The Origin of Disease

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”  (PSA 41:4)

A.  There are many self-help books around that propose that if you are sick

the problem is that you have some kind of psychosis, or unresolved conflict with the family or origin, or resentment, or anger, any other of those bad feelings.

That leads one to believe that if you want to be healthy, all you have to do is get rid of those bad feelings, accept yourself the way you are, get rid of your guilt — all of which sounds really appealing but

1.  If our own evils caused disease, how can infants or animals get ill?

a.  They cannot have any sins or unhealthy attitudes

And yet they sometimes get sick and die.  To say that disease is caused only by our own emotional and mental states is too simplistic, and does not take into account our own common sense observation of the way the world works, nor the teaching of the Word.

2.  Some people have a false picture of the Lord on earth as a healer

Such an idea is supported by reading scriptures, such as our lesson from the Psalms, and only paying attention to the literal sense.

The Psalm is about a person who is asking the Lord for help in illness, but the plea is for the Lord to “heal my soul” (text).

We know that everywhere in the Word, disease represents sin, but because our suffering from disease is more obvious and painful, we tend to ignore the internal sense which is teaching about our sins and cling to the letter in such passages where we can hope for a miraculous cure.

B.  Where does disease come from?

1.  God did NOT create disease

All good things that take form in act are called uses; and all evil things that take form in act are also called uses, but evil uses, while the former are called good uses.  Now, since all good things are from the Lord and all evil things from hell, it follows that none but good uses were created by the Lord, and that evil uses arose out of hell.  (DLW 336)

[Why are evils things called uses?  Because even evil things can be turned to useful ends; as when we learn from a mistake.]

2.  The world that God created was perfect and without disease.

3.  The fact is, a lot of diseases are caused by Germs, Environmental Factors, Genetics

a.  All things over which we have no control

b.  And they can cause disease no matter what our state of mind is.

Doctors induce diseases in people all the time in the course of their studies — and when you get injected with a virus, you get sick no matter how cheerful you are.

4.  In understanding disease, we have to remember that influx is according to Reception

a.  The Lord is conjoined with us by means of the good and truth in us

b.  The Hells are conjoined with us by means of the evil and falsity in us

(1)  Both hereditary (not our fault) and actual (our fault)

c.  The hells cannot flow into the plane of the physical

until their is something there to receive them — DISEASE.

In other words, and this is very important, the DISEASE must precede the influx of the hells into the disease.

All the infernals induce diseases, but with a difference, for the reason that all the hells are in the desires and lusts of evil, and thus are contrary to the things of heaven; wherefore they act upon man from what is opposite.

Heaven, which is the Grand Man, holds all things together in connection and safety; hell, being in what is opposite, destroys and severs all things. Consequently if the infernals are applied they induce diseases and at last death.

Yet they are not permitted to flow as far as into the solid parts of the body, or into the parts of which man’s viscera, organs, and members consist, but merely into his cupidities and falsities. It is only when the man falls into disease that they flow into such unclean things as belong to the disease;   (AC 5713)

d.  If the disease comes first, and the hells then flow into it,

Where does the disease come from?

(1)  Germs

A general sphere of evil present everywhere in the world.

(2)  Environmental effects (smoking, toxic chemicals, UV)

(3)  Aging

5.  There must be a reason for thinking that there is a link

a.  Observed that certain personality types are more likely to have certain diseases

(1)  The assumption is that the personality type is the cause and the disease the effect

(a)  And that changing the personality would remove the disease

(2)  But what if the disease is the cause of the personality?

(a)  What if “type A” people are caused by high blood pressure?

(3)  Or what if both the personality and the disease

were caused prior by hereditary (genetic) or environmental factors?

C.  Our mental and spiritual states do have an influence on our bodily health

1.  Anxiety causes stomach troubles

2.  Cheerfulness and laughter makes us feel better

3.  But, we have to be very careful about making a link

between bodily diseases and specific spiritual states.

a.  There is a general sphere of evil and disorder emanating from hell

(1)  For example, the virus that causes colds is everywhere

Louis Pasteur, who is the father of “germ” theory had to take his samples all the way to the top of the alps in winter in order to find air that was clean enough that a sample would not produce a whole variety of cultures.

b.  Everyone has within them hereditary evils which respond to that sphere

(1)  Even newborn infants

(2)  The evil that responds to the influx may not be active in any way

In other words, disease in the body is only possible because there are evils in our proprium, but the evils that enable a particular disease may have been inherited, and never come forth to our attention.  We are not guilty of those evils, not even aware of them, and yet they work with other factors to make us sick.

(3)  We cannot ever say

That a particular person’s disease is caused because they are in a particular evil.

And because the Word teaches that through our heredity we are inclined to all evils in their complex, it seems unlikely that we would be able to isolate the one that is enabling the disease, and shun it in order to heal physical illness.

4.  The Lord’s kingdom is NOT of this world

a.  We miss the point if we look to physical health and material wealth

as the reward of being a Christian.

We have been put in the world not to make ourselves comfortable for a long stay, but to spend every moment preparing for our imminent departure.

Our presence in the world of nature is not the purpose of creation, and the Lord’s Divine Providence is not geared to keeping us happy and healthy in this world.  The Divine Providence looks to and leads only to eternal ends, those things which will be of eternal benefit to our spiritual life.

When we and the ones we love are afflicted by diseases in this world we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from our eternal goals, to begin to think only about the life of the body.  Remember David’s words, spoken in prayer to God in time off illness:

I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You”  (text).  AMEN.


A.  PSA 41

Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, And he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.

The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.

I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”

My enemies speak evil of me: “When will he die, and his name perish?”

And if he comes to see me, he speaks vain words; His heart gathers iniquity to itself; When he goes out, he tells it.
All who hate me whisper together against me; Against me they devise my hurt.

“An evil disease,” they say, “clings to him. And now that he lies down, he will rise up no more.”

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.

But You, O LORD, be merciful to me, and raise me up, That I may repay them.

By this I know that You are well pleased with me, Because my enemy does not triumph over me.

As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And set me before Your face forever.

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.

B.  AC 8364

[2] That “disease” denotes evil, is because in the internal sense are signified such things as affect the spiritual life.  The diseases which affect this life are evils, and are called cupidities and concupiscences. Faith and charity make the spiritual life.  This life sickens when falsity takes the place of the truth which is of faith, and evil takes the place of the good which is of charity; for these bring this life unto death, which is called spiritual death, and is damnation, as diseases bring the natural life unto its death.

By all the diseases here named are signified spiritual diseases, which are evils destroying the life of the will of good, and falsities destroying the life of the understanding of truth; in a word, destroying the spiritual life which is of faith and charity. Moreover natural diseases correspond to such things, for every disease in the human race is from this source, because from sin (n. 5712, 5726).  Moreover every disease corresponds to its own evil; the reason is that everything of man’s life is from the spiritual world; and therefore if his spiritual life sickens, evil is derived therefrom into the natural life also, and becomes a disease there.

[6] As diseases represented the hurtful and evil things of the spiritual life, therefore by the diseases which the Lord healed is signified liberation from various kinds of evil and falsity which infested the church and the human race, and which would have led to spiritual death. For Divine miracles are distinguished from other miracles by the fact that they involve and have regard to states of the church and of the heavenly kingdom.  Therefore the Lord’s miracles consisted chiefly in the healing of diseases.

The Fig Tree and the Temple

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching. MAR 11:18

The center of the Jewish Church at the time of the Lord’s Advent, was the temple in Jerusalem.

Although it was later used for many different things, its main function was to be the home and earthly containant of the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments from the mouth of God on the stones hewn by the hand of Moses.

The two tables of stone, on which were carved the Ten Commandments, are a symbol of the two essential doctrines that form the basis of any true church that worships the Lord:  Love to the Lord, and love of the neighbor.

Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The two essentials are reflected in how the commandments are placed on the two stone tables.

First table

No other Gods; Name in Vain; Sabbath; Honor Father and Mother

Second table

Honor Father and Mother; Murder; Adultery; Steal; False Witness; Covet neighbor’s house; Covet neighbor’s possessions.

We can see that this is also a New Testament concept for the Christian Church in the teaching in the book of Revelation concerning the two witnesses described in the book of Revelation as a pair of Olive trees and Lampstands.

As we think about the Church in its may forms adapted to many different cultures and needs throughout the world, we find comfort in the clear teaching that any people who have these two at the heart of their worship, no matter what the forms of their ritual, or the way they express their doctrines, are at heart, brothers.

The Fig represents the Jewish Church as to charity

As we read in the lesson, the gospel of Mark tells us that He came upon the tree when He was hungry, He found that it had no figs, so He cursed the tree.

Why did He curse the tree?  Because of what a tree that bears no fruit represents: “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.”.

Everywhere in the Word a tree represents a Man

This particular fig tree represented the Man of the Jewish Church and the fact that the Lord had come to that church to examine it for good, to look for some reason why He should not destroy it and replace it with another church.

Remember how He examined Sodom and Gomorrah before destroying them in the fullness of their wickedness?

The fact that there was no fruit on this tree represents the spiritual state of the men of the Jewish church at that time:  that there was nothing of good with them, that there was no effort on their part to do the things of charity that are the essential of the church, they were not following those things enjoined upon them by the Lord by the commands of the second table of the Decalogue.

Having seen the fig tree as a symbol of the failure of the man of the church, the Lord then proceeds to the temple where He finds a marketplace instead of a house of prayer.

The Temple as a market represents the Jewish view of the Lord.

The first temple was the tabernacle. Built by craftsmen trained in Egypt according to specific instructions provided to them by Jehovah Himself. The Tabernacle, in every detail of design, in the materials, and even in the measurements, was a perfect representation of the human mind.

Later, when the land of Canaan was conquered the Lord permitted Solomon to build a temple in Jerusalem. This temple was not built according to God’s plan, but was only a suggestion of the design and plan originated by God, thus showing how self-intelligence was taking over the church; how they wished to be lead by themselves instead of by God.

This was not the temple in Jerusalem that Jesus knew, for Solomon’s temple was destroyed in one of the many conquests of Jerusalem in the dark days of the Jewish church after the Babylonian captivity.

The temple of the Lord’s time Had been built by Herod the great. Herod was not even a Jew, but an Edomite (descended from Esau), and he had been trained in Rome to be a Roman governor. He tried to earn the love of the Jews by a fabulous building program, including a new and glorious temple for them. It didn’t work.

More to the point, Herod’s temple was built for cynical and selfish reasons:  its purpose was to consolidate Herod’s enforced rule over the Jews. It was less of a temple than a market place as many different merchants set up shop within the temple walls to cater to the pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem from all over Israel to fulfill their various ritual obligations.

Rather than being a place to worship the Lord, a place for the faithful to gather together, it had become a place dedicated to money and power, the loves of self and the world, self-interest and self-intelligence

Those who should have been looking forward to His coming, and receiving Him with joy, the scribes and the chief priests, were afraid of Him and planned to kill Him

Because He revealed the truth to the people they were afraid that they would come to understand how they had been manipulated by the scribes and chief priests, and either turn away from them or take revenge upon them.

This was the final symbol confirming the death of that church and the need for a new one. That the very ones who should have welcomed the Lord, listened to Him, carried His message to others in the church, were so intent upon themselves, their own positions of power and authority, that they would rather murder their Messiah than accept the changes that believing in Him would make in their lives.

As we approach this Easter season, let us try to have a balanced view of the role of the Jewish Church.  Rather than feeling superior because our doctrine or life may seem to be on a higher level, let us remember that He allowed them to become His “chosen people” because they could serve to represent human states of the church that would reoccur throughout human history

The Lord was born into that church because He wanted to save it – just as He comes to us in the New Testament because we too desperately need His power to save us.

The Christian Church was established only when it was clear that there was no life remaining in the Jewish Church, that the two essentials of love to the Lord and love to the neighbor were absent.

In the Word, the Church stands for the man of the church as well.

All those things that are said of the Jewish Church can just as well apply to us today as individuals.

Do we have the two essentials of the Church?

Is our tree fruitful, or barren?

Is our temple, our concept of the Lord, actually looking to Him or is it thinly veiled self-interest and self-intelligence?

How do we find the answers to these critically important questions?

What is the state of the temple of our minds?

Through prayerful reading of the Word, followed by honest self-examination where we ask ourselves if we are walking the paths that the Lord has provided for us, or have we taken some other course.

What is the state of our Fig Tree?

Do the things that we do benefit others, or are they simply ways of pleasing ourselves?  Can we honestly say that our lives have born fruit?  And if not, what can we do to change things?

And we realize, as we surely will, that we have not yet done enough, we can take comfort in the Lord’s Words, and His teaching that it is the effort to begin the journey, not the distance traveled, that counts the most towards our eventual spiritual success, because He will be with us, upholding our efforts in secret ways, all the days of our lives.

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. … He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (PSA 1:1, 3)
1st Lesson:  Mark 11:12-19

Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. {13} And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. {14} In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it. {15} So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. {16} And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. {17} Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” {18} And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching. {19} When evening had come, He went out of the city. Amen.

2nd Lesson:  AR 49

And I will give unto My two witnesses signifies those who confess and acknowledge from the heart that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, and that His Human is Divine, and who are conjoined to Him by a life according to the precepts of the Decalogue.

The reason why these are here meant by “the two witnesses,” is, because these two are the two essentials of the New Church.

The first essential, that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, and that His Human is Divine, is “a testimony,” and consequently, that they are “witnesses” who confess and acknowledge it in the heart. … These are they who acknowledged the Lord. This is called “the testimony of Jesus,” because the Lord testifies it from His Word, thus from Himself.

The second essential of the New Church, which is conjunction with the Lord by a life according to the precepts of the Decalogue, is “a Testimony,” can be seen from the fact that the Decalogue is often called “the Testimony” in scripture.

There are two tables upon which those precepts are written, one for the Lord, the other for mankind. The first table teaches that many gods are not to be worshiped, but one; the second table that evils are not to be done; therefore, when on God is worshiped, and man does not do evils, conjunction takes place; for so far as a person desists from evils, that is, does the work of repentance, so far he is accepted by God, and does good from Him. Amen.