Follow TV Tropes

Following

Anatomy of the Soul

Go To

Every living thing has a soul, and every soul has four parts: Form, mind, direction, and luck. Direction steers the souls of Giants, Dwarves, Elves, and animals toward the Lake of Souls in Alfheim, where all the parts may be absorbed back into Alfheim's great light.

In fiction, especially of the magical kind, human anatomy ain't got nuthin' on the anatomy of a soul. And hearts. And minds.

So just how many "pieces" is a normal human's soul made up of? What do they represent, what purpose do they serve, and what happens if one gets lost or stolen? That is what this trope is about.

There are three basic components for a human's soul, without which the soul cannot live or even exist:

Other components for a human's soul can include:

  • Heart — Generally, it's almost always the core component of the soul (hence the name; sometimes it's even what's meant with "soul", with the greater whole being called "spirit" instead), and also the one that is capable of love and emotion. Heart is also attributed with the nature of motion and the activity of life. It is usually the Morality Chain of a person, and usually carries all good and bad karma... unless those are separate components. It also bears the part of a human that can create life and art. Its loss can have varying effects, turning people into cold, dead husks, evil monsters, or brings Creative Sterility, unless the Heart was deliberately removed for putting into a Soul Jar, however, whereupon the usual result is some form of Immortality instead. Weaponizing the Heart often results in Heart Beat-Down.
  • Breath/Wind — In many historical cultures, the concept of breath and soul were intertwined, related to energy above as well as movement. For instance, Hebrew has נְשָׁמָה‬ (neshama - breath, spirit), נֶ֫פֶשׁ (nephesh - soul, spirit), and רוּחַ (ruach - wind, life force, spirit) and Arabic has the similar روح (rūḥ - soul) and نَفْس (nafs - psyche). Greek has ψυχή (psuke - soul, spirit - the modern word 'psyche' derives from this, and it was translated into Latin as 'anima') and πνεῦμα (Pneuma - breath, wind, spirit, soul), and in Latin 'spiritus' means breath, spirit, and soul. As well, in Hinduism, the soul is Ātman, which also means 'essence' and 'breath'. In all of these, the concepts of breath, spirit, and soul are connected - the soul makes up and animates the person.
  • Dreams — Believe it or not, Dreams are a valuable commodity. All you need is a few days of insomniac nightmares to realize the value of even the most mundane dream. Supernatural creatures seem to treasure human dreams a great deal. Perhaps they can't dream? More majestically, a character's dream's represent their hopes and aspirations, so their loss represent a loss of drive and ambition. Perhaps more dangerously, the ability to sleep.
  • Memories Past experiences that are kept in a person's Mind for future recall. Losing the odd memory here and there doesn't always affect a person much, but losing too many would result in amnesia. Sometimes, they can be transferred out, planted in, or altered. Do not always last beyond death, but when they do, they might manifest in a ghostly form or cling to the soul in the next life.
  • Karma / Destiny — A character's Karma represents what they will become, their Destiny. So losing it usually means they're either doomed to an unremarkable life, or Immune to Fate.
  • Free Will — Some philosophers believe that only beings with souls have Free Will. In contrast with Karma, this is essentially the part of a person that Destiny can't control, though it may vary how much of it exists. If Dreams are hopes and goals, Free Will gives one the ability to act on them. Losing it usually means being resigned to let outside forces to dictate your whole life.
  • Inner Genius / Spirit Guide — A kind of separate entity that is nevertheless still part of the person. May manifest as The Conscience, The Muse, a Good Angel, Bad Angel, Spirit Advisor, Guardian Entity, symbolic animal, the owner's Divine Spark that can do magic, or a "wizard's familiar". Sometimes all of these at once.
  • Essence / True Name A philosophical and metaphysical concept that more or less is what makes something what it is. Both people, animals, and even inanimate objects have this. It's not usually directly named or addressed in fiction, but a lot of stories reference it indirectly. Especially when related to magic systems that draw power from souls (or maybe even elements and nature). It's a connection with Essence that basically gives people the power to draw power from things because it defines what something can do and can become.
  • Shadow Archetype Everything a person rejects or denies about themselves, which they will often project upon others. Modern fiction equates it to evil, because Shadow Is Dark and Dark Is Evil, but the original Jungian concept can also contain positive aspects. Essentially, a Saint's Shadow will be a Sinner, and a Sinner's Shadow will be a Saint, but that's an oversimplification at best.

The loss of any one of these is never a good thing... usually. Someone who is carrying around a demon, Superpowered Evil Side, or Split Personality will most likely benefit from having it removed. However, the case is usually that when any one of these is removed, the person becomes metaphysically incomplete. Their eyes hollow out, their conscience vanishes, and they operate on only the formalities of human behavior, having lost either the empathy, will, or self control necessary to function as a human being. Expect reactions ranging from listlessness to displays of pure Id induced debauchery, or conscience and soulless killings.

Whoever possesses one of these items usually gets one of the following: partial or total control over the owner, the ability to see their dreams, memories, or other secrets. If what they stole is replacing their own stolen or damaged goods, they usually gain at least part of the personality or morality of the owner. Then again, the nefarious Evil Sorcerer who stole it may be collecting enough "raw materials" either to extend their own life or looking for just the right one to perform some heinous evil ritual. Of course, it might be their own soul or heart that they discarded to avoid all those "limits" a conscience (and mortality) imposes.

Most settings where death is common and reversible (such as Dungeons & Dragons) have a soul, a body, and a mind — the mind can be subject to magical or psychic events, the body is subject to physical events, and the soul is usually ignored until death, when it separates from the body and needs to be retrieved if the character is to be resurrected. Any magic that fools around with souls, such as necromancy, is usually considered evil.

There is an interesting possibility of a Yin-Yang Bomb if someone loses one of the above; learns abilities/powers that are granted in some kind of Equivalent Exchange / Disability Superpower and then they gain the lost soul part back. A risky method; and definitely uncomfortable; you're going to need loads of Heroic Willpower for this.

If the stolen, damaged, or corrupted component isn't returned in time, you can expect the owner to either wither and die, go into a catatonic coma, or be incurably evil/homicidal. If the stolen/removed item is left loose, it may become The Heartless, a Living Memory, or even a Ghost whose body yet lives.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle loosely follows the concept of hun and po, called by their Japanese names kon and haku/paku (officially translated "spiritual energy" and "life energy"), mixing in the concept of qi/ki by portraying both as fluid quantities found in humans. Ayakashi are composed entirely of haku. A piece of Matsuri's spirit acted independently when sent into Lu's mind (with an appearance that represented his self-image rather than his current state), suggesting there can be pure-kon lifeforms as well. Most humans can only strengthen and manipulate their kon, which is what powers like Matsuri's ninjutsu are based on. Ayakashi mediums possess not only an unusually large amount of haku (which makes some ayakashi want to eat them), but control over it (which makes other ayakashi worship them).
  • Bleach has a relatively simplistic anatomy of the soul:
    • The Mind is part of the Soul, the Body merely being a vessel for its interactions in the living world. The soul's Heart is the seat of the human emotions, like empathy and happiness; if the heart is consumed by negative emotions, it will disappear, and the Soul will devolve into a Hollow.
    • Additional anatomy is associated with the soul but never fully detailed. The soul rest and soul chain are two vital components of the soul that control the generation of its power; Arrancar also possess them due to their transformation to be more like a Shinigami.
    • The Heart was eventually revealed to not fully disappear when a Hollow is born. Rather, it is distorted by the negative feelings into forming the Hollow's mask and acts as the source of its powers.
    • The same Heart that shapes Hollows also plays a part in Fullbring, in which a part-Hollow person pulls at the souls of objects and reshapes them according to their attachments and usage.
    • The Bounts are an example of mutant souls created by a Soul Society experiment.
  • Eternal Alice has "stories" inside of people. From the way these operate, they mostly contain aspects of memory, though there seems to be a slight overlap with soul in them.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist utilizes Mind, Body, Soul, Life Energy, and the addition of Truth. Body and soul are intimately bound to one another; so long as both exists, the two will instinctively seek each other out. The presence of a soul in a body other than its own will cause the body to weaken and decay. The Mind exists as a bridge between the two. The Soul is in fact a form of concentrated Life Energy which, applied properly, can utilize the individuals Gate of Truth to perform alchemy.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler's Saginomiya family uses the blood of others as they're close to dying (essentially their Life Energy) to keep their powers. Ginka, Isumi's great grandmother uses it to maintain her youth. Isumi uses it to restore her powers. Hayate is the subject of both, and Ginka's attempt leaves him shrived for a while. Isumi just sips from the blood from a head injury, so there's no real effect on him.
  • In Inuyasha, "soul" can refer to the power to animate the body (Life Energy) or your true consciousness (what most would call a soul, but fits Mind better on this page.) Until the time it was explained, the word had been used interchangeably for either. (This makes Kikyo look like much less of a dick than she did when it seemed that she was condemning innocent young women to eternal oblivion to keep herself going.)
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Mahito is a Disaster Curse, an incredibly powerful Cursed Spirit who is the physical embodiment of humanity's negative feelings for other humans. He has the unique ability to see a person's soul and knows that the soul and body are intrinsically linked: if the body changes, so does the soul and vice versa. Because he sees souls as nothing special, he does not see humans as anything precious, choosing instead to treat them like playthings. His Cursed Technique, Idle Transfiguration, allows him to change a person's soul with a touch, which in turn affects the body, allowing him to transform people into grotesque monsters or kill them instantly. His innate understanding of the soul extends to himself, making him a Shapeshifter and more importantly practically immune to any physical damage as he can simply heal the damage by changing his own soul. Only those who also have an understanding of a human soul, like the protagonist Yuji Itadori who houses the soul of a powerful sorcerer within himself, have any hope of harming Mahito; by extension, Mahito is unable to affect people like Itadori (at least, not without affecting the additional soul in his body, who does not like to be touched).
  • In Kiri no Mori Hotel, the employees refer to the mind part of a guest's soul, with their memories and feelings being left behind in the rooms they occupied during their stay and any problems in their heart being the reason why they found their way to the hotel.
  • My Hero Academia: A person's quirk and their mind are inextricably linked, to the point where if your quirk is transferred to someone else, a fragment of your consciousness goes with it. This is a major plot point in The Final Act Saga, and is vital to Deku and Shigaraki realizing their dreams of becoming the greatest hero and the greatest villain respectively.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion shows all living beings to have only one important element: The Soul. The Soul in turn generates an Absolute Terror Field (which Kaworu dubs "the light of our souls") to keep itself distinct from the world and maintains the physical body's form. Destruction or extraction of the Soul reduces the body to LCL. Souls are actually more along the lines of the Freudian Ego, with the AT fields filling in as the ego barriers. That's why Instrumentality can happen. The plan is to eliminate loneliness by collapsing the ego barriers of all living things into one unified being. Angels are notable in that their Soul assumes the physical form of a red sphere, deemed the "Core" by NERV.
  • Osomatsu-san: "Choromatsu Rising" reveals that each brother owns a physical manifestation of their self-consciousness, with some being more difficult to handle than others.
    • Osomatsu: A tiny but manageable red ball that fits in his pocket. It's dented and covered in dirt, which prompts Choromatsu to ask if it's just a clump of garbage.
    • Karamatsu: A glossy orb that's about the size of a crystal ball. It's translucent but has a blue tint.
    • Choromatsu: A planet-like mass that's floating above the city and blinding the people below it with its bright green light. It becomes bigger and more unstable whenever Choro's self-consciousness rises and he’s seen reading a book about how to control it in "The Star of Hope, Todomatsu".
    • Ichimatsu: A furry lump that looks almost like a cat. It's fairly large, reflecting its owner's secretly self-conscious nature, and Ichimatsu is seen burying it underground to keep the others from finding it.
    • Jyushimatsu: A bubble that's floating in space and contains a copy of himself.
    • Todomatsu: A pink disco ball. It's large and gaudy because of his tendency to lie about his social standing, so Totty only lets his family members see it.
  • Sailor Moon features quite a few of these, up to and including Life Energy, Dream Mirrors (a combination of ambition and the ability to dream and sleep and the former trope namer), Pure Heart Crystals (the emotional heart), and Star Seeds (the soul which allowed for reincarnation).
    • Removing them has various effects. Energy loss simply is just that, a loss of energy. Losing a Pure Heart puts the victim in a zombiesque or hysteric state, though most just collapse though. Removing the Mirror doesn't really do much by itself, but the process of extracting the mirror is painful, as is looking inside the mirror (by sticking their head into it); however, eating the Mirror will cause the victim to die if it is not recovered; in addition, breaking the mirror will render the victim comatose, though they can be revived by repairing the mirror. The Star Seed will cause a person to fade away if taken far away or if the person is a Sailor Senshi (due to it doubling as a source of their powers). If it's a normal person and it remains close by it will turn them into a Phage or Fake Sailor Senshi (even men).
    • A Pure Heart Crystal can indicate a generally kind, sweet heart, but in some instances the character's "pure heart" refers to their focused pursuit of one ambition or craft.
    • The Dream Mirror also came in three kinds, a normal pink one, a dark grey one for someone who's given up on their dreams, and a golden one that indicates Pegasus is hiding in it. The duality of dream mirrors probably exists because the Japanese word "yume" covers both meanings of the English "dream": sleep visions and fantasies/aspirations. It was trickier to carry over the intent into Russian.
    • Star Seeds also come in two types, blanks which are held by normal humans and true Star Seeds which are held by Sailor Senshi (and Tuxedo Mask) and are the anime equivalent of the manga's Sailor Crystal.
    • Also, in the manga, one can destroy the body and still make off with the Star Seed. This makes for some rather unsettling images.
  • In Shaman King, soul is divided into spirit, mind/will, and heart as three major components. That is not to say body doesn't have a role too, but it's not as important as the other three (being a physical component instead of a spiritual one).
  • Shugo Chara! has eggs inside of people, their "would-be selves", that appear to be some form of dreams. They overlap with this and Ghost in the Machine, as not only do they give a person their ambition, they also take the form of little people.
  • Soul Eater breaks it down into body, mind and soul, stating as one of its oft-repeated (moreso early on) phrases that "a healthy soul lives in a healthy mind and healthy body"; the implication being that the state of one affects the rest. The progress or lack thereof of all characters can to an extent be brought back to their state in relation to this concept. It's simplistic and neat in theory, though in practice gets some odd applications, Crona in particular.

    Comic Books 
  • Supergirl: Several of Supergirl's enemies are fragments of her soul, her spirit or her emotions given physical shape by magic or Kryptonite. Nightflame is the embodiment of her death wish, and Dark Supergirl is born from her self-loathing and Survivor Guilt.

    Fan Works 
  • In Hope for the Heartless, the importance of a heart to an individual becomes one of the main themes. Avalina eventually asks the Horned King how he received his monstrous appearance. His explanation invokes this trope beautifully.
    The Horned King: The heart is the messenger from the soul to the body, and keeps the two bound together as one. When the body fails, the heart ceases to be, and the soul is released from the body and sent elsewhere. You can see this in your elderly, however there is another scenario. After killing someone, the heart, the origin of all morality and emotion, begins to corrode. Slowly, but it is noticeable. The more one kills, the more difficult the damage is to reverse. [...] After one has killed so much that the heart is gone and no longer holds the life in them, they begin to decay on the outside as well, as the heart binds the body and soul together, and without the heart, the soul cannot function properly. You see this with anyone who has killed before. They are alive, but they are not, and their outward appearance begins to reflect what they have become on the inside, and what they leave in their wake. I look like this because I am the embodiment of all that I have become. My heart turned to dust centuries ago, taking all life with it, and left me merely in a state of existence, my soul unable to work properly without it, thus my appearance. For I am a monster now, and I can never again regain what I have lost. Nothing can change that.
  • In The Mansionverse, a person's mind, emotions and memories are carved in ectoplasm and remain behind after death. Because ectoplasm is a much more versatile support than flesh for a human mind, the resulting ghosts need a lot of focus to "materialize" into a visible form and re-access their memories.
  • Nine Days Down: Deities have multiple souls and bodies to contain these, which are in concert and communication with one another but maintain distinct personalities and senses of self. Luna and Celestia both have their physical self on earth, their celestial body (Celestia in particular notes that the Sun is male, despite the rest of her being female), and a sapient soul-weapon. Partway through the story, Twilight manifests her first additional soul when she forms her sword, Insight. The author's commentary at the end of the story notes that this concept was derived from the Primordials in Exalted and their multiple souls and souls' souls.
  • Outcry: Ashburn kills Leviathan by crushing his soul, but in return her own is shattered as well. Several teams scatter to recover the soul fragments across Brockton Bay, unaware that many pieces made it to Drangleic as well. While Taylor's soul is successfully reassembled in the Abyss, due to the actions of one of the fragments and its interaction with the Scholar of the First Sin, she's now missing several memories and has some knowledge she didn't have earlier.
  • Pony POV Series: A being's soul is composed of two parts — a Light of Existence (the heart) and a Shadow of Existence (the appearance), both containing parts of the being's personality. If erased from existence, the Shadow ends up in Entropy's Realm (the Light, according to Word of God, returns to Fauna Luster from whom all souls spring, or in the case of some of the G3 ponies, entered the afterlife, or was reborn as a new individual). What's more, it's stated that there's not a "Law of Conservation of Mass" when it comes to souls, meaning the same person can have multiple reincarnations (Dark World!Twilight being the reincarnation of G3 Minty's Light and Minty Pie being the reincarnation of her shadow, for example), but the soul will still exist independently of the reincarnation.
  • In Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Viluy has all manner of soul-analogues from across the multiverse in her lab, including Pure Heart Crystals, Hostes, Dream Mirrors, Sailor Crystals, Star Seeds, Heart Flowers, Linker Cores and Soul Gems... and she's performing horrific experiments on all of them. It's later revealed that there is an embodiment of the soul that's deeper and more pure than all of the above, called Seeds. Described as an "essence" by Joker, everything with a mind of its own is supposed to have either a good-aligned Cosmos Seed or an evil-aligned Chaos Seed. To Joker's astonishment, Sakura's is a perfect balance of both. Later revelations prove that Joker's binary view of the Seeds is inaccurate; not all people with Chaos Seeds are evil, as is proven when Sailor Saturn has hers removed. Likewise, it can be inferred that not all people with Cosmos Seeds are good. In fact, there is no such thing as an entirely pure Cosmos or Chaos Seed, for each type has at least a tiny portion of the other within it.
  • Shinji and Warhammer40k has a slightly different take on the Neon Genesis Evangelion example above called the "Absolute Territory Field", explained as sort of a region where the quantum observations of a consciousness collapse wave functions into certain states, therefore causing consciousness to actually change reality somewhat.

    Literature 
  • While it lacks formal names, the Aspect of Crow trilogy has a recurring element where a dead person's soul will steal parts of a living person's soul. These soul pieces take the forms of their spirit animal and they are aspects of personality, such as passion or the ability to love. Part of a Crow's job is to recover these pieces and give them back to their owners.
  • In The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, all humans (and presumably animals, trees, and geologic features) have a name-soul, a clan-soul, and a world-soul. Part of their death rites involves drawing circles made of red ochre on the dying person's feet, chest, and forehead, to ensure their souls don't become separated. These souls can also be corrupted by soul-sickness, as happens to Torak in the fourth book. If the name-soul is missing or sick, the person becomes a ghost, forgetting their identity. If the clan-soul is missing (or if the three souls are scattered), a demon is formed (though the clan-soul becoming sick just makes someone lose their connection to nature). The most powerful demons, Elementals, are formed when a geologic feature like a waterfall "dies" and its souls are scattered.note  If the world-soul is lost, the owner becomes a Lost One, trapped forever in a dark void.
  • The Cosmere has a unique take on this.
    • First is Connection, the spiritual ties that bind everything to everything else, whether that be people, objects, events in the past and future, or even abstract concepts. This seems to make up most of the soul, and is the reason why the term "spiritweb" is often used interchangably with "soul". Most magic-users have a Connection to a Shard that they can draw power from under certain conditions. Several forms of magic can interact with Connections, mostly by forming temporary false Connections with places to trick your soul into thinking you grew up there, making you instantly learn the local language. The Bondsmiths have an even greater command over Connection than most, able to show people visions of past events that can be interacted with, the long-dead people acting exactly as they would have done in reality, and potentially even move certain Connections from one person to another.
    • Identity is the other major component that is understood. This is what defines one soul as seperate from another, and functions in magic as a form of encryption that prevents power aligned to one person from being easily claimed by another (for example, how Awakeners can recover their Breath from an Awakened object, but not someone elses). Feruchemists are uniquely able to store Identity in aluminum, which temporarily "blanks" their soul such that another metalmind created by them at the same time becomes "unsealed", allowing any other Feruchemist to withdraw the attribute inside.
    • Fortune has been mentioned a few times, but is currently poorly understood. It's something like luck, or at least something easily mistaken for such, and can make things happen that look like strange coincidences. It can also somehow be used in magic to see into the future.
    • Finally, Investiture is the very stuff that souls are made of as well as the Spiritual Realm istelf, and the energy for magic. Some people have more of this than others, such as the people of Nalthis, who are born with a single BioChromatic Breath as a bit of extra power compared to Cosmere standard.
  • Craft Sequence: Human souls make up the basis of the economy. Specifically, a single human soul is made up of 2,000 units of soulstuff (it's not stated whether this is an arbitrary or empirical division), and soulstuff is used as the setting's cash. People don't think twice about paying their taxi fare with a bit of their soul. Receiving someone's soulstuff also nets you brief flashes of their memories. You can walk around with less than a full human soul without any problems, but the less you have the more you edge into Technically-Living Zombie territory until you stop living entirely. Conversely, you can also have more than a full human soul in you, but this is said to cause strange behavior. The 2,000 mark seems to be used mainly for accounting purposes.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Minds can be manipulated by psychomancy, and souls can be manipulated by necromancy — both are considered Black Magic. The soul is known to be necessary for life, and can be seen through a "soulgaze" by wizards; it also seems to be tied to free will. Exactly how it interacts with the mind isn't yet clear, though. Later in the series, Harry is granted the ability to use "Soulfire" to augment his magic, and it is described as being fueled directly by his soul (Bob assures him that the part of his soul thus consumed will effectively "grow back.")
    • Ghosts aren't souls, but imprints left by powerful emotions of a dead person, a fact which Harry uses to his advantage in Grave Peril; Ghost Story further establishes that all of the powers ghosts can display are fueled by memory, since that is more or less all they are composed of. Ghost Story also demonstrates that it is possible for an actual soul to exist in a state almost identical to that of being a ghost, under special circumstances such as in Harry's case, which involves interference from a queen of The Fair Folk, an ancient and powerful Genius Loci, and (separately from the other two) an archangel.
    • There's also Life Energy, which is a source of power for magic, and a wizard's Death Curse is powered by all his life energy (therefore killing him).
  • His Dark Materials has a clear distinction of Mind, Body and Soul. The body is self-explanatory. The soul, in some worlds, lives outside of the human host as an animal-shaped dæmon. As a child, the dæmon's shape changes with moods and thoughts, but around puberty, a person's dæmon "settles" into one shape, that reflects the mature temperament and character of its owner. The mind is self-explanatory, and is the only part of the three that "survives" death as a ghost, but a ghost can also fade away into nothing. Pullman has said that the dæmon is "the part of a human that leads us towards wisdom". Of course, then people apparently also have a 'death' as well, that is, a conscious entity that eventually leads you to the land of the dead. What makes it odd is that it is implied they are something very similar to daemons...
  • The Kane Chronicles takes the terminology of the Egyptian soul anatomy in the mythology section, but puts its own spin on things:
    • The Ba is the personality, and the typical idea of a spirit. It's the part that can be astrally projected in dreams, usually in the form of a bird that has your face.
    • The Ren is the True Name, the total of their identity and experiences summed up in two or three words. It can only be learned from you or the one closest to you, and whoever has it can exert a great deal of control over you. This can be a good thing, however; someone you can trust with it can cast spells that affect you, such as healing spells, with a huge boost.
    • The Ka is the animating life force that your body needs to function.
    • The Ib, or Heart, is a record of all your good and bad deeds that gets weighed on a scale in the afterlife.
    • The Sheut, or Shadow, is the legacy you leave on the world. Since it's a record of everything you've ever done, it can be used like a backup to restore you if you lose one of the other four parts of the soul, or it can be used to thoroughly excise you from existence.
  • In Log Horizon, according to Ri Gan's Spirit Theory (which is based on the Chinese concept of hun and po, or kon and paku in Japanese), the soul is divided into psyche and animus; the psyche governing the person's personality and the animus the person's body. Ri Gan surmised that memories are split between the psyche and animus and thus speculated that when Adventurers got resurrected upon death, due to the inevitable loss of data when reconstructing the animus, Adventurers not only lose a portion of their experience (as it happened when Elder Tales was still a game) but also some of their memories too.
  • In No Need for a Core?, Souls are explicitly the result of True Minds, and once formed can become the matrix in which the mind exists after the body is no longer functioning. The outermost layer of the soul is the Spirit, which is also possessed by all living and some non-living creatures that do not have souls. The soul also contains a Soul Core, which acts as a reinforced live-updated backup of the soul, and can wait in a dormant state if the active soul is damaged or destroyed.
  • Sword Art Online: The Alicization arc defines what a soul is through the Soul Translator technology. Based on SAO's "Quantum Brain Dynamics" theory, there are light particles or photons that act as a quantum unit of mind called "Evanescent Photons", which exist within the microtubules of a nerve cell. These light particles exist in a state of indeterminism and fluctuate according to the probability theory. A collection of these particles form a Quantum Field, which have been dubbed "Fluctuating Lights" (or "Fluctlight" for short) which is what makes up the human consciousness, or in other words, the human soul. The Soul Translator machine is able to record the spin and vector of each photon within the microtubles and translate this information into a readable form for computers. It diverges from standard VR in that it's not merely nerve signals being transmitted into the system, but the soul itself.
  • In the Sword of Truth book Stone of Tears, it is stated that Devil's ultimate punishment (reserved for everyone should he enter the world of living) is eternal existence as a mind separated from soul.
  • Virtuous Sons: A Greco-Roman Xianxia: The Greek and Roman parts of the setting employ Plato's tripartite soul, given as Reason, Emotion, and Hunger, in its understanding of pneuma and cultivation. Meanwhile, each culture has its own understanding of the soul, such as the Egyptians having an eight-part soul and more besides.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Angel, a Las Vegas casino owner steals the destiny of important guests and sells them on the black market. Anyone who loses their destiny has literally nothing happen to them — without a destiny, they're incapable of affecting or being affected by worldly events. Eventually, the plot is foiled thanks to some celestial intervention helping a de-destinied Angel win at a slot machine, or have "something" happen.
  • My Name Is Earl revolves around the main character's attempts to level his Karma by atoning for all the bad deeds in his life.
  • In Supernatural, Sam Came Back Wrong after he got sent to hell with Michael while Lucifer was riding shotgun. He returns the next season seemingly alright until the brothers are captured by a monster to whom no one can lie, except Sam. This prompts Castiel to check him out and report his soul is missing, probably still in hell with two very pissed off angels. Without his soul Sam becomes an amoral Jerkass willing to kill Bobby in order to keep his most likely messed up soul out.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Aztecs separated the soul into three components. The first was the heart, or yollotl, the soul of the body. The second was the spark of life, or tonal, the spiritual soul. The third was a spiritual animal totem or nagual, the shadow soul.
  • Chinese philosophies divided the soul into Hun and Po (Japanese: Kon and Paku). To put it simply, the Hun is the "ethereal" soul that leaves the body after death and reincarnates, while Po is the "corporeal" soul that resides in the body after death for some time before returning to Earth. The number isn't equal; there are 3 Hun and 7 Po. There is also Qi, the Life Energy.
  • Christianity (or at least many denominations of it) believes that the Soul and the Spirit are different things, each composed of three distinct parts: The Soul is composed of the Mind (ability to think), Emotion (ability to feel), and Will (ability to act). The Spirit is composed of Conscience (to discern right from wrong), Fellowship (to contact God and to commune with God), and Intuition (a direct sense or feeling with no discernible logic behind it). Going a step further, some believe that the "mankind created in God's image" thing refers not to physical appearance but to this body/soul/spirit composition, which roughly mirrors the Holy Trinity. Other religions have other interpretations or beliefs as well.
  • Older Than Dirt: Ancient Egyptian beliefs involved a six-part individual, with something different happening to each part after death. All six parts had to be intact for a person to enjoy an afterlife.
    • The Ib, which was the heart and worked like this trope's Heart, containing a person's mind, memories, and personality.
    • The Shut, or shadow. It didn't do anything of major significance, but the ancient Egyptians believed that a person couldn't exist without a shadow and a shadow couldn't exist without a person, so it stuck with them even after they died.
    • The Ren, or name. The Egyptians believed that this part of a person would live as long as their name was spoken and remembered. Conversely, if the name was erased from all written and living memory, that person would cease to exist and have no afterlife.
    • The Ka (Life Energy), which met up with the ba in the afterlife. A person died when it left the body. It was sustained by food and drink, which was why the Egyptians left offerings of food and beer to the dead.
    • The Ba, the spiritual force of an individual. In the afterlife it reunited or combined with the ka to form the Akh.
    • The Body was known as the Ha, and its preservation was essential for the afterlife, leading to the practice of mummification.
  • The Kusaasi and related peoples of Ghana and Burkina Faso have three concepts more or less corresponding to "soul":
    • Nyovur: this is what makes you alive instead of dead. "Life force", perhaps. Animals have it too.
    • Win: this is a person's spiritual double, a bit like a guardian angel but in some sense also the person him/herself. The same word also means (creator) God. Witches can steal it; you then die, but not immediately. It is associated with an object called a 'bugur', which is what old Western accounts call a "fetish." But nobody worships a bugur; it is only significant because of the 'win' there. Animals have a 'win' too. It's basically what gives things spiritual significance.
    • Kikiris: in Ghanaian English, translated as "fairies". These are like protective spirits. Men have three, but women have four, getting an extra one because of the risks of childbirth. There are kikiris that live wild in the bush, not attached to people. They can be malevolent and try to get people lost until they die of thirst or hunger.
  • Professor Neil Price has theorised that in historical Norse Mythology, there were four separate components of a person: hamr (shape), hamingja (fate), hugr (essence, in modern Scandinavian it roughly means state of mind) and fylgja (follower) which was a guardian angel of sorts that are inherited in a family. Some believed that the hugr couldn’t depart until the hamr had been burned or entirely decayed, and it could rise as a Draugr if intact.
  • In Shinto, the soul is conceived as having four spirits: ara-mitama (violent), nigi-mitama (harmonious), saki-mitama (prosperous), kushi-mitama (wondrous). When gods are enshrined, sometimes two or more shrines or subshrines are built for each of that gods spirits. On top of this, due to the influence Chinese philosophy has had on Shintoism, it's not unusual for the soul to also be regarded as having Kon and Paku parts.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted:
    • Mortals are composed of Body, Essence (the fundamental building block of what you are), and Soul. The Soul is further divided into two parts; the Hun, or higher soul, is the seat of reason and rational thought and is also what ordinary ghosts come from, and the Po, or lower soul, is the seat of passion, destructive impulses, and instinct. Wild hungry ghosts consist of the Po left over after the Hun departs, and it's also where a Celestial Exalt's shard of Exaltation resides.
    • That's nothing compared to the Primordials/Yozis. Every Primordial possesses a number of souls (somewhere between less than ten to several dozen) which each act as a separate self-willed being that personifies a quality of the Primordial's personality or an expression of its defining theme, with a particular one (called the fetich) being the heart of the Primordial's nature. In turn, each of these souls will have a collection of external souls of their own, who serve a similar (although more stringently defined) function. Those souls are capable (though not required) of creating offspring, considered part of the hierarchy, but not souls (they're always lesser creatures and the very bottom of the hierarchy, with little standards as to their nature or purpose). The death of a second-circle soul can cause minor, cosmetic changes to a Primordial (which can be reversable), while the death of a third-circle soul causes major changes to it (often losing or warping the quality associated with the soul in question), and fetich death completely redefines the nature or personality of the Primordial. Presiding over this hierarchy are the jouten of the Primordial; its actual body/bodies, which house its core consciousness and its powers.
    • The Fair Folk have their own spiritual architecture. At their core is the "Heart" grace, which contains their overall essence and self. Around it they build the four primary graces of Cup, Staff, Sword, and Ring, from which they derive both their powers and their ability to relate with others. They then have feeding maws, one for commoners and two for nobles, which are used to consume the emotions from other creatures. Theirs is not an actual soul but rather an artificially constructed imitation of one, the Fair Folk being creatures of pure chaos posing as individuals.
  • In Nomine: Souls, whether those of humans, animals, angels, demons, or spirits of the Marches, consist of Forces bound together, which come in three kinds: Corporeal Forces give their owners the ability to interact with the physical world, increasing strength and agility as they go up; Ethereal Forces embody intellect and the mind, giving their owners intellect and precision of action, and their loss often results in loss of memory and Death of Personality; Celestial Forces are the essence of spirituality and morality, strengthening willpower and perception as more are gained, and are needed for spirits to manifest celestially or for mortals to work sorcery. Most beings may have up to six of each kind, usually much fewer (humans average five Forces total, six in rare cases), but the great Archangels and Princes have many more. The most common way for celestials to "reproduce" is for Superiors to bind stray Forces into a new angel or demon, and grafting a new Force onto an underling's soul is a common high-end reward.
  • Scion: First edition used the Egyptian mythology variant with the Pesedjet (Egyptian pantheon) only Purview of Heku, which allows the Scion to manipulate the various parts of their soul to great effect.
  • Warhammer sourcebooks first divided the soul into the rational anima and primal animus and later declared that it comprises seven different parts (see the Egyptian system) as a means of classifying the varieties of The Undead.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Changeling: The Lost has perhaps the most unusual variation in a tabletop game. A character's shadow is a metaphor for their soul. The shadow always appears as the real body, rather than the Mask. To make a Fetch, the Fae remove a small strip of the shadow and bind it into the creation ritual. This is a metaphor for taking a bit of the soul, but to the Fae, a metaphor is as good as the real thing. Whether or not they've actually torn off a bit of your soul is up to the individual storyteller.
    • Mage: The Awakening: The importance of the soul means it gets a fair bit of attention. Besides describing what the soul is (the source of inspiration, will to live, curiosity, empathy for others, and sense of connection to the world) and the effects of its loss, the soul is also the basis of magic, and manipulation of the soul can be used to gain powers. The soul is also the basis for an individual's Mental World, which contains worlds which personify their personality, experiences, and dreams, and is inhabited by beings such as their daimon (personification of their desire for self-improvement, and personal criticism) and goetic demons (personifications of vices and flaws). Individual souls are also connected to the soul of humanity as a whole, and the earth itself.
    • Mummy: The Resurrection has the soul divided into Ka (roughly, Avatar), Ba (Mind), Sahu (Light), Khu (Dreams), and Khaibit (Shadow). They also threw in Ren (True Name) and Sekhem (Life Energy). The reboot, Mummy: The Curse, uses the traditional Egyptian anatomy for the inborn splat, the Decree, based around what aspect the mummy was most attuned to when they were first raised — the Ab (heart), Ba (spirit), Ka (essence), Ren (name), or Sheut (shadow).
    • Vampire: The Requiem introduced the Egyptian flavor in the Mekhet clanbook with the option of "Hollow" Embraces, wherein a person is Embraced after they're already dead. Thing is, their Ka has already been wandering around for a while, and it gets pissed off when it finds out it's going to be shackled to this plane again. Hollow vampires can't appear in reflections or on tape, and their voice doesn't carry over the phone; the Ka gets all that, and if it's not properly sated, it will use those abilities to terrorize the vampire and turn people against it.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE has used both light/darkness and dream examples.
    • The 2008 story involved Matoran having their Light drained out and becoming inherently evil, while Takanuva got partially drained and gained a Superpowered Evil Side.
    • The serial Sahmad's Tale features a plague which robs the victims of their dreams, causing insanity and death, although it's later revealed that this "plague" is actually an Eldritch Abomination feeding on the victims' dreams.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: Souls appear to be tied heavily to the idea of a person's independent existence. All people have them, but as the robotic Murakumo Units and other purpose-driven artificial lifeforms begin to make decisions of their own and their own desires emerge they also 'grow' souls. The complicated part is that souls can also be fragmented by intense personal duress. Those fragments can then take up residence in other bodies, even years after the event, so long as they are sufficiently similar to the 'original'. These fragments may even be of different sizes, and having a larger aspect of someone's soul within your own effectively makes you more like that person. Traits, desires and even memories can all come downstream through this, and the issue of the Central Fiction implies that it can even go upstream as well. Soul fragments can also be re-absorbed into each other, creating a closer image of the original. It gets to the point that by the end of the fourth game Noel Vermillion is effectively five separately-identifiable people at the same time, namely Noel, Mu, Izanami, Saya and The Origin (note that three of these characters are independently playable).
  • Book of Hours: Referred to as the "elements" of the soul, they are: Health (the dwelling place of the soul), Chor (exuberance, instinct, and rhythm), Shapt (eloquence and understanding), Fet (the part which walks in dreams), Ereb (pride, compassion, hatred and fear), Trist (change and longing), Mettle (will and self-discipline), Phost (sight, perception, and inspiration), and Wist (name and memory). In gameplay terms, each of these is a resource that recovers each day and needs to be expended in order to perform practically any task, and each one has its own aspects that make it more suited to some tasks than others.
  • In Brutal Orchestra, the three central characters not only make up this dynamic, but it's eventually revealed that they're all the same person. Nowak is the Soul, as he is the playable character and the one that best represents who he was when he was alive, and is more innocent due to being an Amnesiac Hero. Bosch is the Mind, being the game's Mission Control and helps teach the mechanics and is Nowak's Enemy Without, being his ental health issues and intrusive thoughts. Finally, This Pitiful Corpse is the Body, the vessel for the other two, and being largely unresponsive until thy finally mend their differences to do something.
  • Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice has the "Heart Vault" where one can lock away or (more difficult) unlock aspects of the personality. Any changes or things killed will have radically effects on the owner.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has a little of this. When you dream, your soul goes wandering in a parallel dimension called the Fade. The Fade has somewhat amorphous properties, but lots of demons and spirits linger here. They're very interested in mages, who can enter the Fade completely conscious and aware of what's happening; unfortunately for the mages, only the nastiest of demons seem to take interest... mostly.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, sapient "Black" souls, like those of Men and Mer, have a part that houses the consciousness and a part that houses the spirit energy that can be used to enchant items. When the trapped soul of a sapient being is used for enchanting, the consciousness part goes to the Soul Cairn, an unaligned and bleak plane of Oblivion ruled by the mysterious Ideal Masters, and the separated spirit energy is stored in the item. "White souls" (souls of unintelligent creatures) apparently lack the consciousness part.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, every living being is made up of three distinct types of Aether, the life-force of the setting: Corporeal Aether, which is in constant flux and represents the body's energy, the Soul, which remains the same throughout a person's life (barring corruption) and the Memory, which can even pass through reincarnations in some rare cases.
  • God of War Ragnarök explains that the soul is made up of four parts: form, mind, luck, and direction. While the other three aren't elaborated on (but possibly self-explanatory) direction is revealed to be the part of the soul that guides it to its designated afterlife. Early in the game, Sindri reveals that his brother Brok died many years ago and was improperly resurrected missing this part of his soul. Thus, when Odin murders him, Brok is rendered Deader than Dead and is not only denied an afterlife in any form but can't even be brought Back from the Dead again.
  • Kingdom Hearts has Soul, Heart, and Body. Heartless are Hearts without a Body and Soul, with new bodies formed out of the darkness that separated them from their original body; without the body, they lose all higher reasoning and act on animal instinct. Nobodies are the leftover Body and Soul, and without the heart they become emotionless husks. The heart itself has an anatomy, being largely made out of Memory: gaining new memories and connections to people causes the creation of a heart, even in formerly inanimate objects. Unusually, the Mind exists in both the Soul and the Heart, which allows a person to split into multiple copies of themselves, something that both the hero and the Big Bad use several times throughout the series.
  • Persona uses a kind of Jungian Soul Anatomy, though it tends to focus primarily on the Mind.
    • A Persona is a physical manifestation of the wielder's psyche. In the original, one character's consciousness is split in three, an "Ideal" version, an "Innocent" version, and a Malevolent "Id" version. In Persona 4, a character's repressed feelings manifest themselves as a Shadow, which can become a Persona when accepted. Igor does say that the power of Persona is the power to control one's Heart, which is why Social Links are so important in the later games. (When a character without the Wild Card has a strong enough bond with the protagonist, their Persona literally evolves.)
    • Dreams also extremely important in each game. (Igor or Philemon usually first contacts the protagonists through a dream.)
    • Finally, Destiny plays a major role in each of the games. In Persona 3 and 4, it's explicitly stated that only those bound by a "contract" (the contract in P3 reads "I chooseth this fate of my own free will") may enter the Velvet Room. Both Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment have Shadows similar to the kind found in P4, though they don't seem to have the same relation to Personas. Innocent Sin, meanwhile, also has Shadow Selves, who have lost their dreams. (While the P2 Shadows are born of essentially the same process as P4 Shadows, it was triggered by Nyarlathotepcertainly nothing you'd ever want mucking with the dregs of your soul.)
    • Also in Persona 2, a failed attempt to give a human a Persona ends with the human's soul shattered into eleven Trapezohedrons, aspects of the soul of that person. The Trapezohedrons are: Emotion, Ethics, Memory, Wisdom, Knowledge, Reason, Perseverance, Impulse, Perception, Will, and a final Trapezohedron containing the Shadow Archetype of that person. It is necessary to recover all eleven to restore the victim.
  • In Pokémon Platinum, the Lake Trio brought about and seem to represent the makeup of soul. Uxie, the being of Knowledge, has elements of Mind, While Azelf and Mesprit, the beings of Will and Emotion, hold Dreams and Heart, respectively.
  • In SaGa Frontier, Blue and Rouge are one person separated into two beings so that all magic can be mastered without problems when the more dominant personality wins, hence why he cannot learn Mind Magic until both halves reunite.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne states that the emotional energy (life energy) of humans, called Magatsuhi, is a massive energy source. Draining is extremely painful and leaves the victim weak and despondent. Controllers of this substance can command anything up to gods, spirits and demons, and enough of it (i.e., all of Humanity), judiciously used, can be used to destroy and rebuild reality in the image of the user desires.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, the Heart and sometimes Mind portions of a person's soul can be suppressed by use of a Cruxis Crystal, apparently depending on how it's equipped. The entire soul can also potentially survive outside a person's body through use of any kind of Exsphere, Cruxis Crystal or otherwise, and indeed this fact is key to understanding the motives of the Big Badhis dead older sister is trapped inside hers, and he's trying to find her a new body. It's not a pleasant existence, though.
  • Touhou Project occasionally delves into the matter of the soul. Hourai immortals drank elixir that caused them to separate their soul from their body, and their soul then able to generate physical body on their own that aren't subject to aging and will regenerate if damaged. On the other hand, Youmu Konpaku (whose family name is taken from the concept of Hun and Po in Chinese mythologies) is a half-ghost, part of her soul is outside her body.

    Webcomics 
  • Godslave, being as it is about Egyptian Mythology, uses the Egyptian concept of khat (body), ab (heart), ren (name), khaibit (shadow), khu, sahu and ka (spirit soul, body and double), as well as of course ba, albeit this last one is modified a bit. For humans, ba is their personality, while for gods, it houses their power. The top gods have all nine ba each.
  • In Unsounded, humans have a "spectral body" that overlaps their physical form and lets them interact with the Background Magic Field of the Khert. When they die, their memories dissipate into the Khert to be stored, which they believe cleanses their souls for Reincarnation; "ghosts" are congealed memories that briefly escape the Khert and reenter the world. The soul itself is believed to be refined by the reincarnation cycle until it's ready to pass through the Khert and join the Gods, though that's a matter of faith rather than empirical observation. Duane, meanwhile, is The Undead despite that being a metaphysical impossibility, and is very worried about what that means for his soul.

    Western Animation 
  • One of Teen Titans (2003)'s early episodes involves Beast Boy and Cyborg falling into Raven's mind and the three having to battle with one of Raven's many emotions. Later on, in the Teen Titans Go! comics, Raven ends up having all her emotions escape her mind, only for the group to have to recapture them again. A later issue has it turning out that they missed one (Of course, Rage), and though Raven is happy with this, since it's the first time in a while where she's been able to really feel emotions without worrying about things taking a turn for the worse, she realizes that she needs to have all her emotions and takes Rage back into her mind.

    Real Life 
  • Plato actually did not divide the soul into the reason, the passions (courage and drive), and the appetites (the Lowest Common Denominator drives; the "four F's", if you will) — in his philosophy, soul is indivisible (hence, indestructible). Reason, passion and appetites are aspects of the soul. They may be in conflict — this is when we get internal struggle.
  • Aristotle's views on soul are rather complex, but he also considered it indivisible and having three aspects: vegetal (all the living functions), animal (senses, emotions and moving around) and reasonable (reason). Also, soul is the form of the body and every living thing has one. Plants only have the vegetal aspect, animals have animal aspect, as well, and persons (humans, and non-human persons, if they exist) have all three. Since soul is inextricably connected to the body, the mind-body problem does not arise.
  • Rene Descartes is the guy responsible for mind-body problem/hard problem of consciousness, since in his view body and soul/mind are completely separate things that somehow (he didn't know how) influence each other. Animals, for Descartes, have no soul whatsoever.
  • Sigmund Freud's theory of the consciousness is arguably a version of Plato's tripartite soul, with the id being the appetites, ego being the passions and superego being reason.
  • Timothy Leary divided the mind into 8 "circuits". Later, he decided that this was inaccurate, and divided each of the 8 circuits in 3, for a total of 24 components of the mind. His occasional co-writer Robert Anton Wilson pointed out that this too was incomplete...
  • In a literal example of Soul Anatomy, the sacrum (a bone in the pelvis) was named that because it was once held to be sacred as the "seat of the soul", or at least its generative component. The sacrum is usually the last part to fall to pieces when a human body decomposes, and it was thought in medieval times that the resurrected dead would regenerate their bodies from this bone on Judgement Day.
  • In Thailand, and many other countries/cultures heavily influenced by Buddhism, the head is considered sacred, as it is considered to be where the soul resides. (Thus, touching someone's head is seen as threatening.)


Alternative Title(s): Dream Mirror, Soul Anatomy

Top