Before the creation of the Avatar Spirit, spirits and humans co-existed. The spirit portals were open and allowed easy travel between the physical and spiritual worlds. In this age, humans were fragile and fewer in number. With the exception of the precursors to the Air Nomads, most humans were wary and fearful of spirits, especially because spirit possession results in disfigurement and ostracization. When Avatar Wan closed the spirit portals, humans and spirits did not have substantial contact with each other for 10,000 years. With the absence of spirits, humans populations expanded, and the four nations came into existence. The portals were later reopened by Wan’s successor, Avatar Korra, and spirits again returned to the physical world. With the creation of a third spirit portal in Republic City, many spirits feared humans would exploit and ravage their home.
The Spirit World itself is a strange place that the human mind struggles to comprehend. Its geography has no relation to the physical world, and physical laws like gravity don’t always apply. Time itself seems to pass differently in the spirit world. Many humans entering the spirit world are unaware of its dangers and easily become lost. Bending requires a corporeal form, so humans that meditate into the spirit world cannot bend. However, incorporeal visitors can teleport anywhere in the Spirit World through thought. The human soul can only remain in the Spirit World for a short
In Genji’s Time
It has only been a few decades since Avatar Korra reopened the spirit portals, and humans are still struggling to adapt to the influx of spiritual beings in the physical realm. Societies don’t know how to interact with these supernatural and immortal beings, and the spirits themselves are adjusting to how far humanity has progressed in their absence. Many spirits expected to have free access to locations they previously frequented, but now factories, farms, and cities exist. Spirits, with little conception of private property, technology, or human matters in general, periodically intrude on these spaces and clash with humans. The rise of human-spirit conflict has resulted in numerous possessions and disfigurements, and medical communities around the world have been unable to restore those afflicted to their original state. This has brought on new waves of fear, anger, and resentment towards the spirits and the Avatar. However, some humans have welcomed spirits into their homes and lands. Some people even consider more minor spirits to be something like a pet or companion.
Airbenders live harmoniously with spirits, and the Air Nation works to improve spirit-human relations. Unfortunately, the process is slow going. The environmental impact of human economies have angered most spirits, and when disasters like oil spills or human-caused forest fires occur, spirits in the area have been known to turn dark and go on rampages. Further angering the spirits is the fact that humans are experimenting with spirit vines to produce energy. Rumors are circulating that spirit energy is still being used to create weapons and other strange new technologies.