It may not be obvious at first, but thoughts affect the physical realm greatly. So what exactly is the manifestation of thought, what does it do and where in Berserk do we see it happen?
Thoughts & Feelings on Death
In Berserk, the thought people die with is important. They may die with regret, hate or malice, which causes them to turn into evil wraiths, roaming the interstice for a while before they eventually vanish. Their thoughts and feelings they die with also determine their shapes: the best example of this is probably the cartwheel spirits during the Conviction Arc. These guys died brutally in the hands of Mozgus’ henchmen and eventually encountered Guts, being a torch for spirits that he is (see volumes 17/18). We also see examples of this as early as the Black Swordsman Arc, when Guts is visiting the place where Vargas is being buried. The visuals here are eerily similar to the cartwheel wraiths in Conviction: malformed spirits, writhing in pain and agony.
However, the moment someone dies a noble cause, such as protecting their loved ones and in hopes for a bright future, the appearance and nature of the resulting wraith released from the body changes. We see this once when Griffith summons the souls of his fallen soldiers when rescuing Mule in volume 23; another time when Rickert seeks out Griffith in volume 38. These spirits here are “pure” and retain their original form, rather than be the malformed abominations that haunt Guts at night (note that apostles also look horribly malformed).
The fact that deceased souls can have a malicious or peaceful nature or karma hints to something else. Flora in chapter 201 indicates that places inside the astral realm such as heaven and hell might exist, places “people reach according to their karma”. Locus also briefly mentions this possibility in chapter 335.Schierke does state in chapter 215 that spirits (possibly thoughts and souls as well) with the same or similar Od gravitate to the likes of them. Ergo, dying in pain and agony will make you go to what you could call “hell”, whereas dying to protect someone ensures you a space in what you could call “heaven”. This appears to be different from a Christian point of view, where your deeds and sins determine whether someone lands in heaven, hell or the purgatory (there may be differences between catholic and protestant beliefs, but that’s a topic in itself).
This is a fascinating observation if we consider that Guts himself is torn between revenge and protecting his loved ones. Is it possible that sacrificing yourself for the sake of someone else could even nullify the effect of the brand? The brand banishes its wearer to The Abyss, after all. But if that is possible, it also means the thought someone has while dying is extremely powerful, so powerful it even transcends the immense strength of the brand. How likely it is is difficult to assess and depends on how much power Miura wishes to grant to thought and mind. In either case, it is not something that is doable without a proper buildup.
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Creatures of Nightmares and Fantasy
According to Schierke in chapter 201, creatures of nightmares and fantasy are originally inhabitants of human dreams and subconsciousness. She specifically mentions trolls, ogres and even elves. Overtime, these have manifested into the astral world and concentrate into certain astral regions, such as Qliphoth. Misty Valley (where Elves used to live before Rosine took over), Godo’s cave and Elfhelm might be such areas as well. Because of the arrival of Neo-Griffith, these astral regions started to overlap and interact with the physical realm. Important is also the fact that according to Dannan in chapter 347, dreams are part of the astral realm, but the rules for each dream is individual to the dreamer.
With this knowledge there are some interesting things that we can observe further:
What about the Lady of the Depths or Daiba’s Kundalini? It is not perfectly clear whether the Lady of the Depths is a mere accumulation of Undines (water elementals), or an independent spirit. For the Kundalini however, Schierke does mention that it could qualify as a god in a polytheistic sense during volume 31. To me, they both seem to be natural spirits, rather than spirits spawned from human consciousness.
Another example is the story of Chitch. She is an flower spirit that appeared before Guts in his cell. Because she was lonely, Guts told her to take her with her to the other flowers outside. Overzealous, she started to pluck her leaves, healing Guts’ wounds. The next morning, she disappears completely as a result of her losing all of her leaves. Guts asks himself whether it was a dream, or that his worthless warm-heartedness manifested and appeared in front of him. Did Chitch exist? Was he hallucinating? But if he was hallucinating, how did his wounds heal? Did he heal through the power of his own thoughts…?
Schierke might give us an answer to these questions:
It is not an attempt to believe in something one cannot see.
So long as there is no margin of doubt, one can see, feel, fully perceive it.
That means while Chitch somewhere down the line may have been indeed a product of imagination, she still was real: She came into being through the collective fantasy of humanity, first only existing on the astral plane, then interacted with Guts after she manifested (possibly through a temporary overlap of the realms, which might be the only reason why she disappeared). Her interaction with Guts has a physical effect, healing him from his wounds.
At the same time, beings of mixed nature exists: Isma is a sprite according to herself in chapter 352, a mix of human and mermaid. Her father was a sailor who told her stories about her mother which she didn’t even believe herself. Mermaids originally were a creature of fantasy in the folklore of sailors. That means that even though they are originally a product of human imagination, they are still complete and independent beings themselves. This naturally also applies to Chitch.
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Consider for a moment that the Moonlight Boy might be such a mixed being as well: Originally he was Guts and Casca’s child, which as a fetus was corrupted during the Eclipse. Because he became a hybrid being, a sprite, he could only assume a physical form during full moons. As the story progressed his body was rejuvenated during the Birth Ceremony while the rules for his cyclic appearance stayed the same.
Is the Beast of Darkness Guts’ desires manifested as a dream? It’s fascinating that the Beast of Darkness actually does appear in his dreams not once, but twice, during the Winter Journey chapters and during the sea voyage to Elfhelm. Both instances happen after the Birth Ceremony, the moment the world has started to change. Before this, in volume 16, it only appeared in shape of specters, which weren’t actually part of him. Only in volume 17, it started to slowly penetrate his mind while he was contemplating Godo’s words when he returned from his 2-year rampage. Consequently, the Beast of Darkness first manifested into astral world as a twisted dream and fantasy, which is a result of Guts’ horrible actions, and then manifested back into its original host due to astral and physical worlds merging. As the Beast manifested as a dream, it started to affect Guts’ consciousness and actions, leading to his atrocious assault of Casca in the chapter Fangs of Ego. In a previous article about the Beast (which was written quite a while ago) I have correctly detected this pattern. It is also mentioned in this post exploring why the Lost Chapter was removed.
Astral World vs World of Idea
In chapter 201, Schierke mentions there is a distinction even inside of the astral realm. For one, there is the astral world; this is probably where thoughts and astral creatures accumulate and haunted spirits roam. The other is the world of idea. If I am understanding the translation correctly, it seems to be the soul of the entire existence as well. What does actually that mean and where is the difference?
Schierke mentions that there is a trinity. The physical realm overlaps with the astral world, that means the world of spirits, but it also overlaps with the world of idea. Considering elves or trolls are both spirits and a product of human fantasy and dreams, we can assume that the world of spirit is probably also where thoughts and dreams can manifest. But it appears to be a different layer, separated from the world of idea. Only if the concentration of thoughts inside the world of spirit is intense enough, something may reflect into world of idea as well; this is probably what happened during the Birth Ceremony.
It seems that’s what Schierke appears to be stating here:
One is known commonly as the world of spirits, the astral world.
The other is the soul of the origin of all existence, the world of idea.
If an ethereal body is sensed strong enough your physical body will see it and touch it as if i were a real thing. Elves and trolls are the inhabitants of that same astral world.
Perhaps, when astral beings such as trolls or elves are created from human fantasy and become independent beings, they leave the astral world (the realm of dreams) and are being shifted into the world of idea.
Those Who Exist as Idea
The Godhand is possibly the most obvious example for entities existing in the world of idea. They are basically manifestations of desire, and each member of the Godhand very likely stands for such a specific desire: we know that Femto came to be because Griffith desired his castle and pursued that goal under all costs, Slan’s desire is sexual impurity and Conrad’s is likely of disease and illness. Fascinatingly, this is familiar to how trolls, ogres and elves came into being, too. The difference however is, the latter are actually direct spawns of human consciousness that apparently (?) obtained a conscious form over time, while the Godhand is more to be seen as an evolution of human spirit, that had a conscious form from begin with.
But what about the Four Lords, the Archangels in the Holy See’s scriptures? Schierke refers to them as great beings with vast power deep inside the ethereal world. During the Enoch village incident, chapter 210, she describes the way the Four Lords can be called and interacted with: “As for those who exist as ideas, our mind is all with which we can perceive them”. It’s most intriguing that Skull Knight in chapter 142 makes a related quote regarding the Godhand: “The power of God descends to earth — the concentration of this idea is called the ‘festival'”. He specifically refers to Femto descending to earth and taking shape as a physical body. This is important for multiple reasons. Femto does appear in Zodd’s daydream, and physically manages to remove his horn. He also appeared as a prophetic dream towards all of humanity, the dream of the shining hawk. Before the Birth Ceremony he was an astral being, that can only reach anyone through dreams and thoughts. It is very likely that both the Godhand and the Four Lords are considered to be “those who exist as idea”.
However at the same time, Ubik during the Eclipse states the Godhand are not actual gods themselves, whereas Schierke does use the term God while referring to the Four Lords. That means there are likely different power scales at work here. It seems like the Four Lords are more like powerful natural spirits, while the Godhand appears more a product of a human consciousness, or maybe even a product of illicit sorcery.
Perhaps the Godhand challenges the rule of existing Gods and that very well may be Femto’s true goal: the soaring hawk that seeks greater and greater heights. If Neo-Griffith is waging war with various astral creatures (that are partially a product of human imagination), he likely is also changing human consciousness doing so.
Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments section below!
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