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Old 06-09-2012, 10:34 AM
Genesis Genesis is offline

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Default Metaphysics of Spirits and the Dead

My speculative question regarding Gilnean ancestral veneration spurred a broader discussion on the nature of spirits, ghosts, souls, and the dead. I am personally interested in how this pertains to the religious and spiritual views in human cultures. To establish the initial direction, here is Millenia's views on death and the soul. I am still mulling it over.

(NOTE: Please refrain from discussion of the Forsaken, at least as it pertains to the usual subjects that cause a shitstorm.)

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Originally Posted by Millenia View Post
From the discussion that started in this post, here are my half-coherent thoughts on some of the nature of the afterlife.

Soon after death, the soul stays within the body. This represents the period in which it is possible to revive someone (or, perhaps, to bring up sentient undead, a point better brought up elsewhere), as stated by the first paragraph of Tyrande's leader story, starring Malfurion, and implied by Lord-Commander Arete pulling out Landren's soul for interrogation (and subsequently destroying it).

Afterwards, the soul could potentially stay within the body indefinitely... consider Sylvanas's time in (for lack of a better word) "Heaven" for the brief time before her soul was ripped out of her body and turned into a banshee. This ("soul sleep", not the bansheefication) is what I think happens to human spirits, unless for some reason they are disturbed (in the case of Gilneas's comparatively cranky ancestors, and with certain orc ancestor mobs in Outland).

Though, you do have a point that I realized while I was typing this up. Going into the Light is differently than naturally hanging around, especially when one considers the total lack of human ancestors during the Lunar Festival, despite humanity being around before the War of the Ancients (despite not participating in it, which is what a friend believes is the criteria to get an ancestor).
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:38 AM
SmokeBlader SmokeBlader is offline

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I think the soul is the weakest form you could have. You are practically vulnerable to everything. Warlocks can damn your soul to the void, weapons can imprison your soul, or hell, faded from existence.
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:39 AM
DreamingGod DreamingGod is offline

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It's always been my personal theory that when a person dies, their spirit is released into the 'spirit world' which is close to the Twisting Nether. With no anchors, the spirit floats off into the Nether, from there spirit is either broken down, the 'shadow' parts of the soul joining the Twisting Nether (making fel Shadow-tainted Arcane magic) and the soul making it to the Light.

Or, the soul is too corrupted and falls into a state of darkness, a hell of sorts. They fall into the Void and suffer, until consumed.

Something along those lines.
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:40 AM
Revenant Revenant is offline

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Warlocks turn souls into candy.

Good old Nyorloth dropped some soul lore:

http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/forum/to...4613?page=3#49

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The souls of the undead (Forsaken, PC death knights, ghouls, etc.) are imperfectly attached to their bodies; the dark magic that sustains them is a buffer that prevents their souls from properly joining with their bodies. This is why undead feel only faint sensations of pain or discomfort from most physical stimuli, and why the Light is so painful to their existence. The primary exception to this rule are liches, as liches bind their souls to a phylactery and then use the phylactery to generate a physical form; this process is why lich bodies look nothing like their mortal bodies, and also why you have to destroy a lich’s phylactery to truly kill them.
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:41 AM
SmokeBlader SmokeBlader is offline

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Also damnation. Maybe your evil actions corrupt in some way the soul. So naturally, corrupt/evil energy doesn't belong in Paradise, so the soul is sent in the void.
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:47 AM
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I found this quest to be particularly interesting:
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Do you see them walking around us? The Ancestral Grounds are normally quiet and undisturbed.

As of late, the ancestral spirits have risen and are extremely agitated. Something is causing a great disturbance to the spirits. We must discover what that something could be, but first, we must put the immediate threat to rest.

These ghosts that you see walking about are not truly the ancestors but a representation of their state of being. You must destroy the agitated orc spirits. Do this and return to me. (Quest: The Agitated Ancestors)
Does this hold true for Azerothian spirits?
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Old 06-09-2012, 12:36 PM
Millenia Millenia is offline

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This brings some support to the soul sleep possibility, at least for Gilneans: "We'll see to it that the dead return to their eternal slumber."

Commander Eligor Dawnbringer's words seem to support the soul sleeping within the corpse, considering that Thaddius contains not only the flesh of women and children, but also their fused souls.

The Wrath of the Lich King Bestiary sort of subverts this view, by pointing out that "Lich King has focused his malefic powers on flesh giants", which implies the use of magical necromancy, but the very next sentence states that Scourge minions (such as Feugen and Stalagg in the case of Thaddius) piece together the bodies mad scientist style. So, I'm not quite sure if the Lich King's necromancy keeps the souls within the flesh, or if he simply uses his necromancy to bind the will of the resulting flesh construct (be it abomination, wight, flesh giant/titan) to himself, with no deliberate tampering of the souls on his part. I'm thinking it's the latter, considering the Forsaken seem to have very few necromancers, yet are still able to make abominations.

In addition, Calder Grey's comments on using Alliance brains for his abominations states that the brain would still remember who it was, were it not lobotomized. Depending on how the soul and brain interact, this may be more evidence.

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I found this quest to be particularly interesting:
Does this hold true for Azerothian spirits?
Patriarch's Blessing seems to imply it isn't true for Azerothian ones. The ghosts in Aderic's Repose seem to be the actual ancestors. Likewise, the Elders in the Lunar Festival seem to be the actual spirits of those elders.
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Last edited by Millenia; 06-09-2012 at 12:41 PM..
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Old 06-09-2012, 01:40 PM
Odok Odok is offline

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I posted this forever ago on the Story forums:

Original thread: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/2089270222

The nature of death is pretty ambiguous in WoW. There's no clear statement in the game or the extended lore. There's also a bunch of seemingly conflicting examples of what happens when you die. This is my attempt to reconcile all these gaps in the lore and present a single, unified theory on death in the Warcraft universe. I'll come right out and say it - a lot of this stems from the lore in the Warhammer franchise.

First, I'd like to start with a brief list of the things that we know are canon:

• People have souls.
• Souls can be manipulated.
• Depending on the nature of the being, some souls can endure after destruction of its physical body (demons, etc).
• Souls have some sort of connection to the Twisting Nether.
• Souls can be resurrected. This process can be facilitated by spirit healers.
• Souls can manifest themselves in the physical realm as ghosts, ancestors, and similar phenomenon.
• Souls are intrinsically tied to the physical body they used to inhabit. In a sense they're "attuned" to a certain physical form.
• Undead can still carry souls, so they aren't necessarily bound by life or "life energy."
• There is no single afterlife.
• The Forge of Wills can forcibly imbue souls into a physical body.

That's about the extent of the canon on the subject. This is where my work begins. So I figure we'll start from square one. This is all going to be my theory and conjecture - don't expect me to cite sources or back up what I'm saying with references.

What Is A Soul?

The Twisting Nether is a realm of pure chaos and energy. It seems to be the universal source of all entropic or malleable forces in the universe. It's made up of a sort of energy "stem cell" that can be freely transmuted into other forms of energy or into some form of mass or "constrained energy." Since there are numerous instances of souls going into the Nether postmortem, I have to conclude that the Nether is also the source of all souls.

A functional brain has evolved such that it can biologically pull a part of the Nether into a physical body. Whether this is done in one large gulp or gradually over time is open to interpretation. It's probable that the parent(s) of an organism pass on a part of their Nether energy to ignite process. It's also possible that "life energy" has a natural magnetism to the Nether and the two forces are simply attracted to each other. Regardless, the point is that all souls begin as a finite amount of energy taken directly from the Nether and mirrors its chaotic and formless nature. As the brain and nervous system of the organism develops it becomes more adept at sending more synaptic impulses in more complex patterns. These impulses, as a form of energy themselves, gradually direct and mold the raw energy of the Nether inside the organism. Through repetition and intensity this process effectively shapes the raw Nether into an ordered entity that mirrors the organism. In addition to this process, other forms of energy within the organism (heat, light, etc) polarize the energy in a manner similar to magnetism and static electricity and thus "ground" the force to nearby matter. This is why souls do not immediately dissipate upon death nor immediately leave the physical realm - there are still forces acting on it. This is how a soul is naturally created.

The more complex the organism, the more complex the soul. I am defining "complexity" to represent the number of unique synaptic impulses the organism is capable of producing. In this sense animals and immature organisms (very young children) can have something that we almost recognize as a soul yet does not compare to the virulence of a fully matured sentient organism. In fact this explains the origin of animal spirits - their souls are so simplistic as to be nearly identical. So once freed of their constraining matter they naturally coalesce into a singular entity.

I would also like to touch upon the notion of Willpower. I view Willpower to represent the magnitude of a synaptic "force" operating in one defined vector. Or rather the sum of all forces acting in defined vectors. To put this more poetically, the sensation of ignoring pain represents one specific vector. Repetition of this action and/or varying intensities of this action increase the force in that vector which increases the overall magnitude of the Willpower. However, doing the opposite of an action (in this case giving into sensations of pain) would apply in the opposite direction and lower your Willpower. That isn't to say there is positive and negative Willpower, just magnitudes in different directions. Someone who constantly and vividly endures pain yet is just as willful as someone who can block it out entirely. Rather Willpower is reduced through contradictions and inconsistencies, forces and behavior acting against each other. One way of looking at it is to say that the person is allowing their Nether energy to remain in its chaotic state. Thus it stands to reason that the greater the Willpower, the more forces are acting uniformly on the Nether energy, which creates a "stronger" and more well-defined/ordered soul. Willpower is not necessarily constrained by time - you can have a very intense force after, say, saving a loved one from a burning building.

Just as a quick note, the energetic nature of a soul and/or the ease by which it can be returned to pure Nether energy (and hence any other form of energy) is what makes them such a potent power source. Soul shards, summoning, the Forge of Souls - it's just a source of energy to some. This is also how the Titans are able to create synthetic souls - they directly shape the raw Nether energy.

What Happens When Someone Dies?

When you die your soul is no longer constrained by your body. This could be due to the cessation of synaptic activity, a loss of "life energy," and/or simple decay (re: loss of mass) around the soul. The time over which this occurs can vary depending on a variety of factors. Sometimes the soul can persist in a lifeless body for a significant amount of time after death, which is represented by our ability to "release spirit" when we die in-game. Once the soul is free many things can happen depending on the nature of said soul. If it's weak it could just dissipate back into its original state (death as a cessation of being, aka it was as if you never existed). If it's weak but still stable to some degree it could just flit about as a part of who you were. Strong souls experience what we see when we die in game - becoming ethereal images that still functionally exist.

Where Does The Soul Go?

Have you ever looked up at the sky while in the ghost world in-game? There's a massive, seemingly infinite vortex funneling into nothing. I interpret this as our characters' conscious interpretation of the Nether. That isn't actually how it works - it's just our limited comprehension in such matters. Our souls, as "Nether stuff," are drawn back to its origin. No matter how strong the soul it will compulsively want to return to whence it came. Once there it will become lost in the formless nothing and likely dissipate, destroying itself in the process. It takes a constant force to resist this pull, so it's probably that any grounding force is finite and that all souls will eventually return to the Nether in time.

However, strong grounded souls may be able to stay in the physical world for extended periods of time. Dramatic outliers such as Sindragosa may stick around for thousands of years. For the most part, souls can only exist like this for a much shorter amount of time. During this time it's possible for the soul to manifest itself on the physical plane (likely through the use of some energy source, even consuming itself) or otherwise influence it for a time. More importantly the soul can be returned to a physical body so long as it hasn't yet entered the Nether.

Life and Undeath

Just as the soul feels a pull towards the Nether, so to does it feel a pull to the body it once inhabited if only for a while. Again, the strength and duration of this attraction can vary wildly for reasons I won't repeat. Suffice it to say that if the physical body were somehow renewed and brought back to a living state (through energy or whatever) the soul could return. Now I'm chalking up corpse runs purely to game mechanics. You could make an argument that the spirit healers (more on them later) somehow impart this energy but really I think we just need to suspend disbelief. The key point is that only very willful, strong-souled individuals can be resurrected. Even then there's a finite window of opportunity in which this can be done and it requires the body to be fully restored. Presumably the soul must also find its way back to the body or at least be given some sort of beacon or pull towards it. Thus why not everyone can simply be resurrected in the Warcraft universe and why we can't even rez the very strong ones anytime we want (Terenas' body was cremated, etc).

Undeath is a little more complicated. If the soul is retained in an undead (most undead don't have a soul, they're just meat on puppet strings) it is constrained only by the necromantic magic. Since souls are Nether stuff, and magic comes from the Nether, it's a solid assumption that all magic can affect souls to some degree. Since the body is no longer creating its own energy field to hold the soul in place, and the damaged nature of the body, the necromancer creates an energy prison within the body to forcibly hold the soul in place. In fact, a body is not necessarily needed, as we see with incorporeal undead such as banshees and wraiths. Such an energy can't be infinite or self-replenishing, so they need a constant source of external energy (this could explain why many undead are cannibalistic or parasitic, since its a means of obtaining said energy). Also, since forcing a soul against its will goes against the very structure of the soul, it will inevitably degrade over time. The upside is that the soul now takes less energy to contain. The downside is that person is deteriorating and will eventually be lost forever, turning their body into a regular soulless undead. Should an undead become free-willed or retain their will they must work constantly to repair the damaging nature of their own existence. This can be done by reasserting willpower, hence the reverence by the Forsaken, and by strengthening the necromantic prison. The first is a requirement while the second is optional and mostly serves to repair damage (the prison can likely be weakened by enough trauma to the point where the soul can escape, either by its own will or the pull of the Nether). Failure to adhere to this spells your own doom and can be seen in the unfortunate mindless state Forsaken.

On a side note, the Light's potency against the undead likely stems from its properties as a very ordering force against against the inherent, chaotic contradiction that defines the undead existence. But that's a whole other matter.

All Things Must End

Even with resurrection and necromancy we must all leave the physical plane eventually. It's just an inevitability. One day you'll fall into a pit of lava, die of old age, or run out of corpses to eat. So is that it then? Are we all doomed to return to the Nether? Is oblivion all that awaits us?

But the End is Just the Beginning

No!

This is where the "Worship" part of my subject line comes into play and it stems from the existence of faith magic like the Light.

We know that faith magic is governed by belief, conviction, perseverance... in other words, Willpower. The same stuff that shapes our souls. By extrapolation faith magic can manipulate the Nether into creating pockets of order. These pockets reflect the tenants of the faith (in the same way souls reflect ourselves) and, since they are a part of the Nether, can contain souls within them indefinitely. Well, so long as people keep following said religion. Or maybe the pockets can become strong enough to become self-sustaining or draw their power from other sources. Anyways, this means we can create our own afterlife through worship. In fact, since the Nether is infinite, all the religions in Warcraft can each create their own afterlives.

Yep, you read that correctly. And so we come to my grand answer to one of the biggest points of contention in the lore. Does Elune actually exist? BAM! Yup, and Night Elves that worship her join her realm when they die. Is there really a Light-blessed paradise awaiting paladins? You bet your libram there is! Can my orc really join his or her ancestors? Screw that corpse run, 'cause you'll be drinking with Grom and Dranosh within the hour. Do trolls really go to a voodoo realm after death? Ya mon, and that witch doctor in STV will probably have his slaves too. Demons? The Burning Citadel probably exists within such a Nether bubble. The Emerald Dream is directly connected to the Nether through the Rift of Aln - maybe the Dream is just the best known example of such a place.

Of course, it probably takes a tremendous amount of faith to create such an afterlife. It's doubtful you can just think of Pornwold on your deathbed and expect to go there when you finally kick it. The vitality of such an afterlife would also be similarly dependent. Naturally the faithless and atheistic would be screwed, i.e. why Arthas and Sylvanas only saw darkness when they faced true death.

Spirit Healers! Are a manifestation of some faith somewhere dedicated to guiding lost souls before they lose themselves to the Nether.

Wait, So Why Do Souls Exist?

It's a good question, isn't it? Even if the Titans created all life and all the souls something still had to make them, no? My best answer is that it's survival instinct. Life evolved to protect itself, even in the face of death. It seems a good an answer as any.

Hmmm. But... there is an awful lot of talk about the Old Gods eating souls. That could just be poetic. Although... beings of chaos and madness. The Nether is a realm of chaos and madness. Maybe the Old Gods are Nether energy purely transmuted into matter. Or still part Nether themselves. Maybe they invented souls as a food source. Maybe the Nether isn't infinite, and the bubbles are depleting the raw energy of the Nether... and the Old Gods themselves. Maybe that's why they have such a vendetta against Elune in the new questing zones. Maybe we're actually defeating them through faith. Order versus Chaos... the endless battle. Just something to think about <.<


I actually have time to respond to this post now!

Quote:
02/18/2011 11:12 AMPosted by DahrlaI also don't agree with your theory on 'Elune' it's already been proven she exists, not as a manifestation of Night Elven belief within the Twisting Nether, but as a seperate entity with sentient thought. She often speaks to her priestesses, demi-gods, etc. And even in one instance speaks to the "Player" during a quest in Ashenvale.
Allow me to clarify. I didn't mean that the Nether bubbles were exclusively pockets of space that hold souls in some sort of self-created afterlife. Deities can also be created in this manner, if the worship is as such, but it probably takes several millennia for something like that to occur. So Elune's creation would be something like so:

Ancient Kaldorei settle near the Well of Eternity -> Begin to vehemently worship the moon -> the moon gains a special reverence when it's seen to "sink" into the Well when it sets -> Kaldorei attribute a name to their worship: Elune -> a consciousness begins to form in the Nether, possibly accelerated by the Well -> that consciousness reaches out to its worshipers, validating their faith, and thus intensifying worship -> this positive feedback cycle continues for many years until the consciousness is fully formed along with her domain in the Nether

So in that way Elune really is a true deity, the only one to knowingly exist, and not some hallucination or figment of blind faith.

The Emerald Dream, for example, is not a manifestation of thought and belief created from a pocket of the twisting nether.

It is an alternate dimension of unconcious thought created by Ysera and tied to Azeroth through Nordrassil, and it's been proven that certain beings attuned with the Dream manifest there when they die, even speculated anyone attuned with the dream can also accomplish the same, Cenarius, Druids, Spirit Walkers, etc.

Actually, the Emerald Dream was created by the Titans and given to Ysera and the Green flight. Who's to say the super space people who can create synthetic souls can't also create a sort of soul buffer between the physical realm and the pure Nether? Especially when the Dream is directly connected to both realms through the Dream Portals and the Rift of Aln, respectively. Maybe that was their best plan of action to "starve" the Old Gods and keep them from feeding off Azeroth.
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Last edited by Odok; 06-09-2012 at 06:15 PM..
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Old 06-09-2012, 01:44 PM
neoshadow neoshadow is offline

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Intresting article,quite ambitious
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:26 PM
DreamingGod DreamingGod is offline

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So, Odok... you said what I was trying to get across very beautifully! +1

Blizz, please make it canon. <3
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Old 06-09-2012, 03:04 PM
Euphemialibritannia Euphemialibritannia is offline

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Odok are you secretly an ARM alt account? That was beautiful.
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Old 06-11-2012, 11:05 PM
Genesis Genesis is offline

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That was impressive, Odok. Any thoughts then on the distinctions between the Light and shamanisms's views on spirits and the dead?
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