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VIII Types, States and Degrees of The Rational Mind

In preceding chapters it was shown that the development of the Rational depends on an ability to elevate one's thought above one's sensual degree, not only freeing it from the impulses of the native will but also to a large extent removing from it the notions of time, space, matter, and person.23 From such rational thought there is gradually built up in man a memory of abstract ideas which is called "the interior natural memory" and is said to contain rational, immaterial, and intellectual ideas, thus "universals."24 It is of special interest to observe that celestial angels presumably those from the most ancient church do not possess any memory for rational ideas. They never talk about rational things, about matters of doctrine or faith, or about principles of morality, justice, or equity. They perceive such things readily when they hear them, and either assent or dissent. Because they are in the order of heaven, the truths which they hear are inscribed in their interiors, or upon their will. Yet they do not talk about what they hear, but only about what they see before their eyes, for this they can remember just like other spirits do (SD 5587, 5586, 5597, cf. RH 214). In this connection it is well to reflect on the fact that those of the celestial genius were in no need of abstractions or of doctrines of rational mold. "If man were imbued with no hereditary evil, the Rational would then be born immediately, from the marriage of the celestial things of the internal man with its spiritual things, and the Scientific (or the faculty of knowing) would be born through the Rational, so that on coming into the world a man would at once have in himself the whole Rational and the whole Scientific; for this would be in accordance with the order of influx . . ." (AC 1902, 2557). Something similar is true of animals who are born with instinct.

It was otherwise with men after the Fall. For with them the evils of the hereditary will interfered with the perception of truth, and the only way for the understanding to be built up was by a separation from the sensual affections and an abstraction of thought from the appearances of the senses. This mode of bridging the chasm between the soul and the senses by abstractions was established only by stages and degrees through millennia of racial development during which spoken and written languages were perfected. It is a part of the miraculous process of reformation which is offered to those of the spiritual genius, with whom the hereditary will is infested by evil. Even the Lord used this mode in the course of glorifying His Human. It may thus be clear that the Rational with men differs widely according to their racial genius. The various races on the innumerable planets of the universe perform different functions in the Grand Man, some being similar to that of the celestial church on our earth. But in another respect, the Rational differs according to sex. Both men and women have rational minds. Yet the man has as his particular function the cultivation of the things of wisdom, the perpetuation of the abstract and rational things of doctrine and philosophy and of the sciences which are basic to these things. Men are fitted for this function because their affections are more readily detachable from their thought and they can therefore be elevated into rational and spiritual light and maintain the elevation. Women, on the other hand, can be elevated into a superior heat and can steadily maintain the elevation. And it is from this feminine sphere of spiritual heat that the masculine intellect can be conjoined with a spiritual love and thus find permanent illustration; even as it is by virtue of the masculine presentation of abstract truths that the woman can come to feel the inner delights of her heat or her rational or spiritual affections (CL 165, 169, 188, 218, 296, 331: 2, 175, 122; AC 8994, 568e, 266). Thus the Rational cannot be built up in either man or woman alone. Nor can the Rational of a woman, who is born to act from affection, emulate that of the man, who is from birth destined to think from understanding and to cultivate judgment; nor vice versa. Such emulations lead to gross self-deceptions which make a travesty of rational thinking; for Reason can flourish in both man and woman, but never in a mind that has lost its sex.

The human rational is distinguished into types, not only by reason of race or sex, but also according to the affections which motivate and head it. Therefore we learn in the Arcana Coelestia how the Rational gradually changes its quality as man's character develops and is regenerated. This is told in the internal sense of the story of Abram's two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael represents the Rational as first formed. It is conceived by an influx of life through the internal man and born of an "affection of knowing'' (signified by Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid). The natural affection of knowing which thus sees itself dignified as the mother of the future rational mind, becomes so inflated with self-importance that it will not acknowledge any spiritual truth (AC 1911). So long as this is the case, nothing rational can be born in man. But when there comes a recognition that it is evil and falsity in oneself that is opposed to spiritual truth and good, then the first Rational is born (AC 1944).

It is often pointed out in the Arcana that it is not the ability to argue or reason that makes a man 'rational,' but the ability to see truth in the light of truth (AC 4156: 3, 6240: 2). Reasoning, or what is properly called 'ratiocination,' may be merely the mental process of confirming one's positions by skillfully imitating the modes of rational thinking. The Rational is said to be born when the untrustworthy quality of the Natural is acknowledged, and there is a submission to the superior authority of the spiritual truth of Divine revelation. The Rational is procured through experience, and especially by reflection on the truths of moral and civil life, as well as by reasoning from doctrine or from the Word (AC 2657). But in its first form it partakes of worldly things; it has in it a love of truth which is defiled by self-love and conceit. It indeed fights whatever is not true. It has learned the lesson of self-compulsion, and submits the natural man to a stern discipline. Yet it is cold and hard, glorying in its skill, and its hand is raised against every man, seeing all as if they were in falsity. It acts from truth separated from good, and thus feels no pity and seeks not to bend minds but to denounce them. It is morose and contentious and unyielding and inspires fear (perhaps respect) rather than love and confidence. It is significantly depicted as Ishmael, the 'Wild-ass man,' the proud desert warrior (AC 1949-1951, 1964).

The judgment exercised by this "First Rational" is immature and superficial. It lacks sympathy and therefore fails to understand the complex states of human life. It does not penetrate below appearances. A man who has such a rational is impatient and intolerant even with himself, and grows bitter and discouraged. His judgment is compared to unripe fruit sour, and not sufficiently exposed to the sunshine of charity. Yet it is within the First Rational that spiritual freedom begins to be exercised. In its endeavor toward self-compulsion and submission to the dictates of truth, man begins to receive a new and heavenly proprium a new character from the Lord (AC 1937, 1947). By degrees, affections of good and truth are implanted as seeds of a new beginning. The fruit ripens. The judgment mellows.

The "Second Rational" is formed from spiritual affections "implanted by the Lord in a wonderful manner in the truths of the First Rational." And as this is being done, the things which are in agreement are vivified, but the rest are separated as useless; until at length spiritual goods and truths are collected as it were into fascicles into an organic form. Yet the First Rational, with everything in it all its states remains with the man; it is not removed, but only put aside (AC 2657). To indicate the totally different nature of the "Second Rational," the Word represents it by Isaac, the son of Abraham by his wife Sarah. Isaac, the man of peace, represented an affection of heavenly truth and a new state in which man believes that the good and truth which he receives are not from himself, so that he disclaims pride and merit and begins to feel delight in good and in truth for their own sake (AC 2640, 2657).

Abuses of the Rational

Every normal man who lives to adult age attains to the ability to use the faculties inherent in the Interior Natural degree of the mind the power to think and reason, and to reflect from a higher thought upon the state of his external or natural man; in short, he attains to the power of self-analysis. He comes into the ability to see truths, to differentiate between right and wrong. But he may prefer not to see. If so, he is free to use his knowledge as a means of destroying the Rational instead of perfecting it (AC 4156). It is notable, however, that all men employ their rational faculty to control their bodily appetites to varying extent and to impose upon their external behavior and even their external thought an appearance of order, humanity, and sincerity. If they do not, they suffer in the eyes of others and even lose self-respect and the sense of shame. Every man, whether rational or not, takes care that others should so regard him. In this effort he is usually successful. "Whether a man be rational or sensual, is with difficulty discerned by others; but it is discerned by himself if he explores his interiors" (AC 5128).

It is of importance to note that the key to a man's character lies in his rational mind. A child, or one whose rational is not yet awakened, has not a confirmed character. We do indeed speak of the child as "father of the man," because we can trace back adult characteristics (usually external ones) to their seeds and prophetic symptoms manifested in tender years. But there were untold seeds and potentialities in the childish mind which are also present in the adult, though forgotten or unnoticed, and it is the rational which finally determines which shall prevail. Therefore children who die are not judged on account of the state of their sensual and natural degrees, but according to the rational life which commences with them after they have grown up in heaven. And it is the same with every man. His character is fixed and determined by the use which he makes of his rational faculty. For by its decisions he may ascend or he may descend. Through his exercise of rational choice his natural, conscious mind may become reformed, or it may become degenerate (DLW 274). Actually, as is the case with all things, the rational with a man perishes if it is not properly employed. If man, having attained to a measure of reason, refuses to use it to curb his evils, he will eventually lose it. It is a tragic descent which is pictured here. It begins when a man, from rational sight, sees the insanities of the evils that tempt him, and yet permits himself to be carried away by their enticements as a boat by a current. Such a one is called a "natural man," and may perchance still be salvable. But if his degeneracy is not checked, he spurns the warnings of his reason, begins to judge only from the senses of the body, and rejects as trifles any rational ideas that may oppose his cherished fallacies and false notions. He is then to be classed as a "sensual-natural man." Finally, he may become "corporeal-natural," by being carried away by the desires of his flesh, caring only for luxuries and pleasures, and becoming entirely incapable of judgment (CL 442, 495, 496; cf. DLW 249).

Sensual and corporeal men have lost the use of their reason. It is also revealed that falsities clog the rational mind, and so far as men reject truths once seen and instead turn to falsities from evil, the rational is closed, and eventually also the interior natural in that they lose the capacity for abstract thought (AC 5126: 4, AE 739: 4, 1056: 2). But even these under special provisions and circumstances may, in this world or the next, regain their reason momentarily and see themselves in the disillusioning light of heaven for the vile wretches that they are (LJ post. 230). The cause of this is that there are still "remains'' lodging in the interiors of their mind, from which they can see themselves as others see them in something of rational light; and there are only two evils which deprive man of the possibility of such lucid moments, deceit and profanation. These latter infect even "remains," and cause the rational to perish (AC 5128: 5, 5135: 4). The Writings ascribe the human faculty of reasoning to the fact that all men have, within their Natural degree, two mental degrees which are named the Spiritual and the Celestial. These superior degrees are from birth "transparent" to influx, but are not "opened" or furnished until man regenerates; nor are they "closed" except by the confirmation of evil in the understanding (DLW 236, 240, 245, 247, 249, 253 255). Yet even with wicked men, so long as there are some "remains" left to temper and modify their evils (AC 7556, 7560, 1906, 560, 577), there is maintained a certain communication with heaven, in that light is let in from heaven through the spiritual mind as "through chinks round about"; by which is undoubtedly meant that this light flows in unawares whenever a man is not deliberately excluding it. It has been observed that the most enterprising burglar can be quite reasonable in matters which do not personally affect him or interfere with his avocation; and oppressive dictators have been known to show concern about the freedom of distant nations! From which it can be concluded that all men can to some extent think and reason, just as all can speak (AE 406a, AC 2851 : 3. HH 430). The sole source of the light of reason is Heaven. And there are three angelic heavens. Each enjoys a spiritual light discretely its own, because in heaven all things are presented in the light of one's own love. The hells also have their own peculiar lumens the deceptive lights of phantasy and illusion. Even these are derivations of heavenly light, but refracted through the loves of self and of gain. Spirits in the world of spirits may be enveloped by any of these various lights, for both heaven and hell inflow into that intermediate world. While man's rational mind is in process of being formed, its spiritual position is in the world of spirits (HH 430). But "God created man's rational mind according to the order of the whole spiritual world" and both heaven and hell can therefore inflow into it (TCR 71, CL 436). The judgments of the rational mind maintain for man the equilibrium between good and evil, between truth and falsity. According to man's free selection, human thought can immerse itself in merely sensual light or elevate itself into the light of heaven.

Degrees of the Rational

The Writings give many teachings about the elevation of the human understanding. One of these teachings has already been considered that every man by birth enters into the Natural degree, and that he perfects this degree by knowledges, being at first only corporeal and sensual, later natural, and finally rational. This is an ascent by degrees of height or by discrete degrees (TCR 42, DLW 66, AE 739:2, cf. 1201:4, 1210: 3). For the Natural mind itself in whole and in its parts is distinguished into discrete degrees as well as into continuous degrees (DLW 274). The sensual, the interior sensual (or imaginative), and the interior natural (or rational are quite discrete from each other. And yet these three degrees of the Natural are characterized by a common quality which is not discrete, but continuous; for the natural mind as a whole grows by knowledges which increase not by discrete steps but by an imperceptible accumulation, so that the field of man's thought continually expands during the process of education (DLW 67, 237, 236). It is the same with every part of the Natural mind. Its highest degree, the Rational, is discretely distinct from the Imagination. Yet it verges from shade to light being in dense shadow when it descends into corporeal ideas, and in increasing light as material notions are shaken off by abstraction. Therefore it is said that "the enlightenment of the natural mind does not ascend by discrete degrees," but increases through continuous degrees (DLW 186, 256, 237, LJ post. 308, DP 32). Still, the Rational also contains discrete elements. In one passage it is shown that "the rational faculty is opened to the first degree by civil truths, to the second degree by moral truths, and to the third degree by spiritual truths," and by the respective virtues (HH 468). But in the Divine Love and Wisdom it is explained that man's rational, since it can be elevated to "understand truths even to the inmost degree in which are the angels of the third heaven," thereby may take on "an appearance as if of three degrees a rational from the celestial, a rational from the spiritual, and a rational from the natural" (DLW 258). Let us carefully notice that by the elevation of the understanding into the light of the wisdom of the various heavens there is induced upon the rational only an appearance of three degrees, or "an appearance of being wise" (DLW 368). The understanding of the natural mind, by abstracting grosser sensual ideas, or by continual refinements, can rise around and as it were envelop the spiritual and celestial degrees, so as to grasp or accommodate itself to, and even express, the truths of wisdom which are revealed in the Word and in the Heavenly Doctrine. And this it can do by raising the thought above the native will, from a love of knowing and of understanding which still derives from the unregenerate will something of a desire for honor, glory, or gain; just as the lungs, although they can breathe independently of the heart beat, still derive blood vessels from the heart (DLW 266, 413 416). In this faculty of thinking and speaking about heavenly truths, the wicked are no different from the good. It is related of evil spirits that from pride in their ability they "perceived the arcana of angelic wisdom equally well as good spirits" and could acknowledge such truths and even will them if they so chose (DLW 266). With men on earth, "the natural mind cannot be raised into angelic light itself," or "into angelic wisdom itself"; "but only into a higher light even up to the angels," so as to "perceive naturally, thus not so fully, what the angels perceive spiritually." Human wisdom, so long as man lives in the natural world, is natural and "can by no means be raised into angelic wisdom, but only into some image of it" (DLW 256, 257). This is true of good men and devil alike. The differences are however marked: the man who is in evils and falsities when he raises his thought above the things of the natural mind finds that his delights begin to cool and perish, and so his apparent wisdom, however it may have ascended, falls back again to the level of his own love; for he perceives that he has nothing to gain by any elevation of the rational (DLW 258, 266, 416). And even if he succeeds (by reason of native ability or training) in maintaining his elevation so as to appear rational in a higher degree, it is said of such a man that he is "rational only in the ultimate degree" or merely naturally rational.

For a man does not become rational from thought alone. He becomes rational according as his love is elevated along with his understanding. Love is elevated when the will, instructed by the understanding, begins to be purified, by the shunning of evils as sins against God. If the understanding is elevated into the acknowledgment of spiritual truths and the seeing of spiritual goods. and the love is also elevated and conjoined with the understanding, man becomes rational in a higher degree, or "rational from the spiritual." For a new quality is then imposed upon the rational mind; a quality which is due to a discrete illustration from within by the light of the spiritual degree (DLW 256, 258). With a man whose love ascends along with his thoughts when these are raised to spiritual and celestial things, the rational mind is therefore distinguished into degrees, which are discrete, not merely continuous. It is possible for a man on reflection to discern whether he is thinking sensually or rationally. It is sometimes possible to see that one is thinking from truths or about truths which are typical of the natural heaven or of the spiritual heaven or of the inmost heaven. Hence the Rational actually "appears" distinguished in degrees. But it is not possible, in this world, to ascertain whether one's will or love is elevated into the same degree as the understanding, and thus whether one has become rational to this or that degree. Nor can this be determined of other men. The three degrees of the Rational are indeed basic to the three heavens. But it would be an error to altogether identify these three degrees of the rational with the Natural mind, the Spiritual mind, and the Celestial mind which are the three spiritual degrees in general. The Rational is the means whereby a man may acquire the truths by which a conscience is built up within him, so that there may be in him terminations or planes receptive of the life of the heavens. Truths alone do not make such a responsive plane; but affection is what appropriates the truths of each degree and makes it a receptive vessel. If the affection is lacking, as is the case where truths are perceived but no conscience has been formed from them, the influx of life through heaven merely passes through into the sensual man and is there turned into corporeal enjoyments or selfish cupidities (AC 5145). The planes of conscience are described.25 The first is called the inmost of the rational or the Interior Rational. In this degree may be formed a perception of what is good and true, from a love of the Lord. The celestial heaven may therefore be said to be founded in (or to dwell in) the Interior Rational. The second degree is named the Exterior Rational, or the middle rational. Here is formed the conscience of what is spiritually good and true; and in this spiritual angels can be present. The third degree is sometimes called the Inferior Rational and in other connections the Interior Natural. To it pertains the conscience of what is just and equitable in moral and civil life. In this plane, the angels and good spirits of the lowest heaven are present. There is yet another plane, which appears as a social and imitative conscience, governing our interaction among friends and acquaintances and expressing itself as honorableness and decorum; but this pertains to the Exterior Natural and depends for its quality on the motives which are established in the rational. It must be noted that these terms are used somewhat differently in different contexts.26 But our endeavor has merely been to show that the use to which man employs his Rational Mind will determine what kind of angels can find a lodging place with him. Through the Interior Natural so long as he does not close his mind against spiritual acknowledgments he may acquire a moral conscience and thus prepare himself for a life in the ultimate heaven. Through the Exterior Rational he may come to understand and love spiritual truths and have his Spiritual Mind opened, and after death enter into the marvelous gifts of intelligence which are stored therein, becoming an angel of the second heaven. Through the Interior Rational he may conceive a celestial love of uses by which the Celestial Mind within him will be unlocked and as a celestial angel he may then enter into a wisdom inconceivable. In our next chapter we propose to discuss the mysterious relationship between our Natural Mind and these two interior or superior degrees, called the Spiritual and the Celestial; which we can know from no other source than the Writings.

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