|Strength in the Power
So I didn't manage to come up with a catchy title for this one. Sue me.
According to Jordan, he has all the channelers in the series ranked by strength, on a 21-point scale. Below is an attempt at working out those 21 levels, assuming that the scale is the same for men and women.
1. Rand / Lews Therin / Ishamael
I make the assumption - which seems reasonable - that the strongest channelers we know of are also the strongest possible. While there is nothing to disprove the idea of levels above Rand and Ishamael, it's both aesthetic, and from the Pattern's point of view sensible, to have the Dragon reborn with the maximum strength allowed.
I also assume that Morgase, the weakest channeler we know, is at the lowest level. As she is weak enough to not even reach the True Source most of the time, it is difficult to imagine how someone could be weaker and still be a channeler at all.
In between, it is said that both Demandred and Aginor were close behind Lews Therin in power, so they make level 2. Even if Mazrim Taim is not in fact Demandred, he appears to be on this same level.
My classification of Lanfear on level 3, with the other male Forsaken, may be questioned, as may putting Nynaeve above the majority of the female Forsaken. However, we know that in The Shadow Rising, when they fought, Nynaeve and Moghedien were equal in strength. Since then Nynaeve has increased in strength, and even in The Path Of Daggers is not at her full potential. So either Moghedien is weaker or Nynaeve is stronger than the average female Forsaken. With no evidence of a significant strength difference among the female Forsaken (Lanfear being an exception) I put Nynaeve above them.
If my dear friend Dark Blight is reading this essay, he is no doubt about to open his mouth to argue that there is, indeed, evidence of Moghedien being the weakest of the Forsaken. So don't listen to him, all right? Take my word on this. *laughs* OK, to be fair - DB interprets Moghedien's reluctance to act openly as evidence of her weakness compared to the other Forsaken, while I say it's an innate personality trait. You'll have to make up your own minds.
Ranking the handful of female channelers who are or might be stronger than Nynaeve requires a certain amount of speculation. Sharina is stronger. Alivia is 'considerably stronger.' Lanfear and Cyndane are unclear, although both are stronger than Graendal and presumably the other female Forsaken. (Note: While I am firmly convinced that Cyndane is Lanfear, her strength has decreased for some reason since returning in her new body. Therefore in this essay, I treat them as two separate people.) Cyndane estimated Alivia as even stronger than Lanfear, and while we know Alivia had an angreal, I feel Jordan would not have made a point of mentioning this if there was not some truth to it. Therefore I place Alivia on level 2, Lanfear and Sharina on 3, Cyndane, Nynaeve and Talaan on 4, and the other female Forsaken on 5. This may not be entirely accurate, but is the best approximation I can reach with the facts given so far. (Note also that if Alivia really is on 2, the difference between male and female strengths may not be as great as many readers think it is.)
Some people also argue that Lanfear is not on a level with most of the male Forsaken, and that Asmodean is also weaker than most. At this point, I think it would be a good idea to note that there is a LOT of room for argument about who belongs on which level of this scale, and that the acronym MUYOM (Make up your own minds) is likely to be very useful.
Level 6 is blank, as there seems to be a large gap between Forsaken-strength and Elayne, Egwene, Aviendha and Metarra. The gap may not be as large as it seems, as most of the girls are not yet at full strength, and we've had no direct comparison between any of them and any of the Forsaken. The only comparison is between Nynaeve and Moghedien, which was a while ago, and Nynaeve and Elayne/Egwene. We know that Nynaeve is much stronger than Elayne (see the passage in The Fires of Heaven where Nynaeve is trying to Heal Birgitte) but not how either of them would compare with the Forsaken now. Still, there does seem to be enough of a difference for there to be a missing level in between.
Cadsuane is stronger than any Aes Sedai except for Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve. Someryn and Therava, according to Galina, are stronger than any woman in the Tower. Classification here depends on whether Galina was including Cadsuane in her thought, as most Aes Sedai believe her to be dead. She couldn't have been including Nynaeve, Elayne and Egwene, as this would put Someryn and Therava at Forsaken-plus strength, and references from Graendal and Sammael's meeting with the Shaido suggest that Someryn is weaker than Graendal.
I personally do not think Galina included Cadsuane. However, my classification of them as a level below her is purely arbitrary; they may be the same. For that matter, we don't know that Someryn and Therava are the same strength as each other. MUYOM.
Kerene and Meilyn, on level 9, are mentioned only in New Spring; both are now dead. However, they were said to be the strongest after Cadsuane.
Level 10 is easy enough; these five Aes Sedai were the strongest around before Egwene was raised, and excepting Cadsuane again. Zarya, aka Garenia, is said to be the same strength. From a Jordan quote, several Aes Sedai, including Leane and Kiruna, are next; Bera appears to be equal to Kiruna.
Sheriam may be as strong as them. I get the impression, though, that she's strong but not exceptionally so. We know that Myrelle is below her, and that Anaiya, Carlinya, Morvrin and Beonin are below her and on a level, from Egwene's thoughts regarding the Salidar Six. We also know that Verin, Merana and Alanna are all of similar strength, and that this is strong enough to Travel (Alanna learns to do so in Winter's Heart). We know from Lord of Chaos that neither Vandene or Adeleas is strong enough to Travel. We know that Merilille is. We know that Sareitha is weaker than the twins and Careane is weaker than her. Kumira is (was) quite weak, so I place her with Careane. Daigian is the weakest Aes Sedai; still, Sorilea is said to be weak enough to make even Daigian appear moderately strong. Again, this seems to be enough of a difference for a missing level. And right at the bottom is Morgase.
Not all channelers are listed here. With the exception of Rand / Lews Therin, Mazrim Taim and the Forsaken, all of them are female; we just don't know enough about the strengths of the various Asha'man to rank them. Logain, however, is fairly close to Nynaeve's strength. Whether stronger or weaker (or the same) we can't be certain, as he wasn't making a serious attempt to break her shield.
Any feedback regarding this scale is welcome. Email me.