The Astral Reaches (also referred to as the High Umbra, Astral Umbra or Astral Space by several mages and Ensemble Space in Tychoidian Cosmology) are the spiritual realms of abstract thought and concepts, without direct analogies in the world of flesh.
The Astral Reaches are easiest accessed via the Mind Sphere used by mages. Other variants, like stepping sideways in the way of shapeshifters, can lead to difficulty as the pattern of the body often has difficulty to adapt to the more complex realms (indeed, many minds are not capable of it without help). Astral time does not flow in the way it does in the world of matter, as it depends on the visitor how long he stays. If he is focused on a goal, he will find that time in the real world passes slower, and if he is yet searching for something, days can quickly become weeks in the real world.
Behind the Astral Penumbra lies the Vulgate, the Realm of base thought, which features much of the concepts present in the material world. The geography of the Vulgate organizes itself in domains of cultural influence arranged in historic progression - the cities of the United States would be depicted as one super-megatropolis with every significant landmark arranged.
- The River of Languages (which springs from the Epiphanies and flows down to the Vulgate)
- The Bibliotheca Iskandria
- The Grand Hall
- The Inventium
As the concepts in the Vulgate become more rarified and accumulate similarities, they tend to cluster together to form Spires. They can be "climbed in order to reach higher realms of the Reaches. This is not a physical act in the strictest sense, since it is only the consciousness of the visitor that ascends. Persons who don't achieve this state of mind were observed to climb the Spires forever, without reaching their end and eventually dying of mental exhaustion.
The Avatar Storm has become an additional hazard, as many mages who had managed to avoid the screaming soul-shards before are easy prey for them when they try to climb the Spires.
Along the Spires, intersections and openings can be found that lead to the Courts, Realms of particular spirits that have assembled under especially powerful exemplars to form pantheons of their kind.
Known Courts are:
- The Fortress of Government (although it stretches up to the Epiphanies)
- The Elemental Courts
- The Court of Muses
- The Afterworlds
Epiphanies are observed as gigantic clouds of thought from the Vulgate. If someone reaches the end of a Spire, they gain access to the loftiest, most nebulous aspects of it that are assembled in the Epiphanies. It encompasses concepts like the number Pi, True Love and similar abstractions.
Known Realms include:
No being below the power and insight of an oracle has witnessed or accessed a realm of the Astral Reaches beyond the Epiphanies
The Astral Reaches, like every spiritual realm, are composed of ephemera. Astral ephemera, however, reacts to the meaning and significance attached to it and an umbral traveler has to decipher the symbology behind the objects it forms in order to properly utilize it.
This indicators can be multiple. Shape and color are the most common, but several other associations have been reported.
The easiest way to navigate the Reaches is by thinking. However, this can quickly prove difficult for beings that are accustomed to muscles and nerves. Visitors have to imagine every step in all its repercussions, which makes usual locomotion impractical. A solution to this problem is to follow a spirit guide, who forms the ephemera to make it accessible to his follower.
Experienced umbral travelers, however, find that once they have mastered the basics of movement in the Reaches, they are even capable of flight, although they must be careful not to bypass the wrong High Umbrood, who react to such offenses by hurling the unfortunate mage down to the Vulgate, something dubbed the "Icarian Fall" by the Traditions.
Astral Space is inhabited by the spirits of immaterial concepts or abstractions and symbolizations of material objects. A cat-spirit in the Astral Reaches would not be the same like a cat-spirit encountered in the Middle Umbra, but instead an idealized form of what a cat should be according to the stereotypes made of cats. Other inhabitants are the Djinn or demonic entities of difficult classification.
Mages have spent entire compilations of categorizing these spirits, ranging from the lunar phases to psychological personality types over the zodiac to complex astrological sigils. So far, most of these have worked, so some mages have speculated that all these references that are, in whatever obscure way, associated to a spirit can be used as means to bind it.
Across the Astral Reaches, bridges and portals spawn that lead to realms in the spirit worlds associated with them. While few supernaturals except for mages have direct access to it, exceptions do exist. The Mokolé, through their tie to the concept of Memory, usually reach this Umbra and some believe that the Astral Plane accessed by higher ranks in the vampiric Discipline of Auspex is actually the lowest level of the Vulgate.
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- , p.36-105