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Question I love you with all my… soul (?)

Leo

"Mist... cemetery... Halloween. Should end well."
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In the Buffyverse, is the soul a necessary condition for loving? If so, how? If not, why? And should it be?
 
Giovanna
Giovanna
Interesting question!

r2dh2

Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain
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I think you can love without a soul, but it's a more selfish love than if you have a soul.
I agree.

The way I’ve interpreted soulless love vs souled love is that the former has no moral compass and seemingly contradictory behavior ensues.

Focusing on Spike who claims to have loved Buffy while being soulless, I see him using Buffy as his moral compass and often not understanding her behavior. Pre-soul, his love is mostly selfish, motivated by his desire of having Buffy. He does perform selfless acts in S5 showing that he has the capacity of feeling “more” but not in a consistent way (three examples of selfless acts come to mind: Forever, Intervention and Bargaining Part 1). But in general, his intense desire for having Buffy leads his behavior. We can see that more clearly in Dead Things (not understanding the guilt of Buffy over apparently killing Katrina) and in several episodes of S6 (mostly trying to lure her to the dark side and obviously the AR scene). Souled Spike still loves Buffy, but he’s consumed by his past crimes and understands that she might be out of his reach, but he wants her to be “happy” (Spike’s speech in “Touched” summarizes my thoughts).

Now, having a soul of course doesn’t not imply that love is automatically selfless. For instance, Warren and his “love” for Katrina. His code of morality is clearly distorted, and he acts accordingly.

But I’ve often thought that there’s another element to the idea of needing a soul for “really” being able to love. It comes from Angel. Ensouled!Angel loves Buffy in a selfless way. However, soulless!Angel does not love Buffy, he wants to torture her and ultimately to kill her. So, if Buffy accepts that love can be felt without a soul, she needs to reconcile this behavior. In order to avoid questioning this dichotomy of Angel’s love, she rejects the idea that soulless demons can love. Or at the very least, that they can fully love in the same way that souled demons/people do (she does accept in CWDP that Spike loved her, but she qualifies his love as twisted).

As the great Dru said
" Oh, we can you know. We can love quite well... if not wisely."
Now, I really don’t know how Spike’s and Drusilla’s love fits in this interpretation of mine. But I agree with you broadly speaking. If “Lover’s Walk” is taken at face value, then their love was selfish, he wants to cast a spell to get her back or to torture her until she loves him again. Once more, there’s no moral compass outside the love interest.

So, IMO, I think that a soul is needed for loving insofar it gives you the ability to distinguish right from wrong and allows you to choose according to your moral values. Without the soul you don’t have the ability of making free choices, you only react according to the values and actions of your love interest.

Not sure I make sense. But these are my thoughts about love and soul in the Buffyverse.
 
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Black Thorn
This is a very interesting question.
I would to some extent say yes because when Spike, Dru and Angelus put the judge together, he says Drusilla and Spike smell of 'love and jealousy' (or something close to that).
But because there are different types of love I'm going to go ahead and give you the most in depth explanation I can. I'm also going to use vampires as the basis.

Agape (unconditional love)
I would say not. All the vampires had left their partners when it was inconvenient for them such as Darla rejecting Angel and Drusilla leaving Spike. Spike is a slightly different case though but I would say that him staying with Buffy until the end was because he was either waiting for a chance with her or it was part of his romantic human personality showing itself.

Eros (romantic and sexual love)
Definitely, we know Drusilla loves romantic gestures like the heart from the shop girl and we know Spike is literally a fool for love. We also know vampires are definitely not opposed to sex.

Philia (affectionate love)
This one is quite tough to say, Spike with Dawn was an affectionate friend-like relationship but I think this may have been more because of the fact she was Buffy's sister using the talk with Buffy being the Buffybot in 'Intervention'. However, the whirlwind/the fanged four had an interesting dynamic but I don't think we see them together as a group enough for me to say.

Pragma (enduring love)
I would go ahead and say no for this because I see a soul as having the ability to change, and if you can't change your love cannot grow. But then again, to some extent you could say it does exist with soulless beings because of the long extent of time Spike and Drusilla, and Angelus and Darla spent together.

Mania (obsessive love)
This one certainly exists with soulless vampires in the Buffyverse, such as Spike with Buffy and Drusilla (as he couldn't let let go after both of them broke up with him). This is also how I believe Angelus felt, I think that he felt what Angel feels but it brought him close to humanity so he was obsessed with trying to kill her.

My answer is that you can love without a soul but it is not the same as how those with a soul love since they cannot love selflessly and I personally feel it is obsessive compared to loving with a soul.
 
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Annie Hall

Bangel/Spuffy... Loving love
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But I’ve often thought that there’s another element to the idea of needing a soul for “really” being able to love. It comes from Angel. Ensouled!Angel loves Buffy in a selfless way. However, soulless!Angel does not love Buffy, he wants to torture her and ultimately to kill her. So, if Buffy accepts that love can be felt without a soul, she needs to reconcile this behavior. In order to avoid questioning this dichotomy of Angel’s love, she rejects the idea that soulless demons can love. Or at the very least, that they can fully love in the same way that souled demons/people do (she does accept in CWDP that Spike loved her, but she qualifies his love as twisted).
This is an interesting thought. Gotta think more about it.
 

DeadlyDuo

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All the vampires had left their partners when it was inconvenient for them such as Darla rejecting Angel and Drusilla leaving Spike.
I disagree on Drusilla leaving Spike. Depending on whether you consider Lovers Walk canon or the Spuffy retcon in Fool For Love, Drusilla either broke up with Spike because of the truce with Buffy (which would seem like a betrayal of trust) or she saw he was in love with Buffy (which would also seem like a betrayal of trust). Dru didn't leave Spike because it was "inconvenient" otherwise she wouldn't have stayed with him when he was stuck in a wheelchair. It is a common misconception that Dru ditched Spike as soon as Angelus was back on the scene, but the truth is she didn't, she was sleeping with BOTH men as Angelus refers to her as giving Spike "pity-access".

There is no benefit for Dru in staying with an injured Spike, he's not top dog anymore because of Angelus, however Dru does stay with him. There are underlying issues with the Dru/Angelus dynamic in that I think Angelus trained Dru to behave the way she does towards him, therefore she's just doing what she been taught by her "daddy" to do. Note how Spike doesn't blame Dru at all for the Angelus situation yet is quick to call her out on the Chaos Demon. It's also possible that as the dominant vampire, what Angelus says goes, hence why the vampire gave Buffy Angelus' message in broad daylight despite resulting in death. I also think Angelus might be a tiny bit scared of Dru and he'd rather keep her under control and on his side rather than fight her. Note how in BB&B when Dru is defending Xander against Angelus, Angelus doesn't fight her or threaten her, he growls at her and tells her it "doesn't amuse" before backing off.

I think soulless vampires have the capacity to feel love, however they can't grasp the more complex nuances of it such as sacrifice eg letting someone go so they can live a better life, even if it's not with you. Both Spike/Dru and James/Elizabeth stayed with each other for over a century, they wouldn't do that if they didn't love each other.
 
one eyed chicklet
one eyed chicklet
While writing it I was like "DeadlyDuo is going to come at me for this." haha

thetopher

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No, a soul is not a necessity or requirement for loving. Spike and Dru loved each other for a long time. James and Elizabeth loved each other even longer.
But soulless love is inherently selfish and possessive and more often than not destructive. Look at how James reacts to the death of the one he loves. Look at how quickly Spike throws Drusilla- his century old love- for Buffy, who he has interacted with for what, a year?

Add to this that soulless/demonic love skews towards the darker side of that emotion; obsessive and twisted, violent and self-indulgent. After all love is not automatically a 'good', positive emotion. People do all sorts of awful things out of love.

Speaking of; Spike's love of Buffy in season 5/6 often manifests itself mostly along the darker end of the spectrum; yes their are a few tender moments, but more often its towards the more abusive side, especially when its a reciprocal relationship; violent and obsessive, ignoring boundaries and causing different kinds of harm. It very much resembles an abusive relationship, as it probably should. Something soulless cannot (as in is unable to) love fully and completely.


We should also note that what a vampire thinks of as a loving gesture can in fact be horrible; Spike kills him Mother in an effort to 'save her' but n fact replaces her with a demon, Alona Gunn tries to do the same to her brother Charles in an effort to 'take care of him' and keep him safe with her forever.
Spike wanting to help Dawn resurrect her Mother with dark magics is not a good, positive loving thing, it comes from an inability to grieve fully that could've had disastrous consequences if Dawn hadn't changed her mind at the last minute,


Love with a soul is far more complex and nuanced; but mostly it can be so much MORE than its soulless counterpart. It isn't always, the soul is not a guarantee of anything, but it is at least possible.
We see many soulled people love unwisely (the familial type with Faith in regards to Mayor Wilkins and his reciprocating) or creepily/obsessively (Warren and Katrina spring to mind) or make incredibly bad/toxic choices and hurt the one they love (Willow/Tara in S6) but there are also many more examples of selfless love with a soul, and not just the romantic kind.

Angel wanting something better for Buffy than himself, Buffy sacrificing herself for Dawn, Faith willing to die for Angel, Xander wanting to be with scary, vein-y Willow at the end of the world, etc.


Back to vampires:
Angel's perceptions of love as a formerly unsolled vampire are pretty unique, and a damn good arbiter for how one differentiates between the two, even if those feelings are influenced by his hundred years of guilt and the way he sees himself. Even so him saying that he loved Buffy but never soulless Darla is pretty definitive. He says that he couldn't love before but he could with a soul.
But hey, Angelus was a creep, possibly one of the biggest in existence, so maybe Angel's some aberration.

Spike and Drusilla are entirely ignorant on what it means to love selflessly because they don't have a soul. They can say they can 'love 'quite well' or that 'this is real' to their dead hearts content, but its from a place of ignorance.
I mean, other vampires love or at least show a need for companionship or favoritism among their kind; The Master had affection for Darla, soulless/witless Harmony shows affection for Spike and warmth with Cordelia and later on compassion for Gunn even if, in the end, it all seems like hollow affection.

A newly soulled Spike in S7 is still exploring/dealing with his emotions; his love for Buffy is healthier than before but I'm not convinced its some shiny pure pinnacle of selfless love or anything close to that.

But really the very best arbiter we have for the difference between soulled and soulless is pregnant Darla, who proclaims that the only thing she ever loved in her long life was the child, the soul, inside her. She shares that soul and knows instinctively the difference in emotion between one state and the other.
And she states that without a soul she couldn't love it properly. Nor fully.

That's the basic difference.
 

Buffy Summers

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I feel like Joss made a soul a prerequisite for loving, but I disagree lol. I think Spike loved Buffy without a soul. I think Spike & Dru loved each other without souls.
 
Spanky
Spanky
Truth
SuperGirl80
SuperGirl80
But as it has been discussed, the soul changes how we experience love. I think Spike loved Buffy, but that doesn't make it a healthy relationship. At least no like the relationship that she had with Angel.

r2dh2

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I feel like Joss made a soul a prerequisite for loving, but I disagree lol. I think Spike loved Buffy without a soul. I think Spike & Dru loved each other without souls.
Yeah, I broadly agree, but I still think that @nightshade was spot on. It boils down to selfless vs selfish love. Probably the question phrased that way would be easier to discuss, starting from how do we define love in BtVS? @genghiskhan made a good distinction in that sense.

For me the Angel/Angelous dichotomy shows how Joss introduced the need of a soul for loving, which he later reinforced with the seemingly contradictory feelings and actions of soulless!Spike. Otherwise, Buffy (and us, the as viewers) would have difficult time reconciling Angel's love vs Angelous' evilness/hate. He made a soul a requirement for Buffy (and us, the gentle viewers) to accept that Spike was capable of loving (in a selfless way). I keep going in circles, I hope it's somewhat clear what I'm trying to say.
 
Leo
Leo
Yes, I should have started with the definition of love.

DeadlyDuo

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They can say they can 'love 'quite well' or that 'this is real' to their dead hearts content, but its from a place of ignorance.
I mean, other vampires love or at least show a need for companionship or favoritism among their kind; The Master had affection for Darla, soulless/witless Harmony shows affection for Spike and warmth with Cordelia and later on compassion for Gunn even if, in the end, it all seems like hollow affection.
I disagree to an extent. I think what soulless vampires feel as love is real to them, even if it doesn't match up to what a souled person considers as love. Therefore they can love in their own way and it is a genuine love to them so shouldn't be dismissed as "you can't love without a soul!"

Maybe the question shouldn't be "is it possible to love without a soul?" but "how does a lack of soul limit a person's emotional capabilities?"

But really the very best arbiter we have for the difference between soulled and soulless is pregnant Darla, who proclaims that the only thing she ever loved in her long life was the child, the soul, inside her. She shares that soul and knows instinctively the difference in emotion between one state and the other.
And she states that without a soul she couldn't love it properly. Nor fully.

That's the basic difference.
I kind of disagree. First of all, what Darla feels for Connor is a "mother's love" which is a very powerful kind of love and something which Darla never would've felt before. Perception wise, it would make her feelings for Angel/Angelus feel insignificant, especially since their relationship was quite tumultuous. They would fall out, betray each other leave, come back, etc. It was full of ups and downs whereas Darla feels her love for Connor is unconditional.

Darla fears she wouldn't be able to love her child without a soul (and she'd rather not chance it) but it's never confirmed if that would've actually been the case. There have been no pregnant vampires before or after Darla so it is really unchartered territory. Even in the wild, animals feel the need to protect their offspring, both "Papa Wolf" and "Mama Bear" are used to describe a parent who is fiercely protective of their offspring in the face of perceived danger.

I think a soulless Darla would love Connor and protect him, however because of a lack of soul, Darla's moral capabilities are limited which in turn would be damaging to Connor in the long run as it would harm his Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED). It would be even worse if he was around the rest of the Whirlwind as well as he would be looking to them as an example of how to behave and exist in the world and their behaviour would reinforce the skewed moral world view he receives from Darla.

Darla would probably be very wary about having Drusilla and Spike around a baby Connor, particularly as they would not have the emotional attachment to him as she would have. Whilst Dru might be quite affectionate towards Connor at first (Spike seems more the type who'd want nothing to do with the baby), there's always the risk that she'd get bored (or even jealous of the attention Connor receives) and stop playing nice. Even Angelus is a potential risk. Angel would be safe to have around but Angelus could go either way, either he'd view Connor as his legacy and latch on to that (potentially moulding Connor into a mini-him then siring him once old enough) or he could consider Connor a nuisance and want rid of him.

Darla's fears are coming from a sacrificial love (that having a soul enables), She fears she won't be good for Connor because of being soulless. However if she was soulless whilst pregnant, then she might feel differently and be quite possessive over Connor (he's a way to Angel at the very least and it means Angel is forever tied to her).
 

Ceadsearc03

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Agree with selfish vs selfless love. Yes on the former, no on the latter. I don’t personally consider selfish love to equal being truly IN LOVE with someone (just IMO) so I would say they aren’t truly in love without a soul, but do love. (Or, some have the capacity to do so, at least.)
 

thetopher

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I think what soulless vampires feel as love is real to them, even if it doesn't match up to what a souled person considers as love.
Yes, but by definition a soulless being is 'missing' a key part of themselves. Humans are supposed to have souls, vampires are a demonic infection that strips the human of its soul, kills it and resurrects it and gives it cool superpowers.
But it is by definition an unnatural state. The whole show is built around the vampire metaphor being an impediment to the human condition; change, growth, moral choice.

Therefore they can love in their own way and it is a genuine love to them so shouldn't be dismissed as "you can't love without a soul!"
But I never said that vampires can't love, they just can't love as well as a souled person.

And yet they are under the mistaken impression that they can, that their love is somehow 'truer or purer'. Soulless Spike thought his love was better/more powerful than Buffy and Angel's in 'Lover's Walk' and at that point he was a drunken loser trying to mind control his sire into loving him again.
But the fact is that his love was just 'simpler' and perhaps more honest/less restrained, not better.

First of all, what Darla feels for Connor is a "mother's love" which is a very powerful kind of love and something which Darla never would've felt before. Perception wise, it would make her feelings for Angel/Angelus feel insignificant, especially since their relationship was quite tumultuous. They would fall out, betray each other leave, come back, etc. It was full of ups and downs whereas Darla feels her love for Connor is unconditional.
But Darla loved Angelus for almost 200 years or so, and her child's soul effected her in the span of one night. I think that shows that soulled love trumps demon love fairly conclusively.

Darla fears she wouldn't be able to love her child without a soul (and she'd rather not chance it) but it's never confirmed if that would've actually been the case. There have been no pregnant vampires before or after Darla so it is really unchartered territory.
Darla has eaten children. She ate Holtz baby. She wanted Angel to eat a little missionary baby in front of her. Vampires are monsters and Darla was pretty up there as vampire evil goes.
I also think its fair to say that Darla knows what she herself is capable of without a soul.
Both Angel and Spike are able to reflect on their past actions to an extent and realize the horror of what they were and all their deeds, there's no reason to doubt Darla's own analysis just like I would never second guess Angel's.


The rest of what you say is mere speculation that seems to soften what we see of vampire behavior. The four of them were 'The Whirlwind', they massacred people and were widely feared, and Darla was almost certainly the one who directed many of their bloodiest efforts.
I very much doubt a demon like Darla would want to play happy families with Angel's kid in the way you describe. Wouldn't Darla want to hurt Angel's child once it was out of her? As a sort of revenge on Angel 'inflicting it' on her in the first place?
Did she not try and kill it multiple times but was prevented only by its mystical nature?
The first thing vampires do when turned is massacre their families. Blood relatives. I assume this has happened in the past with women who are mothers when they are turned; so they go home and they murder their children just the same as any vampire sons/daughters kill their fathers and sisters and brothers. Blood relations mean almost nothing to a vampire. It's what the vast majority of vampires are shown to do.
 

DeadlyDuo

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Wouldn't Darla want to hurt Angel's child once it was out of her? As a sort of revenge on Angel 'inflicting it' on her in the first place?
I don't think she would. Connor ties Angel to her forever, he can't just kick her out of his life completely because they share a son. The fact that Angel can't have kids with anyone else, including Buffy, means that Darla has leverage over him. She's not going to give that up easily.

Did she not try and kill it multiple times but was prevented only by its mystical nature?
She tried to abort it several times because the pregnancy wasn't supposed to be possible. You can't count this one against Darla since lots of women abort their unwanted pregnancies.
 

thetopher

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I don't think she would. Connor ties Angel to her forever, he can't just kick her out of his life completely because they share a son. The fact that Angel can't have kids with anyone else, including Buffy, means that Darla has leverage over him. She's not going to give that up easily.
You think Darla would've kept the baby because she wanted to be with Angel?
Darla wants Angelus, not Angel, and has tried to kill Angel in episodes such as S2 'Reprise'.

She tried to abort it several times because the pregnancy wasn't supposed to be possible.
Yes, soulless Darla didn't want the baby and soulled Darla knew that. I don't see any logic in saying that soulless Darla would suddenly want the baby once she'd given birth it. It's far more likely, given what we know of Darla, that she would've killed it. The only person who knows for sure is soulled Darla herself.

Like I said Angelus has a good insight into what Angelus/his demon/evil him would do in any given situation and I'll give the same consideration to Darla; she is the arbiter of her own fears and emotions in that soulled/enlightened state.
I'm not gonna get into the real world abortion issue because its not really applicable.
 

Leo

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When I originally thought of this question, I had in mind vampires, but thinking more about it, are there other demons that have shown the capacity of loving? I can't think of any. Am I right?
 

white avenger

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If you think about it, the absence of a soul might actually make loving someone easier. The soul is used as pretty much the equivalent of a conscience or moral code within the Buffyverse. No soul, no feelings of guilt, no inhibition against loving the "wrong" person (age, gender, siblings, parents, children, etc, or even species) If it feels good, do it. You wouldn't have to worry about what others would think, whether you were breaking any laws, or whether you were betraying any previous relationship. No inhibitions whatsoever.
 

r2dh2

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When I originally thought of this question, I had in mind vampires, but thinking more about it, are there other demons that have shown the capacity of loving? I can't think of any. Am I right?
Anya had a soul as a demon according to Selfless:

D'HOFFRYN. Hmm. You want to take it back. Must be twelve bodies in there. Such a thing—not easily done. But not impossible. You're a big girl, Anyanka. You understand how this works. The proverbial scales must balance. In order to restore the lives of the victims, the fates require a sacrifice. The life and soul of a vengeance demon.

This should be an interesting case because it'd imply that Demon!Anya and Human!Anya share most of the same essential attributes, except that Demon!Anya has the power to cast spells. Therefore, in principle, she's capable of feeling selfless love. But exploring this opens another can of worms...

This is OT: This is interesting for the role of Anya, it'd mean that she has the capacity to distinguish right from wrong and still chooses inflicting vengeance without ever feeling remorse, which feedbacks into the discussion of her character. This would help explain why Anya, demon and human, doesn't seek redemption (and hence, she doesn't have a redemption arc), she simply doesn't care about it. Right?

If you think about it, the absence of a soul might actually make loving someone easier. The soul is used as pretty much the equivalent of a conscience or moral code within the Buffyverse. No soul, no feelings of guilt, no inhibition against loving the "wrong" person (age, gender, siblings, parents, children, etc, or even species) If it feels good, do it. You wouldn't have to worry about what others would think, whether you were breaking any laws, or whether you were betraying any previous relationship. No inhibitions whatsoever.
I partially agree. Feeling love might be easier as you say, you have no restrains. But actually loving someone might imply living in torture. We've seen it with Spike. He desperately loves Buffy, but he misses the mark so badly without understanding why to the point that he's consumed by his desire of establishing a real emotional connection with Buffy. He experiences emotional pain and doesn't understand why he cannot make her love him.
 
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