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Revisiting the Jedi Code

Ever studious, Auteme once more spent her time reorganizing and trimming her notes to send out to the Order of the Selab and whatever Jedi was willing to read.


REVISITING THE JEDI CODE

Introduction

Odd as it is, my research into the Sith has led me back to the Jedi -- I’ve decided to take a moment to look inward, at my own Order’s past. Jedi falling to the Dark Side is not historically uncommon, but I believe it is preventable (as many things are) through education, understanding, and reframing the ways in which we think.

I started with the Jedi Code. Though I know it well, it has also been some time since I’ve actually thought about the words; the New Jedi Order has a code of its own, one that I thought I adhered to more closely. Yet, through my study and meditation I’ve found a few simple truths that some Jedi—and many of our critics—may have forgotten or glossed over.

In this short piece I will be going through the Code line by line, speaking about historical examples (mostly fragments from the Old Republic era) and exploring what it means to be a Jedi.

The Code

A short refresher:

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.

There is no death, there is the Force.

This is the version codified by Odan-Urr, the Draethos Jedi Librarian. In some versions of the code the fourth line, “There is no chaos, there is harmony” is omitted, but I would argue that it is one of the keys to explaining the actions of the ancient Jedi Order, and a primary guiding principle for a Jedi—certainly not to be left out.

Analysis

There is no emotion, there is peace.

This is the easiest to take at face value as something evil; though there are ‘negative’ emotions, to repress all emotion can be incredibly damaging to a person’s mental health. It’s not natural, it’s unhealthy, and it is certainly not what Odan-Urr or the Jedi intended to come across in the code. To be a Jedi requires emotion in some form—specifically compassion, a sort of unconditional love.

Two policies of the old Jedi Order stemmed in part from this line: first, the recruitment of Force-sensitive children to the Jedi rather than adults or even adolescents; second, the general ban on emotional attachments. Both were intended to ensure that the philosophy of the Jedi always took precedence by cutting off any biases that may have developed at an early age in a child, and stopping the intense (and potentially unhealthy) emotions that could develop from close attachments. I think the latter was a mistake; it is impossible to avoid attachment. Jedi are still people, and we are all social creatures. A better method—and one I think all people should follow—is to seek and nurture healthy relationships, ones that avoid destructive behaviours and the repression of emotion both.

This line is best read as a reminder for Jedi in stressful situations -- a clear head leads to the best decisions. Further, to be controlled by one’s emotions while using the Force can lead to disaster.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

This line is likely the simplest of the code—once more a reminder for a Jedi in three key ways.

First is that we are all lifelong students; a Jedi should seek knowledge, explore the galaxy, and always understand that there is more to learn. Despite the often fanatical research and study done by the Sith, I would argue that this is one manner in which the Jedi are most different from the Sith. A Sith’s end is power, and to some extent there is an actual end to that power—the state of the Sith’ari, the perfect being. All a Sith’s knowledge builds up to further their power. A Jedi, while still using their knowledge to better themself, understands that there is no end to knowledge; that a Jedi will never be perfect or all-knowing. Still, that in itself is the bane of ignorance. There is always more to learn.

Second is that a Jedi should spread knowledge freely. Not many have the resources or opportunities to study and learn in the same way as a Jedi; whenever possible, a Jedi should teach others, particularly to open as many minds as possible to the Force and its nature. This, of course, requires a Jedi to have the temperament of a teacher, to be patient and never overbearing.

Third is that knowledge comes in many forms. Many who are educated or intelligent may become egoistic in their view of knowledge, measuring it in one way. A Jedi, who travels far and encounters many of all walks of life, must understand that what may seem nonsensical or foolish at first may have pieces of truth within. It is a reminder to listen carefully, and to never dismiss others. This lack of bias is difficult to achieve, especially for many of us today who become Jedi later in life.

Again, the recruitment of children may have been an advantage here for the ancient Jedi Order—those raised in the Jedi Temple would develop with the right encouragement and learning environment, avoiding inheriting biases from their parents by being raised in the community (though even then the development of biases is not impossible).

There is no passion, there is serenity.

This line describes what the Jedi truly avoid—intense negative emotion. Passion, jealousy, hatred; each is dangerous, especially for a Jedi. The Dark Side is inherently corrupting, just as these intense emotions are inherently selfish. To use the Force selfishly is to ignore its flow and its nature, and to tempt corruption from the Dark. Instead of the chaos and impermanence of the self, a Jedi must be open to the Force, to read it and let it guide them. Who we are is largely contextual, dependent on our beliefs and structures of meaning rather than an immutable truth; to be selfish and consumed by desire is a great source of suffering.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

This line describes the Jedi viewpoint and purpose in the galaxy—first is harmony. Harmony is the cooperation of disparate elements, pieces coming together to form a whole. It is easy to see the galaxy divided among millions of different peoples and opinions, but ultimately there is one Force. Seeking unity and cooperation over conflict should be a priority for the Jedi—save in the case of true chaos, or the Dark Side.

As mentioned previously, the Dark Side requires selfish use of the Force; to an extent this is removing the harmony of that which binds us. As such the Jedi must oppose the Dark Side wherever it springs up, and further seek ways to prevent its rise. That preventative tenet is what led to policies such as the ban of attachments and the recruitment of children—avoiding the potential rise of the Dark Side while continuing to open new minds to the Force is the core of the Jedi.

There is no death, there is the Force.

I have struggled with this line for some time now. Can there truly be no death, if the Force is merely a product of life? Someday far from now, when the universe goes dark for the final time, will there not be some true death?

Perhaps it is a reminder, one to be taken in many ways. First is to not struggle with the impermanence of things; in the end there is the Force, and though death seems insurmountable there is some comfort in the cycle. Trusting in the Force is enough.

Second is to open oneself to the Force—even in the most dire situations it is the ally of a Jedi, and will always lead to the best path. Third --and mirroring the second—it tells us not to fear death, for in it we are part of the Force; nothing should stop a Jedi from choosing to do the right thing.

Or, perhaps, this line signals to a higher truth. Through the Force it is possible to retain one’s own being beyond death, to remain an active part of its will, yet having shed one’s mortal coil. Perhaps that is the enlightenment to be sought beyond our material troubles.

Stoicism and Virtue Theory

Reviewing the Jedi Code in this way has led me to conclude that many of its values, as well as its metaethical framework, are similar to the philosophy of stoicism and virtue theory. Stoicism spouts tenets to allow its followers to live lives of reason and virtue, free of suffering. One of the byproducts of it is ataraxia, or a state of pure calm. Much like a Jedi, a Stoic is able to accept circumstances beyond their control, including the flow of the world (or, for a Jedi, the Force). Instead of exerting pressure on the external world, one should look inward, seeking mastery of the self through discipline and gratitude. A Stoic alleviates their own suffering by accepting what happens in the world—after all, much of our suffering is from our own imagination, worry, and desire.

This is not to say this philosophy is perfect. A side often overlooked about stoicism is that it often calls to devalue things, and holds the idea that life has no inherent value. Complete detachment from the world, complete acceptance of all things, can certainly lead to a life without suffering, but is arguably a form of nihilism through this belief that ultimately things have little to no meaning. This kind of stoicism is reflected in the ancient Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi. The few scattered accounts of him, though certainly describing a skilled and respected Jedi Master, painted a picture of a Jedi who was borderline sociopathic. He cared not for the deaths of his family or the soldiers under his command, believing that all things were the will of the Force; he showed little empathy for others who grieved.

Though some of the stoic tenets might be applied well for a Jedi (I think the ideas of acceptance can be applied effectively without the devaluing of life, and the adherence to reason and the means of understanding oneself can be especially useful), it is the virtues that more shape a Jedi. When I read the code I often find myself imagining the perfect Jedi—an ideal person, someone who always knows what to say, who can diffuse a tense situation, who is both teacher and student, who is satisfied by their work but also understands how far they can still go; someone who is at the right place at the right time, who does the right thing in the right amount to the right people. And, more often than not when I imagine this Jedi, I end up thinking of someone I admire. There are few in this galaxy who seem properly put together, properly virtuous, but a good Jedi should be able to recognize and emulate such people.

This is virtue theory—to be good is to live virtuously, and to live virtuously requires patience, growth, and reflection. The virtues espoused by the Jedi in particular can be potent. Living a life of self-discipline, compassion, harmony, reason, tolerance, wisdom, courage, and exploration is surely a good one—and, should a Jedi discover something greater than even these things, they should change and seek those things instead. By living in this way, a Jedi becomes ‘perfect’, a virtuous person, and an example for others.

The Sith

Ignoring, for a moment, the myriad of crimes against the galaxy committed by its members, I think it is through the Code that we can understand why the ideology of the Sith Order is weaker than that of the Jedi. First, a Jedi understands that life and its many facets are impermanent. The Sith, on the other hand, often seek immortality or the state of Sith’ari, along with ways of bringing back the dead—it is common to avoid loss, yet the end comes to all things (all the Sith who have sought immortality are long buried, and this trend will doubtless continue). Second and despite that impermanence, a Jedi fights and protects life, without ever fearing death. Through this we are more able to fully live, whereas the Sith seek constant struggle against even death. Third and finally is the understanding of peace and serenity—the former is not the avoidance of conflict, nor is the latter the avoidance of emotion. It is the state of mind, the sign of virtue, that makes a Jedi. A Sith, whose only virtue is power, will fail to live a good life.

Conclusion

While the New Jedi Order has adopted a revised code, I think ultimately it is the same as this more ancient script. The words may change, but the virtues at the core of the Jedi do not. Wise, courageous, accepting, disciplined, compassionate, harmonious, serene—we should be any number of things, but foremost among them we should strive to be good. That is what a Jedi is, beyond creed or denomination. A vessel of the Force, one that brings Light to the galaxy; a person, no matter how powerful, that seeks to do good.
About author
Auteme
Pretending to be a good writer; always looking for feedback to deepen the disguise.

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Pros: Basically everything
Cons: ???
This was a really good read. Excellent stuff that manages to analyze the Code and deduce a lot of interesting points about what it implies for Jedi. Plus I didn't expect a comparison to Stoicism, at all.
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Lol I helped to edit this, it better be damn good.

Comments

An OOC note: Something I noticed during my research (if you can call it that) was the similarities in structure of the ancient Jedi Order and Plato's Republic, specifically in the Jedi Service Corps. Republic describes a utopian society, with the children raised together as a community and the greatest thinkers and philosophers rule. In Republic, there are three classes, the lowest of which are the tradespeople; those who were not wise enough to rule or strong enough to defend the city. Jedi younglings who did not pass the padawan trials would often join the Jedi Service Corps instead. Though they had their basic education in the Force and adhered to the Jedi principles, they did not perform the same duties as Jedi Knights. Still, they were an essential part of the Jedi Order. The second class in Republic were guardians -- not wise enough to rule, but strong enough to defend the city, much like a Jedi Knight.
 
A very well written reflection of the Jedi Code. I would be most interested to read your breakdown of the Tenets and the Attributes associated with the Jedi Code, as well. It's always a pleasure to see someone diving ever deeper into Jedi philosophy.
 

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