Channeling is a thing of soul. Souls are reborn/spun back out by the Wheel periodically, to say nothing of the only channeling soul that we know who is also a Hero of the Horn (the Dragon soul). While waiting to be reborn, they wait in TAR.

Do channelers channel between lives? If so, are the men affected by saidin’s taint during the Third Age, or are they immune?

Put another way, if the Horn had been blown sometime between the death of Lews Therin and birth of Rand al’Thor, would the Dragon have been insane when summoned?

2 Answers 2



First of all, I'm not sure that there is a connection between souls and channeling, nor that Heroes wait as "souls" to be reborn. The heroes wait as whole, body and soul, to be reborn. As we can tell from what happened to Birgitte.

Also, Moridin trapped the souls of Moghedien and Cydane with a "mindtrap", and they were still able to channel. Details of how how the mindtrap worked aren't described in detail. But this suggests that the ability to channel isn't necessarily tied to the soul.

Lews Therin was insane when he started to appear inside Rand's head - in fact Rand's own insanity mostly manifested itself as Lews Therin's. So the Dragon had become permanently insane from his previous life, yet not as Rand, who is also the Dragon, is fairly sane at the end of the books. This goes hand in hand with the theme of the books - The Wheel of Time. Everything goes in cycles.

One thing is curious though, the event that starts the books - Lews Therin's death. He is clearly insane at that point but Ishamael heals his insanity, after which Lews Therin commits suicide. If it was a permanent or temporary healing, we don't know. Had it been permanent, then the conclusions would be that Lews Therin regained his insanity between lives.

Whereas Rand - who is also the Dragon Reborn, doesn't really remember that previous life as if he had lived it himself. According to Birgitte, it isn't custom for heroes to remember their previous life when they are reborn, but they do remember them between incarnations, since she remember many of her previous lives while waiting in Tel'aran'Rhiod to be reborn once again.

And yet, for what we know, the taint of Saidin was a thing of the previous incarnation of the Dragon, during the Age of Legends, when the Dark One was imprisoned by 100 male Aes Sedai, the Dragon among them. But the final battle in Rand's age is completely different, with a different end and no tainted Saidin. So the taint is just one single event that happened in one Age, it does not occur in all ages.

Lews Therin is the only hero channeller we know about, but we have no idea what he did between incarnations - if he was insane then, or if he could channel while waiting in Tel'aran'rhoid. We do know that the taint on Saidin is still there too, since Rand senses it when he uses Saidin during his encounters with Ba'alzamon, who had pulled him to Tel'aran'rhoid.

  • I conflated those bound to the wheel--who seem to exist as people in TAR after they die--with souls that are not. I'm most interested in the the case where persons are in TAR, so the Dragon is the only channeler we know about who's bound to the wheel. And whether LTT channels while waiting to be reborn or not is unclear, as is the question of whether Elan's healing was permanent. Elan says he can give him clarity, at least for a time, indicating it's temporary, but Nynaeve's healing of Naeff and the other guy is permanent.
    – rianjs
    Mar 5, 2019 at 18:02
  • All of that ignores the question of whether removing the taint from the mortal body has any effect on the immortal "body" that the Hero goes back to in TAR between lives. I'd like to think that if LTT died unhealed and insane, he'd have a clean slate upon entering TAR. (The other effect of the taint is rotting flesh, which wouldn't be A Thing in TAR.) With the memory of all past lives, perhaps he's safe from the taint, and knows he will cleanse it when he's reborn. He's surely done it before.
    – rianjs
    Mar 5, 2019 at 18:05
  • There's a few things wrong w/ this answer. First, I do recall (though I don't have my books here to find it) a mention that channeling is a thing of the soul. The OP didn't ask specifically about the Heroes of the Horn (none of whom are channelers in any case AFAIK), but neither they nor anyone else waits "body and soul" to be reborn; they are souls that are reborn into new bodies. The fact that they can manifest in TAR is irrelevant to that. Finally, in tEotW prelude, Ish specifically says he can "grant a few moments of lucidity", which certainly implies it's not permanent.
    – Paul
    Mar 5, 2019 at 18:22
  • Can't edit my comment, but I do see now where the Heroes of the Horn comment was made by the OP; my mistake on that part of my comment.
    – Paul
    Mar 5, 2019 at 18:36
  • @Paul The Heroes of the Horn recognize Rand/Lews Therin as if one of their own, so it is pretty safe to assume he follows the same rules as them. In another Age, maybe Lews Therin is one of the heroes who respond to the horn - we don't know. We know for a fact that the heroes wait whole and physical in Tel'aran'rhoid. Since Birgitte was able to shoot Moghedien with an arrow, and Moghedien was able to open a gate between there and the real world and toss Birgitte through it. After which Birgitte was no sure if she was still tied to the horn.
    – Amarth
    Mar 5, 2019 at 19:18

I would answer this as a qualified "no", or at least "we don't have evidence". I don't have handy quotes, but I'll do my best w/o them and add them later if I can dig out my books (dead tree versions for me, which makes quoting a lot harder).

Channeling is a thing of soul

I agree with this statement. I don't know where in the novels it's said, but when I get home I'll try and find concurrence (if needed) in the Companion.

Souls are reborn/spun back out by the Wheel periodically, to say nothing of the only channeling soul that we know who is also a Hero of the Horn (the Dragon soul). While waiting to be reborn, they wait in TAR.

This is actually not correct. Souls are reborn, and it's (at least) implied that everyone is reborn one way or another. The Heroes of the Horn are a special case, they are those who are reborn into specific archetypes and (this is the important part) are bound to be summoned by the horn between incarnations. They are also the only folks that we know wait in TAR between incarnations.

There is no evidence that I'm aware of that the Dragon is actually one of the Heroes of the Horn, and likewise no evidence that he has any kind of consciousness between incarnations. While wikis are suspect, he is not listed as a Hero in the WoT wiki either. Again, I'll confirm in the Companion later if needed.

Finally, we have evidence of absence which should be at least some amount of confirmation. In the history as presented, male channelers took some amount of time to go mad back at the end of the Age of Legends, but there is no discussion that any of them would become less insane by not channeling. This is important because if all the male channelers died insane, then presumably their reincarnations would be born insane (whether or not they could channel between incarnations).

Given that Rand didn't start hearing Lews Therin's voice until after he'd been channeling for a while (evidence here, it was several books after he started channeling), and we have hard evidence that none of the other male channelers who went insane were mad from birth, it seems logical that their "souls" weren't tainted or otherwise insane, but that they became insane after exposure to the taint on saidin.

  • It might relevant to point out that Cyndane and Moghedien were able to channel despite their souls being trapped in a mindtrap. This suggests that channelling is not a thing of the soul, even though we don't know exactly how a mindtrap works.
    – Amarth
    Mar 5, 2019 at 19:28
  • 1
    The whole "channelers not being born insane" thing doesn't really give this much support IMO (which is part of what makes this so difficult to sort out); presumably when a channeler is born, they are essentially a "clean slate", the same as the heroes of the horn who don't retain memories when they are normally reborn. Their "threads" in the pattern are still the same; but they can be woven in different ways. Also, according to Rand himself :P he is a hero of the horn. RJ called them souls too
    – JMac
    Mar 5, 2019 at 21:10

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