Oct 27, 2011

Posted by in All The Galaxy's A Stage | 51 Comments

All The Galaxy’s A Stage: Jedi And Emotion – One Character’s Perspective

All The Galaxy’s A Stage is a regular column at Ask A Jedi with some lofty, creative goals.  On one hand, we will be discussing and exploring meaningful topics to support the role-play experience and community.  On the other hand, we also want to introduce the casual Role-Player to the writing-acting experience that can add so much more to an MMORPG like Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Share your perspectives and experience as we co-create magical story in that galaxy far, far away!

For sometime now I’ve been contemplating the line of the Jedi Code that reads, “There is no emotion; there is peace.”  The brilliance of the writing behind this line is that it is very much open to interpretation.

My experience is that the less you understand about the underlying mysticism of the Jedi philosophy the more likely you are to emphasize the literal wording of the Jedi Code over the potential of deeper meaning.  This line of the code, in partcular, is quite literally a mystery within a mystery within a grilled cheese sandwich.  And given the tendency for this line to be interpreted in so many ways I thought I’d take this opportunity to share one perspective.


This article contains my observations and opinion. I do not claim to have any official knowledge of this subject, and I am neither a writer or authority on Lore for BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic.  What follows will directly oppose some Expanded Universe canon.  In addition, your opinion may be different than mine.  You are encouraged to comment accordingly!

I’m going to ask you, dear reader, to indulge me and read the entire article before commenting.  What I am about to relate is the interpretation I’ve opted to take concerning the above line of the Code for a Jedi Master, called Sa Chi, that I currently role-play.

Denying Emotions?

Many posts I’ve read on this topic tend to get fixated on the idea that Jedi should have no emotion.  I’ve even seen RP that read runs along the lines of a Jedi Master telling their Padawan that they are supposed to spend a lifetime denying emotions, suppressing them.  And with this in mind I would like to present Sa’s first lesson:

No Jedi is going to reach enlightenment in the Force through suppression, aversion or denial.

From the first days of their training as a youngling or Padawan, Jedi work on learning how to release the false beliefs, attitudes, and values that cause emotions to surface in the first place. Emotions are a symptom, not a cause. With time, patience, training and persistence a Jedi can release much of the hidden baggage that leads to overwhelming emotions.

"You must unlearn what you have learned." ~ Yoda

The older a Jedi is when they enter the Order the more experience they’ve attained and, most importantly, the more opportunity they have had to accept beliefs that run contrary to the nature of the Force.  I see this as one of the key rationalizations for why the Order tended to prefer younger entrants.

There are a number of time periods in canon where due to extreme circumstances standards for acceptance into Jedi training were lowered.  However, canon has also followed such choices on the part of the Jedi Order with events of dire consequences.

Mastery Of The Mind

At the same time Jedi also train to master their mind. When an emotion does surface (which it will) the mastery they have over their mind will empower them to observe the emotion rather than identify with it. It will allow them to recognize that the sensation of an emotion has arisen (rather than react to it), and in turn their training will remind them that they can respond by harmoniously observing the emotion and the moment to see what there is for them to learn. After all, an emotion could be related to guidance from the Force in the form of an intuitive, or gut, feeling.

“Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things.” ~ Yoda

In this way a Jedi can be fully present in the moment. They need not suppress or have aversion for any emotion. In turn, they should not crave a pleasant sensation or emotion either.  They observe each pleasant or unpleasant emotion that arises with equanimity, and learn more about themselves and their relationship with the Force because of this state of harmonious awareness.

Before I continue onto the most controversial part of this article I would like to present Sa’s second lesson:

No Jedi is going to reach enlightenment in the Force through craving what they will inevitably lose.

Or to quote my little green friend:

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” ~ Yoda

Romance And The Dark Side

The craving of pleasant sensations and emotions, such as lust and romantic love, leads to the dark side (and incidentally I am delighted with BW’s decision in this regard).  When a Jedi craves a passion or sensation they are in effect mentally conditioning the deepest levels of their mind to crave something which they are bound to lose (the premise being that only the Force is eternal).  They blind themselves, compromising their awareness of the present moment for the sensation related to the romantic relationship.

A Jedi consumed by a deep emotional relationship will imprint a reliance of such sensations on the deepest levels of their mind, which will be evidenced in their missing and spending time thinking about their romantic partner.  It follows that a romantically involved Jedi is very likely going to seek out ways to maintain the experience of the sensations evoked.  This sort of behaviour leads to situations where Jedi can end up doing anything to ensure that the object of their passion do not die (enter stage-left, the fall of Anakin).

I fully expect to be reminded that there is some EU canon with Jedi successfully maintaining relationships.  Firstly, I would refer to the disclaimer above.  Secondly, I would state that such stories do not invalidate Sa’s position.  Jedi romances are exceptions, not the norm, for some very good reasons.

At best, there will be moments where they are thinking about their partner, not present to what is actually occurring around them.   At worst, romance results in a hindrance to a Jedi’s connection with the Force and challenges the Jedi to choose between the will of the Force and their own desires.

Negativity Of Emotion?

I’ve seen write ups of the Sith philosophy that talk about the view of negativity of emotion being a chain that binds the strong.  This perspective runs contrary to Sa’s take on this (and for any players of Sith reading this, Sa would be delighted to know that Sith may underestimate him because of the false propaganda they’ve been fed).

Here’s how Sa views things: If a Jedi has no negativity toward emotion, rather harmoniously observes it in the moment and are aware of what it is, then such a Jedi is actually liberated from their emotions in the most profound sense.  They are free (not chained) to hear the subtle and soft voice of the Force and to be aware of the emotion for what it is in the moment that it surfaces.

On a somewhat related note, in Sa Chi’s mind serving the light side is about defending those who cannot defend themselves, and expressing wholesome words or actions that cause no harm to him or another (note I didn’t use the word good to define the light side, since this is more subjective than wholesome).  Those falling to the dark side are more likely to express unwholesome actions or words that harm others.

Sa’s goal as a Jedi Master is to heed the will of the Force with the intent of allowing it to express more fully through him.  His experience is that Sith emphasize power over the physical world through control of the Force, and through this mentality of power-over the Sith take unwholesome actions, which turn leads to the dark side.  And incidentally this philosophy fits regardless of whether a Jedi prescribes to the Living or Unifying Force.

Wrap Up

Whatever philosophy to explain the Force you prefer for your character there is no doubt that Jedi and Sith have an immense potential for RP because of this mystical concept.  The possibilities that result from determining how your Jedi or Sith sees emotions are great inspiration and fuel for story and angst.

Sa Chi just happens to believe that craving or averting sensations such as emotions will cause suffering.  He also believes that Sith ultimately become slaves to their emotions and distance themselves in some measure from the Force.  The reliance on building rage (an emotion) as a game-mechanic is actually the perfect analogy for this in my mind.

In the end though, this entire article is based on a philosophy.  There is no right or wrong, and this is an argument that cannot be won (however, I fully expect some commenters to convince me otherwise).  But, the idea of Jedi having to deny emotions is an approach that just does not make sense to me.  After all, ask any psychologist in our galaxy about suppression and hear what they have to say.

  1. Bielduwyn says:

    I will have to argue on a few points. Most importantly the romance aspect, it should be worth pointing out that the idea of romance being a good start towards the dark side did not exist before the prequels, in particular Episode II. As is evidenced by romantically involved Jedi, both in the Old and New Republic being much more prevalent in EU stories that were written before Episode II’s release, and suddenly you see the entire EU backtracking on the matter like it’s going out of style rather than sticking to its guns because no one should take writing tips from Lucas.

    While I do agree that craving or actively seeking thrills or intense emotions can quickly lead to the dark side as thrill seeking clearly keeps you from doing your Jedi duties, not all romance starts out of an active search for such. And if a Jedi is level headed enough to keep their priorities as a Jedi over their romance then I can’t see much going wrong (aka Jolee Bindo’s school of thought). It is not too different from what some of our real world law enforcers and guardians have to face at times, I certainly don’t see any rules about police officers or judges having to avoid romance (and romance is even permitted in certain circles of Buddhist monks, which were a major inspiration towards the Jedi).

    Of course, I will not say your arguments are without merit, or false, or any of that. As we simply interpreted the same thing slightly differently. But then, even within the setting of Star Wars you’ll find that opinions on the Jedi and romance may differ even amongst Jedi Masters.

    But I’ll certainly concede that it is a slippery slope to take for a Jedi who is not perfectly centred, balanced, and, well, absolutely Zen. So basically, not advisable for most padawans and fresh knights.

    • I agree that there are exceptions and that romance can work with Jedi. But the very nature of what romance does (in terms of craving and having the compromise of self versus will of the Force) means that it causes some form of separation. In the article I wanted to be very clear that this was just a perspective and to highlight the risks inherent in romance with Jedi. And it is good to see an agreement in principle – enter into a romance as a Jedi at your own peril. There is far more to lose than gain…

    • Grinstone says:

      Wow, I wasn’t aware of the emotions aspect receiving such an overhaul with the prequels. Such about-faces are always unfortunate.

      I agree romance shouldn’t automagically mean downfall for a Jedi. I do feel for BioWare, however, because on that topic they’re caught between Lucas and a hard place.

      • Plus there are game design constraints. Until we see the story we can’t know the surface emotions being presented by the characters. With the limited dialog choices and being led on story-rails we can explore all the emotions. There are no perfect solutions. I agree romance doesn’t mean falling to the dark side, but there are good reasons for the Order to say no to romance.

        What also occurs is that to put it in context. If I need 1,000 DS points to drop to Dark I then getting 100 DS points is only 10% of that first tier drop and maybe less than 1% of the drop to Dark VII. In effect, a kiss and a hug might only represent a blip on the radar, but a long term relationship is much more.

        • Not to ruin the originals for anyone, but when Luke was making out with his sister, Obi-wan not only didn’t intercede to stop it on the grounds of, “No Jedi romance,” he also failed to stop the incestuous kiss from happening. You would think he’d have spoken about it for one of the two reasons, but he did not.

          Conclusion: Obi-wan is a dirty old troll.

  2. Boogieman620 says:

    Emotions are the way we define a situation of the present moment. Getting caught up in that emotion, or “attatched” to it, can lead to fear when we lose it. This leads to lust and power to control. Every Sith or fallen Jedi has a fear of losing and/or a lust for control of ones feelings. The Jedi do not train to supress emotions. They train to not become attached to them so they may make decisions and act rationally and not emotionaly. Peace is not the absence of emotion. It is the free flowing of them in the present moment to determine an answer or action with rationality. This is how I try to live my life. This is a very good article. Thank you.

    • Agreed. And you hit upon the motivator for me behind the article. I’ve seen too many OOC and IC conversations talking about ‘suppression’ of emotion, or people taking “there is NO emotion” literally to let it lie.

      The challenge for this article was presenting this very touchy subject in a way that would understandable and palitable.

  3. A Sith Perspective…I would say that while I generally agree with your presentation of Jedi philosophy, I would offer a counter view of the Sith code. While a Jedi would seek to find balance by understanding and identification of his emotions(in order to listen to the will of the Force)- A Sith seeks to understand his emotions and how to allow them to grow, right up to the edge of losing control(many fail in this respect). The Sith’s bond to the Force being directly related to his emotional state. The stronger the emotion, the greater the Force power is amplified. Another contrast would be that a Jedi seeks to heed the will of the Force–A Sith seeks to bend the Force to his will for his own designs. The idea that Sith ultimately become slaves to their emotions is true from a Jedi perspective, and a Sith believes that only by using their emotions to become stonger can they achieve one’s full potential. Obi wan was very correct in saying that many of the truths we cling to depend on your point of view. As much as we like to offer our own here, the Jedi and Sith have their dogma views they cling to. I enjoyed your column very much, good discussion.

    • An excellent point and thanks for taking the time to eloquently describe the Sith philosophy.

      Just to clarify, I was representing Sa’s perspective in that brief element about the Sith philosophy. The character is flawed and I don’t feel like a Jedi Master should be too clear on what makes the Sith tick.

      The Obi-Wan quote is bang on too – this is all about point of view. And I think the point I was trying to make about the perception of ‘negativity of emotion’ is a point of view, not universal truth.

  4. Grinstone says:

    Your take on Jedi and romance is one I hadn’t considered. To wit, that it is not the emotion itself which is the problem but the craving of the emotion. As dangerous as emotions can be, in this instance they become akin to a drug. As with any dangerous and powerful drug, it isn’t a question of if they will destroy you, but when they will destroy you. While that does make sense to me, I still have an issue with the idea that this must necessarily happen to Jedi.

    I’ve always found it strange that relationships would be such a bone of contention for a group of people who are supposed to be as remarkably – one might even say preternaturally – self-possessed as the Jedi. Can one really claim to be the master of one’s emotions if (pardon the hyperbole) a simple hug and kiss sets the stage for a fall to the Dark Side? Why is it necessary for a Jedi to learn to control his emotions if he is, in essence, forbidden from having them? It’s one of those strange dichotomies that sounds like a twisted koan: “You are the master of your emotions provided you have no emotions.”

    All of this presupposes that any relationship must necessarily involve love, passion, sexual desire, and all those things that are generally termed the “baser emotions”. This is hardly a given. And, as you point out, the mastery they have over their mind will empower them to observe the emotion rather than identify with it. How do you reconcile that they are masters of their own mind when this mastery supposedly breaks down so quickly as soon as another person becomes involved in the equation? Is the emotional union with another person the Achilles heel of the Force? How else do you explain that an otherwise solid rock suddenly turns into putty?

    Right, time for me to wax locquacious.

    Emotions at center stage is a very western concept. For us strong emotions are either very positive or very negative, and the line separating the two can be very thin and grey indeed. It’s not without reason that we are all familiar with the concept of the crime of passion. In France, presenting a murder as a crime of passion used to be a valid defense. In America, crimes of passion have been successfully argued to equate to temporary insanity. So it is not at all surprising that relationships and emotion would be presented as something villainous, or that it can bring out the worst in people. Doubly so for a group of monk-like individuals who are supposed to abstain from relationships or consorting with the opposite sex in any but the most platonic fashion.

    To be sure, being celibate is one of the established rules for the Jedi and I will play by them, when I create my Jedi character. However, I fully expect there to be a learning curve involved in figuring out how much emotion is too much, or which emotions Jedi are or are not allowed to have. For example, are the Jedi allowed to feel good about rescuing someone? Is it alright for Jedi not to feel remorse if they had to kill the villain to stop him? To put a different spin on these questions, what is too much emotion for a Jedi?

    There is also the flip side of that coin. Can there such a thing as too little emotion? In the modern perception a sense of duty is almost synonymous with patriotism. For us, the idea that someone would feel a sense of duty toward a lord or country to whom he does not also feel a sense of devotion, or love, is strange. Conversely, we expect a lord or nation to be suspicious of anyone who claimed to serve out of a sense of duty but did not personally love, or feel devoted to, that lord or nation. It is telling that when someone does serve out of a pure sense of duty, they are often a tragic figure and the lord or nation who is the recipient of their service is often not worthy of it.

    • The idea that craving emotions can lead to suffering can happen to anyone. However, there’s also the Force to consider, and if you prescribe to the ‘Living Force’ paradigm, the potential to be overtaken by the Dark Side.
      I don’t think relationships are the bone of contention, so much as craving the sensations (or emotions) that result from interactions with others, or with things (or even power). And it is worth bearing in mind, I never wrote about ‘master of emotions’, I wrote about mastery of the mind. There is an important distinction. And I also don’t think it’s about being forbidden to have emotions either. It comes down to how, as you put it at the beginning of your comment, we deal with emotions.
      If another person causes a Jedi to crave an emotion then they have not truly mastered their mind. An emotional union only becomes a weakness, or point of separation with the Force, when the Jedi loses awareness of the fact that they are blindly craving the emotion. But this is a very fine line to walk. Which in my estimation is why the Jedi Order forbids romance; it’s just too hard for most to truly master.
      I do agree about the challenges of the learning curve and emotions. This is one of the reasons why a Padawan might spend 10-14 years going through this period of training. The role of the Master in ensuring the appropriate growth is more than just training of how to wield the Force. It’s also about a process of unlearning what has been learned, and incorporating a deep understanding of the wholesome values required to walk the path of the light side. For Sa the question is not ‘what is too much emotion for a Jedi’, rather it is, ‘how persistent and patient are you in the process of mastering your mind?’ Again, this emphasises the focus on the potential we can have to overcome what may well be the biggest challenge for a Jedi. If they get this right a truly great master they could become. And in turn, by focusing on patiently and persistently mastering the mind the issue of too little emotion becomes moot.
      Thanks for the great comment. I think we’re in agreement really and it’s just a matter of point of view and semantics.

      • Quite, quite.

        And if this ever gets too easy we can always take a crack at discussing how non-human Jedi perceive emotions and what “there is no emotion, there is peace” really means to them. ;)

        • Now THAT is another matter entirely.
          Sa Chi is Miraluka and that provides enough of a challenge around seeing the world through the Force. I think I’ll be spending years fine-tuning and coming to terms with RPing a Human(ish) Jedi Master without trying to get my head around an Ithorian, Bothan, or Nautolan psyche.

  5. That a Jedi should strive towards being disconnected from emotions of any kind, but particularly the negative ones, is, I find, a rather crude misrepresentation of their ideals. Its understandable that some may get that impression, considering the archetypical pacifist monk usually has tenets towards this effect. Still, I consider a more proper interpretation would be that Jedi should indeed feel emotions. Provided they are trained with a functioning moral compass, emotions are the most direct link a Jedi would have to this, and a valuable means of guidance in how to approach a situation.

    Feelings of anger are then, not to be feared and rejected, but taken as warnings from the Jedis subconscious that whatever triggered this emotion is something to be opposed. A Jedi should absolutely be outraged and furious upon witnessing a Sith massacre. The key then is, he should not allow that anger to guide his response. In essence, count to 10, and then figure out how to oppose whatever triggered the emotion in the first place. This is where the passion-serenity line of the code comes into play.

    Interestingly, the original version of the jedi code, so sayeth the internet, was “, yet “. Emotion, yet peace. Passion, yet serenity. I find that more in line with my eventual characters thinking. It doesn’t deny the emotions or the chaos or the passion, but reminds the Jedi of the proper way to deal with them. There is emotion, but there should also be peace (or more properly, you should be at peace with this). Of more relevance to the romantic relationship angle, there should be passion, but there should also be serenity. By being prepared for feeling emotions and reacting with restraint (*not* denial or rejection), they become a tool, and valuable one, of the Jedi, rather than him becoming a tool of their influence.

    In summation, my eventual consular will take the view that the code specifies a state, and offers how to handle that state. To that end, the original phrasing is much more in line with his philosophy. Between the emotion and the passion line of the code, you have the guidelines for reacting to the presence of emotions and the strength of emotions, respectively, in a manner befitting a Jedi.

    • Grinstone says:

      Indeed. The idea of the emotionless Jedi is, at the most basic level, a cop out. It’s an admission that the person in question does not know how to properly portray a Jedi, or does not want to go to the trouble of figuring out how a Jedi might respond in a given situation.

      As Sa Chi also points out, Jedi do feel emotions. However, they recognize that emotion is a figment of ego. To provide a crude visual metaphor, where emotion affects most people directly the Jedi is in a bubble, and the emotion slides along that bubble. This allows the Jedi to recognize the emotion for what it is, examine what brought it about, accept this, and then dismiss the emotion.

      This is no mean accomplishment. To see how difficult this can be try, the next time you feel an emotion – whatever it is, from impatience to joy – to see if you can remember to think about and examine why you are feeling that emotion, and where it came from.

    • Fantastic comments! Thanks for reminding me about, Passion, yet serenity. I think the idea of passionate serenity is a great aspiration for a Jedi. And I hope our characters bump into each other in-game. There’d be lots of fine discourse I am sure.

  6. Grinstone says:

    Another thought occurred to me.

    It really isn’t possible to talk about this level of awareness with emotion without also discussing forgiveness. Forgiveness is absolutely essential because it is the only way to disarm many emotions. Feelings of impatience, anger, or jealousy, for example, will fester unless we can forgive the other person and, most importantly, ourselves. Nothing will eat away at and destroy a person as surely as the inability to forgive themselves. The tragedy is that it is usually considerably more difficult to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive another.

    The point, then, is not that Jedi should be able to forgive. The Jedi must be able to forgive in order to become “masters of their minds”.


    I deliberately used personal pronouns because what I wrote applies to us. Implying otherwise by presenting it as though it were only true for fictional characters would have rung false to me. Besides, I believe it will help us to better understand and represent Jedi if we understand that what the Jedi aspire to is not mystical, magical claptrap. Every major world religion aspires to the same thing, in its own way.

    • And now you broach a deeper yet very relevant topic. The issue of forgiveness for me can also be very eloquently tied to the Force.

      Imagine the idea of a mystical rapture for a Jedi. Imagine meditating and connecting so profoundly with the Force that every part of your awareness is filled with a magnificent power, a thrilling yet subtle sense of creative potential. Having directly experienced that a Jedi would feel a connectedness with all things.

      In turn, Sa would teach, that once a Jedi truly experiences connection with all that to forgive is to honour two things. Firstly, since we are all connected by the Force, harming another is actually disrespecting the Force (unless of course the other has acted in an unwholesome fashion, and then there should be consequences). Secondly, if there is a need to forgive, this really speaks to the fact that at some point before that need the Jedi forgot that the subject of their forgiveness was also a part of the Force. Forgiveness is actually far more important for the Jedi than the object of forgiveness.

      This is an abstract idea to relate. But in short, once a Jedi realizes we are essentially all connected by the Force then we are all equally precious and worthy of compassion.

      PS. These ideas can be related to the real world, obviously, but I am very mindful that this debate is safest when the SW genre is emphasized. :)

  7. I felt like giving my take on the code as well. And I fully agree that there is no right or wrong, like all things in life it’s a matter of perspective and prior experiences. I’ve not taken the time to read through all the other comments, so I might be repeating someone else…But who cares.

    These are just my (and therefor my characters) views.

    There is no emotion, there is peace.

    Obviously there is emotion. You feel it, I feel it, it’s there. But rather than telling us how it is, the code guides us by saying: To get peace (and in my meaning balance), you should detach your emotions control of you. So when “there is no emotion” controlling your actions. Then “there is peace” in you. And the force can flow freely through you.

    There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

    I would interpret this, as most other parts, as saying how to attain a greater knowledge of the force. This as well speaking about the balance. The force is not as simple as dark and light. I’d even venture to say that the force is the same for both the dark and light side. It’s how you channel it that gives it it’s label. So this part quite bluntly states that you need to understand the force.

    There is no passion, there is serenity.

    Passion goes back to emotion. It’s only the next level of it. Passion is strong emotions about something or someone. This is basically the same as the first part only it uses stronger words. So no change here, only a higher level.

    There is no chaos, there is harmony.

    This goes back to what I said before. And it’s all really about how you define words. But I’d say that peace, harmony and serenity are all things that come from attaining balance. And the state of the force is one of balance. My view is that both the Sith and the Jedi are simple extremes.

    “You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship” – Yoda

    “Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.” – Yoda

    So the force is connected to everything. Then it’s equally a part of the “good” and the “bad”. Balance.
    I would even say that the prophecy of Anakin shows us this. He is supposed to bring balance to the force. And he does. He doesn’t just walk straight over to the Jedi side. He plays a big part in both sides and for a long time.

    There is no death, there is the Force.

    “Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.” – Yoda

    So if life creates the force and when you “die”, leave your body, you return to the force (life itself). It’s all really one big cycle.

    So in short, the force is the essence of life and all things in creation. Which is at a constant balance.

    If you have anything you disagree with or was wondering about just let me know.

    • Grinstone says:

      “There is no emotion, there is peace.”

      To provide a different perspective, and without going into any detail, the Buddhist view of this is that emotions are an illusion. They are a figment of our baggage, which ties in with the unlearning Yoda mentions. So, the idea that there are no emotions is meant quite literally since emotions are an illusion, and illusions are not real.

      Keep in mind that recognizing that emotions are illusions is not at all the same thing as not experiencing emotions at all. Jedi obviously do still have emotions.

      • Yeah I hear what your saying. Good point. But I’d say that a illusion is as real as you make it.

        And this is what I like, that you will have these different views in-game as well. It will be fun playing with people like you, who have different views on these things. Because my views and understandings grow and evolve when they are being tested.

        • I actually don’t quite agree with the perspective that emotions are illusion. I think the word ‘illusion’ is about the emphasis we place on the emotion.

          In other words, the emotion is as real as we believe it to be. The illusion is forgetting that the emotion will inevitably pass away. It is not permanent. And so, the forgetting of the impermanence of sensations such as emotions is the crux of the illusion. Remember the impermanent nature of all things and there is no illusion.

          • I pulled that from the Buddhist belief that everything we see, experience, and know to be real is, in fact, illusion. So, yes, to us the emotions are real because we don’t know that they are an illusion.

            This isn’t to say that emotions can never affect a Jedi again. As you said above the Force, especially the Living Force, is a kind of wild card that can play out in unexpected ways. And, for all that some of these concepts were borrowed from Buddhism, the Jedi are not Buddhist monks.

          • Well said. The reality is, Lucas introduced an idea called the Force to provide the mystical backdrop. He made it appear so much more concrete by embuing Jedi with power that would literally alter the world around them. A strict comparison to our galaxy is always going to be complicated as a result.

            At the end of the day, one of the things that draws me to SWTOR and RP above any other MMO is the chance to play through these concepts and ideas, to explore them through story, events and debate. It really does take a gaming experience to another level for me.

  8. I have to thank all those who have commented so far. I am so proud of the Ask a Jedi community that have taken the time to engage in this discussion. I really could not have hoped for such a great set of thoughtful responses.

    I am actually inspired to work through the other lines of the Jedi Code. It feels like I took on the hardest line first. And I will say that this was undoubtedly the toughest article to write so far. But it has proven to be the most worthwhile.

    The only regret that we, at Ask a Jedi, have is that there are no active forums to discuss this.

  9. ( know thy enemy ) all i’ll say is the Jedi have a lot to learn from there Sith brothers and sisters. How can anyone be devoid of emotion, hope to best someone who is fighting with it. I asked myself why with so much that the Jedi stand to gain learning from emotion do they try so hard to rid them self’s of it or worse ignore it, and at the same time they fight a enemy who know only raw emotion. That’s about it thanks for reading =D

    • Your comment really provides a meaningful reason why Jedi should seek knowledge of all things. Wise you are.

    • Grinstone says:

      Here’s some food for thought:

      You can always be balanced and centered (devoid of emotion, if you prefer). How often can you be charged up with enough emotion to make a difference?

      An emotionally charged combatant is usually depicted to be at a disadvantage because the emotion makes then single-minded. Granted, Sith will be used to that and may compensate, but to what extent?

      It’s often been said that going to the Dark Side is the quick and easy path. Do the Sith truly use their raw emotions, or are they used by their emotions? How much control do you truly have when you’re not the one in control?

      • Deep food for thought indeed. This question is a fantastic element to explore through role-play. I don’t believe there is any one and final answer for this. But the question of how much control do you have if emotions (and thus the dark side) are using you is could lead to all sorts of interesting and paradoxical discussions. This is far from a linear topic and the more you think about it the more it starts to hurt the brain.


        I’m done. Going to take a break now.

      • Both Sides have a pitfall. The Sith seek to master the use of emotional connection with the Force to control. The danger for a Sith is allowing his emotions to control him/her and becoming unfocused. For the Jedi it is simular in that they seek to understand the emotion, but then learn not to allow it interfere with the subtle voice of the Force so they may follow it. I would argue both sides have merit, even though they are at odds. I believe the struggle of the Jedi/Sith is a representation/manifestation of the galaxies cycle trying to balance it’s self (in the Star Wars setting).

        • While not represented in Cannon- In my opinion only – I think the ultimate Force Master would be able to shift thru both sides of the Force. Able to take the ‘Jedi’ calm path when he is at peace, using the force for insight and knowlege(to a much greater effect than Sith teachings). Then when confronted or engaging in more direct paths could harness his emotional content as a Sith does, to draw on that connection to the Force. Part of the reason I believe Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and Reven (among other examples) became so powerful. They had schooled in both sides. The user who could maintain a balance within would be strong indeed. Just food for thought.

          • I am left wondering how direct experience of both approaches could realistically be maintained. This is the stuff of stories and it does leave me with the question, “how could any Force sensitive truly master their mind to know emotions for what they are, then choose to use them as a vehicle for harnessing the Force?” I don’t think that the characters in the examples you gave consciously came to this place, but I do agree that in theory the direct experience of both sides offers deep wisdom, assuming we can truly maintain the balance.

        • I am curious. Could you explain more of what you mean by, “then learn not to allow it interfere with the subtle voice of the Force so they may follow it.”

          I ask as I am not sure that is what I am trying to say regarding my perspective on this. But before I respond I wanted to be clear on what you are trying to say.

          • By my remark:“then learn not to allow it interfere with the subtle voice of the Force so they may follow it.”–A Jedi (as I understand it) strives to recognize when his emotional state changes and how to adjust his mental accuity so he/she may continue to hear and heed the will of the Force.

    • ( devoid of emotion ) may have been a bit hard on the Jedi still ;). I was pondering Sa Chi post for some time that night and I think when( TK7223 ) said ( “They had schooled in both sides. The user who could maintain a balance within would be strong indeed.” ) Is sort of one of the things I was trying to shine light on. Is it not better to know ones enemy and to learn from them. There’s still so much more to it tho and that’s why I love topics like this. Makes me think. Do I really want to join the Sith with illusion I would have more freedoms then if I we’re to join the Jedi.
      ” Meditate on this, I will – Yoda “

      • I think it easy to allow our emotions to sway us and harder to be harmoniously aware of them and act mindfully. It is easy to know what it is to act through anger and rage. It is harder to feel anger and rage, and then act from a place of clarity even as the storms of emotion crash on the storms of your resolve.

        A Jedi won’t have to look far to experience the dark side. But the patience and persistence required to fully experience the light side is perhaps the greater challenge.

  10. Interesting article and comments. I wish I had more to add to this but I confess that most of what I would say has already been said.

    Perhaps what I find most interesting is that the Jedi code is written in a way that leaves it open to interpretation by each individual.

    If the Jedi were so concerned about this particular line, you’d think they’d alter it to make it more clear and less open to opinions.

    “If you feel an emotion, you’re doing it wrong.” *laughs*

    • Unless the code is as much of a test as any other part of the Jedi training. But maybe it’s an ongoing and evolving test. The more you understand the code the more you understand the force. And the more you understand of the force the more likely you are to grasp even more about the underlying messages of the code.

      So the more you know the more you realize how little you know.

      • As I wrote in the article the line is brilliantly written. It’s vague enough to confess the uninitiated and yet deep enough to capture the truth of the topic.

        A motivation behind this article was that I expect to see Jedi Master’s being RPed and it is my hope that I don’t bump into Padawans being told to pretend they’re not supposed to have emotions. I also felt compelled to provide a rebuttal for the volume of disdain for romance correlating to DS points also.

        Perhaps Sa’s teaching is; if you’re unaware that an emotion has surfaced and you are acting blindly upon its promptings, you’re doing it wrong.

        When I think of delving into the mysteries of the Force I am reminded of an old saying. Knowledge is like an island surrounded by a sea of mystery. The larger the island the greater the shoreline.

      • Grinstone says:

        That’s the interpretation I lean toward.

        The way it was once put to me, in an attempt to explain eastern philosophies, is that much of it is presented as being complicated because their essence – the truth, as it were – is simple. So simple that if it were put forth directly we wouldn’t believe it, much less understand it.

        All the complicated bits are there in order for the student to unlearn what he has learned. As the student (un)learns things such sayings, which sounded very complicated and mystical, reveal themselves to be simple and straightforward truths.

        Here is one of the fundamental truths of Buddhism: “You cannot attain enlightenment.”

        • Quick side-question; Have you read the Pali Canon?

          I agree that the more simple something is the closer to truth it will be. It is our thought process that adds complexity and that to truly touch in with a knowing we have to shed the intellectual layer and directly experience a truth for ourselves. When we truly know this truth it will be understood. At that point it will become simpler, since words and thinking have a habit of getting in the way.

          • Side-answer: nope, the Pali Canon does not ring a bell.


            Part of it is, of course, that some things simply cannot be explained or described. A Jedi master would have as much success trying to explain to a padawan how to control their emotions (or master their minds) as a Jedi would have trying to explain to a non-Jedi what it is like to use the Force.
            That’s why you get those scenes in kung-fu movies that have the student engage in seemingly pointless exercises, or Karate Kid’s classic “wax on, wax off”. Eventually something clicks, either with or without the teacher’s help, and the exercise is no longer pointless.

  11. So many comments already. I’ll go back and skim them when I’ve got a moment.

    I’m going to approach this issue as Sa Chi does, from in in-character perspective.

    Auro’s an older Jedi Knight (thus far he hasn’t taken a Padawan and hasn’t attained Master rank) and seen quite a bit of ugly stuff in his time as a consular and a Shadow so he’s constantly being tested and tempted. Alone, facing Sith threats and employing political manipulation as another Jedi would a lightsaber, he knows full well what he’s capable of and just how much easier it would be to do his “job” if he just let his emotions reign.

    Perhaps for a Temple Jedi sitting in a tranquil garden it might be easy to stand aloof from emotions and dispassionately study them as almost separate, from the self, experiences to be learned from even as they are casually managed.

    For a grizzled, worldly, Jedi it’s much harder to know where to draw that line. Strong emotions constantly boil up in the context of wrongs that can’t be righted and individuals that stand for everything that Auro hates but still must be left alone, or even catered to for a time, to serve the greater good as defined by The Jedi Council.

    The real world is a messy, bloody, grey place where very little that happens offers much chance for immediate reflection or meditation.

    Auro’s answer is to take “There is no emotion; there is peace” far more literally. He’s got to keep a lid on his passions otherwise he could make very tragic choices in the context of the pressure cooker that is his solitary and dangerous calling as a Shadow. It’s rare he can join with his fellows, discuss his perspective, and clear his mind fully. Instead, like a soldier with a pack full of gear he has to haul for miles on end, Auro Tarim just deals. He sets his jaw, finds a place of temporary peace in his mind, and moves on.

    Emotions, for him, are dangerous chinks in his resolve.

    That’s not to say he’s unfeeling or acts like a Vulcan but he’s a real tough Jedi. Mentally and physically. The code for him isn’t a document to have an enlightened debate about but a life-line, a mantra, that helps him keep his head on straight even in the worst circumstances. And it’s worked so far.

    However, this is one reason he’s never taken on a Padawan. He’s uncertain he could maintain his prized detachment and keep his balance on the tightrope should he come to feel a close bond, not just friendship but a family tie of sorts, with anyone.

    I look forward to meeting other Jedi and seeing how Auro interacts with them. He’ll probably be a bit gruff and dismissive but an interesting conversation always intrigues.

    • Thanks for sharing. Reading your comment reminds me of why I think RP around the Force is so interesting. It’s one of the reasons why RP in the Star Wars genre is so interesting to me.

      The potential for angst is evident in lines like, “He’s got to keep a lid on his passions otherwise he could make very tragic choices in the context of the pressure cooker that is his solitary and dangerous calling as a Shadow.” It suggests a constant tension that will exist for your Jedi.

      This really is the heart of Jedi RP for me. Each character faces the potential for great loss with some of the simplest choices. And this journey never ends either.

      The idea of RPing a Jedi Shadow is a very, very interesting one. I look forward to getting to witness and share in stories such as yours.

    • I find it compelling that many of the reasons folks are listing RP elements for Jedi here, are simular for me in playing a Sith( I will be playing Jedi eventually also). Good and Bad, Light and Dark, Yin and Yang, each looks to the other with antipathy. Opposing forces that strive for victory, and yet manage to keep the galaxy in balance–makes for a great adventuring environment!

      • Agreed! The potential for exploring character is only heightened with the concept of the Force and various other factors.

  12. Darth Sinistreus says:

    Powerful emotion is the Guide, through it there is Purpose; Ignorance is the tool of Power, through it there is Control; Hatred is the flower of Passion, through it there is Compulsion; Chaos is Opportunity, Opportunity gives Power; There is no doom in Death, eternally there is the Force.

  13. Allot of ways I could agree with this but at the same time I cannot, denying oneself what comes natural seems to work against what a Jedi is.

    Plus that particular piece of Jedi Code is not the original one, more likely its an altered piece from another Jedi. As the original point is Emotion, Yet Peace.


  1. » Jedi vs Sith: Emotion and Peace Force Fed - [...] fictional philosophy and theology.  I have been meaning to address this topic in particular, and Ask a Jedi had …

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