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Musing on the nature of the three oaths


Sherper
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So I was thinking; we all know what the three oaths are that each AS must take during her raising.

 

Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will speak no word that is not true.
Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will make no weapon for one man to kill another.
Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending my life, or that of my warder, or another sister.

 

In particular I'm interested in the third one: the "I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against shadowspawn." I always found it interesting how the oath specified only "The One Power," and not to do no harm in general.

 

So my query here is; does that mean AS can go ahead and torture whoever the hell they want? (Oath restriction-wise), and what if we take it a step further? What if the AS used the One Power not as a weapon but as a tool? Say, an air-weave to bind the target whilst they then going in to cleave a section of the person's finger off with a butter knife? I know it is definitely frowned upon, but we're in discussions here right? Taking it to the extreme.

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I think it's been shown that a lot of what a sister can do is up to their own perception.

 

I seem to remember (although I'm not fully sure), in a battle somewhere an Aes Sedai saying something to the effect of "okay, I feel threatened enough already" and starts firing. So I'd imagine that someone with stricter personal moral standards might not be able to do that, but someone else might be able to convince herself that she's technically not using the power to harm and therefore could do it.

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Yeah, the Sisters that were with Mat when the Band ambushed the Seanshan cavalry force out to hunt Tuon. I still love Mat's reaction to them saying that xD

 

So you think the key is interpretation? Using the air-weave example, I guess it could also be thought that - as a consequence of using the air-weave, you're causing harm to a person (whether shadowspawn or not).

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If they don't use the Power they can do whatever they want - as you say, its only an oath about using the One Power to harm, so there is nothing stopping them using a knife, sword, club etc.

 

And the using the one Power as a weapon thing is very open to the interpretation of the Aes Sedai - there is mention of Aes Sedai using it to flip ears etc of novices / accepted, and Siun uses against Nyn on their boat journey to the Tower (lifting her up I believe). I think it depends if the Aes Sedai intends harm, and on their own personal definition of 'harm'.

 

Its the same as the 'no word that isn't true'  - if the Aes Sedai believes what they are saying then it doesn't matter if its actually true.

 

And I suppose they could technically make a weapon for a woman as well - as long as they believed that was possible for them, and believed that it was only going to be used by a woman.

 

For oaths that are meant to be 'to the bone' there is quite a lot of variation and flexibility in them!

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I think you saw Aes Sedia about to commit murder a few times.  Moriane was close to killing Verin in TGH, when Verin announced she knew what was going on.  Moriane also in The Shadow Rising was thinking something might have to be done with Alteima.  So poison, an arrow, dagger etc   violates no oath.  I am sure a few rulers and such met their end to an Aes Sedai ordering their death. 

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I sometimes wonder about the oaths myself.   Like its pretty much understood that cutting off someone from teh power is a death sentence as that person no longer desires to live.  So by gentlng men aren't they basically killing them using the One Power?  It could be that the danger a insane male channler poses could be seen as a danger to the life of every one around him, so just by being in his presence they can use the power as a weapon.

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I sometimes wonder about the oaths myself.   Like its pretty much understood that cutting off someone from teh power is a death sentence as that person no longer desires to live.  So by gentlng men aren't they basically killing them using the One Power?  It could be that the danger a insane male channler poses could be seen as a danger to the life of every one around him, so just by being in his presence they can use the power as a weapon.

But it's not killing with the OP that is against the Oath, it's using it as a weapon. If someone is executed by hanging, the noose was not a weapon. If someone was undergoing surgery and died on the operating table, the surgical tools were not weapons. Gentling might result in death, eventually, and usually, but it's still not a weapon.

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I sometimes wonder about the oaths myself.   Like its pretty much understood that cutting off someone from teh power is a death sentence as that person no longer desires to live.  So by gentlng men aren't they basically killing them using the One Power?  It could be that the danger a insane male channler poses could be seen as a danger to the life of every one around him, so just by being in his presence they can use the power as a weapon.

But it's not killing with the OP that is against the Oath, it's using it as a weapon. If someone is executed by hanging, the noose was not a weapon. If someone was undergoing surgery and died on the operating table, the surgical tools were not weapons. Gentling might result in death, eventually, and usually, but it's still not a weapon.

 

Your abosolutely right, in my head i always think its not to kill with the one power, instead its not to use as a weapon.  Which is a huge difference and leaves a lot more to interpetation.

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Also its how the Aes Sedai views it, its possible a really compassionate Aes Sedai would be unable to help gentle a man if they viewed it as killing the person.  But unlikely since what would the alternatives be, letting him go free as he goes mad, shiedling him and letting him go free as he goes mad, or shielding him and making him stay under the watch of the Aes Sedai as he goes mad.  Almost al lthe Aes Sedai probably see gentling the man as being a humane thing to do so the fellow doesn't go insane.  Just as a captured Aes Sedai might not be able to make a gateway for the Seanchean if she viewed the gateway as a weapon that is going to cause the deaths of people when the army goes through it.  A gateway could possibly be seen as a weapon that would enable made so man could kill man or the gateway is a weapon that would be used for war.  Its how each particular Aes Sedai views things.  Just like each Aes Sedai has a different view of when they are in danger, some might see a man at 100 yards as a threat, maybe other the person needs to be 10 yards away before they feel threatened. 

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 Almost al lthe Aes Sedai probably see gentling the man as being a humane thing to do so the fellow doesn't go insane. 

 

Indeed. It should also be noted that Cadsuane developed a method of after care which successfully reintegrated men back into a regular life and brought their life span to an almost normal level.

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And I suppose they could technically make a weapon for a woman as well - as long as they believed that was possible for them, and believed that it was only going to be used by a woman.

 

 

 

 

Actually, it's worse (better) than that, loophole-wise: the oath specifies that they cannot make a weapon for one man to harm another. They can still make a weapon for one particular woman to harm anyone (and so bring power-wrought weapons into circulation) or, worse, a weapon for multiple men to harm one or more people. They can also still make weapons for men to harm women, animals, or any other non-man (including Shadowspawn). Finally, they can still make weapons (for anybody at all) designed to harm or maim but not kill (men). Frankly, I'm amazed there weren't more Power-wrought weapons kicking around­.

 

 

Also, FWIW, remember when Siuan is teaching Nynaeve and Egwene on the boat? She says something to the effect of "Why would you want to learn the sword? If I need a sword, I can make one out of air." Now, what she suggests is very definitely using the Power to make a weapon, but not for one man to kill another (it would be for her to do whatever).

 

 

Finally, and also FWIW, I wish we'd had a chance to see a White trying to come to grips with a Liar's Paradox. Actually, come to think of it, the first oath is even more vulnerable than the second: it specifies that the speaker will not speak a word that is untrue. If the Whites are as good at logic as they claim, then they should immediately realize that words can have no truth-value: truth is a property of propositions, not words. Oops. That means that every Aes Sedai can lie as much as she wants. The first oath isn't just full of loopholes, it's a nonsense oath. That's what you get for making promises using flowery language instead of cutting straight to the point.

 

 

I like to think that these thoughts indicate that the Aes Sedai who originally implemented the oaths were quite cunning, and used the oaths to gain political advantage (over the gullible masses, and over the other Aes Sedai who sucked at logic/were kept in the dark when they were raised). 

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About second oath, it could also depend on the Aes Sedia's definition of "man".

At times masculine terms can be used for both genders.  And terms that describe humans could probably be applied to also humanoids.

 

And that oath could also depend on what she considers to be a weapon.  Also the third oath.

 

Second oath could also depend on whether she thinks if the "weapon" could end up into the hands of a "man" (whatever her definition for either term).

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With lie Oath, remember the group of Aes Sendai were testing days to defeat the Oath Rod. They found a weave that could allow Mesaana to lie. It is also stated that the Oath did not allow them to speak. It seems that the Oath works even if a person believes it is a lie, as much as convincing the speaker her statements are true. Imagine if Moiraine talked to Asmodean. She could never make statements to him directly regarding the One Power, because he would know they were lies. She could never complete her sentences. She could never lie to Rand by book 5 remember?

Edited by wotfan4472
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Obviously. We all know that the oaths only bind you to the extent you believe they bind you. My point is that, in fact, the first oath should bind no one, and that the other two oaths are barely binding at all. Any Aes Sedai who was remotely competent in logic should know that. The problem is that the characterisation of "logic" in the books is the same one that applied to Vulcans, and it bears virtually no resemblance to the real thing.

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They do bind to a point, the first oath was more so people had a sense they could trust what an Aes Sedai said, but as pointed out in the books the truth you hear isn't necessarily the truth they said.  The oaths were intentionally left with wiggle room since an Aes Sedai can never know what situation they may find themselves in.  Yes a smart Aes Sedai can find all sorts of wiggle room about the lying but the other two I think are a lot more straight forward.  I am sure almost all Aes Sedai probably agree what making no weapon for a man to kill someone with means.  I can't see many Aes Sedai saying well I won't make a weapon for this guy but I will make it for that lady.  Also the not using the power as a weapon is pretty straight forward.  Sure each Aes Sedai might interpret it a little differently such as when they feel in danger.  But the final two in my opinion don't leave a lot of wiggle room as the first one does.  No to mention if an Aes Sedai was found forming swords from air to start shanking people or creating weapons for just women I am sure the white tower would be waiting to punish someone found using the power in such a way.

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They do bind to a point, the first oath was more so people had a sense they could trust what an Aes Sedai said, but as pointed out in the books the truth you hear isn't necessarily the truth they said.  The oaths were intentionally left with wiggle room since an Aes Sedai can never know what situation they may find themselves in.  Yes a smart Aes Sedai can find all sorts of wiggle room about the lying but the other two I think are a lot more straight forward.  I am sure almost all Aes Sedai probably agree what making no weapon for a man to kill someone with means.  I can't see many Aes Sedai saying well I won't make a weapon for this guy but I will make it for that lady.  Also the not using the power as a weapon is pretty straight forward.  Sure each Aes Sedai might interpret it a little differently such as when they feel in danger.  But the final two in my opinion don't leave a lot of wiggle room as the first one does.  No to mention if an Aes Sedai was found forming swords from air to start shanking people or creating weapons for just women I am sure the white tower would be waiting to punish someone found using the power in such a way.

 

 

Actually, all the oaths are unnecessarily flowery, presumably so as to allow for exploitable ambiguities. None of the oaths literally expresses its semantic content; all the oaths are subject to their utterers' interpretations.

 

Consider the first oath, "I vow that I will speak no word that is not true." We all understand that it's supposed to mean "I will never lie." And yet, Aes Sedai can commit lies of omission, contextual lies, they can mislead and dissemble, etc. The spirit of the oath isn't what matters, so much as its actual semantic content (adjusted for the utterer's beliefs about that content). My point is that its semantic content is, in fact, nil. Meaning that any Aes Sedai who had a suitable understanding of logic could lie as much as she wanted.

 

Consider the second oath, "I vow that I will make no weapon for one man to kill another." We all understand that it's supposed to mean "I will not use the Power to forge weapons." That's the spirit of the oath, and it seems to be more or less how it's understood by contemporary Aes Sedai (minus some exceptions for blades of Air and so on). But that's not the semantic content of that oath. Which means that any Aes Sedai can actually make weapons with the Power, provided that she has a sufficiently sophisticated understanding of language to realize that her second oath is, in fact, far too specific.

 

Finally, consider the third oath, "I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending my life, or that of my warder, or another sister." This is the best formulated of the oaths, and also the only one to feature exceptions. Unfortunately, we are shown time and again in the series that it is also subject to a fairly loose interpretation: the "last extreme" isn't usually all that "last" or "extreme"general feelings of danger/anxiety/warder-danger suffice. We also see that the "as a weapon" portion of the clause is quite open to interpretation: sisters use the OP to torture fairly regularly, and use it to discipline others. They're also capable of using it in a weaponized capacity on darkfriends, who aren't, I hasten to point out, shadowspawn.

 

What this shows is, in part, what we already all know: the three oaths are subject to all sorts of loopholes based on one's interpretation of their semantic content. My point was not to reiterate this point, but rather to point out two things: (1) the first oath is actually worthless and should bind no Aes Sedai, and (2) there are actually much more significant loopholes to the second oath than those that were pointed out in the thread.

 

As a result, I'm not sure where you think your disagreement lies. We all know that the oaths are subject to interpretation, and we're all well aware of the standard interpretations of those turns of phrase. The point is just that their standard interpretation does not convey the same semantic content as they literally express, and that they should only really be bound by that literal content. If they were just a little more clever, they might have realized that. But perhaps (and this was purely my own speculation) those who instituted the oaths were that clever. That would give a better rationale for adopting the oaths.

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So I was thinking; we all know what the three oaths are that each AS must take during her raising.

 

Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will speak no word that is not true.

Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will make no weapon for one man to kill another.

Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending my life, or that of my warder, or another sister.

 

In particular I'm interested in the third one: the "I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against shadowspawn." I always found it interesting how the oath specified only "The One Power," and not to do no harm in general.

 

So my query here is; does that mean AS can go ahead and torture whoever the hell they want? (Oath restriction-wise), and what if we take it a step further? What if the AS used the One Power not as a weapon but as a tool? Say, an air-weave to bind the target whilst they then going in to cleave a section of the person's finger off with a butter knife? I know it is definitely frowned upon, but we're in discussions here right? Taking it to the extreme.

From Egwene's POV when she is captured and stuck in Novice white, some sisters took punishments into their own hands and didn't bother with Silviana.  I thought it odd that the Mistess of Novices has the choice of a switch, slipper, or strap and not to punish with the OP.  Yet other sisters, who shouldn't, will slipper someone or use the OP to flick an ear or lash a bottom.  I think it ties in with the sister's perception of her actions regarding the oaths.  If someone doesn't think something is a lie, they can speak it.  If someone believes some little chit of a girl deserves to be disciplined, they can do it.  Look at Elaida when Egwene puts her in her place and gets hurt.  Any normal person would stop after she is cut up by the glass, but Elaida keeps on going until the others stop her.  She thought herself above the other sisters and therefore was allowed to use the OP as a weapon.

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this is at the top of my head, but, didnt Elaida also kill the novice who took Min to see Siuan who sent her to a farm? im maybe misremembering it but didnt Elaida embrace the source when getting her in a barn? then screams.

Edited by damandred
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Not sure it was ever mentioned as being Elaida, I always assumed it was black ajah probably Alvrina or Lindiran (pretty sure I ruined the spelling of those names).  Forget which book the scene that you are talking about happened but I don't think it ever directly mentioned which Aes Sedai did it.  I don't think Elaida could of killed the novice and the lady who ran the farm like that without being BA since that was clearly using the power as a weapon.  Might of even of been Messana.

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Sahra jumped at the sharp voice, but it was not Mistress Elward.

 

The Aes Sedai moved closer, not caring that her skirts dragged through the dirt of the vegetable patch. Despite the summer warmth of the morning, she wore a cloak, the hood pulled up to shadow her face.

 

“Tell me everything that you heard or saw, girl, from the moment you took the woman in charge. Everything.”

 

 Pain racked her, digging her toes into the dirt, arching her back; the spasm lasted only moments, but it seemed eternal. Struggling for breath, she realized her cheek was pressed to the ground, and her still trembling fingers dug into the soil.

 

“Everything, girl,” the Aes Sedai said coldly.

 

She began to weep in earnest, sure that was not enough to satisfy this woman. She was right.

 

 

Insufficient evidence. IMO.

Edited by udbabor520
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