Anxiety and Depression in the Spiritual Life

Below you will find relevant quotes on the topic of anxiety and depression from the Heavenly Doctrine, along with some reflections offered .

Reflections on a Few Quotes from the Heavenly Doctrine


Spiritual Diary #635
…a person who would live in peace must be in a passive state, not ever in an active one [see 620] except by reaction and responsive action, which likewise come from the Lord, so that the state is still a passive one, resistant or compliant. Such is the state of the angels, who live in peace, while the rest, believing they govern themselves, are continually being disquieted. For they lead themselves into various desires, thus into anxiety; and even though they are [really] being aroused by others, and in fact by very many, nevertheless each and all believe that the [evil aroused in them] is their own, or from themselves. This is why it remains with them, and takes root as something pertaining to or proper to themselves, something their own, and so also it is accounted to them.

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Heaven and Hell #299.
I have also been permitted to know the source of human anxiety, grief of mind (animus), and interior sadness, which is called melancholy. There are spirits not as yet in conjunction with hell, because they are in their first state; these will be described in the following pages where the world of spirits is dealt with. These spirits love things undigested and unprofitable, such as pertain to food becoming foul in the stomach. Consequently, they are present where such things are with man, because they find delight in them; and they talk there with one another from their own evil affection. The affection that is in their speech inflows from this source with man; and when this affection is the opposite of man’s affection it becomes in him sadness and melancholy anxiety; but when it is in agreement it becomes in him gladness and cheerfulness. These spirits appear near to the stomach, some to the left and some to the right of it, and some beneath and some above, also nearer and more remote, thus variously in accordance with the affections in which they are. That this is the source of anxiety of mind has been shown and proved to me by much experience. I have seen these spirits, I have heard them, I have felt the anxieties arising from them, I have talked with them; when they have been driven away the anxiety ceased; when they returned the anxiety returned; and I have noted the increase and decrease of it according to their approach and removal.

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Spiritual Diary #5778
…when spirits speak to each other about a matter delightful to the man, or which favors his loves, the man is joyful, glad, and in a state of delight; likewise, that when they speak of such things as are adverse to his loves, he is in undelightfulness and sadness: hence comes melancholy. For instance, when they are with the avaricious and those who are fearful for the future, and speak to each other about the loss of wealth and of such things as relate to its loss, and about the state in the future, the man becomes anxious. These appeared about the stomach in the abdominal region. Anxiety is from this source…I also observed, that heaven inflows into the internal in a similar way, and that as the angels speak to each other, so the man is affected. Angels do not speak anything else than those things which are of wisdom, faith and love, and of happiness therefrom: these interiorly affect the man who is in them. It is hence manifest, that, so far as the external man acts as one with the internal, so far the man can be led by the Lord; for through the internal, the infesting things and evils which are introduced by evil spirits are dispersed – removed as hell is by heaven: it is otherwise if the external and internal man are not conjoined. I also observed that it is inevitable that the internal man should be closed with those who are in evil or in the delight of evil, because nothing of joy and of delight can be received out of heaven, for there is not any reception: in fact, so far as the angels operate, so far is such a one sensible of sadness and distress; for [angels] operate such things as are contrary to the loves of self and of the world. Hence it was also evident to me how the Lord reduces the external man to subordination to the internal, so that they act as one, and that this takes place through the whole life of man: consequently, how the regeneration of man occurs, and that it happens in countless ways. It was also observed, that, so far as man acts from proprium, that is, without the living faith that all good is from the Lord, what is from the Lord is not able to flow in, nor anything be arranged into order in the external man. Proprium is that which is contrary to the Divine: it appears also as black, not receptive of anything out of heaven.

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Arcana Coelestia 4249
4249. ‘And Jacob was exceedingly afraid, and was distressed’ means the state when it is being changed. This is clear from the fact that fear and distress are the first stage in temptations, and that they are precursors to the turning round or the change taking place within a state. The arcana which lie deeper still within these details – that is to say, Esau’s coming to meet Jacob with four hundred men, and Jacob’s consequent fear and distress – cannot be explained easily and intelligibly since they are rather more internal ones. Let just this one be brought forward here. When good takes up the first position and subordinates truths to itself, as happens when a person undergoes spiritual temptations, the good which flows in from the interior is accompanied by very many truths which have been stored away in the person’s interior man. Those truths cannot come into focus and be seen by him until good is playing the leading role, for when this happens the natural starts to receive light from good, and it is apparent to him which things in the natural agree and which ones do not. And this is what gives rise to the fear and distress that are the precursors to spiritual temptation. For spiritual temptation acts upon the conscience, which is an attribute of the interior man, and therefore when entering such temptation a person does not know the origin of his fear and distress. But the angels present with him know it full well. Indeed temptation has its origin in angels’ maintenance of the person in goods and truths, while evil spirits maintain him in evils and falsities.

[2] The things that occur among the spirits and angels present with a person are perceived by him purely as things going on within himself. For while he lives in the body and does not believe that everything within him flows in from somewhere other than himself, he imagines that the causes of the things that go on within him do not lie outside himself but that all causes lie within him and are his own – which is not in fact the case. For whatever a person thinks and what he wills, that is, all his thought and all his affection, originate either in hell or in heaven. When he thinks and wills anything evil and as a consequence takes delight in falsities, let him realize that his thoughts and affections originate in hell; but when he thinks and wills anything good and as a consequence takes delight in truths, let him realize that these originate in heaven, that is, in the Lord by way of heaven. But the person’s thoughts and affections more often than not take on a different outward appearance. A conflict between evil spirits and angels, for example, arising from the things in one who is to be regenerated, takes on the different outward appearance of fear and distress, and of temptation.

[3] These matters are bound to seem paradoxes to man, for almost every member of the Church at the present day believes that all the truth he thinks, and the good he wills and does, originate in himself, even though he says something other than that when speaking from doctrine taught by faith. Indeed his nature is such that if anyone told him that spirits from hell exist who flow into his thought and will when he thinks and wills anything evil, and angels from heaven when he thinks and wills anything good, he would be dumbfounded at anyone putting forward such an idea, for he would say that he can feel the life within himself and that he thinks from himself and wills from himself. His belief is based on that feeling and not on what doctrine teaches. Yet that doctrine is true and such feeling deceptive. This I have been allowed to know from almost uninterrupted experience lasting several years now, and to know it in such a way as to leave me in no doubt whatsoever.

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CLICK HERE for a presentation on:Understanding States of Anxiety and Depression in Logopraxis Work

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