Alignment, Spiritual Code, and Behavioral Algorithms
I recently had an idea about representing alignment in a campaign. It’s not about making it more prevalent, so much as explaining why it “was” important, and still is in some corners of the multiverse, but why it “isn’t” as important for mortals.
Spiritual Energy and Algorithms
Various primordial entities coded the spiritual energy in the cosmos with algorithms. In some cases, this was meant to emulate “chaos,” and in some cases, this was done to create predictable patterns in spiritual energy.
Complex algorithms don’t correspond to the ability to process extreme amounts of data, or to perceive reality on multiple levels. In fact, in some cases having less complex algorithms made it easier to create spiritual vessels that could perceive multiple planes of existence and act on data that required input from multiple cosmic axes.
What this means is that some “higher” spiritual beings, like celestials and fiends, actually have simpler “spiritual” algorithms. Mortals, with multiple random pursuits that can pull them in multiple directions, and that can add context to functions not strictly needed for functionality.
The Alignment Algorithm
Alignment is one of the earliest algorithms introduced into spiritual entities that address and increasing complexity in the multiverse. Instead of a simple set of functions to create predictable behavior in spiritual energy, the alignment algorithms introduced various cognitive gates that would interact with the environment and the behaviors of other beings.
While more complex than the earliest spiritual algorithms, alignment becomes detached from functioning code once spiritual complexity reaches a certain critical mass of behavioral self-replication. Alignment effectively gets buried by more complex algorithms that serve the same function, but are more complex and specific to various stimuli.
Persistent Spiritual Energy versus Persistent Spiritual Patterns
Less complex spiritual algorithms such as celestials and fiends often appear to “come back” when their physical forms are destroyed outside of their home plane. Effectively, part of their spiritual matrix is tied to their home plane. While they appear to come back, the spiritual algorithm that is denoted by a particular name and station is simply stored in the “buffer” of the plane attached to the creature’s matrix, and the creature is rebuilt.
Because the creature can touch multiple planes, most of their memories are “backed up” when their new form is created. In purely technical terms, the plane uses spiritual energy that is “earmarked” to recreate the creature from the last “backup.”
If a creature is destroyed while cut off from the planes, it may be recreated by the plane when there is available spiritual energy, but once two creatures with identical energy patterns are both present on the same plane, one version is “updated,” and the other deleted.
Spiritual algorithms that are more complicated, such as those that comprise “mortal souls,” carry a stronger imprint of the algorithm when separated from their corporeal form. Even when memories are removed from the spiritual algorithm’s matrix, certain intrinsic patterns are often added to the distinct bundle of spiritual energy.
The breaking of the specific, complex spiritual energy algorithm of these patterns releases more energy than the breaking of the patterns of less complicated algorithms, since those are literally just a template stored in the substructure of the planes themselves, applied to free spiritual energy. Because of this, breaking down these discrete spiritual bundles of energy and the release of that energy is something that many creatures utilize to a quick pulse of energy to accomplish otherwise difficult actions.
This is what is being accomplished when fiends “destroy souls.” It is the spiritual equivalent of splitting an atom, and like more terrestrial energy sources, the spiritual energy cannot be created or destroyed, but the change in form can produce very useful and powerful immediate spikes in energy that can be harnessed for a variety of purposes.
Alignment as Self-Fulfilling Prophesy
Almost all creatures designated as “mortal” have a complicated spiritual algorithm that makes any alignment coding obsolete. Unfortunately, because of the nuances of the makeup of this spiritual matrix, the “truth” that the alignment sub-routine exists, even if it is outdated and not connected to functioning patterns of behavior, can influence a creature that is aware that the code exists.
It is literally not possible for a creature with a complex algorithm to revert to such simplistic patterns as to follow any basic alignment patterns in their nature without an explosive realignment of spiritual energy great enough to destroy their spiritual form. Despite this, knowing that the sub-routines exist, buried beneath more complex and relevant patterns that have been developed, creatures often obsess over the potential they have for acting against their own conscious will. This drive may be so obsessive as to convince a creature that if they possess a specific alignment algorithm chain, it is futile to act against what they think that chain would indicate for their behavior.
Because of this, it can be dangerous to reveal any hidden alignment algorithms to sapient beings, for fear of causing a conflict between actual, functioning patterns, and higher functioning patterns that seek to make sense of wider philosophical implications, causing the higher functioning patterns to default to the easier resolution of following assumed alignment pathways.
Some gods and other primordial beings, knowing that it may make mortals with complex, self-determining algorithms easier to direct, allow mortals to perceive the alignment coding of various beings. This can be dangerous, because while that algorithm may still function for some beings like fiends or celestials, knowing that it exists in more complex spiritual entities also causes many mortals to make assumptions of patterns that are not in evidence among other beings that have the same complex patterns that they themselves have.
Some gods do this in a misguided attempt to make life easier for their followers, and others do this because it makes complex individuals more pliable, but the end result is almost always a world-view that is too simplistic to function properly in the long term.