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A Unified Surge Theory (minimal spoilers)

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(Warning 1: I will try my best to avoid talking about the plot of Words of Radiance here, but if you think new magic system-related revelations are spoilers, then I suggest you stay away from this thread.

Warning 2: I am not a physicist. Do not take physics lessons from code monkeys posting on fantasy fiction fansites.)


IRL, Most physicists believe that the four fundamental physical interactions (the electromagnetic, weak, strong, and gravitational forces) were once combined as a single unified force. A "unified field theory" is one that tries to explain how these fundamental interactions (that seem to work in their own fields) can be described within the framework of a single field, as a single unified force. According to the currently-accepted model of physics, the unified force first split into the gravitational force and the electronuclear force. Then the electronuclear force split into the strong force and the electroweak force. Finally, the electroweak force split into the electromagnetic and weak forces. All of that supposedly happened well within the first second after the Big Bang. Cool, eh?

So why am I talking about real world fundamental forces in the Stormlight Archive forum? It's because I think the ten Surges on Roshar are Brandon's way of playing with the concept of fundamental forces in a fantasy setting. Here's a WoB from a Seattle signing last year:
 

Q: Is [the Division surge] a reframing of, at one point in time you were talking about weak/strong forces?
A: Um, weak/strong forces, yes, that's the one that sent me there partially. Like, I'm not actually... the idea of the fundamental forces is a cool thing to me so it's not like I'm actually trying to use the weak and strong forces, the idea of there being fundamental forces. I wanted to go off on it in a fancy way. Like this one right here I told them was surface tension. But it's not really surface tension.


So, if Brandon thinks fundamental forces are cool, then maybe he finds the idea of a unified field theory to be cool as well. I'd like to propose that he somehow incorporated that concept into his Surge system.

With that, allow me to present my own take on a Unified Surge Theory.
 
Table of Contents
Part I: The Unified Surge and Decay
Part II: The Unified Surge and Transformation
Part III: The Unified Surge and Energy
Conclusion


Part I: The Unified Surge and Decay

IRL, the apparent breakdown of the hypothesized unified field into its separate aspects is explained by theories filled with all sorts of crazy (but fascinating) math. Fortunately, Roshar is a fictional world where things (e.g. the mechanism by which a Unified Surge separates into the ten Surges) can be made a lot more simple using fantasy logic.

*commences fantasy logic*

Since a Unified Surge should contain the potential of all the Surges, it must have the power of Division inside of it, by which it could divide itself.

Simple, eh? :P

Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. A Unified Surge would also have the power of Cohesion, and therefore resist Division. But the fact still remains that there are ten separate Surges instead of just one. It means that the forces within the hypothetical Unified Surge cannot be perfectly symmetrical, and it is therefore not perfectly stable. This suggests that the Surge of Division is stronger than the Surge of Cohesion on Roshar, and that the Unified Surge decays via a series of divisions occuring right after Division overcomes Cohesion.

Still with me? So far we've determined that a hypothetical Unified Surge combines all the Surges, and that it somehow decays. Have we seen anything like this?

Why, yes. We have seen something like this.

I think it's very likely (if not obvious) that Stormlight itself is the Unified Surge. It is through the infusion of Stormlight, after all, that Surgebinders and fabrials access the Surges. Also, we know that after a certain period of apparent stability, Stormlight eventually degrades, dissipating into the atmosphere. This is consistent with the previously described decay of the Unified Surge.

This fits really well with the fact that Stormlight is a form of Investiture. I believe that the Surges are manifestations of various aspects of the Power of Creation that Adonalsium Invested on Roshar along with his spren, and Stormlight is the concentration of those aspects. In other words, Stormlight is exactly the thing that Surgebinders bind. Stormlight is the Surge.

Now, the fact that the Unified Surge dissipates is definitely a problem for Rosharian Investiture. Szeth complains about losing Stormlight so quickly. Even Kaladin has to deal with this, although to a lesser extent. We know that the Stormfather regularly collects the dissipated Stormlight and and transports them into gemstones every highstorm, but won't it be nice if people could somehow make Stormlight stay put on a more permanent basis, like the Breaths on Nalthis?

 

How do we fight the decay of Stormlight?

I've mentioned in another thread that this impermanence of Investiture might be solved by transforming it into Innate Investiture. This, I think, is the purpose of the Nahel bond system that Honor's spren invented. I believe the Nahel bond is a manifestation of the Adhesion Surge applied to both Stormlight itself and a human soul. The stronger a Nahel bond is, the more Innate the act of Stormlight-holding becomes, the better the bond between Stormlight and the Radiant.

To make another physics analogy, this is akin to how neutrons are a lot more stable when bound inside a nucleus than when it is free. By boosting Adhesion between Stormlight and the Surgebinder, the Nahel bond actually boosts the aspect of Cohesion within Stormlight, which is normally unstable, allowing it to fully counteract the natural dominance of Division and become stable.

Edited by skaa
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Part II: The Unified Surge and Transformation

I've discussed the natural division/decay of Stormlight (and how to counteract this decay), but there's obviously more to Stormlight than just decaying uselessly by itself. The Surges within Stormlight are marvelous things. The weird thing is, we don't really see all the Surges being used at the same time. If Stormlight truly contains all the Surges, why can Surgebinders only harness two Surges?

Another weird thing is that there is a lot of conceptual conflict within Stormlight. Cohesion resists Division. Friction resists Transportation. Gravitation resists Illumination. This makes Stormlight mostly inert (until Division overcomes Cohesion and Stormlight starts to dissipate). So when a Surgebinder tries to harness Transportation, why doesn't the Friction in Stormlight counteract that? And since we've established that Division is somehow stronger than Cohesion, how could the Cohesion Surge possibly be harnessed?

The answer to these problems is spren. How does spren-based Investiture work? The WoR Ars Arcanum author describes spren as "transformative cognitive entities". This implies that they transform something. What do they transform? Isn't Transformation the Surge of Soulcasting?

I propose that spren can transform Stormlight itself, converting Stormlight from a Unified Surge to something more specific, depending on the nature of the spren. This allows for specific Surges within Stormlight to manifest individually.

Take for example the fabrial phenomena. When a water attractor fabrial (for example) is infused with Stormlight, the spren inside transforms the essence of Stormlight itself into the Transportation Surge. This transformation manifests as a particular pattern in the Stormlight caused by the spren. And so what was once the Unified Surge is transformed into a subset thereof, as if Stormlight itself has been Soulcast. And this new "Transportation Stormlight" is the thing that moves water towards the fabrial.

If there is any doubt that Stormlight itself is transformed into particular Surges, then let us look instead towards the more well-attested spren-mediated Surgebinding for proof. When Kaladin wants to stick a sphere to a wall, he transfers some Stormlight into the sphere before pressing it against the wall. Normal Stormlight, though, would not make the sphere stick, so it is obvious that something happened to the Stormlight that Kaladin himself has infused into the sphere. Stormlight itself became the Adhesion Surge, and this is what sticks the sphere to the wall.

The Surgebinding and Fabrial phenomena can therefore be described as manifestations of Transformation in Stormlight, mediated by transformative cognitive entities. To put it in a more sensationalist way (because I can!), all fabrials are Soulcaster fabrials. They all transform Stormlight itself. All Surgebinders are Transformation Surgebinders, or more precisely, their Nahel spren are Transformation "Surgebinders". Each Nahel spren transforms Stormlight into two types of Surges. This is why Surgebinders can only access two Surges.

The connection between the Surges and the concept of transformation doesn't stop there. If you think about it, all ten Surges can be described in the context of "transformation", not just the so-called Transformation Surge. Here is a list of Surges and the things they transform:

Adhesion: External bonds ("strong" ones)
Gravitation: External bonds ("soft" ones, like gravity)
Transformation: Identity (Cognitive essence)
Division: Identity (Cognitive wholeness)
Transportation: Relative motion (displacement)
Friction: Relative motion (resistance from it)
Progression: Energy (life)
Illumination: Energy (light and other waveforms)
Cohesion: Internal bonds ("strong axial")
Tension: Internal bonds ("soft axial")

As you can see, "transformation" or "change" is the sort of theme for all the Surges. Also, strictly speaking, all Surges transform the Cognitive Identity of things in some way. It is just that the Surges called "Transformation" and "Division" transform Identity on a more fundamental level than the others.

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Part III: The Unified Surge and Energy

 

In Part I described the role of Division in Stormlight. In Part II I showed how Transformation is related to all the Surges. But there is still another unifying theme at work here, and that is energy.

Energy can be defined as the thing transferred when a force is applied. This thing can be transformed from one form into another, but is ultimately conserved. If you think about it, all forms of Surgebinding (indeed, all forms of Investiture) can be seen as the manipulation, transformation, and transfer of magical energy.

When we say that spren transform Stormlight into various Surges, we are basically talking about energy conversion as applied to magic/Investiture. Just as radiant energy can be converted to chemical energy, for example, the Unified Surge can be converted into, say, the Tension Surge with the mediation of the right spren, and the Tension Surge in turn interacts with the energy within objects, creating stronger molecular bonds.

In Part II, you might have noticed that I described the Illumination and Progression Surges as Energy Transformation, with Progression specializing in life energy and Illumination dealing with the more general idea of waveforms. Now, since I claim that energy transformation in general is a unifying concept behind the Surges, does this mean those Surges are somehow special compared to the others?

Before I answer that question, let us go back to the nature of raw, untransformed Stormlight. I mentioned in Part II that the balance between conflicted Surges makes Stormlight inert. That isn't completely true, though. We know from Part I that there is an imbalance between Division and and Cohesion within Stormlight, which leads to eventual Stormlight decay. But there's another imbalance that I haven't yet mentioned.

The Gravitation Surge is supposed to be capable of distorting and even absorbing light (this is from real life physics, as well as all the talk of Nalan being "Darkness"), which should counteract the light-augmentation of the Illumination Surge. Stormlight therefore ought to be completely transparent, or some other result of balancing light and dark (grey? dull white?). But what we see in Stormlight is the exact opposite of light-dark balance.

Stormlight glows.

In fact, even when Stormlight is transformed by spren into specific Surges (as I described in Part II), it still glows. I think this confirms my claim above that Energy Transformation is still happening even when other Surges are supposedly at work.

 

The same is true about Progression. Any Surgebinder holding Stormlight will gain healing properties, meaning the transformation of Life Energy is granted to all of them (to an extent). I think life energy manipulation, though, is secondary in importance when compared to Illumination, which could affect all waveforms, including matter itself (due to mass-energy equivalence and wave-particle duality).

 

So yes, Illumination is special. This doesn't necessarily mean, however, that Illumination Surgebinders like Shallan and Renarin could mimic the other Surges by manipulating the proper waveform. Brandon is quite clear about the importance of limitations in his work. Just as Soulcasters seem to be limited by what they could Soulcast and into what, Lightweavers (who are basically Energy Soulcasters) are probably limited as well. I don't know what this limitation is (if a limitation does exist), but it shouldn't be surprising if Lightweavers and Truthwatchers will never be able to transform waveforms in such a way as to mimic the other Surges.

(Wouldn't it be cool if there's a way around their limitations, though? :P)

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Conclusion

Let me summarize the main ideas of this theory:

  • Stormlight is a Surge containing the aspects of all ten Surges. It is a Unified Surge.
     
  • The aspects within Stormlight is symmetrical with two exceptions. First, it has more Division than Cohesion, which is why Stormlight eventually dissipates. Secondly, it has more Illumination than Gravitation, which is why Stormlight glows.
     
  • The influence of Division on Stormlight can be resisted by bonding Stormlight to a soul via Adhesion. This is what the Nahel bond does. The stronger a Radiant's Nahel bond is, the better he is at holding Stormlight and keeping it from dissipating, until he reaches the point where holding Stormlight becomes hardcoded as part of his Innate Investiture.
     
  • The Surges are forms of magical energy, the transfer (or "investiture") and transformation of which is mediated by the spren, which are transformative cognitive entities.
     
  • The transformation from the general, unified Surge into particular Surges by the spren is why fabrials work. This is also how Surgebinders can access the Surges.

 

In the end, I believe Roshar Surge-based Investiture is dominated by three themes:

  • The struggle between cohesion and division
     
  • The transformation of Stormlight in general
     
  • The universality of Energy Transformation in particular

 

Note that this theory does not claim to be a "theory of everything". The reason behind why the Honorblades work, the explanation for the Voids, the connection between the Surges and the Essences, and the connection between Rosharian Investiture and the rest of the Cosmere are all out of the scope of this theory. As for the last bit, suffice to say that I suspect Division is the manifestation of Adonalsium's aspect of entropy, which is now governed by the Shard of Ruin. Perhaps all of the Surges are tied to specific aspects of Adonalsium. But really, that idea deserves its own thread.

 

I have already discussed how Honor and Cultivation have influenced the Surges on Roshar in a different (spoilerrific) thread. I will need to revise some things there in light of this Unified Surge theory. Furthermore, I still have to work on my theory about Odium (now that will be a crazy one, I promise!); I will try to tie that one into this theory as well.

 

Stay tuned!

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Hey skaa, cool beans. I'm gonna abridge this reply, and make it all point formy for the sake of my own sanity. ^_^

 

• First a small nitpick. I seriously doubt the Stormfather as a sentient entity actively gathers and disperses Stormlight into gemstones like some kind of global housekeeper.

 

• Just because things 'transform' doesn't make em' related to the Transformation Surge. All changes are transformations, and all applications of Investiture (or any action at all) changes things. Don't collapse these two separate terms into each other simply because the language is lacking, you need to keep a distinction here. The Surge names are in-world names describing their effects, not complete 100% descriptions of all things affected by a Surge.

 

• I don't buy that Stormlight has imbalances within the Surges that cause its unique characteristics. I doubt the reason it dissipates is due to the Division Surge - instead it's more likely due to the gaseous nature of the Investiture (as per WoB), the pressure it has (as per Eshonai at the end of WoR), and some other elements (Shardic Intent, high concentrations, the porous/permeable nature of containers, etc). I also doubt the glowing is due to the Illumination Surge being dominant. We see glowing uses of Investiture with Aons, with how Shards perceive the world focus (see Mistborn), potentially with high Heightenings, and maybe with some other granular silicas. Even Iron/Steel seem to have a kind of dull glow-line mechanic for the user's vision, but only for the Metal Focus.

 

• I don't buy that the Nahel bond is Adhesion Surge related. All Splinters seem to be able to bond with humans.

 

• Back to 'Transformation/transformation', the whole idea of a focus is to take a wide-spectrum/frequency band and convert it into a tight frequency/spectrum band. Nothing to do with the Surge, if Spren are focusing Stormlight, this is how they 'transform' (lowercase t) it into a specific Surge.

 

 

• I also don't buy some of your chart of Surge category things. Notably Division.

 

 

 

Conclusion: (styled for flair!)

 

Let me summarize the main ideas of this theory:

  • Stormlight is a Surge containing the aspects of all ten Surges. It is a Unified Surge.
     
  • The aspects within Stormlight is symmetrical with two exceptions. First, it has more Division than Cohesion, which is why Stormlight eventually dissipates. Secondly, it has more Illumination than Gravitation, which is why Stormlight glows.
     
  • The influence of Division on Stormlight can be resisted by bonding Stormlight to a soul via Adhesion. This is what the Nahel bond does. The stronger a Radiant's Nahel bond is, the better he is at holding Stormlight and keeping it from dissipating, until he reaches the point where holding Stormlight becomes hardcoded as part of his Innate Investiture.
     
  • The Surges are forms of magical energy, the transfer (or "investiture") and transformation of which is mediated by the spren, which are transformative cognitive entities. (They're basically just focuses, no? Nothing in particular to do with 'Transformation' labelled Surge.
     
  • The transformation from the general, unified Surge into particular Surges by the spren is why fabrials work. This is also how Surgebinders can access the Surges.

That's how I see it!

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I agree here with pretty much all of Tempus' critiques. But I still very much like the main gist of the theory– that Stormlight is the Unified Surge. IMO, the same principle applies Cosmere wide. Adonalsium would be the Unified Magic of the entire Cosmere, with the Shattering splitting all of the Investiture into different wavelengths/Intents (Stormlight, the Dor, Breath, etc) just like the Unified force split into Gravity and the electronuclear force. Then each magic system splits these further into individual powers– Allomantic iron, Feruchemical steel, Adhesion, etc– a la the splitting of the electronuclear and then electroweak forces. And then, in some cases, the force is split even further, such as in the division of Soulcasting, where each gem can Soulcast a different Essence.

Some thoughts on fabrial spren. I've never found the effects of fabrials to fit very well with the ten Surges we know of. What if the fabrial spren are simply splitting this Unified Surge up in a different way than the ten Nahel spren? The ten Nahel spren split the Stormlight into the ten normal Surges we're aware of, but a firespren/other spren they put in fabrials is not the same spren as any of the ten Nahel spren. Why should it split up the Unified Surge into the same surges as the Nahel spren do, instead of having its own surges– like a "Detection" surge, or a "Linkage" surge, "Pain" surge, etc?

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First of all, thanks for taking the time to go read through all that craziness I've written, Tempus! Your comments are well appreciated. I'll try not to sound cranky in my replies below, but pardon me if some abrasiveness shows up. It's nothing personal. I just like defending my theories, and I can get a bit intense sometimes.
 



 

Tempus, on 14 Jun 2014 - 01:25 AM, said:
• First a small nitpick. I seriously doubt the Stormfather as a sentient entity actively gathers and disperses Stormlight into gemstones like some kind of global housekeeper.

Ah, but I must disagree, Tempus! I think the Stormfather is a housekeeper. A big, grumpy one with a dangerous temper, but an obedient housekeeper nonetheless. One of the Stormfather's many duties is to revert the dissipation of Stormlight by transporting them collectively back into gemstones. I believe the highstorms are connected to Transportation (among other things) and that this is what the Stormfather is using, but I suppose you knew that already.
 



 

Tempus, on 14 Jun 2014 - 01:25 AM, said:
• Just because things 'transform' doesn't make em' related to the Transformation Surge. All changes are transformations, and all applications of Investiture (or any action at all) changes things. Don't collapse these two separate terms into each other simply because the language is lacking, you need to keep a distinction here. The Surge names are in-world names describing their effects, not complete 100% descriptions of all things affected by a Surge.

Yeah, I'm sure not every single instance of the word "transformation" in every single Cosmere book will necessarily be connected to the Rosharian Transformation Surge. Nonetheless, I shall insist on the particular Transformation connections I made in my theory. Remember this little conversation in WoR?

Quote
“You spoke of one Surge, earlier,” Pattern said. “Lightweaving, the power of light. But you have something else. The power of transformation.”
“Soulcasting?” Shallan said. “I didn’t Soulcast anyone.”
“Mmmm. And yet, you transformed them. And yet. Mmmm.”



I now believe that all instances of the word "transformation" in the Stormlight Archive in the context of Investiture is going to have something to do with that particular Surge.

In fact, I suspect that Adonalsium's transformative aspect connects every single transformative Investiture in the Cosmere, including all ten Surges. Yes, I'm aware that this includes virtually all forms of Investiture that we know of, and that's perfectly okay.

 

The Vorin religion talks of Elithanathile, "He Who Transforms", a title they gave Honor. But I believe that title is more suited to the Being from which Honor came, Adonalsium, the real Almighty in the Cosmere. After all, both Adonalsium and Elithanathile are words rooted in the same Judeo-Christian concept. Transformation is what Adonalsium does, and that's what Investiture is all about.
 
Remember, Roshar magic is part of the magic system of the whole Cosmere. It cannot be isolated.
 



 

Tempus, on 14 Jun 2014 - 01:25 AM, said:
• I don't buy that Stormlight has imbalances within the Surges that cause its unique characteristics. I doubt the reason it dissipates is due to the Division Surge - instead it's more likely due to the gaseous nature of the Investiture (as per WoB), the pressure it has (as per Eshonai at the end of WoR), and some other elements (Shardic Intent, high concentrations, the porous/permeable nature of containers, etc). I also doubt the glowing is due to the Illumination Surge being dominant. We see glowing uses of Investiture with Aons, with how Shards perceive the world focus (see Mistborn), potentially with high Heightenings, and maybe with some other granular silicas. Even Iron/Steel seem to have a kind of dull glow-line mechanic for the user's vision, but only for the Metal Focus.

It looks like you've caught a few more connections between Rosharian Investiture and that of the other Shardworlds, Tempus. Why you think that's a reason to deny Illumination's connection with Stormlight glow and Division's with Stormlight decay I cannot fathom.

As I said in my Conclusion, I suspect that Division is from Adonalsium's entropic aspect, which is now held by the Shard Ruin. I believe every single instance of Investiture degradation in the Cosmere is from Ruin's Intent, including Hemalurgic decay and Stormlight dissipation.
 



 

Tempus, on 14 Jun 2014 - 01:25 AM, said:
• I don't buy that the Nahel bond is Adhesion Surge related. All Splinters seem to be able to bond with humans.

I sense a pattern here. :) Well, before I go for the Cosmere connection, let me ask: Don't you think it's the Adhesion Surge that is behind Ishar's and the Bondsmiths' ability to bind Surgebinders? If not, then allow me to try to convince you.

On two separate occasions in WoK, Syl describes what kind of spren she is. Here's the first instance, when her memory was still mostly blank:

Quote
Something occurred to Kaladin. Something, perhaps, he should have asked long ago. “You’re not a windspren, are you?”
She hesitated, then shook her head. “No.”
“What are you, then?”
“I don’t know. I bind things.

 

That obviously refers to the Adhesion Surge, right? She has no recollection of the Nahel bond yet at that point. All she knew is that she could stick things together.

 

Then here is the second one:

Quote
“...You see, I’ve remembered what kind of spren I am.”
“Is this the time for it, Syl?”
I bind things, Kaladin,” she said, turning and meeting his eyes. “I am honorspren. Spirit of oaths. Of promises. And of nobility.

Given that Syl, a Windrunner spren, is the "daughter" of the Stormfather, the recorder of Oaths and a spren connected to the Bondsmiths, Surgebinders who share the Adhesion Surge with the Windrunners, I think the only conclusion is that the Adhesion Surge is the thing that binds Surgebinders. The Nahel bond is a manifestation of Adhesion.

As for Cosmere significance, you know what I'm going to say: The Adhesion Surge, the Nahel bond, and the bond that Seons and other Splinters make are all related to the same binding aspect of Adonalsium. I mean, why won't they be?
 



 

Tempus, on 14 Jun 2014 - 01:25 AM, said:
• Back to 'Transformation/transformation', the whole idea of a focus is to take a wide-spectrum/frequency band and convert it into a tight frequency/spectrum band. Nothing to do with the Surge, if Spren are focusing Stormlight, this is how they 'transform' (lowercase t) it into a specific Surge.

The behavior of Investiture foci across the Cosmere is connected to the transformative aspect of Adonalsium, which is also the root cause of the Transformation Surge. Again, let us not needlessly isolate Roshar from the rest of the Cosmere.
 



 

Tempus, on 14 Jun 2014 - 01:25 AM, said:
• I also don't buy some of your chart of Surge category things. Notably Division.

Okay. That's one criticism I can accept. I'll think of better ways to describe the transformative nature of Division. Any suggestions? What do you think Division transforms?

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First of all, thanks for taking the time to go read through all that craziness I've written, Tempus! Your comments are well appreciated. I'll try not to sound cranky in my replies below, but pardon me if some abrasiveness shows up. It's nothing personal. I just like defending my theories, and I can get a bit intense sometimes.

 

Haha, this is exactly every theory I've ever made ever.

 

 

I think our main disagreements stem from how we approach things. I see Roshar as being symptomatic of the forces at work in the Cosmere. The Surges are limited expressions of the natural processes at work. You see Roshar as being the font of Cosmere systems. You feel the Surges and Essences are not a specific limited instance of a magical formation, but descriptive instead of all magic throughout the Cosmere (as seen with your Essence Focus theory, and indeed the Surges here). Because of this, I see the in-world Surges as limited magics based on wider principles, and you see them as fundamentals which are expressed in other magics.

 

Maybe a bigger response later, if I've got more.

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The idea that all of Roshar's distinctions are some fundamental law of the entire Cosmere has always seemed fishy to me. Why does Roshar get to be the representative of all the Cosmere's essential laws? There's Scadrial too, Sel, Nalthis. Is Pulling vs Pushing some essential law of the Cosmere? What about the various quadrants, Temporal, Physical, Mental, and Enhancement, which Brandon has himself said are rather in-world and arbitrary distinctions? I think we should always keep in mind that SA magic is likely to be just as arbitrary as any other magic system. Just because on Scadrial, the power can be expressed as an Iron-pull, does not mean Iron-pulls are an essential component in every Shardworld's magic.. By the same token, the surge of Transformation shouldn't be involved in every use of magic ever.

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...But I still very much like the main gist of the theory– that Stormlight is the Unified Surge. IMO, the same principle applies Cosmere wide. Adonalsium would be the Unified Magic of the entire Cosmere, with the Shattering splitting all of the Investiture into different wavelengths/Intents (Stormlight, the Dor, Breath, etc) just like the Unified force split into Gravity and the electronuclear force. Then each magic system splits these further into individual powers– Allomantic iron, Feruchemical steel, Adhesion, etc– a la the splitting of the electronuclear and then electroweak forces. And then, in some cases, the force is split even further, such as in the division of Soulcasting, where each gem can Soulcast a different Essence.

Good points. Apparently the division, decay, and entropy in Investiture is not always negative. It is what gave us the cool magic systems, after all. In fact, without division Investiture is impossible, because a Shard would have to separate itself from part of its power in order to Invest it.

Some thoughts on fabrial spren. I've never found the effects of fabrials to fit very well with the ten Surges we know of. What if the fabrial spren are simply splitting this Unified Surge up in a different way than the ten Nahel spren? The ten Nahel spren split the Stormlight into the ten normal Surges we're aware of, but a firespren/other spren they put in fabrials is not the same spren as any of the ten Nahel spren. Why should it split up the Unified Surge into the same surges as the Nahel spren do, instead of having its own surges– like a "Detection" surge, or a "Linkage" surge, "Pain" surge, etc?

As a matter of fact, I believe the fabrials fit the Surges perfectly. I am currently developing a new fabrial theory in my Coppermind user page. There's still some problems in it that I have to fix, but the theory already fits most fabrials we've seen so far.

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Haha, this is exactly every theory I've ever made ever.

I think our main disagreements stem from how we approach things. I see Roshar as being symptomatic of the forces at work in the Cosmere. The Surges are limited expressions of the natural processes at work. You see Roshar as being the font of Cosmere systems. You feel the Surges and Essences are not a specific limited instance of a magical formation, but descriptive instead of all magic throughout the Cosmere (as seen with your Essence Focus theory, and indeed the Surges here).

The idea that all of Roshar's distinctions are some fundamental law of the entire Cosmere has always seemed fishy to me. Why does Roshar get to be the representative of all the Cosmere's essential laws?

I'd like to clear up a few misunderstandings here. First, this theory does not involve my larger theory on Shardworld Essences and Roshar's role as an Investiture prism. My Surge theory is consistent with my Essence theory, but neither depend on each other. The theory that will actually try to merge both has not been written yet.

Second, when I say that entropy, transformation, and bonds are aspects of Adonalsium, I am not trying to make Roshar seem special, because those things exist on other Shardworlds as well. Balance (the theme of Scadrian Investiture) is also an aspect of Adonalsium, I believe. Each and every manifestation of Investiture in all the Shardworlds are shadows of Adonalsium's power, so you can't just isolate one system and insist that it must be unrelated to other things in the Cosmere.

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I'd like to clear up a few misunderstandings here. First, this theory does not involve my larger theory on Shardworld Essences and Roshar's role as an Investiture prism. My Surge theory is consistent with my Essence theory, but neither depend on each other. The theory that will actually try to merge both has not been written yet.

Second, when I say that entropy, transformation, and bonds are aspects of Adonalsium, I am not trying to make Roshar special, because those things exist on other Shardworlds as well. Besides, balance (the theme of Scadrian Investiture) is also an aspect of Adonalsium. Each and every manifestation of Investiture in all the Shardworlds are shadows of Adonalsium's power, so you can't just isolate one system and insist that it must be unrelated to other things in the Cosmere.

 

 

No, no misunderstanding on my end. I was merely trying to say that a lot of our disagreements stem from how we approach magic systems. In many of your posts, SUCH AS Shardworld Essences, etc, etc, you take the approach that many distinctions brought to light are in fact essential underpinnings of the Cosmere. I use Essences because it's the clearest example. In it, you suggest each Shardworld is more strongly associated with one of the ten Essences noted on Roshar. In this theory, you suggest many underlying aspects of Investiture (and specifically Rosharan Investiture) are related to the categories of Surges that make up the underlying Rosharan magic system.

 

In both scenarios (and others, at times), you treat the Rosharan information as a way to derive info about the greater Cosmeric systems. I tend to go the opposite route - I derive info about Roshar by framing them within my understanding of the larger Cosmere. So to me, the Surge of Transformation is just a specific manifestation of a subset of the Cosmere principle of Identity. However to you, the Surge of Transformation is the Surge we can use to explain a specific aspect of the Cosmere principle of Identity. I hope you're following me.

 

In reaalll short, we are approaching these theories from different starting points, so you're saying "There was a right turn, and then a left a little later", and I'm saying "No, it was a left first, and then a right". And that's why our perspectives are shifted. You're saying 'Look at what the Amazon can teach us about ecosystems!', and I'm saying 'Look at what ecosystems can tell us about the Amazon!'. I'm gonna stop with the clunky analogies, I hope you get what I mean!

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In reaalll short, we are approaching these theories from different starting points, so you're saying "There was a right turn, and then a left a little later", and I'm saying "No, it was a left first, and then a right". And that's why our perspectives are shifted. You're saying 'Look at what the Amazon can teach us about ecosystems!', and I'm saying 'Look at what ecosystems can tell us about the Amazon!'. I'm gonna stop with the clunky analogies, I hope you get what I mean!

 

Yes, I agree that we do indeed approach Cosmere theories quite differently, Tempus. But I'm open to doing things differently, so let me see if I can use "your way" to convince you of at least one of the points in my theory that you crossed out.

 


Let us go back to the idea that the Division Surge is the cause of Stormlight dissipation. Your main argument against it, I believe, is that Stormlight is gaseous. Is that right?

 

We've seen gaseous forms of Shardic power on other Shardworlds. The obvious example is the Mists on Scadrial. I suppose Nalthian Breath could also be considered gaseous. In both cases, whenever those gaseous forms are used for Investiture, we don't see them dissipating away like Stormlight does. The exception is Returned Breath (which dissipates weekly, one Breath at a time). So, what makes Returned Breath and Stormlight special?

 

I've already talked before about my idea that Investiture will always decay unless a soul accepts it fully, but why would it decay in the first place? Why does entropy affect some types of Investiture?

 

Let us "frame this within our understanding of the larger Cosmere". Here's the WoB that I linked to above:

 

Technically, Ruin would be most compatible with Cultivation. Ruin's 'theme' so to speak is that all things must age and pass. An embodiment of entropy. That power, separated from the whole and being held by a person who did not have the willpower to resist its transformation of him, led to something very dangerous. But it was not evil. 

 

 

So, from the WoB above, Ruin is the embodiment of entropy within Adonalsium. That is why Investiture in Hemalurgic spikes decay. We've also heard several times that Ruin can influence any Shardworld. To me it seems rather simple to conclude that Investiture decay on any Shardworld (no matter which Shard is on it) must be caused by this aspect of entropy that existed within Adonalsium and is now personified by the Shard Ruin.

 

This aspect of entropy is obviously in Hemalurgy, but other forms of Investiture also have their own manifestations of it. It can be seen on Sel, and is the reason why Forgeries are usually impermanent. On Nalthis, it manifests as the weekly Breath-loss of the Returned. On Roshar, entropy manifests as the Surge of Division (which the Ars Arcanum author calls "The Surge of Destruction and Decay"), which is part of the Unified Surge called Stormlight.

 

You probably remember another manifestation of Investiture decay that exists on two other Shardworlds, but we can't talk about that here.  ;)

 

Since Stormlight dissipates after a while, this dissipation must be caused by the aforementioned entropic aspect of Adonalsium, which already exists within it as the Surge of Division.

 

Therefore, Stormlight dissipation is caused by the Surge of Division within it.

 


 

So, Tempus, what do you think of that approach? Did that work on you?

 

As you can see, I am not constrained by a single approach to theory making. In fact, allow me to tackle another problem using three angles of attack:

 


 

The Knights Radiant have the legendary reputation of being able to hold Stormlight perfectly. This means there is probably a way to overcome Stormlight dissipation. I can frame my solution to this using my Cosmere theory of Innate Investiture. The souls of full-fledged Knights Radiant view Stormlight Investiture to be part of themselves, this makes Investiture stick more fully and is enough to fight Investiture entropy. This is the same solution seen in all other Shardworlds. Everywhere we see, Innate Investiture does not decay. Now, why is a Radiant's soul different from that of other Rosharians? Simple. The Radiant's soul has been transformed by the Nahel bond.

 

I can also frame this in terms of Rosharian Surge interactions, as I did in Part I of my Unified Surge theory by saying that strengthening Adhesion (via the Nahel bond) also strengthens Cohesion, allowing it to counteract Division more fully. You can review my defense of the Nahel bond=Adhesion idea here.

 

Invoking Brandon's fascination with the four fundamental interactions, I can also frame the problem of perfect Stormlight infusion via the neutron analogy (which I also used in Part I). Neutrons are subject to decay via weak interaction, and this decay happens pretty quickly when a neutron is isolated. But neutrons stuck with other nucleons inside an atomic nucleus via the strong nuclear force are much, much more stable. This means that internal decay can be counteracted via strong external bonds. On Roshar, strong external bonds include the Nahel bond, which is strengthened by each spoken Ideal or Truth. This is why Knights Radiant can hold Stormlight perfectly.

 

So, you see, I can go at this problem from multiple angles, resulting in solutions that are consistent with each other.

Edited by skaa
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So, Tempus, what do you think of that approach? Did that work on you?

 

As you can see, I am not constrained by a single approach to theory making. In fact, allow me to tackle another problem using three angles of attack:

 

That was indeed incredible, skaa. How can I not try and rise to the challenge of such a pants-creamingly excellent display? I cannot, I have no choice but to bring it. You're going down!

 


 

Let's start with a little rebuttal warm-up.

 

Ruin is the embodiment of entropy within Adonalsium. That is why Investiture in Hemalurgic spikes decay. We've also heard several times that Ruin can influence any Shardworld. To me it seems rather simple to conclude that Investiture decay on any Shardworld (no matter which Shard is on it) must be caused by this aspect of entropy that existed within Adonalsium and is now personified by the Shard Ruin.

 

This aspect of entropy is obviously in Hemalurgy, but other forms of Investiture also have their own manifestations of it. It can be seen on Sel, and is the reason why Forgeries are usually impermanent. On Nalthis, it manifests as the weekly Breath-loss of the Returned. On Roshar, entropy manifests as the Surge of Division (which the Ars Arcanum author calls "The Surge of Destruction and Decay"), which is part of the Unified Surge called Stormlight.

 

Since Stormlight dissipates after a while, this dissipation must be caused by the aforementioned entropic aspect of Adonalsium, which already exists within it as the Surge of Division.

 

Therefore, Stormlight dissipation is caused by the Surge of Division within it.

 

First, Ruin. A notable thing about Shardic intent is that it doesn't affect the expression of Investiture. It only influences how you get it. Allomancy makes not much sense when viewed from the Preservation angle, and Hemalurgy no sense at all - it should by rights be the Preservation magic, not the balance. But that's not how it works. How you get the power is related to the intent, but after that, other factors influence what an individual can do with it.

 

BRANDON SANDERSON

One of the 'basics' of the magic in all of the worlds is that the energy of Shards can fuel all kinds of interactions, not just interactions based on their personality/role. I did this because otherwise, the Magics would all be extremely limited.

 

The 'role' of the Shard has to do with the WAY the magic is obtained, not what it can do. 

 

So is entropy a notion related to Investiture in the Cosmere? Yep, sure is. Does how you gain power from Hemalurgy show aspects of Ruin? Killing people, loss of net power, yep. But all systems of Investiture indicate some form of entropy beyond your examples - Feruchemy has diminishing returns, Breath is lost when a person dies, Allomantic power will burn the metals away if you activate it and it remains unused. So entropy is a thing, but to say that entropy in Stormlight is specifically caused by the Surge of Division doesn't follow. It's like saying the power of Aluminium is what makes all burned metals disappear, or that Breath dissipates when the holder dies because of how Divine Breath eats itself.

 


 

But enough of that, that's old hat. I'll take your side as well, and bring it down Roshar style. I will be Ardent in my defense, and your arguments shall be Void and Unmade before my Radiant Words!

 

Surges, you see, are not the basic things you think, they are, even on Roshar. They're just words people have chosen to describe those powers. The underlying laws of the universe can't be pigeonholed into those Radiant powers, as comprehensive as they are. And this is known, and told to us... by the Ars Arcanum.

 

THE TEN SURGES

 
As a complement to the Essences, the classical elements celebrated on Roshar, are found the Ten Surges. These—thought to be the fundamental forces by which the world operates—are more accurately a representation of the ten basic abilities offered to the Heralds, and then the Knights Radiant, by their bonds.

 

As you can see, these forces are merely thought to be fundamental, and are more accurately just ways to describe Radiant powers. The Ars Arcanum researcher is the most knowledgeable person we know in the Cosmere (if they are Khriss, as suspected by WoB), or at the least the most knowledge that we hear from. We have no better authority than them other than Brandon himself.

 

In fact, it's not even clear that the laws of nature as we know them are fundamental. They can be modified, they can be ignored. Syl tells us (and shows us!).

 

“Laws are of men, Kaladin. Nature doesn't have them!"

"If I toss something upward, it comes back down.”
“Except when it doesn’t.”
“It’s a law.”
“No,” Syl said, looking upward. “It’s more like . . . more like an agreement among friends.”
“He looked at her, raising an eyebrow.
“We have to be consistent,” she said, leaning in conspiratorially. “Or we’ll break your brains.”

 

Syl demonstrates herself as being perfectly capable of ignoring fundamental laws as described by the Surges (notably gravity). Are your brains broken yet?

 

There's more yet on Roshar that tells us trying to describe the greater Cosmere systems in terms of the Surges is a mistake. In the epigraph of chapter 35, WoR, we have a nice little paragraph telling us that the arrangement and nature of the Surges was decided by the originators of the Radiants, and not some natural consequence laid down by the Shards or the underlying Cosmere.

 

“They also, when they had settled their rulings in the nature of each bond’s placement, called the name of it the Nahel bond, with regard to its effect upon the souls of those caught in its grip; in this description, each was related to the bonds that drive Roshar itself, ten Surges, named in turn and two for each order; in this light, it can be seen that each order would by necessity share one Surge with each of its neighbors.”

 

As seen here, the nahel bonds were created by men, and their placement decided upon (by committee no less!). The bonds they describe are the bonds that drive Roshar, as they term it, and they gave those names, and then grouped them together by twos. They chose the placement of the bonds, they chose which Surges to grant which orders, and they chose the arrangement.

 

The Surges themselves as termed by the words 'Division' and how the Radiants express that, are in fact just a subset of how the Realmatics on Roshar function. That in turn becomes a subset of how Realmatics in the Cosmere as a whole functions.

 

The Surge of Division is thus not the thing that causes Stormlight to decay, nor is the Surge of Abrasion the source of the Nahel bond. Instead both the Surges and those properties you note are the expression of the greater forces of Investiture entropy, of Pressure, of Investiture connections in the Spiritual Realm, and of Physics and Realmatics in the Cosmere.

 

These greater forces are filtered through Roshar, filtered through Honour and Cultivation, filtered through the Innate Investiture of the individual, filtered through the Spren, and then finally expressed in the forms of Surges. A Surge is a subset of a greater force expressed in a limited fashion, as arranged and described by men. Not the basis for all Investiture behaviour across the Cosmere. And not the fundamental basis on Roshar.

 

And we know this from information provided from Way of Kings and Words of Radiance themselves.

 


 

This is fun, we should do this more often. ^_^

Edited by Tempus
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The amount of words have blown my mind. I can see that I'm in the presence of some very hardcore forum users. I've hit my upvote limit just upping you all.

 

Skaa, you have way too much spare time. WAAAAAY too much. 

 

I don't think I can contribute anymore. Such content.  :mellow:

 

This is like Einstein's Grand Unified (Something I forgot) Theory.

post-10490-0-35380700-1402893813_thumb.j

Edited by Lightsworn Panda
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The amount of words have blown my mind. I can see that I'm in the presence of some very hardcore forum users. I've hit my upvote limit just upping you all.

Skaa, you have way too much spare time. WAAAAAY too much.

Well, it did take a whole week just to finish writing the first draft of the theory. Real life is just too much of a distraction sometimes. :P


So is entropy a notion related to Investiture in the Cosmere? Yep, sure is. Does how you gain power from Hemalurgy show aspects of Ruin? Killing people, loss of net power, yep. But all systems of Investiture indicate some form of entropy beyond your examples - Feruchemy has diminishing returns, Breath is lost when a person dies, Allomantic power will burn the metals away if you activate it and it remains unused. So entropy is a thing, but to say that entropy in Stormlight is specifically caused by the Surge of Division doesn't follow. It's like saying the power of Aluminium is what makes all burned metals disappear, or that Breath dissipates when the holder dies because of how Divine Breath eats itself.

Eh, you already acknowledged that entropy in Investiture is a thing, so that's a start. Let me try another approach (I call this one the flippancy approach). Tell me if there is any problem in the following line of thinking:

  • On Roshar, entropy manifests as Stormlight dissipation.
  • On Roshar, entropy can be augmented by harnessing a Surge that was eventually named "Division" (but is also described as "Destruction" and "Decay").
  • Stormlight is the Unified Surge, containing within it the aspects of all the Surges. (Take note: This is the main idea of my theory in this thread, and you did not outright reject it in your initial response.)
  • Stormlight contains within it the aspect of entropy that was eventually named "Division" (but is also described as "Destruction" and "Decay"). This follows from item 3.
  • The cause of Stormlight dissipation has... absolutely nothing to do with the aspect of entropy within it. No siree. Nope, not at all. It's got something to do with its gaseous form and its pressure, things that don't seem to make Scadrian Mist dissipate, but no matter! It's not Division! It's... something else!
See any problem there? Yeah, item 5 doesn't fit the pattern. It might not contradict the other statements, but it does not fit them either. Denying the role of Division within Stormlight breaks the pattern.

The thing you have to remember, Tempus, is this is a theory thread about a fantasy world invented in the mind of Brandon Sanderson. Being in the sad, unfortunate state of not being Brandon Sanderson, I have to make do with consistent speculations, speculations that fit a pattern. I mean, what fun would it be otherwise?

If I speculate that the Unified Surge contains the potential of all the Surges, then I am allowed-- nay, I am compelled, by the mighty gods of fantasy logic-- to use the Surges to explain the behavior of the Unified Surge. Because that fits the pattern. Because if the premise of this theory (that Stormlight contains all the Surges) is true, then it sure as damnation would be really weird if the Surges did not influence Stormlight at all.

Surges, you see, are not the basic things you think, they are, even on Roshar. They're just words people have chosen to describe those powers.

...

In fact, it's not even clear that the laws of nature as we know them are fundamental. They can be modified, they can be ignored. Syl tells us (and shows us!).

Please review the WoB I put in Part I above. Brandon said that the Surges are his way of taking the real world fundamental forces and going off on them "in a fancy way". Those are his words. Technically, the Surges are not exactly the same as the forces they are named after-- Brandon said that explicitly as well in the same WoB I quoted-- but the concept of the fundamental forces is the inspiration behind the Surges.

That was in the introduction of my theory, Tempus. The fact that the Surges are fancified fantasy forces that are subject to magic was obviously clear in my mind from the start. I hope you understand now that quoting Syl's (admittedly awesome) lines about being able to ignore gravity didn't do much good in attacking anything in my theory.

There's more yet on Roshar that tells us trying to describe the greater Cosmere systems in terms of the Surges is a mistake. In the epigraph of chapter 35, WoR, we have a nice little paragraph telling us that the arrangement and nature of the Surges was decided by the originators of the Radiants, and not some natural consequence laid down by the Shards or the underlying Cosmere.

As seen here, the nahel bonds were created by men, and their placement decided upon (by committee no less!). The bonds they describe are the bonds that drive Roshar, as they term it, and they gave those names, and then grouped them together by twos. They chose the placement of the bonds, they chose which Surges to grant which orders, and they chose the arrangement.

Thank you, Tempus, for giving me more evidence that the Surge pairings of the Knights Radiant are artificial in nature, as I proposed in my other Surge-related thread in the WoR forum. :D

As for its impact on this current theory of mine, well... it doesn't really do anything, I'm afraid. The excerpt just described how the Nahel bond of the Knights Radiant were formulated. Before the Radiants, there were the Heralds who, it turns out, also had access to the Surges. Obviously the Surges existed before the Knights. The Heralds accessed them via the Honorblades. I don't have a theory about what the Honorblades are yet, but they make it clear that you can't just point at that little excerpt and say "Aha! The Surges were invented by Rosharian humans!" or something.

In fact, I don't really get why you mentioned that quote at all. Perhaps I'll realize your point when I'm not so sleepy. :)

The Surge of Division is thus not the thing that causes Stormlight to decay, nor is the Surge of Abrasion the source of the Nahel bond. Instead both the Surges and those properties you note are the expression of the greater forces of Investiture entropy, of Pressure, of Investiture connections in the Spiritual Realm, and of Physics and Realmatics in the Cosmere.

I think you mean Adhesion. And no, being an "expression of the greater forces of Investiture" does not preclude Stormlight decay via Division or Stormlight sticking through Adhesion. One does not contradict the others. Like, at all. Why do you think so?

These greater forces are filtered through Roshar, filtered through Honour and Cultivation, filtered through the Innate Investiture of the individual, filtered through the Spren, and then finally expressed in the forms of Surges.

Wrong. According to the WoB you yourself quoted, "the 'role' of the Shard has to do with the WAY the magic is obtained, not what it can do." The Surges would exist on Roshar no matter which Shard/s went there, just like how the Metallic Arts would exist on Scadrial even if Preservation went somewhere else. The role of the Shard is to choose how the manifestation of Investiture is accessed. If Honor wasn't there to create the Honorblades, then some other Shard would create his own way to allow humans access to the Surges.


Hey, I didn't exactly "go down" as you claimed I would. :) Thanks anyway for forcing me to think more deeply about my theories, Tempus. I really appreciate it.

Edited by skaa
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just like how the Metallic Arts would exist on Scadrial even if Preservation went somewhere else.

What exactly do you mean by this? Are you implying that if Preservation had not gone to Scadrial, but another Shard had instead that Allomancy and Feruchemy would still exist? Or that if Preservation had gone there Invested, thereby causing the systems to develop into existence, and then left they would continue to exist? If the later, frankly we don't know what would happen. With the former, there is absolutely no indication that is the case. Allomancy is *of* Preservation and Scadrial, it could not exist without them both. If another Shard invested, it very probably would use metal as a focus, but the system would be different.

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With the former, there is absolutely no indication that is the case. Allomancy is *of* Preservation and Scadrial, it could not exist without them both. If another Shard invested, it very probably would use metal as a focus, but the system would be different.

I will have to disagree.

Here's a WoB:

Both gods could, if they wanted, fuel all of the metallic arts.

Here's another WoB:

As a note here, the powers granted by all of the metals--even the two divine ones--are not themselves of either Shard. They are simply tools. And so, it's possible that one COULD have found a way to reproduce an ability like atium's while using Preservation's power, but it wouldn't be as natural or as easy as using Preservation to fuel Allomancy.

The means of getting powers--Ruin stealing, Preservation gifting--are related to the Shards, but not the powers themselves.

In other words, the Allomantic powers (Iron-pulling, Steel-pushing, etc.) are not of Preservation. What is of Preservation is the way people currently access the Allomantic powers.

I hope that's clear now. :)

Edit: I apologize for the way I worded this earlier, Weiry.

I think this thread has gone a bit too Cosmerey for the Stormlight Archives board (it's all your fault, Tempus! :P). I might have to ask you guys to wait until I post a more generalized theory in the Cosmere section of the forums before we continue this discussion. Thanks!

Edited by skaa
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First time poster here. This thread is very theory intensive, but I can't help but feel that some of the disagreement lies in the terms being used to describe events (Nahel bonds, bindspren, entropy, division, etc.) rather than the events themselves.

skaa, can you define what you mean by "entropy" and "decay" in relation to stormlight? I have always held the belief that stormlight itself doesn't breakdown into smaller components, it is already at its most simple form. The name stormlight in refers more to the method of delivery of Investiture (the highstorms) rather than any particular form. So the inability to hold stormlight perpetually has less to do with it breaking down rather than seeping out of whatever container is holding it.

Breaths are Investiture in a different form, discrete units held within an organic body. The reason for their permanence is that they are attached to (bonded, if you will) to a living soul, which remains after the Breath leaves. That would make Breaths almost like non-sentient, self-contained, "idealess" spren.

The humans on Scadrial were created by Ruin and Preservation, which means that the Investiture needed to power their abilities are already inside of them, with the metals serving as a catalyst (I believe there was a WOB saying that the metals were like physical Aons, gateways for the power to come out rather than the source of power).

I haven't read The Emperor's Soul yet, so I have no comment on there.

Any thoughts?

Edited by Shaiyo
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