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"Magic" is not declared as such, but there is an energy that comes from every object, and even some things that are not physical, like a gust of wind. Some call it the entity's spirit, or even its soul. Mages can feel them, but they can't be seen.

Mages are people who can connect their own energy, their own soul, to the soul of others. When they do this they can influence the entity's soul, especially if their soul is much "firmer." Put another way, mages need to be very strong-willed and have great sense of self or they may find their own soul being manipulated by the other.

However, just because you can change something's soul doesn't mean you can change what it is. In fact, you can't directly influence much of anything. A fire, for instance. Its soul might be one of consuming, greed, and of passion. A mage may connect his soul and share his compassion, contentment, and patience. The outsider may see the fire slow, and maybe even start shrinking if it is able too. To the outsider, it may look like the mage put out the fire eventually. In reality, if the wind were too strong, the fire still may not have a choice and it may still grow and consume everything.

The danger of connecting to a soul that is simply too strong, like that of Earth itself, is great. The mages own soul is put in danger. But surely the Earth's soul has some qualities that would actually be helpful to a mage? Exactly what kind of danger might exist from connecting to a soul that is simply much stronger?

The problem I have is that you shouldn't be able to make yourself "better" (in society's, or your own, view) by just lightly absorbing someone/something else's qualities. I'm having trouble coming up with why your own individuality is so important that it is simply always a bad idea to let anything change yourself.

The goal is to provide a solution that "makes sense" and would be enough of a danger where mages would not try it unless they are either very stupid or incredibly desperate. Simply "losing your soul" has implications which I don't want - though death itself may occur.

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  • $\begingroup$ This presupposes there are universal concepts of good and evil. Moral values are typically defined by the society in which they appear. I'm not sure we can provide an answer without more detail on what you mean by a "good" soul. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 27 '15 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ "Good" could be defined in this instance as one which does not necessarily want to cause harm or change the mage - but the mage may end up hurting himself anyway. I don't mean to suggest a universal good/evil, but rather good/bad for the mage himself. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Mar 27 '15 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ I've put too much focus on the word "good", so I removed it from the title and edited a bit. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Mar 27 '15 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa not sure if you're making a reference/joke or if you're asking a question - Generally, a "strong" soul is one that is harder to influence for whatever reason. Strength of purpose might be one reason. Also, you could say some larger souls are combined versions of lesser souls. A mage could change the soul of one gust of wind, but to change the soul of wind itself would be like changing all the lesser souls bound to it. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Mar 27 '15 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ What you're describing is often called demonology, because it's generally used by and/or on demons. You may want to read up on Wizardry in Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy. There is a lot of good material that is similar to what you're describing here. And, it's an altogether stellar, if less celebrated, read. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Mar 27 '15 at 19:31
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You propose two different questions I will attempt to answer.

Exactly what kind of danger might exist from connecting to a soul that is simply much stronger?

The main danger I see is becoming lost in the flow of energy/essence/soul/whathaveyou. For comparison purposes, let's let one hundred people be represented by an equal number of pebbles all of unique shades of the color green, then scatter them all in a well-fertilized lawn. if you look at the whole, you just see green, and the individuals tend to disappear. If you try to find the pebble that represents you, you're going to be at it for a while.

In fact, you may not find your pebble again because someone else, who had a similarly colored pebble, picked up yours by mistake. The lawn doesn't care which pebble was claimed by which person, and likely doesn't even notice there were pebbles in the first place.

If everyone connected to the same soul, you might not find your way back to your own body. The number of people would be a factor in determining how easy it is to return, but so would the size of the soul you connected to. To return to the analogy above, if there was only one pebble in the lawn, you could look for it for a long time.

I'm having trouble coming up with why your own individuality is so important that it is simply always a bad idea to let anything change yourself.

The ability to identify oneself as an individual is a critical part of one's mental health. According to this self-growth website, your individuality allows you to

  1. think outside the box,
  2. resist peer pressure,
  3. be an effective leader,
  4. be happy, and
  5. inspire others.

If everyone who connected to a soul X, then everyone would take on the qualities of X and there would be that much less individuality among them. Conformity has its benefits, but individuality is what moves things forward.

Of course, the individuals could be those mages who were sufficiently self-aware and confident in who they were to not need to connect to souls, except when they were curious to know what it felt to be, say, a squirrel. Mages who weren't sure of their own identity would try to surround themselves with the identities of everything and everyone around them, their own unique identity eventually becoming lost amid the clamor of the personalities they then represented.

In short, insecure mages would belong to the common masses, while self-aware ones would lead the way into new frontiers.

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"Good" and "Evil" are matters of perspective and scale, I don't see the distinction as being particularly relevant to the over all question.

Under the mechanism describe, the risk is the same in connecting to any soul significantly greater than your own, being overwhelmed and losing your sense of self. It would be like pouring a cup of water into an ocean, and then trying the extract that exact same water back out. The ocean most likely doesn't care about my cup of water, or even notice whether it is present or not.

If there is a degree of control over the depth of the link, then there is a potential that you could skim off some attribute of that which you connect with, without immersing yourself completely. Perhaps I experience a strong emotional upset and find myself unable to focus on a task, a light connection to the Earth might help to ground me and stabilize. A strong connection on the other hand may result in me becoming totally indifferent to everything and just sitting there until I waste away and die.

There is also the question of does the other soul notice the connection, or even have awareness? If I were to reach out and connect with a small animal, I could very likely smother its soul with my own, and bring it totally under my control and direct it like a puppet. When I finish the task I wanted it for, I could withdraw and restore it to itself. But if my attention was elsewhere I might not notice that an ant had reached out and connected to me. If said ant lost itself in the depths of my being, there would be very little hope for it to break away again unless I noticed it and helped to restore it and sever the connection. Shifting the perspective around, if the Earth's spirit is not aware, it would be unable to help me recover if I lost myself to such a link. This is where the benevolence of the greater spirit comes into play, would it care about you enough to help restore your sense of self?

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  • $\begingroup$ Truthfully, I meant something else by the word "good" (not really as opposing evil), hopefully my edit helped clarify that a bit. It is this part a light connection to the Earth might help to ground me and stabilize which I still want to be dangerous. Note that it is your soul itself you are changing, not a temporary emotion. You shouldn't be able to make yourself "better" (in society's view) by just absorbing someone/something else's qualities. I'm having trouble coming up with why your own individuality is so important that it is simply always a bad idea to let anything change yourself. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Mar 27 '15 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ @DoubleDouble It's not "simply always a bad idea to let anything change yourself". You cannot learn or grow in any way without something changing your self in some way. The threat comes from loss of control of the changes. This answer is halfway to what you seem to want; at this point, making even light connections still be dangerous is simply a matter of sliding the reliability up or down for the method used to control the connection strength. Set that reliability low, and even a light connection means risking failing to keep it light, falling in deeper, and the dangers that entails. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Najmon Mar 27 '15 at 19:02
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I would say, loss of self, strongly Connecting to a soul magnitudes larger could overwhelm the mage. Like the earth bumping into the sun, the sun wouldn't really notice but the earth would be gone and absorbed in a flash.

Smaller but still large and strong souls, could drag the mage along like a leaf in the eddy of a boat, they will survive but it could be a wild ride for awhile.

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I wouldn't see it as danger from connecting to a "good" soul (or that there are good souls or bad souls)

I just see it as you described with the fire.

Connect with the earth's soul and you may become as passive and immovable, and if overwhelmed, part of the earth itself. Same danger with any living thing (animals and such) where your soul might be taken over. (Wherewolves would be the result of mages having been taken over by wolves etc.. etc..) A river which dies the moment it "stops" running could see the mage die when linked if he stays still.

There are so many ways to create associations, and on so many levels. I'd suggest for each element or object or animal you want to link your characters to; make a list of their most important attributes or characteristics and use those to represent the benefits, drawbacks, and dangers of the link.

i.e: A healthy Forest: Life, Fertility, ecosystem easily influenced (weather/season/outside interference). A boulder: Impenetrable, Immovable, Impervious but also clueless to what takes place around it and very little sense of time on a small scale.

etc...

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If people were to share "desirable" traits with each other, the risk would be to society and progress because of a lack of diversity. Diversity is key to good decision making, good team work and innovation.

It would be very tempting for everyone to make themselves into the same "super human".

Also, from the description of your magic system, it sounds like you might want a lot of unique personality traits to deal with various situations. Some people would just not have the calmness required to calm that fire.

Also, suppose it starts younger - mothers/teachers imprinting their "lazy","willful" children, stifling creativity and drive.

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To make it make sense:

  • precice nomenclature
  • rules that apply at the lowest level

In your question, you use the word energy. It means something in real-world physics, and understanding physics better has led to a true fundamental meaning (it's intamate with time). Using it in a new-age way doesn't mean anything, and coming up with something is the key to making it realistic.

If rules are teleological, it seems intuative to a primitve culture. We are hard-wired as primates to understand each other socially, and imagining that the natural world "works" the same way is a first hypothesis. But people's motives ans moods and ultamately behavior is not fundamental. We still don't understand how the brain does it.

To understand the universe means to describe laws at the simplest level, and those create higher-level emergent behavior. Energy is a primitive as it gets; "because it feels pretty" is not.

Underlying laws should be simple and "dumb". Making value judgements is not going to be fundamental.

Quantum mechanics doesn't know about the boundaries of macroscopic objects. We can't describe some special rule for whales because an atom doesn't know where a whale ends and the water begins, or that a particular collection of atoms is a whale.

So, rules need to apply to the smallest things, and know only about context in the same level being described. There are exceptions that are appoximations of emergent behavior: quasi-particles apply emergent behavoir of a large system back to primitive level quantum field theory.

Magic, as commonly understood, would need to be driven by human brains, or the minds of gods that work like ours. Why would weather, for example, act in the manner of primate social behavior? I don't have a good answer off hand, but here are some ideas:

  • The universe is a simulation, an abandoned game filled with the decendants of in-game characters. They have forgotten their proper techniques for directing the simulation, but still have some ability.

  • The universe is created by the observers, and some can influence it more than others. It relies on intuative pattern matching rather than doing calculus (like catching a ball), so (a) things that are more teleological are more controllable, and (b) it is a pre-scientific understanding and largely rule-of-thumb or just plain wrong.

  • gods exist, like the Greek gods, which are basically how you behave humans with superpowers to act. But that's not great for modeling phenomena itself rather than appealing an authority to apply superpowers: its the rain itself that's intellegent and only powerful enough to work within its own range of behavior as an actor. What is "weather" as an object, and why would it be intelligent? That's why it needs to be the mage's own understanding that drives it.

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