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Mythology is replete with examples of people selling their soul to the devil. Except... how does that actually work, mechanically?

Let's say you sign a contract agreeing that the devil may take your soul. How does it get transferred to him? If he has the power to take it himself, he wouldn't need a contract. So maybe it's something you do, like how when you sell someone your car you have to physically hand them they keys. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't have the first clue how to go about handing someone my soul.

If it's not the devil that removes it, and it's not the contractor, that means there must be some third party. An external agency, that manages and administers the soul contracts, ensuring that the deal is fulfilled, and transferring the soul to the recipient. A neutral party, that can be trusted not to cheat, and is not interested in taking the soul for themselves. Possibly an individual, possibly an agency, but there's got to be someone.

So, who does this? And what do they get out of it?

Edit: Apparently I need to be more specific with what I am asking

Premise:

  1. Assume that it is possible for a human to sell their soul to a supernatural being.
  2. Supernatural beings interested in acquiring souls are not able to take them by force, and humans cannot transfer souls without assistance.
  3. Therefore some other supernatural being (or organization of such) mediates soul-transfers, and enforces such contracts (i.e. rules whether the terms are met and the soul transfer goes ahead).

Question:

  1. What is the identity of this being(s)?
  2. Why do they do this? How do they benefit from assisting in the transfer of souls?

So, although additional details are certainly welcome, a basic answer might look like "soul exchanges are mediated by [NAME], who do it because [REASON]".

The best answer is the one that requires the least changes from standard mythology. That is, as much as possible using existing mythological beings, with an explanation that is similar to their myths/domain, rather than postulating an entire new cast or ascribing out of character motivations.

Apologies to whoever this was not clear to.

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closed as off-topic by Mołot, Aify, L.Dutch, bendl, sphennings Jul 9 '18 at 20:28

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – Mołot, L.Dutch, sphennings
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question. In the Judeo-Christin religions I assume the owner of a soul is God itself, necessitating the signing of a contract to change ownership. Still, I agree that there should be a celestial equivalent of the DVLA to administer these changes. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Jul 9 '18 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ "Sorting Bureau of Souls, you may draw a number. Please have a seat, we will administer to your soul shortly. Aproximate waiting time: 5238 years." :) $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Jul 9 '18 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ You've asked a fascinating question, but to avoid it being closed, we need to improve the question a bit. (1) Make no assumptions. You need to explain the situation from your perspective. Every time you express your ignorance, it's a nail in the "primarily opinion-based" coffin. (2) Be 100% specific about what you want. You've currently asked a fairly broad question that doesn't explain what a "best answer" would look like. (3) Describe all the players. We have participants world-wide, and they don't all share the same definition of (e.g.) "devil." Please do this ASAP to avoid closure/hold. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 9 '18 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ Your improvements have improved the question such that it no longer should be closed for the reason stated, so I'm happy to VTR. You may want to consider explaining how you will judge the best answer as the edited question may be considered primarily opinion-based (POB). $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 10 '18 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Ok, thanks. I've added a description now of how I'm evaluating answers $\endgroup$ – Benubird Jul 10 '18 at 14:38
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God, of course.

Since we speak of soul and devil, we think it is safe to assume one of the Abrahamic religions in any of its variants.

So:

  • God is all-powerful, and

  • God has given men free will.

Which means that if a man decides to relinquish his soul to the devil, then God just obliges and performs the exchange himself out of respect to the man's will and the rules He established.

Yes, God is not preventing the man from getting eternal punishment for this, but God is not preventing other men from getting eternal punishment for other sins that they commit and that God could stop as easily as this transaction.

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  • $\begingroup$ this does make logical sense, but the Christian and Jewish God has shown time and time again that he's not the "here are the rules, things will happen because of them" type. He's more of the Brimstone and Hellfire (Jewish) or Forgiveness and Prevent Men From Stupid Actions (Christian) type. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jul 9 '18 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ I have trouble imagining why god would want to enable this. If it's not possible without his intercession, then what possible motive could god have for doing so? The idea of a contract is that the devil gives you something that would otherwise be impossible to obtain - i.e, getting around gods rules. So it seems like encouraging it would only hurt him. $\endgroup$ – Benubird Jul 9 '18 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Benubird I imagine it comes from the same parts of belief that have some Christians think that their God buried dinosaur fossils to trick humans into believing in science. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jul 9 '18 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Benubird Ah, but the devil gives you something that the devil has the power to do, even though a human doesn't inherently have the power--that's the trade. $\endgroup$ – chrylis -on strike- Jul 9 '18 at 17:38
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Consider that the devil does indeed have the power to take a soul, but humans have the ability to keep their soul. All it would take for the devil to take the human soul is for the human to not resist. Most humans, however, innately hold onto their souls by some instinct. Presumably, humans don't have the innate knowledge of how to release their hold, so the devil, in his malign wisdom, has them sign a contract as a sort of aid to teach them how to release their grip. By succumbing to his will through the ritual of signing the contract, they release their hold, and the devil can take the soul.

Or, if you want a more magical approach, the ritual of signing the contract brings the human's will/spirit into contact with the devil's will/spirit, creating a link of contagion between them. This link is what the devil uses to magically seize the human's soul. Since the contract is also the contagious link between then, the devil is required to fulfill the contract's terms, or risk the link being severed and the soul returning to its human host.

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The agreement itself handles the transfer

Literature is replete with authors proposing rules that the devil must be subject to --even if we mere mortals don't understand those rules-- to get around the fundamental question most children figure out around age seven ("why hasn't the devil already conquered the world?").

The mechanics of soul transfer are governed by the same mortals-don't-need-to-understand rules. The agreement itself is the binding supernatural action, no further arbitration or action is needed.

There are several forms of appeal to the transfer (most notably contests, trials, and occasionally marriages). In trials, the ruling itself is typically sufficient to instantly negate the transfer, indicating that the same rules-we-don't-understand still apply, and that the words themselves have the supernatural power.

Best example of both immediate transfer and immediate nullification: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror IV, in which Homer sells his soul for a donut, but the transaction is appealed and successfully reversed at trial upon presentation of a prior claim upon the soul.

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Every soul has an Ownership History section that resembles what you would see on a vehicle title. Here is an example:

  1. Owner: God
  2. Owner: Jimmy -- signed: God
  3. Owner: Satan -- signed: Jimmy & Satan
  4. Owner: The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- signed Satan & Lloyd Blankfein, CEO
  5. Owner:

The soul itself prevents entries from being added that do not include the signature of the owner at that time. Not everybody can write to (or even see) this section, which significantly limits the number of potential future buyers for Jimmy's soul.

Also, souls come equipped with autonomous navigation capabilities which cause the soul travel to whoever occupies the final name in the list whenever its body dies. So to answer your question, it is the soul that automatically completes the agreement.

In order to make transactions more accessible to mortals, it has been proposed that the final line on each soul could be copied into the Ethereum blockchain and then entities like Goldman Sachs could further transfer Jimmy's soul via smart contracts--but updating the soul auto-navigation system to connect to the Ethereum network upon death has proved technically challenging so far.

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