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Soul Hunter - A Provocative Think-Piece


Greetings to familiar forum participants from SciFi.com/B5. I posted this message about a year and a half ago at SciFi.com/B5, so some of you may have seen it. But, I notice many unfamilar "handles" in this forum, so it may provoke some discussion with B5 re-running again.

According to the Lurker’s Guide one of the production staff voiced his discomfort to JMS about working on this episode, because it leads one to consider what follows death. Talking about the soul at least reflects intellectual integrity by JMS to acknowledge that people of differing backgrounds can hold strong, and irreconcilable, views about the soul. The Minbari view is that all Minbari benefit in some mystical sense from the “souls” of former Minbari who are supposedly reborn or reincarnated into succeeding generations (as in Eastern philosophies). The Soul Hunters, while believing in the existence of the soul, regard the Minbari belief as wishful thinking. Unless the Soul Hunter intervenes to “save the soul” the soul expires with physical death. The soul to them seems to represent the dreams and ideas of the individual and may not necessarily be equivalent to personality. Dr. Franklin represents the atheistic view (shades of JMS?) that there is no soul, although he seems willing to consider that “personality” is something separate from the physical body and could be captured in a “matrix,” whatever that is. I suppose Dr. Franklin would represent the behaviorism view in the field of psychology (an ironic term given the meaning of the original Greek word), which views a person as just the sum of experience and reactions to stimuli.

The one thing all these views have in common is that human (or alien) existence is essentially dualistic (body and “soul”), which as a formal concept in the field of philosophy originated with the ancient Greeks. JMS, of course, does not attempt to define the soul, but instead leaves the matter to the viewer to ponder and discuss. I note especially that JMS did not risk presenting the view of Christian theology, which would have brought even louder howls of protest than what he got over bringing up the subject. In Christian theology human existence is a trinity (body, soul & spirit), and, of the three, soul and spirit survive death but are not reborn into someone or something else. Oddly enough JMS gets closer (though not all the way) to the Christian view in a couple of later episodes, which I won’t mention now. I think I would ask Dr. Franklin, “how do you find meaning in life if you are nothing more than the sum of your parts?”

I would add this speculative piece, based on analysing a character I consider quite interesting. I hope that others have detected other pieces. If this is going to become a chart of spiritual beliefs occurring on Babylon 5, so be it.


When Delenn speaks upon finally leaving Babylon 5, she casually expresses her opinion about souls: "our souls are a part of this place, our hopes the foundation of our future, and we will pass this way again."

This could actually indicate that for her, "soul" is not separate from body or mind, but all facets of personality together. Direction and deeds (what you want), purpose, opinion and understanding (what you live for), identity, capability, environment and perspective (who you are).

On another occasion she tells that... "the flame also reminds us that life is precious, as each flame is unique. When it goes out, it's gone forever. And there will never be another quite like it."

I suspect she thinks that the flame of life, personality cannot escape death. The person will be gone forever, without chance of return. You may note... this opinion doesn't fit well with her prejudice against Soul Hunters, who she claims to capture the soul, stop it from rejoining the world.

If soul means your personality, your soul constantly interacts with the world. No master copy, no moment better than others, just change. Thoughts and deeds pass back to the world already during life. By this logic, a Soul Hunter seizing a ending personality... cannot stop the soul from passing back. By that time, it has already passed back.

Before a flame goes out, it radiates light. It can also start a new flame. New generations of beings will inherit the future which past generations created. Genes are not the only inheritable thing. For complicated beings, many more things move in similar ways.

Future generations may choose to accept the "soul" of past generations, develop a similar personality. They may accept or discard things, partly or fully. By this logic, we are unique and partial reflections of past generations, inheritance combined with our own creations and choices.

In my opinon, the key to Delenn's world view is leaving behind a better future. If you improve the world, you can leave future generations not only a better world... but also the best of your personality. If they accept it, surely that is a gesture of respect and gratitude.

If your thoughts will face the future your deeds create, there is even an odd evolutionary "accountability" stretching forward in time. If you prepare a harmful future, you may erase yourself. If your prepare a beneficial future, new generations may choose to accept what you left them.

Delenn often seems fatalistic, with her references to circular time and "doing what we have always done now". Her love and companionship with Sheridan is quite interesting, given her belief that they are "old souls" who have met before, and may meet again.

As mentioned, her approach to Soul Hunters seems contradictory. I suspect her more logical half might not consider them a threat to souls, simply criminal invaders of privacy, takers against permission.

She may also view them as torturers, because a personality captured and "preserved" is bound to be lonely and bored. It cannot learn, grow or explore. Preserving it without interaction might truly cause suffering, drive the soul destructive and mad, which from her point of view, might seem worse than oblivion.
Actually I have to say that as a christian, I really enjoyed Soul Hunter.

Put those stones down! /forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif /forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif

I found it really exciting that there was a sci-fi series out there that was prepared to at least recognise the existence of the soul. A lot of previous genre shows, catered for the action and the intellect but not the spirit. JMS locks horns consistently through B5.

When the Ranger warning of the Enfeeli's plight dies in season 5, I liked the idea of the "jumpgate of the soul that appeared".

I have consistently used clips from B5 in teaching small study groups about my understanding of the Christian walk, most notably:

Passing Through Gethsemane
And the Rock Cried Out No hiding Place
The Summoning
The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari

I wonder if you can see where I was coming from in each case!
This is no place for a good stoning... that would be the NC-17 Forum...

Seriously, I agree with you there Galahad. Passign through Gethsemane in particular is an excellent exploration of religious themes, something which, as you mentioned, is sorely lacking in much TV sci-fi today.