The Levels of Our Natural Mind

We have been discussing the three major levels of our mind as a whole–the natural, the swpiritual, and the celestial–as being three separate, ascending levels, also called discrete degrees. Each level is of a different quality from the others: the predominant love or motivation that rules the natural level is either obedience or disobedience to the commandments of the Lord; that of the spiritual level is loving the good in one’s neighbor, also called charity; that of the celestial is loving the Lord above all else.

We are now going to learn that in our natural mind there are also levels, but they are of an entirely different kind. They are not sepearate levels distinguished by the quality of the love that motivates them, for our entire natural mind (if left to itself without any higher influences) is of one and the same unchanging quality–natural! Instead, the levels of our natural mind are distinguished from each other by the different functions that each one performs, regardless of the motive from which they are done. These functions are:

  1. Sensation. Using our five senses opens this lowest level of the natural mind–the first to develop in infants. This part of the mind is called the sensory level
  2. Generalization. Based on the information from our senses, we draw conclusions about what people and natural things do. These conclusions open and form what is called the middle natural level of our mind.
  3. Sense of Proportion. The ability to distinguish between what is natural and what is spiritual. This function belongs to the highest level of our natural mind, called the rational level because it enhables us to see the ratio between the spiritual and the natural.

These functional levels develop one after the other, beginning with the sensory level, and mark the three main stages in the mental growth of our natural mind. These stages are sometimes described as if they were discrete levels, and there is indeed a distinct progression from one level to the other. However, taken in the broader context of our human mind, these levels are all part of our external mind. Their functions are all of a natural or earthly quality–the type of thought that takes place before regeneration. Although the external mind is only a small part of who we are, it is the part that we most identify as our “self” because it is where our everyday consciousness dwells. These three functional levels of our external mind will therefore be the focus of the remaining chapters of this book, because it is here that regeneration begins–if it is going to begin at all. In this chapter we will give only a brief overview of the three levels, leaving a fuller treatment of them for later chapters.

from The Hidden Levels of the Mind, Swedenborg’s Theory of Consciousness by Douglas Taylor

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