As we all know, the first kind of mental activity in which children engage is sensation. Babies love to experience the things around them with all five senses–espacially touch and taste. It is remarkable what dangerous things they want to put into their mouths! They are using the sensory level of their mind, and at first, that is the only type of mental activity we can observe in newborn infants. But even at this very early stage, sensory impressions of the people and objects of the world around them are being stored up in their minds.
Swedenborg teaches that the Lord’s special angels from the highest heaven, whose gentle influence surrounds babies at this time, instill celestial delights into their opening mind: “In heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). These heavenly delights are unconsciously associated in the baby’s mind with the impressions they receive through their senses. Swedenborg calls these delights and images the “remains of good and truth,” and they become the foundation for the growing child’s loves and desires. Every newborn is gifted with these “remains,” regardless of their heredity or environment, but sadly in some cases such remains may be the only remnants of heavenly delights that they ever experience or can draw upon in later life. Parents clearly have a great responsibility in regard to the spiritual life of their children as well as to their natural life.
There is also the intellect or understanding, even at this stage. To call it the intellect seems like a misnomer, because it consists only of sensory images of things seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled. These images remain in the natural memory and are called forth to help form the imagination at a later stage in the development of this sensory level of our mind.
from The Hidden Levels of the Mind, Swedenborg’s Theory of Consciousness by Douglas Taylor