The Aetherium and the Nature of the Soul
An explanation of souls, spirits, and what happens after death. Part of my main setting, first introduced in Primal Essence, Primals, and the Creation of the Realms.
Possibly the Primals' most significant creation, the Aetherium is a sort of parallel 'metarealm' from which souls are born. What are souls, exactly? In simplest terms, they're a vastly imperfect recreation of a Primal; a consciousness without form, but lacking a Primal's vast creative power. Souls are constantly evolving, growing in power as they soak up energy in the Aetherium or gather experience and spiritual growth in mortal life.
When a mortal being is born, the empty vessel populates itself with an available soul in the Aetherium. (Souls always outnumber available bodies, so no data exists on what becomes of a body born with no soul to fill it.) Souls unlucky enough to not be born for long periods of time develop far differently than those that live mortal lives, and instead become spirits, known to many as fey. These fey seem strange and alien in nature to mortals because they lack the experience and mental framework of mortal life. In fact, their unborn nature means they have an innate ability to manifest on the Materium, more and more as they grow in power. A fey that dies in any place but the Aetherium will return there, but if they die in their native Realm their essence will fall apart, becoming nothing but inert Aetheric dust.
After a mortal dies, typically their soul returns to the Aetherium to await reincarnation. However, a soul whose morality in life was sufficiently good or evil instead travels to the Good or Evil Realms (proper names pending, suggestions welcome!) and souls who were especially devoted to a particular god in life are taken to that god's domain. Souls in the Realms of Good/Evil become beings of that Realm, known as Graces or Viles respectively, or perhaps are used by the Graces or Viles in other ways. Souls in a god's domain either become that god's celestial servants, or are sent back to mortal life, where they can strengthen faith in that god over their lifetime. (The significance of faith to a divine being is another topic I'll cover in its own submission.)
Lastly, sometimes souls don't return at all. This is usually the result of a soul with a powerful will, and can also be induced artificially through necromancy. Souls trapped on the Materium (or in other Realms where they aren't meant to linger) cannot return to the Aetherium naturally, and frequently end up damaged as a result. This can lead to all sorts of unpleasantness, especially if that soul returns to the cycle of reincarnation somehow.
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? Responses (6)-5
A good discussion on the subject. Not revolutionary, but it helps tie things together.
Consistency was my main focus, so that's nice to have validated. The filthy, dirty truth is that my framework is the very much D&D cosmology the first iteration of the setting was steeped in, and I had to keep things similar enough to still fit the same rules. I think I've done about the best I can do to cut out all the overt D&D lore, and the more I work on it the more all the little details tie back together in significant ways, where before there were no connections at all.
Update: Filled in a gap in the universe, specifically the nature of unborn souls and what exactly they become.
I think this is well thought out, concise and a necessary write up for world building. It deals with the origin of life, the after life and gives a narrative mechanic for the transcendent nature of many level based character systems. One the things I enjoy about genre fiction are the subtle differences different authors take when covering the same ground. This explanation of the soul may not be revolutionary but it is original enough to give your worlds its own flavor. But it also raises questions with regard to character generation. How do your metaphysics deal with nature versus nurture of individuality? Does the soul carry with it personality? To what extent does the mortal coil influence that personality of the immortal soul and how much of the influence carries over into immortality?
Hmm. I'd say it depends on the soul. Aspects of personality will always carry over, and how much early life (nurture) influences the end result depends on a lot of factors. Generally a soul won't keep all of its memories between lives, though they're more buried than lost. These memories can be unlocked through meditation, or through dealing with powerful cosmic beings.
Ah-ha and Hmmm...
Why is the soul 'repressed' in the new host? Is that by design?
So if powerful souls are worth more to gods (faith wise) and those souls are reincarnated. Does that mean that certain newborns are worth more to the gods faith wise? This could be an excellent way to play up the old destiny troupe.
I imagine a recluse with an acne riddled face that is rarely touch by the sun and a manner that is painfully shy and burdened with many irrational anxieties. Yet she is curse with the soul a previously owned by a physically powerful and charismatic warlord who never knew defeat on the battle field and wrote epic timeless love poems for each of his 30 wives. Our poor shut in is now constantly beset by missionary types at her cottage door, trying to draw her out to church services. When our poor girl would rather just stay home to play alone with lead soldiers, and write awful but self serving erotica.
Will the general's soul be diminished in value by its time in the recluse? When you do character generation in your world are you going to have the character write their own soul stories or roll em out or are you going assign them as need be?