Thursday, March 21, 2002

Freemasonry and the Wheel of Time



WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

By Linda

From one of the comments on Jordan’s blog it is apparent that the Wheel of Time books have quite a few references to Freemasonry. Jordan confirmed in his reply that he was indeed a Mason:

Question from Pat: Time after time in the WOT series you’ve made references, words and subtle symbols that lead me to believe that you may be a member of AF&AM. If you read this please post an answer or drop me an email. I’d love to know if my suspicions are correct.

Answer: For Pat, who asked subtly, yes, I am, but like my father and grandfather before me, I don’t advertise. We like to believe that no man in this country should feel in danger because of his beliefs, but times change. History tells us that, even here. Political practices we see as unthinkable were carried out as a matter of course by Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Who can say what tomorrow will bring, or next year, or next decade? So should you ask me again, I have no idea what you are talking about unless you are inside the walls of a Lodge.

- Robert Jordan’s blog

AF and AM stands for Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Only another Mason would know for sure what these references are, since what happens inside a Lodge is totally secret, but that has never stopped speculation before, so why should it this time?


Freemasonry

Freemasonry is a fraternal organization whose members share moral and philosophical ideals. Freemasonry insists that it is not a religion or a substitute for religion and in fact members may be drawn from a variety of faiths.

Freemasons meet as a Lodge, often in a purpose-built building that is referred to as the Lodge or Temple. Each Lodge has a certain amount of autonomy. Meetings are always private, open only to members (initiates), and an official called a Tyler stands – or used to stand - guard at the front of the Lodge with a drawn wavy sword (just like a Saldaean’s serpentine blade, Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival). Most, if not all, Lodges require members to avow a belief in a Supreme Being, who may be referred to in Masonic metaphor as Grand Architect of the Universe. This Supreme Being is a life force residing in all living things, an energy with no physical form.

The organisation uses the tools and implements of medieval masons, workers in stone, as allegory in their moral lessons and self-development. The symbols are the square, level, plumb, ruler, hammer, trowel and pair of compasses (Peter Marshall, The Philosopher’s Stone). Symbols and traditions of the medieval Knights Templar were also incorporated into Freemasonry later in the 1700s.

The Freemasons have had:

an ambivalent relationship with those in power. In the eighteenth century they were considered to be a serious threat to the status quo. They played an important role in the American War of Independence, with George Washington being made a Master of a Parisian lodge. Their influence was immortalized in the dollar bill with its Hermetic emblem of an utchat eye [an Ancient Egyptian symbol, the Eye of Ra or Horus] at the top of a pyramid.

- Peter Marshall, The Philosopher’s Stone

While more open than in the past, Freemasonry still has secrets, especially of its ceremonies and recognition of initiates. Lodges are all one gender. In the past, all masons were male, but there are now also female lodges.

Just as a Freemason doesn’t have to be Christian or profess a religion, only believe in a Supreme Being which provides the life force in all living things, so the Wheel of Time world has no regular organised religion, only belief in the Creator, who created the One Power which is in everything. Many readers have commented on the lack of an organised religion, and Jordan being a Freemason explains it.

Freemasonry is one of those societies famous for its mythical history ‘reverse-engineered,’ as Jordan would say, in the 1700s. This myth shaped much of Masonic ideology and tradition. Jordan’s books are full of his own reverse-engineered history to explain how our history becomes the myth and legend of his world and his world’s history becomes the myth and legend of our world. It is an important theme in the series and the inspiration may have been provided by Masonic mythic history.

The Wheel of Time groups with likely references to Freemasonry are: Ogier, Aes Sedai, Illuminators, Aiel, and Whitecloaks.


Groups with Possible References to Freemasonry


Ogier

Ogier are renowned for faithfulness and keeping oaths. It is unthinkable for an Ogier to break an oath (The Shadow Rising, Customs of Mayene and Leavetakings). Freemasons swear oaths upon initiation, including one to divulge nothing about what happens inside a Lodge, and it is considered unthinkable to break them.

A fair percentage of male Ogier are stonemasons and their work is remarkably beautiful. While humans revere it, Ogier do not:

To the Ogier, stonework was only something they had picked up during the Exile, and what work in stone could compare with the majesty of trees?

- Lord of Chaos, From the Stedding

Ogier are modest about their own work and craftsmanship. They revere the Great Trees rather than their stonework; they have a reverence for the Creator’s creation rather than their own. The Great Trees could refer to the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, perhaps the World Tree. The Kabbala, Jewish mystical teachings for developing a relationship with God which were also incorporated into European Hermetic philosophy, also has Tree of Life symbolism (see illustration). The Tree of Life is also present in the series as Avendesora in the sacred city of Rhuidean.

In Freemasonry, working in stone is an allegory for self-development and the relationship with God; for instance:

The good mason chisels at the rough stone of himself to form a perfect cube.

- Peter Marshall, The Philosopher’s Stone

The reclusive and somewhat secretive Ogier are wary of non-Ogier. Their masons always stay together when they go Outside the Stedding to work (The Dragon Reborn, Easing the Badger). Freemasons are wary of identifying themselves as such to non-Masons. They are/were prominent men in the community, just as Ogier are conspicuous when they leave the Stedding.

Near each Stedding (and the major cities) is a Waygate: a stone wall with a gateway set in it of living stone (idealised stonework, see below). The leaf of the Tree of Life is the key needed to open the gate. Ogier have a tool, the Talisman of Growing, to grow more Ways and Waygates. There are many Masonic references associated with the Ogier.

The happiness and peace of a Stedding may refer to the atmosphere within the Lodge and the Ogier elders, with their air of great wisdom, would then be the Grand Master and Wardens. This is supported by the Charge at Closing of a Lodge meeting:

Brethren: You are now about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue, to mix again with the world.

- Robert Macoy, The Masonic Manual

The Lodge is looked upon as a haven from the rest of the world, just like a Stedding. It is a likely in-joke that the physically conspicuous yet reclusive Ogier are the group with probably the most similarities to Freemasons. (Freemasons are there playing an important role, yet we can’t identify them as such).

Interestingly, Jordan’s wife Harriet says that the character Jordan is most like in her opinion is Loial. Now we know why.


Aes Sedai

The Third Age Aes Sedai are a fraternal (actually a sisterhood) organisation divided into Ajahs, which could be likened to lodges, particularly those lodges composed of masons with a shared interest or profession. No men are admitted yet, just as lodges in Freemasonry are usually all male. In the Age of Legends, the Aes Sedai were a partly decentralised guild:

This guild had branches in every city, town and village that housed Aes Sedai. In large cities the guild hall was usually an impressive building. In small towns and villages the guild often met in someone’s home temporarily dedicated for that purpose.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Freemasonry developed from the medieval stonemason’s guilds. Early Lodges often met in a tavern or any other convenient place with a private room. The chequerboard pattern that features on the floor in the ceremonial hall of many lodges is also present throughout the Ajah and common areas in the White Tower. (Photo by Friedricheins)

The Ring of Tamyrlin worn by Lews Therin in the Age of Legends could be a reference to the ring of a Grand Master of a Lodge.

Like the membership of a Lodge, the members of an Ajah share a common philosophy and ideals – in this case in the use of the One Power - as well as goals and like Grand Lodges, Ajahs are self-governing and independent. The Ajahs are as secretive as the Lodges, and have their own customs and rules. The Blue Ajah has great influence out of proportion to its size, just as Blue Lodges are the most important in American Freemasonry.

Aes Sedai and Freemasons have a three-stepped initiation (more below). There is a great emphasis on rank among Aes Sedai; this may or may not be the case for Freemasons. “Scottish” Freemasonry (actually prevalent in Europe) accepted higher degrees beyond the original and public three. Once an Aes Sedai moves to the third level of training and achieves the shawl she finds that there are many degrees or ranks in Aes Sedai society kept secret from non-Aes Sedai. Both organisations divulge nothing of what occurs within their ranks or on their premises to non-initiates.

The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls is a Masonic organisation which teaches teenage girls leadership and service. Its symbol contains the Masonic arch and bands of colour (see right). Novices pass through the arches ter’angreal to earn right to wear an Accepted dress with bands of colour.

Aes Sedai have a spiritual/mystical attitude to the One Power rather than the practical one of the Age of Legends. Freemasons were once actual masons, but now use the craft of masonry as a spiritual or philosophical metaphor.

The old versus young Sitters issue may be a reference to the rivalry of two Grand Lodges, the Antients and the Moderns, who battled for supremacy in England during the second half of the 18th century.

In the past, cronyism was rife in Freemasonry; this is now less common and is officially discouraged. For Aes Sedai, cronyism is accepted, even expected. For instance, a new Amyrlin is expected to choose her Keeper and Mistress of Novices from her former Ajah (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay), although a few do not.

Aes Sedai are believed to secretly control the politics of the Westlands, just as Freemasons are/were believed by some to do.


Illuminators

The Illuminators are a very secretive organisation:

"They do indeed keep to themselves, Omerna. They live with their own, travel with their own, and barely speak to anyone else. Do you mean to have these agents marry Illuminators? They rarely marry outside their guild, and there is no way to become an Illuminator except by birth."

- The Fires of Heaven, Plans

They kill intruders or those who betray their secrets (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in the Night and The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night). In the past, Freemasons have also killed those who betrayed their secrets.

The Illuminators are a guild and had two chapter houses (Tarabon and Cairhien), which could be likened to Lodges. As part of their craft, Illuminators have a fair knowledge of medieval chemistry; in the 17th-18th centuries, many Freemasons studied alchemy.

The name Illuminators may refer to the Illuminati, a real world organisation that, like the Freemasons (and at times linked with them in some people’s minds), has been considered to be aiming for world domination, or already controlling the world. A grim joke here.


Aiel

The Aiel warrior societies are fraternal. The cut of the cadinsor indicates which society an Aiel warrior belongs to just as the arrangement of the apron indicates the Freemason’s rank.

Each society has its own premises (equivalent to Lodges) and none may enter except members, Wise Ones and gai’shain: eg the Maidens have a Roof of the Maidens in each hold or wherever numbers of Aiel gather and none may enter except Maidens, Wise Ones and gai’shain. Thus Rand living under the Roof of the Maidens showed that the Maidens had adopted him as one of them (The Fires of Heaven, Twilight). The business of each society is not divulged to those outside it; again Mason-like.

A Master Mason can generally visit any Lodge that is in amity with his own, and as well as admission to the formal meeting, a Lodge may well offer hospitality; Wise Ones have a greater freedoms, being able to enter any hold they wish, even ones in blood feud with their own.


Whitecloaks

The Whitecloaks are an all male organisation whose members swear for life (The Dragon Reborn, Jarra). Whitecloaks wear white cloak and surcoat; Freemasons wear white aprons.

None but Whitecloaks sees inside their temple (Lord of Chaos, Red Wax ) just as until recently, no one saw the inside of a Lodge. They interfere in governments, as Freemasons have been accused of doing.

Their names are almost the same. Whitecloaks are Children of the Light and:

Freemasons are emphatically called the Sons of Light, because they are in possession of the true meaning of the symbol; while the profane or uninitiated who have not received this knowledge are said to be in darkness.

- Albert Mackey, Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry

This is just how a Whitecloak would speak of the Children. This explains Geofram Bornhald’s description of common folk such as Perrin and Egwene as unenlightened [not brought to the light] (The Eye of the World, Children of Shadow). So if you walk in the Light, you could qualify as a Son of Light, a Mason!

The Whitecloaks are a warning to all groups (including Freemasons) of what can go wrong if an organisation becomes overly powerful and zealous.

The naming of one important Whitecloak, Jaichim Carridin has Masonic overtones: Jaichim (pronounced JAY-kim) and his alias Bors are similar to Jakin and Boaz, the two symbolic pillars in I Kings 7:15-22 that stood to the north and the south of the door of Solomon’s Temple and are present in Masonic lodges (see photo right and above). The pillars are important symbols in Masonic ritual, representing dark and light and feminine and masculine, with Boaz the black pillar and Jakin the white, just as Jaichin Carridin was a Whitecloak and Bors was his alias as a Darkfriend.


Masons

Working stonemasons are present in the background of the Wheel of Time series: rebuilding Cairhien, building Elaida’s palace (A Crown of Swords, Prologue), and enrolling in the Band of the Red Hand (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida). Perrin’s forces contain masons who would not fight the Shaido but are keenly training with weapons for the Last Battle (Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership).

False masons were involved in the Tower coup (The Shadow Rising, The Truth of a Viewing).


Initiation

A prospective Mason candidate for a Lodge is elected by a secret ballot with members dropping a white (yes) or black (no) ball in the voting box. A unanimous vote is required for admittance. New members then proceed through a three-stepped initiation:

  • Entered Apprentice– the member is now an Initiate

  • Fellow Craft

  • Master Mason - a full Mason

This is consistent with the three-stage induction (apprentice, journeyman, master) into a craft in medieval times. The Aes Sedai also have a three-stage initiation (novice, Accepted and Aes Sedai) as do the Asha’man, who copied them. In contrast, Aiel Wise Ones have a two-stage induction, as do Windfinders (although Windfinders have multiple grades within the stages.)

New Aes Sedai supposedly choose their Ajah freely, but they are guided to the ‘right’ Ajah during their training (Lord of Chaos, To Heal Again). Aes Sedai initiation ceremonies probably have some references (or even in-jokes) to Freemasonry we don’t recognise. Some of these may be:

  • The triple arched Accepted ter’angreal; basically three arched doorways which lead to self-development. The arch is an important symbol in Freemasonry, as is the number three.


  • Pouring water over a candidate after each trip through an arch to wash them clean of imperfections.


  • Following the six-pointed star of two overlapping triangles (perhaps the Star of David or Solomon’s seal, an important symbol and a sign of Solomon’s legendary authority to make demons serve him (C. Lindahl, J McNamara and J Lindow, Medieval Folklore) in the Aes Sedai testing ter’angreal. (King Solomon’s temple is believed to have influenced Freemasonry symbolism.) Furthermore in ceremonies the Masonic angle and open compasses are placed one on the other, with angles opposite each other, so that they make a figure like this star-shaped double-triangle.


  • Stepping through the oval ring of the Aes Sedai testing ter’angreal to swear the Three Oaths.


  • Regarding Accepted as sealed to Tower (The Great Hunt, The Testing), and Aes Sedai as bound to Tower (New Spring, Just Before Dawn). Aes Sedai and the Amyrlin are also described as having been raised, as are Masons and perhaps the Grand Master.


  • Probably not the nudity, but you never know… (It is more likely to be a reference to Wiccan initiations).


We don’t know how the Aiel warriors are vetted or inducted into their societies – they are quite Mason-like in their secrecy.


Handshake/Gestures

Freemasons:

would recognise each other with special handshakes or by particular ways of walking, posing or knocking on doors

- Peter Marshall, The Philosopher’s Stone

or with gestures or words.

The only group we see making gestures of identification are the Black Ajah, who poke their thumbs between their first two fingers (a variation of the fig sign, see
Protection Against Evil article) to recognise each other. The Seanchan Seekers carry a token for identification.


Tools

The tools of the masons include the trowel and hammer and feature in the rituals of Freemasonry (see tools photo above). The officers of the Lodge each have a different tool as their symbol. Of these symbols, the hammer features large in the series; it - in the form of the gavel - is the symbol of the Master of the Lodge. Artur Hawkwing, for instance, was called the Hammer of the Light.

Perrin is a creator, as the medieval masons and other craftsmen were. At an early turning point in his life, he worked for a master smith in Tear and his work was judged as his “master’s piece” and he was given a hammer to mark his progression to a master craftsman (The Dragon Reborn, The Hammer). He had an important choice to make between his hammer (craftsman’s tool, creation) and his axe (weapon, destruction). Finally in Crossroads of Twilight he chose the hammer because the hammer can create as well as destroy. Perrin forged Thor’s hammer, a power wrought weapon worthy of a Grand Master, as he accepted a leadership - forged himself, finally, in Towers of Midnight, A Making.

For a long while Rand felt he was a tool of destiny and resented it, whereas the Aes Sedai believe:

A tool made for a purpose is not demeaned by being used for that purpose…

- The Eye of the World, There is Neither Beginning Nor End

This may be a lesson of Freemasonry.


Cube

The cube, being a perfect solid, is a geometric and Masonic ideal and is much used in Masonic symbolism. There are a few references to cubes in the series:

  • The chest that contained the Horn of Valere is a flattened cube of gold and silver with an intricate lock.


  • The callbox is a small gray cube intricately carved with patterns within patterns in a seemingly infinite series. It is very resistant to chipping or breaking. The ter’angreal is marked with symbols; including a twisted crescent moon and a lightning bolt (A Crown of Swords, Patterns Within Patterns). The crescent moon is used as a Masonic symbol.


  • More mundanely, many inns, including that which became the Little Tower in Salidar, are described as stone cubes.


Stone

Stones feature in the series. Portal Stones, stones allowing passage to other worlds, are pillars, which as a reference to the Temple of Solomon are important in Freemasonry. The Portal Stones are marked with symbols similar to alchemical or Hermetic symbols and possibly of meaning for Freemasons. The Portal Stone symbol for the ‘true’ or main world is a triangle point down inside a circle (see Oddments section of Ter’angreal article) and a triangle inside a circle is a Masonic symbol.

The two great sa’angreal statues each holding a sphere and attuned to complementary powers may refer to the Lodge’s two pillars that each support a sphere and symbolise complementary principles.

Particularly beautiful or exotic stone also features: for instance, no less than three types adorn the Amyrlin’s study:

The tall fireplace and broad, cold hearth were all carved golden marble from Kandor, and the diamond-shaped floor tiles, polished redstone from the Mountains of Mist.

- The Dragon Reborn, Punishments

The iridescent stone framing the windows shone like pearls, and had been salvaged from the remains of a city sunk into the Sea of Storms by the Breaking of the World; no one had ever seen its like.

- The Shadow Rising, Seeds of Shadow

One fortress was regarded as a monolith (a single large stone): the Stone of Tear. It had impregnable stonework but fell, taken by the Aiel to announce the Dragon’s coming. The (sacred) Heart of the Stone, with its redstone pillars, where only the High Lords could go, is equivalent to the holy of holies in the Temple of Solomon and that of the Lodge.


Stonework

Stonework is an important feature of the urban landscape in the Wheel of Time. Jordan’s cities often have stonework notable for beauty (Tar Valon, Manetheren, Mafal Dadaranell) or impregnability (Tear) or both (Fal Dara).

Stone work is idealised, which is not surprising in a Mason’s writings. All buildings, all craftsmanship, in stone should be beautiful:

The dwellings, the inns, the very stables - even the most insignificant buildings in Tar Valon had been made for beauty. Ogier stonemasons had built most of the city in the long years after the Breaking of the World, and they maintained it had been their finest work.

- The Great Hunt, Tar Valon

If done well, masonry can seem natural or part of nature:

Within those walls Ogier-made buildings well over two thousand years old seemed to grow out of the ground rather than having been built, or to be the work of wind and water rather than that of even the fabled hands of Ogier stone-masons.

- The Dragon Reborn, Seeds of Shadow

This is a Masonic ideal for mortals’ work and art to appear not only real, but natural. Ogier insist that even humble or less important quarters should have beautiful work.

Contrast this ideal of good stonework with Ishamael’s evil stonework in his quarters in Tel’aran’rhiod (such as the fireplace with writhing faces in The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow), and his bleak black stone fortress in the Blight; the black stone ter’angreal rings of the Seanchan bloodknives that leach their lives; and the alien twisted architecture of the redstone doorways, and the not-stone of the Tower of Ghenjei in the worlds of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn.

Ruins – abandoned and decayed stonework – are important places where the past impinges on the lives of the three ta’veren; for example Shadar Logoth, Rhuidean. Another city haunted by its past is Cairhien which Elayne says shows in the state of its stonework:

Cairhien was a wounded city. The burned and broken remnants of the Foregate outside. Cobbles had been torn up to be thrown from the
walls. The city had never fully recovered from the Aiel War, and the unfinished
Topless Towers-symmetrical in design, but woefully forlorn in appearance-were a lofty declaration of that fact.

- Towers of Midnight, Boots


The Eye of the World guarding the pool of saidin and the treasures it conceals is a reference to the all seeing eye, (eye of Ra or Horus, the symbol on the US dollar bill as shown above), symbolising the Supreme Being watching over the universe. The entrance is a simple tall white stone arch – another important architectural element associated with Freemasons - with the Aes Sedai symbol on the keystone (The Eye of the World, Meetings at the Eye). (Note the Masonic arch has a prominent keystone.) Through the arch, a polished arched corridor with glowing white walls and a smooth floor leads to a chamber with a pool in the shape of an eye – the Eye of the World. If all the crystals around the rim of the pool had shone, the chamber would have been as bright as noon and thus full of Light. This would link the Eye with the sun and with Rand as Lord of the Morning. After all, Moiraine brought the three ta’veren there to fight the evil of the Shadow. After the pool was emptied of saidin, steps leading up to a crystal column (or pillar, a Masonic symbol) and treasures from the Age of Legends (Seal of the Dark One’s prison, Dragon Banner, and Horn of Valere in a cubic chest – three items!) were revealed. Quite a few Masonic symbols.

Stonework usually protects or contains valuable secrets; only once did it injure. This was when masonry fell on Mat at the end of A Crown of Swords. The extent of the Dark One’s blighting of the Land is shown in Tear when stonework turned to dust (Towers of Midnight, Use a Pebble).

The traumatisation of Cairhien by the Aiel War is symbolised by its unfinished reconstruction twenty years later.

Also to be noted is the use of stonework as a metaphor in prophetic dreams. Two examples are:

Rand as tall as a mountain, walking through cities, crushing buildings beneath his feet, with screaming people like ants fleeing from him.

- The Shadow Rising, What Lies Hidden

Rand building a wall with him on one side and her [Egwene] on the other, her and Elayne and others she could not make out. "It has to be done," he was saying as he piled up stones. "I'll not let you stop me now."

- The Shadow Rising, What Lies Hidden

Rand, the mason with good intentions and a tool of destiny, is isolating and hardening himself for what is to come and is protecting others from himself, and himself from them. No wonder that the place where Rand’s channelling was made known (the Eye of the World) and the place where he was proven to be the Dragon Reborn (Tear) both have much Masonic symbolism. Interestingly, one of Rand’s loves, Elayne Trakand has a silver keystone (the stone that completes the arch, which is not only an architectural feature associated with, but also a symbol in, Freemasonry,) as her family sigil.


Golden Dawn

Stonework and masons are an issue in Cairhien, the Hill of the Golden Dawn:

He could see the great towers more clearly, now. Scaffolds of lashed poles surrounded them, and workmen swarmed on the scaffolding, laying new stones to push the towers higher still.
"The Topless Towers of Cairhien," Loial murmured sadly. "Well, they were tall enough to warrant the name, once. When the Aiel took Cairhien, about the time you were born, the towers burned, and cracked, and fell. I don't see any Ogier among the stonemasons. No Ogier could like working here - the Cairhienin want what they want, without embellishment - but there were Ogier when I was here before."

- The Great Hunt, Cairhien

They kept asking me if the Ogier were coming back, and if Galldrian had agreed to pay what was owed. It seems the reason all the Ogier stonemasons left is because Galldrian stopped paying them, except with promises.

- The Great Hunt, A Message From the Dark

Cairhien is laid out as a perfect square with streets in a precise grid and foursquare architecture – a reference to the Masonic ideal. Tall towers (in a time of no lifts or escalators!) symbolize Cairhienin pride and arrogance, and reluctance to acknowledge what they owe.

Cairhien, the Hill of the Golden Dawn, is a reference to the Order of the Golden Dawn, an esoteric society combining philosophy and metaphysics from a variety of sources, established in the late 19th century. (Min Farshaw, who became Rand’s lover in Cairhien, has striking similarities with Florence Farr, a seeress in the Order of the Golden Dawn, see Character Names M article). The Order owed much to Freemasonry, just as King Galldrian owed money to the Ogier masons for their work restoring Cairhien. They downed tools and left - distanced themselves from the Golden Dawn.


Three Lights

In the first chapter of the series, three huge stacks of logs for the Bel Tine fires, symbolising the three ta’veren, who can be picked out in the Pattern by those with the Talent by their glow, were on a cleared area in Emond’s Field. They are perhaps a reference to the three lights on stands placed around the Masonic altar (see photo). Note that the stacks were used to burn the bodies of Trollocs (destroy the Shadow) rather than celebrate Spring.


Symbolism

Symbolism is an important part of Freemasonry. All Freemason ceremonies incorporate items and actions which are highly symbolic. Initiates are taught the symbolism at each level and are usually encouraged to extend that knowledge to encompass symbolism in Western and Eastern thought as part of their development. This is why there is a great deal of symbolism in the Wheel of Time; immense layers of it permeating the series from the most profound themes right down to trivial details such as colours, sigils or inn names (see the Eschatology, Animal Symbolism or Inns articles for instance).

Self-Development

The aim of Freemasonry is self-development: initiates developing their knowledge, judgement and talents as far as possible. This is likewise an important theme in Jordan’s series. On the surface level there is the ‘coming of age’ of the Emond’s Fielders as they find out what they can do and what their place is in the world, but the theme is bigger than that.

There are characters that have developed unusual abilities or talents, such as scenting evil, seeing pieces of the Pattern, communicating with wolves, horse-whispering and tree-singing, and these talents are integral to the plot. Abilities may be developed to an unusual degree – such as Dena, who would have been the first woman gleeman and had an aptitude and application which astounded Thom. Channelling itself is an unusual ability, only possessed by a few percent of the population, and again channellers may develop talents (the Talent is integral to channelling and highly emphasised, itself telling) that far exceed what they should be capable of. The Kin, with their emphasis on honing their skills, are exemplars of this theme. Berowin is the most noted example. Everywhere, characters are developing their skills to the upmost and thus following the Freemasonry ideal.

Conclusion

Freemasons have been the subject of more misconceptions than most (this article, for instance!) They were believed by some to worship Lucifer. Lews Therin, the Light’s champion who fell from a high position in the paradisiacal Age of Legends and was traduced by history, is a parallel of Lucifer (see Character Names article).

In an amusing aside, Jordan shows us the misconceptions secretive groups can cause, in this case those of two secretive groups of each other. Firstly, the Aiel of the Sea Folk:

Sea Folk women had very strange customs when it came to men, according to what she had read, dancing with no more than a single scarf for covering and worse… The Sea Folk never left their ships—never—so she had read, and supposedly they ate their dead.
She had not been quite able to credit that, but if the men wore necklaces, who could say what else they did?

- A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of the Winds

And in return, the Sea Folk of Aiel:

“If it pleases you, tell me, if an Aiel woman must kill a man every day, how are there any men left among you?"
Aviendha did her best not to stare. How could the woman believe such nonsense?...

Do Aiel women truly tie a man down before you—I mean, when you and he—when you—" Cheeks reddened…

- A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of the Winds

No doubt the Freemasons are amused by misconceptions sometimes – and sometimes not.

Secretive societies, initiations, stonework, masons, the Creator, symbols, Sons of Light: the references to Freemasonry are there.

_________________________________________

Written by Linda, January 2007

12 comments:

Joe! said...

What a discovery!
I was just looking into Masonry and was looking at this picture; http://kennethtangnes.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/structure-of-freemasonry-by.jpg
When I came accross the girl under the arch with multi-coloured lines on her skirt, a "Rainbow Girl"...
And then beside her another woman with "the Order of the Eastern Star" title...
Was Robert Jordan a FreeMason???
I then stumbled across your blog certifying this! Wow...
It begs the question; if George Washington was also one, and their emblem even being printed out millions of times a day onto the face of every American dollar... How much power and influence do they actually have today?

Joe!
www.theWebbSight.com

Linda said...

Thanks you for your pointer to the Rainbow Girl organisation. I have added it to this essay.

As for influence: these days it is far far less than it was I think.

Joe said...

Cool.
Glad to have helped.


Joe!
www.theWebbSight.com

Anonymous said...

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Dr T said...

Good and thorough analysis. I would point out one thing. There are many cultures and societies that share similar worldviews, numerologies etc. and the temptation to make everything fit can be strong. I think you have clearly marked an important influence, but don't assume that because various aspects of the series might correspond, they do. Once again, congratulations. This is excellent work.

Linda said...

Thanks Dr T. It's quite possible that the last book has some new and pertinent Freemasonry allusions, but otherwise I feel the connections I've made are enough.

One thing RJ did to a great degree was combine common influences from a variety of sources in new ways.

Theconduit said...

Linda,

Lots of great essays on the WOT series. Fantastic work! You have great insight. Sadly, I can't find an essay that talks specifically about locations and what they might represent. Just wondering what places you think Tear and the Stone of Tear could possibly represent.

Linda said...

Thank you! I am glad you enjoy the. :)

As far as the places go, this post on Origin of Place Names is probably closest. Many of the place names don't have parallels that I could find, but those that did are discussed in detail here. I also have a series on the Inns Wheel of Time Accommodation and what they represent.

The Stone has Arthurian parallels. Rhuidean has Irish connections and the White Tower has links with London (but also Rome and Venice). I talk about the White Tower in Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration. Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Another reference might be Abner Monroe Perrin, a confederate general of great skill, a South carolinian, and a freemason. Although their personalities dont quite match up.

Ryan Mercer said...

Being a freemason myself I'm glad to see others related to the same things I saw in Jordan's books. When I first read them I didn't pay much attention, but listening to the audio books via audible the past few weeks I've gone, hey wait a minute... time after time through the books. Pffft I even played on a WoT MUD for years and never thought of it.

Linda said...

Thanks Ryan. It wasn't until Jordan circumspectly said he was a Freemason that I noticed and appreciated the allusions.

Anonymous said...

There is also that scene in the last book involving a rainbow girl and a pillar of light.