Fate and Causality
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines Causality as “the relation between a cause and its effect or between regularly correlated events or phenomena“. In other words, it is the law of cause and effect. Revealing its secrets has kept philosophers busy for centuries.
By the same dictionary, Fate is defined as “the will or principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do”. I guess you can say fate is the final outcome, while causality is the journey to said outcome. By this definition, it is implied that a greater will or principle is behind the flow of events, and also that it depends on the observers’ context (e.g. culture or beliefs) what it is exactly.
This simple graph grasps the essence of these two terms:
Causality describes the causal relationship between two or more events. In real life, these connections are often speculative because of how complex the web of events can be, so complex it is hard to track which events are caused by another (see Causation vs. Correlation in statistics, astutesolutions.com). “Fate” is the outcome at the end of any event chain that we are examining.
Ergo, causality and fate are definitely not the same. Whenever Void or Skull Knight mentions causality, what I believe they really mean is that “everything is falling into place”. What is falling into place does not necessarily have to be predestined. There is a point where events indeed can be adverted, but the moment they have “manifested” enough the fact they will happen cannot be changed anymore.
Causality is more like a connected chain and I suspect there are many different chains that 1) coexist and 2) converge through certain key events at temporal junction points.
Temporal Junction Points
During the Eclipse, Ubik brings up so called temporal junction points, this is where unforeseen outcomes may happen. These junction points seem to refer to thread of events that are weaved together as the events progress. The term also suggests these points only exist for a short moment.
It seems that Skull Knight has knowledge of these junction points and strikes when significant changes of outcomes could be most effective:
- after Guts left the Hawks: The first time they met, Skull Knight approached Guts with the intention to kill him in chapter 037. What I believe what he was trying to achieve was to prevent the Eclipse. This would mean Skull Knight knew the Eclipse has not manifested enough to happen for certain
- intervening during the Festival’s eve: he saved Rickert from the slug apostle and Rosine
- intervening during the Eclipse: we first see him attempt to harm Void and Femto, but he ends up saving Guts and Casca instead (Rickert whom he saved previously would tend to their wounds and make sure they’d survive)
- saving Luca during the Birth Ceremony. She’d later help Rickert and indirectly contributed to Daiba joining him in Falconia
- unwillingly causing World Transformation through the strike of his Sword of Actuation, which was aimed to trap Femto in the Vortex of Souls during Ganishka’s transcension.
The latter is proof that the result of such intervention doesn’t always have to happen in his favor.
Let’s give you an example.
A Concept of Fate & Causality
The following graph is extremely simplified, omitting many events but it will get the point across.
Let’s we start with the advent of the Eclipse. Before it actually happened, Skull Knight created important prerequisites for Guts and Casca’s survival. It started with saving Rickert’s life from the Count and Rosine when they massacred the Hawks’ camp. Rickert survived and joined up a group of traveling performers. These by the way, were the same ones who traveled together with Puck and later Judeau. Because of this, Rickert had a bag of elf dust in his pockets which would ensure the survival of both Guts and Casca right after the Eclipse.
After Femto did his terrible deed to Casca, Skull Knight breached into the Eclipse dimension, first attempting to catch Void by surprise and killing him. Then he went after Femto, and because that also failed, proceeded to save Guts and Casca. Skull Knight’s interruption likely happened at such a temporal junction point, as discussed afterwards by the Godhand. Femto may have let Skull Knight get away with Casca and Guts because he possibly had a hunch they would play a role for his rebirth into a new body (that means, their son’s body) during the Birth Ceremony later. It is also possible that the Birth Ceremony could not happen without two branded people present, which is insinuated by Puck twice in chapters 169 and 172 (later during the Hill of Swords scene as well). That means Guts and Casca’s survival and the Demon Infant’s presence were essential prerequisites for the Birth Ceremony itself. (Did I mention how masterful of a writer Miura is…?)
At the point the Eclipse happened is also where I believe the Birth Ceremony manifested in a way it cannot be completely prevented anymore. Slan actually points that out during the Eclipse in chapter 88, stating that “the leaping of one fish would not disturb the flow of the river”. Skull Knight later also implies this in the chapter Spirit Road, Part 2 (142). However, what Guts managed to do is to change the course of events that are within the scope of his actions, which is described as fish breaching the water’s surface.
What Skull Knight doing also has a snowball-effect if we examine it further. Note: again, a extremely simplified graph and nodes/arrows with question marks are of speculative nature.
Skull Knight’s interference continuously spawns new event nodes that have potential to work against the Godhands’ plans, see the events surrounding Rickert and Luca. These new nodes may interact with the other, too: Rickert made sure that Guts and Casca survived right after the Eclipse by instantly treating them with Elf dust. Luca, who was saved by Skull Knight during the Birth Ceremony, also helped him and Erica escape Falconia. Keep in mind I’m also completely omitting the events surrounding Guts’ own influence here.
There are also no entities or beings “outside” of causality, because causality is the law of cause and effect. It would be extremely strange if there were events that have no original cause, no matter fiction or reality (if this happens in fiction it’s usually called a Deus Ex Machina-trope).
However, it is true that collective human consciousness (Idea of Evil or otherwise) is a dominant and deciding factor in the fate of humanity as whole, but not necessarily for single individuals such as Guts, Casca, Luca or Rickert. If combined together, a few people may be able to change the course of fate. In fact, this could be part of Skull Knight’s strategy.
Contents of the Lost Chapter
The removed chapter suggests that there is an entity consisting of human emotions (negative in particular), bound together in a larger collective consciousness, weaving the destiny of every human being. In other words, if we go by the Lost chapter, what I pointed out above would make the order of events completely predestined by this entity.
Something that strikes me as odd: the entire chain of events revolving around Puck’s Elfin dust (e.g. making sure Guts could fight and win the Battle of Doldrey, Guts and Casca surviving the Eclipse) is actually not completely dependent on a single human being. Without Guts getting Elf dust during the Campfire of Dreams, Guts wouldn’t have won against Boscogne and Griffith wouldn’t have ended the 100 year war. The story would have ended here. Further, without Guts and Casca’s survival of the Eclipse, Femto would not be able to return to the physical realm using the body of Guts and Casca’s child. Therefore Puck’s influence should, according to the Lost Chapter, be disconnected to the Idea of Evil, which is said to be human collective consciousness, but somehow he still contributed to its goals through the ways of fate.
If events do exists the Idea of Evil has seemingly no control over (because elves are not humans), how does it even weave every man’s destiny? How does the Idea of Evil control destiny if it is only a collection of humanity’s negative emotions? Why is a an elf, supposedly disconnected from the Idea of Evil, making sure the Behelit stays at Guts’ side…? How the Idea of Evil interacts with other entities or realms in the astral world is not defined and the fact it only controls human destiny seems in contradiction with the Puck situation on first glance.
But we can find an explanation for this: events not under direct influence of the Idea of Evil contribute to its goals through the manifestation of its ideas, regardless of collective consciousness (e.g. in case multiple species have separate units of collective consciousness). A slightly different approach like this gives him the necessary flexibility to easily integrate magic and magical creatures later on in the story.
The way I see it, the Beast of Darkness in part replaces the Idea of Evil as well, being Guts’ “personal Idea of Evil”.
At the very least, something similar to the Idea of Evil exists, as the last page of chapter 82 does show special entity inside of the Astral World that is identified by Griffith as “God”. It is also later insinuated by Flora in chapter 201, “The Astral World”. We also have the World of Idea that is mentioned by Schierke in the same chapter, which seems to be the same or similar to the Vortex of Souls mentioned in early Berserk chapters.
Removal of the Lost Chapter
The removal of the Lost Chapter has the following effect:
- it puts the responsibility onto each individual, instead of blaming it on a collective consciousness
- its removal is important for the introduction of the Beast of Darkness: Guts’ personal struggle against his dark nature
- it removes the Idea of Evil as the sole dictator of a human being’s fate
- it opens up the possibility that a human being can change their fate
- it opens up the possibility of other “Ideas of Whatever” to exist (e.g. Skull Knight talks about the Idea of the Festival in chapter 142). These ideas do not have to be limited to human consciousness only, either
- in connection to above point, it hints towards ideas, desires and similar being treated as manifestations from the World of Idea. Consider that Elves and other astral creatures exist and likely are able to manifest their own ideas
So what did Miura replace the Idea of Evil with instead, conceptually?
I believe it is the concept of manifestation.
The World of Idea: Manifestations of Desire
The World of Idea is one of the astral regions that we have only very little information about. It is only stated that it exists by Schierke in chapter 201 and Skull Knight makes a single comment about the Idea of the Festival during the Birth Ceremony in chapter 142. However, as pointed out above, it possibly plays a bigger role than you think.
I believe that through the World of Idea, events manifest into the real world. If we assume the term “fate” also includes a potential will of a greater force, such as the World of Idea, it may take an influence on causality and is dependant on consciousness (not only human consciousness) at the same time. It is possible to keep the man-made aspect of the Idea of Evil even with this slightly different approach.
So where do we actually see this pattern in Berserk?
The members of the Godhand came into being because of their desires and their willingness to do everything to achieve their goals. What I think is happening is that these desires and ideas manifest in the astral world and then the physical realm is “recreating” these ideas via appropriate events (e.g. the Crimson Behelit taking shape in the physical world). In fact, Skull Knight tells us that this is the case:
“They exist everywhere in this world, any place negative human thoughts swirl in a large concentration.
But at the same time, it can be said that as huge body of thought, they cannot take flesh in this world, thus they exist nowhere.”
Concentration of thoughts can be strong enough to create manifestations of the Godhand in the physical world: this happened with Conrad in chapter 126. If this works out with thoughts, does this work with desire as well…? (Perhaps, is it a trigger for the Behelit?)
Skull Knight further makes statements about the Birth Ceremony itself: The physical world mirroring the astral world.
“The flocking sheep who’ve been led to the blood-splattered holy ground desire the ‘Hawk of Light’. And you and that girl will come to throw yourselves into their midst. It nearly parallels that other time… the eclipse. It’s an attempt to imitate the eclipse.”
During the Eclipse in chapter 082, we see a similar symbolism. After Griffith sheds his last tear, he encounters droplets in the dark that resemble Behelits. Intriguingly enough, Griffith is calling these “Droplets of Ideas”.
This is purest speculation by my part, but if we go by “desires are manifestations” rule, a Behelit seems to stem from an idea rather than the Godhand, so the Godhand does not necessarily have to be the master of every behelit. Before developing this article, I created a tumblr post here long time ago, pointing out Flora’s generalized wording while she is talking about Behelits, so perhaps there is something to it.
So because Godhand members are a manifestation of their desires, we can also identify what these desires were.
- Slan is likely linked to sexual desire, impurity or deformity, given she appeared in Qliphot, in the troll’s den, where trolls dragged women to violate them and to reproduce. She was also called “Whore Princess of the Uterine Sea” by Skull Knight.
This place might as well be my womb… rage with fury… bastard fetuses of darkness.
- Conrad appears in a city wiped out by plague in chapter 126. He appears to be a manifestation of disease.
- Femto is a manifestation of Griffith’s ambition, the castle in the sky, which is a pursuit of power and control over other beings. I am guessing that Femto’s emergence also manifested the “Idea of the Festival” Skull Knight was talking about in Volume 17.
- We do not know for sure what the manifestations of Void, Ubik and Conrad are. Ubik and Conrad might be connected to deception or reflection, considering they were both involved in showing Griffith’s real nature during the Eclipse, which prompted him to sacrifice the Hawks.
It is fascinating that during the Birth Ceremony, multipel chapters are called Shadows of Idea (163-165). The Birth Ceremony and the Eclipse are tightly connected. The Eclipse gave birth to a new God Hand member, that only exists in the astral world, and the Birth Ceremony brought that astral being back to the physical world.
In my opinion, these events are literally “Shadows of Idea”, a shadow of the World of Idea. That makes them manifestations of human thought and the human condition, rather than events carefully planned out by an entity in the astral world. That means, all these events just happen to have a particular outcome (that means, fate), which down the line is caused by humanity and its mental state itself.
Now, I wrote this from a rather conceptual perspective. If you look at the Birth Ceremony and examine the key factors that played a role, you’ll see that manifestation of ideas, thoughts and feelings is exactly what is happening here. The torture chambers, the starving refugees, the Iron Chain Knights making it all worse for everyone, the demon infant attempting to save his mother by summoning a mass of spirits that eventually ended up devouring everyone close to the tower, the collective desire for salvation that came with it. All of this eventually gave birth to Neo-Griffith. It’s almost like humanity as whole did a sacrifice.
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Beast of Darkness
Given this slightly different approach of how the Idea of Evil (and related ideas) work, the Beast of Darkness is also a manifestation.
The beast seems to be a subconscious thing at first and the spirits in Volume 16 brought the fact the beast exists to his attention. It only seems to start to manifest into Gut’s consciousness and further affecting his actions after the Birth Ceremony, starting with the Incubus dream he has in Volume 23, chapter 187.
It’s also interesting to note that what we see here appears to be a visualization of sleep paralysis. If I were to visualize my own sleep paralysis experiences in comic form, the depiction would be a lot like Guts’ dream here.
Before this, the Beast was sidetracking his thoughts in Godo’s cave in volume 17, kind of like a shadow behind him, instead of actually being him. For me this implies the beast is indeed there, but is part of his subconsciousness, otherwise he wouldn’t have been shocked at his own train of thought.
If we look at the visuals, note how the color of the speech bubbles are pitch black, as if these lines are spoken by “something else”. Also note the placement of the black speech bubbles. In the next panel, in place of these dark speech bubbles, we see the Beast of Darkness itself. It’s almost like these dark thoughts are taking shape. They only vanish once Guts turns around. What is left is just a shadow. The shadow of his own Idea of the Beast!
Note that even as manifestation, the Beast is still a product of his own mind.
Only later on, in chapter 187 as mentioned above, the Beast of Darkness started to become part of his consciousness, starting to intrude not only his thoughts and dreams, but also his actions. The pressure paired up with his terrible state of mind and the trauma he never truly processed eventually lead to the horrible sexual assault of Casca in chapter 189.
This makes me believe that the Brand must have something to do with the Beast of Darkness. Branded people exist on the Interstice, and on the Interstice it is easier for mind to affect matter, presumably through manifestation of thoughts. Perhaps the fact he is branded, or the fact two branded people travel together later on in the story made Guts manifest his dark emotions into the World of Idea, which then took the shape of the Beast of Darkness.
Apart from the Interstice, the occurrence of the White Hawk (that means, physical and astral worlds merging) likely also plays a role. Essentially, having the worlds overlap creates a permanent, global distortion instead of a temporary, locally restricted one, which exists when someone is branded. The fact distortions may occur is insinuated by Schierke in volume 24 and also by Slan in volume 26. To me it seems the Beast of Darkness may be one of the many results of this distortion.
Normal humans shouldn’t be able to enter here. Is there some secret about those two after all? Or is this too an effect of the appearance of the Hawk?
You do realize, don’t you? This is what the emergence of the Fifth means. The worlds are already starting to overlap.
This manifestation would be even be strengthened by Slan inflicting astral wounds onto him in Volume 26 and the acquisition of Berserker Armor. This also would explain why he is the only one who has one, but it’d also mean that Casca might be exposed to a similar constellation: her heart in thorns we see in the Corridor of Dreams might just be the beginning.
If we look at apostles, they are also a reflection of their own desires. Wyald‘s form is that of an gorilla, which also happens to be a representation that he is indulging himself in his primal desires. Zodd is a personification of his bloodlust, fighting the strongest enemies. Apostles sacrificing something or someone dear to them to obtain power to pursue their desires does appear to be the process of manifestation as well.
It looks like instead having one big “Idea of Evil” (per species?), there are many (competing?) “bubbles” in the World of Idea which belong to an individual and possibly even have karmic alignment.
Speaking of bubbles, the symbolism itself already exists in Berserk, representing memories (perhaps also ideas!?).
Positive memories bring Guts and Schierke back to their consciousness, e.g. while they were caught in the armor [example] or astral world respectively [example] [example], saving them in the process. They will surely play a big role for Casca, too.
I cannot wait for Miura to reveal more about this topic because there is so much story-writing potential in it.
- About Platonism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
- About Abstract Objects (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments section below!
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