IX. The Relation of the Natural Mind To the Spiritual and Celestial Degrees
With every normal adult, the Rational, the highest degree of the Natural Mind, can be elevated to perceive the truths of any of the three heavens and can thus take on an "appearance as of three degrees." If man's will is also elevated to one of these degrees which is effected by the shunning of the evils which are opposed to the truths perceived man would become rational from that degree. According to his elevation, he would acquire a rational from the natural, from the spiritual, Or from the celestial (DLW 258). Or, what is the same, he would acquire either a moral conscience, or a conscience of spiritual good and truth, or a celestial perception of good. The rational mind is thus discreted into degrees, which may be named 'the interior natural,' 'the exterior rational,' and 'the interior rational' (SD mm. 4545, cf. 4644e; AC 4167). "The rational is such as is the affection" (AC 1589: 2).
Conscience is acquired from the truth which has been implanted in the rational since infancy, and is better in proportion as its truths more nearly approach genuine truths of faith (AC 2144, 2053: 2, 8081, 9112, HD 130 if.). It is felt as a general dictate and engenders thoughts affirmative to what is perceived as good and true, thoughts from the rational (AC 1914, 1919). Man perceives these thoughts and also the pain which results when there is something opposed to conscience. At times remorse, which even a wicked man can experience, is confused with conscience. Still, a sincere man can know when he is thinking from conscience. But at no time can he know to what degree of conscience he has attained, or what love has become confirmed in his rational. In his philosophical works as well as in the theological Writings. Swedenborg emphasizes that it is in the rational mind that man's eternal character is shaped by a free selective choice. The Rational is the man himself. It is there that "the human" begins, and by it his whole personality is by degrees integrated and unified. But the Writings reveal that this can he finally accomplished only after death.
So far, in our study of the human mind, we have mostly considered states and faculties which have a certain familiarity and are within the reach of self-analysis and introspection, and teachings which can to a great extent be confirmed by experience. But we must now launch forth upon waters where Doctrine is our only guide and where even Swedenborg the Philosopher did not venture before his spiritual senses began to be opened. For beyond the vanishing point of consciousness there lie within the mind regions unknown and depths unplumbed, whence flow the directing currents which make us function rationally and from an inner freedom. In recent times some naturalistic explanations have been offered for many mysterious mental activities not easily catalogued: religious faith and conscience, mystical and hypnotic states, subconscious intellection, telepathy, dreams and visions, and "automatic writing." Various efforts on the part of "psycho-analysts" have sometimes tended to lump all man's hidden motivations and faculties together into a common pool of primitive animal instincts which somehow with fear as a taskmaster organize for themselves rational or symbolic forms of expression which disguise their crudities with the art and charm that make them acceptable to society. It is of course an observed fact that man's sub-conscious and unexplored will is by heredity corporeal and bestial and that it seeks to draw Reason to its defense. But it is an error to assume that the Rational stems from man's subconscious jungle-instincts and to ignore the soul and the spiritual world and the existence of discrete super-sensible levels in man's mental make-up. The Writings, however, explain clearly how the changing states of these profound regions of the mind are due to the influence of spirits and angels, to which man's mind is constantly exposed in his unperceived spiritual environment. A man on earth is aware of the thinking that takes place in his rational mind and imagination. The mind is indeed perfected gradually being "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 living according to these truths from a spiritual affection for them (HH 468). He accepts these truths consciously and makes a deliberate effort to guide his life by them. But just as the contents of his natural memory and his will remain "sub-conscious" and dormant except so far as they enter into the thread of his thought, so there are vast regions of the mind within the rational which are "superconscious" and thus also above his notice (AC 3020, 3108, AE 790: 8, 625: 5). The residuary results of his life of choice and meditation are stored up as a spontaneous "nature" or disposition (indoles) in the interior degrees of the mind, beyond his scrutiny. These interior degrees of which Doctrine alone can testify are "opened" or furnished during man's regenerate life on earth. Potentially they are present at birth; but they are entered into consciously only after death (DLW 236 if, 252).
Degrees within the Memory
The activities of the Corporeal-Sensual are obviously below man's consciousness. Even his Natural Memory is drawn into the current of consciousness or into the focus of mental light, only by fragments at a time. The Writings mention that 'noticing,' or 'reflection,' is necessary to fix some experience or fact into the patterns of this exterior memory, or to arouse its slumbering contents (AC 4301, SD 2593, SD mm. 4621). And this holds true also of that part of the natural memory which is called the Interior Natural Memory, wherein are segregated those immaterial or abstract ideas that are suitable for the use of the rational mind. Yet there is also another memory, the Interior Memory properly so called, which absorbs everything that ever reaches the sight or sense of the body or even the internal sensories, whether a man has noticed it and reflected on it, or not (SD 2594). In this interior memory all things which have unknown to man affected him, are recorded "as to their ideas and ends," and this in the greatest detail, even to things which were abstruse and obscure, including all things of his past thought, speech, or action, to the smallest point. And this memory is therefore called man's 'book of life' (AC 2474, 9386, SD 2154 2156). In a broad sense, the Interior Memory is supersensible to man. In its details and its complete range it is not available for our conscious use in this world. But it is fully at the disposal of spirits and angels, who may see in it much that man cannot see, and may use it as their own (AC 6200). For the "interior memory" is formed from all man's experiences whether noticed or not which are unconsciously digested, evaluated and arranged by the rational mind, according to its inner character. The doctrine is therefore given, that when a truth in the external memory is conjoined with good, it is appropriated to man; and it then "vanishes from his external memory and passes into his internal memory" or into his rational. It is said to be "elevated into the rational" (AC 3108, 3161, cf. 3098). It enters into the texture of man's life, like gestures or thoughts when these have become habitual and spontaneous (AC 9394: 4, 6), or like the language which man had learnt from childhood, or like the facility of thinking, or like conscience itself (AC 3843: 2). These acquired states are not normally recalled or brought back as knowledges. although as such they still exist dormant in the external memory like ashes which must be removed from under the altar of man's life (AC 9723). Enough has been said to make clear that there is much in man's rational mind which becomes instinctive and is so wholly a part of man's being that it no longer comes into the focus of his consciousness. "The cognitions (cognitiva) in the Rational are not patent before man but are imperceptible" while he lives in the body; as are also the things which belong to his faculty of thinking and to his spiritual affections (AC 3020, 3108, cf. AE 790: 8). It is a common idea in the world that "the subconscious part of our personality is not nearly so well organized as the conscious."27 This seems at first glance to be borne out by the facts. Our conscious thought we can analyze, and it is indeed a marvel of complex processes. Yet here we are misled by the appearances and falsely impressed by the artificialities, the fuss and the frictions of this noisy machinery of our consciousness. The test of perfect organization is not its obviousness. A government, if it be perfect, should be invisible. An organ, perfectly organized, should be noticeable only in its effects. The object of the conscious mind is to organize the human spirit within it into a perfect unity wherein all parts act imperceptibly as a whole, in perfect unison and with distinct purpose. We may safely assume that the interior memory which is being organized within the rational mind and beyond and above the limits of conscious scrutiny, is far more complex than its humble instrument, the conscious mind. And in this presumption we are confirmed by Revelation, which states that it is not only 'organic, but purer and more perfect,' and that its order is incomprehensible (AC 2487).
All that is taken up into the interior memory is there arranged according to one's "ideas and ends." It is therefore not a factual memory, but essentially a memory of states of mind. It is not ordered chronologically; time and space-relations are employed only for symbols or appearances to clothe and distinguish states (AC 4901: 3).
For this reason this memory is suitable for use even after man has left the world of nature and become a spirit. But here we meet with ambiguous teachings. For while in some passages the "interior natural memory" is described as that part of the exterior memory which contains abstractions or rational ideas, and the "interior memory" is defined as the memory of spirits, there are also many statements which speak of the "interior memory" as virtually identical with the "interior natural memory." Certainly these two 'interior' memories collaborate so closely that they cannot always be distinguished. As we understand it, the memory of abstract ideas contains the origins or initiaments of 'verbal' ideas such as are used in man's exterior thought, the thought which is actually expressed in human speech on earth.28 But the universal speech of spirits and angels is composed of rational ideas such as man employs in his interior-natural memory.29 While such abstract ideas serve as words for spirits (and are actually so perceived by them), the thoughts of spirits are made up of ideas such as compose the 'interior memory,' since this is the only memory which spirits are permitted to use for thinking, after the corporeal memory which they had used on earth has become quiescent. From this we conclude that while the abstract ideas of the rational level of man's thought fall within man's conscious grasp although never totally divorced from natural or imaginative ideas yet whatever is elevated by man's love into the habitual gyres of his rational mind becomes part of his interior memory or a spontaneous part of his spirit and thus becomes an unconscious and effortless part of his very self. This appears as an "elevation" of truth from the external memory. Yet in reality the external memory is not derived of any of its contents; nor is there any upward movement within the mind. What occurs is simply that a truth is formed in the rational a spiritual form corresponding to the knowledge in the memory (AE 790: 8). This truth is the spiritual essence, the realization, the import and meaning which the Soul receives from spiritual sources and can see reflected in the knowledge of the memory (SD 3672). All truth and good thus in reality inflow from the spiritual world are in the spiritual world and nowhere else. Only their external form or image exists in the natural world and in the physical body. Thought is spiritual sight, the sight of something in the spiritual world a state, a use, or a representation thereof (AC 3219e, 4622: 3). It is therefore said that thought is such as is its "extension" into societies of the heavens or the hells (AC 6600 et seq., AE 1092 et seq.). And man "can therefore think about spiritual things no otherwise than as the angels and spirits with him think" (AE 757). But with man in this world, thought is conscious only when represented in the knowledges of his memory (AE 625: 4, AC 3938).
That which is present in the focus of man's attention, is indeed most manifest and is "in the light of the internal sight" (AC 8885, 5278, cf. 5185e). But "the thought which enlightens" is an interior thought which inflows into the natural thought; but which does not appear although its presence may be deduced (AC 10551: 5). What is transacted in the rational mind is "unknown to the natural, for it is above the sphere of its observation" (AC 3570: 2, 3057: 2). Even an evil man has such imperceptible thought within him (DP 296: 10). With him, this plane of thought is the natural of the rational which thus becomes the plane of influx of the hells, and particularly of the first hell. But with the well-disposed, and especially those who are being regenerated, the Rational has been interiorly opened, and serves as the basis of the Spiritual Mind and also of the Celestial Mind. Such men are truly rational, and therefore the Arcana Coelestia, when referring to the regenerate, uses the Rational as a synonym for the Spiritual Mind, since it is the Spiritual Mind that is acting within it. The general doctrine therefore is, that while in the world man "thinks both spiritually and naturally, but does not apperceive those things which he thinks spiritually" (HH 356: 2). As every man has a spiritual mind, as well as a natural mind, "it cannot be but that both minds think" (AC 5614: 3); but because the spiritual mind lies hid in the natural mind or lives above it, man is wholly unaware of what he thinks in that mind (AE 625: 5, 527: 4, 790: 8). This is the reason why all spiritual purification must be effected in the natural mind while man is on earth : for only there do his states, his thoughts and affections, "come to manifest perception." ''It is not so with those things which are thought in the internal man: these do not come to manifest perception, because the ideas in the internal man are spiritual . . . and cannot be comprehended in the natural; for they are intellectual ideas which are devoid of objects such as are in the material world" (AC 10237, 4104: 2). In states of spiritual enlightenment man can however to some little extent perceive truths such as the angels of the lowest heaven understand, but which can hardly be expressed in human words (AC 8443). Of one whose spiritual mind is "opened" we are further told that when he reads the Word in its literal sense, and thinks from the general doctrine therein, he is as to his spirit thinking from the spiritual sense of the Word although he is unaware of it. He is thus inwardly "in like perception with the angels," and innumerable heavenly arcana are being implanted in his spiritual mind; which he will think spontaneously as if he had always known them when he comes into the other life (AC 10551 : 5, 9430, 10400, 10402e, 4280, 5614:3, AE 625: 5, cf. SD 41, DLW 252).
The "Opening" of the Spiritual Mind
What is meant, then, by the opening of a man's Spiritual Mind? By this "opening," the Writings do not mean a conscious entrance into a superior realm of thought or sensation. For as long as he remains on earth, what he may think in that mind is super-sensible, or imperceptible. But the Spiritual Mind, or Spiritual Degree, within man, is opened when by repentance man abstains from evils as sins and, within his rational mind, receives spiritual truths from a love of them for their own sake, and sees them in their own light, acknowledging that they are from the Lord alone. In so doing, man becomes "rational from the spiritual degree" (DLW 258) begins to make man's spirit such as man prayerfully desires himself to be and yet knows that he is not and could never by his own endeavor become. The sources of his life are wrapped in mystery and darkness. It is indeed impossible for man consciously to regenerate himself. But with the Lord it is possible, just so far as man, as if of himself, shuns evils and eschews falsities. The Spiritual Mind is said to be opened by a spiritual love of uses, or by love towards the neighbor (DLW 237). And when it is opened, it can be furnished. It can be "filled by the Lord with thousands of arcana of wisdom and with thousands of delights of love" (DLW 252). The natural man in whom the spiritual degree is being opened, does not know this fact. He cannot enter with any sense, feeling, or perception into the enjoyment of these treasures of the kingdom of heaven, although his heart is there (DLW 238, 252). Such an entrance must wait upon the death of the body. There are however certain indications which may at times furnish hope that the Spiritual Mind is opened. Truths seem to be seen in light, and when the Word is read there may be a perception of this enlightenment. (The latter, we are informed, was the case with Swedenborg.) And uses will be performed from affection (DLW 252, AE 1183).
Reformation of the Natural Mind
The opening of the Spiritual Mind has a distinct effect upon the Natural Mind. Not until the Spiritual Mind has been opened and its formation has commenced can the Lord begin to "form" or reform the Natural Mind form it "to the idea of such things as are in heaven," or reshape it upon a heavenly pattern (AE 790: 9). And since the unregenerate natural is congenitally in an order opposed to heaven reacting against the Spiritual Mind so that this shrinks back and is closed up and even the natural rational is retorted and closed the reformation of the natural mind is likened to the twisting back of a spiral into a reversed direction which requires considerable labor (DLW 254, 263, 270, 432, DP 319, cf. AU 1168). For the quirks and inhibitions, the self-centered cupidities and subterfuges and passions of the natural man, must be put away and cleaned out, and room made for 'natural' good affections from the Rational, which can serve and obey the purposes of heaven. New delights must be established in the natural and old delights subjugated and reduced to impotence or servitude. The reason why it is possible for the Natural Mind to rise in opposition to the Spiritual, is that the Natural Mind "consists of spiritual substances and at the same time of natural substances" (DLW 257). The spiritual mind, on the other hand, consists only of spiritual substances and is therefore in the order of heaven (DLW 254, 260, 261, 270). This can be understood only if we have clearly in mind that there are three spiritual degrees, the Celestial, the Spiritual, and the Spiritual Natural. The last mentioned is also called the 'ultimate spiritual,' and is that spiritual which is present in nature, in the body, and in the natural mind. This ultimate spiritual is also from creation in heavenly order, and cannot be perverted except in the natural minds of men still living on earths (DLW 345). But in the natural mind of man, the spiritual-natural can act separately from its prior degrees (DLW 261, 345). It can take on the form of the natural world and of its dead and merely passive reaction to heavenly order. It is in the nature of natural substance to resist life. It is privative of life an antithesis of life. Matter cannot be evil nor can it be pervert, or of itself opposite. But the spiritual present in and with matter can, if it follows the reactive conatus within matter, separate itself from the eternal purpose within creation and thus in man close off the higher spiritual degrees from itself. When this separation a rebellion like that of a "Lucifer"30 occurs in the minds of men, the generations following have the spiritual degree "closed off" from birth by what is called hereditary evil. Eventually all that is in the inherited natural mud is turned to self and is opposed to the spiritual mind unless there has been a resistance to evil by the Lord's help (DLW 269, cf. CL 202).
The Liberation of the Natural Mind
The Spiritual mind of man is never captive in the material body. But the Natural Mind develops in and along with the natural organics of the brain. Its consciousness rests upon knowledges formed on the basis of sense-experience from the world. This is implied when it is stated that it consists of natural as well as of spiritual substances (DLW 257). But it is added: "thought comes (fit) from the spiritual substances, not from the natural substances." Natural substance cannot add anything to life, but limit and constrain it. What happens, then, at death, when the body and the brain no longer function and their substances decay? For in the living body, the substantial of the spirit is so intimately adjoined to the material of the body that there is not a fibre or least thread where the human of the spirit is not united with the corporeal human. And death is described as the separation of the spiritual from the natural, or of the spiritual substance of the mind and the soul from the material substances of the body' (Wis. vii. 4, 2: 4). This is the general doctrine. The mind, or spirit, is released from the bonds and trammels of earthly things. But since the Natural Mind itself "consists" of natural as well as of spiritual substances, it might well be asked what its fate might be and how it would be affected by such a separation. The answer is given in the special teachings concerning the Limbus. "Every man, after death puts off the natural . . . and retains the spiritual, together with a kind of border (nimbus) from the Purest things of nature around it" (TCR 103). This "border" is drawn by the spirit out of the purer substances of the natural world to serve as "a fixed containant of spiritual things," so that man's individuality might be preserved (DLW 388). it is necessary because spiritual substances are living and therefore "not constant." For this reason no angel can be created directly into the spiritual world. He must be born on an earth and from "the inmosts of nature take with him a medium between the Spiritual and the Natural, by means of which he is limited (finitur) so as to be subsisting and permanent. By this he has something relative (relativum) to the things in nature and something correspondent to them" (Wis. viii. 3, 4). Thus man retains to eternity "the purer things of nature which are nearest to spiritual things" and which can agree and harmonize with his spirit (DP 220). And where could these inmost things of nature be found, if not in the purest organisms within the brain. where nature directs its choicest treasures and its highest forces? In his physiological works, Swedenborg devotes much labor to the discussion of such a substance, deprived from the inmost sphere of nature, which could not be touched by death or destruction.31 He speaks of it as a supreme vital fluid, highly organized, in which the soul could dwell. In the Divine Love and Wisdom, this physical basis of immortality is identified with the natural substances of the Natural Mind. These, it is stated, go to make "a cutaneous (skinlike) covering of the spiritual body" which angels and spirits have (DLW 257). It is of course not permissible to think that a natural substance could enter the spiritual world or be visible there. And it may be to warn us against such a notion that it is said that these natural substances 'recede when man dies, but not the spiritual substances'; which suggests that the natural substances like the dead cutis of the skin no longer play an active part in the life of the natural mind which now is the immortal spirit, appearing in a spiritual body.