Nondual Jediism?

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Gotham Chopra (son of the famous Deepak Chopra), has a nice short video on the new religion of Jediism. Yes, Jedi-ism is now an official religion. Like all good religions, practicioners of Jediism need a code to live by--to guide their actions. Fortunately The Jedi have just such a code (in fact as we'll see in a few moments, a few different versions of such a code).

In the video Chopra cites the following version of 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.

However this is not the original form of the Jedi Code. The Star Wars wiki helpfully reminds us that the original code was:

Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.

Dualistic Jediism

The revised form of the code (the first one quoted above) is actually a very dualistic reading of The Universe, one that I believe forms a profoundly flawed basis of a religion. If the Jedi religion of our day is following the revised Jedi Code, I believe they will be in some serious spiritual trouble (I'm leaving out the question of the social trouble inherent in dressing up and believing oneself to be a Jedi--a different story altogether). Here I'm, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek, taking the Jedi religion, and its Code in particular, very seriously. I'm offering theological counsel to my Jedi sisters and brothers. Knowledge of The Force after all is strong with me.

So let's look at the revised code and why I think it's dualistically flawed.

There is no emotion, there is peace.

This verse expresses the original teaching of nirvana (as opposed to samsara). Nirvana means 'snuffing out' as in a candle. The world-- represented in the revised Jedi code by the word emotions--is seen as a series of conditioned responses in which there is no freedom. We're born, we suffer, we die. Freedom lies in transcending the realm of birth and death--detaching from emotion and its clinging, endless, unfulfilled, painful desires into a realm of pure peace.

I am not saying this teaching is wrong, only that it covers, at most, a portion of the spiritual journey. If a person enters into deep meditation, s/he can experience a deep formless peace. There is a sense of completely transcending time and space as well as connecting with all that Is. There are no dilemmas, no traumas, no wounds in this infinite space. This peace is a deeply blissful one. A person does not need anything in this space. Therefore there really is no particular emotion associated with the experience other than a sense of peace, contentment, and of not needing anything.

The reader may want to take a few moments to enter into a meditative space. Notice that there is an ever-present current of Peacefulness and simply notice that you are drawn to drop into it. It pulls you away like an undertow. Thoughts, feelings, images, they all float by like clouds in the sky. But you remain as The Sky: blue, vast, open.

As you begin to experience this timelessness, this sense of the Transcendent, re-read the revised Jedi Code. You will see that it is written from this state of awareness. It is true within this state of Pure Consciousness.

This state however is only one state among many and is still, in subtle ways, dualistic. The revised Jedi Code instills an emptiness or transcendent-only form of spirituality. It is cut off from the messy, conditioned, largely broken world of time and space.

Consider the next verse in the Revised Code:

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

In the experience of this unmoving, unchanging Ground of Being, there is only the sense of knowledge (or rather Knowledge). There is a sense of being in an all-knowing space ("there is no ignorance"). From this vantage point, it does really feel like there is no ignorance, only knowledge. But as we will see in a moment this is an incomplete view of things.

dollar"There is no passion, there is serenity."

Passion comes form the root meaning "to suffer" (as in "the passion of Christ"). This is the same root for the word com-passion: to suffer with others. Where is there no suffering, no passion? In Nirvana. Much early Christian theology--influenced by the philosophy of Plato--goes to great lengths to argue that the transcendent God does not suffer change or undergo passion for fear of God being imperfect or not being all-powerful. This is the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle, the great All-Seeing Eye on the US $1 bill. This God is serene, untouched by the changes of life.

There is no death, there is The Force.

The timeless/spaceless Ground of Being is Eternal. There is no death in the Ground. The Eternal is Unborn and therefore Undying. It never enters into the stream of time and therefore is not subject to the process of birth and death. Hence the F in Force is capitalized. The Force is The Tao, Emptiness (Shunyata), or God.

The (East) Indian term for this is The Witness: Deathless, Passion-less, Emotionless, All-Knowing, All-Peaceful, All-Pervading. The Witness is, however subtly, separate from all that is witnessed. And this is why I said that the revised Jedi Code is, if quite subtly, dualistic. It is invoking the realm of heaven against earth, of unmoved Being over the world of Becoming, The Eternal over the temporal, and Nirvana over samsara. It is, in integral spirituality, causal-state spirituality not nonduality.


Let's look again at this verse:

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There's a fundamental problem here. By residing exclusively in the formless realm, we come to ignore the world of form. We become ignorant of the world of form. So while it feels in the space of pure emptiness as if there is no ignorance, there is in fact ignorance--there is ignorance of time and space. Moreover the state of Awakening itself is sometimes called Divine Ignorance because within it one experiences pure mystery. A person can experience The One but can never know what or who it is. We remain forever Ignorant in the space of Awakening.

So the verse above is blind to its own illusion in at least two ways. It is ultimately self-refuting: by saying that there is no ignorance, it is itself exposing its ignorance, and thereby deconstructs its own teaching. It proves itself wrong.

An emptiness-only dualistic spirituality tends to view creation in a negative (or at least suspicious and ambivalent) frame. We can see this in the general tendency among Jedi to be celibate and seek to not hold political power (a point raised in great detail in Star Wars Episode 3). The Jedi seek, as much as possible, to stay out of the "dirty" world of sex, power, politics, and money.

In a dualistic framework, we choose one side over the other. Harmony over chaos, The Force over death, serenity over passion, and so on. Whatever in the two terms is denied becomes a place where The Truth is not found. This leads to a spirituality of disconnection, and potentially repression, of those half of the binaries labeled as inferior like passion, chaos, emotion, and so on. These become unredeemed realms.

While the revised Jedi Code may seem fantastical, these spiritual debates and traditions are quite real. They have enormous concrete implications on our lives. Can you think of any examples in your own life where you learned this kind of spirituality? I know I certainly can from my own upbringing.

Take chaos. In the Hindu tradition there is Kali, the Dark Goddess of Chaos. Kali's job is to bring death and destruction, not simply for the sake of destruction, but so that new life might arise. (In the Western tradition she's known as The Black Madonna). In the revised Jedi Code, there is no place for devotion to Kali-Black Madonna energy. And not just in Jedi-ism but in many of our religions and spiritual traditions today, that Kali-energy is not cultivated or honored. It ends up expressing itself in all kinds of violent, corrosive, and cynical, ways.

If we value harmony over chaos, we leave no place for Holy Chaos. This leads to stagnation, decline, and rigidity in our lives. We fail to see that Chaos and Harmony are in fact two sides of one coin--they are each other's partners not enemies. Chaos without harmony is terrorism. Harmony without Chaos is stagnation.

Nondual Jedi-ism


In nondual spirituality--as opposed to the casual or emptiness-only spirituality we've been looking at so far--the teaching is:

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
Nirvana is Samsara. Samsara is Nirvana.
Brahman [The Divine] is the world.

However worded, we see a union of Heaven (Formless) and Earth (Form). So while I believe the revised Jedi Code leads to a more dualistic spirituality, over-emphasizing the formless realm of peace to the neglect of the messy world of form, perhaps the original wording of the Jedi Code (the 2nd one quoted above) points in a more nondual direction?

I think in a qualified sense it does. Let's take a look at it.

Emotion yet peace.

The first clue to a possible nondual Jediism is that in this version, emotion is (at least partially) validated. I read this verse to mean: there is emotion, yet there is peace in the midst of and through those emotions.

Ignorance, yet knowledge.

There is ignorance and all of us will always be, in part, ignorant. Yet there is knowledge in the midst of this ignorance. Even admitting we are partially ignorant is a form of knowledge, a kind of honest wisdom.

Passion yet serenity.

We experience anger, fear, sadness, confusion, upset, grief, loss, vulnerability, jealousy, bewilderment, stress, frustration and yet we may experience a deep serenity even in the midst of these. We can be free and serene in the midst of any and all such emotions. When we embrace each emotion in its fullness, it reveals to us that it has an enlightened version. There is a seed of awakening in every emotion, thought, or sensation. When those realities are fully embraced--even our very individual egoic selves--then we will know there is Passion yet also Serenity. We will passionately serene, serenely passionate.

Death yet The Force.

Death is inevitable. All of us are born, all of us will die. Everyone we know and love will die or will see us die. Compared to the lifespan of The Universe, compared to the size of the galaxies, we are but a blip. Our lives pass by in but a nanosecond. All things must fall apart. The skull grins at the table of even our most wonderful gatherings. And yet, and yet there's The Force. We come to realize that we are one with The Force. The Force is one with all around us--it flows through us and all things. We are never separate from The Force and therefore are eternal. Still we are also eternal as these mortal beings who will suffer emotion, passion, pain, loss, and death.

When we join the two, when we realize paradoxically death and life are one, then our hearts will open. This is what the Christian tradition calls Kenosis--loving self-sacrifice. Giving up even our awakened states to enter into the wondrous, beautiful, impurity of everything. What The Buddhist tradition knows as a Bodhisattva, one who refuses the total transcending of this realm in order to be awake and save all beings.


For those of us who don't wield lightsabers (real or fake), what are we to make of all this? Can we learn anything from all this? I think we can.

light dark

In both cases, The Jedi Code of Ethics deals in polarities. As we've seen, in the Jedi Code, opposites are paired one to another: e.g., serenity and passion, death and The Force, emotion and peace. Learning how to deal with polarities is an important element of the spiritual path. Integral theorist Terri O'Fallon has researched the topic of polarity and spiritual development in great detail (you can download and read her paper called The Evolution of the Human Soul on the subject from the Pacific Integral site). Terri describes a four stage pattern of the development of dealing with a polarity. Of course any model simplifies what is a much more organic ebb and flowing process. It doesn't work in simple linear steps. But seen as a longer process of maturation I think it's a helpful framework. 

Stage 1: One Side Only. Choosing one side of the pole and rejecting/suppressing the other side.
Stage 2: Either/Or. An ability to connect to both sides of a polarity but only one at a time. One or the other.
Stage 3: Both/And. Here the person recognizes and is able to hold both poles at one moment, realizing that each depends in part on the existence of the other. The person understands that the poles mutually co-exist (like left and right....without left there's no right and without right there's no left).
Stage 4: Realization of oneness. The poles are seen to be two distinct manifestations of one underlying reality.

The Jedi Codes are really dealing with a central polarity in the spiritual life: transcendence and immanence. The Revised Jedi Code I showed earlier is dualistic. In O'Fallon's polarity stage conception, the Revised Jedi Code looks to reflect stage 1 (choosing one side and rejecting the other) in relation to the transcendence/immanence polarity. The Revised Code advocates being one side of the pole (the transcendent side) and denying or repressing the other half of the pole (the immanence side) with statements like:

There is no passion (immanence) /there is serenity (transcendence).
There is no ignorance (immanence)/there is knowledge (transcendence).

And so on.

If we look at the original Jedi Code, it's a little ambiguous:

Emotion yet peace,
Passion yet serenity,
Chaos yet harmony.

This could be read as a stage 2 understanding: the Either/Or stage. If read as a stage 2 conception, we would understood, there is passion yet serenity to mean that one is aware that there is serenity as well as passion, yet we choose serenity. One or other but not both at the same time.

I however think it more properly belongs to a stage 3 understanding: The Both/And view. This is why I called the original Jedi Code a qualified nondual outlook. I read the Code to mean, "there is emotion yet there is also peace." "There is chaos yet there is also harmony." Both would be understood to be in an essential play with one another.

When applied to the transcendence/immanence polarity this means there is an understanding in the Code (if it truly is a stage 3 understanding) that there is transcendence in the midst of immanence. And there is immanence or perhaps intimacy in moments of true transcendence.

I called the stage 3 Both/And position a qualified nonduality because there is still the possibility of the deeper realization of total oneness within the pole. I don't think either Jedi Code speaks to this level of awakening.

What would it look practically to work with these polarities--how do we develop a deeper sensitivity to their inter-relationship, moving through deeper layers of awakening? Let's take this verse from the original Jedi Code:

"there is chaos yet harmony."

First we look to find the voice of chaos within ourselves. Touch into the feeling of chaos. Perhaps some memories come to mind. Notice the patterns of chaos in human relations (e.g. war), in nature (e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires), and in oneself.

Next examine the voice of harmony. Find the place of harmony within oneself--in balance, at rest, appropriately grounded. Consider harmony in nature--animals breathe out carbon dioxide, which plants and trees breathe in, they in turn exhaling oxygen which animals (including human animals) then inhale. Or voices singing in harmony--each playing its distinct role but blending together beautifully to create a sound that no single voice by itself can.

After having spent time in both sides of the pole, notice if you have trouble locating one side of the pole. Notice if you naturally prefer one side over the other. In particular if you have real difficulty connecting to either chaos or harmony, that's an important learning. Working with polarities can reveal to us which side of a polarity we might tend to favor and which side we neglect. Such neglect or uncomfortability can lead to a full-on disowning of the voice creating a shadow.

I find I prefer harmony to chaos. I'm good at mediating conflict, bringing peace, as well as harmonizing (i.e. integrating) various ideas and theories. I'm very much a no-drama kind of guy. On the other hand, however, I can seek to avoid conflict or want peace at all costs. If I start struggling with chaos around me, I can become really fixated on details, attempting to maintain the illusion of control when I have none.

This is the second stage--either/or. We spend time experiencing either harmony or chaos.

As this process matures, the next (third) stage is to begin to hold both harmony and chaos together at the same time. We can begin by realizing that harmony and chaos co-arise, they depend on each other. If there was no chaos, we wouldn't know what harmony was. And if there was no harmony, we wouldn't have chaos. Like Batman and The Joker, they create each other.

yin yang
Going even the Taoist symbol of the Yin/Yang there is Yin (black) and Yang (white) but there is also black within the white (yin within the Yang) and white within the black (yang within the Yin). In this example, there is a way in which there is harmony within chaos and chaos within harmony.

In a hurricane (representing chaos) there is great harmonic resonance between the wind patterns and the water. And anyone whose ever been part of a negotiation or mediation will tell you it can be a quite chaotic process.

A deeper layer still of the Both/And stage of working with a polarity is where we come to locate a still point at the center of the two poles. For me, harmony and chaos are both responses to opposing forces. Harmony seeks to integrate or reconcile opposing forces, while chaos expresses opposing forces (like lightning and thunder). Opposition or relation to opposition might be the still point at the center of chaos and harmony. Locating this still point allows us to see and feel both sides of the pole simultaneously.

Then lastly the fourth stage the polarity moves into a pure oneness. Harmonic Chaos or Chaotic Harmony (aka Chaordic). This stage is hard to articulate but can be experienced and expressed in life. We realize that Chaos, at its purest, is the deepest form of Harmony and Harmony, at its most intense, is Chaos.

For those who are more drawn to body movement and breath practices (e.g. Tai Chi or Uzazu), this same 4 stage process could be done through movement and breath. Select a movement and breath pattern that embodies chaos and select another that embodies harmony. Harmony might be a more fluid, softer, and slower movement. Chaos could be more energetic, even frenetic, yet still beautiful and creative.

As above, start with each movement separately and notice how each feels. Notice if you prefer one movement or the other or feel quite ill at-ease in one of them. That would stages 1 and 2.

Then combine the movements into a kind of dance. Notice what occurs when you combine the movements. Notice that the deeper you embody harmony, the more chaos you will be able to hold. And similarly, the more chaos you can flow with, the deeper your ability to bring harmony will be. Notice the moment just before transitioning between one pole and the next. That moment, if only even for an instant, is the still point--the point between inhalation and exhalation, between reception and expression. It is a moment of pure stillness and no movement.

may the force be with you
This same process of working with polarities could be one for every one of the elements of the Jedi Code:

Death/Force (Life)

In this way the Jedi spirituality could lead people into deeper layers of awakened experience and action. In this way the Force (and death) will indeed be with us.


Editor: TJ Dawe.

Coda: Br. TJ informs me that if you really want to take this Jedi polarity body movement thing super seriously, Darth Vader (Lord Vader!), himself will teach you Tai Chi.

Afterthought: An interesting related investigation--which would require a separate article altogether--would involve the character of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Anakin fulfilled the prophecy and brought balance (harmony?) to the Force but did so in a way even Yoda or Obi-Won could not comprehend or believe. The question is: Was it necessary for Anakin to turn to the Dark Side in order to bring balance to the Force? Could he have brought about the balance by another means? And if so, what is that means? And what can we learn from that path that we might apply to our own lives?

* The notation reading: The fourth line "There is no chaos, there is harmony," is removed in some Jedi texts. At the Funeral of Mara Jade Skywalker, for instance, this line was omitted.

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  • Comment Link Hokyo Joshua Routhier Wednesday, 29 August 2012 22:01 posted by Hokyo Joshua Routhier

    Sith code is better...

    Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
    Through passion, I gain strength.
    Through strength, I gain power.
    Through power, I gain victory.
    Through victory, my chains are broken.
    The Force shall free me.

  • Comment Link Hokyo Joshua Routhier Friday, 31 August 2012 01:35 posted by Hokyo Joshua Routhier

    Next week, I am planning on writing a counter/additional part to this about the Sith code. It has been decided.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Thursday, 06 September 2012 20:38 posted by Chris Dierkes

    Dude write that piece!

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