Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Item 21: Do not be led astray by the philosophers who say that the very essence of the soul is an intellectual substance, and that it only exists through the concepts it learns, that it grows through them, and that they are its very essence.
According to philosophers, seeing only this world, we also attain something spiritual. Based on what do they think so? On the basis of reasoning. They do not know and they did not study nature, but only scholasticism of their own mind, and that is why they obviously have no real knowledge. Their sphere is fantasy, not based on any empirical study and within the confines of theorizing.
Hence, the philosophical view of the human soul is, “If we reflect and debate about the soul, then we have contact with it.”
On the other hand, Kabbalists explain that all this is one big lie. No one in our world has the soul. In order to obtain the soul, one has to obtain the property of bestowal that is above our desire, above our nature. He who has achieved this has the soul and who has not does not have it.
We still must figure out what the current existence that we call “life” is. Either way, there is no connection between our current desires and the soul. After all, the soul is the desire to bestow, and cannot relate to us. In our perception, we need to separate these two parts by a truly “iron wall.”
Either everything in a person is based on the earthly, “animal” desires, or he is on the other side and governs them. In this case, all their actions are not comparable with his desire to bestow, with the possibility of bestowal. This desire, this action, is called the soul, which grows ascending to the 125 rungs of the spiritual ladder.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 1/12/14, Writings of Baal HaSulam