Magic and the Divine
All magic in the world stems from a singular source of power. Your soul, the spells you cast, the power in your +1 sword, and the monsters and gods of the world. This source is called Magic.
Magic is just opening , funneled through belief, tradition, and superstition. Belief in a deity will open a gateway to Magic, the stronger the belief, the sturdier the gateway is. Same is true for other magical elements of the world.
Magic as a whole is a chaotic force though. Like the weather, there are patterns that can be detected and followed but there is no guarantee that the patterns will hold true in the future. People apply narratives to the whims of magical patterns. Because Magic is so tied to consciousness the weather may be aware, and adjust.
Each living thing in the world has a soul, as a matter of knowable, provable, fact. Your soul will fade away and rejoin the magical firmament when you die. Using powerful and taboo magic a wizard maybe able to reassemble your soul, like picking the exact grains of sand from the beach.
The Council of Stories
All things have a soul and there are “stories” that these souls play out since time immemorial. Each time the “stories” play out the characters and details will be different but the structure will be the same. (The characters in The Hero’s Journey are different but the structure is the same) eg. The Knight of Flowers will destroy the Shadow Beast.
The Council of Stories isn’t an actual thing, maybe it is who knows, but it’s the force/entity/concept that maintains that the “stories” play out in due time.
From the annals of the Grand Archives of Morburgh...
*Before you lies a great dusty tome, its pages frayed and yellowed by time and usage. Its brown leather cover is cracked and worn. It is blank, save for a single word, neatly printed along the spine. "Quenzin".*
*The book is ancient, its original publication dating back millenia to the days of the Cantellian Empire. It is an edited collection of documents which were themselves ancient when this book was first published. You open the cover and are greeted by the word "HERESY" printed in large font above rows of neatly printed text.*
"HERESY. This document is a collection of the insane scrawlings of Quenzin the Mad, soothsayer of the Zarfenzian Permarchy. Exiled as a Anti-Binitarian, he was hunted down and put to death by the ancient King Zarfen the Last for propagating his mad doctrine throughout the countryside.
Let this book stand as evidence of his madness. May none be again swayed by the heresy of Unitarianism. Long live the Emperor"
*you thumb through the pages of the tome, passing across inscrutable sketches and lists of ingredients. Many pages seem to be incantations written in a language you don't recognize. Finally you open a page which catches your interest*
On the nature of souls - Eddies in the Magical Firmament
As any scholar is aware, all civilized and intelligent beings are possessed of souls. Some believe these motes of essence are conferred by the gods, and that souls are an essential spark of divine energy which separates humans and elves from monsters and animals. This believe is an essential component of binitarianism and is completely and totally false.
The truth that the Zarfenzian Exarchs fight tirelessly to erase from the world is that ALL life forms, large and small, are born with some form of a soul. Humans, elves, earthworms, and even Monsters have souls. Most importantly, ALL souls are essentially comprised of the same thing in the same way – Magic.
This is the essence of Unitarianism. The Binitarian dichotomization of the Divine and the Arcane is nothing more than a laughable bit of egotism propagated by self-important rulers and religious leaders over the centuries.
EDITORS NOTE: Here Quenzin is using Binitarian as a far-reaching label for any doctrine which correctly posits a separation of the arcane and the Divine. Students: Please take care when using these terms. See your university manuals for policy surrounding the proper referencing of heretical texts and terminology.
When a life form is created on the material plane, it attracts and becomes the vessel for a tiny piece of energy drawn from the endless magical firmament. As a being grows in age and vitality, it naturally draws in more of this energy. Over time, the energy is moulded into a perfect reflection of the being's essence - a mature soul.
The soul is where the essential spirit and consciousness of a being resides. Its energy is anchored within the material plane by the body, existing simultaneously within the material plane and the magical firmament.
As any practitioner of the medical arts is aware, once the bodily anchor expires, the soul is frustratingly fragile and temporary. Like a tightly wound ball of yarn, a soul quickly unravels if left to its own devices. Anchorless, it shrinks, thrashes about, changes irreversibly, and inevitably succumbs to entropy, vanishing from the material plane and rejoining the magical firmament.
One needs only to look at botched resurrections or the necromantic arts to see this phenomenon in action, which was most famously displayed when Zarfen the Second Last (then known as Zarfen the Last) was discovered too late upon his second-to-last death before being stored within a soulstone and placed into a new body.
Tell me, how can a soul be comprised of some godly energy inaccessible by the non-devout when any apprentice Essence Mage can draw its energy from a being and form it into an Arcane spell? How can souls be the gift of a loving deity when they are so fragile, so changeable, and so ubiquitous? Is there a cockroach god conferring immortal souls upon cockroaches so that they might live out good and proper cockroach lives and ascend to the cockroach heavens? Nonsense. Souls are indistinguishable from any other mote of arcane energy, save that they are imprinted by the essence of an anchoring life form. Any other interpretation is willful ignorance, hubris, and anti-intellectual folly. *The chapter ends. You are drawn to a page reference scrawled on a fraying margin along the page*
On the Nature of the Magical Firmament and the true essence of so-called "Gods"
Part 1: Magic and the Firmament
As anyone trained in the Mathematical sciences is aware, our Material Plane is comprised of distinct firmaments layered on top of one another. One for space, one for time, and one for Magic.
That the magical firmament exists parallel to the others is universally known throughout the world, but its essential nature is known to very few. Knowledge of the firmament is muddied by the ravings of Binitarians of every culture imaginable, and by the uninformed theories of local seers, soothsayers, and sorcerers.
As far as I can surmise, the magical firmament is the essential foundation of the universe. It intersects with space and time, as evidenced by the mechanics of teleportation and the localized nature of “divine” phenomena, but it is not beholden to its sister firmaments. (see Count Horeq’s treatise on teleportation for more on this, though do note that his theories of polymorphic magic are hopelessly confused by his binitarian view on souls).
Living beings access the magical firmament in much the same way an artist adds depth to a flat painting, or a musician blends time with sound to produce a song. Specific actions and intents, when performed by a being with a soul, naturally draw energy from the magical firmament into the material plane. The soul, existing simultaneously in both realms, acts as the conduit for this phenomenon.
A wizard may achieve this through replicable, studied forms which are proven to produce a particular result. Sorcerers and Divine casters access magic through willpower – Wild and individualistic on the part of the Sorcerer, ordered and time-worn on the part of the Divine caster. A sorcerer charts their own path toward magical power, like hacking through thick underbrush, while a divine caster follows old and well-trodden pathways, carved through the universe by repetitive use.
The magical firmament may sound uniform from this description, but it is as multifaceted and varied as the material plane itself. When a powerful magic-user accesses other Planes, elemental or otherwise, they are simply altering their coordinates within the magical firmament, just as a traveler moves through space, or as we all move through time.
Magic, grand and powerful though it may seem, is no less mundane and natural than gravity or the seas. It exists as a force in our world like anything else and has a measurable, predictable impact on objects it interacts with. That it is largely unknown and inaccessible to the lowest rungs of society does not meaningfully separate it from any other form of knowledge or material object. It simply is.
Part 2: On “Gods”
When a living being is born or dies, or accesses magic in some way, it creates ripples and eddies which flow in endless patterns throughout the whole of the magical firmament. Because of the frequency of such events, the natural state of the magical firmament is one of utter chaos and entropy. I suspect that the natural state of the firmament is one of calm, and that it is only through interference by the material plane that chaos becomes the natural state. After all, the end result of chaos is another sort of order.
At any rate, the chaos of the magical firmament has far reaching effects on the material plane. A cantrip cast in Morburgh may cause the spontaneous bloom of a forest 200 years later in the Weirlands, which in turn may cause a magical storm over the Sea of Spires. When magical eddies form at a large scale, they may twist and turn enough that an approximation of a soul is formed within the firmament – often at a scale unachievable by a bodily anchor.
This “soul-like entity” existing anchorless in the magical firmament may eventually take on a form of consciousness as it naturally intersects with phenomena on the material plane. In doing so it may take on a form of a personality - an essential will which is made manifest throughout a particular sphere of influence. Note once more the intersection of the magical firmament with time and space, nonlinear though it may be. Unlike a soul, however, this entity is unanchored, and thus inherently unstable and temporary.
This is a God, but more importantly, this is all that a God is – Weather.
One need only look at the history of great civilizations to see the truth in this. A people rise, their divinity apparent to all in the strength of their magic and in the miracles that open the path to greatness before them. Each time, just as their influence reaches a crescendo and their power appears unstoppable, they are abandoned - left to call out to an empty void, wondering where they went wrong.
I suspect that the magical wrinkles we call Gods might be sustained and perpetuated in some way by the belief of their followers, but history shows this to be a stopgap at best. A God might exist for a handful of years, or it may persist for millenia. Regardless, entropy inevitably prevails, and a people is abandoned.A large proportion of cultural myths surrounding gods incorporate stories of cyclical waxing and waning of divine power. This is no coincidence, but rather a product of cultures attempting to apply permanence to an essentially impermanent phenomenon.
While a “god” exists, it certainly seems to act as its followers describe. The miracles that paved the way for the rise of the Zarfenzian Permarchy are well-documented. But so too is the cessation of miracles and the reversal which occurred at the Battle of the Seven Spokes, in which the Tollerian halflings defeated an army ten times their number and twice their size with makeshift arms and armor.
For more on the interactions between Gods, divine casters, souls, and the magical firmament, see chapter MCLXVIII.
-Quenzin the Wise.