It is different for us, since we have not only desires of earthly love but desires of spiritual love and desires of heavenly love as well. Our human mind has three levels, as I explained in part 3 of Divine Love and Wisdom. This means that we can rise from earthly knowledge to spiritual intelligence and from there to heavenly wisdom; and because of these latter two, the intelligence and the wisdom, we can turn to the Lord, be united to him, and therefore live forever. This raising of our desires would not be possible, though, if we did not have the ability to raise our discernment because we are rational and to do so intentionally because we are free.
It is by means of these two abilities that we can think inwardly about what we are perceiving outwardly with our physical senses and can think on a higher level about what we are thinking on a lower level. Any one of us can say, “I was thinking about this,” or “I am thinking about this,” or “I intended this,” or “I intend this,” or “I understand that this is true,” or “I love this because of its quality,” and so on. We can see from this that we are able to think about our thinking from a higher perspective and apparently see it down below. This ability of ours comes from our rationality and our freedom. Rationality enables us to think on a higher level, and freedom enables us to think that way from desire, intentionally. If we did not have the freedom to think that way, that is, we would not have the intention and therefore would not have the thought.
The result is that if we do not want to understand anything except what has to do with this world and its nature, if we do not want to understand what is good and true on moral and spiritual levels, we cannot rise from knowledge into intelligence, let alone from intelligence into wisdom, because we have blocked off these abilities. We have then made ourselves human only in the limited sense that we could understand if we wanted to, because of our inborn rationality and freedom and because we are able to want to.
It is these two abilities that enable us to think and to express our thoughts by talking. In other respects, we are not people but animals, and actually worse than animals because of our misuse of these abilities.
from Divine Providence, Section 75