1. The Origin, Nature and Sanctity of Marriage
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
Genesis 1: 27
Marriage, in common with many other subjects which touch the personal happiness and vital interests of man and woman, is attracting new and general attention. This movement is in accordance with the universal laws of human progress. We are impelled by the evils we suffer, and allured by the hope of gaining more light and attaining greater happiness, to seek for new truth and devise new methods for a better organization of society. This process must go on until we find the ground of all human relations in the immutable laws of the Divine order. There is no other way of settling any question of human life and destiny. This principle applies in a most intimate and specific manner to the relations between man and woman. There is a common perception that they are the most intimate relations that one human being can hold to another; that they are not merely formal, artificial, and determined by legislative power, but that they grow out of the specific nature of man and woman; that marriage has its source and sanction in a power higher and prior to any human authority. But there is diversity of opinion upon the subject, and the origin and nature of marriage are not generally understood.
If we turn to the revelation which the Lord has made to man in the Sacred Scriptures, we find the origin and nature of marriage distinctly declared in the creation of man. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness : and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Our Lord, in His answer to the Pharisees concerning divorce, refers to this passage in Genesis and confirms its special application to marriage. "Have ye not read," He said, ‘that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female? and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."'
In these words the important truth is revealed that man was created in the image and after the likeness of God, - that is, that the attributes of the Divine nature are finited in man. In the beginning man derived his essential nature from God. This truth applies to every human being. Every man begins in God. The first steps in his creation and the essential elements of his nature, unstained by evil and unperverted by error, are derived from God. Man inherits all his intellectual faculties and moral qualities from God according to the universal laws of heredity, as every seed inherits its qualities from the plant that bore it, every animal derives its form and nature from its parents, and every child its nature from its father and mother. When we call the Lord our Father, as we are taught to do, it is not by courtesy or a figure of speech; it is a statement of a positive fact. It follows as a necessary consequence that the intellectual faculties, which are the masculine qualities of man's nature, and the affections, which are the feminine qualities of his nature, were derived from the Lord.
These factors of the human mind, which in general terms we call love and wisdom, or goodness and truth, must be united in every human being. Love alone does not constitute a human being, neither does truth alone. The two qualities or factors must be united. Love has its form, and means of action from truth, and truth has all its power from love. They must be conjoined - married - before either of these two essential elements of the human mind can act. This union is not an artificial one. It is like that of substance and form. Each becomes the other, and together they make one.
Here, then, we find the origin of marriage. It is derived from the Lord. It has its highest and perfect form in Him, for in Him love and wisdom are one. We do not mean by this that they are the same. His wisdom is the adequate and perfect form of His love, and His love finds full and adequate expression and embodiment in His wisdom. There is no excess of the one over the other, as there is in human minds. As they go forth in the creation they become embodied in spiritual and material forms, distinct from one another, each one embodying the same essential elements, but in different proportions, and each seeking the other and drawn to the other by a power derived from their common origin. This power we call attraction, which literally means "drawing to." The particles of matter have an affinity for one another, and they draw those of a homogeneous nature to themselves and combine, are joined together, or are married, and form other bodies. Gases marry and become liquids and solids, as water and precious stones. The earth draws all things to herself. The sun draws all planets to his fiery bosom. There is, moreover, throughout creation, in its largest and least forms, a duality. There is everywhere the passive and the active; objects are adapted for each other and find their use in union with each other. Everywhere they possess more or less perfectly the qualities of masculine and feminine, male and female, and present an image of marriage.
This general principle running through all, separating all, combining all, gives unity in infinite variety. The union between man and woman, which we call marriage, is only an eminent instance of the universal marriage by which each is bound to all, and all to the Lord. Marriage, therefore, has its origin in the Lord, and its highest and universal form in the union between love and wisdom, or good and truth. Marriage originates, derivatively, in the inmost degrees and principles of man's spirit; in the germs and beginnings of his nature as a human being. God created man male and female. God joined man and woman together as He joined heat and light, affection and thought, heart and lungs, love and wisdom. Marriage has its origin, therefore, in God; its highest, inmost, fullest created form and manifestation in man and woman.
Such being the origin of marriage, we proceed to the second question we are to consider, which is, the nature of marriage. This is necessarily involved in its origin. But the subject is so large and important, and one which is so little understood, that it will richly repay special consideration.
As marriage has its human origin in the first principles and most interior forms of man's nature, it consists essentially in the union of two minds or souls. The human spirit is the subject and theatre of its operation. It is, therefore, spiritual in its nature. It is not in itself a civil or legal contract; it is not effected by ecclesiastical sanction. It is as impossible for the state or the church to marry a man and a woman, in the essential meaning of the word, as it would be to join light and heat, or make two material substances combine which had no affinity for each other. The state may throw restraints around marriage; it may prescribe legal forms and conditions for its natural and visible consummation; it may protect and conserve it by the sanctions of its authority, as it is its right and duty to do; but it can neither unite nor separate human souls. The church may give its sanction, and consecrate its consummation by solemn ceremonies; it may instruct the people in its nature and use, and the proper steps that lead to it; but here its mission and power end. It cannot touch the interior and invisible bonds that bind soul to soul, either to confirm or dissolve them. God alone can join human souls together, and of the twain make one.
This fact, that real marriage can be effected only by Him who created man male and female, will appear more clearly, if possible, when we consider the nature of that power that conjoins the man and woman and of the two makes one. The power which draws man and woman to each other, and binds them together, and unites their souls, is love, which is spiritual attraction, and, like the attraction between material bodies, it operates in interior ways. Love effects and consecrates the real marriage. The degree and nature of the love determine the degree and nature of the marriage and the plane of man's nature in which it is effected. This is an essential truth, and has a most important bearing upon the whole subject. It is impossible to understand the essential nature of marriage without some knowledge of the fact that there are distinct planes or degrees of the human mind, each of which has its distinct faculties and qualities. It is from ignorance of this fact that the church has believed and taught that sex is merely a physical distinction and marriage a temporary relation whose bonds are dissolved by the dissolution of the material body. When it is nothing but a civil contract for worldly and natural considerations, the dissolution of the material body will sever all its bonds, as it does every bargain and civil bond. But if the marriage is a union of souls, nothing but the destruction of the soul itself can sunder the ties which unite them.
The doctrines of the New Church, in which the organization of man's spirit is disclosed and set forth in the most specific, rational, and logical forms, and in the fullest manner, all derived from the Word of God, teach that man as to his spirit is a threefold being. Marriage can be effected on either of these planes, and its nature will depend entirely upon the degree of life in which the husband and wife are united. If they come together for merely natural, worldly, and selfish motives, because of wealth and social position, or physical beauty, or natural possessions, the union is a marriage only in name. It is more properly a bargain, a copartnership between the man and woman by which they agree to live together as husband and wife, for the attainment and possession of some natural good. No spiritual principle enters into it; no spiritual affection is awakened by it. There is no union of souls. There is no giving and receiving of personal life. It is not a real marriage. Husband and wife are not joined together interiorly by God. It is an agreement, a copartnership to secure - a personal good, rather than a union of hearts by which each becomes the other's.
Such a partnership between a man and woman may result in much natural happiness. The husband and wife have common interests, which can be promoted by mutual and united effort. There is a constant interchange of thought and service. They become accustomed to each other's ways and peculiarities of thought and character, and learn to adapt themselves to each other. Custom grows into habit. They have common joys, common duties, and common sorrows, and they become necessary to each other. Probably the great majority of marriages are of this nature. They relate only to this life and this world. Husband and wife are bound together only by natural affection, and this affection is not primarily the love of each other, but of some common good. It is not the love of rendering the other a service, but of receiving service from the other. The inspiration of the marriage is love of self rather than love of the Lord and the neighbor, and the relation does not rise above the level of a business partnership. It is often attended by some measure of outward success, but sometimes with miserable failure; and at the best it is hollow and without interior blessing.
When we rise to the spiritual plane of our nature, we come into the presence of faculties where a genuine marriage is possible. Here we find the love of what is good and true as the essential characteristic of the affections and the motive of all action. It is the love of others for what they are, rather than for what they possess. It is primarily the love of goodness and truth. The splendor of truth attracts more than the brilliance of the eye; the grace of a well-ordered intelligence is prized above a pleasing manner; the fresh beauty of innocence is more charming than the clearest and fairest complexion; a true, steadfast, and pure affection is more precious than any or all merely natural gifts and possessions. Respect and honor and worship combine in pure and unselfish affection. There is true nobility in it. It equally dignifies and ennobles the one who gives and the one who receives it. When a man finds a woman worthy of such love, and capable of receiving, appreciating, and reciprocating it, when a woman finds a man capable of exercising it, they have secured all the conditions for a genuine marriage. They are united by bonds which neither time nor space nor material conditions nor death nor life can sever. The bonds are substantial, indissoluble, and will continue to draw them into closer and more blissful union forever. Each loves the other for what the other is and can receive; each desires to give to the other of his or her own, to become the other's own. Thus, by mutual giving and receiving, they are joined together and become one. This is the nature of true, spiritual marriage.
And if we rise to the highest plane of human life and the most interior faculties of the soul, we find that man and woman attain their most intimate and holiest union as they join in love and service of the Lord. This is the highest marriage, and it becomes pure and blessed as that love and service are so.
The ground of marriage consists in the fact that man and woman are created complements of each other; they are so made that each needs and loves the qualities possessed by the other. The woman loves intelligence in the man. She is charmed with his ability to discover the secret laws of nature and apply its forces to human use. This ability and his strength in overcoming the antagonism of men in the arena of life are a staff to lean upon, a shield to protect, and the magician's wand to compel the elements into her service and provide her with the means of happiness. All the qualities of the masculine nature are the mates and complements of her affections. They round out and complete her own being.
And the man loves the woman for her beauty of form and grace of manner, for her pliancy and gentleness. He loves her for her strength, because it is of a different nature from his own; it is the strength of love. He delights to be overcome and yield to that. It matches his power of intellect and proves her his equal, though she uses different weapons and wields them with a skill impossible to him. Her soft and gentle hand is a match for his hard and muscular one. She conquers by winning, he by force of muscle and brain. He storms the citadel; she gains possession of it by secret and charming ways which make it pleasant to surrender. Defeat under these conditions is better than victory,-or rather, there is no defeat. Both surrender and both are victorious. Both attain what they desire. The woman gives beauty and grace to the man's strength, and he gives power and substantial form to her affections. Faculty is wedded to faculty, and each gives and receives what the other needs. Both natures are enriched and perfected by the exchange. Both gain and neither loses.
In a true marriage there is this remarkable result, which is possible only in the spiritual plane of the creation. The twain become one not by the merging and absorption of one into the other and the loss of personal identity, as two drops of water melt into one. Each becomes the other, but remains more distinctly herself or himself. The husband is not changed into a woman, nor the wife into a man. On the contrary, the wife becomes more distinctly feminine in all her faculties, and the husband more distinctly masculine. The unity which marriage effects is not the unity of sameness, but of harmony in variety. The peculiar qualities and the forms of sex are more clearly revealed and sharply defined. Each partner comes into greater freedom of thought because the intellectual faculties of both husband and wife are perfected. They come into greater freedom; and as they go on into the eternal future, and each one becomes enlarged and perfected by the mutual interchange of thought and love, the wife will become more distinctly and beautifully and charmingly feminine, and the husband will become more nobly and grandly masculine, and both will come into more intimate and distinct and blissful union.
Such, as we understand it, and as the New Church teaches, is the origin and nature of marriage. It is the union of one man and one woman in the bonds of a pure and holy love derived from the Lord and descending through heaven from Him.
Such being its nature, it follows as a necessary consequence that there can be no human relation so sacred as this. It contains in itself, in its essential nature, and in the manifold legitimate forms of its manifestation and use, all that is orderly, lovely, pure, and holy. It is a lower and special form of the union of the Lord with the individual soul and with the church, which He calls His bride and wife. It is the most intimate, the most perfect and blissful relation which one human being can hold to another. It is implanted in the constitution of man's nature and woman's nature; it is a union to which they are predestined by the Divine love and wisdom, and by every faculty of their constitution and principle of their being. It is the union of homogeneous natures by which each finds the complement of itself and attains its own perfection.
Such being the high and sacred nature of real, genuine
marriage, it follows as a necessary consequence that anything which tends
to hinder its consummation is a loss; that any violation of its sanctities
is a most deadly sin, and that every truth which throws light upon its
true nature, and helps man and woman to find the complement of their
souls, is the most precious gift that man or God can bestow upon them.