8945. And thou shalt not go up on steps unto the altar. That this signifies no elevation to interior things which are celestial, is evident from the signification of "going up by steps," as being to raise oneself to higher or interior things (whether we say "interior things," or "higher things," it is the same, for interior things appear as higher, see n. 2148, 3084, 4210, 4599); and from the signification of "an altar," as being the chief representative of the Lord (n. 921, 2777, 2811); thus by "going up on steps unto Mine altar" is signified to raise oneself to the Lord, consequently to interior things which are celestial; for the Lord is more present in interior things. Those things are called celestial which are in the inmost heaven, and those spiritual which are in the middle heaven. For heaven is distinguished into two kingdoms, namely, the celestial kingdom and the spiritual kingdom. They who are in the celestial kingdom are in the inmost or third heaven, thus nearest to the Lord; for they who are there are in love to the Lord and in innocence, consequently in wisdom above all the other angels. But they who are in the spiritual kingdom are in the middle or second heaven, thus more remote from the Lord; they who are there are in charity toward the neighbor, and through charity are with the Lord. (Concerning these two kingdoms and the difference between them, see n. 2048, 2088, 2227, 2507, 2669, 2708, 2715, 2718, 3235, 3246, 3374, 3887, 4448, 4585, 4938, 4939, 5113, 5922, 6367, 6435, 7877.)
 It is to be explained in a few words how the case is with respect to the elevation toward interior things, thus toward celestial things, which is signified by "going up on steps unto the altar." It is not granted anyone in the other life to be raised higher into heaven than to the degree of good in which he is; for if he is raised higher, his defilements, that is, the evils of his loves and the falsities therefrom, are made manifest. For the more interior, the more pure and holy, it is in heaven. They who are in a more impure state are kept in a lower sphere, where their impurities are not perceived and do not appear, because they are in a grosser good, and a more obscure truth.
 It sometimes happens that they who come into heaven desire to come into a more interior heaven, believing that so they will enjoy greater joy. In order that this desire which clings to them may be removed, they are indeed raised into a more interior heaven; but when they come thither, they begin to be distressed by reason of the evils of their loves, which evils then come to their perception, and they also become ugly by reason of the falsities from the evils with them. On perceiving these things, they cast themselves down from the more interior heaven, and do not return into a tranquil and peaceful state until they come into their former station. These are the things which are signified by the statute, "Thou shalt not go up on steps unto Mine altar, that thy nakedness be not uncovered upon it."
 The case is similar with those who are beneath heaven. If these desire to ascend into heaven before they have been prepared, when they are raised there they feel torment almost infernal, and appear to themselves like carcasses. Even the very life with them labors, like the life of those who are in the death agony; and therefore they cast themselves down headlong, and afterward no more desire to ascend above the state of life in which they are.
 Be it known that in the other life heaven is denied by the Lord to no one, and that as many as desire can be admitted. (Heaven consists of societies of angels who are in the good of love toward the neighbor and of love to the Lord; and when any are admitted into heaven, they are let into such societies.) But when the sphere of their life, that is, when the life of their love, is not in agreement, then conflict arises, from which they have anguish and downcasting. In this way they are instructed about the life of heaven, and the state of their own life in comparison, also about the fact that no one has heaven merely by being received or admitted (as is the common opinion in the world), and that by his life in the world a man may become of such a character that he can be with those who are in heaven (see what has been already said and shown on this subject from experience, n. 3938, 4225, 4226, 4299, 4674, 5057, 5058, 7186, 7519, 8794, 8797). These are the things which are signified by the statute, "Thou shalt not go up on steps unto Mine altar, that thy nakedness be not uncovered upon it;" and also by a similar statute in Exod. 28:42, 43.
 It is said "go up on steps," for the reason that elevation to interior things appears in the world of spirits, where celestial and spiritual things are presented in forms like those of the world, as an ascent by steps. This representative it has often been given me to see. For this reason also it was that the angels were seen by Jacob in his dream going up to the Lord by the steps of a ladder (Gen. 28:12). Therefore also by "steps" in the Word is signified ascent to higher things, that is, to interior things, as in Ezekiel 40:6, 22, 26, 31, 34; and in Amos:
The Lord Jehovih Zebaoth buildeth His steps in the heavens (Amos 9:6).