The Jedi of the prequel era were lost. Despite any feelings one may have, regardless of any other story points, this is a clear and undeniable fact. The Jedi fell because they were not truly living the doctrine to which they subscribed.
The Sith, consequently, were able to take the lead in the generations long tango between the two sides of the Force. But like the Jedi before them, the Sith too would fall.
As we inch ever closer to December and the release of The Last Jedi, the dichotomy between these two factions may be more important than we ever thought. If Luke really wants the Jedi to end, we have to know why. Did his Jedi fall to the same plague of arrogance as did his predecessors, with the Knights of Ren stepping in for the Sith?
Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective, we will have to wait for December to get the answers about the future. For now, however, there is a plethora of information to go on that may show us a thing or two about what is to come.
The greatest failing of the Jedi Order was not joining the Clone War, foreshaking Ahsoka, or even allowing midichlorians, science, to matter more than the individual. The greatest failing of the Jedi was putting Code above their greatest calling, compassion.
Compassion is essential for peace. Compassion, based in love and empathy, must be modus operandi.It wasn’t. Peace came instead at the end of a lightsaber.
Nonetheless, the Code is not the problem. The Code is simply a set of words used to guide the organization, and in actuality the words are quite useful and applicable. But like any religion, when doctrine takes precedence over improving the world or galaxy around you, the doctrine is no longer helpful.
If one were to consider any part the Jedi Code as invalid, it would likely be, unfortunately as it is, the very first line, “There is no emotion, there is peace.” The greatest likelihood is that the founding fathers of the Order intended this to mean that emotion should not be the guiding light for a Jedi. Promoting and growing a peaceful society should. When this is lost, you get the Empire. You get Darth Sidious in power. You get Darth Vader.
The Jedi, slowly but surely, began to condemn emotion. Yoda, as head of the Jedi, should have been an example, yet he was part of the problem. Learning to let go of all you fear to lose may seem nice on paper, but in reality emotions of loss are some of the most painful and peace disrupting emotions one could experience. Peace, true peace, is about learning to balance those emotions. To feel them while also not allowing them to overtake you. When emotions are handled properly, we get Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, throwing away his lightsaber and standing firm in his beliefs. When it is not, we get Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, unable to live with the pain of loss.
Interestingly enough, the next piece of the Jedi doctrine should have negated the struggles of the line prior. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. Ironically, it was the ignorance to the reality of the Clone War that led to the continual growth of mismanaged emotions, the rise of the Sith, and consequently the fall of the Jedi. It causes one to question what knowledge truly is; is it the ability to recite from pages of a book, or rather is it the ability to read and react to situations based on a union between experience, long considered beliefs, and the situation in particular? The fact that the Jedi chose the former over the latter shows exactly how lost they were during the era of the prequels.
Kanan Jarrus, Caleb Dume, is a prime example of where the Jedi went wrong with this. Or rather, the response of peers to Dume is. Caleb Dume is known for questioning and challenging long accepted truths. In A New Dawn, he questions Obi-Wan. In the Kanan comic, he questions almost everything he is told. Well-versed individuals would in all likelihood see this as a good thing, since he does so in order to grow and better understand the world around him. His peers, however, consider him abnormal for even considering to question a Jedi Master. But without questions, knowledge cannot grow. Plagues can, just like the plague of arrogance did for the Jedi.
Which leads directly to the next line: there is no passion, there is serenity. Again the Jedi get the right idea, at least in part. Anakin’s passionate love for Padme did eventually overtake him, and that makes such commitment and attachment dangerous. However, it is arguable that Anakin went down the path he did because he never had an example of how to properly handle emotions. Ergo, his passion was allowed to take him over. He was unable to channel his energies in the proper fashion, much like an overactive yet intelligent child who constantly gets in trouble for simply not knowing how to properly use his or her energies.
Now if that child is taught the right way to channel those energies, he or she would likely reach a place of serenity, or confidence, within his or her heart. Serenity, when viewed as a place of being at peace with one’s place in the galaxy, is critical to being a proper Jedi. This is something the Jedi lacked during the era of the Republic, and Anakin is the embodiment of that. He wanted more and more power to do bigger and better things with said power. Yet when that need for more power became insatiable, he fell. The Jedi, in parallel, continued to gain a sense of prestige within the Republic until there role was so muddied it was too hard to tell if they were a political, spiritual, or military entity. Whether they admitted it to themselves or not, they were clawing for a brash ring they would never be able to reach, and therefore serenity became impossible.
Luke, on the other hand, defines the loss of passion and the finding of serenity. At first Luke was passionate about getting off of Tatooine, and when he did that passion transferred to wanting to destroy Vader and the Empire. The passion began to consume his so much, like it did his father before him, unto the point where we see him actively using the dark side to choke Gamorrean guards and threaten to kill Jabba. But in those final moments aboard the second Death Star, he found the serenity, the inner confidence and peace to know that the answer came not in war, but rather in love.
As we have seen continually, one bad move leads to another, and the next one for the Jedi is forsaking their doctrine of “there is no chaos, there is harmony.” By allowing their passion for power to slowly corrode their souls, the Jedi promoted the chaos they claimed to be against. It started within, eventually leading to a galaxy wide conflict. By not being the peacekeepers they claimed to be, and instead becoming generals in a war that split the galaxy in two, the Jedi promoted chaos and allowed the dark side to gain a foothold. By fighting in the war, they supported the war, whether they want to admit it or not. War is the polar opposite of harmony. War is the dark side. War is chaos.
War is death.
Then again, if you ask the Jedi “there is no death, there is the Force.” Which, as we’ve seen, has the potential to be right. However, as far as we know only Qui-Gon, Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin truly became one with the Force. There is, without doubt, the possibility that the other Jedi who died became part of the cosmic Force. Chirrut, although not a Jedi, opens this possibility to us. “Look for the Force, and you’ll always find me,” he tells Baze. Chirrut, though, seemed to understand the Force in a way the Jedi no longer did. How it is connected, affected by the actions of all and for the wealth of all, not the powerful minority.
If the Jedi who died in the Clone War did in fact become one with the Force, it speaks more to the grace of the Force than the character of the Jedi.
Knowing so little about Luke Skywalker’s version of the Jedi makes it impossible to foresee what will come, but what is clear is that the missteps of the past must be confronted. Which may mean it is indeed time for the Jedi to end.