The Service of Spiritual Observance

26 Apr 2017 03:59 #281958 by J. K. Barger
Here is a piece I write a while back- independent of the current state of the Clergy. I have shared this with a few of you, and figured it might be suitable to share further, especially in light of of the next Clerical Meeting which I may not be able to attend. Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions or comments, or simply reply to the post. Hopefully it will generate some discussion this week and give us all something to chew on before we get down to business :P

b]“Content is King, but context is Key.”[/b]

I once came across a most sober definition of a Jedi on Wikipedia where it defined the Jedi as “... a noble order of protectors unified by their belief and observance of the Force.” I don’t know who wrote it and it has long since been deleted, only to be found now in my memory and a few Islamic syncretism sites. Although not still in print, this concisely simple definition has guided my training and has held true against just about- if not- all my other studies.

In my clerical studies, I have noticed an absence of an explicit overarching narrative- however simple or complex one would envision- that informs the aims and duties/functions of the Temple, its students (Knights), its appendant bodies (the clergy and the degree scheme), and their role in the post/meta-modern age. Having contemplated this for sometime, I put forth my understanding of this (as composed of three features) in accordance with this simple definition of what a Jedi is and how they inform the role of the Temple and its members, but most especially the Clergy.

The Clergy holds a special place in many spiritual traditions, and I sense that our tradition is no different. As the lynchpin to a “regular Jedi observance”, the clergy not only guides training standards and programs, but also lends its spiritual presence and a sense of cogency to the Temple as an institution. To this effect, I hope I can add something to the clerical dialogue that has been going on lately.

The purpose of religious training or spiritual observances is best appreciated within its given narrative- that mystical or practical context that gives meaning to actions, especially symbolic actions. But what about Jediism, with its discourse of “feeling the Force?” How does this guide a Jedi’s action- (their path)- and what role does the the Temple/Clergy play in supporting this process?

Certainly, individuals as much as institutions have their own ways to observe this “feeling”, so how does one find a balance between the two? The role of the clergy provides an answer to this; by maintaining and guiding a sense of regularity in both our individual and collective paths, the clergy fosters a spiritual environment for authentic and consistent training, or observance, to take place. By keeping a regular observance, Jedi centralize their conscious experience and suffuse their awareness with the Force. I hold that this idea is covalent with the definition of meditation provided to me by my own teacher- that is, “...movement towards the Center.” This exploration attempts to make sense of the spirit of Jedi observance, especially that of the Order’s favored modality, meditation, and to promote its regular use by the clergy to the greater Community.

There are many presuppositions about the role of a clergy within Jediism- what do they “do” and how are they relevant to each Jedi’s path? I assert that the disparity between observances and training is the source of these presumptions and the instability in the Clerical Program and that if we are to promote it as a path dedicated to a higher spirituality, we must clarify and empower the clerical capacity to accommodate its role in supporting personal as well as communal observance. With the variety of features to work with, it is the Clergy’s responsibility to take stock of certain features and discern what forms are designed to promote a “higher” spirituality, while maintaining integrity to the Force. To begin the “stocktaking” process, it is necessary to identify a series of core features that when present, provide/fulfill the basic criteria for a Jedi “observance”.

Observing the Jedi Code and the Clergy
Speaking on the aims spiritual/religious institutions, authorities rarely function as repositories of philosophy or metaphysics but instead are typically concerned with prayers, seasonal celebrations, marriages, or even funerary rites. This historical/temporal function of the clergy has been to serve the communal and individual needs or beliefs of its community- and the key to success for the clergy (and Temple as a whole) rests upon those observants it serves. Abandoning the narratives of yore, the core precepts of the Jedi Code provide a solid foundation for the the central focus of observance for both communities and individuals- that of the Force.

In the Jedi Path, Grandmaster Coven describes the Jedi Code as the “encapsulation of our our relationship to the Force.” With the Force assuming the prime motivation for what can be arguably called a “higher spirituality”, philosophies, rituals, and ceremonies are opened up to reinterpretation and reapplication in places where traditional faiths have fallen short. By maintaining the Jedi Code, the clergy become holders of a spiritual space around which the community as individuals and groups can center themselves along/upon the shared Path.

Function of Observance: Movement towards the Center
Since the origins of ritual or symbolic behavior-or, the observance of spiritual belief is obscure enough to prevent any useful working or exploratory definition, it is often spoken of in regards to its functional capacity. While simply heuristic, this sociological approach is also the same approach taken here: what function does Jedi observance serve for individuals as well as their communities? I believe it is an extension of the function of meditation: the actualization of peace and light through movement towards the Force.

The most important function of observance is the sense of equilibrium and harmony produced within the observant(s) as well as the harmony of the Community (be that Community this online one, our offline lives, or the world at large). This reflects the perennial and mystical maxim of ‘what is within is also without’, by relating external order with internal experience. As long as the harmony between the two is upheld, then changes in (ceremonial) forms are allowed although such changes and adaptations are still debated among the ritualist and anti-ritualist camps within the community. Regardless of orientation, it must be borne in mind that from the perspective of the observant, the power of observance is directly connected to the integrity, expression, and preservation of their own motility. This underscores further the point made above: the effectiveness of the rites stems from inner virtue rather than external form. The function or aim of meditation is exactly the same- experiencing harmony as movement towards the center- and it is in the movement (this pattern or oscillation) that the Force is recognized in the first place.

Further, in a general spiritual context, harmony and its attainment are associated with openness and the general bounty that comes from the unimpeded flow of the Force. When the Force encounters parts of our experience that are not ‘open’, it trickles, eddies, and foments into a stagnation that is the root of the Darkside. When our self-expression is blocked and our motility stifled, shadows of miscommunication dance within, and if left unaddressed, can cause serious pain and suffering. Through a committed practice or regular observance of meditation, we can explore the wisdom of the Code as it moves into our lives with an open-centeredness, characteristic of the Force. Thus, observance shifts to a new narrative based on a perennial or “higher” spirituality: the regular observance of meditation praxis as a practical method to bring awareness (of the Force) to these shadows and preventing them from creating greater blockages in our lives.

The Jedi Code and Meditation
To appreciate this shift, it is necessary to understand how meditation is viewed in the Jedi mythos. The prime feature of this shift, the Jedi Code is the the central informant to Jedi meditation, the core of Jedi Path/Training. Here it not just a personal praxis, but a communal observance. To this effect, meditative training and its harmonious effects are not simply for personal development, but for civic engagement and societal upliftment. From the lore of each Temple and Academy it is evident that even though Jedi meditation or its technique are rarely comprehensively or comparatively spoken to, we are certainly aware of it and its significance for Force instruction.

It is well known that harmony or concordance with the momentum of the universe in general is the (prime) motivation for feeling the Force. This emphasis is inherited from power ideologies (that if/ and can be applied) laterally to the self as and the actualization of one’s motility. A practical concern even for Jedi, the power or motility of self and the welfare of society rest on an apparent harmony of the living energy/dichotomy of the universe, an optimum creative tension. The formal observance of this harmony serves as a reminder of a universal equilibrium that is intricately connected to our sense of agency, motility, or free-will as well as the cultivation of an enlightened community and social order, a concern directly related to the clergy and the Temple.

To be specific, harmony and its observance are modeled upon the natural movement or flow between the internal and the external. Only when one has properly understood this Force- this momentum within that ha s been present since the Beginning- can harmony and observance be properly understood; otherwise harmony becomes relative and observance unheeded, resulting chaos, nescience, and ultimately, suffering. Hence the need to understand the Force (this relationship) experientially through meditation. By committing ourselves to the observation of this flow, we make the greatest offering possible by opening ourselves to the concordance between the two found in our own being. Hence, we not only uphold but promote the flow of the Force from the center of our own being. In observing this most fundamental pattern that we come to influence the subtle (and gross) energies that permeate the universe.

The section “Regulations of the Path’’ is the center of this remotivation. In this section, I describe the essence of “observance” by pointing out what I have found as consistent features of a Jedi’s spiritual practice. The cornerstone of a clerical reform, I assert that regular (communal) observances (as maintained by the clergy) support (personal) training and practice. Even if this approach is not adopted, I hope that by exploring the Jedi orientation toward observances and ritual, a practical description of the theoretical basis for such a program is provided to encourage the further dialogue about Jedi spiritual and religious observances, most especially the art of meditation (as the embodiment of the J Code).

Aim of the Regulations
While considerable attention has been devoted to meditation as the central practice of the Jedi, it must be noted that the explicit articulation of Jedi training programs and the clerical implications have been less than evident. By providing the above rationale for official (clerical) observances and functions, the Force, the Code, and Meditation can be promoted as a consistent set of standards that instill a degree of regularity in Jedi Training proper. While they need not be replicated verbatim, I think a cursory examination of their general character will provide the basis for a relevant application by clergy, higher quality programs/trainings, and the community in general.

In outlining a regular observance, it is possible to see how it is conducive to individual or communal training and how it can be applied to the Jedi Community and clergy- and this is where lies its greatest value. While there are a variety of Jedi Codes (or Compasses), meditations, and theoretical writings or lore, there are few explicit pieces detailing a consistent rationale between individual and communal observance. Thus, I push for the enhancement our understanding and practice by making the Jedi Code the explicit drive for our implicit rationale.

Proposed ‘‘Regulations of the Path’’

The emphasis of an “observance of the Force” lay in the belief in a/n (often symbolic) universal harmony that pervades our living reality. For a Jedi, the universe is responsive to human behavior and agency, which gives observance a practical meaning; that is, observance aims to align human activity in a practical way that parallels the natural order of the universe, or the Force. More than a simple reflection of this order, our actions become a positive affirmation of the natural benevolence of the world we live in. Thus, personal agency and human welfare (and by extension, the harmony of our world), are directly related to our observance and connection (or strength of our observance), and this depiction of a universe alive with potential that is susceptible to human effort/energy is naturally sympathetic to a Force-centered worldview.

This natural semblance occurs because all things share a common root in the Force- the primal provision of all reality. As such, it is the first regular feature of Jedi observance. The second feature is the Jedi Code which describes our relationship to the Force, while the third feature describes the the actualization of this relationship. Observance is maintained through these regular provisions. This is not a comprehensive description but a demonstration of how each item contributes to the dual aim of personal spiritual welfare and social/civic service whose details can be advanced by specific practice lineages or individuals on their own terms.

• The first provision is for the Force. The perennial font of mystery, the source of the unceasing momentum of the universe, the Force is the common denominator of the entire spiritual spectrum. The light of this great point of convergence radiates with all paths. It could be said that entrance into the Order is reserved for those committed to a life of higher spirituality, that is, those who maintain a belief in the Force. This unique belief, in short, is a commitment to the highest or most subtle virtue, and that it is virtue shared by all. For those who who seek this path of Light, access is granted to by the next standard, the Jedi Code.

• The second provision is for the Jedi Code. It is a formal statement of belief- the cornerstone of the Jedi Order. While there are different versions of it, they share a common spirit- to nourish the living feeling of the Force and our universal connection with reality. Hence when a student is inducted into the legendary Order, they first receive the Code (as a set of precepts), which is followed later on by the Vow of Knighthood. Observing the precepts is not presented as an option, but as concomitant with the responsibility of maintaining regular and proper observance of the Light of the Force and does not simply cease when Knighthood is marked- it is the heart of the Path from beginning to end. This too attests the unique perspective of the Jedi- the invigoration of ethical and spiritual discipline by a rigorous interpretation of the Code. Without abandoning this spirit of self-discipline, the Jedi move towards a contemporary reexamination of spirituality rather than eliminating traditional forms of organized religion and its power to induce introspection and inner transformation.

• The third provision is study and meditation, with particular focus on the Jedi Code. Study encompasses the vast body of spiritual literature and lore of the world. To this end, is a Jedi’s regimen, consisting of Temple activities and the personal praxes of students. Again, this routine is tied directly to periods of meditation and contemplation, with regimens determined by general teaching rather than any particular formulation of it. The emphasis on the Code is not intended as a narrow explication, but as a focal point of the distilled essence of the world’s teachings; describing the Force and our relationship to it, the meditating with the Code accords with the instructions of the ancients to enrich our lives with their teachings. The fact that the meditation remains consistent in a Jedi’s path rather than, say, some doctrinal nexus further attests to the unique orientation of Jediism. Equipped with a pattern to inform a Jedi throughout their training, the provision for the meditation helps ensure an environment in which peace and justice can flourish, both within and without the Temple. The result of this is none other than the esteemed “higher spirituality”, the living treasure of self-sovereignty and the divine panacea of the universe, the Force.

Becoming a Jedi is no different than becoming a father, mother, brother, sister, or friend. By will alone, a Jedi masters the ways of their Path; whether it's through something as formal as ceremonies or something as simple as paying more attention to the clarity of our experiences. With a nod to such difference, I offer these three ideas as basics to the formal training and individual practices of students learning the ways of the Force in their personal as well as professional paths. The sole distinguishing characteristic of a Jedi is simply thus: to serve the Light of the Force. Against the objection that Jedi need not enjoy such observances in such a spirit, I simply reply that the observance of the Force is exceedingly simple and with such a freedom of observance, when can one say they are truly not following the Path?

May the Force be with you...

The Force is with you, always.
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