Thursday, February 28, 2002

There Are No Beginnings or Endings...The Paradox of WOT's Eschatology



By Linda

A series which has as its heart a messiah’s quest to win the Last Battle between the Shadow and the Light must surely have much to say on the subject of eschatology - the end-times of a world. This essay will look at the theme of eschatology in The Wheel of Time and discuss the symbols and events (actual, foretold or likely) of end times in the series, and also the origins of Jordan’s ideas. To do this, it will also look at the theology and the nature of time in The Wheel of Time world. The essay could have contained more detail on any of these areas, but will instead be limited to what I consider to be the most important details. I hope you agree.

THEOLOGY

There are two deities in the Wheel of Time series – the Creator and the Dark One. They are neither male nor female, but are referred to in the series as masculine for convenience. I will follow Jordan’s convention.

Creator

The Creator is a benevolent deity who ‘shaped the Wheel, the One Power that drives it and the plan for the Great Pattern’ (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). He created all the worlds, and also variations of those worlds where the denizens made different choices. The Creator is outside of time and the Pattern, and exists everywhere at once for all the worlds (The Dragon Reborn, A World of Dreams).

If he has any other name there is no hint of it. Those dedicated to the Light are said to ‘shelter in the palm of the Creator’s hand.’

Dark One

The Dark One is a malevolent deity, the equal and opposite of the Creator. His force, the True Power, is the opposite of the Creator’s One Power. The Dark One was sealed away in all worlds by the Creator at the moment of creation. He also exists in all the worlds at once and is imprisoned on all of them:

“If he is freed from the prison the Creator made in one world, he is freed on all. So long as he is kept prisoner in one, he remains imprisoned on all.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A World of Dreams

The Dark One:

does not, however, have the ability to break free of his prison without assistance from our world. The fact that the War of the Shadow began with an attempt by his followers to complete what the Bore began is proof of this.

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

Verin accurately described the Dark One as the embodiment of paradox and chaos, the destroyer of reason and logic, the breaker of balance, the unmaker of order (The Dragon Reborn, A World of Dreams). The paradox she refers to is about the nature of the Dark One’s imprisonment, if he can break free on one world, he is freed on all, but while he remains imprisoned on one he is imprisoned on all.

His power is death, (The Eye of the World, Eyes without Pity) and he can give life in death or death in life as he chooses (The Eye of the World, Four Kings in Shadow). This affinity for death is why the Dark One is most powerful at twilight and dawn:

Twilight was a troubled time for Liandrin of late, twilight and dawn. At dawn the day was born, just as twilight gave birth to night, but at dawn, night died, and at twilight, day. The Dark One’s power was rooted in death; he gained power from death, and at those times she thought she could feel his power stirring.

- The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar

However, belief and order give strength against the Shadow as Herid Fel deduced, and this may be a key factor in defeating the Dark One. That is why the Dark One commanded chaos to be unleashed in Lord of Chaos, to reduce order and so weaken the Light.

The Dark One and the Father of Lies are two of many euphemisms for this deity. His true name, Shaitan, is forbidden – those on the side of the Light don’t want to draw his malevolent attention; those allied to the Shadow believe it is blasphemy. Only the Dark One’s surrogate, Ishamael, is allowed to utter his name, an indication of his special favour.

The Dark One now has an avatar, an embodiment, Shaidar Haran, although his avatar is not human, but Myrddraal.

During those Ages when the Dark One was completely sealed away, for instance during the early Age of Legends, he was all but unknown and therefore the theology of those times would be less dualistic. The Dark One would inevitably be allocated a lesser role. However, the reality is that the Dark One is the equal of the Creator as stated by Jordan at a booksigning; he is not a fallen angel originally created by the Creator, but:

“the dark counterpart, the dark balance if you will, to the Creator carrying on the theme, the yin yang, light dark, necessity of balance theme that has run through the books...it's somewhat Manichean, I know, but I think it works.”

Parallels

Taoism

Jordan’s theme of the necessity of balance has a parallel in Taoism, a philosophy and religion originating in China. Indeed, yin and yang are Tao concepts and represent extremes of a single whole. Balance is the heart of Taoism: the idea that nothing exists without its opposite, and that opposites are only the ends of a continuum.

Jordan does see his opposing gods as discrete entities however.

Manichaeism

Manichaeism was a dualistic Gnostic religious movement founded in Persia in the 3rd century AD by Mani:

Like all forms of Gnosticism, Manichaeism taught that life in this world is unbearably painful and radically evil. Inner illumination or gnosis reveals that the soul, which shares in the nature of God, has fallen into the evil world of matter and must be saved by means of the spirit or intelligence (nous)...At death the soul of the righteous person returns to Paradise. The soul of the person who persisted in things of the flesh is condemned to rebirth in a succession of bodies…In Manichaeism, to know one's self is to see one's soul as sharing in the very nature of God and as coming from a transcendent world. Thus, knowledge is the only way to salvation.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

(Likewise, Knowledge is very important in the Wheel of Time world, see the Price and Prize of Knowledge essay).

The Wheel of Time world’s theology is not monotheistic like Judaism, Christianity and Islam are. It is dualistic: the Creator and the Dark One are equals as well as opposites. However, while Jordan describes his theology for the Wheel of Time world as somewhat Manichean, there is no evidence in the series that either life or matter in that world is regarded so negatively as in Manichaeism. Therefore, a closer parallel to the Wheel of Time world’s theology would be another dualistic religion, Zoroastrianism.


Zoroastrianism

In Zoroastrianism, a religion originating in Persia prior to 600 BC, the benign god of light, Ohrmazd or Ahura Mazda, and his angels contend throughout time with the god of darkness, Angra Mainyu or Ahriman (Ahura Mazda’s evil twin) and his demons. Ormazd appears with three masculine archangels on his right, and three feminine archangels on his left, while he himself is both father and mother of creation (Omens of Millennium, Harold Bloom). This cosmic struggle is portrayed as more or less evenly matched, although some day Ahura Mazda will triumph over his evil twin and establish peace and joy forever – the end of time.

Zoroastrianism is a religion with a thoroughly eschatological orientation: for it, world history is a battlefield on which the forces of light and good fight the powers of darkness and evil...In this struggle man must enlist because of his capacity of free choice...

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Zoroastrianism symbol of a winged disc with a man's upper body shown above represents the guardian spirit who sends each person's soul into the material world to fight the battle of good against evil.

The Wheel of Time world’s equally dualistic theology has the benign Creator (equivalent to Ahura Mazda) equal in Power to the malign Dark One (equivalent to Angra Mainyu) and battling with him for all of creation. The idea of the supporting angels and demons also occurs in the Wheel of Time’s theology: there are currently three masculine beings with extraordinary powers rallying the Light’s forces (Rand, Mat and Perrin). The identity of the trio of feminine ‘angels’ aiding the Light is more moot. In one way it is Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne, in another, Elayne, Aviendha and Min. As for the ‘demons’ supporting the Dark One, these are the Forsaken. It should be noted that a number of Forsaken have names derived from demons, monsters or evil gods (see Names of the Shadow article).

Like Zoroastrianism, the late Third Age is concerned with end-times; it is concerned with preventing the Dark One from being freed and ending time. The hope of the Light is that the threat of the Dark One remaking the world can be removed. The people of the world are being confronted with the choice on whether to actively participate in this battle, and on which side, just as those following Zoroastrianism are:

urged to align themselves with the forces of light, and are judged according to the predominance of their good and evil deeds.

Zoroastrianism exercised a powerful influence over Judaism – and, through Judaism, a decisive influence on Christianity and Islam – introducing such ideas as a powerful evil god (devil) which is locked in conflict with the good god, a final judgment, an apocalypse, hell, and the resurrection of the dead.

- James R Lewis, Doomsday Prophecies

Although in Judaism, Christianity and Islam the devil is a less powerful being than God. Our ultimate heritage from Zoroaster is the sense of a possible end-time. Before Zoroaster, all religions envisioned time as cycling continually.

In the Middle Ages, the devil in Christianity was considered to be the “ape of God,” imitating God by creating malicious creatures that he used to oppose the divine creations. The idea of the devil as ‘ape of God’ can be seen in the Shadowspawn, malevolent creations of the Shadow that battle the forces of the Light.


Contending Deities

The Dark One and the Creator have been contending since Creation using surrogates and in some Ages the Dark One has achieved minor victories.

Evidence of this would be when Rand takes Verin and the others through a portal stone in The Great Hunt, and he hears the words "I have won again Lews Therin" at the end of each life. Jordan confirmed this at a book signing:

There are degrees of victory. The Dark One can achieve victory by breaking free, but can also achieve lesser victories. Such as by stopping the Dragon Reborn from doing other things he was born to do. It isn't as simple as him being born to fight The Dark One. It's never simple.

Certainly Ishamael is aware of this:

And Ishamael said that it had happened in the past, the Creator's champion made a creature of the Shadow and raised up as the Shadow's champion.

- Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow.

The Dark One feels the time is ripe for an attempt at complete and lasting victory and is planning the Last Battle, Tarmon Gai’don. As Ishamael says:
“The battle we two have fought…That battle will soon end. The Last Battle is coming. The last, Lews Therin.”

- The Great Hunt, Kinslayer.

This contention between good and evil is all the keener because the two deities are evenly matched. They balance each other and this is an important part of the Pattern and the books.

“Ten years! You pitiful fool! This war has not lasted ten years, but since the beginning of time. You and I have fought a thousand battles with the turning of the Wheel, a thousand times a thousand, and we will fight until time dies and the Shadow is triumphant!”

- The Eye of the World, Prologue

Since both deities are outside time and the Pattern and fight their war with surrogates, let’s examine surrogates further.

Surrogates

Both the Dark One and the Creator each have a main soul (and other souls) to stand in their places and conduct their battle for them through the Ages of the world. (The Dark One also now has an avatar, Shaidar Haran.) Rand is the Creator’s ‘chosen one’ (The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow), while Ishamael is probably the Dark One’s surrogate. They have fought this battle in different incarnations over thousands of times before. In part the use of surrogates is a safeguard, since if the two deities fought each other in person, they would probably destroy creation long before one had succeeded in destroying the other; but also it explains how good and evil co-exist in the world and the Pattern.

Surrogates are linked with the very ancient idea of the sacred role of leadership. In early times the king was often believed to be the incarnation of supernatural power, possibly even a god; but more commonly he was considered the surrogate of a god carrying out the work of the god on earth. His task was to bring the god’s blessings to his people and realm and thus influence the people’s welfare, the fertility of the land and the coming of rain. He was believed to have power over the forces of nature. If the people were troubled by misfortune, illness, famine or floods, the king could be held responsible. The king was sometimes described as a gardener, fisherman, or shepherd.

Rand was a shepherd before he was revealed to be the Creator’s chosen one and is considered to be the Fisher King, whose wounds represent the land’s wounds. The dualistic theology and Taoist theme of balance in the series logically leads to the Dark One having a surrogate as well. The devil has always been believed to have powerful minions to do his bidding and a surrogate or evil agent on earth would be an extension of this: hence the Forsaken, with Ishamael chief among them. In the series the Dark One fixed the seasons and deprived the land of rain on order to despoil it and weaken the people. There is a passage in the Karaethon cycle where the Dragon Reborn is associated with the health of the land:

"There can be no health in us, nor any good thing grow, for the land is one with the Dragon Reborn, and he one with the land."

- A Crown of Swords, Opening prophecy

and by implication can influence, even heal it. However, the most evocative and telling texts are the psalm-like passages from the Fourth Age which describe the Third Age’s people pleading for the Dragon to be reborn so the fertility and health of the land can be restored:

Let the Prince of the Morning sing to the land that green things will grow and the valleys give forth lambs.

- The Eye of the World opening text

Temptation of surrogates

The Dark One can achieve victory by subverting the Creator’s champion or surrogate to his own cause. This is especially so for the Last Battle; the Dark One’s victory is made far more certain if he can subvert the Dragon Reborn. Hence Ishamael, the Dark One’s surrogate, tried very hard to tempt the Dragon to serve the Dark One. In The Eye of the World Prologue, he assured Lews Therin that Ilyena would live again if he went over to the Shadow. He offered Rand dominion over all the world (under Ishamael) in The Eye of the World, Decisions and Apparitions (a parallel with Satan tempting Christ, see Messianism section), and then instruction in channelling, protection from the taint on saidin, and immortality in The Great Hunt, Kinslayer, if Rand would only serve the Dark One.

Ishamael haunted Mat’s and Perrin’s dreams throughout The Eye of the World, to get them to serve the Dark One. Lanfear also tried to persuade the Creator’s surrogates to change side: she tempted Rand in The Great Hunt, and Perrin and Mat in The Dragon Reborn.

The Light, however, has so far made no attempt to subvert the Shadow’s followers even though it is believed that no one ‘can stand in the Shadow so long that [they] cannot find the Light again.’ (The Eye of the World, More Tales of the Wheel). Rand cut Asmodean’s link to the Dark One, and Asmodean served him, but he certainly never found the Light.


Interfering In The World

The Dark One is now interfering more and more directly in the world (he even has an avatar), whereas the Creator is not. In The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow, the Creator said “I WILL TAKE NO PART” in destroying the Dark One’s forces. “ONLY THE CHOSEN ONE CAN DO WHAT MUST BE DONE, IF HE WILL.” The Creator told Rand that he would not interfere and that Rand was his Chosen One and that only he can do what must be done to defeat the Shadow. This is a parallel to God in the New Testament announcing at Jesus’ baptism that Jesus was his son and he was well pleased with him (Matthew 3:17, Luke 3:22). Furthermore at Jesus’ transfiguration:

A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him."

- Luke 9:35

which is even closer to the Creator’s words.

There may be a reason for this rule of non-interference. While some have speculated that the Creator has invested so much of himself in Creation that he can’t interfere directly, or that it might put too much strain on the Pattern or on Time if he did so, Jordan has stated at a book-signing that people are expected to help themselves, not ask for the Creator to help them:

Another point he pressed was that "no one's going to rescue you", there are not going to be any miracles. The Creator shaped the world and set the rules, but does not interfere. Humankind messed things up, and have to fix it too, as well as finding the truth themselves.

Again, this is different to the Bible, where in the Old Testament, and to a lesser degree the New Testament, God does interfere directly in events. Whatever the reason, the Creator always obeys the rules.

The Creator’s rule of non-interference can seem impersonal and hard to bear. Pedron Niall, the commander of the Children of the Light, believed that the Creator abandoned mankind to its own devices long ago (Lord of Chaos Prologue). Rand and Lews Therin, in particular, chafe under this non-interference, as Rand’s thoughts show:

Did [Logain] think the Creator had decided to stretch out a merciful hand after three thousand years of suffering [and cleanse saidin]? The Creator had made the world and then left humankind to make of it what they would, a heaven or the Pit of Doom by their choosing. The Creator had made many worlds, watched each flower or die, and gone on to make endless worlds beyond. A gardener did not weep for each blossom that fell.

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Strengthening Storm

Lews Therin nods in agreement with Rand. Understandably Rand is resenting his role as saviour and would like the Creator to do more.

Summary of Theology

Two equal and opposite deities, Creator and Dark One, both outside Time and the Pattern, are contending for creation. This is a Manichean or Zoroastrian idea. Both Light and Shadow are using surrogates, a far older idea linked to the belief that leaders are earthly agents of a god. The Dark One interferes directly with the Pattern and events, while the Creator does not. The balance that is part of the Pattern is a Taoist idea.

Time and the Pattern will now be discussed in more detail.



TIME

Time is cyclic in The Wheel of Time world, cycling without end, which is why the symbols for time in the series (the great serpent and the wheel, sometime intertwined together) are symbols for eternity:

He [Rand] recognised the Great Serpent, an even older symbol for eternity than the Wheel of Time.

- The Eye of the World, Strangers.

These symbols and their meanings are from our world. The serpent swallowing its own tail (ouroboros) is indeed an older symbol of eternity than the Wheel of Time in our world. With this symbol, time is portrayed as a living entity which the Dark One wants to kill (“strangle the Great Serpent”). Since he gains power from death, killing all living things in this way will give him enough power to refashion creation. Time is also described as a wheel which the Dark One wants to break.

Wheel of Time

Time is a wheel with seven spokes, each spoke an Age. As the Wheel turns, the Ages come and go, each leaving memories that fade to legend, then to myth and are forgotten by the time that Age comes again. The Pattern of an Age is slightly different each time an Age comes, and each time it is subject to greater change, but each time it is the same Age.

- The Eye of the World Glossary

Since the Ages don’t repeat exactly when they return, there is plenty of room for humanity to progress (or regress). Each Age has a unique pattern which can only be partially changed by those lives which are the threads of the weave.

The Wheel obtains the energy to maintain itself and its Pattern from the One Power, which is made up of two conflicting yet complementary parts, saidin and saidar. Working both together and against each other they provide the driving force that turns the Wheel of Time. Perhaps because saidin and saidar stem from the Creator, they have the effect of enriching the lives of those who use them, and also increasing their longevity and well-being (see The One Power as Elixir of Life essay).

The Wheel is a great cosmic loom, weaving the fabric of the universe as it slowly spins through eternity. This fabric is constructed from the threads of lives and events, interlaced into a design, the Great Pattern, which is the whole of existence and reality, past, present and future, even other dimensions and other possibilities (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). It is able to show the effects of free will, since there are a series of worlds where the same souls live different lives due to the different choices they made (The Great Hunt, What Might Be).

The Pattern itself is neither good nor evil. In keeping with the theme of Taoistic balance and the dualistic theology, it is:

a Pattern in which light and dark, good and evil, male and female, and life and death struggle for balance within the weave of destiny.

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

As Moiraine says:

”The Wheel of Time weaves all lives into the Pattern, all actions. A Pattern that is all one colour is no pattern. For the Pattern of an Age, good and ill are the warp and the woof.”

- The Dragon Reborn, Within the Weave.

These warp and woof threads are people’s lives and each life-thread pulls at those life-threads around it. For the period of time a person is ta’veren, however, their life threads pull at the entire Pattern, forcing it to shape around them (The Dragon Reborn, Saidin).

It is believed that the Wheel spins out ta’veren whenever the weave begins to drift away from the Pattern. The changes around them, while often drastic and unsettling for those who must live in the Age, are thought to be part of the Wheel’s own correcting mechanism.

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

This is the way the Wheel maintains not only the Pattern, but also the balance between good and evil and therefore its survival.

Reincarnation

Reincarnation is consistent with a cyclic view of time: the eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism believe that souls are born, die and reborn as the Ages cycle. Similarly in The Wheel of Time world:

No ending, even death, is necessarily final within the turning of the Wheel. Reincarnation is a part of the way of the world.

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

As Rand muses:

He was Lews Therin reborn, the Dragon Reborn, no denying that, but everybody was someone reborn, a hundred someones, a thousand, more. That was how the Pattern worked; everyone died and was reborn, again and again as the Wheel turned, forever without end.

- A Crown of Swords, Pitfalls and Tripwires

Jordan has stated at a book-signing that between lives there is an ordinary afterlife for all souls except those bound to the Horn of Valere. Once a soul is selected to be a Hero of the Horn (and according to Jordan they cannot refuse this linking) they await rebirth in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Salvation

The strongest and most sacred oath in the Wheel of Time world refers not only to hope of rebirth but also salvation:

”By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I swear to… or may the Creator’s face turn from me forever and darkness consume my soul.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Fanning the Sparks

There may be two types of salvation referred to here: personal and the world’s salvation. Personal salvation would mean protection from harm, including protection from the Shadow, plus the hope of continued reincarnation as the Wheel turns. Protection from the Shadow is linked with the world’s salvation – the success of the saviour-figure, the Dragon Reborn, and the forces of the Light in delivering the world from the Shadow. So people pray to be kept safe from harm and from the Shadow and also to be born again.

The reference to darkness consuming a person’s soul means that if the person is undeserving they may be denied salvation and would not be born again. Their soul will be extinguished. (Presumably the Dark One makes a special arrangement for his surrogate/s’ natural rebirth.) This is different to Hinduism or Buddhism, where such a soul would be reborn as an animal to relearn the ethics it had abandoned. There is also no hint here of the possibility or desirability of souls being freed of the Wheel of Time and achieving enlightenment or nirvana as in Hinduism or Buddhism.

Length of Ages

We know the Third Age is over three thousand years long - it has three one thousand year epochs with shorter periods of chaos of unknown length in between. We know nothing about the length of the other Ages, or the length of a full turn of the Wheel, so we cannot say if the lengths of the other Ages are multiples of one thousand years (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

My comments therefore can really only apply to the Third Age, but many peoples in our world have divided time into sections which are multiples of one thousand years in length. A thousand is popular because it is a ‘number of perfection’ as St Augustine stated in his City of God, being the cube of ten.

Parallels

Many religions believe God has a fixed plan for creation, Christianity and The Wheel of Time theology included. However time and history in Christianity is not cyclical, as it is in The Wheel of Time world, it progresses in a straight line and has a beginning and an end. Early Christian thought envisaged four ages:

(1) from the creation of the world and of humanity to the Fall into sin and out of Eden; (2) from the Fall to the first coming of Christ; (3) from the first to the second advent of Christ, which includes the 1,000-year reign of Christ and his saints and the Last Judgment; and (4) the creation of a new heaven and a new earth in which those who have chosen the good (i.e., Christ) will live in eternity.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

In Christian belief, souls are born once only.

Judging from the Third Age, and to a lesser degree the Age of Legends, the cycle of time in the Wheel of Time series is divided into seven ages of multiples of (rough) thousands of years and they can be subdivided into (roughly) thousand year epochs, each age and epoch ending in a catastrophe. These Ages cycle continually and souls are born and reborn through the Ages.


Greco-Oriental

The Babylonians believed time was cyclic with four epochs in a cycle, but their wheel reversed direction at the end of each cycle. The ancient Greeks also had a cyclic view of time and a fourfold division of history:

In the 8th century BC in Greece, the poet Hesiod described the ages of the world as four in number and symbolized by gold, silver, bronze, and iron [note these have nothing to do with the stone, iron and bronze ages of archaeology], each age successively declining in morality.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

Apart from cyclic time divided into Ages, these ideas don’t have many parallels with time in the series. However, the Hindu and Buddhist religions do.

Hindu/Buddhist

Hindus and Buddhists envisage the pattern of history as a never-ending cycle – the wheel of life constantly turns in a cycle of birth, death and rebirth or reincarnation. They divide time into four ages called yugas, with the yugas decreasing in length in each cycle (an indication that each cycle descends into moral chaos): the Satya-yuga, the first yuga in a cycle, is 4,800 ‘years’, the Treta-yuga is 3,600 ‘years’, the Dvapara-yuga is 2,400 ‘years’ and the Kali-yuga is 1,200 ‘years’ long. Each ‘year’ represents 360 human years. A cycle of 4 yugas is a mahayuga, and a thousand mahayugas make one kalpa, or one day in the life of Brahma the Creator, and represent the life of a world from its creation to its destruction by fire and water. After a period of quiescence lasting one kalpa (Brahma’s night), the world is recreated by Brahma for another kalpa. And so on, endlessly.

Hindus believe that since about 3,200-3,100 BC we have been living in the Kali Yuga, the age of destruction. The main difficulty during the Kali Yuga is to maintain the order of the world and the integrity of one’s own actions, which are intimately connected in Indian thought, because people are in part responsible for the smooth running of the universe. If each person accomplishes what they came into existence for accomplishing, the universe will proceed along its course and one day the world will be reborn. Despite this prospect of inevitable destruction people must continue to strive for order and integrity (Jean-Claude Carriere in Conversations about the End of Time).

The end of the Third Age has a feel of the Kali Yuga and the people of this time have a similar moral dilemma. As a thread of the Pattern, the integrity of an individual’s life makes a difference. With the Shadow gaining in power every day, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to maintain integrity and order, though crucial they do so, because the Shadow feeds on chaos.

The appearance of an Avatar or of a new Buddha will signal the end of the Kali Yuga and the beginning of a new cosmic cycle. Similarly, in the Wheel of Time, the death of the Dragon ended the Age of Legends and most likely Rand’s death will end the Third Age. The appearance of the Dark One’s avatar, Shaidar Haran also signals the end of the Third Age, and the very real risk of the end of time.

The phrase ‘the Wheel of Time’ occurs in Hinduism and Buddhism:

With its twelve spokes, this wheel of eternal time
Knows no decay and revolves round the heavens high.

- Atharva Veda, 9-9-13

One of the god Vishnu’s hands holds a discus (chakra), which is a reminder of the Wheel of Time, and to lead a good life. However, the Wheel’s twelve spokes represent the twelve gods and twelve moral principles of the world, not Ages. Another religion where the Wheel of Time is prominent is Jainism, the religion on which the moral code of the Da’shain Aiel was based (see The Age of Legends essay).



Jain

Jainism is an ascetic religion originating in India that teaches a path to spiritual purity and enlightenment through a disciplined mode of life founded upon the tradition of strict non-violence to all living creatures. Time, according to the Jains, is eternal and formless. It is understood as a wheel with twelve spokes, each spoke representing an age, just as each of the seven spokes of the Wheel represents an Age. (Image from www.satipanya.org.uk.)


Taoistic

Taoists believe in the cyclic nature of change and the universe.

The Chinese gave this idea of cyclical patterns a definite structure by introducing the polar opposites yin and yang, the two poles that set the limits for the cycles of change…All manifestations of the Tao [everything] are generated by the dynamic interplay of these two archetypal poles.

- Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point

Likewise, in Jordan’s world, saidin (yang) and saidar (yin) working with and against each other, are the forces that turn the Wheel of Time. The ancient symbol for Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends, when both powers were used together, is a borrowing of the Taoist yin yang symbol. Rand is prophesied to conquer under this symbol because he hopefully will succeed in keeping balance in the Pattern and prevent the Dark One from taking over.

Zoroastrian

Zoroastrians believe that time is linear and that world history can be subdivided into periods of 3,000 years. The forces of light and darkness battle continually through the Ages. This system appears to be similar to that of the Wheel of Time world, although time is cyclic in the Wheel of Time. As has been described in an earlier section, the theologies of Zoroastrianism and the Wheel of Time are also very similar, however their end times are different. In Zoroastrianism, there is moral deterioration, a saviour figure and a last battle, but also a final cleansing fire at the end of the world and then eternal paradise. This will be discussed in the eschatology section below.

Judaic

Judaism was influenced by the Ancient Greek idea of social morality declining over time and also the Zoroastrian idea of non-cyclic time and a saviour figure; but it divided history into seven phases, based on the seven day week, the Great Week. Each Day was a millennium, since, as written in Psalm 90:4:

A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past…

Jordan has seven Ages in his cycle of time, but the length of the Ages are closer to Zoroastrian ideas. The Qumran texts were also a source for Jordan’s ideas on time and eschatology. Text 4Q180 says:

Interpretation concerning the ages which God has made: An age to achieve {all that there is} and all that will be. Before creating them he determined their operations {according to the precise sequence of the ages}. One age after another age. And this is engraved on the {heavenly} tablets {for the sons of men} for all the ages of their dominion.

Similarly, the Creator made not only the Wheel, but also the Patterns of each of the Ages.

Why has Jordan portrayed time as cyclic?

Cyclic theories of time have reappeared in modern scientific thought. The universe is believed to have begun with the Big Bang and is now expanding. This expansion may continue indefinitely, or there may be enough gravitational attraction to ultimately contract the matter back into a Big Crunch. And perhaps a Big Bang again in a cycle:

Present theories concerning the death of the universe do not exclude the hypothesis of the creation of a new universe, somewhat after the fashion of the Great Year in Greco-Oriental speculation or the yuga cycle in the thought of India.

- Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return

So Jordan’s ideas have some basis in modern astronomy.

We are assured at the start of every book in the series that there are no beginnings or endings in the Wheel of Time. Taking this at face value, this would mean that the Ages have turned endlessly and will continue to do so. However, since we know the Wheel was created in some very distant past, there was a beginning. Correspondingly, the Wheel may come to an end in an impossibly distant future, or may follow a cycle of creation and destruction in the Indian mode. It may even exist eternally.

Summary of Time

Time is cyclic and souls are born, die and are reborn according to Hindu/Buddhist/Jain beliefs. The Creator’s surrogate appears at the end of some Ages, just as the appearance of an Avatar or new Buddha ends a cycle in Hinduism and Buddhism. The Wheel of Time symbol with spokes representing Ages is Jain, and The Wheel is turned by the interaction of saidin and saidar, a Tao concept. There are seven Ages as in Judaism, and a strong influence from Zoroastrianism in the way history is divided into ages of multiples of thousands of years.

Many world views are convinced that times have declined and that we are living during the crucial last period before the end of a great cycle. The Wheel of Time is no exception. As Lan says:

“This may be the end of an Age. We may see a new Age born before we die. Or perhaps it is the end of Ages, the end of time itself. The end of the world.”

- The Eye of the World, Rescue

Which leads us to the end of the world - eschatology.

ESCHATOLOGY

Eschatology is the study of the end times of the world. Special forms of eschatology are: apocalypticism (belief in the world’s progress to a prophesied cataclysmic appointed end), messianism (belief in a future salvation figure) and millenarianism (belief in a periodisation of history into multiples of a thousand years and in the idea of a return to conditions of peace and happiness). These types of eschatology are not always all present in the end times of a theology. However, in the Wheel of Time series, all three are present.

Prophecy is a part of apocalypticism, messianism and millenarianism in our world and is correspondingly prominent in the books. We have seen prophecy come true in the Wheel of Time world, showing what the Pattern is and helping to guide people through the change from one Age to another.

The prophesiers in the books are all seers, although they use different media – visions (Min), dreams (Egwene, Perrin and Aiel Dreamwalkers), and clairvoyance or soothsaying (Elaida, Nicola, Gitara and the Foretellings that make up the Prophecies of the Dragon).


Millenarianism

Prior to the year 2000, the Wheel of Time series owed some of its popularity and ‘timeliness’ to the theme of millenarianism. It cannot be stressed too much that millenarianism is used here in the broadest and most general sense : the belief that history is divided into periods that are multiples of thousand years (as in the Wheel of Time calendar, where the Third Age of roughly three thousand years is subdivided into periods of roughly one thousand years), some good, some bad, with each period ending in a trauma and with the promise of a return to an Age of happiness; rather than the specific evangelical Christian sense of a period of one thousand years of Christ’s rule on earth. The specific evangelical sense is NOT what millenarianism refers to here. After all, the Age of Legends was a period of Utopian peace and prosperity. So there are regular recurrences of Golden Ages in The Wheel of Time world, which fits with the cyclic view of time and the dualistic theology. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the Fourth Age will be one such Golden Age. There could be much to repair after Tarmon Gai’don, or a painful cost for sealing up the Bore to be borne by humanity. So while there is a strong feeling of living at the end of an Age, even the end of time as Lan said, there is no reason to think that the next Age will be a Golden Age. However, if it is not an Age of the Shadow, it could be considered a Peace in comparison.

While in Christian millenarianism the victory of good over evil is assured, even fore-ordained, this is not the case in the Wheel of Time series, where evil and good are evenly matched and the Shadow may yet have the victory. In Jordan’s world there is the paradox that history is broadly determined but each individual has the choice to work towards the fulfilment of the Pattern. The series explores the perennial philosophical question of destiny versus free will, or, in scientific thought, a person’s basic characteristics (genetics) versus how they live (environment). As Loial discusses with Rand, both are important; the broad outline of the Pattern has been set by the Creator, but people’s individual choices can change that to a degree.

Interestingly, while Jordan uses millenarianism in the general sense, he does show us the negative result of millenarian extremism. According to Damian Thompson in The End of Time, millenarian extremism:

often arises from feelings of deprivation in matters of status, wealth, security or self-esteem…All millenarian movements are distinguished by the abnormal behaviour of their adherents, which can range from retreat to the wilderness to await the End to acts of unimaginable violence to bring it about…The millenarian sense of identity, too, is distinctive. It invariably possesses a narcissistic, self-righteous quality... It is also paranoid.

Three groups are millenarian extremists. In keeping with the dualistic nature of The Wheel of Time theology and Jordan’s Taoistic theme of balance, the Creator and his equal and opposite, the Dark One both have followers who are millenarian extremists: the Amayar and the Dragonsworn for the Light and the Forsaken/Darkfriends for the Shadow. (While the Whitecloaks are religious extremists, they show little acceptance of the Dragon as the Creator’s surrogate and most show little interest in the Last Battle at all, let alone feel it is imminent. Galad has begun to change this.)

Dragonsworn

The Dragonsworn are only recently established, but they are well on the way to becoming millenarian extremists.

“It was a sign,” [Masema] said, turning in a circle to address everyone. “A sign to confirm our faith…In the Last Battle, the Lord Dragon will summon even the beasts of the forest to fight at our sides. It is a sign for us to go forth. Only Darkfriends will fail to join us…He has gone out alone to spread the word of his coming. We must spread the word, too.”

- The Dragon Reborn, Nightmares Walking.

“There is justice in the hereafter, when we are born again. Concern with things of this world is useless…The Lord Dragon has been Reborn. The Shadow hangs over the world, and only the Lord Dragon can save us. Only belief in the Lord Dragon, submission and obedience to the word of the Lord Dragon. All else is useless, even where it is not blasphemy.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Encounters in Samara

Masema’s followers are renowned for their abnormal, often violent, behaviour in their efforts to recruit for the Dragon. Masema’s concentration on the Dragon’s rebirth and imminent salvation of the world and rejection of everything else as useless is typically millenarian. He preaches that belief in the Dragon and obedience to his word is enough to ensure the defeat of the Shadow.

Shadow

The Forsaken/Darkfriends are far more developed as a millenarian cult. This is hardly surprising, since they were established more than three thousand years ago and it is their master, the Dark One, who wants to end the world as it currently is. From the Shadow’s point of view, their victory will usher in an eternity of rule under the Dark One – a dark eternity of an evil paradise where they will be the elect.

The Forsaken have highly abnormal behaviour and have committed acts of incredible violence to free the Dark One and usher in the Age of the Shadow. Their first attempt to free the Dark One resulted in the War of the Power in the Age of Legends. All of them are narcissistic, self-righteous and paranoid. Many Darkfriends are in the same mould:

Unlike the Forsaken, Darkfriends have not known immortality, yet they have survived as a society for over three thousand years, serving and waiting for Tarmon Gai’don: the Last Battle…Some extremists are deeply dedicated to obtaining freedom for the Dark One and thus immortality and dominion for themselves.

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

The Shadow has a millenarian catechism:

“The Great Lord of the Dark is my Master, and most heartily do I serve him to the last shred of my very soul…Lo, my Master is death’s Master. Asking nothing do I serve against the Day of his coming, yet do I serve in the sure and certain hope of life everlasting…Surely the faithful shall be exalted in the land, exalted above the unbelievers, exalted above thrones, yet do I serve humbly against the Day of his Return…Swift come the Day of Return. Swift come the Great Lord of the Dark to guide us and rule the world for ever and ever.”

- The Great Hunt Prologue.

Ishamael assures the Darkfriends that the Day of Return is near:

“Fear not, for the Day of your Master’s rising upon the world is near at hand. The Day of Return draws nigh. Does it not tell you so that I am here, to be seen by you favoured few among your brothers and sisters? Soon the Wheel of Time will be broken. Soon the Great Serpent will die, and with the power of that death, the death of Time itself, your Master will remake the world in his own image for this Age and for all Ages to come. And those who serve me, faithful and steadfast, will sit at my feet above the stars in the sky and rule the world of men forever. So have I promised, and so shall it be, without end. You shall live and rule forever.”

This is the ultimate millenarian cult. It is more extreme than the general millenarianism pervading the Third Age.

Amayar

Unlike the first two groups, the Amayar were pacific millenarianists, waiting throughout the Third Age for the end of Illusion (see Time of Illusions article) or the end of days on their island retreats. Only when the hand of the female Choedan Kal melted after the cleansing of saidar, an event prophesied to signal the end of time, do they suddenly violate their ethics and resort to acts of violence, committing mass murder (of their children) and suicide (Knife of Dreams, To Make An Anchor Weep). The millenarianism of the Amayar was a dark millenarianism, with more than a touch of apocalypticism (see below), offering no hope or faith in a messiah, only the certainty that Time is at an end.

A summary of the tenets of the general millenarianism in the series would be:

  • Prior to the beginning of the next Age, human society will have declined – morally, socially or technologically. This will culminate in a global trauma (eg the Breaking of the World, Tarmon Gai’don) which is man-made, natural, divine (Dark One) or a combination of these three.

  • Appropriate evidence is sought and found to justify such theories of decline and global trauma (eg the Prophecies of the Dragon).

  • The coming Age will potentially be a distinct improvement on the present one, although decline eventually returns as the next Age nears. (An Age where the Dark One doesn’t touch the world would be an improvement although there is the risk that the coming age will be that of the Shadow and therefore much worse.)

  • The end of some Ages is heralded by the appearance of the world saviour, the Dragon, his death ending the Age. (Some Ages don’t have a Dragon according to Jordan – see Apocalypticism section below).

  • The entire historical process moves forward according to a plan that is in outline preordained (the Wheel of Time spins the Age Lace to make the Web of Ages according to the Pattern).

  • It is the duty of every citizen to actively prepare for the next phase of history, since their lives are the threads from which the Pattern is woven, although not all follow this path.

  • The Transformation is imminent, since the Dragon has been reborn…


Messianism

Messianism is the belief in a future saviour figure who will overcome evil in the world with his/her sacrifice. It is even more integral to the series than millenarianism. Jordan’s original impulse to write his story came from wondering how it would feel to discover you were a messiah:

"What if you were tapped on the shoulder and told you had to save the world?"

Messianism is the Wheel’s counter to the Shadow’s millenarian extremism. We have seen the Creator’s surrogate soul acting as the saviour figure in two Ages in the person of Lews Therin and Rand. Understandably, there is not a great deal of information on Lews Therin as a saviour, especially in his early years. Lews Therin did great deeds, including resealing the Dark One in the Bore, but was reviled anyway for thousands of years and his deeds discounted. A saviour rejected by those he saved. While he saved the world, he was not a messiah in the sense of sacrificing his body. However thanks to the Dark One’s counterstroke, he did unwittingly make a blood sacrifice in the death of all his kin. The trauma of this drove him to suicide.

Rand is a more Christ-like saviour figure, as will be seen below (and also in the
Rand parallels essay), and he also inspires strong negative feelings and even threats. The Shadow threatens Rand with eternal death:

You will serve me or die! And this time the cycle will not begin anew with your death. The grave belongs to the Great Lord of the Dark. This time if you die, you will be destroyed utterly.”

- The Great Hunt, Kinslayer.

Ishamael is trying to mislead Rand here and make him despair. (He also tempts him, as the devil tempted Christ, as we saw in the earlier section on Surrogates). If Rand dies before Tarmon Gai’don, the Dark One loses the opportunity to win the Battle and be freed and so neither side wins. Stalemate. The Dark One can try again at another suitable time in another Age. This is why Ishamael is ambivalent about wanting Rand dead. Naturally the Shadow would rather Rand died than they lost the Last Battle, but if they have the upper hand in the conflict, then it is definitely in their interest to push for a Last Battle and kill Rand there. If Rand dies during Tarmon Gai’don and does not manage to seal up or kill the Dark One then the Dark One wins and the world will be remade in the Shadow’s image. Rand will never be born again. Only if the Dark One is sealed away or killed (although Rand will probably die in the process, his “prophesied sacrifice for man’s salvation” (The Shadow Rising, Reflections)) will the Light gain the victory.

Parallels

Zoroastrian

In Zoroastrianism, Saoshyans is the final saviour of the world who will overcome the power of evil at the end of time. Two previous saviours appeared, one at the end of the two previous millennia. Saoshyans will be conceived by a virgin. He will overcome the evil forces and resurrect the bodies of the dead. Saoshyans and six helpers will then lead the work in the world, communicating with each other miraculously (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

The series has some similarities and some differences to this. Lews Therin saved the world three millennia previously and now the three ta’veren together will hopefully defeat the Shadow, but they are trying to prevent the end of time. Rand, was “born of the Maiden, according to Prophecy” (The Shadow Rising, opening prophecy), and Rand is prophesied to be a sacrifice for world salvation. The three ta’veren are each able to see what the others are doing by a vision through swirling colours.

Judaism

Messianism is not prominent in the Old Testament:

The biblical Old Testament never speaks of an eschatological messiah, and even the “messianic” passages that contain prophecies of a future golden age under an ideal king never use the term messiah.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

It is since the time of Hellenistic rule (200-165 BC) over the Hebrews that the idea of the Messiah became established in Judaism; the King of Israel who will deliver the people from their enemies and establish the New Jerusalem on earth where he will reign for a period in righteousness, equity, justice, and truth. This is first shown in Intertestamental (or Apocryphal; this is the period between the Old and New Testaments) texts and some of these have interesting parallels with Rand.

In the Intertestamental text Psalms of Solomon 17:21-46, God is implored to raise up the future king of Israel, the son of David, who will destroy all God’s enemies, shatter unrighteous rulers, destroy the pride of the sinner, smite the earth with the word of his mouth and destroy the godless nations. At his rebuke nations shall flee before him. This is similar in content to a couple of the Prophecies of the Dragon:

Soul of fire, heart of stone, in pride he conquers, forcing the proud to yield. He calls upon the mountains to kneel, and the seas to give way, and the very skies to bow."

-A Crown of Swords, Opening prophecy

“As the plough breaks the earth shall he break the lives of men and all that was shall be consumed in the fire of his eyes. The trumpets of war shall sound at his footsteps, the ravens feed at his voice and he shall wear a crown of swords.”

-A Crown of Swords, As The Plough Breaks The Earth

The Qumran sect:

a Jewish monastic group known in modern times for its preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, held a doctrine—found also in later Jewish sects—of a messianic pair: a priestly messiah of the House of Aaron (the brother of Moses) and a royal messiah of the House of David. This messianic detail, incidentally, shows that these “anointed ones” were not thought of as saviours—as in later Christian thought—but rather as ideal leaders presiding over an ideal, divinely-willed, and “messianic” socio-religious order.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

In this sect’s Damascus Document, The Guardian “shall loosen all the fetters which bind them that in his Congregation there may be none that are oppressed or broken”, just as the Dragon Reborn is said to “tear apart all ties that bind” (The Great Hunt opening prophecy) and “break all oaths, shatter all ties.” (The Great Hunt, What Was Meant To Be). Interestingly, the Qumran sect believed they were not just a ‘remnant’ of their time, but of all times – the final remnant.

In Jewish apocalyptic literature of medieval to modern times, another messianic figure gained some prominence: the warrior-messiah of the House of Joseph (or Ephraim) who will precede the triumphant royal messiah of the House of David—but would himself fall in the battle against Gog and Magog, two legendary powers under Satan and opposed to the people of God (Ezek. 38:2; Rev. 20: 8 ) (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

So there are three messianic figures in various Jewish writings and sects: a royal messiah (the one that most texts refer to), plus a priest-messiah and a warrior messiah. In some writings the royal messiah is a saviour figure, in others his role is more of an earthly king. Similarly, ideas on the duration of the messiah’s kingdom vary: some think it will be conquered by enemy nations and that then God may intervene, while others think that the end of time will follow immediately after and the dead will be resurrected. The latter is close to New Testament writings.

Jordan has one messiah, but his success depends on two helpers, Mat and Perrin. Mat may be the equivalent of the warrior messiah, though it could also be Logain or Narishma. The priest messiah could be Perrin, a gentle man who hates to think of evil as part of the Pattern. Rand would be the equivalent of the royal messiah: his mother was Daughter Heir to the throne of Andor and his father was an Aiel Clan Chief. There is currently no known prophecy of Rand ruling in the Fourth Age if the Shadow is defeated, as the royal messiah does in Judaic writings. Nor will the Fourth Age necessarily be a paradise, as stated above in the millenarianism section, since there may be much to repair after the Last Battle. The end of time is not likely to occur if the Light is victorious – the Light is trying to prevent the Shadow from ending time. This is different from Judaic thought, where in some writings, time will end and eternity begin after the messiah comes; and also from Christian thought, where eternity will begin after evil is defeated by the messiah.

Christian

For Christians, Jesus died for mankind’s salvation: a sacrifice offered to God as atonement for human sin and as the price paid to redeem man from the devil. Not surprisingly, Rand as saviour of his world, has quite a few similarities with Christ: he was born in a place of discomfort (the side of a mountain rather than a stable), his mother was a Maiden (but not a virgin), he was hidden away as a baby, his adoptive father did carpentry (but was a shepherd), he has been wounded in the hands and the side (equivalent to the stigmata, although none in his feet), he was tempted by the devil (through the Dark One’s surrogate Ishamael), he has disciples who are helping him in his task, he has a prickly crown (of swords, not thorns), he has violated custom and changed law (Aiel, Tear, Cairhien), he is despised by many and abused by some (who violated their office, as ambassadors, to do so), he is associated with miracles (ta’veren twistings of the Pattern), he is trying to bring peace (though often by the sword), he is prophesied to face the Dark One in the Pit of Doom (a descent into hell) and, most importantly, he is prepared to sacrifice himself to save the world from evil.

In Luke 7:38, a female follower wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them dry with her hair. This is similar to the Sea Folk prophecy of the Coramoor:

Aes Sedai shall kneel to wash his feet and dry them with their hair.

- The Shadow Rising, The Wavedancer

Since there are so many similarities, more probably will occur. Christ wandered for some time in the wilderness. Min had a viewing of a beggar’s staff around Rand, and furthermore, Perrin saw Rand in the Wolfdream wearing rags and a rough cloak, and a bandage covered his eyes (The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei), so it is quite possible he will spend a period wandering alone.

It is likely someone close to Rand will betray him, as Judas betrayed Christ, leading to his prophesied death, a parallel of the Crucifixion. While Mat was shown in the Portal Stones in The Great Hunt that he could betray Rand, the warning may make Mat careful not to do so. There may also be an unwilling judge, a Pontius Pilate, who condemns Rand.

Then there is the resurrection of Christ three days after death, and also Christ reviving Lazarus, who had been dead for three days. There is some foreshadowing in the series that someone will be Healed three days after death. The period of three days is important because it was believed in earlier times that the soul hovered around the body for three days after death and that a person could revive in that time. (Even these days people come round in the morgue occasionally). Hence the custom of laying out the body for three days in case the person revived. That's why Christ healed someone who had been dead for three days so no one could say that the person just came round of their own accord.

There is no hint that Rand will do this, since he has very little Talent for Healing, but there is foreshadowing that Rand may be the one revived and Nynaeve may be the one to do the reviving. For instance, Norry said he wouldn’t believe Rand is dead unless he sat with the corpse for three days (Winter’s Heart, A Cup of Tea), and Elayne thinks Nynaeve wouldn’t be satisfied until she had healed someone three days dead (Lord of Chaos, A Matter of Thought).

Jordan has combined elements from the Zoroastrian, Judaic and Christian faiths and has split them and combined them among his major leaders of forces of the Light.

Messiahs often herald the end of the world, and may or may not be associated with catastrophic events – apocalypses.

Apocalypticism

Apocalypticism is the belief in the world’s progress to a prophesied cataclysmic end. The classic features of apocalyptic thought are: an obsession with prophecy in its many forms and a sense of approaching crisis, in which the polarisation of good and evil become increasingly marked. This is present in the Wheel of Time series. In particular, the approach of the Last Battle looms over the series making quite a few people seek guidance from prophecy. Noal Charin, for instance, was mulling over the Karaethon Cycle in Crossroads of Twilight. Prophecy led the Amayar to kill themselves in the belief that Time would soon end (Knife of Dreams, To Make An Anchor Weep).

The Dark One wants to stop the cycle of time, break the Wheel and remake the world in his image; to end the world as it currently is. The Light’s forces want to retain the current Pattern and Wheel. The Last Battle between the two forces will be cataclysmic, apocalyptic even. The Last Battle is only the last if the Dark One wins and ends time. Otherwise the cycle of time will continue.

The Dark One’s and the Creator’s surrogates have battled before with catastrophic results. At a booksigning, Jordan has described the end of the Age of Legends as a ‘long drawn-out apocalypse’. With so much at stake - the chance of total victory - this time may be even worse.


Parallels

Hindu

In Hinduism the universe is destroyed at the end of one thousand cycles and eventually recreated by Brahma to exist for another one thousand cycles of the wheel of time. This cycle of destruction and renewal is continuous. It is not a once-only event as in ideologies with linear time. But the destruction and renewal is complete, however, just as in the Wheel of Time series the Dark One aims to completely break time and the Pattern and recreate the world. A hellish world however, since the Dark One is malign, and therefore completely different from Hindu ideas.

Norse

Norse mythology is remarkable for its bleak view of the end of the world, where the forces of evil and chaos outnumber and overcome the forces of good and order. Loki and his demonic children break free and the dead would sail from Niflheim to attack the living. Heimdall, the watchman of the gods, summons the heavenly host with a blast on his horn. A final battle between good and evil then ensues, which the gods lose, as is their fate (Ragnarok). Odin will be killed by the evil wolf Fenrir. Thor will battle the World Serpent, and they will kill each other. Tyr is the last of the gods to fall – he and the infernal dog Garm fatally wound each other. The world ends in the chaos from which it was born. (Alternately, the "good" beings and the "evil" mutually destroy each other in battle and the world comes to an end. Some people survive Ragnarok and re-populate earth, living in the beautiful Hall of Gimle. (Yes, this is another borrowing by Tolkien.))

There are some similarities and some differences. Loki and his monstrous children bursting their bonds are equivalent to the Forsaken breaking free of the Seals and the Dark One trying to do so. Just as Heimdall blows his horn to summon the gods and their helpers to fight the dead and the monstrous, Mat as the Hornsounder may blow the Horn of Valere to summon the dead heroes to the Last Battle.

Unlike Norse mythology, the wolves are on the side of the Light in the Last Battle, not the Shadow. It may be their Shadowbrothers, the Darkhounds, who attack one of Light’s captains. In the series, the Great Serpent is Time, not a monster, and the Light are trying to prevent the Shadow from killing it. As for which character is the equivalent of which Norse god, Mat has strong parallels to Odin, Perrin to Thor, and Rand to Tyr; although Rand also has a few parallels to Thor. Hopefully the Light can prevent the Shadow from plunging the world into chaos and evil.

Zoroastrian

There is a strong theme of balance in Zoroastrianism, not just in the dualistic theology, but between the beginning of time and the end of time as well. The mountains that were upthrust at the beginning of time will flatten at the end of time as lava and molten metal pour out of them and fill the valleys. The dragon that was killed at the beginning of time will return at the end to be killed by another hero. Each soldier of the benign god Ormazd will defeat and kill his own special adversary. This will restore the state of peace that existed initially at the beginning of time. There will then be a final cleansing fire that purges evil from the earth. The suffering of the wicked will last only three days, however, after which people will live in an eternal paradise. Hell will be sealed forever, and the evil god Ahriman will be either powerless or annihilated (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

There are quite a few similarities with the series. The earth probably will be opened up as channellers fight. The purging by fire has a parallel with one of the Prophecies of the Dragon which says that ‘The Fires of Heaven purge the earth’ (The Fires of Heaven opening prophecy). The dragon that battled at the beginning of time and again at the end equates with the Dragon battling at the end of the Age of Legends and again at the end of the Third Age. In Zoroastrianism the Dragon is an evil figure, but in the Wheel of Time, the Dragon is the Creator’s champion, a good soul who unwittingly does bad things. If the Light wins, the Dark One will probably not be annihilated, but become powerless once more as the Bore is re-sealed. This sealing would not last forever, since time is cyclic in the Wheel of Time, not linear, as in Zoroastrianism. Likewise, there is no eternal paradise at the end of the Last Battle. However, if the Shadow wins, the Dark One plans an evil eternity. The three days of suffering may possibly be related to the three days foreshadowed that Rand spends dead (described above in the Messianism section). It is possible that each of the major ‘captains’ of the Light may have their counterpart in the Shadow which they will fight.


Islam

Islâm, too, though it has no room for a saviour-messiah, developed the idea of an eschatological restorer of the faith, usually called the Mahdi (Arabic: “Rightly Guided One” ). The doctrine of the Mahdi is an essential part of the Shi’ite creed.

Mahdi is the title of the leader of each group of the Travelling Folk. His role is a Seeker of the song which, if found, will restore the paradise of the Age of Legends. This may well be an important event at the time of the Last Battle, or soon after.

Old Testament

Ancient Judaism prophesied that the earth will be radically transformed by God (Jean Delumeau, Conversations about the End of Time). The later Old Testament books show this. In Isaiah 24:1-12, at the end of time:

The Lord is going to devastate the earth and leave it desolate. He will twist the earth’s surface and scatter its people. Everyone will meet the same fate - the priests and the people, slaves and masters, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, rich and poor. The earth will lie shattered and ruined. The Lord has spoken and it will be done. The earth dries up and withers; the whole world grows weak; both earth and sky decay.

The Creator doesn’t intervene in history, his chosen one fights in his place. The Dark One does intervene though. He tainted saidin, which caused the male Aes Sedai to go insane and Break the World in a similar way to the destruction described in Isaiah. Their channelling twisted, shattered and ruined the earth and scattered the people. The earth movements also changed the climate – at one period it was very dry. The Breaking of the World reduced the population as weakened people perished. So the events described here have already occurred once, at the end of the Age of Legends, and, since time is cyclic, may well occur again at the end of the Third Age. The Prophecies of the Dragon indicate so:

And it shall come to pass that what men made shall be shattered, and the Shadow shall lie across the Pattern of the Age, and the Dark One shall once more lay his hand upon the world of man. Women shall weep and men quail as the nations of the earth are rent like rotting cloth. Neither shall anything stand nor abide...

- The Great Hunt opening prophecy

The hills burn, and the land turns sere. The tides of men run out, and the hours dwindle.

- The Fires of Heaven opening prophecy

The Dark One tried to dry up the earth and weaken the people but the seasons were restored by Elayne and Nynaeve and the Bowl of Winds. While the Creator’s chosen one, Rand would like to prevent the breaking of nations and the world, it doesn’t sound like he will have much success.

Isaiah says that on the Day of the Lord:

The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

- Isaiah 13:10

All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leave from the vine.

- Isaiah 34:4

Matthew 29 and 2 Peter in the New Testament have similar prophecies. The Day of the Lord is the day God intervenes in the world and ends history. This would be equivalent to the climax of the Last Battle (although the Creator is not expected to intervene, but to leave the battle to his chosen one). The darkened sun and moon and falling stars described in Isaiah are similar to the subconscious images Ishamael implanted in Carridin in The Great Hunt Prologue:

The skies rained fire, and the moon and stars fell; rivers ran in blood and the dead walked; the earth split open and fountained molten rock.

Therefore they may well be an indication of the type of destruction unleashed during the Last Battle.

Joel 2: 1-3 adds a huge army on earth to the darkness in the heavens on the day of Judgement:

The day of the Lord is coming, it is close at hand – a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste - nothing escapes them.

These armies that desolate the land could be a description of the Shadow’s armies advancing towards the Light’s forces at Tarmon Gai’don. Moridin may well use the True Power to cloak the armies in Shadow as he cloaked himself in the heart of the Stone in Tear at the end of The Dragon Reborn. Ishamael told Rand that armies of Shadowspawn (and Dreadlords) would come:

"Other armies can be raised, fool. Armies you have not dreamed of will yet come.”

- The Eye of the World, Against The Shadow

The verses from Joel 2 suggest that he wasn’t lying. The absence of Shadowspawn along the Blight may well be a ruse to lull the Borderlands. Alternatively, the Blight may be quiet because the armies are in preparation elsewhere.

Intertestamental Writings (Apocrypha and Dead Sea Scrolls)

There are some writings from the intertestamental period which also are relevant to end-times in The Wheel of Time. The book 2 Esdras describes the signs that indicate that the Last Battle will occur soon.

For behold, the time will come, when the signs which I have foretold to you will come to pass; the city which is not seen shall appear, and the land which is now hidden shall be disclosed…For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him…

- 2 Esdras 7:26-28

These events may have occurred already: the hidden city which appeared could be Rhuidean, and the land disclosed may be Seanchan. Many were completely unaware of either. The Seanchan arrived shortly before Rand declared himself and Rhuidean was revealed soon after. In Tear when Rand was confirmed as the Dragon, all his main helpers (except Cadsuane) were present in the city.

More signs of the last times from 2 Esdras are:

there shall appear in the world earthquakes, tumult of peoples, intrigues of nations, wavering of leaders, confusion of princes.

- 2 Esdras 9: 3

And bewilderment of mind shall come over those who dwell on earth. And they shall plan to make war against one another, city against city, place against place, people against people, and kingdom against kingdom. And when these things come to pass and the signs occur which I showed you before, then my son will be revealed, whom you saw as a man coming up from the sea. And when all the nations hear his voice, every man shall leave his own land and the warfare they have against one another; and an innumerable multitude shall be gathered together, as you saw, desiring to come and conquer him. But he will stand on the top of Mount Zion. And Zion will come and be made manifest to all people, prepared and built as you saw the mountain carved without hands.

- 2 Esdras 13: 29-35

This too is happening in the series. People are leaving their places because they believe the Prophecies that the Dragon Reborn will shatter all ties. So far people have increased warfare against one another, just as in the passage here. The verses also suggest that the people may unite against Rand and that he may have to face down a large force. Certainly many people want to see him captured; not just the Shadow, but Seanchan, Whitecloaks, Shaido, Elaida, the list goes on. Mount Zion could be Dragonmount. Shayol Ghul is a less likely possibility.

The Damascus Document, an Intertestamental text from the Qumran sect, has a passage with interesting parallels with the Aiel:

But with the remnant which hold fast to the commandments of God He made His covenant with Israel for ever, revealing to them the hidden things in which all Israel had gone astray.

The passage writes of remnants and covenants and is a parallel with those who are descended from the Da’shain Aiel, who swore a covenant to follow the Way of the Leaf – the Aiel and the Travelling Folk. Rand has revealed this hidden history to the Aiel, the fact that they strayed from the covenant and abandoned the Way of the Leaf. The Prophecy of Rhuidean says that only those that follow Rand – a remnant of the Aiel - are destined to last until the Last Battle and beyond it. The Travelling Folk held to the covenant, but not to the task the Aes Sedai gave them. They, too, may learn of this hidden history. It may help them find the Song that they seek. Both groups probably need to come to terms with their history before Tarmon Gai’don.

Interestingly, the Community Rule 1QSII20 of the Qumran sect has the phrase ‘walking in the ways of the light’, another borrowing.

In summary, many of the prophecies about the end of the world from the Old Testament and the Intertestamental books occur in the Wheel of Time series, not just as sources of ideas, but to show that the Third age is a distant Age of our own. The prophecies of the New Testament books were used in the same way.

New Testament

Like the Old Testament and Intertestamental books, the New Testament describes the time close to the end of the world. As the end nears:

Many will come using my name and claim ‘I’m the one!’ and they will delude many people. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, don’t be afraid. These are inevitable, but it is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and empire against empire; there will be earthquakes everywhere; there will be famines. These things mark the beginning of the final agonies.

- Mark 13: 6-8

Matthew 24:7 is similar. They are an apt description of the Third Age, especially of the last few years, notably the warring nations and empires. Rand made an earthquake in the Mountains of the Mist at the beginning of The Dragon Reborn and he and Asmodean shook the earth during their duel at the end of The Shadow Rising. Famines have occurred in local areas: people were starving in Cairhien and also in Illian until Rand organised relief. Elayne and Nynaeve probably averted a famine by using the Bowl of the Winds to restore the seasons. More recently, in Crossroads of Twilight, much food is being destroyed by vermin, so there may well be widespread famine in the near future.

Many men in the Third Age have indeed falsely claimed to be the Dragon – false Dragons became increasingly frequent until Rand declared himself. (There have been false Messiahs in our world as well in medieval and modern times – for example, the 17th-century pseudomessiah Shabbetai Tzevi (Sabbatai Zevi) of Smyrna
(Encyclopaedia Britannica)).

At the last hour, according to 1 John 2:18:

'as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour.’

Many antichrists certainly have appeared in the Wheel of Time series; they are the Forsaken, who were freed very late in the Third Age from their limbo and are countering whatever Rand does. They are an indication that the Seals on the Dark One’s prison have weakened and that the Last Battle will occur soon. It is indeed the last hour.

The book which has the most detail on antichrists, false prophets, the Messiah and the end of time is Revelation.

Revelation

There are many parallels between Revelation and The Wheel of Time and it was obviously a major source for ideas on end-times for the series. However, there is an important difference between the two: there is no hint of a Last Judgement in the Wheel of Time books. After the Last Battle, provided the Light wins, the Fourth Age will dawn, not eternity. The Age Lace is intact, the Wheel turns and life goes on. That’s also why evangelical millenarianism doesn’t apply to The Wheel of Time. If the Shadow wins and the Dark One is freed, he will remake the world in his own image. A dark eternity will then dawn.

The outline of events in Revelation is: Christ returns and there is a great tribulation prior to the judgment of the world; the battle between Christ and the Antichrist, a false messiah or “great liar” who denies that Jesus is the Christ and who pitches the world into moral confusion and physical chaos; and the ultimate triumph over Satan, who appears as a dragon but who no longer deceives the nations of the world (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

We will now look at the many similarities between Revelation and The Wheel of Time in detail.

The final battle between good and evil in Revelation is Armageddon, a similar name to Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle in the Wheel of Time series.

SEALS

Seven seals are important in both Revelation and The Wheel of Time. There is a scroll with seven seals in Revelation, which only the Messiah (who “appears to have been killed” ) is able to break open:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

- Revelation 5:9

In Revelation, the death of the Messiah happens before the seals are broken, but in The Wheel of Time it occurs after some are broken. It has been hypothesised that Rand may fake his death at some stage, and wander disguised as a beggar. (This may also tie in with Rand wandering in the wilderness, a parallel with Christ discussed above in the Messianism section.) However, Rand is also prophesied to shed blood to save humanity from the Shadow:

His blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul, washing away the Shadow, sacrifice for man's salvation.

- The Shadow Rising, Reflection

Since Rand hasn't died yet, but is destined to do so, Jordan appears to be combining events of the Crucifixion (see Messianism section) with the events of Revelation.

After each of the first four seals are broken in Revelation 6:1-8, a horse and rider appears: the four horsemen of the apocalypse who let loose war, famine, pestilence and death. The breaking of the fifth seal (Rev 6:9) raises the martyrs who have died for their faith. When the sixth seal is broken (Rev 6:12), there is a great earthquake, the sun becomes black and the moon is red as blood. Stars fall to earth and the sky vanishes. Every mountain and island is removed from its place. The “great day of wrath has come.” When the seventh seal is broken (Rev 8 ) there is silence for about half an hour then catastrophic trumpet blasts sound.

The seals in The Wheel of Time are also almost unbreakable, being made of cuendillar. At the end of Crossroads of Twilight, there were four broken seals of the Dark One’s prison and three intact ones. The fourth horseman in Revelation was Death, on a pale horse. This has a parallel in the Prophecies of the Dragon:

For winter's heart shall ride a black horse, and the name of it is Death."

- Winter’s Heart, Opening prophecy
Interestingly, the fourth seal broke during The Fires of Heaven which was before Moridin (Death in the Old Tongue) appeared (by the time of A Crown of Swords).

War and death are certainly loose in the land. The Dark One fixed the seasons to cause food shortages, but this was undone. However, since Winter’s Heart, vermin have invaded food supplies, even those warded, so famine is again raising its ugly head. In Knife of Dreams we see the consequence of people being forced to eat tainted food with pestilence on the rise. All four horsemen are loose.

The martyrs that were raised in Revelation by the fifth seal breaking may be the parallel of the Heroes of the Horn summoned to fight at the Last Battle. The catastrophic disruption of the sixth seal breaking may represent the start of the Last Battle proper. The sky may be darkened as the Shadow’s armies advance under a cloud of the True Power.

The opening of the seventh seal in Revelation 10:7 initiates seven catastrophic trumpet blasts. With the first trumpet blast there is a shower of hail and fire mixed with blood, with the second, a huge blazing mountain is thrown in to the sea, with the third, a blazing star named wormwood falls into the waters and with the fourth, a third of the sky goes dark. The fifth trumpet blast causes a star [or angel] with the key to the abyss (bottomless pit) to fall to earth. The abyss is opened and a plague of locusts comes out and also smoke, which darkens the sky further. When the sixth trumpet blast is heard, four angels with vast numbers of mounted troops are released and they kill people by fire, smoke and sulphur. Two Witnesses for the Lord are also killed. Finally, with the seventh trumpet blast God’s temple in heaven is opened amid lightning, thunder, earthquakes and hail.

Many of these destructive events described in Revelation would be likely to occur at the Last Battle in The Wheel of Time as channellers fight. The four angels that kill with fire, smoke and sulphur are probably Forsaken. (Some of the Forsaken have demonic or angelic names, see Names of the Shadow article). It is interesting to note that some events occur near the sea, including the fall of a star called wormwood. Padan Fain names himself as Ordeith to Pedron Niall, and this means wormwood in the Old Tongue. Jordan may change the order of events described here, however, and have Fain fall late in the Last Battle, if he falls at all.

The fallen angel who opens the bottomless pit with the key is another interesting figure. Perhaps one of the Forsaken, or Shaidar Haran opens Shayol Ghul or lures Rand there. It is unknown if there will be two witnesses for the Light who are killed, though it is quite likely that not all major characters will survive.

DRAGON

The dragon is named as Satan in Revelation. He and his angels fight Michael and his angels (Rev 12:7). The dragon loses and is hurled to earth and his angels with him. He pursues a pregnant woman, and then continues to fight on Earth and amasses great power. The Dragon champions two beasts, the second of which is the false prophet. The first is probably the antichrist. The Dragon, false prophet and beast gather great forces for Armageddon. After the battle, the Dragon, Satan, is thrown into the abyss by the rider called Faithful and True and is bound for a thousand years. (Rev 20:2-9).

There is a major difference between the Wheel of Time series and Revelation here: The Dragon is the Creator’s champion, not the Dark One (Satan), although this soul is incarnated as a Dragon in some ages only. Jordan said at a booksigning:

This soul is one of the Heroes, and bound to the Wheel, spun out as the Pattern wills. It is born in other ages, but in a non-Dragon incarnation, to suit the pattern of that Age.
The Dark One also names Rand as the Dragon in the Lord of Chaos Prologue:

DONE BY MY ANCIENT ENEMY, THE ONE CALLED DRAGON.
Due to the drastic actions and treatment forced upon the Dragon by the Shadow, the Dragon is so reviled that he is confused with the Dark One:

"The Dragon!" someone moaned. "The Dark One's loose in Ghealdan!"
"Not the Dark One," Haral Luhhan growled. "The Dragon's not the Dark One. And this is a false Dragon, anyway."…
"Just as bad as the Dark One!"
"The Dragon broke the world, didn't he?"
"He started it! He caused the Time of Madness!"
"You know the prophecies! When the Dragon is reborn, your worst nightmares will seem like your fondest dreams!"

- The Eye of the World, The Peddler

The Shadow has deliberately contributed to this; it is part of their campaign of slander, deceit and confusion to make their victory easier and more complete. The Black Ajah was possibly ordered to set up Taim as a duplicate Dragon to do evil in Rand’s name. Furthermore, the Creator’s champion has changed sides in Ages past and fought for the Dark One, so it is easy to see how a dim memory of this equates the Dragon with the Shadow.

Jordan has tried to increase the deceit and confusion caused by evil in The Wheel of Time compared to that in Revelation by having the Dragon on the side of the Light. Alternatively, he is trying to ‘explain’ how the dragon came to have a mixed reputation in our world. In the Middle East, where snakes are large and deadly, the serpent or dragon is equated with evil. The Ancient Greeks and Romans, however, saw the snake as sometimes evil and sometimes benign. In the Orient, the dragon is a benign, but powerful, creature and represents yang (roughly equated with saidin in The Wheel of Time.)

The Dragon and his angels fighting and losing against Michael and his angels in Revelation may be a parallel for Rand and/or his supporters fighting the M’Hael and his supporters. (For M’Hael being a parallel of Michael, see Names of the Shadow article). This may occur when Rand finally realises that the M’Hael, Taim, a known Darkfriend, has been using his authority at the Black Tower to nefariously raise Dreadlords and order them to commit evil in Rand’s name. If Rand loses, he may lie low, pretending to be dead, and wander friendless and alone as a beggar as discussed above in the Messianism section.

The Dragon in Revelation pursues a pregnant woman. There are two women in The Wheel of Time we know of that are pregnant: Melaine and Elayne. Rand already knows of Melaine’s pregnancy, but he does not know of Elayne’s. If Rand thought Elayne was placing herself in danger, pregnant or not, he would try to prevent it. The passage suggests that Elayne’s pregnancy is important to the Last Battle in some way.

Like the Dragon in Revelation, Rand is trying to amass great forces – he is trying to unite the nations so they can fight the Shadow effectively at Tarmon Gai’don.

An important parallel with Revelation is the Dragon championing two beasts: the antichrist and the false prophet. Is Rand championing an antichrist, a Forsaken? Moridin thinks that he has control over both sides of the board; that Rand is doing what Moridin wishes. Rand, of course, has no idea of Moridin’s significance, so his promotion of Moridin’s plans is totally unwitting. Less so is Rand’s promotion of the (false) Prophet, Masema. By not Travelling personally to Masema and publicly ordering him to stop the violent and destructive behaviour of the Dragonsworn, Rand is by default supporting him. By staying away, he is also allowing the Shadow the opportunity to subvert Masema.

ANTICHRIST

The first beast in Revelation is usually equated with the antichrist. The beast utters ‘proud words and blasphemies’ (Rev 13:5). He has a fatal wound, which has been healed (Rev 13:12); he was wounded by a sword and yet lived (Rev 13:14). He makes war against the saints, gathers with a force at Armageddon and battles the rider called Faithful and True. The beast is captured and thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. (Rev 19:20).

An Antichrist is a human figure of great power whose activities are a perverse reflection of those of the true Christ, with the function above all of deceiving and misleading the faithful (Paula Clifford, A Brief History of End-time). In 2 Thessalonians he is described as the ‘man of lawlessness’, who “opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship” (2 Thess 2). He will have miraculous powers (given him by Satan) and will be able to deceive some of the faithful. The antichrist in The Wheel of Time is probably Ishamael/Moridin, the Dark One’s likely surrogate. He is Rand’s equal and opposite, has been named Naeblis and given exclusive access to the True Power. Moridin claims to even have servants among Rand’s forces that don’t know they are serving him.

As for the antichrist’s fatal sword wound that was healed, Ishamael was twice wounded by a sword, the second time fatally. Moridin, the reincarnated Ishamael, probably plans on sending great armies of Shadowspawn against the Light’s forces. If Jordan follows Revelation, Moridin will be slain at the end of Tarmon Gai’don. The equivalent of the fiery lake of sulphur would be the Pit of Doom, a lake of lava.

Mark 13:22 confirms that counterfeit Messiahs and phoney prophets will show up, and they will provide “portents and miracles so as to delude, if possible even the chosen people”. Any of the Forsaken could be described as antichrists, since they are countering Rand and are also able to perform ‘signs and wonders’ (channelling) as well as every sort of evil. Taim, a Darkfriend, is also a candidate to be an antichrist. He claimed to be a Dragon, and even told Rand that had Taim not been captured, history would have shown that he satisfied all the prophecies regarding the Dragon’s birth, etc (Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival). There was a supposed plot by the Shadow to proclaim Taim as the Dragon and have him do evil in Rand’s name to confuse the populace - a counterfeit messiah. Of course, now that Taim is ensconced in the Black Tower, he can do all this and more.

FALSE PROPHET

The false prophet is closely associated with the beast (antichrist) in Revelation. In fact, he is referred to as the second beast, who acts on the authority of the first beast and make people worship it (Rev 13:12). The second beast is exposed as ‘the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf’ (Rev 19:20). Like the antichrist, the false prophet is captured and thrown into the lake of burning sulphur.

Masema is the Dragon’s prophet, preaching :

about the Dragon coming to save us, and we all have to follow, and even the beasts will fight for the Dragon.

- The Dragon Reborn, A Different Dance.

At first Masema was similar to John the Baptist, preaching Christ’s coming, but he has become increasingly extreme and has ‘given up the names of men’ (The Path of Daggers, Beginnings). He is now:

simply the Prophet of the Lord Dragon, may the Light illumine him and the world come to kneel before him…There is much to do here, yet. Great works.”

- The Path of Daggers, Beginnings

More ominously, he refuses to let his followers utter Rand’s name, just refer to him as ‘the Lord Dragon’. This could be a part of the Shadow’s supposed plot to set up a counterfeit Dragon.

Masema does do good – he gives all money raised to the poor, although he uses coercion to raise it in the first place. His Dragonsworn not only cause chaos, but are extremely violent and destructive. The close association of the prophet with the beast in Revelation may be further confirmation that Masema is a proxy of the Shadow (if we needed one).

The destruction his followers unleash in the name of the Dragon ensures that the general populace associate the Dragon with the Shadow. This would be a parallel of ‘makes the people worship the first beast’ in Revelation. The prophet does not perform any miraculous signs, however, but he does preach about Rand’s ‘miracles’:

“You [Nynaeve] will speak to the crowds of the Lord Dragon’s boyhood, of his first words of wisdom, of the miracles that accompanied him. The Light has sent you here to serve the Lord Dragon.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Encounters in Samara

If Jordan follows Revelation, the Prophet will take followers to Tarmon Gai’don, where he will be exposed and destroyed along with the Shadow’s champion.

BABYLON AND ROME

These two notorious cities are destroyed at the end of time in Revelation:

A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”

- Revelation 4:8

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.

While Babylon and Rome are great cities, their symbols, the Whore of Babylon and the woman dressed to kill, both sound remarkably like Graendal. This suggests that clever manipulative Graendal will live well into the Last Battle.

GOG AND/OF MAGOG

In Revelation 20:7-8, huge forces from Gog/Magog attack those of the Lord:

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog of Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

In the Wheel of Time, the forces of Gog of Magog could be a variety of armies that are prepared to attack Rand’s forces. Perhaps the most likely contenders are the Seanchan, since they are an enormous force from distant lands. These forces are deceived by Satan in Revelation, and the same has happened in The Wheel of Time, thanks to Ishamael and Semirhage.

SATAN

At the end of Armageddon, Satan is sealed in the Abyss (bottomless pit) for a thousand years (Revelation 20:2-3). He will then be released from his prison and will deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth and gather them in a huge force to encircle the forces of the Lord. The armies of Gog of Magog are destroyed and the devil is captured and thrown in to the lake of burning sulphur (Revelation 20:10).

The Dark One in The Wheel of Time represents Satan. As discussed above, in the section on the Dragon, the Dark One and the Dragon are two separate entities in The Wheel of Time.

At least part of the Last Battle will be fought at Shayol Ghul, not only because Revelation refers to the lake of burning sulphur (the Pit of Doom), but also because there is a prophecy from the Karaethon Cycle which states “his blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul...” (The Shadow Rising, Reflection).

In Revelation, the pattern of end-time events is: a gradual decline accelerating into a period of terror and war, Satan loses and is bound for a thousand years, then a last battle of good and evil with good victorious, then Judgement Day and eternity.

In keeping with the cyclic time in The Wheel of Time world, there is more than one freeing and sealing of the Dark One. The Dark One was sealed prior to a paradisiacal age, then the bore was drilled, there was a collapse and war, the Dark One was sealed away, and a Breaking occurred, followed by a long period of peace with two periods of chaos and war (Trolloc Wars and War of the Hundred Years – both times when the Dark One’s surrogate, Ishamael was free), then another period of terror when the Dark One tries to be freed and finally the Last Battle, which hopefully will end with the Dark One sealed away again. So two cycles of sealing have been shown in the series, with mini-cycles when it is the Dark One’s main surrogate who affects world and is bound away again as the sealing draws him back. The Pattern is:

Second Age: Peace, Collapse, War of Shadow, Sealing, Breaking

Third Age:
  • Peace, Collapse?, Trolloc Wars, Sealing of Ishamael

  • Peace, Collapse?, War of Hundred Years, Sealing of Ishamael

  • Peace, Collapse, Last Battle, Sealing then Breaking or could be Breaking then Sealing

Fourth Age: Hopefully Peace for a while

The pattern of events, dualistic theology and cyclic time framework support the theory that the Dark One will be resealed in his prison and not destroyed, if he is defeated at the Last Battle.

Overall, it is striking how many similarities there are between Revelation and The Wheel of Time.

Summary of Eschatology

The Wheel of Time series is primary concerned with end-times – in particular, preventing an end-time. Jordan combines all three types of eschatology: messianism (future salvatory figure), millenarianism (the periodisation of history into multiples of a thousand years and a prophesied return to conditions of peace and happiness) and apocalypticism (the world’s progress to a prophesied cataclysmic end) into an eastern style cyclic time framework. A major source of symbols, figures and events for Jordan’s eschatology is Revelation of the New Testament, although other sources such as the Old Testament, Intertestamental texts, Norse Mythology and Zoroastrian ideas have also been used.


CONCLUSION : EAST MEETS WEST IN A PARADOX

Jordan has made his world’s theology and eschatological events and prophecies consistent with those of our world. This is not merely using sources; it is also an important part of his theme of how history changes over time.

The dualistic theology of The Wheel of Time is derived from Zoroastrianism, and its eschatology is strongly Judeo-Christian; yet the nature of time and the endless cycle of death and rebirth through the Ages is Eastern in origin. This ultimately leads to a paradox: the Last Battle should be final, so a world with a cyclic time frame shouldn’t have a Last Battle. (Herid Fel pointed this out to Rand in a conversation in Lord of Chaos, A Taste of Solitude.) If the losing deity is extinguished, there will be an imbalance in Creation and changes to the Pattern of Ages; therefore this should not happen. Moreover, Tarmon Gai’don is occurring at the end of the Third Age – in the middle of the great cycle of Ages - and not at the end of the Seventh. This is most unusual and is a strong hint that the Light will win – probably the strongest possible hint.

If the Shadow wins, the Dark One intends to break the wheel and remake the world in his own image – resulting in the end of the world as it is currently known. The Dark One won’t care about the imbalance in the Pattern since he wants to change the Pattern anyway. Judging by his nature, he would be quite content if the Creator were extinguished, or at the very least, sealed in the prison the Dark One so recently vacated. With this outcome the Last Battle would truly be last.

If the Light wins, would the Pattern (and therefore the Creator) allow itself to become unbalanced to this extent by extinguishing the Dark One? Perhaps this is where Jordan’s dualistic theology and cyclic view of time really takes effect. It is more likely that the Dark One will not be destroyed if the Light wins, but resealed in his prison so cannot touch the world, thus restoring the Creator’s Pattern. The downside is that the Dark One could be contacted in a future Age. And would try to be freed again. And the cycle continues…

Let the Wheel turn.

------------------------

Written by Linda, February, 2005

9 comments:

Renee said...

Actually, Rand does have a few things to do with his feet. In the Fires of Heaven, while battling Rahvin in the Royal Palace he is stabbed through the heel by one of the red filaments I believe as well as being bitten by fish while in T'A'R. Also in The Shadow Rising, when he Skims to Rhuidean following Asmodean his gateway closes slicing off the heel of his boot.

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, the Creator’s champion has changed sides in Ages past and fought for the Dark One"

I thought this was just Ishy making stuff up as usual? Even if it had happened, how could he possibly know? And if it had happened, how come the Dark One didn't win?

Rurouni_Kenshin

Linda said...

R-K: I'm going by this quote:

tarvalon.net Q&A 26 February 2003

Q: Was Ishamael lying when he told Rand that the hero of the Light had turned to Shadow in other lifetimes?

RJ: No, he was not. Even those who lie sometimes tell the truth when it serves their purposes.

Later RJ implied Ishy was lying - or discouraged people from believing Ishy. But this quote seems reliable. It's not early, so I doubt he changed the theology.

Anonymous said...

The description of Shayol Ghul also sounds pretty familiar.

Exodus 19:16
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

Exodus 19:18
And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.

There's also this rather troubling line from the New Testament that sounds like something the Dark One would have said to the Forsaken back in the day:

Matthew 19:29
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Linda said...

Anon: Thanks for your reply! Good points.

You've picked out some very appropriate verses.

There are many verses in the Bible that fit WOT very well.

Leyla said...

When you were talking about Zoroastrian archangels - the three female ones, you named Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne, or Elayne, Min, and Aviendha. But could it not also be Egwene, Nynaeve, and MOIRAINE, who rescued Rand and the other male archangels in the first place, and whom Min says is crucial to Rand's winning the Last Battle? It just seems more appropriate, somehow, than the two village women, then suddenly Elayne. Why not Aviendha or Min? Because Elayne is a ruler? Well, not always a very wise one. Whereas Egwene is Amyrlin, now, and VERY wise, Nynaeve is immensely powerful and has never forgotten where she came from, (unlike Egwene) and Moiraine may be the wisest of all the characters in the series. There are so many things she says in the Eye of the World that were merely "speculation", but turned out to be absolutely true. The same with her explanation of the *Finns, that they feed on emotion, etc. Anyway, if I had to guess, I would say that the three female archangels are Moiraine, Nynaeve, and Egwene, all three powerful channelers and familiar, but not sexually familiar, with Rand. Although Rand's lovers would seem equally valid, I believe that their struggle against the Shadow is different - they help as much by loving Rand and showing that he CAN love as by accomplishing their own particular goals (Min applying her acute philosophical mind to the Prophecies and reading people for Rand, Elayne and Aviendha setting the weather aright, etc.)

This is just my humble idea. You seem to be incredible at unraveling the utter complexities of these books than any other site! This is definitely my favorite WOT-based site, btw.

Linda said...

Leyla: Thanks! I'm glad you like the 13th depository.

You are right that Moiraine is also another contender for an archangel, albeit one who can't channel much unaided. Until her rescue we didn't know what condition Moiraine would be in - whether she would be able to channel at all, or whether she would have the angreal she tore from Lanfear's hand, for instance.

Paul Crider said...

This is a great piece ... though I'm gonna admit I haven't read it all yet.

Regarding the section "Interference in the world", I've been wondering if the Creator made an exception to his rule of non-interference at the end of the Gathering Storm (I assume I don't need to worry about spoiling anything here). Rand is freed from the effects of tainted saidin. In the Towers of Midnight, Nynaeve describes the taint as still infecting his mind, but it's being held back by bands of light. Is this just symbolic of Rand's internal jihad to keep the darkness at bay? Or was it one miracle the Creator chose to indulge in at exactly the right time? Thoughts?

Linda said...

Thank you, Paul, I'm glad you like it. The essay hasn't been updated for the last 3 books, because I've decided to split it into 3: theology, time and eschatology. I decided to wait until AMOL came out before I started work since I didn't want to rework it.

I think the light in Rand's mind is from his epiphany - which he did to himself.

The Creator has probably 3 times of interference: reassuring Rand at the Eye, reassuring Rand at Shayol Ghul in AMOL and putting Rand's soul into Moridin's body.

Rand's epiphany could also be regarded as an example of Taoism: he had gone so dark that he flipped to the opposite extreme which resulted in the light coating his brain.