Laran is one of the fundamental themes of the Darkover series. Without it, many events in Darkover's history would never have taken place.Laran is the term given to the collection of psychic abilities which certain Darkovans possess. Generally speaking, laran is a combination of two abilities: telepathy, the ability to read the thoughts of others; and telekinesis, the ability to move objects with the power of thought.
The manifestations of laranLaran first manifests itself in a person as a diffuse telepathic sense which allow those who possess it to pick up one another's emotions. Once a telepath has been trained, laran may allow him or her to manipulate objects without physically touching them (telekinesis). There may also be the development of a special mental visualization which allows the telepath to control energy flows or to see over a distance, to name just two examples.
This type of laran manifests itself primarily as a form of empathy, the ability to sense the emotions of others. It is not especially clear from the books, but it seems that telepathic contact between a telepath and a non-telepath is not really possible. The telepath perceives only vaguely the feelings and strong emotions of a non-telepath. The exception to this is the Alton gift.
A trained telepath can block his mind so that another telepath cannot read his thoughts. Among Darkovans it is considered a crime to try to read the thoughts of others without their consent. On the other hand, the ethical code among telepaths requires that they keep their mental barriers properly raised so as not to inflict their private thoughts upon others. Such barriers can also be raised unconsciously by a young telepath whose talent is emerging, as the onset of laran can often be a painful and traumatic experience. Once in place, these unconscious barriers are difficult to lower and they can be an obstacle to the development of the individual's gifts. It is possible for such a telepathic barrier to be forced down, but in general this is unthinkable as well as extremely dangerous (see The Heritage of Hastur, p. 35).
By utilizing a matrix to amplify his ability, one telepath can communicate with another across vast distances. A telepath can send and receive precise thoughts and precise messages. This is one of the functions of the relays in the Towers.
The most impressive aspect of laran is telekinesis, which allows the telepath to move almost anything without actually touching it. Except in the case of the Hastur gift, telekinesis seems impossible without resorting to a matrix to amplify mental powers. It should be noted here that some people who possess only limited telepathic gifts (a mild empathy, for example) can learn to use a matrix for telekinetic manipulations (op. cit., p. 204-205 and 240).
One of the simplest feats learned by beginners is the control of fire. It is possible to increase or diminish flames, to make a spark when a fire is almost out, etc. Fire is one of the easiest elements to invoke, but full control requires a refined touch (op. cit., pages 203 and following). It is also possible to create light in the form of a glowing ball: the telepath excites a region of air molecules so that they produce light (personal guess).
Such control may be exercised over larger objects (inverting the flow of a waterfall, for example, op. cit., p. 207) as well as very small things such as the petals of a flower. One can make a rosebud open by carefully pulling its petals apart (op. cit., p. 207). In fact, control can be taken down to the molecular level, as was readily done during the Ages of Chaos (most notably for genetic manipulations, op. cit., p. 33). At the opposite end of the scale, rainfall can be induced by gathering clouds together (op. cit., p. 204).
It is important to note that the power of a trained telepath is enormous. For instance, given just one matrix a telepath can turn the blades of a helicopter fast enough for it to take off (as seen in op. cit., p. 246). With a larger matrix and a circle of telepaths, it is literally possible to move mountains.
Telepaths are also capable of levitation and teleportation (op. cit., p. 364).
At the most basic level, laran seems to be accompanied by an extension of perceptions. For instance, a telepath is able to follow "energy currents" in the human body. These currents are in fact the well-known meridians described in theories of Yogi. They convey "life-force" energy and energons (see Matrix Mechanics, below).
This type of extended perception also allows a telepath to see over great distances, although this point remains somewhat obscure in the novels. On the other hand, it is quite clear that telepathy includes the ability to transmit pictures (as well as memories and past images) to another telepath in a very precise manner.
Another important point is that this perception is always involved with the exercise of laran. So, when a telepath heals someone, his extended perception allows him to see within the body in a highly augmented fashion (even down to the molecular level). Likewise, if a circle of telepaths is working to extract minerals from ore, for example, they have such a clear vision of what they are doing that they can see under the earth (see The Bloody Sun).
Finally, it is possible to see into the future, although these visions are generally troubling as the future can only be perceived in terms of what is possible.
Matrix mechanics is a theory based on the empirical knowledge of Darkovans concerning the use of laran and matrices. In short it is a collection of techniques which allows a person who possesses laran to make use of his psychic energy for telepathic and telekinetic purposes.The main point of the theory is the concept of energons. It is assumed that the part of the brain which controls psychic ability emits special waves: energons. These are amplified by a matrix and the resulting flow can be used to manipulate reality. In a circle of telepaths, each member amplifies his individual flow with his own matrix, then directs the resulting flow to the Keeper. The Keeper combines and channels the energy so received before passing it through a larger matrix at the center of the circle. After amplification by this matrix, the energy flow is enormous and may be used for diverse purposes (and even as a weapon, as during the Ages of Chaos). All of this is explained by Lew Alton in The Heritage of Hastur (pages 238 and following).
Other points of interestLaran did not appear on Darkover randomly, without reason: the Darkover Encyclopedia presents a history of its development.
Laran is linked the following topics discussed in the Encyclopedia:
source file (Last modification: Wed Apr 21 17:21:45 1999)