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

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