When you watch the Star Wars original trilogy, it’s impossible to not be fascinated by the Jedi.
We encounter this mysterious, ancient religious order full of warrior monks who wield laser swords and can move objects with their minds. The two experienced Jedi that we meet — Obi-Wan and Yoda — seem to be good role models, offering wisdom and guidance. By following the Jedi path, Luke Skywalker turns from an impetuous boy into a strong, compassionate man.
However, the prequel trilogy peels back some of that facade and shows us that the Jedi Order of old wasn’t as spotless and blameless as we may have assumed.
The Jedi make a number of mistakes in the prequel trilogy, and become, in a way, the architects of their own downfall. They may not have embraced the dark side, but they wandered away from the true nature of the Force.
So, how did the Jedi start down the wrong path in the first place, and how can the order potentially be reborn after Episode IX?
Attachment is forbidden
In the prequel-era Jedi Order, the Jedi are required to forsake attachment and suppress their emotions. The idea is that if they don’t have families of their own and if they prevent themselves from falling in love or developing other close relationships, they’ll be able to dedicate themselves fully to their work. They won’t have to worry about their emotions compromising a mission or having conflicts of interest.
However, as any therapist will likely tell you, ignoring or suppressing your emotions is never healthy. Anakin Skywalker always struggled with attachments, trying to hide how much he loved Padmé and later keeping his marriage a secret. His stress and fear just kept building and building, until it eventually drove him to the dark side.
By looking judgmentally on deep friendships or romantic relationships, the Jedi denied a key part of life. The Force is actually all about attachment, binding all things together. It’s interesting that Anakin’s repressed feelings led to the downfall of the Jedi Order, but then years later, Luke Skywalker’s love for his father redeemed Darth Vader’s soul and freed the galaxy.
According to Wookieepedia (a very helpful resource for Star Wars fact-checking/research!), the Jedi Order was originally founded so the Jedi could serve as the guardians of “peace and justice in the Galactic Republic.” They use their lightsabers when they must, but violence is never the goal.
However, by the time we get to the prequel era, the Jedi have gotten too caught up in the political machine of the Galactic Republic. In the Clone Wars, they basically serve as a Republic army that can be deployed by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine however he wants.
Even more troubling, the Jedi also brush aside the ethical issues of using a clone army to fight in this war. They allow the Kaminoans to “manufacture” more and more clone soldiers, who are sent to fight the Separatist troops, without the power to make choices of their own.
The Jedi should have been challenging the questionable ethical choices being made by the Republic, but instead they got too comfortable with the bureaucracy and ended up becoming part of the system they should have opposed. They also failed to identify Palpatine as the Sith Lord whose power they so feared.
The Jedi Order’s inability to see the evil right in front of them is a sobering reminder of how easy it is for any of us to become misguided or to abuse the power that we have. Yoda, Mace Windu, and the other Jedi masters sadly did not learn that lesson until it was too late.
Letting the past die
Due to their overbearing focus on rules and regulations, the prequel-era Jedi Order became too strict and were unable to prevent their own downfall. Even original trilogy era Obi-Wan and Yoda made some mistakes.
That’s why I believe that despite some of his failures, Luke Skywalker is still the greatest Jedi that we’ve seen in the Star Wars saga thus far, and he does a better job of following the Force than some of the more highly-trained Jedi we see in the prequels.
Luke risks his life to save his father’s soul, believing in the power of love, hope, and redemption long after others have given up. And while he does become disillusioned for a time, as we see in “The Last Jedi,” ultimately he comes back to save the day with a non-violent display of Force power that saves lives without shedding a single drop of blood.
Luke Skywalker is the perfect blueprint to use for building a new generation of Jedi. In the post Episode IX era, I hope we don’t see an organized structure that is similar to the old prequel era Jedi Order. The Jedi shouldn’t attempt to control the Force or limit it, and should instead open themselves up to its currents.
One of my favorite Luke quotes from “The Last Jedi” is “[The] Force does not belong to the Jedi. To say that if the Jedi die, the light dies, is vanity.” Going forward, the Jedi need to recognize that A) everyone in the galaxy is part of the Force, not just a chosen few; and B) they need to recognize that darkness lives inside everyone.
We can’t just suppress that darkness or deny that it exists: we have to acknowledge it, grapple with it, and then overcome it.
I am so excited to see how Rey will redefine and reshape what it means to be a Jedi, now that she’s defeated Palpatine and built her own saber. Her existence is breaking down old stereotypes about the Jedi and shows that your legacy doesn’t have to define your future.
I don’t know what future canon materials will delve into, but I’d like to think that somehow, Rey will be able to bring Ben Solo back, and together they can show the galaxy what it’s like to be a Force user no longer tied to the old rules of the Jedi and the Sith.
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