We have all struggled with understanding our nature and what meaning, if any, can be derived from it. Countless members of the community have contributed their voices to this search for understanding, courageously challenging the oppressive and disheartening depictions of us by those who have not shared our struggle. Often, upon discovering or developing a theory that explains our nature, we cling to it and proudly exclaim what we have found only to learn that others in the community define themselves and their experiences quite differently. This is frustrating and invalidating for many of us. How are we to know which theory is correct, if any are? How can so many know with such certainty that their explanation is correct when disparate and mutually exclusive theories abound? Is there some litmus test by which to distinguish “legitimate” vampires from those who merely mimic us or our classical representations? As a community, we need answers to these questions that clearly distinguish us without divisively splintering those within the community with different personal experiences or traditions. Essentially, we need a clear definition of vampirism.
Offerings toward this end have varied quite broadly. Some materialist hypotheses assert that we have genetic differences from the majority or that we are altered by a viral infection. More metaphysically minded members of the community often describe our nature in terms of vital energy deficiency or psychic need. Not only do different philosophical perspectives contribute to the debate, but also different manifestations of and solutions to the Hunger that is at the core of any understanding of vampirism; the vampi(y)re community embraces those who derive sustenance from blood and other physical sources as well as those who feed by far less tangible means—often loosely identified as some form of energy—and, of course, those who sustain themselves by a combination of these practices. For all of the diversity of habits, theories and identities within our community, each one of us finds something in the concept of the vampire—the epitome of supernormal need—that resonates with us. Any explanation of what causes our need—what sets us apart from the majority and binds us as a community—rests in a deeper understanding of how anyone, vampire or otherwise, sustains oneself. For this, an exploration into the nature of the sustaining of life from both a physical and spiritual perspective is called for.
Before progressing very far into a discussion of the philosophy of biology, one needs a clear understanding of what is meant by the term “energy”. Physics offers a concise and unambiguous definition of energy as the capacity of a body to do work, which is itself described as the distance over which a force is applied. Whenever any movement or change takes place, energy is the stuff that makes it possible. As precise as the understanding of the concept of energy is, it encompasses a vast number of manifestations, many of which are relevant to the subject of biology and will be examined more closely later.
On the more metaphysical side, questions regarding the nature of life demand a description of the “soul” or “spirit”, which is far less rigorously defined than energy. Many traditional ideas of the soul simply set it in opposition to the physical; this is hardly satisfactory, however, particularly for those who maintain that everything can ultimately be understood in physical terms, even that for which physics does not yet offer a full explanation. To embrace the concept of the soul as that which animates and makes distinct each individual without needlessly discarding the reasonable possibility of future physical explanations, the soul here will be used in the sense of the set of patterns, through which energy can be filtered, related to an individual and distinct from other individuals. These patterns may well have physical foundations or directly correlate to physical structures—and great strides toward understanding the unique patterns of thought and behavior in terms of neurology and other physical sciences indicate that this is a strong possibility—but whether they are completely, partially, or not-at-all physically determined is completely irrelevant to their identification as inseparable from the discussion of life.
With energy and the soul assigned meaning, the concept of spiritual energy, often alluded to by psychic vampires, is made more plain. Spiritual energy is simply the capacity of one’s basic and distinguishing patterns to move or change something or, in other words, any energy that has been imbued with the patterns of one’s soul. The tendencies of living things to initiate movement according to predictable, personal patterns are also commonly referred to as emotions. An emotion, then, would be a particular pattern of spiritual energy.
Just as leaving the spirit defined solely in terms of its distinction from the body left much to be desired, the physical body, even with the spirit much more carefully set apart, should not be so poorly regarded as to be seen simply in terms of what it is not. Similarly, just as the spirit may be physical, with our understanding of the spirit established, it is not unthinkable to imagine that the body may be understood in spiritual terms. At any rate, they are not such dull ideas as to be aptly defined simply in terms of their opposition to each other, especially given that that opposition is very possibly illusory. So let us designate as a body any medium through which spiritual energies are expressed and by which they may interact with each other. This could be anything, potentially, but the human body comes easily to mind and will be the focus of this text.
The interaction between soul and body, animating and animated, can be an incredibly complex and delicate process of transforming energy from one form to another. The essence of the exchange is fairly straightforward, however. Physical substances of some use to the body, such as food or water, enter the body and are subjected to the body’s natural processes, such as digestion. Once the process of converting the consumed matter into more readily usable energy is underway, that chemical energy is distributed to the cells of the body and the conversion of that physical, biochemical energy into spiritual, vital energy begins. Whether the responsible parties are the mitochondrial DNA of cells, some less than fully understood quantum interactions or another completely distinct set of forces, absolutely any energy that is converted into useful, personal energy is spiritual, even if it is also well understood in physical terms. Upon conversion by the soul, spiritual energy may have any number of effects upon the body, eliciting predictable and, ideally, positive results. The effects brought about depend upon the particular sets of patterns or instructions given to the spiritual energy generated; in other words, the behavior demonstrated by the body as a result of the energy distributed through it depends entirely upon the emotion of that spiritual energy.
If that is how animation typically takes place, what occurs if the process is interrupted at some point? In cases in which the ability to translate physical energy into energy specifically designed for the individual body—that is, the connection between the body and the soul—is broken for any reason, animation—life—would cease. Less than a total failure to convert and transfer energy could result in the poor expression of emotion, fatigue, weakened immune responses, and a plethora of other undesirable symptoms. It would also manifest for many in the form of a primal urge to draw in the spiritual energy that it lacks. This urge is what we call the Hunger. It is borne of a detachment of the soul from the body, a failure of the body’s natural and vitally important patterns of energy to be made available by the internal conversion into personally useful forms of external sources of energy.
Such interruptions in the communication between soul and body can occur at many points and to many degrees. Some may find that the spiritual energy the Hunger guides them to seek from others can be found in the blood or other tissue of donors whose cells have been successfully imbued with their own spiritual energy. For others, the failure to translate the physical into spiritual takes place in such a way as to benefit more from taking in the expressed spiritual energy of others directly, finding that energy which has already been fully transformed into physical donor tissue unsatisfactory. The degree to which energy translation succeeds or fails can also vary, resulting in those with differing measures of need. Regardless of feeding method or quantity, many vampires will find that the emotion of the donor at the time of donation has a significant effect on the quality of the exchange.
Obviously, bodies—whether they belong to vampires or not—require outside sources of energy to survive. So long as the law of conservation of energy holds for the universe, nobody can expect to continue indefinitely without taking something from outside and converting it into energy useful for its own set of patterns. Most humans accomplish this primarily by taking in nutrients in the form of foods that contain chemical structures that are useful to their bodies. Through chemical interactions which the body naturally undertakes, the electromagnetic bonds of the structures of the food taken in are converted into energy useful to the eater and life continues. In the terms established above, the physical energy is converted into spiritual energy and that spiritual energy is then utilized by the body, turning it, once again, into physical energy. For vampires, this process is interrupted at some stage; the conversion of food in the form commonly utilized by human bodies into vital energy for such bodies is not satisfactory and some other, outside element is needed to complete this process. This is in stark contrast to those with physical ailments or traits that interfere with the transformation of some physical substances into other physical substances within the body. Diabetes, for example, is not vampirism, as it does not involve the attempted and failed conversion of the chemicals involved into spiritual energy, merely the chemical breakdown of physical substances into other, more manageable chemicals; this is a step before the attempt to convert chemicals into spiritual energy.
The vampi(y)re community is beautifully diverse. We have all levels and types of need, any number of developed means of satisfying those needs, and brilliant traditions and spiritual histories to address our uncanny natures. Given this wonderful breadth of perspective and belief, it is understandable that we may not always see the world we share in exactly the same way as our brothers and sisters within the community. It can be tempting, when we find some new theory or point of view, shining with the promise of absolutism, to dismiss or discredit the theories of others; this is folly. Unity and solidarity are about embracing differences, not erasing them. For the community to thrive, or to survive at all, we must value the common ground upon which we all stand while acknowledging that that space is as vast as it is sacred; there is room for all of us, exactly as we are. Accepting this should come more easily for our community than for most, as our need leaves many of us more attuned to the emotions of others and thus more naturally empathetic.