World of Darkness - Alpha Network
While reading through many of the mage books, I have noted that while souls are described in various levels of detail, in every case there is something missing.
First, a summary of what Souls we know:
- Sleeper Souls suffer from Quiescence, cutting them off from the Supernal Realms
- Sleepwalker Souls do not suffer from Quiescence but are still cut off from the Supernal Realms
- Awakened Souls touch the Supernal via Watchtowers on which their Identity is inscribed
- Seeker Souls command the Supernal, exerting incredible will to alter reality
- Ascended Souls surpass the Supernal, achieving a higher state beyond comprehension
Second, a summary of what Souls do and what can be done to Souls:
- Souls are Identity, given to every human at birth
- A Sleeper’s Quiescence invokes Disbelief (2ed – Dissonance) upon witnessing the Supernal, spreading Abyssal corruption and Paradox
- Quiescence edits the Sleeper’s Soul to explain away or simply forget the Supernal encounter
- When Quiescence fails, the Soul is pulled on an Astral Journey to a Watchtower.
- Inscribing one’s Identity on a Watchtower transforms the Soul into a Supernal Identity (aka Awakening)
- Awakened Souls, exerting their will (and spending Mana), draw Supernal power via their Watchtower and, by forming an Imago (with appropriate symbolism), can cast magic
- By learning Rotes, Mages “write” spells into their Souls, enhancing the spells’ application by providing a stable foothold
- By studying a Legacy, a Mage can “shape” their Soul into a truer, idealised form, learning Attainments in the process
Attainments are spell-like abilities cast directly from the Soul, not the Supernal. This is magic on a purely instinctive level, bypassing the Supernal (and the Abyss) and therefore ignoring Paradox effects and penalties, particularly Disbelief (2ed – Dissonance)
- From Imperial Mysteries, we find that Archmages with 8-dot Arcana are able to create sub-souls, which are souls made from the Archmage’s Soul, independant yet mystically bound to the Archmage. 9-dot to create sub-souls from another Archmage’s Soul or an Avatar, (The Practice of Dominions)
- The 2 forms of sub-soul are the Ochema (the Servant) and the Talisman (the Artifact). These sub-souls are not true Souls (though, I’ll admit they are very close) since sub-souls or Soulshards all require an Archmage “parent” Soul as a template and serve as an extension to the Archmage’s Soul. I’m referring the creation of Souls & Avatars from non-Archmage parents, ie all of Humanity minus the ~100 archmages (or to rephrase, why does it take 8-9 dot Archmastery to do something that an average teenager does accidentally?)
- Due to the exotic magicks of a Soul, it is often highly desired for research or for use as a magic catalyst. This is achieved by crafting a Soul Stone, Soul Theft (and Caging), Astral Journeying or the aforementioned Attainments:
- For more detail on Soul Stones, refer to MTAw: Core Rulebook. Briefly, crafting a Soul Stone means removing a shard of Soul from your Identity and containing it in a Vessal (like a Djinn’s lamp) or condensing the Soul substance to a solid form (like Tass of the Soul). A Soul Stone shares the contents and “shape” of the original Soul, albeit in a compressed format. This allows Mages to study a Legacy through the Soul Stone, as well as access any hidden knowledge the Soul Stone may possess. Its main use is the creation of a Demense, an area where magic can be cast without Paradox (similiar to Attainments).
- A Soul Stone, being in physical form, can be stolen by a thief (although Soul Stones generally have the maximum level of protection that the owner can offer, often it’s more protected than the owner himself). Once in another’s possession, the owner becomes that Mage’s Thrall until he reclaims his Soul Stone. In Mage law, the possessor can command his Thrall 3 times before he must return the Soul Stone (also like a Djinn’s lamp)
For more detail on Astral Journeying, refer to Astral Realms rulebook. Briefly, the Astral Realm is the projection of the Soul (aka Dream). In Oneiros, a Mage can examine his own Soul to learn more about himself or to overcome “inner troubles” such as Paradox Brands. Evidence of a Soul Stone can be found here as “missing things” seemingly cut from the dreamscape. Every human has their own personal Oneiros, including Sleepers. Sleeper Oneiros is often studied in regards to the nature of Quiescence, however even in a dream, Sleepers still invoke Disbelief/Dissonance. When inside another’s Oneiros, a Mage has access to the owner’s experiences (provided the Mage can decipher the abstract information) and can also affect the owner’s opinion by, for example, planting suggestions (similiar to the movie Inception)
Going deeper, Temenos is the collective soul of humanity. Temenos allows Mages to study the general mindset of humans as Temenos projections are what the human Souls collectively accept as true. Suggestions can also be planted here, however it is much more difficult to shift the masses’ opinion
Lastly, we have Anima Mundi, the “World Soul”. After passing the Omphalos barrier, we enter the collective “soul” of the world, containing the dreams of animals, plants and the elements (yes, rocks have dreams too, and you’re walking all over them). I include Anima Mundi as it almost entirely lacks a Soul as we know it, and yet it Dreams
That summarizes most of the Soul lore I have found, but there are still some questions that are not addressed:
Can non-sentient living creatures carry a Soul? (This is based on whether sentience or self-awareness enables the Soul, or in other words, does an Artificial Intelligence have a Soul (regardless of its temporary nature)? Sub-question: What happens when you create an AI or create a Tulpa phantasm in Astral Space?)
How are Souls created? (We have seen that every human gets a Soul at birth, although it was noted by a Bodhisattva that even if Souls are reincarnated after death, the total number of Souls in the world continue to increase. So where do they come from?)
Why do only Humans have Souls? (My own theory draws from the nature of Anima Mundi. After passing Omphalos, a Mage is surrounded by the Ecstatic Wind, a phenomena that tries to merge the Human Soul with the collective “world soul”. This Wind gets stronger the further into Anima Mundi you go, and peaks at the Whorl, where you encounter the Oroboros sea, the projection of the Abyss. I believe the Ecstatic Wind is Abyssal in nature and seeks to erode the Soul, however it cannot breach Omphalos so the Human Soul is sheltered)
How do Attainments function? (As covered, Attainments are Soul magic, but what fuels that magic? It’s not Mana, as Mana is strictly Supernal. Also, as covered, Attainments don’t trigger Disbelief (2ed – Dissonance), so what do the Sleepers think when they witness this “real magic”? Because they can’t dismiss it. Dismissing the magic is what Quiescence does, and Quiescence plays no part in this. So Sleepers are forced to accept that what they saw was magic.)
What happens to the Soul during death?
As people have rightly said, Legacies don’t shape the Soul, they shape the Soul’s Vessel, and the Soul morphs to fit it. However I think that there are inconsistencies when it comes to Soul Loss and replacement.
Consider, if a Mage replaced his Awakened Soul with a Sleeper Soul, he would still be able to cast magic (whether it’s Attainments only or Supernal too, I’m not sure), but the Sleeper with his newly acquired Awakened Soul will not Awakened himself.
Why is this the case? There would appear to be no difference between the Souls, the only difference is… the Vessel.
What is this Vessel? It is apparent at this point that there is an important part of the Soul that is not being considered, and it is at this point that it gets tricky to explain.
First, we must redefine terms. For the purpose of explanation and to fit in with the original post, let us call the Vessel “Vessel” and let us call the stuff of the soul “Anima”. (hopefully you can see where I’m going with this)
Now for the interesting bit because splitting the Soul into two parts means we must redetermine its properties.
The Vessel and Anima together make up the Soul Identity (note the capitalization)
The Vessel contains the Anima, and it is within the Vessel that we experience Oneiros.
The Vessel is shaped by Legacies, and the Anima fills that shape.
What is currently called “Soul Loss” would now be called “Anima Loss”, for the Vessel can still be refilled by another’s Anima (this should have an interesting effect in Oneiros, probably where everything is a slightly different shade of colour, due to being a different Soul Identity)
It is the Vessel which undergoes Awakening by opening itself to the Supernal (not sure if the Soul Identity is inscribed on the Watchtower or just the Vessel)
Mana drawn from the Supernal is stored in the Vessel along with the Anima
Rote spells are written to the Vessel and use both Mana and Anima as fuel (the Anima component accounts for the reduced Mana cost, lower Paradox risk and the Attribute-Skill dice pool)
Attainments use only Anima as fuel where the Vessel itself is the spell (now we can fully answer Q4)
A Soul Stone would be made from a shard of Vessel with some Anima in it
In Astral Space, the “collective soul” would now refer to the “collective Anima” (Temenos would be the Human Anima, Anima Mundi would be the World Anima)
How souls are seen differs from species to species; as a result, many of the supernatural have a unique viewpoint of their souls and of the beings that their souls become after death.
As beings tied very strongly to the material, the Damned have little to no evidence of their soul left and see this as a part of their damnation. Common knowledge among the Covenants is that the Embrace drags back the soul as much as it can and fuses it with the Beast, where the remnant of the soul becomes the Man. The chains of blood that bind the vampire’s soul to his flesh are less secure than the spiritual anchor of a mortal, but they are more resilient. A vampires can absorb another’s essence, including his soul, through Diablerie.
The Mekhet Clan see themselves corresponding to the Egyptian soul-structure as codified during the Middle Kingdom: A person consists of a Khat (a physical body), which serves as vehicle for the Ka (the “Soul of Substance”), which ensured survival. Furthermore, each person has a shadow called Khaibit, which is in turn connected to a Ba (the “Soul of Mobility”), which controls the movements of the shadow. Separate from both is the Khu (the “Spirit Soul”), which is inviolable and hosts the Sahu, the part that will eventually cross into the afterlife, provided that the other parts of it are unharmed. Beside these three pairs, each creature with a soul has a Ren (a True Name) and is animated through the life-force of the cosmos, Sekhem. Mekhet are creatures that have lost their Ka after death (usually through the Embrace) and have their Ba animate their body instead.2
The souls of the Uratha contain a spiritual, predatory potential that awakens during the First Change. As they mature, this spiritual part becomes more and more potent, as Gifts are scoured into it and become an essential part of the Uratha’s being.
In order to balance this spiritual part with their mundane roots, Uratha follow a codex called Harmony. If they err too much on the side of the spirits, they are transformed into Zi’ir, half-spirit abominations. If they err too much on the side of the flesh, they lose their supernatural abilities. While the Uratha’s souls are more resilient against attempts to meddle with them than human souls, there are powerful creatures who can even affect them, like the Idigam, who can transform Uratha into Su’ur.
In Atlantean dogma, the Soul is the source of everything that makes humans humane and enables them to connect to the Realms Supernal. Some believe that the soul rises to the Realms Supernal after death, and reincarnates after purification3. In academic terms, the Soul corresponds with the five Subtle Arcana and is connected to the Astral Space. Its connection to the body is governed by the Death Arcanum, meaning that those mages who seek to study souls often have proficiency in Death. It is that ineffable portion of a person that is responsible for her liveliness, vitality, curiosity, sense of wonder and connection to the world4. The Weret-Hekau equate each subtle Arcanum with one of the Pillars recorded in ancient Irem.
The soul is also the portion of a person responsible for the use of magic. A mage that loses his soul immediately starts to Sleep again until he has his soul reconnected. Mages whose soul is damaged can turn into the Mad5. A Mage can clip away a small part of his soul in order to create a soulstone, animate a Soul Golem or can shape his soul according to the attainments of certain Legacies in order to transform himself into something with more sympathy to the realms Supernal. Mages who tamper with souls are also called Reapers and are among the most cursed breakers of the Lex Magica6. Several Left-Handed Legacies, the most famous being the Tremere, have committed themselves to the magic of the soul and how to harness it for their own purpose7.
As fundamentally alchemic beings, Prometheans lack a soul and have to struggle to eventually regain one and become human again. This event – the New Dawn- is the goal of every Promethean who hasn’t given into his Torment.
Arcadia has left its toll upon its inhabitants. Many Changelings who flee through the Hedge find that the Thorns have left them scarred and that some parts of their humanity have been cleaved away, filled with the Wyrd instead.
Ancient Irem discovered that the soul was not a vague, unitary life spark, but a complex mixture of elements with distinct characteristics. The Shan’iatu divided the human soul into five parts, called Pillars, that formed the foundation of human existence, maintained by the life force of Sekhem. During the Rite of Return, the mummy-to-be choose one Pillar that defines it before the Judges, forming their individual Decree.
Demons are devoid of a soul and have no particular interest in gaining one, unless they wish to obtain one for a quick Cover, and even then the soul is more of a disposable disguise (albeit one that, as far as anyone can tell, annihilates the existence of its former owner). In its place they have Primum, which is simultaneously the origin of their thoughts, reactor for their powers, and the shapeless state of their various forms.
The original soul of a Begotten has been obliterated during the Devouring. Instead, the Begotten contains one of the Horrors of the Primordial Dream within his form. The Begotten is permanently connected to his home realm through the connection to his Lair, but can also connect these spaces together, forming massive Hives in the dreamscape that can house numerous Beasts.