SPIRITS: A CAUSE OF MENTAL DISTURBANCES1
                                    The Rev. Willard L. D. Heinrichs

At the very outset of my talk I would like to acknowledge that I do not address you as a professional or
expert as regards the health of the natural mind. My experience as a therapist does not reach beyond
simply counseling people as a pastor, a friend, a husband and a father. My formal training in
psychology does not reach beyond an undergraduate degree. Still the training and experience I have
had, have generated an ongoing interest in the health of the natural mind, and especially, an interest in
seeking out from the Heavenly Doctrines whatever teachings may appear to have a bearing on this
subject. Over the years I have accumulated hundreds of passages. With each additional passage I have
become more powerfully convinced that these and other passages rightly understood and perceptively
applied could open vast new vistas in the understanding of mental health, and lead to ever-increasing
success in the treatment of mental illness. Among those passages of the Writings which have
particularly caught my attention are those which relate to some of our spiritual associates as a cause of
mental illness. I believe that in a proper appreciation of these teachings lies the possibility of a person
seeing his problems more objectively and thereby being in a better position to deal effectively with

From ancient times to the dawn of the modern scientific era it was the firm belief of many that mental
illness, indeed, mental disturbances of any kind, were in some way caused by spirits, primarily evil
spirits. In cases of severe disturbance it was held that man was wholly possessed by an evil spirit. This
view of mental disturbances is generally known as demonology, and at the present time, at least in
the western world, is probably regarded by most in the mental health profession as superstitious

It is my conviction that New Church people must take a different view of the matter. Both the Old and
New Testaments clearly substantiate the view that spirits did cause mental disturbances, and at times,
most violent insanity. The insane behavior of Saul recorded in the Book of Samuel is only one
instance in the Old Testament of possession by evil spirits. In the New Testament we have repeated
instance of possession of man by unclean spirits. We would recall, for instance, the occasion wherein
the Lord cast an unclean spirit, called “Legion,” out of a man. The unclean spirit, the subject of many
other spirits, was then permitted to obsess a herd of swine which ran violently down a steep place into
the sea. (Mark 5:1-13)

We know from the Heavenly Doctrines that these portions of the Word are not made up, but are
historically true. In other words, we know that before, and at the time of the Lord‟s first advent, spirits
caused natural insanity in man. Did this cease when bodily possession of man by spirits was no longer
permitted by the Lord? (see AC 2477, 5717, 5990) I do not believe that it did. I believe that
the Writings teach quite unequivocally that spirits continue to be a cause of mental disturbances among
men, continue to obsess our interiors, although not our exteriors, causing all the unhappy conditions
that trouble the mentally ill.

I am convinced that until modern therapists recognize our spiritual associates as a cause of mental
illness, and undertake a rational approach to demonology in the light of the teaching of the Heavenly
Doctrines, the potential for success in therapy will be definitely and unnecessarily limited. How can
mental disturbances be rightly treated if their spiritual causes are ignored or denied? How can the facts

 from The New Church and the Mental Health Professions: Journal of the Symposium, Academy of the New Church,
Bryn Athyn, PA, Nov 1979

                             Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 1
of experience be ordered and rightly applied when there is not an adequate theoretical framework from
which to think and act? In the work the Divine Love and Wisdom we are assured that “all things that
have form (existent) in the natural world are effects, and all things that have form in the spiritual world
are the causes of these effects. There does not take place (existit) a natural that does not derive its
cause from a spiritual.” (DLW 134) Elsewhere in the same work we are assured again that all causes
are in the spiritual world and that all things that appear in the natural world are effects. And it is said
    …from effects nothing but effects can be learned; when effects alone are considered no cause is
    brought to light; but causes reveal effects. To know effects from causes is to be wise; but to search
    for causes from effects is not to be wise, because fallacies then present themselves, which the
    investigator calls causes, and this is to turn wisdom into foolishness. (DLW 119)

Before turning our attention to the subject of how spirits may generate and aggravate some of the
phenomena associated with mental illness, it might be useful to very briefly review our spiritual

As to the interiors of our spirit we are associated with the angels of heaven, that is, unless we are
entering into a state of damnation. As to the exteriors of our spirit, as to our natural mind, we are
associated with spirits in the world of spirits. Speaking generally our spirit is in a spiritual society with
those who have a ruling love similar to our own.

More particularly, the Lord assigns two angels to guard and protect our interiors. One is associated
with our will and the other with our understanding. At the same time there are two spirits in the world
of spirits, and before regeneration, they are infernal spirits, who apply themselves to our natural mind,
one again affecting the will, the other the understanding.

These four associates serve as ambassadors and subjects of heavenly and infernal societies. They are
provided by the Lord that we may enjoy spiritual equilibrium and so be in a state to choose to react
either to the influence of the heavens or the influence of the hells.

In addition to the above-mentioned angels and spirits, from moment to moment, day to day, week to
week we may have association with an astonishing variety of spiritual associates depending on our
affections, thoughts, interests, delights, occupational and recreational preoccupations, and so forth. All
of these spiritual associations are carefully monitored by the Lord so that, as far as we are willing, and
as conditions permit, these associations are used to serve our spiritual and natural good.

What becomes obvious from many, many teachings is that we could experience no conscious love,
perception, affection, thought, appetite or pleasure, thus no consciousness whatever, unless our spirit
was constantly interacting with angels and spirits in our spiritual environment.

A myriad of teachings are given describing how our spiritual associates generate in us our every
mental experience from the most positive to the most negative. Yet despite this great dependency on
our spiritual associations, the Lord has pro- vided that under normal conditions we can act in freedom
according to reason.

Besides the equilibrium in which our spirit finds itself, the Lord has protected us in numerous other
ways. Among the more important provisions we would mention is firstly, the lack of awareness in
both worlds of the intimate relationship which exists between them. A regenerate person does not
require this provision, but one who is not yet regenerate, is protected thereby from continual
harassment and torment from evil spirits. Secondly, we would note the provision that angels and

                             Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 2
spirits are able to inflow with man as to their affections, but they cannot inject their own thoughts, or
things known from their own earthly memory. Hence they are not able to eclipse our identity and
possess our bodily life as if it were their own. Thus for all practical purposes there is no external
obsession of man at this day.2

Much much more could be said about how the Lord governs and guides us, and seeks to keep us in a
healthy condition spiritually and naturally by means of angels and spirits in our mental environment.
Among these many teachings are those that explain in detail how evil spirits, entering into the sphere
of man‟s spirits, and into possession of things of man‟s memory, can cause spiritual temptations, and
great anxiety and torment in the mind of the regenerating man. (NJHD 187-200) Others describe how
evil spirits, in states other than spiritual temptation, induce and aggravate natural anxiety and
unhappiness in the mind of man. (See AC 6202; SD 5778, 5942.) We would then ask, can evil spirits,
by their operation, cause such severe mental disturbances that people become mentally ill or insane?
In other words can our spiritual associates serve as a primary cause of mental illness? The Writings
for the New Church clearly show that spirits do induce, participate in and aggravate states of mental
illness. It should be carefully noted, however, that they cannot do this except where the state of our
mind, or the state of our body, or both, is such as to attract and permit their presence. Freely chosen
bad habits of life and thought, or an inherited predisposition toward such living and thinking can lead
to both mental and physical illness. (See CL 371-376; DLW 259, 420:3-421; AC 5726; SD 2438-39,
1623; cf. AC 762, 8162.) Certainly the state of the physical body can serve as an attendant cause in
the production of severe mental disturbances. This is the case whether this state of the body was a
result of a depraved condition of mind, or if it came about through interference and injury before or
after birth, or because of some disease or depraved condition of the blood and other fluids of the body.
(See DLW 166, 259, 420:3-421; AC 847:2; CL 374; SD 4591-92.) In any event, we must
acknowledge the general spiritual law that influx is according to the state of the receiving vessel. And
further, that influx is according to efflux.

This in no way detracts from our thesis here that evil spirits, by the sphere of their affections operating
into man‟s affections and thoughts, can induce insanity. There is the general teaching, for example,
“that the evils which happen to a man, each and all, are from evil spirits, though not from
premeditation, inasmuch as it is their nature.” (SD 148)

In regard to mental illness in particular, it is said concerning certain most skillful and malicious spirits
that “they can [cause] such things as disturb the mind, and deprive man of his external vitality.” (SD
4572) They do this by separating the interiors of his thought from the exteriors, in various ways,
filling up the exteriors of thought with offensive things which are injurious to the man:
    Hence when interiors fall in [exteriors] of such a kind, they are turned into shocking and
    deplorable things; for if the recipient forms are perverted, whatever falls therein is perverted also.
    In such a manner, also, are interiors disunited from exteriors; and, when this is done, man is no
    longer of a sound mind – as, also, is the case in fevers. (SD 4572; cf. AC 5716)
Such spirits, we are told, can also bring on swoons. (AC 5716)

What is described in these passages, at least in part, is the production of what would ordinarily be
called serious fantasies. For elsewhere it is said that “Fantasy arises from sensual thought when ideas
springing from any interior thought have been excluded.” (TCR 80) And again “...the ultimates of life

  Regarding the subject of external obsession see: HH 256, 257; AC 1983, 2476-2481, 4793, 5717, 5858, 5860, 5862,
5863, 5990, 6192, 6212; SD(m) 4693, 3963, 3917, 3782-83, 3716, 3529, 3157-59, 3019, 2957, 2686, 2659, 2282,
2277, 1177- 83½, 557. See also: SD 2308-9, 1934, 626, 400, 142.

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... when separated from the interiors of life, are mere fantasies.” (AR 204; See also AR 926:2; SD
1741, 5224, 3173, 3174, 4353.)

In Heaven and Hell it is said that the heat of the sphere of evil affections exhaling from hell causes
insanities in the sick when it flows into them. (HH 571) But perhaps the most significant passages
which bear on this subject are to be found in the Spiritual Diary, where reflections of thought are
considered. Swedenborg records that:
    …there are various objects of thoughts, in which, while a man is held, or his reflection is kept
    fixed upon them by spirits, they occasion much disturbance, as experience abundantly teaches
    respecting those things which are at present his own, or which may happen hereafter. As often as
    it was given me to think of my garden, of him who had the care of it, of my being called home, of
    money matters, of the state of the minds of those that were known to me, of the state or character
    of those in my house, of the things that I was to write, especially how they would be received by
    others, and the probability that they would not be understood, of new garments that were to be
    obtained, and various other things of this kind – whenever I was held for some time in this kind of
    reflection spirits would immediately throw in inconvenient, troublesome, and evil suggestions,
    together with confirmations and cupidities; and it was observed that when I had not been in
    thought of such things for months or years, I had no care about them, still less did they give
    trouble. These are the reflections of thought, in which whoever is detained he is the more infested
    by evil spirits the longer the reflection continues. (SD 3624)

The following important teaching is then given concerning these persistent unhealthy reflections: We
are told that:
    …Hence arises the melancholy of many persons, hence debilitated minds, hence the deliriums of
    many men, hence too insanities and phantasies; for those who are [obsessively] engrossed in
    thought concerning spiritual things, concerning the life after death, concerning misfortunes, into
    such persons spirits, from their proprium, infuse many things which are of the memory, and hold
    them a long time presented, even till they occasion insanities and phantasies. Wherefore those
    who affect a solitary kind of life [a life of withdrawal] are especially prone to fall into such things,
    for they are dispelled by varieties, and thus by [mingling with] societies. Still more does this arise
    from the solicitude of self-love, and more yet from the love of gain, and a pondering upon the
    future, and especially if any single misfortune comes into the account, so much the more are they
    driven into phantasies, and at length into insanities. (SD 3625)

It is clear from the above that evil spirits are a primary cause of mental illness. Again it is to be
acknowledged, however, that they cannot effect this except where the state of man‟s mind or body first
provides them with a basis of influx.


RELIGIOUS FANATICISM. Although many religious fanatics would not be classified as mentally
ill, some engage in obviously irrational behavior, fall into frenzies, babble unintelligible things, and at
times commit most heinous acts, either in company with others, or on their own. In other words, there
are times when they are apparently insane. Some of the sects which at this day claim the gift of
speaking with tongues are examples of such religious fanaticism. It seems evident from the Writings
that this type of insane behavior is the result of infestations by evil fanatical spirits who are drawn by
the phantasies and cupidities of a man. The greater the number of the wicked crew with a man the

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more is he persuaded in his phantasy, and the more are his evil cupidities inflamed. (See SD 1204)
This is especially true when a spirit is able to converse with a man, because, in order to be able to
speak with him, the spirit must be in the same principles as the man is, whether they be true or false;
and these he stirs up, and through his affection conjoined to the man‟s affection he strongly confirms
them. (AE 1182:4)

The Writings speak of several fanatic religious sects, and how, several centuries ago, they were
affected by the obsession of fanatical spirits. Concerning one sect it is said that when their sect began,
fanatical spirits obsessed many in such a manner as to cause their bodies to be seized with trembling.
The men so obsessed were persuaded by the spirits that they, the men, were infused with the Holy
Spirits. They became so completely filled with this kind of persuasion that they believed themselves
more holy and enlightened than other men. They did not stop here, but went into successively worse
things, “and at length, by command of their holy spirit, into heinous things.” (Cont. LJ 84) They were
“excited and goaded to enormities.” (SD 3781)

That evil spirits cause religious and other fanaticism is clear from other passages also. For example, it
is said concerning the magicians of ancient times that “from these especially have arisen the various
fanaticisms in the Christian world.” (Coro 45; cf. HH 249) 3

PSYCHOPATHIC OR ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY. In modern society there are psychopaths in
all walks of life who baffle their fellow men by their ruthless conduct, their lack of any conscience of
what is good and true or just and equitable. We may wonder what causes a man to behave in such a
manner. We here include a general clinical description of such individuals. “Individuals in this
category are ill primarily in terms of disturbed interpersonal relations and social insensitivity.”4 They
are individuals who “are not classifiable as mentally defective, neurotic, or psychotic, but who
manifest a marked lack of ethical behavior. Many of these individuals... come from apparently normal
family backgrounds, others have been exposed to faulty parent-child and environmental relationships.”
    The incidence of antisocial personality is difficult to estimate, for included here are a mixed group
    of individuals varying from unprincipled businessmen and lawyers, „quack‟ doctors, high-pressure
    evangelists, and dishonest politicians, to imposters, rapists, and prostitutes. Few of these
    individuals find their way into mental hospitals: only about 2 percent of all first admissions are so
    classified. A much larger number are to be found in penal institutions, but the majority, although
    they are constantly in conflict with authority, manage to get by outside of institutions. 5

The Writings indicate that some men behave in such a manner because they have permitted themselves
to become internally possessed by certain very pernicious spirits. (AC 1983) It is said that “these
pernicious spirits try especially to loose all internal bonds, which are the affections of what is good and
true, and of what is just and fair, fear of the Divine Law, and a sense of shame in doing harm to society
and to one‟s country; and when these internal bonds are loosed the man is obsessed by spirits.” (AC
4793, 1835:2; 6207; SD 3716-3723)

  Additional references: AE 1183; De Verbo XIII:29; Cont LJ 83; Consummation of the Age A:31; C:22; SD 3689,
3060, 1677, 1366.
  Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life by James C. Coleman, p. 337
  Coleman, p. 337. For a fuller description of the psychopath consult p. 338.

                              Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 5
ANXIETY AND MELANCHOLY. Every individual has experienced many times states of anxiety
and melancholy. Most individuals are able to overcome these states without too much difficulty, but
there are millions of others who suffer from anxiety and melancholy to an abnormal degree, and are
classified as mentally ill. Neurotic individuals are particularly subject to these mental disturbances,
although anxiety and melancholy figure prominently in other mental disorders also. It would be useful
to discuss how these disturbances are involved in the various types of mental disorders, but such a
project is far beyond the scope of the present study, thus anxieties and melancholy will be dealt with
only in a very general way.

Before turning to the Writings for an explanation of the cause of anxiety and melancholy, it might be
useful to present brief dictionary definitions of them. Anxiety is described as “painful uneasiness of
mind respecting an impending or anticipated ill, ...concern, dread, fear, foreboding, misgiving, worry,
solicitude, uneasiness, apprehension.”6 Melancholy is defined as a “depression of spirits; gloomy state
or mood; dejection. Pensive meditation or sadness, ...despondency, sorrow, mournfulness,
depression.” (Ibid.)

The cause of these disturbances of mind is given in the following teaching where Swedenborg records:
      I have also been permitted to learn the source of human anxiety, grief of mind, and interior
      sadness, which is called melancholy. There are spirits not as yet in conjunction with hell, because
      they are in their first state; ... Such spirits love things undigested and pernicious, such as pertain to
      food becoming foul in the stomach; consequently they are present with man in such things 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 flows in from this source into man; and when this affection is
      opposite to man‟s affection there arises in him gladness and cheerfulness... 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, and I have talked with them;
      when they have been driven away the anxiety ceased; and when they returned the anxiety returned;
      and I have noted the increase and decrease of it according to their approach and removal. (HH 269)

Spirits of the same character are described elsewhere, and it is said that when they come into the
sphere of men‟s lives and speak together about such things as are adverse to him “there usually flows
in what is troublesome, undelightful, sad, or anxious, with much variety.” (AC 6202; cf. SD 4597) It
is added that “Such is the influx with those who for no reason are oppressed with melancholy anxiety.”

In some cases, as in the above, there seems to be no apparent reason for the anxiety and depression
which is induced. In other instances the disturbance of the mind is felt in connection with thoughts
about specific things. Anxiety and depression in such cases are also caused by spirits inflaming with
their affections and speaking about these things in the man‟s sphere and thereby exciting the thoughts
of his understanding. For example, with avaricious men and those who are fearful of the future, spirits
of like quality can induce anxiety just by speaking to each other about the loss of wealth and of such
things as relate to its loss, and about the state in the future. (SD 5778; cf. AC 6202; SD min. 4766)

The spirits who induce such anxiety and depression in the mind also hold the mind in such states if the
man allows himself to continue reflecting on the matters which occasion the anxiety and melancholy.
The more he is detained in the thoughts, the more is he infested by the evil spirits until at length he

    Webster’s International Dictionary; 2nd edition

                                 Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 6
may come into persistent fantasies, into insanity, and even into delirium. Those who are withdrawn
from the world are particularly prone to such developments. (SD 3624; 3625) 7

ILLUSIONS AND HALLUCINATIONS. Illusions may be defined as misinterpretations of sense
data, while hallucinations are described as sense perceptions for which there is no appropriate external

Illusions do not seem to figure too prominently in severe mental disturbances. On the other hand,
hallucinations are very common in many psychotic disturbances, particularly in schizophrenia.
Auditory hallucinations are predominant, but there are also visual, olfactory, and tactile

From what is said in the Writings concerning illusions we surmise that visual hallucinations may very
often stem from illusions, or at times may be synonymous with them, inasmuch as an hallucination
may be of such a bizarre character that an outside observer would be unable to trace it to the sense
perception which initiated it. The teaching of the Writings in regard to illusions is as follows:
    Much has been said about the visions of certain persons who have declared that they have seen
    many things, and who did see them, but in phantasy. I have been instructed about them, and it was
    likewise shown how they take place. There are spirits who by means of phantasies induce
    appearances that seem to be real. For example, if anything is seen in shadow or even in daylight, if
    the object be in a dark place, these spirits keep the mind of the beholder fixedly and continually in
    the thought of some one thing, be it an animal, a monster, a forest, or any other thing; and so long
    as the mind is held in this thought, the phantasy is increased, and it grows to such a degree that the
    person is persuaded, and sees just as if the things themselves were there, whereas they are nothing
    but illusions. Such things befall those who indulge much in fancies, and are subject to infirmity of
    mind, and have therefore become credulous [superstitious]. (AC 1967; cf. SD 1752.)
Visual hallucinations, we surmise, might also be generated by spirits just as in dreams, the common
denominator being a state wherein the person is not exercising control of his understanding.

Auditory hallucinations are often the predominant type with schizophrenics. These include “signals,
bells, music, chirpings, shots; voices cursing, accusing, ridiculing, promising, threatening;” also voices
originating “from outside the building, from the walls, the pillow, corners of the room or from the
patients throat, abdomen, or head.”9 We would suggest that some of these hallucinations may be
produced by spirits in a similar manner as with visual hallucinations, but we would also suggest that
some, perhaps most, of these auditory hallucinations are not hallucinations at all, but are cases wherein
spirits are heard by the man, either speaking among themselves, or with him. Most therapists would
probably regard such an idea as nonsense, for there are few at this day who are aware of the
association of spirits and men. Nevertheless, it is probable that some so-called hallucinations are
instances wherein there is speech with spirits, although none but the man himself could hear the spirits
because of the fact that their operation into the organ of hearing is by an inward way. (See RH 248; SD
5770-73.) That some auditory hallucinations may be instances of communication with spirits seems
evident from the following passage in Heaven and Hell where it is said that:

  Coleman, pp. 262- 320; also AC 5724, 6210, 6325; SD 376, 4258; AC 270, 847:2, 4274e, 5036, 5391; anxiety about
the future AC 5711-79; anxiety of desperation SD(m) 4785.
  Coleman, pp. 272, 318, 319.
  Coleman, p. 272

                              Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 7
      …to speak with spirits, however, is at this day seldom given since it is dangerous; for then the
      spirits know that they are with man, which otherwise they do not know; and evil spirits are such
      that they hold man in deadly hatred and desire nothing more than to destroy him, both soul and
      body. This in fact is done with those who have indulged much in phantasies, until they have
      removed from themselves the enjoyments proper to the natural man. (HH 249)
It seems quite possible that the torment suffered by some of the mentally ill might well be the result of
evil spirits who have an awareness that they are with the man, and, holding him in hatred, have set
about tormenting him, cursing, accusing, ridiculing, promising, threatening.

DELUSIONS. Delusions, described as false beliefs maintained despite experience and evidence to the
contrary, are particularly evident in many of the various psychotic disorders. 10 They may, however, be
present in less severe mental disturbances also.

Two of the most common types of delusions are delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution.
Delusions of grandeur are described as “delusional beliefs that the patient is some great and
remarkable person, such as a great economist, physicist, or religious savior.” (Ibid. p. 249) Delusions
of persecution are described as “delusional beliefs of being deliberately interfered with, discriminated
against, plotted against, threatened, and otherwise mistreated.” (Ibid. p. 249) The latter type of
delusion with men suffering from a paranoid schizophrenic reaction are often attended with a constant
attitude of suspiciousness and hostility. (Ibid. pp. 289, 318) Besides the other major types of
delusions there are some of a very bizarre character.

Concerning the persons who suffer from such delusions the Writings state that:
      …some are led by spirits to that degree, that they cannot return to what is true, but their phantasies
      have become so deeply rooted that as often as they fall into those thoughts, they are so completely
      absorbed in them that they cannot be dispelled by change of circumstances, but they remain in the
      persuasion that things are as they imagine, and themselves also. When cases of this kind are
      obvious to the world, they are called open insanities, for from such insanity or phantasy they do
      not suffer themselves to be recovered, though apparently sane on all other subjects, as many insane
      persons are. It is a particular species of insanity, like that of a couple of men at Hulm, one of whom
      carries about written papers, the other supposes himself to be a bird. (SD 3626)

In the above passage we have reference to some of the bizarre delusions that men may maintain,
although their environment may present evidence quite contrary to their delusion, as in the case of the
man who thought himself to be a bird. The Writings observe that such delusions may occur with men
who otherwise appear quite sane. This observation is confirmed in the cases of men who evidence
certain paranoid reactions. Aside from their delusions of grandeur and persecution, “the patients
personality remains relatively intact, with no evidence of serious personality disorganization.” 11

The Writings not only teach that spirits lead a man into delusional thinking they also show how
unknowingly they may strengthen him in his delusions and participate in them. We would call
attention to a teaching in Swedenborg‟s Memorabilia which mentions how spirits who are not
immediately present with the man suppose things to be just as the man thinks. Thus, for example, if
the man was imagining that a certain individual, to whom he was averse, was actually present, even
though he was not, spirits knowing no otherwise than that the person was actually present, might

     Coleman, pp. 318-319.
     Coleman, p. 287.

                              Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 8
excite the man to indignation, cause him to become enraged, envious, persecuting, and hostile. (See
SD 3857; cf. SD 3627; CL 374.) Behavior of this character is frequently noted among paranoid

Before leaving the subject of delusions, we would note that the Writings in at least one passage speak
very clearly of a delusion of grandeur. Again it concerned an insane man of Hulm, but in this instance
the man thought himself to be a son-in-law of the king. (SD 3627; regarding the delusions of a certain
old man see SD 4300.)

APATHY, STUPOR, DELIRIUMS. The Writings indicate that such disorders as apathy, stupor, and
deliriums also may be induced upon men by spirits. Apathy is characterized by marked diminution or
absence of feeling and emotion in situations that usually elicit such reactions. This is common among
neurotics who evidence an anesthenic reaction, and also among those who manifest a simple
schizophrenic reaction.12 Swedenborg describes how certain useless spirits induced apathy upon him
by their pernicious sphere.
      The effect of their sphere was to take from me the power of close application, and to make it
      irksome for me to act and to think in serious matters, true and good, that at last I scarcely knew
      what to do. When such as these come among spirits, they induce on them a similar torpor. (AC
      1509; cf. SD(m) 4680.)
Certain other spirits, who correspond to the thick phlegm of the brain, can produce a similar reaction in
man. It is said that by their presence they can take away the vitality of the brain and induce on it
torpor, “whence come obstructions, giving rise to a number of diseases, as well as to dullness.” (AC

This latter passage may also be applied to a disorder which is more serious than apathy, namely
“stupor,” a condition of lethargy and unresponsiveness with partial or complete unconsciousness. In
regard to this condition and the spirits which bring it about, Swedenborg records the following:
      I have fallen several times into a state of sleep, sad and horrible in character, and in that horrible
      state, thought – for there is at these times, such drowsy thought; and on awakening, I saw spirits,
      principally of the female sex, at some distance to the front, who sportively fenced with the hands,
      like persons fighting, and then darted into a house in front. There was an atmosphere of a fiery
      appearance, and the spirits were of a similar color. They appeared naked; and it was told me that
      they were of those men who were unwilling to learn anything, and hence had no affection of
      knowing and doing anything at all; on which account they became stupid, and hence induce such a
      stupor as above described. (SD 6008)

Spirits may also induce deliriums upon men. (See SD 3625) Deliriums are described as states of
mental confusion characterized by clouding of consciousness, disorientation, restlessness, excitement,
and often hallucinations.

Besides the above, spirits may cause complete swoons, and in the case of the sick, even death. (AC
5716; SD min. 4731; cf. SD 5497; See SD(m) 4686 re: a certain kind of spirits who are the cause of
“many” swoons.)

     Coleman, pp. 218, 318.

                              Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 9
MANIA. The term “mania” is generally used as a suffix denoting a compulsive or morbid
preoccupation with some impulse or activity. There are a great variety of manias with which people
may be afflicted. Two of the more common are kleptomania, an irresistible compulsion to steal, and
pyromania, a compulsion to set fires.

The Writings speak very specifically of those spirits who excite a man to steal. Concerning these
spirits Swedenborg records that:
    …as soon as I looked at any thing in shops, or at money, the cupidity of these same and similar
    spirits was made known to me; for supposing themselves to be me, they at once desired, as it were,
    that I stretch forth my hand, contrary to all custom. Furthermore, they insinuated into my „animus‟
    their own cupidity. (SD 659; cf. SD 457.)

Should a person acquiesce to the promptings of such spirits and then begin to steal from set purpose,
after two or three times, he can no longer desist from theft, for the spirits, as it were, cling to his
thoughts and cause him to think about, and obsessively desire to steal. (See AC 6203) Therefore the
Writings state:
    Let a man beware of actual evils; in this way only can one at last abstain from them; for actualities
    bring on habits, and put on a kind of nature, as happens with those who have exercised themselves
    in thefts, and thus evils are increased, together with their delights, and men are carried away by an
    increasing number of sirens, like a piece of wood in a rapid stream. (SD 4479)

Some of the passages just mentioned refer to men who have deliberately chosen their evil ways, but we
surmise that the spirits which come to obsess them also obsess those who are led into various manias
through some weakness which they may not be wholly responsible for. Especially would this be the
case with children who become morbidly preoccupied with some impulse or activity.

FUROR. Furor is characterized by transitory outbursts of excitement or anger in which the individual
may be quite dangerous. The type of spirits who would inspire such states would seem to be the
furies, or spirits of similar character, which are described in the Spiritual Diary. These spirits, being
extremely dangerous to man, are ordinarily kept in bonds. But it is said that “these bonds are relaxed
by the laws of permission in proportion as a man falls into furious states (furias).” (SD 225)

Similar spirits, corresponding to deadly ulcers of the head, are described by Swedenborg elsewhere in
the Writings.
    They are ugly, having the face of a wild beast, and hairy. I was told that they are such as had
    formerly slain whole armies, as we read in the Word; for [by correspondence] they rushed into the
    chambers of everyone‟s brain, and inspired terror, together with such madness that they killed each
    other. (AC 5717; SD 1783)
It is evident, however, that these latter spirits are shut up in their own hell and are not let out except in
the case of some suicides. (ibid.)

SUICIDE. Although suicides may occur in a variety of circumstances, such as in physical illness or in
mental illness, when a man suffers from severe guilt feelings, or when he has sustained the loss of
something he loves, we may be sure that diabolical spirits have instigated him to kill himself.

                             Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 10
The Writings speak of certain spirits who would fain return into the world. When leave is given such
to obsess men they produce such direful phantasies that in some cases the men are induced to lay
violent hands upon themselves. (SD 4198) Elsewhere the Writings refer directly to a case of suicide:
“A certain person in the life of the body had been reduced by melancholy to despair, until by being
instigated by diabolical spirits, he destroyed himself by thrusting a knife into his body.” (SD 1336)

We would note also the teaching concerning those infernals, corresponding to the deadly ulcers of the
head, who are seldom allowed to approach men. The Writings state that:
     …it is extremely rare that the bonds are loosened to any of them at this day, and only takes place in
     the case of someone who is of such a quality that it were better that he should be permitted to
     perish as to his body than as to his soul, and in regard to whom, unless he perished bodily in this
     manner, by means of insanity and suicide, he could not well be prevented from perishing to
     eternity. (SD 1783)

It seems evident that this teaching does not refer to all cases of suicide, for it is said that the bonds of
these infernals are loosened only in extremely rare instances, whereas suicides have become quite

SEXUAL DEVIATIONS. That evil spirits excite sexually deviant thoughts and affections is shown
clearly in the Writings. It is said that:
     …all degrees of criminality correspond to such things as are spiritual sins ... Those who are in faith
     alone and do not trouble about life, produce adultery with an aunt, and with a mother. At the
     presence of the (spirits] such a thought occurs. Those who worship piously and devoutly in
     churches, and at such times think solely about God, and not about life – to these, adulteries with a
     sister correspond. Such a thought occurs at their presence. Another execrable adultery (is
     produced) by those who talk much about God, and yet have no scruples about cheating men, and,
     if they could, about robbing them of their possessions. These, in their place, commit adultery with
     their maids, whom they change frequently, and thus with whomsoever they please. Those who are
     in love of self, and whose love is to rule over others, are Sodomites. (SD 5939)13

From the above we surmise that evil men who are in the spiritual evils corresponding to deviant acts,
would be particularly subject to excitation by the spirits just described. It seems quite probable also
that persons who have not yet begun reformation and regeneration, and those who are in temptations,
would be subject to the influx of these spirits. For example, a boy who suffers from what is commonly
called an Oedipus complex could very likely be harassed by those spirits mentioned above who are in
faith alone and do not trouble about life. This would be all the more the case if the boy was raised in a
faith-alone church. The like would be the case with all other deviations of this character. (AR 134)

OBSESSIVE THOUGHTS AND IMPULSES. Although the passage just referred to is speaking of
the operation of evil spirits during temptations, it seems clear that there is wider application of the
teaching. Perhaps it is this type of insidious influx which gives rise to the irrational, immoral, and
often horrifying obsessive thoughts and impulses which trouble some individuals. If a man, from
thinking that these things are from himself, cannot resist the thoughts and impulses, but permits
himself to become anxious about them, it is quite understandable that he might become neurotic.

  regarding spiritual cause of homosexuality and other deviations see SD 6096; AR 1006:2, 3; SD 2675, 4763-4,
4855½-57; De Cong 73-77, 81-87; also SD 5086, 5371, 5979.

                              Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 11
(Regarding: evil spirits whose effort was to try to stimulate Swedenborg to throw himself under
carriages see SD 3821, 253; regarding Sara Hesselia who sought after death to stimulate Swedenborg
to stab himself see SD 4530.)

PAROREXIA. Parorexia is described as an appetite or craving for peculiar or inappropriate foods. In
many passages mention is made of spirits of manifold genus and species called appetites, who by their
presence make man to crave various things. Each species of this type of spirit corresponds to some
type of food, drink, clothing, etc., and when they operate upon a man they excite him to crave that
particular type of food, drink, or clothing; whence comes their delight. Some men become so inflamed
by such spirits that they can scarcely refrain themselves. (SD 1563-1567; cf. SD 817, 818.)

It seems quite evident that some species of these spirits is in possession of the man who suffers from

DRUG ADDICTION AND DIPSOMANIA. From the above we also might conclude that the
inordinate cravings of the drug addict for drugs, and the consuming desires of the dipsomaniac for
alcohol are excited by such appetite spirits, who, while they were in the world, formerly craved these

Drug addiction and dipsomania are very often only symptoms of more serious disorders. Thus it is
suggested that the spirits who constitute the appetites are not the only spirits who are obsessing the
man who craves drugs or alcohol. Further, we would note, that there are certain biological factors to
be taken into account also, such as physical addiction.

AMNESIA. Amnesia, the total or partial loss of memory, figures prominently in the dissociative
reaction of some neurotics, but it is also very common in situations where there has been excessive
stress on the individual as in accidents, armed combat, and civilian catastrophes. In attempting to
see something of the operation of spirits in cases of amnesia we would call attention to the
teachings that evil genii and spirits in possession of the things of a man‟s memory may artfully
take away words and the sense of words; (SD 100) and that spirits may suddenly seize upon and
hide the things to which they have an aversion. (SD 85) From these teachings we might conclude
that in cases of amnesia the spirit with a man may seize upon and hide away some or all of the
things which are in a man‟s memory. It is surmised, however, that their operation in this matter
would only be successful so long as the man was equally averse to the things which had been
suppressed and had cooperated with the spirits. (Regarding: how spirits may block recall see also
SD 3573.)

Closely allied to amnesia is the reaction known as “blocking” wherein there is an involuntary
inhibition of recall, ideation, or communication (including sudden stoppage of speech). Blocking in
some degree takes place in a great many mental disorders. It is suggested that the operation of spirits
in this reaction would be the same as in cases of amnesia. (Regarding: character of those who cause
sleeplessness see SD(m) 4743.)

The mental disturbances which have been briefly discussed in this presentation are but a few of the
many known to therapists. Moreover, most of these disturbances appear as only one aspect or
symptom among many in persons afflicted with mental illness. It is obvious, therefore, that there is

                            Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 12
much work to be done by the church in drawing principles from the Writings which will give the
mental health profession a progressively better theoretical framework from which to work. In this
presentation a somewhat crude preliminary attempt has been made in this respect, an attempt which
could be greatly improved and extended.

In closing I would pose the question, of what practical significance is it to know how spirits are
involved in inducing and aggravating mental disturbances? I will not try to answer this question in
any detail at this time. I would only suggest that the understanding and acceptance of teaching on this
subject might provide many disturbed people with the means whereby they might gain much needed
objectivity in coping with their mental problems. I believe the following teaching from the Arcana
Coelestia has a strong bearing on this point.
     ...how the case is with good when it adjoins truths to itself by affections, and with truths when they
     apply themselves to it, cannot so well appear when the idea or thought is directed to good and
     truth, but better when it is directed to the societies of spirits and angels through which these flow
     in; for as before said (n. 4067), man‟s willing and thinking come from these societies, that is, flow
     in from them, and appear as if they were in him. To know how the case herein is from causes
     themselves; and to know it from the heaven of angels is to know it from the ends of these causes.
     There are also historical things which adjoin themselves, and illustrate these things, causing them
     to appear more plainly. (AC 4096:4)

And finally I would call your attention to two of many, many passages which describe what is possible
when in us there is a heartfelt acknowledgement of our free yet dependent situation in the realm of the
mind or spirit.
     It is an eternal truth that the Lord rules heaven and earth, and also that no one besides the Lord
     lives of himself, consequently that everything of life flows in – the good of life from the Lord, and
     the evil of life from hell. This is the faith of the heavens. When a man is in this faith (and he can
     be in it when he is in good), then evil cannot be fastened and appropriated to him, because he
     knows that it is not from himself, but from hell. When a man is in this state, he can then be gifted
     with peace, for then he will trust solely in the Lord. Neither can peace be given to any others than
     those who are in this faith from charity; for others continually cast themselves into anxieties and
     cupidities, whence come disquietudes. (AC 6325)
     He who lives in good, and believes that the Lord governs the universe, and that all the good which
     is of love and charity, and all the truth which is of faith, are from the Lord alone; nay, that life is
     from Him, and thus that from Him we live, move, and have our being, is in such a state that he can
     be gifted with heavenly freedom, and together with it with peace; for he then trusts solely in the
     Lord and has no care for other things, and is certain that all things are tending to his good, his
     blessedness, and his happiness to eternity. But he who believes that he governs himself is
     continually disquieted, being borne along with cupidities, and into solicitude respecting future
     things, and thus into manifold anxieties; and because he so believes, the cupidities of evil and the
     persuasions of falsity also adhere to him. (AC 2892) 14

  For further related teachings see AC 2891, 3812:2, 4151, 6202, 6204, 6308, 6324; HH 302; DP 278:6, 290, 294,
320; AE 1147:2-4; TCR 659; SD 148½, 455, 635, 1910, 1911, 3179, 4228; SD(m) 4696

                              Spirits: A Cause of Mental Disturbances (WLDH) - 13

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