Cognitive Realm

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Cognitive Realm
Shadesmar Travel by LittleGreyDragon.jpeg
Related to Realmatic Theory
Universe Cosmere
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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]

The Cognitive Realm, known colloquially as Shadesmar is the realm of thought or of the mind.[2] It contains the Cognitive aspects of both living and non-living things and can be accessed via perpendicularity. On at least one planet, the deceased appear in the Cognitive Realm before passing on to the Beyond. The Cognitive Realm, along with its counterparts, the Spiritual Realm and the Physical Realm are studied together as part of Realmatic Theory.

The informal name, Shadesmar, originates from the Rosharan subastral[3] and also the Rosharan word for "Cognitive Realm".[4] Although other worlds have their own words for "Cognitive Realm", when these get magically translated to another language, it results in the name "Shadesmar", even if not in reference to the Rosharan subastral.[5] Shadesmar, as coined and used by Rosharans, is also used in Silverlight as the cosmere standard.[5]


The Cognitive Realm exists as a connected plane that is heavily distorted based on the presence of cognitive thought.[6][7] The Cognitive Realm is split into sections known as subastrals that reflect to corresponding planets in the cosmere. These subastrals can be reached from their neighbors, making worldhopping and interworld trade possible.


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

Rosharan Subastral[edit]

Main article: Rosharan subastral

Shadesmar is a bustling land and home to the spren. Shadesmar is composed of an inverted ocean made of beads that represent the souls of Physical Realm objects, while living souls from the Physical Realm are represented by flames. There is a thriving society that lives in the area with both spren specific and mixed spren cities being found in the region. Humans can also be found living in Shadesmar however they are rarer and are more commonly travelers. Trade is common between Rosharans and off worlders, with goods being bought and sold using the local Investiture, Stormlight. Relations, however, between spren and humans are not always positive with many spren treating humans poorly due to the lingering effects of the Recreance on their peoples. As well as this, several factions, including Odium's Forces and the Ghostbloods became active in the area c. 1174. Odium's forces have worked to gain influence over the Realm, while the Ghostbloods have sought to build a network for Stormlight trade off world.

Scadrian Subastral[edit]

The Scadrian subastral is also known as the Expanse of the Vapors[8] or, in popular accounts, the 'ghostly dimension'.[9] This region is characterized by its misty environment, with all objects from the Physical Realm appearing as misty figures. Like with the Rosharan subastral, bodies of water in the Physical Realm reflect as rocky shores, while the ground appears as a misty liquid. Living beings, as well as all metal, glow brightly in the Cognitive Realm, to the point that they can mask objects in the Physical Realm if concentrated enough.[10]

Worldhoppers have been known to travel by boat across the misty fluid of the Scadrian Cognitive Realm,[11] 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 on the Cognitive seas of other worlds.

Selish Subastral[edit]

The Selish subastral is also known as the Expanse of the Densities.[12][13] Due to the Splintering of the local Shards, and subsequent locking of those Splintered bodies in the Cognitive Realm, the Selish subastral is uninhabitable, as the Shardic substance has formed into a highly pressurized plasma-like storm known as the Dor.[14][15][16] 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.[17] It is possible to pass through the Dor and survive, though by what means it is unclear.[18][19][20][21]

The Selish subastral appears different based on where it is linked in the Physical Realm.[22]

Lumaran Subastral[edit]

Little is known about the Lumaran Subastral, however, the solid-fluid inversion is weirder than normal in comparison to the other subastrals shown.[23]

Canticle Subastral[edit]

Little is known about the Canticle Subastral besides the fact that it has constant and dangerous shakings and tremors.[24]

Notable Locations[edit]

Other regions that can be found in the Cognitive Realm include;

  • Expanse of the Broken Sky - an unknown region that borders the Rosharan subastral[8]
  • The Ire Fortress - a stronghold adjacent to Scadrial.[25]
  • Silverlight - a Realmatically aware city based somewhere in the Cognitive Realm.
  • A world that is an empty wasteland of near-nothingness.[26]
  • A completely transparent sea, supposedly the space between worlds. It is notably quite viscous.[27]
  • A place where Hoid keeps his "home base."[28][29]

Geography and Ecology[edit]


The Cognitive Realm looks different on every planet, with its traits partially influenced by perception,[30] and although the composition of each subastral differs, there are certain shared characteristics between the different parts of the realm. The landscape is also not fixed - as it is a reflection of the Physical Realm, changes in that Realm, such as a body of water getting filled in with dirt, will be reflected in the Cognitive Realm, albeit with a delay.[31] The Cognitive Realm is flat, and does not have a curvature; it is unknown which projection it uses.[32][33][34][fn 1]

The Cognitive Realm overlays the Physical Realm,[1] however, as it is more compact,[35] locations do not map one to one between the two realms.[36] As the realm forms based on people’s perception of objects and space, the vertical dimension,[6] space between planets,[37][38] and unknown locations in the Physical Realm,[39][37] are particularly compressed. Areas, such as the middle of oceans or in between planets, where thought does not exist are shrunk in the Cognitive Realm to be little to no distance at all, though the Cognitive Realm does still exist in these spaces.[40][41] Cognitive Realm geography does not need to be based off naturally occurring Physical Realm geology, and can also form as a reflection of man-made land or water sources.[42]

The sky in the Cognitive Realm is pitch black[43] with no moon or stars.[44][6] On the horizon sits a small, frail,[6] white sun,[45][1] that provides enough light to illuminate the lands but not the sky, despite appearing almost too weak to achieve even this.[6] The sun does not move or change regardless of time of day or distance traveled - because of this, the Cognitive Realm does not have any natural day and night cycle.[46][44][47] On some worlds, clouds create certain formations which they strictly hold to, however this is not the case for all worlds.[48][49] It has a natural, breathable atmosphere due to air permeating into the Cognitive from the Physical Realm.[50]

The Cognitive Realm is an inverse reflection of the Physical Realm, with the Cognitive Realm's bodies of "water" mirroring land in the Physical Realm, and Cognitive Realm land being the reflection of oceans, rivers, and lakes. Each subastral will manifest these bodies of "water" differently, which may relate to the way of thinking on any given planet.[51][10] It is possible that this inversion does not extend to all subastrals in the cosmere.[52]

Shadows behave strangely in the Cognitive Realm, depending on the source of light that is creating them. Shadows cast by the sun will point towards it instead of away,[43][6] while those cast by manifested fire will point away from the light source as would occur in the Physical Realm.[18] Backward shadows occur on rare occasions in the Physical Realm, and are related in some way to the Cognitive Realm.[53][48][54]

Flora, Fauna, and Beings[edit]

There is a variety of plant life that blooms in the Cognitive Realm, although its substance differs between planets. Plant life blooms on the inverted ground of the Cognitive Realm as it corresponds to bodies of water. On some subastrals, water in a cup in the Physical Realm is enough to allow the plants to bloom.[55]

Living beings reflect in the Cognitive Realm in some manner.[43][49] If someone is to die in the Physical Realm, their soul will disappear. In some subastrals they may appear briefly in the Cognitive Realm before passing onto the Beyond, although this does not appear to be the case on all planets.[56][57] 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. Similar to objects, touching a person will give the impression of the person it represents and it is possible to feel their emotions and general thoughts.[56]


  • Although Brandon plans for Shadesmar to be used in reference to the whole cosmere and not just the Rosharan subastral, this may shift to the more scientific term ‘Cognitive Realm’ once Brandon reaches Era 4.[5]


  1. Peter Ahlstrom has stated that it may be a Dymaxion map, but with the edges connected so that one can seamlessly walk into the next section even though a gap should exist. But this has yet to be entirely confirmed.[34]
  1. a b c Words of Radiance chapter 1#
  2. a b Mistborn: Secret History part 2 chapter 1#
  3. Words of Radiance San Diego signing
    Arcanum - 2014-03-04#
  4. Steelheart Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2013-10-05#
  5. a b c MisCon 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-05-26#
  6. a b c d e f Rhythm of War chapter 22#
  7. Rhythm of War chapter 47#
  8. a b Map of Shadesmar
  9. The Two Seasons Broadsheet
  10. a b Mistborn: Secret History part 3 chapter 2#
  11. Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-06#
  12. Oathbringer San Francisco signing
    Arcanum - 2017-11-15#
  13. MisCon 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-05-26#
  14. Oathbringer release party
    Arcanum - 2017-11-13#
  15. Arcanum Unbounded - The Selish System#
  16. Arcanum Unbounded Hoboken signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-03#
  17. Firefight release party
    Arcanum - 2015-01-05#
  18. a b Oathbringer chapter 97#
  19. The Way of Kings interlude I-1#
  20. The Lost Metal chapter 39#
  21. The Lost Metal chapter 42#
  22. YouTube Spoiler Stream 6
    Arcanum - 2023-12-19#
  23. Tress Spoiler Stream
    Arcanum - 2023-03-31#
  24. Dragonsteel 2023
    Arcanum - 2023-11-21#
  25. Mistborn: Secret History part 5 chapter 2#
  26. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-06-25#
  27. The Lost Metal epilogue 6#
  28. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-06-16#
  29. 17th Shard Forum Q&A
    Arcanum - 2012-09-28#
  30. Skyward San Francisco signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-08#
  31. Orem Signing
    Arcanum - 2019-03-16#
  32. Secret Project #5 Reveal and Livestream
    Arcanum - 2024-03-22#
  33. Calamity Denver signing
    Arcanum - 2016-02-19#
  34. a b General Reddit 2022
    Arcanum - 2022-04-01#
  35. Rhythm of War interlude I-2#
  36. Prague Signing
    Arcanum - 2019-10-26#
  37. a b White Sand vol.1 release party
    Arcanum - 2016-06-28#
  38. Orem signing 2014
    Arcanum - 2014-12-06#
  39. /r/Stormlight_Archive
    Arcanum - 2013-03-14#
  40. A Memory of Light Baltimore signing
    Arcanum - 2013-02-18#
  41. YouTube Spoiler Stream 4
    Arcanum - 2022-06-16#
  42. Skyward Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-10#
  43. a b c Words of Radiance chapter 7#
  44. a b Oathbringer chapter 95#
  45. The Way of Kings chapter 45#
  46. Oathbringer chapter 91#
  47. Rhythm of War chapter 24#
  48. a b Words of Radiance prologue#
  49. a b Mistborn: Secret History part 1 chapter 1#
  50. JordanCon 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-04-21#
  51. Skyward San Francisco signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-08#
  52. Words of Radiance Omaha signing
    Arcanum - 2014-03-13#
  53. Teen Author Boot Camp
    Arcanum - 2015-04-11#
  54. Words of Radiance interlude I-3#
  55. Mistborn: Secret History part 4 chapter 2#
  56. a b Oathbringer chapter 89#
  57. Skyward Pre-Release AMA
    Arcanum - 2018-10-27#
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