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
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 it 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
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.
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Anime and Manga
- The Counter Force in the Nasuverse. It favors two sides, "Gaia", the will of the planet, and "Alaya", the will of humanity. If one 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 communed with exists as "Counter Guardians", heroes who have formed a contract with the World to save it when it comes closer to destruction.
- 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 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 was 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, 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.
- 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".
- 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).
- To an extent, Yog-Sothoth is this. 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. It's two major actions of Lovecraft's works are it fathering Wilbur Whateley and the actual Dunwich Horror, Wilbur's twin brother and in the epic Mind Screw that is Through The Gates of the Silver Key we learn that not only is Yoggy it's own creature, it is part of a Super Archetype, of which every living thing in the universe is part of. Randolph Carter, all of the major human villains and heroes - even the reader - is part of this one Archetype, we are all facets of the same thing, even the hideous alien monsters. By traversing these gates, you gain the ability to travel through time and space.
- 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 which 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.
Live Action Television
- 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.
- The Warp from Warhammer 40,000 would be a rare evil version. It is malevolent (though was not always this way). 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.
- 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 he 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.
- 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 Prince can invoke their power, and the more he does so, the more universe around him works according to his 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.
- 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 this that prevents her from busting her brothers. Whether this is so is ambiguous