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):
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 because 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 that 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 back 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 a 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.]