- “The Lifestream. That's what we call the river of life that circles our planet, giving life to the world and everything in it.”
- —Marlene, in the prologue to Advent Children
The Lifestream (ライフストリーム, Raifusutorīmu?), also known as Spirit Energy, is an ethereal substance called Mako that flows in streams beneath the surface of the planet of Gaia in Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. When within the Planet, it is shown as many separate bands of green-white fluid flowing as a whole. In several places, such as Mt. Nibel and Mideel, Mako Springs shoot out of the ground, creating a local spectacle.
The concept of Lifestream was one of the earliest ideas envisioned for Final Fantasy VII, as it was already in place in Hironobu Sakaguchi's first story draft, which was drastically different from the final story eventually completed mainly by Yoshinori Kitase and Kazushige Nojima.
The Lifestream is similar to Japan's native religion, Shinto, which purports that all things have souls. In Final Fantasy VII, all living things have souls, which contribute to the overall soul of the Planet after they depart and "Return to the Lifestream". The Planet breeds new life from this soul in a process similar to reincarnation.
- “We will all join the lifestream... you are no exception.”
- —Genesis Rhapsodos
The Lifestream contains the essence of the Planet and the memories, emotions, and knowledge of all who have lived on it. Portions of the Lifestream are believed to be used to create new life on the Planet, and the energy of a person returns to the Planet when they die, bringing with it the emotions, memories, and knowledge they obtained during life. Lifestream is referred to many times as the life of the Planet itself, and acts as an afterlife for the conscious spirits of the Planet's inhabitants. It is a sort of immune system for the Planet, flowing to and "healing" scars. All life is said to exist within the cycle.
If the Planet is in danger of being utterly destroyed, the Planet summons the Omega, which destroys the remaining life on the Planet so it returns to the Lifestream, and takes the Lifestream itself, launching into the cosmos to find a new planet on which life can exist.
The novella Hoshi wo Meguru Otome expands on the purpose of the Lifestream, equating it to an afterlife with a concept of Heaven and Hell. Those who led good lives join with the Lifestream and their minds fragment and join the collective, while those who were sinful remain intact and must exist with the knowledge they cannot find absolution because of their actions. Aerith Gainsborough helps many of these people, including Dyne and Jessie, find peace, and allow them to come closer to atonement.
Mako and MateriaEdit
The Shinra Electric Power Company devised a way to refine the Lifestream into a continuous electricity supplier, posting Mako Reactors around the world to extract the Lifestream from under the Planet's crust. Shinra discovered that injecting humans with pure Mako enhances their abilities, and began creating an elite warrior class called SOLDIER using Mako-enhanced humans injected with Jenova cells. However, over-exposure to Mako can cause Mako poisoning.
Because the Lifestream is the source of life to the Planet, depleting the energy in this way causes the area surrounding Mako Reactors to wither and die. This is most evidenced at Midgar, where plants cannot grow and the surrounding area is barren of life. The air and water in Midgar are polluted, although it may be the pollution of the reactors themselves and not a result of the Lifestream being drained.
When Mako energy is condensed, Materia is produced. Materia allows the holder to access the Lifestream's knowledge and power and channel it, manifesting as "magic". Most of the time, Materia is artificially produced by forcibly condensing Mako, but at a few places, such as Mt. Nibel, natural Mako springs allow Materia to be produced naturally. It is never established in any of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII entries if there is a difference between artificial and natural Materia besides their production.
Meteor and HolyEdit
The ultimate Materia, White Materia, is a last-ditch attempt to cleanse the world of anything threatening it with the ultimate protective magic, Holy. A massive force of energy, during the events of Final Fantasy VII, it is that mentioned even humans and animals are liable to be destroyed by Holy if they are judged a danger to the Planet. Opposing the White Materia is the Black Materia, which can summon the ultimate destructive magic, Meteor, a massive impact to critically wound or even destroy the Planet.
During Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth recovers the Black Materia and uses it to call Meteor, his plan to cause a wound so deep the Lifestream circling the Planet would gather to heal itself. Sephiroth would place himself at the center of the gathering and absorb the spiritual energy of the Lifestream to become a god. Cloud Strife and his allies kill Sephiroth before Meteor falls, and Holy emerges to fight off Meteor. The Meteor's gravity so close to the Planet causes Holy's energy to be too unfocused, and Aeris calls upon the Lifestream to push Meteor back, giving Holy enough time to gather its full power and destroy Meteor.
In the aftermath, the fate of the White and Black Materia is unknown - the White Materia was last seen in the lake under the Forgotten City, while the Black Materia was last seen in Sephiroth's hands in the Northern Crater before it collapsed. If either Materia exists after the events of Final Fantasy VII, it is unknown if they still have any power.
When the Lifestream burst from the Planet, Sephiroth's spirit in it remained, and Jenova's remnants spread over the Planet, infecting many people with the fatal disease known as Geostigma. Two years later, in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the Remnants of Sephiroth appeared and planned a second Jenova reunion using children inflicted with Geostigma.
It is hinted that the Remnants are made up of the "negative Lifestream" tainted with Jenova's cells, and they can summon Shadow Creepers from this dark Lifestream. Kadaj acquires Jenova's head and Sephiroth is reborn, explaining that, when those infected with Geostigma die, their tainted spirit energy will return to the Lifestream, and Sephiroth will use his influence over Jenova to take control of the Lifestream itself. Sephiroth summons the negative Lifestream over Midgar with his battle with Cloud, but once he is defeated, it fades. It is unknown what happened to the negative Lifestream afterwards, though Case of the Lifestream - White mentions that Aerith would heal the spirits that make it up, presumably causing it to diminish, if not outright disappear.
In Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII-, a series of reports, known as the Omega Reports, state that a naturally occurring deposit of similar Lifestream (termed "terra corrupt") was found in Lucrecia's Cave. How such deposits are created is not stated, but it is mentioned as being "stagnant", and implied in Maiden Who Travels the Planet and Case of the Lifestream Black that certain emotions in a spirit prevent it from flowing properly. This Lifestream eventually forms a being known as Chaos.
- When Cloud Strife comes into his cameo in Final Fantasy Tactics, he says he remembers a "great current," possibly the Lifestream. Speculation has pointed that Cloud was whisked away for a while from the Lifestream into Ivalice by a trans-dimensional portal.
- The Lifestream is an iteration of the ancient Hellenic philosophical concept of the Absolute or the World-Soul, an infinite wellspring of spiritual energy. All human beings possess a fragment of it which returns upon death. The description of the Lifestream's afterlife is also consistent with Neo-Platonic belief. This concept of the Absolute would, over a millennium later, become part of Jewish Kabbalist belief, which factors heavily into the game.
- The Lifestream is the basis of "the Gaia Theory" in the film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. In the film, Doctor Sid speculates all living beings hold a spiritual presence inside themselves, and when they die the spirit energy returns to a collective whole within the planet that is then used to birth new life.
- The Lifestream is an early part of the trend to use a supernatural substance to explain magic and other phenomena. Other instances in the franchise include Mist, pyreflies and aether.