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The one thing I disliked about Shadow Play was who it reduced the Tree of Harmony and thus the Elements of Harmony to artifacts created by mortal sorcerers. This removed their mystique, and essentially reduced them to mere tools rather than manifest symbols,  thus reducing the struggle between good and evil to a numbers game rather than a battle of ideals. The reduction of the Tree of Harmony to a construct also introduces a related aspect of atheistic nihilism, which I’ll explain. If you don’t care for the long explanation that will follow, the main discussion point is just what are your opinions on the fact the Tree of Harmony’s origin was established as being just a creation by the Pillars of Equestria.

At the beginning of the series, the alicorns gave the impression of being pagan gods. Their nature is elemental and they have very human personalities, if a bit detached from mortal affairs. Most of all though, the show installed a sense that supernatural harmony was a force governing all things, and ponies both mortal and divine played a key rule in maintaining this force. The Elements of Harmony were arcane artifacts which physically embodied the metaphysical forces that this Harmony is composed of, both as an abstract virtue and as very real power in the world. Every thing was filled with meaning as a result of this Harmony. 

Overtime though, more naturalism (meaning systems that function mechanically without willful intervention) was introduced, and the alicorns over time were portrayed less like gods and more like just super-powered flying unicorns. The only forces which appeared to continue to exist above nature (note that unicorn magic in Equestria is portrayed as being natural rather than supernatural) were the Elements of Harmony and Discord, with Harmony ultimately being the greater power. Together they formed a nice dichotomy, and the introduction of the Tree of Harmony both explained the origin of artifacts of the Elements of Harmony and provided an embodied counterpart to Discord. The show had moved away from the initial pagan model to ditheistic one, allowing it to maintain the supernatural symbolism even with increased naturalism.

Later on though, Discord had to keep getting nerfed for plots sake, and like Celestia he lost the godlike status he initially held. This was a minor loss though, as the central force in Equestria has always been Harmony, not chaos, with the Tree of Harmony keeping it firmly rooted. Prior to Shadow Play, Equestria was essentially monotheistic, with the Tree of Harmony being the ultimate source off all order. Then Shadow Play completely upturned that by reducing the tree to a construct made by mere mortals.

Removing the divinity of the Tree of Harmony killed not only the last god, but also nullified the symbolism that it represented. The greater loss was not the significance of the tree, but of the Elements of Harmony. Laughter, Kindness, Honesty, Generosity, Loyalty, and Magic are no longer eternal virtues, but arbitrary ones selected by the legends based on what they saw in themselves. The power the create meaning was moved away from the divine to the mortal, turning it from eternal to ephemeral, and thus nullifying the existence of any inherent meaning.

Becuase our culture is seclular and our entertainment is typically nihilistic aside from pragmatic morals, I don’t think most people understand the significance of this change. Most of the time such states of affairs are just status quo.  Sure, the show could always just arbitrary introduce new higher like Dragon Ball Z does, but the point is it’s arbitrary. That hierchary of supernatural beings has no symbolic significance, it just consists of creatures designed for aesthetic reason. The foundations holding every together are gone, reducing grand conflicts to a meaningless arms race. This doesn’t mean the show is now bad by any means (and if pulled off well the change could be retroactively justified in a similar manner to Twilght’s alicornification), but an aspect of it has definitely changed.  I do think that on some level, this change was inevitable, as thematic nihilism is the direction commercially driven shows with multiple writers are destined to go in after enough time. Equestria’s current status is as A World Without Gods, and that means something.

 

Edited by Ganondox
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2 hours ago, Ganondox said:

The one thing I disliked about Shadow Play was who it reduced the Tree of Harmony and thus the Elements of Harmony to artifacts created by mortal sorcerers. This removed their mystique, and essentially reduced them to mere tools rather than manifest symbols,  thus reducing the struggle between good and evil to a numbers game rather than a battle of ideals. The reduction of the Tree of Harmony to a construct also introduces a related aspect of atheistic nihilism, which I’ll explain. If you don’t care for the long explanation that will follow, the main discussion point is just what are your opinions on the fact the Tree of Harmony’s origin was established as being just a creation by the Pillars of Equestria.

At the beginning of the series, the alicorns gave the impression of being pagan gods. Their nature is elemental and they have very human personalities, if a bit detached from mortal affairs. Most of all though, the show installed a sense that supernatural harmony was a force governing all things, and ponies both mortal and divine played a key rule in maintaining this force. The Elements of Harmony were arcane artifacts which physically embodied the metaphysical forces that this Harmony is composed of, both as an abstract virtue and as very real power in the world. Every thing was filled with meaning as a result of this Harmony. 

Overtime though, more naturalism (meaning systems that function mechanically without willful intervention) was introduced, and the alicorns over time were portrayed less like gods and more like just super-powered flying unicorns. The only forces which appeared to continue to exist above nature (note that unicorn magic in Equestria is portrayed as being natural rather than supernatural) were the Elements of Harmony and Discord, with Harmony ultimately being the greater power. Together they formed a nice dichotomy, and the introduction of the Tree of Harmony both explained the origin of artifacts of the Elements of Harmony and provided an embodied counterpart to Discord. The show had moved away from the initial pagan model to ditheistic one, allowing it to maintain the supernatural symbolism even with increased naturalism.

Later on though, Discord had to keep getting nerfed for plots sake, and like Celestia he lost the godlike status he initially held. This was a minor loss though, as the central force in Equestria has always been Harmony, not chaos, with the Tree of Harmony keeping it firmly rooted. Prior to Shadow Play, Equestria was essentially monotheistic, with the Tree of Harmony being the ultimate source off all order. Then Shadow Play completely upturned that by reducing the tree to a construct made by mere mortals.

Removing the divinity of the Tree of Harmony killed not only the last god, but also nullified the symbolism that it represented. The greater loss was not the significance of the tree, but of the Elements of Harmony. Laughter, Kindness, Honesty, Generosity, Loyalty, and Magic are no longer eternal virtues, but arbitrary ones selected by the legends based on what they saw in themselves. The power the create meaning was moved away from the divine to the mortal, turning it from eternal to ephemeral, and thus nullifying the existence of any inherent meaning.

Becuase our culture is seclular and our entertainment is typically nihilistic aside from pragmatic morals, I don’t think most people understand the significance of this change. Most of the time such states of affairs are just status quo.  Sure, the show could always just arbitrary introduce new higher like Dragon Ball Z does, but the point is it’s arbitrary. That hierchary of supernatural beings has no symbolic significance, it just consists of creatures designed for aesthetic reason. The foundations holding every together are gone, reducing grand conflicts to a meaningless arms race. This doesn’t mean the show is now bad by any means (and if pulled off well the change could be retroactively justified in a similar manner to Twilght’s alicornification), but an aspect of it has definitely changed.  I do think that on some level, this change was inevitable, as thematic nihilism is the direction commercially driven shows with multiple writers are destined to go in after enough time. Equestria’s current status is as A World Without Gods, and that means something.

 

i don't understand it

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I totally get where you're coming from but I think this is just something that happens over time in world's where magic exists. One of three things happens. Magic is limited or non-renewable so it will eventually die out. Magic users are seen as a threat to society and are eliminated. Technology advances to a point where it becomes equal to or out performs magic, therefore making it obsolete. I beleive MLP falls into the third category which is also the most diverse one. Most unicorns in the show can perform basic telekinesis and maybe something that pertains to their special talent, but unless they're gifted or take on special training, they don't learn more advanced spells. A part of that has to do with their quality of life. These days people specialize in one or two skill sets. It used to be that you had to know how to grow and prep your food, how to build a home, how to furnish it, make and repair tools. But with the advent of the industrial revolution, we were able to cut down the amount of time and manpower needed to accomplish the same goals. Now if I want a Mug, I don't have to go chop down a tree an carve it, or find the clay and mold it and so on. I just make a quick trip to the store where there are hundreds available in a wide variety. The same applies to ponies on a lesser scale. They don't have to know as many spells to get by.

Celestia and Luna's diminished status from gods I think is intentional on their part. It's not how they wish to be seen. Society has grown too large for them to completely manage on their own, and so they took a step back to allow their subjects to figure some things out themselves, relying on the princesses more or less for permission and guidance on certain matters. By not using their power beyond basic duties and by interacting with the public, they constantly remind everyone that despite controlling celestial bodies and seemingly immune to old age, they are just like us. Lacking the ability to use the elements of harmony themselves and the main six starting out as commoners has also played a large role in how they're currently viewed.

It's fun to explore their god like status. In a role play I had a nation inhabited by batponies whos ancestors were rallied to fight for Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon as inheritors of the eternal night, and they saw her as a physical god, and a proper religion forms after her banishment but a thousand years is enough time to cause doubts in some later generations so there's a split similar to the protestant reformation which causes much stress as Nightmare Moon's release nears since there's this expectation to serve her and there's the question of whether she's fit to rule them after so much has changed, followed by the disappointment from devout followers that she reforms and stays out of their affairs completely. Life is much more complicated when you know the being you worship can physically show up at any time. :orly:

 

1 hour ago, Van123 said:

i don't understand it

 

Edited by SharpWit

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Naturalistic origin or not, the fact remains that it somehow evolved into something godlike in the present.

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5 hours ago, Ganondox said:

If you don’t care for the long explanation that will follow, the main discussion point is just what are your opinions on the fact the Tree of Harmony’s origin was established as being just a creation by the Pillars of Equestria.

Gonna be totally honest, here--I'm not really interested in the long explanation right now.  Apologies.  I usually try to read everything, but this time I'm gonna bail out early and just give my quick opinion after reading the first paragraph.

I think that the ToH origin reveal was one of the best decisions of the entire show, (and not just because they completely confirmed my headcanon).  It's no secret on these forums that I think religion is a dangerous and destructive thing, and I spend quite a bit of time criticizing it.  I think that appealing to superstition and mysticism on the show is a bad influence.  Instead, they took the secular route and created a world that, while magical, has a scientific and rational explanation.  Magic is something that exists in Equestria, but there's nothing divine or spooky about it.  It can be learned, studied, and explained.  If they had had the ToH, and all subsequent things it spawned, be some sort of mysterious, sentient force with no logical explanation behind it, it would have, in my opinion, been a terrible misstep, sent a terrible message, and served to unravel the lore they've established.  Instead, they did the best possible thing--they explained its origin in rational, but no less spectacular, terms.  Having the ToH come from the ancient ponies of the past gave it much more meaning than a divine or mysterious explanation, anyway, because it anchors the elements to characters we can relate to, and yet, it's still a mind-blowing explanation.  It takes none of the mystique nor wonder away, in my opinion.  I think it was one of the best decisions, and best moments, of the entire series.

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12 hours ago, Justin_Case001 said:

Gonna be totally honest, here--I'm not really interested in the long explanation right now.  Apologies.  I usually try to read everything, but this time I'm gonna bail out early and just give my quick opinion after reading the first paragraph.

I think that the ToH origin reveal was one of the best decisions of the entire show, (and not just because they completely confirmed my headcanon).  It's no secret on these forums that I think religion is a dangerous and destructive thing, and I spend quite a bit of time criticizing it.  I think that appealing to superstition and mysticism on the show is a bad influence.  Instead, they took the secular route and created a world that, while magical, has a scientific and rational explanation.  Magic is something that exists in Equestria, but there's nothing divine or spooky about it.  It can be learned, studied, and explained.  If they had had the ToH, and all subsequent things it spawned, be some sort of mysterious, sentient force with no logical explanation behind it, it would have, in my opinion, been a terrible misstep, sent a terrible message, and served to unravel the lore they've established.  Instead, they did the best possible thing--they explained its origin in rational, but no less spectacular, terms.  Having the ToH come from the ancient ponies of the past gave it much more meaning than a divine or mysterious explanation, anyway, because it anchors the elements to characters we can relate to, and yet, it's still a mind-blowing explanation.  It takes none of the mystique nor wonder away, in my opinion.  I think it was one of the best decisions, and best moments, of the entire series.

Well here's a quick one for you:

Blindly following a mysterious deity = bad message 4tehkids!

Blindly following a shiny object created by mortals = best thing ever!

 

Has the thought ever come across your mind that our imagination spawns divine beings more relatable than ponies?

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19 hours ago, Van123 said:

i don't understand it

In the simplest terms, the Tree of Harmony was the last godlike figure in Equestria, and it was the source of the Elements of Harmony. By showing that it was created by ordinary ponies, it both removed all gods from the Equestrian mythos, and showed that the elements weren't something that always existed. I argue that this also takes away the meaning of the elements. 

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18 hours ago, A.V. said:

Naturalistic origin or not, the fact remains that it somehow evolved into something godlike in the present.

While that is a good point to make, it still stands that there is a difference between divinity in terms of power, and then defining divinity with being eternal. Regardless of the end status of the tree, it still goes to show values the tree represents were created rather than just being innate virtues. 

18 hours ago, SharpWit said:

I totally get where you're coming from but I think this is just something that happens over time in world's where magic exists. One of three things happens. Magic is limited or non-renewable so it will eventually die out. Magic users are seen as a threat to society and are eliminated. Technology advances to a point where it becomes equal to or out performs magic, therefore making it obsolete. I beleive MLP falls into the third category which is also the most diverse one. Most unicorns in the show can perform basic telekinesis and maybe something that pertains to their special talent, but unless they're gifted or take on special training, they don't learn more advanced spells. A part of that has to do with their quality of life. These days people specialize in one or two skill sets. It used to be that you had to know how to grow and prep your food, how to build a home, how to furnish it, make and repair tools. But with the advent of the industrial revolution, we were able to cut down the amount of time and manpower needed to accomplish the same goals. Now if I want a Mug, I don't have to go chop down a tree an carve it, or find the clay and mold it and so on. I just make a quick trip to the store where there are hundreds available in a wide variety. The same applies to ponies on a lesser scale. They don't have to know as many spells to get by.

Celestia and Luna's diminished status from gods I think is intentional on their part. It's not how they wish to be seen. Society has grown too large for them to completely manage on their own, and so they took a step back to allow their subjects to figure some things out themselves, relying on the princesses more or less for permission and guidance on certain matters. By not using their power beyond basic duties and by interacting with the public, they constantly remind everyone that despite controlling celestial bodies and seemingly immune to old age, they are just like us. Lacking the ability to use the elements of harmony themselves and the main six starting out as commoners has also played a large role in how they're currently viewed.

It's fun to explore their god like status. In a role play I had a nation inhabited by batponies whos ancestors were rallied to fight for Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon as inheritors of the eternal night, and they saw her as a physical god, and a proper religion forms after her banishment but a thousand years is enough time to cause doubts in some later generations so there's a split similar to the protestant reformation which causes much stress as Nightmare Moon's release nears since there's this expectation to serve her and there's the question of whether she's fit to rule them after so much has changed, followed by the disappointment from devout followers that she reforms and stays out of their affairs completely. Life is much more complicated when you know the being you worship can physically show up at any time. :orly:

 

 

I don't think you quite get where I'm coming from, as you're tackling this from how you believe Equestria as a society evolved, while my argument is based on how the story that is being told has changed. 

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With the show's current timeline, I think that we are currently seeing a greater overall change in the Equestrian society, the princesses (or at least Celestia) have ruled for over a thousand years now from her throne room in Canterlot without seeing any major changes in the way society is or how they rule. To common ponies, the rulers would seem as if they were gods simply because of how rarely they were seen in public and the fact that they raise and lower celestial bodies. 

The show is set in a time when finally after one thousand years of ruling the land, Celestia and Luna have finally decided to slowly make more public appearances, as seen as early on in season one. The show itself since the first episodes in season one has progressed several years in the Equestrian timeline, eventually to the point where we are now, with the rulers seeming more like slightly more educated ponies than those around them, and the discovery of where some sources of magic come from in Equestria. It's kinda like how we used to think the earth was the center of the universe, but we now know that isn't true. The same could be said for Equestria, we used to think the tree of harmony was a sort of divine magical tree that seemingly just came into existence, but we know now that it was in fact planted from a seed, put there by ponies long ago.       

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16 hours ago, Justin_Case001 said:

Gonna be totally honest, here--I'm not really interested in the long explanation right now.  Apologies.  I usually try to read everything, but this time I'm gonna bail out early and just give my quick opinion after reading the first paragraph.

I think that the ToH origin reveal was one of the best decisions of the entire show, (and not just because they completely confirmed my headcanon).  It's no secret on these forums that I think religion is a dangerous and destructive thing, and I spend quite a bit of time criticizing it.  I think that appealing to superstition and mysticism on the show is a bad influence.  Instead, they took the secular route and created a world that, while magical, has a scientific and rational explanation.  Magic is something that exists in Equestria, but there's nothing divine or spooky about it.  It can be learned, studied, and explained.  If they had had the ToH, and all subsequent things it spawned, be some sort of mysterious, sentient force with no logical explanation behind it, it would have, in my opinion, been a terrible misstep, sent a terrible message, and served to unravel the lore they've established.  Instead, they did the best possible thing--they explained its origin in rational, but no less spectacular, terms.  Having the ToH come from the ancient ponies of the past gave it much more meaning than a divine or mysterious explanation, anyway, because it anchors the elements to characters we can relate to, and yet, it's still a mind-blowing explanation.  It takes none of the mystique nor wonder away, in my opinion.  I think it was one of the best decisions, and best moments, of the entire series.

I think you should read the whole explanation, as based on your response I think there would be value in you reading it. 

I figured some people would take this change as you did, and while I understand your reasoning, I whole-heartedly disagree. Even if I were to agree with you that religion is bad, I don't think that means it is bad for a fictional world to have gods, as it's not supposed to be our world, and gods have metaphorical value in fiction. Also, you appear to be severely misusing the term rational, confusing it with explained in a superficial manner. Frankly, the tree just being a god makes way more sense than most the explanations about the way Equestrian magic is supposed to function, they are very inconsistent. A simple sentience force is a much more logical explanation for the things we've seen than some poorly defined if not outright contradictory metaphysical rules. If I were to take your stance, the argument I'd make is that this change is good because it sends the message that the divine is not required for both moral and physical potential. 

3 hours ago, King of Canterlot said:

With the show's current timeline, I think that we are currently seeing a greater overall change in the Equestrian society, the princesses (or at least Celestia) have ruled for over a thousand years now from her throne room in Canterlot without seeing any major changes in the way society is or how they rule. To common ponies, the rulers would seem as if they were gods simply because of how rarely they were seen in public and the fact that they raise and lower celestial bodies. 

The show is set in a time when finally after one thousand years of ruling the land, Celestia and Luna have finally decided to slowly make more public appearances, as seen as early on in season one. The show itself since the first episodes in season one has progressed several years in the Equestrian timeline, eventually to the point where we are now, with the rulers seeming more like slightly more educated ponies than those around them, and the discovery of where some sources of magic come from in Equestria. It's kinda like how we used to think the earth was the center of the universe, but we now know that isn't true. The same could be said for Equestria, we used to think the tree of harmony was a sort of divine magical tree that seemingly just came into existence, but we know now that it was in fact planted from a seed, put there by ponies long ago.       

Yeah, that makes sense. My bigger issue is really not so much with the change in the tree's role, dying headcanons aside, but the reduction of the elements to what they are. It makes me think some villain could have done the same and created their own evil tree from various vices, which defeats the the moral value in the metaphor of the elements. The elements work as a metaphor because they transform the social value of their virtues in a physical force that can overcome evil. 

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Personally I think it's better this way. I always preferred stories where it's a battle between man's morals and his demons, makes it more realistic and connectable.

the idea of some detatched divinity spoon feeding us ideals of right and wrong is rather pale in comparison to the idea of mortals, though small, find what is right and pursuing it on their own accord and ambition. This gives a sense of responsibility for ones own actions and power over one's own life rather than being pawns in a divine game of chess where no matter which of the two wins, we all lose.

 

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16 hours ago, Goat-kun said:

Blindly following a shiny object created by mortals = best thing ever!

I didn't say that was a good thing, either, and I have emphatically stated my objections to the cutie map and how it functions many times on these forums.  (I assume that's the shiny object you're referring to?)  I never liked the map, nor how the ponies seemed forced to drop everything and bow to its will upon summons.  But it is what it is, and I still think the origin story of it was one of the best moves they could have made.

16 hours ago, Goat-kun said:

Has the thought ever come across your mind that our imagination spawns divine beings more relatable than ponies?

I have considered this point of view, and I don't really see the merit to it.  Sure, human imagination has spawned many gods with relatable, flawed, human personalities, such as the gods of Olympus, but I fail to see how that's really relevant, here.  If the ToH had been revealed to be a divine, sentient force, it wouldn't have been relatable at all--just a mystical force, whereas the Pillars and Starswirl are relatable characters.  I think it's much better to have the elements come from them.

10 hours ago, Ganondox said:

I think you should read the whole explanation, as based on your response I think there would be value in you reading it. 

All right, all right.  You twisted my arm.  You win.  I'll read it.

So, your explanation was well thought out and you make some fair points, but it will probably come as no surprise to you that I disagree with it.  It seems unlikely that we'll find much common ground, here, but that's okay.  We can agree to disagree.

Firstly, (and I'm sure you'll vehemently disagree with this) I don't think the Sisters were ever portrayed as gods.  Perhaps a bit godlike in some respects, but I think they were portrayed more as guardians and caretakers.  (This is what they're supposed to be, as confirmed canon.)  I also disagree that harmony was portrayed as supernatural force governing all things.  This is just an opinion and my perspective, but I always just got the impression that this is a world where magic exists naturally, in a form that can be studied and learned.  I never got the impression that harmony or friendship are literal, magical forces at play in the world, as many have argued.  Every time they've ever said the phrase, "the 'magic' of friendship", I always took it metaphorically.  The elements were always mysterious, but I always believed there was a logical explanation for them that didn't involve divinity or supernatural forces.  So, I guess what I'm getting at is that I don't really think that the show has systematically diminished, reduced, or destroyed divine, godlike, or supernatural forces; I never thought those forces existed to begin with.  In my view, all they've done is given an explanation for the ToH and everything it spawned, and diminished nothing in the process.

On 4/5/2018 at 3:35 PM, Ganondox said:

Removing the divinity of the Tree of Harmony killed not only the last god, but also nullified the symbolism that it represented. The greater loss was not the significance of the tree, but of the Elements of Harmony. Laughter, Kindness, Honesty, Generosity, Loyalty, and Magic are no longer eternal virtues, but arbitrary ones selected by the legends based on what they saw in themselves. The power the create meaning was moved away from the divine to the mortal, turning it from eternal to ephemeral, and thus nullifying the existence of any inherent meaning.

This is the part of your viewpoint I find most troubling.  I find it very disheartening that you apparently believe that making the ToH mortal in origin nullified its meaning.  Why would the elements only have meaning if they're divine in origin?  Why would mortality nullify their meaning?  Why does something have to be eternal to have meaning?  I simply cannot stress enough how sad I find this viewpoint, especially the last line--turning it from eternal to ephemeral nullified any meaning?  They can only have meaning if they're eternal and divine in origin?  I could not disagree more.

I do not think that shifting the ToH to mortal in origin diminished any meaning.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  I believe it gave it much more meaning.  In my view, a sentient, eternal godlike force would have been more arbitrary and much less meaningful.  I.e. Where did this god tree come from, and why does it know best?  Having the elements come from mortal ponies reveals to me that we are capable of learning, creating, and understanding these virtues on our own, as a mortal species, and that to me is a much more hopeful and meaningful message.  Which is why....

10 hours ago, Ganondox said:

If I were to take your stance, the argument I'd make is that this change is good because it sends the message that the divine is not required for both moral and physical potential. 

I'm so glad you raised this point.  This is exactly what I believe, and I probably would have explained that in detail had I taken more time on my original post.  I do not presume to know anything about you or your beliefs, but this whole conversation seems to be tilting towards a larger one regarding morality and divinity.  I do not believe that morality comes from the divine, or that it need or should come from the divine.  We do not need god to be good, nor do the ponies.  Morality comes from us, and therefore, I believe that revealing the virtues of the elements to come from within ponies themselves was the most inspiring, hopeful, and best possible message they could have sent.

I'll certainly grant you that magic is often poorly defined on the show, is often inconsistent, and can vary wildly with how it works.  I've ranted many-a-time about that.  I think that that is just a bit of laziness on the part of the writers.  I think we just have to square with the fact that, while the FIM universe is head and shoulders above many cartoons, we can only expect just so much continuity from a kid's show.  It's not Game of Thrones.  It's not going to be perfect.  They just can't make it so.  The writers are bound by corporate restraints, mandates, and schedules.  They don't have complete creative freedom.  But this doesn't change my viewpoint that a mortal explanation for the ToH is much better.

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59 minutes ago, Justin_Case001 said:

I didn't say that was a good thing, either, and I have emphatically stated my objections to the cutie map and how it functions many times on these forums.  (I assume that's the shiny object you're referring to?)  I never liked the map, nor how the ponies seemed forced to drop everything and bow to its will upon summons.  But it is what it is, and I still think the origin story of it was one of the best moves they could have made.

I have considered this point of view, and I don't really see the merit to it.  Sure, human imagination has spawned many gods with relatable, flawed, human personalities, such as the gods of Olympus, but I fail to see how that's really relevant, here.  If the ToH had been revealed to be a divine, sentient force, it wouldn't have been relatable at all--just a mystical force, whereas the Pillars and Starswirl are relatable characters.  I think it's much better to have the elements come from them.

I think that it's worse, and I mean midi-chlorians worse. The Plotswirl & Co are just another 6 exceedingly irrelevant characters that will be competing for airtime while solving nothing in regards to the active and continuous crystal buffoonery that is the ToH and all its derivatives. So, when your solution is not in fact a solution, it is better to leave things mysterious until further notice or forever. It won't be the only thing left all mysterious and shrouded in dogmatic cult-like belief after ninth season sings its last ending song.

 

The gods are relevant cause you are bashing the concept without revealing that every religion can be used as harmless mythology. Every other child has come into contact with Olympians and they haven't turned into wine-drinking, child-sacrificing hardened criminals.

 

Once that has been established, let me give you the next witness: the Force. Jedi and Sith are space mages who use a mystical power known as the Force. It is very intangible and yet it is such an integral part of Star Wars lore.

 

So, where is the problem with this (oh so unrelatable) concept again?

 

P.S: One could also state that ToH has allowed itself to be summoned. Neither you nor any other Brony can refute this claim as its creation is still a worthless tell-don't-show mention. There is no proof that ToH is not in fact an eldritch deity. This is what happens when you midi-chlorian your bullshit :P

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8 hours ago, Justin_Case001 said:

I didn't say that was a good thing, either, and I have emphatically stated my objections to the cutie map and how it functions many times on these forums.  (I assume that's the shiny object you're referring to?)  I never liked the map, nor how the ponies seemed forced to drop everything and bow to its will upon summons.  But it is what it is, and I still think the origin story of it was one of the best moves they could have made.

I have considered this point of view, and I don't really see the merit to it.  Sure, human imagination has spawned many gods with relatable, flawed, human personalities, such as the gods of Olympus, but I fail to see how that's really relevant, here.  If the ToH had been revealed to be a divine, sentient force, it wouldn't have been relatable at all--just a mystical force, whereas the Pillars and Starswirl are relatable characters.  I think it's much better to have the elements come from them.

All right, all right.  You twisted my arm.  You win.  I'll read it.

So, your explanation was well thought out and you make some fair points, but it will probably come as no surprise to you that I disagree with it.  It seems unlikely that we'll find much common ground, here, but that's okay.  We can agree to disagree.

Firstly, (and I'm sure you'll vehemently disagree with this) I don't think the Sisters were ever portrayed as gods.  Perhaps a bit godlike in some respects, but I think they were portrayed more as guardians and caretakers.  (This is what they're supposed to be, as confirmed canon.)  I also disagree that harmony was portrayed as supernatural force governing all things.  This is just an opinion and my perspective, but I always just got the impression that this is a world where magic exists naturally, in a form that can be studied and learned.  I never got the impression that harmony or friendship are literal, magical forces at play in the world, as many have argued.  Every time they've ever said the phrase, "the 'magic' of friendship", I always took it metaphorically.  The elements were always mysterious, but I always believed there was a logical explanation for them that didn't involve divinity or supernatural forces.  So, I guess what I'm getting at is that I don't really think that the show has systematically diminished, reduced, or destroyed divine, godlike, or supernatural forces; I never thought those forces existed to begin with.  In my view, all they've done is given an explanation for the ToH and everything it spawned, and diminished nothing in the process.

This is the part of your viewpoint I find most troubling.  I find it very disheartening that you apparently believe that making the ToH mortal in origin nullified its meaning.  Why would the elements only have meaning if they're divine in origin?  Why would mortality nullify their meaning?  Why does something have to be eternal to have meaning?  I simply cannot stress enough how sad I find this viewpoint, especially the last line--turning it from eternal to ephemeral nullified any meaning?  They can only have meaning if they're eternal and divine in origin?  I could not disagree more.

I do not think that shifting the ToH to mortal in origin diminished any meaning.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  I believe it gave it much more meaning.  In my view, a sentient, eternal godlike force would have been more arbitrary and much less meaningful.  I.e. Where did this god tree come from, and why does it know best?  Having the elements come from mortal ponies reveals to me that we are capable of learning, creating, and understanding these virtues on our own, as a mortal species, and that to me is a much more hopeful and meaningful message.  Which is why....

I'm so glad you raised this point.  This is exactly what I believe, and I probably would have explained that in detail had I taken more time on my original post.  I do not presume to know anything about you or your beliefs, but this whole conversation seems to be tilting towards a larger one regarding morality and divinity.  I do not believe that morality comes from the divine, or that it need or should come from the divine.  We do not need god to be good, nor do the ponies.  Morality comes from us, and therefore, I believe that revealing the virtues of the elements to come from within ponies themselves was the most inspiring, hopeful, and best possible message they could have sent.

I'll certainly grant you that magic is often poorly defined on the show, is often inconsistent, and can vary wildly with how it works.  I've ranted many-a-time about that.  I think that that is just a bit of laziness on the part of the writers.  I think we just have to square with the fact that, while the FIM universe is head and shoulders above many cartoons, we can only expect just so much continuity from a kid's show.  It's not Game of Thrones.  It's not going to be perfect.  They just can't make it so.  The writers are bound by corporate restraints, mandates, and schedules.  They don't have complete creative freedom.  But this doesn't change my viewpoint that a mortal explanation for the ToH is much better.

With Celestia and Luna, back in Season 1 there were portrayed as more than just guardians or caretakers. They didn't just protect the sun and moon, they raised and lowered them. At the time, this was portrayed as their unique abilities. Sure, they didn't have anywhere near the power of the Abrahamic god, but well enough to work as a pagan one. 

The first season of the show was explicitly anti-naturalist, this is based on the way the ponies reacted to Everfree Forest and how they governed the rest of Equestria. Harmony as a force isn't so much a force as you'd think in physics, but the way their world function. The elements of harmony merely channeled it into a weaponized, more concrete force, and they can only be wielded by virtuous. There is other areas though where harmony was portrayed as more than just a system. For example, in Equestria friendship is literally magic (the metaphor is for us, not the ponies), and various aspects of Equestrian magic like Cutie Marks make much more sense in this context than as a natural force. Later the introduction of Discord created a fine line between harmony based magic and chaos magic. The biggest thing though that established harmony as a real force was the introduction of the Tree of Harmony. First, it demonstrated as being the origin of the elements of harmony and apparently being older than the princesses (this was apparently contradicted in shadow play though, but the timeline isn't quite clear). Second, it was demonstrated that without the Tree of Harmony's magic, then Equestria would have been overrun by the Everfree Forest, whose plunderseeds were created by chaos magic. Notably after the tree was restored to full power the Everfree ceased to be a dark and threatening place. Finally, the battle with Tirek established that just a portion of the tree's magic was stronger than ALL the magic in Equestria COMBINED, including Discord's chaos magic. This is pretty convincing argument that in Equestria, Harmony is one of the fundamental forces of their world, and it was established as coming from a living entity, not just being some sort of free-magic. 

When you take their sheer power into account, I think it's much more rational for the elements to be of divine origin than something created by a handful of mortals. Now, the show did give an explanation for how the power grew much greater than that of it's creators by having the tree grow over time (though the established timeline doesn't make much sense as the tree couldn't have been particularly old by the time the sisters originally discovered it). More importantly than the mechanics of their creation though is the logical implication for how Equestria works on a metaphysical level. Now, here is where I need to clarify that I DON'T believe that a divine origin is required for virtues to be virtues. In the question of the Euthyphro dilemma, I'm of the opinion that the gods are good because they choose to be good, not because they define what good is. However, Equestria isn't our world, it's already been established forces exist as metaphors for virtues. Thus by changing the nature of the forces, you change the metaphors. The important part isn't the divine origin of the elements, but their eternal nature. It would have made no difference whether the tree was sentient or not, as either way the elements have had eternal significance as long as the ultimate origin of the tree was some eternal lineage. Here is way it's significant that the elements be eternal: imagine that the tree of harmony was seeded with something different than the virtues of elements of harmony. If it would have been impossible to seed the tree with something else, then it means the virtues ARE eternal, as even without currently manifesting as a physical power, they still have the latent potential to manifest as such, and that latent potential is apparently eternal. If there is no eternal latent potential though, then it means it was potentially possible to seed the tree with arbitrary attributes, even vices. In that case, the tree could have been evil rather than good. This would replace the underlying message of the idealism the show has with cynicism. 

As I stated in my original post, I do believe it's inevitable for a show like FiM to go in this direction, it's just impossible for them to stay thematically consistent over a long period of time. As for my own philosophical views, I think Theistic Existentialism is the best fit, but I'm not entirely existentialist. 

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While I still disagree with you, Ganondox, I appreciate the thought you've put into this stuff.  Your last post was very interesting, and gave me some things to think about.

On 4/7/2018 at 1:24 PM, Ganondox said:

The first season of the show was explicitly anti-naturalist,

Still disagree, but I don't think either of our perspectives are necessarily wrong.  I think it's just a different point of view.

On 4/7/2018 at 1:24 PM, Ganondox said:

Now, here is where I need to clarify that I DON'T believe that a divine origin is required for virtues to be virtues. In the question of the Euthyphro dilemma, I'm of the opinion that the gods are good because they choose to be good, not because they define what good is.

So glad to hear it.  I think the opposite stance of the Euthyphro dilemma is a dangerous one, and likewise regarding the idea that one cannot be good without god, or that divinity is required for virtue or morality.  So, nice to hear we're on the same page there.

I appreciate you explaining in more detail why you find the eternal nature of the elements to be so significant.  I believe I better understand where you're coming from, but I still disagree.  I just don't feel that it makes any difference whether these virtues have some latent eternal potential or not with respect to their meaning.  Personally, I still feel that it's more meaningful, and interesting, if the virtues come from ponies themselves.  We just have fundamentally differing viewpoints about the FIM universe in the first place.  I always viewed it, and preferred it, as a naturalistic world with mythical creatures and learn-able magic spells, but without any divinity or all-governing supernatural forces.  You apparently don't, and that's okay.

On 4/7/2018 at 1:24 PM, Ganondox said:

If there is no eternal latent potential though, then it means it was potentially possible to seed the tree with arbitrary attributes, even vices. In that case, the tree could have been evil rather than good. This would replace the underlying message of the idealism the show has with cynicism. 

This is a very interesting notion, and I actually love the idea of exploring the potential of a Tree of Chaos, or something like that.  An evil tree is very intriguing, however, once again, I disagree that it would replace the underlying message with cynicism.  If it's possible to seed an evil tree, then it just means that there exists both good and evil, with no eternal forces to guide either side or help them win.  This means that it's up to them, up to the ponies, up to us, to make sure that good wins.  The fact that good wins out on the show, and that it just came from within the ponies to begin with, seems to me to send the message that we can do the same--good, friendship, and harmony can have power and win irl, even though it's just up to us mortals alone to do it.  I think this is a more hopeful, useful, and interesting message, and it's what I take away from the show.

 

On 4/7/2018 at 5:27 AM, Goat-kun said:

The Plotswirl & Co are just another 6 exceedingly irrelevant characters that will be competing for airtime while solving nothing in regards to the active and continuous crystal buffoonery that is the ToH and all its derivatives. So, when your solution is not in fact a solution, it is better to leave things mysterious until further notice or forever.

Plotswirl....that's the first time I've heard that phrase.  So, if I'm understanding correctly, you believe that Starswirl & Co were a lazy explanation, or rather non-explanation?  Well, I still disagree.  I see it exactly the opposite way--I think that having the tree be some sort of deity would in fact be the lazy and easy way out.  I think that using a god as an explanation for anything is lazy.  It enables one to stop thinking.  This is what the monotheistic model does: "God created the universe and everything in it, god has always been, god will always be."  That model allows for a full stop right there.  No further explanation needed.  If they said that the tree was simply a sentient, divine entity, then that seems like the lazy road to me.  The tree just is what it is, and we don't need to know how or why or where it comes from.  This is a completely uninteresting answer to me.  I don't think that the pillars are irrelevant, either, though I'll grant you that competition for screentime is a problem--the cast is pretty bloated at this point.  I also agree that mystery is far better than a crappy, half-assed solution, but we're just going to disagree that the pillars were such.  I think they were a good solution.

On 4/7/2018 at 5:27 AM, Goat-kun said:

The gods are relevant cause you are bashing the concept without revealing that every religion can be used as harmless mythology. Every other child has come into contact with Olympians and they haven't turned into wine-drinking, child-sacrificing hardened criminals.

Oh, of course religion can be harmless mythology.  Gods can have a great place in fiction, as in the fantastic God of War game series, or the Divines and the Daedra of Elder Scrolls.  But I think that's completely different than having deity as a central theme on a kid's show.  That, I feel, is a bad influence.  It's also important to note that when we speak about ancient Greek mythology, everyone knows that it's exactly that: mythology.  Kids aren't taught to worship Zeus anymore.  We can have Olympians in stories because everyone knows that they're just fictional characters.  I believe that every religion should function the same way.  E.g. We should be able to explore and have fun with Christian "mythology", and it should carry the same tone as ancient Greek.  We should be able to watch The Prince of Egypt, or Exodus: Gods and Kings, and those should exist in the same space as God of War--Just fun fiction.  Instead, many, many people think that Exodus: Gods and Kings is a literal, historical documentary.  The fact is that there is no fundamental difference between the Olympians of ancient Greek mythology, and the characters of the bible, or any other holy book.  It's not as if we proved that Zeus doesn't exist, but Yaweh does.  If we regarded every religion as we do ancient Greek, then perhaps my feelings about this whole subject would change, but that isn't the case in our world.  Given that, I feel that appeals to superstition, mysticism, and divinity on FIM aren't the wisest idea.

As for your Star Wars analogy--yes, of course the Force is integral, but just because a particular concept worked well in one franchise doesn't necessarily mean it would be suitable for another.  I don't believe that friendship or harmony as an energy field that binds the galaxy together would work in FIM, and I certainly don't see why the success of the Force as a theme in Star Wars means that the tree would have been better off as a deity.

Listen, I know we're not going to agree on anything, here.  We have completely differing viewpoints, and it seems unlikely that either of us is going to budge, and that's alright.  I'm not really out to change your mind, here.  I wanted to respond more for any others who might be reading the thread.  Debates are typically more for the audience than for the participants, anyway.

Edited by Justin_Case001
fixed typo

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40 minutes ago, Justin_Case001 said:

While I still disagree with you, Ganondox, I appreciate the thought you've put into this stuff.  Your last post was very interesting, and gave me some things to think about.

Still disagree, but I don't think either of our perspectives are necessarily wrong.  I think it's just a different point of view.

So glad to hear it.  I think the opposite stance of the Euthyphro dilemma is a dangerous one, and likewise regarding the idea that one cannot be good without god, or that divinity is required for virtue or morality.  So, nice to hear we're on the same page there.

I appreciate you explaining in more detail why you find the eternal nature of the elements to be so significant.  I believe I better understand where you're coming from, but I still disagree.  I just don't feel that it makes any difference whether these virtues have some latent eternal potential or not with respect to their meaning.  Personally, I still feel that it's more meaningful, and interesting, if the virtues come from ponies themselves.  We just have fundamentally differing viewpoints about the FIM universe in the first place.  I always viewed it, and preferred it, as a naturalistic world with mythical creatures and learn-able magic spells, but without any divinity or all-governing supernatural forces.  You apparently don't, and that's okay.

This is a very interesting notion, and I actually love the idea of exploring the potential of a Tree of Chaos, or something like that.  An evil tree is very intriguing, however, once again, I disagree that it would replace the underlying message with cynicism.  If it's possible to seed an evil tree, then it just means that there exists both good and evil, with no eternal forces to guide either side or help them win.  This means that it's up to them, up to the ponies, up to us, to make sure that good wins.  The fact that good wins out on the show, and that it just came from within the ponies to begin with, seems to me to send the message that we can do the same--good, friendship, and harmony can have power and win irl, even though it's just up to us mortals alone to do it.  I think this is a more hopeful, useful, and interesting message, and it's what I take away from the show.

 

Plotswirl....that's the first time I've heard that phrase.  So, if I'm understanding correctly, you believe that Starswirl & Co were a lazy explanation, or rather non-explanation?  Well, I still disagree.  I see it exactly the opposite way--I think that having the tree be some sort of deity would in fact be the lazy and easy way out.  I think that using a god as an explanation for anything is lazy.  It enables one to stop thinking.  This is what the monotheistic model does: "God created the universe and everything in it, god has always been, god will always be."  That model allows for a full stop right there.  No further explanation needed.  If they said that the tree was simply a sentient, divine entity, then that seems like the lazy road to me.  The tree just is what it is, and we don't need to know how or why or where it comes from.  This is a completely uninteresting answer to me.  I don't think that the pillars are irrelevant, either, though I'll grant you that competition for screentime is a problem--the cast is pretty bloated at this point.  I also agree that mystery is far better than a crappy, half-assed solution, but we're just going to disagree that the pillars were such.  I think they were a good solution.

Oh, of course religion can be harmless mythology.  Gods can have a great place in fiction, as in the fantastic God of War game series, or the Divines and the Daedra of Elder Scrolls.  But I think that's completely different than having deity as a central theme on a kid's show.  That, I feel, is a bad influence.  It's also important to note that when we speak about ancient Greek mythology, everyone knows that it's exactly that: mythology.  Kids aren't taught to worship Zeus anymore.  We can have Olympians in stores because everyone knows that they're just fictional characters.  I believe that every religion should function the same way.  E.g. We should be able to explore and have fun with Christian "mythology", and it should carry the same tone as ancient Greek.  We should be able to watch The Prince of Egypt, or Exodus: Gods and Kings, and those should exist in the same space as God of War--Just fun fiction.  Instead, many, many people think that Exodus: Gods and Kings is a literal, historical documentary.  The fact is that there is no fundamental difference between the Olympians of ancient Greek mythology, and the characters of the bible, or any other holy book.  It's not as if we proved that Zeus doesn't exist, but Yaweh does.  If we regarded every religion as we do ancient Greek, then perhaps my feelings about this whole subject would change, but that isn't the case in our world.  Given that, I feel that appeals to superstition, mysticism, and divinity on FIM aren't the wisest idea.

As for your Star Wars analogy--yes, of course the Force is integral, but just because a particular concept worked well in one franchise doesn't necessarily mean it would be suitable for another.  I don't believe that friendship or harmony as an energy field that binds the galaxy together would work in FIM, and I certainly don't see why the success of the Force as a theme in Star Wars means that the tree would have been better off as a deity.

Listen, I know we're not going to agree on anything, here.  We have completely differing viewpoints, and it seems unlikely that either of us is going to budge, and that's alright.  I'm not really out to change your mind, here.  I wanted to respond more for any others who might be reading the thread.  Debates are typically more for the audience than for the participants, anyway.

I think the biggest difference between our perspectives, other than differing attitudes towards the divine, is that you take Equestria to be naturalistic in a very literal way, while I interpret the mechanics of the show as thematically acting as a metaphor, creating a dualism between symbolic and physical content in the world. One thing I'd like to add, I don't think having the root be a god is anymore lazy than having it be a natural force - either way you're eventually get to the point where something is irreducible. I think it's just better to have the irreducible thing be something with symbolic value rather than just an arbitrary explanation. Also, if you've ever actually studied world religious in depth, you'd realize that Abrahamic religions are fundamentally different than the pagan ones in the way they tell stories. The pagan ones come from an Indo-European cultural background, where the focus is on explaining the eternal nature of the world. The Abrahamic religious meanwhile come from a Semitic background, which focus on explaining the relationship between the mortal and the divine as a personal history. As such, there is significantly more historical content in the Bible then there is in Greek myths, but both are mixed. 

Edited by Ganondox

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4 hours ago, Justin_Case001 said:

Plotswirl....that's the first time I've heard that phrase.  So, if I'm understanding correctly, you believe that Starswirl & Co were a lazy explanation, or rather non-explanation?  Well, I still disagree.  I see it exactly the opposite way--I think that having the tree be some sort of deity would in fact be the lazy and easy way out.  I think that using a god as an explanation for anything is lazy.  It enables one to stop thinking.  This is what the monotheistic model does: "God created the universe and everything in it, god has always been, god will always be."  That model allows for a full stop right there.  No further explanation needed.  If they said that the tree was simply a sentient, divine entity, then that seems like the lazy road to me.  The tree just is what it is, and we don't need to know how or why or where it comes from.  This is a completely uninteresting answer to me.  I don't think that the pillars are irrelevant, either, though I'll grant you that competition for screentime is a problem--the cast is pretty bloated at this point.  I also agree that mystery is far better than a crappy, half-assed solution, but we're just going to disagree that the pillars were such.  I think they were a good solution.

Oh, of course religion can be harmless mythology.  Gods can have a great place in fiction, as in the fantastic God of War game series, or the Divines and the Daedra of Elder Scrolls.  But I think that's completely different than having deity as a central theme on a kid's show.  That, I feel, is a bad influence.  It's also important to note that when we speak about ancient Greek mythology, everyone knows that it's exactly that: mythology.  Kids aren't taught to worship Zeus anymore.  We can have Olympians in stores because everyone knows that they're just fictional characters.  I believe that every religion should function the same way.  E.g. We should be able to explore and have fun with Christian "mythology", and it should carry the same tone as ancient Greek.  We should be able to watch The Prince of Egypt, or Exodus: Gods and Kings, and those should exist in the same space as God of War--Just fun fiction.  Instead, many, many people think that Exodus: Gods and Kings is a literal, historical documentary.  The fact is that there is no fundamental difference between the Olympians of ancient Greek mythology, and the characters of the bible, or any other holy book.  It's not as if we proved that Zeus doesn't exist, but Yaweh does.  If we regarded every religion as we do ancient Greek, then perhaps my feelings about this whole subject would change, but that isn't the case in our world.  Given that, I feel that appeals to superstition, mysticism, and divinity on FIM aren't the wisest idea.

As for your Star Wars analogy--yes, of course the Force is integral, but just because a particular concept worked well in one franchise doesn't necessarily mean it would be suitable for another.  I don't believe that friendship or harmony as an energy field that binds the galaxy together would work in FIM, and I certainly don't see why the success of the Force as a theme in Star Wars means that the tree would have been better off as a deity.

Listen, I know we're not going to agree on anything, here.  We have completely differing viewpoints, and it seems unlikely that either of us is going to budge, and that's alright.  I'm not really out to change your mind, here.  I wanted to respond more for any others who might be reading the thread.  Debates are typically more for the audience than for the participants, anyway.

Oh, you misjudge me. I almost agree with you on the god part. H-Bro already has another IP that does this: MTG. It has gods and godlike beings that have helped in creating the Multiverse of today. And here's where our divide on gods and divine becomes apparent: I view gods as natural components of magical worlds. MTG has them as beings strewn together from mana strings. Gods of fantasy are often born and their status as divine beings is only defined by their ability. These are imperfect beings.

 

As for the Force: well, I'm of the opinion that harmony and friendship as presented in FIM are dogmatic bullshit that has long since ceased to portray how they work IRL, including (especially) among children. The one thing that could have ever been portrayed as the Force is magic itself. Magic is impartial and exists in everything.

 

There are so many instances where angels, demons, and holy warriors have already been adopted into fantasy consumed by every age group that I fail to see the relevance of your argument. If you want to accelerate the transition of currently relevant religions into mythology then you should advocate for their components to be included into fantasy. There is no greater frustration for religious institution than having their icons hijacked by nonbelievers.

 

P.S: Plotswirl the Most Used. He is responsible for just about everything.

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  The tree of harmony is a god though, but a god created by mortals, I am sure that has been done before in many other works of fiction, one I can think of is a 2014 mmorpg titled Wildstar, in short, this hyper advanced species called the Eldan wanted to harness the power of all these primal elements to create a god like figure, they did just that and her name was Drusera, to any mortal she is this nigh omnipotent being capable of probably wiping the planet if she felt like it. She was a being of divine power who could create and influence life yet she was created by mortal scientists. The Tree of Harmony isn't much different, powerful mortals who together represented the best elements of people (ponies) pooled their power together into a magic crystal seed that would grow to become the Tree of Harmony, a semi-sentient god-like entity that can influence and create life and you can harness its power through the Elements of Harmony, which I guess act as it's batteries. I think if the Tree was just this mystical source of light that has existed for all time, that would have been rather uninteresting. Instead, it's more of a conduit of light magic across what I presume is the universe, it may not be the source, but it is the avatar of light magic the same way Discord is the avatar of chaos magic and the Pony of Shadows is the avatar of Darkness.

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3 hours ago, RyanMahaffe said:

  The tree of harmony is a god though, but a god created by mortals, I am sure that has been done before in many other works of fiction, one I can think of is a 2014 mmorpg titled Wildstar, in short, this hyper advanced species called the Eldan wanted to harness the power of all these primal elements to create a god like figure, they did just that and her name was Drusera, to any mortal she is this nigh omnipotent being capable of probably wiping the planet if she felt like it. She was a being of divine power who could create and influence life yet she was created by mortal scientists. The Tree of Harmony isn't much different, powerful mortals who together represented the best elements of people (ponies) pooled their power together into a magic crystal seed that would grow to become the Tree of Harmony, a semi-sentient god-like entity that can influence and create life and you can harness its power through the Elements of Harmony, which I guess act as it's batteries. I think if the Tree was just this mystical source of light that has existed for all time, that would have been rather uninteresting. Instead, it's more of a conduit of light magic across what I presume is the universe, it may not be the source, but it is the avatar of light magic the same way Discord is the avatar of chaos magic and the Pony of Shadows is the avatar of Darkness.

Viewing it is a conduit rather than the source is interesting, but in previous replies I addressed while a man-made god isn’t equivalent to an eternal god as far the symbolism is concerned. 

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On 4/8/2018 at 6:14 AM, Goat-kun said:

If you want to accelerate the transition of currently relevant religions into mythology then you should advocate for their components to be included into fantasy. There is no greater frustration for religious institution than having their icons hijacked by nonbelievers.

Very interesting point, sir.  Perhaps you're right.

 

On 4/8/2018 at 12:24 PM, RyanMahaffe said:

  The tree of harmony is a god though, but a god created by mortals, I am sure that has been done before in many other works of fiction, one I can think of is a 2014 mmorpg titled Wildstar, in short, this hyper advanced species called the Eldan wanted to harness the power of all these primal elements to create a god like figure, they did just that and her name was Drusera, to any mortal she is this nigh omnipotent being capable of probably wiping the planet if she felt like it. She was a being of divine power who could create and influence life yet she was created by mortal scientists. The Tree of Harmony isn't much different, powerful mortals who together represented the best elements of people (ponies) pooled their power together into a magic crystal seed that would grow to become the Tree of Harmony, a semi-sentient god-like entity that can influence and create life and you can harness its power through the Elements of Harmony, which I guess act as it's batteries. I think if the Tree was just this mystical source of light that has existed for all time, that would have been rather uninteresting. Instead, it's more of a conduit of light magic across what I presume is the universe, it may not be the source, but it is the avatar of light magic the same way Discord is the avatar of chaos magic and the Pony of Shadows is the avatar of Darkness.

Very good interpretation.  I like it.  An interesting related point: who says "gods" have to be magical or supernatural, anyway?  Depending on one's definition, a god could well be something created by mortals with technology.  I'd argue that the character of Will in Transcendence was definitely some type of god by the end (or at least fast becoming one.)  In real life, we may be well on our way to creating something similar.  We may one day find ourselves in the presence of something we've built with a level of knowledge and power that we'd describe as godlike, and that day may be coming sooner than we think.

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