In a way that is possibly similar to the verbally disorienting but mathematically reliable formula in quantum physics known as the wave-particle duality theory, perhaps it is reasonable to understand the soul (universal creative energy) as simultaneously one and the same on going eternal process which appears and is experienced as differentiated as it manifests itself in temporal functionality.
Relying upon the wave-particle duality theory to provide analogical acceptance, that verbal formulation would declare that the soul is always both universal and individual and only appears to be one or the other or non-existent depending upon the verbal/cognitive construct used by the individual to process and try to make sense of a particular physical experience. The reality exists; how we understand it is determined by how we perceive it. Since our perception of reality determines our way of living into it, we establish a loop of behaviors that are re-enforcing until we encounter what we describe as a transformative experience and begin to develop a different loop of re-enforcing behaviors.
But even if we accept the ideas, one that the word “soul” is simply a synonym for the processes of creative energy manifesting itself into matter, and two, that we humans are simply another manifestation of this eternal process, and three, that the perception of an individual soul as distinct from the universal soul is just that, a perception, we are still left with the question as to whether or not anything related to a lifetime of identity development makes a lasting mark upon “our” soul.
I find my response to that question in a controversial and often overlooked experiment done in 1953 by an irreverent academic Dr. James McConell. For reasons I cannot discover, I’ve remembered this experiment for years. I do not know if the experiment has fallen into obscurity because it was so difficult to replicate or because Dr. McConell was so irreverent. Nor do I know why among all the experiments I’ve learned only to forget, I have remembered this one. Unless it was to find its place in what I am about to write.
Dr. McConell taught a group of Planarian worms to run a maze. After they had improved their time about as much as they could, he chopped them up and fed them to another group. He then had that group and a control group run the maze. The control group took about the same amount of time to learn how to run the maze as the original group did. But the group that ingested the first group learned to run the maze much more quickly. The implication, without getting more scientifically specific than my own learning allows, is that the information was stored somehow in the bodies of the first group and stored in such a way that it became influential in the learning process of the group that ingested it.
Three thoughts emerge from the recitation of that experiment: one, the custom of ancient warrior tribes to eat the heart of a brave enemy in order to become more brave; two, the ritual of communion and the notion of the transmutation of (or symbolic representation) of the body and blood of Jesus in order to better lead the life of a dedicated disciple; and three, the possibility that we may leave some marks of our personal identity upon our “portion” of the eternal soul. If that were so, than some kind of mutual recognition taking place in the “after life”, longed for within the funeral wrappings of so many of us, might find some kind of final fulfillment.