Asking for feedback on my article on Jediism

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10 Mar 2022 20:37 - 10 Mar 2022 20:49 #366852 by Yung
Preface: I enjoy writing essays on internet culture and for reasons I touched on in the final paragraphs, I decided to write on Jediism. I was motivated by the fact very few articles I read take it seriously or attempt to explain it academically.

I created an account to get feedback from the community I am writing about. I welcome all feedback and criticism, be it grammar or if you believe something is a disingenuous interpretation of Jediism.

I am not a professional theologist or anything of the sort, I'm just interested in the topic. So please understand the criticism is merely an opinion subject to change.

I have also omitted most footnotes, references and other details due to my unfamiliarity with the forum's text editor. I miss old forums like this, but man I did not miss the HTML editor. So what footnotes I added are just in smaller text.







Jediism: The real-life Star Wars religion

An in-depth comprehensive analysis

A short time ago in this very galaxy, a man envisioned an epic space-opera that would birth arguably the most iconic movie franchise of all time. The inspirational ingredients mixed inside the billion-dollar pressure pot seem endless. From the Western genre and classic Samurai films to the real WWI dogfights, from the ancient myths of King Arthur to contemporary sci-fi world-building, George Lucas created a universe incredibly familiar in its uniqueness and diversity. Nevertheless, not even Lucas could have predicted he would indirectly advent an entirely new religion and life philosophy.


What is Jediism?

“Jediism is the religion of those who regard their Jedi practice as a religious vocation. Jedi observe a metaphysical entity called the Force and often practice meditation.”


The real-world Jedi doctrine was inspired by the teachings and principles of the fictional Jedi depicted in Star Wars media, yet its devotees do not worship the fiction itself; they do not adulate Yoda or George Lucas. It is not a parody religion, a role-playing game, or a mad schizophrenic cult of a few very devoted fans. In actuality, this is one of the largest alternative faiths or new religious movements. In contrast to traditional religions of the past, it exists for the most part on websites and online forums.

Jediism essentially emulates the fictional Jedi and distills their philosophy to what can be applicable. What remains is a highly fluid composite of what inspired the fictional Jedi in the first place: Samurai Bushido, Shaolin Monks, Taoism, Shamanism, Hindu mythology, Shintō, Knights Templar, Sufism, and Buddhism, among others. Free from the constraints of dogmas and precepts that inevitably form as an organization ages, this nigh-spontaneous religion keeps the archetypal proto-discipline it has filtered through fiction exceptionally pure and vague. There are tenets and maxims, all colored with Star Wars terminology and aesthetics, yet there is a strong emphasis on individual practice, interpretation, and gnosis.

Because Jediism is undogmatic and open-minded it is even possible to practice a traditional faith simultaneously since the metaphysics and philosophy of the Force are vague and fluid enough to allow it. Equally as important, this is a consequence of the current spiritual context, often referred to as New Age, which has rendered the divine, mystic, and supernatural shapeless and instead highly abstract and subjective. For example, God is no longer perceived as a vengeful bearded elder in the sky, but instead, He is Love, the Tao, Will, or perhaps, the Force. Likewise, a modern pagan may pick and choose to worship gods from different pantheons altogether. Our post-modern globalized world has exponentially accelerated the natural, gradual merging and shifting of cultures as local traditions dwindle. At the same time, through the internet, the engine for this globalization, new religions emerge from such unexpected sources as entertainment. Jediism is not an isolated case. Matrixism or “The Path of the One,” inspired by the Matrix, is another example.


Why Star Wars?

A typical misconception is that Star Wars is science fiction when in actuality it is science fantasy. It seems like a small detail, yet it is massive to understand the phenomenon this essay aims to analyze. A very usual discussion topic that can arise between fans is “Star Trek versus Star Wars.” Besides similar names, the other obvious point of comparison is the setting. Both take place in the usual outer space environment with faster-than-light spaceships, droids, alien races, exotic planets, laser guns, and the like. Nonetheless, the science and technology in Star Wars serves only as of the aesthetic backdrop, while in Star Trek it is the essence of its stories. Star Wars, unlike Trek, does not attempt to explain in depth the physics behind faster than light travel or the existential philosophy of C3-PO’s sentience or lack thereof. (In the ever-expanding and diverse source material such topics have been covered, but it is the exception, not the norm.)

“Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology."

-Isaac Asimov

This genre clarification is significant because once we see beyond what is new and unprecedented we can focus on what remains unchanged. Replace starships with sailing ships, lightsabers with sacred swords, the vast galaxy with an Odyssean Aegean sea, aliens with fantastical creatures, the space wizards with regular wizards, and the world of ancient Greek myths is not so different from Star Wars. It is in the disguise of deflector shields and hyperdrives that the true essence of Star Wars is hidden: a classic Hero’s Journey. More specifically, a journey into spiritual knighthood, which is what Jediism is ultimately about.


The Force

As the Jedi are a fantasy amalgamation of history's disciplined and their respective discipline, the Force is an archetypal recreation of the spirituality of these disciplines. For example, the Jedi are parts Christian monk and parts Zen masters, thus the Force reflects the respective spirituality in a fantastical union. In the universe of Star Wars, the Force could be described in a simplified manner as eastern Taoist dualism (Yin and Yang as the Light Side and Dark Side) filtered through a traditional western morality of good and evil. In this sense, the Force is similar to the New Age take on the Christian God, one that is more subtle and passive, yet still favors “good.”

In essence, the Force is post-modern spirituality condensed into a singular influence. As such, it is the return of an ancient, impersonal impression of nature, life, and existence itself. More specifically, the mystery of life’s drive to fight entropy. The closest concept I can think of is Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone, though for most must seem completely unrelated. Regardless, while intellectually complex, the Force is extremely simple to grasp in a purely spiritual and emotional frame.

“What is the Force?

Other philosophies sometimes call this energy or make it synonymous to one’s consciousness. Since the beginning of time and space, it is believed that the Force existed as an integral component that shaped the origin of reality. In Jediism, there are two separate states in which the Force states – the Personal Force and the Living Force.

The Personal Force is the person’s life energy and consciousness flowing inside of him. It can be sometimes called the soul or the spirit – the culmination of all of the person’s thoughts and experiences, his own consciousness and driving force. On the other hand, the Living Force refers to the universal energy existing throughout existence.

The real Jedi believes in both the Personal and Living Force as intertwined and interacting energy. They are the same and different in that each has separated wills. In Jediism, the Jedi’s responsibility is to be in line with the unified Force and be guided with this benevolent entity with the purpose of helping the betterment of everyone in existence.”


As a side note, the prophecy of the One is in various regards an allegory for Jesus Christ. Anakin Skywalker was fathered by the Force itself, the Holy Spirit. In actuality, Anakin embodies different myths through the prequels: baby Jesus in The Phantom Menace (Episode I), Adam biting the forbidden apple (Padme being both Eve and the apple) in Episode II, and if the Jedi Council represents the Twelve Apostles, could Anakin instead now play the part of Judas in Revenge of the Sith (Episode III), betraying the Jedi persuaded by Darth Sidious, Satan? Or perhaps Anakin is Christ and Darth Vader is the anti-Christ, his entire being symbolizing balance in the force. Maybe I am looking too deep into it, but it is interesting.



The path to becoming a Jedi

How can one even become a Jedi? Like Christianity, one could be a Protestant or be involved in the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is the only requirement to be Christian. Likewise, the first step to becoming a Jedi is to believe in the Force as your guide and be willing to submit to its will the same way you would submit to His will. However, being a Jedi in this analogy is more akin to being a priest than any regular follower of Christ.

Furthermore, there are not as many different routes as I initially inferred when I compared it with Christianity. Not only because physical locations are practically non-existent, but online forums are also limited, neglected, and Web 1.0 antiquated. The most popular websites are: The Temple of the Jedi Order (TotJO), the Jedi Church, and Become the Force, among others, not counting social media, which have become neglected as well except for a few Facebook groups. The TotJO seems to be the most complete and active Jediism web forum with any organization or activity. For example, The Jedi Church dismisses any hierarchy, contrasting the TotJO's ranking program to knighthood. Some of these groups offer wedding services, too; how many remain active I do not know, nor how it makes sense considering an important plot point for the Jedi marriage or forming such attachments is forbidden. I suppose it is yet another point where fiction and reality part ways.

In fine, it seems the only meaningful way to become a Jedi is through the TotJO. Unlike the fictional Padawan (Jedi’s apprentices), you will experience no physical trials. The initiate program (IP) is entirely academic, consisting of reading assignments and research that culminates in a series of essays that make up your IP Journal. (In fairness, I presume a lot of the fictional apprentice’s time off-screen is either studying the Jedi archives or meditating.) Once that is completed, a Jedi Knight will make you his or her apprentice if they resonate with your IP Journal. I cannot say exactly what apprenticeship entails, except that it requires more journaling (this time working closely with a master), and it finally concludes with an oath pledging to the code, officially becoming a Jedi Knight.


What being a Jedi means

You have been granted the rank of master. Hopefully, through your initiation and apprenticeship, you have improved your life. At least in the emotional, spiritual, and disciplinary areas. Nevertheless, there is no obvious immediate responsibility they must uphold. If this world was more similar to Star Wars, then they would be behind an organization like the United Nations, actively keeping the peace and assisting in international cooperation. Yet I remind you real Jedi are more like priests than super Shaolin monks who are also super cops, but even then, priests of a relatively tiny community online, and therefore have no direct influence over the world outside of their religion.

Hence, Jediism is all about the indirect influence we have on each other. Because they possess no lightsaber or Force abilities, real Jedi rely on nothing but empathy and kindness. Usually, they will not be able to easily end conflict, but they can focus on avoiding it or aiding those hurt in the aftermath. And to do so, they develop a keen sense of interpersonal awareness through meditation and reflection. Therefore Jediism is ultimately a path of Individuation through introspective and mythical contemplation. Much of this is done through shadow work, facing the dark side in each of us, to express light in every simple daily act.

I could encapsulate their role in society as practically identical to Buddhists and similar collectives. Their lifestyles culminate in generosity and selflessness, but it is rooted in non-violence and peace, so it is unlikely they will be found in the front lines constantly amid the chaos. According to (no longer canon) Star Wars lore, one can divide the Jedi in the following schools of thought:

  • Jedi Consular (or Seer) are primary scholars and diplomats who, while skilled in battle, rarely enter combat and prefer to study the Force.
  • Jedi Guardians focus on martial skills and engage in battle much often.
  • And finally, Jedi Sentinels, who seek a balance between these two.

I would argue that all real Jedi are Consular since even if some are very proficient in martial arts, marksmanship, or white arms, they are still non-powered humans and most likely not part of any law enforcement agency.


Addendum: The Sith

The Jedi follow the Light Side of the Force and stand for balance, justice, and peace. Their discipline and natural affinity for the Force allow them to become a vehicle for its universal will. On the other hand, the Sith follow the Dark Side and stand for oneself; embracing passion, selfishness, and freedom. They do not yield to the Force like the Jedi but rather wield and bend it to their own individual will. In this respect, the Jedi are practically Buddhist monks space wizards, while the Sith are Satanists Nitzchean space wizards. There cannot be light without shadow, so naturally, real-life Sith followers have emerged on the internet (as a few now abandoned Facebook groups.)

Nonetheless, from a certain point of view, real life is the inverse of the Star Wars universe. The Jedi, whose discipline is selflessness, are unpopular and unknown, while the Sith, those who care about power and material goods, have risen to the top of society. Does Jeff Bezos’ empire not parallel Emperor Palpatine’s? Life seems comparatively anticlimactic when those who follow after the fictional Jedi, the heroes in the story, do not possess authority or power. However, Jediism is not about blowing up Bezos’ factory using X-wings, but about bettering the world one small act at a time.


Jediism validity as a religion

When confronted with the fact Jediism is based on a work of fiction, one common counterargument is that all religions are based on fictional narratives, at least to an extent. However, can Star Wars be compared to such ancient sacred texts and stories as the Bible, the Quran, the Vedas? At this moment, this essay turns from an objective report to an opinion, and based on the wording of my last question you can probably infer that my opinion is that no, they are not comparable.

Jediism is a simulacrum of religious organization, drawing not from life directly but from a simulation of it, Star Wars. The galaxy far, far away is grand, grander than most fictional worlds, yet it still falls short to the infinity of experienced reality. When they take from Star Wars what applies to this universe, they are not even retreading millennia of wisdom from our ancestors. They are narrowing and diffracting the light of knowledge through one small lens that is George Lucas’ morality and more currently mere corporate politics. The focus of this religion expands once again to encompass the real life of the real-world Jedi practitioner, yet it is subpar to going to the source directly. Why meditate on the Jedi code when you can access all of the Buddha’s teachings?

Our consumerist society has made us exceptionally passive, to the point where the entertainment we consume becomes more real than our real life. This phenomenon is not the entirety of why Jediism exists, but I attribute partial causation. Recall that Jediism is not unique in being an explicit religion based on franchise media, yet the implicit, unconscious worship of media itself has become commonplace. I believe it to be what drew most Jedi in the first place.

In the United States, the Temple of the Jedi Order was registered in Texas in 2005 and granted IRS tax exemption in 2015. However, it was different for the UK. In December 2016, the Charity Commission for England and Wales rejected an application to grant charitable organization status to The Temple of the Jedi Order, ruling that the group did not "promote moral or ethical improvement" for charity law purposes:

Jediism is open to spiritual awareness but can be followed as a secular belief system. This meant Jediism lacked the necessary spiritual or non-secular element. The Temple of the Jedi Order is an entirely web-based community where “anyone [can] explore non-denominational spirituality.” The Commission said this demonstrated Jediism is a lifestyle choice rather than a religion.
The Jedi Order allows individuals to pursue Jediism in many different ways. The Commission said that each individual’s ability to develop themselves within a loose framework and follow an individual way of life meant that the belief system of the Jedi was not sufficiently cogent or cohesive.
Finally, the Commission said that although Jediism draws on moral and ethical frameworks from many accepted religions, the lack of structure and coherence means it cannot promote practices which provide moral and ethical value or improvement for the benefit of the public.



Conclusion

Please do not confuse my criticism for disdain or disapproval, let alone a judgment of its legitimacy. I am not trying to persuade or dissuade you from becoming a Jedi. I would not have written this exposition slash discourse if I had not considered it myself. I first came across Jediism a decade ago as a youngling. What 12-year-old would not want to become a Jedi? But as it turns out, writing a 500-word essay on Joseph Campbell is easy to dissuade that same young boy pretty quickly. Only recently did it return to my attention, as I scoured the web in search of alternative spiritual knowledge. I am hungry for wise mentorship, and the idea of a sage master, Jedi or not, is very appealing. But it would be disingenuous to partake in a religion I do not entirely resonate with. I also dislike that practically all social interaction takes place online.

However, in closing, I must acknowledge is that Jediism is a net positive for the world. Perhaps I believe they would gain more from studying Zen masters than Knights of the Old Republic. Nonetheless, I can stop focusing on how they fail to meet my ideal of spirituality and instead think of how they have exceeded my presumptions. Thousands of fans heavily invested in Star Wars who would otherwise merely consume the media, actually engage in examining deeper themes, meditate, get into physical fitness or lightsaber practice, and invest time into spiritual reflection and retrospection.

And that is good.



Last edit: 10 Mar 2022 20:49 by Yung.

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10 Mar 2022 20:46 - 10 Mar 2022 20:47 #366853 by Edan
I confess to being a bit confused. How much time have you spent in the Jedi community? Your article reads to me a mish mash of the fiction and the reality. While yes, jediism is inspired in part by star wars, that's where much is left at the door.

Edit, by the way I know of a few good articles. If you have not read any I can provide you with the details.

Second edit, the sith are not equal to Satanists. I say that as the latter.

QUESTION YOUR APATHY
Last edit: 10 Mar 2022 20:47 by Edan.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Alethea Thompson

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10 Mar 2022 21:01 #366854 by Yung
I can understand your confusion. I wrote this with a general audience in mind that does not know anything about Star Wars beyond pew pew pew and pshzzzew, fwoom, fwoom, tchzzt.

So I believe explaining the fiction important to understand the religion. Though maybe I should make the distinction clearer.

Thanks.

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10 Mar 2022 21:18 - 10 Mar 2022 21:23 #366855 by River
I also had trouble distinguishing when you were talking about the fiction from when you were talking about Jedi Realism. To the point where I can't offer much critique because I'm not sure what's what

One note though, under "What being a Jedi means" you said:
"You have been granted the rank of master. Hopefully, through your initiation and apprenticeship, you have improved your life."

Where it's placed in the article seems to indicate that Master is the rank after apprentice, but we make a definite distinction between a knight (the next rank after apprentice), a senior knight, and finally a master. If you were talking about the fiction there, though, then I'm not sure what their structure was. I'm not very into Star Wars.
Last edit: 10 Mar 2022 21:23 by River.

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10 Mar 2022 22:23 #366857 by Alethea Thompson
Much like River, I found it difficult to determine where you’re speaking of the fiction and real world stuff. So I can’t speak to much. I do have 2 critiques-

1) The Force as an entity- language is tricky, it may be worth talking more with members here to see if “entity” would be an acceptable universal term.

2) I would get rid of the Sith portion altogether. Jediism should be able to stand on its own. And without exposure to real life Sith, it would be disrespectful to speak on their behalf.

Gather at the River,
Setanaoko Oceana

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10 Mar 2022 22:48 #366858 by Edan
I agree with Alethea.

Your essay is missing knowledge that you would gain from speaking to people here, like what apprenticeships are like, and how members consider the force. I recommend spending time speaking to the members, perhaps in the discord as well.

QUESTION YOUR APATHY
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10 Mar 2022 23:34 #366859 by Carlos.Martinez3
As Pastor of the Temple, I would gladly enjoy hearing from you any day friend. Feel free to reach out any time to me or to any Knight or Clergy member and sit a spell, take your shoes off - even scratch your head or feet a bit and see what ya find. Discord is always avalible as well and I think there is some one on almost always if you ever need to chat or would like to. Happy seeking and May the Force be with you.

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20 Mar 2022 23:56 #367063 by Yung
I have published the article. Thank you everyone, your feedback has been most useful.

(Both are practically the same)

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