Bill, Buddha and Ben Kenobi: 12 Step Jedi.
Growing Up with Star Wars
When Star Wars first exploded on cinema screens on May 24, 1977 it had an impact upon young movie goers that was unexpected and unprecedented in cinema history. The groundbreaking cinematic style, the special effects and the plot created a block buster epic never seen before. The movie started an obsession with a fantasy saga and a franchise that a generation of youth could relate to and would grow up with over the next four decades.
In the original release of “A New Hope”, Luke Skywalker, the hero of Star Wars, was a random teenager thrust into a struggle between good and evil where at stake was the freedom of an entire galaxy. Then there was the mystery, humility and power of the Jedi standing alone against the forces of evil with a firm faith in a spiritual force and a weapon that represented a code of purity, simplicity and honor. The Light Saber.
As a ten year old I was completely captivated and swept up by the wonder, power, the heroism and the romance of the saga. The image of the Jedi and their powers. Like millions of other kids my imagination was fired. I believed that if I trained my mind and body hard enough I could be like Luke Skywalker and eventually become like Obi-wan Kenobi. A Jedi.
By the time “Empire Strikes Back” hit the cinemas in 1980 I was completely hooked, the movie added more depth, intrigue and mystery to the story. There was Yoda and a deeper meaning to the Jedi. Luke had gained power and revealed a dark legacy within him. Then the ultimate reveal, Darth Vader, Luke’s evil nemesis was in fact his father! It was an earth shattering revelation! At school we argued and debated what it all meant.
“The Return of the Jedi” was released in 1984 and seemed to herald the end of my childhood. I had put the figurines away by now and my attention had moved to high school, girls and more earthly concerns. Star Wars was part of my growing up so I sat through the movie and left a little disappointed, a little sad, but mostly happy that order had been restored and the Force was once again in balance. That may have been the case in the Star Wars realm but it was anything but the case in my own personal existence.
Star Wars had in fact been a source of light and hope when there was often despair and loneliness in growing up. You see my father had been an alcoholic; my mother had passed away when I was a very young and we moved around a lot. Living on the road or put up in strict boarding schools then back on the road and living in trailers or in high rise estates and council housing.
I was often surrounded by unemployment, violence, alcohol abuse and drugs in the community and learned to defend myself at an early age. Books and Science Fiction Fantasy and particularly, Star Wars were my escape, my refuge. Many kids of my generation also turned to the magic of Star Wars and the mystery of the Jedi. It spoke to our generation.
Unlike the Star Wars trilogy my story did not end when the credits rolled at the end of “Return of the Jedi” and there was no “happily ever after”. Over the next dozen years I grew up and bounced about. I left home, joined the Army, did a tour overseas, discharged and then bounced about from one end of the world to the next. Like some sort of drunken Caine in KungFu, searching for something.
After a decade or so I eventually entered into University and settled down. Like an old friend Star Wars returned with the prequels. But it was not the same. Over the years I had formed an addictive relationship with alcohol that eventually affected every aspect of my life personal and professional. In time, as often happens, I realized alcoholism as I slipped past what is often called the “jumping off point”. Eventually I hit rock bottom.
Hitting Rock Bottom
Much has been written in esoteric literature and philosophy about the point in which the human mind and its attached ego sinks to a level where to go further means the death of self. The true inner self is revealed at this point and one experiences a type of transcendence that lifts them out of the depth of despair and delusion they have sunk. This is “Hitting Rock Bottom and Coming Back”.
As a child I had reached for Star Wars when I needed something greater than myself and as an adult I reached for whatever this offered branch was and it lifted me out. At that point I felt for a moment a truth and at that point I stopped drinking and have never drank since.
Each person at some point in their lives will form a relationship with and have an understanding of a grander reality, whatever they perceive it to be. Some people turn to religion, some to nature, some seek answers inwardly and others apply personal philosophies and principles in their own fashion.
Many Jedi believe in the Force and define it in a way that makes sense to them. In my case I turned to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and borrowed from religions, traditions and philosophies eastern and western. I took what I needed and left the rest.
I had always felt the lure of the Star Wars Universe and the embodiment of the Jedi as a pathway to personal and spiritual growth and in these times of departure from conventional religion, so it turns out have thousands of others. Today I train and apply Jedi Philosophy as part of my recovery and life.
Today the Jedi Pathway is alive and well and is best represented at its purist and simplest form by the Jedi Code. The Jedi Code as it exists today bridges the divide between the fictional world created by George Lucas and the real world which we all live on a daily basis, with our human needs, desires, hopes, fears, strengths and faults.
The Jedi Code provides the foundation for a philosophy, a recipe for thought and action that can be applied regardless whether a person is religious, agnostic or atheist, gay or straight, rich or poor. Regardless of race or social status. All that is required is a simple willingness to learn, study, train and apply and most of all to change.
Like many tenets of Buddhism and Taoism application of the Jedi Code can over time bring change to the way a person thinks, speaks and acts and lead him or her to self betterment and ultimately world betterment.
This article discusses the meaning and power of each of the five lines of the Jedi Code as they apply to seeking personal growth. In my case as the Jedi Code applies to my own personal spiritual journey on the Jedi Path and the 12 Steps to Recovery.
The Jedi Code
The Jedi Code was inspired by the Star Wars movies and books, particularly in “Empire Strikes Back” where Yoda teaches Luke Skywalker to be a Jedi. It first appeared as a “Code” in role playing games and was embraced by the online Jedi Community and over time underwent an evolution. Originally the Jedi Code contained four lines and then a fifth was added. The final version as widely accepted is the Jedi Code:
There is no emotion; there is peace.
There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
There is no passion; there is serenity
There is no chaos; there is harmony
There is no death; there is the force
The Jedi Code represents the foundation of Jedi Philosophy as described in the books “Jedi Circle” and “Exploring the Jedi Lifestyle” by Kevin Trout.
Jedi Philosophy is a modern day manifestation of a movement that commenced nearly 25 years ago. The Sci-Fi Fantasy role playing culture of the 1980’s evolved into the online community that followed a decade later. Star Wars fans were at the forefront of this online community and soon online Jedi Orders and Gamers forums began to appear. Over time the Jedi movement evolved into a spectrum that ranged from moderate Jedi Realists to Orthodox Jedi Religionists complete with robe, light saber replicas and ranks and rituals.
A Philosophy for Life
Jedi Philosophy emerged during this evolution and divergence as a unique modern day wisdom that today is inspired by the fictional Jedi but also draws from traditional eastern and western wisdom traditions. Today, Jedi Philosophy bridges the gap between fiction and reality and provides real world solutions to real world problems.
The fictional Jedi are a model, an inspiration only, the philosophy takes fiction and relates it to living like a Jedi in the real world. There are no robes, no light sabers or mystical powers needed to be Jedi.
For many people Jedi Philosophy provides an alternative in a society gone cold on conventional and traditional organized religion. Consider the biblical parables or Vedic legends, all fictional but intended to provide important lessons in life. Fiction inspiring philosophy is not so strange at all. Religion is simply systems of beliefs that are accepted and practiced through rituals, structure and rules accepted by a group of people who identify with a label or “ism”.
Religion presents a human construct whereas philosophy is intended to present alternatives on how to view the world and our place in this universe. Jesus and the Buddha were not out to create a religion, they were out to teach a philosophy of world betterment through self betterment.
Jedi Philosophy is a pragmatic and practical philosophy for Life. The goal of the real world Jedi is constant self-improvement through physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth. Through physical exercise, mindfulness, meditation, diplomacy and self discipline the Jedi strives to become better in all facets of life and to help others where possible, to make a positive contribution, to learn and to seek a purpose greater than one’s self.
The ultimate goal of the Jedi is ultimately world betterment through self betterment. The journey is a personal one, with personal goals. There is no dogma, rules, rituals or isms and the “Jedi” label is nothing more than a word that denotes whatever the practitioner defines it to be. People can choose to call themselves whatever they like. Jedi is a verb. We identify as Jedi through our demonstrated values and principles not by our outward appearance.
Anyone can be a Jedi if they choose to embrace honesty, humility, commitment, objectivity, reliability and sacrifice. If you choose to overcome anger, arrogance, resentment, selfishness, fear and dishonesty. The Jedi Code underpins the Jedi Philosophy, to understand it is to understand what it means to be Jedi. The essence of the entire Jedi Philosophy is captured within the five lines of the Jedi Code as much as the four noble truths capture the essence of the entire teachings of the Buddha.
The Five Tenets of the Jedi Code
1. There is no emotion; there is peace.
The underlying message of this tenet is acceptance. Emotion is a part of being human and to fully experience life one must embrace the full spectrum of emotions whether perceived as negative or positive.
The Buddha said that in life “there will be 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows”, that everything in life is essentially impermanent and transient. To grasp to anything, to build attachment, leads only to suffering. This includes emotions.
In order to achieve deep inner peace one must be able to allow emotions to be as they are. To fight emotions such as anger or grief is to give it life. What you resist persists. By being able to observe our emotional state, being aware of it and not letting it dominate our lives or dictate how we react to situations is the key to achieving inner peace.
The image of a Jedi calm in the face of adversity and completely at peace as a storm of violence rages around him is in essence what this tenet teaches us. Think of Qui-Gon Jinn facing Darth Maul in the final scenes of the “Phantom Menace”. Before the duel Qui-Gon Jinn meditates despite the danger he faces.
Embrace our emotions as the divine gift that they are, but don’t let them rule us. Be “calm, at peace, passive”.
As an active alcoholic I had no control over my emotional state. That is I tried to control my emotions through alcohol. While this was effective in the short term the long-term emotional cost far outweighed any short term benefits. Anyone who is addicted to anything is emotionally immature and this may be related to the long term effect of alcohol on emotional development and the limbic system, the part of the brain where emotions are regulated. This is a hard pill to swallow for many but the fact is that as an alcoholic I was a petulant child in a man’s body.
Alcoholics tend to experience extremes of emotions. We alcoholics are either on top of the world or in the pits of despair and alcohol will get us to both and back again. This bi-polar existence results in a skewed view of the world that is far from reality. Minor issues become catastrophes, an argument means the end of a relationship, a reprimand at work means the end of a job and a fail mark on an exam means the end of a degree. Emotions drive the primal urge to drink and escape from the cares and worries of today, to place us at a higher level where confidence is renewed and troubles melt away, until the next day when they return even worse. Anger, resentment and fear are the three dark horsemen which torment the alcoholic. Anxiety, depression and self pity are left in their wake.
In order to be at peace with our emotions we must understand that life is a polarity of emotions and that to not know sadness is to not know joy. Every western and eastern tradition speaks of this duality of the human condition which exists as a manifestation of the one. There cannot be light without darkness, ultimate love is one end of the polarity and ultimate fear is the other.
Anakin Skywalker was a symbol of a man consumed by fear of losing what he loved. He was taken by the dark side because he allowed his emotions to own him and control his actions. Anger became Anakin as he tried to control reality and fight it for his own delusional purpose. Everything that Anakin feared became a reality because the more he tried to resist it the more he became what he was trying to destroy until Darth Vader emerged. Alcoholism is the same, the complete loss of perspective of our own reality and our resistance to what is leads to an inner conflict that only one side can win and for many that end is death or insanity. The worst thing is no one and nothing makes us this way, we do it to ourselves.
In the 1940’s Bill W the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous coined the phrase emotional sobriety. It was understood that removing alcohol was only part of the solution to the disease of alcoholism. The underlying emotional issues had to be addressed if sobriety was to last. Many alcoholics who had refused to face their emotional immaturity became “dry drunks” and soon returned to drinking.
Emotional sobriety is being able to confront one’s demons and no longer avoid or run away from them. It is about accepting who we are “warts and all”. Recognizing the need to change, being able to stand on our own two feet emotionally without dependence on anyone or anything. It is being accountable for our actions and being committed to our values. Emotional sobriety is about “turning it over”, letting go and taking charge of our lives and embracing “progress not perfection”. The “Serenity Prayer” captures it perfectly:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference” – The Serenity Prayer.
Calm, At Peace, Passive
The Jedi ideal is a sort of a transcended superhuman. The Jedi appears in the movies to be like stone, without emotion. In reality the Jedi has emotions, a keen sense of humor, wit, knows joy, sadness and anger and compassion. The Jedi Knight is forbidden to love only another but is expected to love all sentient beings and is in tune with the flow of life energy that is the Force. For love as most understand it is a selfish emotion, based on fear. True love is wholly unconditional and sacrifices self.
To me the Jedi represents the definition of emotional sobriety. The Jedi is not a superhuman but intrinsically human. A Jedi demonstrates equanimity and while she experiences the full range of human emotions she is completely calm and at peace within. A Jedi is deeply connected with her inner environment and in tune with the outer environment.
When Yoda said to be “calm, at peace, passive” he was describing the emotional and mental state of the Jedi. Whether aspiring to be a Jedi or not, this state of mental and emotional balance and inner peace is what emotional sobriety is about. Who would not want that?
2. There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
The underlying message of this tenet is humility. Through objectivity and rejection of illusion we see the world as it truly is and recognize our delusions for what they are. Pride and vanity cloud our judgment and obscure the truth and the opposite of both is humility. We learn to accept that we do not know what we do not know and that the truth behind all things is hidden. We then leave ourselves open like a vessel to learn, to be filled with knowledge.
Discard what does not serve our purpose or leaves us ignorant and embrace reason, learning and objectivity. We inquire and challenge what is and seek to know thy self above all.
Ignorance is bolstered by pride but fear keeps us there. The truth is that no-one in this world knows everything and can ever know everything. To believe different would be arrogance in the extreme. To be arrogant is to keep ourselves ignorant and to turn away from learning is to deny growth. The human spirit wants nothing more than to grow. Arrogance and ignorance are born of fear and it is fear that keeps us from growing to our full potential.
As an alcoholic I suffered ignorance to the extreme and was arrogant and full of self importance. I looked down on others as inferior and everyone but me had a problem. My fault was that I chose not to know myself and learn from what was painfully obvious; the inability to moderate and to be humble.
Falsehoods appearing real
They say that the definition of insanity is to “do the same thing continuously and expect different results”. That is how alcoholism works; “it will be different this time” and “I have it under control” or “what do they know, I’ll show them”.
If I had applied simple scientific method to my long list of problems I perceived to be caused by others I would quickly have come to realize that the above statements represented a false hypothesis.
The belief that I could control my drinking was continuously proven wrong with every bender and every hangover. Yet, the alcoholic will persist, often to his untimely end with this insanity. The only way I got out of this merry-go round was to admit that I did not know, that I was ignorant and all I had to do was open myself up to be ready to learn and embrace and explore, rather than reject without consideration.
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is a proof against all arguments, which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. That principle is contempt prior to investigation” – Herbert Spencer
Human behavior as a whole is no different. Humanity now stands at a cross road in its history. Society has harnessed the technological know-how to end all life on this planet as we know it. We stand on the brink and while the intellect exists to create this technology and power, we also lack the wisdom to yield it for the benefit of all. I believe it is this ignorance and arrogance that will ultimately hold humanity back from achieving its higher purpose. It may also destroy all life on Earth. The Ego ultimately kills the Ego.
Society, this human species has been around for a quarter of a million years as a sentient being able to think, reason, contemplate, judge and make conscious decisions. We have free will and the ability to exercise it. One would think after so many thousands of generations we would have learned a thing or two and not be making the same mistakes, the lessons would be written in our DNA. No such luck, we have all the power to change but at exactly 23:59:59 recurring on the cosmic clock we stand on the chasm. This spark of consciousness known in the galaxy in our moment in the entire history of the universe stands at a precipice. Where do we evolve to?
The wonderful reality is that we can transcend to the next level of knowing, a place where science meets spirituality and where we no longer need to live as un-evolved beings. This state see’s the beauty and order in the universe and the divinity within all life and the oneness of all things. This state is pure consciousness, knowledge and enlightenment and may well best describe the meaning of “there is no ignorance, there is knowledge”.
“Suspend your judgment, and every being has something to teach you.” – Qui-Gon Jinn.
3. There is no passion; there is serenity
Passion is a wonderful gift and provides the drive and creativity in all human endeavors. Without passion in the world we would see a stale and soulless world. Society could simply not exist. Imagine a world without art or music any other forms of human expression. There would be nothing, no creation, only nature as it was before.
I believe that the expression of passion is the expression of the divine. But passion can also be destructive. Anakin had great passion for his love and his desire to be a Master; however his passion consumed him and overwhelmed his humanity. His passion became an obsession as he attempted to control others, the order of the galaxy and life itself and struggled against the Force. When we are passionate to a degree that it enriches the lives of others and brings us closer to our true inner self is when we achieve true serenity.
The Power of Now
Eckhart Tolle in the “Power of the Now” suggested that to grasp onto whatever draws our passions is to let it control us. This is close to the Buddha’s teachings of suffering and freedom from attachment as well as the concept of emotional sobriety as described by Bill W.
The purpose in life is to live to be whoever we choose to be and to fulfill our higher purpose as we define it. This can only be achieved by living in the now and enjoying life as a moment to moment experience rather than to feel regret or longing for a past that is gone forever and fear and false hope for a tomorrow that never comes. The universe does not revolve around us but we are all a part of the universe and have a right to be here. Life happens in the now.
“Loving detachment” and “equanimity” are the spiritual goals of many Buddhists. We see the Jedi and they look serene, nothing much seems to get them fired up. They appear to be in a state of equanimity and non-attachment. This does not mean that a Jedi is an empty shell devoid of passion anymore than say a Buddhist monk or Franciscan Friar.
What a Jedi and Monk have in common is a high emotional IQ. They don’t get excited about what they have and more importantly what they don’t have. Neither get excited or upset about the things they cannot change. They can enjoy the beauty in all things and take wonder in the simple things, the flight of a butterfly, the intricate design of a snow flake or a sea shell and the immensity and mystery of the star filled sky. They can accept things as they are.
As an alcoholic I was and remain a very passionate person. In the past that passion would get the better of me. I had energy to achieve what I thought were admirable and justifiable outcomes in my personal and professional life and would become resentful, obstinate and belligerent when I did not get my way. My passion getting absolutely drunk. I showed a lack of emotional maturity and would funnel my energy in a destructive way, through drinking and “getting back at others” to such an extent that it cost me many relationships and opportunities.
With recovery came the realization of my many character flaws and a shift toward a less selfish approach to what I consider as important to me. I believe that I do not have to compromise my values by being more tolerant and accepting of others and their needs. They are my values.
I can be firm without being disagreeable. I can demonstrate passion without harming others or preventing them from achieving their own goals. Everyone has a right to express themselves, but not at the expense of another. This realization has bought me a greater degree of calm and serenity in my life and a deeper understanding of myself and others.
4. There is no chaos; there is harmony
Whatever has been said about Darth Vader it can never be said that he was a prodigy of Chaos. Darth Vader was to the extreme a controller, he wanted to rule the universe and control the force. In the end he was little more than a slave to the Dark Lord.
Chaos was my master and I know her well. She was a seductress and she promised me joy, power, confidence and popularity. She made me feel like a king and allowed me to feel alive and free. Once I was hooked she made me a slave and I could not live without her. She made me lie, steal, cheat, fight and disgrace myself over and over again. She challenged me to leave and then would punish me severely when I returned. I rode on this merry-go round from hell for over 20 years and tried many times to get off but could not until she took me to a very dark place and that’s where I found my way out. The grace of a a higher power.
For a recovering alcoholic, the progression of the disease is like being caught in a whirlwind. It is nothing less than pure chaos, a type of hell or nightmare in which we have no control. The only way out ironically is to accept, admit and surrender, there lie the keys to freedom.
Buddha stated that in fact there is nothing. That the ultimate truth is that nothing which we perceive is in fact real. Everything is an illusion. Yoda tried to explain this to Luke Skywalker and demonstrated that power when he lifted the X-Fighter out of the swamp on Dagobah with his mind.
Quantum physics demonstrates how little we understand matter. All matter is in fact packets of energy and essentially comprised of nothing. This sub-particle concept is incredibly mind-boggling but illuminating. Consider that an electron can exist in two different points in the Universe at the same time. It can be here and there.
When Yoda said “we are luminous beings, not this crude matter” I believe that George Lucas was alluding to this convergence between science and the spiritual, the great unknown that binds everything together and pervades everything which he chose to call the Force.
5. There is no death; there is the force
The Jedi accept that death does not exist. Death is an illusion like time or matter. Life is seen as a manifestation of an eternal state that transforms between the physical and the spiritual which is eternal.
Some people describe the eternal essence of people and all things as the spirit, the inner divine and Chi, Prana, Baraka. The Jedi describe it as the Force.
Death does not exist, only the dissolution of the physical state and the ego. What is left, call it the spirit, returns to the Force. This true inner self was always connected to the Force and always one with it; it just did not know in its physical state and was disconnected.
The concept of enlightenment is the return of oneness with the source, the loss of duality and realization of awareness. Some cultures also call this “God-Realization” or a state of “Nirvana”. Enlightenment. Buddhism teaches that the goal of life is to die before we die. So did the Christian mystics:
“It is by dying that we awaken to eternal life”- St Francis prayer.
The Jedi aspire to reach this level of awareness and certainly Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda and finally Anakin achieved this state with their “deaths”. Old Ben was not afraid to die when he encountered Darth Vader because he knew that death would release him to a higher level of perfection and oneness with the Force. Jesus, the Buddha, St Francis of Assisi and perhaps Bill W are said to have achieved enlightenment.
“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” – Yoda
Worse than Dying
Anakin in his fear of death and attachments of the ego resisted against the very tide of the Force and the nature of the universe. Anakin reasoned that if he could gain enough power he could control the Force and bend it to his will and subjugate the galaxy to him. He would ultimately be able to control all life and eliminate death. In the end, this desire to control drove him to the Dark Side and to his own downfall.Anakin suffered a fate far worse than Death.
Death is a part of life and the fear of death is simply the fear of the ego losing itself. If an analogy can be used, Anakin was the personification of ego run riot and that his ultimate goal was for that ego to transcend death itself.
An alcoholic is also an example of ego run riot and the greatest fear is not so much death but the dying every day that comes with it. In a way, an alcoholic lives in a twilight zone between the living and the dead. The ego, ever fearful of death, feeds denial and false pride with resentments and belligerency. The disease will often carry its host to the grave. In my experience there are worse things than death; spiritual death is to live in a very dark place.
Many alcoholics will be vaguely aware that they are in trouble when temporarily sober but are unable to prevent the “next time” and the spiral descent to what we call “rock bottom”. A spiritual solution is more often than not the way out. That may be nothing more than an admission of the truth and surrender to a higher power. At rock bottom I experienced nothing less than a spiritual experience at this point and the impact was immediate and dramatic.
The reality is that everything and everyone must die. Nothing is eternal, not even this universe that we live in. To grasp to attachments and refuse to “let go” when the time comes is to truly suffer. People will die including those close to us and to mourn them is natural and healthy but to mourn obsessively and refuse to accept the nature of things is unhealthy. I take faith in my personal belief that death is simply an event in the wheel of life and that nothing truly dies. Ultimately the Force is everything and all there is.
We belong the the Force and ultimately return to it.
Living the Jedi Code as a Path to Recovery
As mentioned previously the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as suggested in the “Big Book” is my program for recovery as it is for millions of people around the world. The 12 Steps represents a lifestyle choice that is in my view completely consistent with my chosen Philosophy for Life, the Jedi Path.
No one is expected to strictly adhere to the 12 Steps anymore than anyone is expected to strictly apply the Jedi Code in their lives. In many ways the two resemble one another as both suggest an approach to living, not a set of rules or a religious dogma. It is up to the individual to decide how best to apply the principles. In my view there are four stages to progress as a Jedi and as a 12 Stepper that align in principle:
- Realization and acceptance of who we are and who we want to become;
- Be willing to change and making a commitment to that change;
- Making the changes in our lives while remaining true to our values;
- Turn the focus away from self by helping others.
This is a continuous improvement process that leads to “progress not perfection”. It is a life long journey not a destination and it requires acceptance, courage, rigorous honesty, faith and humility. Every step of the way.
The Shared Path
There is a strong focus on acceptance of self and removal of denial in both pathways. The 12 Steps challenges the alcoholic to face themselves squarely in the mirror, to admit their addiction and confront their darker side. To admit their faults and accept themselves as they are, to then turn over those faults to a higher power and to commit to change. This compels the individual to rigorous self honesty, which in turn results in honesty to others and the attainment of humility.
Arrogance, denial, anger and rampant self-will begin to vanish. All of the sudden the alcoholic realizes that admitting powerlessness over alcohol and then surrendering it to a higher power empowers him to do something about it. The illusion of addiction is revealed. At this point many, if they have been honest and sincere, will report the loss of a compulsion to drink.
While not as dramatic, Jedi Training brings about a shift in the way we think and live. The individual is challenged to consider where their actions and thoughts are inconsistent with the Jedi Code. The Jedi Path provides a guide on how to address these and eventually eliminate all psychological barriers to growth.
At this point the focus of the 12 Steps is internal on resolving the physical, mental and spiritual imbalance that alcoholism brings. The concept of a Higher Power provides the 12 Stepper with the freedom to define a personal concept of “God’. Be it the “Universal Consciousness”, the “Source”, “Om” or in my own personal definition, the “Force”. It can also be “Group of Drunks” or “Good Orderly Direction”.
To try to verbalize or describe in words that power is not important, neither is the need to believe in any supernatural power. Agnostics and atheists can have any “Higher Power” they choose, the important thing is to realize faith in something greater than one’s self.
Jedi Philosophy is no different. The Force represents whatever the Jedi defines it be. The choice is entirely personal. As with the 12 Steps, there is no requirement to have any religious conviction. If the Jedi follows a religion be it Judeo-Christian, Islam or Eastern, Pagan, Wiccan or Jediism, that is their affair and no one else.
Jedi Philosophy like AA is a completely non-religious pathway to self improvement and social, spiritual, mental and physical growth without dogma or “isms”. The goal is individual transcendence, the individual is part of the whole and there is only one. As the Jedi becomes better, so does the world, the universe become a better place.
Cogito ergo sum
The Jedi Code has a spiritual basis that resonates with the concept of a universal force. One can easily see the “universal law of attraction” as well as Taoist thought in the Jedi Code. By saying “there is” is empowering that idea and making it real. Affirmations start with “I am”, if we believe it, we give it power. To say “there is no emotion, there is peace” is to create that state.
“I think, therefore I am” – René Descartes
With training of the mind, the Jedi Code can become a reality for a practitioner in the same way as prayer and affirmations bring change by claiming what the universe offers. Without this power of the mind and faith in the 12 Steps, I personally would not have been able to overcome the mental, physical and spiritual disease of alcoholism.
Train the Whole
The Force is the natural source and inspiration of the Jedi as is the Higher Power for the 12 Stepper. In my personal experience my concept of the Force has evolved over the period I have been sober. In that time I have looked to Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, read works Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Sri Chinmoy and Neale Donald Walsch as part of my spiritual search. Jedi Philosophy is part of that journey and a valuable one as it provides practical steps in achieving one’s goals be it academic, professional, sports, spiritual growth or just becoming a better person. The focus is on study, application and service, which is exactly what the 12 Steps is about.
The Jedi is expected to train diligently, meditate, be mindful, apply diplomacy, demonstrate self discipline and study the Force. Likewise the 12 Stepper is expected to do exactly the same, one day at a time and to the extent that keeps them from picking up another drink. For example, as a 12 Stepper I read AA literature and spiritual books on a daily basis.
I apply simple spiritual principles of honesty, respect, temperance, integrity, selflessness, kindness, compassion, patience and tolerance. Each day I apply mindfulness to my internal and external environment and do spot checks through the day to measure my behaviors against my principles and values. I gauge my thoughts and emotions and mindfully observe them, deciding how to respond rather than react to events that upset me.
I routinely turn my self-will over and trust in the Force. When disturbed I repeat a mantra such as the Jedi Code, “calm, at peace, passive” or the “Serenity Prayer”. At night I review the day and identify instances where I have not been consistent with my principles and I resolve to make amends to others where necessary. I meditate for 20 minutes at least once a day and have an exercise regime that includes running, calisthenics, weights and martial arts.
My sobriety is a “daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition” and consistent effort is required. As with being a Jedi, we don’t do it part time, it is a full time effort. Each sober day is the reward and the end of the road is when we pass from this realm to the next.
As a 12 Stepper I know I should do these things to maintain my sobriety as a Jedi I do them, “half measures avail us nothing”. In order to be something we must “act as if” until it becomes who we are. Do even if you must “Fake before you make it” .
“Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda
To be a Jedi, I pretend to be a Jedi until it becomes second nature and an integral part of my character.
Both the Jedi Path and the 12 Steps realize the importance of shifting focus from self to others. As an alcoholic I hurt a lot of people and could only move forward once I addressed the past. Eckhart Tolle in the “Power of Now” reminds us that life happens in the Now, not in the past. We must resolve our “grasping” attachment to the past and the suffering that it causes to truly free ourselves to live in the Now.
Yoda also challenged Luke to face the legacy of his past and the “Dark Side” that lurked within. The 12 Steps is simple in this regard, we resolve the past by making a list of everyone we have harmed through our drinking and make amends where possible unless to do so would harm them or others. The ego is deflated by doing this and we are humbled in the process.
No one likes to owe up to their mistakes and admit their wrongs. But to stay on the path to recovery we must resolve old resentments and regrets and making amends to others is a crucial step. In my experience making amends not only mends fences, it also brings about forgiveness of self and humility.
Coming to terms with the past and making amends is a life changing experience. We start to learn concepts alien to the alcoholic such as compassion, forgiveness and empathy. As we start to lose our false self our true inner self starts to emerge and we experience a glimpse of true serenity and inner peace. We become closer to our divine source.
The ultimate Jedi Goal is world betterment through self betterment. So too is the 12 Stepper, in fact the need to make a better world, to serve a purpose greater than one’s self is the true aim of most religions and spiritual traditions. Service is also a basic human trait.
The goal of Step 12 is world betterment “one drunk at a time”. The traditions of service to others, unity of purpose and fellowship are the corner-stones of AA. The premise is that “faith without works is dead”. Alcoholics are self centered to the extreme and typically selfish. Service to others and a purpose greater than one’s self counters this rampant obsession with self and is vital to recovery.
The Jedi goals of render aid, provide support and defend those in need illustrates the strong focus of service to others and to the community. The Jedi are not a confined and secretive order any more than are 12 Steps groups such as AA.
While AA broadly defines service as being of assistance to the group and helping others recover, the Jedi defines for himself or herself how to best serve others be it family, friends, strangers, and the community or the country or indeed the entire planet.
The goal of service is essentially to “get out of self”, as St Francis said “it is by self-forgetting that one finds”. Selfless service to others has been demonstrated to add meaning and purpose to one’s life. Volunteers for example are shown to be happier and more satisfied with life than are people in general. To keep something we have to give it away, that is the nature of the Force.
A formula for Living
The Jedi Path and the 12 Steps may well provide a true spiritual path to self improvement and recovery. The recipe for living that both paths provide might also be a simple psychological tool that resembles a mixture of cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and mindfulness based cognitive therapy. All are modern approaches to treating anxiety, depression and addiction as well as morbid grief and pain without use of drugs but simply being more aware and more accepting.
The reality is that the techniques have been around for thousands of years and present in traditional eastern and western philosophies such as Zen and Tao, Stoicism and mysticism such as Kabala and Christian Contemplative Orders. Each approach requires a certain level of commitment to change and disciplined approach. Without effort no change can occur. Without a sense of self discipline I could not have got sober and I would probably not be writing this treatise. Obviously there is a process of mental change taking place.
It has long been recognized that belief supported by action leads to a change in thinking, behavior, character and ultimately destiny. What has been shown recently through brain scans is that people who meditate and train toward spiritual growth or do martial arts undergo neuroplasticity. The way their brain is wired changes over time and leads to modifications in cognition and behavior.
Research has demonstrated this on trials undertaken in patients undertaking mindfulness based therapies and also in studies on monks and nuns living in monastic lives dedicated to contemplation, prayer and charity. In other words the Jedi Code can change the way a person thinks, views the world, ranks personal values and acts accordingly. The 12 Steps proponents have known for decades and the scientific community agrees that right motivation, thought, words and action lead to change.
The one thing that everyone cannot agree on is the concept of a Higher Power or the Force. That of course, is left to the individual to ponder and decide for themselves, one thing that must be recognised is the power of faith in human lives.
This treatise has attempted to explain the Jedi Code in the context of my own personal life experience and limited understanding of the Jedi Philosophy and specifically the Jedi Code. Through this understanding I have been able to apply the Jedi Philosophy on my path to recovery from alcoholism using the 12 Steps of AA.
The Jedi Code is a series of five tenets that originated in the Star Wars movies and books and were then written and re-written as the Jedi community evolved. Only recently has the Jedi community attempted to explain it in the context of the real world and then apply it in everyday life.
Outside the fictional realm of the Star Wars universe the meaning of the Jedi Code is left to every person who chooses to make it their own. The Jedi Philosophy is there to guide those that aspire to act and live like the Jedi in their example. As Jedi Philosophy spreads and becomes a movement it will evolve and change and the Jedi Path will not be dictated by one person but by the community as a whole.
The Jedi Code shall remain at the heart of that movement. The Code is a point of depart for anyone that chooses to “be” Jedi. If they choose so and apply themselves as a Jedi the outcome is progressive self betterment. Over time the benefits will become apparent not only to the individual but to everyone else he or she comes into contact with.
The Jedi Code has the potential to change lives as it provides a road map for personal growth and can inspire people to emulate the Jedi in the real world in a practical and meaningful way. Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, and Social Well-Being is possible for anyone willing to change and apply certain simple principles in their lives. The goal of the Jedi, world betterment through self betterment is not unique to the Jedi, but the Jedi Philosophy is unique and presents a valid and real alternative to those seeking answers and guidance in today’s secular society.
The reality is that “Jedi” is just a word, a point of reference, the Jedi Philosophy can apply to anyone whether they care to call themselves a Jedi or not. Titles and labels do not matter; the way one chooses to live is what is important. It is simply a Philosophy for Life.
Trout K (2013). The Jedi Circle: Jedi Philosophy for Everyday Life. Amazon.