he purpose of the Water Way
by a dragonburned fool: 2005-10-21 | 3.22 out of 10 (18 votes)
Every part of world has a traditional way to cope with its male channelers. The only culture that hasn't any method to deal with the male channelers - the Land of Madmen - never reached reestablishment of civilization after the Breaking and it is still in a state of chaos and poverty.
Every culture has traditions that excuse killing the channeling men. It may be just killing (Seanchan, Seafolk), or the Gentling in Westlands, or the treatment as short-living breeding stock in Shara, or the tradition of such men going voluntary into the Blight to be killed there - different cultures with the same result - they give excuse for male channelers early death. Every culture also has way to limit the freedom of channeling women. Sometimes it's exiling or banning or killing the female channelers (Whitecloaks, Tear, Far Madding, Tinkers), sometimes enslaving them (Seanchan), most often restricting them by the rigid rules of an organization of the channelling women themselves (the Tower, Wise Ones, Seafolk, Shara). The only culture that failed to develop such limitations - pre-Hawkwing Seanchan - was in a permanent state of raging violence. Both traditions to control the male and the female channelers are necessary for every culture hoping for normal safe life in WoTworld.
What is the solution for this general Randlandâ€™s problem found in the culture of the Amayar? Itâ€™s a stable, very peaceful, prospering culture, so it must have an efficient solution. Jordan gave a direct answer at DragonCon:
"How do the Athaâ€™an Miere and the Amayar deal with male channelers?"
RJ: They kill themâ€¦.. actually the sea folk kill their male channelers. The Amayar donâ€™t channel themselves â€“ they see it as a violation of their water way and they commit suicide."
I understand this answer in the sense that Amayar incriminate both male and female channelers (as many people actually did in the time of Breaking, and as some groups did still), and female channelers also must die. And suicide of all channelers is considered to be a part of the "water way", i.e. the water way is practically functioning as the solution.
If Amayar want their way to deal with the male channelers to work, they must motivate their channelers to commit suicide. Aiel also motivate their male channelers through their warriorâ€™s honor code. The Water way has nothing to do with the warriorâ€™s honor, but eventually it can motivate them well. Actually I think that it was the main purpose of Water Way, or at least the Water way was created with the main purpose to motivate channelers to commit suicide.
What do we know about the Water way? Chapter 1 of Path of Daggers gives the following information:
â€śEast the wind blew across Tremalking, where the fair-skinned Amayar farmed their fields, and made fine glass and porcelain, and followed the peace of the Water Way. The Amayar ignored the world beyond their scattered islands, for the Water Way taught that this world was only illusion, a mirrored reflection of belief, yet some watched the wind carry dust and deep summer heat where cold winter rains should be falling, and they remembered tales heard from the Atha'an Miere. Tales of the world beyond, and what prophecy said was to come. Some looked to a hill where a massive stone hand rose from the earth, holding a clear crystal sphere larger than many houses. The Amayar had their own prophecies, and some of those spoke of the hand and the sphere. And the end of illusions.â€ť
Somehow the Water way must teach that because the world is illusion one must not channel. We have not the knowledge why, but the possible reasoning is that channeling could be considered to be maintaining the Illusion while knowing that it is an Illusion. Channeling is not manipulating the belief, but it is possible to interpret it so. But whatever is Amayarâ€™s reasoning we know that the Water Way is a teaching about the world being an illusion and about the need to commit suicide in some occasion. Three things connected here: teaching about Illusions, suicide and the saâ€™angreal.
But now in KoD we have another very important case when these three things are also connected: illusions, the saâ€™angreal and suicide. Actually here we are told how Amayar do react to the fulfillment of their main prophecy. Seafolk women tell Logain about the meltdown of the statue and the suicide (by poison) of all Amayar with no survivors. Apparently itâ€™s the Water Wayâ€™s teaching that told them to react exactly so when they see the End of Illusions.
And the End of Illusions is heralded by the Choedan Kal beginning to glow. The evidence for that is in WH, chapter 35, where Timna, an Amayar woman, one of a number of amayar â€śchosen to protect Athaâ€™an Miere from themselvesâ€ť is walking near the statue and suddenly she sees the globe glowing. Then she reacts as follows:
â€śAll thoughts of the Atha'an Miere gone, Timna gathered her cloak and sat down on the ground, smiling to think that she might see the fulfillment of prophecy and the end of Illusion.â€ť
We see here that the glowing of the statue is heralding the fulfillment of the prophecy (at least the beginning of said fulfillment) and we see also that Timna is thinking about that with smile. End of Illusions means that Timna has to commit suicide, but she anticipates that with enjoyment, and it is not something to impress anybody else, because in this scene Timna is alone. Timna is really happy that she has to commit suicide soon!
So far so good: an Amayar looking at the globe and seeing it glowing should smile while planning to take the poison and die. In the WH it happens when the globe is glowing for every person who would see it. Choedan Kal wasnâ€™t used before that so it hasnâ€™t glowed before. If a normal woman would walk there before, say, 500 years, she wouldnâ€™t see anything. So far so good, but what would happen if a female amayar channeler would walk near the statue before 500 years? If she just walks aroundâ€¦
Let's remember Egwene's experience near the damaged Choedan Kal key in Tanchico, and Rand's experience near the Cairhienin sa'angreal. Egwene in tSR, ch.11, is sensing almost irresistible attraction to this broken little figurine and touches it and when she did so, the Power suddenly flowed from her into the figurine and back to her and again and again. And (sic!) the globe flickered! Egwene just walked around and oops, there is some light in the globe. And this was not the saâ€™angreal but only a key, and it was a damaged key! Even more indicative is Randâ€™s experience in tGH ch.20: he is attracted by something and he sees the statue, and then the Oneness suddenly happens to him and he hears the â€śsong of saidinâ€ť and (sic!) he sees a light inside the big globe blinking in the rhythm of said song. Rand is male and male channelers unlike females never see light around another one channeling, but nevertheless Rand is seeing light inside the globe. And Rand is even not channeling in this case. Only being near the statue makes him see light inside it. There are workers around the statue and Rand is wondering how nobody is seeing the light he sees, nor Loial and Hurin who were together with him seemed to see anything.
Now back to our hypothetical female channeler walking nears the statue on Tremalking: what would she see? Go, three attempts for answer? And what will she do after seeing the globe glowing? How much would you bet that it doesnâ€™t involve some poison?
Now back to the problem to deal with channelers. I don't know how exactly Water Way motivated the channelers to die. Once a person decides that he/she is a channeler, he/she can obey the water way and die. But how could one decide? Many wilders do channel and channel and never notice that they are channeling. Some men can die because of Taint without learning it (as some of Rand's Portal Stone lives show). In other cultures the decision about who are the new channelers is performed by other channelers. Amayar have none of their own channelers. So they must decide themselves. How would they? I mean, if some clever founder of the amayar society wished to formulate a method for every Amayar to decide whether he/she is a channeler or not, what would be the best solution? Wouldnâ€™t walking near the statue the perfect self-test?
It could be argued that the Saâ€™angreal of Tremalking would reveal only the female channelers, and the whole test would be useless because the male channelers are the real issue. But when it comes about Choedan Kal, itâ€™s not so easy. Because Choedan Kal is attuned to so an immense volume of One Power, that it could have more consequences. Saidin and saidar are opposites that repell and (sic!) attract each other. Aes Sedai can test for saidin resonance and so know about past saidin weaves, if enough amount of saidin was used. Note the dependency of the amount of saidin used for this resonance. Male channelers feel tingle when female channelers are holding the Source in the vicinity. There are resonances between both halves of Power especially when huge amounts of Power are used. If there were resonances, wouldn't Choedan Kal be the most likely place where male channeler will sense such resonance? If the male statue manifests glow to male channelers, who were thought to be not able to see such glow, then whatâ€™s about the female saâ€™angreal that would glow more â€śnaturallyâ€ť because of the connection between saidar and glowing? So the statue in Tremalking could maybe be used also to reveal the male channelers.
Once suggested that many things are suddenly explained. How do the male channeler of Amayar make no problems? This would be achieved by a very easy and simple procedure: Amayar of both genders would go to the statue on a regular basis and look at it, and some Amayar would see that the illusions ended for them personally. And the society of Amayar becomes free of the dreadful male channelers. On a prize.
How this test is related to what we know about the amayar prophesy about the end of Illusions? Why should it mean a personal end of illusions for a channeler in e.g. Free Year 500, if it seems to prophecy the end of the Age specifically? In the PoD quote given above the Amayar are reacting at what they hear from Seafolk about Coramoor (i.e. about Dragon and Tarmon Gaidon related prophecies) by looking more carefully on their statue and thinking about their own prophecy. That means that somehow the Dragon prophecies and amayar prophecies are related. Most likely the amayar prophecy is real prophecy about the end of the Age. But why amayar will believe that this prophecy means they all have to die? Would the prophecy say it specifically? I doubt it, because no prophecy is saying things as â€śyou should do so and soâ€ť, all the prophecies rather say things like â€śso and so will happen whatever you doâ€ť. Prophecies in WoT world just donâ€™t dictate norms of behavior. So the part about the suicide duty can be only an interpretation. Interpretation that became a norm.
In the Water way we have therefore an ideological core determining rules of behavior and rules to judge, and some real knowledge and prophesies that are seen through the filter of the ideology of the Water Way. The real prophecy could say maybe simply that the Age will come to end, that everything will change drastically all over the world and that a number of hard believable events would happen. That could be enough for Amayar to interpret it as â€śabsolutely obviousâ€ť indication that the great change from the present poor world to the next better state of reality will come, so the Amayar have to poison themselves and step into the new reality. Something of the sort. It could be even a missinterpretation of suffering people from Breaking time, who vaguely remember the idyllic life of AoL and believe that the current world of chaos and havoc and natural cataclysms (as it was during the Breaking) is only a nightmare, that must end with awakening back in the other reality (i.e. AoL is believed to be this other reality). These poor people could easily think that the prophecy promising radical change is a promise that things will change back from bad to good. But it doesnâ€™t matter what exactly was the initial prophecy. Important is that is was under an â€śobviousâ€ť interpretation, and the interpretation was human work.
The twist from the prophecy to the Water Way can be explained by the sufferings and hope and desperation of a group of people of the late Breaking. But that means that we have to do with hopeless people ready to accept strange beliefs, and such people are â€¦ not impossible to be manipulated. Let's assume that we have clever persons in a society of desperate islanders having a vague prophecy about a statue and tending to believe that their sufferings are illusions. Let assume that these clever persons want to make something that will protect the society from the danger of channeling men. Wouldnâ€™t such clever people be easily seduced to manipulate the peopleâ€™s tendency to believe in illusions and to create some stable society, a society safe from mad channelers?
The water way is known to state, that time will come when illusions will end. We saw that this time coming means that the one who is seeing it must commit suicide. Everybody has to wait for it, everybody has to expect it and everybody ... has therefore to look for the signs for this end of illusions to come. This has a very important purpose. This means that every Amayar would actually carefully look in himself/herself for signs of being a channeler, and everybody will sometimes go to look at the statue. Also carefully. This will make sure that people will find their channeling ability fast enough, before it would lead to any damage. I'm impressed about the cunning scheme of the founders of the water way. They were really genial. If these clever persons donâ€™t believe actually in the prophesy (why should they believe in all what these poor people believe, whom they try to protect from themselves â€“ doesnâ€™t Timnaâ€™s PoV in WH show the presence of a virtue in the Amayar society â€“ the virtue to protect the poor infidels from themselves?), or if they interpret it in some metaphorical sense, they could even never suggest that the end of illusion would come for everybody in the same time. Their idea would be rather that the end of illusions would come actually only for a minority of the population. Unfortunately these genial people were wrong.
What happened when the Amayar saw the statue glowing? All amayar began to see signs that only channelers were able to see before. But according to water way everybody who has seen the signs has to commit suicide. Now the Amayar see the signs...
Now again to the motivating the channelers to commit suicide. BWB is speaking about how Amayar deal with violence. It is incredibly shameful. If two young men beat each other, it is excessive shame for them. Such excessive shame could motivate one to commit suicide. But there is a serious risk in it. People would do everything to never notice the potentially shamefull thing they would do. As we know about wilders with their blocks, failing to admit about channeling is really very easy thing. Itâ€™s most natural thing to never notice that you are a channeler. If Amayar protection from channeling was based only on shame, they would have many unconscious channelers and the male ones among them will make a lot of trouble without noticing it. Therefore Amayar must have another motivation to commit suicide.
BWB says that Water Way teaches that this fake world is a prelude before stepping into another reality. I bet that Water Way says the next reality is much better than this one. Look again at Timnaâ€™s smile when she is facing the End of Illusions. She would commit her suicide with joy, hoping of a good next â€śrealâ€ť life. She doesnâ€™t experience any shame in this scene, nor even an anticipation of shame, but she anticipated her coming suicide with joy. My impression is that she even thinks that seeing the End of Illusions is a great honor for her. In a society with excessive stress on shame there would be also significant stress on honor, and feeling righteous will make people happy.
Jordan said that channeling itself is a violation of water way. This is a hint that a righteous Amayar would like to follow the water way without violating it, before actually willingly channeling. The founders of the Water way would like such thing because it will reduce the channeling damage even more. But the righteous Amayar will not want to think about himself as about a channeler, because he would not want to think about himself as about violating the Way. The righteous Amayar will prefer to think that he is not a channeler, but he only is seeing signs and the end of illusions come for him. Feeling himself righteous he will easier want to commit suicide. Now all Amayar see the signs. They donâ€™t need to think they are channelers or not, they see the signs and it's enough... But earlier channelers also could not think they are channelers. They could also face their private exclusive Ends of Illusions with enjoyment. And all Amayar will really care to notice any sign of the Illusions coming to their end. They will not hiding it from themselves and even not from others.
Channeling ability has actually even more touching points to the Illusions and their End. If one believes that the world is Illusion, then what would mean End of Illusions? What is â€śend of an illusionâ€ť at all? Isnâ€™t the end of illusion, when you are experiencing something revealing to you that what you believed until now is not the truth? Or at least not the whole truth? Itâ€™s like with Platoâ€™s tale about the cave â€“ the prisoners in the cave believe in simulations, but if a prisoner comes outside the cave and sees the rest of the world, he frees himself from the illusionsâ€¦ End of illusions is experiencing something you thought to be absolutely impossible before. End of illusions is experiencing something â€śmore realâ€ť than anything seen before. And what happens to the sensations of a channeler? Doesnâ€™t a channeler see all the colors more colorful, all the shapes more clear, etc... briefly all life in him and around him more real?
Donâ€™t channelers of both genders usually experience their sensations after releasing the Power as less real? Isnâ€™t the usage of One Power a manifestation of wonders one couldnâ€™t believe? Isnâ€™t touching the Source opening a whole wonderful new world, which is irresistibly sweet and attractive? A new world that is like a strong drug for a channeler, a new reality without that the life is dull and not worth of living it. Doesnâ€™t all that fit too well into what we know about the Water Way?
So the implications for channelers of the Water Way and the conditions on Tremalking with itâ€™s saâ€™angreal, these implications are too much â€¦ convenient for the purpose of eliminating any channelers as fast and painless as possible. Too much convenient for to be an accident. And the coincidence between the suicide of channelers and suicide because of End of Illusions is too striking to be just a coincidence.
In summary this theoryâ€™s statement is that the Water Way was artificially constructed to guarantee safety of the Tremalking society from the danger of channelers. The founders of the Water Way used a real prophecy (they donâ€™t necessarily believed in) and the aptitude of the population to muse about their unhappy world being an illusion to forge a system of believes and moral that would guarantee peace and prosperity for these poor ignorant people. The main purpose of Water Wayâ€™s focus on expecting the End of Illusions was painless and voluntary self-eliminations of all channelers from this â€śperfectâ€ť little world.