Life is one of nine Spheres of magic in Mage: The Ascension. The Verbena have occupied the Seat of Life in the Council of Nine Mystic Traditions since its founding. The Shard Realm of Life maps physically to Venus.
Life governs those Patterns that grow, evolve and eventually change. Life patterns differ from the other two static Spheres in that they are not self-contained vassals of Quintessence, but draw on the Tellurian for sustenance and later return these energies. This process only ends when Life transforms into Matter, during the moment of death. As a whole, this Sphere embraces everything that has living cells within itself, even if that object is technically dead. Preserved blood and organs, still-living plants, live-culture cheese, and so forth contain Life, but corpses, cotton fibers, withered organs, or cut wood become Matter.
Mages who have mastered Life can use it in combination with the other Pattern Spheres to change lifeforms into elements, turned to stone or metal, or else created from such substances. Conversly, without auxiliary Spheres, Life allows a mage to change shapes, restore youth and health, heal injury, but also to strike down foes, rend apart the living, and spread disease in his wake.
To utilize the Archspheres of Life, the mage has to understand that all Life patterns are in effect part of one great uber-pattern. To achieve this, the mage has to experience the flow of Quintessence through various Life patterns, experience the chain between predators and prey and see how Life patterns transform in the cosmic stream of Quintessence. The quickest way to achieve this is to transform oneself into a virus-like form to infect as many patterns as possible.
Mages with experience in Life radiate healthiness. Their bodies are without blemish and often of vibrant beauty or surreal horror, reflecting the aesthetics of the mage herself. Masters extend these effect to their surroundings: Flowers bloom, illnesses recede and grass seems to become potent.
Energies associated with Life tend to be green or red in color.
A mage can only alter a Pattern into another Pattern that she knows. If, for example, a mage has never heard of trees (because they were born into an isolated Inuit tribe or a sandy desert without tall vegetation), they cannot change another pattern into a tree without first learning and observing that specific pattern. Mastery sidesteps this.
When a mage alters or heals a Pattern, they do so to the limit of her capabilities. If a mage pulls off a Life Effect, they can't recast the same Effect for more successes until the Pattern has undergone some natural change. Thus, the mage can transform themselves and then change differently or change back, but if they heals an injury or causes a wound in a given scene, they can't use that power on the same subject again.
When a mage alters a Pattern too far from its original form, the creature will suffer Pattern leakage. Quintessence leaves through the altered shape, as the Pattern fights against the unnatural changes, causing the target to suffer bashing damage. The only ways to stop this is providing the target with Quintessence or making the changes permanent.
Below is a short representation how the Sphere of Life is interpretated by the various magickal factions within the World of Darkness.
- Akashic Brotherhood: The Akashics call Life "Neigong" (Internal Achievement). Their main focus is on honing their physical skill and perfecting their body, seeing it as a microcosm of the Ten Thousand Things, with chi flowing through meridians similar to Dragon tracks driven by both yin and yang, as well as the Five Ministers. By manipulating the body through pressure points and vibrations, the Akashic keeps his internal microcosm balanced.
- Celestial Chorus: The Celestial Chorus argues about the meaning of Life (and of its sister-Sphere, Matter) in their doctrine. Some believe that the One loves and cares for physical existence, while others maintain that corporeal reality is an illusion to be overcome. The ones who choose to focus on Life tend to view Life Patterns as temples dedicated to the One and their practice of Life as means to strengthen, repair or improving them.
- Cult of Ecstasy: The Cult of Ecstasy view Life as Lakashim, the "holy", and associate it with "Lust" among the Nine Sacred Passions. In their eyes, Life is the culmination of body, mind and soul; the very necessity for transcendence. As a highly dynamic and evershifting force, Life is about strength and endurance to achieve Ecstasy and breaking the soul from bondage. The way Ecstatics go about to achieve this varies: Some use tantric methods, other pain, some break taboos that break rational understanding and others use conventional means, like herbs, martial arts and similar methods.
- Dreamspeakers: The Dreamspeakers do not see Life as a singular, monolithic Sphere. Instead, each lifeform is different, represented by different spirits. Each of these spirits has to be adressed appropiatly and independently, according to its nature, not to an abstract principle. Dreamspeakers compare this to greeting a person according to their native customs and culture.
- Euthanatoi: The Euthanatoi interpret Life as Prana, the life-breath that travels along the Wheel of Ages, everchanging through death and rebirth. Whenever prana coalesces into a Pattern, the moment of its release is also destined, giving its temporal existence meaning and purpose. Euthanatoi learn to manipulate prana by focusing on their own life energy that is centered around their chakras and how they connect back to the Wheel.
- Order of Hermes: The Order of Hermes accepts Life as the Ars Animae (sometimes also called Ars Vitae). Hermetics see the Ars Animae as a feminine counterpart to the masculine command over Forces within their Order, and as a discipline of balance. Life is what sets apart this world from the ephemeral realm of spirit, allowing for the intersection of mind and soul in a sheath of flesh. By honing it, the Hermetic perfects its link to the higher reality he strives for (as per the old proverb As Above, so Below).
- Sons of Ether: To the Sons of Ether, the study of Life is called Etheric Biology. Many are adherents of the Morphogenetic Field Theory, which states that all life emits an energy form that describes its biological, mental and evolutionary state and potential. Working to harness and conduct these fields, most Etherites search for the hidden forces that govern health and the development of lifeforms.
- Verbena: The Verbena rever Life during Ostara, the vernal equinox. During the equinox, day and night are at balance, followed by longer days and warmer temperatures. The Verbena take this as a sign of Life's endurance and victory over death and darkness. To them, however, all life is part of one, holistic existence. Just as all parts of the body can only be really understood when they work in concert, so can the different parts of an environment only be understood when they are in balance with each other. Liquids, especially blood or pure water, are seen as metaphors for Life, which consumes itself to allow other lifeforms to grow.
- Virtual Adepts: Most Virtual Adepts are happy to leave the study of "meatspace" to other Traditions. Those who have taken an interest in Life use it mainly in conjunction with Prime, accessing the spark of Prime within the Pattern to alter the lifeform. These Virtual Adepts are known to "hack" lifeforms and rewrite parts of their Pattern like data.
- Ahl-i-Batin: The Ahl-i-Batin see Life connected to Tifereth. Utilizing it by training their bodies to avoid become sedate, most of the higher levels are taken up as poisonous droughts that the body has to built an immunity against so that both can coexist. This is seen as a metaphor for Unity itself.
- Hem-ka Sobk: The Hem-Ka Sobk mainly focus on Life during their training, expanding the limits of ther body. Although they rarely understand it as separate from the effects of simple training, some of the more arcane effects mimic the ability to camouflage oneself similar to a crocodile submerged in water.
- Kopa Loei: The Kopa Loei call Life Aka'aina, the Mirror of the Land. Seeing other lifeforms as reflections of the Great Life that is the world, the Kopa Loei usually work to harmonize these disparate elements. They are reluctant to force change into a Pattern, believing that doing so threatens to break the great kahu and will invite ruin against their people.
- Sisters of Hippolyta: The Sisters see Life intimately bound to femininity. No man can know the bond between mother and child, and as a result, the secrets of life will always elude him. This connection to Life is seen as intuitive, not metaphysical, and is worked in concert with other Sisters to achieve acts of healing, birthing and renewing Life.
- Taftâni: The Taftâni call Life Gumezishen - the Mixture of Asha and Druj that allows Life. Life Patterns that lean towards Truth are healthier, while those tainted by Druj are frail and weak. In genereal, Taftâni have little use for the Life Sphere. They usually learn it up to the second level, where they become able to heal themselves.
- Wu Lung: The Wu Lung speak of Life as Sheng Ming. Traditionally, study of Sheng Ming is restricted to the all-female Phoenix School, whose head, the Phoenix Empress, is the only master of it (and rumored to have developed a spell that allows her essence to join with her successor). Believing it a subtler alternative to the flashy spells their male counterparts favour, the Phoenix School uses Sheng Ming to reward just behaviour under Heaven among mortals.
Within the Technocracy, the Progenitor Convention are the undisputed masters of the study of Life sciences, Enlightened Biology and Inspired Medicine. Though Life is one of the more uncertain sciences, its results are clear and godlike. There's no mystery in Life that the living mind cannot uncover and open up to the Masses.
The Union has seen the value of the Life Sphere in multiple forms. Cloning, viral re-engineering, surgical alteration, understanding the building blocks of DNA, cellular anatomy, mitochondrial evolution and biochemistry leads to the ability to take apart (and put together) the most base forms of the body. During the Promethean Plague of the Victorian Era, many Progenitors abused their powers to create monsters, something the Convention regards as an old shame.
Standard Powers Edit
- Sense Life: The mage can sense the potency of a Life Pattern, measuring its relative health and well-being, as well as basic informations (age, sex etc.)
- Alter Simple Patterns: The mage can influence simple life forms, like fungi, invertebrae or plants.
- Heal Self: The mage can fix smaller damages to her Pattern.
- Alter Self: The mage can alter their Pattern in small ways. They may change the color of their hair, enhance their eyesight, grow claw-like fingernails or suspend their need to breath oxygen for several hours.
- Transform Simple Patterns: The mage can transform simple life forms into others, transforming i.e. a snail into a turnip.
- Heal Others: The mage can fix smaller damages in other Life Patterns.
- Alter Complex Patterns: The mage can alter complex Life Patterns of vertebrates, possibly inflicting serious damages or enhancing their natural capabilities.
- Transform Self: The mage can transform their own pattern, allowing them to assume the shape of an animal of similar size or mass or transform their physical features to resemble another human.
- Transform Complex Patterns: The mage can transform complex life forms into a simpler form, transforming i.e. an attacking human into a frog.
- Perfect Metamorphosis: The mage can alter their own Pattern according to their wishes. They may assume any form they wish, free themselves from corporeal needs like hunger and become immune to all known diseases.
- Perfect Transformation of Others: The mage can transform lifeforms into other lifeforms without altering their intelligence.
- New Life: The mage can create a Life Pattern that is not related on any previous Life pattern they have observed and which could have traits not found normally in nature, i.e. feeding on noble gases. The created creature lacks a soul, however (this demands auxiliary Spheres).
- Scale of Life: The mage can use the flow of Quintessence to affect all Patterns of certain qualities in an area.
- Infection: The mage can create Life Effects that travel from Pattern to Pattern.
- Create Shifter: The mage can merge several Life patterns to grant it the ability to alter its own Pattern independently.
- Virus: The mage can build Life Patterns that only develop Quintessential flow in contact with other active Life Patterns. These Patterns are otherwise inert, indistinguishable from Matter Patterns.
- Perfect Immortality: The mage may control their own mortality as she wishes. Their Pattern ceases to age, wounds regenerate in the moment they are inflicted and no magic short of the power of another Archmage can hurt them.
^ Level 1
|Sense Life||Pg. 168|
|Sense Life||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 516|
^ Level 2
|Alter Simple Patterns||Pg. 168|
|Alter Simple Life-Forms||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 516|
|Heal Self||Pg. 168|
|Heal Self||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 516|
^ Level 3
|Alter Self||Pg. 169|
|Alter Self||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 516-17|
|Transform Simple Patterns||Pg. 169|
|Transform Simple Life-forms||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 516-517|
|Heal Others||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 516-517|
^ Level 4
|Alter Complex Patterns||Pg. 169|
|Alter Complex Life-Forms||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 517|
|Transform Self||Pg. 169|
|Transform Self||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 517|
^ Level 5
|Transform Complex Patterns||Pg. 169|
|Transform Complex Life-Forms||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 517|
|Perfect Metamorphosis||Pg. 169|
|Perfect Metamorphosis||Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition||Pg. 517|
^ Level 6
|Perfect Transformation of Others||Masters of the Art||Pg. 70|
|New Life||Masters of the Art||Pg. 70|
^ Level 7
|Scale of Life||Masters of the Art||Pg. 70|
|Infection||Masters of the Art||Pg. 70|
^ Level 8
|Create Shifter||Masters of the Art||Pg. 70|
|Virus||Masters of the Art||Pg. 70|
^ Level 9
|Perfect Immortality||Masters of the Art||Pg. 71|
- ↑ Masters of the Art Pg. 75
- ↑ Masters of the Art Pg. 70
- ↑ , p.43
- ↑ , p.55
- ↑ , p.54-55
- ↑ , p.63
- ↑ , p.54
- ↑ , p.54
- ↑ , p.59
- ↑ , p.63
- ↑ , p.59
- ↑ , p.54-55
- ↑ , p.60-61
- ↑ , p.33-34
- ↑ , p.54, 57
- ↑ , p.70
- ↑ , p.84
- ↑ , p.76, 82
- ↑ , p.130
- ↑ , p.50
- ↑ , p.50