Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #55: Chapter 49—Light and Shadow


By Linda

Perrin POV

The Dark One’s influence has caused Tel’aran’rhiod to become a Blight—a black wasteland, almost a void. (Rocks still remain, but they are disintegrating.) The world is collapsing in on itself in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perhaps it is a warning of what may happen or a reflection of what is happening in Rand’s battle with the Dark One. Either way, the Land cannot maintain itself against the onslaught. Shayol Ghul is a beacon of light pulling Dragonmount to it. A conjunction of mountains is being added to the other conjunctions—of people, of sun and moon, of Powers. The dual world axis is converging to one, in one way symbolising the danger that the Light could become overwhelmed and corrupted by the Shadow, in another way, heralding the sacred conjunction and the successful completion of the Great Work in removing the Dark One’s access to the world. Rand’s birthplace and death place are merging.

Cyndane was not allowed to disguise herself either in Tel’aran’rhiod or with a mask of mirrors as part of her punishment. Moridin policed this in Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm, but in Towers of Midnight he become preoccupied and she began to get away with it and appear more openly as Lanfear.

As Perrin enters Shayol Ghul, he sees Moridin kneeling at the Pit of Doom, and the other three standing tall. Lanfear used Compulsion on Perrin instead of seduction and even then had to pretend to be allied to the Light to manipulate him. (Otherwise she would have had to use such heavy Compulsion that he would be mindless—which would be noticed.) She felt that she “cheated” as Graendal does by resorting to Compulsion to win Perrin’s heart. The Compulsion was only effective because she played on his guilt that he wasn’t there to save his family from Fain and his resentment that Moiraine convinced him to leave the Two Rivers.

It was not because Perrin was un-willing that enables Lanfear’s Compulsion to be undone, more a matter of him willing it away with his extreme strength of will. Despite the Compulsion, Perrin has considerable independence of thought and realises that Lanfear plans to kill Rand and save the Dark One. He knows this is the ultimate wrongness and that he must do his duty. In his previous scene Perrin made two choices, but this is his third and greatest choice—between Lanfear and his beloved Faile (and his dear friends). As a character, Perrin epitomises the choice between virtue and vice which is the Lovers Tarot card. Actually, this time he must follow his duty AND his love. The Wolf King overwhelms Lanfear’s Compulsion with his love for Faile and also for Rand, his love for duty and rightness. By coming out of Compulsion in this way, he has prevented his own living death.

With the ultimate wrongness being to kill Rand, (or Nynaeve or Moiraine) and so prevent the Light’s victory, Perrin commits the lesser wrongness of killing a woman not threatening him.


Rand POV

Shaitan seems little better than Shaisam at the end (as the similarity of their names hints)—saner, and not played for laughs, but just as childishly selfish. The Dragon feels contempt for the Dark One when he realises the extent of his deceit and cruelty. Moreover, Rand realises that he created his own hell, and killing the Dark One would make it happen. This is the ultimate example of the Aiel’s belief that killing an enemy is a lesser honour than taking him captive. So, Rand shielded the Bore and repaired the hole with undifferentiated saidin and saidar: pure duality, no subdivision into “elements”.


Moiraine POV

Once Rand weaves a new prison for the Dark One, Moiraine flees the Bore before it closes, pulling Nynaeve with her. Thom saves her from running off the edge of the path outside Shayol Ghul. So determined is she to Witness the Bore closing, despite the blinding intensity of the Light, that she doesn’t watching where she is going. Rand and Moridin are both standing at this point—as the hole shrinks to nothing. The Blackness has been vanquished and the final stage of alchemical transformation, the Redness, represented by the blood of the Dragon and the Land, also has occurred. The Great Work is complete.

In alchemy, the culmination of the Whiteness phase leaves the alchemist completely free in a state of pure spirit and intelligence, beyond space, time and form, and once back in the body, the soul can realise its state of spiritual completeness. Heaven and earth in the alchemist are then united (Nigel Hamilton, The Alchemical Process of Transformation). Rand felt this at the end of his battles with the Dark One.

Jung wrote:

You can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence.

Carl Jung, The Practice of Psychotherapy

Moridin discovered this the hard way after he was linked to Rand. It inspired the desire for death in him, which led to him sacrificing his own corrupt soul, just as Rand sacrificed his corrupt body. So the Dark One who wanted to break the Creator’s champion, broke his own. Not that he cared.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #54: Chapter 48—A Brilliant Lance


By Linda

The previous chapter was very complex and layered; this chapter is simpler, conveying joy at victory and relief that it is over.

Elayne, Thom and Min POVs

Elayne, Thom, Aviendha and Min were all witnesses of Rand’s victory through their bonds and also, in the case of Thom, proximity. A moment before, Elayne had been numbed by exhaustion and the apocalyptic war, as had Aviendha.

Aviendha

Graendal’s weave is turned back on her to cause compulsion at least as extreme as what she inflicted on others. She is another one receiving her just deserts.

Logain POV

Logain thinks he was a fool to forsake uncovering the powerful sa’angreal to rescue people. Yet he is a fool for thinking Sakharnen would be more important to him. The people’s thanks and appreciation of their rescue and his part in it were vital to him—to restore and redeem him and the Black Tower. This will be a huge difference to the Asha’man and Black Tower in the Fourth Age.

Gabrelle prompts Logain to break the seals (and cement his prophesied glory) but he was going to do it anyway. They are discarded like rubbish, although once valuable in material and function.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #53: Chapter 47—Watching the Flow Writhe


By Linda

Aviendha POV

Both very dextrous weavers, Aviendha and Graendal have almost killed each other. This is a huge credit to Aviendha, since Graendal is much stronger in the power than she and drew heavily on her ring to conserve her strength. At the end of her own strength, Aviendha starts unpicking her weave as a last resort. Completely unpicking a weave does nothing (and anyway, Aviendha could just let go of the weave and allow the gateway to close), but incomplete unravelling is what will cause an unpredictable, hopefully destructive, event. Aviendha prefers this outcome, rather than just delaying or preventing Graendal’s return to Thakan’dar, and it is what occurs.

The chapter title refers to the chain reaction the unpicking causes in the weave.

Shaisam POV

Mat does not succumb to Mashadar because he was cured of it in the White Tower and is now immune. The “fox that makes the ravens fly” tricks Shaisam by playing dead to lure him close enough to attack, like the fox does the raven in Western folk tales. As a former Darkfriend, zombie maker, and potential new Dark Lord, Shaisam could be likened to a raven. Trickster Mat gets his revenge while also saving Rand from the very real threat of Shaisam. In fact, Mat is the only one who could safely do so—Shaisam is such a potent evil. The personification of the evil arising from merciless good, Mordeth was corrupted by Fain, someone whom the Dark One had touched, into being a deity himself.

Perrin POV

While in European folktales the wolf was often in competition with the fox, in Ancient Egyptian mythology, the wolf-headed god Upuaut worked with the fox/jackal-headed god Anubis as chief officers of the god of the underworld, the Universal Lord Osiris. This is another trio of gods that Jordan drew on when he developed the three ta’veren characters. In this scene, Perrin wants to help his friend Mat kill Shaisam but is wise enough to refrain and go about his own urgent tasks. First up he rescues Gaul, who was worried about the wolves vanishing from Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin assures him they were called by the Horn into the waking world.

The Wolf King is torn between aiding Gaul and Mat, and then Faile and Rand in this chapter, and he has a third choice (the number three again!) coming up in his next scene. One of the main themes in Perrin’s sub-thread is that of the Lovers or Choice tarot card—the choice between virtue and vice or duty and pleasure. The choice between making (hammer) and destroying (axe). Perrin also feared that he had to choose exclusively between his human and animal natures, but that was a mistake.

Rand POV

Moridin channels saidin through Callandor, then realises it is also a True Power sa’angreal. This is its danger and its trap as the “blade of ruin” described in the prophecies in Towers of Midnight, A Storm of Light. The “blade of ruin” and “fearful blade” are a link with the Dolorous Stroke of Arthurian legend that caused the wasteland. In this case, it prevented the tainting of saidin or saidar and the wasteland formed by the Breaking of the world; it was a dolorous stroke for the Shadow.

Moridin thought he would get his promised oblivion from the Dark One as a reward for killing Rand. Even though channelling the True Power at Shayol Ghul is death—as Rand and Demandred both believe—Moridin doesn’t die because he is captured by Nynaeve, Moiraine and Rand working together—the three as one, as per prophecy:

He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one…

- The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary

Why does the Dragon need such a flawed and dangerous item reserved for him for three thousand years? Rand needs a True Power sa’angreal indirectly so three powers can be used together at extreme strength. By a quartet. This is the first time in the series that four—the number of the material world, solidity, power, omnipotence, will, and temporal law and justice—is more important than the number three.

Min worked out how and why Callandor was to be used. We saw her early thoughts on this in The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. Kudos to her.

The Dark One’s own power is used against him to prevent him from tainting saidin and saidar. Nor can he simply cut off the True Power through the modest hole in his prison, due to the vast amount Moridin is drawing. Rand is a mirror of Shaisam as he feels what it is like to be a deity and contemplates killing one. His reaching for the devil through an indistinct “fluid” reminded me of Mat at the Eye of the World seeing the pool of saidin and wondering what’s in it. (Just the Horn, Mat, and the Dragon banner and a Seal. Things for this very moment.) Moiraine described the Eye as:

"The essence of the male half of the True Source, the pure essence of the Power wielded by men before the Time of Madness. The Power to mend the seal on the Dark One's prison, or to break it open completely. "

The Eye of the World, Meetings at the Eye

Rand will soon make weaves of the pure essences of saidin and saidar to mend the Dark One’s prison, linking us to the end of The Eye of the World when the world was greened again, while avoiding the trap of the taint that occurred just before the prologue of that same book.

As Rand grips the Dark One, Light has come—time to break seals. Now that Rand has the Dark One’s undivided attention, so to speak, there is no risk that he will spare attention for cutting off Moridin’s access to the True Power.

And so we come to the moment to complete the Magnum Opus (Great Work) of sealing away the Dark One. In alchemical symbolism, the culmination of the opus is the conjunction, the union of two (or more). Jordan has multiple conjunctions operating to emphasise that his Great Work is the salvation of the world. With the number three so important, the lynchpin conjunction was the triple conjunction of the powers. Opposites are reconciled in a conjunction, and love is both its cause and its effect (Edward Edlinger, Anatomy of the Psyche). Saidin and saidar are perfectly balanced and united at last, and harness the opposing True Power to cut an evil deity off from the world. And it was sealed in blood: Rand’s blood, the sacred link of Rand and the Land, drips to seal the Sealing, “washing away the Shadow, sacrifice for man's salvation” (The Shadow Rising, Reflection). Outside, the Land, one with the Dragon, is slathered in the blood of the fallen.

Most, perhaps the whole, of Rand’s duel with Moridin and then the Dark One at Shayol Ghul took place within the duration of the solar eclipse (which would be up to seven minutes), in astrology the strongest type of conjunction of sun and moon. During this time, Dragonmount and Shayol Ghul pulled toward one another in Tel’aran’rhiod (A Memory of Light, Light and Shadow); in one way symbolising the danger that the Light could become overwhelmed and corrupted by the Shadow, in another way, heralding the sacred conjunction of saidin and saidr and the successful completion of the Great Work.

There is another marker of the sacred conjunction:

The image of a miraculous growth of flowers or vegetation comes up in dreams as evidence of proximity to the coniunctio.

Edward Edlinger, Anatomy of the Psyche

Perrin saws them in the Wolf Dream, and Aviendha in the waking world.

There are three stages of alchemical transformation to achieve the Great Work: the blackness (nigredo), whiteness (albedo) and redness (rubedo). According to the alchemists, matter suffers until the blackness disappears, then a new day will break, the albedo. Rand enters the blackness of the Pit of Doom and the Dark One’s void, and battles the Dark One’s efforts to torment him into despairing and giving up. His spirit was refined at Dragonmount, and the black thorns on his brain overlain with white, but he still suffers physically and has plans of violence—killing the Dark One, the less honourable alternative, by Aiel values.

A shift in his understanding of evil results in his victory. Intense light explodes from Rand at the end of his battle with the Dark One, enough to be seen over the whole continent; it is the Dark One’s moment of judgment as much as Rand’s or the world’s. But in alchemical symbolism this state of “whiteness” is an abstract, ideal state and in order to make it come alive, it must have “blood”, it must have the “redness” of life and humanity (Carl Jung, Interview). Rand’s life blood slowly dripping away. Note also that Callandor turns crimson red as Moridin pulls the True Power through it, heralding the imminent success of Rand’s trap enabling the Sealing of the Bore. Moridin wants to go to the extreme of blackness—oblivion—but he is forced into the triple conjunction, and then Rand brings on the Whiteness and Redness in quick succession as he seals the Dark One away.