Allan Kardec

Back to the menu


The indissolubility of marriage. Divorce.


1. The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, saying unto Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, 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 no man put asunder. They say unto Him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He said unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (Matthew, 19: 3-9).

2. The only things which are immutable are those which stem from God. Everything which is the work of Man is subject to change. The laws of Nature are the same at all times and in all countries. Human laws change according to the times, places and intellectual progress. In marriage, what is of a Divine Order is the union of the sexes, so that the substitution of those who die may be put into effect. But the conditions which regulate this union are so human in design that in the whole world there are not, even in Christendom, two countries where these laws are exactly identical, and none where in the course of time they do not suffer changes. The result of this is that according to civil law, what is legitimate in one country at a certain time is considered to be adultery in another country and at another time. This is due to the fact that civil law has as its objective the regulation of the interests of families, interests which vary according to customs and local necessities. In this manner for example, in certain countries a religious marriage is the only legitimate one; in others it is also necessary to have a civil marriage and finally there are yet other places where a civil marriage is sufficient on its own.

3. But in the union of the sexes, apart from the Divine material law common to all living creatures, there is another Divine law which is immutable, as are all of God's laws, one that is exclusively moral, which is the law of love. God wishes all beings to unite themselves not only through the ties of the flesh, but also through those of the soul, so that the mutual affection of the spouses be transmitted to the offspring and that it should be two, and not just one, who love them, look after them and help them progress. Is the law of love taken into consideration in ordinary conditions within marriage? Not in the least. The mutual sentiments of two beings who are attracted one to the other are not consulted, since in the majority of cases this sentiment is severed. What is looked for is not the satisfaction of the heart but that of pride, vanity and cupidity; in a word, all material interests. When everything goes well according to these interests, it is said to be a marriage of convenience: when the pockets are well lined, it is said that the spouses are equally harmonized and should be very happy.

However, no civil laws nor the obligations which these laws determine can replace the law of love. If this does not preside over the union it frequently happens that those who were forcibly united separate themselves. The oath sworn at the foot of the altar, when pronounced as a banal formula, then becomes a perjury. For that reason we have unhappy marriages which end up becoming criminal, which is a double disgrace that could have been avoided if, on establishing the conditions for that marriage, the law of love which is the only law sanctioning the union in the eyes of God, had not been abstracted. When God said: "And they twain shall be one flesh," and when Jesus said: "What God hath joined together let no man put asunder," these words should he understood as a reference to the union according to God's immutable law and not according to the mutable laws of Man.

4. Is the civil law then superfluous and should we go back to matrimony according to Nature? Certainly not. Civil law has the object of regulating social relationships and family interests in accordance with the requirements of civilization. Therefore it is useful and necessary, although variable. It must be provident because civilized Man must not live as a savage. However, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, which prevents it being an inference of God's law. All obstacles against the execution of this Divine Law stem from prejudices and not from the civil law. These prejudices, even if they are still alive, have lost much of their predominance amongst the enlightened peoples of this world. They will come to disappear with moral progress, which in fact will open the eyes of mankind to the countless evils, to the failings and even crimes which result from unions which are contracted on the exclusive basis of material interest. One day Man will ask if it is more humane, more charitable, more moral, to chain one being to another when they are unable to live together, than to restore their liherty; whether the prospect of an indissoluble prison will increase the number of irregular unions.


5. Divorce is a man-made law whose objective is to legally separate those who are in fact already separated. It is not against God's law, since it only reforms what men have done and is only applicable in cases in which Divine law was not taken into account. If it was contrary to God's law the Church itself would be forced to consider as betrayers of a trust those of its heads who, by their own authority and in the name of religion, have imposed it on more than one occasion. In these cases it would have been a double betrayal of a trust because it only had worldly interests in view, and not the satisfaction of the law of love.

Even Jesus did not sanction the absolute indissolubility of marriage. Did He not say: "It was because of the hardness of your hearts that Moses permitted you to repudiate your women"? This signifies that ever since the time of Moses, when mutual affection is not the only motive for matrimony, separation could become necessary. Nevertheless, He added that: "In the beginning it was not like that," meaning that at the origin of humanity, when men were not yet perverted by selfishness and pride, and lived according to God's laws, the unions were derived from sympathy and not ambition or vanity. Therefore there was no desire to repudiate.

Jesus goes even further, because He specifies a case in which repudiation is justified: that of adultery. Well, adultery cannot exist where there is sincere reciprocated affection. It is true that He prohibited a man to marry a repudiated woman. But here we must take into consideration the customs and character of men in those times when the Mosaic law prescribed stoning to death. When wishing to abolish one barbaric custom, it was necessary to find a substitute penalty; and He found it in the disgrace which would come from the prohibition of a second marriage. It was to a certain extent one civil law being substituted by another. But like all laws of this nature, it had to pass the test of time.

Related articles

Show related items