"Ohohoho, little goldsparkle, it is much, MUCH, more than [a hellish realm]. Every single thought or feeling you have ever had, both consciously and subconsciously, becomes reality in the Warp. Every single human emotion becomes a power. Every single metaphor becomes a literal meaning. Everyone's wishes, dreams, desires, fears, and nightmares are incarnated. Of course, the reason the Warp is so corrosive and horrifying is because so many conflicting and contradicting ideas are floating around inside of it. And the "Gods" are, in fact, collective subconscious constructs that reflect crucial mental aspects of ALL life."A sentient cosmic force is a form of Background Magic Field with a will of its own. Like a Background Magic Field, it is a pervasive form of Applied Phlebotinum, existing on a planetary or universal scale, that acts as "fuel" for Functional Magic. It is generally not material, existing as an intangible energy or on a spiritual level, though it may have a physical manifestations in areas that act as a nexus or wellspring for it. However, while Background Magic Field is simply an inanimate part of nature, a sentient cosmic force is capable of thinking and acting on its own. It can favor some people or factions over others. It can communicate, or at least be communed with. It has goals, and can enact plans to further those goals (which may involve picking someone to be The Chosen One). It is rarely described as actually "alive", however — it is not something that can be spoken to directly. In this way, sentient cosmic forces are generally distinct from deities: while you may meditate and commune with it in a temple, it doesn't actively seek prayer or worship. More plainly, although a sentient cosmic force is aware of events and capable of influencing them, it is not a person. If a sentient cosmic force is hostile, or even actively evil, then expect the world this force is in to be a Crapsack World. Of course, it might be too alien to fit any notions of morality that we can understand. The Dark Side exists when the will of a good or neutral cosmic force is corrupted, or as the Evil Counterpart to the good aspects as a necessary counterbalance. A subtrope of Background Magic Field. May overlap with The Lifestream when it's created by life itself or when things become one with it after death.
— Magnus the Red, If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device
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Anime and Manga
- The Nasuverse:
- "Gaia" is the will of the planet Earth, and "Alaya" is the collective unconsciousness of humanity. The clash between Gaia and Alaya out of their respective desires for self-preservation created some sort of a cosmic force called "The Counter Force". If either Gaia or Alaya becomes closer to destruction, the Counter Force will act towards saving the one closer to destruction, usually at the expense of the other. The form it can be communicated with exists as "Counter Guardians", heroes who have formed a contract with the World to save it when it comes closer to destruction... though the presence of a Counter Guardian means that every other course of action that the Counter Force could've taken has been exhausted, Counter Guardians typically lack autonomy when summoned in that capacity, and their modus operandi is to annhiliate both the direct cause of the threat and everything else within the surrounding area (i.e. massive collateral damage/casualties is the norm for such events).
- The "Ultimate Ones", each the "ultimate being" of an entire celestial body that embodies said world's will. According to Angel Notes, every planet (and the Moon) has an Ultimate One. These beings have utterly bizarre forms and minds to say the least, as one of them (Type-Mercury, a.k.a. ORT) even came to Earth responding to Gaia's dying message 5000 years before Gaia died. The reason Gaia can't create Type-Earth as her physical form is because Alaya is preventing her from doing so. She had to resort to striking a deal with Type-Moon, a.k.a. Crimson Moon Brunestud, to allow it residence on Earth in exchange for creating a substitute, the result being the True Ancestors; one particular True Ancestor, Arcueid Brunestud, had been implanted by Crimson Moon with a copy of said Type's personality, and upon its eventual awakening (which will probably lead to her original personality being lost) she will attain her highest level of power and become a being known as "Archetype:Earth" (something that happens in one ending in Melty Blood), making the closest thing to a true Ultimate One of Earth.
- In Getter Robo, Getter Rays are eventually revealed to be a quasi-sentient entity with the power to accelerate evolution, which "chose" mankind over the dinosaurs. Getter Emperor can be considered an Anthropomorphic Personification of the force (as can its larval form Shin Getter, when at full power). Getter Rays are depicted variously as any combination of Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, The Assimilator, The Corruption, Creepy Good and Omnicidal Maniac, depending on continuity and how mentally stable their chosen heralds are at the time.
- The Ide of Space Runaway Ideon is implied to have started manipulating all parties from the beginning of the show, when the Solo Ship and the titular Ideon machine are discovered, to ultimately destroying the universe at the climax of the Be Invoked film in order to restart it. In the TV series, the Ide displays its power through the Ideon by unlocking more of its armaments, one of which is a energy beam generating from its hands like a sword that can cleave a planet apart, with another being a gun that fires enough power to level galaxies.
- The Phoenix Force and the Power Cosmic are two Marvel Universe examples, although the former is hard to explain due to countless revisions.
- There is also the Captain Universe power, which goes around the universe to imbue a powerup to superpowered individuals in order to let them combat a great upcoming cataclysm that the universe (Or rather the power) foresees as so great that it should not come to pass. Spider-Man possessed it for a time, because he had to stop a nuclear reactor from wiping New York off of the map while the Avengers were occupied elsewhere.
- The dark energy that infested Astro City during The '80s is implied to be this. It's an energy field that is implied to be attracted to (or induces) feelings of vengeance and malevolence in others, and can empower beings like The Pale Horseman and Lord Soverign with paranormal abilities.
- Starfighter's Lorus is a more benevolent version.
- The DCU has the seven entities representing the rainbow-derived "Emotional Spectrum". All of them both are fueled by the energy that comes from certain primal emotions/drives of living creatures, and can imbue living beings who strongly connect with those emotions/drives with various powers and abilities (most of which conveniently match up with the abilities of the Green Lanterns). In rainbow order, they are:
- Red spectrum: the Butcher, the entity of rage, which fuels the Red Lanterns' powers (and in most continuities, their horrific transformations into near-mindless berserkers).
- Orange spectrum: Ophidian the Tempter, a snake-like entity which represents/fuels/is fueled by the emotion of Greed and for that reason usually only tends to only be able to empower one individual at a time ("Agent Orange" tends not to want to share). Tends to assert extreme influence over almost anybody who touches the Orange Lantern that contains it, with the exception of those wielding a Power Ring in the violet spectrum.
- Yellow spectrum: the Fear-feeding/fueling entity Parallax, which fuels the current version of the Sinestro Corps' Power Rings, which give abilities similar to a Green Lantern's but are usually given out to people "able to inspire great fear".
- Green spectrum: Ion, the vaguely catfish-looking entity feeding off/fueling the nebulously-defined (but roughly equivalent to stubbornness) "emotion" of Willpower, which powers the rings of the Green Lantern Corps. The latter are chosen precisely because they can "overcome great fear", because fear, of course, is the enemy of an otherwise iron-clad will. (This was later given as part of the explanation of why Green Lanterns historically had their powers be weak or ineffective against the color yellow.)
- Blue spectrum: Adara, the entity of Hope, which imbues the Blue Lanterns with their abilities based on how inspiring/hopeful they are. Allegedly one of the "most powerful" entities in the Emotional Spectrum, but in practice, the Blue Lanterns empowered by it are usually not very useful without a Green Lantern nearby, since being near one empowered by Willpower is a prerequisite to using the more impressive of their abilities.
- Indigo spectrum: Proselyte, the entity of Compassion (generally depicted as empathy). Fuels the powers of the mysterious Indigo Tribe, most of whom are reformed criminals. In addition to energy construct type abilities like the Green Lanterns, this entity's followers can also psychically sense emotions, apparently visualizing them based on the colors associated with them.
- Violet spectrum (though it's usually colored more red-violet or pinkish): the "Predator" feeds off/fuels the emotion(s)/drive of Love that give the Star Sapphires their largely Green Lantern-like abilities plus a bunch of crystal-related and "love"-related abilities, including the ability to show you your One True Love. Its hosts and champions tend to be Always Female, though this may have more to do with the group who found the gem that contained its power being all-female and not terribly fond of the men they had left behind, than any actual preference on the entity's part. Indeed, the Predator itself has taken on male hosts in the past.
- The Force from the Star Wars universe. It's an energy field, it gives powers. It has a Chosen One (and in-universe was believed to have caused his virgin birth, though it was revealed out-of-universe that he might have been the product of Sith meddling with life). It has a will of its own, but nobody fully understands it (and it might be impossible to do so). The Jedi and their evil counterparts the Sith, along with a variety of lesser groups from the Star Wars Expanded Universe and Legends, each have their own belief systems about the true nature of the Force, but out-of-universe it's generally presumed that the Jedi are closest to the truth. The Sith believe that the Force is something that can, and should be, controlled and exploited for all its worth. Given the horrible fates that befall nearly every Sith, the Force apparently disapproves.
- There are some cases in which it is less distant and more immediately helpful. In Rebel Force: Uprising, when Luke is being tortured and put through brainwashing so bad that even Obi-Wan's spirit can't help him anymore, he hears an inner voice encouraging him on. He thinks it sounds like him but older, and assumes that it's his father's voice. We know it's not.
- Tash Arranda in Galaxy of Fear: Eaten Alive finds something that horrifies her, "yet, at the same time, it triggered something else inside her, a powerful and comforting force that seemed to fight against her fear and give her strength." Later in the book she's cornered by attackers and feels it again, calming and protecting her so that she is able to escape, and in general it helps her when things seem darkest. Sometimes this scares her because she feels like connecting to it makes her lose her identity, sometimes it reminds her that You Are Not Alone.
- And then again, the Jedi can be thrown a curveball sometimes. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka bump into beings that are pretty much Physical Gods, and apparently personify aspects of the Force. Jedi teachings don't include any specific gods, and none of the Jedi know what to make of them.
- Eywa in Avatar is a Genius Loci physically comprising the neural network between the various flora and fauna on Pandora, and comprising the memories of various creatures, but is sentient and can cause Gaia's Vengeance when required.
- While its motives are unclear, in Excalibur a Force-like... force... is referred to as "The Dragon".
- In the Final Destination series, the main cast is faced off against "Mr. Dead", which is to say Death itself. Death has no form or body, but rather exists as a sentient force of nature that brings about the deaths of those that are meant to die. It's also rather Eldritch-y, being an inscrutable and unstoppable entity picking off hapless mortals in ridiculously cruel ways.
- Dust, from His Dark Materials: while the "magic" element of it is subtle, it's observed to be attracted to children as they reach puberty, is discovered to be to be the stuff which gives intelligent creatures sentience, and is the reason Lyra's truth-telling Alethiometer works. It also speaks to a character from Will's world who is studying it through her computer and sends her on a quest.
- In Belgariad, destiny/the will of the universe is both sentient and rather snarky.
- The god of Mijaknote from the Godspeaker Trilogy is a particularly evil variant. It never speaks in words to its worshipers, but influences their thoughts and desires and acts through its priests, the godspeakers, and through specific chosen ones like Hekat and later the Hammer. It demands constant sacrifice to sustain itself and very much wants to conquer the world. A character from outside the Mijaki culture at one point describes it as "a well of dark power".
- J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth is created and sustained by the Flame Imperishable, which emanates from Eru Ilúvatar himself.
- Magic in the Discworld series is explicitly mentioned to be a little bit alive. It's the reason HEX seems to add or upgrade parts of its own accord, and part of the reason that not using magic is one of the most important skills a wizard can utilize.
- The True Source, which turns The Wheel of Time. The Dark One itself turns out to be one of these in the last book as well, more a personification of evil, chaos, and entropy rather than a person. Rand manages to reseal it by turning its own magic, the True Power back against it, ensuring that the harder the Dark One fought against being sealed, the more tightly it was sealed.
- Mistborn: The Original Trilogy has Ruin, the malevolent cosmic force that apparently has power over the mists, and can force them to block sunlight from crops. It was this power which originally threatened the world and was known as the Deepness.It is later revealed that Ruin is the destructive god who is released at the end of "The Well of Ascension" when Vin releases the power at the Well of Ascension. Eons ago, Ruin was tricked by his brother, Preservation, who created life, which had more of Preservation than Ruin. They had made a deal that Ruin would eventually get to destroy all life, but Preservation sacrificed his mind to bind Ruin's consciousness into a prison, separate from his main strength, his atium body.
- Word of God and other works in Brandon Sanderson's multiverse expand on this further- Ruin and Preservation are only two of sixteen such forces, created when Adonalsium (implied to be God, though not confirmed)was somehow shattered. These forces are therefore called Shards, short for Shards of Adonalsium. Other Shards are Dominion and Devotion (Elantris), Endowment (Warbreaker), and Honor, Cultivation, and Odium (The Stormlight Archive).
- Cthulhu Mythos: Yog-Sothoth is often described as The Gate and The Key. It acts as a kind of manifestation, separate entity and integral part of the universe itself. As such, it's not surprising that it doesn't actually do much in Lovecraft's works, and when it does in "The Dunwich Horror", namely fathering Half-Human Hybrids that were involved in a plan for an eldritch invasion, you might think it's a much more limited entity.
- In the epic Mind Screw that is "Through The Gates of the Silver Key" we learn that not only is Yoggy its own creature, it is one out of presumably many ultimate archetypes. Every person of any species is apparently a facet of one of these archetypes, and Yog-Sothoth includes all great thinkers and wizards, including protagonist Randolph Carter. It's anyone's guess what/who the other archetypes are.
- The magic from The Soldier Son trilogy acts this way. It's not a living thing, but throughout the entire trilogy it is attempting to force Nevare's hand.
- In Fiona Patton's Branion series, this describes the Holy Triarchy, which represents three of the four elemental powers. The fourth, Flame, is implied to have been this at one point, but somehow the Founder of the Kingdom made a pact with It, took It within herself, and became the first Aristok and Vessel of the Living Flame. Characters in the fourth book commit heresy by seeking to do the same with the Wind, Sea and Oaks.
- In S. M. Stirling's Emberverse it appears to be this that caused the Change.
- In David Gemmell's Drenai novels, priests are dedicated to the Source, which imparts mystical powers.
- Perdido Street Station has the Torque, described by one character as a tumor that aborted itself from the womb that produced the forces of Birth and Death. Whilst not evil per-se, it is a natural force that is almost totally uncontrollable that warps and mutates matter and biology into horrifying things. Merely trying to research it can turn you into an Eldritch Abomination. It was once used as a weapon; the results of the Torque Bomb were so awful even after a generous application of Magitek versions of nuclear weapons there's a country-sized region of the world which isn't going to be inhabitable by anything but abominations ever again.
- Dinoverse turns out to have one, though it's poorly described. The Time Machine that Betram accidentally built in the first book turns out to have been part of a pattern - people across the multiverse had started building similar machines, with similar lack of understanding, and activating them. At one point it's shown that the required parts for it to work are extremely simple, and it activates on its own. Later said character gets himself fused with this force and is said to be benign.
- The Old Kingdom has the Charter, which is a sort of metaphysical document that orders and defines all life and magic within the world, and is close enough to reality in the titular Kingdom that it can be directly tapped into to power Charter Magic. Whether the Charter itself is truly sentient is debatable though the beings who created it were but it has shown some ability to take steps to preserve itself (and by extension, the universe) mostly by making sure the right people are born at the right time and sending visions to the Clayr. Opposed to the Charter is Free Magic and its elementals the most powerful of which is Orannis the Destroyer as well as The Undead.
- The Domain is implied to be this in Halo's The Forerunner Saga for the Milky Way and seemingly attempts to warn the Forerunners about the downfall of their empire. The Domain appears to have motives separate to that of any other faction, even the Precursors, who created the Domain prior to their near-extinction at the hands of the Forerunners, making it a rare artificial version of this trope.
- Additionally, the Precursors' own highly advanced technology is said to operate on "neural physics", a highly esoteric branch of science based on the principle that the universe as a whole is alive.
- A recurring element in Thomas Ligotti's stories, going by names such as Nethescurial, the Tsalal, and the Great Black Swine, and to a T, it's always described as absolute evil.
Live Action Television
- In Lost this is what's said to emanate from the Heart of the Island.
Jacob: What's down there?
Mother: Life. Death. Rebirth.
- The Speed Force on The Flash (2014) is demonstrated to be sentient when it speaks directly to Barry through avatars of people he loves. The Speed Force even gives him a What the Hell, Hero? speech for giving up his speed in exchange for a single life, when he could have used it to save many more lives. Also, the only way the Speed Force will give him his speed back is if he comes to term with his mother's death.
Barry: I'm talking to the Speed Force? Isn't that like saying I'm having a conversation with gravity, or light, or...
- The Force from Star Wars is based on Taoism, which teaches that there is a universal force called (but not named) the Tao that flows through all things, passively guiding the universe along a natural course. By living a certain meditative lifestyle, one can become "like an uncarved block" and then allow the Tao to shape them.
- Certain versions of Pandeism and Pantheism have this — though 'sentient' varies and need not imply activity or sapience.
- Hinduism, in particular, has Brahman.
- Many people from a variety of major religions (Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others) view God this way, once they grow old enough to realize that God is probably not a literal man on a cloud.
- Greek philosophical systems, such as Stoicism and Neoplatonism, had the concept of Anima mundi - the World Soul.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse has this trope as the pillar of its cosmology. The universal forces of Chaos, Order and Entropy exist and have something resembling a personality, called the Wyld, the Weaver and the Wyrm, respectively. Werewolves' entire lives revolve around the conflict between these three forces, specifically being rather friendly with the Wyld, wary or antagonistic to the Weaver and VEEEEEERY antagonistic to the Wyrm.
- The Warp from Warhammer 40,000 would be a rare evil version. It is malevolent, at least at the moment: originally it was a benign, peaceful force that has become corrupted by all the grief, rage, and suffering that's been happening in the galaxy for the past few million years. It has, in fact, many wills (thanks to its chaotic nature), as its wills can be given identities in the form of Chaos Gods. Just like the Force from Star Wars, it can give super powers, though not often ones you'd want to keep.
- The Draconic Prophecy in Eberron can be this. It's left deliberately vague so that the DM can give it whatever nature he wants, but what has been confirmed about it fits: It gives people powers (Through Dragonmarks), it's pervasive and covers the material plane (leaving marks on the landscape, construction, etc). It has a will and a purpose, but those are so complex and long terms that no being can fully understand it. Dragons spend their whole lives trying to figure it out, only ever achieving small glimpses of the Prophecy's nature.
- Exalted has a lot of examples of this trope. The universe literally runs on Rule of Cool and is self-aware of this:
- Anyone, not just an Exalt, can channel virtue into actions to increase the chance to success, even if they fight the frickin' Ebon Dragon.
- The more extreme an Exalt's Virtue, the more Essence he has. The universe respond to your morality (both the Black-White kind and the Blue-Orange kind).
- And then there are the Pattern Spiders. They are god-machines who are responsible of causality in the Universe, they are sentient, and they can be affected in many ways. The aforementioned Ebon Dragon has Charms solely to screw them.
- Not only can the Pattern Spiders be affected by you, sometimes it's not even necessary - the Pattern Spiders are bored out of their minds. Enough so that if you try to do something cool enough, they'll usually fudge the rules to make it more likely to work (represented in gameplay as bonus dice).
- The creators of the universe are also this. They were kind of cosmic douchebagsnote , so the Exalts either killed them or imprisoned them. The Green Sun Princes can invoke their power, and the more one does so, the more universe around him or her works according to his or her patron's ideal vision. Which is not a nice place.
- The Light and the Darkness in Kingdom Hearts. Each has their own realm (along with a realm where they're mixed, and a realm that lacks either). They're mostly just a Background Magic Field each, but each seems to have a will of its own - the (rarely seen) realm of Darkness creates Heartless, and the (broken from an ancient war) realm of Light rebuilt itself using the pure light found in children's hearts, and will summon/swap around Keyblades depending (to some degree) on the intended wielder's balance of light and darkness. Neither of the forces seems directly opposed to the other, though - most of the reasons that the realm of Light suffers from darkness are due either to the previously mentioned war or to the series' Big Bad, who seeks to disprove myths about Darkness and gain personal power with increasingly reckless and ruthless experiments.
- Apparently the Voodoo from Tales of Monkey Island is this, according to the Voodoo Lady. Of course, real Voodoo has nothing to do with this.
- The Lifestream of Final Fantasy VII, used as a fuel by the Shinra Electric Power Company. In its solidified form it is the materia that allows the use of magic, and is the combined spirit of all living things of the Planet, and when you piss it off enough it releases a whole bunch of monsters to get rid of whatever is annoying it.
- It was recently revealed that City of Heroes' myterious "Well of the Furies" is actually a Sentient Cosmic Force. To date, its exact goals are poorly-eludicated, but seem to involve trying to take control of its Chosen Many, the "Incarnates."
- In Starhawk, Rift energy, AKA "blue gold", is an efficient power source and spews out of the ground. Direct exposure turns people into exoskeletal, mutant zealots that worship the Rift and attack anyone who tries to harvest it. Sometimes, it grabs people and pulls them into itself.
- In Tales of the Abyss, each fonon has an aggregate sentience (most are named after the summon spirits of previous games), but the one that's most important to the storyline is Lorelei, the aggregate sentience of the seventh fonon of sound.
- The Aedra and Daedra of The Elder Scrolls are the physical embodiments of concepts created when the universe was. For instance, when someone breaks the dragon by causing time to flow in a nonlinear fashion, they've literally shattered Akatosh, the Dragon God of Time. With him out of commission, any timeline is meaningless.
- Going up a level in the cosmic hierarchy, Anu and Padomay are respectively the very concepts of stasis and change, order and chaos, life and death, light and dark, is and is not. While they aren't directly sentient (probably), they do each have a soul, Anui-el and Sithis, which probably are.
- In Homestuck, Skaia is described as something like this. The characters also talk about Paradox Space as though it was this trope, but looking at the story itself it seems Paradox Space is about as sentient as gravity or destiny. It's also a term that describes everything that exists ever.
- In the highly meta fancomic Roommates the Story and Fanservice are referred to as such by Azira and Crowley, Jareth and narration. In its Spin-Off GirlsNextDoor at least Sarah and Sophie think this too. Because these are basically the in-universe representations of Author Powers and Clap Your Hands If You Believe (of the fandom; "Fangirls masquerading as fate".) respectively this may be very very literally true. They also obviously have humor and an agenda (like not even subtly ship Jareth / Sarah). Oh. And also power magic.
- In El Goonish Shive, magic has a will and objectives of its own. It's known to have a flair for the dramatic and even seems at times to have a sense of humor. Among its objectives is a desire to not be used by more than a small fraction of the people, and magic will rewrite its own rules if necessary to prevent widespread use. Or, in the words of the author: "Magic is a hipster that doesn't want to go mainstream."
- The Morce from Space Blood, like the Force from Star Wars has a similar role and its two sides with the Zedi being based on the Jedi and the Knights of Len being based on both the Sith and the Knights of Ren but both sides are evil and that the former is towards Light Is Not Good and it turns out that the Morce is made of evil.
- In Phaeton the universe itself is implied to be this.
- The Whateley Universe has its own take on the Tao (see Religion above) that seems to take a somewhat more active role by empowering the occasional Chosen One when it serves its purposes and is generally credited with an Omniscient Morality License by its followers at least. Its current chosen Handmaid is Bladedancer — by all accounts potentially unstoppable if the Tao wills it so, yet "merely" a Badass Normal otherwise (which is most of the time).
- In Phineas and Ferb, Candace believes that it's something like this that prevents her from busting her brothers (and probably preventing their mom from noticing anything odd). Whether this is so is ambiguous.
- The eponymous Magic of Friendship in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic appears to be one of these and is tied to the Tree of Harmony. It manifests in response to strong acts of friendship between ponies, through such vectors as the Elements of Harmony and the Fire of Friendship (which may be weaponized as a Heart Beat-Down or a Care-Bear Stare). In Seasons 4 and 5, it becomes a Magnetic Plot Device that actively sends the mane characters on quests to spread friendship throughout the world, implying a definite decision-making process.