Chiri-Chiri<3

Definition of God in the Cosmere (and maybe generally) or why Jasnah is wrong with her atheism

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God

What is God actually? Or what is a god? I think about that far too much but I enjoy the thoughts of others. And Brandon did put his thoughts into his books. Some things he did put there intentionally and some probably without thinking about it. I read a lot about similar topics in this forum and i assume that my basic idea was already mentioned but most things I found were older. I am thinking this through while writing it. There will be errors and I hope someone finds them.

Gods throughout the history of mankind in the real world


I've never met someone who actually believed in one of the ancient gods of the Greek, Egyptians, or Vikings in the way they are represented in the strategy game Age of Mythology. And by my Christian standard the gods in the game are not gods at all. They are not all powerful or all knowing. They are not good. They are more than one entity. They did take on physical forms and sometimes even impregnated women. As somewhat of a christian myself I have to think about Jesus when writing that sentence. He had a physical form, his father was God and he did not seem to be all powerful. But this discussion should not be about him. The ancient pantheons knew many Gods and all of them had a different purpose. The main Greek gods for example are known as the Twelve Olympians. And  the ancient gods did always fight or party. There are many great stories about all of them.
Gods in the Cosmere as seen by the residents
To talk about all of them would probably be more difficult than talking about all of the gods in the real world, but I want to bring up my favorite examples.
Blushweaver is called a god, but from my viewpoint she is a resurrected, highly invested, human.
The Stormfather is a god for many Rosharans. He is basically a Spren for us.
The Heralds are also gods for many Rosharans and I do not know what they are for me, but they are similar to Blushweaver and the Returned. 
For the Un-Kalaki all Spren are gods. 
And last but not least there are the Shards and Adonalsium himself. This is more difficult. For someone who believes in the divinity of one of the beings mentioned above the shards would probably be gods too. And Adonalsium as a combination of all of them would logically also count as a god. 

Many gods becoming one


In our world it happened that one religion devoured others. Sometimes a polytheistic  religion slowly focused on one of the gods at first and then integrating the aspects of the other gods into the main god. Multiple religions and multiple gods became one god as the only god of one general religion. This happened a lot and is related to other phenomena. If you think about the pyramid (hierarchy) of needs it makes sense to pray for food and shelter at the beginning stage of a developing society. But later those basic needs are fulfilled and love, esteem and self-actualization become more important. Those needs are more abstract than food. This leads to the god, responsible for this need, being more abstract. This is a complicated topic and you can spend years looking into it but my main argument is that in our world multiple religions and gods did unite to become one.   


The Shattering of Adonalsium

In the cosmere the whole topic of religion currently begins with the Shattering of Adonalsium. Adonalsium, an (all-)powerful being was shattered into 16 Shards. Those Shards represent different aspects of the same being. And maybe something important happened with the 4 Dawnshards before that, but this is currently RAFOed as far as I know. 
Here is where part one of my conclusion starts. The Shattering of Adonalsium is the opposite of what happened in our world. In our world many gods become one. If we think of Adonalsium as a god then his shattering is one god becoming many. And not only Adonalsium did become many gods, but his shards did too. In Greek mythology divinity gets passed on to the children of the god. If both parents are gods, the child is a god too. If only one parent is a god, the child is born as a halfgod. If we use this theory on Roshar, then every Spren is a god. We can argue about how much divinity is needed to actually be called a god, but it is hard to draw a line. So let's just use the easy way and say everything that is pure investiture without a physical form is a god. This would be one easy way to define god in the cosmere. It is clearly not perfect but it is a definition. It is not the definition  I would use from an out of world perspective but it would be fine as an inworld one for me. 


Socrates? What has Socrates to do with that?


Socrates asked difficult questions. Imagine someone asking about honor. What is honorful?
If you ask many people there will be a consensus on a lot of honorful behaviors. But some things will be contrary. And this thought of contrary views on honorful behavior can be represented by spren. Syl believes that Kaladin is honorful. Other Honorspren may agree or disagree, but no other spren agreed enough to make him a radiant. The part of Honor (and Cultivation maybe) that thought of Kaladin as honorful enough to become radiant is called Syl. So Sy is only a small part of the whole Adonalsium, but a part with power and an opinion.  If we say that Adonalsium is the god of the Cosmere we can argue that he did split up himself, his will and his power into many little pieces but those pieces are still the will and power of the whole so every Spren is Adonalsium but Adonalsium is all Sprens and all the other Shards as well. A Spren is then a part of God. It is divine. If we accept that Adonalsium never was all powerful or willingly limited himself that every part of Adonalsium is still God in its essence and Identity.
Are Humans Gods now?
No. But as mentioned in the cosmere and the real world. There is something special about Humans. In the Cosmere we can add a lot of other beings to the list of special ones. But to keep it easy I´ll just talk about humans. 
Every human has some kind of divinity. We have souls or something. That's a complicated and abstract philosophical and religious idea. And I will not discuss all world religions at once but most agree that humans are special. 


The one above all
The true God of the Cosmere


So even if we do not agree on Adonalsium being a God there is something even deeper than that. If we define God almighty and something that knows everything, the past, the present, the future there is still one being that fits this description.
Brandon Sanderson! He created the Cosmere. He created it out of nothing in his mind. He completely decides all physical rules. He can change them anytime, but it would make a worse story. He knows the past of the cosmere and also it’s future. He can do whatever he wants with it. He is almighty in the cosmere. He is God. Of course he is not the god of our real world, but no one in the Cosmere can prove that Brandon exists. He creates characters and tries to make them seem conscious. And he does it so well that they seem real or believable to all of us. But sometimes he has to intervene in the broader story. Intervene in what would normally happen. He creates coincidences that bring the important people together. Someone finds the right book at the right time. People meet randomly or due to mysterious reasons like Hoid. Hoid is somewhat the main way of Brandon to influence the story. And by influencing the story he changes the cosmere itself. And Brandon created the Cosmere in a way that Hoid seems to be real and not divinie. At least not much more divine than many other beings. Hoid can be everyone. He can be beggar on the streets, the king's wit, or just some random traveler you meet at a campfire. But Hoid is always Brandon’s influence. Hoid is in a way the inconspicuous hand of god. And have you ever met a Hoid in your life? Someone who did influence your path through life in a positive way without you noticing it at first? Maybe something that seems unimportant, like a stranger wearing a funny T-Shirt with a joke on it. You meet someone special years later and remember that joke. You tell the joke, one thing leads to another and you are happily married. This is a bad example but it is related to something that actually happened.


So the true god of the Cosmere is Brandon Sanderson. He created it and tries to change as few things as possible, even though he knows everything and is almighty. But he influences the people in small but well calculated ways with his delegate that we know a Hoid.
 

Edited by Chiri-Chiri<3
Safe space
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This did get really long. I hope you like it  and I hope you will share your thoughts with me. 
What I did not mention immediately is the reason I cam to this topic. I thought about Jasnah being an atheist but believing in the existence of Spren. And for Horneaters the Spren are gods. To make it short, Jasnah is wrong because Brandon Sanderson is the God of the Cosmere. :D :D :D 

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You might find these two WoBs of some interest:

Quote

Questioner

I wanted to know what your stance on gods were, if you were trying-- If you had a meta-message about God.

Brandon Sanderson

If I what?

Questioner

If you had a meta-message about God.

Brandon Sanderson

I do not really. What I'm fascinated by ends up in the books and I'm fascinated by religion. But even in something like The Stormlight Archive, I don't want there necessarily even be a definitive answer? There are god... lowercase "g" gods. Whether there is a capital "G" God is still, in my opinion, left to the interpretation of various people. I'm not necessarily trying to say anything specific, I'm trying to say what the different characters say. Does that make sense? Jasnah doesn't speak my belief, but neither does Dalinar. But they speak their belief, and I try to respect their belief the best I can. So it's more like trying to be true to the different characters.

JordanCon 2016 (April 23, 2016)
Quote

Questioner

After people die, in this universe, where exactly do they go? Because, at first they appear in this one world, and then they go somewhere else.

Brandon Sanderson

So where do people go when they die. *laughter* In the cosmere. One of the things that's very important to me as a writer, when I am writing stories, is when we get to these kind of fundamental questions about faith and religion and things like this, that the narrative is allowing multiple characters' viewpoints to be plausibly true, if this makes sense. For instance, I am not gonna come out and say, "Is there a capital-G God of the cosmere, is there an afterlife?" These are not questions I'm gonna answer, because in-world, they can't answer them. What they can say is, your Investiture will leave what we call a Cognitive Shadow, which is an imprint of your personality that can do certain things. And that most of those fade away, and you can see them, glimpse them, and then watch them go. But, are they going somewhere? Or are they not? Is that simply the Investiture being reclaimed, Is it more of a Buddhist thought, where your soul is getting recycled and used again? Is it nothing, you return to, you know, being-- yeah, is it a different type of matter? Or is there a Beyond, is there a capital-G God? Things like this. These questions are not answered. I'm never gonna answer those.

Now, the characters will try to answer them. But it's important to me that both Dalinar and Jasnah can exist in the same universe, and that the story is not saying "This one is right, and this one is wrong." The story is saying "This is how this one sees the world; this is how this one sees the world." It's very important to me from the beginning to do that, just because-- Like, I hate reading a book where someone espouses my viewpoint only to get proven wrong by the entire structure of the narrative, and in that universe, that person is wrong. But I'm like, "In our universe, I don't think that I am. Just the way you constructed everything makes it so that I have to be wrong, if I were living in your universe, even if it's a universe that's not a sci-fi/fantasy one." If that makes sense.

This is just kind of for respecting my characters and for the people who hold the viewpoints of my characters, in particular if they happen to be different from my own viewpoints. I feel there are certain lines I'm not gonna cross.

So, the answer is: who do you believe? Which of the philosophies in the books do you look at and say "Yeah!" Or, even better: listen to lots of different ones, and maybe these different viewpoints are all gonna have interesting points that'll give you things to think upon.

JordanCon 2018 (April 21, 2018)

 

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Thing the first: please do not double-post. This is one of the basic forum rules. You can edit your second post's text into the first and hide the extraneous one.

 

21 minutes ago, Chiri-Chiri<3 said:

I've never met someone who actually believed in one of the ancient gods of the Greek, Egyptians, or Vikings. And by today's standard (western world) their gods are not gods at all. They are not all powerful or all knowing. They are not good.
 

Thing the second: now you have met one.

I am a Kemetic Pagan; my gods are the ancient Egyptian pantheon. I need you to understand that you just deeply insulted my faith.

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Did I double post? @Kaymyth
I did not want to. my RAM could not handle to many open browser windows with text in it. So I copied everything into a word, closed the tab, wrote the rest in word and then opened the same tab again. i assume, you already deleted it, because I can not find it anymore.

I am honored to meet you.
And I am very sorry you feel an insult on your faith. I can change the passage if you tell me what part did the wrongdoing. 

 

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Just now, Chiri-Chiri<3 said:

Did I double post? @Kaymyth
I did not want to. my RAM could not handle to many open browser windows with text in it. So I copied everything into a word, closed the tab, wrote the rest in word and then opened the same tab again. i assume, you already deleted it, because I can not find it anymore.
 

You did. "Double posting" refers to any time when you post twice in a row in one thread. That's a no-no on the Shard.

 

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1 minute ago, Kaymyth said:

You did. "Double posting" refers to any time when you post twice in a row in one thread. That's a no-no on the Shard.

 

Ah, so i did not post the same thing twice, just answered my own post and that is a no-no.
Okay I understood, But if someone else had answered before it would be fine to post again there. So I am not supposed to answer my own questions or add information to a post  with another post, but i should edit the original one, except someone else has postet in between.
So if I post and you post i can post again, but I post and i post is  a no-no

I think I either got it now or I a have no Idea what you mean

 

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2 minutes ago, Chiri-Chiri<3 said:


Okay I understood, But if someone else had answered before it would be fine to post again there. So I am not supposed to answer my own questions or add information to a post  with another post, but i should edit the original one, except someone else has postet in between.
So if I post and you post i can post again, but I post and i post is  a no-no

That is correct.

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In general with discussion of divinity, both regarding fiction and real life, an issue will emerge of definitions, and what exactly words mean. As far as I can tell, one of the issues is that the English word we render "god" is an attempt to be comprehensive of many many different religious ideas. While in hindsight its easy to start making blanket categorizations of mythology and religions, at some level we have to acknowledge the many different things the words could mean. Comparing the Judaeo-Christian God who is immaterial and eternal in nature to, say, the ancient Greek deities, which were both material and born shows two creatures that could not reasonably be classified as the same thing. And for that matter, look at the ancient Norse beliefs, where you have the Aesir and Vanir, both of which we call gods in english, but also the Jotun, which we call giants, but really could be considered the same "species" as the Aesir and Vanir, while really just being a different tribe. Not only are these gods considered material, but also mortal, albeit with magically lengthened lifespans. So when push comes to shove, the question really is what is a god? I'm not actually sure I have an answer for that.

If we go by the loosest and most inclusive definition, I would consider the Returned to be gods. They possess physical and magical capabilities beyond those of (normal) mortals (though admittedly in the Cosmere that's more of a spectrum than a hard line) who are worshiped and in that sense are very like the Norse gods. But then that raises the question, are all cognitive shadows gods? I'm not sure I'd want to agree to that. So do add "immortal" to the requirements? Well, the Returned don't age, but as for the killable side of immortality, the Cosmere has thus far shown nothing that cannot be killed, up to and including Adonalsium. So if that's your requirement than there truly are no gods in the Cosmere.

I could go on but I think I've made my point. Jasnah and Dalinar seem to define "god" as a supreme being, but that is not their only option. The Horneaters seem to claim that all that is needed for godhood is immortality, and thus they have millions if not billions of gods in the form of spren and world-hoppers and cognitive shadows. Generally people of the Cosmere seem to clear the title for most powerful forces around, which then of course defaults to the Shards. But in the end, the term god has so much potential to be broad or specific that its really not a good word for classifying things in the Cosmere without taking the time to specifically define it. Personally, this is why I really like having the words Shard and splinter and cognitive shadow and sliver. They're more specific benchmarks for the level of power and capability than the very undefined word "god."

Edited by HSuperLee
correcting spelling mistakes
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@HSuperLee
I pretty much agree with you.
What I'd like to add ist that there is a huge translation problem. The Horneaters have a word and idea of the meaning of the word and they use ist for Spren. This gets translated to Althi into something else because the word Spren does not have the same meaning as the Horneater word. So they use god, which is already an unspecific and abstract word which then theoretically gets translated to English. 
So there is a lot of meaning lost.  
What do you think about the definition of god as the author? It makes sense for me but it is useless at the same time because it does not do anything to understand how the inworld system works. But I still like it a lot

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A feeling of ugh, this again followed by a feeling similar to when one gets rickrolled is how I felt about this topic.

Okie-dokie... hmm... might want to be more careful with how you talk about old Greco-Roman or Egyptian or Nordic faith. Like Neo-Paganism is a thing. Also, Wicca, also Hinduism, Shinto, various African and African diasporic pantheons like the Yoruba or Vodou and various animistic and ethnic folkloric beliefs. Polytheism really does not exactly work like how monotheistic religions describe them, given most of their understanding comes from preachings against idolatry and/or pop culture knowledge of the ancient Greek myths (for instance check out where the modern myth of Medusa's curse came from vs the older myth of three Gorgon sisters. Also check out how Athens got it's name, or the various aspects of Aphrodite, or where Dionysus and Pan came from.)

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9 hours ago, Chiri-Chiri<3 said:

This did get really long. I hope you like it  and I hope you will share your thoughts with me. 
What I did not mention immediately is the reason I cam to this topic. I thought about Jasnah being an atheist but believing in the existence of Spren. And for Horneaters the Spren are gods. To make it short, Jasnah is wrong because Brandon Sanderson is the God of the Cosmere. :D :D :D 

think I understand your point here, but I’m not sure. I’ll offer a rebuttal to what I think you’re saying, though there is a real possibility I’m misunderstanding you. 

So you’re saying that because the horneaters worship spren as gods, and Jasnah obviously believes in spren, so Jasnah can’t be an atheist? Just because the Horneaters worship the spren as gods doesn’t mean she recognizes them as gods.

I remember seeing a documentary or something a while ago that relates to this. This is purely based on my memory, so this is probably horribly historically inaccurate, but I think the point should still come across.
So in WWII, an airfield was build on this island somewhere. This island actually was home to some natives who had had no contact with the outside world until that point. They saw these people coming with their planes, and started worshipping them, as that level of technology seemed like magic to them. After WWII ended, and the airfield was abandoned, they started mimicking the things they had seen the ground crew do. They constructed their own runways, built radio towers out of wood (non functional obviously), had rituals based on the routines they had seen the soldiers doing, all sorts of things, in the hopes of getting their gods to return. 

Point is, just because these people believed that airplanes were gods, and I obviously believe that airplanes exist, doesn’t necessarily mean I believe in god. Their god is not my god.

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@Dannex

Interesting story. But that is the main question of the thread in some sense. How do you define god/God in the cosmere. For someone on scadrial before book one, giant flying metal tubes that bring destruction and death could easily seem like some kind of divine being. And it shooting metal bullets is even close to their magic system. 

But from their viewpoint, it would be crazy to not believe in their gods because, just look up and see them fly.  Perspective matters a lot.

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6 hours ago, Dannex said:

So you’re saying that because the horneaters worship spren as gods, and Jasnah obviously believes in spren, so Jasnah can’t be an atheist? Just because the Horneaters worship the spren as gods doesn’t mean she recognizes them as gods.

Yes, because many of the "gods" of the cosmere are entities that people have actually seen and met, I've always considered Jasnah's atheism to be an attitudinal stance.  She knows that beings of great power and significance exist, so it's not like she doesn't believe in them, but she just doesn't consider them worthy of being worshiped as gods because they're not all-powerful and flawlessly perfect.  Like, someone in the cosmere who doesn't believe in the existence of "gods" like the Heralds, or the spren, or any given Shard of Adonalsium, is wrong, because those entities do objectively exist.  But choosing to believe that they are worthy of worship, or that there is some fundamental distinction between, say, a Knight Radiant and someone like Cultivation, rather than a natural gradient, is another question altogether. 

And in the scope of the cosmere, I think Jasnah's stance makes a lot of sense.  Most of the "gods" we've seen are all imperfect and extremely human individuals, so if you want your gods to be perfect and pure (which not necessarily everyone does), then there would be no reason to consider any of the "gods" of the cosmere to be worthy of worship.  Thus a belief in the God Beyond makes a lot of sense, and is really the only escape for the nihilism in the cosmere which starts to consume you when you realize that the "gods" are just flawed humans who are ridiculously highly Invested.  

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2 hours ago, Llarimar said:

Like, someone in the cosmere who doesn't believe in the existence of "gods" like the Heralds, or the spren, or any given Shard of Adonalsium, is wrong, because those entities do objectively exist.

In the case of these, other people are the ones who applied the term 'god' to them. Powerful Being != God. Jasnah can obviously acknowledge that they exist, but can still firmly say that they aren't gods. 

By this logic, I could walk out into the world, yell "I AM NOW WORSHIPING A MICROWAVE", and then go around claiming that all atheists are wrong because microwaves exist. 

Edited by Dannex
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4 hours ago, Dannex said:

By this logic, I could walk out into the world, yell "I AM NOW WORSHIPING A MICROWAVE", and then go around claiming that all atheists are wrong because microwaves exist. 

This made me smile :lol:

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I enjoyed the analogy of Sanderson as the God of the Cosmere.  It was not what I was expecting, and it made me happy.

I absolutely LOVE the way Brandon explores the idea of religion - how they start, how they change, and how they influence people's experiences of the world.  It's really quite beautiful and optimistic.  We see people from different cultures and religions getting along, working together, learning from each other; a lot of the character growth in the Cosmere novels happens because someone's worldview is expanded by either 1) a relationship with another character with VERY different beliefs, or 2) learning a deeper truth about their own religious beliefs.

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