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erving the Great Lord is morally OK? Or how I learned to stop worrying and love Ishamael

by : 2007-09-03 | 5 out of 10 (3 votes)

Recent Categories: The Dark One

Hi (again) after four years. (My previous theory is here). Recently remembered about WoT, read CoT and KoD and thought up what I think is a valid justification for going over to the dark side.

This is a rather long theory so let us break it up into several parts, which we will consider separately.

1) What is the Wheel of Time?

a) it doesn't exist

b) it is finite

c) it is infinite

2) Can the DO break free in principle?

a) yes

b) no

3) What will happen if he does?

a) destruction of the Wheel and total oblivion

b) 'Dark Ages' where the world is full of evil and a good 'Creator' figure takes the DO's place, while the DO becomes non-interventionist.

c) linear time with neutral people - neither utopia nor dystopia, aka our own world, where the DO, in breaking his prison, is forced to become non-interventionist.

d) dystopian linear time where the Shadow covers and the land and evil reigns.

After outlining possible paths, I will consider the morality of serving the DO.


The Wheel of Time is the mechanism which weaves human lives, soulthreads, into the Pattern which forms the substance of reality for each Age, as defined by RJ. I can't remember whether an 'Age' is ever defined, but let us consider it as the periods on a time graph when the DO's power peaks before being checked. The purpose of the Wheel is to keep the DO imprisoned. The evidence for its existence is overwhelming, and if noone objects I'll exclude 1a straight away.

Now we will consider several logical paths from the above.

1) If it is assumed that the DO cannot break free in principle, then the whole question of what will happen if he does becomes moot. What this means is that the Wheel of Time is woven in such a way as to exclude the possibility of the DO being freed. The Creator (there almost certainly is one for a universe with such an artificial cosmology, as the chances of it evolving by chance approach zero) is an omniscient being, outside of Time, who works the loom and can gaze into the future via a time graph, being outside of Time. The loom in general maintains order and harmony within the fabric, which is a circular garment, despite the savage creature within which tries to tear itself out of it at one point while the garment spins around it. Every time the fabric comes around again, it is changed slightly by the loom. If the Creator notices the yarn becoming chaotic, spangled and ripped further on, It will take actions to remedy the problem in time. Spew out ta'veren and Heroes in an emergency. Radically increase ta'veren powers as needed. If the savage creature has nearly poked its ugly head out of the garment, smother it over with chance. The Dragon is prostrate at Moridin's mercy and the DO is moments from being free. Moridin has a change of heart, procures the Choedan Kal and seals the Bore with Rand and their new best buddy Semirhage. An impossible scenario, but less so than the DO getting free, which is ABSOLUTELY impossible. Another consequence is that it makes no difference as to whether there have been infinite or finite turnings, 1c or 1b. Given enough turnings, with legend fading to myth fading to nothing, it makes no meaning to the observers, DO and humans, trapped alike within the Wheel, their fates, eternally or otherwise, dependent on the Creator's whim.

Hence consider I) 1? - 2c - moot

2) Let us consider 1c, that the Wheel has seen infinite turnings (something implied by the books - there are 'neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the WoT'). Also let us assume that 2a, ie that the DO can break free in principle. But in this case, HOWEVER low the probability of this happening in any particular Age, it WILL happen eventually given an infinite number of turnings.

The DO explicitly states as his intention to slay the Great Serpent, which can lead to either 3a - what Ishamael apparently believes, 3d - which the Forsaken and Darkfriends hope for i.e. eternal dominion. However, if the Wheel has been turning infinitely long, these possibilities are impossible. 3c is not possible for the same reasons.

Hence the only path from here is to 3b. The Age of Legends is described as being close to utopia. Hence its likely in such a situation that the world will become a dystopia, but like the AoL with no interventionist deities. However, there is a need for a good imprisoned Creator figure who swaps places with the DO. (Otherwise, 3b becomes equivalent to 3d). Now you have the swap. Persecuted Lightfriends trying to free the Creator.

Hence consider II) 1c - 2a - 3b

3) Let us assume 1b, the Wheel of Time has been spun a finite number of times, and that the DO can break free in principle, ie 2a. In such a scenario, 3a, 3b, 3c and 3d are all possible. Let us label these paths:

III) 1b - 2a - 3a

IV) 1b - 2a - 3b

v) 1b - 2a - 3c

VI) 1b - 2a - 3d

And consider them in turn.

III) If the DO can break free, no matter how low the probability, eventually he will in a finite number of rounds/Ages/game sessions. If that results in eternal oblivion for the soul pool - no more threads available to be occupied - well that's just too bad, but inevitable.

IV) There will be a series of Dark Ages. This is identifical to II, except that here the Wheel turnings are finite instead of infinite. However, this point is moot since no observer inside the Wheel, at least in the AoL, would have been able to tell. So we shall consider IV equivalent to II.

V) The DO breaks free, creating linear time. However, since he is now outside Time, he is no longer able to influence the world. It becomes essentially like ours in its cosmology, governed by (ever accelerating) evolution.

VI) The DO breaks free, and his presence permeates linear time. The Creator is unable or unwilling to contain him. (Note that in both situations, if the Creator WERE to intervene and put the Dark One back in, it would be equivalent to I, and if the Creator and DO were to swap places, it would be equivalent to II, the only difference being that the Wheel would have to be patched up, or replaced.) There follows a linear time, also governed by evolution, but heavily influenced, or dominated, by evil.


From the perspective of an educated person within the Wheel, say from the AoL, we have reached a few conclusions on what the actual nature of the Wheel is.

I) Slavery

I have a piranha which I keep in an acquarium, ie a prison. Being not very intelligent, and without further information, it doesn't realize that it is a prison. Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter, since if it were to break out, it will not be able to have a proper social life amongst humans. In fact, it would die, unless I throw it back into its acquarium in time, for its own good. I imprison the piranha in an acquarium, nor do I shove my hand into the acquarium, I rather value my fingers. Nor am I evil for enslaving the fish, as I am sure you will all agree. That is another metaphor for the Creator and the DO.

But human souls are also enslaved within the Wheel. Yes, they have a measure of free will. They can decide to go right or go left, they can decide whom to marry, can even decide to serve the DO (how else to have a hope of breaking the Wheel?, but in the majority of cases for baser reasons). But they are essentially constrained by the glass walls of the acquarium. In a million reruns of the aforementioned Moridin and Rand scenario, Moridin would keep the Dragon bound and will free the DO. But...he won't. Not in the WoT universe. He will express remorse at the last minute and help Rand seal the Bore. Or he'll slip and break his neck on the grass. Whatever happens, the DO doesn't get free. And Moridin will remain a slave along with the rest of humanity.

II, IV) Dark Ages

The WoT is the platform for a finitely or infinitely long battle, or game, between the Creator and the DO. They agree to swap places whenever one of them manages to break out. While we consider the DO to be evil, that is not necessarily so; to play with the Creator implies an intellectual gap between him and us so great as for our concepts of good or evil to be non-applicable to them. Yes, the DO from his influence does exert what we perceive as an evil force - however, maybe the DO is constrained while imprisoned to radiate such a force. Heck, maybe its the rules of the game. In any case, humans within the WoT are still effectively slaves, pawns for higher pleasures.

III) Total Oblivion

The inevitable. I believe when Moridin says that 'death holds no fear' for him, this is what he means. It will come sooner or later, and why not appreciate and understand the causes of your own and the world's final demise?

V) Earth

Welcome to our world.

VI) Dark Earth

Welcome to worldwide Nazism with generous helpings of 1984.


Let us step into Elan Morin's shoes. In the Guide, it says he wrote books with titles like the 'Absence of Meaning', etc. Indeed, what was the point of life? You were born, grew up, enjoyed life, had children, grew old and died. Yet civilization was curiously static - an unchanging utopia - despite the fact that the world population then numbered in the billions, was well educated, lived long, healthy and generally happy lives. This is in direct contrast to our civilization, which has had its ups and downs, but in the long run has been growing exponentially in its technological prowess. Agriculture = 10000yrs ago, Industrial Rev = 230 yrs ago, Information Rev = 30 yrs ago. Examples can be provided ad nauseam. But in the AoL, there were no computers. Even if the power infrastructure didn't exist, you can use the One Power. But Aes Sedai, the elite, were extremely conservative. Even mass production didn't really exist for Power appliances - notice how all ang'real/ter'greal are different. The only ones which were made in a sizable batch that we know of are the binding rods.

I assume the existence of the Wheel was known in the AoL - after all, they had fragments (myths) about earlier ages, and some people had the voices of their previous life in their heads. Elan had assumed that the Wheel was unbreakable by any means he could imagine. The tyranny of monotony and hence his books with depressive titles. So he was understandably quite excited over the implications arising from the drilling of the Bore and the discovery of an entity which wanted to break free and destroy the Wheel (and remake the world in its own image).

He turned to the Great Lord. The DO might even have presented a pleasant face to the world in those early days. Who knows? He might not have wanted to become what we understand as evil when he first went to Shayol Ghul, along with the other Forsaken who joined early on, e.g. Lanfear, who in the Rings chapter in Shadow Rising was described as once being a pleasant person. But who knows what effects the connection with the DO, the black cords, has on even a decent person's psyche? Until that is known, it is not fair to judge those Forsaken who joined early on, just as we do not judge the mentally unbalanced but seek to cure them. (On the other hand, those who joined late, when the DO's true face was there for all to see, like Sammael and Demandred, don't have this excuse).

Why did he turn?

Consider the possible outcomes.

The DO is defeated. Try again in another life. What is there to lose? In the long run, nothing, and everything (or nothing) to gain.

I and II are possible, in which humanity is permanently imprisoned within the Wheel, unable to progress and constantly leaking accumulated knowledge. On the other hand, it is NOT certain that this is indeed the case.

If it isn't, then Elan might have imagined himself a fighter for progress. In a world where misery is close to nonexistent, making people unhappy (e.g. by feeding them to Trollocs) might not have seemed particularly bad, considering the bigger picture of breaking the wheel, unbounding Prometheus and eventually reaching a post-singularity civilization capable of simulating its own universes and using them as its playing fields. So utiliarianism, at least for the present day, can be dismissed. And what is the instrinsic value of good, in a world whose Gods are too advanced to be able to even understand the concept, and in a world where it is in such abundance, but where it fails to make progress?

But if I and II are really the case, then what's the great evil in leading a life of great evil, if its going to be diluted by so many turnings of the Wheel that observers can't tell whether or not there is an infinite amount of turnings? It's like feeling guilty over shoplifting once in a lifetime of say 77 years which is US life expectancy today.

If the result is total oblivion, again, why not? If it CAN happen, it WILL happen, sooner or later. Why not end it and have the satisfaction of seeing your theory come true before your eyes, and to know the REASON for why you and reality fade away into nonexistence on the Day of Return.

Same reason for the Dark Earth scenario. It might not be a pleasant world, but it is an INEVITABLE one, in the long run. Why not get yourself a front-row seat? Besides, while the DO is very powerful, he is not necessarily omnipotent when free. There is a chance that he might be defeated, which I believe was Lanfear's idea. Let the DO break the Wheel, then destroy him. If she and Rand using the Choedan Kal wouldn't be able to do it, no-one could. She didn't love Rand particularly; nor did she even love power, as such, not in the way LTT accuses her of loving it. She also wants progress, to drive progress, and why not be in the driving seat while you're at it?

As for neutral Earth, well, that's where we're at now. Apparently we have complete free will, are bound by purely physical constraints, but are constantly pushing these constraints further and further away via technology.


In conclusion...

1) From the point of view of longterm progress, fighting for the Dark One is unequivocally good.

2) Ultimately, it is also good from a utilitarian perspective. If you're wrong, in the big scheme of things, later good will balance out today's evil. If you're right, then either all suffering will cease (oblivion), or there will be ever greater opportunities to do good (neutral linear time), as well as bad. Hence neutral effect from longterm utilitarianism.

3) It is wrong from the perspective of the Abrahamic religions and their ethics, by which most of us live whether we subscribe to these religions or not. But even here, there are caveats. 1st, Shai'tan probably presented a pleasant image when he was first discovered. Otherwise he'd have been warded off, guarded and resealed, I'd imagine. 2nd, religions need their sacrificial scapegoats. Shai'tan (Satan) is one, as is his chief lieutenant Ishamael (Judas Iscariot?). Yes, according to the Bible Jesus was supreme good, Judas supreme baseness. Yet might they not be swapped, because of the former's self-righteousness and latter's vilification in the face of what they had to do? (If JUdas doesn't betray Jesus, how is Jesus supposed to die for our sins?). I'm really going off on a tangent here, the point is even from a Judeo-Christian ethics point of view things aren't entirely clearcut.

4) Depending upon one's viewpoint, serving the DO (helping him break out) can well be morally good. This is not to say the converse, that serving the Light is bad. It's good from the viewpoint of those who strongly believe in 3). Bad from those who value progress especially high ie 1).

5) We need a major rethink about the motivations and characters of the Forsaken, above all that of Ishamael, to a lesser extent Lanfear. (Ironic that by this analysis the two most important of the Chosen are also the most sympathetic). Semirhage is disturbed mentally and needs psychiatric care, as do Graendal and Aginor to a lesser extent. The stated excuses for the others are not valid, however. Should they be captured by an enlightened Light-fearing society they can stand trial and be sentenced to repeated sessions on the Chair of Remorse, along with most of the Darkfriends and Black Ajah we have encountered to date.
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Tamyrlin: 2008-10-30

Some thoughts. Ishamael and his fellow Forsaken continue to be threads in the Pattern. In fact, the Wheel can be said to have placed Lanfear, even encouraged her, led her to discover the DO's prison and to create the Bore. So, is the concept of evil, as portrayed by the Forsaken, a conceit? I've never looked at Shadar Logoth and Mashadar like this, but it has a thin connection to the one unique character of this age. "He is unique to this particular Age. A very unique fellow, indeed. In some ways, you might say he has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern." Is "evil" of the DO, manipulated by the Wheel to follow the established Pattern set by the Creator?


Katifer Gaidin: 2008-10-31

If Lanfear was guided by the wheel to free the dark one, its probably because the wheel somehow sensed that there was too much light in the AoL and it needed the DO to balance it out


lordoftwilight: 2009-01-04

In the same guide that talks about Elan Morin being a philospher before would probably never have thouhgt about joining the shadow or doing anything evil since before the bore was drilled, evil almost did not exist, man lived tohelp his fellow man. But after Lanfear bored the hole in the patern evil started to emenate from it and people started acting on evil impulses making them more susecptable to the evils like in the GReek myth of the creation of man where the clay men, when sins were realesed were very susecptable to there byte, but the men of stone ad sticks, Deadalians race were less suseptable, like some of the men of Rands Age, where there are badguys who serve the shadow but there betrayl to the shadow is not as effective or so severe as in the Age of Legends.


Justin alSeen: 2009-02-01

ok this has nothing to do with it but since replies r the only thing working. does ANYBODY still use theoryland? is it off? or what cuz this is a pretty cool site and i would hate it to be gone.


Tamyrlin: 2009-02-10

Part of it is my laziness - I can admit that...okay, most of the quiet is my laziness (like 57 theories in the queue to be reviewed...geesh.)


spoke: 2009-02-13

Then either stop being lazy or delegate the right of first response to someone else so that the theorys can come forth. I am willing to bet that many have gone and stopped posting simply due to their theories not being reviewed.


Justin alSeen: 2009-02-14

need someone to read them? i will. this site is AWESOME. also 2 r mine and one is asking is theoryland


Clyve: 2010-06-27

"The WoT is the platform for a finitely or infinitely long battle, or game, between the Creator and the DO. They agree to swap places whenever one of them manages to break out. While we consider the DO to be evil, that is not necessarily so; to play with the Creator implies an intellectual gap between him and us so great as for our concepts of good or evil to be non-applicable to them. Yes, the DO from his influence does exert what we perceive as an evil force - however, maybe the DO is constrained while imprisoned to radiate such a force. Heck, maybe its the rules of the game. In any case, humans within the WoT are still effectively slaves, pawns for higher pleasures."

This could either be brilliant or negligible. While I do like the idea that the Wheel and Ages represent a finite or infinite game between the DO and the Creator (it really doesn't matter if it is finite or infinte because the scope is far too vast for a human temporality to realize) there are a couple problems. First off is the assumption that the DO is equal in, whatever, power let's say, to the Creator. The DO is by-product of the creation of the Wheel and the Pattern. It blatantly says so in tEotW.

Second, your theory is dependent upon the assumption that the DO is imprisoned in the Wheel (hence within time). The beginning of tEotW aslo specifically states that the DO's prison is OUTSIDE the Wheel. The Bore represents a thin spot in the Pattern allowing the DO to exert influence through the prison thaat SEALS him from the Wheel. The DO isn't trying to break out of the Wheel. He wants in. Also, your theory then states that should the forces of alleged "Darkness" succeed, then the Creator would need to be imprisoned and the Creator becomes the DO and vice versa. However, you offer no mechanism by which this reversal would happen. There is no clause in the catechisms about the Wheel that can remotely be taken to imply this. This logic really isn't predicated on anything but unsubstantiated assumptions.

That sounds harsh, but that being said, I think this is a really cool idea, whereby you would be right (were there any proof or at least little rumors to support this idea) that it could be morally right to support the DO because in the end it is arbitrary, as the DO becomes the indifferent omnipotent. Thus, free will actually doesn't exist for souls within the Wheel, due to the fact that the out come of the decision for or against the "Light" will result in a victory for the "Light" eventually, because if the game continues, the roles need to be switched.

Great thought.


Ashaman Leyrann Gaidin: 2011-05-30

Heck... I like writing stories myself, and one of my idea's - based on WoT, was a "good" and an "evil" force (well, just different ideas) who sometimes changed power. BTW, this is my first comment.


Skjenolc: 2012-03-26

Here's an interesting thing about progress -- you can have all sorts of technological/magical progress, creating new inventions, providing for people's needs more efficiently, shifting into more harmonious social arrangements, and so on, but without transcending the limits of biology, you can't escape the human condition. As is often said, we can know joy only if we know sorrow. To be more precise, our ability to find joy in things diminishes the more we're bombarded with joy -- the more our synapses our flooded with the neuropeptides that signal a particular emotion, the more fatigued our receptors for those neuropeptides become.

In the Third Age, this is not a problem. Circumstances which produce bliss are not ever-present, and thus people have a natural equilibrium -- what causes positive emotion eventually returns them to their baseline (as is the case with those economically well off), but it seldom brings them to the point where they are so accustomed to the lavish that it becomes difficult for them to even notice it. However, a complete lack of problems to solve and threats to address leads to an utter numbness in those who are too honest to veil their boredom from themselves, and I suspect that Elan Morin was one of those who could see past his own deceptions -- or at least see through some layers of them. It's not necessary that there be an absence of technological/magical/social progress for the deadening of the senses to take place.

Think of the feeling of exhilaration most people get when they start driving. Once you get past the fact that things are coming at you really quickly, you get to the point where there's joy in moving quickly, a release of endorphins that pulls at you with hooks when you must move more slowly down. This feeling eventually replaces itself (for those who drive often enough) with the joy of acceleration, pressing the throttle down, the engine purring, moving faster and faster. This bliss gets its hooks in you too, and soon you regret when you can't accelerate more. We can take this process to the nth derivative and apply it to technological process: we become so accustomed to it that a lack of novelty seems almost like moving backwards. And in all cases, our superficial progress will not save us one jot from the basic limits of the human condition (even the One Power cannot overcome death).

All of the Chosen wanted to escape from the human condition, most of them seeking immortality. It also seems that the exclamboriousness of the Dark One's presence goes beyond the limitations of neurotransmitter adaptation, mixing unquenchable pain with inescapable joy in just the right variety to overwhelm the constraints of the duality of emotions. We can feel endless joy when bottomless sorrow flows through us alongside it.

The Dark One serves another function in overcoming utopian ennui. It threatens the carefully woven safety net that constrains everyone, and prevents anything from really happening to anyone. It brings genuine conflict into the world, and with this the lack of meaning that pervades utopian civilization in the eyes of some. Suddenly something matters, something's at stake, besides the vagaries of petty romance, blown out of proportion (Lanfear), one's desire for recognition (Asmodian), empty hedonism (Graendal), scheming and paranoia (Moghedien), and so on.

Most of the Chosen sought the Dark One to continue the same game endlessly, but Elan Morin did so because he changed the game to something that mattered. If the Bore were sealed perfectly again, the nihilistic sense of meaning he found would be lost. As it was, the Bore was sealed imperfectly, and Ishamael's existential clarity was lost in attachment to the world -- attachment to destroying the world, but attachment no less.

Anyway, I really liked this post. I found it thought-provoking and well-considered, and I always enjoy seeing the devil's advocate perspective.

"This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all."