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The Lifestream
aka: Lifestream
"Why do we stay in the cradle? Why do we provide suffering to our little heart? Our star did not leave us...did not leave us... our star did not leave us... did not leave us. The pulse of veins flowing in the earth. Faint... faint pulse, heart leading to death. And the weak life return to the planet. Is it necessary to sacrifice the soul? Why do we stay in the cradle? Why do we beg for mercy? In the fatal earth?"
The Promised Land, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

A specific form of the afterlife, a nexus where souls/hearts/spirits go to die, and sometimes where they come from. This is sometimes implied to be a physical place, or maybe in another dimension. In Western media, has parallels to Eastern religion aside from occasional artsy substitutions, and a very good way to refer to the concept of life and death when a series may not allow you do to so without offending Media Watchdogs by portraying Heaven. Naturally very common in anime.

The Trope Namer is Final Fantasy VII.

See also Sentient Cosmic Force. May be part of the conflict in a setting where Harmony Versus Discipline is used. Not to be confused with AIM's Twitter-esque status update feature.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • The Galaxy Cauldron from the Sailor Moon manga.
  • Something similar is seen in the anime Mushishi, in which it is called a life pulse vein and described as a river of small mushi, creatures who represent life in its purest form. Its presence is good for life in general, but it's also dangerous for humans in a number of ways; even just looking at it too closely or for too long can be harmful. How? Well, let's just say we hope you don't terribly miss the use of your eyes.
  • The Akasha from the Nasuverse is the place where souls of the deceased are recycled to create new souls. However, it is also described as "the root of everything", as the concept of time does not apply; if a conscious being somehow manages to enter, it is basically The Nothing After Death. Akasha is also where the magi strive to reach, as "connecting" with Akasha allows the use of True Magic, which are miracles beyond the scope of current science or magecraft, such as Zelretch's alternate dimension travel.
  • In the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, the souls of people who die in our Universe is converted to energy that fuels alchemy in their Universe. Ouch.
  • In End of Evangelion, there is a brief scene where Shinji Ikari is watching all the souls gathered from Third Impact flowing around in the Black Moon like a stream of water. Not really a surprise since the entire movie is a Downer Ending.
  • Kaiba has an interesting physical version of this: people's memories are gold-colored "roe", and ones that are no longer in use for whatever reason (often death), if they aren't stored in special facilities (or if those facilities are destroyed), will float up into outer space, so there is an enormous river of memory roe flowing through space.
  • The Primary Village serves the same purpose in Digimon. All slain digimon's data recollects itself here as eggs.
  • Chrono Crusade also has this, referred to as, "The Astral Line".
  • The rukh from Magi - Labyrinth of Magic, which comes in white or black. White rukh is created from those who live within life's flow and follow fate, and is drawn to positive emotions. Black rukh is created from those who try to defy that flow and destiny, and is drawn to negative emotions like malice.

    Comic Books 
  • Comic book example: The Speed Force in The DCU is sometimes portrayed like this.
    • In essence the Speed Force acts as the Valhalla for all speedsters who use it directly when they die. It's not completely certain why this happened but it's believed that when Barry Allen was hit by the lightning bolt that gave him his powers that it simultaneously made him the first user of the Speed Force and sending the Speed Force throughout time and the multiverse. Since Barry is the first person to have the Speed Force every step he takes causes the Speed Force to grow making it it's own dimension.
  • The Keywork in The Amory Wars is a subversion: the souls are tortured and used as a fuel source for the entire galaxy. In fact, there is an entire race, called Stars, who were created just for there to be more souls to burn.
  • There was an issue of Stormwatch (The Authority's predecessor) where it was revealed that Heaven and Hell were cosmic siege engines locked in an endless war, powered by the souls of the dead. There was a bar next to a nuclear testing range with a wall of photos of physicists who'd ended their lives at ground zero of a nuclear blast to deny either side their soul.
    • Said bar was also visited a few times in Planetary

    Film 
  • In the Star Wars mythos, the Force is described as working like this, and characters who die are often described as becoming "one with the Force."
  • In Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the Earth is described as having a Gaia which is essentially the Lifestream from Final Fantasy VII with a different name.
  • In Avatar, the spirits of the departed live on inside Eiwa — and their memories are accessible if you plug your ponytail into a tree.

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 

     Religion & Mythology 
  • In some versions of Buddhism, souls go to the "Bardo" for a time-out between incarnations. Several interludes in The Years of Rice and Salt, an alternate-history novel by Kim Stanely Robinson, are set in the Bardo. The Chinese "Di Yu," or "Earth Prison," is similar to the Bardo although it is usually translated as "Hell" and there is some tormenting of sinners in the lower levels.
  • The Pleroma is this, combined with Pieces of God.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The "Rebirth Into Death" setting in All Flesh Must Be Eaten poses that all life is ultimately part of one overarching source of life. In the beginning, living creatures were born randomly, but once humanity evolved, some souls retained their consciousness after death and figured out how to rig the life force (effectively creating chains of reincarnation). They stopped paying attention to it when some of their number worked out how to get into Paradise, and the system is breaking down - life energy is now going into corpses. Cue the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Exalted: Creation always have the number of souls necessary to animate living beings in it, since the Ewer of Soul always provide exactly that much. The problem that Autochthon —a machine-god who is also a self-contained world— face in his self-imposed exile is that he need to eat souls (to put it simply), and he's dying because he can't get fresh ones.
    • Note that there's no Lifestream in a traditional sense; souls normally reincarnate, thus they enter Creation but doesn't leave it. The only way souls meet Final Death is by falling into Oblivion. The Neverborn want to toss everything, themselves included, into Oblivion.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has the (rather poorly-defined) Incarnum. It's either souls or Life Energy, and the lack of it causes stillbirth. Which happened when a dragon by the name Ashardalon sat on its source, gleefully omnomnom-ing it. Some heroes eventually dealt with him, but the source of Incarnum was cracked (or something), causing Incarnum to be available-as-powers like magic or psionic. When it's materialized, it looks like light-blue sands.
  • The Source in Dead Inside. The cosmos is structured like a bird's egg, with the real world as the shell, the Spirit World as the white of the egg, and the Source as the yolk, protected by everything else from the void of oblivion on the outside. All soul energy comes from the Source, and all soul energy returns to the Source. That is, unless it rots away through indulging one's vices, or eaten by living holes in reality, or burned away to power magic, or... Well, suffice to say that not enough soul energy comes out of the Source these days to keep up with all the possible ways it might be lost, so one of the ways to lose your soul in the game is to have never had one in the first place. And nobody knows if the Source can be tapped out, and if so, how close it might be...
  • Eldar Exodite Maiden Worlds in Warhammer 40,000. The planets have thin crystal veins running through the world's crust, which the Exodites use as repositories for the spirits of their dead, in a manner similar to the Infinity Circuits on Eldar Craftworlds. This a good thing for the Exodites in a few ways; it means they don't get claimed by Slaanesh when they die, the spirits often serve as guides and mediators to living Exodites, and due to the fact that Eldar are inherently psychic, this means that the planets themselves are sentient and will direct native creatures to fend off any threatening invaders.

    Video Games 
  • The Aether in Aion. It's rather disturbingly also used as an all-purpose tool to power all kinds of things, such as flight, magic, armor, weapons, and force fields.
  • Used in several Final Fantasy games:
  • Glaive Le Gable in Wild ARMs 2.
  • Kingdom Hearts has the titular Kingdom Hearts.
  • In the game Darwinia, each creature has a digital "soul" that rises into the sky and merges into a soul collector which hovers over the world when they die, and which feeds them back down as a rain of souls on another location, where they go on to be processed into new creatures. In this manner, even the souls of The Virus that infects the digital world of Darwinia can be reincarnated as clean darwinians. One virus creature permanently destroys the souls of those it eats, however.
  • The Chroma in Fahrenheit. While its nature is not fully explained (which might place it into The Force category instead), it is mentioned that this is where all living things derive their life energy from, hence, a person with high concentration of chroma in their body (like Lukas) is extremely energetic, like, bare-handedly-fighting-off-a-police-squad-and-then-jumping-atop-of-a-moving-train energetic.
  • In Digital Devil Saga II, the Sun holds the "data" of dead people until they reincarnate. Or, at least, it used to, before something went horribly wrong...
  • BioShock 2: ADAM has become a variant. Once a human Splices with it, their genetic blueprint, personality, memories, and powers are imprinted in the substance contained in their bodies. Sophia Lamb wishes to fuse her daughter with the aggregate genius of Rapture to make her the first "Utopian".
  • The Sea of Souls in King's Quest VI.
  • How Mantra is portrayed in Asura's Wrath. Controlled by Chakravartin, a God who's a major asshole that thinks he does good deeds by testing the demi-gods that use the mantra he bestowed upon them by sending monstrous gohma to try and kill them.

    Webcomics 
  • In TwoKinds, Dark Mana is actually life-force energy siphoned from the planet and people. It's used to cast shadow magic.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, while those who die may go on to some sort of afterlife, in the end, everyone is brought back into the Ether, which is the source of all magic in this verse.
  • Near the end of The Phoenix Requiem it is revealed that instead of an afterlife, the dead souls merge into a pool from where they can later be reborn. The spirits were actually eating these souls instead of letting them enter this pool, giving people magic in exchange. The heroes argue that this pool would dry up over time, so they refuse to free the spirits.

    Western Animation 
  • The AllSpark in the Transformers series. At least, as far as the Unicron Trilogy is concerned. In Beast Wars and Beast Machines, it was interchangeably called the Matrix (which is also the name of a MacGuffin that isn't really related to it.)
    • The name is changed to "The Well of All Sparks" in Transformers Animated, mostly because in this one the Allspark is an actual, physical item. This may or may not go for the movieverse as well.
    • Annoyingly, the name changes as the concept stays the same. But for all Transformerdom... there's a place where sparks return to after death, all sharing knowledge and experiences and such and you can sometimes communicate with it. "Where all are one," as Rhinox put it.

Layered WorldMetaphysical PlaceMental World
Inn Between the WorldsAfterlife TropesMistaken For Afterlife
Infernal ParadiseReligion TropesMundane Afterlife
Horse of a Different ColorImageSource/Video GamesMinigame Zone

alternative title(s): Lifestream
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