These are questions only the Divine can answer accurately, but that doesn’t mean we’re left completely in the dark. There are clues we can decipher that have become clearer with the advent of quantum physics. Humans have always been curious about life and resistant to the idea that our short existence on the earth is the only life we have. But does the concept of a soul ensure immortal life?
You may be surprised to realize that several currently popular beliefs about the soul originated in ancient Assyria, Babylon and Egypt rather than mainstream religions. There are so many aspects that could be considered part of the soul; the Egyptians solved the problem by giving the soul five parts.
The heart: symbolizes the good or evil a person did during their lifetime
The shadow: the essence of a person; what made them distinct
The name: given at birth to ensure survival as long as the name is remembered
The personality: an immortal aspect that survives the body
The spirit: the spark of life that animates the body
The ancient Greeks used the words alive and ‘ensouled’ interchangeably. Plato thought there was an essence, an immortal personality that reincarnated in one body after another, but Aristotle saw immortality only in terms of a name that was remembered through time.
Although many Christians believe the soul is immortal and will automatically end up in eternal bliss or torment, the Bible says something quite different. In Genesis 2:7 we’re told that after God made Adam out of dust, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” According to the Bible, spirit was the breath of life that animated Adam’s body, but Adam himself became a living soul. From the Biblical standpoint, you do not have a soul, your living body/personality is the soul, and that soul is mortal. Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die” is just one of many Bible scriptures that make it clear the soul is mortal and does not continue on after death. This is not to say that the Bible holds out no hope of eternal life, only that the Bible teaches the soul is not innately immortal.
For Buddhists life continues and reincarnates, but that life is not tied to a fixed identity as it is in most other belief systems. Since our world is constantly changing, and we change with it, Buddhists say that the ‘you’ reading this sentence will be a different you by the time you finish the article. In that sense, the soul would be more like a river; the flow is continuous, yet never the same, never-the-less, it is still the river.
Hindus believe the personal soul and the universal Divine soul are one and the same, so the soul is unborn and eternal. However, the soul has entered a body and created a separate identity for itself. It has become lost in the illusion of separation, forgetting who and what it actually is. As a result, the individual soul continues to reincarnate until it becomes aware of its oneness with the Divine.
When you began reading, we promised a look at what quantum physics can tell us about the soul. Although gods in ancient myths sometimes died, most people who believe in God have also assumed that God is immortal and the giver of immortal life. However, the soul is often associated with life that is not immortal since God is also believed to have the power to both give life and take it away. Since every living thing in the material world dies, the concept of God as life giver and taker implies that God exists in an immortal realm outside the universe. But quantum physics tells us something quite different. Physicists have discovered our universe is life, and that life is one indivisible, interconnected whole. Many physicists now believe the universe and the Divine are one and the same, and that means that the universe would share God’s immortality.
In the universe energy becomes matter and matter becomes energy, but the sum total always remains the same. This fact not only tells us that the universe is in a constant state of flux, it also confirms the immortal nature of the universe. Research has also demonstrated that the universe is not only alive, all matter and energy in the universe, down to the tiniest subatomic particle, is conscious. When we see the Divine as the universe, then everything and everyone within the universe shares that life and is also the Divine. As the ancient Chandogya Upanishad explains, “In the beginning was only Being, One without a second. Out of himself he brought forth the cosmos and entered into everything in it…Of everything he is the inmost Self.”
From the quantum perspective, we can look at the soul in two ways:
Either there is one eternal life-giving and sustaining universal soul that permeates everything in existence, and that ‘soul’ is the Divine.
There is no real need for the concept of a soul at all since everything is one thing.
Of course the idea that we are the immortal Divine poses many questions about the human life we appear to be leading. Quantum physics can help us there as well, and gives an answer very similar to the Hindu and Buddhist explanations of the soul.
Physicist David Bohm’s ‘holographic’ model of the universe demonstrates that reality exists at the quantum level of the universe rather than the material world. In this matrix or Divine Ground, consciousness interacts with energy to bring the material universe into existence. The material portion of the universe is more accurately thought of as a projection of consciousness from the quantum level. Our world is a virtual reality, the illusionary playground that ancient sages claim we’ve been lost in for centuries.
Hindu and Buddhist teachings on reincarnation suggest that the soul inhabits one body after another. Quantum research suggests that each lifetime is projected by consciousness at the quantum level of the universe, rather like having a dream or projecting a movie. Buddha said, “Remembering that this body is like froth, of the nature of a mirage, break the flower-tipped arrows of Mara (illusion). Freed from illusion…they have renounced the world of appearance to find reality. Thus have they reached the highest” And the Sufi mystic Rumi pointed out, “Your task? Escape…the fires of madness, illusion, and confusion that are, and always will be, the world.”
Since life permeates everything in existence, there would be no need for a life-giving soul to inhabit a body. And really, how could something infinite and immortal be housed in something as transient as a body? Although the body dies and returns to energy, consciousness continues its eternal existence as it projects one lifetime after another. However, the fact that consciousness is eternal doesn’t mean that it can’t continually change in response to the experiences it projects. Eventually consciousness will tire of the game of separation and return its attention to our reality in oneness. As the Chandogya Upanishad relates:
As the rivers flowing east and west
Merge in the sea and become one with it
Forgetting they were ever separate rivers,
So do all creatures lose their separateness
When they merge at last unto pure Being.
Instead of trying to figure out whether we have a soul or are a soul, spiritual masters recommend that we wake up to the realization that we always have been, and always will be, an immortal part of All That Is. This does not mean that you will lose your identity; instead, you will find it as the holy child of the Divine.