What if the WoT Catechism is a Comfortable Lie?
We’ve all read the catechism a million times. “The Dark One and all of the Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul, beyond the Great Blight, bound by the Creator, bound until the end of time.”
We also know it’s wrong. The Forsaken didn’t exist until late in the Second Age, so it’s impossible for them to have been bound at the moment of creation. One of the Forsaken has been free at various points in history, and by the end of The Eye of the World, there are at least three Forsaken loose.
I’ve got a peeve that isn’t quite a pet, but is feral and comes around thinking I’ll feed it. Characters will believe things that are wrong. There are entire classics built around this concept (I’m looking at you Lolita) and Robert Jordan specifically played with the way reality gets distorted and deteriorated the further you get in time and distance from the event.
I tugged on this untruth like a loose thread from a sweater. Now I have neither a sweater, nor any faith that anything the characters believe is true. Not without confirmation.
Very little is confirmed.
What Does it Mean that the Catechism is Wrong?
If one thing in the Catechism is wrong, how do we know anything in it is right? Well, we meet the Dark One, and visit both Shayol Ghul and the Great Blight, so we know those are real.
There’s a common belief that the voice that speaks to Rand at the end of The Eye of the World, and right before he faces the Dark One in A Memory of Light, is the Creator. That’s entirely reasonable, but the voice is never addressed as such. It could be the creator. Or it could be a previous version of the Dragon, the Pattern itself, or many other things.
The fact is, though, that we can’t be entirely sure that there is, or ever was, a Creator, or that there was a moment of Creation. Thematically, if there is a Dark One, there should be a Light One, and we call that the Creator. I think that being exists, but it’s radically different from the image we have of the Creator.
The POV Question
Not having definitive proof the Creator is real doesn’t mean he’s not. Is there any evidence that he isn’t?
Turns out there is.
The vast majority of the story is told through a limited third-person perspective. Everything we see happen is filtered through the worldview of a character. It’s part of what makes Mat and Nynaeve so entertaining. Their inner monologue often doesn’t match the external reality.
As Mat and Nynaeve show, Robert Jordan understands perfectly well that reality is distorted as soon as a person perceives it. Nynaeve and Mat lie to themselves in some very obvious ways, but every character—just like everyone on our Earth—lies to his, her, or themself in ways both subtle and dramatic.
Part of the story, though, is told through an omniscient third person point of view. It’s the only place we get reality unfiltered through the mind of any characters. And where do we find this?
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.
If there are no beginnings to the turning of the Wheel, there cannot have been a Creation. If there was no Creation, there cannot have been a Creator. Not the one the characters—and most of us—think of when we say, read, or hear the name.
What Would This Mean?
It means we have a profound misunderstanding of the metaphysics of the Wheel of Time.
I think we’re looking at the metaphysics of the Wheel of Time like Plato, when we should look at it like Aristotle.
There’s a picture hanging in the Vatican Museums called The School of Athens. My favorite Renaissance artist, Raphael, painted it, and it depicts many of the influential thinkers of ancient Greece. In the center are two figures—Plato pointing up and Aristotle pointing down.
To vastly oversimplify their philosophies, Plato thought there was a realm of ideas where objects were perfect and that everything on our Earth was a flawed copy. That’s why we have so many kinds of trees—they’re flawed copies of the platonic ideal of a tree.
Aristotle thought the other way ‘round. If there’s an ideal of a tree, it’s not in some fantastic realm of ideas, it’s a conglomeration of everything trees on our Earth have in common.
The standard interpretation of Wheel Metaphysics is that the Dark One and the Creator are independent intelligent agencies that exist outside the pattern and can influence the Pattern by influencing people.
I think the Dark One and the Creator are personifications of the best and worst parts of all of us and I’m going to be writing a series of posts where I look at the series through that lens. I think it’s why the Forsaken are mostly incompetent. I think it’s why they drilled a hole in the bore. I think it’s why the War of Power began. With a hat tip to Lezbi Nerdy, I think it’s why Morgase is mentioned in the “Those who fought” speech.
I think if you look at the story through this lens, I think you’ll find it’s more thematically coherent than the standard view.