Deliverance of the Gergesene Demoniacs

READINGS

Matthew 8:28-34
And at His coming to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, two demoniacs meet Him, who were coming out of the tombs, very ferocious, so that no one is strong enough to be passing by through that road. And lo! they cry, saying, “What is it to us and to Thee, Son of God! Didst Thou come here to torment us before the season?” Now there was, far from them, a herd of many hogs, grazing. Now the demons entreated Him, saying, “If You are casting us out, dispatch us into the herd of hogs.” And He said to them, “Go! Now they, coming out, come away into the hogs. And lo! the entire herd rushes down the precipice into the sea and died in the waters. Now the graziers fled, and, coming away into the city, they report all, and the case of the demoniacs. And lo! the entire city came out to meet with Jesus, and, perceiving Him, they entreat that He may be proceeding from their boundaries.

Arcana Coelestia 1868 [2]
… in the next life evil and devilish spirits like nothing more than to surface in the world of spirits and to infest good spirits. But as often as they do so they are cast out, in much the same way as the falsities and evils that have taken possession of one who is being regenerated are overpowered and dispersed, and in their place truths and goods are implanted that belong to the Lord’s kingdom.

SERMON
We are all in a battle against destructive inner forces that rely on our ignorance of spiritual realities to maintain their presence in our life.  These forces, or more accurately, spirits, keep the human mind in a belief that what presents to our senses is more real than what the Word says is actually real.  This tendency to believe the conclusions drawn from the appearances of our senses to be true in turn has a very real impact on how we take life.  We saw a good example of the power of appearances last time when we looked at the story of the Lord calming the storm.  You’ll remember that in that storm the Lord was said to be asleep in the boat while the disciples were battling against the elements that, to all appearances, presented a very real threat to their lives.

Of course the key truth in that story is that when we are caught up in the emotional turmoil of external life’s difficulties, and all our attention is on keeping our heads above water, spiritual realities appear to be remote and of little relevance to us.  In such times we are so caught up in the natural conditions, trying to maintain some level of control, that we forget about the spiritual help that is available to us in our boat or the doctrine the Lord has provided for us, which is what a boat represents spiritually.

We know that the Lord never sleeps as is declared in the Psalms…

Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.  Ps 121:4-8.

Anytime the Word speaks of the Lord being asleep it describes how things appear to us on the level of our senses.  When we adhere to what our senses are telling us is true we become disconnected from those spiritual principles that can bring a higher perspective and understanding to the situations and circumstance belonging to the external plane of life.  This is because the way the natural mind interprets the information it receives from our senses is diametrically opposed to what the Word teaches is true.  To lose touch with spiritual principles to direct and guide our thinking is described in the Word as the Lord being asleep, the reality is He neither slumbers nor sleeps but is ever watching over every detail of our life.  This is a universal truth which when fully grasped becomes a powerful defense against every attempt of the hells to bring discord and confusion into our lives.

Calm is restored when we are able to truly think from the Word and what its truths teach.  This is because there is a correspondence between natural and spiritual thought.  When we are thinking from the appearances of the senses we will become disturbed and anxious because this kind of thinking attracts spirits that don’t believe what the Word teaches.  These spiritual forces are opposed to the Lord and the life of Heaven which alone can bring an inner sense of joy and peace of mind.  Because such spirits are opposed to the things of Heaven and delight in robbing people of the Lord’s peace they are evil and so love to give energy to false thinking in which they can maintain a feeling of delight and life.  False thinking excites feelings of anxiety and worry, which in turn can lead to depressive mental states that paralyse the mind through affecting people’s motivation to seek the Lord through His Word.  When we think from the Word we attract to ourselves good spirits, and through them angels, who bring the presence of heavenly qualities into our inner life. It is the presence of these higher angelic qualities that produce corresponding effects in our more external states of mental life.

In the Arcana Coelestia number 10604.3 it states that…

…there is a correspondence between spiritual thought and natural thought, and as the angels are in spiritual thought, they consequently perceive spiritually what people perceive naturally, and this in an instant, without any reflection upon the difference. This is chiefly done when a person is reading the Word, or when they are thinking from the Word; for the Word has been so written that there is a correspondence in the whole and in every detail…

What we see from this statement from the Heavenly Doctrine is that when we read or think from the Word angels that are associated with us are immediately given to perceive the deeper meaning of things.  This higher angelic perception then flows down into the minds of those in the natural world that have a genuine love for spiritual things who will then be able to see what they are reading or thinking about in clearer spiritual light.  To see something in the Word in clearer light or in the light of truth is to receive insight or illustration from the Lord as to a truth’s application to the life of our mind.  In other words to be enlightened is to see what is required of us in response to what we are reading or thinking upon from the Word and to act on it.  This is also what is meant by holding the Word to be holy, which is expressed through a life of repentance and not merely as a passive intellectual belief.  The effect of an active spiritual life in response to what the Word teaches is described in the work True Christian Religion as follows…

When we regard the Word as holy and read it in order to have a useful life, our minds have thoughts like a jewel case that someone takes hold of and sends up to heaven. As the jewel case rises, it opens, making the precious things inside accessible to the angels, who are profoundly delighted to see them and to hold them up to the light. The angels’ pleasure is shared with us; this process brings angels into association with us and allows them to share with us not only that pleasure but also their perceptions. True Christian Religion 238

The correspondence between spiritual and natural thought is not something that can be changed in an instant.  What people call a spiritual life prior to seriously engaging with the Word to examine the quality of their thought and affectional life is often a natural life with a religious component made up of external religious activities.  The fact is that if our external religious activity is not supporting an inner life of self-examination and repentance it isn’t actually a spiritual life.  The only way we can be regenerated by the Word is use its truths as the basis for developing a life in which we bring our conscious attention to bear on the life of our mind.  This is done to identify the evils present there so that we can acknowledge them as sins against the Lord and, with His power, fight against them so that they can be cast out of our life.  It is through this practice that the natural level of our minds can be gradually brought into a new correspondence with the spiritual level in which the life of heaven can be experienced more fully.

The casting out of the devils in the two demoniacs in our reading illustrates what’s involved in the spiritual life, or a life given to following the Lord.  Prior to the Lord and the disciples getting into the boat that brought to “the other side” there were those who expressed a desire to follow the Lord.  One of these was said to be one of His disciples who first wanted to go and bury his father.  You will recall that Jesus responded by saying that it was for the dead to bury their dead and that the disciple should leave the dead to do that and follow Him.

If we see all the events in the Gospels as describing the activity of the Word in us  working  to regenerate our mind, then one way of understanding this is that there will always be natural concerns belonging to the natural level of life that we’ll feel need to be sorted out first, before we can really follow the Lord.  But this is simply not true for the Lord says that the natural life takes care of itself when we choose to follow Him.  On a deeper level this need to “bury one’s father first” also describes a typical response from those who, being disciples, or people in the practise of self-examination and repentance, become overly conscientious and pulled down by what they find within themselves.  Burdened by the presence of hereditary evils they feel a need to bury them first before they can follow the Lord.  This false sense of burden arises from believing that they can, through their own efforts, make what is of the proprium something more acceptable and through this somehow become a more “worthy” candidate to follow the Lord.  But such attitudes, while appearing admirable on the surface don’t help for they merely keep us from getting into the boat and taking the journey we all must take if the power of the Word is to become manifest in our life.

To get into the boat is to actually begin a life of self-examination and repentance on the spiritual level of our minds rather than on just the natural level of external life.  The first lesson learned is that we have no power in ourselves over our inner states of life.  When we realise this we cease from our own efforts to control things and allow the Lord or the Word to take command of the situations we have to face.  This brings a sense of calm – and it needs to be pointed out that it’s an inner calm in the midst of whatever it is we have to face.  The conditions of external life will continue as they always have but when a person comes to rely on what the Word teaches over what their senses are telling them they are given a capacity to remain in a peaceful state when facing times of difficulty for they trust in the Lord who looks to eternal ends that puts temporal difficulties into a more realistic perspective.

Once this inner calm is achieved, and it is only achieved through working with the Word over long period of applying it to the life of the mind, the boat arrives on the other side, of which we read…

And at His coming to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, two demoniacs meet Him, coming out of the tombs, very ferocious, so that no one is strong enough to be passing by through that road.  Matt 8v28

In contrast to the difficulties faced on the water in this subsequent account we have no mention of the disciples at all.  This is because once we hand power over to the Word and allow it to do its work unhindered the Lord as the Word takes centre stage and His power to reorder the external mind is released.  These two demoniacs represent the deranged state of the two faculties of the human mind, the will and understanding, when ruled by the loves of self and the world.  The presence of the Lord as the Word draws them out, in other words, the presence of truth will invariably show up the true condition or state of our external mind or proprium.  This is said to be “very ferocious” so that no one has the strength to pass that way, which aptly describes the proprium’s resistance to heavenly influx from the Lord.

When truths from the Word shine their light on those aspects of our life that are opposed to the kingdom of heaven they are exposed and can no longer remain concealed.  Their exposure is described in a process where the demons go from being identified with the possessed persons, to being cast out into a herd of swine, which are then said to perish through running over a precipice into the sea.  This herd of swine is said to be at a considerable distance away, which spiritually means when we are identified with negative thoughts and feelings as something coming from us we lose sight of the truth that all the thoughts and feelings we experience flow into us from the spiritual world.  Again this occurs when we choose to believe our senses over what the Word teaches.  There is a statement in the work Heaven and Hell that highlights this tendency…

If we believed the way things really are, that everything good comes from God and everything evil from hell, then we would not take credit for the good within us or blame for the evil. Whenever we thought or did anything good, we would focus on the Lord, and any evil that flowed in we would throw back into the hell it came from. But since we do not believe in any inflow from heaven or from hell and therefore believe that everything we think and intend is in us and from us, we make the evil our own and defile the good with our feeling that we deserve it.  Heaven and Hell 302

But when we do believe what the Word teaches, in this case that all life flows in, we are then able to get distance from those thoughts and feelings that are flowing into us and see their true quality.  Swine correspond to unclean affections that arise in the mind as sensual and bodily lusts.  The demons asking to be cast into the swine describes a state in which a person, thinking from the Word, recognises not just the true quality of the sensual and bodily life belonging to the proprium but also, that what they experience as their thoughts and feelings doesn’t arise from them despite the appearance that they do.  The herd being at a distance now describes how when truths from the Word are integrated into our thinking we are able to separate our self from the thoughts and feelings we experience and through the disciplines of self-examination and repentance judge their quality.  When evils are acknowledged to be such they are then cast back into hell which is what is represented by the swine running over the precipice to perish in the sea.

The Lord seeks to save us from the power the appearances of the senses have on our minds because these give power to evils and falsities that hold us in bondage.  This is why engaging with the Word is so important.  The Lord has given us divine truths so that through their practice we might come to see how things really are and so be set free to live in the life of heaven NOW.

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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