Friday, October 26, 2012

The Magnitude of Spirits

As a follow-up to yesterday's discussion, here is an excerpt from Guilmar the Theologian's The Magnitude of Spirits, a book that was widely suppressed at the beginning of the 10th Age but has come to be accepted as part of the corpus on spirits and gods.

Guilmar the Theologian

What separates the most humble of spirits from the very Gods themselves? Wherein lies the distinction between the Gods of men and the ancient Gods who ruled the world when the giants stood astride the whole north? It is not a fundamental difference, an essential difference, but rather one of power: that is, one of magnitude. A satyr is no different, elementally, from one of the Aelio themselves. What, then, of mere mortals? Is there something which separates them from the spirit world? We are inclined to answer both yes and no. For is it not blasphemy to suggest that man is on the same field as the very Gods? And yet, man possesses a reasoning soul and the capacity for immortality. Again, we are forced to answer that the truth lies along a continuum of magnitude.

The very least creatures in the world are those which are neither living nor dead but rather show processes of both worlds. Bodies possessed by cognitive souls, however rudimentary, but that have no generative (growing, changing) souls within them are the very weakest and least of all spirits. These creatures cannot grow and change, they cannot regenerate lost flesh or blood, they cannot function in any way as living things. They are, therefore, the unliving. They are despised as unnatural, but that is not truly the case. Vampiric spirits and other such creatures have existed since the beginning of time in the dark places of the world, and they are neither natural or not. They are something dark and twisted and to be avoided at all costs.

The unliving cannot ascend up the ladder of the spirits on their own. Lacking generative souls, they must replace those with something else or be forever doomed to have no free will of their own. Some draw links to the plane of negative material, and some to the plane of positive material, but all those who shall increase in power and who may draw upon the Art have some other soul active within them.

Upon the ladder of the spirits, the next most powerful are those which we call mortal. We have three types of soul: motive, generative, and cognitive. These make us capable of motion, capable of growth, and capable of thought. The most base of unliving are granted only the motive soul while those called “free-willed” have a motive and cognitive soul and perhaps a form of substitute which makes up for their generative soul.

Mortals, however, the living, have a road that ends with death. We are not blessed with an eternity to improve ourselves but rather a limited span. And yet there are those who have drunk from the well of eternity, from the very Waters of Life: Pog the Jester and the Necromancer. Mighty magics may alter the makeup of the mortal soul, may give him small eternities to live. But whatever the method, most mortals go to their graves as mortals still.

Above mortals on the ladder of spirits one will find those which dwell in the natural world. They have great magical powers, likely from a fourth (magical) soul much like those possessed by dragons. Some have posited that a powerful inner pneuma is the cause, which is much more powerful than the pneuma possessed by mortals. I truly believe myself that a combination of both are the cause: the spirit-pneuma being a side-effect of the presence of a magical soul, which comes from their closeness to the earth.

So we may establish several classes of beings and the relative hierarchy in which they exist:

The Unliving
  • Without a cognitive soul, the least of the unliving
  • Those unliving possessed of a cognitive soul

  • Men, dwarves, and races of that ilk
  • Elves, who decay not
  • Giants, Trolls, and Faerie
  • Dragons

  • Nature Spirits
  • Servitor Spirits
  • Hero-gods and Quasi-deities
  • Demigods and Lesser Deities
  • The Aelio themeslves

It must be clear by now that these three divisions in no way indicate the necessary power of the beings below them. For example, no nature spirit could stand up to a confrontation with a giant or a dragon, yet they are nobler than these creatures for they are of a higher stuff—they are possessed of the earth and it of them. Yet, the nature spirits, while nobler in philosophy, are much more bound by certain rules and geographical confinements than are even the least of the mortal men. So while on the one hand they represent a nobler order of being, on the other they are lacking many things that make even the lowliest mortal truly mortal.

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