Re: Souls Discussion

From: Greg Stafford <Greg_at_1u2OzndiHngfxrHadH1MYrLn_TycPttzCKbupm3ZIY39YZ_FIhrCgavfKT4VNetfIYPiqIJ>
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2008 08:57:53 -0800

To facilitate Boris' questions, I am going to here repeat a former letter that is almost on this subject.

  Orlanthi Souls

> From: Simon Hibbs <>

unleashes a powerful set of insights on this complex and dangerous subject.

I will attempt to comment.

> First of all Greg's discussion of the states of conciousness of the

> survivors of the Great Darkness reminds me of similar discussions

> regarding the changing states of conciousness of the inhabitants of

> the Green Age.

Consciousness is the key.

However, understanding consciousness is an extremely difficult subject. Like an eye trying to look at itself...

> If in the Great Darkness it was impossible for the

> survivors to Trust strangers, their state of conciousness rendered

> trust impossible for them.

This is essentially correct.

> Similarly in the Green Age untill gender

> was realised, it was impossible for anyone to recognise he concepts of

> male and female. I don't think this was a case of repairing damage,

> but more of evolution. In the Great darkness we might talk about

> damage because there was an actual loss of faculty.

A matter of awareness, and of self-awareness.

> When Greg says that X was impossible for Great Darkness inhabitants, I

> assume he means X was impossible for them 'in their current state of

> conciousness'. Once their state of conciousness was changed, then many

> things previously impossible for them became natural and easy.

> Therefore what we're realy talking about is the difference between

> teaching someone a fact or skill, and altering their state of

> conciousness. Might we say that the first is a change in the mind and

> the latter is a change in the soul?

Nicely said.

> If this model is acceptable, might we characterise this imparement as

> soul damage?

Yes, some of us might. :)

> As has been pointed out, different Gloranthan cultures vew the soul in

> different ways - as their Breath, the warmth of the sun on their face,

> etc, etc. I think most Gloranthan cultures actualy have much more

> sophisticated models than this and would recognise that the whole

> person is composed of many parts, including mortal and immortal parts.

> (In one myth Orlanth is said to have been cut into a given number of

> pieces (48?), which was one less than the total number he could have

> been cut into (all 49?) and that as a result he was not destroyed.

> This indicates the existence of quite a complex model for the

> composition of gods, at least, among Theyalans.)

The difficulties of language are compounded by the restrictions put on things by the game definition chosen for this. That is, defining soul as this, spirit as that, etc. But we will go on.

In fact, when Orlanthi have five parts to their soul, it is as or more correct to say they have five souls. (The monotheistic cultures of Earth are unusual in thinking that people have only one soul. You know, one God, one soul, etc.)

Gloranthans are like other polytheistic people, and have several. Orlanthi have 5, Dara Happans have 6, Lunars have 7.

> The key difference between cultures is the value that they place on

> different parts of the person.

On different parts of their soul, or different souls, if you would.

> Solar worshipers still have a breath,

> and Orlanthi still experience the warmth of the sun, they might even

> be prepared to agree that these are both parts of a person. The key

> difference is the value that they place on them. Orlanthi most

> probably do not consider the 'warm' part of themselves to be important

> after death, while Solars most likely have a similar disregard for the

> fate of their 'windy' part on departing the mortal world. As is often

> the case, it's not the physical observation, or even interpretation of

> the world or their magic that greatly distinguishes cultures in

> Glorantha, it's the value systems they apply to them.

Or on which part of themselves their consciousness lies, or lives, or is awakened.

> The relationships of souls, spirits and essences is just the same

> question elevated to another level. I don't think Malkioni have any

> difficulty accepting that Animists do have spirits, for example, and

> these spirits can continue a rudimentary existence after death. In

> Glorantha the existence of such things is objectively verifiable, but

> they would deny the value of such an existance, eternaly severed from

> any possibility of Solace.


> In the case of the Great Darkness some survived at the cost of their

> humanity (Ogres, for example). At least the people we are talking

> about were still human, but the fact that such a loss was possible

> shows how much was at stake.


> When it comes to the relationship between mortal and immortal parts of

> a person (body and soul), we don't have much in the way of explicit

> statements of the beliefs of Gloranthans, but quite a bit of material

> that we can use as a basis for deduction.

The physical body is considered to be a soul. The Orlanthi consider this to be the earth part.

> We know that elements of Gloranthan's personalities continue to exist,

> and are contactable after death. Therefore a corporeal body is not

> necessery for the continuing existence or functioning of the soul of a

> Gloranthan. Therefore it would at first appear that physical damage or

> dysfunction shouldn't have any effect on the functioning of the soul,

I think it has some, insofar as functioning in the physical world. Disembodied beings cannot function in the physical world. They have no (well, actually vastly diminished) contact, no anchor.

> or even the mind.

I would leave Mind out of this. This is a different angle on the issue of consciousness.

> However we also know that these undying parts are severely constrained

> in their potential compared to their former mortal selves. While I

> don't think these have been codified as formal rules anywhere, it

> would appear that the dead are incapable of innovation, tend to repeat

> activities or behaviours practiced in life, and may not even be able

> to learn new facts on anything but a very short-term basis. They are

> 'shadows of their former selves', and this even seems to hold true for

> those brought back to life through resurection.

This is, in fact, a fair description of the gods as well, who are constrained by the Great Compromise to those restrictions.

They can Be, but they can not Do.

They are Beings, but they are not Doings.

Where "do" means innovate.

> So there is a difference in quality between a deceased soul and a

> living soul that is part of a physical body. Furthermore we know that

> damage or dysfunction of the body can directly lead to death, the

> transformational experience that has such a distinct effect upon the

> soul. So is it much of a reach to deduce that physical damage or

> dysfunction short of the lethal might affect the soul too?

It might, or maybe not.

I would point out that damaging other souls would have similar effect.

But the core consciousness, what I have called the individual soul, is largely unchanged, but its functions is different, its perceptions are different, its ability to act are different.

> I must admit I'm not entirely happy with this line of reasoning,

> buecause personaly I dislike the notion that a real-world medical

> concept such as 'brain damage' can be of any help in understanding

> modes of conciousness. I still hold to that dislike because in the

> case of the Great Darkness survivors the flaw was spiritual, not

> physical. It was resolved through spiritual enlightenment, not medical

> treatment.


> Furthermore it may lead to a confusion of cause with

> effect. Even if, for the sake of argument, we say that in the real

> world the soul is a product of the action of the mechanisms of the

> brain,

Some say that. Materialists thrive on this.

> In Glorantha I think that material existence is a product of

> spiritual causes. Therefore a cause and effect model that is useful

> and predictive in the real world could be faulty and missleading if

> applied to Glorantha.

Unless, of course, the "real world" is also a product of consciousness. :)

That can be--and has been--debated ad nauseum about the real world.

However, please let me say that this reality--that the physical world is a product of consciousness--underlies Glorantha in specific (and mythology in general.)

I would hope, though, that since this is a Gloranthan list we can keep the discussion to Glorantha.

GREAT essay, Simon. Very insightful and precise.


    Greg Stafford
    President, Issaries. Inc.

Love without reserve, 
Enjoy without restraint, 
Live without dead time.


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