The Casting Out of the Spirit of an Unclean Demon

READINGS

Luke 4:31-37
31 And He came down into Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the sabbaths.” 32 And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.” 33 And in the synagogue was a man having the spirit of an unclean demon, and it cries out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Ha! what is it to us and to you, Jesus the Nazarean? Did you come to destroy us? I am aware who you are-the holy One of God!” 35 And Jesus rebukes it, saying, “Be still, and come out from him!And, pitching him into their midst, the demon came out from him, in nothing harming him.” 36 And awe came on all, and they conferred with one another, saying, “What word is this? for with authority and power is He enjoining the unclean spirits, and they are coming out!” 37 And a hubbub went out concerning Him to every place in the country about.  CVNT

Arcana Caelestia (Elliott) n. 50
[2] As long as a person remains unregenerate he is governed in an entirely different way from when he is regenerate. As long as he is unregenerate, evil spirits reside with him, who have such dominion over him that angels, though present, can accomplish little more than simply distract him from plunging into utter evil and so divert him towards something good. Indeed they use his own unregenerate desires to divert him towards good, and his illusions of the senses to do so towards truth. At that point he is in communication with the world of spirits by means of the spirits who reside with him, but not in the same way with heaven, for the reason that evil spirits have dominion and angels simply forestall them.

[3] When however he is regenerate it is the angels who then have dominion, and they breathe into him every kind of good and truth, as well as a horror and dread of evils and falsifies. Angels do indeed lead, yet they are but servants, for it is the Lord alone who, by means of angels and spirits, governs a person.

SERMON
The Heavenly Doctrines teach that what we experience as our mental life with its thoughts and affections, emotions and feelings is the life of our spirit.  It has been revealed by the Lord through His Word that if we were to trace this mental activity back to its source we would find the Lord. Yet we know that a lot of what passes for our inner life is often the opposite of what could be called good or true.  How is this possible if the Lord is the source?  Again the Heavenly Doctrines instruct us that it is impossible for any finite mind to receive what is infinite directly and that the processes involved in producing our experience of conscious life is mediated through the spiritual world by means of our association with communities of spirits that share in the same affections as we do. This integration of human beings with spirits is one of the great wonders revealed by the Lord in His Second Coming. This knowledge of the relationship and operation of higher and lower levels of existence is of incalculable value to understanding why we experience life the way we do.

In a culture dominated by scientific materialism this idea is nothing short of incomprehensible, firstly because the very notion of human mental activity being something able to exist separate from a material body is considered impossible and secondly the acceptance of the existence of spirits by definition means an acceptance that some kind of conscious life continues after the death of the body.  So for those for whom the notion of life after death is nothing more that a fanciful delusion designed to relieve peoples’ anxiety from the appearance that once the material body has died people cease to exist, the whole concept of life inflowing from the Lord and producing the experience of consciousness in people is rejected.  The dogma of scientific materialism has long been on a mission to confirm that the only reality is that which is detectable to the physical senses.

Billions of dollars are spent each year to develop instruments and conduct experiments to confirm its narrow view of reality.  A reality built up from tools designed to only include those things that fit in with a material world view.  Such instruments are neither designed for, nor capable of, measuring spiritual and celestial realities and because they are deficient in this regard spiritual and celestial realities are considered to be non-existent.  Yet all people, regardless of their belief system, experience being conscious, of even having thoughts and affections they don’t want flow into their minds, and being at a loss to explain how they can think what they don’t want to think live in a kind of denial of their presence and so are unable or unwilling to investigate such phenomena further.

Tools built from a material base can only be applied to phenomena on the material level of reality. If we are to investigate spiritual and celestial realities then we need tools specially designed for that purpose.  And because celestial and spiritual realities consist of the “stuff” of consciousness then the tools for investigating and working on this level of reality must also be of that same substance. Religion provides us with these specialised tools but they are spiritual or conceptual rather than physical.  The most effective tool for investigating the nature of our inner life is the Word itself, for its truths are designed to enable people to gain experiential insights into the nature of consciousness and the laws that govern what they experience as their mental or spiritual life.

When in possession of this knowledge real possibilities begin to open up for profound changes to take place in peoples lives.  Changes that have real effects not just on the inner planes of consciousness but also on the more external dimensions of life as well.  The power of truths lies in their ability to cause the mind too reflect back on itself and investigate what the quality of its inner world consists of.  The Heavenly Doctrines are a testament to the unfathomable depth of human consciousness and what can be achieved through the application of the Word to the inner world of the human mind.  They demonstrate that the starting point for every person is the acknowledgment that in and of themselves they are nothing but evil and falsity and that all good and truth is from the Lord alone.  In short, that we need to acquire truths and use them to clean up what such an acknowledgment enables us to discover.

In our story today we have a man who has the spirit of an unclean demon.  What we need to be aware of in approaching this story is that every person is that man.  If this is not accepted then the story won’t have personal relevance for us.  So what we are presented with in the story is the method of how unclean states of mind can be cleansed of evil and false influences.  It is easy to dismiss stories like this as extreme cases, or something relevant for the times in which they occurred but having very little relevance today, after all the idea of people being taken over by entities from the spiritual world falls into the realm of primitive superstitious beliefs, or does it?  In our sophisticated age are we really to believe that spirits can enter into the minds of people and influence their thoughts and affections and so what passes for their mental life?  Let’s see.

If we take one of the mental tools to investigate our mental life, that of self reflection or of turning the mind back on itself to observe what’s there, what do we discover?  We discover a vast stream of thoughts and affections that we had not really paid any attention to before, and when we weigh this stream of mental activity using the tools of say, the 10 Commandments, we also find that much of what passes through our subconscious level of awareness is quite the opposite to what we would want to have dwelling in us.  It is a great mixture of clean and unclean elements flowing from one mental association to the next, endlessly.  One minute we’re up, the next we’re down, we think something good, and then it becomes tainted as the thoughts turn to what we might gain from the situation and so on.  So the question is, if when reflecting on the quality of our mental life we experience thoughts and feelings that we don’t want, then where do they come from?  The lazy answer is that they are just there, it’s just how it is.  And if we roll with this answer then we needn’t do anything, and we can largely remain oblivious to the quality of this stream and where it’s taking us.  If we have thoughts and affections we don’t want then how can we say we are in control of our mental faculties.  Clearly in this situation we aren’t in as much control of our mental life as we might believe.  So in a sense something else is in control while we live in the illusion that we are the author of our thoughts and feelings.

Our situation may not be as dramatic as the one we read of concerning this man in the Word, nonetheless, like him, something else other than ourselves will be dictating our experience of life if we don’t take hold of the tools provided by the Lord to investigate the quality of our inner life. But if when we reflect we see in ourselves what we don’t want and we are able to recognise that this flow is not us then we have a choice to begin to look to the Lord as the Word to deliver us from the evils that sit beneath what we experience as our mental life.  It is only then that permanent shifts in our mental states are possible so that we are no longer carried unconsciously along by negative mental states that are contrary to what the Lord desires for us is.

So let’s see what this story teaches us about the removal of unclean thoughts and feelings.  The first thing to note is that the Word states that the Lord…

...came down into Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the sabbaths.  And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.

Spiritually speaking for the Lord to “come down” refers to the influx of divine life into the human mind on a more external level where it is experienced as a conscious awareness of truths and what they teach.  This occurs when we are engaged with the Word with a view to applying its truths to the life of our mind.  It is this desire for real change that is meant by “Capernaum, a city of Galilee.”  For Galilee means a circuit and represents the nature of spiritual work on the more external planes of existence.  All those who are in the spiritual practice of the Word know this circuit like pattern of life as they use the Word in an effort to deal with the issues that truths highlight in their life.  And to what city does the Lord come?  It is Capernaum, a Greek word that literally means “field of repentance”.  Now all cities in the Word represent forms of teaching and the name of the city tells us the nature of the teaching or doctrine represented, here teaching regarding repentance.  The idea of repentance is closely related to that of self-examination, this is obvious when we consider that you need to first examine your self in order to know what’s required so far as repentance is concerned.  So repentance contains the idea of self examination.  But it is the Greek word that is translated repentance that gives us a clearer insight of what’s involved here.  This word is metanoia and it literally means, a transformation or turning of the mind.

So we see then a wonderful illustration of the purpose of the Lord’s teaching – it is to bring about an inner transformation in our mental states and so we see that being in Capernaum…

…He was teaching them on the sabbaths.

The idea of the Sabbath represents a state in which the mind is focused on higher things and as such is in the acknowledgment that the Word is the Lord and that it is the Word alone that can bring about an inner transformation that restores all things of the mind into their proper order.  This state is reflected in the experience of delight that a person experiences when the Sacred Scriptures and the Heavenly Doctrines are seen to offer possibilities for change that to this point seemed to be nothing more than a distant hope.  For the Word to have authority in our life its divine nature needs to be acknowledged and this is only acknowledged when people are in the effort to apply it to the life of their minds.  The Word is only acknowledged to be the Lord by those looking to apply it in this way, any other form of acknowledgement is merely of the lips, in other words, there is no acknowledgement of the Lord without the practise of the Word.

It is only in the activity of practicing the Word that what is unclean in the mind can come into view and present itself.  The unclean nature of the thought life is called a spirit of an unclean demon or devil.  The word translated spirit also means breath or wind, and because of the breath’s association with the lungs, which correspond to the things of the understanding, just as the heart corresponds to the things belonging to the will, by this spirit is meant the thoughts that arise in the mind from evils, which are represented by what is described as a demon or devil.  We need to clarify something here in regard to this idea of a devil or demon.  This term refers to what the Heavenly Doctrines call the proprium or the love of self and the world.  This means that thoughts that are unclean include anything that is tainted with the love of self and the world.  Such things don’t often appear to be something bad, not at least on the surface.  Remember Peter, and how when the Lord was speaking of His impending death Peter, impassioned, said that it would never happen.  On the surface a seemingly noble expression of loyalty to the Lord which if not understood in terms of its deeper implications makes the Lord’s response seem incomprehensible and even harsh.

For Jesus being turned about…rebukes Peter saying “Get thee behind me Satan! A snare are you to Me, for you are not disposed to that which is of God, but that which is of men” Matt 16:23

So we see that an unclean spirit is not necessarily something obviously evil.  What’s interesting is that in the very next few verses Jesus said to His disciples…

If anyone is wanting to come after Me, let him renounce himself and pick up his cross and follow Me…For the Son of Man is about to be coming…and then He will be paying each in accord with his practice.  vs 25 & 27.

To take up ones cross is to commit to the work or self examination and repentance and it is this that determines how the Lord is received by a person which is what is meant by each being rewarded in accord with his practice (Gk praxis).  If one’s practice is focused on the internal things of the mind then insights will be given in accordance with this, if its on the externals then insights will be limited to external things.  This is how spiritual influx works.

The loud voice crying out of the unclean spirit to the presence of the Lord reflects the resistance the loves of self and the world have towards the Word when its spiritual truths come into awareness. And so it is in us, when we are confronted by insights from the Word that challenge us to let go of ways of being that we have grown use to. Ways of being into which have invested a lot of our sense of self, yet now are found to be opposed to our spiritual progress.  The onset of temptation is also represented by this loud voice that seeks to be heard, for now there is open opposition to the teachings of the Word.  We can fully expect a deep resistance to arise in response to what truths point to as the path of repentance.  But the Word of the Lord is able to silence these protests when we, through a willingness to change, remain open to receiving insights from the Word and doing what it asks of us.  If we persevere and remain faithful to the Lord’s Word then such spirits are cast out and the kingdom of God has come.

Amen

About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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