Part One: Seder Hishtalshelut
It is clear that there is a force which enlivens the body. The external body itself is nothing more than an inanimate vessel which contains and is animated by this force. This is readily observable by the fact that when one passes away, G-d forbid, his body remains intact, but without any life force. At this point the body no longer has the faculties of a living being. The brain no longer thinks nor do the eyes see. It can no longer smell with its nose nor hear with its ears, nor can it move its limbs. The heart no longer beats nor does the blood surge through the veins. There are no feelings and emotions; no love, no fear, no pleasure, anguish, anticipation, joy or regret. In short, there is no consciousness whatsoever. The body becomes a mass of decaying flesh, an empty shell devoid of life, a shadow of its former self when it was vibrant and vital.
This matter is so self-evident that even a chicken or a vulture can distinguish between a living creature and one that is dead, between a body that has the breath of life invested in it and one that does not. Most importantly, it is this very breath of life, the soul, which is the actual vitality and consciousness of the person and which is his actual identity. The body itself is like a garment for the soul, and just as it is with a garment, it becomes animated only when the soul is invested in it. Every action of the physical limbs is merely a result of the control of the soul. Every desire, thought or emotion, is merely a function of the soul and is completely caused and controlled by it, and upon the soul’s departure the faculties also immediately depart with it.