In the last part of my Background Theory I evaluated what we know about the deep past and surmised a deep wound was created in the Force. For this part, I will explore the history of the Jedi from its foundation to its destruction by Palpatine, the Sith and how the wound drove the history of both.
- The Nature of the Force and Balance
- The Plans of Emperor Palpatine
- A Wound in the Force
- The Dawn, Rise and Fall of the Jedi Order <
- Palpatine: The Ultimate Sith Lord
- Downfall of the Jedi and Rise of the Empire
The origins and long history of the Jedi are shrouded in mystery. Even the Jedi themselves debated where the first Temple had been located by the waning days of the Grand Republic and Ahch-To had faded into legend. The many wars the Jedi had been involved in over the millennia exacted a high toll on the historical record. In one war, the Great Jedi Library on Ossus was destroyed and doubtless, much was lost when the Jedi were forced to flee Coruscant one thousand years prior to the current era. Unfortunately, that record has come under further strain with the fall of the Jedi Order in Order 66 and has either been looted, hidden or lost entirely. Future Jedi historians will face a tall order indeed to reconstruct the past.
A Brief History of the Galaxy
What we do know is the Jedi were founded in the distant past, likely by the Jedi Prime, and had their first temple on Ahch-To. At some point that temple was abandoned and lost to history. A philosophical disagreement among the Jedi regarding the Dark side eventually resulted in a schism and the following century came to be known as the one-hundred years darkness. By the end of that century, the Jedi’s arch-nemesis, the Sith had formed and ensuing millennia were wracked by devastating wars between the two.
In the final war, the Sith managed to drive the Jedi and Republic from Coruscant and seized control of the galaxy itself. Sith rule was not undone by the Jedi, but by infighting among the Sith themselves. As Sith doctrine put the personal pursuit of power above all else, it wasn’t long before their grip weakened from the constant infighting. As the Sith wiped themselves out, the Jedi and Republic regrouped and began retaking the galaxy. Coruscant fell and soon the Sith Empire was a memory.
The apparent eradication of the Sith was a watershed moment in galactic history. Per Star Wars Propaganda, calendars were reset, the Republic was reorganized and the time before collectively forgotten. The Jedi, for their part, reclaimed their temple on Coruscant and established themselves as peacekeepers. Secure in the belief that the Sith were no more, both Republic and Jedi settled into an apparent galactic golden age of peace.
Unbeknownst to the Jedi, one Sith did survive, Darth Bane. Darth Bane reasoned that, as the Sith philosophy created an inherently unstable relationship between adherents, there should only be two Sith Lords at any one time. Thus the rule of two was born: one master and one apprentice. The master was to pursue power while the apprentice craved his master’s power and once he grew strong enough, took his master’s place. Following this rule, the Sith were to remain in the shadows and steadily grow ever more powerful until they were able to overthrow the Republic and destroy the hated Jedi. Almost one thousand years later, the rule of two culminated in Darth Sidious and the Order had its champion.
Dawn of the Jedi
In the previous section, I explored what we know about ancient galactic history and surmised that there was some kind of cataclysm that left a wound in the Force. This wound came close to consuming the galaxy, but was somehow prevented from doing so. Alas, the damage was only prevented from getting worse and not healed. The wound and its effects remained and subtly affected the entire galaxy for the ensuing millennia.
As theorized in the previous section based on the wording of the ancient Jedi prophecies, I believe this wound predates the formation of the Jedi Order. In fact, here I would suggest the Jedi Order was formed in response to the fallout of the cataclysm. With the bleeding only staunched and the trauma remaining, balance in the Force was fragile at best. Anyone sensitive to the Force would find a sympathetic and powerful ally in the Force’s own pain for their grievances. However, they would quickly find that ally to be their master and the redress it offered to be illusory as they were turned into an instrument of destruction.
With the ever-present threat of those sensitive falling to the so-called dark side, a group dedicated to maintaining balance and teaching how to resist the dark’s siren call was needed. One luminous being created such a philosophy and they and their followers founded a place for learning and meditation on the world of Ahch-To. From the teachings of this Prime Jedi, an Order was born.
Given the primitive conditions we see at the first Jedi Temple, any kind of centralized coordination would have been impossible. Ergo it is likely the early Jedi were bound more by shared beliefs and philosophy than any formal structure or hierarchy. While there were of course expectations and conditions for being called a Jedi, every adherent would have been able to further the cause of the Jedi as they saw fit. It is also likely the limitations of such a remote and primitive world led to the Jedi relocating to a home closer to civilization soon after the Order’s establishment (the limited number of structures and support infrastructure all support a fairly short occupation).
As the Order grew in both numbers and prestige, greater organization and standardization would have been necessary. Still, it is likely the interpretation of the Order’s Code and teachings was largely left up to the discretion of individual Jedi. It is certainly apparent that the age restrictions and rejection of attachments came later:
The first piece he ever heard as a boy plays in his chambers now: The Cantata of Cora Vessora, an Old Republic opera of a dark witch on an unnamed world who refused to become Jedi—but neither would she join the Sith. It is a tale of birth, death, and all the glories found between those poles: love, passion, war, and above all else revenge. Revenge against the Sith who took her loved ones. Revenge against the Jedi for standing idly by and refusing to protect her because she would not join their ranks. Revenge against the galaxy for being as imperfect and impure as she had feared.Wendig, Chuck. Life Debt: Aftermath. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
This cantata is interesting for other reasons, but the subject of the tale both has loved ones and is old enough to personally choose to reject joining the Jedi. Those rules seem to have come about much later.
It is also of interest that the Chosen One prophecy and with other prophecies were made during the Order’s early days. Some members of the early Order seem to have dabbled in divination. That the later Order would suspect and strenuously reject even personal premonitions suggests something went horribly wrong with foretelling at some point in the distant past. Perhaps it led to a disastrous self-fulfilling prophecy or even the creation of the Jedi’s greatest enemy.
Rise of the Sith
The Jedi Order grew and became the recognized authority on Force matters. However, at least one influential member of the Jedi disagreed with the Order’s stance on the dark side. This member and their followers were ultimately shunned and excommunicated from the order. What followed became known as the hundred years darkness. While the details aren’t known, we do know this century gave birth to the Sith Order. The Sith believed the Jedi Order was wrong to reject the dark and, instead, embraced it.
By the time of the Galactic Republic, Sith doctrine was entirely focused on the individual accumulation of power. In all likelihood, this describes the Sith for their entire existence to some extent. However, there is an intriguing line from Lord Momin, who is from a time long before the Galactic Republic, in the Darth Vader 2017 comic:
What’s particularly interesting is Momin speaks of the dark side as something to be served and suggests this was in fact Sith doctrine. Admittedly, Lord Momin may not be the most credible person on such matters as he’s a bit insane and was even barred from the Sith Order for heresy with all record of him erased. Yet, the idea the Sith once considered themselves a cult in the service of the dark side is a fascinating one. Perhaps they believed they were to corrupt the galaxy on the dark side’s behalf. In any case, at some point this part of their doctrine was lost or deliberately dispensed with.
Following their creation, the Sith made war upon the Jedi and sought to overthrow the Republic. These wars lasted for millennia and appear to have waxed and waned. On several occasions, the Sith launched large scale assaults that conquered large fractions of the galaxy, only to lose their empires to infighting and Jedi led counterattacks. Some periods saw the Sith in hiding, rebuilding their strength. At the conclusion of one war, the Sith were driven into the Unknown Regions, much like the First Order of today. They reappeared centuries later to make war once again.
Over the course of these many wars, the Sith produced many artifacts, temples and super-weapons. On Yavin, they forced the Massassi people to build pyramids there and then exterminated the species five thousand years before the Galactic Empire. Malachor became the site of a war grave with the participants frozen in time after the super-weapon being constructed there was fired on its own location. The dark side was also used to enslave and mutate creates to serve as fantastic beasts of war. Dooku encountered and was forced to slay one such beast called the Tirra’Taka which had hibernated on Serenno since the world had been liberated from the Sith Empire by the founder of Dooku’s house. Many more such remnants of the past remain throughout the galaxy.
Despite Mace Windu’s claim to the contrary, the history of the Jedi Order is not one of keeping the peace. Even apart from their long struggle with Sith, the Jedi fought many wars alongside the Old Republic. The Mandalorian Wars, the Corsair Wars, the Ordu Aspectu and the Jedi-Zygerrian conflict are just some of the wars and conflicts the Jedi were a participant in. While they may have preferred diplomacy, peace was often brought at the tip of a lightsaber.
Nowhere is this history of conflict more apparent than the structure of the Order itself. By the time of the Galactic Republic, the Jedi were strictly hierarchical and centralized. The council made the decisions and the rest of the Jedi followed them. Whether individuals disagreed with the decisions was irrelevant, they had to be followed. The Jedi themselves were found, isolated and trained from a very young age. Initiates were brought to one location for intensive training and schooling. Even the Padawans, Knights (a title for a warrior no less) and Masters largely spent their time isolated from the rest of the galaxy when not on missions.
War had long shaped the Jedi and the Order from the top down reflected that. Even when the millennia of peace dawned, the Jedi had been poised to fight for far too long to even imagine changing. It simply approached its new role as peacekeepers with an organization built for war. Switching to fighting for the Republic during the Clone Wars was as easy as turning on a lightsaber.
Legacy of Fear
The Jedi taught fear led to the dark side, yet the greatest irony was the Jedi Order allowed itself to become consumed by its fear of the dark side. In their long wars against the Sith, the Jedi had to face uncountable numbers of their own falling to the call of the dark side. It is perhaps understandable that they came to fear close relationships as they engender the most intense emotions – positive or negative. Alas, instead of learning how to deal with an essential part of being human, they tried to dispense with them entirely.
If an individual can’t be trusted to form attachments to other beings, then logically feelings aren’t to be trusted. As feelings are a fundamental part of what an individual is, then the individual can’t be trusted to make rational decisions in a given situation and must strictly adhere to a doctrine created by wise masters with years of experience and distance of mind. Indeed, all major decisions should be made by wise masters who are separate from the people and events in a changing galaxy. It is easy to trace how the Jedi Order became a completely inflexible and isolated institution unable to serve or understand the galaxy it was sworn to protect.
Burying feelings and strictly following doctrine did help the Jedi Order survive for thousands of years. However, it came at a steep cost. By suppressing and ignoring their connections to others, they deafened themselves to how the Force whispered to them. Sifo-Dyas’s master Lene Kostana warned the Jedi for years that she could sense something dark and terrible was coming in her studies of dark side artifacts and places, but her warnings fell on deaf ears. Over time, she came to hide or did not inform the Jedi Council of important matters as she did not believe they would understand or would force her to stop her investigations. She even hid the true extent of how much her Padawan’s prophetic dreams and visions were destroying his sanity. They focused their efforts on serving the Force as a whole, but lost the ability to know how to serve it or help those he needed it.
Years before Naboo, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were sent to Pijal to help see through a treaty, Qui-Gon’s misgivings over the treaty were dismissed by the Council. When he had recurring dreams about an attack at the signing ceremony and recommended they shouldn’t go through with it, the Council dismissed it and reminded him believing one could control the future led to the dark side. Even when Qui-Gon discovered the treaty would actually condemn Pijal to servitude to Czerka Corporation, he was told not to jeopardize the treaty. Having blinded themselves to the Force, the Jedi substituted Republic politics.
By the time Dooku was an initiate, the Jedi Order had become completely beholden to its doctrine and subservient to Republic politics (and, in fact, a player). Save for highly choreographed and rare public appearances (such as when Dooku traveled to a celebration on Serreno as an initiate), most Jedi interaction with the wider galaxy was on missions for the Council as dictated by the Senate or Chancellor. It was only at the secret request of Chancellor Valorum that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had gone to Naboo at all. The Jedi repeatedly refused to intervene against slavery outside the Republic. In the event that led to Dooku leaving the Order, the Jedi decided not to assist Serenno when it was overrun by pirates and raiders because it had stopped paying dues to the Republic. In forsaking its own values and ideals, the Jedi Order had long been primed to be an instrument in its own downfall.
An irony of the Order’s slavish adherence to doctrine is it engendered fear and corruption in the ranks of the Jedi themselves. Anakin was not the first Jedi to find love and he was not the first to take drastic actions to hide it. Yula Braylon was a Seeker who sought out and brought Jedi candidates to the temple. As seekers frequently traveled for years at a time, it was hardly unusual when she brought back a young boy named Arath. This boy, as it turned out, was her own son and she kept it a secret for years. Yet, she always made sure to be close by and to help Arath. When Braylon was a member of the Jedi Council, it was discovered she had been spying for a major crime-boss to help cover her son’s gambling debts. The very leadership of the Jedi Order had been compromised out of a mother’s desire to protect and raise her own son. Doubtlessly, this scenario was hardly unique.
‘When the righteous lose the light, evil once dead shall return.’
-Ancient Jedi ProphecyGray, Claudia. Master and Apprentice, p. 41.
For millennia, the Sith tried warred against the Jedi to dominate the galaxy. They succeeded and were then brought down by their own lust for power. Yet even in defeat, they left behind a crippled foe. In its fight against monsters, the Jedi Order was transformed into a rigid institution guided by more by its own fears than its founding ideals. It became more myth than reality to the average citizen, unable to change or be an instrument of change. Darth Sidious could not have asked for better tools.
- When was the location of Ahch-To erased and why? As the Jedi themselves debated the location of the first Jedi Temple, it must have been long before Order 66.