Locusts: The Sensual Degree of the mind

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. (REV 9:3)

  1. Animals in the Word represent affections and other human qualities
    1. Locusts help us picture the battle that goes on in each one of our minds as the high, moral, and pure ideals we have do battle with the inclinations and drives of the sensual degree of the mind.
    2. The sensual is not all bad. It’s represented in many different ways in the Word, but one of the best illustrations is the sandals worn by Moses when he was in the deserts of Midian, and was called to see the Lord in the Burning Bush.
      1. When Moses approached the Burning Bush, God did indeed instruct him to remove his shoes – but not to throw them away. While he did not need them at that moment while he was talking to God, he would need them to get home again afterwards.
        1. You really don’t want to be waking across the desert without your shoes, any more than you want to be trying to learn about the natural world without your senses or the sensual degree of the mind.
      2. We are not talking about the body itself, but the sensual degree of the mind, that part of the mind which is informed about the world through the senses
        1. AE 543: But here it shall first be told what is meant by man’s ultimate sensual. It does not mean the sensual of sight, of hearing, of smell, of taste, and of touch, for these things are proper to the body, but the ultimate of thought and affection, which is the first to be opened with infants, and which is such that they think of nothing else and are affected by no other objects than what make one with the senses just named. For infants learn to think by means of the senses, and to be affected by objects that are in accord with the I things that are pleasing to the senses; consequently the first internal that is opened with them is the sensual that is called man’s ultimate sensual, or the corporeal-sensual.
        2. But afterwards, as the infant grows older and becomes a boy, a more interior sensual is opened, from which he thinks naturally, and is also affected naturally. Later, in youth and early manhood, a still more interior sensual is opened, from which he thinks rationally, and if he is in the good of charity and faith, he thinks spiritually, and is also affected rationally and spiritually.
    3. ALL learning enters through this degree
      1. The rational and spiritual degrees are founded on it. The Sensual degree needs to be a good foundation, built strongly, with many truths from the Word and Nature.
        1. The foundation of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, built with huge, uncut stones, is a beautiful image of that.
          1. The foundation is unseen, yet absolutely essential to the success of the building.
      2. The trouble comes when a person is too lazy to move beyond the sensual. That is like beginning to build a beautiful home, but stopping once the footings are poured, and camping in the midst of the rubble, saying that that’s good enough.
  2. Let’s take a moment to consider some of the leading truths about the sensual degree.
    1. The sensual is the ultimate of man’s life, adhering to and inhering in his corporeal.
    2. He is called a “sensual man” who judges all things from the senses of the body, and who believes nothing but what he can see with his eyes and touch with his hands, saying that this is something, and rejecting everything else.
      1. Such a man thinks in what is ultimate, and not interiorly from any spiritual light because spiritual things cannot be directly sensed by the natural body. They can be sensed by the spiritual body, of course, but those sense are not opened until the natural body is laid aside in death.
      2. The interiors of his mind, which sees from the light of heaven, are closed, so that he sees there nothing of the truth of heaven and the church.
        1. In a word, he is in a gross natural light, and thus perceives nothing that is from the light of heaven.
        2. Thence interiorly he is against the things of heaven and the church.
      3. The learned who have confirmed themselves against the truths of the church are sensual.
        1. Sensual men reason acutely and readily, because their thought is so near their speech as to be almost in it, and because they place all intelligence in speaking merely from the memory.
          1. But they reason from the fallacies of the senses, by which the common herd are captivated.
        2. Sensual men are more crafty and malicious than others because they live for the things of this world alone. Therefore, they apply everything they know to acquiring more things, and defrauding others to deprive them of the things that they should rightfully have.
        3. The covetous, adulterers, the voluptuous, and the deceitful, are especially sensual
          1. Their interiors are foul and filthy.
          2. Through their interiors they communicate with the hells.
      4. Those who are in the hells are sensual, and this in proportion to the depth of their hells.
        1. The sphere of infernal spirits conjoins itself with the sensual of man from behind
        2. Those who reasoned from the sensual, and thence against the genuine truths of faith, were called by the ancients “serpents of the tree of knowledge.”
      5. Sensual things ought to be in the last place and not in the first, and with a wise and intelligent man they are in the last place, and are subject to things interior, but with an unwise man they are in the first place, and are dominant, and these are such as are properly called sensual.
    3. Remember, the foundation is absolutely essential, but it has to be underneath – it cannot become the roof!
      1. If sensual things are in the last place, through them a way is opened to the understanding. They form a vessel to receive what is rational. Once the rational is formed, it becomes a vessel that can receive what is spiritual. In this way the angelic mind is formed in preparation for life in heaven.
      2. Unless the thought is elevated from sensual things, man has but little wisdom
      3. A wise man thinks above the sensual.
        1. When a man’s thought is elevated above sensual things he comes into a clearer light, and at length into heavenly light.
        2. Man in his spirit is able to see things that are in the spiritual world if he can be withdrawn from the sensual things which are from the body and be elevated into the light of heaven by the Lord.
        3. The reason is that it is not the body (brain) that thinks, but the spirit of man in the body, and so far as man thinks in the body so far he thinks grossly and obscurely, thus in darkness, but so far as he does not think in the body he thinks clearly and in light.
        4. We must not confuse cause and effect.
  3. The sensual degree is a tool with which we build the rational and spiritual mind
    1. The Word gives us instruction about it so that we can see clearly how it can be used
    2. And we are instructed so that we can avoid abusing it.
      1. The world is a wonderful place.
      2. The Lord intended that we enjoy the world, so that learning about it, and living in it while preparing for heaven would be pleasant.
      3. We must use the knowledge that we have from the Lord in the Word to help us to rise above the many allurements of the world.

The wicked have drawn the sword And have bent their bow,

To cast down the poor and needy,

To slay those who are of upright conduct.

Their sword shall enter their own heart,

And their bows shall be broken.

A little that a righteous man has

Is better than the riches of many wicked.

For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,

But the LORD upholds the righteous.

The LORD knows the days of the upright,

And their inheritance shall be forever.

(PSA 37:14-18)


First Lesson: EXO 10:1-19

(Exo 10:1-19) Now the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, {2} “and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” {3} So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me. {4} ‘Or else, if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. {5} ‘And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field. {6} ‘They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day.’ ” And he turned and went out from Pharaoh. {7} Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?” {8} So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. Who are the ones that are going?” {9} And Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” {10} Then he said to them, “The LORD had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go! Beware, for evil is ahead of you. {11} “Not so! Go now, you who are men, and serve the LORD, for that is what you desired.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence. {12} Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land; all that the hail has left.” {13} So Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind on the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. {14} And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt and rested on all the territory of Egypt. They were very severe; previously there had been no such locusts as they, nor shall there be such after them. {15} For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left. So there remained nothing green on the trees or on the plants of the field throughout all the land of Egypt. {16} Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. {17} “Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and entreat the LORD your God, that He may take away from me this death only.” {18} So he went out from Pharaoh and entreated the LORD. {19} And the LORD turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt.

Second Lesson: REV 9:1-12

(Rev 9:1-12) Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. {2} And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. {3} Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. {4} They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. {5} And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. {6} In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. {7} The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. {8} They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. {9} And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. {10} They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. {11} And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. {12} One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.

Third Lesson: AE 543a:3

By the general opening of his spiritual man, man has the faculty of thinking, and from thought of speaking rationally; this is the general effect of the influx of heaven with every man. This makes clear that man’s thoughts and affections may be spiritual, or natural, or also sensual; and that spiritual thoughts and affections are with those who think from God respecting God and Divine things; while there are only natural thoughts and affections with those who do not think from God respecting God and Divine things, but think only from themselves or from the world respecting themselves or the world.

But it should be known that to think from self or from the world is to think not from these but from hell; for whoever does not think from God thinks from hell; no one can think from both at the same time. But those who deny God, and thence the Divine things of heaven and the church, and confirm themselves against these, all become sensual men more or less, according to confirmations; when they are thinking about spiritual things they think falsities only, and are affected by evils; and if they think any truths, whether spiritual, moral, or civil, it is only from the knowledge of such things as are in the memory; and they see nothing beyond the nearest causes which they also are able to prove; and if they are affected by goods, it is only from a delight for the sake of self or the world, thus from a cupidity belonging to the love of self or the love of the world. The thought of the sensual man is what is called material thought, and its affection is what is called corporeal affection, which is cupidity.


Copyright © 1982 – 2008 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified  November 15, 2008

The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (LUK 16:13)

  1. The Literal Sense
    1. This is an unusual parable because both the main characters in the story are bad in that both of them regard wealth as more important than any moral consideration.
      1. A rich man hears that his business manager has been cheating him. He calls for an accounting of his actions.
      2. The manager knows that an accounting will prove that he has been diverting funds. He expects to be found out, and fired.
        1. He imagines himself digging ditches for a living or begging, but that is too horrible.
        2. It doesn’t occur to him to ask for forgiveness, which does happen in other parables…. He decides instead to buy the favor of his employers business associates.
            1. The man who owes him 100 measures of oil has the bill changed to 50
            2. The man who owes him 100 measures of wheat has the bill changed to 80
              1. And so with the other debtors
      3. The rich man then discovers what he has done and because he is the kind of man who himself would use any means to gain wealth, he recognizes a great idea when he sees it, and commends the manager for his cleverness. You can almost see the two of them, heads together, gleefully plotting their next move to defraud others.
    2. The Lord then uses the parable to teach us about our attitudes towards worldly wealth. He says that the “sons of the world are more shrewd … than the sons of light” (LUK 16:8)
      1. The people who love the material possessions that the world can offer, and the power that great wealth can bring, can become so focused on their gaining great wealth that they become very good at it – far better than those who are focused on spiritual matters, and who regard the things of the world as of secondary importance.
      2. The conclusion of the parable is that no one can serve two masters. There can only be one thing that is most important in your life – by definition! It seems so obvious when stated that way. How can anyone miss the point? Because humans, with our fallen nature, are quite capable of ignoring the obvious if it means they have to do something unpleasant or difficult.
      3. From birth, the loves of self and the world come first, for survival – Love of self, neighbor, Lord
      4. With rebirth, the order is reversed – Lord, neighbor, self.
        1. Although we need to remember that it’s okay for regenerate and regenerating people to have the other loves, it’s the order of their relationship to each other that matters.
  2. Those who love self and the world more than anything else, believe that dignities and wealth are supreme
    1. If he was brought up in a religious sphere, he may call them the blessings of God
    2. While the affliction is mild, he thinks about God and may even seem to worship.
      1. But the hells are constantly seeking to stir up this desire, to strengthen it because it is in opposition to heavenly delights. The hells turn his prayers into prayers for more dignities and wealth, rather than for spiritual growth.
      2. If he attains these, as if often the case because such people are highly motivated, his worship tends more and more to outward things until at length worship falls away, as does thought about God. At length, everything spiritual is denied as it interferes with the pursuit of wealth.
      3. The terrible thing is that while it is the wealth that has led him away from God, if he were to lose the wealth, he wouldn’t return, but instead work harder to regain it.
      4. Wealth and dignities are nothing but stumbling-blocks to spiritual growth if your heart is set on them.
  3. Those who are good do not set their heart on dignities and wealth and so they are not stumbling blocks for them because they set their hearts on uses, and see wealth and power simply as means for performing greater uses for more people.
    1. Are wealth and honor really worth the trouble? You set your heart on acquiring some thing, and you work hard for it. Once you get it are you satisfied? Perhaps for a short time, but soon we are seeking something else.
    2. This is easy to see in children. No matter what we may give them, there is always something else that they want. We may have even spoken harshly to our children in frustration, saying “You’re never satisfied!”
    3. The Writings say,
      1. Moreover, what is greater and lesser dignity, and what is greater and lesser wealth? In itself is it anything but something imaginary? Is one person more blessed and happy than another? In the case of a great man in the state, even a king or an emperor, after a single year, is the dignity regarded as anything more than something common which no longer exalts his heart with joy but may become worthless in his sight? Are men by virtue of their high position any happier than those in a lower position, even the lowest of all, as farm workers and their servants? It is possible that these may even enjoy a greater measure of happiness when things go well with them and they are content with their lot. Who is more restless than one who worries about protecting his wealth? Who is more frequently provoked and more violently enraged than the lover of self who is not honored according to the pride of his heart and when things do not go according to his own plans? (DP 250, emphasis added)
  4. Why are the wicked permitted to have dignities and wealth?
    1. The wicked can perform uses equally with the good
      1. Being wicked does not in itself take away any of your abilities or faculties. In fact, because the wicked see uses as a means of adding to their own wealth or dignity that they perform them with even more zeal than the good.
      2. A good person is spiritually balanced. He recognizes that there are many different kinds of uses, and specifically that church, home, family, and recreation are uses as well as the career or occupation.
      3. A wicked person is obsessed with external goals, sacrificing all else to attain them, and never satisfied with the result. Such people may appear to be outwardly successful, and are admired for that aspect of their lives, but at what cost to their spirits? The Heavenly Doctrines teach,
        1. The impious or wicked can perform uses equally with the pious or the good; and, indeed, with greater zeal, for they have regard to themselves in the uses, and they regard the honors as uses. Therefore, whatever the height to which the love of self mounts up there burns within it the consuming desire of performing uses for the sake of its own glory. (DP 250:3)
      4. It is necessary that the Lord Provide that this happen because the Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of uses.
      5. There are few who perform uses for the sake of use.
      6. Therefore he allows the worshipers of self to enter high office so that everyone may be moved to perform uses by means of their own loves
  5. The Rich Young Man (MAR 10:17-22) asked the Lord directly what he should do to prepare himself for heaven.
    1. He was one of those about whom the Lord was speaking in this parable, for he was rich, and he loved the power that his richness gave him over others. We can detect a certain arrogance in his questioning the Lord, and we see that he was unhappy with the answer.
    2. But it is the Lord’s answer to him that is important to us here.
      1. Keep the Commandments
      2. Sell what you have – turn away from the love of the things of the world.
      3. Give to the poor – turn away from the love of self
      4. And do all of these things because the Lord asks you to – not for your own selfish needs and desires.
  6. You cannot serve two masters
  7. AE 409d:7 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will prefer the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (LUK 16:13). This must be understood as referring, not to servants in the world, for such can serve two masters, and yet not hate and despise one of them, but to servants in a spiritual sense, who are such as desire to love the Lord and themselves equally, or heaven and the world equally. Those who are in the heavenly love would rather die or be deprived of honors and wealth in the world than be drawn away by them from the Lord and from heaven; for this they regard as the all, because it is eternal, but the former as relatively nothing, because it comes to an end with life in the world. Amen.

First Lesson: LUK 16:1-13

He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. {2} “So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ {3} “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. {4} ‘I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ {5} “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ {6} “And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ {7} “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ {8} “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. {9} “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. {10} “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. {11} “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? {12} “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? {13} “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Amen.

Second Lesson: REV 3:14-22

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: {15} “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. {16} “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. {17} “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’; and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked; {18} “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. {19} “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. {20} “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. {21} “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. {22} “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ “ Amen.

Third Lesson: TCR 437

At the present day it is believed that charity is simply doing good, and that then one does not do evil; consequently that the first thing of charity is to do good, and the second not to do evil.

But it is wholly the reverse; the first thing of charity is to put away evil, and the second to do good; for it is a universal law in the spiritual world and from that in the natural world also, that so far as one does not will evil he wills good; thus that so far as he turns away from hell from which all evil ascends, so far he turns towards heaven from which all good descends; consequently also, that so far as any one rejects the devil he is accepted by the Lord. One cannot stand with his head vibrating between the two, and pray to both at once; for of such the Lord says:-

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth. (REV 3:15-16).

Who can skirmish with his troop between two armies, favoring both? Who can be evil disposed towards the neighbor, and at the same time well disposed towards him? Does not evil then lie hidden in the good? Although the evil that so hides itself does not appear in the man’s acts, it manifests itself in many things when they are reflected upon rightly. The Lord says:-

No servant can serve two masters…. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (LUK 16:13). AMEN.

Copyright General Church of the New Jerusalem, 1982 – 2008
Author, Rev. James P. Cooper, M. Div.
Page last modified November 15, 2008