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Szeth's Voices (all spoilers)


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I was rereading Secret History and Kelsier was commenting about how only the mad ones were able to hear him.  Which definitely sounds like what's going on with Szeth. If Szeth is right and they are all the voices of those he killed, that would imply they are cognitive shadows. My impression is that assumption is just part of Szeth's madness.

So who or what is whispering to Szeth then? 

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Is anything magical going on with the screams Szeth hears?

Brandon Sanderson

Uhhh, Szeth's screams. Uhhm, I'm trying to decide how to answer this. It is not, see here's the thing. What we would call magical may not be considered magical in the Cosmere, but it depends on your definition of magic. Would Szeth if he were on our planet and have done those things would he hear those screams, probably not, but would someone else in the Cosmere who had gone through what he had gone through hear those screams, yes.


So it has to do with the spiritual realm?

Brandon Sanderson

Yea, mhmm, yea.

OdysseyCon 2016 (April 8, 2016)

There's definitely something going on, though we know not what.

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Is death in the Cosmere a two-stage process? It seems to me like (under normal circumstances) the body dies first, sending the mind fully in the Cognitive Realm; the soul, presumably, remains in the Spiritual for the entire process. I am a little unclear on what happens after that though - what is it that passes into the Beyond, just the mind? Does the soul / spiritual aspect / Spiritweb just kind of... break down in the Spiritual Realm, turn into free iInvestiture?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. It's a two stage process, and most of what you said is correct. The odd thing is, though, that the Spiritweb doesn't completely break down (just like your body doesn't immediately break down.) Even after a long time, there's a record of that Spiritweb in the Spiritual Realm.


Wait wait wait. If there is a "corpse" of Spiritweb (so to speak) and actual, physical corpse is also there... Could it be still viable for Hemalurgy? Could it be still viable for Hemalurgy if you really know what you're doing and have some useful powers (manipulating Connection comes to mind)?

Could you patch the remnants of the Spiritweb and staple it to the body and end up with some zombie-zombie Lifeless? You'd still need to give it a mind but I figure Awakening is just doing that?

Brandon Sanderson


Stormlight Three Update #6 (Feb. 5, 2017)


Was really Evi the voice that Dalinar heard when he opened Honor's perpendicularity?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. (You knew it was coming.)

So here's the thing--I'm never going to confirm or deny anything from Beyond the Spiritual Realm. Because it is unfair for me to do so. I believe there is an afterlife in our world, while others (quite rationally) conclude there is not.

The Cosmere has systems in place for ghosts and things to be real, yes, but I want it to always be possible for intelligent people to disagree about things like Evi's voice. Spiritual Connection creates visions in the Cosmere that are quite realistic (like all the ones Dalinar experienced.)

What Dalinar heard here could very rationally be a version of such a vision. That's what the Death Rattles are, for example.

Or, it could be his dead wife speaking to him from beyond the grave. Navani would say that's what it is; Jasnah would say it's the first. I try very hard (despite my personal biases) to not undercut the viewpoint of someone who doesn't believe in an afterlife. It is vital to me that the author not sweep in and say, "Yeah, it's cool some characters are Atheists at all who doesn't believe in an afterlife...but nudge nudge, we both know there is one."

The existence of an afterlife (not Cognitive Shadow style, but in the Beyond) in the cosmere is subject to your own personal interpretation. Everything that happens like this CAN be explained by Realmatic Theory, with very valid examples from the books.

General Reddit 2020 (June 5, 2020)

Gordon Kelsch

Can Dalinar permanently bring someone back from the Spiritual Realm?

Brandon Sanderson

No. In fact, whether or not the voices he is hearing are legitimately voices from beyond the Spiritual Realm, or if they're a manifestation much like the visions that the Stormfather creates, where Dalinar's desire for certain things is basically creating... So when Dalinar goes into the visions, what's going on there is: these are not people with autonomy that he is interacting with. These are Investiture manifesting a basic AI that is able to adapt, cause Investiture kind of can do this.

Dalinar would argue, "Yes, that's the case except for when I actually met Nohadon. That character felt different, that felt like the real Nohadon stretching through the Spiritual Realm and actually interacting." Jasnah would say, "No, that's because, Dalinar, you have such, in your mind, a hope and desire to see Nohadon, he's this mythological figure in your head, that basically the Stormfather's knowledge of who he actually was was creating this much more animated puppet that was more like actually how Nohadon was, but was based on knowledge of the spren and the Investiture that you're interacting with." And Dalinar would say, "I heard Evi's voice." Jasnah would say, "You heard the Investiture coming to life and speaking with her voice the things you needed to hear. And it wasn't that the Stormfather was like, 'He needs to hear this, I'm going to create this fake..' But it's instead your relationship with this magical force that does take on life of its own, manifesting this thing." Which one it is, I do not answer. Both are, I consider, equally valid interpretations of the text, and equally valid interpretations of the magic system.

Once someone is passed into the Beyond, there is no force that can bring them back, according to people's understanding of the magic system. There is even the argument that Cognitive Shadows are not the person. That the Cognitive Shadow is indeed a spren with the memories and an imprint of the person's personality that becomes self aware and continued on living that person. It's kind of the same question that arises in Star Trek. When you are ripped apart and rebuilt piece by piece with the transporter, some people in Star Trek do not believe you are becoming the same person again. You are then a different individual who has been cloned from the person and had the memories attached. Functionally, in the narrative, for the reader, it's the same. Is it the same soul or not? That question is answered differently by different people in the Cosmere. There are equally valid interpretations from the reader. You get to decide, basically. You get to decide, just like if there's a story where a person's brain is uploaded to a computer, you get to decide: is that the same person? Because we can't do that, we don't know. Is that the exact same individual, or is that a computer simulation of that person, where the person has died? That's what a Cognitive Shadow essentially is, but using Cosmere physics instead of theoretical science fiction physics.

YouTube Livestream 23 (Dec. 17, 2020)

I think it's the lingering Spiritwebs of his victims whom Szeth hears

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