Inferiority – How to heal this feeling?

inferiorityDo you feel lower in status or ability than others? Perhaps you find yourself engaging in self-disparaging self-talk from time to time. ‘I can’t do this as well as them’; ‘I fall behind because I’m basically too slow’; ‘They look down on me because I’m not good enough’. Here we have a sense of inferiority causing doubt and uncertainty, feelings of not measuring up to standards, and a lack of self-worth.

Consequences of feelings of inferiority

As a result, others around you may note that you are the sort of person who seems unsure of yourself often seeking attention and approval, someone who feels inadequate to deal with anything without relying on them for encouragement and reassurance. When these feelings of inferiority really get you down then you have a state of mind that you may inwardly realise needs healing.

Being at risk for a sense of inferiority

To have a sense of inferiority, you don’t have to be a member of an ethnic minority, be poor and out of work, have a physical disability or have a childhood memory of failing to live up to parents expectations, but, if you do have any of these, you may be more at risk.

Perhaps you happen to believe that people who are successful are more important, or that people of a certain race, or state of health are at the top of the list. Maybe your self-criticism has some measure of truth but, even if true, does this make you a lesser mortal than the majority of humanity? An inferior sort of human? Doesn’t everyone have their own weaknesses as well as strengths?

Some healing suggestions

Open yourself to healing by:

1. Catching yourself running yourself down. Instead get into the habit of being fair and reasonable regarding your strengths and weaknesses. What you say to yourself may be unfair if you are exaggerating your negative side.

2. Affirming the idea that no matter how others denigrate you, we all deserve respect and happiness because of unconditional love that is the spiritual source of all things. A good parent loves the disabled child as much as the able-bodied one not because of their abilities but because of their needs.

3. Watching out for manipulators – individuals who seem to like to put you down in subtle ways that are not obvious. Perhaps this can be heard in their tone of voice, sarcastic asides, and focusing on negatives about you without much in the way of any positives. These people want to feel superior and so they try to cause you inferiority feelings. They are practised at knowing how to detect weaknesses and once found, they use someone’s weaknesses against him or her.

4. Remembering a spiritual perspective. I really believe that healing of the spirit will happen if you have a deep desire for living a full life of usefulness unencumbered by self-doubt, and anxiety.


There is a story in the Bible about a loving mother who approaches Christ for help because of her concern for her suffering daughter said to be possessed by demons. The mother is a Canaanite – a nation in the story the Jews despise.

As a woman she is a second class citizen in a culture dominated by men. This was the case two thousand years ago in Palestine and is still the case in some parts of the world now. Considered more like property, she functions more like a servant, and a producer of children than someone to be cherished as a loving companion. She has a husband who by law is allowed to divorce her for any reason. Enough, one might think, to give anyone strong feelings of inferiority.

On top of that she is intimidated by this religious teacher – first ignored, then told to go away, and then suffering his stinging words saying his mission is not for her people’s benefit and that she is nothing better than a dog.

Nevertheless, she is not put off by his inattention and rudeness but shows humility and love in her renewed plea. As a result the story tells us the healing takes place.

In his book 12 Miracles of Spiritual Growth, E. Kent Rogers suggests that if we are possessed by feelings of inferiority, we would be wise like the woman in the story to be persistent in our efforts to find healing and be willing to struggle with God as the source of all healing.

If we are tired of the way our self-depreciation, inhibits our ability to love and connect with others, if we are saddened by the way our self-hatred affects others negatively then we will be empowered to tenaciously petition God for healing until we receive what we want. “(E. Kent Rogers, Swedenborgian writer)

So if you are troubled by a feeling of inferiority why not be persistent in humbly asking for help in private prayer?

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

Can I find forgiveness?

longer version

Spiritual healing can be needed for guilty feelings. Not all that is going on in our mind is the working of a true conscience. Some of us find ourselves at times on a guilt trip. Even if we have a sound mind, we may sometimes feel guilty over the smallest thing – without rhyme or reason painstakingly worried about something we have done that really is unimportant.

One example is children who, having been trained by their parents to follow certain rules, like never putting one’s elbows on the table at meal times – feel guilty when they have grown into adulthood feeling guilty if they ever break this rule. Other examples of illogical guilt are saying `sorry’ a lot of the time and unfairly criticising ourselves. Trying too hard to get friends to like us, feeling easily embarrassed when asking for favours or doing anything that might displease them.

Many hopelessly sick people feel constantly guilty. This may result from the suspicion that their sickness and fate are self-inflicted and their own fault. Alternatively, they may assume, more or less, the role of the utterly dependent child. Some consciously apologize for the trouble and fuss they are causing. (Our Western culture fosters a sense of guilt in most of us when illness places us in the dependent role). If we are dying, we may even feel as if we are forcing the living to face the necessity of their own deaths for which we suppose they will not be thankful.

Psychoanalysis is interested in throwing light on our unconscious emotional impulses, and the conflicts between these and the demands of the real world around us. Feeling frequently guilt-ridden comes about from our worldly concerns – like wanting to be well thought of and desiring popularity.  According to Sigmund Freud, neurotic guilt should be approached by working through the sense of badness and the unconscious wish for punishment. People tend in varying amounts to be troubled by all manner of false guilt feelings resulting from a distorted perhaps puritanical viewpoint of human reality – and I would say that in the uncovering of such false guilt feelings, the Freudian psychotherapists have done a good service to the general psychological health of modern people.

We can start to feel a little less uptight about our behaviour when we see the unreasonableness of some of these guilt-laden habits of thought and learn how to face up to them. For example realising that looking after oneself does not necessarily make us selfish. If we did not spend money on food and clothes for ourselves, we would not be able to do useful work. If we do not have any respect for ourselves, how can we hope to respect anyone else? If we do not look after ourselves how can we expect to look after anyone else? As I have earlier suggested, if we can better accept ourselves for what we are – warts and all – then we will depend less on being looked upon well by those who know us.

If we can learn to notice our strengths as well as our failings, we will feel less bad about our mistakes. We can let go of some unpleasant guilt feelings and illusory  ideas they tend to generate.

Our True Conscience

Our true conscience is more than mere knowledge in the head – it also involves the heart. It is different from unconscious fear of the ingrained experience of parental displeasure or disappointment in childhood that psychoanalysts point to in the notion of `superego’. It is not the same as the feelings of shame triggered by social pressures about which some other psychologists talk.

Sometimes we act against a heartfelt and deep awareness of what we feel to be  right – against a true conscience. We rightly feel bad about it even if sometimes we act in error on impulse without thinking.


“Anger, intoxication, obstinacy, bigotry, deceit, envy, grandiloquence, pride and conceit, intimacy with the unjust, this is what defiles one.”
(Sutta-Nipata, ii, 2,7. – Buddhist tradition)

In other words sooner or later we all do foolish things. The existential psychotherapists have pointed out that one cannot reason away those guilt feelings which come from an awareness of actual transgressions against true conscience and unfulfilled potentials. The important thing is to try to disentangle feelings of guilt arising because of a true conscience from feelings of guilt arising from other causes. For example, it may be reasonable and fair to accept guilt about the avoidable bad things that we have done. No longer can the individual comfortably rely on such alibis as `I didn’t mean it’, `It was an accident’, `I couldn’t help it’, and `I followed an irresistible impulse. Such acknowledgment of guilt arising from a true conscience is helpful if it can lead to a change of behaviour. It is easier to feel a sense of being forgiven when we change our actions for the better.

Misguided Conscience

We may be being unduly hard on ourselves when we castigate ourselves for past wasted time, or unfinished tasks when we have been in a situation where we have been beset with difficult problems. It is easy to look back with hindsight and notice lost opportunities not seen at the time. The chronically sick person who blames him or herself for talents withering in disuse is listening to a mistaken conscience for no one can be expected to lead an active and full working life whilst struck down with illness beyond their control. How can one forgive oneself for such past behaviour when there is nothing one can do to make amends?

A couple had recently fallen in love and got married.  They were sublimely happy. But tragically within weeks of the wedding, the woman was given a diagnosis of cancer and soon found herself needing a mastectomy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She became bald due to hair loss, developed mouth sores and painful bowel movements and had to face the devastating likelihood of an early death with no chance of having a child. In order to be with his wife through her ordeal, her husband, who was a writer of world renown in his field, chose to stop writing and generally turned his life over to her fight against cancer. This was an emotionally draining responsibility. He assumed he could not voice his own needs because of her suffering. Not surprisingly she came to take his support for granted.

In the middle of this, he himself went down with a medium-term debilitating illness of unknown origin. Due to exhaustion he even stopped his daily meditation – a spiritual practice that had previously given him huge benefit. For over a year he completely submerged his own interests, his own work, his own life. Up to that period, writing had been his life-blood. He defined himself by his writing and when that suddenly stopped he was suspended in mid-air, so to speak. In other words, his mistaken conscience was dictating altruistic but psychologically unhealthy behaviour that could not last indefinitely.

He was to say that he would have done all this again unhesitatingly under the same circumstances but would have done it differently with more of a support system for himself in place. The grinding role of a full-time carer takes a devastating toll unless this is available.

The need for one to find a balance between one’s own needs and the needs of one’s family or one’s work is quite a challenge these days with so many pressures to withstand – let alone the extra pressure of being a full-time carer. It is a mistaken  conscience that gets us to perform our useful caring roles without setting aside any time for ourselves – for our recreation and other personal needs.

Phoney Conscience

Although caring for oneself may be important, sometimes underneath our actions are mixed motives. We may do things ostensibly for others when our real motivation is also looking for what we gain in the situation for example the good regard of others or an escape from criticism. This is a phoney conscience at work.  Cynics call this `enlightened self-interest’. Spiritual teachers instead urge that we do not act wisely and well from the thought of reward and concern only for ourselves.


“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.”
(Matt 6,1)


“Let right deeds be your motive, not the fruit which comes from them.”
(Krishna. Bhagavad-Gita, ii, 47. – Hindu tradition)

There even comes a point when self-love amounts to vanity and narcissism. Are we worried about not shopping for the latest cosmetic? Perhaps a false conscience is at work. A true conscience would encourage us to care for ourselves  – doing our own thing – as long as this does not totally ignore the needs of loved ones, or the values that give our life deeper meaning.

Blame Game

We may try hard to put the past behind us and forget about what we feel ashamed. However, the past keeps coming back to haunt us so that we may end up feeling miserable. This can happen especially when throughout our upbringing we have been repeatedly blamed for any sign of self-centredness and pleasure seeking. Freud has shown the damaging impact of those traditional religious doctrines that support an account of God in terms of a persecutory superego that looks down upon mortals, judging and often condemning their behaviour. Instead of finding a sense of self-acceptance that enables us to move on putting the past behind us, we may instead feel we deserve condemnation or even punishment before this can happen.

Sometimes we may want to be punished in the hope that this will put things right. Perhaps we yearn for God’s forgiveness but cannot experience this because we believe we deserve only his judgment. Many people hold – what I believe to be a mistaken view – that he is keeping a little book totting up our sins as well as our good actions so that we can be rewarded with paradise or be punished with hell-fire depending on which list is longer. They believe that they and others deserve to be blamed when they are bad. Instead, I believe our destiny depends – not on past behaviour but rather on our future character. Those who become considerate, compassionate and kind-hearted – no matter what terrible things they may have previously done – are destined to continue enjoying underlying heavenly peace and joy despite any circumstantial trials and problems. On the other hand those who never progress beyond a self-orientated self-serving attitude are destined to continue suffering underlying miserable states of mind despite any enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment.

Mistaken Attributions

We need to make a distinction between the experiencing of temptation and whether or not we succumb to it. After all, good and bad impulses and thoughts arise from what we see and hear on a daily basis from television and radio, from what those around as at work and home say in our hearing and from what we read in newspapers, books and magazines. They stir up associations in our memory. Without realising it, although inspiring or alluring images and ideas may stir us up, nevertheless we can take no responsibility for their rising up within us.

We should not take the credit for any originality they may inspire – only perhaps for the effort and work we put in to turning them into something worthwhile. Neither should we take the blame for any shameful desires they excite in us; unless we dwell on their fantasies, act them out and then justify to ourselves our indulgence in them.


“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ”
(Matt 15, 11)

In other words, it is not the having of bad ideas and impulses arise in us, but how we respond to them that begins to shape our character.

Swedenborg says that anything that is genuinely good comes from God and heaven and so we can claim no merit in ourselves for it. This is at the centre of the correct religious attitude. The trouble is this idea has been misused to justify the notion we should focus on our religious belief rather than try to do good and useful work. Actually although I believe God is the power of goodness itself and the source of all virtues such as patience, tolerance, and kindness, nevertheless we human beings should do our best to take on board these divinely inspired qualities. Leave us to our own ways of doing things, and we would not act well. However, divinely inspired goodness and light can shine through our actions. Turning in the right direction towards God, we act as a channel for heavenly influence on earth and we become suitable vessels to receive spiritual gifts that enrich our lives and help us to gradually grow in love and faith. What many Christians call being reborn. The religious person is saying that the motivation for all that he or she does that is good comes from heaven.

Some of us tend to feel guilty believing all the bad things we think come from ourselves. Yet, only extremely vain conceited individuals make a mistake in claiming credit for every good idea they happen to have. Surely if it is mistaken to attribute all virtuous impulses to oneself it is also an error to believe that we are responsible for all bad things we think? Can we really be blamed for all the shameful desires that pop into our hearts if we neither entertain them for long nor fall for their tempting allure?

For me the answer is simple. Is not the hidden influence of hell the source of all vice such as malice, cruelty or condemnation? All we can do is try to avoid hells way. If we do not, then what is bad will stick fast to us and we will find it rather difficult to wash ourselves clean from all the dirt.

 Personal Growth

Swedenborg taught that God is the source of pure compassion. Loving us as he does, he puts aside our faults and blemishes. Such a picture of the divine is one that accepts us fully regardless of any of our past flawed actions. Although God never condones our wrongdoing, it is an image of a forgiveness. For our experience of living is one of temptation to put self before other people and bodily pleasure before principles of what is right and good e.g. to act greedily, deceitfully, or unfairly. God is just as much concerned for the cruel and evil-minded person as he is for the good person. In giving honest criticism to those in the gospel accounts who behaved badly, Jesus Christ encouraged them to change their ways and he revealed an inner attitude not one of contempt, but rather of concern and forgiveness. For example in speaking to the woman caught in an act of adultery – a crime punishable by death in her culture – he explicitly said that he did not condemn her. (John 6:11). Likewise to the Samaritan woman he met at the well, who was living with a man not her husband (John 4:10), instead of criticism he offered living water.

He wants us all to be able to freely choose good over bad, sense over foolishness, rather than becoming or remaining enslaved to the powers of darkness. For this reason God entered into the material plane of life to overcome the forces of ill-will and malice by responding with love and forbearance. By his doing this, he preserved our inner freedom.

Ideally, we would always adopt good impulses and illuminating ideas. Nevertheless, there are many times, when we abuse these spiritual gifts, by indulging in the bad desires and illusory notions that keep impinging on our hearts and minds. In other words, it is we at times who often distance ourselves from the divine by acting out base urges and following mistaken or self-centred notions. One example is when we continue to hold a grievance or feel resentful towards someone who has wronged us rather than adopting a forgiving heart. How can we expect to experience the forgiveness of others or to be able to forgive ourselves – let alone the forgiveness of God for our own wrongdoing, if we do not develop a forgiving heart towards those who do us ill. It is we and not God who creates our resulting unhappiness.

What is bad in our behaviour brings it own reward. If we drink too much alcohol, we suffer cirrhosis of the liver and may lose our livelihood. If we go round, being nasty to people we soon will not have any friends and will become a social outcast. Bad behaviour results in bad consequences. It is we who tend to guiltily condemn ourselves for any wrongdoing. A God of love and wisdom cannot condemn anyone but only continually try to help us in the predicaments we create for ourselves.

Only by responding to the still small voice of our inner conscience can we hope to resolve to change. Swedenborg concludes that what is needed is acknowledgement of error, heartfelt repentance and sincere resolve not to repeat the error. We can experience a guilt-free state of peace and contentment if we, like little children, innocently allow God to lead us in all we do instead of primarily following our own agenda and own misguided self-interests.


“There is divine, that is, infinite love; and there is divine, that is, infinite mercy… (that) continually excuses, and continually forgives.”
(Swedenborg. Arcana Coelestia section 8573 2)

Extracted from the book Heart, Head and Hands by Stephen Russell-Lacy

Posted on13th December 2010CategoriesEssaysTags, , ,, , , , , , ,, , , , , , ,

The Raven and the Dove

October 19, 2014 – Toronto

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

  1. Introduction

    1. Remember that the story of Noah and the Ark comes from the Ancient Word, written in an “ancient style” – factitious; a made-up story that is nevertheless true.

      1. The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers that we read as a lesson is an example of the same kind of thing in the Lord‘s own words in the New Testament. It’s not a story about real people, but the lesson it teaches is truth itself.

    2. Review story

      1. The earth filled with wickedness

      2. Noah commanded to build an ark

      3. Locked inside, there is rain for 40 days and nights, flooding the earth and destroying all the wicked things.

      4. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (GEN 7:24).

      5. The waters subside. It takes another 150 days until the ark rests on the ground.

      6. Another 40 days pass until Noah opens the window and sends out a raven.

        1. The raven flies back and forth but does not return.

      7. Then Noah releases a dove.

        1. The first time it does not find a place to rest, so it returns to the ark.

        2. After 7 days he tries again. This time the dove returns with an olive leaf.

        3. After 7 more days he sends the dove again. This time it does not return and he knows that it is finally safe to leave the ark and start his new life.

  2. Main Body

    1. Contrast the raven to the dove.

      1. Black, carrion eating. The raven represents the last states of the falsity that was the cause of the flood in the first place.

      2. It flies back and forth, gradually disappears; a picture of the waning falsity which allows for the emergence of the new states of truth from the Lord’s Word.

    2. Doves = the truths and goods of faith residing with a person who is to be regenerated (AC 870)

    3. The question is why is the dove released 3 times?

      1. The subject is the three states following temptations in the regeneration of this man (AC 871)

    4. Dove 1 – No rest, comes back to the ark.

      1. ‘The dove found no rest for the sole of its foot’ means that no good and truth of faith at all had as yet been able to take root.

      2. ‘It returned to him to the ark’ means good and truth appearing to be the good and truth of faith with him.

      3. ‘For the waters were over the face of the earth’ means that falsities were still there to overflowing.

      4. ‘He put out his hand’ means his own power.

      5. ‘And he took hold of it, and brought it in to himself into the ark’ means that self was the source of the good he did and of the truth he thought. (AC 873)

      6. [The first time the dove is released represents] a state when people imagine that they themselves are the source of the good they do and of the truth they think. And because they are still in the greatest obscurity, the Lord lets them cling to that opinion. But as long as they cling to that opinion which is false, no good deed they do nor any truth they think is the good or truth of faith. For whatever a person carries out from himself cannot be good since it has come from self, an impure and most unclean origin. (AC 874)

      7. While [the person who is being regenerated] was inside the ark, which means his state prior to regeneration, he was in captivity or prison, hemmed in on every side by evils and falsities, which are ‘the flood-waters’.

      8. Consequently ‘it returned to him to the ark’ means that good and truth meant by the dove came back to him again. Any good at all which a person supposes that he does from himself comes back to him, for it has self in view. AC 876)

      9. The waters – falsities – are still surrounding the ark, so even though the person is attempting to do things that are good, still at heart there is an element of selfishness. A lot of our immature efforts to do good have a selfish motive; we want to go to heaven! Later, as we mature, we eventually begin to do good because it’s the right thing to do, because we are beginning to learn how to love the neighbour.

    5. Dove 2 – Finds an olive branch which it brings back to Noah.

      1. ‘He waited yet another seven days’ means the beginning of the second state of regeneration,

      2. ‘seven days’ meaning that which is holy, because now charity is the subject.

      3. ‘And he proceeded to send out the dove from the ark’ means a state of receiving the goods and truths of faith.

      4. ‘And the dove returned to him at evening time’ means that these started to show themselves a little,

      5. ‘evening time’ being similar in meaning to pre-morning twilight.

      6. ‘And behold, in its mouth an olive leaf plucked off means a small measure of the truth of faith,

      7. ‘leaf’ meaning truth,’ olive good that stems from charity,

      8. ‘plucked off’ the fact that the truth of faith derives from that charity, and ‘in its mouth’ the fact that it was made visible.

      9. ‘And Noah knew that the waters had abated from over the earth’ means that all this was so because the obstructive falsities were now fewer than previously. (AC 879)

        1. Those waters of falsity are being pushed back by the improving state of regeneration.

        2. The “leaves” of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations.

        3. It’s important that it is an olive leaf, for the olive (which produces oil) introduces the element of charity tied to the truth represented by the leaf.

      10. The waters continue to abate: “when a person is being regenerated truths are planted in him towards which falsities are turned by the Lord. It thus appears as though they have been dispersed, dispersed by means of the goods which he is given.” (AC 887)

    6. Dove 3 – Does not return, demonstrating to Noah that it is finally safe to open the ark.

      1. ‘He waited yet another seven days’ means the beginning of the third state,

      2. ‘seven days’ meaning that which is holy.

      3. ‘And he sent out the dove’ means a state of receiving the goods and truths of faith.

      4. ‘The dove did not come back to him any more’ means a state of freedom. (AC 888)

        1. The water – the falsities – have finally been pushed back enough that the person can begin to act from freedom and rationality. They get out of the ark and walk about on the earth, breathing the fresh air, moving about as they wish.

      5. ‘It happened in the six hundred and first year’ means a finishing point.

      6. ‘At the beginning, on the first of the month’ means a starting point.

      7. ‘The waters dried up from over the earth’ means that falsities were not at that time apparent.

      8. ‘And Noah removed the covering of the ark, and saw out’ means the light, once falsities had been removed, shed by the truths of faith, which he acknowledged and in which he had faith.

      9. ‘And behold, the face of the ground was dry’ means regeneration. (AC 893)

  3. Conclusion

    1. When we think about our own spiritual states it’s hard for us to get a sense of perspective because we only experience the ‘now’. We dimly remember the past, and we cannot know the future.

    2. The power of this story, then, is that it gives us a picture of the progress of the states of regeneration.

      1. If we are in the early stages, it can give us hope for the future, and guide us on the path.

      2. If we are in the later stages, it can give us a perspective from which to look back and be reminded of the progress that we have made.

      3. But, if nothing else, this little fragment of the Noah story holds within it the promise and certainty of the Lord’s constant care and guidance, and demonstrates that He does have a plan for us, and even when the storms rage around us, when the evil spirits try to enslave us, He can still can lead us to our heavenly home. Amen.

First Lesson: Genesis 8 – from the Children’s Talk

Second Lesson: MAT 21:33-44

“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘ The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, And it is marvellous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

Third Lesson: AC 892.

Once someone has been regenerated he enters for the first time into a state of freedom. Previously he has been in a state of slavery. It is slavery when evil desires and falsities predominate, freedom when affections for good and truth do so. As long as he is in a state of slavery, a person never perceives what his situation is. Only when he enters a state of freedom does he start to do so. When he is in a state of slavery, that is, when evil desires and falsities predominate, the person who has become subject to them imagines that he is in a state of freedom. That however is sheer falsity, for he is at that time being carried away by the delight that accompanies desires and resulting pleasures, that is, by the delight accompanying the loves that are his own…. It is however the devilish spirits, in whose company and so to speak fast moving stream he is caught, who carry him away….

[2] No one ever enters into a state of freedom until he has been regenerated and is being led by the Lord by means of the love of good and truth. When he has entered that state he is enabled to know and perceive for the first time what freedom really is, because he can at that point know and perceive what life is, what the true delight in life is, and what happiness is…. When persons who are in a state of freedom from the Lord see the life that goes with evil desires and falsities, and even more when they experience it, they are as appalled by it as people who see hell opened before their eyes

Prayer, Betrayal, and Arrest

A sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – April 6, 2014

  1. Jesus had been teaching in the smaller towns and villages outside of Jerusalem for three years. His miracles and radical ideas had attracted quite a few followers, and at the same time had attracted the attention and anger of the chief Priests and Elders of the church.

    1. Then, at the time of the Passover when the streets of Jerusalem were crowded with visitors, Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, a symbol of royalty, and then went into the temple. There He cleaned out the people who were selling animals for sacrifice and the money changers, saying that the temple was “His house” and that they had made it a “den of thieves1.”

      1. This was a powerful message. One might have expected that having entered as royalty, He would go to the palace to confront Herod. Instead, He went to the temple, showing that instead of being an earthly king, it was His intention to be the king of a spiritual kingdom.

    2. All these things, both taken individually and as a whole, enraged the leaders of the church. They believed they had just cause to arrest Him, but they feared His popularity. If they were going to act, it would have to be in secret.

      1. If Jesus had spent the night in some private home in Jerusalem, away from the crowds, He surely would have been arrested. He knew that would be the eventual result, but He needed to control the time and circumstances, so He and the disciples left Jerusalem every night and rested in Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.

    3. On Thursday, the Lord and His disciples celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem. It was here that the Lord instituted the Holy Supper, and it was from this meal that Judas Iscariot departed to lead the chief priests and the soldiers to arrest Jesus.

      1. After the Passover meal was completed, the Lord returned to the Mount of Olives, and it is here, on Thursday night, where the events we are interested in unfold.

  2. (Mat 26:36-56) Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” {37} And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. {38} Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” {39} He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” {40} Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? {41} “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” {42} Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” {43} And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. {44} So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. {45} Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. {46} “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

    1. Three” = complete. (Many passages)

    2. Sleep” = a lack of perception of spiritual things. (Many passages)

    3. Cup” = temptation. (Many passages)

    4. AC 1787. …Every temptation is attended with some kind of despair (otherwise it is not a temptation), and therefore consolation follows. He who is tempted is brought into anxieties, which induce a state of despair as to what the end is to be. The very combat of temptation is nothing else. He who is sure of victory is not in anxiety, and therefore is not in temptation.

      [2] The Lord also, as He endured the most dire and cruel temptations of all, could not but be driven into states of despair, and these He dispelled and overcame by His own power; as may be clearly seen from His temptation in Gethsemane….

      [3] From these passages we may see what was the nature of the Lord’s temptations-that they were the most terrible of all; and that He felt anguish from the very inmosts, even to the sweating of blood; and that He was then in a state of despair concerning the end and the event; and also that He had consolations.

    5. But, how is it that the Lord, who is the God of the Universe, all powerful, all knowing, could be tempted?

      1. First of all, we need to be clear that His love of the human race was never tempted. He was only tempted in regard to how it would happen, the truth of the matter. And even this could only happen if He metaphorically tied one hand behind His back, by taking on the limitations of a physical, human body.

        1. AC 2813. And bound Isaac his son. That this signifies the state of the Divine rational thus about to undergo as to truth the last degrees of temptation…. That to “bind” is to put on the state for undergoing the last degrees of temptation, is evident from the fact that he who is in a state of temptation is no otherwise than as bound or chained…. “Isaac the son” is the Lord’s Divine rational, here as to truth…. All the genuine rational consists of good and truth. The Lord’s Divine rational as to good could not suffer, or undergo temptations; for no … spirit inducing temptations can come near to Good Divine, as it is above all attempt at temptation. But Truth Divine bound was what could be tempted; for there are fallacies, and still more falsities, which break in upon and thus tempt it…. It was Truth Divine which was no longer acknowledged when the Lord came into the world, and therefore it was that from which the Lord underwent and endured temptations. Truth Divine in the Lord is what is called the “Son of man,” but Good Divine is what is called the “Son of God.” Of the “Son of man” the Lord says many times that He was to suffer, but never of the Son of God.

      2. It’s important to remember that although the Lord was going through temptations throughout His life in the world, they are only recorded in two places: His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness2, and the events surrounding the crucifixion.

        1. In the wilderness series we see three different kinds of temptations. This was to show that all the Lord’s temptations could be divided into these three types, and therefore they were a symbol for them all. Here the forty tells us that it was a temptation, and the three tells us that the series was complete.

        2. Notice also that when on Gethsemane, the Lord goes away to pray three times. The three tells us that this was not the only time He prayed, but that it was to represent all His prayers throughout His time in the world, the complete set.

        3. And the number three occurs again in the resurrection in that He rose on the third day. The number three associated with His resurrection indicates that the state of being in the world in a human body was now complete and the next state, that of the glorified Divine Human, was about to begin.

      3. Earlier that evening, at the Passover meal, Jesus said to the twelve, “one of you will betray Me” (MAT 26:21). What’s interesting is that when He said that, the twelve responded by asking him, “Is it I?” (MAT 26:22) and when Judas asked Him the same question, the Lord responded, “You have said it” (MAT 26:25).

        1. Whatever motives Judas may have had at the time, the fact is that this was part of the Lord’s plan, something that needed to happen.

          1. This becomes clear when we think about the situation. The Lord and the twelve were camped in an olive grove on a mountain top some distance from the city. If there was any light at all, it would have come from small campfires, and all the men would have been roughly the same age and dressed in roughly the same clothes. The men coming to arrest Jesus would have needed someone who knew Him well to be able to positively identify Him so that they could be sure to arrest the right person.

          2. The word “betray” also has the meaning of “to reveal” as in “the child’s giggling betrayed his hiding place,” although by taking things into his own hands and working secretly with the Chief Priests and Elders for money there was certainly an element of the traditional concept of betrayal.

    6. {47} And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. {48} Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” {49} Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. {50} But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. {51} And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. {52} But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. {53} “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? {54} “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” {55} In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me.{56} “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.

      1. Notice the sequence of events as described by Matthew.

        1. A large crowd of armed men arrived, likely also carrying torches, led by Judas. One could easily imagine that they would have been both seen and heard a long way off, and if the Lord had wished it, He and the disciples could have slipped away in the dark.

        2. When the men seized Jesus, a fight broke out. The disciples were carrying swords. They drew them and attacked the men in the crowd, leading to the injury to the servant of the High Priest.

        3. Jesus healed the servant, admonished the crowd for coming in secret when He had been daily in the temple, and then meekly submitted to them.

        4. It appears that the disciples were indeed expecting Him to call down a legion of angels, or at least use His powers in some other way to defeat this crowd, but once they realized that He was giving Himself up without the fight for which they had been preparing for years, they fled in confusion.

  3. There are several things we need to reflect on in preparation for Easter.

    1. The importance of doubt in temptation

    2. The Lord’s two states of Temptation and Glorification.

      1. When He taught and acted with authority, He was in the state of Glorification, feeling one with the Father within.

      2. When He expressed anger, or doubt, He was in the state of Temptation, feeling distant from the Father within, and doubting that the course He was on was the correct way to ensure the salvation of the human race.

    3. The Lord’s love was never tempted, only the process.

      1. The hells could not touch the Lord’s Divine Love, but they could introduce falsities in the forms of alternative plans that would have the ability to create doubt, thus temptation to deviate from the original plan.

    4. While His temptations are more grievous than we can experience or imagine, still they are recorded so that we can by guided and comforted by them.

    5. How to do they comfort us? If the Lord can fight and overcome in these circumstances, surely He can fight and overcome for us, too.

    6. Finally, remember that the goal was redemption of the human race.

      1. Not wiping away sin, but restoring spiritual freedom by conquering the hells and putting them back into order.

      2. Every moment of every day we are free to think about anything we want, and we are free to choose our own course. That is freedom of choice in spiritual things. It makes it possible for each one of us to go to heaven. And for that we should be eternally grateful. Amen.

Hear now the Word of the Lord …

First Lesson: Isaiah 53:1-12

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked– But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Second Lesson: AC (Elliott) n. 3381

3381. ‘Because Abraham hearkened to My voice’ means the union of the Lord’s Divine Essence with the Human Essence by means of temptations.

[2] That these considerations are meant by hearkening to the voice of Jehovah, or the Father, is also evident from the Lord’s words uttered in Gethsemane, in Matthew, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will but as You will. Again, for the second time, My Father, if this cup cannot pass from Me unless I drink it, Your will he done. Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42.

But because Jehovah or the Father was within Him, that is, He was in the Father and Father in Him – John 14:10, 11 – ‘hearkening to Jehovah’s voice’ is used to mean that the Lord through temptations united the Divine to the Human by His own power, as is also clear from the Lord’s own words in John, As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down My life,3 for the sheep. For this reason the Father loves Me, that I lay down My life,4 so that I may receive it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; I have power to lay it down and I have power to receive it again; this commandment I have received from My Father. John 10:15, 17, 18.

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

1MAT 21:13, MAR 11:17, LUK 19:46

2Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4

3Literally, soul

4Literally, sou

The Seventh Day

Practices of Peace week 7

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – March 16, 2014

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. {2} And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen 2:1-3)

For the past 6 weeks we have been looking at the days of creation as found in the book of Genesis. Through this careful study it has become quite clear that these passages do not and are not intended to speak about the creation of the natural world. They are the states of the development of the human mind. The wonderful thing is that because the story itself is written in the form of a parable, there are all kinds of valid ways to interpret and use this information. It’s a wonderful way to describe the steps of awakening intelligence in a new-born. It can also be used to describe the states that the Lord Himself went through when He was born into the world. Or, as we have been focussing on here, the seven days can speak of the seven successive states that each one of us goes through when we tackle some evil that we find within ourselves and try to remove it with the Lord’s help.

Today we are talking about the seventh day, a day of rest and reflection. It’s like hiking to the top of a mountain. There are a number of different kinds of challenges to face along the way. You have to look at the weather and make the decision to go or not go. You have to make sure you are wearing the right clothes and have the proper supplies. There will be steep portions, streams to cross, and long, grinding ascents. But once at the top, the first thing that most people do is turn around and look back to see just how far they’ve come. And that is what the seventh day is about. You have decided to tackle a spiritual task. There have been a variety of challenges along the way, but now you are coming to the end and beginning to feel the delights that the Lord provides. It’s time to look back, remember the obstacles overcome, and rejoice in the accomplishment.

With that in mind, let’s review the steps.

  1. Awakening – light shines for the first time
    1. (Gen 1:1-5) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. {2} The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. {3} Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. {4} And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. {5} God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
    2. AC 7. The first state is the state which precedes, both the state existing from earliest childhood onwards and that existing immediately before regeneration; and it is called a void, emptiness, and thick darkness. And the first movement, which is the Lord’s mercy, is ‘the Spirit of God hovering over the face1 of the waters’.
    3. In this first stage, before the light hits, we grope in darkness. We might be thinking only about ourselves, our possessions, our need to be respected. Since we are unaware of the real, spiritual world within everything, our life is “empty, dark and void.” The change begins when we start to acknowledge a higher power, something more than the shallow life we’ve been living. This is like a light dawning.
  2. Distinguishing – Waters above from waters below.
    1. (Gen 1:6-8) Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” {7} Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. {8} And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
    2. AC 8. The second state is when a distinction is made between the things that are the Lord’s and those that are man’s own. Those which are the Lord’s are called in the Word ‘remnants’, and here they are chiefly the cognitions of faith which a person has learned since he was a small child. These are stored away and do not come out into the open until he reaches this state. Nowadays this state rarely occurs without temptation, misfortune, and sorrow, which lead to the inactivity and so to speak the death of bodily and worldly concerns – the things which are man’s own. In this way what belongs to the external man is segregated from what belongs to the internal. Within the internal are the remnants, stored away by the Lord until this time and for this purpose.
    3. Once we have become aware that that there is a higher authority, we begin to try to distinguish between what’s really important and what isn’t. But because we don’t worry about these things when everything is going well, these two first phases come about in times of trouble. Hardship or heartache washes away shallow concerns. We see a separation between the things that do and don’t matter. Most importantly we begin to see that the truths that the Lord provides in the Word are on a high level while the knowledges provided by the sense and other people are far below.
  3. Cultivating – Tender plants grow
    1. (Gen 1:9-13) Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. {10} And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. {11} Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. {12} And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {13} So the evening and the morning were the third day.
    2. AC 9. The third state is one of repentance, a state in which he speaks piously and devoutly from the internal man and brings forth goods, like charitable acts which are nevertheless inanimate since he imagines that they originate in himself. They are called a tender plant, then a seed-bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.
    3. When we have distinguished what’s important from what isn’t, the “soil” of our mind is ready to hear the truth, and a tender, more compassionate side of us can begin to take root. We have come to a point where we know that the Lord wants us to be kind and helpful to others, but it’s difficult at first. It’s hard to get started, and there’s a lot of merit mixed in. But, with practice and effort, the grass becomes the tree bringing forth good fruit. Still, it’s an effort of truth, not yet of love. We do it because we know we ought to, not yet because we love doing it. So more steps are still needed.
  4. Navigating – Sun, moon and stars placed in the sky for light
    1. (Gen 1:14-19) Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; {15} “and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. {16} Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. {17} God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, {18} and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. {19} So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
    2. AC 10. The fourth state is when he is moved by love and enlightened by faith. Previous to this he did indeed utter pious words and bring forth good deeds, but he did so from a state of temptation and anguish, and not from faith and charity. Therefore the latter are now kindled in his internal man, and are called the two great lights.
    3. The more we practice changing our removing evils and doing the opposite goods, the easier it becomes. Our principles become clearer – they are like the sun and moon, the “lights” that lead us. The “sun” of love stirs us to care, while the “moon” is a picture of our faith, constantly varying as we experiment and make attempts, just as the light of the moon varies during the month. But the sun, the Lord’s love, is always there, constant. And, as we move forward and begin doing things not for our own sake, or because we think we ought to, but because it’s what the Lord wants us to do, everything we do begins to be filled with spiritual light and heat.
  5. Speaking – fish swim and birds fly
    1. (Gen 1:20-23) Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” {21} So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {22} And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” {23} So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
    2. AC 11. The fifth state is when he speaks from faith and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good. What he brings forth at this point are animate and are called the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.2
    3. In this stage, the things we do or say have new energy and life because we no longer take credit for them. We become stronger advocates for what we know is true, and we feel more love for others because we are putting ourselves in the stream of Providence. We begin to have a sense or perception that God is working through us, and we can share in His love.
  6. Loving – Humans are created in the image of God
    1. (Gen 1:24-31) Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. {25} And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {26} Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” {27} So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. {28} Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” {29} And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. {30} “Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. {31} Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
    2. AC 12. The sixth state is when he utters truths and performs good deeds from faith and consequently from love. What he brings forth at this point are called a living creature and a beast. And because at this point he starts to act from faith and also simultaneously from love, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image. The spiritual life of that man finds its delight in, and is sustained by, the things which are associated with cognitions of faith and with charitable acts, which are called his food; and his natural life finds its delight in, and is sustained by, those which belong to the body and the senses. The latter give rise to conflict until love rules and he becomes a celestial man.

      AC 13. Not all people who are being regenerated reach this state. Some, indeed the majority nowadays, reach only the first. Some reach merely the second, others the third, fourth, or fifth. Seldom do any reach the sixth, and hardly anybody at all reaches the seventh (which is the celestial man).

      AC 62. The stages and states of the regeneration of man – both of mankind and of the individual person – divide into six and are called the days of his creation. Gradually from being no man at all, he first becomes something, though only little, then something more, until the sixth day is reached, when he becomes ‘an image’.

    3. Finally, we not only say what we mean, we also act on our beliefs, from a loving frame of mind. In this stage, we fully embrace our spiritual heritage as men and women created in the image of God. Literally a “new chapter” begins here. The six days of creation take up the first chapter of Genesis. The seventh day begins the second chapter. The sixth day is a picture of someone reaching a pretty advanced spiritual state – not all of us will reach this during our lives in the world, but it is held out to us as a possibility. At the end of this state, the Spiritual Man is complete.
  7. Resting – No more work, “There is peace “
    1. (Gen 2:1-3) Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. {2} And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
    2. AC 73. Verse 1 deals next with the man who from being dead has already progressed to being spiritual, and from being spiritual now progresses to being celestial.

      AC 74. The celestial man is the seventh day on which the Lord rests, verses 2, 3.

    3. There are two creations stories in Genesis, one following another. That there are two indicates that they are not meant to be taken as scientific. The first is the creation of the spiritual man in six days followed by a day of rest. Once that is complete, the next stage, if possible, is to create the celestial man. This is described in the story of the garden of Eden in Genesis 2.

The word “Sabbath” is from the Hebrew for “rest,” and it represents both the rest that comes to people when they finally conquer in temptations and the state of rest for the Lord that comes when He is finished fighting the hells for the people who have been in temptation. This is why, when the six days of creation represent our combats with evils, it is said that on the seventh day, the Lord rested. It is because it is the Lord who actually fights for us in the combats of temptation, although it seems to us that we are fighting for ourselves.

The Sabbath comes at the end of the battle, and it is a state of rest for those weary from the battle. It is also the state of peace and rest that comes to those who are victorious in their battles, have driven the enemy away, and have restored order into their lives. The Sabbath represents the state of peace and happiness that the Lord gives to people after good and truth have been conjoined in their minds by means of the combats of temptation. In regard to the Sabbath, the Word teaches that there are only two states for mankind: the first is a state of truth alone, where there is combat while the will and the understanding are not as one — the person knows one thing but wills to do another. The second state is a state of peace that follows the combat when the will and the understanding are in accord, the one part willing what the other part now knows with a certainty to be true.3

We’ve reached the top. It’s time to look around and enjoy the view of where we’ve been. We can sit down, break out lunch, and just enjoy that we have reached a difficult goal. All the while knowing that later we’ll have to go down to our home and that there will be other mountains to climb. But not for a while. Amen

First Lesson: (Luke 6:1-11)

Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. {2} And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” {3} But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: {4} “how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” {5} And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” {6} Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. {7} So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. {8} But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. {9} Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” {10} And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. {11} But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Second Lesson: AC 81

The subject in [Genesis] chapter [2] is the celestial man; in the previous chapter it was the spiritual man who progressed to being spiritual from having been a dead man. But since people nowadays do not know what the celestial man is, and scarcely know what the spiritual man is or what the dead man is, let the nature of each one be presented briefly, in order that it may be known how they differ.

First. The dead man acknowledges no other truth or good than that belonging to the body and the world. This he also worships. The spiritual man acknowledges spiritual and celestial truth and good. But he does so not so much from love as from faith, which is also the basis of his actions. The celestial man believes and perceives spiritual and celestial truth and good, and does not acknowledge any other faith than that which stems from love, which is also the basis of his actions.

Second. The dead man has solely the life of the body and of the world as his ends in view. He does not know what eternal life is, or what the Lord is. Or if he does know, he does not believe. The spiritual man has eternal life, and therefore the Lord, as his ends in view. The celestial man has the Lord and therefore His kingdom and eternal life as his ends in view.

Third. The dead man when involved in conflict nearly always gives in. And when there is no conflict evils and falsities reign supreme within him, making him their slave. His bonds are external ones, such as fear of the law, loss of life, wealth, profits, and reputation on account of these. The spiritual man is involved in conflict, but he always conquers. The bonds which restrain him are internal, and are called the bonds of conscience. The celestial man is not involved in conflict. If evils and falsities assail him, he treats them with contempt, and is therefore called a conqueror. No visible bonds restrict him, for he is a free man. His bonds, which are not visible, are perceptions of good and truth.


1lit. The faces

2lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

3See AC 9431

The Fifth Day


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, March 2, 2014

AC (Elliott) n. 39. Verse 20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth creeping things, living creatures; and let birds fly above the earth, upon the face1 of the expanse of the heavens.

  1. Last week we talked about how the turmoil and conflict come to an end when the person begins to acquire internal truths and to live from their internal man. Because the person begins to think and act from wisdom, and seeks to do things that are genuinely useful, the deeds are called in the Word the tender plant, the seed bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.
    1. But even though these deeds are genuinely good deeds, the person in the third state hasn’t yet come to see that the Lord is the source of all love and faith, and while the person thinks that these good deeds originate in themselves, that they are the cause of them, they remain “inanimate” rather than truly living. But the person is heading in the right direction.
    2. There’s been “light” since the first day. Every person, from childhood through early adulthood, is gifted with the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, and with feelings of contentment and happiness when they do the right thing. But as we navigate the shoals of adult life we are faced with temptations and challenges. If, during the course of these, we turn to the Lord through prayer and study of the Word, all the while trying to do the right thing, the fourth state will come. The light will dawn. We’ll have that “aha” moment when it starts to come together for us. We’ll feel that love from the Lord in ourselves, and we’ll see situations anew, from the light in our internal mind that comes from heaven.
      1. It doesn’t come without work, but it is the goal that the Lord has been leading us to all along.
      2. And with it comes the promise of even greater enlightenment and even greater usefulness in the states to follow.
  2. For the first four days, we’ve been talking about states and experiences that most people have. The first four states are more common, and because they tend to relate to things of the natural world, they can be illustrated in ways that most people would recognize.
    1. Most adults have figured out that we need to be kind to others, and we’ve figured out that there are things we can do that are genuinely useful that benefit other, and at the same time benefit ourselves. We have learned how to work together with our spouse.
    2. It doesn’t mean that we do these things all the time, but successful adults have figured out most of these things. It’s part of normal growth and fitting in with the other adults in the world around us.
    3. But, as the Word points out, the goods that are done at this point are as much from enlightened self-interest as they are from spiritual causes. That’s why the Arcana says that they are “inanimate” because they do not flow from the Lord.
    4. In order to make this next step in our regeneration, in order to move from the fourth to the fifth day, each person has to make a difficult jump to a new way of thinking.
      1. There needs to be a humble recognition that good comes from the Lord, not from ourselves. We need to acknowledge that the good that we do is from the Lord through us.
    5. AC 39. After the great lights have been kindled and lodged in the internal man, from which the external man receives its light, a person starts to live for the first time. Till then he can hardly be said to have lived, for he had imagined that the good he had done he had done from himself, and the truth he had uttered he had spoken from himself. And since man functioning from himself is dead – there being nothing in him that is not evil and false – therefore whatever he brings forth from himself is not living. So true is this that of himself he is incapable of doing any good deed that is in itself good….

      [2] Nevertheless when the Lord is revitalizing a person, or regenerating him, He does allow him, to begin with, to imagine that good and truth originate in himself, for at that point a person cannot grasp anything else, or be led to believe and finally perceive, that all good and truth come from the Lord alone…. But once he has been brought to life by love and faith and believes that the Lord is at work in every good deed he does and in every truth he utters, he is compared first to creeping things from the water and to birds which fly above the earth, and then to beasts, all of which are animate and are called ‘living creatures’.

      1. The problem for us is that when we read the story of creation, we can see that there is a distinct, obvious difference between the various plants that were created on the 4th day, and the birds and fishes that are created on the 5th. Both are useful and alive, but animals are distinctly more alive than plants.
      2. But when we look at our own lives, or perhaps at the lives of the people who are close to us, we can easily see the good deed that are performed, the acts of love. What we cannot see is whether they are motivated by enlightened self-interest (natural motives) or the more regenerate state of obedience to the Lord’s will (spiritual motives). If we cannot perceive the difference in ourselves, we certainly cannot know the difference in others!
      3. So, what are we to do? We know how the Lord wants us to act, we know that the Lord wants us to be motivated by getting ourselves into the stream of His Providence, of becoming instruments of His peace. We need to be conscious of that goal as we ponder the various decisions we have to make in life. Don’t examine things to the point of being unable to act at all from uncertainty about motives, but consciously choose to think about what we say in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done.” What is the Lord’s will in the particular circumstance in which we find ourselves?
    6. Why is it so important to make this jump?
      1. AC (Elliott) n. 41. Anything that is man’s own has no life in it; and when depicted visually it looks like something hard as a bone and black. But anything that comes from the Lord does contain life. It has that which is spiritual and celestial within it, and when depicted visually it looks human and alive. It is perhaps incredible, but nevertheless absolutely true, that every expression, every idea, and every least thought of an angelic spirit is alive. In even the most detailed areas of his thought there is an affection that comes from the Lord, who is life itself. Consequently all that derives from the Lord has life within it, for it contains faith in Him, and is here meant by ‘a living creature’. It then has the outward appearance of a body, meant here by that which is moving, or creeping. To [people in the world] these matters remain arcana, but since the subject here is the living and moving creature, they ought at least to be mentioned here.
  3. Let’s take a moment and look at these living things that the Lord promises will be His gifts when we enter the state represented by the 5th day of creation.
  4. AC (Elliott) n. 42. Verse 21 And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that creeps, which the waters produced abundantly according to their kinds; and all winged birds according to their kinds; and God saw that it was good. As has been stated, ‘fish’ means facts, here facts quickened and brought to life through faith from the Lord.
    1. When you think of this it helps to avoid thinking of a single fish that you’ve pulled out of the lake, or maybe one that’s being served to you for dinner. Instead, think about one of those nature specials you see on TV (or the movies) where a diver takes a good camera into clear water with good lighting and captures a whole school of fish swimming together, darting this way and that, thousands of beautiful fish turning and moving as one.
      1. This is a better picture of how a whole lot of related facts create a much larger whole, a level of understanding that has life in it. It’s made up of individual facts, but when taken together the whole is greater than the parts. Or, as the Writings say, they are “quickened” and “come to life” through faith in the Lord.
      2. Faith in the Lord? It’s that humility of spirit spoken of above where the person in the 5th state humbly submits to the Lord’s will, and adjusts his thoughts and actions accordingly. Thus, they come to life.
    2. AC 42 (continued) ‘Sea monsters’ means those facts’ general sources, below which and from which details derive. Nothing whatever exists in the universe that does not depend on some general source for its commencement and continuance. In the Prophets sea monsters or whales are mentioned several times, and in those places they mean those general sources of facts….
      1. The traditional translation here would be “great sea creatures” but the underlying Hebrew word could mean a “crocodile” or a “whale” or a “dragon.”
      2. Based on the internal sense of the passage, it seems that however we translate it, it should be something large and single so that it compares to the school of fish described above. It represents the large, general concept that forms the basis for the facts.
        1. Love your neighbour” could be the “sea monster”, and all the various ways that we can be loving towards the neighbour are the school of fish.
    3. Even though we may not really be able to feel this change of state as something distinct and obvious, yet it is a promise that we can look forward to.
    4. Perhaps it’s one of those things that can only be seen in hindsight, that is, after we have come into this state we can look back on previous states and see how things are different, how spiritual things have become more important than natural ones, and the sense that spiritual blessings are multiplying.
    5. AC (Elliott) n. 43. Verse 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas; and let birds be multiplied upon the earth. Everything that has life in it from the Lord is fruitful and multiplies without limit. This does not happen during a person’s lifetime, but in the next life it does so to an astonishing extent. In the Word ‘to be fruitful’ has reference to matters of love, while ‘to multiply’ has reference to matters of faith. The fruit of love contains the seed by which it multiplies itself to so great an extent. The Lord’s blessing also means, in the Word, fruitfulness and multiplication, for they are the outcome of that blessing.
    6. Verse 23 And there was evening, and there was morning, a fifth day.
    7. And so we see that in the fifth state the person who is regenerating moves from someone who is only acting from natural causes to one who begins to think about the Lord’s truth from the Word and makes a sincere effort to bring those truths to life in the things that he does for others. And, just as fish and birds are more “alive” than plants, so the things that the person does are more alive for they have the Lord’s own truth within them.
    8. But another step remains. While the person is now acting and living from faith in the Lord, another thing needs to be added, to be able to do these things from the good that is in the new will given to him by the Lord. This sixth state of regeneration, the 6th day of creation, will be the topic of the sermon next week.
    9. AC (Elliott) n. 48. From these considerations it is now clear that the fifth state is one in which a person speaks from faith which is part of the understanding and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good; and that what he produces at that point are the animate things called ‘the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.2

      It is also clear that the sixth state exists when he utters truths and performs good deeds from faith which is part of the understanding and so from love which is part of the will. What he produces at that point is called a living creature and a beast. And because at that point he begins to act both from faith and from love simultaneously, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image; and this is dealt with next. Amen.

First Lesson: Luke 18:15-19

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. Amen.

Second Lesson: AC 10-11

AC (Elliott) n. 10 The fourth state is when he is moved by love and enlightened by faith. Previous to this he did indeed utter pious words and bring forth good deeds, but he did so from a state of temptation and anguish, and not from faith and charity. Therefore the latter are now kindled in his internal man, and are called the two great lights.

AC (Elliott) n. 11 The fifth state is when he speaks from faith and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good. What he brings forth at this point are animate and are called the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.3 Amen.


1lit. the faces

2lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

  1. 3lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

Praying – Can it reduce anxiety?

Constant worry and anxiety, which occurs for no apparent reason, interferes with day-to-day life. Sufferers are desperate to experience peace of mind and free themselves from the power of their condition.

Meditation can greatly help. By concentrating on one thing and neglecting all the unruly thoughts that come into the mind, many have found that meditating gradually enables them to find freedom from the hold of negative feelings.

The trouble is that those with a high degree of anxiety are the ones who find the discipline of meditation the most difficult to master. The intrusive worries feel too strong to ignore.

“In meditation, the source of strength is one’s self. When one prays, he goes to a source of strength greater than his own.” (Chinese leader, Chiang Kai-shek)


Perhaps praying is a less difficult option than meditation even if you have no clear religious belief.  The spiritually orientated could focus the mind on a higher power beyond themselves which might be hoped to actually do something to make things better; such as the idea of Mother Nature, the prayingCreative Life Force, or the Universal Mind. Religious believers focus their thoughts on their image of God, which for many Christians is the human form of Christ.

“The sovereign cure for worry is prayer.” (psychologist, William James)

So what does praying involve? Isn’t it just another form of self-reflection, or meditation?


Yes, in so far as praying in private includes sharing one’s concerns then it does involve an element of self-reflection. Some people allocate some spare time in the evening to write a private journal describing the difficulties and delights of their day. Others have the habit of going on an evening stroll mulling over events in a leisurely manner. Usually there is an inner concern, a question, or a problem one is pondering.

It is easier to reflect on what threatened your well-being when you are no longer face to face with the people and events which triggered your anxiety. In a reflective state of mind you can start to put into words what you are assuming rather than being carried around by one stray image or feeling after the other. In this way you gain some understanding. This is also part of talking therapy. The counsellor helps anxious people enter into a self-reflective state of mind so they can talk about their feelings and experiences and hear themselves talking about them thus starting to gain self-insight.

Praying to a Divine Counsellor

Praying can be thought of as connecting with and listening to a Divine Counsellor whilst sharing one’s personal concerns.

“Prayer is simply talking to God like a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day.” (author & speaker, Joyce Meyer)

Praying can lead Christian believers to think about their lives in a different way by ‘putting on the mind of Christ’. In other words they feel that seeing their own fears and worries in the light of their image of what is truly wise and compassionate takes them out of themselves and raises their spirit to a higher level.

The way people in distress see their relationships with the human face of God can be a great source of comfort and strength to them. In their darkest hours many of them are sustained by their belief that they are loved by the source of all that is good and all will be well.

Isn’t praying simply a self-serving superstition?

“No god ever gave any man anything, nor ever answered any prayer at any time – nor ever will.” (atheist activist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair)

Yes, I believe praying can be self-serving in which case I do not think it is likely to be helpful. To give God a list of one’s requests sounds a bit like children making out a Christmas gift list for Father Christmas to bring down the chimney.

Roman prayers and sacrifices were often envisioned as legal bargains between deity and worshipper. A modern equivalent of this might be promising to donate money to charity only if God takes away one’s problems.

“The man who prays is the one who thinks that god has arranged matters all wrong, but who also thinks that he can instruct god how to put them right.” (journalist, Christopher Hitchens)

It is tempting to use prayer as a complaints desk – to pray expressing dissatisfaction, finding fault with others or accusing God of ignoring one’s predicament.

Who hasn’t at one time or other not tried to use prayer as a way of justifying one’s actions or claims?

Can praying for release from anxiety actually work?

My first response to this question is to say that if you don’t ask then you don’t get: why wouldn’t you chance your arm for something you are desperate to attain. Yet, in the Lord’s Prayer we are asking to let God’s will be done. Praying for what I want can be seen as an exercise in the exploration of my desire in the presence of God.

Perhaps there is something more important in ourselves that needs to change before we can be allowed to find peace and calm.

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” (philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard)

Praying provides us with an opportunity to explore our desires and to probe beneath the surface. Underneath most desire is the ‘little me’ wanting what I want – attention, security, appreciation, getting my own way, social status, money, and so on. Maybe anxiety is associated with a threat to these cravings. In other words the thought pops into my head as I’m praying that there might be some meaning to my suffering. It is not being permitted without good reason.

Consequently, I believe it is a mistake to see prayer as a quick fix for personal problems that avoids the slow, hard work involved in personal healing and growth.

Much better to be praying for guidance. You might find that if an answer comes, the time and place it comes is unexpected.

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