The Masculine and Feminine Response to the Divine

The Masculine and Feminine Response to the Divine

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, Dec. 26, 2004

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him. (MAT 2:2)

The story of the Lord’s birth is perhaps the best known and loved of all the stories of the Word. In it we not only hear the facts surrounding the Lord’s birth on earth, which in itself is amazing and a thing full of wonder, but we also hear how different people responded to the news as they heard it. In particular, the good news of the Lord’s birth on earth was revealed to two groups of people, the Wise Men and the Shepherds, and by studying their response to the news, we can learn many things about the different ways the will and understanding respond to the Lord when He shows Himself to them through the Word, and by analogy something about the masculine and feminine response to the Divine.

The story of the Wise Men is found only in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew was a Jew whom, we believe, was writing primarily for a Jewish audience. This is the reason Matthew frequently quotes passages from the Old Testament to support and illustrate what he describes. It also served to show how Jesus was the Messiah because He fulfilled the many prophecies of the Old Testament. Matthew was trying to appeal to people through the presentation of the truths relating to the Lord. He was presenting a variety of facts, and inviting his audience to examine them and draw their own conclusions.

The Writings tell us that the “Wise Men” were a group of scholars who had the Science of Correspondences from the remnant of the Ancient Church. Because they are identified with the search for and study of truth, and in the Word the masculine represents truth, The Wise Men represent the masculine response to the Lord’s Coming.

The Writings further tell us that there were “Wise Men” in many of the Near Eastern countries at that time. However, the Wise Men who actually traveled to see the Lord came from Syria. They knew the prophesies of the coming Messiah. Their studies told them what to look for, and where to look, and eventually their work was rewarded. They saw the star and followed it over deserts and mountains into a distant country.

The fact that the star lead them on a curving route and the fact that no one else was able to see it tells us that the star was actually an angelic society. The Wise Men’s spiritual eyes had to be opened in order for them to see the sign, but even so it appeared small and distant to them, like a star.

The trip that the Wise Men undertook was long and difficult, full of turns and hills and difficulties. They had to make camp or find lodging every night and their animals had to be cared for. They had to deal with Herod, the lying, murderous king in Jerusalem. But they were determined, and they overcame the difficulties and finally arrived at the house where the young child was, and gave to Him gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Then, after having made such a long and difficult journey, they went home secretly and told no one else about what they had seen and done.

Luke was a friend of Mary’s, and there are many places in his gospel where it is clear that he was writing his gospel from her point of view and from a personal knowledge of her actions and thoughts. In its natural, external form, this Gospel appears to be written from the woman’s point of view. It is therefore appropriate that the shepherds’ experience is recorded only in Luke. The shepherds’ experience was totally different from that of the Wise Men. Shepherds are, obviously, keepers of sheep. Sheep, like little children, represent innocence, so shepherds can be seen to be a symbol for the feminine use of the protection and care of little children. When the angels presented themselves to the shepherds, we see represented the feminine response to the Lord’s Coming.

Unlike the Wise Men, the shepherds were very near by when the birth took place. They were not scholars or students of the Ancient Word but people in “simple good.” While they were watching their sheep the angel appeared to them, not as a star like that seen by the Wise Men, but as an angel. As soon as they saw it and heard the message their reception of it was so clear and immediate that they were able to draw even nearer and perceive that it was not just one angel, but a whole heavenly society. So inspired and moved by the experience, they went immediately and directly to the stable to see the newborn babe and His mother. After they had seen the infant they went out and spread the news widely.

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that a husband’s wisdom is rational, while the wisdom of the wife is perceptive. It should be immediately apparent that there is a pattern here, that the Wise Men represent the masculine response to the Lord, while the shepherds represent the feminine response.

It is very difficult to calmly talk about this subject these days. It has become a highly emotional issue because it deals with the self-esteem of men and women, and especially with the way we measure self-worth. Our present form of social structure is centered around wealth. We measure ourselves and each other by how much money we have. Historically, men have been inclined to direct themselves towards activities that create wealth. Women’s traditional roles have focused on creating and nurturing things other than wealth – and in many ways things far more important! But because society at large has come to measure the value of our contribution by natural wealth, women have begun to move away from their traditional areas into wealth creating fields so that they can use the amount of money they earn to measure their self-worth by the same standards that men are measured by. Perhaps a better solution might have been to use a different system for measuring self-worth.

Every human being, male and female, has been created in the image and likeness of God because every human mind is able to both will and understand. The will and understanding parts of the mind correspond to the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom in God. If we wish to understand how these two faculties relate to each other, all we need to do is fully comprehend the relationship of the heart and lungs in our own bodies. The lungs represent the understanding, the heart represents the will. The heart and lungs compliment each other because they are totally different in every aspect of their physiology and function. There are a lot of things we can say about the heart and lungs and their differences, but the one thing you cannot say is which one of them is “better” than the other. If you had to choose, which one would you do without? To be without either is instant death.

This sermon is intended to direct our attention to certain spiritual truths that underlie these issues, truths that are from the Lord through the Word and which were given so that in the relationships between men and women (and in the marriage relationship in particular) we might become true partners, like the heart and lungs, not the same but complimentary to eternity.

The husband who is in rational wisdom, like the Wise Men, takes the long, roundabout route. He studies, he meditates, and he makes lists. He collects and studies facts so that he will know how to feel. But once the journey is made he is ready to take the decision and stand by it, fortified by many strong reasons.

The wife’s wisdom is perceptive and has a very different nature because it is led by love and jumps directly to the “heart” of the question. But although we tend to see things in terms of competition, the attainment of wisdom is not a race. The wife depends on her husband’s plodding rationality to provide the details that flesh out the structure of what she has already seen clearly.

The Wise Men and the Shepherds each responded differently to the announcement from heaven that the Lord was born on earth. Men and women respond differently to the Lord’s presence with us through His Word. The Wise Men were “in the East” when they saw the star because to be “in the East” represents to be in a state of the affection of truth from the Word. Their studies enabled them to see a small glimmer of the truth which they then pursued over a long and difficult journey. The Shepherds, representing perceptive wisdom, received the announcement of the Lord’s birth and instantly perceived its importance, represented by the single angel suddenly appearing as a whole Society of Heaven. Inspired by love, the shepherds rushed into action, they gave Him the gifts of their worship and the proclamation His birth. Some time after – in the literal sense perhaps a year or more – the Wise Men finally arrived with their own gifts.

Can you imagine what the Christmas story would be like without either the shepherds or the Wise Men? Can you imagine what life would be like without a heart or lungs? Can you imagine a human mind that is totally intellectual without anything of affection or a human mind that has only an affectional response without any thought? Can you imagine a true church that does not balance doctrine with life? Of course not, because these are all human things, created in the image and likeness of God with the affectional and the intellectual working together to create a balanced whole.

If we can accept that the star appeared to the Wise Men and the Shepherds at the same time, we see a description of how the Lord enters our lives. Our first response to the Lord’s Word is affectional, like that of the shepherds. We feel excited and enthused, and full of happiness because we are learning about how the Lord loves us. Then when the excitement wears off we begin to think about the implications of what we have heard, the difficulties that will have to be identified and faced, the temptations and trials as we discover and remove the evils in ourselves. This is represented by the journey of the Wise Men. But as long as the affectional response still burns within, the difficulties are overcome, understanding becomes full, and the Lord gives us the gift of new loves. That we feel these new loves as our own, and that we recognize our need to thank the Lord for His gifts to us is represented by the Wise Men, at the end of their long journey, giving the young child their gifts. The gifts of the Wise Men represent Natural, Spiritual, and Celestial good that come into our lives from the deliberate application of truth.

Our lives travel full circle. From the first affection for truth that leads us to read the Word in the first place, to the long years of struggle to understand how these truths are to find their place in our lives, to the eventual birth of the Lord in our hearts through the process of regeneration, and the delights that we feel as a result. Our spiritual lives are a mirror of the Christmas story.

The true relationship between men and women, as intended by creation the Lord can also be seen. Each has their own part to play. Each has their own unique qualities to contribute, and each has much to gain from the other, and as they work together the Lord’s presence with them grows from infancy to maturity. We work together to give to the Lord gifts of charity towards other, and He responds with the gift of Conjugial love. And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (MAT 19:4-6) AMEN.

First Lesson: Luke 2:8-20

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. {9} And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. {10} Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. {11} “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. {12} “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” {13} And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: {14} “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” {15} So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” {16} And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. {17} Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. {18} And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. {19} But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. {20} Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. Amen.

Second Lesson: Mat 2:1-11

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, {2} saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” {3} When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. {4} And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. {5} So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: {6} ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” {7} Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. {8} And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” {9} When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. {10} When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. {11} And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Amen.

Third Lesson: CL 156 (portions)

An inclination and also a capacity for conjunction as though into one was implanted in man and woman from creation, and man and woman still have this inclination and capacity in them. That this is so appears from the book of creation, and at the same time from what the Lord said … in Matthew:

Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning … male and female …, said, “For this reason a man shall leave father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two shall be as one flesh”? Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. (Matthew 19:4-6)

2 It is apparent from these verses that they each have both an inclination and a capacity for reuniting themselves into one.

(1) Each sex has implanted in it from creation a capacity and inclination that gives them the ability and the will to be joined together as though into one.

(2) Conjugial love joins two souls and thus two minds into one.

(3)A wife’s will unites itself with her husband’s understanding, and the husband’s understanding in consequence unites itself with his wife’s will.

(8) 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.

(10) This perception is a wisdom that the wife has. A man is not capable of it, neither is a wife capable of her husband’s intellectual wisdom.

(17) These duties also join the two into one, and at the same time make a single household, depending on the assistance they render each other.

(18) According as the aforementioned conjunctions are formed, married partners become more and more one person.

(19) Partners who are in a state of truly conjugial love feel themselves to be a united person and as though one flesh. Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009


Dry Bones

An Extemporaneous Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

Thus says the Lord God to these bones “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” (EZE 37:5,6)

There are two themes in this vision revealed to Ezekiel

Teaching about the Life after Death to the Jewish Church

How the Lord had the power to bring dry bones to life

Spiritual life, not life in the world

The vision goes on to describe how the graves would be opened and how the dead would live again in Israel

Clearly a parable of resurrection and spiritual life

Everywhere in the Word, when it talks of the death of anyone, the internal sense carries the meaning of the resurrection of the spirit into eternal life.

Illustration of the process of regeneration

How from being dry bones

(a representation of the structure of truths that form the foundation of the human mind)

Through our efforts as if from self

(the doctrine of freedom requires that the decision to act be ours, even though the power to effect the change comes from God.)

I like to think of the passage where the Lord tells us that we can move mountains with our faith and prayers


So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, it will be done. “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Lots of people picture saying a “magic” word and seeing the mountain fly away but consider what you can do with a bulldozer.

Any one of us, man, woman, or child, could sit in the seat of a bulldozer and buy moving a few levers, move a mountain.

The power to move earth is in the machine, the decision to move it is in the mind. That s the as-of-self. The decision to take a direction and to focus the spiritual power that has been given to us.

The Lord gives us sinew and flesh

(the good that comes from truth, the benefits to ourselves and others that come from acting according to the truth we have from the Word in spite of our inclinations not to.)

So that we can become living angels

Life after Death

We will treat this only in passing, as this is not really addressed to our states, but to the end of the Jewish Church so that the remnant of that church would have these truths on which to build the doctrine of the spiritual world.

Little knowledge in the Old Testament

Most Jews did not believe at all

Some believed in Reincarnation

Some, like the Pharisees, believed in some kind of afterlife

The rest believed that people only live on in the memories of those left behind

Instead, we will emphasize the parable about our spiritual lives

That in and of ourselves, we are nothing but dry bones


This is the doctrine of the Proprium which is the way the Writings explain the difference between what is inherently one s own, and what of our own is a gift from the Lord.

Proprium is a Latin word that means “what is one s own” or “what is proper to a thing.” Some translators of the Writings have simply called it “man s Own.”

We could think of it as that part of our minds that is made up of natural substances and which can serve as a vessel to hold and contain the life that flows in from the Lord, making it possible for us to have conscious life.

Each individual human being has a Proprium which is different from all others, because it reflects each person s unique hereditary gifts, and the unique series of experiences and choices that are a part of every person s life.

The Proprium is a vessel of life, and as such will serve each person to eternity, literally shaping the course of their lives. That is why it is so important to learn truth and to do it in this world, for in such a way the Proprium is changed from something dead, to something heavenly.

The Lord also has a Proprium, but His is not a vessel of life, but actually is life itself, as we read in a portion of the 3rd lesson

AC 149. [2] The Proprium of man, when viewed from heaven, appears like a something that is wholly bony, inanimate, and very ugly, consequently as being in itself dead, but when vivified by the Lord it looks like flesh. For man s Proprium is a mere dead thing, although to him it appears as something, indeed as everything. Whatever lives in him is from the Lord s life, and if this were withdrawn he would fall down as dead as a stone for man is only an organ of life, and such as is the organ, such is the life s affection. The Lord alone has what is Proper to Himself; by this Proprium He redeemed man, and by this Proprium He saves him. The Lord s Proprium is Life, and from His Proprium, man s Proprium, which in itself is dead, is made alive.

AC 38126 Dry bones stands for the understanding side of the proprium, which is lifeless until it receives the life of good from the Lord. The latter life is what quickens it or brings life to it. The flesh which the Lord causes to come up over the bones is the will side of the proprium, which is called the heavenly proprium, and so means good. Spirit means the Lord s life, and when this flows into a person s good which he seems to himself to will and reform from his proprium, the good is in that case made alive, and from that good the truth also; and out of the dry bones a human being is made.

But if, through our own efforts, we begin the process of regeneration

TCR 594 Man s regeneration is described in Ezekiel by the dry bones being first clothed with sinews.&

The breath of life comes from God

Sinew, flesh, and skin appear on our bones

This reveals the astonishing truth that although feelings seem to be our own, they are entirely under the Lord s control.

Try to change your feelings by just deciding to. You can t. Any more than you can change your heartbeat by thinking about it.

You can change your heartbeat by exercise, though. And you change your feelings by acting according to truth. Then the feelings follow where truth leads.

Truth, the dry bones, is our realm. Good, the muscle, is God s gift.

And only when these come together do we become living, useful, eternal human beings.

Parallel to the living water offered to the Woman of Samaria

We go through life believing that life is our own, that we are immune from the penalties suffered by lesser people

Our well was given to us by our father, Jacob!

We love our own myths, our illusions about ourselves and others

The Lord allows crises

Because they disturb, wake us up, cause us to look at ourselves and our lives honestly

The Woman at the well was living in the illusion that her life was fine

Under the Lord s gentle questioning she was suddenly, acutely aware of her need for His living water




The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (JOH 415)

Life is not our own, although it feels that way

It is a gift from the Lord, re-given every instant.

It is our responsibility to revere and protect it

To build a suitable vessel that is whole

Take the framework of truth from the Word and from the world, and live according to it as if from our own power while recognizing that the real power is with God, and He will then give us the gift of a great variety of goods that will make us a complete and living whole, suitable for life in heaven.

We read from Ezekiel


So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” ” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. (EZE 377-10) Amen.

1st Lesson EZE 371-11

The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. {2} Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. {3} And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” {4} Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! {5} Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. {6} “I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” “ {7} So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. {8} Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. {9} Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” “ {10} So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. {11} Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!

2nd Lesson John 45-10

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. {6} Now Jacob s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. {7} A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” {8} For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. {9} Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. {10} Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

3rd Lesson AC 149.

In the Word also bones means the proprium, a proprium indeed given life by the Lord.

This is [shown] in Ezekiel where he describes the bones receiving flesh and having spirit put in them, The hand of Jehovah set me down in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. And He said to me, Prophesy over these bones and say to them, O dry bones, hear the Word of Jehovah Thus said the Lord Jehovih to these bones, Behold, I am bringing spirit into you and you will live. And I will lay sinews upon you and cause flesh to come over you and cover you with skin, and I will put spirit you, and you will live; and you will know that I am Jehovah. (EZE 371, 4-6.)

[2] Man s proprium when viewed from heaven looks just like something bony, lifeless, and utterly misshapen, and so in itself something dead. But once it has received life from the Lord it appears as something having flesh. For man s proprium is something altogether dead, though it has the appearance to him of being something; indeed it appears to be everything. Whatever is living within him comes from the Lord s life; and if this were to leave him, he would fall down dead as a stone. For he is purely an organ of life, though the nature of the organ determines that of the life-affection. The Lord alone possesses Proprium. By His Proprium He has redeemed man and by His Proprium saves him. The Lord s Proprium is Life, and from His Proprium man s proprium, which in itself is dead, is given life. The Lord s Proprium was also meant by His words in Luke,

A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see Me have. (Luke 2439, 40.)

It was also meant by the requirement that no bone of the Paschal lamb be broken, EXO 1246.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009