When we turn to the Lord, we begin to experience a rebirth of the spirit, something that Swedenborg calls regeneration. This is a process, not an event occuring in one glorious day–a gradual change in our thoughts and affections that lifts our minds from its everyday natural state to a more spiritual one.
Living according to what we have learned from the Word not only opens the rational level but also regenerates it, changing its quality from natural to spiritual. That is accomplished gradually to the extent that what is above in our internal mind– that is charity or love of the neighbor (the spiritual level) and love for the Lord (the celestial)–begin to flow down into the rational level, altering its quality completely. The rational level of the mind is gradually “born from above” (John 3:3) and is no longer of a natural quality, but is either spiritual or celestial, depending on which of these qualities if flowing in from our internal mind.
A similar process takes place with our middle natural level. It is “born again” or “born from above” as the heavenly qualities of the regenerated rational level flow down into it. The middle natural level is then regenerated and also becomes either spiritual or celestial in quality.
Then finally, our sensory level becomes subject to the born again levels above it. The person is then fully regenerated; even his sensory level, the lowest level of his or her mind, has been put in alignment with heaven as far as possible (Secrets of Heaven, Section 7442:4)
In the growth of our mind from time to time we are infants there is an ascent from the lowest level to the highest; but in its regeneration, there is a descent from the highest down to the lowest. That may remind you of the story of Jacob’s ladder in the book of Genesis: “Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12).
There was an ascent and then a descent. In the literal story that is a puzzle; we ask ourselves, why is it said that the angels ascended and then descended? People usually think of the angels as being “up there,” so they would surely have descended and then ascended. But when we learn from Swedenborg’s interpretation of the spiritual meaning within the Word of God that the reference is first to the growth of our mind (an ascent), and afterward to its regeneration (a descent from the highest down to the lowest), then that whole vision of Jacob’s ladder is filled with a new meaning and revevance that it did not have for us before.
from The Hidden Levels of the Mind, Swedenborg’s Theory of Consciousness by Douglas Taylor