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The Lifestream

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"So... do we just toss the mother's day flowers into the flowy bits or...?"
"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?"

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, it 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. Compare Spirit World. 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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, this is kind of what the Eldian "paths" are. It's a place where the Eldian ancestor Ymir Fritz is trapped and made to create and recreate titan bodies out of the earth around her. Once she completes a titan body, it's presumably sent back to "reality". The only people capable of accessing the paths are Eldians who are titan shifters (such as Eren), and they forget about this dimension, along with Ymir Fritz, when they're revived... except those of royal blood. Zeke maintains memories of his human body being moulded by Ymir, and states that it felt like he was there for many years. It turns out that Eren's goal is to rescue Ymir from her eternal prison and thus make it impossible for any more titans to be created.
  • The Primary Village serves this same purpose in Digimon. All slain digimon's data recollects itself here as eggs.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), the souls of people who die in our Universe are converted to energy that fuels alchemy in their Universe. Ouch.
  • 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 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. It turns out that it's the other way around: White Rukh embodies the free will of mortals and the ability to persevere without destiny. Black Rukh is the will of a "god" who once trapped mortals in a destiny of suffering and wishes to do so again.
  • Something like this is seen in Mushishi, called a koumyakunote  and described as a river of small mushi, creatures who represent life in its purest form, amidst a flowing substance that is said to be the source of all life, callied kouki.note  Its presence is good for life in general, but it can have weird effects on humans. Stare at a koumyaku for too long and mushi may come along that consume your eyes. If you're invited to drink kouki, you can find your ties to the living world loosened as you're transformed into a mushi.
  • In Shaman King, the Great Spirit (aka the King of Spirits) is a Pillar of Light from which all souls are born, and to which they return when they die. The role of the eponymous Shaman King is to channel the Great Spirit as their spirit partner for 500 years, during which time they wield all of its power and are effectively God (past holders of the title are implied to have included Jesus and Buddha).

    Comic Books 
  • The Keywork in The Amory Wars by Claudio Sanchez 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.
  • The Speed Force in The Flash is sometimes portrayed like this. In essence, it acts as the Valhalla for all speedsters who use it directly when they die, as a place where they'll be eternally happy and run forever... but also lose their individuality. Its existence is explained two ways:
    • It has always existed and will always exist, and is just a part of the multiverse.
    • When the second Flash, 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 sent 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 its own dimension.
  • When the protagonist of Planetary goes on a Vision Quest, he experiences the information field that underlies reality.
  • In one issue of Stormwatch, it's revealed that Heaven and Hell are cosmic siege engines locked in an endless war, powered by the souls of the dead. There's 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.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Well of Souls is a place on the edge of Hades in the Underworld where spirits cleansed of their former lives await reincarnation lazily spinning in a towering glowing vortex.

    Fan Works 
  • The Song from Crucible (Mass Effect), the place where all souls come from and return to. Billions and billions of universes float in it, tied to it, but mortals cannot see it, only hear its sings. Since the scale is so large, each universe has their own Anthropomorphic Personifications of Life and Death who control the traffic of souls between their world and The Song to make sure things run smoothly since every now and then, there are souls that refuse to move.
  • Hearts of Ice: After dying, Ranma finds himself drifting upwards. Then he is suddenly swimming in a one-mile-wide river, surrounded by countless souls floating in the pale blue water. He can also see that the river downstream forks three ways: the right fork leads to lush green fields where the deceased can become reunited with their ancestors, the middle fork leads to the realm of the beasts, where dead animals' souls await reincarnation, and the left one leads to the Hell. Also, human souls who are meant to be reincarnated end up washed up onto the river's banks.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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. The entire plot of the movie is actually that of the battle between Earth's Gaia and one from a dead world, its souls having been driven insane after drifting through space for untold aeons until slamming into Earth.
  • In the Neon Genesis Evangelion movie The 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Avatar, the spirits of the departed live on inside Eywa — and their memories are accessible if a living person finds a way to directly connect with it.
  • In Contact, Ellie's father appears to emerge from a stream of light.

  • Awake in the Night Land has the Earth Current, which allows people who die close to it to reincarnate.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the Other Place combines this with Eldritch Location and Acid-Trip Dimension, though the Hive Mind of spirits there is not human.
  • In the Black Jewels series, the Darkness is the benevolent source from which the Blood draw their powers, as well as where their souls go when they die and come from when they are born. It is occasionally appealed to similarly to a deity, but without any anthropomorphic representation. Interestingly, the series never addresses whether the non-Blood landen come from the Darkness, or somewhere else.
  • Dust in His Dark Materials. It's described as the main factor in the existence of sapience and possibly life itself, and without it the Multiverse is pretty much screwed.
  • The computer system that runs the Afterlife in Instrument of God.
  • The Wandering has the Currents of the Cosmos, the preferred afterlife of Neshi's homeworld.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, all life native to the planet Thra returns their Life Energy(called "essence") to Thra once they die. The planet is being corrupted and slowly killed because the Skeksis have learned how to drain the essence of living things through the Dark Crystal and consume it to preserve their own lives beyond what is natural.
  • How the final door functions in The Good Place. Whoever passes through it will have their soul scattered through the cosmic energy of the universe, taking on new forms and bonding with other living souls to make them a bit better to other living beings.
  • Harry Belafonte's performance of "Turn the World Around" on The Muppet Show. In addition to encouraging people to be kind to each other during their time on Earth, the lyrics discuss how we all come from the same place and we all return to it when we're gone as well.
    Harry Belafonte: We come from the fire / Living in the fire / Go back to the fire / Turn the world around...
  • "The next emanation" of an alien humanoid species in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Emanations".

    Multimedia Franchises 
  • 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 Star Wars mythos, the Force is described as working like this, and characters who die are often described as becoming "one with the Force". Star Wars: The Clone Wars goes into it more. Everything is made up of the Living Force, and when living things die, their Living Force flows into the Cosmic Force to be rejoined with all things.

    Myths & Religion 
  • 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 Stanley 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 Underworld in Classical Mythology has some elements of this on top of being Heaven, Hell and Limbo all rolled into one. Souls are said not just go their when someone dies, but it is also the origin of souls. There is an enclosure within either Elysium or Tartarus depending on the version, where new souls are born and carried up to the living world by a great wind to be born.
  • The Pleroma is this in Gnosticism, combined with Pieces of God.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The All Flesh Must Be Eaten setting "Rebirth into Death" 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.
  • Present in Anima: Beyond Fantasy as the Stream of Souls, and being quite based on Final Fantasy VII's Lifestream. Souls of the dead go there, circling the planet and being sort of purified, before being reincarnated. The Arcana are said to come from there, representing basic emotions.
  • Dead Inside: The Source. 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. Nobody knows if the Source can be tapped out, and if so, how close it might be...
  • 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.
  • Exalted: Creation always has a number of souls necessary to animate the living beings in it, since the Ewer of Souls always provides exactly that much. The problem that Autochthon, a machine-god who is also a self-contained world, is facing in his self-imposed exile is that he needs 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 the traditional sense; souls normally reincarnate, thus they enter Creation but don't leave it. The only way souls are Deader than Dead is by falling into Oblivion. The Neverborn want to toss everything, themselves included, into Oblivion.
  • The Afterlife is partially like this in Pathfinder: the souls of the dead go to the River of Souls, where (barring interference from Night Hags or other predators) they are taken to the Boneyard, where they are judged by the Goddess of Death, Pharasma.
  • 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 invader.

    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.
  • This is how Mantra is portrayed in Asura's Wrath. It's 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.
  • ADAM has become a variant in BioShock and BioShock 2. Once a human Splices with it, their genetic blueprint, personality, memories, and powers are imprinted in the substance contained in their bodies due to crossover of genes during genetic sampling, caused by the use of recycled ADAM harvested from corpses. This explains why Jack sees ghosts throughout Rapture. Sophia Lamb wishes to fuse her daughter with the aggregate genius of Rapture to make her the first "Utopian".
  • In 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.
  • In Digital Devil Saga 2, the Sun holds the "data" of dead people until they reincarnate. Or, at least, it used to, before something went horribly wrong...
  • The Chroma in Fahrenheit. While its nature is not fully explained, 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.
  • Used in several Final Fantasy games:
    • The Lifestream in Final Fantasy VII, which is the Trope Namer. It's both a metaphorical afterlife in which the Life Energy of every living thing returns to "the Planet" upon their death to be recycled into more life, and a very physical mass of green energy goo that you can use to run your blender, power your Fire spells, or turn you neighbor into a Humanoid Abomination.
    • Final Fantasy IX has a similar concept running behind the scenes; the Evil Plan is to prevent the souls of the people of Gaia from reincarnating, so the souls of the people of Terra can replace them.
    • The Farplane in Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2. A young Spiran genius named Shinra speculates on its use as a power source, and as it turns out, that wide-eyed boy's descendants developed space travel, found a planet with a similar afterlife, and made his dream come true.
    • The basic motivation of the Big Bad in Final Fantasy XIII is to turn the world's remaining human population into this in order to get the attention of his long-vanished god.
    • The concept returns in Final Fantasy XIV in a very similar manner to its original appearance in VII, even sharing the same name. The Lifestream serves as a massive reservoir of aether, the setting’s source of magic, consciousness, souls, and indeed all matter, giving it the alternate title of the Aetherial Sea. It can even be used as a transportation system through the use of the aethernet, a network of aether crystals that act as targeting beacons for the Teleport spell.
      • Another older spell called Flow can be used more quickly and without the aid of the aethernet, but is considerably less reliable and is considered too dangerous to be used outside of extreme emergencies thanks to the various ways it can mess things up, since it works by essentially jumping into the Lifestream, riding it to where you want to go, and then praying you can jump back out once you're there. Such mishaps can include spitting the user out hundreds of miles from their destination, taking a very long time to resolve, or even leaving them trapped in the Lifestream indefinitely. Those last two are particularly troublesome as, also like in VII, overexposure can be damaging to individuals who still possess a corporeal body. This is shown rather dramatically in the aftermath of 2.55, when Y’shtola is forced to use it in a last-ditch attempt to escape from the Brass Blades and both she and Thancred sustain significant injuries as a result of entrapment and overexposure, respectively: Y'shtola is permanently blinded, on top of only even getting out thanks to several conjurers tracking down her aether and pulling her out, while Thancred is plopped out in the wilderness of Dravania, stranded because the trip completely robbed of his ability to cast magic to simply teleport back to civilization.
      • Later expansions elaborate on the Lifestream/Aetherial Sea more: most importantly, there is no one singular Aetherial Sea, it's implied every planet with life has its own lifestream. This includes the different Shards — if you die in a Shard, your soul remains within that Shard's Lifestream. Endwalker also implies the existance of a formless 'great flow' that courses through the universe in which both souls and aether move. This ends up being particularly important, as the countless souls trapped by the Endsinger are released after her destruction, allowing them to flow back into the universe and be properly reborn.
  • The world of Eora in Pillars of Eternity and its sequel has the adra network (the titular Pillars) that funnels souls to the Great Wheel, where the souls churn through to their next reincarnations. Everything living (including the gods) depends on it in order for life to continue. The conflict in Deadfire involves a god destroying said Wheel so that sentient beings can be free from the other gods, who were actually created by long-lost technology running on Soul Power. He's hoping that people will be able to make their own Lifestream eventually (if you ask, it's clarified that the process of setting up the divine siphon and override of the natural stream made it more efficient but also permanently made it dependent on that control, hence how destroying the Wheel won't just bring back the pre-gods system.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • The underworld in Shin Megami Tensei IV is described as a place where souls endure nothingness while they await reincarnation. However, the line to get into the underworld has gotten absurdly long with all the rampant death that's been happening recently. It's gotten so bad that Charon is willing to let you cheat death for a fee. If you decide to stay dead, he tells you that you'll be waiting until "long after the boulders have eroded into sand".
    • The Sea of Souls in the Persona series is effectively the human collective unconscious made manifest, and is also the origin point of all souls. Personas, Demons, Shadows, and the various god-like entities in the franchise all come from the Sea of Souls, due to being unconsciously created by humanity itself.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: The strange world of Ever After, in ironic contrast to its name, runs on the lifestream. Afterans that die, fulfill their purpose, or lose sight of it are devoured by the World Tree, which regrows them as new creatures with reset memories. Part of what got Remnant's gods banished from this place was inventing a creature that could devour an Afteran's soul permanently.

  • Endtown: There is a well of souls somewhere in the multiverse. Unfortunately, the meta-apocalypse has allowed someone to hijack the stream. This is implied to be the grand finale of the comic.
  • 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.
  • In MYth, gods, when they die, don't go to Hades like the mortals but return to Gaia, the original mother and if she's merciful enough, are able to reincarnate as humans.
  • Near the end of The Phoenix Requiem, it is revealed that instead of an afterlife, the dead souls merge into a spirit ocean from where they can later be reborn. Originally, the Hellions were the guardians of the spirit ocean, but they negotiated with an alien race of spirits to switch duties. But instead of doing their new jobs, the spirits have been eating soul energy, paying humans with magic spells to off a few 'demonic hellions', until most of them were imprisoned in retaliation. The heroes argue that this pool would dry up over time, so they refuse to free the spirits.
  • In TwoKinds, Dark Mana is actually life-force energy siphoned from the planet and people. It's used to cast shadow magic.
  • Unsounded: The khert, in its function as the operating system of the universe, is also where the souls of the dead go when they die. This appears to be a fancier Cessation of Existence, as the soul breaks down into its component memories and intermingles with all the others stored in the khert; particularly strong memories may take on a life of their own, but their original identity has fully dissolved.

    Western Animation 
  • The AllSpark in the Transformers series — at least, as far as the Unicron Trilogy is concerned. Annoyingly, the name changes as the concept stays the same, but for all Transformerdom, this trope is the best way to describe it. All Sparks come from a source when they're incarnated and return to this source when they terminate, taking with it its knowledge and experiences to share with and improve the whole. "Where all are one", as Rhinox put it. You can sometimes communicate with it.
    • In Beast Wars and Beast Machines, it's 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.
    • In Transformers: Prime, the Well of All Sparks is the soul of Primus, the creator of the Transformers. Every Spark is born from him and returns to him after death. Transformers corrupted by Primus' ancient foe Unicron, like Megatron, are unable to return to it.

Alternative Title(s): Lifestream