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  • Introduction

    Hopefully, this edition will be much shorter than the last one, in order to make this an easier read. Since the old one was published, we've gotten much more information on the Avatar, so an update to its dynamics is long overdue. Much of the speculation in the previous edition was proven true following the Beginnings episodes, so some things have been removed, and some have been elaborated on. If there is a conflict of information between this editions and the last, assume the most current version is correct. Also, just because something wasn't repeated in this version, doesn't mean it doesn't still hold true. Read on, and don't forget to let me know what you think!


    Dynamics of the Avatar

    Over the course of the series, there's been a fair amount of ambiguity on how the Avatar actually works. We've seen various incarnations talking to each other, the terms "reincarnation" and "past lives" were used, and then there was the whole hoopla of the Avatar state. But now thanks to book 2, we finally have some answers, and the first Avatar as well, which was very exciting, and something we've been wanting to know about.

    Before I say anything further, I should define some terms that I'm going to be using.

    1.) Soul: Basically, your self. You are your soul, and you reside in your body, which is just a shell. Your soul is what defines who and what you are, it is your consciousness, it is the innermost essence of your being, synonymous with the Hindu term "Atman." (forgive me for any spelling errors - also, I'm not very well versed in Hinduism, so if someone who is can add more or correct the existing information, it would be most welcome).

    2.) Spirit: When used in reference to someone's "spirit", it means the same thing as soul. It also is the term used to describe the disembodied entities that reside in the Spirit World.

    3.) Reincarnation: The process of one's soul, upon death, moving to a new body to live a new life.

    4.) Avatar Spirit: Raava. (or Vaatu). Despite what the Avatar article says as of this writing, Raava is the Avatar Spirit, as she is what makes the Avatar the Avatar. (in case you're wondering, the Avatar article implies that just the avatar spirit moves on in the process of reincarnation, which isn't true, as i will show in a moment.)

    5.) Avatar: the human that is bonded to the Avatar Spirit. Avatar is a term that means "incarnation" or "manifestation." Hindu gods will sometimes manifest as avatars to come to earth and enforce their will. An avatar can also be someone or something that enforces a god's will for them. (again, feel free to correct me if you know better.) So in the show, the Avatar is literally Raava's avatar.

    Now, let's begin. The term reincarnation has been used so many times in the series that we cannot ignore it: The human part of the Avatar is a single soul. Wan is Korra, and all the others. (Hell, Avatar Extras said exactly that - but with Roku and Aang). When Wan fused with Raava by touching the spirit portals, their souls became intertwined in such a way that death of the body could not separate them. Thus, upon death, since Raava cannot "die" as humans know death, they are reincarnated together as one. We know this because Harmonic Convergence is required for two souls to merge. If Raava were to find a new human each time, meaning that Wan and Korra are different people/souls, she couldn't merge with them, and we wouldn't have an Avatar. Thus, it is the same human soul that Raava has been bonded with the whole time. If you still don't believe me, there's plenty of other evidence throughout:

    "I am a part of you."

    -Roku to Aang, "The Winter Solstice Part 2: Avatar Roku"

    "Aang, you are me."

    -Roku to Aang, "The Promise Part 3

    "She is connecting with her deepest Avatar memories. She must confront her own past..."

    -The Shaman on Korra, "Beginnings Part 2"

    "We will be together for all your lifetimes."

    -Raava to Wan

    "My teapot!"

    -Korra in the spirit world upon seeing the teapot Wan used to carry Raava, "A New Spiritual Age"

    "You used it to carry the light spirit around before the two of you became one."

    -Iroh to Korra, responding to Korra recognizing her teapot, "A New Spiritual Age"

    And that's not all of it either. Korra recognized Iroh, even though she'd never met him in her current life. Keeping that in mind along with the teapot quote above, the Avatar can clearly, after reincarnating, still recall some residual memories of his or her past life, indicating that these memories must be stored in the unconscious mind. The past Avatars are nothing but memories of the current. It is important to mention that, per Darkness Falls, that it is Raava that allows the Avatar to retain those memories, but I'll talk about that more with the Avatar state.

    So, now that we've established that they are one, let's address some of the situations where it seems they aren't. The biggest instance of this is the fact that we've seen incarnations talking to each other. However, in every one of those instances, it was the current talking to a past avatar. It seems that the past Avatar present is merely a memory, animated somehow for the current to talk to. But wait, what about the past Avatars in the Spirit World? Glad you asked. :)

    Despite what the Spirit World article says as of this writing, the past Avatars do not, in fact, live there. The only proof for this that the article provides is the game titled "Escape from the Spirit World". However, nothing in that game suggests that the past Avatars live there. In every instance of a past Avatar in the spirit world, the current Avatar was there first, indicating that the past one was merely projected just like every other time the Avatar talks to a past life. In fact, two of the four Avatars Aang talks to in that game just appear out of thin air on screen, showing that they are projected, instead of living there. Besides, you can't be in two places at once, and we've already established that the Avatar is one being fused to Raava.

    Well, this post is getting a little longer than I intended... If you're still with me, thanks for reading! :p Let's talk about the Avatar state. The earliest explanation we got on the Avatar state was Roku saying, "The Avatar state...is designed to empower you with the skills and knowledge of all the past Avatars." So it seemed that it was some confusing mess of learning to master your own unconscious mind. But in beginnings, we learn that it is in fact Raava. Raava, when passing through Wan's body, gave him a burst of power, and after they fused, that is what the Avatar state is: a burst of power, likely from adding Raava's chi to Wan's. (or whatever his name is...ya know, reincarnation and all.) It could also be that she is temporarily transforming him slightly, as other spirits were seen doing to other humans. (that would also explain what the deal with Unavaatu was.) Although the burst of chi and the transformation things are unconfirmed, we still know that the Avatar state is a power boost from Raava. Roku's past lives thing still holds true though: it seems that when Raava provides the burst of power, she also allows the Avatar to consciously remember his past lives, at least for the duration of the state. Before the Avatar has mastered the state, it is Raava who is controlling the body and bending while in the state, which is the reason that it is "continuous": Raava has to actively be doing something. After mastering the state however, it is the Avatar who draws on Raava's power at will and controls it and their body, which is the reason we've seen the state last a varying amount of time when used by a fully realized Avatar.

    What happened in Darkness Falls? Raava was torn from Korra, and then destroyed. Since Raava was destroyed, Korra could no longer retain her connection to her past lives, as it was Raava who allowed her to do that. Aang wasn't really talking to Tenzin, Tenzin was just hallucinating. We know this because "Aang" turned into Tenzin, something that Aang could never do. Please don't ask me to explain the dues ex Jinora, that's not in the realm of the Avatar And Things That Make Sense.

    Now this next paragraph I'm just going to copy from the old edition because I think it is worth retaining:

    When the avatar's body takes on the form of a particular past life (like when Aang chanelled Kyoshi in "Avatar Day") his mind is simply switching which lifetime's set of memories are conscious. When he calls a past life out of his body (as in the sozin's comet finale) he is projecting unconscous memories for him to talk to (much like what happens in the spirit world). When Korra was kidnapped by tarlock and had memories of Aang, what was basically happening was that Korra's memories from that lifetime were coming to her conscous mind without her having to project them. She is the first incarnation of the avatar that we have seen able to do this.

    Well, I think that's all I have for now. If anything else/new comes up, I'll be sure to work it in. If you have any questions, want me to explain something, or think you found a hole in my argument, let me know! I love talking about this stuff!

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    • Not disputing anything.

      It seems like the Avatar lives in a wave like pattern. Youth, middle age, old age, death. Like shampoo. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      One question though. Raava said, "I will be with you through all your lifetimes." The connection to Wan is now severed and it is just her and Korra, now. Obviously she is still honoring the agreement as Korra was formerly connected to Wan. She must if she is to be ready for Vaatu during the next harmonic convergence.

      Thoughts as to the viability of the agreement post-past lives connections? 

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    • i'm not sure i understand your question...

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    • Raava made the promise to be with Wan through all of his lifetimes. Now that the connection to Wan (and all of the incarnations of Wan) has been severed, is the agreement still viable?

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    • Most likely. Something tells me that we won't hear Raava's voice again in either book 3 or 4.

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    • i'm sure the "agreement" still stands. raava wanted to re-merge with korra, so i see no reason why she wouldn't want to stay merged after she dies.

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    • also, even though she made the agreement was with wan, wan is korra, so the agreement is with the same person.

      and it wasn't really an agreement per se, but just raava stating a fact. for some reason she understood it, but wan didn't.

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    • I'm still wondering why Raava really needed to merge with Korra after the victory. Well, other than you wouldn't have an Avatar. 

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    • Her promise to Wan would be my first guess. My second guess if that one's not right is that it's best if both the Avatar and Raava were together as both are stronger than singly.

      Did anyone else notice how her size and the number of past lives seemed somehow connected. She was small when she joined Wan but when pulled out of Korra was much larger. Then as the past lives were obliterated, she became small again. Nice continuity, Bryke.

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    • when the past lives were eliminated, raava's "body" was actively being destroyed, so if there was an shrinkage then, then it would be due to her being attacked. when she was "reborn" she was full sized. i'm not sure the number of past lives is contingent with her size. but that would be a nice touch.

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    • as for why they had to remerge, i agree with snarky. i think it was for the power aspect.

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    • (thinking...ow.) But as Vaatu was doin the smackdown, the past lives were going up in smoke, if I remember right. Not sure if I want to watch it again or not to be sure.

      Anybody remember?

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    • unalaq* Sorry i had to.

      that's correct. but she wasn't getting any smaller...

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    • Hmmmm. Then why did she get smaller? Actually small enough that Jinora could carry her.

      (something else I wonder about...How did Jinora find her?)

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    • jinora wasn't carrying her. nobody knows exactly what was going on there.

      raava effectively didn't exist for a while. jinora just sped up the regeneration process where she grows from vaatu.

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    • Well, Raava was shrinking throughout the Beginnings episodes so it might be more based on the balance between light/dark than the past lives.

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    • exactly.

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    • Every time Raava was beaten or weakened by Vaatu's actions, we saw her getting each time smaller. 

      But the question that lasts is: the turtles bestow bending powers, which was learned by Mr. Awesome himself, otherwise kown as Avatar Wan right? later he saw Raava/Vaatu battling it out and so we knew who were the spirits representing "good" and "evil" forces. fast-forwarding a bit, (ok, not a bit. more like 10.000 years) Korra defeated Vaatu, as he was fused withing Unalaq, becoming a huge, powerful, dark Avatar on the process. 

      Here's the question: will there be any dark spirits [or some explanations for them] or dark spirits shall cease to exist/be destroyed/unexistant, since Vaatu embodied all that and judging from what we saw, he was destroyed? [unless he's the 1st one and there's more coming].

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    • i don't think there will be any more dark spirits for a while. it won't happen right away, but since raava won HC and light prevails in the world, i think all the other spirits will stay/turn light as well.

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    • and for a while, i mean until vaatu grows to a notable size inside raava and/or bursting out of her.

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    • Emperor Qin wrote:
      Every time Raava was beaten or weakened by Vaatu's actions, we saw her getting each time smaller. 

      But the question that lasts is: the turtles bestow bending powers, which was learned by Mr. Awesome himself, otherwise kown as Avatar Wan right? later he saw Raava/Vaatu battling it out and so we knew who were the spirits representing "good" and "evil" forces. fast-forwarding a bit, (ok, not a bit. more like 10.000 years) Korra defeated Vaatu, as he was fused withing Unalaq, becoming a huge, powerful, dark Avatar on the process. 

      Here's the question: will there be any dark spirits [or some explanations for them] or dark spirits shall cease to exist/be destroyed/unexistant, since Vaatu embodied all that and judging from what we saw, he was destroyed? [unless he's the 1st one and there's more coming].

      I can see dark spirits roaming around. I doubt that scorpion-looking spirit that dragged Tenzin to the fog will disappear or change. I can still see Koh skulking around in the shadows. 

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    • yeah i can see koh and that scorpion spirits not being affected at all by the changes in raava and vaatu.

      that scorpion spirit was odd though: they called the dark spider spirit, but it wasn't a spider, and it didn't look like all the other dark spirits do.

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    • That's most likely because some spirits have the ability of free will. Or at least sizable enough not to be affected by Vaatu's influence. Then again, the influence of Vaatu wasn't really explained very well.

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    • i think all spirits have free will, although when they turn from light to dark or vice versa, it's that their emotions are manifesting physically. but like you said, the influence of the two spirits wasn't explained very well.

      at this point, i'm hoping for a better explaination on a lot of things in the DVD commentary. (wait, that's a thing, right?)

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    • kube, did you read the OP?

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    • OP?

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    • OP = original post

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    • Thinking it was Original Point, but was deciding to ask. In order to be sure. Yes, I am waiting for the dvd/bluray so I can see if the commentary helps with the episodes. That or the book 2 artbook.

      It actually wouldn't surprise me if the spirits didn't have free will along the same lines of humans. In particular, the greater spirits (Mother of Faces, Raava, Vaatu, and the like) seem locked into their respective roles. We haven't really seen too many minor spirits and how they live so I can't really say about them.

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    • do have a release date for either of those?

      i think humans do have free will.

      so... did you read the OP?

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    • I just meant spirits, not humans. It's just that the spirits don't have the same level of free will as humans do.

      In regards to the OP, I would go into more detail about objects of previous Avatars. In particular is Roku's necklace from 'The Promice' where it serves as a direct link with Roku for Aang. It's destruction by Aang is more of a plot point for Aang "breaking" away from Roku but still important. Not to mention it's handled better than the teapot in LoK (almost seems like an after thought).

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    • oh. yeah, they didn't explain that very well. all we have is that thing that raava said when they were trying to stop the fighting between the spirits and wan's villagers: "it's vaatu. he's using their anger to turn them to his side!" (or something close to that.)

      i don't think aang's necklace itself was a link to roku. i did some googling, and prayer beads are used to count the number of prayers said so that the person can focus more on the prayers themselves, instead of how many have been said. so i think aang just used it to better focus so he could maditate easier and connect with roku.

      aw, man, i loved the teapot thing!

      do you agree with what i said in the OP?

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    • It's the "Fire" portion of the necklace that is broken. Most of the OP seems fine, but I haven't had enough time to look into everything. I'd bring up the original idea of the Avatar State as a defense mechanism (minus the idea of knowledge from previous avatars) for plot conventions and the idea seems to hold through each of the books.

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    • yeah, but that was more symbolic than anything. if it was a direct link to roku, then he would have needed it during the other times he meditated and talked to him.

      not a bad idea...

      how do the definitions look?

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    • Just glancing at definitions, I'm not sure if I would use the word 'spirit' as an alternate definition of someone's soul, as the word 'soul' works well enough. 'Spirit' seems best left to describe those from the Spirit World.

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    • yeah, i agree. the only reason i put that in there was because we've heard tenzin refer both to jinora's "soul" and to her "spirit", in reference to the same thing.

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    • You could always just footnote a specific incident like that. 

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    • i guess - although that's what the whole definitions sections is.

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    • Maybe a different section devoted to specific instances rather than lump everything in the definitions page?

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    • Surely you guys haven't exhausted this yet.

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    • i pretty much said everything in the OP.... do you have anything to add?

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    • Kubernes wrote:
      Thinking it was Original Point, but was deciding to ask. In order to be sure. Yes, I am waiting for the dvd/bluray so I can see if the commentary helps with the episodes. That or the book 2 artbook.

      It actually wouldn't surprise me if the spirits didn't have free will along the same lines of humans. In particular, the greater spirits (Mother of Faces, Raava, Vaatu, and the like) seem locked into their respective roles. We haven't really seen too many minor spirits and how they live so I can't really say about them.

      Humans are 'locked' into behavioral patterns, personalities too. That doesn't mean they don't have agency, so it shouldn't mean that for the spirits either.

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    • agency?

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    • He's refering to instrumentality (I believe). I'm not too sure about spirits. For many, they don't have much of a theme of change going on with them, unlike humans. Sure, some people are going to be locked down but humanity, as a whole, can also be quite dynamic. In the LoK series, technology [and machinery] would be the key focus of the real difference between the two races.

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    • i'm not sure we can make that call yet. we haven't really seen much interaction between the spirits and humans yet, apart from a little bit here and there. i hope iroh1 doesn't totally drop off the grid - i think he could be a very good example of how spirits can live with humans peacefully.

      i wonder how raava will play a role in this season? after she was introduced as the avatar spirit, and now that we know she's always there inside korra, it feels like it would be a little weird to just forget about her and leave her out of everything.

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    • I only suspect some sort of action, if any, by Raava during the finale of book 3 or 4. OTherwise, there's just silence.

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    • i was thinking along those same lines (only difference is i was thinking she'd show up in the beginning of b3.)

      i'm just hoping korra gets her past lives back.

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    • She [Raava] is already part of Korra again so maybe a small recap about book 2?

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    • As much as I would like to see the past lives come back, I'm not going to hold my breath. I'm wondering, though. Korra has no past lives to call on. The glow of her past lives will not be there, I'm assuming. And along with the glow is the power the past lives supposedly channeled. How does this effect Korra's power? How much power will she now be able to wield?

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    • yeah, tbh, i'm not holding my breath either. the only reason i ever think that there is a possibility she might is because of this link i found somewhere, (it's now lost in the depths of the R&U threads), and it said something about korra journeying to connect with the past avatars... or something like that. not sure how credible the source was either.

      for the avatar state, i don't think her power's going to be affected very much. from beginnings, we know that the power boost comes from raava. the only think she'll be missing is the last 10,000 years of knowledge and experience - she'll have to rely only on what she learned this time around. the avatar state will still glow though (again, from raava's energy, not korra's): as seen in the dutch preview, korra enters the avatar state, eyes blazing. also wan didn't have any past lives yet he still glowed.

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    • Booooo!!!!! They get a preview in the Netherlands but not home. How wrong is that? And the previews on yt are of someone's tv and you really can't see well.

      Sounds like a major edit is in store for canon, then. In the ep The Avatar State, Roku explained the glow as the past lives.Now it needs to be modified. But then, Raava was the repository for the past lives. Perhaps she retained the powers? 

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    • the past lives contributed knowledge and experience, raava contributed to the power boost.

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    • Depending on the emphasis of time and action in the next book, I'm doubting anything along those lines. 

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    • Well...this is what I meant. From where Roku kind of takes Aang spiritually aside...

      "The glow is the combination of all your past lives, focusing their energy through your body."

      With those past lives gone, they should modify. I can see glowing for bout a second showing that Raava has kickstarted the process. But I think the continued glow, it's kind of confusing now.

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    • yeah, i wasn't a fan of that little retcon either. that said, i think they did a marvelous job with the creation of the avatar, and the potential for a dark avatar, although i still wish it didn't involve a second spirit.

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    • The entire backstory wasn't really needed. Going that far back is best left to myth and legend. But seeing how they introduced the actual Avatar spirit, they don't really need the past lives as a way for the Avatar to go into the Avatar State.

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    • i kinda liked it. it was a burning question that we all wanted to know about: the first avatar. who was it, and how did the avatar come to be? now we know. although i'm totally grumbling about the past lives being lost. unless of course b3 has some epic and amazing way of bringing them back.

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    • They can involve spirits but the way they introduced a spirit as the very reason for the Avatar wasn't exactly the best idea. I always liked the original idea that the Avatar as the Spirit of the Planet. There's much more you can do, in writing, than what you can do with a spirit like Raava.

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    • yeah, i agree with that for sure. not sure how they would have made a dark avatar, but i'm sure they would have found a way.

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    • What I expect is additions to the plot and the Avatar world, concerning spiritual stuff, without the addition of extra concepts and plot devices, such as the Raava/Vaatu conflict or the possility of the Dark Avatar.

      Essentially, creativity without changing the plot and adding elements. 

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    • Did they live up to that expectation?

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    • here's some interesting links. A lot of the explainations here work very well for Avatar as well (makes sense seeing how it's based off eastern religion. interesting to note that it seems to be based off hinduism more than any other religion).

      1. http://hinduism.iskcon.org/concepts/101.htm

      2. http://hinduism.iskcon.org/concepts/102.htm

      The common misunderstandings at the bottom of this one is basically what happens with the Avatar. Wan's soul (atman) passed onto a new life, and continues to do so until the Avatar cycle ends.
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    • you are wrong about them being the same being. you are 100% wrong. they used the term reincarnation to be philosphical but their representation of reincarnation is off, in most reincarnation religions the soul only temporarily is reborn into a new body to spark the life of the new body once this occurs the soul then passes on to a new life to do so again. and each time a soul reincarnates it only does so long enough to spark the creation of a new soul. 


      but back on the topic. korra and wan are two separate people they have two separate souls and two seperate spirits. soul and spirits are not the same thing the soul is the life force of a being where in the spirit is an immeterial thing that makes up the persons immiterial mind


      each time the avatar dies, he or she isn't literally jumping to a new body. he or she dies and moves on(this is an irrefutable fact proven by the fact that Aang and Aang and Korra were in two seperate places in the series at the same time, and the avatar can not be in two separate places at the same time) what happens is that Raava moves onto the new body, when Raava said to Wan that we will be together even in your next lifes, she was speaking metaphorically because of the connection that she would have to all the past avatar's if all the avatar's are the same being the connection to the past avatars would have instantly been recovered the moment Raava was put back into korra.

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