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.

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