Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dreamers, Foretellers and Mystics

By Linda

By the end of the Age of Legends, the Da’shain Aiel relied on Dreamers seeing into the future to guide their decisions (as do their descendants, the Aiel). These women didn’t, probably couldn’t, channel, although a small percentage of their children could, just as in the rest of the population. As the Da’shain prepare to leave Paaren Disen (Paradise) at the start of the Breaking, one of them, Alnora, is asked if she has dreamed in the hope she can give some guidance. She answers:

“Of no time soon,” she murmured. “All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.” Smiling tremulously, she touched his cheek. “With you I know it will be so, husband of my heart.”

- The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated

Alnora, who perished in the chaos and destruction of the Breaking, quoted a well-known English mystic, Julian of Norwich (ca. 1342 – ca 1416), who wrote that:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well

- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

was told her by God about the Future in a religious vision.

Julian of Norwich lived in a particularly hard and dangerous time of plague, food shortages, labour shortages, social unrest, usurpation, religious persecution, and anarchy. The Papacy had left Rome and was in exile in Avignon. Very near where Julian lived, Lollards, early Protestants, were being burnt. Yet her message was of divine hope and love rather than calls to repent and threats of hell-fire:

”There be deeds evil done in our sight, and so great harms taken, that it seemeth to us that it were impossible that ever it should come to good end. That Great Deed ordained…by which our Lord God shall make all things well.”

“And I saw truly that nothing is done by hap nor by adventure, but all things by the foreseeing wisdom of God: if it be hap or adventure in the sight of man, our blindness and our unforesight is the cause.”

- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

The end of the Age of Legends is comparable to the horrors of the Fourteenth century. Once able to touch the world, the Dark One overturned order to bring despair, fear and anger and to undermine the Light. The advanced civilisation collapsed during the War of Power and the Breaking of the World that followed. The Aes Sedai are parallels of the Catholic church, and they were divided, firstly by losing half their number to the Shadow, and then by the men going mad. At the time Alnora told of her dream the Aes Sedai were preparing to evacuate Paaren Disen and the Hall of Servants.

Julian had her visions of revelation during a very severe illness, and when she recovered they were written down, as the Foretellings in the Age of Legends likewise were. However, as far as we know, predictive dreams or readings of the Dream weren’t recorded (although Corianin Nedeal recorded her experiences in Tel’aran’rhiod in the Third Age).

Her present being so horrible, Julian looked for comfort that the future would turn out well. She tried to see the future of a particular person to be reassured about their well-being but was shown that people are only allowed to know the general shape of the future for ease of mind and to know God’s plans better, rather than a specific fate of someone.

One of Julian’s visions was a vision of the Messiah’s sacrifice for love of the world; she saw his death. The Great Deed she wrote of, by which God will make all things well is the:

Deed the which the blessed Trinity shall do in the Last Day, as to my sight, and when the Deed shall be, and how it shall be done, is unknown…

And the cause why He willeth that we know [this Deed shall be], is for that He would have us the more eased in our soul and [the more] set at peace in love

- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

Wheel of Time seers may learn the future of an individual but it may be cryptic, or a small piece of the Pattern, or only a possibility. Even Rand, broadly parallel to Christ (who figured large in Julian’s visions), is likewise the subject of many predictions, but they are each fragments.

Da’shain looked to the Dream for guidance as to the Pattern. What Dreamers see is less likely to come true than the predictions of a Foreteller, but it is much more detailed (see Divining the Pattern article). Julian’s visions were very vivid and detailed.

The Age of Legends Aes Sedai rail against the fragmentary visions of the Pattern they have been granted:

“What good is your Foretelling,” Oselle was almost shouting, “if you cannot tell us when?” Her long black hair swayed as she shook with anger. “The world rests on this! The future! The Wheel itself!”
Dark-eyed Deindre faced her with a more usual calm. “I am not the Creator. I can only tell you what I Foretell.”

- The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated

but the purpose of what they see is to set their souls at ease and given them encouragement and guidance on the working out of the Pattern.

Alnora dreamed that all will be well in the end, but not soon. She knows it will be well with her husband—that he will live long and guide the Da’shain through the early Breaking as well as anyone could. It is implied that she saw Rand’s advent to sacrifice himself for humanity to save mankind from the Shadow—his Great Deed. To achieve it he needs his two ta’veren boyhood friends. They are a trinity, which is why they are connected telepathically. Another trinity will be the two women—Nynaeve and Moiraine--that Rand takes with him to Shayol Ghul, and with whom he intends to link to use Callandor.

In The Shadow Rising, the Windfinder Jorin repeats Alnora’s quote of Julian as an indication that the Sea Folk have strong links to the Age of Legends, (perhaps mostly due to their care for the Amayar):

“If it pleases the Light,” Jorin said fatalistically, “all will be well. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well, if it pleases the Light.”

- The Shadow Rising, Winds Rising

and that some accept the will of the Pattern to the point of fatalism. She sounds less certain than Alnora, but then she is only quoting, not experiencing prophecy directly herself. Other characters repeat fragments of this quote, usually “all will be well”.

Julian’s view of evil is that suffering is not a punishment inflicted by God, and that people sin because they are ignorant or foolish, not because they are evil. This is very different to the usual teaching of the Church in medieval times and is a Boethian view of evil: that evil is only the absence of good and not an active thing in itself.

The trouble with this view is that it is both highly counter-intuitive and in many circumstances extremely dangerous. One might, for instance, conclude that the proper response to it would be to become a conscientious objector. Evil after all is, according to Boethius, more harmful to the malefactor than to the victim and those who do it (or appear to do it) are more to be pitied than feared or fought.

- Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

Her view has much in common with the Da’shain Aiel, who epitomise the heights the Age of Legends reached. Most people in the Age of Legends did not believe in evil because the existence of the Dark One had been forgotten until a hole was drilled in his prison. During the War of Power, there were conscientious objectors who tried to make accommodation with the Shadow, even when it was shown to be futile at best (the World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). The Da’shain, sworn to non-violence, maintained their pacifist stance throughout the War. Even after the War of Power, the Tinkers, who follow the Da’shain’s covenant to do no violence, still have the view that evil harms the doer and that there is no justification for killing:

"It means that no man should harm another for any reason whatsoever." The Seeker's eyes flickered to Elyas. "There is no excuse for violence. None. Not ever."
"What if somebody attacks you?" Perrin insisted. "What if somebody hits you, or tries to rob you, or kill you?"
Raen sighed, a patient sigh, as if Perrin was just not seeing what was so clear to him. "If a man hit me, I would ask him why he wanted to do such a thing. If he still wanted to hit me, I would run away, as I would if he wanted to rob or kill me. Much better that I let him take what he wanted, even my life, than that I should do violence. And I would hope that he was not harmed too greatly."
"But you said you wouldn't hurt him," Perrin said.
"I would not, but violence harms the one who does it as much as the one who receives it."

- The Eye of the World, The Travelling People

If the followers of the Way of the Leaf are attacked and cannot escape, they accept their fate as the will of the Pattern.

Like Tolkien, Jordan did not have a Boethian view of evil, and shows Tinkers in the Last Battle realising that their philosophy is less perfect than they believed and that sometimes evil must be fought off:

Nearby, Raen stopped, raising his lantern to examine a full quiver of arrows that a soldier had been carrying as he died. Ila hissed, lifting her skirts up to step around corpses and reach her husband. "Raen!"

"Peace, Ila," he said. "I'm not going to pick it up. Yet, I wonder." …
"You wonder?" Ila asked. "Raen . . ."
"What would we have them do, Ila? Trollocs will not follow the Way of the Leaf."
"There is plenty of room to run," Ila said. "Look at them. They came to meet the Trollocs when the Shadowspawn were barely out of the Blight. If that energy had been spent gathering the people and leading them away to the south . . ."
"The Trollocs would have followed," Raen said. "What then, Ila?"
"We have accepted many masters," Ila said. "The Shadow might treat us poorly, but would it really be worse than we have been treated at the hands of others?"
"Yes," Raen said softly. "Yes, Ila. It would be worse. Far, far worse."

- A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

If the Light’s forces did not fight evil, everyone would be killed, including Tinkers. The Tinker’s extreme non-violence is matched by the extreme violence of the Shadow. The middle way—that of the regular forces of the Light to fight only to protect from evil or danger—is the ‘right’ way. Balance is necessary.

Julian’s message of divine love:

And fifteen years and more afterward I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: 'Would you know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.'
Thus I was taught that love was our Lord's meaning. And I saw quite clearly in this and in all, that before God made us, he loved us, which love was never slaked nor ever shall be. And in this love he has done all his work, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us.
And in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had a beginning. But the love wherein he made us was in him with no beginning. And all this shall be seen in God without end ...

- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

is equivalent to Rand’s revelation at his epiphany:

Why? Why must they do this over and over? The world could give him no answers. Rand raised his arms high, a conduit of power and energy. An incarnation of death and destruction. He would end it. End it all and let men rest, finally, from their suffering.
Stop them from having to live over and over again. Why? Why had the Creator done this to them? Why?
Why do we live again? Lews Therin asked, suddenly. His voice was crisp and distinct.
Yes, Rand said, pleading. Tell me. Why?
Maybe . . . Lews Therin said, shockingly lucid, not a hint of madness to him. He spoke softly, reverently. Why? Could it be . . . Maybe it's so that we can have a second chance.
Why? Rand thought with wonder. Because each time we live, we get to love again.
That was the answer. It all swept over him, lives lived, mistakes made, love changing everything. He saw the entire world in his mind's eye, lit by the glow in his hand. He remembered lives, hundreds of them, thousands of them, stretching to infinity. He remembered love, and peace, and joy, and hope.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

At the last Rand realises that the point of creation and the endless cycle of time was love, just as Julian learned from God when she was in extremis.

Julian of Norwich’s message has had an influence on the philosophy of the series and the function of prophecy. It was quoted by a Da’shain Aiel Dreamer, Alnora, who may have Dreamed that the Dragon would be Reborn to save the world.


Written by Linda, June 2012


Anonymous said...


Aside from all the deeply spiritual aspects (and not to trivialize them at all) in this post, it gives me a chance to muse about something that has puzzled me throughout the series. Oh, before that; it seems the link you have referring to "Divining the pattern" isn't functioning. At least when I clicked on it, I received this message; Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.

RJ uses the word 'tinker' to refer to the Tuatha'an or Traveling People. Please correct me if I have this wrong but isn't Tuatha'an the old tongue? So, if that word survived, why didn't Da 'shain, in reference to the tinkers? Obviously RJ wrote it that way yes, but why one and not the other if in fact as seems readily apparent, they are one and the same people. Then too there is the matter of how/why they are such fierce followers OF 'the way of the leaf' yet seem entirely ignorant of their history. Whereas one of the reasons (IMO) the Aiel have maintained their way of life so fiercely is because their wise ones and clan leaders pass through the glass columns in Rhuidean. This steadfastness on the part of the Tuatha'an, with no seeming link to WHY they are so steadfast is anomalous and more than a bit unbelievable to me. It's one thing to be 'the other' if you have heritage and myth to guide you but we have seen none of those things 'on camera' as it were.

I mention this because while the 2 rivers clearly isn't made up of tinkers, their back water existence has lent them a largely 'tinker-like' life. Insofar as violence being nearly unheard of within their enclave. The Coplins and the Congars being somewhat outside of the norm for 2 rivers folks. No one goes 'outside' and that is part of the fascination for Rand, Mat, Perrin & Egwene.

So, here we have a truly bucolic existence, as the nursery for The Dragon Reborn. Maybe that similarity to the way of the leaf is what grounds our lads and lasses and puts at the back of all their minds, when all hell is breaking loose around them;

“all will be well. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well, if it pleases the Light.”

For they HAVE known love, love at the heart of their every day of existence ere they left Emonds Field.

I don't know but it's a thought.

Thank you for your scholarship, Linda


Linda said...

Thanks, Dressageboy.

I've fixed the link.

Tinker is the name outsiders give the Tuatha'an. They call themselves Tuatha'an (Travelling Folk).

While they follow the Way, they don't serve the Aes Sedai any more. So they aren't Da'shain. When they split, the Da'shain Aiel named them as Lost (and not Da'shain), even though they affirmed at the time that they would continue to follow the Way. And they have. But they've only kept one Covenant rather than two. It seems to make a difference, because their songs have no power any more.

The Old Tongue isn't a dead language - nobles learn it - and I guess the Tuatha'an named themselves thus once most people settled early in the Third Age and they kept wandering because they could never defend an area and looking for the Song as a purpose for those wanderings.

I agree that the Aiel are conservative due to the continuity offered by the glass columns. The Tinkers' history would be oral, and probably set to songs. Like Thom and other gleemen do. Having a very conservative lifestyle would also help maintain history and continuity to the past. And yes, we've only seen one glimpse of their caravan and that early on, and through the eyes of young people. This lifestyle is being abandoned as the times are too dangerous and harsh even for a nomadic lifestyle, and they have found a safe society and a productive role thanks to the Seanchan.

The Two Rivers is cut off, so they have to rely on their own resources. And those resources are limited, so life is not easy and there isn't time and energy to spare fighting and no one can get enough together to lord it over others. Note that the most quarrelsome people are judged to have the best land (most resources) by an expert on resources (Mat Cauthon). However the resources aren't so scarce that people have to fight for them as the Aiel do.

They have to call on themselves to right what goes wrong rather than wait or demand someone else eg the ruler does it. So they haven't adopt the "all will be well" fatalism, but the "we must make it as well as we can and endure what we can't fix".

The Two Rivers is a 'just right' sort of place: egalitarian, steadfast and determined.