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Mana is the life energy of the soul that is bestowed by nature. Everything is born with a certain amount, with humans containing the most. When something dies, it's body naturally decays and supplies the ground with nutrients. It's mana dissipates back into the environment.

However, there are times when orgone doesn't dissolve the way it's supposed to. Instead, the mana condenses into a thick and dense cloud called miasma. This pollutes the environment, corrupting it in various ways. Where it is heaviest, things cannot grow or grows sickly and weak. Creatures become rabid and hostile, and causes mutations in all living and nonliving things.

Why would this be the case that nature's own energy would be poisonous to itself?

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    $\begingroup$ Why would it not be the case? You have not given any reason why one outcome would be more expected by the other. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 1 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @AngelPray: That's not what the question asks. The question asks why rotten life energy is detrimental to life. In real life, life energy comes from food and yet rotten food actually is detrimental to life. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 1 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ See also: Final Fantasy VII. $\endgroup$ – R.. Jan 1 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ You mean like oxygen? $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Jan 2 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ Does the miasma have to be condensed mana, or can it be a byproduct of condensed mana? (Aka, a bacteria that eats the mana and produces the miasma) $\endgroup$ – Mooing Duck Jan 2 at 19:35

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Too much of a good thing can be bad for you

There are many real-life examples of things1 which are "life giving" or crucial for life - in the right amount - but exposure to higher concentrations or for too long a duration can be detrimental to life or downright lethal. Additionally, sometimes too much of something isn't dangerous on its own, but it prevents or reduces access to some other vital thing.

Some quick examples include:

  • Oxygen, (as O2) mixed with nitrogen, CO2 etc. at the ratio of ~21% is essential to all land creatures, and it is possible to breath even 100% oxygen for limited time without any detrimental side effect. However:
    • Exposure to concentrations higher than 21% can lead to oxygen poisoning, which "[...] can result in cell damage and death" as the Wikipedia article puts it.
    • As ozone (O3 - same element, different molecule), even concentrations of 5 parts per million (0.0005%) are defined as "Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health Limit (IDLH)"[citation].
  • Sunlight in moderate amounts is "healthy" - it allows plants to generate oxygen, is important in vitamin D synthesis in humans etc. Too much of it will wilt plants, cause sunburns (and increased risk of skin cancer) in humans and can raise environmental temperatures high enough to cause brush fires.
  • Water are crucial for life. Imbibe too much and you risk water poisoning. Additionally, land creatures drown in water since as too much of it prevents access to air.

1: I'm intentionally use the vague term "things" so it can cover anything from substances to energies etc. including magical / spiritual phenomena.


So, why is too much life energy dangerous?

If this mystical "life energy" is what powers life and encourages growth (in moderate amounts and concentrations), too much of it is harmful to living things as it accelerates wild and rapid growth:

  • Mild effects can be things like cancer and other various tumors (cells and tissues growing too fast or uncontrollably), partially blocked "pipes"2 etc. This isn't immediately painful or even noticeable - but can lead to illness or death in the long term.
  • At moderate levels, things get painful: skin and internal lesions occur as tissues separate due to unsynchronized growth. Fully blocked "pipes" lead to necrosis, suffocation etc. Plant life collapse under their own weight or die from malnourishement as their most exposed elements - leaves, flowers and fruits - grow faster then their stems/trunks and roots can carry or provide for.
  • Exposure to extremely high concentrations of life energy is horrifying, painful and fatal: tissues grow at rapid rates causing tears and fissures (think of bone growths developing in minutes or seconds, piercing through organs, muscles and skin). Organs function out-of-sync causing all sorts of mayhem to the creature (hormonal cascades, blood pressure so high it ruptures vessels and squirts through orifices, digestive fluids eating through the digestive tract etc.) - and weird, malformed and nonfunctional limbs and organs sprout all over the creature (and inside it...). Worse of all, at this level of life energy, a creature can survive longer than usual - prolonging the torture.

2: This covers digestive tracts, respiratory tracts and blood vessels in vertebrates, sap tracheids in plants, breathing trachea in insects etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ooo! Oooo! Add "ambergris" to your list! $\endgroup$ – Willk Jan 1 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ Also, mny thing that are harmless by themsleves (say, asbestos) are suddenly harmfull when introduced to anvironment they don't belong (say, your lungs). What happens when you absorb the mana of a tomato? Or even from someone with a different blood group? $\endgroup$ – Borgh Jan 2 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking salt or sugar, but there are plenty of examples in nature where a resource is good in small proportions, but because of changing environment it has become a bad thing. A build up of fat was good in the old days when you might have had to go a while without food, so it was good to have spare, but the proliferation of farms, supermarkets and fast-food restaurants has made fatty foods plentiful and now people have too much of it. A population explosion might have caused the production of a lot more mana than nature intended... $\endgroup$ – colmde Jan 2 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Borgh, colmde - yeah, there's a plethora of examples for "Too much of a good thing can be bad for you" - in fact, I'm having difficulties coming up with any good thing which do not have a recommended maximum (quantity, concentration, duration of exposure etc. etc.) above which it isn't so good any more... $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Jan 2 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @GOBLIN love, peace, and happiness? $\endgroup$ – Incognito Jan 3 at 1:07
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Because it pushes the local ecosystem out of balance.

Think about plant growth. In general, things that promote growth are good. We get thriving forests, plains, deserts, seascapes. We have an explosion of wildlife, clean air, fresh water, everything a planet could want (even if it gets in the way of certain humans).

But one of the worst things for the environment is ... plant growth.

In real life, plants get nitrogen from the air, minerals from the soil, water as needed, and it's all kept in perfect balance from microbial life, earthworms and other animals in the soil, pollinators, and more. New plant and animal material (especially manure) rots to provide fertilizer.

In our all too real but artificially imbalanced world, plant growth is seen as science and only 3 primary elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are considered important (plus a few minor ones). Application of these can cause all sorts of problems on farms (and anywhere the runoff goes, anywhere the water table touches).

What many don't realize is this happens unintentionally as well, far away from farms or gardens. Excess phosphorus—mainly from laundry and cleaning products—runs off into streams and water ways, it goes down drains into lakes, rivers, and the ocean. And it makes plants grow.

Phosphorus is one of the primary nutrients (along with potassium and nitrogen) for plant growth. When phosphates were used extensively in laundry detergents, the waste water carried the phosphorus to rivers, lakes, streams and ponds. This led to massive algae blooms--a condition known as "eutrophication." The algae depleted the water of oxygen, which resulted in the deaths of large numbers of fish and other organisms. (ref)

In your world, naturally occurring orgone sometimes fails to breakdown properly and it forms miasma. You don't say why this happens. Is it just random? Is it happening more often because of overpopulation or more use of magic? Or is the failure to breakdown happening in larger percentages because of something else humans are doing?

Regardless of the underlying mechanisms, miasma is like phosphorus, it spurs overgrowth and imbalance. Or perhaps you can compare it to mania. Healthy human minds are balanced but someone with bipolar has too much depression and too much "up." You might think the "up" part is desirable (you have tons of energy, get lots of work down) but it's actually pretty horrible to live through (though somewhat additive for some people).

Healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy ecosystems don't have those ups and downs. They have balance and carefully tuned systems. This means they can recover from things that life throws at them. But if you push something out of balance often enough, it will harm it. Humans can recover from injury, but some injuries are too grave, or too repetitive to come back from. They can recover from the death of loved ones, but people who survive genocide are never the same again. Ecosystems recover from fire, but not from the determined reshaping of land and water by farmers.

Miasma is something living things can deal with, in small doses. But when it's a larger dose, or a more prolonged smaller dose, it's detrimental.

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Because fresh food is healthy but rotten not

Why eating meat or vegetables give us nutrients but when we eat them rotten we get sick due food poisoning? The same applies to mana/orgone, their rotten state damage the environment.

Because drinking water is healthy, but much drown you

You said that rotten mana condenses into a thick and dense cloud, that means the concentration of mana increased a lot. Drinking a glass of water is healthy, but how about drinking 10 gallons of water? Amount matter, too much water can drown you or water intoxication.

Mana could be like oxygen. Oxygen has free radicals and produces ROS, both things produce damages in our mitochondria, DNA and proteins. Normal doses of oxygen aren't a problem, but elevated ones can produce hyperoxia:

Associated with hyperoxia is an increased level of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen. These oxygen containing molecules can damage lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids, and react with surrounding biological tissues. The human body has naturally occurring antioxidants to combat reactive molecules, but the protective antioxidant defenses can become depleted by abundant reactive oxygen species, resulting in oxidation of the tissues and organs.

That increases the risk of cancer, which explains why higher doses of mana grow sickly and weak plants. Maybe mana is radioactive, like banana radiation, but higher ones are risky.

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Parasites - Mana is not an entirely physical substance, but also has a magical aspect. This should pretty much go without saying, since "life force" has never been physically detected, let alone isolated.

As a result, high concentrations of mana attract magical parasites, which feed on the local abundance, and this has at least two possible drawbacks.

1) In devouring mana, the parasites also diminish its availability to the local mundane lifeforms. This, of course, leads them to die.

2) As part of the parasites' "metabolism" they excrete byproducts which are toxic to the local mundane life forms. A good analogy here would be the effect of large quantities of bird poop on vegetation - it damages them due to the chemistry of the poop.

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  • $\begingroup$ Another analogy could be to the bacteria that break down plant and animal matter - for example, a fresh fruit is beneficial if eaten, but if left to rot it is not wise to eat. The bacteria that cause this are always present, but when given a plentiful supply of food (or life energy) they multiply, and the by-products of their metabolism can be toxic. $\endgroup$ – Logan Pickup Jan 2 at 3:17
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Mana represents the inherent strength of life, not the benevolent "life" we've come to accept is natural

The way I can see this working is that mana is condensed "competition" and survivability, pushed to the extreme. If you have too much of it in a given place, it's not "more unicorns, rainbows and positive energy", it's more "a predator ensuring the survival of its litter by killing a prey" or "a prey developing a new defense mechanism to increase its viability".

If you think of life as the positive energy in everyone, this won't work. You need to think of life as the strength that kept species alive, that gives people a "survival instinct", etc.

Once you see it that way, it becomes easy to go one step further and pose the hypothesis that too much of that mana would be negative, as it would concentrate these negative energies of life in one place. Why are the creatures rabid and hostile? To ensure their own survival. Why are some trees growing sickly? Because the concentrated mana made sure other (likely stronger) trees were being too greedy and keeping all the nutrients/sunlight.

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Unclean spirits

Mana is supposed to cycle. When the cycle is arrested, the mana is stuck and stagnates. Trapped mana is the unclean spirits or angry ghosts of legend. The mana, cut off from its cycle, manifests as a shade or evil force, increasingly corrupt and jealous of the of the world now denied to it. The unclean spirit might try to seduce people into joining it, or seek to sabotage the endeavors of life. It might possess a human.

Mana cannot be destroyed. Trapped mana must be rescued - broken loose from its stagnant state, and a way opened for it to rejoin its kind and reclaim its true nature. The procedure requires special skills.

Jesus demons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_of_Jesus#/media/File:Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_191.png

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Here is what popped into my head. it is a little simplistic but could be interesting.

Life energy is the force of evolution

Basically life energy/mana/whatever is force that pushes life forward. In normal amounts it sustains life and nurtures it. I.E. creatures live and grow and adapt and their life energy grows as they mature to their peak then declines as they continue to age.

When there is too much life energy in one place such as the miasma, the abundance of mana causes rapid evolution and mutation (in a bad way). Think things affect by radiation. So things born in the miasma will deformed and weak. Things that enter it will start undergoing rapid mutation causing illnesses like radiation poisoning or cancer, so things that enter the miasma will be weakened, become sick, and or die.

Hope this helps.

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Life energy is a narcotic

Life is drawn to life, and pure life energy draws that much more fully. Birds, insects, even bacteria find themselves drawn to it. People feel a subtle calling, a longing, and a sense of connection that once was lost but could be found again.

At low levels, life energy can be make an area seem blessed. Community and commerce flourish and people prosper. An area might simply seem trendy but it is in fact an area where the residual life energy is abnormal.

As levels grow higher, people start to become drunk on it. Their sense of contentment creates laziness, lethargy, and filth. The bourgeoisie will leave, but the working men and women of the community stay, addicted, eventually becoming catatonic and lifeless.

Meanwhile, the plant and animal life that had be drawn to the area will have drained the ecosystem of resources, causing a mass extinction event and leaving the area barren.

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It would depend on whose life energy becomes this toxic miasma.

Only bad people

Mana, or life energy, reflects the soul in death as it was in life. If a person's soul was especially toxic, the mana would reflect that as it takes form into a miasma. This life energy would be life energy in name and name alone.

Only GOOD people

"Too much of a good thing is bad for you." We see this with a lot of things in real life. Water, oxygen, passion, money... It doesn't matter what it is. If you have an excess of something, eventually it will kill you no matter how safe it supposedly is.

A random selection of people

There may be a common variable these people have that resulted in this malignment with their mana that people have yet to notice. In nature, nothing is random. Maybe souls (or life energy) have a code like our bodies do and there is a genetic disease within the life energy that leads to corruption? Maybe the cause is a disease that infected the person's physical body and it corrupted the soul? Maybe the poisonous Life Energy is bad because the life energy had been breaking down over time due to the strain of the reincarnation process and this is just the natural end all life energy clusters eventually see as they become inevitably unstable? Maybe it's due to an incompatibility between the life energy and its vessel, sort of like how a transfusion could be rejected by the recipient or how someone's body may reject a transplant? Maybe the guardian force responsible for protecting the source of all life energy found a reason to reject that "soul's" return?

These are all possibilities you can feel free to work with.

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Life turns low entropy systems into high entropy systems by feeding off of energy and replicating more energy feeders. In fact, life is the most efficient mechanism at this process, by definition. From this perspective, life kills the universe as if it were a parasite hastening its host's death.

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When any living creature dies, it begins to decompose. This is accomplished through the presence of microbes and the occasional scavenger. Even a corpse left entirely alone by wildlife will rot away into dust and bone. For those microbes, a corpse is not a place of death, but of life-giving nutrition. Though we may find the process disgusting, it is an important process in returning our resources back to the environment.

The reason that we often find corpses revolting is similar to the reason we often find spiders and snakes revolting - they present a deadly and often unseen threat to our own well-being. Many of the microbes that aid in decomposition would be almost as happy feeding on a living creature, and thus a corpse can also become a source of plague and disease. Thankfully, we can typically avoid such consequences by burying/burning the dead or by simply avoided any carcass that we find (don't go poking at days-old road kill).

In our own history though, we have seen some intense examples of deadly microbes lingering near corpses. In particular, I am thinking of the fabled curse of the Egyptian mummies. On a few occasions, archaeologists entered ancient tombs of long-dead Egyptian rulers, disregarding the idea of a curse as mere superstition. To their misfortune, they discovered that the curse was not entirely a think of myth and legend.

The microbes contained within these tombs had been sealed there for thousands of years, and they proved incredibly deadly. The first explorers to open and enter these tombs would often find themselves eaten alive over the next few weeks by this deadly but invisible threat, as if they had indeed been cursed for opening those tombs.

The reason this "curse" existed was that these microbes did not have anywhere to disperse. I don't know how they survived so long, but they did, and the condition of being sealed away in a tomb in a dry, arid desert was apparently the perfect environment for them to grow and thicken.

Considering that this life force, orgone as you called it, is essential to life, I cannot imagine that there wouldn't be microbes that feed on it. And, similarly to the Egyptian tombs, I'd imagine that your world would have certain conditions that could cause these microbes to linger long after they'd normally be gone. This in turn would prevent the orgone from ever being dispersed into the environment at large, resulting in an usual concentration of the stuff.

It's not too far a leap to guess that this condensed orgone could make this microbe unusually active, causing it to attack the living as well as the dead, much like with those unfortunate archaeologists...

As for what conditions might cause this... sealed tombs as described above might work, but anywhere that life can stagnate might work too (think fetid pools of still water, swamplands with no water flow, or anywhere that a pile of exposed bodies, whether from ritual sacrifice, murder, and natural disaster, is left to rot).

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This is a slightly different example that those given by others.

In fact, there is a real world example of this type of effect.

Picture a cow pasture with beautiful grass and healthy cattle. A healthy cow walks by and drops an extra-healthy cow pie and continues on her way.

Now focus on the cow pie and fast forward a bit. The cow pie is an excellent source of fertilizer and the grass in the nearby area will benefit from that and grow thicker and faster. However, this extra growth will actual be in a ring around the cow pie, leaving the central area with grass that is stunted or even dead. The amount of fertilizer at the source of this cow pie is actually too concentrated and "burns" the existing plants there. Eventually environmental effects will dilute and distribute this excess elsewhere allowing the location to recover.

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