Hello, everyone, and welcome back to "WoT If?". This week, I want to look at the state of channelers, and speculate about what's in store for their future. But before we begin:
SPOILER WARNING. This will include content from A Memory of Light. Please DO NOT read this if you have not completed the book.
Since time is a Wheel, and all things come and go, we know the ability to channel must eventually be lost. Or else, we'd have channelers in our own time—and as far I know, we don't. One of the panels at JordanCon, "After the Last Battle," touched on this topic a bit, but I'd like to expand it further.
It's been stated several times in the series that most Aes Sedai are under the impression that the Power is being culled out of the population. Since they've been gentling male channelers for nearly 3,000 years, it seems logical that this would be the outcome. However, I'd like to counter that argument by pointing out they are only gentling men with the spark, the ability to channel no matter what. We know that fewer channelers have the spark; most have the ability within and need to be tested for it to mature. So most of the male channelers are not being gentled, and are living their lives, passing on their genes, without knowing they can learn to touch the True Source.
I think this is evident by how many Asha'man there are by the end of the series. In almost no time at all, the Black Tower accepted and trained so many channelers. And now that male channelers aren't going to be hunted down, it stands to reason that the number of channelers overall would increase.
So what other reasons are there for the Power to be lost eventually? I've got a few theories that might work.
It's quite possible that disease could be the cause. If a strain of bacteria or a virus erupted that only attacked the channeling population, there would be almost no hope for them. Since channelers tend to group together—in the Black Tower and the White Tower, at least—it could spread through them quickly.
There might be some hope if the Yellows, and those Asha'man dedicated to Healing, could think of a way to combat the strain. But if it only attacks channelers, maybe it would be immune to flows of the Power.
If a vast majority of the channelers were wiped out—like the Towers, or the kenneled damane—and only random patches of channelers still existed—like the Kin, the Wise Ones, or the Sea Folk—the smaller patches would likely die off over time. The ability, if not widely spread and having a larger breeding pool, would definitely be culled.
2. Channeling outlawed
There may come a time, far down the road, where channeling could be seen as a bad thing. We all know of historical examples of "witchcraft" being outlawed and punishable by death. If somewhere along the way, the channelers lose sight of being focused on service, they could become a group of selfish, or evil, people. It's typical that people in powerful stations eventually become corrupted. I could see this happening quite easily.
If the channelers began to become enemies of the people, no doubt the people would rise up and demand a change. The channelers would become hunted and killed. The only difficult part would be catching them. Since forkroot tea is common knowledge now, it might still be well known at some point in the future.
If the people are able to kill a majority of channelers, the same effects from the disease scenario would hold true. The smaller groups, who must go into hiding, would eventually stop channeling all together, or lose the ability over time.
3. The world becomes a Stedding
This idea has been around a long time. I've seen dozens of theories on this over the years. Because of this, I won't spend a lot of time on it, but I also didn't want to leave it out.
What happens in this scenario is that the Steddings begin to grow—perhaps the Ogier are able to make it grow at some point, before they open the Book of Translation and leave this world. With a Stedding covering the whole world, the ability would be lost completely. The channelers would probably go mad from losing the Source—it would be the same as stilling and gentling: they would sense it but could not touch it.
Or, in other forms of this theory, ter'angreal, like the ones in Far Madding, could be invented to make channeling impossible. The same would be true, channelers would die off from losing the Source.
Credit for this thought goes to Matt Hatch from Theoryland. He proposed that the human body could lose the ability to channel. When Nynaeve heals gentling and stilling, she is able to sense the connection inside the body. There is something physically there for the person to be able to touch the Source.
If humanity evolves over time, that connection could be lost. The Source still exists. It's still driving the Wheel of Time, but we've lost the ability to sense it, let alone touch it. Then, when the Wheel turns once again, the body evolves to encompass the ability. The Power could become lost and found several times as the seven Ages come and go.
Of the four, I like the evolution one best. It keeps with what we know of human anatomy. Science will show us how we have evolved over the past 3,000 years—about the length of an Age. It's easy to see that in another 3,000 years, when our Age ends and another begins, we could be completely different physically.
That's all for this week. Let me know if you have other theories about losing the One Power. I look forward to hearing more. Next time, we'll examine the standing flows in the Age of Legends and see if it's something that can be duplicated in the world after the Last Battle. Thanks for reading!