Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

January 5, Ashram, Oaths

On the 5th, we met at Bob and Judy Seidl's house for the first Ashram of the New Year. The topic was, "what does it mean to make an oath?" We had an interesting time defining the concept of an "oath" as set apart from a "promise," a "contract," or one's "word of honor." We generally agreed that an "oath" involves calling upon a higher power of whatever nature to witness one's intention, and calling upon that power to punish you if you fail. (Even an oath such as "By my beard—" is a shorthand version of calling upon God to make your beard fall out if you fail of your oath.) We also discussed the general lack of oath usage in current American society (as opposed to the currently rampant cursing and profanity). We speculated that, like many things, the Puritans might have had something to do with it, with their very strong prohibitions against "taking the name of the Lord in vain," specifically, and swearing oaths generally. "Swearing" was of course not done in polite society in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and the gradual separation of church life from casual life that occurred from the 20's onward probably continued the process of taking oaths as such out of general usage except for formal occasions such as testifying in court, or taking public office.
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