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Let’s get to know more about the setting of my upcoming novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet. It’s out late this fall but you can find out about the world now . . .
Souls And More
The cycle of birth, death, reincarnation, souls, and hauntings by annoying relatives is of great interest to the humans whose worlds circle the star Avenoth. After all, since death isn’t the end (or the beginning for that matter), it helps to keep up on everything outside the entire body-of-flesh thing so many people live. Also it pays pretty well as a profession.
To explain the voluminous writings, theories, and mad drug-fueled rantings about the nature of the human soul and the like would be impossible. This presents a quick summary of what is known about the cycle of human life, reincarnations, and the poorly-named “Afterlife.”
Souls are self-referential, self-conscious collections of information that can exist independent of a body. Possessing no actual substance, they are best thought of as “engraved into the world” by the actions of thinking and cognition. Souls seem to form by conscious thought and activity, and if a human is not reincarnated, the soul seems to be fully formed by 2-4 years of ages.
Only humans have souls proper, but various animals may have “soul-like” qualities, and human souls have been known to attach to various animals in a form of reincarnation (see below).
Souls are not solid, permanent objects but are ever-changing collections of information, growing in complexity life-to-life. They may in some cases degenerate, and very weak souls may disintegrate entirely, bringing madness and insanity to the human whose soul fragments that cannot be cured. This soullessness is not always easy to diagnose by non-professionals, and sadly many horrible dictators and criminals who had gone soulless were not detected in time.
Echoes are “soul-fragments” or “soul-leavings” created by heightened emotions, often negative ones. They exist as “vibes” in areas where they were formed, burned into the spiritual structure of that part of the world. Places rich in echoes give people “vibes,” visions, flashbacks of memories not their own, and many other unpleasant experiences. Many places scarred during the war, such as the South or the bombed areas of the North are rich in echoes.
Echoes may latch onto an existing soul and influence it for good or ill.
Echoes are usually caused by traumatic and stressful events, but may also occur due to soul-disintegration brought on by madness or degeneration.
Echoes are fed upon by demons, who use them to construct personalities. Strong enough echoes can be used as seeds to spawn conscious demons.
Ghosts are full souls latched onto a given area, thing, person, family, etc. Ghosts may or may not be conscious of what they’re doing depending on their intention and state of death.
Many ghosts haunt with full knowledge of what they’re doing, at least as far as they are able. However even well-intentioned haunting tend to stay around longer than needed, which may require an exorcist.
Most ghosts can be unhooked from their anchor in the physical world with the right spells, negotiation with the ghost, or a good old-fashioned exorcism. Exorcism, however, is rarely subtle except for some gods – it’s more akin to turning hairspray into a flamethrower, re-purposing one’s connection to the gods to “shock” supernatural phenomena.
Ghosts are not afforded civil protections unless people affected by the specific ghost lobby for such protection.
Reincarnation is an accepted phenomena on the worlds of Avenoth since it happens to a lot of people. Doctors, clerics, therapriests, and the like will explain, often at length, that it’s not quite the romanticized version people expect. Sometimes people listen.
Reincarnation occurs when an existing soul without a body latches onto a developing soul – usually two months before to six months after birth. The reincarnated soul and the forming soul merge into one, though the reason for reincarnations vary wildly from borderline haunting (a soul trying to incarnate for a reason) to accidental “latching on” to a body. Many gods take a hand in reincarnation, since souls are part of their business.
However, having access to the memories, skills, and such of a past life – or indeed lives, is a complex process. Because the soul has to deal with a forming brain, with it’s own experiences, reincarnation is not really “someone waking up in a new body.” Instead the old soul’s past life or lives becomes accessible to the new personality that is forming.
Evolutionary theologists argue it’s the best of all worlds – information and knowledge can be passed on, but it doesn’t overwhelm the formation of a healthy personality.
Reincarnation is often left alone to run its course, but doctors, teachers, and therapists stand ready to help reincarnates manage their past lives. Children may have to deal with new memories, unexpected inclinations, and unexpected deficits or fears. Sensitive management is the key.
The “Afterlife” is a general description of where souls go when they aren’t or don’t want to reincarnate. There is a huge, complex series of heavens, hells, and purgatories next to and part of the Godsrealm to deal with human souls.
Heavens – Are general terms for places where souls with similar ideas cluster for positive reasons, many times built and maintained by a god of similar inclinations. Here they may partake in their own societies, politics, and activities, at times beyond human understanding. The gods themselves have great benefit from Heavens, as they are creatures of concept, and souls that participate in those concepts, those archtetypes, enrich the life of a god.
Staying in a Heaven too long usually mean a human soul evolves into something non-human, usually an agent of a god, part of the complex divine bureaucracy, or even a very minor god themselves. Some who had a connection to a god in human life, become saints, agents of the god that may also appear in the flesh.
Hells – Hells are for confining dangerous souls or those riven with pathology and self-hatred. Hells are places of purging, a kind of spiritual flagellation, usually self-inflicted. Souls rarely stay in hells more than a few decades, and usually reincarnate after that.
Some Hells are rumored to house horrible people, dangerous maniacs, and perhaps even Lost Gods.
Purgatories – A general term for “holding pens” for souls that may be established for various reasons, such as the souls having escaped traumatic experiences, or being unsure of where to go.
Some souls – and even gods – eventually evolve into a state where they do not reincarnate nor do they stay in the Afterlife or the godsrealm. They are said to have Moved On, and they pass into a state beyond knowing. The Eight Sage religion treats Moving On as an appropriate goal, that to cling too long to the cycle of life is to limit oneself and reinforce misery. Others consider Moving On as an inevitable thing to happen.