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Souls and the afterlife: How does it work?

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Black Thorn
So the discussion in the Anya's soul thread got me thinking. How does it actually work? From religious sources we are told it is the soul that goes to heaven or hell but this seems to work differently in the Buffyverse. Angel and Spike's souls left when they died (though I'm not sure where) and when returned to them they are still condemned to hell. we know from Ats that Spike is doomed to hell, but his soul was not present for his acts of murder and chaos. Are Spike and Angel just the exception because vampires with souls are a recent phenomenon in the Buffyverse and bringing a soul to damned body taints the soul? Is it just the soul that goes to heaven/hell? Or is soul just something that makes someone human?
 

WillowFromBuffy

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From religious sources we are told it is the soul that goes to heaven or hell but this seems to work differently in the Buffyverse.
I think the Buffyverse souls are based on standard Christian theology that tells us that our soul needs the body, and so when we die, we will remain dead until our bodies are resurrected. Buffy only remembers a general feeling of being at peace. She does not remember playing the harp with Joyce on a cloud or hanging out with past slayers. The soul returned to what is likely its source. Becoming human again and combining with all that is flawed and painful and base is therefore extremely traumatic.

It is pretty clear that the soul is not the entirety of the self, only a small part, specifically the part that allows free choice and the feeling of moral shame. Sucking Buffy's soul does not turn Kathy into Buffy; It just turns Buffy into a slave of her baser passions. Getting Connor's soul does not turn Darla into a baby. Angel's Angel persona can manifest inside his dreamspace (while on drugs) and walk and talk independently of his Angelus persona, even when the soul is not present.

Every vampire experiences continuity between their human self, their vampire self and their resouled self. But the massive change that occurs when the soul goes or returns can also lead to disassociation and identity crises, such as Darla's identity crisis in S2 of AtS or Angel's split of himself into Angel/Angelus, like Fitz/Leopold on AoS.

In Pylea, we see the purest form of Angel's demon. It does not have speech, identity or intent. It is just a mindless monster. It is only by mixing that monster with Angel's unsouled mind that you get Angelus.

Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, etc debate the nature of the self. The most common answer is that there is no self or that the self is an amalgamation of many things. We all experience continuity and unity and control, but is that real? Really, we aren't that different from vampires. We can change dramatically. If we experience brain trauma, our entire personality can change irrevocably, but we still understand ourselves as our selves.
 
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Black Thorn
It is pretty clear that the soul is not the entirety of the self, only a small part, specifically the part that allows free choice and the feeling of moral shame. Sucking Buffy's soul does not turn Kathy into Buffy; It just turns Buffy into a slave of her baser passions. Getting Connor's soul does not turn Darla into a baby. Angel's Angel persona can manifest inside his dreamspace (while on drugs) and walk and talk independently of his Angelus persona, even when the soul is not present.
Yes, I understand that the soul is not someone's personality but what does confuse me is that if it's based on christian theology, the soul is the immortal part, the bit that makes you who you are and goes to heaven or hell and they body is the vessel that contains it. Which is why it is confusing to me that Spike and Angel will be condemned to hell when they have soul and have used it for good.
In fact, the soul may be someone's whole self and the vampires personality is a depraved duplicate of what it once was based on the memories it holds and it's new-found instincts.
 

WillowFromBuffy

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Yes, I understand that the soul is not someone's personality but what does confuse me is that if it's based on christian theology, the soul is the immortal part, the bit that makes you who you are and goes to heaven or hell and they body is the vessel that contains it. Which is why it is confusing to me that Spike and Angel will be condemned to hell when they have soul and have used it for good.
In fact, the soul may be someone's whole self and the vampires personality is a depraved duplicate of what it once was based on the memories it holds and it's new-found instincts.
Angel does not know that he and Spike will go to Hell. It is a theory; A theory that fits with his personality and the way he sees himself and his role in things. There does not seem to be any evidence that he is right. We don't know if there is a hell to punish sinners. Darla can't remember one. The Hell Angel was in and the one Lindsay is in aren't really proper Hell; They are just hellish dimensions, and Angel and Lindsay go their in their bodies.

The souls going to Heaven and Hell to play the harp or be tortured is mostly found in pop culture Christianity. The more common belief is that the soul cannot take full form of have full consciousness without a body to give form to. It is also the belief that seems to have the most support in scripture, and this doctrine fits pretty well with the soul in the Buffyverse. I was able to find this article through googleing. It is pretty informative and to the point, though I am not sure exactly what denomination it is from. There is of course a plurality of beliefs, especially in America, where everybody and their grandmother have their own church.
 
one eyed chicklet
one eyed chicklet
Ohh, thanks!
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Black Thorn
So, when Spike is being dragged to hell in Ats, it that because of what he had done, or is that because the reaper just didn't want to go to hell so sent anyone who died in the area there?
 

WillowFromBuffy

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So, when Spike is being dragged to hell in Ats, it that because of what he had done, or is that because the reaper just didn't want to go to hell so sent anyone who died in the area there?
It is because of the Reaper guy. Angel still believes he and Spike will to to Hell, but I don't think he has much proof. Also, note that Angel says they will go tell hell for what they themselves did, not for what their bodies did while they were absent. If the soul and body are two entirely different things, then that statement wouldn't make sense.

I see the soul in the Buffyverse sorta like this:

If someone likes sports, is it because their soul likes sports, or is it because they have an athletic body? If someone likes sex, is it because the soul likes sex, or is it because of their genitalia and hormones fireing up and rewarding the brain with sweet dopamine rushes whenever they indulge themselves? If someone is extrovert and surrounds themselves with casual acquaintances, it is because the soul wants that, or has evolution simply hardwired us all into believing in safety in numbers? If a girl likes to wear pink, is it because her soul likes pink, or is it because her mum always dressed her in pink and all her friends at school who are girls also wear pink?

However, there is some evidence that we humans have a mysterious faculty that sometimes allow us to choose to do things that seems to go against our programming. To be altruistic. To do something simply because we feel it is the right thing to do. Many people deny that such a faculty exist, and that even altruism is just a result of genetically or social programming. But the Buffyverse calls this the soul and Sartre (Angel's favourite author) calls it radical free will.

Faith is named after Sartre's term bad faith, because she always acts in according to her body or her background. After "Five by Five," she learns that neither her body nor her background ultimately define her, and that she can decide to be other than what she has been made to be. In the Buffyverse, that is impossible without a soul, because a soulless creature always acts according to their ingrained nature or how experience have taught them to act.

Angel defines a champion as someone who lives as though their own background did not matter and that the world was completely different from what it is. "It doesn't matter what we've done ... what we have suffered or if we make a difference ... we live as though the world was as it should be to show it what it can be." Angel believes that humanity can choose to transcend their conditions, but that a champion must forgive everyone else if they choose not to transcend this way ... and just keep doing good, hoping against hope that more people will come to appreciate the freedom they possess ... one day ... maybe.
 

white avenger

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My take on the vampire/soul thing is different from most others here, and it usually gets some argument, but it goes like this:

When a person dies, that immortal part of themselves, the soul, passes on to whatever reward or punishment that they have earned in life. Under certain circumstances, such as Buffy's resurrection, the soul is brought back from that place and reunited with its own living body (emphasis on the term "living") That person may or may not retain memories of their post life experience, possibly as either aresult of the trauma of death or an element of the spell.

When a person is turned into a vampire, the human soul leaves the body at the point of death and goes on to its designated heaven or hell, just like normal. The dead corpse that is all that remains of that person is then possessed and reanimated by some sort of undefined demon. The human memories, and even personality, to some point, remain, initially, but are subjugated to that demonic spirit, which has no soul, no sense of right or wrong, no moral compass whatsoever. When a vampire is ensouled, and this is the point where I differ from the common belief of Buffy fans, the human soul isn't returned to its now dead corpse, the demon residing there is given a new, unique, soul of its own. In other words, Angel's soul is not Liam's soul, and Spike's soul is not William's soul. Their souls were not "ripped out of Heaven (or Hell) the way that Buffy's was, because there was no living host body for them to return to. Instead, their souls are new, fresh, and designated to the vampire who now possesses the former bodies of William and Liam, respectively.

You may not agree with that, but I find it more plausible than believing that any spell enacted by any human or demon could countermand the original plan of the Creator concerning the final disposition of the human soul.
 
AnthonyCordova
AnthonyCordova
Interesting theory

TheDarkAvenger

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I think that the soul is everything a person is. It's what makes humans human.
When a person is turned into a vampire, the soul, or person, is gone, and a demon reanimates the body. That demon didn't come from somewhere, it was born. They take on the memories of the shells they inhabit for some type of structure. Personality traits are also twisted and exaggerated. William loved his mother, and so was absolutely obsessed with Dru. Angel (Liam) has an artistic streak, and Angelus was extremely creative and artistic with how he perpetuated violence ("It lacks poetry").

However, depending on the person, a certain amount of soul residue is left, leaving a tiny bit of the human self. This is seen when the Judge kills the vampire with glasses, and wants to kill Spike and Drusilla as they reek of humanity. Angelus, however, had none at all, leaving me to believe that each body has a different amount of residue left. This is why Spike didn't become a totally different persona when he got his soul; the vampire was already acting on a sliver of the soul, what William may have become with certain guidance, while Angel's was totally gone when he was Angelus. (Or it could be just be bad/lazy writing, leaving Spike the way he is because fans loved him)
They are portrayed like separate identities because they are. Spike also didn't spend as much time, or any time at all really on self reflection or guilt. William can separate his memories from Spike's, but it was probably a lot harder for Angel as he is shown to have an eidetic memory, remembering things in exact detail. This could have made it harder for Angel to separate his memories from the demons. The demon's memories mixed with his, until he couldn't tell which was which; people had to try and drill it through his head that he and Angelus are not the same being. When the Beast attacks, they remove Angel's soul in order to talk to Angelus, because he has a memory that Angel doesn't, as he was on a different plane when the memories were erased. They were erased from Angel's memory, but not Angelus's.

On an episode of Angel, there was a person who switched souls with people in order to live forever. He needed younger bodies, and he transported his soul to the new one leaving the other person in the old one. This is evidenced when he switches souls with Angel, and becomes a vampire as he is inhabiting a vampires body while Angel's soul is trapped in an older man's body. They show that Angel is still himself, just in a different body. The other person is also himself, just in a vampire's body, but still with a conscience (though not much of one at all as he still ate people, nearly killed people, and almost drank Lilah dry).

I don't think that Angel and Spike are slated for Hell. There's just no evidence to support it, and it was an opinion in the first place, one coming from a severely depressed and self loathing person. Buffy remembers being in Heaven, and Billy was put into Hell after death as a punishment for his actions. This, to me, proves the existence of heaven and hell in the Buffyverse. No, I don't think that the Buffyverse heaven as them sitting on clouds playing harps all the time; its a place of peace, of tranquility. A place to relive good memories, or to reunite with passed loved ones. Hell is a place of punishment, of damnation.

I believe that the souls that come back don't remember heaven and hell simply because of the trauma it would cause, coming from either place. The strain put on the soul on transport alone is not something the PTB want souls to remember, as this could damage them. It's canon in the Buffyverse that a soul can be destroyed, and any higher powers would want to prevent that as souls are energy.
 

WillowFromBuffy

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@TheDarkAvenger

This theory is common, but I think it has too many inconsistencies. If the soul is all that a person is, how come they leave behind memories? If these aren't the real memories, because the real memories are the soul, then they must be echoes or imprints of some kind, so what are the purpose of them? If the soul animates the body, then why doesn't Buffy's body start to break down when Kathy sucks her soul out, as Buffy has no demon to take over the soul's place? If the soul is all that Buffy is, then having it sucked out shouldn't make her less good, it should make her less of everything and likely sap her of strength and intelligence.

How does soul residue work? When the Judge says Drusilla and Spike stink of humanity, he mentions their affection and their jealousy. Does the affection and the jealousy come from the soul reside? Angel says the soul provide the conscience. Is it really conscience, affection and jealousy? And passion for books? Do vampires with no soul residue have none of these things?

If the old man who takes over Angel's body merely exchanged souls with him, why doesn't the old man's soul have access to the echoes of Angel's memories like a demon would? Why doesn't Angel remember what the old man has done with his body, as he does after he loses his soul? Why doesn't Buffy remember Kathy's memories after she gets her soul back.

Why does vampires seem to genuinely believe that there is real continuite between the vampires they are and the humans they used to be? Why does souled vampires seem to believe the same?
 

AlphaFoxtrot

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From what we have been told, the way a Vampire is made, is that the Vampire drains just enough blood to mostly kill the human, then forces the human to drink his blood, the human dies, the soul leaves the body, the body is left in a state of un-death, where the human is reanimated by the Animus of Maloker into a living dead state, and is promptly possessed by a being that we would conventionally describe to be a demon from hell. The Blood is truly the seat of Demonic Life in the creature, but it has no mind proper, just an instinctual will. The Demon basically went though the shock of having a metaphysical mind bound to a pulpy brain of flesh, it’s probably confused, and has no real memories while incarnated save of hell and a fear of the God who cursed him to it. Since the blood of the vampire mixes with the human blood prior to death, it seems likely the Demon Spirit can read the memories in the life-force of the creature as it devours it, and preserves them. When it wakes, the Vampire has a mix of the racial memories of the Bloodline, whatever Cosmic Secrets the Demon still has access to, and the memories of the life and time of the human victim. They just assume they are the victim, well, because they remember those false memories. I mean, really, isn’t that what you do every day? Wake up from a dark sleep and assume your memories present an accurate depiction of your life prior to that morning?

But it’s worth remembering. The Soul is a concept that is largely metaphysical, and it subject to intense debate by Theologians and Philosophers, and the scientific inquiry into the subject is in its infancy. In fact, consciousness may not even be an objective phenomena, which would be the first proven to exist. So, we don’t have the answers in real life, we may not be able to determine how a mythical creature adapted to a pop culture mythos works either.
 

DeadlyDuo

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I think the soul is a person's conscience and their sense of morality hence why religion is all about the soul going to heaven/hell upon death based on how good the person was during their life. I think vampires are the person with their morality removed hence why they sometimes come out as a twisted version. My guess is that those involved with religion during life come out more twisted than those that were atheists because of the moral structures involved in religion. Catholicism is very big on the whole "everything is a sin unless the bible says it isn't and you must repent for every sin". Both Angel and Drusilla were catholics in life, hence why they're soulless selves were complete opposites, whereas Spike and Darla weren't religious so they're soulless selves aren't as extreme.
 

DeadlyDuo

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The person must still remain themselves when they're sired albeit without a soul because Darla was still Darla despite being sired twice. It can't be that a demon just sets up shop in an empty shell and basically has a manual on how to operate the person they've taken over because otherwise Darla would be two different personalities since the first demon was staked. Also the demon can't just be a blank canvas otherwise it would be completely vacant and do nothing.
 

Cheese Slices

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Yeah I would say the soul is the access to a certain conscience or morality. Which would explain both how some vampires are capable of change/doing good things up albeit in a limited scope and how some people with souls are capable of comitting heinous crimes.
 

AlphaFoxtrot

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Darla's situation is both unique and atypical. It's clearly not the soul of the girl the Master met in Virginia. Her reincarnation was engineered by the Senior Partners acting through a Lower Being. If I had to guess, the Lower Being reconstructed her body, imbued it with an animating spirit, then forced the Ghost of Vampire Darla into her revived body, and it was able to stick around after her death. But I really have no idea and no satisfactory explaination. It's even more confusing if you assume the Ghost of Darla was the entity who appeared to Conor. So, I suppose reincarnation may be the least illogical answer?
 
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