The existence of three vertical levels in us has not been widely recognized before. This is because vertical levels themselves have not been identified, and as long as these levels have been unrecognized, the only levels people could know about are the gradual ones. When these are the only levels people know about, they can believe that our love and wisdom increase only gradually.
It needs to be realized, though, that we all have these three vertical or distinct levels in us from our birth, one above or within the other, and that each vertical or distinct level has horizontal or gradual levels by which it increases incrementally. This is because there are both kinds of level in everything, no matter how large or small. Neither kind of level can exist apart from the other.
These three vertical levels are called earthly, spiritual, and heavenly. When we are born, we come first into the earthly level, which gradually develops within us in keeping with the things we learn and the intelligence we gain through this learning, all the way to that summit of intelligence called rationality. This by itself, though, does not open the second level, the one called spiritual. This level is opened by a love for being useful that comes from our intelligence; but the love for being useful is a spiritual one, a love for our neighbor.
In the same way, this level can develop by incremental steps all the way to its summit; and it does so by our discovering what is true and good, or by spiritual truths. Even so, these do not open that third level that is called heavenly. This is opened by a heavenly love for being useful that is a love for the Lord; and love for the Lord is nothing but applying the precepts of the Word to our lives, these precepts being essentially to abstain from evil things because they are hellish and demonic and to do good things because they are heavenly and divine. This is how the three levels are opened in us sequentially.
As long as we are living in this world, we have no knowledge of any opening of levels within us. This is because our attention is focused on the earthly level, which is the most remote. We are thinking, intending, and talking and acting on that basis; and the spiritual level, which is deeper, does not communicate with the earthly level directly, but only by correspondence. Communication by correspondence is imperceptible.
However, as soon as we put off the earthly level, which happens when we die, we come into awareness of whatever level has been opened within us in the world, of the spiritual level if that level has been opened, of the heavenly level if that level has been opened. If we become conscious on the spiritual level after death, then we no longer think, intend, or talk or act in an earthly way, but spiritually. If we become conscious on the heavenly level, then we think, intend, and talk and act on that level. Further, since communication among the three levels occurs only by correspondence, the differences in level of love, wisdom, and useful function are so definite that there is no communication between them by direct contact.
We can see from this that we do have three vertical levels and that these can be opened in sequence.
Because there are within us these three levels of love and wisdom and therefore of usefulness, it follows that there are three levels of will and understanding and consequent closure, and therefore of concentration within us on usefulness, since will is the vessel of love, understanding the vessel of wisdom, and closure the usefulness that results from them. We can see from this that there are within each of us an earthly, a spiritual, and a heavenly will and understanding, potentially at birth, and effectively at the point when they are opened.
In short, the human mind, consisting of will and understanding, has three levels from creation and birth, so we have an earthly mind, a spiritual mind, and a heavenly mind. Consequently, we can be raised into angelic wisdom and possess it even while we are living in this world. Still, we become conscious of it only after death, if we become angels; and then we say inexpressible things, things incomprehensible to an earthly-minded person.
I was acquainted with a moderately educated man in the world and saw him and talked with him in heaven after his death. I sensed very clearly that he was talking like an angel and that what he was saying was beyond the grasp of earthly-minded people. The reason was that in the world he had applied the precepts of the Word to his life and had worshiped the Lord; so the Lord had raised him into the third level of love and wisdom.
It is important to know about this raising up of the human mind, since understanding what follows depends on it.
There are two abilities within us, gifts from the Lord, that distinguish us from animals. One ability is that we can discern what is true and what is good. This ability is called “rationality,” and is an ability of our understanding. The other ability is that we can do what is true and what is good. This ability is called “freedom,” and is an ability of our will. Because of our rationality, we can think what we want to think, either in favor of God or against God, in favor of our neighbor or against our neighbor. We can also intend and do what we are thinking, or when we see something evil and are afraid of the penalty, can use our freedom to refrain from doing it. It is because of these two abilities that we are human and are distinguished from animals.
These two abilities are gifts from the Lord within us. They come from him constantly and are never taken away, for if they were taken away, that would be the end of our humanity. The Lord lives in each of us, in the good and the evil alike, in these two abilities. They are the Lord’s dwelling in the human race, which is why everyone, whether good or evil, lives forever. However, the Lord’s dwelling within us is more intimate as we use these abilities to open the higher levels. By opening them, we come into consciousness of higher levels of love and wisdom and so come closer to the Lord. It makes sense, then, that as these levels are opened, we are in the Lord and the Lord is in us.
I have noted above that the three vertical levels are like a purpose, a means, and a result, and that the sequence of love, wisdom, and usefulness follows this sequence. I need at this point, then, to say a little about love as the purpose, wisdom as the means, and usefulness as the result.
People who pay attention to their reason when that reason is in the light can see that our love is the purpose of everything we do, since it is what we love that we think about, decide upon, and do, so it is what we have as our purpose. Our reason can also show us that wisdom is the means, since the love that is our purpose gathers in our understanding the means it needs to reach its goal. So it listens to its wisdom, and these resources constitute the means through which it works. We can see without further explanation that usefulness is the result.
Love, though, is not the same in one individual as in another, so wisdom is not the same in one individual as in another, and neither is usefulness. Since these three are matched in kind, the quality of our love determines the quality of our wisdom, and of our usefulness. I say “wisdom,” but this means whatever is characteristic of our understanding.
from Regeneration, Pages 97-100