The Smell Of The Sensuous Life

I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt:
your young men have I slain with the sword,
and have taken away your horses;

and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils:
yet have ye not returned unto me,
saith the LORD.

(Amos 4:10)

Stop for a moment…. What can you smell? What feelings does it evoke? What thoughts does that lead to?

So which came first? What you smelt, or what you felt or thought when you smelt it?

So an unseen vapour wafted into your nose, which sent a signal to your brain, which then processed it and confirmed that you were smelling what you were smelling – lets call it X. Does that sound right?

Hmmmmm. But that is contrary to what we are told the order of influx is ……

It appears as if the things which are in the world flow in through the senses toward the interiors, but this is a fallacy of sense;

the influx is of interiors into exteriors, and by means of this influx, perception.

On these subjects I have at times conversed with spirits; and it was shown by living experience that the interior man sees and perceives in the exterior what is done outside of this, and that the sensuous has life from no other source, or that from no other source is the faculty of sense, or sensation.

(Arcana Coelestia 5119)

So influx flows from what is higher to what is lower or what is interior to what is exterior. So what really happened when we smelled X then? So, the Influx, the Divine, flowed down into your mind, created a perception of the smell of X and you perceived that you smelt it.

I don’t about you… but that description of the flow of movement of influx … it still does my head in a little!

Because the appearance is, is that I smell … therefore I am … I exist.

But the reality is, is that the “I am” exists… therefore we appear to smell according to our reception of it.  And what is ‘” am“? “I am” is substance and form Itself- this is what the Divine is.

From all this it can be seen, that the affecting of the substance and form which causes sense is not a something separate from the subject, but only causes a change in it, the subject remaining the subject then as before and afterwards.

From this it follows that seeing, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, are not a something volatile flowing from their organs, but are the organs themselves, considered in their substance and form, and that when the organs are affected, sense is produced.

(Divine Love and Wisdom 41)

Hmmm so what is substantial? What is substance? The natural man thinks that the material world is substance and the spiritual world is nothing but vapour and abstract.

Google tells us the word “substance” comes from:
Middle English (denoting the essential nature of something): from Old French, from Latin substantia meaning ‘being, essence’, from substant- meaning ‘standing firm’, from the verb substar .

So, substance is ….Being, essence and standing firm…..

Isn’t that fascinating? Even Google affirms that what is substantial is “being and essence.”

Let’s go back to the conflict. The appearance is that ‘I smell, therefore I am. I touch therefore I am. I hear, I see, therefore I am.’ If we keep our focus on the outer world of what we can physically interact with, then it reinforces the sense of self that believes it is ‘I am’, that believes it is Being and Essence, that believes it is Substance and Form, that believes it is God.

So the sensuous self that smells bad, that creates a stink in the camps, that we are told must be put aside or cast off, isn’t the actual physical sensory experiences but more relates to the conclusions that we draw from them about what the nature of life is. It is the sense of self that is grounded in the conclusions that life exists in ourselves. It is this sense of self that needs to be cast off and put aside.

Such a person is called one governed by his senses, whereas the other is called one who is rational-natural. When a person dies he has the entire natural with him; and its form remains the same as that which it took in the world. He is also rational-minded to the extent he has absorbed ideas from rational thought, but sensory-minded to the extent he has absorbed ideas from his senses.

The difference between the two is that, to the extent it has absorbed ideas from rational thought and made them its own, the natural looks down on the senses belonging to the exterior natural and controls them by disparaging and casting aside illusions formed by the senses.

But to the extent that it has absorbed ideas formed by the bodily senses and made them its own, the natural looks down on rational thought by disparaging this and casting it aside.

(Arcana Coelestia 5094)

So when we hear ‘to live from the senses’, our minds first go to thinking about the five senses in the physical plane. But if we can think about what this means spiritually, it means that we are living from a place where there is no rational present. That’s is, there is no higher truth or spiritual principle, which translates to a state where the Word isn’t present. Or if you like, there is an absence of it. In others words … evil is present.

To live from the senses is to live from a place where the Word isn’t ruling and what rules instead, is the self of the hellish proprium. And this sense of self believes that it is life itself. It is it’s own God. It can only see in lumen, which isn’t actually it’s own light – just a filtered obscured light of the Divine. It can’t see in any other plane but the natural and hence it’s reality is based on the lower aspects of influx, on the physical senses. Hence, the five physical senses confirm the sensuous life.

….By the external sensuous is not meant the sense of the body itself, as its sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, but that which is most nearly from these; for he is called a sensuous man who thinks and desires according to these senses of the body and their appetites, and considers no further.

He who considers further, and examines what the sensuous desires, and what he himself thinks from the sensuous, is said to be raised above the sensuous, or to be withdrawn from it, and to think interiorly.

This is the case with those at the present day who are in the good of charity and of faith. When this is done, the sensuous is quiescent, and is deprived of its active life, which it has from the world and its objects.

(Arcana Coelestia 9730)

Now I’m always telling my children, you can’t change anyone else, you can only change yourself.  The only thing we are able to work on is our responses to others. Our responses might change their responses it is true, but our perception and awareness and degree of wakefulness is the only thing we truly can have any kind of perceived influence on. And then even then … even then….. even then we are asked to perceive and stay awake whilst coming into the awareness that it is the Lord that does the perceiving for us. That it is His life flowing into us that allows us to do so. Because He is Substance and Form.

Still… we have a sense of self and we are granted it so that we might be of use to others.  Love by it’s very nature longs to give and extend itself to others and the more we are in the stream of His love, the more that love extends out to all we are present with – both seen and unseen.

So when we read passages about the shunning of sensuous life, we are being asked to practice exactly what is we are reading. In the actual literal Text itself it sounds like it’s saying we need to give up a life based on our physical senses. But if we think and remind ourselves that the Text is Divine revelation, then this immediately lifts our thinking into higher, rational spiritual principles, where we can understand that the “sensuous life” means life in the opposite of what a life in the Lord is.

Underlying the command to shun a sensuous life is the request to acknowledge the covenant with the Lord; to acknowledge that the Lord alone is the source of life. So we aren’t being asked to give up a sense of self that experiences the delight in perception, or in understanding, or in obedience and in communicating with another and experiencing affections of love and joy within ourselves when we interact with others. No, we aren’t being asked to give up that.  But we ARE being asked to acknowledge the feeling that this sense of self is a gift and is only present because the Lord’s life enables it. So we’re not being asked to give up a sense of experiencing tasting, touching, seeing, hearing and smelling but we are being asked to remember the Divine in it. To remember that these are all moments and opportunities for awareness of the Lord.

And the same is asked of us when we open the book of the Word. The pages of the Word exist in our hands and the stories in our hearts and mind because the Lord flows into us. The Word sitting in our hands exists not out there but within our mind, as our reception of it and that this is what gives life to what we call our mind.

The heavenly self that will slowly emerge into awareness for us, is none other than the emergence of the Lord as our life. That’s what the heavenly self is. It is the sense of self that feels it’s life because “I am” exists.

And this sensuous life smells wonderful….

and No’ahh built an altar to YHWH, and he took from all the clean beasts and from all the clean flyers, and he brought up ascension offerings in the altar,
and YHWH smelled the sweet aroma, and YHWH said to his heart,
I will not continue to belittle the ground on account of the human, given that the thoughts of the heart of the human are dysfunctional from his young age,
and I will not continue to attack all the living ones which I made.
Yet again are all the days of the land, seed and harvest and cold and hot and summer and winter and day and night, they will not cease,

(Genesis 8:20-22)



  1. Ian Keal

    Very helpful. I had not made the connection with What I smell (or how I smell to others?) as being an indication of Where I am Spiritually.

    • Sarah Walker

      yes, a different way of perceiving what are senses take note of or draw our attention is drawn to .

    • Sarah Walker

      yes, a different way of perceiving what our senses take note of or draw our attention to .

Leave a Comment