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The Anatomy of the Exalted Soul

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  • Solana
    started a topic The Anatomy of the Exalted Soul

    The Anatomy of the Exalted Soul

    To be a bit blunt and upfront, I've always been interested in different cultural perspectives on the soul, whether that's reading about what ancient Greeks thought of it, old Norse explanations, Egyptian, Mayan, etc, I've always been super into that. I've also spent a lot of time researching what various groups believe about them today, whether that's reconstructionist pagans, people of the book, living tradition pagans, and so on.

    So I've always been kind of interested in Exalted's take on souls, especially considering it is one of the few settings where you can practically dissect them. Unfortunately, I've also been very frustrated with how inconsistent it can feel at times.

    This came up, because I am rereading the third edition books for the first time in a long time, getting ready for a game, and I couldn't help but notice that the concept of 'Exalted Shards' never once came up in any of the books. Not in the corebook, not in the Lunars book, and not in the Dragon-Blooded book, anyway. It never explicitly denounces the idea, but I've full-on ctrl+f'd searching for 'Shard' and the term never came up.

    And then of course there's 'Miracles of the Solar Exalted', and then the shards are back, making it somewhat unclear to me what changed from 2e and what stayed the same, to be honest.

    Which brings me, in a sense, to my gripe?

    Exalted likes to boast a lot about how you're playing a hero 'reborn'. This is kind of its central premise. But it also, rather confusingly, promises that anyone can exalt, and that the exaltation is an uplifting process, one that is a kind of rebirth rather than 'remaking' them.

    The issue is, based on how the world treats them, a process of rebuilding is exactly what happened? It would be fine if you were not 'the reincarnation' of a hero of legend as far as I'm concerned. There are plenty of cultures that believe spirits and gods and wights can't actually tell the difference between a person and their ancestors. In terms of soul anatomy, they might refer to this as someone's 'Kinfylgja', or they might use some other term for it. The point is, it's a bit of a trope that you and your ancestors are connected in that way.

    But in Exalted, it's clear you don't actually share any relationship with your past self prior to the moment of exaltation. Any tomb defenses would not notice you as your past self - because you are not connected to that essence in any way yet - spirits would not refer to you as though you were still your past incarnation, and so on.

    This is especially confusing because the exalted 'shard' isn't even properly a soul, and in second edition is even supposed to be scrubbed clean to remove all those pesky memories and intimacies. At least in third edition they made it seem like they were going to replace the shard idea with a more neutral kind of supernal essence that finds you, imbues you with the essence of a celestial, and therefor connects you to past heroes, but then Miracles of the Solar Exalted falls back on the concept of shards.

    In general, Exalted can't seem to decide whether the exaltation is an individual soul, or if it's the piece of a soul. If it's a piece of a soul, why then is it the be all end all of a person's identity going forward? Why is the most recent past incarnation the one that spirits and defenses 'recognize'?

    Sometimes it just legitimately feels like Exalted wanted to include a trope without completely considering the mechanics of satisfying those conditions. But I'm very curious what other people's takes on this are, and how they square that circle.

  • Exthalion
    replied
    The soul gem just leaves a readable tag for the next life as well as temporary storage after death. The Ewer of Souls and associated systems perform the functions of Lethe and were specifically built to do so.

    Also, Autochthonian souls, Hun and Po, reincarnate together. The Maker sometimes eats the Po souls, which is leading to the soul shortage.

    Leave a comment:


  • Elfive
    replied
    Yeah, I was gonna mention the alchemical thing, which does indicate that the memories are still in there.

    It could also have something to do with the whole soul gem stuff though.

    Leave a comment:


  • Exthalion
    replied
    I believe the Hun, even absent most memories, still retains some personality traits. At least the fact that Heaven makes a point of tracking lives and assigning new birth based on deeds suggests that there is some sense where they are not wholly wiped clean each death. Autochthonian souls also have a lot of memories lingering latent which Alchemicals can access, though the machinery (hah) is somewhat different.

    Leave a comment:


  • Elfive
    replied
    Yeah, I think it's worth considering what the hun and po bring to the table, and contrast it to what the exaltation brings with it.

    As far as I'm aware, the Hun is recycled after passing through lethe, whilst the Po is freshly created for each person. The Hun loses all it's memories, usually, so the main thing it brings to the table is basic tendencies, I guess? whereas the Po provides more animalistic base drives. These mesh together to form a unique core personality that will be shaped by the individuals life experiences.

    Reincarnating Exaltations carry vague memories of their previous hosts, primarily the one immediately before but more distant memories can linger I think. Solar and sidereal exaltations also brings with them inherent aptitude for a certain group of skills, but this largely only causes them to be drawn to individuals who possessed aptitude for these skills already. Lunar exaltations lack this baggage entirely, as their caste can freely change between incarnations.

    It seems like these memories can carry personality traits with them, but I think their influence is going to be tempered considerably by the fully formed adult personality already present in their new host. At the same time, I wouldn't think it inaccurate to say that exaltation can change a person considerably. Many exalts might consider their current self not quite who they were as a mortal, and certainly not who their past incarnation was, but perhaps a sort of merger of the two.

    It may be that pressure to continue the legacy of their exaltation's prior incarnation in the first age contributed to an exaggerated degree of assimilation. They weren't really taking on all of their predecessors traits, but rather society conditioned them to pretend to.

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  • Exthalion
    replied
    My personal take has, for years, been close to Neall's as a result of dissatisfaction, on my own part and the part of forum interlocutors, with the "supermote" view of Exaltation near the end of 2E.


    Nevertheless, I shall try to offer a new perspective: The Hun soul is not the person. The changes which occur after death point to an important role of other components in shaping the individual and their experiences.

    Rather, the conjunct of body, souls, mind, etc., or the "bundle" thereof, seems to be a better basis for establishing identity in Exalted. In such an analysis, the Exaltation is adding another stick to the bundle while preserving all the existing elements. If, instead of Exaltations, we were discussing magical swords that filled you with certain strong emotions when drawn, we would not be worried about you being a different person because at times your mental state is influenced by a quantifiable object that also grants you otherwise impossible abilities.

    Organ transplants, mentioned above, actually have a fairly interesting relationship to the self. Several people have reported personality change after a transplant, and there has been serious scientific inquiry into the matter which may support such reports. (Not the best, but first result on google: https://www.medicaldaily.com/can-org...rms-yes-247498 )





    Blaque's analogy to titles also preempted the "Dread Pirate Roberts" quip that was forming in my mind when I was reading.

    It also hints at my thoughts as far as only the first exalt of a given "line" being truely Chosen. Each individual to bear the exaltation plays a roll in shaping it. A core tenant of the line has always been that you are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Thus while the first exalt may have set the agenda as far as the extended conversation that is each Exaltation's mythos went, they were not the final word in it. Nor are you.

    To borrow another metaphor from the philosophy of identity which may be helpful: Roads. Two roads may join and then diverge again. Thus while the "road" that is you and the "road" that is the exaltation may be conceptually distinct entities, it is wholly consistent with the nature of both to temporarily coexist as a homogenous entity.




    A few other thoughts:

    It isn't necessary that the Exaltations were what was stuffed in the Jade Prison. For all we know, the Sidereals stuff it with the destinies that would have given rise to individuals suitable for exaltation. I am personally fond of the theory in that it dovetails nicely with the fact that the Sidereals were diminishing Creation. It was not merely that the material accomplishments and learning of the First Age would decay or be destroyed, but that people would be lesser in spirit: meaner, pettier, more venal and base.

    It is theoretically possible that the essence and the mythos-chain of each Exaltation are not necessarily linked. There may be more mythos chains than available essence to actuate them all. Thus even if the greatest possible number of, say, Solars were alive there might still be verifiable "lines" of Solars who were not. This would deal with the "only the first" problem as well, as it would allow novel "dynasties" to be created.

    Leave a comment:


  • Blaque
    replied
    Originally posted by Elfive View Post
    One way you can think of Exaltation is as a title. When a king dies, his heir becomes the new king. That king is still himself, but he's also "the king"

    Now imagine kingness came with a new soul and memories.
    I'm one to push for the title motif/analogy myself. I think it hits a lot of the ideas best. You can pass a title along and all its powers, afterall, without it being a physical object that you can hold in your hands.

    I'd go so far as that the Exaltation doesn't need to be a soul realy. It could just as easy be that it's something that unlocks potential in a certain way, and where the memories and such kidn of come wiht the office. Kind of like how if you become a Senator, you actually will oftne find letters from your predecessors in the drawer of your desk...which note, was theres. It's just that now it is for-sure yours also and you're the guy with the powers invested in the seat.

    It has some supernaturla elements to it and such, but I think a big thing is it need not have extension like the 1e and 2e power pellet took it to be, and I think it need not even be a soul since I don't think it need to muck around in that part of the anatomy unles syou really just want to expand soul to include it. It's arbitrary mind, but I just think not a lot is gained calling it that.

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  • Guitar Longcat
    replied
    Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
    This is a problem called the Ship of Theseus. There's not an easy answer to it in real life; I don't expect a fantasy elf game to have an easy answer to it in a way that's intellectually satisfying.

    Isn't it?

    If you cut your thumb off, but doctors devised a means to regenerate limbs, would the regenerated thumb not be part of "you"?

    ​Why does part of me getting added after some arbitrary cutoff point make it not-me? I didn't have my beard when I was five, but it's my beard. I don't have any tattoos, but if I got one, I'd sure as hell say it was my tattoo, and I'd consider it at least as much a part of me as my beard..

    That's how 2e looked at it, but that's not the only way to look at it.
    I don't know, I like the idea of being an appropriately sized hermit crab.

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  • Ellis
    replied
    I think I agree with a lot of what for example Neall and SLS have said about the way to view Exaltation as like mantling, and I think that Lytek's cabinet throws a wrench in that but I don't hate it if I think of that as a fun little bit he does that doesn't really make sense to anyone else, but he's the Exaltation guy so how are you gonna argue with him about Exaltation.
    The thing about how only the first Solar in whatever chain was actually capital C Chosen is throwing me a little too though. I think I feel happy imagining that when Sol chose that guy, it was because he saw the relevant part of himself in them, and later reincarnations have built on or continued to reflect or maybe even shifted the context in which that piece is reflected. But when Sol exalted Eldmessa Fire-Sermon, he recognized the same thing in her that he recognized in her predecessor Brightest Morning Star and in Nialuin before him: a courage and compassion that resonates with himself.

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  • Solana
    replied
    I apologize if my words aren't as coherent as they should be. I'm actually on pain pills right now and struggling to stay awake, so that's probably a factor. I'm probably going to bow out for the rest of the day as a result, because I also don't like how combative some of my framing has been (ie, "You're wrong and here's why" versus "What are your thoughts on this?"), and in my experience that usually results in discussion being escalated into arguments.

    You made a lot of good points, too, Count, and I'll have to think about them for awhile.

    Leave a comment:


  • Solana
    replied
    Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
    No, I specifically was talking about it in terms of the bearer of the Exaltation. Namely, are you still you after the god of the sun grants you a measure of his divinity? If you feel you are, then the Exaltation is not a "hermit crab" using you as a shell - it's part of you.
    I know you were, my point is that I don't see it that way. There's a difference between "are you the same person if all of your cells are replaced?" or "are you the same person if you receive a heart transplant." and "Are you the same person if someone else's soul comes to inhabit your body, and invades your previous existence with unrelated memories, intimacies, and potential habits.

    We have brains, don't we?
    That there is even a question of whether or not humans have a soul emphasizes why this isn't an apt comparison. Even if we adopt a materialistic view of the universe, our ability to study and manipulate our own brains pales in comparison to the level of information any given Twilight Solar might have on essence, the soul, and how all of this works. There is still a lot we do not know about the brain.

    ​Our ability to manipulate them might not be on par with those who can mess with souls in Exalted, but if we were to devise a means of continuing on after the death of our bodies, it would almost certainly involve our brains.
    Sure, and there'd be plenty of people (myself included), who view the brain as the tool we use to interact with the material world, and as a repository for our memories and so on. I personally would not want to extend my lifespan. And I don't consider the brain the sum total of 'me'. Just like if I suffered a debilitating injury to the head, removing certain mental capabilities, I would not consider the new version to be a rebuilt version of me. I would consider it to be me operating through a damaged/faulty tool.

    All this is to say that I don't think brains in the real world are an apt metaphor for souls in Exalted.

    And here's where we disagree. Sure, the Exalted setting has made it explicit that souls exist, but it hasn't demonstrated that your soul is you; in fact, given the difference between examples of a person and a person's ghost, it's pretty clear that some aspects of a person are lost with their body.
    I don't want to speculate too much on the nature of souls in Exalted, because that is one thing that has been left pretty nebulous by the creative teams in the past. It seems pretty clear that reincarnation does not work the way the Immaculate Order says it does, but from my perspective it seems pretty clear that various pieces of your soul in Exalted are as close to 'you' as it gets. You might incarnate as a different person with different beliefs and personality traits from one incarnation to the next - but you could just as easily have consistent traits between incarnations, which would be in keeping with the genre's inspirations. Further, the health of one's soul does appear to be a thing in Exalted, and even if reincarnation doesn't work the way the Immaculate Order says it does, it is still based on something. It's a lie with a kernel of truth.

    In third edition, ghosts in general are implied to be an aberration, something that is not part of heaven's plan.

    With the celestial exaltations, they aren't so much a part of that continued existence as they are an outside force that grants you access to a whole lot of divine essence, which might have been find, but then the books also want to make it clear that the exaltation is you in the sense that the last person to exalt is now your previous incarnation. This means that an exaltation is in some ways, even more of a soul in Exalted than your actual first breath soul, especially when you consider the fidelity of its past life experiences compared to what you might expect from a mortal or terrestrial exalt.

    Eventually you will die, and you will continue right along without being bound to that essence or its future incarnations, except for the memories and feelings you experienced while imbued with it - and I did explain that plenty of people would not consider a neural upload of themselves to be 'themselves'. So that's kind of where I stand on this.

    You don't know that last one. At least one person with tattoos actually had his skin preserved and made into a museum piece posthumously.
    If someone cut off the skin baring your tattoo, and then grafted it onto themselves, it would not make them you, and it would not flood them with memories and intimacies of your past.

    ​For that matter, you don't know the Exaltation possesses a life of its own in 3e; it sure seems that the decision to make things vague again was an improvement.
    I never said for sure that it did, I said that, because they elected not to change the practical results of the existence of exaltation in an effort to keep the story more or less the same, it either has a mind of its own or it is a thing which the gods push into you.

    It's similar to if I did upload, but then our wires got crossed and now actually I'm you, with all of your memories, and people referring to me by your name, and so on, and so on. Does that mean I am actually you? In my belief system it would not mean that.

    Vagueness doesn't help when in the absence of new information we have to fall back on the old information. They should have been vague from the start, but they weren't, and now much of the setting is predicated on exaltations functioning in a specific way. Dancing around the same words as before in the new edition doesn't help things when you still have to justify all of those things still being true, and the only language available is what existed in 2nd edition.

    Yet the ghosts of Exalts tend to be far stronger than their mortal counterparts.
    Relative to other ghosts, sure. The Deathlords were very powerful relative to other ghosts, but they weren't any kind of match for anything until the Neverborn gifted them with the power they wished more than anything to reclaim. Nothing about them had anything to do with solar essence after they died, not as regular ghosts, and not as Deathlords.

    Agree to disagree, I guess?
    That seems reasonable to me, thanks for discussing this with me.

    Leave a comment:


  • Ghosthead
    replied
    I think it's a fair surmise to state Exalted's take on the soul does partake of and flirt with the mythos of reincarnation to an extent (and in part motivated by utility in creating mood and as a story device)... but ultimately, it is not *really* presenting a Buddhist (or "Dharmic") view of the self or of the nature of life. That is to say...

    Glory is fleeting and bleakly closed by death, which is a meaningful extinguishment of the light of the self. Characters are tightly rooted to this life, and this identity; their family, their people, their community, their nation, their class, and so on. Loss and grief when our characters lose a person are an irreplaceable loss of that person's self, an ending not a part of a moving on or cycle. Heroes are inspired and driven to acts of great arete to leave a legend which will outlast their self, as the most meaningful form of immortality which they can achieve (i.e. they are not really oriented towards "the next life").

    I'd add beyond what this means in terms of tone and focus purely on its own terms, death being like this, and somewhat unsympathetic and bleak and unfair, seems particularly essential to the Abyssals as remaining sympathetic and tenable as cheaters and dissenters of the natural order of things! (Sympathetic and tenable, though probably not justified or right.)

    Leave a comment:


  • Lanic
    replied
    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    There are plenty of cultures that believe spirits and gods and wights can't actually tell the difference between a person and their ancestors. In terms of soul anatomy, they might refer to this as someone's 'Kinfylgja', or they might use some other term for it. The point is, it's a bit of a trope that you and your ancestors are connected in that way.
    This is exactly how we are portraying Exaltation in our current campaign. Spirits, some of the fair folk, and similar beings (incidentally along with first-age defense infrastructure and robot-servants) immediately and instinctively recognise PC's as the same people that bear the Exaltation in the past, calling them by long-forgotten names and mentioning their deeds.

    Not exactly canon but it really creates a properly "mythic" atmosphere and, as a side effect, greatly helps to remind players how cool their characters are. Actually, in this campaign we are exactly playing with the soul-identity metaphysical tropes you are discussing, probably slightly more skewed towards philosophy of mind than this thread, having those discussions in-game since the characters reached the first-age tomb with the "actual" souls of their first-age equivalents enchanted in artifact infrastructure.
    Last edited by Lanic; 01-14-2020, 07:11 PM.

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  • TheCountAlucard
    replied
    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    Firstly, if the ship of Theseus does apply here, then it is in reverse. Specifically, you become a link in a "long chain of greatness". You are not the ship of Theseus in Exalted, your exaltation is.
    No, I specifically was talking about it in terms of the bearer of the Exaltation. Namely, are you still you after the god of the sun grants you a measure of his divinity? If you feel you are, then the Exaltation is not a "hermit crab" using you as a shell - it's part of you.

    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    Secondly, the ship of Theseus is only an argument because we do not exist in a world where the soul is quantifiably real, or one in which the world is made up of essence, which can be studied and manipulated...
    We have brains, don't we?

    ​Our ability to manipulate them might not be on par with those who can mess with souls in Exalted, but if we were to devise a means of continuing on after the death of our bodies, it would almost certainly involve our brains.

    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    Thirdly, the ship of Theseus isn't really a problem in the traditional sense of the word. It does demonstrate a few interesting things, but it is not 'a problem' in the traditional sense of the word.
    Fair enough.

    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    It's[sic] intended purpose is to illustrate the nature of identity as potentially illusory, and it gets you thinking about what your own feelings on the matter are.
    Right, I get that.

    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    Exalted does not need to answer this question in a normal fashion, because they've already chosen to make it clear that souls exist...
    And here's where we disagree. Sure, the Exalted setting has made it explicit that souls exist, but it hasn't demonstrated that your soul is you; in fact, given the difference between examples of a person and a person's ghost, it's pretty clear that some aspects of a person are lost with their body.

    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    Your beard and your thumb and your tattoo do not possess a life of their own, with desires and compulsions of their own, and will not persist as anything after you die.
    You don't know that last one. At least one person with tattoos actually had his skin preserved and made into a museum piece posthumously.

    ​For that matter, you don't know the Exaltation possesses a life of its own in 3e; it sure seems that the decision to make things vague again was an improvement.

    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    When a Solar Exalt dies, they do not have a ghost exaltation in the way you might be said to have 'a ghost beard' or a 'ghost thumb' or a 'ghost tattoo'.
    Yet the ghosts of Exalts tend to be far stronger than their mortal counterparts.

    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    It is not a part of you. It is not a part of you.
    Agree to disagree, I guess?

    Originally posted by Solana View Post
    I kind of have to apologize here, because I feel like this thread has become "Exaltations are alienating and I don't like them." rather than the original intent, which was to see how various people envisioned them.
    These things happen.
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 01-14-2020, 06:23 PM.

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  • Solana
    replied
    [QUOTE=Neall;n1360920]There's a process in Scion that was created precisely because I was frustrated about the lack of clarity on this in Exalted. In the former system, it's called mantling, which is similar to how it happens in the Elder Scrolls series.[/quote[

    I love your work on Scion in general, but 'Chosen' scions, who are then 'incarnations' of an existing god is something I always personally avoid, specifically because my own philosophies are toward the Polytheistic, rather than the Pantheistic. I honestly have a lot of resentment toward Pantheism in general, specifically because its roots in a fairly modern interpretation of gods and spirits, treating them more as interchangeable archetypes than in actual individualized beings. It can be hard not to feel like people take it as a given, thanks to writers like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, with American Gods being a pretty huge example of Pantheism: a Novelization. From a modern perspective where gods and spirits really are 'just stories' a mantle you can adopt and channel, this will all be fine. It'll be slightly less compelling to people who are Polytheistic, or who treat the gods as their own separate beings with permanence, and not just stories/legends/collective unconsciousness archetypes.

    This, by the way, played a massive part in the debacle that was the Netjer pantheon previews, because by and large the Scion team does approach the various mythologies in a Pantheistic way, and this resulted in some creative decisions that riled up quite a few people as a result.

    I should clarify, for the record, that it's not unreasonable for your team to do that. It's kind of the premise your game is built on. It's all over the place in its major sources of inspiration. I still play Scion (and kickstarted the hell out of it), I just personally choose to avoid/ignore those aspects of it which I do not like.

    To summarize: you were Chosen by a deity for a reason. You were given a Caste for a reason. The nature of past lives and the continuity of self, and the themes underlying the succession of identity, means that your Exalt's personality traits, personal history, and decisions are reminiscent and resonant with the past Exaltation bearer. In other words, you are so close to that former bearer as to be indistinguishable from them on some deep and personal level, usually related to your caste. It is your prior incarnation rather than a past life.

    Obviously, you are not the same person. That doesn't make any sense! They might be black, you might be white. Perhaps they fought with a sword and you with chakrams and martial arts. Yet you're both Twilight Castes, and have a deep fondness for tinkering with artifacts that goes back to your childhood, and ultimately influenced your career as a scavenger lord and theirs as a technical savant. You are not the same person, and yet, you really kinda are the same person. To the Unconquered Sun, you deserve the Exaltation as much as they did, and for the same reasons. Maybe someone said, "We shall not see his like again,"...and yet, here you are to put lie to that sentiment. You have incarnated once again, and your war banner is the exact same as your prior incarnation's.
    A problem with this would be that only the first person who exalted was exalted in any meaningful fashion, because they are the first domino, the only blank slate, whose actions, personality, and demeanor would establish the pattern for all future incarnations. As I commented above, the exaltation at this point is not you. Exalted wants to tell you that anyone in Creation at any time could exalt, but then carefully reminds you that you are now someone who lived and died millenia ago. Someone that is not you. Someone who would never have had anything to do with you if you hadn't been exalted. It got to be such a problem in second edition, that writers started blurring the lines between past incarnations and flat out reincarnation, wherein people who possessed the human soul of someone exalted in the past, was substantially more likely to inherit the shard they had back then.

    Maybe they didn't consciously decide to do that, but I feel it reflects at least subconsciously on the problem at hand: namely that the exaltation isn't a proper reincarnation, but the source material and references that inspired the game are predicated on true reincarnation, continuing a mythical journey from one life to the next, and the only place that exists in Exalted, is in the stories of the Terrestrial Exalted, which were largely made up by a cabal of heavenly agents.

    In short, it's a bit of a mess.

    Are you actually the same person? Are you completely different? The answer is deliberately obscure, since you're actually meant to argue about it in your own games and it's a topic upon which reasonable characters and players may differ. Maybe you deride your prior incarnations' war crimes in the last day of the First Age, and swear you'd never do such a thing. But are you denying the possibility within yourself that you might, under the same circumstances, choose exactly the same thing? Maybe a god comes to you demanding you fulfill a promise made in a prior life. You can tell that god to fuck off, sure...but can you really then lay claim to the daiklave slung across your back, forged for your incarnation so long ago? How can you lay claim to the benefits of incarnation and deride the debts?
    You're not the same person, the soul that made you you is going to return to heaven, and be recycled and reborn. The power you acquired through your acts of daring do will be stripped from you and given to someone else, who will then have to deal with the same outside mental/emotional influences that you dealt with. To reiterate, Exalted is not a setting where the soul/consciousness are abstract ideas, they're tangible and real and can be worked on and modified.

    "You swear you'd never do such a thing, but are you denying the possibility within yourself that you might?"

    There's a couple of scenarios here, and none of them are thrilling.

    You were not originally someone who would do that, but by virtue of exalting and receiving all of that past incarnations psychological leavings, you are now 'someone who might likely do this'. The exaltation doesn't just change who you are, it changes you to be more like the person before, so history can repeat.

    Or, it only seeks out people who were already that similar to the previous incarnation, which results in stuff like the 2nd edition books, tiptoeing the line of reincarnated souls reclaiming their past exaltations - in other words, everyone has an equal chance of exalting. Some people are more equal than others.

    Either way, the fundamental result is that the exalted are fixed and clouded by inertia, with only minor changes across incarnations. It's the second verse with only slight changes from the first, and puts the focus on your deeds of heroism being comparable to someone else's in the past, rather than on their value in their own right.

    I can't imagine Luna would be too pleased by that.

    Exalted gives you a few concrete details so you'll argue about it and struggle with doubt in- and out-of-character, and that's largely by design.
    And that's fine, I just don't feel like it's a great design space. Especially not in a setting where characters can get very clear answers out of it, because they are designed to be able to do that.

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