Monday, June 11, 2018

Starfall: Eschatology

Soundtrack: [1], [2], [3], [4]

Eschatology is the study of the soul. Without delving into a study of different kinds of spirits, suffice it to say that a simplistic definition of a soul is that which persists after physical death. This is hardly a complete definition and doesn’t speak to the nuances of the relationship spirits have with souls. Another description of a soul might be the spirit of a mortal being. This draws much nearer to the mark.

The Nature of Souls

Souls are the immortal essence of beings often associated with mortal beings but also including immortal entities such as spirits. Dissecting this, it is immediately apparent that souls do not die, but that is because they are not alive in the first place. Like spirits, they simply are. This has the unfortunate implication that they can, just as a house or a hill, cease to be. Less obvious is the similarity between spirits and souls. Indeed, it can be said that spirits are souls. This will be further explored in Pneumatology. Lastly, note that souls are associated with mortal beings, meaning that mortal beings have an immortal nature and a mortal nature. When a mortal dies, his body is gone, but the soul continues to exist in some form. That form will be further discussed later.

For the purposes of eschatology, we will limit our concern to the mortal soul. This soul is of particular interest because we are ourselves mortal, and our studies can teach us much of our own lives and what awaits us beyond death. So it is, that we will begin our discussion of the soul by discussing its three constituent parts: the agni, ap, and vayu. Each of these is present in different degrees in all souls. The development and/or dominance of any one of these parts has a profound impact on the creature possessed of it. Let us examine each in turn:

The Agni

Every soul contains an animating spark that causes its existence. This is the agni. This soulfire is what provides the energies of life necessary for health, growth, development, action, and procreation. It stems directly from Ananta, the collective spirit of creation, and through the agni, each and every soul in the universe is connected to her. Thus it is within the agni that what Saint Bernhardt the Lesser called the soul portal exists.

As mentioned above, the agni is what animates, so it stands to reason that as health fades, so too does the agni dim until it is extinguished in death. But I hear you exclaim, “Earlier you said the soul cannot die!” You are correct. The agni neither dies nor is unmade in death. It is siphoned through the soul portal and rejoined in full with Ananta. So it is that the death of the mortal restores his life force to that of the universe.

But what of the agni in life? It resides within a head of animals and within the roots of plants. This is why decapitation is so lethal; it severs the agni from the remainder of the soul, removing the animating force that bound the body to this mortal coil. With nothing to do, the agni turns inward and slips through itself into Ananta.

Souls rich with agni are healthy, vigorous, active, and potent. They tend to grow larger, create many offspring, and promote fiercely charismatic personalities. The agni is also associated with the color red, dancing, fire and warmth.

The Ap

The base part of a soul that drives survival instincts exists within every soul. This is the ap. It is the base partner in the eschatological triumvirate and drives behaviors required for survival and proliferation: consuming, resting, copulating, and violence for self-preservation. This is what drives plants to grow toward sunlight, panthers to hunt, and rabbits to breed. Unlike the agni, the ap is completely separated from Ananta because it has the single job of opposing her call to the agni to return home. The ap drives survival and binds the agni to the body.

While every soul has an ap, not every ap is equally developed. Those of vegetable souls remains vestigial and provides just enough impetus to drive vines to climb, flowers to blossom, roots to seek nutrients and water, etc. Animals are different. They are driven by their ap, which is why the ap is often called the animalistic soul. In humans, the ap is somewhat every bit as strong as in animals, but another part of the soul, the vayu, dominates most people.

The ap resides in the livers of animals and the main bodies of plants. This can be most clearly seen by the swelling of the liver of those who drink to excess. The liver is gorged, strengthening the ap, and driving the often violent and bestial behavior of drunks. Similarly, those who take serious injury to the liver die quickly because their ap is damaged and no longer holds the agni captive.

Souls rich with ap are bestial, crude, passionate, violent, gluttonous, selfish, driven, lustful, and visceral. The ap is also associated with the colors yellow and green, drunkenness, grapes, physical combat, and sex.

The Vayu

The intellectual constituent of the soul that provides reason, thought, knowledge, and memories is called the vayu. A strong vayu drives curiosity, cleverness, creativity, exploration, logic, and reason, and it serves to direct and sometimes restrain the ap, usually for the ultimate purpose of survival. A well-guided ap is a dangerous thing, which is why canny predators like wolves and panthers are so feared. But even plants contain some rudimentary vayu that tells it which direction to lean and where to push roots toward.

Even fewer beings have a developed vayu than do a developed ap, but that doesn’t preclude the simplest entities from having basal thoughts. A tree’s vayu directs its roots downward to anchor it in place and its leaves upward and outward to catch the sun’s warmth. The vayus of animals are stronger still. These provide both the ancestral memory of instinct and the canniness to either track and hunt prey or avoid and flee predators. Indeed, many animals are surprisingly – and often annoyingly – adept at solving puzzles associated with living with humans. Finally, the vayus of people are extremely developed, providing us all with the capability of reason and synthesis. Most people are dominated by their vayu.

The vayu finds the heart as its vessel as evidenced by its inexorable rhythm in the face of all adversity. Like the vayu, the heart is not overwhelmed by circumstances. It has a job to do and it does it. This leads to such sayings as “he has heart” to mean he can drive himself to exceed the limitations of the agni and the demands of the ap.

Souls with a strong vayu tend to be cold, removed, remorseless, and calculating. They are the inexorable logic that acts with little emotion. The vayu is associated with the color blue, lanterns, reading, owls, snakes, writing.


It is tempting to say that a person’s personality resides within his vayu, but that does not account for the unavoidable way animals display personalities of their own, and how some plants even respond differently to different people tending them. This suggests that personality arises from the combination of agni, ap, and vayu. Where the vayu dominates, creatures and people are contemplative, mindful, and observant, but when the ap dominates, they are mercurial, defensive, aggressive, etc. The agni tends to affect a person’s enthusiasm, extrovertedness, likeability, and so on.

Where two aspects of the soul are in conflict, subtler feelings, like ambivalence, anxiety, guilt, melancholy, and shame, emerge. Indeed, most complex emotions result from a mixing of responses from different parts of the soul. And since a personality is a conglomeration of thought patterns and emotional responses, the personality must not emanate from any one constituent piece, but rather the whole.

The Origin of Souls

It is often of value to know the origin of something when trying to understand what it is. So next we will consider from where souls originate – Ananta. The entirety of existence is suffused with an all-reaching spirit known as Ananta. Often personified as a female, she is the collective soul from which all other souls originate and in whom all souls share. That is to say, all souls are part of Ananta, and she a part of them.

When a child is conceived, it shares in its mother’s soul until birth. So it is that a healthy mother produces a healthy child, but a sickly mother produces a weak baby. If the child is miscarried, the mother’s soul is wounded, but nothing is lost aside from some flesh. But if the child survives to child birth, its first breath inhales a fragment of Ananta, and this becomes its soul. This newborn soul consists of agni, ap, and vayu in the proportions normal to such a creature.

From this, we see that from our first moments of life, we are connected to the ubiquitous spirit of creation, and that we are all invested with the same potential for growth. Moreover, the piece of Ananta that enters a newborn carries with it fragments of its past lives that survived death and rejoining with the collective soul. Mystics often sensitize themselves to these experiences through meditation and seek answers and guidance in them.

Death and the Release of Souls

Knowledge of the origin of souls is still half of the story. Where souls go when someone dies is also an eschatological question. While stories of final rewards and punishments abound, those who have studies the ways of the soul generally agree that upon death a few things happen. The soul is released from the body with the final breath; the agni immediately tries to rejoin Ananta; and the vayu forcibly carries the ap to reunite with Ananta. Once the ap is reabsorbed into the collective spirit, the vayu passes to the Akashic Library where it deposits all that it has learned before mingling itself with Ananta until such a time as it can be reborn into a new life.

This process is fragile and can go wrong. Sometimes the agni does not rejoin the world spirit, leading to mindless, animated corpses. Other times, the vayu cannot wrest the ap from the mortal world, resulting in particularly vicious haunts. Other times, only the vayu exits the body, creating hungry undead. And still other times, the entire soul discorporates to become a ghost. The possibilities go on and on, but flaws in the process of death are the primary source of undead in the world. It’s also worth noting that it is through the reabsorption of souls that demons slowly taint Ananta.

These flaws are easily avoided, and are the purpose of psychopomps. If even the death spirits cannot shepherd a soul back to Ananta, mystics and priests can assist by shriving the spirit, and in extreme cases, exorcising it. And if none of these work, the spirit can even be forcibly dispersed through magic or spiritual intervention.

What's Next?

Now that we know more about souls and have an understanding about how they relate to each other and the world spirit Ananta, we can begin to consider what sorts of mystical supernatural powers may arise from this. These will be built using GURPS Powers and while resembling 

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