The Lost Path of the Jedi
Anakin Skywalker, fabled Chosen One destined to bring balance to the Force, has betrayed the Jedi Order and slaughtered them all, men, women and children. The Jedi Order has long since been known as keepers of the peace. The Jedi Order once had an intense rivalry with the Sith, which proved to be more powerful but due to infighting, lost the rebellion and sealed the Jedi’s position in the Galaxy for a millennia. It also gave rise to the Sith’s Rule of Two: That there can only ever be a master and an apprentice. The Jedi Order aligned themselves solely with the Living Force, using it to keep the peace but nonetheless, maintained fair relations with the Republic Senate and the Chancellor who could sometimes call upon them for help.
However, by the end of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin concluded that the Jedi were evil. While Anakin was dead-set on gaining power enough to save Padme from a prophetic death, deciding the Jedi were evil took more thought. After all, Padme was a politician and had nothing to do with the Jedi and deciding the Jedi are evil based solely on the fear that Padme might die requires irrationality that Anakin was never known to possess. Upon the conclusion of the prequel trilogy, the question began begging itself: Has the Jedi Order lost its way in the midst of the war between the Galactic Republic and the Separatist Rebellion? The answer to this question, of course, is yes. A study strictly centered on The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and in some cases, The Clone Wars TV Series can help to show that the Jedi Order truly has lost its way as the Clone Wars raged on.
The Jedi Order
How did the Jedi order start? The chronological series starts out with the Jedi being peace-keeping monks and negotiators. The Jedi can be compared to monks but monk with weapons and the means of self-defense. Regardless of those means, they did not spend as much time fighting as they did meditating and they only used force to bring those who would threaten peace to justice by means of imprisonment. The Jedi were effective at doing such things because, by using the power of the Force, (basically God in the Star Wars Universe), they were nearly unstoppable. In short, the Jedi were warrior monks who rarely, if ever, used force. Originally, their creed focused on negotiations. Out of fear of emotional weaknesses being exploited- which was a valid fear seeing as how Anakin was exploited in Revenge of the Sith- part of their creed was to reject all forms of attachments in the physical world. This set them apart from the Sith, who exploited their own hatred and anger, and exploited the fear in others to gain power. The Jedi and the Sith represent two extreme sides: No emotions whatsoever or explicit emotions to gain power.
What is important to note about the original Jedi Order is that they relied mainly on negotiations to solve conflicts. Sometimes, if an opponent was too powerful, they would resort to ‘aggressive negotiations,’ as Anakin humorously put it, until their opponents were imprisoned and the threat negated. The Jedi Master, Yoda, was flouted as the most powerful Jedi alive due to his old age, wisdom, and immense knowledge of the Force and frequently spends his time either meditating or tutoring other young Jedi to do the same. Mace Windu said what the Jedi stand for well enough in Attack of the Clones. When asked by Palpatine if the development of a Separatist Rebellion would lead to war, Windu pointed out that there were not enough Jedi to protect the Republic if it did.
However, from Anakin’s point of view, the Jedi are evil. They lost their way and by studying the content of Star Wars, it is not hard to see where he comes from. The Jedi have lost their way and that is what led to their downfall at the hands of one of their own, not to mention a betrayal which, had they not been shortsighted, might have seen coming. Going from peace-keeper to warrior may explain just how the Jedi had changed and how one of their own, Anakin Skywalker changed with them.
From the beginning, Anakin was touted as the Chosen One. He was believed to be the one who will bring the Force into balance. Once his old master surrogate, Qui-gon Jinn, died, he was trained by Obi-wan Kenobi. Adhering to his master’s last wishes, Obi-wan was even willing to train Anakin without the approval of the Jedi council. For ten years, Obi-wan trained Anakin but there lie the first problem. Qui-gon put in Anakin’s mind that the Force was very strong with him, Anakin could see things before they happened, he knew what to do, when to do it, and could trust his instincts more than any other Jedi. When Obi-wan trained him, he did not inspire such confidence. He frequently downplayed his abilities, said they were not in tune, frequently emphasized how young Anakin was and in so doing, Anakin felt he was being held back and was easily angered by this.
Held back or not, Anakin maintained a lot of respect for his master. As wise as Master Yoda and as powerful as Master Windu. Very high praise indeed for a master who he feels holds him back. If one counts the Clone Wars animated miniseries, Anakin was even suggested as a contender to be promoted to the rank of Jedi Knight by his master, which showed that whatever grievances may have remained were tossed aside and remedied. As a Jedi Knight, Anakin was allowed to hone his abilities without limitation. Anakin showed some independence and dissatisfaction with the Jedi Order when he did things his own way, even defied the Jedi council on certain orders which actually did more good than harm. The result: his own apprentice.
Anakin was warned by the Jedi not to form attachments but he did so. He formed two attachments, one with Padme Amidalla and another with his apprentice Ahsoka Tano. This proved to be a redeeming factor for him. Anakin, in many ways, showed that a Jedi can form attachments and still be a Jedi. Even during the Clone Wars TV series, he and Padme maintained a professional distance with each other and performed their respective duties admirably. They met in secret at times but their duties never wavered.
With his apprentice, things were a little different. He had a term of endearment for Ahsoka, frequently called her snips which would irritate her. His training gave her a very good connection with the Force. One episode titled “Assassin” actually focuses on her foresight and ability to see the future and use her knowledge to her advantage and stop misfortune from happening. Her senses grew very powerful and Anakin grew very fond of her. In one episode titled “Weapons Factory,” Anakin and Ahsoka are given a mission alongside another Jedi Master Luminara and her own apprentice. Both apprentices are presumed dead in an explosion and while Master Luminara accepted the outcome, Anakin did not. While Luminara suggested accepting their fate, Anakin was not willing to leave without his apprentice to the point Luminara suggested that if Anakin ever lost her, he would not be ready.
This represented a foreshadowing for later in the series. In the last arc, Ahsoka is accused of a crime by the Jedi council with overwhelming evidence against her. The only one who trusted that she was innocent was Anakin so she fled with him in pursuit. Unfortunately, the Jedi were also after her. Eventually, the real thief was caught and Ahsoka was offered her position as Jedi Student back. She denied it. Why? She lost trust in the Jedi. Where the Jedi Order was once a sacred order of monks who trusted the Force, each other, and their masters, the only one of them who maintained that trust was Anakin. Learning that the Jedi could easily betray without looking inside themselves or trusting their instincts as Anakin learned to do, Ahsoka left the Order never to return. Anakin watched her go, hurt and shocked, dealing the first blow to Anakin’s trust in the Jedi.
Anakin would feel this blow for years to come, including when he himself went against the Jedi creed in his own mission. The Jedi way, as said, takes prisoners. Anakin knew this as well as anybody else and he tried, though failed at times, to follow this. Upon the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin duels Count Dooku in an attempt to rescue Palpatine who was supposedly taken hostage. The duel concluded with Anakin rendering him armless. Dooku bent down in surrender as Anakin had two lightsabers on his neck to show victory. Palpatine urged Anakin to kill him but with Dooku powerless, Anakin knew it was not the right thing to do.
Nonetheless, Palpatine urged him more strongly and Anakin did it. Dooku was beheaded and Anakin felt guilty, knowing it was not the Jedi way, knowing that Dooku should’ve stood trial like anyone else. To top that, with his arm off, Dooku was powerless. He culd not use a saber nor could he use the Force. With the Jedi creed in Anakin shaken and recurring dreams about Padme’s potential death, Anakin was slowly losing trust in the Jedi way. Fearing for Padme’s life, he went to Yoda for advice. As the Jedi reject attachment, however, Yoda simply advised him to welcome potential death. Mourn them do not, miss them do not.
Mourning and missing, even grief is what makes someone human. Padme said it helped people grow. To be told not to even miss them suggests rejecting not only attachment but emotion as well. Anakin could not handle this. Padme asked to tell Obi-wan about their problem but Anakin, not trusting the Jedi to accept the attachment Anakin had formed, refused. This lack of trust led to the downfall of the Jedi but it was not only on Anakin’s head.
As the council and Clone troopers went to war, the first explicit contradiction of the Jedi Way made itself apparent. Where Windu once said they were keepers of the peace and specifically not soldiers, the Jedi Order shed this duty and took the Republic’s side, each one being given the rank of General. In fact, the very Jedi who said they were peace keepers was frequently called a General by the Clone Troopers. The Jedi transitioned from peace-keepers to soldiers, and soldiers for one side. Taking sides meant that the Separatist movement lost their trust in the Jedi and with no mediators or keepers of the peace, the war raged on until a single Sith Lord exploited it for all it was worth and destroyed everything.
While the Jedi taking the Republic’s side proved effective in terms of military engagement, it proved ineffective in ending the war. Going from peaceful mindsets to militant mindsets, their judgment was frequently clouded by the dark side, which to them represents oppression and war. The clouding of their judgment led to a decrease in trust. The Jedi that suffered the most from the decrease in trust was Anakin himself. Where Ahsoka was betrayed by the Jedi Order and lost her own trust, Anakin was used by the Jedi Order for their own means.
The Jedi rightfully distrusted Palpatine as a Chancellor. In spite of Obi-wan’s pleas not to ask Anakin to spy on him, they did so. Anakin grew to trust Palpatine and this had him feeling guilty. In an effort to consolidate their control over Anakin, they put him on the council but not as a member. The very position screamed of contradiction. He asked Obi-wan how one could be a council member but not on the council itself. It was outrageous and it became clearer that the Jedi, believing Anakin was too close to Palpatine, did not trust him.
Palpatine, of course, was wise to this game and exploited Anakin’s insecurities towards the Jedi. Palpatine started teaching him about the Dark Side and its potential ability to save those Anakin loves from dying, noting that Anakin feared for Padme’s life due to a premonition. Eventually, Anakin came to the conclusion the Council feared. Palpatine was the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. The very Sith the Council was trying to track down to no avail. Realizing this as the war drew to a close, Anakin turned him in to the Jedi council in spite of the shaken trust.
This was not the first time they were told of Palpatine’s identity either. Dooku told Obi-wan himself but Obi-wan and Yoda chose not to believe him. Mace Windu accepted what Anakin revealed and said that if Anakin was right, he would’ve gained Windu’s trust. While this may seem good on Windu’s part, the fact that the two were comrades, and fought the war for three years successfully, the fact that Anakin achieved so much and was so gifted with the Force should have earned unconditional trust in the Jedi. It took this long to gain that trust. It took a startling revelation. Windu took the remaining Jedi and proceeded to Palpatine’s office to place him under arrest. As expected, Palpatine fought back.
Anakin felt guilty about killing Dooku, not to mention fearing for Padme’s life. On top of that, he was unable to trust those who did not trust him. Anakin intervened in the fight just as Mace Windu had Palpatine floored. There came the climax of the duel and a clear indication that the Jedi Order did indeed lose its way. Mace Windu showed major forms of anger and hate as he defeated Palpatine and with his saber on him, announced that the Sith’s oppression would never return. As Windu deflected the lightning Palpatine sent back at him, scarring the Chancellor, Anakin showed hints of sympathy and disturbance of how vicious things have gotten. He could not watch.
He must stand trial! It’s not the Jedi way!
When Windu was about to strike the final blow, Anakin yelled for him to stop. Insisted that Palpatine would stand trial, because killing him was not the Jedi way. This was true. Killing was not the Jedi way. It never was. Being inducted into war on the side of the Republic contradicted the Jedi way, being responsible for deaths contradicted their way, and a revered Jedi Master on the council about to kill Palpatine out of pure anger and hate was definitely not the Jedi Way. Having lost trust, Anakin cut his arm off, Palpatine struck Windu out of the window to his death and Anakin… felt regret and remorse. With a promise that power would save Padme, he continued on with his massacre, still feeling regret.
Some may argue that Mace Windu was right and Palpatine was in fact too dangerous to be left alive. However, as shown many times, it is possible to imprison a Jedi. Obi-wan was trapped by laser fields in Phantom Menace, Obi-wan was also imprisoned in Attack of the Clones. And in the Clone Wars episode Dooku Captured, even a Sith can be imprisoned. Palpatine had the misfortune of being beaten by Windu, got scarred, was weakened to a point he could barely fight back and imprisonment was not an option. The Jedi shed their title of peace keepers and became warriors willing to deal death even when imprisonment is a very possible option.
A Balanced Force
If Padme’s life was the sole reason Anakin turned to the dark side, he would have betrayed Palpatine the second she died. He did not. Anakin continued on as a Sith Lord named Darth Vader, shedding what was once Anakin Skywalker. He did so not on a quest to save Padme, as she was already dead, but as an angry machine believing that the Jedi were responsible for the destruction. As far as he was concerned, Palpatine was the better of two evils. Believing that the Jedi were to blame and what once made them Jedi had long since vanished, Anakin fulfilled the Prophecy and brought the Force into balance.
Luke Skywalker was not a Chosen One which speaks wonders of the original trilogy. The Chosen One was Luke’s villainous father. Luke did not serve the role as the ultimate hero of the film but rather his father’s redemption. Being the only literal piece of Padme Anakin had left, one can imagine the surge of emotion coursing through Vader at the time. Slowly, Anakin’s consciousness began to reemerge. As he watched his son getting tortured, Vader finished the Prophecy off by picking Palpatine up and throwing him away, destroying him once and for all.
The Prophecy that stated that Anakin would bring balance to the Force was misinterpreted as Yoda suggested. In the universe, there are two sides and two extremes: The Jedi and the Sith. The Jedi were numerous while the Sith were considered relatively nonexistent until recently. A Prophecy announcing that the Force would be brought into balance clearly suggests that the winning side, that being the Jedi, would be humbled. And they were. As only two Sith remained, two Jedi remained and once the Jedi died out, the Sith died out too and the final blow was struck not by Luke but by Anakin Skywalker.
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