Examples of the principle of levels that is under discussion in this part have thus far been drawn from various things that occur in our two worlds—levels of the heavens where angels live, for example, levels of the warmth and light that surround them, of the atmospheres, of various parts of the human body, and of things in the animal and mineral kingdoms. The principle of levels has a wider range, though. Its range includes not only physical phenomena but also societal, moral, and spiritual ones in all their detail.
There are two reasons why the principle of levels includes such matters. The first is that there is a trine in everything that can be said to have attributes, a trine called purpose, means, and result; and these three are related to each other by vertical levels. The second reason is that no societal, moral, or spiritual phenomenon is abstract or disembodied. They are matters of substance, for just as love and wisdom are not abstractions but substances, so are all the things we refer to as societal, moral, and spiritual. We can of course think about them in the abstract, as disembodied, but in their own right they are not abstractions. Take feeling and thought, for example, or goodwill and faith, or will and understanding. What applies to love and wisdom applies to them as well, namely that they do not happen apart from subjects that are substantial. They actually have to do with the state of those subjects or substances. They are shifts of state that give rise to change. “Substance” means form as well, since there is no such thing as a formless substance.
Since we can think about will and understanding, about feeling and thought, and about goodwill and faith apart from the substantial realities that are their subjects, and since we have thought about them in this way, we have lost any appropriate concept of them, any realization that they refer to the states of substantial realities or forms. Exactly the same principle applies to sensations and actions, which are not things in the abstract apart from our sensory and motor organs. In the abstract, or apart from their organs, they are theoretical constructs only. They are like sight with no eye, hearing with no ear, taste with no tongue, and so on.
Since all societal, moral, and spiritual events, like all physical ones, happen not only by gradual levels but also on distinct levels, and since processes on distinct levels are like the processes of purpose to means and means to result, I should like to illustrate and demonstrate the present topic (that the final level is the composite, vessel, and foundation of the prior levels) by what I have just mentioned, namely instances of love and wisdom, of will and understanding, of feeling and thought, and of goodwill and faith.
We can tell quite clearly that the final level is the composite, vessel, and foundation of the prior ones by looking at the way purpose and means progress to result. Enlightened reason can grasp the fact that the effect is the composite, vessel, and foundation of the means and the purpose, but cannot grasp as clearly the fact that the purpose in all fullness and the means in all fullness are actively present in the result, with the result being completely inclusive of them.
This follows from what has already been said in this part, especially from the fact that one level comes from another in a three-stage sequence and that a result is simply a purpose in its final form. Since the final form is this kind of composite, it follows that the final form is their vessel and also their foundation.
As for love and wisdom, love is the purpose, wisdom the means, and service the result. Further, service is the composite, vessel, and foundation of wisdom and love, such a composite and such a vessel that every bit of love and every bit of wisdom is actively present in it. It is their total presence. We need to be absolutely clear, though, that what are present in service are all the elements of love and wisdom that are of the same kind, harmonious.
Desire, thought, and act occur on a sequence of similar levels, since every desire has to do with love, every thought with wisdom, and every act with service. Goodwill, faith, and good works occur on the same sequence of levels, since goodwill is a matter of desire, faith of thought, and good works of act. Will, understanding, and practice occur on the same sequence of levels as well, since will is a matter of love and therefore of desire, understanding of wisdom and therefore of faith, and practice of service and therefore of deeds. Just as all the elements of wisdom and love dwell within service, all the elements of thought and desire dwell within act, and all the elements of faith and goodwill dwell within deeds, and so on. This means all the elements that are of the same kind; that is, they are harmonious.
People have not yet recognized that the last member of each sequence—service, act, deed, and practice—is the composite and vessel of all the earlier members. It seems as though there were nothing more within service, act, deed, or practice than there is within motion. However, all these prior stages are actively present within, so completely present that nothing is missing. They are enclosed within it the way wine is enclosed in a bottle or furnishings in a house.
The reason this is not noticed is that we look at acts of service from the outside only, and things seen from the outside are simply events and motions. It is like seeing our arms and hands move and not knowing that a thousand motor fibers are cooperating in each movement, with a thousand elements of thought and desire answering to those thousand motor fibers and stimulating them. Since these things are happening far inside, they are not visible to any of our physical senses. This much is known, that nothing is done in or through the body except from will and through thought; and since these two are acting, every element of will and thought must necessarily be present within the act. They cannot be separated. This is why we draw conclusions on the basis of deeds or works about each other’s purposeful thought, which we refer to as “intent.”
I have learned that angels can sense and see from someone’s single deed or work everything about the intention and thought of the one who is doing it. From the person’s will, angels of the third heaven see the purpose for which it is being done, and angels of the second heaven see the means through which the purpose is working. This is why deeds and works are so often mandated in the Word, and why it says that we are known by our works.
According to angelic wisdom, unless will and understanding, or desire and thought, or goodwill and faith, devote themselves to involvement in works or deeds whenever possible, they are nothing but passing breezes, so to speak, or images in the air that vanish. They first take on permanence in us and become part of our life when we perform and do them. The reason is that the final stage is the composite, vessel, and foundation of the prior stages.
Faith apart from good works is just this kind of airy nothing or image, and so are faith and goodwill apart from their practice. The only difference is that people who put faith and goodwill together know what is good and are able to intend and do it, but not people who are devoted to faith apart from goodwill. . . .
from Regeneration, Pages 93-98