If you explore the true nature of reality, all pain will eventually come to an end. In some form or other, religious teachings state this truth over and over. There is no way around the fact that it sounds abstract, yet this is the reality of how the soul operates. Your soul deals in abstractions like eternity and infinity so that you won’t have to. It converts an inconceivable world into one that we can grasp and understand.
Like a car’s transmission, which takes the whirling motion of the engine and transforms it into the forward velocity that gets you where you want to go, the soul makes it possible for your life to move forward. Eternity doesn’t need to breathe; infinity doesn’t need to find a job. But you need those things and more – you need to eat, work, love, and raise children – and these are made possible through the soul. Without it, there would only be quantum soup, a formless swirl of energy and particles.
Even though we are accustomed to using religious language about the soul, its duties are useful, not poetic. This fact has been hard to realize because the word soul has been used loosely to mean a person’s deepest emotions, his heart, his highest aspirations, as well as more arcane things like the Holy Ghost.
I would venture that the sacred masters, whatever religion they are associated with, were trying to be quite specific. In their awareness the soul meant something much like a connection between the world of the five senses and a world of inconceivable things like eternity, infinity, omniscience, grace, and every other quality of the unmanifest.
If you try to do without the soul, you wind up with a handful of nothing. Fire cannot burn it, water cannot make it wet, wind cannot blow it away, and a sword cannot cut it in two. For all the poetry in that expression, the fact of the soul appears to be undeniable, for stripped of all its religious connotations, the essence of each person cannot be reduced to matter or thoughts or any fixed quality.
Adapted from How To Know God, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2000).