By the time one reaches the Master rank in the Temple of the Jedi Order, it is unlikely that one remembers.
very well what one said in the Introduce Yourself thread nor maybe even who was present at one’s
knighting ceremony. Although it does not take a lifetime as in the fictional Jedi Order to live through
training from youngling to Master, here in our own Order, it is still a considerable accomplishment which
takes time, training and a lot of learning (with emphasis on the learning). I could go even further to say
that what has been shown to us as “Jedi training” in the Star Wars saga could not have even begun to
illustrate the comprehensiveness of the training which any individual fictional Jedi would have had to
receive to even qualify as a padawan in that universe. They knew about philosophy and spirituality as
well as how to pilot spacecraft and repair hyperdrive motivators. I barely know how my toaster works...
They would have had a hell of a lot more challenging lessons than the TotJO degree intensity to bitch
As I’ve said in relation to the necessity of our Degree programmes, no one can be a very good servant of
Peace and Justice in the World if one is not familiar beyond consumer culture media propaganda of
anything about Peace, Justice or the World. For all of you who have absolutely hated your high school or
college geography or history courses, imagine if you had had to learn about an entire galaxy of
civilizations’ histories, biologies and customs from the age of about three on... without which knowledge
one wouldn’t stand a sliver of a chance to become a Jedi Master. That, alongside intense physical and
mental conditioning, would put just about any one of us children of Western individualist mass culture out
of the running.
Yet, even with the relative ease of achieving Master rank – which should beyond all other consideration
imply some mastery of self and environment – in the TotJO, it is not “easy”. And there is one difficulty in
upholding the Master rank that is rarely thought about before one has been recognised as Master. As it
were, it is only a problem for those having already attained the rank of Master, with only some weak
foreshadowing prior to its onset. That is the “what now ?” complex.
It is unclear as to how much influence the image of the Star Wars Jedi still has for us. The last trilogy
having been catastrophic for the myth value and two generations of force-believers having gotten served
at the end the canonic nutrition equivalent of a dinner of Pringles and Mountain Dew, our favourite
iconography probably needs injections of other heroic images to keep its momentum up. Thus, probably
now more than ever, the creative philosophical foundations (Zen & Tao, but also Existentialism &
Phenomenology) of the Jedi Way would need to be held up as the basis of our movement more than what
is regarded as canon in Star Wars. This isn’t really such a bad thing, as even Star Wars is on the spiritual
level only about what Mother Goose is for the pedagogical.
The “what now ?” complex is insidious. Our ranked members here have worked for how they are
recognised. Naturally, none of us are perfect and from time to time we exhibit some very un-masterly
behaviour. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that the un-masterly behaviour begins far out in
front of its exhibition. That is, what we think of ourselves and our own worth – what we think we know,
how much we think we know, – and worse – what we think others don’t know and deserve – have already
lost the masterful edge of “charity”. Any time we are condescending to another, think we understand
another person or group and what their motives are, any time we make a judgement about others or feel
that what we do is deserving of universal respect, then we have already lost our mastery. Without mastery
to undergird it, what is the title of Master other than a name tag ornament ?
The “what now ?” complex also shows up as boredom. Throughout our tenure in the Jedi Temple, we
grow accustomed to how others, from new guests and members on up through seasoned regulars, treat us
with regard to our TotJO rank. We get used to the congratulations and the ceremonies and the little parties
for which we hold upon these special occasions when we have been able to complete a rank or an
ordination level. And, just like anything else that pokes us in our reward/compensation area, we take a
dopamine bubble bath for as long as it lasts (a few hours or a day or two). It is often gamifyed, and the
rewards of such are only going to be as long-lasting as those of ‘levellintg-up’ in a video game. Those
fireworks fade and we still have to clean up the hall after the party.
People have asked me before “what now ?” after having been bestowed the title of Master. It can be like
looking out over a desert one has to cross, or into the loneliness of intergalactic space, when there aren’t
any more golden rings left to reach for, no other rank bars to collect, not any other lessons which ‘have to
be done for __x__’ . A couple of seasons after being bestowed the rank, the motivation can flatline. Some
try to suck more out of the ego-feast by puffing themselves up as super-TM, but even that doesn’t last past
the second AWOL apprentice and turns into a diet of carrion. As such, the question “now what ?” is rarely
out-of-the-blue ; it can be easily anticipated. And, just as what leads one to pose it is as regularly as
heartbeat and respiration, so is my answer to the question :
“Live up to the title, continue to work towards mastery.”
...because, and I’ll stake my reputation upon it, no one has ever been a Master on the day they received
the title. I discovered my own promotion just logging into the Temple after a lunch break and it took me
five solid minutes to get my head around who they were talking about. It was gratifying, but the question
I had to ask myself over and over and over : what had I mastered ? Certainly, I have learnt a few things
over the decades, certainly I can write pretty well (in a couple of languages), but do I still desire, do I still
get really cross with things for not going my way, do I still get lustful, vengeful, covetous ? The answer to
all of those was that day several years ago and remains yet today : yes, we all do !
But my training and my education have made it a lot easier to get through the mischief of my Dark Side
without sowing much havoc or emotional disturbance to my community. It makes pride a lot easier to
swallow and turns guilt into only a disturbing rash – neither are crippling.
Mastery is paradox : the more one thinks one has it, the less masterful one is. It shares its contradictions
with other like notions such as humility and wisdom. The Master must be a careful listener – beyond just
listening to people to ‘look like’ a good listener. The Master practises the principle of “charity” –
attributing to the behaviours and expressions of others the most generous, well-intentioned interpretation
possible. The Master refrains from defending a Justice s/he does not understand, and is willing to
contemplate theories of Justice before pouncing, lightsabre in hand, into a confusion of Injustice. The
Master does little on a whim, doesn’t want much more than “enough” and would be able to talk with the
Pope with the same ease, authenticity and politeness as with the beggar on the street corner. And the
Master with mastery does not insist upon being recognised as such...
Spun glibly as I have done here, it still sounds easier than it ever gets. The virtues of the Master are those
which can never be perfect, and for all their imperfect expressions, they still require unending education,
contemplation, spiritual and physical training to execute even imperfectly (just hopefully less imperfectly
from one time to the next, other conditions abiding). I’ll most boldly contradict our own Doctrine here :
Jedi do not strive for excellence. Indeed, mastery in the Force (not ‘of’ it) shows when one has to strive
very little and when the idea of excellence has matured into a condition superior to that one was striving
for. Perfection is not one of a true Master’s ambitions. Recognition of one’s shortcomings without trying
to hide them behind blaming someone/something else (or mental illness) ought to be.
So, in summary, the rank of Master is not merely a trophy for being a good kid over a longish haul. One
has to actually do the things we advocate in the Temple in order to arrive at some degree of mastery in
these domains. And to retain and improve upon these degrees of mastery, one must continue to study, to
contemplate, to meditate, to deflate the swollen ego (without trying to get rid of the ego !), to become
even more familiar with the world as it actually is (rather than how it is shown on screens), to develop a
sense of critical doubt about hegemonic consumer culture morality, to continue to foster a curiosity about
who we are and our place in the cosmos...
No one will ever run out of lessons, no one will ever not have anything else to learn, no one will always
be right, no one will ever be without some desire, fear, anger or intolerance. Therefore, if we no longer
have a Temple rank to achieve, we still have a full career ahead of us just to deserve the rank we have.
And the beauty of this is, one can adopt this attitude as a Temple Guest, Member or Initiate.
I feel that if this simple lesson contained in this sermon could make it into common sense, we would see
fewer people disappear off the radar upon attaining knighthood and fewer masters become spectres
playing in the dust of TotJO’s yesteryear not to mention fewer temper tantrums among our ranked
May the Force be with us always...