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May 02 2006

'Whedon's evil is a positive evil,' says Geoff Klock, author of 'How to Read Superhero Comics and Why' on his weblog, snappily titled 'Geoff Klock's Blog'.

'Whedon's evil is a positive evil, by which I mean that it really exists in-and-of-itself rather than being merely the absence of good, as it is in Dante (where Hell is what you get when you can no longer apprehend God).'

Good article. I do disagree that the souls weren't very well defined on Buffy. I think it was more like-here is the standard: souls good, no souls bad; and here are the exceptions. Because there aren't absolutes in the world. I think that was a big theme in Buffy and Angel, that sometimes it isn't black or white. Sometimes you're living your whole life in grey.

But yes, great article. Yay for the Joss love.
The soul, in Whedon, is so poorly defined as to be essentially meaningless (though on the surface level it makes for great drama):

Not entirely sure I agree. Or if I just don't want to agree.

The soul in Whedon's work tends to appear as a dramatical element - a thing used to define the story. Which I'm fine with. I'd say it is defined, although the definition changes with the meaning of the story. I think. It's an interesting question.
I double the Yay for the Joss love.
I also applaud the Joss love while disagreeing with his opinion of the function of the soul. In the Buffyverse a soul is apparently where the conscience resides. No soul= no conscience. Soul=conscience. Whether that conscience is ignored, weak, perverted or underused is another thing.

I would also make the argument that selflessness is also impossible without a soul in the Buffyverse. The problem of Spike and Drucilla comes to mind, but that is the fun part. It raises the debate, how much does someone in love do because of the other person's desires and how much do they do to satisfy their own need not to lose the person they love or obsess over. It is one of the things that makes Spike such a great character. It can be argued that Spike never did anything selfless until he got his soul. Before that, and it is really clear in S5, everything is based on what will make the woman I want approve of me and want to be with me. Once he got a soul his purpose became much more complex and confused...like real people.

I hear other people look at it differently. ;-)
I really don't see souls in the Buffyverse as thing of good or evil--they're more what makes us human; they're basically our Self.

Regular humans with souls can act for good or for evil. There's plenty people who show so little of a conscience that they might as well not have one at all.

Vampire's on the other hand aren't evil *because* they have no souls, they're evil because an evil demon has possessed a human body, and without a human soul, there is nothing to compete with for control of said body.

Interestingly enough, it seems clear that human souls are by far more powerful than vampire souls, or vampire essences, however you want to call it. Whenever there *is* a human soul sharing a body with a vampire, it is without exception in charge.

And by the way, real interesting view of Joss's evil in that blog. Good reading.

[ edited by Telltale on 2006-05-02 14:41 ]
To begin with, Whedon's evil is a positive evil, by which I mean that it really exists in-and-of-itself rather than being merely the absence of good

Yes, well, this kind of brings me back to one of the underlying problems, or mysteries, or whatever of the Buffyverse...God...there are all sorts of religious references and themes that are played out, and the ultimate evil is seen as, well, ultimate evil...and there are lots of Big Bads...but where's the Big Good?

Where does the soul come from, in other words? What is it, what animates it, what is it that makes it something worth having? I suppose some existential notion for developing one's soul could be posited, but that frankly makes no sense. In a universe with ensouled humans (from birth, apparently), there has to be something--something fundamentally different from the evil forces--that is ensouling them. Call it God, The Force, whatever, but it clearly is not aligned with Evil, and one would have to assume quite the opposite.

I know Joss describes himself as a "raging atheist", but he clearly understands the spiritual (religious, I mean) motivation that enlivens and gives heart to many, many persons.

Likewise, I understand that trying to impose anybody's notion of God in a place like the Buffyverse is by its very nature problematic. And evil is more "fun" than good (I'm thinking of the Donald Sutherland--!--character in Animal House asking his students what Milton meant by making the Devil the much more interesting character in "Paradise Lost"), but it does seem to me that there had to be something other than The First Evil "before the Word, before the Bang"...'cos...check it out.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2006-05-02 15:27 ]
I think the Buffyverse soul is pretty hard to define since it seems partly used as a phlebotinin to absolve the heroes of the moral responsibility for killing what are clearly sentient beings (i'd assume Joss himself doesn't believe in the soul as most widely accepted i.e. the essence of a person and usually one which survives corporeal death, since he's an atheist).

I'd agree with newcj though that it's largely a kind of stand in for a conscience or possibly free will. Not that it definitely means the ensouled will be good (e.g. Faith, Knox, debatably Spike post-souling etc.) but that they know the difference between good and evil and can therefore act in what you could call an uncoerced manner to choose between them.

ChrisinVirginia,
Webs: Well, not actually me God because I defy him and all his works. Does he exist by the way? Is there any word on that?
Buffy: Nothing solid.

Aside from the joke, I think Joss is admitting that we can't really know one way or the other but it would seem that, by and large, there's no Christian God in the Buffyverse (TPTB strike me as being more pre-Christianity in feel). It's also worth bearing in mind that many ideas and themes that may seem to come from the Bible are actually older and more universal than that, appearing throughout history in various global storytelling traditions.

(it's probably a mistake to assume that because Buffy describes where she went post 'The Gift' as 'heaven' that it actually was the accepted Christian idea of the afterlife)

That said, no matter how miltant an atheist they may be, anyone who denies that the Bible has some amazing stories and addresses important themes is kidding themselves. Like it or not it's one of the most influential books in the history of the world so it makes sense to use ideas from it as and when required.
I agree on the "soul making human"-sentiment - there are evil humans, and good humans, and evil soulless beings and good soulless beings on both "Angel" and "Buffy", so obviously there is no direct connection between having a soul and being good - or not having a soul and being evil.

"Whenever there *is* a human soul sharing a body with a vampire, it is without exception in charge."

Well, there is the exception of Pylea... ;-)
When talking about heaven, one also has to talk about hell as well.

Hell dimensions or Hell itself? There was specific mention of hell dimensions in Buffy, for example Glory came from one. But in Angel, in particular 'Hell Bound', it was Hell itself. I was never quite clear whether Hell referred to the collective of hell dimensions or whether it was the specific Christian Hell.

For more views on this, check out the relevant section at All Things Philosophical on Buffy and Angel.
Telltale, I think you really nailed the way the soul operates in the Buffyverse. Loki, even in Pylea Angel's souled self finally reasserts control.

I'd argue that Spike is still the anomaly. He seems to have retained something of his soul, enough to make choices to do demonstrably selfless acts. He is willing allow Glory to torture and kill him rather than give up Dawn's secret. Even if that's ultimately for Buffy's benefit, it's not her approval - she would never know about it, it's to spare her pain. I would argue that helping Dawn resurrect her mother was a selfless, generous act - far from expecting to win Buffy's approval by it, he knew she'd be furious. It may have been a *wrong* act in the sense that playing around with resurrection spells, but the motive was generous, wanting to make Dawn happy.

One of the things that has bothered me about the Buffyverse is what seems to be an absence of ultimate moral justice. Beings get ultimate fates based not on their moral choices but on what seems like chance. If Buffy had not succeeded in closing Acathla, for instance, the whole world would have been sucked into hell for eternity. Angel is sent to hell for what should have been eternity, even though as his souled self he is not really responsible for the evil that Angelus has committed. In the Angel episode that Simon mentions, Hellbound, Pavayne manages to send souls to Hell in place of himself, just because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, because they deserve it. And we are told that Fred's soul has been entirely destroyed, surely a fate that she did not deserve.

On the other hand, I've never been entirely willing to believe that the doctor who says Fred's soul was destroyed would either know that for a fact, or necessarily be telling the truth, given that he's a bad guy rooting for Ilyria vs. Fred. It always seemed to me that our heroes bought his statement as factual WAY too easily. Maybe somewhere Fred's soul is still functioning (maybe inside Ilyria struggling to get out). And Angel did get released from eternal hell. It's been hinted that that was by the Powers That Be, but never conclusively stated. And even Darla gets redeemed somehow after her latest death, as we see when she appears to Connor, so maybe there is some greater Power beyond the PTB that dispenses final justice and is able to redeem the good in the human souls once the vampire body is destroyed.
barboo: an absence of ultimate moral justice

Yes, because ultimate moral justice requires an ultimately moral aribiter, no?
The trouble with ultimate moral arbiters is they can, ultimately, act arbitrarily ;). Which is to say, is an act good because there's something fundamental about goodness (in which case you don't need an ultimate moral arbiter) or is it good because the ultimate moral arbiter says so (in which case anything can arbitrarily be declared good by said ultimate moral arbiter) ?

Just accepting that there is no such thing as ultimate justice is arguably more coherent (though certainly not as comforting). Why do bad things happen to good people ? Because bad things happen to everyone. To quote one of my favourite westerns 'Deserve's got nothing to do with it' ;).

Cool link Simon, very interesting stuff on there, cheers. Seems plausible that Christian Hell may just be a particular instance of hell dimension, not necessarily better or worse, just the one that happened to make it into Christian mythology (from the Buffyverse's perspective I mean).
Saje,
Just accepting that there is no such thing as ultimate justice is arguably more coherent (though certainly not as comforting). Why do bad things happen to good people ? Because bad things happen to everyone. To quote one of my favourite westerns 'Deserve's got nothing to do with it' ;).


I don't have a problem with that in real life, because I'm a raging agnostic (not atheist because I don't presume to actually KNOW anything beyond the world I can experience). Bad things happen to everyone, this life is (probably) all we get, it all ends with death, and To Serve Man is a cookbook. But in a 'verse where there are Heaven and Hell (or heaven and hell dimensions) to which sentient beings get sent for eternity, I'd like to think there is some justice guiding where beings end up.

[ edited by barboo on 2006-05-02 19:34 ]
Well, y'know, there's your good evil and your bad evil...
Great article. I don't really have anything to say that hasn't already been said, but does anyone else find it totally awesome that philosophical debates such as these are almost entirely the domain of geeks nowadays? I tell you, 'normal' people with 'social' lives are missing out.

One thing that did strike me though was the author's observation that the big bads in both the Angel and Buffy finales were never actually destroyed, just their agents. I hadn't caught that before. Interesting.
I agree, Telltale may have nailed the function of the soul in the Slayerverse.

Barboo:
" Loki, even in Pylea Angel's souled self finally reasserts control."
True, I suppose, but there it was at least question about who controlled who, and a weaker soul than Angel's could possibly have been beaten by the demon.

Apropos, I've always wondered... is Angel's soul Liam's soul? When the gypsies gave him his soul, did they go through with the bother of finding the right, original soul? Or did they just snatch one out of the ether or something? Likewise when Willow restored his soul in the end of season 2 of "Buffy". (In "Orpehus", on the other hand, it is quite clear that it is indeed the same soul as before) I feel like there's a huge potential for story there, somehow, but with a bit too big theological implications for the Slayerverse, maybe. Ah, well.

" And even Darla gets redeemed somehow after her latest death, as we see when she appears to Connor, so maybe there is some greater Power beyond the PTB that dispenses final justice and is able to redeem the good in the human souls once the vampire body is destroyed."
Well, that vision of Darla could have been The First Evil, which would explain some of the things evil Cordelia says to and about her. (Of course, you could say she lied, but then you wouldn't have an explanation of how Darla could appear like that) She never touches Connor, she's supposed to only be seen by him and is surprised when Cordelia can sense her presence, and her motive - not letting Jasmine save the world - is certainly in accordance with the First's agenda. So I always assumed that was The First speaking, but done in such a way as to let viewers who only watched "Angel" and not "Buffy" would be allowed to think it really was Darla instead of making tons of unnecessary explanations about who and what The First was. I may be wrong, though.

As for there not being an ultimate force checking who goes to Hell, who doesn't, when, how and why, no, there isn't. It seems that if there is such a force in the Slayerverse, it prefers to let the lesser beings sort it out on its own. However, it should be noted that Acathla was stopped, as was Glory, and the Mayor, and Jasmine, and The First Evil, etc, so who is to day that there wasn't some ultimate force of good nuding things just so all those times? And there has to be some kind of natural order of justice, because Buffy jumped into a portal to a hell-dimension when she died, and got to Heaven. That means that either some natural force of justice or a sentinent, powerful being sent her soul there.

About Angel suffering for the things he did as a vampire: yes, I always had a hard time about getting that, too. I get that he feels responsible, remembering it all, but I don't get that a neutral party would condemn him for it, when he, after all, did not have any control over it. But there is plenty of theological basis for saying he should bear the responsibility anyway - deterministic Christians saying that everything is pre-ordained by God and still holding that those of us who sins will go to hell, etc. Just because I don't think like that doesn't mean some higher power doesn't.

But there is something interesting in Angel feeling guilty and being condemned for actions he did while soulless. Does this mean that he, like Spike, though necessarily to a far less extent, was ever present in Angelus? That a small hint of humanity is retained in all vampires, but unable to - or maybe unwilling to - battle the demon for control over its newfound, horrible urges. I don't know, but it's a theory, I guess.

[ edited by Loki on 2006-05-02 20:46 ]
The trouble with ultimate moral arbiters is they can, ultimately, act arbitrarily ;). Which is to say, is an act good because there's something fundamental about goodness (in which case you don't need an ultimate moral arbiter) or is it good because the ultimate moral arbiter says so (in which case anything can arbitrarily be declared good by said ultimate moral arbiter)?


Yes, and the other trouble is with practical moral decision-making. If the ultimate moral arbiter is the only valid decision-maker, then the ordinary human being has to put him or herself in the position of the ultimate moral arbiter to make a correct decision. Of course, a lot of people don't have a problem with that. But Christian philosophers like Kant did, and so he made the "categorical imperative" a re-statement of the Golden Rule.


Apropos, I've always wondered... is Angel's soul Liam's soul? When the gypsies gave him his soul, did they go through with the bother of finding the right, original soul? Or did they just snatch one out of the ether or something? Likewise when Willow restored his soul in the end of season 2 of "Buffy". (In "Orpehus", on the other hand, it is quite clear that it is indeed the same soul as before) I feel like there's a huge potential for story there, somehow, but with a bit too big theological implications for the Slayerverse, maybe.


That's an interesting idea I've never heard before. I think Angel's soul is Liam's, though, especially because of the way he speaks about himself to The First in Amends ("I was a man...") However, Angel is not Liam. Even if he hadn't died young, Liam would have been centuries dead by the events in BtVS and Angel. He would never have had the power to do either the evil or good he has done. Angel is a composite creature, as I see him, and bears at least some responsibility for the actions of all his components.
"However, Angel is not Liam."

I don't think I agree with that. I think that Angel is Liam in the same way that Spike is William. He's Liam, after a vamping and unvamping (and revamping and unvamping and...) process. See also Spin the Bottle, when Angel reverts back to him. (Wesley: Well, what's your name? Angel: Liam.)
A raging agnostic ? Careful you don't fall off your fence in anger barboo ;-) (I kid of course, strictly, agnosticism is, I think, the only choice a non-believer can make though i'd probably call myself an open-minded atheist - i'm a lapsed 'raging atheist', sorry Joss ;) - I don't know God doesn't exist but then I also don't know the sun will rise tomorrow or that we're not all just brains in vats, i'm just playing the percentages as I see them ;).

Yours is a fair comment though. To some extent we could hope for more order in our fictional universes but I think it's pretty hard to portray the kind of emotional truth we all expect and enjoy from the various Whedonverses without using the injustice of the real world to reach them.

Loki, it would be interesting from a story perspective but I think we hear several times that Angel's soul was restored i.e. that which was there previously was put back. As mentined, in 'Spin the Bottle' he certainly thinks he's Liam complete with dreadful Oirish accent. Also, Liam was a drunkard and wastrel who in some ways was 'asking' to be turned which is the only way Liam/Angel can be held responsible for Angelus' actions. Otherwise his punishment is even more arbitrary and unwarranted. Of course, if a Buffyverse soul isn't 'self' but just a conscience or free will i.e. a sort of generic 'module' then it wouldn't matter whose was restored and in a sense they'd all be the same (i.e. not that which makes a person a unique individual - which is how I see 'self' - but that which makes a person a moral agent).

I must confess i'm not enamoured of the soul as 'self' idea - sorry Telltale ;) - since Spike, Dru, Dalton and others seem to pretty much have the 'selves' they died with (or some recognisable variant thereof), just without the capacity to feel guilt or compassion or any other kind of 'moral pain'.

As to the 'ultimate power' sending Buffy to 'heaven', how do we know that isn't everyone's default position ? Everyone in the Buffyverse could be destined for 'heaven' unless they do something bad. In which case they'd need to redeem themselves. In other words, no-thing needs to send her there (similarly ChrisinVirginia talks about the requirement for something to ensoul souled beings in the Buffyverse but perhaps it's just a natural default in the same way that we don't need to be 'en-legged' or 'en-brained' by any kind of supernatural force in the real world since that's just how people develop - of course I personally think that 'souls' work in the same way in the real world too but I accept that most religious people would probably disagree).
Disagree indeed, Saje...the soul in both the Buffyverse and in our world is seen as something quite different from physical attributes...something transcending our temporal existence, something capable of helping us to a higher plane. That's why the destruction of Fred's soul was held, correctly in my view, to be tragic.

Something has to be generating, for lack of a better word, these individual and always unique souls in billions of human beings, if you accept the concept of a soul at all. We can build prosthetic arms and legs and organs and even intelligence, but nobody I know of claims seriously to be able to create a soul.
nobody I know of claims seriously to be able to create a soul.

Well, technically Joss etc did ;)
I kid of course, strictly, agnosticism is, I think, the only choice a non-believer can make.


I don't agree, Saje. An agnostic is someone who thinks that the idea of God is coherent, but thinks that evidence of his existence or non-existence is lacking. An atheist may be either someone who thinks that the idea of God is coherent, but thinks that they have some evidential basis for believing he doesn't exist, or someone who thinks that the idea of God is incoherent. I personally fall into the latter camp. I think you're right when you say that the first type of atheism isn't very intellectually respectable, but there are a number of good arguments that I find very persuasive for the second type.

For what it's worth, I also think that the idea of a soul is incoherent as well, which is why no one can ever make any sense of it either in the real world or in fictional ones.

In a previous career I was a philosopher (really), and I lectured at the University of Leeds and then the University of Edinburgh on philosophy of mind, metaphysics, philosophy of science, logic and epistemology. I've been itching to chime in on this thread all day, but was reluctant to because I was worried that if I got started I wouldn't be able to stop and the whole thing would turn into a philosophy lecture before the mods stepped in to shut me up. Which is a shame, really, as I'd love to talk more about this.

[ edited by dzr on 2006-05-02 22:17 ]
Funny, I agree with Saje about agnosticism. As a practicing Catholic, I obviously accept the existence of God on faith (but not faith alone, because, the universe, I mean, check it out(and it's time for me to get OUT of touch with my inner-Oz!)

There is at the very least the very strong possibility of something far greater than human beings on the creative level (because, really, we create nothing, we just move things around and such), and it has always struck me as colossaly arrogant to posit NO god. Not to think that a creator may be out there, but doesn't mix in, can't be petitioned with prayer, etc, but to state with certainty that there's nothing at all strikes me as highly unreasonable and more than a tad irrational, which is sweetly ironic because these are the folks who purport to be the clear-eyed realists in this debate.

Woody Allen tried to make light of his atheism by saying he couldn't prove God's non-existence, that it was an article of faith with him.

dzr: but thinks that they have some evidential basis for believing he doesn't exist.

They may think they have evidential basis for believing in non-existence of god, but nobody's ever produced it. Hence with the unreasonableness and irrationality.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2006-05-02 22:29 ]
but nobody I know of claims seriously to be able to create a soul.

That's because the people who believe in them also believe that only God can create them CiV ;).

As you can tell, I don't believe in the kind of soul you believe in. I guess the closest i'd go is that the totality of an individual is kind of similar but it doesn't have the same 'essential' quality. Given how completely a person can change with a simple brain injury I think it's fairly safe to say there is no 'essence' to each person. We're all made of the sum of all our memories, feelings, thoughts and experiences combined with our environment (obviously including the people around us) with possibly a soupcon of the interactions between the parts leading to something greater than their sum. And, sadly, I think it dies with our bodies. All just my opinion obviously. The advantage of your position, of course, is that if you're wrong you'll never know it (hopefully neither of us will find out either way for a looong time ;).

Given that i'd actually agree that in one sense Angel isn't Liam just as Liam at 50 years old (if he'd ever got there) wouldn't have been Liam at 20. We all change constantly and in a sense our selves die with each change, to be born anew with only the memory of ourselves before the change even making us the same person.

dzr, to me the idea of God (as in a supreme being) isn't necessarily incoherant though I think the idea of the Biblical God is (omni-benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient - pick one cos you can't have all three and any two are problematic ;). We cannot know whether a supreme being created the universe in the same way we can't know whether we're all in The Matrix. By its nature a supreme being could muck us around endlessly and we'd never know since he/she/it would be framing the reality from within which we're asking the question. In this sense my belief system is also an article of faith i.e. there is a consistent external universe which is not subject to arbitrary change and we can know it by our senses.

(maybe this is all fairly trivially disproved, of course, i'm an amateur brain user not a professional ;)

ETA: CiV, no offence but that's kind of a classic mistake made by religious people. God not existing is the default position (as with for instance unicorns or the duckbilled platypus). The onus is not (or at least shouldn't be) on proving he doesn't exist (imagine having to prove you hadn't committed every unsolved crime in your local area).

[ edited by Saje on 2006-05-02 22:34 ]
Chris inVirginia: I agree that the atheist who thinks they have evidence for God's non-existence has a very weak position.

But the other type of atheist who claims that they find the very concept of God incoherent is making a very different kind of claim, an a priori, conceptual claim. They are not appealing to evidence of any kind whatsoever. And those arguments, whilst rather complex and involved (I couldn't begin to summarise them here), are actually very good.

I must point out that those arguments I have in mind are about a very specific conception of God, largely drawn from the Judaeo-Christian tradition; one in which he is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, and the first cause and creator of all existence. They would not apply to something which is simply "far greater than human beings on the creative level", and I certainly wasn't denying the possibility of that.

I hope it goes without saying that I have complete respect for your religious convictions, and would be mortified if I offended you or anyone else.
As an ordained Christian minister myself (and no, not mail order), I'm plenty capable of pointing out the fallacies and inconsistencies in Joss's work. That is to say, not just how things aren't consistent with my own worldview, but how they're inconsistent between seasons, series', or even episodes.

But that's like a physicist taking issue with Star Trek. Really.

I could post all my opinions about how Joss is fundamentally wrong about this or that... e.g., actual redemption being unattainable in Angel. But why?

Joss is an entertainer. He makes creative decisions on the basis of his own world views AND sometimes based on pragmatic
constraints. Wasn't the whole point of Buffy vs. Dracula just flaunting how different Joss' vampire mythos was from the classic horror mythos? I mean, really--how much would it be if Willow lost the ability to cross over moving water at the end of S2?

Joss' religious messages are unquestionably affected by his own lack of faith. To my mind, that doesn't stop them from being fun and compelling, but it does prevent me from taking them seriously as religious narrative.
Saje: at least one of the arguments I had in mind applies to the idea of God taken simply as the creator of the universe. If the argument is sound, then we can indeed know that there is no such creator because it isn't an empirical claim, awaiting evidence, it is knowable a priori just as surely as "2 + 2 = 4" is. There is a really good introduction to these arguments called Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion by Robin Le Poidevin (one of my old colleagues at Leeds). The Amazon.co.uk page allows you to "search inside", i.e. if you click onthe picture you can read scans of the first dozen or so pages.
So many things to discuss. I’ll pick one for now and then come back later.

Regarding seeing the Big Bad but not the Big Good

Most of the big bads are not so big that Buffy or Buffy and friends don’t beat them in the end. Doesn’t that make Buffy and the strengths that can be drawn on from mostly good human beings a Big Good? True we don’t visually meet the Ultimate Good, like we supposedly meet the Ultimate Evil, but if we did, wouldn’t we be into prophet territory? I doubt that we would want to go there…I know I wouldn’t. There is also the coven in England that Giles connects Willow with and whatever force chooses The Chosen One and eventually Willow. I should think those would also be considered Big Goods.

The Slayer may have been created by being invaded by a demon, but just as eventually happened when Angel and then Spike got their souls, the demon’s strength was turned to working for good by the human that it combined with. So if the demon cannot oust the human from his/her body (perhaps through banishing the soul
?) that transformed human can become a Big Good, though of course, not necessarily.

Perhaps in the Buffyverse you don’t hear that much about the Big Good, because the evil ones do most of the talking. They spend a lot of time trying to convince the good guys that evil is part of life…which is very hard to argue with., but they are trying to convince people who sacrifice everything to try to do good. Maybe the point being that good and evil are both everywhere in life and the Big Good is the people who try to fight the evil. The heros of the Buffyverse are the Big Good. (Simplistic maybe, but also shorter than it could have been. ;-) )
The question of whether Angel got Liam's soul back or not is raised in one of the comic books, I think "Old Friends." I don't know how it was resolved, and I know the comics aren't canon so on some level it doesn't matter, but the issue has been considered.

There was also a pretty interesting paper in Slayage not long ago about the ontological vs. existential meaning of the soul in the Whedonverse, ie is it some personality essence or is it moral agency, which covers some of this same ground. The conclusion I think was that the meaning kind of wobbles around throughout the series which makes sense given that it was 12 years of episodes by a host of writers writing about something undefined that at least some of them don't believe in either. For those interested here's the link:
http://www.slayage.tv/essays/slayage18/McLaren.htm

Saje, I think our positions on God, afterlife, the soul etc. are pretty similar. I kind of hope actually that I am wrong, cause I really do like consciousness, and I'd rather it not all end, but of course there's only one way to know for sure and I'm not that eager to find out. The one thing I'm pretty certain of is that our knowledge as sensing organisms is very limited. We're surrounded by energy that we're completely unable to perceive. I mean my cat lives in a world of sensation - smells, sounds that I am totally oblivious to. There are animals that can sense the earth's magnetic fields, navigate by sonar, see parts of the spectrum that are invisible to us. So, I'm totally willing to believe it's possible for there to be beings beyond our ken, with powers that we would consider godlike, or that are god by some definition, maybe even that created us, and that are unimaginable to us, because what we can imagine is limited by our biological senses. Or as the great, great British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane said in my favorite summation of everything "It is my supposition that the Universe is not only queerer than we imagine, it is queerer than we can imagine." So if there is some great supernatural force that created and/or governs us, the one thing I'm certain of is that it doesn't resemble our humancentric depictions of it. I don't mean to bash anyone's beliefs here, but one of the things that drives me crazy about the Bible-based religions is that two people can with complete honesty and sincerity adhere to the same religion, read the same text, and not only come up with diametrically opposed ideas of what it means and what is good but be utterly convinced that the other person is going to burn in hell for eternity for opposing God's will. If even Satan can quote scripture to purpose, how is a mere human being supposed to know what is the "correct" interpretation? It seems to me that if there is this thing called God, and that Being really cared so much about exactly how humans behave, wouldn't it have made more sense to make the instruction manual clearer?
jclemens
As an ordained Christian minister myself (and no, not mail order), I'm plenty capable of pointing out the fallacies and inconsistencies in Joss's work. That is to say, not just how things aren't consistent with my own worldview, but how they're inconsistent between seasons, series', or even episodes.

But that's like a physicist taking issue with Star Trek. Really.

LOL.

I could post all my opinions about how Joss is fundamentally wrong about this or that... e.g., actual redemption being unattainable in Angel. But why?

Just a clarification - *Joss* does not say redemption is unattainable. It is *Angel* who believes, or says that he believes that. (At other times it's clear that Angel does believe in redemption, or he wouldn't have fought Spike so hard for the cup.) As we saw, even Darla WAS redeemed, so it must be attainable.

[ edited by barboo on 2006-05-02 23:50 ]
Seeing as vampires are burned by crosses, there has, at some point, been Christians - or pretend-to-be-Christians at the very least - with knowledge as to how one hurts demons, logically this would be proof of the existence of some being either being or posing as the Christian God in the Slayerverse from whom they could get this power. In "Angel", we see him being recognized by a nun, and Angel trying to find a catholic priest or something to extract a demon. So there definetely is some kind of force behind the Christian religion in the Slayerverse. I'm not saying it is God as real-life Christians understand Him, but there almost has to be something there.

As to the point about the soul being "self", I disagree. Saying "souls are what makes them human" isn't saying "souls are what makes them persons". The selves are the same throughout the existance, with our without the soul, the only difference being the self acting with and without a restraining moral compass and without an ability to feel guilt, which is, apparently, abilities a human has and the "demon" inside a vampire does not have. (Other demons clearly has this - which is why they can be good without a soul.)
This is also why I wonder about Angel's soul - his personality, in my interpretaion, would remain the same, regardless of whose soul he had, because the personality is as evidenced with vampires such as Spike and Darla, in the body, not in the soul. (Which is really rather remarkable theology, when you get right down to it, this is Eastern religions' understanding of a soul, not Western, most Western religions consider the "person" to be in the soul.) This doesn't mean the person isn't in the soul too - obviously, the "morality" and the ability to feel guilt would be located there - but the conscious, sentinent, self-aware part seems to at least be retained in the body during the vampirization of someone. I guess the rules could be different when the soul is allowed to part with the body normally.

The point is, Angel could, in this view, very well have someone else's soul and never even know it, and that was my thought.

I think I had lots of more to reply to here as well, but it'll just get messy to put it all in one post, and I need to reread all these comments first anyway. *laughs* You people are so academic and smart I'm struggling to find enough focus to even understand all these posts.


Edit: "The question of whether Angel got Liam's soul back or not is raised in one of the comic books, I think "Old Friends." I don't know how it was resolved, and I know the comics aren't canon so on some level it doesn't matter, but the issue has been considered."

Wow, cool, I didn't know that, I haven't read "Old Friends". Now that you mention it though, I think the issue might have been briefly touched upon in "Long Night's Journey"... but I'm not sure. I'll have to re-read it to find out one of these days.

[ edited by Loki on 2006-05-03 00:11 ]
Yep, i'd agree with that jclemens. I think Joss uses those elements in the same way he uses the 'science' in Firefly, as a way to explore the characters and give us the emotional hits that so much of his stuff is about. I don't think he's trying to present a coherent view of his or any other belief system (though from the commentary, 'Objects in Space' comes close).

dzr, that's interesting. I hadn't realised there was an argument that the very idea of a creator being is illogical (you'd think it might also apply to cosmological explanations of the origins of the universe but I guess the physical explanations don't involve sentience or intent). Reading back over my posts I think i'm actually an agnostic if the God in question is the abstracted creator but an atheist about the Christian one so this book could nudge me either way (might need to find a space on barboo's fence yet ;). I've stuck it on my wish list anyway (the first few pages seemed quite readable and balanced).

barboo, oh yeah, i'm not claiming there's no possibility of 'superior' beings (to quote Python 'Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space because there's bugger all down here on Earth' ta dum ;) but supreme being is something else. Also, in fairness, I think the ten commandments are fairly clear. I have this image of God sitting in heaven saying to himself "WTF ? I carved it in frikkin stone ! How could I be clearer, tattoo it on their frikkin foreheads ? Kids, who'd have 'em ?" ;-) but I guess as with any other text of sufficient length it's open to interpretation (my personal issue is with deciding public policy based on these interpretations instead of through the application of reason).

I'll just add myself that I hope I haven't offended any religious people reading. I can't in all honesty say I respect all of your beliefs but I certainly respect your right to believe them (and 'Do unto others...' is a cracker, maybe not original but a storming idea ;).
Did anyone say my name? Like most people here in Denmark, I have a very relaxed attitude towards religion. I mean I can count my church visits on one hand. What I'm trying to say is, that I'm an atheist, and as that I really like how there is no specific god og big good in the buffyverse. I'm just trying to imagine what Buffy or Angel would be like, if the main characters would have to be practising their various religions to be considered good. If for example Buffy were to sit down and pray everytime before she went on patrol, I probably would have turned the tv off a long time ago.

barboo, I understand your view on bible-based religions. What you have to consider is, that the bible is not just one book, but more like a compilation of texts from different time periods, with several different writers. And only god knows, pun intended, how many times they have been rewritten. So it's only natural that contradictions and inconsistencies occur. You can basicly read and interpret it anyway you like.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering about my username. It is just my take on being a metalhead (which means I listen to heavy metal and its various sub-genres) since we are supposedly in leaugue with Satan.
"Apropos, I've always wondered... is Angel's soul Liam's soul? When the gypsies gave him his soul, did they go through with the bother of finding the right, original soul? Or did they just snatch one out of the ether or something?"

Like Loki mentioned, this was touched on by Joss himself in 'Long Night's Journey,' the miniseries that was the last gasp for Angel comics over at Dark Horse. But while the question was raised, it was never fully explored.

Yay for the people agreeing with me on the soul thing--I need so much validation ;-)--and to the detractors: Yeah, my description doesn't cover everything. Something of the human certainly stays behind in the vampire, memories, even mannerisms and habits. So you would either have to define the soul, the 'Self' as something even less tangible than that, or you can say that what the vampire takes is a sort of residu left by the soul. The absence of a soul leaves a hole--but it's still a soul-shaped hole.
My last couple of cents...why, can anyone tell me, is a soul important in the Jossverse? Why is losing it (and regaining it) so significant?

'Cos I'm not hearing anything that really addresses that rather salient point.
Well, maybe the soul is growing and changing like the person is? Like, the body holds the sum of memories, thoughts, opinions, wishes, desires, etc, and the soul is the thing that makes one able to combine it into a person? And without the soul, at least for the human body, it is just combined into a non-conscience-having being. The brain, and the vampiric demon inside, gives it sentience and intelligence, but without the soul to channel the personality through, there is no person there to stop the animal. Personality, yes, person, no.

Which would mean that vampires retain personalities - and Angel, even if the soul he has is someone else's, because the *personality* is dependent on the body - but that they need a soul to qualify as "human persons", if you want. Then, when you die, to explain ghosts and spirits and people going to Heaven and the like, the body leaves an inprint on the soul as it leaves its mortal shell, fastening the personality to it, kinda.

There are probably some major, awe-inspiring holes in this, but... I don't know it felt compelling and probable as I wrote it, at least. ;-)


Edit: Chris inVirginia, I think I just tried to answer that. If a soul is what makes you human, as Talltale said in the beginning of this discussion, that's its importance. Otherwise, you're just an animal. An intelligent, sentient, maybe even emphatic (Spike) animal, but an animal nonetheless.

[ edited by Loki on 2006-05-03 01:26 ]

[ edited by Loki on 2006-05-03 01:29 ]
Fine, Loki, but where does it come from?

A "hole", indeed.

And if, as in Fred's case, when she ceased to exist, and her soul was extinguished, why was that a bad thing?

A big, big hole indeed.

Either the soul is transcendent or it is not. If it's just part of mortal, corporeal existence, it's effectively as meaningful as a toenail. And the disappearance of Fred's soul would be meaningless, but it obviously is not.

But if it's transcendent, and it has (dare I say) eternal signfiicance, then the Buffyverse does indeed allow for a Heaven, and, presumably, a God, a Creator, a Savior. A Big Good, in other words.
Where the soul comes from? The same place the humans come from, probably, and we're not told who created human beings in the Slayerverse, and possibly nobody knows for sure.

It was bad that Fred's soul disappeared because, though memories and bits of her personalities seems to have stayed in Illyria (like an incomplete version of what happens to a vampire), that means Fred disappeared. The part of her that made her a person was destroyed, and the rest of her was taken over by another being. She got no afterlife. She just vanished. Thus bad.

I see no problem with the soul being destructible while also being transcendent. I believe lots of transcendent beings can be destroyed in different mythologies and in different works of fantastical fiction. (And also, we have no great authority saying Fred's soul was destroyed, all we know is Wesley, Angel and the rest seemed to buy it)

Transcendent does not equal eternal. And even if it did, "eternal" can mean many things. It can be like Tolkien's elves - it won't die without outside provocation, but it can die. Or if it cannot die, it surely can cease to exist. If it exists, it concievably can cease to exist. You don't lose the meaning of a soul by saying it isn't indestructable, you just lose some of the security you gain by having one. Fred lost her soul, which was a bad thing, because she lost her reward, her salvation, her afterlife, her chance of meeting her lost loved ones, her loved ones' chance of ever meeting her again, etc.

That souls are physically existing, by the way, is proven by Angel's soul in "Orpheus", and if a soul can be physically and magically trapped, it stands to reason that there is a way for it to be magically destroyed. So maybe the Slayerverse soul isn't fully transcendent, but I don't see how that, or the fact that it is fragile enough to concievably be destroyed by something as powerful as Illyria, in any way lessens its importance. Almost, I'd say, it increases it. If you can lose something forever, it is far more valuable for you than if it is a given guarantee.

And the Slayerverse must allow for a Heaven, otherwise, Buffy is lying in season 6, and somehow, I doubt that. :-) (She could be mistaking, but anything that resembles a Heaven to that degree would, in my opinion, in effect be a Heaven, thus rendering the point moot) I disagree with your Heaven existing = A Saviour existing-conclusion, though, I don't see why one has to mean the other. There could be, yes, but I don't see it as necessary.

[ edited by Loki on 2006-05-03 01:44 ]
...why, can anyone tell me, is a soul important in the Jossverse? Why is losing it (and regaining it) so significant?

Well, to be cynical, because having one means you won't necessarily be killed at the drop of a hat by the 'good-guys' ;).

But I guess it all depends on what a soul is in the Buffyverse (which we're still kind of split on I think). If it's free-will then it's important because choosing your own course (especially if you're a young woman) is one of the central themes of the show.

If it's a conscience then, again, it allows you to take moral responsibility for your actions (past and present) and, therefore, allows the possibility of redemption (though the 'reward' for this redemption is always pretty vague and the message in Angel at least seems to be that there is no reward and that the process itself is redeeming).

If it's 'humanity' or 'self' then I don't see regaining it as being particularly important to the subject (the demon won't miss it after all) though clearly losing it would be, err, bad ;). I realise Spike and Angel are ambiguous cases but, at face value, neither of them wanted their souls back. Spike went on a quest but he was basically tricked into being re-ensouled and obviously Angel was cursed.

Chris, brains are part of mortal, corporeal existence, are they as meaningful as a toenail ? How about hearts ? You don't need your toenail to be you but it would seem there's something about a Buffyverse soul that means you're not the same person you were without it. I'd say the loss of Fred's soul has more meta-textual significance in that we are effectively being told that this is it folks, she's really, really dying, no amulets, no spells, just dead. The character's within the show are aware of this as well hence their concern (if your soul still exists in the show then there's always a chance at life - of the apparently meaningless mortal, corporeal type but still life ;-) - whereas without it none exists).

I'm also pretty unconvinced about the 'heaven' being heaven. Even Buffy says things like 'it felt like heaven', 'I think I was in heaven'. It sure doesn't sound much like the one I learned about in Sunday school either but as Loki says I think it's a big leap from there to a fully realised Christian mythology in the Buffyverse

However, Loki made a good point earlier about the crosses burning vamps, clearly there's something about them, possibly even God power, that burns them. Some evidence i'd say for a God in the Buffyverse (which i'd previously missed).

(though we should bear in mind jclemens point about religious elements being used as Joss sees fit)
Well, we should be allowed to interpret and speculate and try to make sense of the mythology as much as we want to, and Joss not intending any deeper meaning or greater system to be there is no reason for us not to look for one if we want to. I like making sense of the mythology, it does, in effect, increase my understanding and feeling of the world it functions in as real, and as a result of that, it hightens my experience of the characters' lives that takes place there. And the characters, the emotion, that's what is important to Joss, correct? Therefore I assume until his great Jossness tells me otherwise that he approves of my doing what I can to improve upon my already spectacular experience watching his characters. :-)

(See? If you abuse logic enough, everything becomes justifiable :D)

As for my cross-point, keep in mind that just because there may be a force related to Christianity in the Slayerverse, there doesn't have to be an omnipotent, benevolent force like the Christian God is described in the real world. The Christians in the Slayerverse may be wrong about their God, if He even exists. He might be the same, but less powerful, or completely different but still omnipotent. Etc.

What is interesting, though, is that vampires were around before Jesus died at the cross. Which means that, at some point, due to Christianity, they *gained* a significant weakness. That, at least, points to the direction of the Christian faith in the Slayerverse having something going for them, something that is anti-vampire, and thus, probably, good. :-)
The way I see there are different "heaven dimension" or "higher planes", just like there are different hell dimensions. Buffy was in a heaven dimension between season 5 and 6, and Cordelia as we all know was on a higher plane at the beginning of season 4 on Angel. Where she was bored, but it was probably a different "heaven" or "higher plane" than Buffy's.
Then there are the hell dimensions, like the one Angel gets sucked into in "Becoming pt.2" or the one from "Anne". Also, Earth is a hell dimension, like Holland Manners hints at in season 2 of Angel.
That sounds plausible Satan (No. 927 of the series 'Sentences I thought i'd never type' ;).

...we should be allowed to interpret and speculate...

Oh, absolutely, Loki, I guess I was just pointing out that 'making sense of' is fine (and great fun ;) but drawing conclusions based on a presumed coherence of religious view-point is a bit sketchy when it would seem fairly evident there isn't one.

Which means that, at some point, due to Christianity, they *gained* a significant weakness

Or that crosses have some other significance maybe ? Obviously crosses were around BC (as was crucifixion, yay, Romans ;) so is there any older mythical significance to the cross shape ? Or is this just one of the elements of traditional vampirism Joss chose to retain (possibly just for the cool imagery, possibly to hint at a Buffyverse God) ?
Yes, but does one's soul automatically pass on to one of these higher planes after death, in a way that would qualify the plane as a "Heaven" in the traiditonal Christian sense? I'd say Buffy's experience seems to imply this, but that it doesn't prove it - there could have been special circumstances involved in her getting there, it doesn't have to be some automatical "soul-gathering" place where all good souls are sent (either by themselves or by some powerful god or being sending them).

(Wow, can you believe that was just two sentences? I need to work on my punctuation - memo to self re: full stops: use'm.)

Edit: That part was to Satan. (We are debating the existance of Heaven with Satan. Rarely have a webnick been more freakishly sneaked into a context, I'd think. And as I'm typing this, I'm realizing my own nick isn't quite neutral, religion-wise...)


As for the crosses, yes, obviously they are there just as a part of the vampire-mythos - as were garlics, at some point in time, and then they just seemed to forget about them. Not effective enough for the Scoobies, maybe?

Anyway, I'm getting side-tracked, the point is to try and find some reason for the crosses within the Slayerverse, not to go outside and say "they're there because it was convenient for Joss". :P At least that's the point to me.
Yes, they might have had some other significance before, that is possible - but would crucifixes function, then, as I seem to remember they do in the Slayerverse? Or any object remotely like a cross valid?

That aside, crucifixes really are shaped an awful lot like regular crosses anyway, I think that your theory might be a valid argument against the Christian God's existance in the Slayerverse. It does, however, fail to explain why priests of the Catholic Church are skilled at exorsism in the Slayerverse, or why a Christian nun recognized Angel as a vampire with a glance.

[ edited by Loki on 2006-05-03 02:40 ]
Regarding metaphysics and fictional universes: personally I think it is often the kiss of death when something like that becomes too important. I appreciate that there are notable exceptions: Tolkien springs to mind -- I understand that he had worked out all kinds of mind-numbingly dull details (the Elvish language, lots of the stuff that appears in The Silmarillion) before writing any of the things most of us no doubt love; and I know some Sci-Fi writers here in Edinburgh (Writer's Bloc), at least one of whom is a mathematician/physicist/string-theorist, who spend a lot of time trying to develop a consistent, coherent, well-worked out theory of their fictional universes. But you know what? Most of the time, that kind of writing bores me rigid. What I want is good writing and emotional depth. That's what Joss does. Souls and crosses are all there because that's part of the genre he's using to tell a story. But they are only there because the genre is useful for telling that story; they're hooks on which to hang the story. Ubervamps were nigh-on invincible when Buffy was doubting herself, and cattle to the slaughter when she knew what to do. The emotion of those two different scenes made perfect sense to me. Frankly I don't want writers trying to make some kind of technobabble or witchcraft make sense, because, you know what? It doesn't make sense. If it's a hook for a great story, then that's great. Go for it. But if you want metaphysics then go and read Kant or Hegel.

I'm sure that a more productive topic of discussion is to try and think about how souls, crosses, the First Evil, etc. functioned as motifs with which to set up, frame, or otherwise facilitate the emotional moments that Joss always says are what he writes from.
Buffy's heaven always bothered me because she "knew" that everyone was alright. But they weren't. They were all terribly unhappy. This is a rather curious heaven where people are lied to. When she heard that everyone was alright, did she hear it in Giles' voice as he went on to explain about white hats and black hats?
Yes, dzr, that is more productive, if your goal is to better understand what you experience while watching an episode. What I get out of the discussions we're having here now, however, is something else entirely - I get a better understanding of the universe the stories takes place in. That allows me to more easily slip into and believe the story as I watch it, and that increases my experience of it. I'm not saying it is like that for everyone, but for me, it is. I can overlook small inconsistancies while watching, sure, but if I can rationalize those inconsistancies within the universe, I don't have to overlook them, and another small hint of my experience of an episode is not diverted from the focus, from the story and the characters anymore. It does, for me at least, take a small hint of my attention to overlook such things, and if I theorize and think and try to make the thing coherent and consisent in my head, then I don't need to use that small bit of my attention on anything but the characters.

I know this way of thinking doesn't work for everybody, but it does for me, so when there is such a discussion, I join in, because it hightens my understanding of the universe, and thus my experience of the stories within it. The more I know, the less diverted my attention will be, the more I can focus on what is important in the stories.


I have no problem discussing how these things work as elements in a story, to further plot and character-development and emotional moments, that is interesting, too, but on another level, with another goal. If I can increase the emotion I experience from watching "Chosen" with just a hint of an ounce by discussing how the übervamps suddenly aren't all that powerful anymore, then I'll do that. I won't increase that emotion by learning or debating what they do as a factor in the story. I might add another form of appreciation to the episode, true, but that will by its very nature detatch me from the point of the episode which you so strongly write in defense of. I will be distracted from feeling with the characters by thinking of them as characters instead of people, and so forth. Now, that isn't a bad thing, by any means, but considering it superior to trying to understand the characters as people within a real universe, like you here argue against, that doesn't make sense to me. For me, learning about the people I'm feeling with, be they fictional or otherwise, is as important, or maybe even more important, than learning about the way the story makes me feel with them. It is two very seperate things, and saying that you shouldn't do one just because the other interests you personally more, that's just pointless, it doesn't do anybody any good.
Loki: Thanks for the reply. I think I understand what you are after more now. But I worry that you might ultimately be disappointed. JW seems to be fairly clear on how he doesn't really care about those things. He loves genre, but because it allows him to tell great stories. Not because he really gets into the whole metaphysics of it. Obviously if things can be rationalised, and that helps you enjoy the story uninterrupted by your brain going "Huh? How?" then go for it, and I'm sorry if anything I said sounded like I discouraged that. But I also think that such a pursuit has to be severely limited. There's only so far you can go. It's obvious that the writers changed the rules whenever they wanted the story to go a specific way. Well, that and the whole physically and probably logically impossible stuff. That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread, so maybe it is an end in itself rather than a means to an end.
Yeah, I know there are limits, which is kind of part of the fun - trying to find logical solutions to the problems that already lie within the series, but that might not be intentionally put there. When it doesn't work, sure, I'll accept that, and I don't expect the creators to compromise story or character just to keep the coherency of the universe intact, so I'm fine with it, too.

Thank you for your apology, I think I might have overreacted a bit, so I apologise too - by way of explanation and feeble excuse I can tell you it's getting rather late at night here in Norway, I'm probably not as levelheaded as I should be, discussing theology in a made-up universe...


I do agree that such discussions might be an end in itself. Metaphysics, philosophy, theology, I think it is always interesting to put such abstract things into perspective through something concrete, something you care about, thus my beloved Slayerverse is an intriguing choice. If you consider what a soul is for a fictional character in a fictional world, you often do, as we've seen here, realize what your own views on what a soul is in a new and more concrete manner by contrast. And so forth. I'm both realizing what my own views are and learning more about the characters I love while doing so - which is a win-win.

But to underline again - I'm not angry, upset or even annoyed (well, okay, sometimes, vaguely annoyed) by inconsistancies if it is in the interest of the story or the developing of the characters in it. (As long as these inconsistances aren't huge, gaping plot-holes, of course, that's something else.) That is the creators of the story's priveliege - and also a smart thing to do. Nevertheless I do appreciate it when these inconsistancies can be avoided, and this kind of rationalising does help me avoid some of them, some times. There don't even have to be inconsistancies - if there, like in this case, is something that is prone to be speculated in, like the existance of Heaven in the Slayerverse, speculating in it may increase my understanding of the universe, and by that, also the characters in it. And if I don't, well, debating the existance of Heaven in a fictional universe I love actually is my idea of a good time, geeky as though it may be, so the time isn't wasted anyway. ;-)
Loki: no apology is needed, it was me who was feeling guilty because I thought I'd inadvertently stomped on something you had a legitimate interest in and got enjoyment from, which wasn't my intention at all.
That's very nice of you. I'd apologise again, but it could quickly escalate into an apologising-contest, so... Suffice to say I'm very sorry if I seemed in any way cross or angry, that was not my intention.

Now, back to topic. Evil. Good. Whedon. Related?
"It does, however, fail to explain why priests of the Catholic Church are skilled at exorsism in the Slayerverse,"

Because the Catholic Church used to pay a lot of attention to such things?

" or why a Christian nun recognized Angel as a vampire with a glance."

Because she has been involved in pursuits that would help her to recognize demons, perhaps. Then again maybe the Church's resources and record's in regards to vampires are as good as Gile's and something about Angelus's history with nuns burned his image into her brain...metaphorically, of course.


ME sidestepped dragging other mainstream religious symbols into the mythology other than a quick comment by Willow regarding the cross in relation to being Jewish. I have always assumed that was out of respect. Vampire mythology as created by Christians, so used Christian symbols. I always sort of wondered what would happen if you pressed some other religious symbol against them, but it made sense not to go there.

As a side note, I was informed by my brother as he was watching BtVS for the first time and Angel had no reflection, that the original reason vampires did not reflect in mirrors was because of their lack of a soul. I guess the creators of that mythology were not theologians either.

I think the nature of the soul in the Buffyverse is a different question than what it's function is. By that I mean, there is a discussion above of what it does or what it contains when it is taken away or put back into a person or vampire and then there is the discussion of whether it is eternal, where it goes when it is not in a vampire or human. Although they connect on a level, I do not see them as proving or disproving anything about the other. I also do not see that any answer brings one to the connection to any particular mainstream theology.

In the Buffyverse the soul is an integral part of the person. From what I have seen, it contains the conscience and probably some other traits that go with them. Perhaps it contains most of the personality and what we see as the original personality in vampires is simply the equivalent of an after-image burned into the body it occupied. That does not tell us where it goes when it is expelled from the body. The mythology says vampires are damned to hell for all eternity and that is mentioned a couple times in BtVS. We know the soul survives, though because Spike got his back and I'm thinking that Angel got his back too. (If he did get someone else's though, that would explain how different Angel was from Liam.)

Anyway, my point is that souls can be eternal or anything else and not point to a specific ideology but it is late and I am sleepy so I may not have said anything at all...only with a lot of words.

Discussions about metaphysics, character development, gender roles, political implications etc. in relation to a piece of fiction can be fun, boring, aggravating or exhilarating depending on your mood, interests or discussion companions. For me they often stimulate me to solidify my ideas about subjects in the real world as I read or discuss ideas concerning a fictional one.
"I always sort of wondered what would happen if you pressed some other religious symbol against them, but it made sense not to go there."

Interestingly,this came up in Uncanny X-Men once--there the effect of the cross relied entirely on the faith of the person holding it. When the X-Men fought Dracula (star of the Marvel series 'Tomb of Dracula,' a version considerably more dangerous than the Buffy Drac) ;-) Wolverine tried the cross, but because he didn't believe in its religious significance, it had no effect. Kitty then brought out her Star of David necklace, and that caused Drac considerable pain.

I always liked that interpretation. It doesn't argue religion, it just empowers faith.
Yeah, the idea that it's the faith that matters and the cross is just a symbol of it has appeared in several vampire movies and novels ('Salem's Lot' for instance, handy because it's both ;). It does empower faith though it doesn't say what about faith does the burning. It'd be interesting to me to see someone use faith in something more mundane (e.g. Spike's faith that Buffy would come for him in S7 or maybe even 'faith' in science or rationality or the indomitability of the human spirit). Or at least an argument as to why that wouldn't work.

I also agree with newcj's comments about the church's awareness of vampires etc. It always seemed to me that the Church knew about these things (maybe not as much as the Watcher's Council) in the early days and probably had their own separate group for fighting the threat. Over time this fell away and the knowledge was lost (or came to be disbelieved) as the power of the Church waned until now it's mainly the Watcher's Council and/or freelance demon hunters that guard the knowledge and hold the line. Pure speculation of course ;).

I also do not see that any answer brings one to the connection to any particular mainstream theology.

Totally agree. Just because some of the properties of a Buffyverse soul match those in the Christian (or any other) belief system doesn't necessairly mean they're meant to be the same thing (or that this is acknowledging that they're God's doing especially given that we know for a fact there are other Buffyverse supernatural beings in the form of TPTB).
"As a side note, I was informed by my brother as he was watching BtVS for the first time and Angel had no reflection, that the original reason vampires did not reflect in mirrors was because of their lack of a soul."
*laughs* I remember the first time I watched "Angel" (I saw three seasons of Angel before I went and bought "Buffy", which in Norway aired on a channel I didn't get), I was really annoyed by this. I'm a mythology-geek, or at least I used to be, so when I heard Angel had a soul, I expected him to have a reflection, and was very put out when he hadn't. But it took so short a time to realize the entire show's mythology differed greatly from the "normal", real-world-one that it didn't bother me for long, luckily.

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