The Will and Understanding Work Together Like the Heart and Lungs


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Washington – March 16, 1997

Desiring in my thought to learn about the marriages of the most ancients, I looked now at the husband, now at his wife, and in their faces I observed the unity, as it were, of their souls. So I said, “You two are one.” The man replied: “We are one; her life is in me and mine in her. We are two bodies but one soul. The union between us is like the union of the two tents in the breast which are called heart and lungs, she being my heart and I her lungs. But here, by heart we mean love and by lungs wisdom. Thus she is the love of my wisdom and I am the wisdom of her love. Therefore her love veils my wisdom from without, and my wisdom is in her love from within. Hence, as you said, the appearance in our faces of the unity of our souls” (CL 75:5).

Both in the church and in society at large, people today are struggling to answer the questions that they have about the proper relationship between what is truly masculine, and what is truly feminine. To cover our embarrassment for our confusion we even joke about men and women being from different planets. The Writings have clearly taught that in regard to this, as well as to every other subject, confusion sets in when we try to think from “person” to “essence”, that is, when we think about what we observe in others and what we ourselves like to do, and then try to come up with principles to support our behavior. The correct way is to attack the problem top down, by thinking from essential doctrines and then drawing conclusions about our behavior based on what we know to be true because it is from the Lord in the Word.

We all love to go to weddings, because as each young couple bravely steps forward to begin their exploration of the interior love between husband and wife that we call “love truly conjugial,” we are reminded of how different men and women are, and yet how wonderful it can be when they come together, each complimenting the other’s strengths and capabilities; how each longs for the other because of those things that are missing in each of them. We say that a married couple are actually one, one angel, because neither is truly complete without the other. The wife represents the will and the husband represents the understanding, the two elements that together make up the human mind. We often use this relationship of will and understanding to describe how a husband and wife should share their strengths and responsibilities in an ideal marriage. And yet, “will” and “understanding” are as abstract concepts as are “husband” and “wife.” As it is a principle of the Heavenly Doctrines to illustrate abstract and spiritual concepts with things that are tangible and familiar, we will examine what the doctrines have to say about the heart and lungs to illustrate the relationship between the will and understanding. This in turn should shed some light on the ideal relationship between husband and wife, and perhaps give us some guidance on how we should act while in this world to strengthen conjugial love within our own marriages, or, for those who are not as yet married, to prepare themselves for the conjugial relationship yet to come.

We are told that the whole of the mind relates to the will and understanding, and that the whole of the body relates to the heart and lungs in a similar way. If we reflect on the workings of our own minds, we will quickly agree that everything that happens in our minds has to do with either our thought processes, or our emotional processes: we either think, or feel, or both, but there is no other, third, activity of the mind. For the purposes of our discussion today, all those things that have to do with the process of thinking will be grouped under the heading “understanding” and everything from the emotional or affectional side of our being will be called “will.”

In relation to our body, we know that we are made up of billions of individual cells, and while we live, each of those cells, whether they be part of the brain, the heart itself, or merely a bone in a toe, must be bathed in blood continuously, for the blood carries food and oxygen to each cell, and carries away the waste products after the work is done. When the flow of blood to any part of the body is interrupted, that part of the body dies. The lungs are essential in this cycle for they provide the oxygen that the blood carries to every cell, and this is demonstrated by the fact that the heart has two cycles of flow – one to the lungs alone, and one to the rest of the body. Without the oxygen provided by the lungs, unconsciousness is but moments away, and death but a little longer.

Now since there is a correspondence between the will and understanding with the heart and the lungs, it therefore follows that there is a correspondence between all the things of the mind with all the things of the body. This also makes sense when we think of the way that the soul builds for itself a home in the natural world by using the substances and nourishment provided by the body of the mother to build a containant that perfectly corresponds to its own unique characteristics and needs. Just as the Creator Himself created the universe from firsts (Himself) to lasts (the stars and planets themselves) and then into intermediates (the eternal human mind), so the soul builds from firsts (itself) into lasts (the infant’s body) and then into intermediates (the mind and personality that eventually develop through education and experience). In presenting this teaching, the doctrines add a sad note that these things have not been seen and known widely in the world because “everything of religion, that is, everything called spiritual, has been banished from the sight of man by the dogma of the whole Christian world” (DLW 372:2).

Another way to perceive and understand the relationship between the will and understanding and heart and lungs is to think about the effect that different kinds of thought and speech have on our breathing, and vice versa. For example, we find that when we think silently, we breath silently. If we think deeply, we breath deeply. In general, we breath slowly or quickly, eagerly, gently, or intently, all according to how we are thinking, and also according to how strongly our affections are moved by our thoughts. Perhaps the clearest and most extreme example of the interrelationship of thought and breath is the observation that if we stop breathing we very quickly also stop thinking as we become unconscious.

When we think about how much we think about “love,” and what we “like,” and how we “feel,” and how important our feelings are to us, it is difficult for us to believe the truth that our loves and affections are entirely in the Lord’s hands; we are not able, by ourselves, to love (DLW 385:5), although we can think entirely on our own.

This can be illustrated very simply: can any of us change our moods or our feelings just by thinking about them? Can we become happy or sad in an instant? Can any of us change our pulse by thinking about it? The beauty of this illustration is that it demonstrates the power of illustrating spiritual ideas through their correspondences to the natural world at the same time it demonstrates the point about the Lord’s control of our will, while the understanding remains our own. In a typical group of people, most people are happy to agree that we cannot change our moods by thinking about them, but there would be several in the same group who would challenge the assertion that we cannot change our pulse by thinking about it. The reason for this is that we have a deeper, more intuitive understanding of our own body, and we have observed many times that certain activities, such as heavy work or high excitement, cause our hearts to beat faster. So, when challenged to change our pulse by thought, some of us thought of things we could do that would change our pulse. We acknowledged that we could not do it directly by thought alone, and immediately thought of a way to get around that and achieve the same result.

So, by thinking about the relationship of the heart and lungs, we have learned something about the way to change our moods and our loves. We love evils, but we cannot change that by thinking about it, no matter how hard we try, because we do not have direct control over our loves. However, we do have indirect control. We know truths from the Word. We can choose to live them, even if we don’t want to. We can choose to do what we know is right even though we don’t want to; and when we do, the Lord then acts in secret ways to change our loves for us, to replace the love of evil with the love of the opposite good. When we are in a bad mood, we cannot change it by force of will. The only way to change our mood is to get up and do something useful for someone, and that makes us feel better.

By comparison we can see from the operation of the lungs how easily we control our thoughts, for our breathing is under both voluntary and involuntary control, voluntary for things like speech, singing, and swimming, and involuntary for continued life while we sleep, or at other times when we do not need to control the lungs for other purposes. Our thoughts are constant during our waking hours, but at any time we like we can direct them to any subject we can imagine. Our understanding is under our total control. In marriage, two individuals, each with their own will and understanding, begin the process of becoming one angel. While on earth, we begin the difficult process of letting the thoughts or feelings of another person have precedence over our own. We begin to put away our selfishness as we learn to be flexible, to give and take and find new solutions to problems. Gradually, through trial and error, through study of the Word and lucky guesses, and through a growing confidence that this is something that the Lord wants for us and is leading us towards through His eternal providence, a middle ground is found.

It is difficult for the husband to let go of some of his desires, and to be led by his wife’s affection and intuition, but as he does decide to let her lead in these areas, even though he may not like it, he will find it becomes easier with time. It is also very difficult for a wife to love her husband’s wisdom. In the first place, particularly with a young couple, the man may not have very much wisdom to love. If the wife sees this, and therefore decides that the teachings of doctrine do not apply to her marriage, she will have made a tragic decision that will cause great harm to her marriage. A wife is not so much to love a young husband’s wisdom, but to love his desire to become wise by from study and application of the Lord’s own truth. A wife has the ability to sense this affection for truth in her husband, and it is this that she is to love, respect, and encourage, even when there are as yet few truths within it.

This is difficult at first, because a marriage is first in time a relationship between two individual human beings, both of whom are deeply attached to their own thoughts and feelings. So often they make the mistake of trying to force the partner to change their loves through force of will. The husband tells the wife, “you shouldn’t feel that way,” and tries to convince her through rational argument that she should change her mood to suit him – without reflecting for a moment that he is as incapable of changing his moods and feelings as she is. The wife accuses her husband of being “unfeeling,” because he is unable to sense her moods and adapt to them as she does to his, because he is unable to tell when he is supposed to know that she means really “no” even though she said “yes.” These are just a a few of the normal day-to-day problems that arise as a man and woman struggle to adapt to each other’s different way of looking at the world.

The appearance is that men and women can’t work together because they are too different – but then we must remember the heart and lungs. They too are totally different in their physical structure, their appearance, the type of tissue they are made of, and in every other way imaginable, and yet we cannot imagine a whole, healthy body without both, and without them both working together in perfect harmony. Remember too that the Lord is in charge of the loves of both men and women, and that there is nothing we can do to change them directly – in ourselves or in others. But we can have an effect on them, we can change how and what we think and do, and when we change those things, when we choose to change our life, then the Lord will change our loves to match. So, if we deliberately choose to act with courtesy and respect towards our partner, even when we do not feel like it, the Lord will note our intention, and work in secret ways to reform and regenerate our will so that in time we will feel like acting in that way. We change our loves and feelings by changing our thoughts and actions; we become good by pretending to be good long enough that the pretense become the reality.

Perhaps, someday, if we take the time to study the Word with our partner, if we make the right decisions, and try very hard to be as courteous to our spouse as we are to our business associates or other friends, we will be like the couple that Swedenborg spoke to in heaven, and of whom he said, “And if you were to ask them what love truly conjugial is, I know they would answer that it is not love of the sex but love of one of the sex. This exists only when a young man sees the virgin provided by the Lord, and the virgin the young man, and both feel the conjugial to be enkindled in their hearts, and perceive, he that she is his, and she that he is hers; for when love meets love, it meets itself, and causes it to recognize itself and at once conjoins their souls and then their minds; and from there it enters into their bosoms, and after the nuptials still farther, and so becomes complete love; and from day to day this grows into conjunction until they are no more two but as though one” (CL 44:6). AMEN.

Lessons: GEN 6:1-8, JOH 13:1-17, DLW 381

3rd Lesson:

Divine Love and Wisdom 381

381. The heavens are divided into two kingdoms, one called celestial, the other spiritual; in the celestial kingdom love to the Lord reigns, and in the spiritual kingdom wisdom from that love. The kingdom where love reigns is called heaven’s cardiac kingdom, the one where wisdom reigns is called its pulmonic kingdom. Be it known, that the whole angelic heaven in its aggregate represents a single man, and before the Lord appears as a single man; consequently its heart makes one kingdom and its lungs another. For there is a general cardiac and pulmonic movement throughout heaven, and a particular movement therefrom in each angel. The general cardiac and pulmonic movement is from the Lord alone, because love and wisdom are from Him alone. For these two movements are in the sun where the Lord is and which is from the Lord, and from that in the angelic heavens and in the universe. Banish spaces and think of omnipresence, and you will be convinced that it is so. That the heavens are divided into two kingdoms, celestial and spiritual, see the work on Heaven and Hell (n. 20-28); and that the whole angelic heaven in the aggregate represents a single man (n. 59-67). Amen.

Pillars of Cloud and Fire

Pillars of Cloud and Fire

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, February 9, 2009

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people. (Exodus 13:21,22)

The children of Israel entered Egypt as a small clan; Abraham’s grandson Jacob (whose name was changed to “Israel” by God) his twelve sons, their families and servants, and all their possessions. Literally they were the children of the man Israel, and altogether there were 70 people. They stayed in Egypt for 430 years, and when they left, there were 600,000 men on foot plus women and children. Truly, the Lord’s promise that they would become a great nation, and that Abraham’s descendants would become as numerous as the grains of sand by the sea was well on the way to coming true. The Lord was upholding His part of the covenant. It remained to be seen if the children of Israel would uphold theirs.

The covenant between the Lord and the children of Israel is a recurrent theme throughout the scriptures. The covenant, simply stated, was that as long as Abraham or his descendants obeyed the Lord’s commandments, the Lord would protect them from their enemies, help them in times of trouble, lead them to a land to be their own, and make them into a great nation.

Frequently, the stories of scripture revolve around various men doing things to remind themselves and God of the terms of the covenant. Frequently, a pillar would be set up to be a memorial, to show that the covenant had been confirmed at that time and in that place. The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that in the days of the Most Ancient church, stone pillars were placed to mark the boundaries between land holdings. In the absence of deeds and other written documents, such pillars served as a sign and a witness that the boundaries were in that particular place. Because of the importance of the use, the stones were highly regarded.

They knew that the stones represented holy truth which is the ultimate of order, and the eventually began to account the stones themselves as holy. They called them “pillars”, and because of this confusion, the pillars were eventually introduced into their worship (see AC 3727). At first the worship of the pillars was genuine, and so “pillars” in the Word represent the worship of the Lord from truths because pillars were stones, and a stone signifies truth. This is also why the Lord is sometimes called in the Word “the Stone of Israel” (see AC 10643:1). Later, when the Ancient church began to fall because it lost sight of what the objects of its worship represented and began to worship the objects themselves, many of the things of that church were turned into things like idolatry and magic. This is why “pillars” sometimes stand for idolatrous worship from falsities in the Word.

Such matters are not in the Word just to satisfy idle curiosity, for the worship of any church can become external and idolatrous when the man of the church regards himself and the things of the world as an end or goal, and the Divine things of the church only as the means to that natural goal. When this happens all the things of worship become nothing more than idols, because it is the external, worldly things that are really being worshiped, and this apart from anything internal (see AC 10643:2).

This tells us why the Lord chose to appear to the children of Israel during their escape from Egypt as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night: He wished to use the imagery of a pillar to show His relationship to His people; first as a boundary marker that said “these are My people” to all who saw it, and especially to reassure the terrified Jews themselves; and also as a constantly visible sign of His covenant with them that if they would only obey Him, He would take care of them and protect them in all ways.

We need to remember how timid and fearful those people must have been after their lifetime of slavery, their whole lives spent depending on others to make their decisions for them – and now they were suddenly being forced to go forth on their own into the unknown. It must have been unnerving. Perhaps they would have been reassured if they could have seen Moses and Aaron, but the camp was too big for that, so instead, the Lord provided a tangible sign of His presence with them that was simply too big for anyone to miss. Everyone in the mob that left Egypt could lift their eyes up above the dust and see the miracle of the pillar that was like a beacon to them, showing them their place in a featureless wilderness, a tangible sign of God’s presence and protection.

This image of the Lord’s presence with the children of Israel must also give us comfort, especially if we remember it when we are frightened and unsure of what the future will bring. The Lord has made a covenant with all people, that He will be with us and protect us from the spiritual dangers of life if we will only do our part, if we will only do our best to obey His commandments and to flee from evils. The sign of His presence was huge and obvious to the children of Israel. It is more subtle for us, but it is still there, as the internal sense of the Word reveals.

In our lesson we read how when the Egyptians were chasing the children of Israel, the cloud interposed itself between them and their enemies, and when it did so it brought darkness upon the Egyptians, but brought light to the children of Israel. Further, we learned that when Jehovah looked forth from it to the Egyptians, they were then drowned in the sea. The pillar stands for the Lord’s presence with men, as we have seen. The fact that in this passage the pillar stands between the Egyptians and the camp of Israel tells us that the Lord is present with those in evil and falsity as well as with those who are in good and truth (see AC 7989:2).

However, it also tells us that the Lord’s presence is different with the evil and the good, for the pillar brought darkness to the Egyptians and gave light to the Israelites, and this is because the pillar was heavenly light itself. Heavenly light is a thousand times brighter than the noonday light of the world, but the same light becomes thick darkness with the evil, even when they are in that light itself, and it becomes thicker darkness with them in proportion as the falsity of evil is denser with them. In other words, the Lord appears to everyone in a form consistent with that person’s own spiritual quality (see AC 8197).

The reason the pillar gave forth heavenly light was because it was in reality a society of angels assigned to this important use of leading and protecting the Israelites, similar to the heavenly society that appeared as a star in order to lead the Wise Men to the new born king (see AC 8192:3). The pillar itself was a sign of the Lord’s presence with the children of Israel, and it represented the Lord’s continuous presence with all those in His Kingdom on earth and in the heavens.

It is important that it appeared both as a cloud and as fire, for each is an important symbol that tells us something about the Lord’s relationship with each of us and all those in His church. When it appeared as a cloud, it represented His presence in the letter of the Word, for clouds are a symbol for the literal sense of scripture which is sometimes difficult to understand, and which, in comparison to the internal sense, is relatively clouded and obscure (see AC 8106:2).

That the pillar appear to be a pillar of fire in the night in the natural sense was to make His presence dramatically clear to them. In the internal sense, fire and especially the light from a fire represents the enlightenment that we receive from the Lord when we seriously apply our minds to a subject and bring ourselves into a state of order in relation to it.

An example of this could be the fact that one does not really appreciate or understand the order and delight of marriage until one has done the work of entering into an orderly marriage and shunning those things that are contrary to marriage. In general, once you have shunned an evil and come into the opposite good, you then see that evil in the light of heaven for the first time, and you rejoice that you have left it behind. You only truly understand good when you live your life according to it, when it is no longer an abstraction.

Finally, we are told that the pillar itself represents a prop or support of natural things, for the spiritual rests on the natural in the same sense that the ideas and doctrines of Christianity, which are spiritual things, all rest on the various passages of scripture in the Old and New Testaments, which are natural things (see AC 8106:4). Pillars especially stand for those things which support heaven and the church, which are the goods of love and the goods of faith from the Lord, that is to say, the things that we do in response to the things that we learn from the Word and the affections we have for those truths, the affections that we receive as gifts from the Lord. Someone who does many things to help others, and who had made an effort to learn many things about the doctrines of the church, someone who has worked hard to lead their life by God’s own principles is called a “pillar” of the church for this reason (see AC 9674). A pillar signifies those things which sustain the life of the church and make it firm, and the only thing that truly sustains the life of the Church is a life according to the Divine Truth of the Word (see AR 191).

So when we hear the stories of the Word that tell of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, led by a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, we should feel reassured and comforted, for the Lord is telling us in the Word that He will always be with us, in our bad states and in our good times, ready to lead and help us when we approach through the Word. This is because a pillar stands for natural things which serve as a prop or base for spiritual things, the cloud stands for the sense of the letter of the Word, and the fire stands for enlightenment from the Lord.

When these elements are all brought together, the Lord’s message in the Word becomes clear: If our thinking is supported by truth from the Word, then we will be able to see from heavenly light! And with the sure knowledge of the Lord’s continual presence and protection, we will be able to face the challenges of the wilderness, of the uncertainties of life in this world, with confidence, for we are not alone. Amen.

First Lesson: EXO 13:17 – 14:31

Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” {18} So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt. {21} And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. {22} He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

(EXO 14) … {19} And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. {20} So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night. {21} Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. {22} So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. {23} And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. {24} Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. {25} And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.” {26} Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen.” {27} And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. {31} Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses. Amen.

Second Lesson: AC 8197:2

8197. [2] In regard to this circumstance, that the pillar brought darkness upon the Egyptians, and gave light to the sons of Israel, the case is as follows. The presence of the Lord, here signified by “the pillar,” is heavenly light itself, from which heaven has its light, and this light is a thousand times brighter than the noonday light of the world. But the same light becomes thick darkness with the evil: even if they are in the light itself, and it becomes thicker darkness in proportion as the falsity from evil is denser with them. The reason is that the truth Divine proceeding from the Lord appears before the eyes of the angels as light, but to those who are in falsities from evil it cannot appear as light, but as thick darkness, for falsity is opposite to truth and extinguishes truth. Hence it is that the pillar, which was the presence of the Lord, brought cloud and darkness on the Egyptians, because by “the Egyptians” are signified those who are in falsities from evil, and that it lighted up the night with the sons of Israel, because by “the sons of Israel” are signified those who are in truth from good. Amen.


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