Man consists of a physical body, soul, and spirit body. Each is made of a different substance, has a different function, and functions for a different length of time.
The physical body is material and temporary. After the end of the physical life, it will dissolve into its constituent elements and never again be resurrected in a physical form. Its function is to shield the soul and spirit body during the earthly life. The body continually changes as cells die and are replaced, but its identity is basically preserved. This material part is not the real person – the soul is. When its function has been accomplished, the body ceases to be a part of the individual.
The spirit body houses the soul and contains the functions of life and what controls the person’s behaviour. This includes the intellect, mental faculties, and reasoning powers. The spirit body uses the organs of the material body to manifest these attributes. However, the spirit faculties can function even when the brain or the physical organs of one or more of the five senses are impaired. This body also contains the life principle which does not die, but continues beyond physical death after dropping the envelope of flesh.
Souls can be viewed as thoughts of God, i.e., God’s creations in a similar way that an author creates characters for a book. The souls are morally perfect and pure the way our first parents were before they sinned. The Bible confirms that God knew us from the womb and created our inmost being (soul). (Job 10:11; 31:15; Psalm 22:9; 139:13; Jer. 1:5.)
So in the human development, our existence begins with a God-created soul (also called spirit of man or breath of man in the Bible – Zech. 12:1; Isa. 57:16), which contains the life force to give life to the spirit body and in turn to the physical body. The physical body is the starting point for experiencing our being. It is connected to the spirit body and soul by a so-called silver cord. When the silver cord is broken, the physical body is disconnected from the life force in the soul and death occurs. At that time, the spirit body with the soul returns to the spirit world and the body disintegrates into its constituent elements, or using Bible language, turns to dust (Eccl. 12:5-7).
Before their incarnation, all souls are real, living existences, made in the likeness of the Great Soul of God but without divine qualities and potentialities. They also lack individualized personalities. So the purpose of the physical human life is for the soul to become individualized and to create a receptacle for the soul — a spirit body.
The original soul consists of two parts which separate before incarnation with each becoming a different and unique human being that through the process of life develops personality and other individual traits. The separation is necessary for the individualization of each part of the original complete soul, yet the two parts never lose a sense of their interrelationship. After the individualization is completed, at some time back in the spirit world, the two individuals, or soul mates, will come back together and reunite.
Before its incarnation, a soul is invisible to divine angels and has no form. Upon its lodgement in the human body, the soul becomes visible to the angels as it assumes a form, and that form varies from person to person.
After the two parts of the soul become incarnated and assume an individualized form, they never lose that individuality. They will never return to their pre-existent condition, nor can they become reincarnated as another human being.
Before its incarnation, the soul possesses no free will, only an instinct to incarnate. Upon conception, during prenatal development, and after birth, the pure soul absorbs the often damaging emotions of the mother and family. It slowly develops encrustations of human emotions corresponding to those of its family environment. By age seven, the soul of the child begins to develop its own individuality, but its condition is still influenced by that of the parents. As a container of emotions, the soul (or heart) can influence the person’s state of health and life expectancy. It is now understood that the emotional encrustations acquired prenatally and in childhood will form a heart wall. This hinders a person from expressing and receiving love, but the good news is, the heart wall can be dismantled by using a simple energy technique. (See Bradley Nelson, Emotion Code.)
While humans have been given free will and can choose how to live their lives, whether or not to submit to the laws of God, etc., we are not 100% free to choose as we please. This is because our choices are affected by the time, culture, family and other circumstances of our birth, genetics, and what knowledge we are taught, among other factors.
Two Pathways and Two Destinies
Humans can embark on one of two paths towards spiritual purification and perfection. This process will begin to reverse the encrustations and defilements that the soul has experienced through its incarnation.
Firstly, the individual can embark on the path of developing and perfecting their inherent natural love. This is achieved by first accepting and loving themselves and then consciously extending kindness and goodwill to others. This will greatly increase their happiness, reduce their suffering, and help those around them. Human love is vital for keeping the world together. The ultimate level of this development is reaching that state of perfection as was in the first parents before they sinned. However, human love is not entirely trustworthy.
The second and superior option is to seek the Divine Love, which is available from God for the asking. With sincere prayer, God responds by sending the Holy Spirit, the instrument which opens the soul and imparts the Love.
After death, each individual soul, now only in a spirit body, goes on living in the spirit world. The mind – the mental and intellectual faculties – also continues, now without the limitations that the physical body had placed on it. Memory and all the things forming an individual’s identity likewise continue. The person in the spirit world can still conceive thoughts of material things and perceive the physical – even more perfectly than before.
Most spirits find their initial habitation on the earth plane, in which there are several spheres. Here conditions are not too different from those on earth with the same ideas of right and wrong, beliefs, concepts, and desires. Friends and relatives can help and instruct the newly arrived spirit on how to proceed higher. Depending on the spirit’s soul condition as well as priorities, they will proceed along the lines of intellectual, moral, or spiritual development.
Those with desires for moral and mental development are assigned a place in the second, fourth, or sixth spheres. They pass through the intervening spheres, but do not stay long or gain much. At the sixth sphere, one’s mental and moral qualities are developed to their greatest extent. The spirits at this point have reached the state of natural perfection and purity experienced by the first humans before the Fall. As they progress through the spheres, they are able to assist others, both mortals and spirits, in overcoming their weaknesses and turning to God.
Those at the sixth sphere in the Spiritual Heavens or Paradise experience a high state of happiness – but have not reached their full potential. Their soul is not highly developed as they have not sought at-onement with God through the Divine Love. They can progress higher only by realizing the existence of and need for receiving the Divine Love. However, many are satisfied in their state of happiness and do not seek God’s Love. Some do awaken to the necessity of their soul development as a result of childhood recollection of teachings that God loves them. Indeed, as Jesus taught, becoming as little children is a way to God’s Kingdom (Matt. 18:3-4).
Spirits, whose priority is spiritual or soul development, which involves actively seeking the Divine Love and New Birth, progress through the third, fifth and seventh spheres and then to the numberless and limitless Celestial Spheres – the Kingdom of God spoken of by Jesus (John 3:3-6; Tit. 3:5).
All along, God respects the free will and desires of His creatures and will not force anyone to seek the Divine Love. Rather, He waits till they learn from their own experiences and become dissatisfied with their level of happiness at the moral and mental level. With such dissatisfaction comes the desire for a source of happiness beyond themselves. God makes His redeemed happy by setting before them an ever higher mark for which they may seek with the assurance, that it can be attained.
Further Reading on this topic:
Jesus’ Recent Message on the Soul (Nov. 2020)
Parental Influences on Child’s Soul
Photo: Alex Peck
For a pictorial representation, go to Soul, Bodies and Soul Mates
For related articles on this website, see
Origins, History, Destiny
Human Self System
What Is the Soul?
Soul and Spirit
Dual Nature of Humans
Two Ways of Life
Limitations of Material Knowledge