Ascension (Stargate)

Ascension (Stargate)

In the science fiction television series "Stargate SG-1" and "Stargate Atlantis", Ascension is a process by which sufficiently-evolved sentient beings may shed their physical bodies and live eternally as pure energy on a higher plane of existence full of knowledge and power.

It is a mental, spiritual or evolutionary enlightenment that can arise as the direct result of achieving a certain level of wisdom and self-knowledge. Ascension was also employed by the Ancients as a means to avoid a number of issues threatening their species with extinction.

The concept was first introduced in the "SG-1" third-season episode sgcite|Maternal Instinct, but later became one of the central themes of the series, particular in the sister-show "Atlantis". It is the core of both series' explorations into dualistic, moral, and spiritual issues, a recurring philosophical theme that makes Stargate unusual among mainstream pop science fiction from its era.

One of Stargate's main motifs is to explain real-world phenomena or religions in terms of (fictional) events that happened in the past. In the story, the alien race called "the Ancients" were the first to discover and study Ascension, and subsequently Ascend thousands of years agosgcite|Maternal Instinct|show=ref] .

Method of Ascension

Ascension can happen in one of two ways: spiritually or evolutionarily. In all cases, a mortal being's physical body will convert to energy (sometimes leaving behind a bundle of empty clothes), and a stream of light will rise upwards into the sky. Ascended beings tend to take the form of a stream of light thereafter. It seems like a means to cheat death. Many people have ascended at the moment of or just after death - This could be because an EEG reading of 0.1 to 0.9 Hz is required for the mind to allow for a person to ascend. The Atlantis expedition's chief medic, Carson Beckett, explains that this level is only exhibited by comatose patients.

piritual Ascension

If one is pure of spirit (i.e. morally good)sgcite|Threads|show=ref] , then meditation, often guided by wisdom left behind by previous monks, in the search for enlightenment, can lead to a direct Ascension when one gains complete wisdom, a fully opened mindsgcite|Abyss|show=ref] , and has shed one's fears and attachment to the mortal worldcite episode| title=Epiphany| episodelink=Epiphany (Stargate Atlantis)| series=Stargate Atlantis| serieslink=Stargate Atlantis| season=2| number=12| airdate=2005-11-25] . This process is usually terminated with death, at which point the being Ascends, but it is also possible to directly Ascend while still alive (see the picture above). In the process of Ascension through meditation, many beings obtain the same supernatural abilities that users of the DNA Resequencer receive, including: telepathy, telekinesis, superhuman senses, speed, and strength, precognition, perfect health, the ability to self heal rapidly, the power to heal by touch, and the ability to use many parts of your mind and fully focus on something.

A previously Ascended being can help a mortal to Ascend. The Ancient Oma Desala, who Daniel Jackson speculates founded the Earth myths of Mother Nature, helped many beings to Ascend in this fashioncite episode|title=Maternal Instinct| episodelink=Maternal Instinct (Stargate SG-1)| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=3| number=20| airdate=2000-02-25] , most significantly Daniel Jackson himselfsgcite|Meridian|show=ref] . In many cases, Oma had to be convinced by the virtue of the person to help a being ascend, although she was tricked into believing that Anubis possessed such virtueAnubis] .

Evolutionary Ascension

Ascension can also be a physical process, as, in essence, Ascended beings are still strictly "physical". A human who evolves the ability to use approximately 90% of their brain capacity can learn to Ascend without much trouble.cite episode|title=Prototype| episodelink=Prototype (Stargate SG-1)| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=9| episode=9| airdate=2005-09-16] This is related to the myth that people use only 10% of their brains [cite web| url=http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/10percnt.htm| title=The Ten-Percent Myth| publisher=Snopes.com| accessdate=2006-03-08] , but some have explained this away by saying it means 90% of the neurons firing "at all times," which would effectively result in a seizure in actuality. This form of Ascension again does not require the being to be good of heart.

The Ancients who Ascended naturally reached this point without the aid of technology. They however, developed the DNA Resequencer, a device capable of making humans so advanced that they could perform telekinesis, telepathy, the power to heal by touch, (among other extraordinary abilities listed in the above section), and eventually Ascend (where all these abilities are a subset of the power of the Ascended)cite episode| title=Metamorphosis| episodelink=Metamorphosis (Stargate SG-1)| series = Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=6| number=16| airdate=2003-02-07] .

The Ascended nemesis of the Ancients "though the same race", the Ori, are evil beings. It is unclear how the Ori Ascended, but based on their selfish nature, and how advanced their technology is, it is safe to assume that they Ascended through evolution, or with technology, but not spirituality, as that path is only open to the good of heart. One theory is that the Ori's intentions were good when they started off but became corrupt with the power they gained, according to Merlin.

The higher plane

The higher plane of existence in which the Ascended reside is inhabited by several different Ascended races, but the Ascended beings most commonly encountered and referred to are the Ancients and the Ori. These two alien races are in fact of the same species, that is, "the first evolution" of humanssgcite|Rising|Atlantis|show=ref; Earth humans are the "second evolution" of the form] , but are differentiated due to their opposing beliefs and Ascended natures.

Rules

The rules of the Ascended are that one may not interfere in mortal affairs, a rule that is sometimes broken, causing a de-Ascension by the others (which usually involves regaining material form, naked and amnesiac sgcite|Fallen|show=ref] ) or some other form of punishment from the other Ascended (often called "The Others"); often, this punishment is inflicted onto the mortal world rather than the being responsible, to show them the effects of their actions.

In general these rules are upheld by only the Ancients and those loyal to them. They have such a fierce belief in the free will of the mortal realm - to Ascend or not, to kill each other or not, etc., - that the rule of non-interference is their highest. The Ori, on the other hand, seek to overturn the Ancient's dominance of the Ascended realm, and thus heavily influence the mortal realm to give themselves more power.

Powers

Ascension is described as having "all the knowledge and power of the universe", which is essentially an infinite knowledge (and, possibly, power). However, while ascended, Daniel Jackson stated that Ascension "doesn't make one all-knowing" rather the individual's ability to learn is infinitely increased. This can be done because there are no neurons required to store memory for ascended beings. RepliCarter tried to download the Ascended knowledge from Daniel Jackson's subconscious mind, but found that there wasn't enough memory in the entire Replicator army to hold itcite episode| episodelink=Reckoning (Stargate SG-1)| title=Reckoning (Part 2)| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=8| number=17| airdate=2005-03-04| writer=Damian Kindler] . RepliCarter claimed that she and her brethren just needed time to process the information, but Daniel argued that the knowledge was more than information, being also understanding on a level that she could never reach due to her machine status.

The Ascended plane offers many powers to its inhabitants. Ascended beings have been seen to be capable of miraculous things. It has been seen that they can make Stargates and large structures reappear after destructioncite episode|title="Full Circle"|episodelink=Full Circle (Stargate SG-1)| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=6| number=22| airdate=2003-03-21] , alter the flow of time (such as bomb timers), attack with glowing balls of energysgcite|Sanctuary|Atlantis|show=ref] , help other people Ascend, and de-Ascend transgressors of the rulescite episode|title=Fallen| episodelink=Fallen (Stargate SG-1)| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=7| number=1| airdate=2003-06-13] . Ascended have a general power over nature (such as causing lightning strikes where they wish) as well as use telepathy.

Limitations of Ascended beings

In the episode "Arthur's Mantle", Daniel Jackson deciphered writings left behind by the Ancient Myrddin, who accounts for the Arthurian legend of Merlin [cite episode| title=Arthur's Mantle| episodelink=Arthur's Mantle (Stargate SG-1)| season=9| number=18| airdate= 2006-02-24| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1] . He was an Ascended Ancient who was researching means to defeat the Ori, but the Others wanted him to stop. To continue without them knowing, he de-Ascended himself to be ancient again, and continued his research in another dimension where even Ascended beings could not see (again showing they are limited and physical beings).

Merlin managed to create a weapon - the Sangraal - that could negate the power of an Ascended being. This weapon in itself turns out to account for Holy Grail myths. This has opened up many more possibilities for defeating the Ori, and also suggests a lot about the nature of an Ascended being - Ascension is not to become a god, but is merely to alter the way one exists such that one has more power. Up until this episode, however, all Ascended beings were thought to be immortal and invincible.

Reasons to Ascend

In general, Ascension can be used as a rather grand escape maneuver. In the episode sgcite|Abyss, Jack O'Neill is trapped in an impenetrable fortress, and Daniel Jackson tries to persuade him to attempt Ascension as his only way out.

Cosmically, Ascension appears to be the ultimate goal of all life; at least, this is the view that is beginning to spread across the Milky Way. The Free Jaffa Nation was nearly tempted to join the Ori in their search for Ascension, and the major powers on Earth are also seeking it.

It should be noted that Ascension, while it does make one's consciousness immortal, is not considered an afterlife but rather the next stage in evolution.

Plot

The Introduction of Ascension

The first appearance of what was to later become a strong recurring theme in "Stargate SG-1", occurred when the show's protagonists, the team SG-1, arrive on the legendary planet Kheb, where they find the Harcesis, offspring of the Goa'uld System Lord Apophis and Daniel's kidnapped wife Sha're. There they find a Buddhist-like temple in the woods where a monk has residence.

Not responding to interrogation, and masking his speech with Zen kōans, Daniel Jackson, the expert linguist, theologian and archaeologist of the team, decides to sit with the monk and learn about Oma Desala, or Mother Nature. He learns too how the monk is able to stoke a fire with his mind, and Daniel manages to imitate this effect.

When the Goa'uld find the temple, they kill the monk and he vanishes (he Ascends). The sky develops a storm and Daniel, understanding what this is, tells SG-1 to lower their weapons and allow the Jaffa to fire on them. When they do, a thunderhead strikes down the staff-weapon blasts and each of the Jaffa. The storm vanishes, and a flying, glowing being with white flowing tendrils takes the Harcesis and goes through the Stargate, pausing before entering to show a woman's face in the midst of the being.A long time later Samantha Carter is stalked by the alien Orlin, who made himself look human because he was in love with her.cite episode|episodelink=Ascension (Stargate SG-1)| title=Ascension| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=5| number=3| airdate=2001-07-13] He reveals that he was one of the Ascended, but was punished (expelled from the community of the Others) for helping a lesser race build a weapon that the race misused: after they successfully defended themselves with the aid of the weapon, they intended to use it to attack other planets. The Others extinguished the race and forced Orlin to stay on the planet. He has to make sure that nobody will ever use the weapon again. Orlin serves as an example that even an Ascended can make mistakes, and break rules. Another rule-breaking Ascended is Athar, who used her powers to defend the planet Proculus in the Pegasus Galaxy against Wraith culling.cite episode| title=Sanctuary| episodelink=Sanctuary (Stargate Atlantis)| series=Stargate Atlantis| serieslink=Stargate Atlantis| season=1| number=14| airdate=2005-02-11] She is punished in a similar manner, allowed to continue protecting Proculus but confined there and unable to extend her protection elsewhere nor allowed to protect others seeking sanctuary on the planet.

Daniel Jackson, who later Ascended, was cast down back to full mortality for breaking the rule of non-interference after he attempted to destroy Anubis. Anubis himself is 'half-Ascended', more than mortal but less powerful than a fully Ascended being. Anubis was put into this state to punish Oma Desala for helping him to Ascend in the first place.cite episode|title=Threads |episodelink=Threads (Stargate SG-1)| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=8| number=18| airdate= 2005-03-11] Anubis was allowed to remain in this half-Ascended state only so long as he doesn't use any powers or knowledge he couldn't have acquired if he was still a Goa'uld, but even this limitation puts him far above the other System Lords due to his inability to die and ability to use Ancient technology.

Orlin de-Ascended himself so that he could become fully human and be with Sam, but retained a great knowledge of technology (the knowledge of the Ancients), as he used a microwave, toaster, and large amounts of optical fibre and titanium to make a huge emerald for Sam, and a small Stargate in her basement so that they could stop one of the SG teams from reactivating Orlin's weapon. He was given the ability to Ascend again by the others after he tried to unplug the unstable device and was shot. Orlin later de-Ascends himself again to use the knowledge of the Ancients to assist Sam in curing the Ori plague afflicting Earthcite episode|title=The Fourth Horseman (Part 1)| episodelink=The Fourth Horseman (Stargate SG-1)| series=Stargate SG-1| serieslink=Stargate SG-1| season=9| number=10| airdate=2005-09-16] , but his new form was unable to retain his Ancient knowledge on a long-term basis, and he eventually suffered brain damage and reverted to a normal child mentality.

Ascension as a central theme

Ascension became a central theme of "Stargate SG-1", similarly to Babylon 5 through the Shadows and Vorlons, although much more markedly so. This has been particularly marked since the discovery of Atlantis at the end of Season 7. In "Meridian", Daniel Jackson, with critical timing, takes out a naqahdriah fuel core from a reactor, without a radiation suit, saving millions of alien-human people but ending up on his death bed. As he is dying he is contacted by Oma Desala in a vision, who offers to help him Ascend. Daniel chooses to Ascend instead of death, so he can help more people.

This marked Daniel's departure from the series for Season 6, to be replaced in SG-1 by Jonas Quinn. However, he frequently reappeared as a vision to his friends from his Ascended state of being. He was first seen again in the episode "Abyss", when Jack O'Neill is being tortured by being killed and revived again and again by Ba'al. Daniel appears to him but cannot help him, for that is not allowed by the others.

Daniel offers to help O'Neill out by making him Ascend as well, and he describes the process as opening one's mind. Jack instead implores him to use his powers as an Ascended being to "bust [him] out", but that is not allowed by the others. Eventually Jack makes it out on his own. Daniel appears again to Teal'c when the latter is dying after an ambush, but this time he merely helps Teal'c stay alive and find his way out of his current delusions long enough for the SGC to rescue him, once again doing nothing but being with his friend ("The Changeling").

However, Daniel later breaks his own (and the others') rule by fighting the half-ascended, (possibly resurrected) Goa'uld System Lord Anubis before he attacks Abydos in "Full Circle". He is stopped by Oma, who de-Ascends him into human form on an alien world with no memories of his prior life or his Ascension, but she also saves Abydos by Ascending its entire population before Anubis' mothership incinerates the planet. Nothing is left after the blast dissipates (not even the Stargate), but they reappear by the will of the Ascended one last time to say goodbye to SG-1.

As of Season 8, the Ascended Ancients are split into two groups: the others and the renegade Ancients who follow Oma Desala, and while they still are limited from interfering in the lives of those beneath them they are able to help others Ascend. On several occasions the others have had to intervene to stop the renegades from interfering in the lower plane. Near the end of Season 8, Daniel Jackson was killed by Replicator Carter - at which point Oma Desala stepped in and sent Daniel's soul to the Astral Diner, where he faced the ascended being of Anubis while contemplating his own enlightenment.

In Season 9, the Ori prove that a pure heart is not necessary for self-Ascension, and are in fact at least as bloodthirsty, and power-hungry as the Goa'uld. However, they and the fact that the Ancients' existence has become common knowledge across the galaxy has turned Ascension into the final spiritual and technological goal of all inhabitants of the Milky Way, including the international committee on Earth; Richard Woolsey encourages taking enormous risks to study someone who has the "possibility" of unlocking some of the secrets of Ascension to humans.

Ascended Beings as a Species

In the Stargate Universe, Ascended beings were believed at first to be invincible and all powerful; this view later changed with the discoveries that they cannot see into alternate Dimensions, as seen in "Arthur's Mantle", and that they may be susceptible to death from "the Others", or indeed from the lower planes in the form of the Sangraal. It was shown in "Stargate: the Ark of Truth" that the Ori were in fact destroyed by Merlin's Weapon, the Sangraal, a process described by the Asgard as "two waves of energy canceling each other out".

During Daniel Jackson's time in the Astral Diner, Oma Desala informs him that the Diner and the Ascended state are actually something different to death, rather than simply being another term for the same state.

ee also

*Transhumanism in fiction

References


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