ulyssessword

Spren Theory: Visibility through Records

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I have found it strange that Spren are visible in some areas/times, but not others. Specifically, they are visible in the present day Vorin and Iriali areas, but not in Shinovar, the Purelake, or during the time of the Desolations. I believe that this is because nothing is/was recorded about Spren in those times/areas.

Recording information about Spren constrains their behaviour, as shown in Geranid's interlude. Spren can be invisible, as shown by Syl usually being invisible to most people, but there are situations that they can be seen under (such as by someone with Rock's ability, or possibly other ways). They would never be recorded as "not seen," so any records of their presence would increase their visibility.

During the cycle of Desolations, records and information would be very difficult to keep, as well as abstract research (such as Spren) being less of a priority in times of war, leading to a very long dark age. There would be no records in Shinovar either, as the Shin seem to avoid Spren through their resistance to Fabrial technology.

The more modern areas have a system of research and record keeping in place, allowing information about Spren to be kept for a long time.This would lead to Spren being more constrained in their traits, such as visibility.

Other, random pieces of evidence I haven't worked into coherent thoughts:

-Axies the Collector said that intoxicationspren only appear in Iri, possibly because that is the only place they are recorded in?

-The Protector Spren appears to have the time that it appears at recorded, locking it to a specific time, and possibly countering issue #2 (below), although it is an individual instead of a group, so may follow different rules.

-Axies also has difficulty attracting common Spren. This could be because only invisible individuals come, or not.

This theory also has several (big) issues:

1. The Spren may not be there. Instead of being invisible, they could be absent. This works in the Desolation era because Honour has not been shattered (IIRC, and also if they are Splinters of it), and from Shin because Cultivation rules there.

EDIT: there were Spren during the time of the Desolations.

2. There is nothing to indicate that types of Spren are bound to follow inductive reasoning. For example, there is nothing to indicate that "that firespren is red, that other firespren is red, and that third firespren is also red" can lead to "all firespren are red," and each individual Spren of a given type being recorded the same way is unlikely.

3. No specific mention of their absence on areas outside of Shinovar. The visibility of Spren in developed areas is because of science and research, but if they are seen in less civilized areas as well, this theory is less likely.

I've lurked around for a while, and read some of the theories (and will link the ones in my counterarguments later), but I may have missed some things.

Edited by ulyssessword
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Nohadon stated in one of the visions that "Not all spren are as discerning as honorspren." He wrote the book that the Radiants later used as their inspiration for founding the orders. This was very much during the desolations, so spren did exist then. As far as I can tell, that vision seems to be the furthest in the past of the visions it shows. I'm going off of memory, but the visions, as I remember them are the fight against the Night Essences (Radiants were present), the one with Nohadon, the day of recreance (Radiants abandoning their charge), and the possible future of Roshar being destroyed. Are there any more I missed? Anyway, as far as I can tell, the spren simply aren't mentioned, nothing suggesting they aren't there.

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I was thinking about this some more, and this quote from Syl sparked a chain of thought. (emphasis added)

"You 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 in you -- it seems that no two of you can agree on anything. All the world does as it is supposed to, except for humans. Maybe that's why you so often want to kill each other."

What if "flamespren", "windspren", and the rest are not fundamentally any different from one another? There could be one type of Spren, whose appearance would change based on the conditions. This fits well with my visibility theory, as it just adds appearance to it. I don't think it is contradicted by anything in the books either.

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My point above is that they WERE visible. The spren weren't mentioned much during the visions, but they were clearly aware of them. They were actually noted by Nohadon in the oldest (furthest back in time) vision. This clearly contradicts your theory that they weren't visible or weren't as visible. They were aware of spren that the people of Roshar aren't even aware of now. The result of Nohadon's book was the creation of the Knight's Radiant. The Knights continued to exist until some time after the "last" desolation. Jezrien specifically noted that mankind still had the Radiants as an excuse to why they could abandon their charge. As such, we can't really blame desolations for a destruction of those records, as they would have been around during that time as well, the Radiants were using them.

An interesting note on Syl's comment though. I had thought it meant each type of spren being completely identical in terms of who they are and what they do. I hadn't generalized it the way you did. This could mean that all spren come from something greater that they still remain a part of. It's certainly interesting to consider.

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My point above is that they WERE visible. The spren weren't mentioned much during the visions, but they were clearly aware of them. They were actually noted by Nohadon in the oldest (furthest back in time) vision. This clearly contradicts your theory that they weren't visible or weren't as visible.

I interpreted this differently than you did. Being able to see something is not a requirement for being aware of it, and even then, I think that someone who is bonded with a Spren would be able to see it regardless of its normal state. This knowledge of spren wouldn't need to be shared with the public, and there could easily be a taboo about describing the spren that you are bonded with as it is very personal.

I don't believe that spren were visible to the general public, as there were no mentions of fearspren when Dalinar fought the midnight essence, or anticipationspren at feverstone keep, or anything else, while in the present day, they are mentioned the majority of the time in situations like that. Also, I seem to remember Dalinar remarking that there were no spren, but that could just be me confusing his visions with Rysn in Shinovar.

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That begs the question then, if they weren't visible specifically because they weren't well documented, how did they become visible? They'd get documented as not being visible to most people, so they would remain not visible, assuming they were studied enough at the time to become documented. And with out anyone measuring things like that, they might not necessarily change. Not all spren are in a constant state of change like the flamespren, so there's no reason to assume that all those spren simply got documented during a moment when they became visible, and got locked that way. I just see a few too many holes that need to be plugged.

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That begs the question then, if they weren't visible specifically because they weren't well documented, how did they become visible?

I see two solutions to this: they are only visible to certain people (like Rock), or else they were visible randomly, but very infrequently. This is one of the weakest points in my theory.
They'd get documented as not being visible to most people, so they would remain not visible, assuming they were studied enough at the time to become documented. And with out anyone measuring things like that, they might not necessarily change.
I don't think that you can record spren on someone else's behalf, and I am confidant that you wouldn't be able to have a binding record of something without observation, so I don't think that spren could ever have a binding record of being invisible.
Not all spren are in a constant state of change like the flamespren, so there's no reason to assume that all those spren simply got documented during a moment when they became visible, and got locked that way.
When else could their appearance be observed or documented? It would never be written that "I don't see a flamespren" or something to that effect, because that doesn't seem like it is the type of statement that could lock a spren. Also, I think that spren are somehow linked to change, (spren of the goblet changing it to blood, Syl constantly changing/evolving, other types appearing around changes that are happening, will occur soon, or have occurred recently (pain, rain, fire, wind, anticipation, glory, fear, death, rot), so I'm not sure that spren aren't all in a constant state of change.
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From what you've suggested, they pretty much weren't visible at all, otherwise they'd be more well known, so being visible randomly would be unlikely. If they were constantly changing, that would likely have been recorded. Of course, you do have a point about whether they can change when not visible, that's certainly possible, but still seems unlikely.

You can record spren on some one else's behalf. That's what happened in the interlude.

He took a bite of his mush. "Go into the other room."

"What?"

"Just do it. Take your writing board."

She sighed, standing up, joints popping. Was she getting that old? Starlight, but they'd spent a long time out on the island. She walked to the other room, where their cot was.

"What now?" she called.

"I'm going to measure the spren with your calipers," he called back. "I'll take three measurements in a row. Only write down one of the figures I give you. Don't tell me which one you're writing down."

"All right," she called back. The window was open, and she looked over a darkening, glassy expanse of water. The Reshi Sea wasn't as shallow as the Purelake, but it was quite warm most of the time, dotted with tropical islands and the occasional monster of a greatshell.

"Three inches, seven tenths," Ashir called.

She didn't write down the figure.

"Two inches, eight tenths."

She ignored the number this time too, but got her chalk ready to write―as quietly as possible―the next numbers he called out.

"Three inches, three ten―Wow."

"What?" she called.

"It stopped changing sizes. I assume you wrote the third number?"

He may have done the measuring, but it was the wife who documented it. It's very much possible to document on other people's behalves.

Edit: It would likely be possible to bind that certain people couldn't see a thing if some people could see it, assuming other spren are indeed affected the same way. You simply note that the spren could not be seen by anyone except who the spren is bound to or the spren decides to show itself to.

Edited by KageNoOni
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Edit: It would likely be possible to bind that certain people couldn't see a thing if some people could see it, assuming other spren are indeed affected the same way. You simply note that the spren could not be seen by anyone except who the spren is bound to or the spren decides to show itself to.
That could explain things like alespren (I think that's what Axies decided to call them?) only being visible to drunk people, too.
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I'm mostly with ulyssessword on this one.

Here's an idea though, perhaps the spren that are capable of forming Nahel bonds (such as Syl and the symbolheads) are different in a major way from the spren that people are seeing all the time in the series.

Syl's comment that "all spren are, in a sense virtually the same individual." could be seen to support them as splinters of Honor, who before that point had only invested himself in the Nahel bond type spren. Only thing that bothers me about spren as Splinters is that there are too many of them. Unless we consider each type of spren to be one Splinter, regardless of how many there are. I'm happy with that.

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He may have done the measuring, but it was the wife who documented it. It's very much possible to document on other people's behalves.

I worded my last post wrong, that isn't quite what I was trying to say.

There are two key pieces to binding a spren: observation and documentation. A property must be observed before it is made into a binding record. Even the two parts are done by different people, there is still a cognitive link present.

In the case of a spren that is currently invisible to an individual, I don't think that any observations could be made. I don't think that it is possible to make a mental connection between "I don't see anything" and "that specific spren is invisible". This holds true whether other people who can see the spren communicate with the (non)observer or not. The only way I could see this happening is if a character could know both that the spren is there, and that it is invisible, but I don't see how this would work without mindreading or a sixth sense.

Here's an idea though, perhaps the spren that are capable of forming Nahel bonds (such as Syl and the symbolheads) are different in a major way from the spren that people are seeing all the time in the series.

I agree that they are different, but I have no solid ideas on how they are different. I guess we'll just need to wait for a few more books.
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Why would it not be possible to document it? Some one seeing a spren could clearly state it's there, and then anyone present for the purpose of documenting the fact could easily record who can, and can not see it. It's both observed and documented that way.

As for the Nahel bond, I'm not quite sure that fits with what Syl did with Kaladin. Note that Nohadon spoke both of honorspren, and the Nahel bond separately. He spoke of the honorspren as being discerning with who they bond to, while stating those with the Nahel bond weren't granted wisdom. It's possible that it could be the same bond, but it seemed to me like it was a different bond being described for surgebinders who weren't bonded by an honorspren.

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Why would it not be possible to document it? Some one seeing a spren could clearly state it's there, and then anyone present for the purpose of documenting the fact could easily record who can, and can not see it. It's both observed and documented that way.

I put a higher standard on observation than this. I don't think that it is good enough to not notice anything, I think it has to be a direct observation of the spren, and not seeing anything does not make a logical link in your mind. That being said, we really don't know anything about spren, so I could be way off here.
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Why would it not be possible to document it? Some one seeing a spren could clearly state it's there, and then anyone present for the purpose of documenting the fact could easily record who can, and can not see it. It's both observed and documented that way.

As for the Nahel bond, I'm not quite sure that fits with what Syl did with Kaladin. Note that Nohadon spoke both of honorspren, and the Nahel bond separately. He spoke of the honorspren as being discerning with who they bond to, while stating those with the Nahel bond weren't granted wisdom. It's possible that it could be the same bond, but it seemed to me like it was a different bond being described for surgebinders who weren't bonded by an honorspren.

It sounded to me like he was saying that all the spren who make the bond, making people surgebinders, are not as adaquate at separating the good from the bad, as honorspren (a specific Nahel bonding spren) were. and that bonding with a spren does not make one any wiser.

EDIT: spelling is terrible

Edited by Asha'man Logain
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“Our own natures destroy us,” the regal man said, voice soft, though his face was angry. “Alakavish was a Surgebinder. He should have known better. And yet, the Nahel bond gave him no more wisdom than a regular man. Alas, not all spren are as discerning as honorspren.”

“I agree,” Dalinar said.

The other man looked relieved. “I worried that you would find my claims too forward. Your own Surgebinders were… But, no, we should not look backward.”

What’s a Surgebinder? Dalinar wanted to scream the question out, but there was no way. Not without sounding completely out of place.

Perhaps…

“What do you think should be done with these Surgebinders?” Dalinar asked carefully.

“I don’t know if we can force them to do anything.” Their footsteps echoed in the empty room. Were there no guards, no attendants? “Their power… well, Alakavish proves the allure that Surgebinders have for the common people. If only there were a way to encourage them….” The man stopped, turning to Dalinar. “They need to be better, old friend. We all do. The responsibility of what we’ve been given—whether it be the crown or the Nahel bond—needs to make us better.”

He seemed to expect something from Dalinar. But what?

“I can read your disagreement in your face,” the regal man said. “It’s all right, Karm. I realize that my thoughts on this subject are unconventional. Perhaps the rest of you are right, perhaps our abilities are proof of a divine election. But if this is true, should we not be more wary of how we act?”

The 1st mention of the Nahel bond isn't clear, but the 2nd mention seems to include all Surgebinding as the result of a Nahel bond. Still, I think there are massive differences between the Nahel bonds of different orders. At first glance it seems to be strengthened by contributing the Primary/Secondary Divine Attributes of each order. Jasnah and Shallan have Nahel bonds as well. Shallan's is with the truthspren, which fits well with the Honest bit of Creative/Honest. If Jasnah is Palah and Palah's attributes are Learned/Giving, then I suppose she has to sacrifice or give things (not necessarily physical objects, a feeling, a memory, some Community Service could serve) away to strengthen her Nahel bond. Szeth, as we're always reminded, gets his Windrunner abilities a different way.

The Words, a voice said, urgent, as if directly into his mind. In that moment, Kaladin was amazed to realize that he knew them, though they’d never been told to him.

“I will protect those who cannot protect themselves,” he whispered.

The Second Ideal of the Knights Radiant.

He didn’t know what had happened to him, what had gone on with Syl and the words in his head. It seemed that Stormlight worked better for him now. It had been more potent, more powerful. But now it was gone, and he was so tired. Drained. He’d pushed himself, and Bridge Four, too far. Too hard.

Edited by Cheese Ninja
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Aha! I thought I remembered this passage from somewhere:

WoK Ch. 7, pp118 Hardcover

Creationspren began to gather around [shallan's] pad, looking at her work. Like other spren, they were said to be always around, but usually invisible.

It's very possible that this general knowledge is wrong, but it's still something.

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I still expect that the reason Shin doesn't have Spren is just that someone once wrote down they didn't see any Spren while they were in Shin. ;)

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He may have done the measuring, but it was the wife who documented it. It's very much possible to document on other people's behalves.

Small note, the two researchers are not married. As Ardents they cannot be married, this is made pretty clear by Shallan when Kabsal practically proposes to her, the woman actually thinks something to the effect of "it would be foolish to waste a lifetime of dedication" in connection with thoughts of the man and the oaths they have both taken. Sorry I am feeling to lazy to find the quote right now, you will have to look it up yourself.

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I still expect that the reason Shin doesn't have Spren is just that someone once wrote down they didn't see any Spren while they were in Shin. ;)

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so I'm still not convinced that "not seeing" can be recorded.

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