I would like to advertise two posts by Rabbi Micha Berger:
1) Phenomena of a world higher become the forms of the phenomena of the world lower
2) Soul is a ray of G-dly Light that pierces the spiritual worlds
3) The lowest level of the soul is the highest level of the brain, its form
We recognize that each object has two components: matter and form (chomer and tzurah). A key consists of the metal from which it is made and its unique shape. If the metal is replaced from aluminum to copper, but the shape is the same, what was replaced is the matter, while what remained is the form. If the key was melted down, its matter remained the same, while its form was changed.
I personally define form as the relationship between different parts of the matter. The properties, the nature of the object, can be thought of as the matter: after all, we can't say that there are two things: the electron and its properties; the properties of the electron are electron. But then again, they can also be though of as the form: if all we care about is the charge of an amino acid, even if a point mutation in a gene replaced amino acid A with amino acid B, as long as the function that it plays in the protein (due to its charge) is unaffected, the protein will still fold normally; so, we've replaced the matter, but retained the form, which means that the key property of the amino acid that we cared about could be identified as its form.
In order to see in detail the discussion of form and matter as it pertains to brain and soul, in the context of Jewish sources, please read the posts. I would like to quote this bit:
[W]e can say the soul is therefore the pattern which the brain fits, encoded in the layout and attributes of its neurons, neurochamicals, glial cells, etc… This doesn’t mean the soul is only the pattern, or that the soul has no existence without the brain. The soul is the same thing, as substantiated in a higher world, one in which there is no need for a physical instantiation. The two are in sync in the same way a movie picture changes as the light from the projector flickers in its different colors.(See also this post, briefly.)
Thus the mind is a product of the design and structure of the brain while simultaneously being a spiritual thing, our connection to a higher plane.
Now, Rabbi Berger says that he is a Litvishe Mikubol and thus doesn't subscribe to all ideas of Chassidus Chabad, but I was wondering if I can apply his model to the struggle between Nefesh Elokis and Nefesh Ha'Bahamis as described in Tanya.
According to Tanya, the two souls (G-dly and animalistic) fight over control of the brain. Each one wants to be the one "enclothed" in it. So, for instance, we can say that when I was sixteen years old, not religious and eating lobsters, my brain was controlled by my Nefesh Ha'Bahamis. When I turned seventeen and became religious and started going to shull (and stopped eating lobsters), but brain started to be controlled by my Nefesh Elokis.
Well, if an atheist Neuroscientist hears this, he will scoff. It's not like, he will say, my brain was plugged into an iPhone when I was sixteen, and then was plugged into Android when I was seventeen. The internal structure of my brain changed! Due to a number of outside influences (charismatic rabbi, his wife's chip salad, certain propaganda literature, certain conversations), some connections in my brain (e.g., in the circuits responsible for lobster-eating behavior) weakened or even became associated with negative emotions, while other connections (e.g., in the shull-going circuits) strengthened.
If you consider Rabbi Berger's model, however, the Neuroscientist's view does not contradict the concept of one soul being enclothed in my brain vs. another.
Remember, according to the model, hislabshus (enclothment) of the soul in the brain happens through the brain's tzurah (form). Perhaps we can even say that the brain's tzurah is the soul's hislabshus in the brain's chomer (matter). [See again the first post linked above.]
Yes, the brain's tzurah changed, as the Neuroscientist above tells us. But that is exactly what it means that one soul vs. another gained the control. The change in the brain circuits from lobster-eating to shull-going is (evidence of) the change in hislabshus of one soul vs. another in the chomer of the brain.
(What I am trying to understand at the moment is what the specific nature of hislabshus of neshama in moach might be, according to the model and according to sources in Kabbala and Chassidus. To be continued, iyH. Any comments, especially with sources, are welcome.)