This is a very difficult topic to discuss. Why? When people get out of bed and have their physical eyes open it is hard to convince them that they are going through life on “automatic pilot” or that they see reality in an upside-down manner.
Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg described spiritual sleep as being oblivious to God’s reality. But anyone can put the belief of God merely in their memory function and train the voice muscles to vouch for such a noble belief when around others. Humans can even simulate morality while living in a spiritual slumber.
That is why Swedenborg also warns us that we have a divided mind to contend with, which allows us to have the ability to deceive others if it helps our own hidden agenda (there would be no hidden agendas or pretense without a divided psyche). In other words, we have to look at our spiritual state of sleep in terms of having discrete mental functions which have become separated from each other over time. This separation or divided mind allows us to verify something with only one mental function taking part in the process while others are put aside (made passive).
When more mental functions are brought into the process, inner disagreements can arise and a psycho-spiritual battle ensues.
Evidence of this mental disconnection and disharmony would be to desire a large piece of chocolate cake while also knowing that it would be unhealthy for you to eat it. We call this “battle” the pangs of conscience. Going for the piece of cake would therefore represent a form of sleep—by ignoring something that you know to be true from another mental function.
This easily happens when we read Swedenborg’s writings as well. We fail to notice our true disjointed situation, or that things within us haven’t really changed because we continue to read even his important spiritual revelations with a divided consciousness.
A more appropriate definition for spiritual sleep is hypnosis. But who the heck would believe that?