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Author Topic: Oathbound?  (Read 5857 times)

Annie Roonie

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Oathbound?
« on: July 04, 2012, 01:25:06 pm »
I am interested in what people think about oath bound materials and traditions. The exclusivity of information is a very complicated idea. Certainly, some oath bound traditions still hold very close with those codes, but others not so much.

My curiosity was sparked because I needed to find out more about Heredom. (Woke up saying it as part of a phrase.) And within a week or so of mentioning that I'd like to read about it, I had someone offering to give me some oath bound books. I was asked to return them to a lodge when I was finished with them or destroy them, no big deal made.

I was a little surprised that it took no more than asking to get information, but upon hearing some old men discuss the backlashes of secrecy, I kind of understand why they would have mixed feelings and how it wasn't a big deal to give me the materials. I asked if they were concerned about people using the idea of silence in an organization to mentally or physically abusive ends, and was told by a couple that it offended them that the idea of confidentiality was used to scam people out of money all over tarnation.

And since some here are of oath bound traditions and many others know about them and have interesting opinions, I thought I'd pose a few questions here:

What is/are some of the most secretive organizations (nongovernmental) magical, philosophical, social and why would you classify them this way?

Do you think this kind of secrecy is effective in whatever its purpose is stated to be?

What are some of the drawbacks to this kind of silence that you have heard of or experienced?

Have you had any experiences with these kinds of organizations that you care to share? As in what did it do for you? Is it something you'd recommend?


I'm not doing any kind of formal research on this. It's just a personal interest for me. Listening to old men who have nothing to prove is an activity that I find informative and hilarious. Sometimes more aromatic than I'd like, but they do inspire me to think about these types of things and I am grateful.

No hurries or worries about responding. Just thought it would be interesting to get other's perspectives when ever if ever. ;)
« Last Edit: July 05, 2012, 11:15:02 am by RandallS »

Annie Roonie

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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2012, 01:37:40 pm »
Quote from: Annie Roonie;62750
I am interested in what people think about oath bound materials and traditions. The exclusivity of information is a very complicated idea. Certainly, some oath bound traditions still hold very close with those codes, but others not so much.


I just wanted to be very clear that I am asking about the idea of secrecy and not the traditions themselves and as I reread I felt I worded it poorly there.

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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2012, 02:01:15 pm »
Quote from: Annie Roonie;62750


 
I don't think of oathbound stuff as having anything at all to do with an organisation, which means I can't answer any questions about it that refer to organisations.  It doesn't make sense.  (On the level of "What branch of mathematics do you think has the most relevance to strawberries?")

I wrote something about some of this for the Pagan Blog Project:  http://lettersfromgehenna.blogspot.com/2012/03/e-is-for-exclusivity.html

But here's a thing: the more I study in a tradition that is oathbound in part, and do work with similar things within my 'other' branch of religion to the extent that this is distinct, the harder it is to talk about things.  It's not "I'm keeping secrets", it's "You would need about six months of active practice on very specific things to begin to have the vocabulary in which we can try to have this conversation", with sidebars of "I'm not up for that level of investment" and "if that gets skipped, you'll get completely the wrong end of the stick on this" and "... if you actually care enough to put in that level of work, we won't actually have to have the conversation at all."

There are people who need to do that sort of work; there are people who don't.  There are people whose "that sort of work" is similar to my "that sort of work"; there are people who aren't.  "Organisations" is the wrong end of the stick.
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mlr52

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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2012, 03:51:21 pm »
Quote from: Annie Roonie;62750
I am interested in what people think about oath bound materials and traditions. The exclusivity of information is a very complicated idea. Certainly, some oath bound traditions still hold very close with those codes, but others not so much.


 
The fist thing I would ask is what does an oath mean to the person giving it?  As for breaking an oath, that is an ethical decision to be made.  

I am a Master Mason, and hold to my Obligations which I freely gave.  I am aware that information I have received is available on the internet, but that does not release me from the Obligations I gave.

The giving and acceptance of an oath, forms a unique bond between all concerned.
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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2012, 04:35:53 pm »
Darkhawk has already said a chunk of what I'd say. I've also got an essay up on my website about how oathbound material works for me (in my tradition's context) - some of which I'm going to talk about here, but that's probably more usefully organised.

Quote from: Annie Roonie;62750

What is/are some of the most secretive organizations (nongovernmental) magical, philosophical, social and why would you classify them this way?


Like Darkhawk, not sure I've got an answer for this one. I've volunteered in settings with a strong non-disclosure agreement (for LiveJournal.com, where I helped handle terms of service issues), I've had confidentiality agreements involved at work. I think there are ways secrecy can become very broken and sharp-edged, but I don't think about it in terms of those categories.

And as a librarian, I'm deeply committed to sharing information. But I'm also deeply committed to things like patron privacy.

Quote
Do you think this kind of secrecy is effective in whatever its purpose is stated to be?


Depends on the setting. In my tradition, I think it does very well to serve its intended purposes - which are, among other things:

- Giving people a chance to have their own experiences, unspoiled by other people's stories about them.

- Letting people come to a particular religious concept, mystery, or experience in their own time, rather than my idea of when they're ready.

- Encouraging people to sit (or work out with a small known group) specific things that come up for them in a religious context, rather than wide-ranging conversations.

- Having set, known agreements for what's shared and what isn't shared within a larger group, even after people may leave the group/do other things for a lengthy period of time. (We all make the same agreements in our basic oaths, though people may add additional personal ones.)

- and the one Darkhawk mentions, that sometimes it's about having conversations with people who have done a certain amount of work in a particular direction already. And a reminder that it's okay for people *not* to do that, and we have plenty of other stuff we could probably talk about instead.

- There are also a very few specific places where there's a safety/well-being/etc. piece involved. (I can think of maybe five, in my trad, off hand, though a couple of them are fairly substantial.) Most of them are not so much "I can't talk about any of it", but rather "We have agreements that we don't teach X or introduce Y until someone is Q degree/level of experience/completed other necessary foundational training."

Quote
What are some of the drawbacks to this kind of silence that you have heard of or experienced?


Learning how to say "Hey, that's not a place I'm comfortable talking" took a while to get used to. (I hate the "I have a secret, I have a secret" approach, and try not to do it.) But, really, it's also a useful communication skill.

I do think there are risks about silence being used as a tool for abuse - but I don't think it's the fault of the idea of privacy or even secrecy. I think it's that people who abuse others will pick up whatever tool is handy.

Quote
Have you had any experiences with these kinds of organizations that you care to share? As in what did it do for you? Is it something you'd recommend?


The oathbound rituals I've been a part of are some of the most potent, meaningful and amazing of my life - not just my initiations, but there are others. Learning how to work through those experiences *without* talking about them extensively (outside of the ritual community in question) has, in some ways, been even more important to me. (Because, hi. I talk about stuff, a lot.)
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Annie Roonie

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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2012, 06:05:54 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;62753

I wrote something about some of this for the Pagan Blog Project:  http://lettersfromgehenna.blogspot.com/2012/03/e-is-for-exclusivity.html


Nice post there. (And I think you were on point about the wording of those types of ceremonies. It certainly would save on the drama and hurt feelings.)

This part about not being included simply for the wanting makes much sense to me:

"the would-be pagan coming from a universalist standpoint takes that as "you are Sub-Human Hellbound Scum". Because if they weren't Sub-Human Hellbound Scum, obviously they'd be welcomed as a member! There is no other reason to say no! Religion is for everyone! And information wants to be free! (Has the information climbed into your personal ear yet? No? That's why you're asking for it? Clearly it doesn't want to be as free as all that.)"

Though I can imagine it might be irritating to explain that and have it not be understood, or to have to work through someone taking offense at some thing that is not  actually offensive.


Quote from: Darkhawk;62753
But here's a thing: the more I study in a tradition that is oathbound in part, and do work with similar things within my 'other' branch of religion to the extent that this is distinct, the harder it is to talk about things.  It's not "I'm keeping secrets", it's "You would need about six months of active practice on very specific things to begin to have the vocabulary in which we can try to have this conversation", with sidebars of "I'm not up for that level of investment" and "if that gets skipped, you'll get completely the wrong end of the stick on this" and "... if you actually care enough to put in that level of work, we won't actually have to have the conversation at all."


Oh this is very understandable to me! When I create overviews for certain philosophers for teenagers, I must be careful to always tell them that due to time constraints, these are very generalized points. People dedicate their lives to philosophies, to imagine we could cover it all in a week is bunk, but what we can do is spark further inquiry and that requires self teaching. Still, invariably there is a question or two that would never be asked if the student were truly interested enough to do the work to find out more information.

And the vocabulary point is something I think many students go through. A rhetoric professor I had explained to a student who kept asking why the papers weren't written in plain English that there are reasons for the exclusivity of language and part of it is a show of good faith on the students' parts to investigate and learn on their own. She went on to say that if this was not possible, then perhaps that's a clue that certain subjects are not compatible with all people.

So I think that pertains to anything that requires a depth of study.

Quote from: Darkhawk;62753
There are people who need to do that sort of work; there are people who don't.  There are people whose "that sort of work" is similar to my "that sort of work"; there are people who aren't.  "Organisations" is the wrong end of the stick.


I think I understand, but am unsure. Is this like people of the same religion being on different paths within it?

What I meant when I asked about secretive organizations was more along the lines of what are some well known groups that are secretive. But now I see how that was a stupid question. I doubt any members of secret organizations are going to just let it be known all over the place that they have a secret.  I need a slapping my head icon.

Thanks for taking the time!

Annie Roonie

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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2012, 06:42:35 pm »
Quote from: mlr52;62761
The fist thing I would ask is what does an oath mean to the person giving it? As for breaking an oath, that is an ethical decision to be made.  


I cannot answer that question. I think it must be somewhat unique for each individual.

Quote from: mlr52;62761
I am a Master Mason, and hold to my Obligations which I freely gave.  I am aware that information I have received is available on the internet, but that does not release me from the Obligations I gave.

The giving and acceptance of an oath, forms a unique bond between all concerned.


When I first spoke of wanting to find out about Heredom, my father told me something similar: "You can find any of that stuff online and you'd have better luck than asking someone to break an oath they value."  I was still putzing around with the dream puzzle and didn't even realize how much was out there freely available already.

However, it turned out that years ago someone had bought some books from a Publix out of curiosity and were happy to part with them. I didn't have to ask anyone. And that was a relief because I agree and think it is pretty much universally accepted that a freely given and accepted oath does create a unique bond. I wouldn't want to put anyone in an ethical dilemma just because I am running down a dream!

Annie Roonie

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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2012, 07:27:01 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;62766
Darkhawk has already said a chunk of what I'd say. I've also got an essay up on my website about how oathbound material works for me (in my tradition's context) - some of which I'm going to talk about here, but that's probably more usefully organised.


That was very informative. Thank you. When you described the oath functioning similarly to a ritual circle, it gave me a kind of ah-ha moment. The protection does not seem of secrets so much as it does of people, the community and tradition.


Quote from: Jenett;62766
And as a librarian, I'm deeply committed to sharing information. But I'm also deeply committed to things like patron privacy.


I wish Google, FB and other very sharing folks would be as committed to privacy.


Quote from: Jenett;62766
- There are also a very few specific places where there's a safety/well-being/etc. piece involved. (I can think of maybe five, in my trad, off hand, though a couple of them are fairly substantial.) Most of them are not so much "I can't talk about any of it", but rather "We have agreements that we don't teach X or introduce Y until someone is Q degree/level of experience/completed other necessary foundational training."


I think this function is very handy for effective teaching. It all was but I clipped this one out because it is something that I would call professionalism. After a time and given abilities and effort, a person comes to some level of expertise and having something in place that backs it up - if I am understanding it correctly - allows for that expertise to benefit others.

I think very often in Pagan paths the concept of professionalism is forgotten or weakened by some possibly due to the alternative nature of the paths. Not being of the big three, I think puts many people in the mind that anything goes and all rules are off. I have already met some of these people who assume that there is no structure to any of paganism. I do not think it is weakened or forgotten by those who are invested of course, but know that in beginning my own search I was surprised by the professionalism that I saw. Until coming here, just visiting shops and talking to people, I too had the anything goes mindset. It's been great to learn differently.


Quote from: Jenett;62766
Learning how to say "Hey, that's not a place I'm comfortable talking" took a while to get used to. (I hate the "I have a secret, I have a secret" approach, and try not to do it.) But, really, it's also a useful communication skill.

I do think there are risks about silence being used as a tool for abuse - but I don't think it's the fault of the idea of privacy or even secrecy. I think it's that people who abuse others will pick up whatever tool is handy.


YES. Both of these points are good sense to me.



Quote from: Jenett;62766
The oathbound rituals I've been a part of are some of the most potent, meaningful and amazing of my life - not just my initiations, but there are others. Learning how to work through those experiences *without* talking about them extensively (outside of the ritual community in question) has, in some ways, been even more important to me. (Because, hi. I talk about stuff, a lot.)

 
After reading the page you wrote and linked, this is very touching. I can see how such a carefully created environment plays a huge part in allowing people to make meanings. That is a very powerful thing to witness, facilitate and experience.

I am reminded of groups that kids have needed over the years. Group therapies of all kinds are confidential. There is a certain oath there for so many of the same reasons. Without it, many children would not be able to face their own issues much less at their own paces.

Thanks for responding. This was useful!


I am sorry if any of my replies are wonky. I am slipping off the desk here. It's a hot one here and I came back from a ride and set down to reply. I should have showered first. I'm going to slink away in my tmi cloud now.:ashamed:

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Re: Oathbound?
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2012, 04:26:57 am »
Quote from: Annie Roonie;62750


What are some of the drawbacks to this kind of silence that you have heard of or experienced?
 



I'd say that - in general - I have no problems with oathbound traditions, although it can be hard on the isolated newbie who has no access to local covens.
What I do have a problem with is when members of Oathbound traditions join discussions, tell people they're wrong but that they can't share 'the truth' because it's oathbound. I've seen this happen more than once about both minor and major issues.

I don't mind being told that I'm wrong about something, but I can't and won't take anyone's word for it and if (generic) you can't tell me why or show me proof, what's the point in bringing it up?
And no, many of the people that did that were not fluffies but actual practicing serious members of their trads.

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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2012, 04:56:45 am »
Quote from: mlr52;62761

I am a Master Mason, and hold to my Obligations which I freely gave.  I am aware that information I have received is available on the internet, but that does not release me from the Obligations I gave.

 
*nodding* All of BOTA's material has been put on bittorrent. I will still pay my dues to BOTA to get the information from them directly, and I will still not share that information myself. I've given an oath, and for the work they have put in to create the material, they deserve that I keep that oath.

And as Veggiewolf said - some things are impossible to share with people who aren't going the same path. My oath allows me to share stuff I've realized in my own words (i.e. the enlightenment that pertains to me alone), but I've found that even that falls flat when I try to talk to others on other (even only mildly) diverging paths.
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Re: Oathbound?
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2012, 07:00:00 am »
Quote from: Annie Roonie;62750


 
I come down a little sideways on this one.

I dislike the concept of oathbound INFORMATION, but I absolutely believe in people's PRIVACY.

So anything that involves personal stories being off the table, f'ex, I think is completely reasonable.  I have the right to not-speak about something that's highly personal, be that my sex life, my interaction with gods, or anything else I don't want to share.  Privacy is important - and that includes respecting the privacy of the other people involved.  So "oh, yeah, Fred was at circle and HE said ..." isn't okay unless Fred says it is.

INFORMATION, on the other hand - this is what we do and why we do it type stuff - I have a much harder time with secrecy.  Not with gateway conditions to join the group - we have freedom of association for a reason, and I can not-include someone for any-damn-reason I want to.  But if I'm looking around to see if a group is anything I want to be involved in, the basics should be findable.  I don't like secrets for the sake of secrets.

All THAT said, I have no problem with the idea of PAYING for information - putting all this stuff together is a LOT of work and if you want people to do the work, ya gotta pay them.

veggiewolf

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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2012, 09:31:18 am »
Quote from: Stardancer;62887
...

And as Veggiewolf said - some things are impossible to share with people who aren't going the same path. My oath allows me to share stuff I've realized in my own words (i.e. the enlightenment that pertains to me alone), but I've found that even that falls flat when I try to talk to others on other (even only mildly) diverging paths.


I think Darkhawk said it, actually. ;)
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Re: Oathbound
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2012, 09:35:41 am »
Quote from: veggiewolf;62898
I think Darkhawk said it, actually. ;)

 
*blushes deeply* Sorry... Should proofread better. :o
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Re: Oathbound?
« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2012, 09:45:26 am »
Quote from: HeartShadow;62890

I dislike the concept of oathbound INFORMATION, but I absolutely believe in people's PRIVACY.
 

 
What if the only way you could learn the information, was to take an oath not reveal the information you learned?
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Re: Oathbound?
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2012, 10:03:03 am »
Quote from: mlr52;62901
What if the only way you could learn the information, was to take an oath not reveal the information you learned?

 
I would not take that oath without VERY good reason.  Among other things, I find the idea of committing to secrecy much like signing a blank check - there's got to be an overwhelming reason to do it AND a lot of trust involved.

I would also be massively pissed if I did swear that oath and the reason for the secrecy was not something *I* considered valid.  Doesn't mean I'd break the promise, but I'd still be pissed.

Part of the problem I keep running headlong into in FlameKeeping is that I have NO WAY to know if some of this has been done, if it's compatible, etc.  I don't know what information is out there, because it's all behind closed doors.  And while I don't need to know that Fred and Sally were at ritual, knowing that Thursday is cold-spaghetti day and WHY it's cold-spaghetti day needs more than "cause we say so".

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