Angel's Soul

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Postby Helena » Sat Dec 30, 2000 9:48 pm


One of the most controversial questions raised by the character of Angel is precisely what is the relationship between his human soul and the demon within him after the former was restored to his vampiric body in Borsa in 1898.  This is my analysis of the question.

The Creation of a Vampire

I think that in order to understand the relationship between soul and demon within Angel you have to start with the question of what exactly happens when a human is turned into a vampire.  The obvious place to begin is with Angel’s description of the process in “Angelâ€￾ –

“When you become a vampire the demon takes your body, but it   doesn't get your soul. That's gone! No conscience, no remorse...â€￾

The first question therefore is what we mean by “soulâ€￾?  One theory holds that “soulâ€￾ in this sense simply means conscience or a sense of remorse.  If that view is correct then there is only ever one person involved with a vampire.  Angel and Angelus are essentially the same person; it is simply one has a moral sense and the other doesn’t.  That then would be the end of this as an issue. Textually Angel’s statement is capable of bearing that interpretation.   However the other evidence seems to be pretty conclusively against this view.  First of all it would equate the “demonâ€￾ in a vampire with an ordinary human consciousness, only without its moral sense.  This is flatly contradicted by what Giles said, also in “Angelâ€￾ -

“A vampire isn't a person at all.  It may have the movements, the, the memories, even the personality of the person that it took over, but i-it's still a demon at the core, there is no halfway.â€￾

This statement is in turn supported by the comment he also made to Xander about his friend Jesse in “the Harvestâ€￾ -

“Jesse is dead! You have to remember that when you see him, you're not looking at your friend. You're looking at the thing that killed him.â€￾

Or again remember what Buffy said to Ford the vampire wannabe in “Lie to Meâ€￾ –

“Well, I've got a news flash for you, brainstrust: that's not how it works. You die, and a demon sets up shop in your old house, and it walks, and it talks, and it remembers your life, but it's not youâ€￾.

But perhaps the best textual evidence on this point comes from Becoming I  and II when we see the two occasions on which Angel's soul is restored.  On both occasions there was clearly no immediate memory in Angel of the time during which his soul was absent from the body.  Indeed there was clear disorientation.  Neither of these are what you would expect if all that had happened was the burdening of the demon in the body of Angel with a sense of right and wrong.  Both are precisely what you would expect when a consciousness which was absent from the body returns to it.

Finally, I will just mention one other factor.  The differences between Angel's behavior as an ensouled vampire and that as a soulless one are too marked to be accounted for by the simple imposition of a conscience.  That would not give him a hatred for and desire to kill other vampires.  It would not give him a desire positively to help humans.  Above all it would not turn a monster whose principal enjoyment was in torturing and destroying women and who regarded true love as a violation of himself into someone who entertained a very human emotion of love for Buffy.

All of this is pretty consistent with the general Judeo-Christian (and indeed older) view of a human soul not simply as a moral sense but as a consciousness having an existence that is entirely separate from the body and representing the true person.  We may therefore also assume that the demon plays the same role in the vampiric body that the soul plays in the human one.  It is the consciousness, with the power to rule and guide the body.  The fact that it is capable of acting on the basis of rational choice rather than mere animal instinct is shown by, for example, Spike's alliance of convenience with Buffy in 'Becoming 2'.  

If, therefore, we accept that the demon inside Angel, immediately before his soul was restored in 1898, and the human soul that was restored were each different conscious entities, then how did they relate to one another after restoration?

Matters of Personality

First though a little detour which I think is important.   It seems clear that, after the restoration of his human soul, there has been some merging or sharing of personality traits as between Angel and Angelus.  In the course of BUFFY we saw Angel's occasional habit of following Buffy unseen by her.  His motives in doing so were of the best and it would be very unfair to refer to him as 'stalking' her but undoubtedly this does seem to me to be a reflection of an aspect of Angelus' habits and, therefore, of his personality; feeling more comfortable when he is control of a situation.  Then you have the cold-blooded assassination of Russell in 'City of...', complete with the smirk to show how much Angel enjoyed the sense of power it gave him.  And most starkly of all the admission in 'Somnambulist' that he enjoyed the feeling the killing dreams gave him.  And it may even go beyond this.  We know Angel is solitary and reflective (okay if you insist brooding), enjoying spending his time alone rather than in the company of other people.  The beginning and end of 'Lonely Hearts' and the beginning of 'Bachelor Party' make this look more like a personal preference than merely a conscious choice to avoid temptation.  There is an interesting reflection of this habit in the following exchange between Spike and the faux Angelus in 'School Hard':

“Spike:  I haven't seen you in the killing fields for an age.

Angel:  I'm not much for company.

Spike:  No, you never were.â€￾

This is evidently a very different attitude to the one Liam had.  He seemed…gregarious, to a fault (literally).  

There is actually one very important piece of textual support for this in 'Innocence' where Uncle Enyos says:

“The curse. Angel is meant to suffer, not to live as human. One moment of true happiness, of contentment, one moment where the soul that we restored no longer plagues his thoughts, and that soul is taken from him.â€￾

This implies that the feelings of guilt entertained by the human soul are fully shared by the demon.  

All of these seem to indicate that, to an extent at least, the ensouled Angel continually feels the pull of the personality established by the vampire before its soul was returned to it.  Indeed it may be that he feels entirely comfortable with some of the aspects of the vampire personality (like the solitariness) for reasons entirely of his own.  Neverthless, I think that you have to distinguish between concepts such as “soulâ€￾ or “demonâ€￾ on the one hand and personality on the other.  This follows first of all from what Giles himself said about a demon inheriting the personality of the person it killed.  That in itself implies that personality is distinct from either soul or demon but may perhaps be seen as an expression of the relationship between the soul/demon and the body, particularly with regard to the latter's physical appetites either as a human or a demon.

Even aside from this there is an obvious distinction between an individual's consciousness and his personality.   My ever reliable encyclopedia has a number if of interesting things to say about this concept:

“Personality is the characteristic way in which a particular individual thinks, feels, and behaves. It embraces a person's moods, attitudes, and opinions and is most clearly expressed in interactions with other people. Personality is those behavioral characteristics, both inherent and acquired, that distinguishes each individual and is observable in the individual's relations to the society around him or her. Personality manifests itself in traits such as sociability, impulsiveness, meticulousness, truthfulness, and deceit.  Such traits are assumed to be more or less stable over time and across situations. Traits refer not to single instances of a behavior, such as lying, but to persistent although not unvarying behavior that, according to some, implies a disposition to respond in a particular, identifiable way.â€￾  

A person may, therefore, want chocolate,  love someone or feel guilty about something.  These are expressed in thought that the consciousness experiences, sometimes very powerfully but are not something over which it has control.  These thoughts, it seems to me, are different to that part of the human being which represents his self awareness and his will.  That part of the individual also involves an ability to make those choices - the will, if you like.  And for an individual with a soul this must also involve an awareness of what we might loosely call the moral dimension; the very notion of the difference between right and wrong.  So, while we may be disposed by our personality to certain types of behavior in the final analysis it is the conscious will which governs our actions.  That is, after all, the whole point about responsibility.   Unless we accept that humans are, at the core, rational beings with the ultimate power to choose whether or not to indulge our appetites and instincts then any wrong we commit must be attributed to factors outside our control.  They would simply be down to the way we were made.  We could not be punished for them because punishment in such circumstances would be an arbitrary and, therefore, unjust act.  Equally deterrence would be meaningless.


The Relationship between Consciousness and Personality

From all of this I conclude, therefore, that this consciousness whether of demon or human soul is not the same as the personality traits exhibited by either.  It follows that I see no contradiction between the idea that Angel has a consciousness entirely separate from that of the demon and the idea that the personality which informs the judgments of the consciousness is affected by the personality of the demon,  in particular all his destructive impulses.  

I would go further.  I see no objection in principle to Angel’s human consciousness being aware of the demon's conscious thoughts - the expressions if you like of its individual self-awareness and will.  But it seems to me that there has to be some fundamental expression of Angel's self-awareness and will that remains unique and distinct.  It can share in aspects of the demon but must at the most basic level remain different.  It is not so much that demon and soul remain separable but that they have a particular quality that means that they can never be truly one.   It is that part of Angel/Liam which is his true self rather than merely an appetite or similar aspect.

So, for all the reasons that I have already given, even if we accept that there has been some sort of merging or sharing of  “personality traitsâ€￾ between Angel and Angelus I would not equate this with the merging of the human soul and the demon.  Given that the essence of the soul (and of the demon for that matter) is its individual consciousness, and especially its self-awareness, to me such a merger would necessarily involve the creation of an entirely new type of consciousness that was neither demon nor soul.  Having mixed the two of them together you get something else. You can no longer point to the individual components.   Part of the difficulty with this proposition is that it is far from obvious to me how, once “mixed togetherâ€￾ like this human soul and demon can be disentangled so as to allow for the loss of the human soul.

Moreover the philosophical and theological implications of this suggestion are profound.  In essence the person carrying out the curse would be responsible for the creation of an entirely new consciousness and in the process so changing the existing soul that it was no longer recognizable or identifiable as what it was.  The words “playing Godâ€￾ come irresistibly to mind when considering this possibility.  I have considerable difficulty in accepting the Gypsies or anyone else has such a power, going as it does beyond matters of mere life and death.  

It is far simpler and more believable to identify what happened to Angel in Borsa 1898 with other examples in the Buffyverse of two conscious entities co-existing in a human body IGYUMS is one such case with the Ethros demon possessing Ryan.  Perhaps even more pointedly in IOHEFY the two departed souls of Grace and James return and possess Angel  and Buffy respectively.  Clearly these souls were in control of the bodies but there is no suggestion that there was any “mergingâ€￾ between them and the soul or demon who inhabited those bodies.  Indeed from the point of view of the story that would have made no sense at all.

My own personal preference, therefore, is to adopt something similar as the default position in the absence of compelling textual evidence to the contrary. The such one piece of evidence that you can point to us is the fact that Angel refers to the actions of the demon in the first person.  I do no, however, think this is inconsistent with my view.   Angel would not view the demon’s murders as some sort of video show.  He would have personal memories of them.  Worst of all he would remember the pleasure of the kills gave the demon as his own pleasure.  He could hardly help identifying with the demon’s actions.  

Otherwise, the text, particularly that relating to the curse, seems to be in favour of the view I have expressed.   In “Becoming 1â€￾ we have several extracts from the curse:

The Elder Woman (on the occasion of the original curse) “Neither dead, nor of the living, I invoke you, spirit of the passing. Return to the body what distinguishes Man from the beast!â€￾

Then again the Elder Woman says:  “...restore this one's soul...

Or when Willow tries the curse for the first time, Giles says:  “What is lost, return.â€￾  The words are repeated in Becoming 2 when the curse is tried the second time and this time we hear Willow say:  “Let this orb be the vessel that will carry his soul to him.â€￾

It seems to me that concept and mechanism of  'restoration' here described are really only compatible with the view that Angel's soul is being returned to his body intact and in its original state. “Restorationâ€￾ means putting something back to the place from which it was removed.  You cannot restore a conscience to a demon that never had it in the first place.  And if the process you are talking about is intended to in some way “mixâ€￾ human soul and demon together you are not restoring a soul at all.  You are not returning what is lost.  You are creating something new.

Then consider what happened when the soul was taken away.   Uncle Enyos described it in the following terms in “Innocenceâ€￾:

“ The curse. Angel is meant to suffer, not to live as human. One moment of true happiness, of contentment, one moment where the soul that we restored no longer plagues his thoughts, and that soul is taken from him.â€￾

There are two interesting things about this.  First of all the reference to the soul the gypsies restored plaguing Angelus’ thoughts.  This  itself strongly suggests that demon and soul retain separate identities.  And this is reinforced by the statement that the soul will “be taken from himâ€￾ again suggesting that it remains something separate that can be removed from the body.

Finally, I would just like to mention one or two other corroborative details (to add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative).  The episode  'Dark Ages' seems to proceed on the basis that, after the original restoration, the active demon still remained inside him. As Angel himself put it:

          “I've had a demon inside me for a couple hundred years...  just waitin' for a good fight.â€￾

This is treating the demon as separate from his own individual consciousness.

From the other side of the coin, in 'Innocence' when the demon taunts Buffy in the school corridor, he says 'your boyfriend's dead'.   This is again treating the human soul as an entirely different sentient being from the demon, only this time from the demon's point of view.  

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