Hello everyone and welcome back to The Sarlacc Pit! Whenever I watch or read Star Wars, I am always captivated by the Force and the noble Jedi who wielded it for the good of the galaxy. While Legends canon has a huge library of stories of the origins of the Jedi and their adventures during the Old Republic, current canon has a bit less information on the early years of the Jedi. Therefore, this week I am going to discuss the Jedi Order with a focus on the years during its downfall. I will talk about their customs and their duties, and then discuss the causes of their downfall at the end of the Clone Wars.
The Jedi Order
“For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”
The Jedi order was a monastic group dedicated to preserving the ideals of the light side of the Force. They believed that the true purpose of the Force was to preserve life and unite all living beings. As such, they generally acted as diplomatic peacekeepers rather than militaristic warriors. While there was a time in history where wars were fought between the Jedi and their dark side counterparts, the Sith, these wars ended with the apparent extinction of the Sith. The Jedi also warred with Zygerrian slavers once slavery was outlawed by the Republic. This resulted in the exile of the Zygerrians to their homeworld, Zygerria. Also, the world of Mandalore, which developed a war-centric culture early in their history, began to conquer planets across the galaxy. The Jedi, preservers of peace, fought against the Mandalorian spread. This war caused a strain on the Jedi, as even the Jedi Temple on Coruscant was sacked by Mandalorians, but they were eventually able to emerge victorious and the people of Mandalore (for the most part) began to live a peaceful existence.
While there were small outposts and temples located throughout the galaxy, the center of the Jedi’s power was located at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. This temple served as the largest training center for new Jedi, as well as held the Jedi archives, and was the location of the Jedi High Council.
The Jedi were taught to control their emotions, as negative emotions such as fear or anger could quickly lead to the dark side of the Force. A non-attachment policy was enforced in the Jedi Order for two reasons: 1. Jedi served the galaxy, and attachment to one or a few beings could lead to the Jedi choosing friends or family over their duty. 2. Loss of a loved one can quickly lead to negative emotions, which could eventually lead to the dark side.
“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” –Yoda, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
Potential future Jedi were identified at birth through the use of Jedi holocrons, force-sensitive artifacts that were able to locate Force-sensitive children, as well as hold all sorts of other information. Once a child was old enough to be separated from its parents, they were brought to the Jedi Temple, where they began their training as younglings. In this way, the youngling knew only the Jedi Order as their family, reinforcing the non-attachment policy. As younglings, they would learn the tenants of the Jedi beliefs, as well as some Force skills. During the later years of the Order, Grand Master Yoda would oversee much of the training of younglings. This training ended with The Gathering, when a group of younglings would be brought to the crystal caves of Ilum to undergo trials in which they would find a kyber crystal, which would then be used to build their lightsaber. In the early years, younglings who were accepted by a Jedi Knight to be their apprentice early on would go with just their master to find their crystal, forgoing the ritual of The Gathering for a more master/apprentice-centered ceremony. However, during the Clone Wars there was a large decline in the number of Jedi Knights and the Jedi Academy was encouraged to pass more and more younglings to bolster their numbers on the battlefield. This led to more Gatherings with higher numbers of younglings at each. Note: Anakin Skywalker skipped this phase of Jedi training. Once he was found at the age of 9, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, who believed Skywalker was the prophesied Chosen One, insisted that he be trained as a Jedi. After Jinn’s death at the hands of the Sith Darth Maul, the Jedi Council allowed Jinn’s padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, who had just been elevated to the status of Jedi Knight, to take on Anakin as his own padawan.
Once a Jedi youngling built their lightsaber, they were elevated to the rank of Jedi padawan. A padawan was either assigned to a Jedi Knight or Master or chosen by one to serve as an apprentice. The padawan would accompany their master on all missions they were assigned to, learning the ways of the Force and their duties as a Jedi in the process. Padawan learners wore a braid to signify their status. If a padawan was of a species who did not have hair on their head, the padawan would often wear some sort of dangling ornamentation on their head instead. A Jedi could only have one padawan at a time.
Once their master believed that they were ready, the padawan would go through the Jedi Trials, which had nine steps: teamwork, isolation, fear, anger betrayal, focus, instinct, forgiveness, and protection. These trials took many forms depending on the individual Jedi. These trials could be bypassed for numerous reasons. Obi-Wan Kenobi bypassed the trials after defeating the first Sith seen since the Sith Wars centuries earlier. Anakin Skywalker bypassed the trials after holding his own against Count Dooku and losing his arm in the process during the Battle of Geonosis. The Clone Wars saw many instances of bypassed Jedi Trials, as more padawans were forced to prove themselves on the battlefield and the need for more Jedi Knights increased.
Once the trials were passed or deemed unnecessary by the Council, the Padawan was elevated to the rank of Jedi Knight, removing their padawan braid. These Knights were given missions across the galaxy as peacekeepers and negotiators. When a Knight was recognized by the Council as knowledgeable and strong in the Force, they were given the rank of Master. Twelve Masters were chosen to sit on the Jedi High Council in Coruscant, with one Grand Master acting as the head. Only Anakin Skywalker ever held a seat in the High Council without obtaining the rank of Master, at the request of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.
The Downfall of the Jedi Order
In my opinion the downfall of the Jedi can be attributed to a handful of issues. For the rest of this post I will go through and discuss the reasons the Jedi found themselves on the brink of extinction.
- The Rise of the Sith
“What if I told you that the Republic was now under the control of a dark lord of the Sith?” –Count Dooku, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
Although the Jedi believed the Sith to have gone extinct at the end of the Sith Wars, this was merely the result of the implementation of the Rule of Two passed down by Darth Bane. The Sith worked in the shadows, cloaked in their ability to hide their presence in the Force. They continued to covertly gain power in galaxy, which continued to accumulate as power was passed from master to apprentice. Eventually, the Senate fell under the control of the Sith lord Darth Sidious. Not only was Sidious able to finagle his way to becoming Supreme Chancellor of the Senate as his public persona Sheev Palpatine, but he also controlled a majority of the Senate votes through manipulation of various galactic events. Together with his apprentice Darth Tyranus, publicly Count Dooku: leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, Sidious was able to engineer the Clone Wars, which weakened the Jedi Order. Furthermore, unknown to even the most senior of Jedi, the Jedi Temple was actually originally built over an ancient Sith shrine, which was still strong in the dark side. This shrine was constantly draining the Jedi’s power by seeping dark energy into the Jedi Temple. This drain on the Jedi’s abilities was so severe that even though Count Dooku told Obi-Wan that the senate was controlled by a Sith lord, the Jedi Order was still unable to discern Darth Sidious’ identity.
- From Peacekeepers to War Mongers
“Victory? Victory you say? Master Obi-Wan, not victory. The shroud of the dark side has fallen. Begun, the Clone War has.” –Yoda, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
Though their main objective was to preserve peace throughout the galaxy, the Jedi Order ultimately served at the discretion of the Senate. With Darth Sidious controlling the senate, the Jedi were in trouble from the beginning of the Clone Wars. While fought mostly by clone troopers, Jedi were called upon to serve as generals in the Grand Army of the Republic. This caused many citizens across the galaxy to believe that the once noble Jedi had become nothing more than warriors, and as the three-year war continued their reputation fell further and further.
- The Death Toll of the Clone Wars
“There are only ten thousand of us to keep the light of peace alive in the entire galaxy.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Obi-Wan & Anakin” Issue 1
Though they were powerful warriors, the Jedi faced massive casualties throughout the Clone Wars. As more Jedi were killed, their numbers had to be bolstered by newly trained padawans, creating a generation of Jedi Knights whose only way of life as Jedi was that of warriors.
- Dissent in the Order
“Yes. Yes. A flaw more and more common among Jedi. Too sure of themselves they are. Even the older, more experienced ones.” –Yoda, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
As the Jedi found themselves falling further and further away from their ideals (at one point even stooping so low as to hire a former Sith bounty hunter to assassinate Count Dooku), many began to turn away from the Order. There were many reasons for this discontent. The earliest we see is the betrayal of Count Dooku, who was Yoda’s own padawan at one point as well as Master Qui-Gon Jinn’s master. Dooku left due to various disagreements with the complacency of the Jedi Order regarding the discontent of several systems. He later turned to the dark side and became the political leader of the Separatists. Other Jedi were also seduced by the dark side. Master Pong Krell betrayed the clone troops of the 501st Legion during the Battle of Umbara in hopes that Darth Tyranus would take him on as a dark side apprentice. Various other Jedi left, such as Master Yaddle and padawan Ashoka Tano, as they believed that the Order no longer followed the best path for the galaxy.
- Clinging to Outdated Principles
“One day, I will become the greatest Jedi ever! I will even learn to stop people from dying.” –Anakin Skywalker “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
The rule of non-attachment bit the Jedi in an unexpected way. When Anakin Skywalker, who had married Senator Padmé Amidala in secret at the beginning of the Clone Wars, began having premonitions of his wife dying in child birth, this non-attachment policy forced him to look for outside help. This ultimately caused Anakin to leave the Jedi Order, initiating the destruction of the Jedi and Skywalker’s transition into becoming Darth Vader.
- Order 66
“This is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Republic forces have been turned against the Jedi. Avoid Coruscant, avoid detection. Stay strong. May the Force be with you.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Dawn
With the Order losing Jedi and the citizen’s faith, all that was needed was the final push. Once Anakin Skywalker pledged his loyalty to Darth Sidious, Sidious commanded the clone troopers to execute the hidden protocol Order 66 (see last week’s post). Anakin, now Darth Vader, was sent to the Jedi Temple, where he was charged to kill anyone there, resulting in Vader’s slaughter of many younglings and padawans in the Temple. Some Jedi were alerted to the betrayal of the clones, either through the Force or through an emergency broadcast sent out by Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, the number of Jedi that survived was extremely low, in current canon only three that remained in the Jedi Order survived. This final devastation of the Jedi signaled the end of the Jedi and the Republic, and the rise of the Galactic Empire.
With the destruction of the Jedi Order, remaining Jedi were hunted. The Emperor claimed the Jedi Temple as his Imperial Palace, destroying many irreplaceable Jedi artifacts and keeping others jealously guarded in his personal collection. The Jedi were peacekeepers during the height of the Republic, but became fugitives and enemies of the Empire overnight. While “Star Wars: Rebels” shows that there were still Jedi attempting to preserve their way of life, albeit in a modified way, even after half a century the Jedi Order has not returned to its previous glory, despite the efforts of Luke Skywalker to train the next generation of Jedi. As more canon comes out and we see more movies, perhaps we will see a true return of the Jedi, until then the galaxy must look to others to maintain the peace, or perhaps to themselves…
Anyways, next week I will delve into the dark side with an in-depth discussion of the Sith Rule of Two. Once again, thank you all for reading, and may the Force be with you!