Religion and "The Wheel of Time" Part 1
Author: Valadilene Aldieb
This is the first of a two-part article about religion, the Wheel of Time, and TarValon.Net. It all started as I was having a conversation with my dad, trying to convince him to read Eye of the World. I was sure that he would love it just as much as I do, if he'd only give it a try. His excuse for not wanting to bother was religion. He claimed that having been raised Catholic; his mind just couldn't accept the idea of "magic" or something that is created without technology. He loves science fiction, he even reads Anne McCaffery and the Pern series, but not the Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time!
I was shocked and dismayed. I began wondering about how we, here at TarValon.Net, have so many different beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds, and can all still enjoy such a wonder piece of literature. This is where you, the community, have played a part. I asked you about your beliefs, your ideas on the symbolism in the books, and how you saw your beliefs in relation to our community here at the site. A big thank you goes out to all the wonderful members who shared their thoughts with me and were willing to share them with the site. You have shown me some things I had not thought of and have confirmed my belief that TarValon.Net is truly a community that welcomes everyone!
And this is what you told me:
"I am a Buddhist. I actually believe that whatever your religious beliefs are, they all steer you in more or less the same direction: to do good. But I feel that my beliefs are very much at home here at TarValon.net. For one thing, people are willing to contribute, give wholesome advice and genuinely care about one another; the administration is open with its 'dealings', takes pains to see what the members think, and the members, in turn, sympathize with them. 'Tis a 'good' place to be!" Laurienne Corana - Novice
"I am an Eclectic Pagan, which basically means I pick and choose those segments of various Pagan paths which seem to work best for me, and incorporate them into a tapestry of faith that works best for me. I find that my beliefs are very strongly represented here in the Tower, in that I do not believe there is any 'one, true way', nor does the Tower community in general. We have a high level of respect for the environment, as well, I've found, and Nature is at the very heart of my faith, so that's there, too. And we share love much more freely than in the general world, (not in a sexual sense, although there are the Greens...;-)), which is a very important aspect of Paganism, as well. Indeed, I feel a spiritual connection with the Tower and its members." Sidar Crand - Recruit
"I practice the Bah??? Faith. What draws me to Bah?'? is the people I've met. I've never met more people who truly practice treating others as they would like to be treated. My neighbor across the street invited me to a gathering and I was blow away by the wonderful, kind, and peaceful people. Bah??'s believe in the elimination of all forms of prejudice with an emphasis on race unity, the equality of women and men, the spiritual education of children, the importance of family cohesion, and the establishment of world peace. From what I have read here on TarValon.net, those beliefs are widely shared amongst the membership." Xaviara Al'Nady - Novice
"I'm Orthodox Hindu. That means that I don't think of God as a particular representation (Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti are the most common ones) but rather as an infinite being. There is only one God, however He is worshiped in different representations. Tied into all this are karma, dharma, and moksha. Karma is like your actions, what you do. It is believed that all people have a karmic debt and based on their actions, this debt either increases or decreases. Once a person has fulfilled their Karmic debt, they are freed from the cycle of reincarnation and attain moksha, which is oneness with God. Dharma is your religious duty: what you have to do as a religious person. For example, dharma would include meditating, being of service to the community, etc. The belief of acceptance of all people is one that is prevalent at TarValon.net. Hinduism states that there is no one correct path to God and that all religions can lead to God. It encourages accepting different people and that is something that I can also see at TarValon. And also, like the in the books, the idea of Aes Sedai as Servants of All." Zashara Da'sainne - Aes Sedai of the Gray
"I believe that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was born of a virgin and is the Son of God, I believe that three days after his crucifixion he was risen from the dead and later ascended into heaven. I believe in the omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience of God and also believe that there exists both a heaven and a hell. Finally, I believe that at the celebration of a mass, the bread and wine is truly transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ to save us from our own faults. Either way, TarValon.net caters to people of all religions and as such the administration has tried to make it so that no one belief is mirrored/focused on so as to not alienate members of opposing doctrines." Cursor Wrathwind - Soldier of Val'Cueran
"I am a Catholic. I converted about 12 years ago from not having much of any religious background. Well, obviously, we also have the Tower uses of Novice, Accepted, Aes Sedai. We have a Mother that oversees the entire community. There is a lot of effort made on the site to be accepting and welcoming, I see similarities in several of the various Catholic orders as well, especially as we designate Ajahs...there are also different Orders for different types of work as well." Estalia Walburga - Accepted of the Yellow
"My religious belief lies with atheism for the most part, as it has the greatest basis in fact, in my opinion. I'd happily adopt a different religion if they could provide facts to support their beliefs. My beliefs aren't really shown in the series at all, as every character so far seems to believe, to some extent, in the Creator." Caidoz al'Haiduc - Citizen
"I am a Christian, I have been baptized to the Pentecostal church by my very own will at the age of 18. I am open-minded and love studying religions and what people believe in. I am a pacifist. I believe that killing is wrong. I believe in love and peace and harmony. [I see my beliefs mirrored here at TarValon.Net in] the general well-manneredness. I look down on people who deliberately cause ill-feeling to others." Saminda Meltacia - Accepted of the Gray
"I sometimes call myself a spiritual atheist, though some people take that to mean something other than what I believe. I do not believe in a God, per se. I don't believe there is a cognizant being out there, a being that has the ability to make choices, to think, or to feel that is somehow above human beings. The whole concept of a "supernatural" being makes no sense to me. Everything is natural. So that puts me in the atheist group I suppose. However, I'm deeply spiritual. I believe that every being has a spirit, whether that's the human spirit, an animal's spirit, or a tree's spirit. I think that everyone/everything's spirit is connected. Not that it's all the same, all part of some "Great Spirit" but just connected, so that one person influences another. I see this in how it moves me to be outside, how I feel something. To me, that's nature's spirit influencing mine. People talk about a "tidal wave of emotion" moving through society; I believe that is only possible because our spirits are all connected. But this isn't anything supernatural I'm talking about, it's all right here, not up above somewhere, and it's all-natural. So that makes me spiritual. A spiritual atheist it is. Many of my beliefs are mirror here at TarValon.Net, though not in the way most people would think. To me, religious, spiritual, and moral beliefs are all basically one in the same. It is a lot of my moral beliefs that I see mirrored here. This site has a sense of honor to it, and a sense of respect. The respect given to Aes Sedai and Gaidin, the emphasis on truth and honesty, the non-inflammatory discussions of sensitive issues, these are all things I value at this site. These are things that follow my own sense of morals. Also, the sense of community here has helped me build up my beliefs of the connectedness of the human spirit. We are all connected through this site, much in the same way that all human spirits are connected. This site has helped me realize just how connected we all are." Bridonna Desini - Accepted of the Yellow
"I'm a Pagan (or neo-pagan if you prefer). If you've read Mists of Avalon you have a good idea what my beliefs are, as I have found inspiration and clarification in that text many times. The exception to this is that I don't know about magic, I'm not really sure if it works/exists. I believe in the Goddess, I don't have a special day set aside for worship because...well mostly because I don't have a set tradition, as my beliefs evolve perhaps I will find others to share it with and become part of a "church" or "coven" or some such thing. I believe in reincarnation, I believe what's important in life is what you learn from it, and I don't go by the Christian moral code. My moral code is, again, very much rooted in the same ideas as Mists of Avalon; it has more to do with nature than with commandments being written in stone. That could be a whole article in of itself though, so I'll leave it at that. There are definitely others here [at TarValon.Net] who share some or all of my beliefs, and the tolerance of everyone's differing opinions and ways of life is very important to me." Jade t'Bayana - Accepted of the Yellow
"I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ in the early first century died on a cross via crucifixion as a sacrifice to pay for my sins against the one God of all creation and time. I believe the best way to say that TarValon.net might exemplify a good Christian community is that it is very tolerant but firm in the way it deals with problems and most importantly the way it handles disagreements between different cultures, nations, religions, races, etc." Darim Pelegro - Gaidin of MDD
"I have been a practicing Druid for 15 years, having attained the rank of Druid within the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. The Druid Tradition represents one of the wellsprings of inspiration of the Western Spiritual Tradition. Even though its roots are ancient, it is as relevant and alive today as it ever has been. All spiritualities grow and change, and Druidism has changed too - and now it is experiencing a Renaissance. Druidry has become a vital and dynamic Nature-based spirituality that is flourishing all over the world. It is a spirituality that unites our love of the Earth with our love of creativity and the Arts. And flowing through all the exciting new developments in modern Druidry is the power of an ancient tradition: the love of land, sea and sky - the love of the Earth our home. Actually, at TarValon.net itself I can't really say that I have seen my beliefs mirrored here, unless you consider the open-mindedness of the people within the site. This is a very dynamic group and while I have seen threads posted by Pagans, I have also seen threads posted about Christians. Personally, I rather enjoy the wide spread beliefs of the members and I enjoy reading their view points on various topics." Rowanne alMaeve - Accepted of the Gray
"I just generally don't have a religion and prefer to have nothing to do with it, but when forced to choose, I'm Agnostic, yet still Atheist. I really like how TarValon.net is very multicultural, and does make me feel like I'm home. It should, since I am Canadian and I've grown up in that very kind of setting. I believe that everyone should be able to have their own religion of choice and not be pestered about it. That is what is found here on this site." Ariana Sulan - Novice
"Currently, I'm at the 'questioning stage' and my beliefs are a little fuzzy to me. I was raised as a Catholic, but the only things I solidly believe in from all that I have been taught is God and life after death. I've had some very low points in my life where I believed in nothing or doubted much, but I try to find my faith again after those times. I think the Catholic religion is just a guideline to what I believe because I choose to believe in some teachings and not in others. I've never really thought about this... Everyone is fairly kind to each other [at TarValon.net]as I believe people should be and many are always willing to help another which I also believe is a good thing. And Aes Sedai is 'a servant to all' which sort of ties in with my belief that people should help one another and respect all. So yes, I suppose some of my beliefs are mirrored here." Melania al'Larwind - Novice
"I don't really have beliefs that I count as religious, meaning that I try my best not to have unwarranted beliefs that I would use to guide my life and decisions. I have no opinion on whether or not any Gods/Goddesses exist, and don't even think of much religious things like afterlife. If I feel like thinking those things, I usually try to approach them with logic and metaphysical theories if they are applicable. My ethical views are based mostly on virtue ethics and deep ecology. I believe that it's very important to try to become a good person. But, this too means simply that my thoughts go along those lines- I try not to follow any doctrine. I try to examine my views as well as I can. I like to spend some time in Current Events, and it seems that there are both people who agree and who disagree with me. But, I'm not really interested on how many agree or don't agree with me. Getting new ideas and criticism and improving my thoughts are all that matters." Taimi Vandene - Accepted of the White
"I am a Christian. My specific beliefs probably line up most similar to those of the Independent Baptist denomination, but my beliefs derive more from my individual study and research into the Bible, and not from any denominational loyalties. Thus, I believe that God exists, that he took on a physical body in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and that his death and resurrection paid the debt for the sins that each of us commit throughout our lives, and allows us to defeat death and sin by accepting the salvation Christ procured for us. Well, among the Companies, especially my own of Dai M'Hael, I see a group of men who consider one another brothers and who aid one another when we are in need of support, and who provide us all with a sense of collective unity, which is a very Biblical trait, and reflected in the many friendships we see throughout the Bible. Likewise, the regular charity drives we conduct around Christmas and other holidays reflect the spirit of Christian giving and sacrifice. Indeed, the original perception of Aes Sedai as "Servant of All" is explicitly in keeping with the attitude Christ commanded of all his followers to our fellow men and women. All in all, I find this community a wonderful place in which to show the love of Christ and the worldview I hold to my friends and colleagues; [it is]a place built on many principles completely parallel to those of Christianity." Rollyn Montagorae - Gaidin of Dai M'hael
"As far as religious beliefs go, I consider myself to be Wiccan. My beliefs include a strong reverence for the earth, the desire to keep from harming others unless in self-defense, and being as true to myself as possible. One of my beliefs that is mirrored here at TarValon.net is my belief that humanity needs to do more to help each other. At TarValon.net, everyone always seems willing to lend a helping hand to other members, whether they be old members or new members. It is something that I truly admire in our community." Atarah Al'Norahn - Aes Sedai of the Blue
"I am a Christian--my denomination is called Disciples of Christ. Basically, we're very open-minded and accept anyone and everyone. We also eat--a lot. Potlucks, dinners, pancake breakfasts....The way I say it, we think Jesus is a pretty cool guy, and if you'd like to get to know Him better, then come on over and grab a plate and we'll talk. I'm not really sure what beliefs I find here at TarValon.net....I guess the Golden Rule counts...be nice to everyone if you want them to be nice back. But I think that regardless of the religion of people here, or their beliefs, they are all still wonderful people." Kyla Sterling - Aes Sedai of the Blue
"The nature of my religion is polytheistic. To make things simple I just label myself as Pagan even though I don't worship specific gods. I have friends who say their patron god is Loki, but it doesn't feel right to me. I just believe that multiple gods exist and I don't try to label them at all. Although I do talk a lot about fate and destiny having a hand in things. I haven't seen anything that makes me feel my religion is being mirrored, but I do like the fact that everyone is so open. I've never felt I needed to hide it from anyone here." Joinyce a'Torani - Novice
As for me? Well, I'm an eclectic pagan with leanings toward Celtic Wicca. Basically, I have a nature-based faith with a pantheon of gods and goddesses who are all aspects of a single energy that drives our world. I believe in the Law of Three, where every action returns to you three fold, good or bad. I was raised Catholic and have explored many religious beliefs before coming to settle within the "umbrella" of paganism. TarValon.Net demonstrates my beliefs in the sense that we are all able to believe in what we choose without repercussion, it is our actions that define us here, not our labels. We have a hierarchy, but it is not an oppressive one, with everyone able to achieve the level they desire, doing so through hard work and effort. This is a very welcoming community where I do not feel I need to hide any part of myself, nor do I feel I must display anything I do not wish. It is a good feeling-very much like home!
The second part of this article will focus on what symbols, themes, etc. we see in the books that tie into our religious beliefs. Please remember that we are a sampling of the 1000+ members we have here at the site and that no one here is attempting to speak for their entire religion, only to share with us their particular point of view. Until next month, please keep treating each other with kindness and respect!!!