"I am so omniscient, if there were to be two omnisciences, I would be both!"
A character that knows everything. Either literally everything, or simply everything worth knowing under the circumstances. May or may not have Blue and Orange Morality or a Omniscient Morality License. Do Not Confuse With a character who incorrectly believes himself to know everything.
Omniscience can be said to have three basic forms:
- Actual Omniscience: The character is a god (or God Himself) or Sufficiently Advanced Whatever who actually does know exactly everything.
- Awesomeness By Analysis and Super Intelligence taken to the extreme: Somehow all variables are identified and fully accounted for.
- They are Dangerously Genre Savvy thanks to being Medium Aware.
However, many Omniscient characters are hard to pinpoint. They tend to be mysterious entities, a trait that protects the plot from being destroyed by their omniscience. Alternately, their omniscience is imperfect and prone to foiling, or limited by what can be perceived.
Typically a background character, The Omniscient usually functions as oracle (mad or otherwise), mentor, Deus Ex Machina, Man Behind the Man and/or leader of The Omniscient Council of Vagueness. Often reluctant to help the protagonists even if he is benevolent without being terribly busy.
When featured as the protagonist or antagonist, this an Omniscient Hero or an Invincible Villain. To avert this, such characters tend to lose their status as The Omniscient at about the same time as they ascend to Main Character status. Another way to try to keep the story interesting is to keep the readers/viewers in the dark about what the main character is really doing and why, while the character executes a Gambit Pileup. Unless resolved fairly quickly the authors might let something go wrong and the character is brutally demoted to Not So Omniscient After All status.
For The Omniscient to face a Moral Dilemma without becoming a Omniscient Hero, the dilemma has to remain very abstract. In philosophy, many though-experiments are based on the outright or implied premise "What would The Omniscient do?" However, when such a thought-experiment is included in a story, having The Omniscient make such a choice tend to either morph him into an Omniscient Hero kind of Mary Sue or turn him into the Not So Omniscient After All little Butt Monkey of a Deconstruction.
Compare The Omnipotent, who often overlaps with The Omniscient.
Anime and Manga
- Yuko from ×××HOLiC due to being an exceptionally old and powerful witch. Unfortunately for the main characters, she's bound by Equivalent Exchange rules where everything has a price, including information, pushing her into All Powerful Bystander territory.
- The First President of the Genshiken seems to know everything that goes on around the school. He implies that he may have set up cameras around the school, but he never explicitly confirms it.
- Destiny in The Sandman. Note that he can't put this knowledge to any use because he doesn't have free will (thus he is symbolically chained to the book). At one point he calls a meeting for no apparent reason and when people ask why he did it Destiny explains that the book said he was going to.
- The Lucifer spinoff has Michael show up in Destiny's realm to ask about the oncoming apocalypse only to find that Destiny had invited the title character and Michael's daughter over to discuss the exact same thing. When he asks Destiny why he wasn't invited, Destiny responds that it didn't seem necessary, since he was already coming.
- Dr. Manhattan in most of Watchmen. He's not exactly omniscient, but knows everything that ever happened or will happen to him.
- The Watcher in Marvel Universe.
- In X-Factor: Investigations Layla Miller's catch phrase is "I know stuff." While she's not totally omniscient, she does tend to know just about everything about many of the situations they get themselves into. Often to the detriment of the team or their trust in her. It later turns out that "knowing stuff" is not actually her ability, but a result of his future self downloading all her knowledge into her brain
- In the first Elf Quest series, Two-Edge apparently knew what all of the elves and trolls were doing, and spent years subtly manipulating them toward a final confrontation. Didn't work out too well for him in the end, though.
- Dajjal in Supergod.
- Ms. Aoyama in Desperately Seeking Ranma -- an alien, possibly part-demonic, Badass Bureaucrat who knows absolutely everything about anybody she cares to know about, and who has no qualms about revealing secrets people would rather not have spread about. Her demeanor and physical presence are absolutely terrifying even before you factor in that she knows your deepest, darkest secrets. (She's actually a persona adopted by Nabiki Tendo, aided by a literal Magical Computer and its controlling AI.)
Films -- Live-Action
- The Oracle in The Matrix is the second type of omniscient mentioned above: she is really, really good at predicting people's decisions. She does admit that her abilities have limits: if she doesn't understand a choice being made, obviously she can't predict what the outcome of that decision will be.
- Vetinari from Discworld is not omniscient in the first sense. However, he does fit the second to a T, and many think that part of his amazing manipulation skill comes from being Dangerously Genre Savvy enough to recognize 'main characters', which would place him squarely in the third category as well.
- Errand/Eriond from David Eddings' Malloreorn series. (He was in The Belgariad too, but didn't start displaying omniscience until the beginning of The Malloreorn.)
- He generally acts like an ordinary, if somewhat naive, young boy, but when he feels it is 'appropriate', he reveals insight into things that neither he, nor anybody else, could possibly know. His first real display of this ability is when he quotes, word-for-word, a letter that was lost at sea in a shipwreck that left no survivors. And, when further questioned, it turned out that he also knew the exact circumstances BEHIND the sending of said letter, even though it all happened several hundred miles away. He never really loses this ability, but the ever-present 'Prophecy of Light' rather cleverly diverts the thoughts of the people around him, preventing them from trying to take advantage of it.
- At the end of the series, it is revealed that his ability was due to him being, essentially, a sort of proto-god, who wielded a fairly impressive array of divine powers even prior to his ascension.
- Both the Prophecy of Light and Prophecy of Dark fit this, as they seem to have their hands in a bit of darn near everything to ensure their goals come to pass.
- Ivy (The Archive) in The Dresden Files is a small girl with the entire sum of all human knowledge, including magic, crammed into her head. This makes her very dangerous.
- A select few ancient, powerful beings possess an ability called intellectus, which lets them know the answer to any question just by asking it. The catch being they have to ask the right question. They do not actually know everything and every moment so they can be caught off guard. A few possess a limited form of it. For instance, the Skinwalker knows what will hurt someone the most, without knowing why. The island of Demonreach knows everything that happens on it.
- Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings functions as an omniscient oracle to the Fellowship of the Ring, particularly Frodo.
- Sauron has a variant of this ability; he can see (though not extend any of his other senses) anywhere in the world, so long as he isn't being blocked (and only the bearers of the Three Rings are shown to have the power to do this), but he isn't aware of everything at once and has to actively look for something to see it. This becomes a plot point in Return of the King, when Aragorn deliberately manipulates Sauron into focusing on him to the point that he becomes blind to everything else (most importantly, Frodo).
- Rock from Warrior Cats. He knows everything about the clans and the tribe, and is able to explain it all to some kits in the Expanded Universe book Cats of the Clans.
- The Ellimist, from Animorphs
- In Lost, Ben or Jacob seem to know everything. Not at the same time, however. Ben's omniscience shrinks away as Jacob is gradually introduced as The Man Behind the Man.
- In Star Trek (from 'The Next Generation and Voyager), you have Q. And other Qs, but mostly just Q himself. And he's totally awesome doing it. Also, in one episode a mysterious alien probe gives Barclay superhuman intellect—he proclaims "I understand... everything!"
- Commander Ivanova, the Executive Officer of Babylon 5, prides herself on this, in regards to the operating and goings-on of the station. When Captain Sheridan decides to bring her in on his big secret, that there is a secret Human-Minbari covert operations organization operating on the station, who will help the heroes fight the Shadows, Ivanova reveals that she already knows all about it, casually remarking that if you were to ever discover that something was happening on the station that Ivanova did not know about, then you should worry.
- Death appears to be this, although there are limits to his knowledge (such as assuming instead of already knowing what Sam, Dean, and Bobby summoned him for in episode 7x01, and surprise at being informed that they want him to kill "God" — i.e. Castiel). If not absolutely, he is at least functionally omniscient.
- God presumably also possesses this trait.
- The Doctor for all intents and purposes. He knows effectively everything that has happened or ever will happen across the whole of the universe, and on the occasions where he doesn't know something, it's because something is wrong and anyway, Awesome By Analysis will cover him until he sorts it.
- He does not, however, know his own personal future and actively avoids finding out about it, even with the presence of River Song (and to a lesser extent Amy and Rory), who know at least some of his future, including how he dies.
- The ascended Ancients in the Stargate Verse. Upon Ascending to A Higher Plane of Existence, they become omniscient but can't share this knowledge with mortals nor can they keep it if they decide to be Brought Down to Normal.
- The title character of John Doe knows everything there is to know about everything, except his own identity.
- The Collector: The Devil. The limits of his awareness and power are not entirely clear, but he can see into people's minds across the whole universe.
- Averted by Ziltoid The Omniscient (who also provides the page quote), where Ziltoid claimed to be omnisicent, but later went to the Omnidimentional Creator, who plays this trope straight.
Mythology, Religion, and Folklore
- Yahweh/Allah of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.) as well as God of monotheism in general—in theory and according to the common "official" interpretation. In practice, it gets difficult, and interpretations vary.
- The stories in The Bible, which no matter what some moderns may think were usually not meant by the ancients to be literal history, sometimes date back to times before monotheism, and often contradict each other in detail, can sometimes be read as describing Yahweh not knowing things without looking or waiting and seeing what will happen.
- Prescience is thought to conflict with human free will on the basis that a choice foreseen might as well be preordained. This depends on the view of just what free will means, though, which is more complicated than one might think. Among those who think there is a contradiction, some theologians/philosophers have let God maintain omniscience and compromised on human free will. Others have stated that since God is wholly outside time, he doesn't know things before they happen, so that's not a problem. Some have come to the conclusion that God's omniscience is limited so that he can't see the future past indeterministic events such as choices, though this can be accompanied by stating that just this is what omniscience really means, because you shouldn't ask for the impossible.
- According to one interpretation, while God has complete knowledge of the past and present, he selectively uses his ability to see the future, and thus can be surprised or caught unprepared (by Satan's Face Heel Turn, for instance). So, while he does know much more than humans, he doesn't technically know everything.
- People in general are not very good at applying such complicated concepts in their thinking even while theoretically accepting them, so a believer in God who states God to be omniscient might not actually think accordingly.
- Odin in Norse Mythology, courtesy of his Cool Chair that lets him see the whole world and precognition (which he bought with his eye.) The latter, however, overlaps with Blessed with Suck since not even the Allfather could defy Fate. He also has 2 ravens, Huginn and Muninn, that are somewhat Omniscient themselves show up everyday and tell him what they have seen.
- The Final Boss of Touhou 13: Ten Desires, Toyosatomimi no Miko, who has the ability to listen to the ten desires, allowing her to know and understand all of humanity, as they are in the past, the present, and even the future.
- The Legacy of Kain series has the Elder God and Moebius, both of whom have such extensive knowledge of the timeline and predestination that they can be treated as this. Neither of them do any time-travelling themselves, yet both of them address Kain and Raziel as old acquaintances centuries before they chronologically meet them for the first time, and can continue conversations without any Time Travel Tense Trouble despite not seeing them for centuries. Unsurprisingly, they are very good at manipulating events and outcomes, at least until the Immune to Fate Raziel and Magnificent Bastard Kain work together to really screw things up for them.
- Homestuck: Doc Scratch. At least in theory. He has lapses.
- Though he usually pieces together what's happening pretty quickly.
Occasionally I discover there are things I have not always known. It gives me the opportunity to make deductions, which are practically always flawless. It's gratifying.
- Order of the Stick: the kobold Oracle. Complete with snarkiness and Breaking the Fourth Wall.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: Fa'Lina, though it's limited to the academy and she mistakenly refers to it as "semi-omnipotence".
- Ramas of Zodiac might turn out to be this. He can see the future, but his hints kinda makes him a one-man (-jackal?) omniscient council of vagueness.
- LaPlace's Demon appears briefly in the "Advanced Dungeons and Discourse" strip of Dresden Codak. When ordered to attack an Invincible Villain, it immediately leaves, prompting another character to observe, "Guess he knew something we didn't."
- Clockwork in Danny Phantom. Since he's the ghost of Time, he knows everything that has happened, is happening, or can happen.
- The god entity in Futurama, unless you do something different.
- Also Bender in 'Overclockwise'. He managed to calculate the reason we exist, which ceiling-fans will fall and Fry's and Leela's ultimate fate as a couple and possibly a lot more.
- Played for laughs in |Hercules with Hades and the Fates. He keeps trying to explain why he needs their help but they just keep saying "We know!"
Hades: I KNOW! You know, I know, I get it! I get the concept.
Slade: "What you fail to understand is that Trigon is all-seeing. His mind can be at any place, at any time."
- Los Hermanos, a member of the Global Guardians is a duplicator a'la Jamie Madrox from X Factor. He knows nearly everything worth knowing because sometime, somewhere, one of his duplicates has taken a course in it, or read a book about it, or currently works it as a profession. He's also Dangerously Genre Savvy.