ideal state of society and the world. Becoming a husband ought to be seen as a biological necessity and an essential step for spiritual development towards becoming whole and complete. As the Writings put it “marriage is a person's fulfillment, since it makes a person fully a person” (Conjugial Love 156).


(3) Women's intelligence is like the Lord's intelligence, but men's intelligence is not (Conjugial Love No 218).


Women's intelligence, like the Lord's, is described in the Writings (CL 218) as "modest, gracious, peaceable, compliant, soft and gentle," while men's is described as "critical, rough, resistant, argumentative, and given to intemperance. In the unregenerate state a man’s character is “masculine” but after reformation and during regeneration his character changes to a more feminized quality. From being “critical and rough” he becomes “soft and gentle.” The “feminized” husband is closer to the Lord than the masculine man. Angel husbands live in a feminized sphere since they are gentle and soft, compliant and modest, acting from the wife’s affections, that is, from her will, conjoining his thoughts and reasonings to her affections. This elevates him to a genuine human level, whereas he is less than fully human when acting independently from his own will or affections.


What makes men and women fully human is the achievement of internal conjunction, forming a perfect unity of will and understanding. Unless husbands elevate the conjugial goal to the highest position in their goal-hierarchy, their life is not in the Lord’s order of things. The central feature of the conjoint couple is that the husband loves to be led by his wife’s affections more than by his own. In this way man can be redeemed from his nature as critical, rough, resistant, argumentative and intemperate, traits which gradually but inexorably take him to hell. His wife is a man’s ticket to heaven, her heaven, for all the societies of heaven exist in a feminized sphere, which is the Lord’s Proprium—modest, gracious, peaceable, compliant, soft, gentle. The angelic personality or true human is achieved by a married couple on earth when the husband prefers to live by his wife’s affectional states to his own.


(4) Conjugial love is the state of internal union between husband and wife and it is achieved when they will that their two lives shall become one life (Conjugial Love No 215).


The “two lives” in the Writings refer to the will and the understanding, or, the affections in the will and the cognitions in the understanding. To will that the two lives become one life means therefore that the will of the wife must be conjoined to the understanding of the husband. Conjugial love is a biological growth process of the mind (or spirit) that is achieved when the wife's affections (or will) are joined to the husband's cognitions (or understanding). In other words, the husband's thoughts and understanding are joined to the wife's will and affections.


This is not an automatic growth process that comes with merely living together. Both partners must consciously will the conjunction. The husband must will to conjoin his own understanding or thinking to his wife's affections or will. This is not easy to achieve because of the inner resistance he experiences, and therefore he must show persistent effort into which the Lord's power can inflow and create the union between the married partners. Before their reformation, men have an inborn tendency to discount the opinion or judgment of women. Husbands experience a sense of revolt at the notion that they give up their own independent ideas and desires in favor of their wife’s judgment with regard to all things involving their joint life. This is why husbands must appeal to the Lord for strength and resolve to overcome their inner resistance to the process of conjugial union.


The husband can overcome his resistance entirely if he is willing to follow this one rule on a daily and regular basis:


When his wife expresses her affections in the form of a direct request or an implied one, the husband must give and follow these minimally appropriate replies:

·        Yes.

·        O.K.

·        That's right.

·        I will.


And never anything else, for it is always offensive and disagreeable to the wife's affections. (Of course variations, extensions and equivalents of these are also acceptable.) This principle may strike some as excessive or perhaps emasculating and denigrating to men. But this is not the case. On the contrary, it is angelic. The Writings reveal that the spiritual angels, called angelic spirits, reason about truths before confirming them in their understanding and thereby accepting them as genuine. But the higher angels, called celestial, do not reason about truths so as to confirm them because they are given by the Lord to perceive truths instantly, that they are genuine. They do not need to reason about them. All they have to say to anything by way of confirmation is Yea or Nay.


It is not denigrating but elevating for a husband to keep himself from disagreeing with his wife’s affectional requests. If she makes a request of him, his only rational and loving answer is to confirm and go along. This relationship mode builds and fosters their conjoint union. This process is closely guarded by the Lord. It is the Lord who empowers the wife’s conjugial affections. By voluntarily submitting to the wife’s conjugial affections, the husband is being obedient to the Lord.


An objection may arise in one’s mind regarding the prudence of the husband in following this one-sided relinquishing to the wife’s affections whatever they may be. What if the wife’s affections are evil? Should the husband not exercise his individual freedom to differentiate between the wife’s good affections from her evil affections, then accept the good affections but reject the evil affections? This line of reasoning is a temptation designed to strengthen the husband’s love for his wife’s affections. This spiritual temptation is to be overcome by means of the ideas in the Heavenly Doctrine, and especially Conjugial Love, where the Lord indicates to us the work we have to do as husbands to achieve spiritual unity with one wife.


Imbued with this motivation as a Divine Commandment of Love, the regenerating husband will at first simulate conjugial love by accepting the wife’s affections even when they appear to him not good for the situation. If they accept only those wifely affections that they approve of, they are not striving for a spiritual union with the wife. What the husband approves of is not what he does from heaven but from self, that is, from hell. From heavenly influx the regenerating husband is led to approve, accept, love, and prefer his wife’s affections to his own on account of the fact that the wife’s affections are from the Lord while his own affections are from himself.


If the above two paragraphs still bother you, try replacing the word “wife’s affections” with the phrase “wife’s conjugial affections.” This may be an easier concept to accept at first because it is explicitly stated that conjugial love flows from the Lord to the wife and from the wife to the husband, but not from the Lord directly to the husband. And since conjugial love is the highest love from which all other loves derive—including the love of truth and Doctrine, it is clear that the wife’s conjugial affections ought to be loved by the husband more than he loves his own affections.


What are the wife’s conjugial affections? They include everything regarding the relationship between the husband and the wife, thus including such things as requests the wife makes to the husband and needs the wife expresses that the regenerating husband can and should fulfill from love and the desire for spiritual conjunction. This clearly cannot be considered similar to a wife’s power trips in “gaining ascendancy” over the hapless husband who obeys her wishes by impotent fear, not by loving consent nor by understanding of spiritual unity (this condition is mentioned in Spiritual Experiences Number 6110). Spiritual unity and interior conjunction with a wife is possible only when both husband and wife are animated by heaven, thus by conjugial love, not dominance or ascendancy over one another.


Commitment to Conjugial Unity


Women are born forms of willingness to conjoin and they never cease their striving to conjoin internally to their husbands. They are zealously involved in leading their husband out of their inborn hell of unwillingness to conjoin, or independence. This is why husbands must bend over backwards to accommodate and adjust to their wife’s affections all the time and without exception of situation, topic, or area of contention. It doesn’t matter that the wife may appear wrong in some situation and it doesn’t matter if she makes mistakes, or if she fails in something due to her own temptations and regeneration needs. Despite her failings, the husband should honor her at all times by choosing to follow her affections rather than his own. After all, the husband makes plenty of mistakes yet expects her to honor and obey his unilateral decisions in any situation that he so defines.


The rationale for his compelling himself to abide by her affections is not that she is more right or smarter than he. It is his acknowledgment of the Doctrine of the Wife that provides the rationale. The Doctrine of the Wife is a general procedure to be followed under all conditions. If the husband were to choose when to follow her affections and when to follow his own, he would no longer be striving for an internal union. It is for the sake of achieving internal union that the husband chooses to select his wife’s affections as his own, thus over his own.


The most important part is that the husband remains unfailingly committed to internal union—this must never fail if we are to achieve success. This unfailing commitment becomes real and actual when the husband does the following:


(a) He acknowledges that he is out of line as soon as his wife tells him this

(b) He promises her in the name of the Lord that he is determined to change his behavior.

(c) He asks the Lord to give him the power to accomplish this

(d) He makes reparations by fixing the problem

(e) He honestly strives to be true to his word by being watchful, even keeping a diary if it’s helpful


Most husbands need to repeat these steps several times every day for decades.


The Four-Step Conjoining Process


Conjugial love grows spiritually when the couple repeatedly goes through the following four steps on a daily and hourly basis (based on Conjugial Love 293-294).


Step 1: The wife acts. She reveals her affections to her husband in the form of a request, either in word, gesture, facial expression, or mere expectation built up from past interactions.

Step 2: The husband receives. He wills himself to love her affection—which is within the request, and by this, he receives it, that is, conjoins his cognitions to it. Her affection now is as-if his own. During initial phases the husband may need to simulate a love for her affection, but this is replaced eventually by a genuine love.

Step 3: The husband reacts. He says one or more of these four things: Yes. O.K. That's right. I will, (and equivalents).

Step 4: The wife reacts to the husband. She feels his reaction of conjunction as her deep delight. The process of unification is progressing.


The husband must constantly strive to build up cognitions or thoughts that can conjoin with his wife's affections, which are expressed as her moment-to-moment needs and requests. The conjunction steps must actually be performed by the husband. Unition of mind with the wife cannot develop from mere declarations and promises, or even occasional good behavior. The conjunction steps have to be performed continuously. Think about muscle building exercises, how we repeat the same movement in series or in sets during one workout session. Muscle tissue is built up, fiber-by-fiber, cell-by-cell, with each repetition of a movement. In a similar manner the husband builds up the spiritual fibers of conjunction with his wife when he repeats these four steps on a daily and hourly basis. The mind is a spiritual organ made of functioning parts and fibers just as the organs and muscles of the physical body. The united mind is a new spiritual organ called the angelic mind. Couples in heaven have such a mind and those who have not developed such a mind while on earth are unable to be immersed in the atmosphere of heaven and live there to eternity.


To show how the four-step conjunction process works in practice, consider this example to which most couples can relate:



The usual way

(does not build conjoining fibers)

The conjugial way

(builds conjoining fibers)

Step 1: The wife acts

Wife says: “Honey, we need to talk about this now” (=her affectional request).

Wife says: “Honey, we need to talk about this now” (=her affectional request).

Step 2: The husband receives (or rejects)

The husband internally disagrees (=hates conjugial unity and feels it’s a loss of individuality). He wants to tell her several reasons why it’s a bad idea to talk about it now (=discounts her intelligence). He thinks about those reasons and loves them (=”clinging to father and mother” see Conjugial Love Number 156 ). He doesn’t feel committed to the Doctrine of the Wife as an essential Divine Commandment and process.

He is conscious of an inner feeling of anger and his mind begins to rehearse reasons why they should not talk about it now. But he just laughs at himself doing that. He turns away from himself and turns to his wife and to her affection and intention. He embraces her affection and immerses himself in it (=”cleaves to his wife”). To succeed in this step the husband needs rely on his commitment to the Doctrine of the Wife as a Divine Commandment.

Step 3: The husband reacts

He says: “You don't understand.” And keeps talking for several more sentences (=striving to coerce her behavior and deny her freedom).

He says: “O.K. Sure.”

Step 4: The wife reacts to the husband

The wife senses her husband's conjugial cold and experiences the pain and loneliness of internal separation. In her chest she senses his rejection or refusal to conjoin his thoughts to her affection.

The wife senses conjugial delight in her chest and experiences her husband's act of conjoining with her (=”one flesh”). One more pair of her affections and his thoughts are now united and function as one conjoint individual (=angel).


Leon’s story:


Many times my poor wife tried to tell me that I talk to her defensively, which she experiences as offensive and upsetting from within. “A family trait,” she would add, to spurn me on to insight. For decades, my response was to deny that I was defensive. Each time we went through this negative routine, the conjugial separation she felt was made more painful and desperate. What could she do to penetrate my wall of blindness and denial? She got no relief, year after year. At last the Doctrine of the Wife was born in my understanding (in 1985) as I diligently studied the Writings daily. The Lord showed me in illustration while reading the Writings that the expression in Genesis “Hearken unto Sarah” (see discussion below) was a commandment, and therefore applied to me. My defensiveness was obviously a denial of that commandment. I was not hearkening unto my “Sarah” when I disagreed with her or made her cry—which happened frequently! I attributed her unhappiness to her lack of capacity to adjust to reality. I did not attribute it to me, which is another form of conjugial cold and lack of inner friendship.


Later I was able to see the psychobiological perspective on the Doctrine of the Wife. That's when my regeneration efforts really started showing results. For a long time I was merely able to compel my external behavior, putting on a pleasant expression on my face and compelling my mouth to express the opposite of the defensive and offensive things I thought and felt whenever she was “in my face,” while not budging an inch in my mind. She would never compromise, thank God. She remained steadfast and brave in opposing my resistance to the process of becoming a conjoint couple. She would often say that she had this power from the Lord. I thought she was being uncompromising, unreasonable, not coping with life’s demands. Such was my conjugial cold and blindness.


She suffered much because of my stiff-necked and self-centered gender bias. I used to freely declare that women were great since this is the reputation I wanted for myself, as a politically correct person. But in actuality I acted like I considered the views and opinions of women to be inferior to men’s. My wife’s opinion and judgment didn’t count with me as much as my own. This was my inherited culture bias and I lived it, enjoyed it, and held on to it as a prerogative. I came to realize that this would take me to hell, like an unseen current that pulls a ship towards the reef. My wife was my only chance to make it to heaven.


Since the beginning of our relationship, my wife loved my cognitions and constantly conjoined her affections to them, making them as-if her own. She understood what I saw about everything I had an interest in. She was my cognitive clone. In the Writings it is stated that a wife is the love of her husband’s wisdom. But she was more than this for she had her own mind and she deftly applied my knowledge and reasoning to all situations, surpassing me in many things. I admired her. I was not envious of her. I felt both superior and inferior to her. But she did not unconditionally love my evil affections. She did not go along with the modern fallacy that love is unconditional and therefore a wife has to accept her husband’s evils and weaknesses.


Her intelligence was the deepening of my intelligence. I could not attain with my wisdom to the depths she could attain through my wisdom in her. Later I understood why when I read in the Writings that her wisdom is, by spiritual biology, inmost or celestial (third heaven), while a man’s wisdom is spiritual (second heaven), which is lower or more external. As she receives my wisdom she takes it into her inmost, which means that she elevates it within herself and from spiritual, she makes it celestial. This power a wife receives directly from the Lord.


A wife attains, lives, and uses a deeper wisdom than her husband’s, even though she remains dependent on and united to her husband’s wisdom. It is rational therefore for the husband to conjoin his wisdom to the wife’s affections because her affections are conjoined in herself to a deeper wisdom than the husband’s wisdom is in himself. In this way he can also attain to a deeper wisdom. If he does not conjoin himself to her affections he cannot attain this deeper wisdom, intelligence and understanding. This principle applies to all rational ideas, including religious doctrine and domestic management. Husbands can gain a more interior understanding of the Writings if they conjoin themselves to their wife’s affections, since they are then in a more interior state.


Here is another example of how the four-step conjunction process works in practice:



The usual way

(does not build conjoining fibers)

The conjugial way

(builds conjoining fibers)

Step 1: The wife acts

Wife continues to clean up and arrange things while husband watches TV. She is very much aware that she is doing this in front of him. Is he going to ignore her, she wonders? She is letting him see that she is determined to finish.

Wife continues to clean up and arrange things while husband watches TV. She is very much aware that she is doing this in front of him. Is he going to ignore her, she wonders? She is letting him see that she is determined to finish.

Step 2: The husband receives (or rejects)

The husband sees her but feels cold for her. He hates the fact she picks this time to buzz around the room, trying to make him feel guilty, no doubt, he tells himself (=ignores her requests). He thinks about many reasons why she is wrong while he is right, and he is in love with those reasons (=clinging to father and mother).

The husband sees her and is instantly aroused by the sight of her slaving away while he does what pleases him. How can he ignore her affection in completing this task? It doesn’t matter that he thinks this is the wrong time to do it. Here she is and he must respond. He sees her presence as his business and he compels himself to accept the affection that animates her task orientation (=cleaves to his wife).

Step 3: The husband reacts

He says in a tone of protestation: “Honey, do you have to do that now?” (=striving to coerce her behavior and deny her freedom).

He immediately presses the mute button, gets up, and begins to facilitate her movements. It's as if he said "O.K. I will" to her silent request for sympathy and recognition.

Step 4: The wife reacts to the husband

The wife senses her husband's conjugial cold and experiences the pain and loneliness of internal separation. In her chest she senses his rejection or refusal to conjoin his cognition to her affection.

The wife senses conjugial delight in her chest and experiences her husband's act of conjoining with her (=one flesh). One more pair of her affections and his cognitions are now united and function as one conjoint individual (=angel).


"It is therefore provided by the Lord that conjugial pairs be born, and they are raised and continually prepared for their marriages, neither the boy nor the girl being aware of the fact. Then, after a period of time, the girl - now a marriageable young woman - and the boy - now a young man able to marry - meet somewhere, as though by fate, and notice each other. And they immediately recognize, as if by a kind of instinct, that they are a match, thinking to themselves from a kind of inner dictate, the young man, 'she is mine,' and the young woman, 'he is mine'" (Conjugial Love No. 316).


Here is a third example:



The usual way

(does not build conjoining fibers)

The conjugial way

(builds conjoining fibers)

Step 1: The wife acts

They are in traffic. Husband is driving. Wife says: “Honey, it’s very stressful driving in the fast lane. Can you please stay in the right lane?” (=her affectional request).

They are in traffic. Husband is driving. Wife says: “Honey, it’s very stressful driving in the fast lane. Can you please stay in the right lane?” (=her affectional request).

Step 2: The husband receives (or rejects)

The husband instantly feels rage (=hates conjugial unity and feels it’s a loss of individuality). “It’s actually safer in this lane. Just let me handle it.” (=discounts her intelligence). “I told you before. Leave the driving to the driver. That’s the way it should be.” (=clinging to father and mother).

He is conscious of an inner feeling of anger and annoyance at her interfering with what he wants to do. But he makes himself look at the situation from her perspective. He turns away from himself and turns to his wife and to her affection and intention. (=cleaves to his wife). He has compassion for her fears.

Step 3: The husband reacts

He says: “Do some deep breathing and relax. You know I hate it when you tell me how to drive.” (=striving to coerce her behavior and deny her freedom).

He says: “O.K. I’ll switch lanes as soon as I can.”

Step 4: The wife reacts to the husband

The wife senses her husband's conjugial cold and experiences the pain and loneliness of internal separation. In her chest she senses his rejection or refusal to conjoin his thoughts to her affection.

The wife senses conjugial delight in her chest and experiences her husband's act of conjoining with her (=one flesh). One more pair of her affections and his thoughts are now united and function as one conjoint individual (=angel).


Many more examples are given below in the Appendix in the Inventory of Confessions.


Even though men are born understandings and receive wisdom from the Lord, they cannot hold on to this wisdom or make it their own, unless and until they love their wife's judgment above their own judgment. The husband's spiritual wisdom, when genuine, is to know this. The husband's conjugial love is to love this.


The reason for this co-dependence is that the wife's wisdom is inmost and celestial, from the Lord. The wife's conjugial love is to love the husband's wisdom to the extent it is genuine. Note this qualification—to the extent it is genuine, since the wife should not love her husband’s ideas and reasoning indiscriminately, just because they are his. Until the husband accepts the Doctrine of the Wife, he is in the delusion that he has genuine understanding of his own, from the Lord, independently of the wife. This delusion comes from conjugial cold within the man. As long as the husband lives this delusion he will deny and oppose his spiritual dependence on his wife.


Feminizing the Marriage is Sanctifying It


The husband sanctifies marriage when he acknowledges, confirms, and lives in accordance with the Doctrine of the Wife. In other words, New Church husbands need to see a Scriptural reason from the Writings for living in accordance with the rule: Learn to love to act from your wife’s affections more than your own. To the regenerating husband, acting from Doctrine is a conscious daily effort and striving. The Doctrine of Conjugial Love is the highest ranked of all the Heavenly Doctrines (see Conjugial Love Number 270; 294, 367), which means that the Doctrine of the Wife takes precedence over all other Doctrines in the regenerating husband’s mind and affections.


Marriage is the state of endless spiritual growth between a wife and a husband. There are two phases to this physiological process of conjoining -- external and internal, or, growth in the external mind and growth in the internal mind. All things in the external mind of a husband have a character that can be described as “masculine,” rough, independent, and defensive. All things in the internal mind of a husband are soft, gentle, peaceful, receptive, which are traits that can be characterized as “feminine.”


In the external mind of the husband, marriage is masculinized and, in society, this is equivalent to the popular notion that it’s a man's world. But in the internal phase, which comes next, the husband through living the Doctrine of the Wife, feminizes the marriage. From being independent and defensive, he becomes internally dependent on his wife’s affections. He loses his “masculine” self-reliance on all things that regard the marriage relationship and adopts a “feminine” orientation of striving to conjoin. Togetherness means laying aside what “self” wants and achieving a higher and deeper status by elevating what the wife wants to the center of one’s focus. Thus from a ‘man’s world,’ society is transformed into a feminine world, more gentle, more interior in intelligence, and nearer to the Lord’s intelligence and character. The heavenly Proprium of every angel is the Lord’s Proprium which they experience as their own. This is the ultimate human state – not external masculine but internal feminine. By entering their highest self, husbands are capable of loving to act from their wife’s will rather than their own.


In their conversations with Swedenborg, the inhabitants of the highest of the three heavenly Kingdoms said that they actually have a living perception of the Lord’s influx. The Lord inflows into their internal mind with Divine Good and Truth, the good into their will and the truth into their understanding. They attribute all their intentions and ideas to this Divine influx. They also said that the instant they close themselves off to this influx in favor of their own intentions and ideas, they experience a sudden drop, whereupon heaven disappears for them and they are in a lower spiritual realm. But the instant they turn themselves again to the Lord and admit Him by influx, they experience an elevation of the mind and they find themselves again in their heaven.


Paradoxically, the more they empty themselves and allow spiritual influx from the Lord, the more they feel free and powerful; but the more they turn to their own ideas and intentions and doing what they then feel like, the more they feel constrained and captive of their flight of ideas and emotions. While we are still in the physical body on earth we tend to feel the opposite of this heavenly model. In our external mind it appears that we feel most free when we do what we desire without any interference.


Most husbands experience a loss of freedom when they acknowledge the commandment against adultery, even when it is only in the imagination. Most therapists in our generation tell their clients that it does no harm to the marriage when the husband fantasizes about sexual activities with other women, so long as it remains fantasy. They even prescribe it as an activity that can re-invigorate the couple’s sexual relationship. Both self and much of society look with favor upon that which the Lord forbids, as people can read in the New Testament for the past two thousand years. While our moral or religious life is restricted to the external mind we feel a loss of freedom when we acknowledge God’s commandments. But when our internal mind is opened and made operational, we are turned to God and His commandments and feel freedom in obedience to His will. The internal mind of everyone is opened through the ongoing process of regeneration. This consists of a life in accordance with one’s doctrine based on God’s commandments.


The feminization of marriage is an idea drawn from the Writings where it is stated that Divine Truth of the highest kind called “celestial truth” is feminine:


“In the celestial Church good resided with the husband and the truth of that good with the wife; but in the spiritual Church truth resided with the man and the good of that truth with the wife: Such is and was the actual relationship between the two, for in human beings interior things have undergone this reversal.” (Arcana Coelestia 4823)


A man is constructed spiritually as the reciprocal of a woman since woman is interior truth covered over with external love while man is interior love covered over with external truth (see Conjugial Love Number 32). Therefore, the wife’s truth is more interior than the husband’s by spiritual make-up. The Writings also teach that in all things whatever is interior is always more heavenly than that which is exterior. Clearly then, a woman's intelligence is more celestial or higher than a man's intelligence because the quality of intelligence and wisdom is determined by the truth out of which they are made. The recognition by the husband that the wife’s intelligence is higher than his own sanctifies the marriage even as it feminizes it in his mind.


In the natural external world psychologists have found that intelligence of women and men overlap for the most part so that one cannot say correctly that men in general are more or less intelligent than women in general. But this is different in the internal or spiritual portions of the self where women’s intelligence take a higher form than man’s because women are intelligences in a more interior way than men, and what is more interior is higher. This superiority of feminine intelligence fits with the superiority of women’s love and affections since women receive conjugial love directly from the Lord while men receive it from the Lord through the wife. Since conjugial love is higher than all other loves, the intelligence that goes with it is higher than all other intelligences.


It has now been revealed that husbands are born conjugial ‘unwillingnesses’ and feel the urge to rebel, to resist, to protest, to complain, to be independent, and to withdraw. But the wife, strengthened by the knowledge of spiritual truth and reality, will remind him thus:


My husband, you know you cannot save yourself by yourself. You know the Lord has appointed me to lead you to heaven. To assist me in this task, the Lord gives me perception to see your inmost inclinations or affections, and the Lord gives me wisdom to defeat the pack of delusions and lies that you've surrounded yourself with and to which you continue to hold on. You have no choice. I'm waiting. The Lord and heaven are waiting. Get with it. Give up your pride and arrogance and listen to me. Do as I ask.  Etc.


This is the Doctrine of the Wife--talking sense into men that they may enjoy eternal conjugial bliss. It contains the idea that marriage is social, legal, and religious on the outside but spiritual on the inside. The Lord intends that we first form, build, develop the outside conjugal aspects of marriage and then, when this is solidly established, that we form, build, and develop the inside conjugial aspects.


Unity is to be achieved in both outside and inside aspects. Then the marriage is truly conjugial, blessed, and eternal. But the fact is that external unity can be achieved and then never going on to internal unity. Spiritually this is a disaster. Husband and wife are then on their own in regeneration, like single men and women. This is important to remember when a woman feels discouragement because her husband resists the work it takes to achieve inner unity. All is not lost for her, and though it's not possible to know this fully in advance, she can trust that the Lord will provide her with her true soul mate in the afterlife. A wife ceaselessly and courageously continues her efforts to unite herself to her husband, externally and internally, despite all his efforts to discourage and resist her. By doing this she makes it possible for the Lord to prepare her conjugial mind from within in such a way that in the afterlife she can conjoin with a suitable man prepared for her by the Lord.


Appendix: Inventory of Confessions


The Writings teach that “All of us are born with a tendency to every kind of evil, and if we do not partially remove evils by repentance, we remain subject to them and we cannot be saved.” (see True Christian Religion Number 520) The Writings also teach "A mere verbal confession that one is a sinner is not repentance." (True Christian Religion Number  516). In order to repent and reform we must become conscious of each particular evil trait in our character in a specific way. This is the purpose of this inventory of confessions inspired by the Doctrine of the Wife:


I husband, will circle the items that constitute my confession that I have been engaging in those lowly acts on a regular basis and that now I wish to stop, by first, recognizing my brutishness, and second, holding it in aversion for the sake of the Lord and a heavenly life with my wife. One way I can show my honest intention is to print out the circled items and ask my wife to help me fill in what I have left out.


I also realize that it's not up to me to tell her to fill out a similar list for herself because our situations are not parallel, and for me to ask her to do that would be insulting her and thus contrary to the intent of this confession.


I also dedicate myself to keeping these lists up to date so that I will write all those additional items that do not yet appear, but of which I'm guilty.


1.             I upset her by raising a topic at the wrong time

2.             In our conversations, I initiate most of the topics

3.             When we talk, I pursue my perspective on the topic rather than hers

4.             When I get upset in our exchanges, I raise my voice and put on a stern face

5.             When I'm under stress, I don't mind taking it out on her

6.             When I'm very angry, my body assumes a threatening posture towards her

7.             When I feel that she is driving me nuts, I stay away from her

8.             When I think she is not paying attention, I punish her by making her feel bad

9.             When I feel nagged, I think it's OK not to answer her

10.         If in a discussion, I feel that she is getting irrational, I put her down in my mind

11.         If I get annoyed at her, I don't mind showing it

12.         I refuse to take responsibility for her feelings when I’m the cause of it

13.         I criticize her when I feel she deserves it

14.         I hate it when she pouts because of something insignificant I did to her

15.         I hate it the way she keeps bugging me when I won't do something her way

16.         Sometimes I think she is a bit lazy

17.         I think she tends to deliberately exaggerate our difficulties

18.         I often think it's unfair the way she mostly wants things her way

19.         When things get impossible with her, I just walk off

20.         When I leave or come home, she wants me to make a big fuss over her, and I hate it

21.         When she has PMS, I try to stay out of her way

22.         I don't mind embarrassing her in public if she gets on my nerves

23.         When I drive, I don't tolerate her telling me what to do

24.         I put my loyalty for our children ahead of my loyalty for her

25.         I show my impatience when I am shopping with her and I think she is taking too long

26.         When I get mad at her, I stay mad longer than one hour

27.         When I make her cry, I wait more than five minutes to come to her rescue

28.         I let weeks go by without making her dance with me even though I know she wants to

29.         I let days go by without giving her a shoulder and neck rub even though she would want one

30.         I let a whole day go by without giving her at least one kiss or hug

31.         I often change topics without satisfying her

32.         I frequently conveniently forget something I agreed to do

33.         I neglect her and exploit her in many different ways

34.         I betray her in my mind by ridiculing her, belittling her, saying No to her

35.         I try to keep certain information about myself from her so she won't be able to get to me by using it to pressure or fight me

36.         I retaliate when she's just doing her job pointing to my resistances and lack of cooperation

37.         I flatulate at my pleasure without consideration for her feelings or sensibilities

38.         I belch aloud in her presence without excusing myself, like a savage

39.         I expose her to my bad breath

40.         I expose her to my body’s unpleasant acrid odors from sweating and not washing

41.         I often present my scratchy unshaven face and irritate her skin

42.         I touch her with dirty finger nails

43.         I let my nose and ear hair grow until they show despite her protest

44.         I walk around the house in dirty shorts and sneakers not caring about her

45.         I leave my clothes lying around for her to pick up

46.         I never pick up after her, expecting her to do that

47.         I don't launder my dirty clothes and often don't bother thanking her for doing it for me

48.         I am mostly oblivious to washing dirty dishes, leaving the kitchen chores to her

49.         I expect her to take care of the bills and criticize her if she makes a mistake or is late

50.         I don't call her when I'm late coming home, ignoring her fears and insecurity

51.         I neglect to express my appreciation for a thousand little kindnesses she does for me all day long

52.         I don't mind staring at other women when she is with me, and I don't hide it from her

53.         I stare at other women when she is not with me without trying to remind myself that my wife wouldn’t like that

54.         I'm not upset if I forget to do something I promised her, and I don't try to own up to my mistake and make her feel better about it

55.         I fail to give her dependable and regular sexual satisfaction due to my incompetence

56.         I fail to massage her body every day, though she likes it, needs it, and feels it as closeness

57.         I sometimes criticize her body parts

58.         I fail to play with her hair, though she told me many times she likes that and makes her feel secure

59.         I often fail to comment appropriately on her appearance, clothes, jewelry

60.         I sometimes criticize her looks

61.         I make her wait when she calls me to the meal table

62.         I make her late when she's anxious to get there on time

63.         I often enter a room where she is and do not acknowledge her presence

64.         I often show insufficient enthusiasm for her proposals, hints, plans

65.         I lie to her when I decide it's OK to do that

66.         I let her believe a lie sometimes to avoid an argument

67.         I don't laugh at her jokes

68.         I have not bothered to learn how to walk close with her without bumping into her

69.         I have not bothered to learn how to drive without making her anxious about my driving

70.         I have not bothered to learn how to find something at home without asking her (e.g., a light bulb, a battery, a clean bed sheet, a tax record, etc.)

71.         I have not bothered to learn how to buy her tampons without having to ask her the size

72.         I have not bothered to remember what her doctor's name is and what medicines she takes

73.         I don't feel responsible for running out of things at house parties--that's her problem

74.         I don't feel responsible for getting us to a social engagement on time

75.         I don't feel responsible for keeping up appropriate social appearances and do all the expected rituals like birthdays etc.--that's her job

76.         I don't feel responsible for planning and preparing for a party we throw--that's her job

77.         I don't feel responsible for taking care of Christmas gifts--that's her job

78.         I don't feel responsible for taking the cats to the vets for their shots, but I complain when she doesn't

79.         I make her responsible for overdrawing our checking account

80.         I don't feel responsible for taking our clothes to the cleaners

81.         I sometimes forget our anniversary date

82.         I often discount what she says and perceives, even though I know from the Doctrine of the Wife that she speaks and perceives from the Lord

83.         I raise my voice above hers to force her to relinquish her demand

84.         I am task-involved in discussing something with her, and pay no attention to how she feels during the discussion, simply ignoring her frustration and suffering

85.         I often ignore where a discussion was left off, so she gets the feeling it's hopeless because there is no cumulative progress--so she has to start from scratch each time

86.         I often forget things that are important to her that she doesn't want me to forget--but I act like I have forgotten anyway. Further, I don't act like my forgetting is a big deal and I act like she is a stickler or nag because she insists on remembering that stuff

87.         I don't try to find out what she thinks about many things because I don't make the effort to find out, so that she is left with the injurious feeling that I don't care about her and that I'm not interested in her

88.         I raise my voice at her and intimidate her physically (like throwing, banging, or hitting, etc.) so that she feels fear from me as if I were a stranger

89.         I criticize her, which makes her feel that I do not like her

90.         I don't always help her when she needs help, thus letting her figure it out for herself--which gives her the feeling of not having a friend

91.         I have sex with her without making up for my prior insults or quarrels--this makes her feel like a slut, but I act like it's not a big deal

92.         I use my male prerogatives to satisfy myself in sex without wanting to know or making the effort to find out whether she has been satisfied

93.         I rebel against her desire to know my every move and don't tell her details about my schedule so she has to wonder where I am and when I'm coming home. And worse: sometimes lying about what I do or covering it up because I want to retain my independence or because I decided it's not her role to keep tabs on my comings and goings.

94.         I resent her for wanting to micro-manage my time or activities and going along with that resentment instead of fighting it as illegitimate and evil

95.         I involve myself with activities that exclude her automatically so she feels like her connection to me is broken, e.g., having lunch with an ex-girl friend; going to a bar with the boys and spending time there instead of coming home to her; spending a lot of time at some hobby in which she cannot participate or in which I don't want her to participate; etc.

96.         I embarrass her in public, or to her friends or company, or to the children; making a scene and spoiling the decorum and mood she wants to set or maintain

97.         I keep away from her at parties and gatherings, sticking with the boys or the men, avoiding the women's talk as abhorrent; or, if participating, then taking over and dominating the conversation or focus

98.         I don't mind letting a whole day go by without complementing her or her appearance or her work; taking her for granted, and making her feel that I'm taking her for granted instead of treating her like I think she is special

99.         I relentlessly pursue my topic, insisting on my opinion or judgment, suffocating her with my dominating power and rigidity and selfishness

100.      Sometimes I act like I don't want to have sex when she proposes it

101.      I refuse to give her veto power over what I want to wear, then embarrassing her by what I wear as if that decision is mine entirely

102.      I act disinterested in her aesthetic side so she ends up feeling neglected and needing friends who will give her attention

103.      I leave wet towels in the bathroom for her to pick up, as if she were my slave, and then do not acknowledging her charitable deed on my behalf

104.      I jab my fingers into my wife's ribs, and claim I'm just tickling, when really it's to make her flinch and struggle to pull away

105.      I procrastinate in self-destructive ways (e.g. not getting forms filled out by a deadline, not taking care of needed repairs), then act like she's responsible for the remedies to the situation (like rushing to the post office for me)

106.      (add your own after this)


Reference Note


This chapter is a brief version of two longer versions available on the Web: (version 3) (version 1) (version 2)

 They all discusses spiritual disciplines that New Church husbands can use to assist in their regeneration efforts.

Some of my other New Church related articles on the psychology of reformation and regeneration, may be accessed from this directory:


Leon James is a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii. He’s been married for 23 years to Diane Nahl who is also a professor. They’ve written a book together titled Road Rage and Aggressive Driving (Prometheus Books, 2000). Their Web site dedicated to driving psychology is at  (e-mail: )

Source pages

Authors: Leon James &  Diane Nahl Webmaster: I.J. Thompson