My nephew recently started attending meetings of the Boys Brigade, which is similar to the Scouts but with more of an emphasis on Christian teachings. Even though a section of our family is Methodist, our immediate family is quite diverse in our beliefs – paganism, Jediism, atheism – and the driving force for this decision was to provide companionship, activities and discipline until he is old enough to join the Beavers, the youth section of the Scouting movement. As can be expected, members of the Boys Brigade spend time each meeting focusing on aspects of the Christian faith. A few days later, casual blasphemy from my sister (as a result of cutting her thumb while cooking) was met with a response from my nephew of “you shouldn't say that because God watches everything you do.” When I asked him who he believed God was, the reply was “he's a person who watches what you do and doesn't like it when you're naughty”. This got me thinking....
I understand that deep theological discussions may be too much for a 5-year-old to digest but in this instance, the notion of the Christian God in all its diversity had been reduced to the status of watchful admonisher whose sole role was to enforce “good behaviour” and punish the “bad”. So many faiths build such a concept into their ideas of divinity along with rules and regulations deemed to emanate from such spiritual guidance. The Bible is packed full of metaphorical “do”s and “don't”s and even has its own handy reference table in the Ten Commandments; the Koran and Torah have similar notions; Buddhist principles encourage concepts of “right action”, “right thought”, “right speech”, etc. But who enforces these rules?
It is certainly true that a great deal of religions impose on their believers the threat of punishment if transgressions are made. Sinners burning in Hell might be an obvious example of this but just as controlling is the “carrot on a stick” approach of rewarding good behaviour – do what we say and you will have everlasting peace in Heaven. Either way, it's a case of follow the rules and be rewarded, break them and face punishment. Generally in such cases there are entities in place to carry out such decrees, such as Satan and his demons flinging evil-doers into fiery pits while God and his angels fly the devout to a pious eternity.
In other faiths, such responsibility is borne by the individual – you reap the rewards of “good behaviour” and suffer the less palatable consequences of the “bad”. In many neo-pagan traditions, this is summarised in the phrase “an' ye harm none, do what ye will”. In other words, do what you like as long as it doesn't harm anyone. This simple phrase is complicated in practice – every action taken must be referenced to this and you are also included in the “harming anyone” notion; activities that cause you pain and suffering are also discouraged. But there is a certain ambiguity about this process that relies on the individual's moral compass. It is up to each of us to judge what is beneficial or detrimental to our own being and it is this deep internal reflection that is central to Jediism.
While TOTJO ascribes to a particular Doctrine and Creed, the contents may be seen as a “guide to life”, or a set of instructions designed to allow each person to develop their moral sensibilities within a certain viewpoint and to ensure that every action taken is the most beneficial – to themselves, to others, and to the Force itself. How we enforce this guidance is up to us. Only you can know how well you are living up to these standards; while others may offer a perspective gained from a less personally-biased stance, you are the one dealing with your own thoughts and motivations.
There will be times when you have the ability to embody much of the teachings of Jediism but there will also be times when such behaviour is further from your experience. It is certainly useful to maintain personal standards because without such a goal, we lack the motivation to further our development. But when we admonish ourselves, it may be wise to consider the notion of harm again. Are you being too harsh on yourself? Are you not being hard enough? If you have failed to live up to your expectations how do you deal with this; would berating yourself excessively provide motivation to try better next time, or would it just cast you into a greater sense of failure, achieving nothing positive?
While those at the Temple – friends, colleagues, teachers, Masters – are here to help you and support your learning and development, the responsibility for maintaining discipline is ultimately your own. Be kind to your mistakes for they provide a useful lesson and such things are a part of what it means to be human. Strive to excel but try not to harm yourself, or others, in the process. Chasing after a positive standard can be more beneficial than being chased from a negative one. But whatever your motivations, however you feel guided to walk your path and to stay “on the straight and narrow”, remember that you are an essential part of the Force and each and every one of us is divine. When we consider such a realisation, it becomes easier to “do the right thing” for ourselves and each other.