Surgebinding is a magic system that embraces ten types of Surges, which are the fundamental forces of nature. A person who can utilize Stormlight to bind Surges is called a Surgebinder. Surgebinders were not originally intended to exist by the Shards on Roshar as it was brought to the world by humanity after they destroyed their home world (i.e., Ashyn) with it. They weren’t designed into the system and thus are more of an accident.
By the final days of the Era of Solitude, knowledge of Surgebinding is all but totally lost. Its effects haven't been seen for millennia and histories from times of the Heraldic Epochs, when Surgebinders fought during the Desolations and formed the orders of the Knights Radiant, are all but nonexistent. Most who are aware of it know it mainly from inaccurate legends.
During the events of Words of Radiance, Szeth, Shallan, Jasnah, Kaladin, Lift, and Lopen all use Surgebinding to various ends. Shallan, Kaladin, Lift, and Dalinar all deepen their commitments to the Radiants.
During the events of Dawnshard, ?
During the events of Rhythm of War, ?
Stormlight is typically drawn from infused gemstones by inhaling and willing it to enter the body. As long as the Surgebinder is holding his or her breath, Stormlight leaks out much more slowly. Surgebinders holding Stormlight can hold their breath for greatly increased lengths of time, with Stormlight sustaining the body in place of oxygen.
|“||"The most powerful forms of Surgebinding transcend traditional mortal understanding. All their greatest applications require Intent and a Command."||”|
In unique cases, Surgebinders may also draw on Stormlight through alternate means, such as Lift's ability to metabolize food into Stormlight.
Surgebinders also appear to have natural gifts, along with the other powers they possess. For example, although they each trained hard to achieve their current levels of perfection, both Szeth and Kaladin were drawn to combat and had an affinity for it from their beginnings. The same link is visible between Soulcasters and academics.
The orders of the Knights Radiant are believed to have been completely comprised of Surgebinders.
- Main article: Resonance
The combination of Surges amongst Surgebinders has unique effects, known as Resonances. This has been confirmed by Brandon and it is cosmere-wide mechanics when a Nahel bonded individual has access to two different powers.
For example, Windrunners' Resonance has to do with the number and power of their squires. (The divine attributes of Windrunners are Leadership/Protection, which fit their squires' protection.)
Readers don't yet know the Resonances of the other orders of Knights Radiant.
Spren and Bonds
Each of the different Orders of the Knights Radiant are related to one kind of spren. From Dalinar's conversations with Nohadon, it is known that this bond between humans and spren is called the Nahel bond.
For example: Kaladin, a Windrunner, bonds with the honorspren Syl; Shallan, a Lightweaver, bonds with the liespren Pattern; Jasnah, an Elsecaller, bonds with the inkspren Ivory; Renarin, a Truthwatcher, bonds with the mistspren Glys; Lift, an Edgedancer, bonds with the cultivationspren Wyndle;; Dalinar, a Bondsmith, bonds with the Stormfather, and Navani - as the newest amongst Bondsmiths - is now bonded to the Sibling.
Windrunners bond with honorspren.
Edgedancers bond with Cultivationspren.
Lightweavers bond with Cryptics or liespren.
Elsecallers bond with inkspren.
The spren that bond with Bondsmiths are said by Brandon to be unique. The Stormfather is one of these spren. It is stated within Words of Radiance that there are only ever up to three Bondsmiths at a time, and that they are closer to Heralds than other Knights Radiant.
Types of Surges
There are ten Surges: Adhesion, Gravitation, Division, Abrasion, Progression, Illumination, Transformation, Transportation, Cohesion, and Tension. Their glyph representations are shown on the diagram by the small images.
Each order of Knights Radiant had two Surges associated with it, and each Surge was used by two different Orders (see links on the diagram). The order of the Windrunners made use of Adhesion and Gravitation.
The Surge of Pressure and Vacuum. This is the Surge used to perform Full Lashings, binding an object onto another; used by Windrunners and Bondsmiths.
Lashing something to a distant point is possible, but imprecise. It is like trying to shoot an arrow a great distance.
- A Full Lashing binds objects together for as long as the Stormlight lasts. It is similar to a Basic Lashing but works on different principles. To create a Full Lashing, an object is infused with Stormlight, then pressed to another object. The two objects become bound together with an extremely powerful bond, nearly impossible to break. In fact, most materials would themselves break before the bond holding them together would. Bindspren may appear near objects held by a Full Lashing.
The Surge of Gravity. This Surge is used for Basic and Reverse Lashings. With it, the Surgebinder is able to change the direction of his/her gravitational pull and its magnitude; used by Windrunners and Skybreakers.
- A Basic Lashing creates a change in gravitational pull, temporarily altering the magnitude and vector of gravity affecting an object. More than one Basic Lashing can be applied to an object at the same time, to increase its acceleration in the selected direction. Fractional Basic Lashings are also possible; a half-Lashing can be used to make an object weightless, and a quarter-Lashing to cut its weight in half.
- A Reverse Lashing gives an object a gravitational pull, causing other objects to be drawn to it like iron to a magnet. This Lashing requires the least amount of Stormlight. It is much more difficult to have items that are on the ground pulled to this object because of the strength of the bond they have with the ground. It is easier to pull items in the air or mid-flight, for example pulling arrows towards a shield or bridge.
The Surge of Destruction and Decay. It's currently not exactly explained how this Surge works, but it seems to be able to cause spontaneous combustion; like crushing hard objects to dust, and also causing anything the Radiants touch to degrade, burn or turn to dust, even people. Used by Skybreakers and Dustbringers. On a fundamental level it is likely related to the weak force and the electromagnetic force or "the force that binds axi".
The Surge of Friction. With it, a Surgebinder can make the touch of her/his body near friction-less (i.e., enabling them to glide across a floor as if it was as slippery as ice). It may do other things as well; used by Edgedancers and Dustbringers.
The Surge of Growth and Healing, or Regrowth. This Surge can exponentially increase speed and manipulate plant growth. At advanced stages, it also enables the Surgebinder to heal other persons, in an immensely increased version of normal Stormlight healing, capable of bringing someone back from the brink of death; used by Edgedancers and Truthwatchers.
The Surge of Light, Sound, and Various Waveforms. It's used to create illusions, both visual and auditory; used by Truthwatchers and Lightweavers.
The Surge of Soulcasting. The ability to change matter without a Soulcaster. Initially, it is restricted to the Ten Essences. But, with experience, the Soulcaster can perform more intricate and complex transformations using the Essences as a basis. This Surge is used by Lightweavers and Elsecallers.
This ability is unique among the powers of the Knights Radiant as it is the only ability that is affected by the type of gem used to power it. For example, if a Surgebinder wanted to soulcast something into stone, s/he would have to use a topaz to enter Shadesmar.
The Surge of Motion and Realmatic Transition. There are rumors that this Surge allowed the Radiants to teleport - to instantaneously transport themselves to another location; used by Elsecallers and Willshapers.
The Surge of Strong Axial Interconnection. With it, Surgebinders can mold solid material as if it were liquid and travel through stone as liquid; used by Willshapers and Stonewards.
The Surge of Soft Axial Interconnection. It is still unknown just how this Surge works; used by Stonewards and Bondsmiths.
- Jasnah is an Elsecaller and is able to Transform and Transport through her bond with her inkspren, Ivory.
- Kaladin was able to save his bridge crew by using a Reverse Lashing on Parshendi arrows directed at Bridge Four. He is a Windrunner and his power comes from his bond with his honorspren, Syl.
- Shallan is a Lightweaver. Her power comes from her bond with her liespren, Pattern.
- Szeth frequently used Stormlight as a tool during his assassinations to kill his victims. But his powers, unlike those of others, did not come from a bond with any spren. It had come simply from wielding an Honorblade. That said, he is now a Skybreaker squire bonded to an unnamed highspren.
- Lift visited the Nightwatcher and received a direct physical connection with Shadesmar, allowing her to physically interact with spren and metabolize food into Lifelight. She is an Edgedancer and her bond is with the Cultivationspren, Wyndle.
- Dalinar is a Bondsmith and his power comes from his bond with the Stormfather.
- Renarin is a Truthwatcher and his bond is with Glys.
- Venli is a Willshaper and has sworn the First Ideal. Her developing bond is with the lightspren, Timbre.
- Teft is also a Windrunner through his bond with the honorspren, Phendorana.
Information on the Three Lashings can be found in the Ars Arcanum in The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, Oathbringer, and Rhythm of War.
|“||A Lashing overrides gravity. This is kind of a weird thing that I built that honestly drives, I think, my continuity people a little crazy. Because the way that I work Lashings, I didn't always want to have to say that "you're lashing them upward one gravitational force and then in a direction at the same time"; basically, to negate gravity and then send them a direction. So I just said, "You know what? This is working kind of on a Spiritual Realm level, where it's overriding gravity's pull and kind of convincing the body it's being pulled in a different direction." That is kind of what the mechanics are doing. So when you Lash toward the end of the hallway (you Lash in a direction, usually), then gravity is overriden, and you are pulled in a specific direction instead.||”|
Q&A with Brandon
Q. When Surgebinding, the person is Binding a Surge (the elemental force). Are those Bindings (the spiritual link) the focus for Surgebinding on Roshar?
Q. Are Surgebinding and Awakening related?
A. All of the magic systems [in the cosmere] are related, and these two do share some defining fundamentals.
Q. Are the two Surges [that each Knight Radiant has access to] completely separate or can they be combined together? Something like maybe allowing a Lightweaver to create a solid illusion by combining their Illumination Surge and their Soulcasting?
A. Yes, they can, but it's not always directly obvious in a straightforward way, such as your example. 
Q. When Szeth walked through an area he had Lashed in Interlude 9 of The Way of Kings, could he have decided to let himself be affected by his own Full Lashing? How does this extend to other Surgebinders?
A. Using a Full Lashing to stick yourself to something is inherently inferior to changing the gravitational pull and being able to move on that plane instead. So I see very rare instances where you would want to. But it is within the scope of the powers to be affected by it if he wanted to be. It will still affect other Surgebinders, and they will not be able to not be affected, unless there is a specific ability or item that is preventing it.
Q. Is it possible to Surgebind using gaseous Investiture other than Roshar's?
A. So here's the thing. It depends on your definition of Surgebinding. Surgebinding would be the Rosharan definition of all of the magics. They would call the Metallic Arts Surgebinding. You are binding the powers of creation, which the word "Surge" is that word translated from Rosharan into English, that's what the word means in Rosharan, is the powers of creation. The fundamental forces which inspired me to make this. So they would consider all of them to be Surgebinding. And that's just what you're doing, you are binding and using those powers.
Other people, including Khriss, would not agree with that definition. They would say: Surgebinding is specifically binding, through the Nahel bond, the spren, the specific manifestations of Investiture on Roshar, by using specific sets of oaths in order to gain access to those powers. So she would say: no, that is not Surgebinding when someone uses Allomancy. I would lean with her on that one, but the other one's a viable definition.
What you're really asking is, can someone, one of the Rosharan, the Knightly Radiant orders, could they power that with a different form of Investiture from a different planet? And yes, this is possible, though there might be some difficulties in making it work, which I haven't explained entirely yet. But yes, this is possible. In fact, it is possible to power all of the different magics with the different forms of Investiture. That is a possibility
This is one of the reasons why Mraize and Thaidakar are so interested in Stormlight. Because if you could get Stormlight off, and you can crack that ... just way easier to get Stormlight than it is to get the other ones. Like Breath, you could consider easy, but hard to morally harvest; in fact, perhaps impossible. If you want ethical, sustainable magic, then Roshar is a much better bet than some of the other places that you could ...
Q. Does that mean Mraize and [Thaidakar] want an ethically sustainable ... ?
A. They're really interested in the sustainable part. I would say that they both would say "yes" to that question. They would consider their actions to be, on an ethical spectrum, at least in the neutral area, perhaps. Others would disagree with that.
- Oathbringer, 111. Eila Stele
- The Way of Kings, Prologue - To Kill
- Dawnshard, 19.
- Combination of magic abilities ...
- Words of Radiance, 21. Ashes
- The Way of Kings, 60. That Which We Cannot Have
- Words of Radiance, Prologue - To Question
- Words of Radiance, 89. The Four
- Words of Radiance, Inter9.
- Rhythm of War, 110. Reborn
- Rhythm of War, 116. Mercy
- JordanCon 2016
- Words of Radiance, 44. One Form Of Justice
- Words of Radiance, 58. Never Again
- Fundamental forces ...
- Ars Arcanum
- The Way of Kings, Inter6.
- Soulcasting restricted to specific Gem types
- The Way of Kings, 5. Heretic
- The Way of Kings, 11. Droplets
- Words of Radiance, 13. The Day's Masterpiece
- Oathbringer, 90. Reborn
- Oathbringer, 98. Loopholes
- Words of Radiance, 87. The Riddens
- Oathbringer, 121. Ideals
- Edgedancer, 18.
- Oathbringer, 27. Playing Pretend
- Oathbringer, Inter11.
- Oathbringer, 92. Water Warm As Blood
- Oathbringer, 119. Unity
- YouTube Livestream 29, 3/3/21
- Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021, 11/22/21
- Spiritual link?
- Magic systems ...
- Combining Surges
- Ethically sustainable ...