Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #18: Chapter 15 - A Place to Begin, Part 2

By Linda



Min is reading Fel’s history books; in particular, Pelateo’s Ponderings which would be a reference to the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato’s writings. I’ve summarised a few relevant works of Plato here. The first few detail the last days of the Greek philosopher Socrates, who was executed for not believing in the state gods, but in “other daimons that are novel”, and for corrupting the young. Plato wrote a version of the speech Socrates gave when he unsuccessfully defended himself against these charges as The Apology of Socrates. Ishamael is a philosopher who rejected the Creator of the Pattern and followed the Dark One. He has corrupted many with his words, action and channelling. Some of the population have ambivalent feelings about the Dragon, claiming he is as bad as the Dark One, but extremists such as Elaida regard male channellers as “unbelievers” (see Aes Sedai Attitudes to Male Channellers: The Unbeliever).

In the dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates and the self-proclaimed religious expert Euthyphro attempt to define piety. Euthyphro claims that the Socrates had charges brought against him because he claimed that a daimon (god) or divine sign indicated to him courses of action to follow. Rand himself is a divine sign to the pious and he and Min are studying the prophecies to work out what course of action Rand should follow against the demonic Dark One.

Crito is a dialogue between Socrates and his wealthy friend Crito on justice and injustice. Socrates rejects Crito’s offer to help him escape from prison even though his sentence is unjust because that would also be unjust and two wrongs don’t make a right. Crito tells Socrates that he is impressed with how calmly Socrates accepts his approaching death sentence. In The Gathering Storm, Rand became increasingly dark about his prophesied death and contemplated destroying everything, but had a change of heart and in Towers of Midnight appears to accept his sacrifice calmly.

In the dialogue Phaedo, Socrates discusses the nature of the afterlife and the nature of the soul before being executed the next day by drinking hemlock (a parallel of crimsonthorn used by the Black Ajah to kill Adeleas and Ispan, perhaps at Moridin’s orders). One of Socrates’ arguments for the immortality of the soul is that people have in-born knowledge, which implies the soul existed before birth and brought this knowledge.

In Timaeus Plato discusses the nature of the physical world, the eternal world, and human beings. Crucial to the outcome of the battle against the Dark One is the nature of the Pattern and the role of the If worlds, the parallel worlds and Tel’aran’rhiod.

In Critias, Plato tells of how the island kingdom Atlantis failed in its attempt to conquer Athens, because the Athenians were too ordered and strong a society. Plato wrote that the gods divided the Earth among themselves and each tended the humans in their regions like livestock or possessions, although using persuasion rather than force.

Currently there are two invasions that may succeed if the mainland society is too disordered: that of the Shadow and that of the Seanchan. As Fel said: “Belief and order give strength” so if the nations don’t have this they are doomed. The Seanchan enslave female channellers and those who rebel or commit crimes. The Shadow uses people ruthlessly and with force.

Plato’s Laws discusses the interaction between divine revelation, laws and rights. These are questions at the heart of the series.

(It is a moot point whether Min is literally reading any of these writings, and if so how much they have changed over the Ages, or whether she is reading some other works now ascribed to an author whose name is similar to Plato. The allusion to Plato is meant to remind those readers who are familiar with Plato’s works of the applicability of Plato’s writings to the situation here.)

Min is reading Fel’s books because she thinks they hold answers to the Last Battle and the Seals on the Dark One’s prison. She thinks she might be thinking along the same lines as Fel – but it is not good news and she wonders how Rand will react. He’s fine with it, and so is Perrin, but many others, notably Egwene, will not be. Min realises that when Fel wrote that Rand has to clear the rubble before he can build he meant that Rand would have to destroy the Seals to open the Bore. Rand agrees, and says the others (almost everyone else, it seems) won’t like it, due to the danger. Min sees vague clues in the prophecies and the history books about how to stop or contain the Dark One. Rand is determined to kill the Dark One or at least seal him away long term (for longer than Lews Therin did.)

Min persuades Rand to open up to her. She is very intelligent and has excellent judgement and people skills. However she panics when Rand’s life is at stake, such as when she saw in Lord of Chaos that Aes Sedai would hurt Rand (Min's Viewings).

Min understands Rand’s mental illness probably better than he does:

Light! He let the voice in his head wield the One Power? What did that mean? That he let the mad part of his brain take control?...
Was this how it happened to all of them? Each one assuming that they were really sane, and that it was the other person inside of them who did horrible things?

The Gathering Storm, A Place to Begin

As we shall see later in The Gathering Storm, this is exactly how it happens. Rand has been able to claim that he won’t do the mad, evil things that Lews Therin did, no matter what the prophecies appear to say, until his attempt to kill his own father forces him to realise otherwise.

Rand thinks Lews Therin is a separate soul from him; Min that Lews Therin is a memory of a past life. Semirhage told Rand that Lews Therin is a hallucination, a psychosis. Rand thinks he can’t be because Rand is not insane and won’t be a Kinslayer. It is the shock that he could be a kinslayer that drives him first to contemplate genocide and then to destroy the world, until he is able to fight off his despair on Dragonmount – the axis mundi that is Rand’s and Lews Therin’s death and birth place - and apparently reintegrate the personalities.

Rand admits the possibility that Min is right about Lews Therin:

Lews Therin knows things. Or ... or / know things. Whichever it is, the knowledge is there.

The Gathering Storm, A Place to Begin

Rand seems a bit softer here thanks to Min, a respite from the harshness he displays all through The Gathering Storm.

Aviendha POV

Amys tries to upset or anger Aviendha by shaming her with pointing out her punishment, and thus get her to make a stand. It doesn’t work; so Amys hints that it is Aviendha’s duty to think about what she hasn’t done. By this stage I was getting as impatient with Aviendha as the Wise Ones were.

Aviendha looks down on Flinn because he volunteered to learn to channel before the taint was cleansed.

The Aiel are angry about treating with the Seanchan. They think Rand is pandering to them when he should be fighting them. It is a pointer to how the Aiel will react to Aviendha’s news of her visions of the future in Rhuidean and gives background to Aviendha’s opinion that the Aiel should return to the Waste after the Last Battle and live according to their traditions. Aviendha agrees with Rand’s actions that the battle against the Shadow takes precedence. The Shadow is trying to distract people from the Last Battle by setting up invasions, civil wars, and chaos. The Aiel have selected the most palatable parts of their prophecies and expect Rand to lead them to glory – demand it almost - rather than battling the Shadow with him and being broken by him. He has broken the Aiel some, but not enough yet ( see The Aiel Need to Adopt the Way of the Leaf Before the Last Battle theory).

The Seanchan’s collaring of Aiel as damane have the Aiel in a fury. By custom, Wise Ones cannot be made gai’shain. Of course, they never fought in battle either, until Dumai’s Wells. Amys says they will be avenged after the Last Battle. The unity of the Aiel and their obedience to Rand is being undermined. It is an obvious strategy for the Shadow to take. Are Aiel Darkfriends, especially Wise Ones, promoting this? I fear this will be worse after Aviendha’s news, with more open objection and debate.


1 said...

"The Aiel have selected the most palatable parts of their prophecies and expect Rand to lead them to glory"
A parallel to Jesus and the Jews?

Linda said...

Good suggestion. The Aiel do have parallels to the tribes of Israel.