Even though it is hard for people to understand this if they are not yet familiar with vertical levels, it still needs to be disclosed, since it is a matter of angelic wisdom. While earthly-minded people cannot think about this wisdom the way angels do, they can still grasp it mentally if their minds are raised into the level of light that angels enjoy. Our minds can actually be raised that far and enlightened accordingly. However, this enlightenment of our earthly minds does not happen by distinct levels. There is instead a gradual increase, and in keeping with that increase, our minds are enlightened from within, with the light of the two higher levels.
We can understand how this happens by perceiving that for vertical levels, one is above the other, with the earthly level, the terminal one, acting like an inclusive membrane for the two higher levels. As the earthly level is raised toward a higher level, then, the higher activates that outer earthly level from within and enlightens it. The enlightenment is actually happening because of the light of the higher levels from within, but it is received gradually by the earthly level that envelops and surrounds them, with greater clarity and purity as it ascends. That is, the earthly level is enlightened from within, from the light of the higher, distinct levels; but on the earthly level itself, it happens gradually.
We can see from this that as long as we are in this world and are therefore focused on the earthly level, we cannot be raised into wisdom itself, the way it is for angels. We can be raised only into a higher light at the boundary of angels and receive enlightenment from their light, which flows into us from within and illumines us.
I cannot describe this any more clearly. It is better understood through its effects; for if we have some prior knowledge about causes, their effects embody and present them in the light and thereby make them clear.
The following are “effects.”
(a) Our earthly mind can be raised as far as the light of heaven that surrounds angels, and can therefore sense on the earthly level what angels sense spiritually—that is, it does not sense so fully. Still, our earthly mind cannot be raised all the way into angelic light itself.
(b) With our earthly mind raised as far as heaven’s light, we can think and even talk with angels; but when this happens, the thought and speech of the angels are flowing into our earthly thought and speech, and not the other way around. This means that angels talk with us in earthly language, in our native tongues.
(c) This happens by a flow of the spiritual level into the earthly, and not by any flow of the earthly level into the spiritual.
(d) There is no way for our human wisdom, which is earthly as long as we are living in the earthly world, to be raised into angelic wisdom, only into some reflection of it. This is because the raising of the earthly mind is along a continuum, like that of darkness to light, or coarse to fine. Still, if our spiritual level has been opened, we come into consciousness of that wisdom when we die, and we can also come into consciousness of it through the quiescence of our physical senses, and then through an inflow from above into the spiritual elements of our minds.
(e) Our earthly mind is made up of both spiritual substances and earthly substances. Our thinking results from the spiritual substances and not from the earthly substances. These latter substances fade away when we die, but the spiritual substances do not. So when we become spirits or angels after death, the same mind is still there in the form it had in the world.
(f) The earthly substances of our minds (which fade away after death, as I have just noted) form the skin-like covering of the spiritual bodies we inhabit as spirits and angels. It is by means of this covering, taken from the earthly world, that our spiritual bodies have their stability, the earthly substance being the outermost vessel. This is why there is no angel or spirit who was not born human.
These hidden treasures of angelic wisdom are appended at this point to show the nature of our earthly mind.
Each of us is born with the ability to understand truths even at the deepest level where angels of the third heaven live. As our human understanding climbs up on a continuum around the two higher levels, it receives the light of wisdom from those levels in the manner already described. As a result, we can become rational in proportion to its ascent. If it comes up to the third level, it becomes rational from the third level; if it comes up to the second level, it becomes rational from the second level; and if it does not ascend at all, it is rational on the first level. We say that it becomes rational from those levels because the earthly level is the general recipient vessel of their light.
The reason we do not become rational to the highest degree we are capable of is that our love, which is a matter of our will, cannot be raised up in the same way as our wisdom, which is a matter of our understanding. The love that is a matter of will is raised only by abstaining from evils as sins and then by those good actions of thoughtfulness that are acts of service, acts that we are then performing from the Lord. So if the love that is a matter of will is not raised up along with it, then no matter how high the wisdom that is a matter of our understanding has risen, it ultimately falls back to the level of its love. This is why we become rational only on the lowest level if our love is not raised to the spiritual level as well.
We can tell from all this that our rational ability seems to be made up of three levels, one ability from the heavenly level, one from the spiritual level, and one from the earthly level. We can also tell that our rationality, an ability that can be raised, is still with us whether it is raised up or not.
I have stated that everyone is born with this ability, or with rationality, but this means everyone whose outward organs have not been damaged by any external events in the womb, or after birth by illness or some head injury, or by the outburst of a senseless love that lowers all restraints. The rational ability cannot be raised up for people like this. The life of their will and understanding has no boundaries in which it finds definition, that is, boundaries so arranged that the life can accomplish outward deeds coherently. It does act in keeping with outermost boundaries, but not because of them.
from Regeneration, Pages 111-114