Jesus said, “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.” Matthew 12:38-45
And in the Heavenly Doctrine we read: “Having examined himself, acknowledged his sins, and repented, a person must remain steadfast in good to life’s end. But if having done those things he falls back into his former life of evil and embraces it he profanes that good since he now links evil with it. As a consequence his latter state becomes, according to the Lord’s words, worse than his former.” Secrets of Heaven §8394
This is saying to me that if stopping some bad habit or harmful thought process is Step One in welcoming Jesus into my heart, then Step Two is providing a clean, spiritual space that is able to reject the inevitable return of the old patterns of thinking and acting. Jesus illustrates this point with a powerful story at the end of our text. The most extreme result of this “worst case scenario,” the Word tells us, is profanation. While profanation is very rare, we are nonetheless warned that “Step Two” is critical, crucial and necessary.
Among the tasks before us is noticing the stuff cluttering our spiritual space (Step One). This is simply a basic mindfulness, attending to the quality and progress of our thoughts and feelings. We each then need to find our particular method of emptying our mind, and sweeping away the “evil desires and resulting false persuasions.” The promise is that as we do this, our natural, conscious, mind is “filled with all forms of goodness, for good from the Lord is constantly flowing in. It flows into ‘the house’, that is, into the person who has been cleansed of such things as hinder influx, that is, which turn away, or pervert, or stifle inflowing good. Hence the proverbial expression used by the ancients about sweeping or cleansing the house, and also about sweeping and preparing the way. ‘Sweeping the house’ was used to mean cleansing oneself of evils and thereby preparing oneself for goods to enter, while ‘sweeping the way’ was used to mean preparing oneself for the reception of truths; for ‘a house’ meant good, and ‘the way’ truth….’Sweeping the house’ also means in the contrary sense the person who dispossesses himself of all goods and truths and so is filled with evils and falsities, as in Luke, ‘If the unclean spirit finds no rest he says, I will return to my house out of which I came. And if when he comes he finds it swept and decorated, he goes away and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter in and dwell there.’” Secrets of Heaven §3142
I acknowledge that my mind is, as it were, a house that has dirty, dry, and void spiritual rooms, which are thoughts and desires that are false and evil. I have notions about myself – that I am worthless, or privileged, or right – that attract evil, dark energy from hell, which cause those notions to grow to fill the space of my mind and heart, crowding out good feelings and true thoughts about my self worth, humility, and regard for the life in others. I am repeatedly amazed and chagrined to notice how this (mindless) filling of my spirit results in my feeling empty! How so very odd! And yet it is precisely what the evil spirits want me to have them experience through me! The Word describes this as having notions – many of them truths – which are empty of goodness. I know them, but don’t act them out, and eventually, “truths are not truths because these are devoid of good.” Secrets of Heaven §4744
I get a lot out of what the Word says about Step Two: “When the truths giving shape to the person’s understanding have been implanted in and joined to good of a person, they pass into the second state, in which their actions spring from good through the use of truths; a state in which thought and actions spring from love, or what also amounts to the same thing, from the will; for what a person wills they love, and what they love they call good. Anyone in whom the good of love and charity is present may be called an embodiment of love and charity, and on the other hand anyone in whom evils resulting from self-love and love of the world are present, thus in whom hatred and the like are present, may be called an embodiment of hatred.” Secrets of Heaven §10076 Jesus said it this way: “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” Matthew 12:35
This makes clear how Step Two operates to support my experiencing the presence of Jesus in my life. After emptying and sweeping my mind, I fill it with beautiful thoughts and emotions that I consciously accept from the continuous inflow of Divine truth and love from the Lord. “Being blessed means being endowed with the good of love and faith, thus receiving what is Divine emanating from the Lord.” Secrets of Heaven §10076 “’The blessing of Jehovah’ in the external sense, that is, in the sense which has to do with a person’s state in the world, means resting content in God. Blessing also implies countless other benefits, and consequently means the various gifts which flow from it, such as enrichment with spiritual and celestial good; fruitfulness resulting from the affection for truth; undergoing rearrangement into heavenly order; being endowed with the good of love and thereby being joined to the Lord; and joy. What is meant by ‘blessing’ therefore in any specific instance becomes clear from the context in which it appears.” Secrets of Heaven §4981
The blessing people receive is the “thousands of hidden treasures of wisdom and thousands of love’s joys as gifts from the Lord. They do not realize that they will begin to participate in this wisdom and joy after they die, when they become angels. The reason earthly-minded people are not aware of all this is that communication between our earthly and our spiritual selves takes place by correspondences, and communication by correspondences is perceived in our discernment only as seeing truths in the light, and in our volition only as being helpful because we enjoy it.” Divine Love and Wisdom §252
Step Two is the feeling of joy, and being illumined, that we accept as our own and as an indication that the Lord’s love and wisdom are being received in a mind and heart prepared to receive them. The memory (sometimes rather weak!) of these moments of happiness and discernment keep me sweeping and decluttering my mind of ideas and feelings that I have noticed are causing me and those around me pain. And I remember to be grateful to the God of love who once again is present in my heart. Thank you Jesus!