Star Wars and the 'Jedi' faith

Discussion in 'Modern Religions' started by Nightfire, Dec 9, 2003.

  1. Nightfire

    Nightfire New Member

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    I'm unsure as to whether this one has been posted before or not, but here goes...

    Since the Star Wars films were originally released, it seems that an increasing number of people are claiming to be followers of the 'Jedi' religion. I live in England and although I'm a bit unsure of exact details, you apparently need a minimum of 10,000 members to have a belief system categorised as a religion. According to news articles, etc, this number has been exceeded by individuals subscribing to the Jedi faith in a number of different countries around the world. However, it is still not classed as a religion.

    The 'Jedi' faith described in the Star Wars films appears to borrow a lot from traditional faiths, particularly Taoism and Chrisitianity (that I'm aware of). I would like to know if people feel that the Jedi belief system could be considered a legitimate religion (despite lacking in any formal texts, etc). I have not yet formed an opinion myself and I am interested in anyone elses input on this topic.

    Also, I am quite certain that there a great number of younger people who like to call themselves Jedi, purely for the novelty factor/kudos. I'm not sure it is fair to say that this accounts for everyone who claims to be of the Jedi persuasion.
     
  2. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Nightfire,

    welcome to the forum.

    well... let me say this about that...

    as it turns out... George Lucas was a huge fan of this fellow by the name of Joseph Campbell (see the Shared Myth thread in Comparative Studies). one of the books that Joseph Campbell wrote was called the Heros Journey wherein he goes into detail about the power of myth and it's ability to transform individuals. it's really quite good.

    in any event... Lucas got most of his "story" from those myths... the "univesrsal myth" as it is known.

    moreover, Lucas blatently uses esoteric Vajrayana terms in the most odd ways... for instance... as you know, in the 5th movie (2nd in the chronology) Senator Padme is one of the main characters. well... Padme is part of the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. you also see words like "diakini" (which he has used in several movies) and so forth. all quite interesting.

    now... to address the question specifically, is the Jedi tradition a religion. well... at this point, i'd have to say 'no'. which doesn't mean that it will always be so. the overall concept of the Force is similar in many respects with the Tao though it also differs in many important aspects.
     
  3. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    The trouble with "the Force" is the notion of it being generated by bacteria - not one of the highlights of Phatom Menace. :)

    However, what Lucas does succeed with regarding the entire concept of "the Force", is describing a sense of "being aware" of a spritual non-rational dimension to reality.

    This in itself is a basic tenet of many religions - but, thankfully, Lucas tends to leave it at that, without any particular specifics being explained. Ben Kenobi's speech in Empire Strikes Back, when he refers to different levels of truth (after Luke confronts the issue of his parentage) may be very relevant here.

    But, yes - "the Force" is very accessible in that sense of being very general and non-descript. I think the difference between considering it on a level with other religious systems is simply that there is no canon of theological development to accompany it - ie, no explict organised and highly specific philosophy.

    However, it is a great concept. I am a firm believe in the power of the original three films, having seen the original "Star Wars" at the cinema when I was 5. :)
     
  4. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    I'm with you, Brian, on that bacteria twist. "Midichlorians," he called them, which sounds awfully close to "mitochondria!" One of the great things, to my mind, about the first Star Wars movie was the apparent idea that the Force was everywhere, and anyone--with training and will and determination--could learn how to access it. And he ruined it all with that midichlorian nonsense.

    The idea of the Force is akin to the Eastern concept of a subtle life force--"prana" for the Hindus, "ki" for the Japanese, "chi" for the Chinese. It surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxies together . . . oops. Sorry.

    I do gather that Lucas also was a fan of Tai Chi, one of many martial arts that focus on control and direction of the life-force chi through breathing, movement, and focus. To tell the truth, Vajradhara, I thought THAT was where he'd gotten the idea!

    I'd not heard the idea before that things Jedi were becoming a religion, but I'm not surprised. And, yes, I think I'd have to weigh in claiming that it IS valid as a religion, for these reasons.

    First, if "religion" is defined as a system of philosophy, belief, or thought that helps us learn more about ourselves, our place in the world, the Divine, and our relationship with the Divine, then a belief that unites us on any level with a universal life force that we, through training, can learn to control, is certainly a major step in that direction. If using that Force is subject to ethical considerations--it's not NICE to levitate Timmy upside down!--we've taken another step.

    Next, many believe that Deity is something we ourselves create or, at the very least, which we define through our own belief. Many Goddess-based religions see either a single female divine source or a male and female principle which, in turn, we see in many, many facets which we give many names and define through many myths.

    Whether Deity truly is entirely a part of our own subconsciuous, realized and given power through belief, or whether it is distinct from humanity but given form by our belief, or even whether it is pure imagination, is immaterial. Valid and accepted religions use all three approaches.

    If the practitioners of this Jedi religion believe that what they are doing connects them with the universe, helps them explore their own being, and gives them a system for reconciling with what we are pleased to call "reality," then I would say yes, it is a valid religion. And I don't believe numbers mean anything in this regard.

    I have on my desk before me a book on Chaos Magic which has a disturbing thesis. The premise of the authors is that we do, indeed, create the gods by envisioning them and giving them power and objectivity through our belief and worship--a common thread within several Neopagan traditions.

    They also present rites for summoning Azathoth and other deities in the Cthulu mythos.

    Cthulu and his Old One buddies are the fictional creations of H.P. Lovecraft--an American short story writer in the 1920s--and a number of other writers who were in his literary circle. His godlike beings were presented as evidence for his belief that humanity is quite insignificant, and that if there are gods, any attempt to communicate with them or win their favor is doomed to failure, madness, and despair.

    Worshipping Lovecraft's Old Ones--or summoning them in a magic circle--would, depending on the magician's belief, of course, constitute a religion. But if it IS we who create our gods . . . my God, what are these people doing?!
     
  5. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    When I first saw the Star Wars episode that brought up "midichlorians" I immediately remembered a kids' novel I read many years ago. It's "A Wind In The Door" by Madeleine L'Engle. It's the second book in her "Wrinkle In Time" series.

    "A Wind In The Door" was definitely about mitochondria, and had a lot of pseudo-theorizing that sounded a lot like Lucas' "the Force."

    "A Wind In The Door" was first published in 1973. The first "Star Wars" movie came out in 1977. It wouldn't surprise me if Lucas had read L'Engle's novels, as they were quite popular.
     
  6. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    I believe that Terry Pratchet made this the central them of his "Small Gods" novel - one of his better ones, actually. :)

    I don't know whether to laugh or swoon with despair. Summon Azathoth and his gang? Lordy! Of course, they must all have Al' Hazrad's fragment of the Necronomicon at hand? Yah yah Cthulhu fhtagn!!! :D
     
  7. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    Gazundheit, Brian.
     
  8. DynoMight

    DynoMight New Member

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    I'm going to have to say that the Jedi religion is in fact a religion and really should be classified as such. Just check out:

    http://www.templeofthejediorder.org/

    They've gone throught the trouble of registering as a non-profit religious organization. Are they serios about it? They sure seem to be. What other requirements are there.

    I think that the main reason religions such as Jediism and Matrixism (see: http://www.geocities.com/matrixism2069) have trouble being classified as religions is that some people see them as a threat to their own religion. And I don't think that people are threatened just because they are new and different. It seems people feel this way because they ride on the coat tails of major cultural phenomena. Christians and even Taoists and Buddhists would much rather be able to claim Star Wars or The Matrix for themselves than have fans consider something new and other.
     
  9. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    deary me. at an occult bookshop near me, there's a group of people who meet to discuss lovecraft and cthulhu etc. the people in the bookshop refer to them as "squid-worshippers". hur hur hur hur hur.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  10. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Wouldn't agree there - I think it's more that if people watch a film and then think "Cool, let's make a religion out of this!" people just think they're fringe nuts not to be taken seriously. Simply being straightforward here.
     
  11. DynoMight

    DynoMight New Member

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    Seems to me like most major religions believe in much nuttier things than do Matrixism and the Jedi religion. Between virgin births, people rising from the dead, new borns speaking at birth and magic carpet rides the major religions believe in some zany stuff tyo say the least.

    To believe that there could be some wisdom in a work of fiction hardly seems like a stretch. The old Testament seems to be largely a work of fiction but that doesn't stop every Abrahamic religion from claiming it as the original source of their covenant with God.

    I don't agree that the people who are keeping the Jedi religion from being recognized see it as "fringe" as you say. There are far smaller stranger religions that are recognized. The only difference between them and the Jedi religion is that they will probably never grow to pose a threat to Christianity and the other established religions. The Pope takes this stuff so seriously that he even issued a warning against DIY religions.
     
  12. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Well, established religions tend to have developed complex doctrines and scriptures, but somehow I find it difficult for that process to be surrogated by a movie trilogy and few website essays.

    I'm not trying to denigrate a belief or approach to life, faith and spirituality - I'm simply suggesting that feelings of being victimised by the bigger religions simply seems exaggerated at best.
     
  13. flowperson

    flowperson Oannes

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    Hi All:

    Hmmm...this is a quasi scientific observation of what a theoretician who studies the formation of complex systems and processes might notice about the "initial conditions" of this situation. "Why are we so surprised about all this? George Lucas consulted with the world's foremost authority on the study of mythology and its consequences before creating his films...Joseph Campbell."

    flow....;)
     
  14. jiii

    jiii ...

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    Wow, this thread is blowing my mind.:D To be totally honest, I'm amazed that "Matrixism" and adherents of "The Force" exist. Don't get me wrong, maybe the particular viewpoint just strangely clicks with a few people, but would'nt this be considered fanaticism to a certain degree...obsession over a Hollywood film?:confused: I mean, Star Wars is an entertaining movie series...granted...watched it more times than I can count. But a source of religious belief? What's next, people calling themselves 'necromongers' out of Chronicles of Riddick, or making last-minute prayers to Crom like 'Conan'? I mean, these are just movies...I'm not too sure about the idea of making a spiritual life in accordance with the beliefs set forth in a block-buster science fiction movie designed to draw popcorn-devouring audiences, not religious adherents.
     
  15. flowperson

    flowperson Oannes

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    When a few people, and then many, saw a strange man do wonderful and magical things in Palestine 2,000 years ago, something "clicked" and Christianity came into being. Belief is a strange phenomenon. Very small things may start it, and sometimes huge things cannot stop it. That's what we're really talking about here.

    flow....;)
     
  16. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    Nothin' new under the sun...

    Well I think Scifi writers use models of religions they know about..for material in their books.

    Take Frank Herbert's Dune which if you read it has what I would call themes that are similar to Islamic history.

    And check out the Muslims in the "Chronicles of Riddick"!

    Matrix has elements of martial arts and maybe Zen... The Jedi may be something like the Boshido.

    Jason Scott Card a Mormon has themes that are similar to his religion and if you watched Battle Star Gallactica, the original series there was the planet Kobal which sounds to me a lot like the planet Kolab in Mormon scripture and recall the "twelve tribes"...

    Recall that CS Lewis used Christian themes in his writings and he wrote some science fiction called the Space Trilogy as well so really this stuff is not new.

    - Art

    :cool:
     
  17. flowperson

    flowperson Oannes

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    Art:

    Being a SoCal guy, I thought fer sure that you'd mention L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and the writer/creator of that smash hit, Battlefield Earth, starring John Travolta.

    flow....:cool:
     
  18. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    Well OK.. I used to drive by one of their headquarters on my way to work and they had this ship deck with masts on their property and a lot of people dressed in navy costumes. But you're right ...L Ron Hubbard was a Scifi writer and they made that film Battlefield Earth!

    - Art
     
  19. jiii

    jiii ...

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    Indeed. I mean, I knew while I was writing that post that the irony was that most all religions have pretty modest origins which, objectively speaking, appear absurd and would've been considered weird by the ordinary person of the day. A new religion, I think, always gets that kind of sneer in the beginning. Though, I wonder if that isn't just an important part of the process...you know, so that people don't run off making a religion around "X-men", get bored the next year, and make a new religion that follows the way of the "Peter Pan", then get bored again and follow the way of "He-Man", and so on, and so on. Like people in America tend to be with diet plans, really.;) Many more than 10,000 people switch diets every year, but it's funny how fast a trend can be gobbled up and disappear.

    Maybe "The Force" persists and somehow has staying power... If so: then, cool, I was here for the beginning of a new religion:D . If not: well...let's just say, I wouldn't be surprised.

    -jiii
     
  20. flowperson

    flowperson Oannes

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    Hi jiii:

    I think you're right in much of what you say. But in the past the "weirdness" that set the "initial conditions" of religious movements centered around the direct activities of a real person or a group of them. In the cases we're seeing today, as you and Art have pointed out, we seem to have the same phenomena occuring; but, the "initial conditions" of the new religious movements are based upon passive observance and belief in "artificial" presentations of alternative realities that are pretty far divorced from the real world that humans experience every day. I'd sure like to have a Psychiatrist or Psychologist comment upon this difference, and inquire whether we might be seeing a new form of "escapism" being created by those who find the real world to be not acceptable in some ways in explaining their real day-to-day experiences in it ? I would probably also include obsessive video game playing in the same category of questioning.

    Any thoughts guys ?

    flow....:cool:
     

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