In this article we are going to explore what exactly a soul is and what the Afterlife may be like. For the purpose of this article I am going to use the terms ‘soul’ and ‘afterlife’. Alternatively, one could use the terms ‘spirit’, ‘life force’, etc. when referring to the soul; and terms such as ‘Otherworld’, ‘Spirit Realm’, ‘Heaven’, etc. when referring the Afterlife. However, I chose to use the fairly generic terms ‘soul’ and ‘afterlife’ so that anyone can relate to what we are discussing, regardless of which specific term they may use.
What is a soul?
The first thing we must consider is the nature of the soul. What exactly is it, and how is it defined? First, a soul is immaterial, nonphysical. It comes from, and will return to, the spiritual realm of existence. It is immortal, meaning it cannot die or be destroyed. In essence, it is purely spiritual energy. The soul is what gives us consciousness, sentience, and self awareness.
Which came first: the body or the soul?
When our body reaches a certain stage of development, a soul is attached to it. It is difficult to pinpoint when exactly this occurs. It may occur when the heart starts beating, when activity begins in the brain, or at the moment we are born. There are many different theories regarding this issue. Some argue as early as conception, others argue when the individual reaches puberty (although I find this idea particularly absurd). I am inclined to believe it is when activity begins in the brain, but I cannot say this with 100% certainty. What I will say with a fair amount of certainty is that the body is given a soul at some point between conception and birth.
The soul, when first attached to the body, is ‘blank’. As I wrote about previously, I do not subscribe to the idea of reincarnation. When the person is born, the soul attached to the body never inhabited another body, nor does it have any karma following it. The soul is an entity of pure spiritual energy that gives the person consciousness. It has no prior experiences with the physical world attached to it at this point.
Are we a body or a soul?
During our life on earth, we are both a body and a soul. This is commonly referred to as ‘duality’. During physical life, the soul is attached to the body. [This is not always the case, as explained by out of body experiences, astral travel, and generally being aware of the spiritual world. However, we are not going to explore these concepts in any great depth for the purposes of this article.] As the mind and body develop, the soul develops along with them. Because the soul is attached to the body, all memories, feelings, thoughts, etc. become a part of the soul. In essence, the soul is who we are, and the body is the soul’s housing unit for the duration of our lives in the physical world.
Which is more important?
Both body and soul are important, but the soul is arguably more important. Without it, there would only be a physical body, and ‘we’ would not exist. It is not possible for a purely physical object to give consciousness, self awareness, or sentience. With this understanding, the soul is clearly the most important. However, it is worth noting that the physical body is what makes the soul capable of experiencing life on the physical plane of existence, so it would be foolish to neglect the importance of the body.
The body, being of the physical world, is mortal. Therefore, it will of course one day die. The soul, however, being of the spiritual world, is immortal. It cannot die or be destroyed. When death of the body occurs, the soul leaves its physical housing unit. The soul is ‘you’, your conscious self. Every memory and thought you’ve ever had is engrained in your soul, it is you. You did not die when your body died, you simply left your body when it died.
You’re ‘dead’, now what?
What exactly is the Afterlife? What is it like? The Afterlife exists on the spiritual plane of existence, or the spiritual world. There is but one spiritual world. This does not mean that it is simplistic, quite the contrary. However, the concept of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ is flawed. Every soul goes to the same afterlife, although experiences may differ. The purpose of the Afterlife is not to be rewarded or punished for earthly deeds. Rather it is where the soul returns to its nature as a purely spiritual entity.
In the Afterlife, we are reunited with past loved ones. It is common for those who have had near death experiences to report seeing, and sometimes speaking with, loved ones who have passed on. During our life on earth, our soul becomes close with other’s souls through relationships. When we move onto the spiritual world, our souls are reunited. Some have even theorized that the most important attribute of the soul is its ability to love other souls.
Is the Afterlife a pleasant experience?
For the majority, yes. If you have lived a fairly decent life on earth, you will have a positive experience in the Afterlife. However, there are no doubt individuals who have committed atrocities beyond any justification. These individuals will face repercussions in the Afterlife for their actions on earth, However, this is not referring to hell. These individuals will go the same spiritual realm as everyone else, but their experience could be quite different.
When our soul fully transcends into the spiritual realm, we are able to comprehend much more than we could during our physical lives. We are granted great knowledge and understanding of pure forms and ideas. For most, this creates a feeling of great peace. However, those who have committed terrible atrocities become aware of the nature of their actions. They are overcome with guilt and grief. This creates a personal ‘hell’, if you will. The soul must then work through what they’ve done, with a pure understanding of how their actions have affected others. Many believe that with time, any soul can eventually be at peace.
Based upon my own introspection and research, I believe these ideas to be true. Of course, the specifics of the functioning soul and Afterlife are much more complex than what we have talked about here. However, the purpose of this article was to talk in general terms and give an overview of the nature of the soul and the Afterlife. One could easily write a book (or several) discussing all of the intricacies of these topics.