03/18/2014 12:32 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Same-Sex Marriage in the After Life?

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), the Swedish mystic who claimed that he was guided by God to visit the realms of the afterlife in spirit form, wrote volumes on what lies beyond this life. Among his many books, The Lives of Angels posited the premise that there's a cosmic sex in the afterlife, but only among married (heterosexual) couples. Of course, in the 18th century, there weren't any spiritual writers of note willing to go outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage when it came to theological musings about sex in the afterlife.

This is what Swedenborg reported that an angel told him during one of his heavenly tours:

All men who are newcomers are examined, as they come up towards heaven, to see what kind of chastity they have. They are brought into the company of young women, heavenly beauties, who sense from their tone of voice, their speech, their eyes, their body language, and the aura they emit, what kind of people they are in regard to their love for the opposite sex. If they are unchaste, the young women flee and tell their companions that they have seen satyrs or priapuses. The newcomers themselves change as well, and to angels look all hairy, with feet like calves' or leopards. Before long, they are expelled so that their lust will not pollute the region's aura.

Swedenborg said that married partners experience the same love in heaven as they did in life, only it is stronger with greater feeling and sensitivity. What comes from sexual intercourse in heaven, however, is not the birth of children, but spiritual offspring:

The marriage of goodness and truth is a marriage of love and wisdom, and love and wisdom are the offspring of this marriage. Since in this situation the husband is wisdom and the wife is its love, and since both are spiritual, the only offspring that can be conceived and born are spiritual.

That's not all: Rather than the let down that usually follows human (earthly) intercourse, in heaven there is only a cheerful "constant flow of new vitality" that refreshes and illuminates the couple. Swedenborg also reported that there are various levels of Heaven, and that there are cities, towns, magnificent houses and palaces.

If the Swedish mystic were alive and writing today, what would he say happens to gay people when they make the transition to the afterlife? Would he say that they (we) undergo a metamorphosis to a heterosexual state of being in which they (we) find the opposite sex beautiful and attractive? If only it were possible to bring back Swedenborg so that he could elaborate on this idea. One thing strikes me about the angel's scenario: If the offspring of the celestial married couple in heaven is purely spiritual, how different is that from the present time non-physical "offspring" of committed gay couples (which might be described as intense spiritual vibrations) as a result of the sexual act? Promiscuous couples aside, wouldn't the spiritual (psychological) offspring among committed gay couples be something like the spiritual offspring of heterosexual couples in Heaven? If physical commingling in Heaven produce only a greater spiritual union among couples -- as opposed to children -- couldn't that work for same-sex couples as well?

Swedenborg continued, "In heaven [men] do not even know what infidelity is. They do not know that it exists or that it is possible. Unchaste love, extramarital love, chills an angel's whole body, just as chaste love, marriage love, warms an angel's whole body. For men, their nerves sag at the approach of a prostitute and become excited at the sight of their wives."