Objects with almost sentient behavior like nightblood in Warbreaker share important links with the Spren from tWoK. If you understand the spren you will understand a lot about the connection between the books.
and I realized that I HAD to understand spren. I can't be sure that I do now, of course, but I think I have found a reasonable explanation about their nature.
Again: I'm aware that probably most of what I am going to say has already been discussed, mentioned or discarded somewhere in these >30.000 posts. If you have a problem with that, I invite you to read the epilogue of tWoK, especially Wit's thoughts about what men value most.
Like everything posted on these forums, ideas are based on some premises. The lack of one will completely undermine everything I say, that's sure. That's the premises I base my explanation upon:
I will be open to discuss these with you, if you feel the need. Still, I think that I will give you enough to discuss anyway.
1 – The energy used in every magic system is basically the same: the power of creation (herafter referred to as 'Power'). Its use is influenced by the Shard who is responsible for the magic system.
2 – The Power is spiritual energy. It can manifest in solid, liquid or gaseous form, though.
2 – An Investiture is a transfer of the power of creation from subject to subject or from subject to object.
3 – There are two forms of Investiture: primary Investiture is the transfer of Power from a Shard to subject or object. Secondary Investitures are transfers from human to subject or object.
4 – For the sake of argumentation I will only refer to Honor as being the Shard involved with Surgebinding. If it's Cultivation instead, this won't change anything because of premise #1.
The starting point of my argumentation is the bond between a spren and a human which gives the human access to magical abilities. I believe Nohadon called it the Nahel Bond. I will speak of the 'Bond'. (James' Bond. not funny, I know) The Bond is the best thing to give us some clues to understand spren.
How the Bond works
Any human living in the Cosmere needs to get invested before it can perform any magic. On Roshar people get invested because of how they act. The process of getting invested is in fact a Primary Investiture. Ie the transfer of the Power from Honor to a human.
Which means that the Bond is a Primary Investiture.
Primary Investiture in Allomancy is the swallowing of Lerasium. Learasium is Power in solid form. In other words, you get an amount of spiritual energy from Preservation directly. This rewrites one's spritual DNA (sDNA). In the terms of the author of the Ars Arcana, it rewrites your Spiritweb. The sDNA is thereafter transferred by genetics.
In AonDor, Primary Investiture would be the Shaod. The Shaod being some surge of Dor coming upon you. The Dor is, of course, nothing else than the Power (premise #1). So you are invested with the Power, with spiritual energy. You even receive that much Power, that you start to glow and heal quickly.
So somehow, through the Bond, Power is transferred from Honor to bondee.
The bondee is a human of course. Humans have three parts: body, mind and spirit. In the cosmere however, spirit is nothing else than Power:
Power is spiritual energy
AonRao is the Aon for Spirit. If used, the Aon releases a burst of energy or 'power'. Also, the huge AonRao which is Elantris and the four outer cities, makes the Aons much more powerful.
I say that the spiritual part of a human (the soul) is made from the Power. I also say, that humans in the Cosmere, in order to gain sentience, and become human, absolutely need to have a soul. That's why Preservation needed to put some part of his own Power (spiritual) in every human so that they could gain sentience. (This also is an Investiture, but not one sufficient for magical abilities, see below)
So the human is made of his body (physical aspect), his mind (cognitive aspect) and his soul (spiritual aspect). The soul would be nothing else than some of the Power itself.
From the HoA annotations to chapter 49 part 2, we know that even though every Scadrialian has a bit of Preservation in them, it is generally not enough for Allomancy. This means that you have not enough spirit. You can gain enough spirit by Lerasium, reaching the sufficient level of spirit required for magic.
If you apply this to humans on Roshar, then I'd say that every human has a part of Honor in them ('creator of mankind'). This spiritual part, which is required for sentience, is not enough for Surgebinding though.
That's where spren come to play their role. If you gain magical abilities through the Bond, then this means that the spren procures you enough spirit to reach the required level.
A spren is able to do so, because it itself is spiritual energy. That's not new at all, I know. But. By forming the Bond the human gets the spirit he needs. The spren mingles itself with the human, becoming a part of him. While touching the human spirit, it also touches the human mind, thus gaining intelligence in return.
So, in summary, as the result of the Bond, the human raises his spirit-level from like 30% to 100%. That's how he gains enough spirit, which is nothing else than the Power of creation.
Because the human has a spirit-level of 100 from then on (until the Bond breaks), he will be able to perform Surgebindings.
This is why Surgebinding is not genetic.
About the nature of spren
We'eve seen so far that Syl is spiritual energy which can gain sentience by bonding with a human and tapping into his mind.
I say that this is the requirement for sentience in the Cosmere: cognitive and spiritual aspects bound together. While everything has a cognitive aspect, there is only some few things that have spiritual aspects. Humans, mainly. Which makes sentient beings.
Now, a short excursion about Nightblood. Nightblood is an 'almost-sentient' object. It is made of steel. Steel has a cognitive aspect but no spirit. However, if you give enough spirit (in the form of Breath- yes, Breath is spiritual energy, a part of Endowment) to it, the mix of cognitive aspect and spirit will produce sentience.
But why then does BS speak of an 'almost-sentient' object? I theorize that cognitive aspects can be big or small. While humans have very big cognitive aspects, objects have much smaller ones. The fewer life is in an object, the fewer cognitive aspect is there. That is not that hard to believe, I'd say.
Now. In order to bring sentience to something with a very small cognitive aspect, you'd need to put much more spirit in it. On the other hand, humans, with a big cognitive aspect would only require a tiny amount of spirit to gain sentience.
As steel or stone probably have the smallest cognitive aspects possible, even a huge amount of spirit (like 1000 Breaths) would not be enough to give them complete sentience. So they remain 'almost-sentient'. Dead people, corpses would keep their cognitive aspect, but the spirit left them (the soul is gone). But as they are super-cognitive, a single Breath is enough to awaken them. Organic things, like animals or rope need more Breath than a Lifeless but much less than Nightblood.
Back to spren. If my theory is right so far, then whereever a cognitive aspect meets spirit, sentience would form.
Now imagine what would happen if there is a huge storm carrying Power (Stormlight) all over the world. Yes, cognitive aspect would meet spirit. It would mingle and sentient beings would form. They would glow, because the Power glows. And because the cognitive aspects are so small, the little amount of Power coming with a Highstorm wouldn't be enough to form complete-sentient beings but would remain small things barely conscient enough to stay with whatever attracted them.
This explains why there are no spren in Shinovar.
So that's the nature of spren. They are cognitive aspects of things which came in contact with Stormlight forming an 'a-little-bit-sentient' being.
Of course, spren can only show themselves, when the cognitive aspect is released, by destruction or change. That's why they appear when something changes (emotion, weather etc.)
This would require that emotions have cognitive aspects on their own, as would music have, for example. I'm somewhat unsure about that.
I now try to figure out if honorspren are the same as normal spren or if they are something different.
"[Humans] all act differently and think differently. Nothing else is like that – animals act alike, and all spren are, in a sense, virtually the same individual. There's harmony in that. [...]"
"But not all windspren act alike.[...] You're proof of that."
"I know", she said softly, "Maybe now you can see why it bothers me so."
This quote also is useful to illustrate what I have said so far. Humans all act differently because they are sentient beings, nothing else is like that (like in: nothing else has a soul). Spren are all the same individual because they all are made from spirit.
Of course there is something special in Syl and her presumed relatives. She acts not alike. But that's only because she has already formed a bond with Kaladin which made her very sentient. So she starts acting on her own, like humans.
She had been bonded to a KR in the old days, when the Bond broke, she lost sentience to the low level of normal spren. She says that before the Bond she was only able to remember things for some minutes. So there was something left. Which brings me to the conclusion that she has a cognitive aspect on her own.
This is the first possibility. Syl is a normal spren and any spren could Bond with a human
The other possibility is that Syl is special and only spren of her type could Bond.
One would think that a normal spren wouldn't have enough spirit to form a Bond, if only small cognitive aspects are bound with small amounts of spirit (Stormlight). So Syl would have much more spirit. About the Splinter-idea. This would make sense:
If honorspren are Splinters of Honor, Surgebinding would be much more of his own magic system than if he only sent Highstorms every now and then. Honor would create Splinters so that they only Bond to special people, depending on how those act. (Of course this has been compromised. Maybe he wasn't accurate enough in his creation, like Vasher with his 'Destroy evil'-Command). As they are Splinters, naturally, they have a large amount of Power, ie they are large amounts of Power.
Also, Brandon has said that we have seen Splinters on Roshar. The only things I can think of being Splinters apart from honorspren are Shardplate and -blade. But those are Invested objects. I don't know if there is a difference between an invested object and a Splinter, but we have this:
Does Szeth have metal on him? Szeth's Shardblade would be mostly immune to Pushing and Pulling, as it's an Invested object. But he'd still have trouble getting to them if he had a clasp on his shoes, for example. He doesn't carry a lot of metal, but he might have some.
So I believe that Blade and Plate are not Splinters. So I'm going for honorspren being the Splinters we've seen on Roshar.
My question is, why are they called Shardblades/Shardplate? Is it because they are a splinter of the the Shard Honor, or is there something more to them than that?
(BS): As for your question, you are on the right track.
I found this quote.
Louise wrote: "Is spren lost their memories and personalities because of the loss of their attached radiants? But retain a basic attraction to things associated with the radiants they bonded to previously?"
Not all types of spren bonded to Radiants. You will find out more about this in the future. However, if you're speaking specifically of spren that were bonded to Radiants, then yes, you're on the right track.
yeah, not the best quote, it could either mean "not all types of spren bonded in general" or "not all types of spren bonded to Radiants"
But I don't believe every spren could bond, but merely those who are Splinters.
This was very long but I hope you enjoyed it. I'll just point out my conclusions.
The soul as the spiritual aspect of a human is spirit which is the power of creation.
Sentience is gained when cognitive aspect and spirit are joined.
Spren are power of creation that has come into contact with a cognitive aspect.
Stormlight is power of creation in the raw form.
Honorspren are probably Splinters
As to the first quote about similarities between spren and Nightblood, I think it's about gaining sentience when spirit meets cognitive aspects and about how much of either is required. The sentience part could prove useful in further Realmatic theory.
Edited by Telcontar, 01 April 2012 - 12:22 PM.