The spiritual life is a mystery. Indeed, the relationship between body, mind, heart, soul and spirit (and the degree to which these depend on one another) isn’t something we’ll likely ever understand completely.
For those who have eyes to see, however, there are many clues in the natural world. Recently, I came to see a pretty good analogy for the life of the Spirit in terms of a squirrel, an acorn, an oak tree, and a field.
The acorn in this analogy represents the body, and the squirrel is the mind or soul. Like acorns, our bodies are carried along by our souls (the squirrels). The soul depends on the body, just as the squirrel depends on the acorns; and just like the acorn, the body depends on the soul (the squirrel) to carry it along.
Like the squirrel, the soul doesn’t always know where it’s taking the body; and at some point, the body, like the acorn, will go into the ground and die.
But the soul, like the squirrel, will carry on, finding new bodies to carry around. It may not be aware of what it’s doing, but the life of the soul continues on long after the death of the body. Like the squirrel, however, the soul must eventually return to its source (represented by the field).
The life of the Spirit (the field) is eternal, and cannot die. It will continue to give nourishment to new souls (squirrels) and bodies (acorns).
What, we may ask, happens to the acorns after they die? Well, they too have a new life! They rise again in the form of the oak tree. And so it is with our bodies. They will rise again someday, in a much greater form than what we currently inhabit; and the souls (squirrels) will then be reunited with the trees (resurrected bodies) in the eternal field (the Spirit).
As Jesus tells us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
Saint Paul expands on this, saying that “You do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed..but God gives it a body as He has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. The glory of the heavenly (body) is one thing, and that of the earthly is another” (1 Cor 15:37-40).
I have found this to be true, on the spiritual level, in my own life. Indeed, I have died many small “deaths” over the years, and have always re-emerged stronger. Parts of us have to die in order for us to grow spiritually.
I believe this also applies to the physical body. Indeed, when our souls are rejoined to our resurrected bodies, the resulting union will be far greater than anything we can imagine now!
What happens in the meantime isn’t exactly clear. Some believe we will be reincarnated several times before reaching our full state of glory; others say that the soul can live on without a body until the day where they’re rejoined.
While I’m not sure which idea is closer to the truth, my experiences suggest (at the very least) that our minds, souls, hearts, and Spirit live on long after our bodies die. Indeed, they seem to be truly eternal and pre-existent, having no beginning or end.
As I continue to live deeper into this mystery, I’m sure I will come to know more; but what I have already experienced is enough to convince me that the life of the Spirit is wilder and more glorious than I could possibly imagine.