The Jedi Code Absolutes

I’ve always had some strange difficulties understanding the Jedi Code – this weird mantra that we actually never hear uttered in the movies, but somehow most average fans know about it.  Well, maybe that’s not true, but I know I ran into it when I was in middle school so it’s been around for over 10 years.  I’ve been trying to research where it first came about, and Wookiepedia is saying Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson and also the video game Knights of the Old Republic.  If anyone can figure out where this first came about, please let me know. [see update at end of blog post]

My main problem with this code is that it seems to set them up for failure and if we suppose this Code was in place during the Prequels, it definitely put too many limitations on the Jedi as a body.

Here is the entirety of the code as I learned it in middle school, and the one Jedi Code that most people know about (you’ll find a Jedi Code on Wookiepedia that was supposedly established 32 BBY but I’m not acknowledging it):

the jedi code

There is no emotion; there is peace.

Many have argued that the Jedi set this up not to be taken as the Jedi are robots and completely lacking of emotion, but rather that they should not experience strong emotions because strong emotion inhibits rational thinking.  But this code implies that the lack of strong emotion will bring you peace and I think that’s ridiculous.  As you notice in the movies and even The Clone Wars, we see some Jedi struggle to gain this peace that they think they should have.  The only Jedi that mastered it pretty well was Yoda, and he had almost 900 years to reach that level of clear, rational thinking in all situations.  Then again, if he had listened to stronger emotions, or his gut feeling, would he have realized that there was something fishy going on with Palpatine?  And that Palpatine’s constant meetings with Anakin were actually a strategic move he was making to gain control of the galaxy?  The only way to gain peace is to have that contrasting strong emotion because then you know what real peace feels like.

I have always thought that Qui-Gon Jinn has been the “perfect” Jedi.  I say this qui gon obi wan sunset coruscantbecause though he is flawed by Jedi standards, he follows that gut feeling that he has to do what he must, regardless of if the Council agrees.  He consistently defies the Council by following his stronger emotions and in turn, through his actions, we get Luke.  Without Qui-Gon picking up Anakin from the desolate rock of Tatooine and insisting he be trained as a Jedi, we would not have the arching story of Anakin’s demise and in turn his redemption through his son.

There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.

I understand this, for the most part.  Constantly learning and evolving as an organization is the only way to stay in synch with each other and understand the galaxy around you.  The problem comes about when you know so much pong krellthat you consider yourself superior to other people/races.  Take a look at Pong Krell (my favorite episode arc of TCW) and the battle he oversaw on Umbara.  His thirst for knowledge made him a formidable Jedi General, so much so that he sought success no matter what.  He refused to listen to his clone troopers and viewed them as dispensable units, so that the troopers were dying in large numbers.  Under Captain Rex, his troops showed that not only were they individuals with the ability to feel and think through problems themselves, they also understood more about the current battle than Krell did.  His thirst for knowledge and success, led to his thirst for power, which in turn led to him turning to the Dark Side.

There is no passion; there is serenity.

I’ve talked about this numerous times in other blog posts, but this is perhaps the most frustrating of all the lines in the Jedi Code.  I believe that this was the downfall of the Jedi Council and the rise of Darth Vader.  Because of their refusal to let Anakin “miss” his mother, it amplified his fear of losing her.  Later, with his love for Padmé burning inside of him, he had to hide his marriage from the Jedi Council.  Rather than acknowledging these feelings and working through them, it is pushed aside under the guise that passion brings a Jedi to recklessness.  In my opinion, it’s a good concept, but horrible in reality.  One of those “easier said than done,” moments.

But passion is essential to the reason for why Luke was able to turn Anakin luke vader rotjback to the Light Side of the Force.  When Obi-Wan and Yoda were telling Luke to destroy Vader, Luke held onto the notion that there was good in him.  His love, or passion, for his father is what tipped the favor once more to the Light Side of the force (or you could say he brought balance to the Force but I now hold that notion in check since I read this Tor article).  The refusal to allow passion caused Anakin to turn to the Dark Side, but Luke’s refusal to accept this rule brought Anakin back to the Light Side.

And a life without passion is not serenity.  It’s boring.

There is no chaos; there is harmony.

First question that rises to my mind: are they referring to inward/emotional chaos or are they talking physical/galactic chaos?  If they are referring to the former, then I’ve already gone into this enough so I won’t barrage you guys again.

If they are talking about chaos within the galaxy, then they are striving for a grand goal, but perhaps they are overreaching a bit.  Sometimes their need to create harmony within the galaxy ended up making them look like the enemies and they were seen as creating more chaos, as was explored in TCW TV series.  The Jedi are seen as guardians of the peace in the galaxy, so this line is understandable.  Also, the more harmony there is in the galaxy, and then I’m sure there is more harmony within the Force, which leads to more harmony within themselves.  Out of all the doctrines in the Code, I find this one to be the best only because I can see the overreaching effects.

There is no death; there is the Force.

This makes sense.  I don’t find much fault with this.  When a Jedi dies, they believe they become one with the Force, so death does not exist.  It’s only aforce ghosts real anakin reunion and as Dumbledore said, “Death is but the next great adventure,” so I feel the Jedi took on the same viewpoint.  Questions only arise when I start thinking too hard about Force ghosts.  According to the Star Wars Encyclopedia, a Force ghost was the “soul and essence of a deceased Force-sensitive who denied the will of the Force upon death, yet was able to interact with the living, albeit not physically.”  You are denying the will of the Force by becoming a Force ghost?  Hmmm, interesting.  A Jedi works with the Force their entire life, why would they all of a sudden decide to go against the grain?  Maybe I’m just too hung up on that once word…

Overall, can you see my frustrations with the Code?  I understand that though they have monk-like attributes, the Jedi were not made to be sitting around on a planet humming and chanting, while they try to find serenity and peace internally.  The problem I have is with the absolutes that are within this code.  When you have absolutes, there are extremes because of the limitations.  When you do not fit into this absolute of “no passion”, “no chaos”, “no ignorance”, etc., then you are setting yourself up for failure.

[Update: I tweeted to Pablo Hidalgo to see if he knew where the first instance of the Jedi Code appears.  He replied telling me that it “first appeared in the first edition RPG rule book by Greg Costikyan, West End Games, 1987.”  Sure enough – he was right.  Page 69.  Amazing how something like the RPG rule book has now made this simple EU Code almost omnipresent in the Star Wars universe.]

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26 thoughts on “The Jedi Code Absolutes

    • I think the Jedi did believe in acknowledging their emotions to a certain extent (we see this with Ahsoka frequently, and Anakin in the movies at times too), but the problem lied in the fact that when trying to master their emotions, they tried to eradicate the emotion.

  1. The Jedi Code is hopelessly flawed. If one attempts to apply it to the universe then all the lines except the last are obviously wrong (the idea that there is “peace”, “harmony”, etc. in a story with “wars” in its title is laughably ignorant). If one attempts to apply it only on a personal level then, as you point out, that person is doomed to fail — no one can escape their emotions and passions, everyone is ignorant of many things, etc.

    The Sith Code is a much better description of both the universe and human nature. The problem is that the Sith interpret it far too selfishly.

    Outside of the Jedi Code, though, the Jedi are actually relativists. I agree that the line “there is no passion, there is serenity” was the systemic flaw in the Jedi Order which led to its downfall. No one could — or should — avoid all passion, and passion can be used for good (as in Luke’s case). But the most specific Jedi failure which led to Anakin’s turn to the dark side was the relativism espoused by the Jedi (and most clearly and notably by Obi-Wan). I wrote about that here: http://thenullspace.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/on-jedi-relativism/.

    Finally, Anakin did bring balance to the Force: via the Great Jedi Purge. It makes no sense that the Jedi thought he would bring balance to the Force by eliminating the Sith. Before the Great Jedi Purge the Force was massively balanced toward the “light side”: the Jedi vastly outnumbered the two Sith, who were in hiding while the Jedi practically ruled the entire Republic. Anakin — as Vader — brought balance to the Force by reducing the Jedi to only a handful of survivors. Of the Jedi survivors, only two Jedi from the Jedi Council were left (Obi-Wan and Yoda) to balance the two Sith Lords.

    • Great, great point about Anakin and the Jedi Purge. I wonder why I never looked at it that way…or maybe I refused to look at it that way? Maybe my brain did not want to accept that a massacre was the way balance of the Force was brought to the galaxy.

      I was actually thinking of writing on the Sith Code next. I just know so little about it and of the Sith that I probably would not be able to give a good analysis on it. I love the Jedi so much more. It’s funny how my relationship has changed over the years with the Jedi. I used to hold them in such high regard and as I’ve grown older, I see how flawed they are, but it only makes their story more interesting to me. At least the Sith are evil and accept their selfish, Dark Side ways. Jedi are hypocrites and liars at times, but in the end, still try to do good and that makes them so appealing and easier for me to relate to.

      I will go read your post right now.

      • If you want to learn about the Sith Code and philosophy I suggest reading the Bane trilogy. Since Bane instituted the Rule of Two — which was in force at the time of the films — his philosophy offers great insight into the mindset of the Sith. The Wookieepedia article on the Sith Code (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Code_of_the_Sith) is also useful. I think the Sith Code is a good description of the universe and human nature, and is a good recipe for improving oneself. The Code itself is also not inherently evil (there’s nothing wrong with gaining strength, breaking one’s chains, etc.) but the Sith take a hyper-selfish interpretation in which each individual Sith must gain strength, power, and victory at all costs — even if that means committing evil against other people and even other Sith. That is the fatal flaw of the Sith — after all, any philosophy in which you can only have two members (one of whom is expected to violently overthrow the other) is pretty badly flawed. I should develop this into a full blog post…

        Before the prequel trilogy came out I actually liked the Jedi overall. After all, they were the underdogs and were fighting the injustice of the Empire. But after the prequel trilogy they were revealed to be insufferably self-righteous, deeply deluded (the misinterpretation of the prophecy on balancing the Force), and hypocritical (Ki-Adi-Mundi not only had a family but was polygamous, Plo Koon used Force Lightning but euphemistically called it “Electric Judgment”, Mace Windu claimed to use Vaapad to “channel his darkness into a weapon of the light”, etc.). And Obi-Wan seriously doubled down on his relativism from the original trilogy. I still like Yoda but I can’t get behind the Jedi Order as a whole with all those flaws. The Sith are definitely evil, but I can respect the fact that they are honest about it. And you have to give Palpatine credit for pulling the wool over the entire Jedi Order so spectacularly.

  2. Grrr….this is not letting me reply to your comment for some reason. Anyway – You should definitely write a post on the Sith Code! You seem to know a lot more about it than I do.

    And I loved the Jedi in the Prequels, but like I said, I liked how you saw how much they were flawed as time went on. I knew about Ki-Adi-Mundi’s multiple wives (puh-leeze…I was so mad when I found that out) and I knew about Plo Koon, but didn’t know about Mace Windu. I’m not the biggest fan of Yoda. He was too regimented in the Prequels. I love how Luke defies him in the OT and takes what Yoda says, but balances it with his passion and emotion. It was this wonderful dichotomy of the old way of the Jedi vs the new way of the Jedi.

    • You probably need to increase the allowed comment nesting to reply to my previous comment. To do so go to your Dashboard –> Settings –> Discussion –> Other Comment Settings and set the number in the drop down box.

      Yoda wasn’t particularly politically savvy but was wise (“do or do not; there is no try”, “that is why you fail”, etc.) and probably came closest to living out the Jedi Code. He was one of the few Jedi Council members who wasn’t a hypocrite, so I can respect that. I agree that Luke was an overall improvement by balancing Yoda’s calm with righteous passion. The final battle between Luke and Vader was quite masterful and an interesting repudiation of the old Jedi Order: Luke defeats Vader with his righteous anger at Vader’s threat to his sister (but doesn’t let it consume him), and Vader finally turns against the Emperor — at the cost of his own life — for the love of his son.

      • Ok, I think I fixed it. Thanks.

        I do agree – he was the closest to living out the Jedi Code and I like how he never directly told Luke that he would have to kill Vader in ROTJ.

        As for Luke, he was so dangerously close to letting the rage consume him in the battle with Vader. I think he knew that, and that’s why he threw away his lightsaber. He knew that if he picked that up again, he might go down the path of the Dark Side. That’s one of the reasons I love that lightsaber battle SO much, inwardly you’re screaming for Luke to stop, to stop with the rage and the continuous attack on Vader, even though you know at the same time, that you don’t want Vader to get the upper hand. If Luke hadn’t cut off Vader’s hand, and seen the mirror in his own hand, would he have stopped? This was a tangent and slightly unrelated, but necessary to think about because you see how close Luke also came to turning to the Dark Side.

        Seriously. Write your post on the Sith Code.

        • I’m definitely going to write a post on the Sith Code, but first I need to write one on the Jedi Code since the Sith Code is to some extent written in direct opposition to the Jedi Code. I will be using some of what we discussed here already, but there are other points I want to make about both Codes. I’ll reply again with links to the posts when they’re up (which hopefully won’t take too long, but I’m a perfectionist…).

  3. Great post and some great discussion. I could really go on and on for quite awhile here about relativism and leaving room for doubt within your belief structure, but that would probably get really heavy, really fast.

    I did just want to touch on something that came up in a conversation. I was talking with couple guys at work, one of whom had read some EU books post-ROTJ and the other who’s experience with the EU was relegated almost entirely to the KOTR games. When we mentioned Luke being married and Leia having children, the latter guy became incredulous. He was amazed that Luke would “corrupt” the Jedi Order so much to allow marriage of Jedi. Myself and the other guy were frankly shocked. First, it seemed to us that knowledge of Mara Jade and the Solo children was common. And second, the Jedi obviously needed to revamp some of these philosophical issues that the Order had grown into over the years.

    I think that Luke’s Order is capable of being sustained more long term than the Old Republic Order with its dualist Code and stringent controls. Its great that Luke leaves room for love and compassion and grief among some of the strongest people in the Galaxy. Its already been pointed out here, but the Jedi Code often put Jedi in situations where it seems that leaning into the Dark Side was there only option. I just hope the writers of the new movies understand that heart that Luke adds to the Jedi, and don’t want to resurrect the Old Order like my friend has in mind. Yet, another thing to worry about the new trilogy.

    Clouded the future is, many seem the twisted paths before us.

    • Nathan! Glad you’re back…feel like I haven’t heard from you in a while 🙂

      I guess the obvious question here is: how much will the new sequel focus on Jedi vs. Sith vs. politics? Will Abrams and Arndt bring in Luke training more Jedi and creating a new Order…or will they leave Luke still as the only Jedi in the galaxy? Maybe he will train Han and Leia’s kids? What role will Han and Leia and potential offspring bring to this new trilogy? Are they going to be more passing on the baton, so to speak, like I predict? If that is the case, will Luke even play a big role?

      I, too, hope that IF they have Luke creating a new Jedi Order (I so want to type that NJO like the books), they will also not bring back the rules and regiments of the Jedi Council/Order of the Prequels.

      We keep talking like Luke, Leia, and Han are returning when it hasn’t even been confirmed yet!

      • Most of my summer has been consumed by nerf herding, which apparently translates to sheep in our galaxy. (scratches cheek) Also, I have been getting scruffy looking. Note to self: must shave after replying. 🙂

        You do make an excellent point. The whole idea of Luke, Leia, and Han returning has been circled so often that it gets easy to assume it will be happening despite no official announcement. From what I’ve heard, Mark Hamill at least is really interested in the possibility.

        In one way or another, Luke almost certainly has to make an appearance. After the events of ROTJ, he’s the last living Jedi. Any Jedi that appear in a new saga would have to be trained by him, right? So, even if Luke doesn’t appear in the film it would be logical that his ideologies would be reflected by his pupils…

        I will add this. You said “IF” Luke creates a new order. I’ve been so hung up on EU stuff, I haven’t even considered the possibility he wouldn’t. But that is possible. What if, after seeing the devastation of the Galactic Civil War and knowing about the Clone Wars before it, Luke doubts the Galaxy is ready for a new army of Force sensitive warriors of any kind? He may even doubt the completeness of his own training. So instead of starting a new order, he goes on a hermitage. The same as the only other two Jedi he has ever known. He may even believe that the Force is more likely to be balanced without any Jedi or Sith meddling with it.

        Thats when a darkness stirs in the Galaxy, and one fearless, young fighter seeks out the only man that knows the secrets to training the Galaxy’s best, new hope…

        That would be a pretty sweet set up for the new saga! It would feel familiar but juxtapose the positions enough to keep another trot through the Hero’s Journey fresh and interesting. Okay, enough with the wild speculation!

  4. I have to comment on this one.

    They way I interpret “There is no emotion, there is peace”, is not that we shouldn’t experience emotion, but that we should have a handle on our emotions. Especially negative ones. It’s OK to get angry at someone, but don’t let it consume you. Keep your emotions in balance, and you’ll have relative peace. You can’t let one emotion dominate your life. I think Obi-Wan embodied this the best. He experiences Love, Loss, Betrayal, Anger, Fear, etc over the course of the series, but he never fully gives himself over to any of them. He clearly loves Satine, yet chose duty (as did she) over her, and when she dies, he is clearly heartbroken and angry at Maul (the animation department did a phenomenal job with the facial expressions I think) but he doesn’t give in because he knows that’s what Maul wants. He experiences those emotions that are considered “dark side” but doesn’t give in to them either.

    “There is no ignorance, there is knowledge,” as a Librarian, this one might have different meaning to me than it does to others. Learning and gaining knowledge is a life long process, any librarian will tell you that. One can never learn everything, and so they should always strive to gain new knowledge and understanding, and be able to admit they don’t know everything. I know a lot weird and seemingly useless information, but I don’t know everything, however when you want to be a reference librarian, that’s a good thing because you seriously never know what a patron will come in and ask for, and it’s always a learning experience. Knowledge is power, so to speak, because it opens doors and opportunities and helps you function in society. But to learn nothing is to remain ignorant of everything around you. You are right thought that Knowledge can corrupt, as can many other things. I guess it comes down to again finding a balance, not being ignorant, but thinking you know everything.

    “There is no passion, there is serenity.” I agree that this is one of those tricky, grey area ones. I don’t believe in the Order’s stance on love. I don’t believe it was Anakins’ love of Padme that caused him to fall, but his fear of loosing her and his inability to accept death as a natural progression of life, aka his attachment to her. I think Love is a good thing, after all if two people never fell in love none of us would be here! And passion and serenity aren’t exactly opposites, like the rest of these. I’m not sure I can analyze this one.

    “There is no chaos, there is harmony.” This is another sort of tricky one. I to can see the overreaching effects of a galaxy at peace and harmony. And chaos is bad on more than one level. Harmony is always something better to strive for, whether that’s in the community at large, or in oneself. Are the Jedi over doing it to strive for harmony galaxy wide? Maybe, but I agree that it’s a good concept.

    I believe Death is absolute, you can’t come back from it. But this is Star Wars we are talking about, not reality. I disagree that Force ghosts are those that haven’t accepted death and being one with the Force. I think they are ONE with the Force. I mean, you make a good point, why would they not accept being one with the Force? I think they just never realized how to do it before. Yoda tells Obi-Wan he has been communing with Qui-Gon and that he has more training for Obi when he’s in hiding. Qui-Gon is the first person, in the movies at any rate, to come back in some form and to go ‘living’, and I use that term loosely, after dying. I view the Force ghosts as what they were all trying achieve, being One with the Force. There is not real death if you live on as a ghost after all.

    • I love all the different interpretations and comments people have on this post and the Jedi Code! Again, and someone made a good point on this – it’s funny that Obi-Wan screams “Only a Sith deals in absolutes!” and yet here we find a code that is ridden with absolutes (hence my tongue in cheek title).

      Your comment in and of itself should be a blog post in response to mine. You should flesh it out even more and write on it!

      You make a good point on Obi-Wan and how he experiences emotions. He is a good example of having emotions, experiencing them, but also mastering them. As Qui-Gon said, “You are much wiser than I am, Obi-Wan. I foresee you will become a great Jedi Knight.” But the point I think I was arguing is that though the Jedi could have felt that, I don’t think it was clear in their training (or in the code). Anakin is the perfect example of someone who is trying to do right but is stifled by this belief that he should not feel attachment, pain, or love.

      I do like your points on death, better than what the Star Wars Encyclopedia said. I was frustrated on their opinion and that it seems like they are denying the Force by becoming a ghost…I didn’t get that impression at all during ROTJ.

  5. I’m writing this at work, and I hope it all shows up since I had to do it in word since I can’t see.

    If my blog was more centered on Star Wars and not libraries and books, I might consider fleshing it out more. Unless you’d allow me to do a guest post?

    I don’t think it was made clear that it was OK to feel certain emotions, or emotions at all, either. At least not to everyone, I think it depends on the Master and their own views and interpretations what the Padawan grows up thinking is OK emotions wise. Anakin is a great example, and I think that part of the issue is that he already was attached to his mother, so he couldn’t understand the concept of no attachment and letting go, plus I’m sure what his mom told him conflicted with Jedi beliefs as well. Which is probably why they wanted to start training at a younger age. Of course, Luke and the others in the NJO proved that you could be become a Jedi at any age, then again Luke changed a few things in the NJO. But I’m getting off track…Anakins’s early years and his previous experiences I think contrasted with some of the Jedi beliefs and it conflicted him, majorly. He had the potential to be an instrument for the Light or Dark side, but his inability to reconcile two belief sets, and Obi-Wan’s inability to realize it sooner I think, caused him to fall. I could go more into what I feel caused him to fall, but I think that would make another post too!

    • You’re correct – nothing was actually made clear in the movies, but I believe a lot of it is implied. Especially in what Yoda says to Anakin over the three Prequel movies. My post started off about how interesting it is that so many Star Wars fans have heard about the Jedi Code, but it was actually never uttered in the movies.

      I think that Anakin is also a perfect example of why they did take children away at such a young age. You make a good point that Shmi probably guided Anakin when he was younger in a way that is different from the Jedi. I never thought that what she taught and what she said probably also was related to why he had so many conflicting emotions.

      If you ever want to guest post – I wouldn’t mind! I’ve already had one person guest post and you can feel free too, if you’d rather post about Star Wars on my blog as opposed to your own. I know Null is thinking of doing a post all about the Sith Code after this discussion, but I think he’s keeping that on his own page. So either private message me on twitter with your email or submit a form under my “connect” page and then we can email back and forth about your post.

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  8. Thank you, thank you so much for getting it, I have felt like such a minority when it came to seeing the flaws of the jedis. It is refreshing to see that other people understand this concept as well and I have even learned a few things from this thank you

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  13. Obi-Wan told Vader that if he were to be struck down he’d become more powerful then ever, and the standard explanation as to how someone becomes a force ghost is that they must become part of the force while maintaining the essence of who they are. This doesn’t sound like denial of the force, but embracing the force, and bending it to the individual’s own will after death. My thinking on this matter is that the Star Wars Encyclopedia is simply wrong on the matter concerning a force ghost. The line “learn the ways ways of the force” is later modified to “become one with the force”. It is fundamentally impossible to become one with something while at the same time denying it.

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