Can the soul (the subjective experience of a self combined with consciousness) exist without the body? For too long, Western science has in its hypocrisy and hubris assumed that everything can be reduced to what they call matter. But no one has actually witnessed this matter. What we experience is only the content of our consciousness. As Arthur Schopenhauer writes: “the world is my representation”. What is beyond the representation, we do not know. We do not even know if there is anything beyond the representation. We can only guess and speculate, because all we will ever have access to is our own conscious experience of the world.
Maybe there is a universal source from which we all come. I am betting that it is not at all like what the religions describe. Religions are subjective and bound to culture. This is also why they disagree so much with each other. Some have tried to find universal themes within religion, and while there are some, I find this to be a hopeless endeavor. This is not to say that religion is wrong, as I am myself religious, it is merely to point out that religions arises within specific cultures, and so they are bound to be distorted by this subjectivity. What truly lies beyond this world cannot be grasped until we actually go “there”. Philosophers speculations comes closer than the religious scholars, paradoxically, because they operate with ideas. The religious might have heart and all the subjectivity that carries with it, but philosophers can more clearly comprehend it, because of the abstract nature of philosophy.
If there is something beyond this world, it might be consciousness itself. Then we are never separate from it. The consciousness in the individual is the same as the universal consciousness, it being the mind and ego which creates this feeling of being a separate individual. What happens when we die, is that we shed the ego, mind, and body. But consciousness lives on, having never being born and will never die, because it is beyond time and space. How so, you may ask, for it is not obvious that consciousness is not in either time or space. It is not in space, that much should be obvious. Where in space will you place your consciousness? It cannot be done as it is not an object. Neither is it in time. It is only the content, the object of consciousness, which is in time. We can compare consciousness with a mirror. The mirror is greater than its mirror image. Likewise, consciousness is greater than just the content of it.
So if it is beyond time and space, how would it ever die? If it is one with the universal consciousness, then that is where we go when we die. This is the true abode of God. Consciousness itself. The Upanishads describe this as profound bliss. Brahman is Sat, Chit, and Ananda: Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss. It is bliss in so far as it profoundly lacks suffering and conflict. It is the end of all desires, or, rather, the fulfillment of all desires. This is what they mean when they chant “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti”, Shanti meaning peace. Peace is our true nature and our destiny. Consciousness lives on without the body, not needing it ever, it being merely a vehicle, so that we can experience the universe.
True peace is the beginning, the way, and the destination.