Before this process begins, a human being is completely in the dark about spiritual things. The earth of his natural mind is a great void, and empty, devoid of spiritual thoughts and affections. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2)—covered the lusts and false ideas of the unregenerate person. However, God in his mercy is working to stir up whatever remains of our childhood innocence. From this come the first rays of spiritual light. It dawns on us that there must be a God, so that we distinguish between light and darkness. This is day one.
In this new state (the “morning” of Gen. 1:5) we can make this distinction more often and more clearly. We begin to realize that our thoughts come from two different sources. Some come from our worldly mind, but others come from our newly discovered heavenly or internal mind, which is in the light of heaven. “Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven” (Gen. 1:7–8). This is day two.
On the third day, the insights from the internal heavenly mind are thought about much more often. We recollect them more often. This is what is meant by the “waters under the heavens” being “gathered together [collected] into one place” in Genesis 1:9. This causes the “dry land” of our natural mind to appear—because we have earnestly examined ourselves. The spiritual aridness of our natural mind is exposed. By this we are somewhat humbled, and we begin our first works of repentance, the amendment of our lives. These are the good works being done at this stage. They are comparatively inanimate, being only of the immobile vegetable kingdom in the scale of spiritual creations. The reason is that we do not really believe yet that any good we do is from the Lord. We only believe this because we are taught by others that this is so. Our human nature is still in everything we say and do. It is the earth—our natural mind—that brings forth “grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind” (Gen. 1:11). Thus day three is complete.
No further progress can be made until we acknowledge the Lord, that he is the source, the only cause, the Father of everything good and true. As we make this acknowledgement, our humility increases. A new love begins to rule our mind, represented by two great lights that appear in the heavens—the light of love (the sun) and its offspring, the light of faith (the moon), coming down from the heavenly or internal mind. When there is some love, some delight, in doing the Lord’s will, then there is also something of real faith, genuine belief; just as the light of the moon is but a reflection of the light of the sun. When this warm sunlight of the internal mind begins to shine upon the earth of our natural mind, then for the first time the person is spiritually alive. This explains why the creation of the sun and moon is so long delayed. So ends day four.
In the fifth stage of the Lord’s creation of a clean heart inside us, we really begin to make a habit of thinking from the true things that are to be believed. They are now continually in the deepest level of our thought as our standard of judgment, the principles by which we evaluate, set in order, and govern everything that comes into our mind. Note that the Lord is in these true things that are a part of faith. He causes us to recall them and think from them. They are his creations, in general and in each particular instance. This is what is meant by “every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind” (Gen. 1:21). Here we see the first animate, living, spiritual states of mind. This is day five.
In the sixth stage, our chief delight and ruling love is in fostering and enhancing the good received from the Lord by the various forms of the neighbor—an individual, a group of individuals, a church, a country as a whole, the human race. These are the ascending levels of the neighbor, and helping them is love going out to others, or charity. The good in them is what we love, and that good, strictly speaking, is the neighbor. (This is why Swedenborg always says “the” neighbor rather than “one’s” neighbor.) This goodwill toward others is what is meant by the “living creature” created by God on the sixth day—the animals of the earth (Gen. 1:24–25). The creation of human beings is the final dominion of the spiritual kind of love of the neighbor. We are the image and likeness of God’s love and wisdom. This is the lesson of day six.
These are the six days of the Lord’s labor in regeneration of a human being. It is purely the Lord’s work, although it requires our cooperation, and it may appear to us as if we are doing it all ourselves. But there is still another state: the seventh day, the sabbath of our Lord, his day of rest. This is the state in which the person’s mind is ruled, not merely by love of the neighbor, but by love going up to the Lord, the noblest and most exalted love that a human being can aim at and attain. It is the fulfillment of the first and greatest commandment, as revealed in Matthew 22:37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” During the first six stages, the Lord has to fight for us in our battles of temptation. But when our ruling or predominant love has become love for the Lord, the fight is over, and the holy day of rest from temptations is at hand. The Lord can then rest. This is day seven.
from The Hidden Levels of the Mind, Swedenborg’s Theory of Consciousness by Douglas Taylor