16 Spiritual Sources of Health

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16 Spiritual Sources of Health

“Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2

The causes of emotionally induced diseases may be traced from the autonomic nerves to their cortical origins and from the secretions of the endocrine glands to their source in the inmost organic structures which Swedenborg called the “simple cortex.” But here nature gives way to spirit. For the brain-cells absorb their subtle material aliments from earth and atmosphere and produce their complex chemical carriers of life according to the states of a man’s affections.441 And man’s affections are derived from the spirits who are with him.

The only real health is from the Lord. A wicked man may seemingly have a strong and healthy body. But inwardly there is no soundness in him. His “purer blood” or animal spirit is not being purged from those malign substances which attract the influx from the hells. He carries with him the poison of deceit, the seeds of insanity, and the latent causes of disease.

Just as anger and cankering emotions make for illness, love and faith are the fountainhead of health and an important element in cures. It is well known that a patient must have an incentive to recover and a faith in its possibility. But to avert illness a man must at all times keep his mind free from morbid states of self-pity, anger, pessimism, suspicion, impatience and intemperance, and from all other moods or emotions which seem to brood below the level of his thoughts but which actually inflow from evil spirits. He should be courageous in facing adversities, reasonable and prudent in his relation with other men. He should keep busy in some useful work and lead an orderly life. He should defend his own freedom and his own use while respecting the same rights in others. In short, he should be rational and moral. He should cultivate the moral virtues, learn to appreciate them in others, patiently try to see the point of view of those who criticize him, and see himself objectively, as others see him. An inoffensive sense of humor which allows him to smile at irritations and laugh at his own errors, can often prevent a nervous breakdown. Modern doctors prescribe a happy mood as the best medicine.

Moral virtues do not suffice to combat evil spirits. Evils must be shunned as sins against God if the angels are to banish the unclean spirit that would return with seven others to the house of the garnished mind. The protection of heaven comes to the just man who loves mercy and walks humbly before his God. And the promise is, “Unto you who fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.”442

Interior happiness comes from a heart made humble by knowing its own weaknesses and strong by putting trust in the Divine providence. The hectic pursuit of worldly fame or personal power or luxury is responsible for much illness. Uses are provided us as a means to forget ourselves, not as a path to selfish pleasures or personal vanity. The true way to happiness and health is to find our place of use in society, to employ our talents with a cheerful heart to mitigate the misfortunes of others, to sustain their good efforts, to contribute of our best illustration to their spiritual welfare. A man who can attract good spirits is of more value to his fellowmen than the inventor of atomic engines or the most brilliant of secular thinkers—if the latter do not first seek the kingdom of God.

Protection in Uses

A most powerful protection against evil and disease is to be found in the love of being useful—the zeal for work from an interest in the needs of others. This love conquers many illnesses and delays the inroads of old age. Indeed even an evil man or spirit is to a certain point protected by society and by heaven so long as he performs a use. The people of Israel were under a Divine protection from pestilences and disasters so long as they were faithful to their covenant, even though their function was one of merely “representing” a church. Muscles never used would weaken and talents not exercised tend to disappear. The Writings urge us to temper our uses with a due amount of rest and proper recreation. But “they who love idleness more than use gather evils into their spirit,” for they turn to things filthy and evil, vain and frivolous, until their mind grows stupid and their body torpid. On the other hand, “while a man is in some study and business or is in a use, his mind is limited and circumscribed as by a circle within which it is coordinated by stages into a form truly human.”443

“Use is to discharge the works of our employment sincerely and industriously.” The love of use and the derivative application prevent the mind from wandering in idle daydreams and from drinking in the allurements of sensual lusts which scatter all thoughts of religion and morality to the winds.444 Hence it is that the delight of heavenly life, as well as its wisdom, revolves about uses to be done. The angels know that to love the Lord as a person and not to love uses, is to love Him from self; but use in itself is Divine, and to do uses is to love the Lord and to be in Him—in the very current of His sustaining life, or in that kingdom of uses which is described as the Grand Man of heaven. And through the ordered uses of the home, society, and the church, this kingdom extends its protection over men on earth also.

Love, the Key to Health

Love is the key to health as well as to happiness. Even the food we eat has a different effect when it is eaten with thankfulness and delight, than when it is gulped in a state of anxiety. Delight aids the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes and “opens the chyle-ducts” so that the nourishment can be rightly absorbed.445 Food and drink nourish the body better and more suitably when a man, at dinner or supper, is cheerful in spirit and is at the same time “in the delight of conversing with others about the things he loves, than when he sits at table alone.”446 Indeed, man shall not live by bread only. Among the proper “diversions of charity” are dinners, suppers, or parties “with those who are in mutual love from a similar faith”; where the conversation turns on various civic and domestic topics, but the chief interest centers on the church. The sphere of love and charity on such occasions exhilarates every mind, softens every voice, and brings festive feelings into all the senses.447 All of which confirms the proverb, “Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”448

It is really love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor which invite the wholesome spheres of heaven. And no love can give a more complete protection against the hells or offer more support to heaven than a love truly conjugial such as exists with two married partners who together look to the Lord in their common uses.449 For marriage was instituted by the Lord to be the norm of human life in which all the needs of soul and mind and body find their fulfilment and through which the Divine uses of creation are to be accomplished. It is to the state of marriage that every human individual must look for the final balance of life’s many uses and delights. And if a true marriage is not achieved on earth, a man or a woman can still live in the sphere of the conjugial union of charity and faith which fosters all the spiritual and natural uses of society and begets the wisdom of life.

The love of propagating and the love of protecting the offspring comes to all men as a sphere out of heaven and as a general influx. In the natural man, as in animals, it is received as a love of the sex. This is a natural instinct, and if it is not tempered by reason or conscience, it becomes the main source of mental stresses and social problems. But it is intended as the womb of conjugial love. And conjugial love can be received only according to the states of the church with man, or according as man, as of himself, orders his life by revealed Doctrine to recognize the purposes of creation. It is given to those who shun their evils as sins, approaching the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and of earth, and who thus can sustain the particular influx of the angelic guardians which come from the celestial heavens with innocence and peace. Under such angelic auspices the conflicts of one’s natural affections are easily resolved and the disturbing undercurrents of fretting emotions are frankly analyzed and their stress weakened.

The states of a truly conjugial life are described as “innocence, tranquillity, inmost friendship, full confidence, a mutual desire of mind and heart to do the other every good; and from all these, blessedness, happiness, delight, pleasure; and from the eternal fruition of these, heavenly felicity.”450 This is not a cloudy ideal impossible of fulfilment in our day and age. It is possible wherever men thirst for the water of life and the New Jerusalem can be planted in their hearts.

Heaven comes to earth as a gift from the Lord—bringing the first conditions for happiness and for health—just so far as men shun evils as sins and thus invite good spirits to attend them. It comes “when a man, with his wife whom he loves most tenderly and with his children, lives contented in the Lord. From this he has in the world interior delight, and in the other life heavenly joy.”451

The Heavenly Doctrine was not given in order to restore to men the means of procuring physical health. It extends no hope for miraculous cures by prayer or by faith alone. Yet beside the pure river of water of life which flows crystal clear from the throne of God, there grows the tree of life whose fruits shall be for meat and whose leaves are for medicine—for the healing of the nations.452 These curative leaves signify the rational truths now revealed in the Writings, which can restore sound judgment to those who have been infested by evils and falsities, and may lead them to live becomingly and eventually to receive spiritual truths.453

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15 Mental Causes of Disease

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15 Mental Causes of Disease

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” A Hebrew Proverb

Is Illness the Fault of Man?

Many Christians believe that all accidents and diseases are retributions of Providence for personal sins. This idea was common among the Jews, who conceived of no higher good than health and prosperity, nor any higher destiny than a long life on earth. The Lord sought to disabuse the minds of the disciples of this fallacy when he said concerning the man who had been born blind, “Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”; and when He said that the eighteen killed by the fall of the tower in Siloam were not sinners above others in Jerusalem.381

Men—from no individual fault of their own—may fall sick from natural causes which in turn come from spiritual causes hidden from man’s understanding. And by natural remedies he may be restored. But while the disease lasts, evil spirits are able to extend their operations from the realm of the mind into the body, working against a cure by inflowing into the unclean things which belong to the disease, which they aggravate. The stress of the Writings is laid upon the fact that without the influx from the hells there would be no actual disease. “Every disease in the human race” comes from sin, which is spiritual disease.382 We cannot take this to mean that it is always a man’s fault if he is sick, any more than it is his fault that he has hereditary tendencies to evil. But even as sin bred disease in the human race as a whole, so it is the tendency of a man’s own individual states of evil to lead into corresponding diseases of the body. “If his spiritual life sickens, evil is derived therefrom into the natural life also, and becomes there a disease.”383

It does not follow that an evil man is always, or necessarily, sick, or cannot remain in what appears as perfect bodily health. But actually, the things that come to belong to man’s life are not only of his mind but of his whole body, from head to foot.384 And therefore it is disclosed in the Writings that the blood in the lungs purifies and nourishes itself correspondently to the affections of the mind, and that in evil states it absorbs a subtle food of unwholesome quality, unsuitable to serve the soul in its impartial and wise economy. Yet no one can ascertain this quality of the blood by any qualitative chemical analysis since “it is a purer blood, called by some ‘the animal spirit,’ which is purified” with the regenerating man.385

Certain “lusts and passions of the mind” are more prone than others to “destroy man’s interiors,” and thus to “drag” man into disease and death.388 Such passions may be classed as breaches of the moral law.

Intemperance, drunkenness, gluttony, luxuries of various kinds, and pleasures that cater to bodily enjoyments alone, head the list. For these upset the routine of use and the balance of the body functions; denying to the body the proper exercise or the proper sleep; or compelling the stomach to absorb useless food or drink, for the sake of the transient pleasures of the senses. Drunkenness causes a man to lose his manhood, since it is his intellectual faculty that marks him a man. It not only brings damage on his body and so hastens his death, but it wastes in extravagance what might be of use to many.387 Envies, fears, and anxieties about the future without proper trust in Divine provision, keep the nerves taut by a constant reliance upon prudence. It is a remarkable thing that the human body and brain can rise to emergencies and prolonged strain, and that men in executive positions can do work which even in amount shames others; but this only so long as states of frustration and personal anxiety do not affect them. For generally it is not work but fretting worry and vexation which cause health to break down.

Hatred and revenge also visibly poison the body and heat the blood, as well as warping the judgments of the mind. States of bitterness and brutality have always been compared to gall—the bile rejected from the liver and longing to punish the stubborn food in the intestinal tract. Lasciviousness— when given rein—leads to sexual diseases of varied types, affecting the glands, tissues, and nerves, and even infecting the blood itself. Hypocrisy and deception tax the nervous system by inducing constant fear of detection.

Mental states can so influence the body as to create organic disorders therein into which the hells can operate because the mind or spirit while man lives on earth is not apart from his body nor present only in the brain, but is within the whole body and animates it with life. “The spiritual,” we read, “accompanies every stamen [of me viscera, organs, and members of man] from outmost to inmost, and therefore all the minute structures and fibres of the heart and lungs.” This is the reason given for the fact that the spiritual body, which is formed within the natural body, rises at death in a similar form. Death “is merely the separation of the spiritual substance from the material.”388 The spiritual which is present in the body and its brain, and thus acts into nature, is called, in the Writings, the “ultimate-spiritual” and also the “spiritual-natural degree”; for it is the ultimate degree of the spiritual.389 In the inmost of the brain and body of man this ultimate spiritual is clothed with natural substances from the very inmost of nature,390 and thereby is given the power to separate itself from the higher spiritual degrees and to act against them. When such a perversion sets in it becomes evil.391 By paternal heredity, this lowest degree of the spiritual is now from birth contrary to the order of heaven and open to the influx of hell.392

It is the natural mind that is formed in direct contact with the natural substances of the body. And although the natural mind or the “spiritual-natural” in man is perverted by heredity, yet it is none the less ruled by the superior spiritual degrees in such a way that these can act by it in creating the body into the general image of the soul and usually maintaining it in seeming health. The perversion of the substance of the “ultimate spiritual” is thus of such a nature that its essential function of conveying life is outwardly unimpaired.

This ultimate spiritual degree with man unfolds itself as the natural mind—which is itself of three degrees, sensual, natural and rational. There is need in the body, then, for various planes of organics which shall serve to express the powers of that mind. For no life, no thought or affection, could possibly manifest itself in the realm of nature, unless nature furnished a receptive vessel, responsive to its influx.

Swedenborg’s Early Views on Diseases

In the Writings, little is said of these body-planes which display the powers of the spirit. But in his philosophical works, Swedenborg gives much thoughtful attention to them. What he says therein cannot be taken as revealed doctrine and is not binding on our minds. But what served him for a rational ultimate in receiving the inspired doctrine, might help us to understand its meaning more fully.

His general theory was that there are, in the body, three vital fluids. Each builds for itself a center, or principal court. The grossest of the vital fluids we call “the red blood,” and its center is the heart. The fluid of middle degree Swedenborg calls by various names—the “animal spirit,” the “purer blood” —and for its centers are prepared uncounted millions of cortical “glands” in the brain. Thence it flows at incredible speed through the nervous system and also enters into the composition of blood and tissues in various ways. The third and highest vital fluid—the “spirituous fluid” or “purest blood”—has innumerable centers in each cortical gland—centers which are called “simple corteces,” and thence it flashes like rays of force through the simplest invisible fibres, and through nerve fibres and blood vessels into the entire body. Indeed, the body is the product solely of the ineffable formative activities of these simplest fibrillae. For this “spirituous fluid” is the servant of the soul itself, and may indeed be called “the soul of the body.”392b

Into this framework of vital fluids and fibres, formed by the soul itself out of the best of nature’s gifts, Swedenborg then places the degrees of that mind which man employs in the world. The blood serves as the plane of the vegetative and most sensuous life of the mind. The cortical glands, with their vital nerve juices, are made the plane for the animus, its sensations, imaginations and passions. The simple cortex and simplest fibre and thus the highest vital substances of the body, are cited as the organic instruments of the rational mind and the pure natural intellect.

Diseases are affections of the various natural organics mentioned above. But the spiritual soul itself, which is the immaterial essence of man’s immortal spirit and is above these natural forms, can also suffer a vitiation or a perverse change of state—as to the reception of life. This cannot be counted as a disease, but as “guilt” (reatus).393

Yet the afflictions of the “purest blood” cause a sickness which affects the workings of man’s intellectual mind: it shows itself, not as a disease, but as a perversity in will and judgment—as vain ambition, malice, and a banishing of conscience. Thus insanities and vices result.394 The cure for such irrational states, Swedenborg suggests, is to gain health of body and animus, and then to enlighten one’s mind through masters who have saner judgment; but also to learn from revealed and rational theology, and to exercise freedom of thought and especially self-control !395 (And in the Writings it is added that “all who love uses think sanely in their spirit, and their spirit thinks sanely in their body).”396

If the “purer blood,” which runs through the cortical glands and the nervous fibres, becomes vitiated, there arises not disease as such, but “passions of the animus,” such as moody anger, jealousy, foolish prides or fears, melancholy, fickleness, weakness of the imagination, loss of memory, and many other ills which depend on the state of the brain and its various parts.397

All the natural affections or the mediate loves of the animus are in themselves healthy instincts.398 But when taken as ends-in-themselves, and indulged not for the sake of uses or for the sake of higher ends, but only for selfish satisfaction, then some of them become intemperate and urge us to excesses. We may call these natural affections, “natural goods,” because they are implanted in the natural mind from birth. Each love finds its own expression under the form of some virtue. Some individuals inherit prominent qualities of pity or generosity or courage, or on the other hand, their complements, prudence, thrift, or caution. Curiosity, hope, zeal, the love of the sex, are other examples of natural affections. Within such tendencies there lies hidden hereditary evil, which tends to upset that delicate balance of judgment which should make out of them all a harmonious and perfect whole—a moral life of use. From hereditary evil, the affections of the animus awake gradually into a mutual conflict. If—through intemperance—some of these loves of the animus are given loose rein, they turn from apparent goods into vices or grave faults, into searing passions which disturb the mind. But so long as man keeps them in balance and due proportion the mind is normal, and its natural affections do not then bring about any disease in the body, or any poisoning of the nervous fluid or the organics of the brain.

Swedenborg also suggests remedies for the sicknesses and upsets of the animus. Medicines, he says, may be employed to purify and restore the red blood; for it may be some external condition of the body and its blood that accounts for the mental state. Yet if the cause is not in the body, the state might be amended by an improvement of the mental environment : agreeable feasts, convivial companionships, and broader social contacts may put one in a more normal frame of mind! If this does not help, let the sufferer seek recourse to moral philosophy and in a bit of practical self-analysis, so that he rectifies the mistakes into which he has drifted.399 On the other hand, the trouble may be derived from perversities of the intellectual and rational mind—and then repentance is called for!

Health cannot truly exist, unless all the planes of the body and mind are in harmony and cooperation! If the inner mind is cheated of its ends, the animus may become angered, the blood hot, and a bilious fever may seize the viscera !400

Lack of harmony with interior planes is therefore a cause of bodily disease—disease “properly so called.” But not the only cause; for the body is affected by any organic deterioration of blood, serum, or tissue.401 And the principal and most common cause of bodily disease has to do with the lack of proper nourishment or with the food that we eat; and also with the subtle food which we draw in by breathing the air, and even the still more subtle nourishment which the “purer blood” drinks in from the ether.402 For the blood must be provided with aliments of sufficient quantity and the right quality. Our philosopher therefore classes—among the remedies for the body—not only various drugs, drawn from the three kingdoms of nature, and moderate diet, exercise, rest, sleep, moderate temperature; but also mental calm. And he leaves the field open for new discoveries of ways by which the blood may be purified, amended and renewed.403

The Theological Writings on the Causes of Organic Disease

We have cited these observations which Swedenborg made before he was called to his religious mission, in the hope that they might help us to understand more clearly certain statements made in the Arcana, the Spiritual Diary and the other theological works.

In the Arcana Coelestia we read that evils “close the smallest and altogether invisible vessels of which the next larger, also invisible, are woven; for the vessels which are smallest of all and wholly invisible, are continued from man’s interiors. Thence comes the first and inmost obstruction and thence the first and inmost vitiation of the blood. This vitiation, when it increases, causes disease and at length death. . . . “404 It is difficult to ascertain whether the inmost vessels which evil closes are to be conceived as physical or as spiritual substances, for they seem to be combinations of both. They are called vessels “on account of the correspondence,”405 and indeed “vessels in man’s rational and in his natural,” and are said to be in “contrary position” within him relatively to the inflowing life which none the less still can dispose them. Man perceives the variations of their form as truths.406 And a cross-reference suggests that it is in these “substances which are the beginnings of the fibres” that the objects of sense are organized as memory. They might perhaps be identified with the twists of the spiritual and natural substances of the natural mind which are turned in a sinister order before reformation has occurred.407 The evil heredity of the race is carried over from generation to generation by such correspondent disorders in the lowest spiritual degree present in the germ-plasm.408 And there must be a natural basis for such hereditary evils, since it is only in conjunction with natural substance—thus only in the natural mind while on earth—that evils can arise.409 The reason for this is that it is the very nature of natural substance to resist and react against spiritual substances.410 And owing to this resistance the lowest spiritual can there be separate from its higher degrees, and become perverted into “spiritual substances such as are in hell.”411

Hereditary evils, it is well to note, are not “guilt” or “sin” or “original sin,” but only tendencies or inclinations to evil. It would seem to follow, that with the newborn infant the “smallest and invisible vessels” which are receptive of the spirit and undoubtedly carry the marks of heredity, are not closed but have the tendency to close themselves against the spiritual mind; nor is there as yet any “inmost vitiation of the blood.” So far as the child, and later the man, does not prevent, the Lord continues to hold him in innocence and mental health, by a general influx. With infants and well-disposed children, even the worst spirits, if present, would be compelled to serve the Lord’s will and cannot introduce any evil. It is when the child begins to acquire a sphere of evil that the inmost vessels are “closed” to the influx of the un-perverted spiritual412 and become opened to an influx of cupidity from evil spirits; and then the “animal spirit” begins to absorb the malignities to which it had formerly been immune.

While an evil inheritance may thus give a predisposition to certain diseases, most babes are born healthy; unless some deficiency in maternal nourishment or some accident in the womb has interfered with the execution of the soul’s pattern of the embryonic body—that marvelous four-dimensional pattern which is latent in the germ-cells and which Dr. Schroedinger has described as a code-script for the individual’s entire future development.413 Hereditary evil does not affect the physiological functions of the soul in the body, for the inmost natural vessels are utterly obsequious to the soul in its general influx. Swedenborg therefore stated in the Economy of the Animal Kingdom that the spirituous fluid which is present as a formative substance in the parental seed cannot be perverted or injured or essentially changed in its form except with reference to a variant reception of life and wisdom.414

If this be so, it may be surprising that any one could be born an idiot. Yet even if the “spirituous fluid” is perfect in its physiological action there can be congenital defects in the derivative organisms or injuries to the nervous tissues due to malnutrition or to some trauma experienced either before or after birth. There are no doubt special reasons in the Divine providence why idiots should remain in the state of innocence for their entire life time, or why those who lose their rational balance through disease should be arrested for a time in their mental development. But the law is that “life . . . acts according to the ultimate determinations, but not from them.”415

The internal man may be quite rational even when the mind cannot be rightly channelled into corresponding imaginations, words, or acts. In a private letter, Swedenborg observed that “real madness and insanity resides in the external or natural, not in the internal or spiritual man.” There are no natural diseases among spirits in the other life, nor any hospitals; although there are spiritual asylums for spirits who become insane and idiotic from a denial of God. Natural diseases, blindness, lameness, insanity, etc., are cured when man sheds his externals and his internals are opened in the other life.416

Yet natural insanity may be caused or abetted by unwholesome mental habits and by the leading of evil spirits. For if our rational mind is not in control, spirits will lead man and cause mental fixations and monomanias.417

Nerves, Glands, and Spirits

There are two general ways by which mental and emotional states can affect the body. One is through the nervous system, the other is through the secretions which the glands communicate to the blood. Both originate in the brain. Swedenborg explained that the brain is not only a common sensory and a common motory for the body, but is also a complex gland which acts as a chemical laboratory. And the soul and the mind exercise their special functions, both conscious and unconscious, through the brain. The influence of our spiritual environment thus affects us first of all through the brain. And even as speech corresponds to the thought of the mind, so the influx of the mind into the body always expresses itself according to laws of correspondence.

It is a particular influx from hells attracted by our chosen states that stirs up partiality and dissension among the affections of the natural mind, causes mental symptoms, emotional moods, psychic disturbances and disorders in the functions of the braincells, and upsets the balance in the products of the endocrine glands.

The conscious part of the mind, or the voluntary, by its deliberate or at least perceptible decisions moves the body by means of the central nervous system. Our errors of judgment or intent may thus cause injury to the body by overstraining it or leading it into perils with which it is not equipped to cope. But emotional states may cause illness even when man is not really aware of them except as a frame of mind; and they may affect the body through the autonomic nervous system centered in the hypothalamus and midbrain, causing unwanted muscle tensions and pains in the oesophagus and stomach and in various parts of the alimentary canal, resulting in symptoms like those of peptic ulcers or gas or appendicitis. The breathing may be affected and cause undesirable changes in the blood. The blood vessels are most sensitive to emotions, as in blushing or in headaches, and the heart beats faster when one is deeply moved. Certain prejudices or constant irritations may cause outbreaks on the skin or rheumatic ailments. Frustrations may explode in hysterical weeping or laughter, or in violent actions not intended. Anger may lead to hemorrhages on the brain and possible death through coronary occlusions.

The second bodily agency to respond to our mental states is the glandular system. In his physiological works and later in the Writings Swedenborg called attention to the important functions of what is now called the endocrine glands—anticipating many discoveries by more than a century. In fact he noted that there is no viscus which does not contribute a secretion to the bloodstream.418 Chief of all the glands he considered the brain with its constituent “cortical glands,” some of the products of which were strained through the region of the hypothalamus into the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and thence—modified in various ways—into the jugular vein, thereby vivifying the blood with “animal spirit.” Health depends on the proper balance and purity of these fluids, and many diseases result from their deficiency or wrong distribution.419

Swedenborg concluded that the “animal spirit” which is so essential for the balance of all body functions contains within it a life-carrying “spirituous fluid” which is generated in the inmost structures of the cortical cells. All the ductless glands in the body are regulated through the pituitary gland which is the outlet for this subtle nerve-product. In his various treatises he points especially to the uses of the thymus, the adrenals, the spleen, the pancreas, the liver and the testicles; which all aid in modifying, tempering, and salvaging the animal spirit. And in the Diary he says of the learned of his time: “So long as they dispute whether there exists an animal spirit in the fibres, which they may still do for a thousand years, they can never come to the courtyard of knowledge, but will stand far away.”420

It can hardly be doubted that what Swedenborg called “animal spirit” is closely related to what medical science in this century refers to as hormones produced by internal secretory glands. The pituitary is now acknowledged as the master gland and the source for a number of hormones which regulate almost every process in the body and condition the various organs to avert any threats to bodily well-being. Most important, however, is the finding that these glands are so sensitive to emotional stresses and psychic states (such as mental blocks and aversions) that they can cause corresponding illnesses and symptoms in the body. The relation of the endocrine glands to our inner states is so close that some have named them “the glands of personality.” The accumulating evidence of symbolic symptoms in psychosomatic diseases is not surprising to the New Church man who is familiar with the universal correspondence of the natural to the spiritual and knows the body as the instrument and clothing of the mind. Yet we may sometimes forget the further truth—that our inner life does not originate with ourselves but is induced by the spirits who are attracted by the contents of our mind.

Correspondential Symptoms

Our morbid psychic states need not at once, nor necessarily, cause disease in the body. But when a disorder exists in the body itself, the sphere of evil spirits acts spontaneously by a law of correspondence. In certain cases, they can cause disease only when men invite the evil which these spirits represent; and in such cases the Lord cannot avert their sphere.421

We read strange things in the Writings about this correspondent influx—things which can be appreciated only after reflection and a study of the doctrine of the Grand Man. Thus hypocritical spirits—who wish to evade judgment— tend to inflow to produce toothache and what appears to be neuralgia.422 Certain dominating, pompous and impatient spirits induce great pain and weakness and weariness of mind and body.423 The sphere of selfish and slothful spirits produce numbness and oppression in the stomach. Spirits who have been in much solicitude or are inclined to avarice and are unwilling to leave “the state of externals” in which newcomers are in the other life, affect the stomach with nervous indigestion.424 Revengeful spirits aggravate superacidity in the stomach.425 Those who make everything a matter of conscience also induce abdominal anxieties.426 In each instance there are profound correspondential reasons for such influxes.

Anxieties of a different kind are due to the presence of unworldly female spirits of the province of the adrenal glands who are in solicitude from a life lacking in variety. But these spirits, who also act on newly born infants, are merely concerned to hold the mind in some line of thought that excludes what is worldly. Certain other spirits, who in the Grand Man relate to the infundibulum, are—like the fluids in the ventricles—inconstant and undetermined, and cause in man states of impatience and suspicion.427 Those who do not like work but seek social prominence and pleasures as their sole gratification, correspond to obstructions in the brain, and their presence causes stupidity, dullness and loss of affection.428 Those who relate to the viscid humors of the brain with which vital fluids are mixed, love to incite scruples of conscience in trivial matters. Such rather narrow-minded spirits induce a sensible anxiety in the upper abdomen; and they are also wont to come to a man during temptations and make them unbearable.429

When sickness coincides with temptation, man’s lot is unenviable. “Temptations,” we read, “are most grievous when they are accompanied with bodily pains, and still more so when those pains continue for a long time and no deliverance is granted even though the Divine mercy is implored.”430 Yet illness itself, even when the mind is anxious and moody, is very different from spiritual temptation. Real temptations have a spiritual issue involved—a struggle to retain spiritual health and faith and charity. Still, moods of sadness may break like a flood upon a man who has lived in good when he relapses into the sphere of his proprium; and then he may become indignant and angry. He thinks restlessly and his desires become impetuous; although when this flood is lifted, he returns to a serene and cheerful state. Such temptations affect the animus and perhaps the body. In the case of the last posterity of the Most Ancient Church, such a profane flood of evil and insanity was let loose that people perished physically, by a species of suffocation. This, therefore, was actually a death of sin, and—as was shown above—was described by the great Deluge.431

The indications are that diseases are usually receptive of an influx from particular spirits, who then inflow by their sphere into a particular part of man’s body. But a localized disease may become general, or may attract a more general influx.

This is noted in the case of fevers. Many places in the hells, among obstinate and pernicious spirits, exude an excessive heat, impure and corporeal. This sphere inflows partly into the mind of man, by means of particular spirits, to inflame him with cruelty or adulterous lust; but partly also it may, by a “general sphere or a general influx,” produce a febrile heat in the diseased parts of the body as well as a delirium in the mind.432 Indeed it is stated that “the sick man summons” those who infuse such heat, and that spirits most marvelously know how to determine their sphere into the body, and this despite the fact that spirits do not know the man with whom they are. Fortunately the Lord controls them under laws of order, withdrawing them periodically; “wherefore several fevers have stated alternations.”433 It is generally admitted that the rise of body temperature into fever heat is a defensive reaction of the body in its resistance to disease.

Spiritual Uses of Sickness

Disease and melancholic anxiety may be classed among “natural temptations.”434 But the difference between an illness and a state of spiritual temptation is well illustrated in the case of certain spirits who relate to the province of the stomach and especially to the undigested things therein. The general action of these spirits is to instill feelings of oppressive sadness and uncomfortable melancholy for which no perceptible cause or occasion can be recognized. The spirits who thus inflow are not the spirits who are with man as his attendants and who resemble him as to affections; but they are strange spirits who have been sent forth from some infernal society into the sphere of his life. They flow in by a more general influx to produce these effects, which are contrary to man’s own affections. Such spirits may also infest man during a spiritual temptation; but then they would not only inflow “in general,” for the temptations themselves are produced by particular spirits who excite certain evils that man has done and put a wrong interpretation on the good things in his mind. Only by such a “particular” influx can the man be placed in freedom to resist, and his guardian angels then engage in combat on his behalf.435

What has been said may aid us to understand the teaching that a man cannot be reformed—or he cannot change his ruling love—while in states of sickness of mind or body.436 While ill, the mind is not always rational, and if rational yet is not free. Man then lives apart from his world of uses and duties and is withdrawn in his spirit. The Writings liken such a man to a religious recluse, a hermit bent on thoughts about his own salvation; and the same is the state of one who is in some extreme danger or in sudden misfortune. Besides, the sick man may be oppressed by moods beyond his control, and is released from his usual responsibilities and from the pressure of many of the affections that normally wage their silent warfare for predominance.

So far as a man can carry on his uses, he cannot be called sick in the above sense. Nor does illness prevent a person already on the road of reformation from being strengthened in his good resolutions by the reflections on his sick-bed. There is therefore room for the further teaching that a very large class of men (who are represented in the Word by the Hebrew manservant) “cannot be reformed otherwise” than through the hardships of life, such as anxieties, misfortunes, and even sicknesses! These are they who from infancy have given little thought to anything but worldly life and success, yet have lived morally and accepted the doctrine of their church on hearsay. With them, sickness is turned into an opportunity to review life’s real purposes, and something of spiritual good may then adjoin itself to their thought. They may turn again to the consolation offered by their church, and confirm their faith more deeply while their worldly loves lie dormant for a while.437

Even like gifts of wealth and peace, the gift of health is happily in the Lord’s hands to dispense—for those to whom health may be a blessing. In our hearts we all pray for health when it eludes us. Yet it is the Lord’s admonition that we should seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. “He who is in faith from the Lord asks for nothing but what contributes to the Lord’s kingdom and to himself for salvation.” The angels told Swedenborg that if they should pray for anything else, they could have no faith that they would receive it.438

Sickness is not a total waste in the Lord’s sight. We are encouraged to practice foresight and to seek to maintain our health by prudence as well as by medicine. But to be brooding constantly upon the possible ailments of our body and to delve intently into anatomical details all one’s life, is not in itself an aid to health.439 “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” The regenerating man, even in his pastimes, looks to uses as an end. He loves the things of his body for the sake of having a healthy mind, and consults for his body as the first requirement for usefulness; and he “loves his mind and its health for the sake of an end still more interior—that he may have a relish for good and may understand truth.”440 This is further explained as follows:

“He who is in merely external pleasures makes much of himself, indulges his stomach, loves to live sumptuously, and makes the height of pleasure to consist in things to eat and drink. One who is in internal things also finds pleasure in these things, but his ruling affection is to nourish his body with food pleasurably for the sake of its health, to the end that he may have a sound mind in a sound body; thus chiefly for the sake of the health of the mind, to which the health of the body serves as a means. One who is a spiritual man does not rest here, but regards the health of the mind or soul as a means for acquiring intelligence and wisdom—not for the sake of reputation, honors, and gain, but for the sake of the life after death. One who is spiritual in a more interior degree regards intelligence and wisdom as a mediate end having for its object that he may serve as a useful member in the Lord’s kingdom; and one who is a celestial man, that he may serve the Lord. To such a one bodily food is the means for the enjoyment of spiritual food, and spiritual food is a means for the enjoyment of celestial food; and as they ought to serve in this manner, these foods also correspond, and are therefore called ‘foods’ ” (AC 4459:6).

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14 Influx and Disease

Swedenborg Study.comOnline works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

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14 Influx and Disease

“Is it easier to say to one sick of the palsy, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, take up thy bed, and walk?” Mark 2:9

Order, Freedom, and the Permission of Evil

“Heaven keeps all things in connection and safety.” But “hell destroys and rends all things asunder.”351 This is the general truth from which the Arcana Coelestia proceeds to its teaching about the origin and nature of disease.

The societies of heaven receive from the Lord an influx of mutual love, which seeks to give happiness to others and allows freedom for the uses of others. Therefore there is a general influx from the Lord through the societies of heaven which maintains the order and health of human society and of the human body. By general influx, the human body is moulded into an organism which corresponds to all the uses of the Grand Man of heaven. Similarly, by general influx, a society is moulded into a replica of the human form. So far as a society is performing the uses of communal life, it is in the order of heaven, and in a noble form. So far as the human body is functioning, it has beauty and grace and nobility, even if man’s mind be perverted. For the Lord spreads the sunshine of health upon the evil and upon the good. Only upon the basis of a sound body can a sound mind be built. Only in states of health and rationality can man’s spiritual reformation proceed. The Lord exerts His providence to provide these ultimates of order for all men, because His primary gift to man—the freedom which makes of man a responsible human soul—can be exercised only where order exists.

But freedom would be but a name, if man could not at all reject or disturb the order which the Lord provides for him. Freedom implies that man can, if he will, disturb that order not only for himself, but for others! Freedom implies that man should be free not only to think and will against the order of God, but that he shall also feel able to carry his purposes into act and set up a plane of disorder in the world. In no other way could his free will be conveyed to the comprehension of others; in no other way could he invoke the cooperation or opposition of others, who, in their turn, are free to respond. Life would not be free if it were confined within the airtight space of one’s own intentions ! Man must be free to commit mistakes, to do actual evil, to spoil the handiwork of the Creator, and abuse His agencies.

When this occurs, and order has been disrupted, the general influx from heaven gives way so far as man insists. Fundamentally, and as to all His final purposes, the Lord alone rules the universe, which cannot be upset by fickle man. It is legitimate to inquire, how far evil can derange the ultimate order of life.

That it can do so in the realm of the mind, is of course plain to see. The two higher degrees of the mind of which we are not cognizant in this life, are indeed in the order of heaven.352 But the natural degree, or the “natural mind” in which man is conscious on earth, becomes perverted as to its thoughts and affections, as to its organic habits, its spontaneous reactions, and its reasonings. Indeed, by birth, or from heredity, the natural mind of present day man is utterly opposed to the gyre and flow of heaven. It is within the various degrees of that natural mind that the hells are formed.353 And for one’s salvation, that mind must be reformed and reconstructed into the order of heaven.

But perversions go further than the mind. The brain and the rest of the body can become disordered, and after death they actually disintegrate in the grave. Not only disease, but “death,” comes from “no other source than sin.”354 But let us here pause a moment to free our minds of several possible misunderstandings.

The Actuality of Evil and the Necessity of Death

Swedenborg did not belong to that school of so-called “idealists” which regards the body and the world of matter as mere projections of the mind. He believed in the reality of the natural world which he describes as existing independently of man or man’s thought. He states that man was created last of all—as the culmination of the organic kingdoms. There is therefore no kinship between the teaching of the Writings and that of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of “Christian Science”). It has recurrently been stated that “Christian Science” was partly derived from Swedenborg. And on the surface, we find a great many phrases and ideas in Science and Health which are obviously borrowed from the Writings. “The three great pioneers of mental-healing, Dr. Quimby, Dr. Evans, and Mrs. Eddy, were readers and students [?] of Swedenborg . . . but they were more influenced by Berkeley. . . . “355 As the late Rev. John Whitehead put it: “Many flowers have been culled from Swedenborg’s garden, but they have been transplanted without roots.” Both Swedenborg and Mrs. Eddy teach that the natural mind (or what she called the “mortal mind”) is the seat of evil and the origin of disease. But Swedenborg shows that the mind is a real organism of finite substances, both spiritual and natural, while Mrs. Eddy regarded her “mortal mind” as an illusion —as “nothing claiming to be something.” The body, to her, was merely an offspring of the delusions of mortal mind!

When the Writings state that death has no other origin than sin, the reference is presumably to death from disease. The language of Scripture alludes to the life of sin as the death of the soul. In the symbolic story of Genesis, death is said to have come upon man because of his eating of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”; which made him feel like a god who could decide for himself what was good and evil. This was the spiritual death which overcame the first race— those signified by “Adam”—who were of a “celestial” genius. And the Arcana Coelestia explains that the “antediluvians” who perished in the “Flood” meant some of their descendants who could not master their evil passions—with the physical result that they died of a species of suffocation.356

Thus the symbolic prediction became literally fulfilled. And the same still holds of death from disease. But in a wider sense, death antedates both disease and sin. Death, so regarded, is but a part of finite life. Our blood dies and is restored with each breath of the lungs. The cycles of finite things all end in a death of passivity. Endless successions of plants and animals lived and propagated and died before man’s advent on earth. And mankind, before its fall into sin, was not immune to bodily death. Eternally to live on earth could be no reward for virtue. The statement that death is from no other source than from sin, is therefore qualified by the explanation that “if man had lived the life of good … he would be without disease, and would only decline to extreme old age, even until he became a child again, but a wise child ; and when the body could no longer minister to his internal man or spirit, he would pass without disease out of his earthly body into a body such as the angels have. . . . “357 From this we judge that the absence of evil—actual or hereditary— creates a pre-disposition to health. It does not prevent physical death or the wear and tear upon bodily tissues. But it prevents what the Writings call “disease”—a word which we associate with a destructive influx and with states of pain and mental anguish.

A further word might be premised about the reason why evil, which is a mental state, is permitted to extend its influence into the body and the natural world. Evil that is hidden cannot be examined, shunned, and removed. Evil in the mind exists as a desire not only to think and intend, but also to do and speak. It goes out to change the state of others— forcibly to remould the world more nearly to one’s advantage, and to profit despite another’s hurt! Unless it be seen that such indeed is the effect of the evil state of mind, evil could never be recognized. Evil in a man harms uses—his own and those of others—harms his body and the bodies of others.

In an orderly life we see a balance of good uses—such as we observe in a healthy organism. But when evil and its bodily effects came into existence, one evil is used to counterbalance another. We see this in the constant warfare of insect-pests, in the neutralization of extremes, in the balanced germ-life of our own bodies. It is even suggested that evil men do not defeat the Divine government since “one is the remedy of the other, for evil is cured by evil.”358

On earth there is much grumbling against the Divine Providence because evils and bodily sufferings are permitted. Yet in the view of the angels, bodily sufferings are as nothing when the eternal welfare of a man is at stake. The use of pain—as a signal to man that his body is in disorder—is indispensable. Without pain, man could not be warned of his mistakes or recognize his dangers. Pain and disease are thus necessary as long as man governs himself by his fallible prudence. If one still led a spontaneous life in the order of his creation, and were governed by general influx, and thus lived a life of wise instincts, he would no doubt be less liable to mistakes and abuses, less liable to pain and disease; and the fulfilment of his goals might be far easier than today.

The general effect of the teachings of the Writings seems to be that the real origin of disease was evil and self-will. The insistence on breaking the rules of rational moderation, the indulgence to excess, the refusal to curb the appetites, have caused men to turn aside from the “tree of life” and to eat gluttonously of the fruit of knowledge which would make men as gods who determined for themselves what was good or evil for them.

We rightly call disease and its consequent pains evil, because they imply a partial defeat of the ends of life, for they disturb the uses of society. They pull the mind down and make one conscious of his body, which should serve—as it did in most ancient times—merely as an instrument whereby the soul may perform uses for the minds of others.

Evil spirits love material things and attach material values, material meanings, even to spiritual things. Therefore they seek to immerse man’s mind into his bodily life. They rejoice and are in their delights when they can induce man to reflect on his sensual pleasures or pains. Some spirits would indeed obsess man, if they could, and return into the body through men. Such, however, are now confined in their hells, i.e., they are not permitted near men. To cure them of their desire, certain punishing spirits are permitted to induce upon them the feeling that they, too, actually have a material body. And to spirits it is an inconceivable torture to feel themselves bound within an earthly body, for thus they can be subjected to all manner of tormenting fantasies.359

* * *

To assert that “every one draws disease upon himself from the evil of life” may seem a hard saying.360 We may readily admit that many diseases are obviously traceable to overindulgences, passions, or a useless, self-centered life. But there is some comfort in the further teaching of the Writings which shows that the real cause of disease lies in the other world— thus not necessarily in man’s own evils, but in the influx of the hells. “All the infernals induce diseases. … If infernals apply themselves, they induce diseases, and at last death.”361

The idea that illnesses come from the influence of evil spirits is regarded in the world as a superstition. And yet it must be admitted that all man’s passions and lusts are nothing but effects of the spirits whose invisible presence feeds our contrary moods. If disease comes from such a source, it can readily be understood why the miracles which the Lord performed on earth were chiefly works of healing. His mission was to restore order in the spiritual world. What He did on earth corresponded to His work of redeeming mankind from the dominion of evil spirits.362 He did not come to take away all sickness; but each of His miraculous cures marked a step in the battle against the hells—representing on earth what He was doing in the spiritual world. There were many sick and blind in those days, but only a relatively few were healed.363

Many of the early Christians believed that the Lord came to establish a kingdom of God on earth, in which evil would have no place, nor disease or death. Yet after nearly two thousand years have passed, illness and evil persist. But what the Lord came to do was done. This was the ordering of the spiritual world so that men might be free to choose between good and evil, and progress into heaven if they willed. A spiritual judgment was performed, and certain restraints were imposed on the hells. One of the results was, that the obsessing of man’s body by evil spirits was henceforth made impossible.364 Yet disease, and the consequences of disease, were not removed.

The spiritual law now operating is, that selected good spirits and evil spirits are allowed to inflow into men’s minds. The evil spirits thus stir up lusts and falsities, by particular influx, and man feels these changing states as his own. But, as was shown in chapter XIII, the body is governed by a general influx through the societies of the Grand Man of heaven. So far as spirits are performing uses in the Grand Man, so far their societies are assigned as media for the general influx of life into the various corresponding organs and parts of the human body. The influx takes place “into the use of the organ” and so into the organ itself.365 So far as man’s body is in functional order, so far it mirrors and receives the flux of corresponding spiritual uses which make up the Grand Man; and then evil spirits are entirely unable to cause any disorders in the body. “They are not permitted to inflow as far as into the solid things of the body,” thus not into tissues or organs. But if for any reason the order of the body is disturbed, then evil spirits—who are not within the Grand Man, but together compose an opposite spiritual form which might rather be called “the Grand Monstrosity”—are permitted to inflow into the disorder, or “into the unclean things which belong to disease.”366

(The precise meaning of these teachings may be somewhat debatable. In discussing the subject of disease, we are conscious of the imprudence of trespassing on alien ground; for it belongs to the medical profession to form a philosophy of disease and cure. Yet the doctrinal statements that will provide the principles for such a philosophy must be cited, since we set out to treat of the influence of spirits upon human states. Admittedly, in drawing out these statements, a certain personal perspective cannot be avoided).

Causes and Cures, Natural and Spiritual

“Only when a man falls into disease” can spirits inflow into his body, and then only “into those things in the man where the disease is” or “into such unclean things as belong to the disease.”366 What are these unclean things ? And how does a man “fall into disease” ?

That illnesses exist which flow directly from lusts and passions of the mind has already been mentioned.367 But we are also assured that “diseases do indeed exist from natural causes among men . . . but as soon as they exist, spirits flow thither which correspond to that disease.” Swedenborg continues : “For spirits who are in evil and falsity, produce precisely such things as are sensibly perceived in sicknesses, as I have plainly experienced . . . beyond all mistake. . . . Hence it is, since such spirits apply themselves there and aggravate the disease by their presence, that if they should be removed by the Lord, man would at once be restored; for there are evil and false spirits to whom correspond diseases and ailments of every kind.”368We presume that such a sudden restoral is possible only where no member is actually cut off.

Swedenborg himself seems to have been immune to any diseases which came from natural causes. For he adds: “But such a one who is as to the spirit in the other life, is immune so long as the Lord permits him to live in the world.”369 Certainly, his biographers agree that his health in later days was remarkable.

Why was this? Perhaps because natural causes do not appear as natural to one who is sensible of the spiritual realm ! At any rate, he continues: “But, because we do not believe spirits to be about us, all these things are ascribed to natural causes. Medicines help! But still more the Lord’s Providence—as people do confess. And, strange to say, sufferers pray to God that they may be restored, and declare that God has restored them; but still, when they are out of that state, every one of them ascribes [his cure] to nature !”370

If we analyze natural causes, they are bound to resolve into spiritual causes. Even an earthquake could not affect anyone unless a spiritual cause—a mental state—has led him to abide in the zone of danger. And in the spiritual world those causes which on earth seem utterly disconnected and beyond any visible law, may be seen to be marvelously dependent on spiritual laws of Divine foresight and permission.

Yet man on earth, not knowing these spiritual connections and interior causes, must act according to his own judgment and prudence. For Providence, in His leading of man, uses also man’s prudence. Disasters that appear to have natural causes, can be ameliorated—at least for the time—by natural remedies. “Medicines help!” “Diseases”—we read—”can be, and also ought to be cured by natural means, for the Providence of the Lord concurs with such means; and thus also man is the longer kept from faith in a Divine Providence in most particular things: for if man should believe this, and then deny it, he would profane a most sacred truth, which profanation is itself a most dreadful hell.”371

The fact that there are spiritual causes operating within disease, “does not prevent man’s being healed naturally, for the Divine Providence concurs with such means.”372 Even the Lord Himself, in one instance, used an external means of cure, when He made clay of His spittle and laid it on the blind man’s eyes. There is power in ultimates. For influx is according to the vessel that receives. A disorderly plane attracts evil influx. If the disorder is corrected, the forces of the general influx through heaven—which operate in unison with the soul’s healing power and creative, formative influx into the body—will again take charge and restore the broken tissues so far as is possible.

It is important to distinguish between a disorder in the body and the disease which may follow it. A small wound, accidentally incurred, will heal without difficulty if it be kept clean. It is only a wear in the tissues—such as occurs, in different fashion, again and again in normal life; and the formative powers of the soul immediately begin to weave new fibres, new cell-structures, to repair the damage. For the soul is as it were omniscient as to all that happens in its body, and continually creates new cells, and redistributes the functions of the body most wisely while healing is going on. The soul also unifies the action of all the cells and fibres and organs into a single whole. There is no break in what we have called “general influx.” But when decay and infection set in, then the “unclean things of the disease” also attract a corresponding influx from the spiritual world. For life is constantly present—it is never absent, knows no limitations of time or space. “The expanse of life … is not an extense, but is yet within the extense of the natural sun, and is with living subjects there according to reception, and reception is according to forms and states.”373According to the quality of the natural vessel, such is the quality of the influx. Heaven cannot inflow into the unclean things of disease. But the life-spheres of hell can and do, and they act therein negatively— to oppose the human form, which is in the order of heaven, and to shatter the harmony of its uses.

What occurs in man’s body in illness resembles what takes place in a man’s mind, which is subject to spiritual diseases. “The sins retained in an impenitent man may be compared to various diseases in him: unless medicines are brought to bear on them, and the malignities are thereby removed, the man dies.”374

This is more than a comparison. For the mind also is in the human form, and has its ailments, each of which corresponds to some bodily disease. The mind—we must remember—is a spiritual organism. And while we live on earth, our mind is enclosed within the tissues of our material body, so intimately that every state of the mind has an effect on the interiors of the body; and in turn the mind accommodates itself so closely to the state of the body, that it appears as if the body had an effect upon the mind.

Spiritual states—mental states—are actuated from the presence of spirits. These spirits do not see or know the man. They only see the knowledges of man’s memory, and think by their means just as if they were man. And when we say that evil spirits inflow or act upon the diseased things of the body, this is said according to the appearance. Spirits cannot “enter” man’s body, nor do they seem to themselves to do so. But when they act spiritually into evil ideas, fantasies, and emotions, and follow the “ways” of spiritual decay which correspond to opposites of the human body, then the sphere of these spirits causes a maladjustment of the currents regulating growth in the body.373 Swedenborg notes that with one like himself whose interiors were open to sense the spiritual environment, spirits who corresponded to various diseases actually produced—in different parts of his body—the symptoms and sensations of these diseases, and this on their first approach.376 He felt their operation within him in that way,377 yet his organic body was apparently not affected, for he was protected by the Lord.378 Until he became accustomed to it, the pain was often almost unbearable.379 At the same time the spiritual character and function of the spirits were manifested, and Swedenborg spoke to them and felt how they affected his thought and emotion.

It belongs to the various departments of medicine to determine what the influx of spirits effects in the bodies of men during disease. Some of these effects are well known. There may be a sudden multiplication of bacterial colonies. There may be the engendering of poisons that infect the fluids and retard or disturb the tissue processes. There may be misdirected or cancerous growths of certain tissues. There may be upsets of the body-tone and of the harmonious vibratory motions by which life in the body is sustained. There may be deficiencies of some of the simple elements or of the complex organic chemicals which food must contain to supply the cells and tissues with the means of growth and renewal. In many cases there occurs an abnormal rise or fall of the vital heat upon which the chemistry of the body depends for its balance.

Diseases are sometimes attended by the presence of bacteria—germs which multiply with incredible speed to generate poisons and to clog the tissues. The nature of such disease germs was not known in Swedenborg’s day and is therefore not directly discussed in the Writings. But it is clear that these invading micro-organisms are to be included with the “unclean things” of disease.380 For evil spirits can inflow only into organic receptacles which, while in the body, are in some way isolated from the soul’s control. It is important to note the teaching that medicines wisely administered can serve in the Divine providence as an effective means by which the ultimates of evil influx can be weakened, counteracted, or removed, so that the influx is diverted from the body. In extreme cases the surgeon’s scalpel must remove the disordered tissue to prevent the spread of the malignity. But such external remedies do not reach the inner causes of disease which will be further considered in our next chapter.

That the inmost soul has at its disposal many marvelous agencies in the body is obvious in all stages of the formation of the embryo and the growth of the body. The strange appearance of “anti-bodies” to counter disease germs in the blood stream is an example of how the balance of organic life is maintained as if by an omniscient government; as is also the dominant role played by the secretions of the endocrine glands. That this government is mediated by the spiritual world has been the theme of this book. But man’s mind is his own special spiritual world. And health and disease may both depend on his psychical states. The philosophy of disease and cure which will eventually take form among the people of the New Church must account first of all for the relation of the body to the mind, and thus to the spiritual world.

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Screening – What beliefs affect attending?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

screeningHealth screening programmes are becoming increasingly popular since early intervention has a better chance of success than when trying to cure a chronic condition. Many people in the UK who have nothing wrong with them are offered free health screening.

Two examples are a test for bowel cancer and one for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The first assessment involves people gathering and posting off samples of faeces and the second attending a clinic for an ultrasound test. Large aneurysms are rare but can be very serious as they might burst.

Some individuals are reluctant to spend time complying with screening if there is nothing wrong with them especially if follow-up testing promises to be time-consuming and not without any financial penalty. Some people fear screening might reveal something physically unusual or abnormal which they consider may not be significant in terms of well-being and functioning. A particular screening test might be known to be liable to false alarms. Some might be put off the tests because of subsequent treatments – such as chemotherapy or surgery – having known negative side effects, as serious as incontinence or impotence.

However, given the care taken, by the public authorities who offer screening, to first examine all the medical considerations, there is a question that arises. Are those people, with doubts about screening, being negatively swayed by their deeper beliefs and attitudes regarding life and death? Perhaps it is difficult to disentangle the affects of religion, culture and personal bias on personal choice. Here are 6 attitudes which seem to be relevant.

Screening will trigger anxiety about dangerous disease

Some people won’t mention the word ‘cancer’ which for them is a taboo word. Pain, and death seem such awful things that they feel that “when you have no symptoms of any problem, advertised screening tests can make you anxious when you really didn’t need to be.”

Rather than use avoidance I would say a more rational approach is to honestly face anything bad and then you can have a hope of dealing with it. My own spiritual belief is that we can face the possibility of bad news with equanimity knowing that we can only cope with what we can cope with and the rest is in God’s hands. Furthermore I feel I can face death relatively calmly in the light of what has been revealed regarding the spiritual world described by Emanuel Swedenborg from his own experience.

Better to retain personal autonomy than become a dependent patient

The macho male wants to cling to an image of manhood as one of power through independence. Such a man will resist the prospect of being vulnerable in illness and be anxious to avoid finding out that he will be ill or infirm. I would suggest he does rather need to swallow his male pride and realise one doesn’t have to be a hypochondriac to be concerned to do what you can to have an illness diagnosed.

Screening is unnecessary as God will cure those who pray for healing

This is the view that medical treatment is unnecessary because only God can cure disease. Is it not magical thinking if people were to pray for and expect physical healing? It is as if God were a giant genie at the beck and call of every human whim. An alternative religious view is that God provides for our eternal needs and works through medicine to deal when it can with our temporary ones. After all even the most devoutly religious people can end up getting sick.

Screening is useless as you can’t change your fate

Some people believe it doesn’t matter what they decide because their future is written in the stars and what will be will be. Sometimes this fatalistic attitude is accompanied with a view that medical treatment cannot help because of the law of karma since “We reap what we sow”: and so acting irresponsibly, if not in this life then in a previous one, (e.g. adopting bad diet, smoking, excessive alcohol) will result in unchangeable consequences.

The modern medical view however is whilst life-style undoubtedly is an important factor in causing disease, one’s health can be improved by appropriate treatment if needed. For mainstream Christianity, the future may be foreseen by God, but not predestined, for what is foreseen depends on our personal choices now; our inner free-will enabling us to create our own destiny.

Disease is deserved punishment from God

This is the notion that if you are ill, it is the will of God. In line with this belief, disease is seen as a punishment for immoral behaviour from a punitive God. For example we find the attitude “HIV and cervical cancer is caused by promiscuity and so one must take one’s deserved punishment for immoral conduct.”

I favour an alternative view that God is not punitive but compassionate. I would say we are allowed to suffer the consequences of our personal choices if this helps towards learning the lessons of life but a loving God punishes no one for any past misdeed.

Screening is relevant to leading life to the full

It is difficult to fault this belief. I am probably in danger of sounding sanctimonious, but I feel I should be doing all I can to live my life to the full, choosing to help the lives of my loved ones and those around me be as happy as I can. Allowing a disease to go undetected, and thus untreated, could be unnecessarily burdening a future carer. This for me is the clinching reason for making the effort to attend medical screening appointments.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on25th May 2014CategoriesEthics, Ethics & LifeTags, , ,, , Leave a comment

Preventing disease

beholding artNature, art and spirituality can reduce disease. It has been long established that a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and physical exercise bolster the body’s defences against physical and mental illness. However, research is now showing the benefits of certain other activities.

Psychologists at University of California, Berkeley have been studying a direct influence on health and life expectancy of the sense of wonder when experiencing the beauty of nature, art and spirituality. A walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art – have a triggered such positive emotions boosting our immune system.

BEING HEALED BY THE LORD

BEING HEALED BY THE LORDA Sermon by Rev. Eric H. CarswellPreached in Glenview, Illinois January 28, 1996

“Then Jesus went about all the Cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35).

Any of us who has had a cold or the flu recently knows that being sick is a very unpleasant experience. When we’re sick, our physical body usually feels somewhat foreign to us, and regularly sends messages of discomfort to our mind. Accompanying the physical symptoms there can be the frustration and discouragement of not being able to do as much and as efficiently as we would like to do. Many people find themselves in the midst of a period of sickness wondering if they will ever get well.

The Writings of the New Church tell us that all diseases correspond to or have a counterpart in a spiritual problem. As I read in the lesson from the Arcana Coelestia: “… spiritual sicknesses … are evils destructive of the life of a will desiring what is good, and falsities destructive of the love of an understanding to see what is true; in short, things destructive of spiritual life composed of faith and charity” (AC 8364:3).

Many of Jesus’s miracles were miracles of healing. His work in the world represents a kind of healing that He wishes to bring to our lives. The question is, What do we have to do to receive this healing?

The first step is that we must recognize that a part of our life is in need of healing. With a physical disease, this often isn’t very hard for us to recognize. When we have a sense of what it is like to be healthy and then recognize in a short period of time that we have begun to feel poorly, we suspect we are sick. It is much trickier when a sickness or a physical problem comes on very slowly and without obvious changes over a long period of time. For example, it is common for a person who needs glasses to be relatively unaware that he no longer sees as well as he should. There is an assumption that probably everyone sees just as he does. He doesn’t even reflect on how fuzzy things are at a distance. Sometimes a person can recognize that he needs to have his vision corrected by noticing that the people around him see things that he doesn’t see.

The spiritual ills that interfere with our lives are particularly hard for us to recognize because some of the core ones in our life have always been there. It’s as if we have only the vaguest idea of what it means to be healthy. We’ve always been somewhat spiritually sick in that particular area of life.

For example, a woman can have a pattern of reacting very defensively whenever the slightest indication is given that she has done something wrong in an important area of her life. Her defensiveness makes her lash out at the source of what she perceives to be criticism. It can make her berate herself and can foster feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It makes a mess of many interactions with friends, at work, with her husband and children. But she doesn’t even realize that there is any other way to react to indications that something might be wrong. If this woman is seeking to be led by the Lord and trying to be a good and useful person, He can gradually lead her to see that this pattern of reaction is hurting herself and others. It is keeping her from realistically seeing herself and recognizing what she can do to be more useful.

Another example of a spiritual sickness would be that of a man who rarely reflects on the broad patterns in his life. Each day’s events are seen by him as unique and explainable in terms of external circumstances. Since he isn’t aware of his own role in reacting to what has happened, he is unaware that if he asked for the Lord’s help in changing his reactions, many events would go very differently from their all-too-typical course. The man is hurting himself and others but doesn’t see it.

Sometimes we can feel discouraged by the too frequent reminders of our fallible nature that occur in the Lord’s Word. It can seem that every time we turn to it, it says, “You are really sick.” This in itself can lead a person to shrug his shoulders and say, “Why even try to get better? There is too much wrong.” The first step in being healed by the Lord is that a person recognize that there is a problem that needs to be attended to. This is spoken of in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:4,6). To the extent that a person just shrugs off problems with the reaction “Well, that is just the way things are,” there is likely to be little sense of personal responsibility or personal capability of bringing about a change, and consequently the present state of affairs may continue unchanged indefinitely or even get worse.

A wonderful passage in the Arcana Coelestia strongly reassures us that we aren’t complete and total messes. It starts out, “In some states a person can be called fairly perfect” (AC 894). And then it goes on to say, “but in countless others he cannot.” The Lord doesn’t expect us to be perfect throughout our lives, but He does want us to recognize that some of our faults and flaws are seriously dangerous to ourselves and others. They are spiritual diseases that will interfere with important uses that we would like to accomplish. They need to be healed.

Usually when we get physically sick, we don’t feel guilty because some germ or virus has gained a foothold in our body. Similarly, the Lord encourages us to recognize that all the evil that influences our lives comes from hell. The debilitating guilt that a person feels for faults and flaws likewise has its source in the evil spirits of hell. They love to induce evil loves and false ideas into our consciousness and then condemn us for their presence. They are the enemies spoken of in Psalm 41 who accuse and condemn with these words: “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” (7,8).

In many of the Lord’s miracles of healing, the people came to Him for help. They came to be touched by Him and so healed. In many of these miracles the sick person’s faith was an important part of the healing. We too need to seek the Lord if we are to be healed. We can recognize that we need His help in some area of life and pray to Him for what we need.

We may sometimes wish that we could be healed of our spiritual ills as instantaneously as the miracles in the New Testament. We rarely are. Sometimes a person feels that he has been working on the same spiritual problem all of his life, and in some states of mind it appears that he has made little or no progress. The reason that we don’t experience instantaneous change when we ask for it is that the consequences of such change would actually not be good. A person who gets a pair of glasses for the first time certainly can see better instantly, but for some period of time these glasses will seem foreign to him. He won’t really feel like himself. The same would be true if the Lord instantly changed us. Another problem with instantaneous change is that we don’t know what the consequences of changing one area of our life will have on so many others. Our spiritual state is a complex interconnection of so many features that even small changes in one area can have surprising results.

Another feature of being spiritually healed is that sometimes progress can look more as if we are going backward. A natural example of this is renovation of a kitchen. A lot of demolition, dust, and mess are the first steps before a new and much more useful kitchen can begin to take shape. A somewhat similar event occurs in our spiritual development. Consider the following passage from Arcana Coelestia: “Before anything is restored to order it is very common for everything to be reduced first of all to a state of confusion resembling chaos so that things that are not compatible may be separated from one another. And once these have been separated the Lord arranges them into order” (842:3).

Not only did the Lord heal people when He was in the world but He also gave power to His disciples to go out and heal. From this power they were able to perform miracles of healing themselves. We too can be like the Lord’s disciples as we work to support what is genuinely true and good in the people around us. Our words and deeds can help the Lord bring healing to others. We can help others to see themselves more clearly and the effects that their words and deeds have on others. Without condemning them we can help them recognize that there are spiritual diseases harming a part of their usefulness. We can help them recognize that change is possible. We can help them turn to the Lord for this help. We can even help them by helping them understand what is true and good even when they don’t recognize that the Lord is the source of this order. The book of Revelation speaks of the leaves of the tree of life being for the healing of the nations. These leaves represent the sensible ideas that we can share with others and help them to live wiser and more useful lives.

The Lord would heal us of the spiritual diseases that are hurting us and those around us. He will certainly come to us when we call. May we trust in His loving care. May we open our eyes to see the qualities in our life that need His healing touch. May we seek this healing touch each day. Amen.

 


 

Lessons: Matthew 9:35-38, 10:1-4; Psalm 41; AC 8364

Arcana Coelestia 8364

All the disease that I have put on the Egyptians, I will not put upon thee. That this signifies that they are to be withheld from the evils that pertain to those who are in faith separate and in a life of evil is evident from the signification of “disease” as being evil (of which below); from the representation of the Egyptians as being those who are in faith separate and in a life of evil (see n. 7097, 7317, 7926, 8148); and from the signification of “not to put upon thee” when said of disease, by which evil is signified, as being that they are to be withheld from evil; for Jehovah, that is, the Lord, does not take away evil but withholds man from it, and keeps him in good (n. 929, 1581, 2256, 2406, 4564, 8206). From this it is that by “not to put disease upon them” is signified that they are to be withheld from evils.

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. Hence it is that by “disease” is signified in the internal sense evil; and by “the diseases of the Egyptians,” the evils into which those cast themselves who had been in faith separate and in a life of evil, whereby they had infested the upright, which evils have been treated of in what precedes, where the plagues in Egypt were treated of.

Evils are also meant by “diseases” in other passages in the Word, as in Moses: “If thou wilt keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments which I command thee this day, Jehovah will remove from thee all sickness, and will not put upon thee all the evil weaknesses of Egypt which thou hast known, but will give them upon thy haters” (Deut. 7: 11,15).

“If thou wilt not obey the voice of Jehovah thy God, by keeping to do all His commandments and His statutes, Jehovah will send on thee the curse, the disquiet, and the rebuke, in every putting forth of thy hand which thou doest, until thou be destroyed, because of the wickedness of thy works, whereby thou hast forsaken Me. Jehovah shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until He has consumed thee from upon the land; Jehovah shall smite thee with consumption, and with a hot fever, and with a burning fever, and with a raging fever, and with drought, and with blasting, and with jaundice, which shall pursue thee until thou perish: Jehovah shall smite thee with the ulcer of Egypt, and with the hemorrhoids, and with the scab, and with the itch, that thou canst not be healed. Jehovah shall smite thee with fury, and with blindness, and with amazement of heart. Thou shalt become mad from the look of thine eyes. Jehovah shall smite thee with a sore ulcer, upon the knees, and upon the thighs, whereof thou canst not be healed, from the sole of the foot unto the crown of thy head. He will throw back on thee all the weakness of Egypt, also every disease, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law. Jehovah shall give thee a trembling heart, consumption of eyes, and grief of soul” (Deut. 28:15, 20-22, 27, 28, 34, 35, 60, 61, 65). 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. (See what has been said from experience about the correspondence of diseases with evils, n. 5711-5727.) …

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. This is meant by the Lord’s words to the disciples sent by John: “Tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead rise again, and the poor hear the gospel” (Matt. 11:4,5). Hence it is that it is so often said that the Lord “healed all disease and weakness” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 14:14,35,36; Luke 4:40; 5:15; 6:17; 7:21; Mark 1:32-34; 3:10).