155. How does the separation of the soul from the body take place?
“As the bonds restraining the soul are broken, it separates from the body.”
a) Is this separation sudden? Is there a distinct line between life and death?
“No, it is not like a bird whose cage is suddenly opened allowing it to escape at once. The soul gradually separates from the body. The two states are blurred together and the spirit extracts itself little by little from its bonds, which are loosened but not broken.”
During life, a spirit is connected to the body by its semi-material envelope, or perispirit. Death is the destruction of the body, but not of this envelope, which separates from the body when organic life ends. Observation has shown us that the separation of the perispirit from the body at death is gradual, rather than abrupt, and this speed may vary depending on different individuals. In some cases, it is so quick that the perispirit completely separates from the body within a few hours after passing, while in others, particularly for those whose life has been exceedingly material and sensual, this release is much slower, and can take days, weeks, and even months. This does not imply the persistence of vitality in the body or any possibility of restoring life, but is simply the result of a hold between the body and the spirit proportionate to how consumed the spirit was with materiality during its human life. It is only rational to assume that if a spirit has closely identifed with matter, it will be more diffcult for it to separate from its material body. In contrast, intellectual and moral elevation of thought initiates this division even during the life of the body.
Consequently, when death ultimately arrives, the separation is almost immediate. Studies of individuals after their death have shown that sometimes, the connection that remains between the soul and the body is extremely painful, as the spirit is fully cognizant of all the horrors of decomposition. This is an exceptional case, and unique to certain kinds of life and certain kinds of death. It can happen in the event of suicide.