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Where does the Aes Sedais absurd ranking system come from?


Karthak
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I believe you asked this in another topic and it got answered. But I'm not sure.

 

Anyway, after the Breaking the Aes Sedai were split up. Once small groups of them met up, it was only natural that they needed a leader. Since their old system was more or less a system which was already based on your strength in the power (though not as obviously, it was more what you could do with the Power and if you were stronger, you could do more), those Aes Sedai who were already held in esteem became the new leaders and they were the strongest.

 

So as time went on and the Aes Sedai finally joined up and began to form the Ajahs, they maintained the method of organizing themselves based on power. The weaker Aes Sedai were simply less useful, so they were given less command.

 

It is like a group of men getting together and the one with the largest muscles becoming the leader. If said group has more or less equal intelligence, and high intelligence at that. The muscles are a tool, and the one with the most can do the most work, so it is only natural that they become the leader. Besides, they can kick anyone who complains' ass.

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Having any kind of hierarchy to me is not absurd nor ridiculous; there would be anarchy if there was not.

 

In a teaching kind of society, it would be reasonable to me to base the hierarchy on who knows the most in the main thing.  (In the case of Aes Sedia, the main thing would be channeling.)

 

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Broadly speaking, it's because almost all Aes Sedai are morons.

 

Having any kind of hierarchy to me is not absurd nor ridiculous; there would be anarchy if there was not.

 

Sure. But having a hierarchy based on who is the strongest is absurd. Look at Eladia. She is utterly and completely incompetent, possessing none of the qualities which one would look for in a leadership position. Yet because of her strength she finds it easy to quickly become a sitter, and from there stage her coup.

 

In a teaching kind of society, it would be reasonable to me to base the hierarchy on who knows the most in the main thing.  (In the case of Aes Sedia, the main thing would be channeling.)

 

It isn't based on who is the most skilled with the power, only who is the strongest. Skills, qualifications, experience, all irrelevent. Only raw power.

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Well, each group of channelers seems to have a certain way of establishing rank.

 

The WT for example, bases it almost entirely on Power. Sure, some things are taken into account, like age and how long they spent accepted and novices, but the main thing is the power.

 

Think of it as a traditional fantasy witches coven or wizard's circle. The most powerful (power) and most knowledgable (age) of them is the archmage.

 

The Aiel base it on honor, not power. I can't think of any RL references, but I'd guess hmm, shogunate period in Japan?

 

The sea folk base it entirely on rank. More like modern day militaries.

 

The Kin base it solely on age. Like families, the eldest is the 'most important' or the 'most trustworthy'.

 

As for the intelligence behind it, well, probably not very intelligent to us, the readers, but for them, it helps establish order based on something they believe is very important, aka, the usage of power and prevent dissent.

 

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Small note. SF are based on the rank of the person they are attached too (and they will go through ups and downs in power as their captains die to old age).

 

Funnily enough I would say the WT has the worst method and the other ways have positives and negatives. The WT way basically makes it so your time before you are an AS is the most important. Honestly who cares if it took a woman twice as long to become an AS if since that time they have learned and understand more than anyone else. Based on the pure WT method and the speed in which the wonder girls went through the ranks Elayne and Nyv outrank everyone except the sitters, head of their ajah and Egewene... Many other sisters don't consider them full sisters until later, but meh. On the brightside at least Cadsuane doesn't give a stuff about the "ranking system." Although it was funny that Nyv expected cads to defer to her.

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Anyway, after the Breaking the Aes Sedai were split up. Once small groups of them met up, it was only natural that they needed a leader. Since their old system was more or less a system which was already based on your strength in the power (though not as obviously, it was more what you could do with the Power and if you were stronger, you could do more), those Aes Sedai who were already held in esteem became the new leaders and they were the strongest.

 

So as time went on and the Aes Sedai finally joined up and began to form the Ajahs, they maintained the method of organizing themselves based on power. The weaker Aes Sedai were simply less useful, so they were given less command.

 

It is like a group of men getting together and the one with the largest muscles becoming the leader. If said group has more or less equal intelligence, and high intelligence at that. The muscles are a tool, and the one with the most can do the most work, so it is only natural that they become the leader. Besides, they can kick anyone who complains' ass.

 

I doubt that, personally. The White Tower was formed by an alliance of fourteen of the strongest ajah in the land (though several other smaller ajah were involved too, just not represented in the council that ruled that alliance). By all accounts the formation of that alliance, and the later refinning of the hieracrhy with Elisane as Amyrlin and the leaders of the seven strongest ajah becoming 'close advisers', was done quite politically. The obvious power balance between those eight women was strong enough that it consumed the other great ajahs leaving only the seven. Subsequently i don't see your idea working--one or two might have bullied their way into authority of their individual ajah's, but those ajahs were relatively even in strength--bullying would not have succeeded in the formation of the 'advisors', and if these women had been bullies to attain power to begin with i hardly see them being deft enough to maintain power when the alliance was formed.

 

Besides, the hierarchy of strength doesn't always predominate within the tower--for their actual officials they use elections. It's just in day to day living that it works--this indicates to me that it formed functionally--as in, it came about because of a specific need for sisters to immediately be able to know who should lead.

 

That suggests it came about in the course of danger, where the chain of command needs to become instantly clear. Possibly a result of hunting down men who can channel--but since that usually involves linking i'd say not. My guess is that it came about during the Trolloc Wars--a three hundred year free for all where Aes Sedai must have frequently found themselves cut off from the propper chains of command, and yet a time in which they would have by nessesity needed to militarize their ranks in terms of authority--who commands when. Strength is the obvious choice in war--who can do the most damage decides who does what, and when.

 

It is also during the Trolloc Wars that we have the first reference of Aes Sedai paying attention to strength (Bonwhin betrays Manetheren becasue of jealousy of Ellisande's strength in the Power). Ultimately though, establishing it through bullying does not fit with the Aes Sedai--oh, they can be bullies with others, but they respect the ideal of Aes Sedaism too much to codify such pettiness as their method of structure. It coming about from war and nessisity, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense.

 

It also explains why they don't mention strength in the power, yet run themselves by it. I'm guessing that before it became nessasary to consider strength during the Trolloc Wars that it was considered immensely rude to try and push your way through strength. Two conflicting concepts over-ridden by nessesity.

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I'm confused--i was specifically disagreeing with your concept that leaders came to hold power due to their strength in the early days of the formation of the Tower. You stated that due to a pre-existing system of using strength to establish leadership they would therefore have used that to have established their new leader--well, we don't know that they had a pre-existing strength based system and what we know of how Elisane came to be Amyrlin speaks of political manuevering not 'i'm stronger than you so shut up and sit down.'

 

Furthermore, my opinion of why strength came to be a function of hierarchy directly differs from yours--you say it came about in flow from the method of their forming, and i say that it had to come later due to specific dangers requiring a system be estblished to allow immediate hierarchy to be understood (the Trolloc Wars)--the two seem completely opposed. Not that I'm saying mine's right over yours, mine is definately just opinion, but it does seem contrary to your own.

 

Did i misunderstand something?

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Back in the olden days of Europe, the Germans and Celt kings became kings by "right of arms."  Basically the best fighter was the king, after Rome fell the practice resurfaced for a while.

 

Anyway, My theory goes back to the breaking AS "raising" theory.  The battery girls would be left with no AS so they thought they were now AS.

 

Because they lacked the formal training and indoctrination of the real AS (I think their training went on for decades) when these new AS got into arguments about what to do fights would break out and the OP would be used.  The strongest ran the ajah.

 

Early accounts of the Tower hint that the AS used the OP against each other to achieve position or to gain support on an issue.  And the Three oaths didn't come into play after the Trolloc wars.

 

But when you come from a tradition where the strong rule (and the light knows how strongly AS cling to pointless tradition) it is natural that strength is the deciding factor.

 

Strength is first and foremost and most important when determining rank.  The parts about age and how long they were novices and accepted only factor when the strength is close enough that a duel would be required to find who is stronger and duels have been outlawed.

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Small thing Luckers, Tetsuan betrayed Manetheran.  I'm sure most knew what you meant, including me, just doing it for new people.

On topic. I agree the AS heirarchy is absurd.  I mean, look at Cadsuane, yes she was the strongest AS but gathered the best, not necessarily the strongest around him.

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Did i misunderstand something?

 

I believe you did, but it may just be a misunderstanding on both our parts.

 

You stated that due to a pre-existing system of using strength to establish leadership they would therefore have used that to have established their new leader

 

Do you mean pre-existing as in before the Breaking (during the Age of Legends) or before the reformation of the Tower?

 

Furthermore, my opinion of why strength came to be a function of hierarchy directly differs from yours--you say it came about in flow from the method of their forming, and i say that it had to come later due to specific dangers requiring a system be estblished to allow immediate hierarchy to be understood (the Trolloc Wars)--the two seem completely opposed. Not that I'm saying mine's right over yours, mine is definately just opinion, but it does seem contrary to your own.

 

Yes, this point I concede. I had misunderstood that portion. As you, I'm not saying mine is right over yours, but that they're both opinions.

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Early accounts of the Tower hint that the AS used the OP against each other to achieve position or to gain support on an issue.  And the Three oaths didn't come into play after the Trolloc wars.

 

Yes, within the context of the Alliance's desires though. The Guide is very clear as to when and where ajahs were specifically reigned in--there are Lidene and Mailaine's ajah which both dropped out of the alliance, after which Lidene and several of her followers were stilled and the rest fell back into line. Beyond that any Aes Sedai who did not agree to join the Tower was declared to be 'pretending to be Aes Sedai' and stilled.

 

But the Guide makes no suggestions as to use of the Power within the alliance itself--not for any purpose, including asserting or maintaining leadership. Indeed the description within the Guide displays a political interaction that specifically belies the 'strongest came out on top' idea.

 

Were the Aes Sedai opposed to using strength to get their way in those days? Absolutely not. Did they use it as the system of establishing power in their early infrastructure--again no. The ajah were too evenly balanced for that.

 

But when you come from a tradition where the strong rule (and the light knows how strongly AS cling to pointless tradition) it is natural that strength is the deciding factor.

 

Strength is first and foremost and most important when determining rank.  The parts about age and how long they were novices and accepted only factor when the strength is close enough that a duel would be required to find who is stronger and duels have been outlawed.

 

Firstly, strength is not first and foremost when deciding rank--above that are elected officials, and those that the elected officials have placed in power. Strength is the system used only in informal situations.

 

Secondly, reiterating that they did not come from a system where the strong rule, i'd also point out that there are conflicting traditions at play amongst modern Aes Sedai--the second greatest rudeness is commenting on anothers strength, or thinking about it. Why would a society that originated in the glorification of strength by granting leadership develop a doublestandard of silence around it?

 

Conflicting ideological realities do not come into being casually--or intentionally for that matter. They come about because the first of the two has become a set tradition, and the second of the two becomes essential due to threat.

 

I see no situation in which Aes Sedai having established a hierarchy of strength would have later felt the need to then wrap it in silence and disdain. Had it simply been the fact that they were being laughed at for using such a stupid system--ridiculed hard enough for them to employ a disdainful silence about it--they would simply have changed the system. Hiding something displays shame, and people do not cling to what they are ashamed of.

 

The reverse, however, makes alot of sense to me. I believe early on codes and rules of politness were established within the tower, including covering age and strength. Then during the Trolloc Wars they found themselves in a position where they needed to establish hierarchy immediately in times of battle--my guess is that it came about without them even thinking about it. It makes sense for the strongest (and therefore most effective) to take charge in a time of war.

 

Over the three hundred years of the Trolloc Wars that became a set pattern. Nessesity overrode the traditional disdain of strength, but that tradition remained in play.

 

Small thing Luckers, Tetsuan betrayed Manetheran.  I'm sure most knew what you meant, including me, just doing it for new people.

 

Stupid Reds doing stupid things as Amyrlin and getting stilled for it. Its so hard to keep up.

 

Heh.

 

Do you mean pre-existing as in before the Breaking (during the Age of Legends) or before the reformation of the Tower?

 

Well, it was my understanding that you were saying before the formation of the Tower?

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The series in general, not just the BWB, has hinted that the AS were a lot more...sinister... before the Trolloc wars.

 

1.  It is illegal to channel the OP in the Hall, except for specific prescribed purposes, without the approval of the Hall.

 

Egwene noted that Suine(?) told her that if she read the history between the lines.  And Suine(?) noted that when the Tower first formed that, "Every woman was trying to grab the tiller."  The above law also suggests that when heated arguments started getting really hot the OP was brought into play.  (There have been several instances in the US Congress where one Congressman attacked another, in the Congressional Hall.)

 

2.  Warders weren't always asked before they were bonded.

 

3.  No Three Oaths

 

It was said that at first what held AS in check was the punishment from the tower, but some places, like Safer, were a long way from Tar Valon and the AS were even more independently minded and unrestricted then.

 

I also think that all those fairy tales we know about good/evil fairy godmothers or wicked magical queens was where RJ got the inspiration for the pre-Trolloc Wars AS. 

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Something else I thought of.

 

In the BWB the AS Ajahs were really 7 groups allied under single cause.  Look at how the Eliada's AS are now, that is what it may have been like originally.

 

But it is all based on tradition stronger then law.  And a good number of the traditions started in the breaking.

 

During the breaking the ajahs were completely independent, there was no one for them to answer to.  Also, conditions were not any better for AS then they were for anybody else.

 

Two ajahs meet.  Ajah A hasn't eaten in a week and ran out of water two days ago.  Ajah B has a little bit of food and water but don't plan on sharing.

 

What would happen?  A fight, most likely, and the strongest ajah would win.  And, it is possible that women from both ajahs would have been killed so the losers would get absorbed into the winners.  And as stated earlier, the strongest single member would be in control.

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I think it has more to do with how the world defined an Aes Sedai rather than a group of people sitting down and setting up a ranking system.

 

An Aes Sedai was seen as a woman who could wield the One Power. That was the sole purpose of the White Tower. To unite under its flag all women who could use the OP and maintain control over it.

 

Unlike the Wise Ones or the Sea Folk, who had other prerequisites for defining themselves, Aes Sedai are based solely on the One Power. Thus it is reasonable to think they would have a ranking system based on it.

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1.  It is illegal to channel the OP in the Hall, except for specific prescribed purposes, without the approval of the Hall.

 

Egwene noted that Suine(?) told her that if she read the history between the lines.  And Suine(?) noted that when the Tower first formed that, "Every woman was trying to grab the tiller."  The above law also suggests that when heated arguments started getting really hot the OP was brought into play.  (There have been several instances in the US Congress where one Congressman attacked another, in the Congressional Hall.)

 

Yes, but that does not suggest a system of strength-based power. Consider it for a moment--you yourself raised the current situation under Elaida later on, the antaganism between the Ajah, and relate it to the situation then, and I agree--indeed, if anything it was worse--Lidene and the leaders of her ajah were stilled in the antagonism, and with fourteen ajah in play all seeking power it was a mess.

 

But what that sets up is a social strata. It wasn't individuals fighting for power, it was groups fighting for power. Fourteen of them. Just like how in Elaida's Tower no Aes Sedai leaves her Ajah quarter alone, so too was the power of these conflicting sides based in numbers.

 

The heart of all political power is military might, though that usually a hushed up thing. Distasteful, yet there. So yes, the actual strength of each ajah would have played its part, and is why Elisane made Amyrlin, yet still was forced to keep seven of the other ajah's leaders as 'close advisors'.

 

The strength of the individual in such a set up is irrelevant. Yes, within her ajah she might use it to attain power, but to a sister of another ajah it means nothing, because in confrontation between the two becomes a confrontation between the ajah. She doesn't walk alone through the halls of the Tower.

 

So again, yes threat and strength were used in the formation of the Tower... but it did not evolve around it.

 

 

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First, I don't think only 7 or eight ajahs stayed when the tower was formed.  I think some of the weaker ajahs were absorbed into the seven Ajahs.

 

You said that threat and strength would have been used in the formation; but, I don't think the founders would have stopped using it either, it worked so far, and when they died their successors would probably have needed to use the same principles to attain rank.  After all the first Ajah heads kept the position through threats and strength.

 

When the world and the AS settled down the tradition was based on strength, it didn't need to be anymore, but it was.  And this method is not law, there is no law in the WT saying this has to be, but tradition, "the way it was always done" as been a popular response to Egwene, Elyane, and Nyn whenever they questioned the system.  It became "tradition stronger then law."  A tradition formed from a time when a women had to overpower her political and personal opposition  though force.   

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First, I don't think only 7 or eight ajahs stayed when the tower was formed.  I think some of the weaker ajahs were absorbed into the seven Ajahs.

 

I never said otherwise. Fourteen major ajah and several minor ajah began in the formation of the Tower--by the year 200 Elisane had come out on top, with seven other women in strong enough positions to put themselves in as 'advisors'. Presumably during that period the other ajah were subsumed into the ajah of those women.

 

You said that threat and strength would have been used in the formation; but, I don't think the founders would have stopped using it either, it worked so far, and when they died their successors would probably have needed to use the same principles to attain rank.  After all the first Ajah heads kept the position through threats and strength.

 

Your ignoring the major point of my argument. Yes, they were willing to use strength when nessasary, but we are not talking about an individual woman's strength in the power, we are talking about the strength of her ajah, her group. And that strength only went so far as to make them a player in the game--wherein comes the political manuevering.

 

I'm specifically saying that individuals could not have used their own strength to attain their position in that situation. The numbers made the strength of the individual irrelevant.

 

When the world and the AS settled down the tradition was based on strength, it didn't need to be anymore, but it was.  And this method is not law, there is no law in the WT saying this has to be, but tradition, "the way it was always done" as been a popular response to Egwene, Elyane, and Nyn whenever they questioned the system.  It became "tradition stronger then law."  A tradition formed from a time when a women had to overpower her political and personal opposition  though force.   

 

Once again, no woman could overpower her political opposition in this situation--each of these women were backed by ajah. Just as now no Aes Sedai leaves the Ajah quarters alone because strength in numbers is the name of the game, so too was it then.

 

And Kaznen, your completely avoiding my arguments about the problems with the conflicting traditions that are in play here--what of the fact that commenting on strength being the second greatest rudeness in the face of a system that began in the glorification of strength. I go into much more elaborate detail in my previous post, so please refer to that in responding--but the point is it makes no sense.

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^

You ignore one thing though, Luckers.

If the ranking within the groups is based on strength then in any interactions between members of different groups strength will be used as a scale to judge the standing of the other person in relationship to other members of that group. The adversary’s statues in her group will be used to determine whether of the two have the highest rank and thus which level of respect is appropriate.

 

Come to think of, this may very well be how the strength equals status system came to be:

If the pre tower ajahs were distrustful of each other then they might not be willing to give away their internal ranking system (fear of assassination, bribery etc.) Instead the negotiators are simple figureheads, the real power working in the shadows (as the Salidar sitters). Then strength might be used as a substitute for actual rank when dealing with other factions (regardless of this being true or not). As time goes and the ajahs grow closer and come to be the Aes Sedai then individual inter group relations become as important, or more so, than in group relations. An inter group power based ranking system already in place it continues to be used and the former in group ranking system slowly becomes substituted.

 

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Anyway, after the Breaking the Aes Sedai were split up. Once small groups of them met up, it was only natural that they needed a leader. Since their old system was more or less a system which was already based on your strength in the power (though not as obviously, it was more what you could do with the Power and if you were stronger, you could do more), those Aes Sedai who were already held in esteem became the new leaders and they were the strongest.

 

So as time went on and the Aes Sedai finally joined up and began to form the Ajahs, they maintained the method of organizing themselves based on power. The weaker Aes Sedai were simply less useful, so they were given less command.

 

It is like a group of men getting together and the one with the largest muscles becoming the leader. If said group has more or less equal intelligence, and high intelligence at that. The muscles are a tool, and the one with the most can do the most work, so it is only natural that they become the leader. Besides, they can kick anyone who complains' ass.

 

I doubt that, personally. The White Tower was formed by an alliance of fourteen of the strongest ajah in the land (though several other smaller ajah were involved too, just not represented in the council that ruled that alliance). By all accounts the formation of that alliance, and the later refinning of the hieracrhy with Elisane as Amyrlin and the leaders of the seven strongest ajah becoming 'close advisers', was done quite politically. The obvious power balance between those eight women was strong enough that it consumed the other great ajahs leaving only the seven. Subsequently i don't see your idea working--one or two might have bullied their way into authority of their individual ajah's, but those ajahs were relatively even in strength--bullying would not have succeeded in the formation of the 'advisors', and if these women had been bullies to attain power to begin with i hardly see them being deft enough to maintain power when the alliance was formed.

 

Besides, the hierarchy of strength doesn't always predominate within the tower--for their actual officials they use elections. It's just in day to day living that it works--this indicates to me that it formed functionally--as in, it came about because of a specific need for sisters to immediately be able to know who should lead.

 

That suggests it came about in the course of danger, where the chain of command needs to become instantly clear. Possibly a result of hunting down men who can channel--but since that usually involves linking i'd say not. My guess is that it came about during the Trolloc Wars--a three hundred year free for all where Aes Sedai must have frequently found themselves cut off from the propper chains of command, and yet a time in which they would have by nessesity needed to militarize their ranks in terms of authority--who commands when. Strength is the obvious choice in war--who can do the most damage decides who does what, and when.

 

It is also during the Trolloc Wars that we have the first reference of Aes Sedai paying attention to strength (Bonwhin betrays Manetheren becasue of jealousy of Ellisande's strength in the Power). Ultimately though, establishing it through bullying does not fit with the Aes Sedai--oh, they can be bullies with others, but they respect the ideal of Aes Sedaism too much to codify such pettiness as their method of structure. It coming about from war and nessisity, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense.

 

It also explains why they don't mention strength in the power, yet run themselves by it. I'm guessing that before it became nessasary to consider strength during the Trolloc Wars that it was considered immensely rude to try and push your way through strength. Two conflicting concepts over-ridden by nessesity.

 

I don't understand why such a reliance on strength would not have developed during the breaking. The breaking was even more violent and chaotic than the Trolloc Wars and women who could channel were dispersed across the land. I would think that it would be natural that when two or more women met who could channel they would let the stronger take the lead. Am I missing something?

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It's not to do with "leadership" .. its status. Especially in day to day interaction. Who accedes to whom in social situations for the most part. The Amyrlin is not always the strongest in the power. Cads had been strongest among the Greens or anyone else as far as that goes for decades but was not the Capt. General. Elaida is likely the strongest Red but was not Red Leader. Now each of these had their own agenda of course, but even so strength doesn't get you Amyrlin.

 

Among themselves with no rank or title involved it does determine who's the boss in a situation absent other factors. Witness Elayne and the Sisters around her in Ebou Dar, before Nynaeve came into her own.

 

It's still a goofball system.... no doubt.

 

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I don't understand why such a reliance on strength would not have developed during the breaking. The breaking was even more violent and chaotic than the Trolloc Wars and women who could channel were dispersed across the land. I would think that it would be natural that when two or more women met who could channel they would let the stronger take the lead. Am I missing something?

 

Yeah, that women had as much to fear from other women who can channel as they did from men or randoms. This is stated a couple of times, both in the books and from RJ.

 

A strength based hierarchy only makes sense if there was a hierarchy--that being, a point wherein these women had to know immediately who should be in charge.

 

If the ranking within the groups is based on strength then in any interactions between members of different groups strength will be used as a scale to judge the standing of the other person in relationship to other members of that group. The adversary’s statues in her group will be used to determine whether of the two have the highest rank and thus which level of respect is appropriate.

 

How so? antagonisms between groups would be settled by the strength of those groups as a whole. Respect for a member of another ajah, irrespective of the respective strengths of the two women, would come down to the strength of the ajah backing her.

 

Let me put it this way--fourteen major ajah and several minor were involved in the alliance that created the Tower. Of the fourteen major eight were stronger than the others and gained final supremacy within the alliance.

 

So, logically some of the members of the politically weaker ajah had to have been stronger than some of the members of the politically stronger ajah--yet those women did not gain ascendency within the Tower.

 

Politics, not individual strength, established the Tower. And as a part of that establishment they set up a tradition that frowned so strongly on the discussion of strength that it meant even three thousand years afterwards it could still see an Aes Sedai hoeing vegetables--despite the fact that they now use it for hierarchy.

 

Logically, the use of strength for hierarchy had to come after the establishment of the tradition of not speaking or thinking of strength. *shrug*

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