I have been without a decent internet connection for days and this has prevented me from writing a sermon on time. Whenever I sit to write one, I seek inspiration from what's going on around me and this occasion is no different. I wondered what had prevented me from writing earlier (apart from the joys of broadband outage of course!) - what had occurred that I needed to be aware of?
In the space of 3 days, a topic was unearthed and debated about with enough passion that it spilled over into personal attacks and the whole thing had to be locked. I trust that the same will not occur with comments on this article. However, I can understand the emotions raised by the issue and so I wanted to share my own ideas, some of which have already been said by posters to the original article.
So what is this controversial topic? Quite simply: the building of a physical Jedi temple. So let's take a look at the first aspect of this, the practical considerations. With something that is so reliant on the physical, such aspects must be considered. Deepak Chopra states in his “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” that we should not worry ourselves with the details of how something is to be achieved but instead remain focused on the goal and the Force (our words, not his) will find a way of making it so. But we cannot hope to have a singular vision without such a discussion so let's indulge for a moment.
Leaving aside the rather huge question of how the project would be paid for, there are other more mundane things to consider. How big would a temple be? Would it have space for accommodation and if so, how much? What would happen if those rooms were filled – how would those Jedi who could not gain entry feel? Is there a risk of exclusion on the basis of available space? Where would the temple be located? Say it was in California – how would a Texan Jedi feel about it being so far away? Or a Mexican Jedi? Or a European Jedi? In order to satisfy the immediate geographical requirements of all Jedi, a temple would have to be built in every major city around the world that had a significant population of Jedi. But what about those that lived outside those towns? And what does “significant amount” mean anyway? What makes one set of Jedi more relevant than other simply because of the size of the group?
I'm sure that you can see that this discussion could go on for a very long time. For me, the important factor is the consideration of ALL Jedi. No one is more important than anyone else. Sure, we have ranks and titles and positions of authority but these are an indicator of the work that we have done, the lessons we have contributed and the responsibilities we have taken on to safely operate this site and provide spiritual support to our congregation. It does not give us dominion over another beyond the remit of this site. As a Grand Master Knight of Jediism, I am no more important than a guest to this Temple. I might be able to do more things at this site, or have contributed more to the content, but that does not mean that I should automatically sacrifice the needs of another for my own. As Pastor of this Church, my concern is for every member of this community and the topic of a physical temple has proved to be so divisive that my fellow Council members, sharing this belief, acted to close the topic rather than allow it to spread disharmony.
Whatever the subject, if something were to happen that would make even one Jedi uncomfortable, this would concern me. Many times we have had to make decisions that we believe are best for the majority but we always consider every viewpoint. Building a physical temple would be so costly that any attempt would be prohibitive: both in terms of money and in respect of the effect on the individual and the cohesive nature of a community.
So why is there a desire for such a place? What could be achieved there that is impossible elsewhere? Nothing. OK, so it would be great to have a place where Jedi could converge, discuss, train together, etc. But there is so much diversity within Jediism that even deciding on a form of universal training would be almost impossible. You only have to read the discussion about what people believe to be the best martial art for a Jedi to know that there is no hope of a standard form.
Of course, this wasn't a problem in the movies – there was a central Temple and a generic training scheme. But this was easy to achieve because it's fiction. The only practical considerations were “does it fit with the plot” and even this could be changed to fit the whims of Mr Lucas.
Here at the Temple of the Jedi Order we have a certain fixed amount of training – the Initiate's Programme is the first aspect of this and contains a wide-ranging set of lessons and observances about topics that we consider to be important to an understanding of Jediism. But this is only a foundation, and the apprenticeships that follow are very much tailored to the individual. Of course, this is only OUR interpretation of Jediism and there are many other groups that have a different opinion. So fixing any of this (quite literally “in stone”) would be counter-productive, if not impossible.
Here at this site, we provide as much as we can to suit the individual's training and pastoral needs. Our forum contains a wealth of information for study, the opportunity to ask advice or to seek counsel and support, real-time connection with other members of the community, and the opportunity to share in the activities and growth of the Temple. None of this requires a physical base and (as has been pointed out), many hundreds of hours of commitment and work have been the foundation of all this.
If you wish to undertake your own physical training, in relevant subjects such as martial arts, then you are free to do so and are not limited by a standard set of recommendations. Everyone finds their own way to incorporate this into their own personal form of Jediism. We can provide guidance and opinion here but it is up to you to choose your own path and follow it in a way that is most beneficial to your own journey.
You do not need a physical space to do this. If “home is where the heart is”, then your temple is where your spirit is and your spirit is infinite. The Force is present in all things, from the physical to the ethereal, but it is not limited by such experiences. It is unbounded by concepts such as space and time and these are merely constructs that allow us to navigate our way through life; they are limitations on our understanding, not on our divine being. So the Force, and your experience of it, is always with you, wherever you are.
As a Jedi with a strong tradition in various forms of paganism, I am used to not having a physical temple in the same way that a Christian might have access to a church. I create my sacred space wherever I need it to be – in a field, by the sea, in my bedroom. Such temporary boundaries are useful to any meditative work or energetic ritual but they are transient and do not impose any structure beyond that needed for the task at hand.
I have also be frequenting chatrooms for around 16 years, connecting with people all over the world. Do I feel that such connections are less valid than those that have a physical component? No. Just because I can't hug someone or see them face-to-face does not cause me to love them any less. This site shares the belief that we can all connect without the need for physicality. It's nice to have the opportunities to meet up with fellow Jedi in person but it's not necessary to our understanding of each other and to our bonds of friendship and family.
So to all those who seek a physical space, I would ask you to consider one simple question: what need would that fulfil that cannot be achieved within yourself. A physical temple can be destroyed, but the faith and understanding within you has an eternal potential. How you choose to fulfil that is up to you.