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Cognitive Realm

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Cognitive Realm
Related to Realmatic Theory
Universe Cosmere
Featured In The Stormlight Archive, Mistborn Era 1
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All things have three components: the soul, the body, and the mind. That place you saw, Shadesmar, is what we call the Cognitive Realm—the place of the mind.

Jasnah explaining Shadesmar to Shallan[1]

In Realmatic Theory, the Cognitive Realm is the realm between the Spiritual and the Physical. It is described as the world of the mind.[2] As even non-living things can have a Cognitive aspect in the cosmere, the Cognitive Realm is also a place where the thoughts and feelings of non-living things can be known.

Some beings like Soulcasters and Shards can have their consciousness or even their whole body appear on the Cognitive Realm using their Invested ability. It is also possible to use Perpendicularities to move to and from the Cognitive Realm.


Space on the Cognitive Realm is heavily distorted such that areas that have little to no Cognitive presence are diminished significantly. This means that the vast empty space between planets in the Physical Realm do not exist in the Cognitive Realm. Different worlds sit right next to each other in this Realm, with oceans acting as the borders between worlds. This makes worldhopping in the Cognitive Realm much easier than in the Physical Realm.

The few regions in the Cognitive Realm revealed so far has shown major differences in composition and appearance, but there are shared characteristics. It is not known how common these characteristics are on other regions yet unseen. The Cognitive Realm looks different on every planet, with its traits partially influenced by perception.[3] If the landscape in the Physical Realm changes (such as a body of water getting filled in with dirt), the area's Cognitive counterpart will change to reflect this, but there will be a delay before the Cognitive Realm changes.[4]

Fluid-Solid inversion

Bodies of water in the Physical Realm appear as solid in the Cognitive, whereas land on the Physical Realm appear as some sort of fluid, the composition of which differs for each region.[5] According to Leras, the reason for this has something to do with the way men think and where they are likely to pass.[6]

A tiny sun

There appears to be a sun in the Cognitive Realm's sky, but it has consistently been described as being smaller than what each character seeing it is familiar with. The sun disappears in the space between worlds. Shadows in the Cognitive Realm have been witnessed as drawing towards light sources instead of away from them, though the exact reason for this is unknown.

Investiture-based illumination

All Invested Physical objects glow in the Cognitive Realm. Since life itself appears to be a form of Investiture, living things on the Physical Realm glow in the Cognitive. Certain objects might also glow even though they are not Invested, as in the case of metal in Scadrial, though why this is so has not yet been revealed.

Plants on Cognitive land

Some areas in the Cognitive land (which is water on the Physical Realm) appear to have plants or plant-shaped objects on them, the type of which differ in each region.[7]


While everything in the cosmere has a Cognitive aspect, most sentient beings only perceive the Physical Realm. However, there are several ways to move one's consciousness, and even one's existence, away from the Physical Realm and thereby experience the Cognitive Realm. Worldhoppers do this in order to easily traverse the space between worlds via the Cognitive land. Furthermore, the souls of the dead appear in the Cognitive Realm before passing on to the Beyond. Through Investiture, a soul can last longer in the Cognitive Realm, and some even hold on long enough to be considered Cognitive shadows, souls that fail to pass on and are stuck in the Cognitive Realm.

There are beings that are considered native to the Cognitive Realm. Whole civilizations can even be formed, with sentient beings residing in cities built on the Cognitive land.

One such city is Silverlight, a human-inhabited city fully located in an unspecified region of the Cognitive Realm. The city has several universities, and is where the cosmere scholar Khriss is based.[8] Aside from worldhopper residents who came from the Physical Realm of other worlds, there are also humans who were born and raised in Silverlight[9] and are therefore native to the Cognitive Realm.


Parts of the Cognitive Realm that are reflections of planets are called subastrals.[2]


Main article: Shadesmar

Rosharan scholars call the Cognitive Realm Shadesmar. Non-living things on Roshar's Physical Realm appear as dark glass beads in Shadesmar, while living things appear as flames. Bodies of water in Roshar's Physical Realm appear as dark obsidian land in Shadesmar, while Physical land appears as a dynamic sea of glass beads. Some spren travel the seas using ships pulled by giant flying spren called Mandras. Shadesmar's sky is black, with narrow clouds lining up towards a tiny sun.

Shadesmar is the natural habitat of the spren, and it is where their true form can be seen. There are several spren cities around Shadesmar including Celebrant and Lasting Integrity.


The Scadrian subastral is called the Expanse of the Vapors on the Rosharan Shadesmar map. On this region, Physical things appear shrouded in mist. Living things, as well as metallic objects, appear to glow. The Physical land appear misty and fluid, while bodies of water on the Physical Realm appear as solid, dark, smoky stone where mist-emitting plants grow.[6]

Worldhoppers have been known to travel by boat across the misty fluid of the Scadrian Cognitive Realm,[10] but Cognitive shadows, Shards, and the souls of the dead appear capable of walking on the fluid. It is not known whether such beings can also walk of the Cognitive seas of other worlds.

It is possible to take the Cognitive aspect of something on Scadrial's Cognitive Realm and carry it around as a ball of mist, and then later on command it to manifest fully. Through this, both Nazh and Kelsier were able to produce fire in the Cognitive Realm whenever they needed it.[6][11]


On the Rosharan Shadesmar map, the Selish subastral is called the Expanse of the Densities. The Shards of Dominion and Devotion were Splintered and trapped in the Cognitive Realm by Odium. While the power of most other Shards resides in the Spiritual Realm,[8] Odium has locked the power of Dominion and Devotion in the Cognitive Realm to ensure that nobody on Sel could gain those Shards.[12] This makes the Cognitive Realm on Sel extremely dangerous as anyone who comes there unprepared would be ripped apart by the power of the Shards,[13] now collectively known as the Dor. This manifests as a large storm-like, highly pressurized form made of a substance similar to plasma.[14]

It is unknown if the area of Cognitive land where the Ire are positioned during the events of Mistborn: Secret History is in Sel, though the Ire appear to be Elantrians who are native to Sel. The area around the Ire building has tall jagged rock formations that look like trees.[15]

Other Regions[edit]

There is apparently a world that appears in the Cognitive Realm as an empty wasteland of near-nothingness.[16]

It has been implied that there are regions in the Cognitive Realm that don't have the fluid-solid inversion seen on Roshar and Scadrial.[17] Whether the region of "near-nothingness" is one of these has not yet been confirmed.

The Cognitive realm exists in interplanetary space.[18]


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