by Rebecca Sorge
|Related to||Knights Radiant|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
The Immortal Words were a set of oaths sworn by the Knights Radiant in order to gain their Surgebinding abilities. There were five sets of Ideals for each order, with the first being the same among all orders, and the Order of Lightweavers being the exception as they swore no oaths past the first one. While the general idea behind every Ideal is the same between members of a certain order, the exact wording can change based on the individual journey of each Radiant.
The primary purpose of the Ideals was to serve as a restraints to help guide and control the Radiants for how they were to live their lives.  Nohadon may reference some of these in his book, The Way of Kings as Nohadon was a Surgebinder himself.
A nascent Surgebinder speaks the first Ideal and with each subsequent Ideal they gain greater ability to infuse both themselves and other objects with Stormlight and lowers the amount of Stormlight they require to actualize an effect. It is also important to note that simply having the ability to infuse does not make one a Radiant, simply a Surgebinder. Only after Ideals are spoken does one become a Radiant. The Ideals were not simply a means to greater power, they were a way of life for the Radiants.
The First Ideal
”Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.— The First Ideal of the Knights Radiant
The First Ideal of the Knights Radiant is shared among all of the orders. Because of this, it serves as the motto for the entire order. While saying the other Ideals appear to be essential to their corresponding increases in Surgebinding ability, speaking the First Ideal does not seem to be a prerequisite to gaining a basic capacity to Surgebind, as Kaladin first hears of it long after he first begins to infuse himself with Stormlight.
The First Ideal is not merely a statement of obvious truths. For example, even though people are always born before they die, that is not the knowledge that the First Ideal seeks to impart. As explained by Teft:
- Life before death
- The Radiant seeks to defend life, always. He never kills unnecessarily, and never risks his own life for frivolous reasons. Living is harder than dying. The Radiant's duty is to live.
- Strength before weakness
- All men are weak at some time in their lives. The Radiant protects those who are weak, and uses his strength for others. Strength does not make one capable of rule; it makes one capable of service.
- Journey before destination
- There are always several ways to achieve a goal. Failure is preferable to winning through unjust means. Protecting ten innocents is not worth killing one. In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished.
It should be noted that the Oaths are about each individual Radiant and his or her spren's perception of them and, since Teft was not a Radiant when he explained the Ideal to Kaladin, he may not have realized the extent of the room for variation in interpreting the First Ideal. Furthermore, as he eventually becomes a Windrunner, his explanation of the First Ideal likely hews closer to how that Order would interpret it. Notably, the Order of Skybreakers and the Order of Elsecallers would accept a more Machiavellian interpretation of the First Ideal and the Elsecallers in particular view the "journey" as that of the entire species.
Subsequent Ideals of Individual Orders
After the First Ideal, each Order has unique words that serve as a path to increasing the Nahel Bond and becoming a Knight Radiant. The exact words used may vary, but generally, the concepts implied by them are shared. A Surgebinder progressing along the path will know the words when they are ready to say them. Each order has four sets of words before the final culmination of the Nahel Bond.
Ideals of the Windrunners
The Ideals of the Order of Windrunners may be tied to the divine attributes of protecting and leading, as those are related to Jezrien This idea is enhanced by the Second Ideal of the Order of the Windrunners, which has to do with protection.
”I will protect those who cannot protect themselves.
”I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right.
”I will protect even those I hate, even if the one I hate most is myself.
The Fourth Ideal may have something to do with not being able to protect some people, accepting that fact and leaving them to their fates in order to move on. This is outlined by the unnamed Windrunner's entry in the Urithiru gem archive as well as the situation in which Kaladin tries and fails to swear the Ideal, because he is not (yet) able to let go of those he failed and still torments himself over their deaths.
Ideals of the Skybreakers
The second Ideal, also called the Ideal of Justice, is a specific oath to seek and administer justice.
”I will put the law before all else.— A general form of The Second Ideal of the Skybreakers
”I swear to seek justice, to let it guide me, until I find a more perfect Ideal.
The third Ideal, also called the Ideal of Dedication, this is a specific oath to dedicate oneself to a greater truth. A Skybreaker Squire must first bond their Highspren before taking this oath, and it is the minimum oath required before the Surge of Division can be used.
”I swear to follow the will of Dalinar Kholin. This is my oath.
The fourth Ideal, also called the Ideal of Crusade, and requires that a Skybreaker undertake a personal quest and complete it to the satisfaction of their highspren. Once completed, the Skybreaker is elevated to the rank of master.
”I will cleanse the Shin of their false leaders, so long as Dalinar Kholin agrees.
The final Ideal, called the Ideal of Law, requires the Skybreaker to swear an oath that they will become a personification of law and truth.
Ideals of the Edgedancers
”I will remember those who have been forgotten.
”I will listen to those who have been ignored.
Ideals of the Lightweavers
The Order of Lightweavers acknowledge no Ideals other than the First Ideal shared by all Knights Radiant. Members of the Lightweavers do however need to speak "Truths" to advance, which is similar to the process of speaking the Ideals in other Orders. However, instead of a shared set of beliefs like the other orders, the Truths of Lightweavers seem to be acknowledgements of personal truths, especially those that are hard to accept or ones that have been kept secret.
Ideals of the Bondsmiths
The Ideals of the Order of Bondsmiths seems to be tied to uniting men and possibly surgebinders. They seem to be the Ideals most closely connected to governance.
”I will unite instead of divide. I will bring men together.
”I will take responsibility for what I have done. If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man.
Ideals of Unknown Orders
The following are confirmed Ideals of an Order (subject to change), but the Order which speaks them has not been confirmed.
”I will stand when others fall.— Unknown Ideal of an Order of Knights Radiant
All Ideals seem to have in common that they reflect in some way on the respective person's character, self-awareness and motivations, their soul, so to speak, and reinforce that person's bond with their spren in accordance to that reflection. For instance, Windrunners are people who seek to protect others from harm and evil and advance their Ideals when they realize more and more, what that drive to protect entails and embrace those precepts. Therefore, Kaladin is unable to speak the Fourth Ideal, as he is not yet able to actually live up to the demands of that stage. Furthermore, the actual wording used when swearing an Ideal seems to matter significantly less than the mindset of the person and their accomplishments in their journey to self-awareness. Finally, it is impossible to swear an Ideal prematurely, as the Stormfather "refuses" to acknowledge Lopen's oath when he swears it at first, presumably during his training. However, after the Battle of Thaylen Field, when Lopen speaks to an injured soldier who had lost his arm in the fighting, he repeats them while explaining the concept of the oaths to the soldier. At this moment, he is not earnestly expecting his words to hold any meaning, as he uses the phrase "journey before pancakes" in the First Ideal, and repeats the Second Ideal only while mentioning to the soldier how hard it is to say those words and mean them. Nevertheless, the Stormfather accepts his words, as Lopen appears to have actually achieved the required personality this time around. All of this points to the possibility that all Ideals are Truths spoken by a Knight Radiant about their inner self, speaking about their respective goals and ideals (protecting others, seeking order and justice, helping and caring for the weak, etc.). Thus, the Lightweavers would not be different from the other orders in that they require Truth instead of an Ideal, but in that they are much more liberal and varied with respect to what Truths, and therefore, what character, are needed in order to advance.
- Brandon intended for sets of Ideals across Orders (i.e. the Third Ideal) to have a theme, though not all oaths will follow the pattern.
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