The Spiritual Realm IS “Location-Based”

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I’ve seen posters rely on the following WoB (third questioner) to conclude that the Spiritual Realm is not “location-based.” By that phrase, these posters seem to mean that the Spiritual Realm is in one Cosmeric place; it is not located near the Cognitive and Physical Realm places associated with each planet.


I disagree. Here’s the relevant language:


Q: “Does investiture have a consistent form (regardless of magic system and its Physical form) in one of the other realms?”



A: “It's consistent in the Spiritual Realm. Location isn't particularly important there.”

I think this statement means what it says – that the form of investiture is consistent only in the Spiritual Realm. This statement does not mean that location is irrelevant in the Spiritual Realm. Only that, wherever the investiture is in the Spiritual Realm, it is the same.


This is unlike investiture in the Cognitive and Physical Realms. The unique physical, cultural and magical interactions on each planet create unique Cognitive and Physical Realms in relation to each planet. Magicians cognitively access the Spiritual Realm differently on each planet, and the Physical Realm effects of magic differ on each planet. These interactions apparently change the form of Cognitive and Physical Realm investiture itself planet-to-planet.


Here’s the important point, though: the Spiritual Realm related to each planet IS ALSO DIFFERENT from each other planet’s Spiritual Realm. It must be, as each planet’s unique cultural and technological ideas become unique Spiritual Realm ideals. But the investiture that forms those Spiritual Realm ideals and their connections to one another is the same wherever those ideals and connections may be located. That IMO is what the quoted WoB says and means.


Because Spiritual Realm investiture - "true investiture" according to MISTER Sanderson - is the same wherever located, it is not governed by any mandate (my word for "intent" based on the textual evidence from HoA). Mandates belong only to the Cognitive and Spiritual Realms. My, what implications there are from that!

Edited by Confused

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The point of the "Spiritual Realm is not Location-based" idea is that physical distances are not important in the Spiritual Realm. I don't think anyone (except maybe the Iriali) are claiming that all objects in the Cosmere have just one Spiritual aspect. That would clearly contradict Shai's lesson that all objects have their own souls. Bust just because everything has its own soul doesn't mean their souls need to be as far away from each other in the Spiritual Realm as their physical aspects are in the Physical Realm. Remember, the Shardworlds are basically adjacent in the Cognitive Realm, so clearly the concept of distance differs outside of the Physical.

Imagine two pieces of string. One end of each string is attached to the ceiling while the other end hangs freely (or attached to a stretchable piece of cloth). You can think of the two moving ends as the Physical aspects of two objects, and the ends attached to the ceiling as their Spiritual aspects. No matter how far their Physical aspects move from each other, their Spiritual aspects remain in the same place. From the perspective of the Spiritual Realm, their Physical distance doesn't matter.


Because Spiritual Realm investiture - "true investiture" according to MISTER Sanderson - is the same wherever located, it is not governed by any mandate (my word for "intent" based on the textual evidence from HoA). Mandates belong only to the Cognitive and SpiritualPhysical Realms. My, what implications there are from that!

Fixed that for you. :) You were saying that the Spiritual Realm isn't governed by mandates (a claim that I'll address in a bit), so that just leaves the Cognitive and the Physical.

Anyway, I agree with half of that statement. Intent, or the mandate of a sentient mind upon Invested power, is intuitively a Cognitive thing (as intent is formed in the mind). But intent (or indeed, any thought) cannot exist without ideals, which from Shai (and, incidentally, Plato) we know are Spiritual. Ideal Investiture (or "true Investiture") may not be governed by the dynamic thoughts of a mind, but it's obviously governed by its own Ideals.

Edited by Ookla the Insipid

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Mister Sanderson had explain pretty well how the Spiritual Realm is recently.

There is a topic about there but speak about the Atium (because the question that Brandon answered was about the Atium).


Anyway to put simply: In the Spiritual Ream there is the "Perfect version of Everything in the Cosmere" and the link to other "perfect versions of other things" (that from now i will call Ideas).


To me is easy immaginable through math Definition, but I don't know if is the same for others.


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It's relatively clear (at least to me) that the Spiritual Realm would best be modeled by a mathematical graph.


Spiritual Ideals float around up there (though not in a Physical sense so location is very much irrelevant), connected to other Ideals. As Shai puts it:

“All things exist in three Realms, Gaotona. Physical, Cognitive, Spiritual. The Physical is what we feel, what is before us. The Cognitive is how an object is viewed and how it views itself. The Spiritual Realm contains an object’s soul— its essence— as well as the ways it is connected to the things and people around it.


And as Brandon recently put it:

The piece you're missing is the nature of a person's Spiritual aspect. This is similar to a Platonic idea--the idea that there's a perfect version of everyone somewhere. It's a mix of their connections to places, people, and times with raw investiture. The soul, you might say.
However, your age is part of your Connection to places, people, and times. Your soul "knows" things, like where you were born, what investiture you are aligned with, and--yes--how old you are.



So every object is, in the Spiritual, some sort of idealized version of itself - and what's important in the Spiritual is how it connects to everything else. Consider each object a dot, and the dots all have lines connecting them to every other object in existence that they have a connection to. This, to me, immediately leads to the description of the soul as a "Spiritweb".


If I may be so horrible as to hotlink ( if it isn't showing):



Speculation, but my best guess at the moment: Space doesn't matter - for example, it doesn't matter if a Mistborn is a planet away from Scadrial, their soul still has a line directly connecting to the planet because it knows they were born there. And as such, they can draw energy directly from the Spiritual to power Allomancy. The connection is what matters, and it won't change no matter how far you travel.


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Sure, there's probably some reflection of location in the spiritual realm. Being Rosharan or Scadrian is probably relevant on some small level.


There's probably also some analogue of space in the spiritual realm. But I expect unlike the cognitive, it's unlikely to match up with space in the physical realm in any way. It's probably going to be related to spiritual similarity in some way- so I expect that for instance all the human spiritwebs would be in the same place, the various Shard's spiritual power near each other, etc...


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So, more like a big computer database holding a bunch of inter-referencing data sets about stuff in the universe, rather than a more traditional plane of existence.

I mean, you normally file similar things away in one place and a different category in a different folder, no?

We are totes not running some sort of VR simulation on a supercomputer or anything.

Edited by natc

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Thanks VERY MUCH to you all for your comments!! In this post, I try to show why my different reading of the OP’s cited WoB really does matter.


To summarize my OP’s conclusion: the Spiritual Realm IS location-based, but Spiritual Realm INVESTITURE is NOT. This distinction says a lot about the structure of the Cosmere, with important implications.


“Cognitive Distance” – Why Shardworlds Are Proximate in the Cognitive Realm


I agree with Insipid/Skaa’s statement that “Shardworlds are basically adjacent in the Cognitive Realm.” That’s because Physical Realm concepts of “distance” don’t apply there. “Cognitive Distance” is measured in ideas not miles.


The collective MINDS of the sentient beings inhabiting each Shardworld CREATE each Shardworld’s Cognitive Realm (together with the minds of locally invested Shards). The proximity of sentient populations within the Cognitive Realm reflects the ABSENCE of sentient minds in the Physical Realm space between the Shardworlds. IOW, their minds are close because there are no minds in between the Shardworlds filling that space with ideas. (I know you guys know this stuff, but repetition has its merits.)


The Spiritual Realm IS Location-Specific


The Cognitive Realm of each Shardworld is unique. It reflects the unique cultural, technological, political, ideological, religious, emotional, etc. ideas of each Shardworld. The local Cognitive Realm also reflects that Shardworld’s magical influences, mainly represented through the mandates (intents) of the locally invested Shards. These planet-to-planet differences largely explain why each Shardworld requires a different cognitive means of accessing the Spiritual Realm to create magic: burning metal, drawing an Aon, crafting a soulstamp, Awakening with a command, sketching a picture or willing yourself to “fly.”


Shai tells us that when ideas in the sentient population become fixed and certain – the idea of a window as a window – those Cognitive Realm ideas reify into Spiritual Realm ideals. Since these ideals stem from each Shardworld’s version of the Cognitive Realm, then each Shardworld’s version of the Spiritual Realm must itself be different. As one example, Scadrial may have guns, and therefore the ideal of a gun exists in its Spiritual Realm, but Roshar does not have guns (until we see what Jasnah has in her bandolier). There should be no “gun ideal” in the Rosharan version of the Spiritual Realm.


When I use the word “version,” I don’t mean the Spiritual Realm around each planet is discrete and separate from the others. Only that, wherever the Spiritual Realm is, that portion of it associated with any Shardworld will be different from the portion of the Spiritual Realm associated with any other Shardworld. This is what I mean when I say the Spiritual Realm IS “location-based.”


But Spiritual Realm Investiture Is NOT Affected by Location or Mandate


MISTER Sanderson says that Spiritual Realm investiture is everywhere the same – what he calls “true” or “raw” investiture. This means two things. First, that “true investiture” is untainted by its relationship with local populations and their thoughts – even though those thoughts are the very things that give rise to Spiritual Realm ideals in the first place. IOW, local thoughts shape the forms of investiture, but the raw material of the form, the “true investiture” itself, is always the same. Its composition is always unaffected by what goes on in the corresponding Cognitive and Physical Realms.


Second, Spiritual Realm investiture carries no mandate (intent). Insipid/Skaa, you may think this conclusion is intuitive, but its ramifications are striking. For one thing, it means “true investiture” is pure untainted Adonalsium investiture.


By negative implication, MISTER Sanderson tells us that investiture in the Cognitive and Physical Realms IS affected by place and mandate. The very substance of investiture in these two Realms differs from Shardworld to Shardworld. This is consistent with what MISTER Sanderson says about saturating magical “humidity” around planets and is also consistent with the SoS A2 that describes “different investitures.”


IOW, what constitutes Cognitive and Physical Realm investiture on Scadrial or Roshar or Nalthis or Sel is different in kind from the same investiture on the other planets. We can only conclude that this is a function of the same Shard-planetary interactions that create each Shardworld’s unique magic systems.


ASIDE: This hints at how one Shard can attack another. Maybe the injection of “alien investiture” can have a viral effect on the local Shard, or maybe the effect to the local Shard’s body is like the rejection of a transplanted organ. Harmony’s fear?


“Being invested” in a planet means that a Shard’s investiture – its mind, body and soul – merges into the fabric of a planet and becomes one with it. It’s unsurprising the Shard’s body – its Physical Realm power – configures the landscape of the planet and becomes part of it - the Pits of Hathsin, for example. I am surprised (even if no one else is) that the Shard’s very MIND – its cognitive investiture – also merges with the planet’s collective Cognitive Realm.


It’s one thing for a Divine Mind and mortal minds to occupy the same space inside the Cognitive Realm; it’s another order of magnitude for the Divine and mortal minds to actually merge into the same substance, a substance found nowhere else in the Cosmere but that Shardworld. This conclusion also hints at forced splintering methodology.


Measuring Distance in the Spiritual Realm


Insipid/Skaa, of course your statement that “physical distances are not important in the Spiritual Realm” is true, but that’s because you speak of “physical” distance. Only “Spiritual Distance” is important there, just as only “Cognitive Distance” – the distance between minds – is important in the Cognitive Realm.


Perhaps “Spiritual Distance” matches the nature of the various connections between ideals. For example, Newton’s gravitation formula might define the nature of the “Gravitation” connection between physical bodies (subject to General Relativity). Or various quantum formulas may define the “Spiritual Distance” between sub-atomic particles. We are speaking of ideals, after all, and connections between these ideals that magicians can manipulate.


Or perhaps “Spiritual Distance” can be measured by how far one can get from one’s “power source” and still use magic, as you suggest with your “string theory” example. (I am a big fan of your theory - well researched and thought through.)


I don’t agree that “Spiritual Distance’s” lack of a physical analog is “[t]he point of the ‘Spiritual Realm is not Location-based’ idea.” There is nothing in that WoB that suggests anything about “Spiritual Distance.” Instead, as I’ve tried to show, the relevant WoB addresses whether any Realm’s investiture has a consistent form. MISTER Sanderson says, yes, in the Spiritual Realm, because the location of Spiritual Realm investiture isn’t important.


Finally, Insipid/Skaa, if you liked Kurk the Intangible’s “Platonic forms” discussion, maybe you’ll enjoy reading this (when you need a soporific).


Spiritual Realm as Network


Moonless/Moogle, I agree with your conception of the Spiritual Realm as a network of connections. I envision the Spiritual Realm as an electric grid, directing energy anywhere required or requested. At each grid intersection are nodes with their own Spiritual information – the “essences” of objects/ideas and the “souls” of sentient beings. This node-specific Spiritual information includes the type of personal “Connections” you folks discuss in the interesting “Age and Connection” thread.


On your Allomancer example, though, is there a WoB that says an Allomancer with the right metals can access Preservation’s power anywhere in the Cosmere? It seems theoretically possible, given my electric grid metaphor. A magician should be able to access the grid anywhere, especially since Spiritual Realm “true investiture” is everywhere the same.


But the cognitive means of doing so seem daunting. If the Cognitive Realm is comprised of substantively different investiture on each Shardworld, it would take a major hack indeed for an Allomancer to attune his metals into Preservation while on Roshar. Hoid’s emotional allomancy ability there is a special case, as are all of Hoid’s abilities (IMO).


MISTER Sanderson says Knights Radiant and Returned are examples of the two closest magical systems we’ve seen. I presume that’s because each animates its magic through a splinter attached to its Spirit Web. Spren and Divine Breaths are also similar in that the human host needs periodic investiture infusions to maintain his/her health, repair injury and facilitate long aging. A Returned needs more investiture than a Knight (weekly Breaths) because the Returned’s body is already dead, and its soul knows that, consistent with that recent WoB you folks discuss in the “Age and Connections” thread. Stormlight and Breaths are both a gaseous form of Physical Realm investiture.


Functionally, there’s no other difference between the two human hosts except in how they express their magic. Magical expression is largely controlled by the mandate of the attached splinter.


Natc, I agree with your database model. There’s no reason the Spiritual Realm has to exist anywhere in space, as long as the network is hooked up to a 3-D (at least) printer, pumping out whatever forms of Spiritual investiture the database instructs it to. It must be a relational database, since magicians constantly change the “connections” (search criteria) between objects.


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Recent WoB which is mildly relevant to this (just outright confirmation that time/space don't exist as such in the Spiritual). I'm posting this mainly so we don't lose it until it gets on Theoryland and so that it reminds me to make a proper reply to this when I get time.


zas’ sister: If Wayne and Breeze, like if Wayne had a time bubble up and Breeze was inside Pushing on somebody’s emotions what--

Brandon: He could still make that work.

zas’ sister: Would it affect it?

Brandon: Not really.  It wouldn’t dramatically affect it.  You’re going to have one of these sort-of effects--  Yeah, because what he is doing is on another Realm, it’s not going to affect it.

zas’ sister: Is that same with all [magics?]

Brandon: Not necessarily.  See what’s going on is if you are affecting things on the Cognitive Realm…

zas:  It’s kind of time-independent?

Brandon: Yeah? That’s not really--  Really it’s the Spiritual Realm that is time-independent, right?  All time and space are irrelevant once you reach the Spiritual.  You’re kind of going to go over the top, it’s going to work just fine.  In fact you can probably--  So he could use that to make his metals last a little bit better, probably.  So that is a hack of the magic systems that you could probably do.

Edited by Moogle

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