A spiritual connection
The soul and the body are closely connected. This is true for humans as well as other life forms (such as dogs and seagulls).
Personhood — The conscious experience of self. Humans have it, dogs have it. It is the soul which possesses personhood. But the person considers the body to be part of him even though after death the person continues to live on as a soul with no body.
The soul learns to interpret the form of objects in the material world — thus a bird understands that a worm is food. A city dweller in a street scene recognizes cars and people and understands that the people are living but the cars are not, that the sidewalk is safe but the street is not.
I've heard it said that each angel is a unique, one-of-a-kind species. I suggest that each person's soul is likewise a unique, one-of-a-kind species. Thus, each person has a unique personality and temperment with unique appetites and motivations but all human souls have commonalities (just as angels of the same kind have commonalities).
In some way a person's human form reflects the soul — we each look the way we do because our soul influences the development of our body. When we look at someone we get an impression about them, we see their soul through the form of their body. Old people's "oldness" reflects the soul's weariness with still being tied-down to a physical body
For more please read Brain and Soul.
In this section I discuss non-animals and non-humans — plants, single-celled organisms (even those considered animals), viruses.
Questions to consider . . .
I propose that all biological lifeforms possess a soul but that the souls of different kinds of lifeforms have different characteristics, different attributes. Thus the human soul possesses moral accountability (some call this man's spirit), animals such as dogs experience emotion and loyalty, but plants have no consciousness at all. In the spectrum of attributes of souls, consciousness is merely one attribute; but not all souls possess this attribute.
Plant souls are mostly concerned with the appetite of survival: living, obtaining needed nutrients, continuing the species. But plants don't have a conscious awareness of any of this.
Higher animals such as dogs seem to have personality and they seem to be consciously aware of their existence.
Every evening some birds land on my lawn looking for worms to eat. This doesn't seem like a very appealing dinner to me but I suspect it is one of the highlights of their day.
Birds seem to spend all day either looking for food or waiting until conditions arise in which they can find food. Some birds wait for low tide, some wait for evening, some wait for tourists on the ferry to drop food on the ground.
The material form of a human is shaped by the propensities and personality of the soul. A human is a hybrid between the genetic material and the characteristics of the particular soul.
When the soul is first created it is associated with the embryo. This young soul does not yet receive sensory data since the bodily sense organs do not yet exist. The soul modifies the physical appearance of the developing embryo.
As the senses develop while in the womb the soul begins to experience the physical world and to collect memories of these sense perceptions.
It is possible that I have a memory of living in the womb. I remember the fleeting sensation of pure being-ness, mixed with confusion by it all, wondering 'what is this sense of awareness?'
I wonder whether the soul is created fully-developed with all its capabilities of intellect and with full awareness (with personhood) or whether it develops, passing through plant, animal, then finally human stages? As the soul develops it begins to have more capabilities.
I have brief memories as an infant. I remember the sensation of grasping, of trying to use hands and arms but not being able to, the desire to manipulate the physical world with my body, to exercise the innate power I felt I possessed. One appetite of the soul is to use the body.
Part of the soul's attachment to the body is that it recognizes that it has power over the material world through the body — it can make the body move, it can grasp things. At death the soul must give up this power which it has come to enjoy — a painful experience because of the attachments and habits it has developed while alive.
The soul is connected to the body for as long as the body lives. This is true even for those whose senses have stopped working as designed (such as Terri Schaivo). But this bonding between soul and body provides experiences of the soul that it can remember after death. Thus, the soul knows that it is trapped in the body. But this is not an unnatural condition.
Not everyone is able to experience the fullness of life that is possible for humans. For example, some homeless people seem to spend their days in survival mode: either looking for food, cigarettes, and drugs; or waiting until the daily commute when there will be enough people to panhandle from.
Death doesn't affect the soul directly (except in the fulfillment of the appetites as I will explain in a moment). Death only affects the way the soul relates to the body.
At death the soul must sever its attachments to the body. These attachments are of several kinds . . .
The soul considers death to be an undesirable event — this is the appetite of self-preservation. The soul recognizes that the body is fragile and temporary.
The soul discerns when death is imminent. Even animals know that a certain dangerous situation is potentially life-threatening.
At death the attachment of the soul to the body is broken (some call this attachment the silver cord). I wonder what is the nature of this attachment?
It is a traumatic experience for the soul when it becomes separated from the body.
After death all memories still exist. The soul can reflect on all the experiences it had while in the body and continues to form new memories of its experiences after death as it continues to interact with other spirit beings and in spiritual interactions with the souls of living beings still alive here on the earth (and on other worlds?)
After death the soul must adapt to its new life: there is now no input from bodily senses, no ability or power over the actions of a body, no influence in the material world via the body. Existence is limited to only the spiritual but there are the many bodily memories received from the senses when their soul was attached to its body.
The soul possesses two bodies:
We all have practical experience of this. When we are half asleep dreaming we are aware of our spiritual body (our dream body) as well as our physical body (the body that is lying down on the sofa).
The physical body does not live in the spiritual realm. Even Jesus gave up his physical body when he ascended into heaven. I believe that Jesus, Mary, and all the Saints in heaven have spiritual bodies but not physical bodies. In the new heavens and new earth we will again live in the physical realm in physical bodies (but we will still have spiritual bodies).
It is impossible for a physical object to exist in the spiritual realm and it is likewise impossible for a spiritual being to exist in the physical realm. Spiritual beings (including the human soul) interact with the physical world at the boundary (sometimes referred to in the Bible as air, clouds, or water) between the physical and spiritual realms. For example, our spiritual souls receive data from our physical senses by virtue of their being linked to this boundary with the physical world — it is part of our human nature for our souls to be linked in this manner to the physical realm, to our physical bodies. We sense that we are our bodies because our souls are so intimately connected to the sense perceptions of our physical bodies.
Angels and other spirit beings only have spiritual bodies. When angels appear in the physical world they manifest with either a physical body or with other physical phenomena: lights, wind, sounds, etc. This second kind of manifestation is called an apparition. Even though angels can materialize in the physical realm with a physical body, angels do not possess physical bodies: their nature is inherently spiritual and the manifested physical body is merely a way for them to interact physically with those in the physical realm. It is possible that angels will appear from time to time in the new heavens and new earth but generally they live only in the spiritual realm.
The New Testament contains many stories of humans and even animals possessed by wicked spiritual beings. Apparently these spirit beings enjoy the pleasures of inhabiting a body but this is not their proper habitation. The good angels never do this.