Archives for the month of: December, 2015

Today marks the Temple’s Day of Reflection, where we look back over the months behind us and consider the changes we have faced in the past year. I’ve chosen to take that a little further. As is often the case, my thoughts have turned to my ancestors. I’ve spoken before, I think, about my nordic roots. I’ve been interested in heathenry and Norse paganism for years now, but I can’t get past the concept of Gods, or even God Energies; for me, there is just the Force.

However, many modern heathens do believe, and they have created the religion of Asatru to honour the Gods of my ancestors. As part of this, based on extant materials they have codified 9 values, the “Nine Noble Virtues”, which summarise what it meant to live well in the days of my forefathers, up there to the North East. The end result is a code not dissimilar to the virtues of Bushido (Righteousness, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Sincerity, Honour, Loyalty, Self-Control) – a balanced group of ideals each follower of the Old Gods should aspire to.

Here I will examine each in relation to the Jedi path, our doctrine and my own feelings about the last year.




Courage
Courage is central to the Jedi faith, and I have previously written about it several times. Jedi have the courage to support others, to follow their own convictions and to be more than they previously were. To be Jedi is to have the courage to forge one’s own path and to face the adventures it brings; to discard the old way of doing things and to find a more harmonious path, even if that creates ripples, waves, tsunamis.

Courage is explicitly mentioned in our doctrine, as one of the 21 Maxims:
Courage: To have the will.

To be a Jedi sometimes means choosing the more difficult path, the personally expensive one. A Jedi knows they must make the right choice, take the right side and that the weak they have sworn to defend often stand alone. A Jedi puts aside fear, regret, and uncertainty yet knows the difference between courage and sheer stupidity.

It is also mentioned in several of our teachings. As I say, it’s essential to undertaking a path such as ours, and rightly a prized value in many different belief structures.

In the past year I’ve needed courage more often that at any other point in my life. It took courage to face the fact my marriage was failing, and to leave, and to set up on my own. It was an act of courage to face the damage I was doing to my relationship with my kids, in the hope that I could create a better one. It took courage to leave a job I knew to find a new one with better prospects. It took courage to travel the world alone, and courage to find someone to travel with me. I have had the courage to open myself to the same risks, by committing to my new partner a week ago by getting engaged. Courage has defined the last year, for me.


Truth
Truth is also core to what we do as Jedi. We face the truth of reality, rather than the delusions of ego, the many perceptual dichotomies we are taught to believe in, and the perceptual separation our conceptualisation creates. The truth is, it all changes, it all shifts, it all evolves. And it is all one. Truth is also a reflective quality, which enables us to examine our own lives and find ways we can live better. If courage gives us the will, truth gives us the method.

Truth is mentioned in our Doctrine under the maxim of Honesty:
Honesty: To avoid lies.

A Jedi is honest with themselves and seeks to always go beyond appearances. There can be no honest self without the knowledge and wisdom to see truth.

Honesty is also referenced in relation to integrity in our teachings:
9. Jedi have integrity. We are authentic to what we believe and are open, honest and true to our purpose and our minds. We remove all masks to reveal ourselves as courageous and noble of heart. We do not hide from fear of damage to our image because we know that our image cannot be blemished from the words and actions of others.

Truth has been something of a revelation to me, this year. I have learned the power of truth in a way I’d never previously comprehended. I set out on a project of radical honesty, finding the truth about where I was, what I was doing, and fundamentally who I was. I thought I’d done this when i began this journal, several years ago; however I found a new level of this understanding. It sounds trite but I set out to answer any question I was asked on my tumblr page in complete honesty. i laid myself bare. In the end I had over 4000 followers, many of whom remain friends today, long after I closed the page (once it taught me all it could, it became a distraction). In the many days I have spent alone this year, I have regained much of my identity. I know who I am, and I know what I need to work on. Truth has let me come home to myself. I will value it, for the lessons it’s brought me in 2015, for the rest of my days.


Honour
Honour is not central to the Jedi path as such; I suppose we are therefore a little more anarchic when it comes to our history and heritage than some faiths. Honour seeks to create and uphold legacies. Honour is about pride, being able to say “I achieved something”; I recognise the importance of this as a ladder to understanding, rather than as a final version of a wisdom which speaks more of “carrying on” than “arriving”. That said, I have enormous respect for many – my ancestors, my family, and my Master here at the Temple.

Jedi doctrine does speak of honour, when describing the maxim of Nobility:
Nobility: To act with honour.

A Jedi does not engage in petty, mean or otherwise dubious activities. Acting with stature and distinction influences others, offering a compelling example of what can be achieved by those who follow Jediism.

I suppose in the sense of acting in a certain way to uphold the tenets of Jediism we are engaged in a kind of honour society… but in my mind, honour relates more to the quest for increasing rank, than to an actual Jedi value. As Jedi I believe we accept the dishonourable if it secures the greater benefit – not quite “The Greater Good”, as there are limits to what we should or can meaningfully call “Jedi behaviour”… hmm. This is a sticky one for me.

Over the last year I’ve acted variously honourably and dishonourably. I faced situations which tested my composure and certainly did not act with great nobility at times. This area has not been a focus of mine; I would rather get my hands dirty searching through the mud for something I know is there, than climb the ladder in the hope of finding something higher up. But honour is something I think I need to explore more fully in a future Journal entry… it seems set to pull me off track, here.


Fidelity
Fidelity describes one’s ability to “hold true” to something. Often it’s used to define a relationship, ie “infidelity” carries with it connotations of cheating on one’s romantic partner. For Jedi, fidelity may relate to our ideals, our core values and principles. For me personally, I see Jedi as emblematic of a fidelity to other people, to the universal whole of which we are all part. Our fidelity is to one another, to our Temple, our doctrine, to our Order. To the Force.

For me, fidelity is most clearly defined in three linked maxims of our doctrine:
Loyalty: To have faith in your Jedi brothers and sisters.

A Jedi remains true to what they have learned and to their own teachings. A Jedi always serves those who wish to learn more of the ways of the Force and in doing so, remain loyal to the way of Jediism and their Order.


Defense: To defend the way of Jediism.

A Jedi is sworn by oath to defend their faith and all it encompasses.


Faith: To trust in the ways of the Force.

Although the ways of the Force may seem strange at times, a Jedi always knows their place and their role within it.

Fidelity is a challenging one this year. I suppose I have shown it in remaining loyal to the Order, to my path and in fact, to myself. Fidelity to one’s own true calling, one’s own life and one’s own journey is a fidelity many overlook, or see as the opposite of “true” fidelity. But I’m reminded… “To Thine Own Self Be True”, says Polonius in the back of my mind. Fidelity has also been shown to my children, as I left my family home but learned better ways to be a father this year. Fidelity was shown in severing ties with the woman I had an affair with, even if this happened after the breakdown of my marriage. I recognised the damage continuing to communicate could cause and took steps to avoid that happening again. And fidelity is something I show to my new partner every day. Her trust and the sincerity of my commitment to her is perhaps the strongest “new” fidelity I have learned this year; that despite the breakdown of the relationship of the last 13 years, I can find the courage to commit and find fidelity again.


Discipline
Discipline provides Jedi with the foundations of work, faith and commitment necessary to live better than we did yesterday. Our faith is deep in philosophy, but it only comes to fruition in practice; likewise, commitment only becomes action through discipline. Many things seek to pull us from the path. Sometimes it can be difficult to hold a steady course, to know which adventures are there to help us grow, and which to distract us (although conversely this too allows us to grow, if we can only find the lesson).

Discipline is mentioned explicitly in our maxims:
Discipline: To let the self be sole master of the self.

A Jedi’s mind is structured, peaceful, unencumbered by emotions, physical state or external stimuli.

I have not had a disciplined year. I feel that my course has been blown wildly by the gales of the Spring, moving into my own place etc. I can’t honestly claim to have exhibited much, but I do feel proud to say that in all the hardships, all the meandering, I have found my way home, and have found lessons in a great many of the missteps and falls I’ve endured. I suppose the most discipline I’ve shown is in commitment to meditation and to study, but I definitely hope to work on discipline more in 2016. To that end, I’ve signed up for Taoist Tai Chi courses, when I move into my new village.


Hospitality
This is an interesting one. It’s not specifically Jedi, as a trait, and yet I can believe Jedi embody their faith in their hospitably. This virtue describes one’s capacity or willingness to give of themselves, to others. One interpretation, with a Jedi spin, would be our willingness to help and support others – viewed this way, it takes on a very Jedi dimension. At the same time our commitment to self study and self growth can sometimes obscure this. I believe we grow as people so we have more to give, and that makes us very hospitable indeed; some Jedi suggest otherwise.

In our doctrine, the reference to hospitality lies within our Creed:
For it is in giving that we receive

This is a core maxim for Clergy, as our path even here at the Temple, our place of spiritual refuge, is one of support and giving to others. I honestly believe Hospitality would be a wonderful maxim for Jedi in itself.

Hospitality is certainly something which comes easily to me. I like to give, I enjoy sharing what I have, and I think that’s something anyone who knows me well can see. This year I’ve enjoyed hospitality from many friends, who have shared many wonderful experiences with me. I brought my new partner into my home when I had next to nothing, asking nothing of her. She has repaid me many thousands of times over, but that was not my motivation for doing so. I have worked at the homeless shelter again this winter, and back in the spring slept on the streets for charity to raise donations and awareness for our homeless brothers and sisters. I hope to give more in 2016, to open my heart and achieve whatever I can in hospitality.


Self Reliance
As I mentioned earlier, Jedi work on themselves for the benefit of others. It can seem an odd dichotomy, to be both self reliant and hospitable, but Jedi embody this well. When we have taught ourselves to live well, to protect ourselves, to be of use to others, we put our ideas into the service of our fellow people, of the planet, of the Force. We cultivate strengths in ourselves that we might allow the world to weaken us, perhaps.

Doctrinally I’m once again brought back to this one:

Discipline: To let the self be sole master of the self.

A Jedi’s mind is structured, peaceful, unencumbered by emotions, physical state or external stimuli.

I feel that’s about self reliance as much as it is about discipline per se: we learn to filter out the illusory, the conceptual, and become one with “what is”. Our only direct experience of that is in ourselves… in our self.

I don’t think I could have answered this one with so much affirmation before now. Before this year I believed in myself and my independence, the idea that I probably could survive alone, but I’d never had to do it. Well, in 2015, I did it! Striking out alone, starting again, a new town, a new job, a new life, and to an extent finding new partner… all of this achieved alone. I travelled alone for the first, second and third times this year. I saw places I’ve always wanted to see, met wonderful new people, had some amazing experiences along the way. I have proven to myself what a self-reliant person I can be – and, beyond all this, I haven’t shut myself off from the rest of the world, in doing so. Take the shelter: I am the solo night team leader. I have no example to follow and limited backup. I have a great team, and that helps a lot, but they look to me. I have learned I can trust myself. I have learned, that however difficult things look, however bleak, if I trust in my ability, and in the Force, I will find my way out again.


Industriousness
Industry is our capacity for hard work. We take on what we can manage, rather than allowing ourselves lots of unproductive time. This is a very subjective thing of course, we each have our own capacity and our own need for reflective time, but this is not necessarily “unproductive”. Those who are industrious get the job done, every time. They work a little extra, every time. They do whatever’s worth doing to the best of their ability and capacity. I really like this virtue because it speaks to something very central to my life.

I had some difficulty in catering for this one doctrinally; however, the following teaching speaks, to me, of industry:
10. Jedi serve in many ways. Each action performed, no matter the scale, influences the world. With this in mind Jedi perform each action with peace, caring, love, compassion and humility. So it is that each Jedi improves the world with each deed they perform.

To work with care and humility implies, I think, frequent periods of industrious engagement. The doctrine also speaks of how Jedi train themselves with patience in many ways, and that also suggests an industrious commitment to self improvement.

I love to work. I spent a little over a month unemployed this year, after being fired unexpectedly, and it was a hard thing for me. I threw myself into job applications (and was rewarded with a fantastic new opportunity), and into my studies, but I feel that there’s not been a marked change in my level of industriousness this year. I’ve done more than enough; I will continue to do more than enough!


Perseverance
To persevere means to carry on despite hardships or loss. This was of fundamental importance to my ancestors (the fact they are ancestors speaks to this!), living in harsh conditions on the edge of the known world. A big storm could mean no food to eat, a harsh winter could kill even the strong. The fact I exist to type this is testament to many generations of determination, commitment, and the strength to persevere.

Two sections of our doctrine describe elements of this, for me:
16. Jedi make a commitment to their cause and to humanity. Our ideals, philosophies, and practices define the belief of Jediism and we take action on this path for self-improvement and to help others. We are both the witnesses and protectors of the Jedi way by the practice of our convictions.

and
Fearlessness: To have no self-imposed limits.

Fear is that which prevents a Jedi from accomplishing their duty. A Jedi learns to let go of their fears through their faith in the Force and has no shame in admitting their shortfalls when they occur.

For it is fear which prevents us from persevering: fear of failure, of hardship, of effort, of pain. Fear of losing. The lesson here is, so long as we persevere, we have not lost.

A good one to close on, I think. I have been shown so many times this year that whatever you have, can go. From one perspective, it can be viewed as a year of loss… but from another, it can be thought of as a year of regaining, renewing, persevering, trying again. I have lost, and gained:

– A partner
– A home
– A job
– A relationship with my children
– A relationship with my parents
– Friends
– Memories
– A commitment to my faith

How did I lose these things? Well, the path took them from me. Honestly, there is not one thing on that list I lost willingly. But I was shown that they could be taken from me, sometimes in the most painful ways imaginable. And how did I gain these things? Again, the path brought them back to me. Some I regained through industriousness; many through sheer serendipity, the will of the Force, if you like. But all required my participation. My willingness to open myself to loss, understanding it fully. My perseverance.

A final word on perseverance, after the 2015 I’ve had? Bring on 2016.



I am lucky to know my lineage well; I am descended from ancient Jarls and Kings on my mother’s side. For me, these values are at the core of my image of my ancestors. As a Jedi it has often been difficult to console the Jedi way of doing things with the Old Ways of my forefathers, but that always seemed odd. The Northmen were very much the heroes of their own adventures. Their faith was underpinned by a strong, respectful philosophy. They lived in harmony with nature; were great travellers and explorers; were inclusive and lacked the religious intolerance of other faiths in their era. No, I’m not saying that “to be Jedi is to be Viking”, far from it: just that, at their roots, the people here are not so different from the people there.

I look forward to exploring the Old Ways further in the months to come. It’s long been on my mind to do so, and I’m pleased to make time to do it now. The Day of Reflection seems a fitting moment to pay tribute to my ancestors, those who rose up from the Force to carry a torch which has been passed on to me.

I’ll end with a prayer. This prayer was based on a human sacrifice ceremony recounted by the Turkish explorer and traveller in Viking lands, Ibn Fadlan. The original words were less ebullient, less dramatic – but I choose this version for the third line, as that is the line which resonates most today:

Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother, my sisters and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place on Asgard in the halls of Valhalla,
Where the brave may live forever.

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The universe echoes.

Reverberations ring out, waves surging through an eternity of silence.

Aeons pass as these reverberations gradually coalesce into patterns of collision and amalgamation, their distinct signatures merging, evolving, pulsating in tandem. Time and gravity find their inception, and suddenly the patterns become music; a great cacophony of phrasing, thrumming out atonal symphonies and irrational tempos across the glowing twilight. In time these senseless rhythms fall into balance, into a chaotic but pronounced harmony.

That harmony grows, slowly giving rise to distinct shapes and forms. To particles, atoms, and in time to great nebulae and the first massive stars. To light, heat, subtleties of the whole arising as new themes in the age-old music. Those first great reverberations chime onwards, outwards, ever outwards, finding new cadences, new phrasings. As the harmony grows, so too does the intricacy of its structure. A billion, billion, billion combinations are born, and spark back into nothingness, in the boundless chasm of that first immeasurable music.

In time, the great harmony gives rise to life. To creatures capable of experiencing the ground beneath their feet and the stars above their heads. Tidal oceans teem with strange shapes, propelled by instinct, by desire. Waves dash against cliffs until they lap ashore on billion-grained beaches, rising as dunes into deep, moss-veiled forests. Animals stalk these woods, wearing weaving tracks into the sandy earth. Their senses attuned to the scents on the wind, the crack of bracken and snap of twig, they pursue their own intricate lives, breeding, feeding, dying. As they die, they slowly morph into new shapes, with new strengths. Upwards, birdsong ricochets off branches as tiny lives lived in three dimensions weave through the rich primal air.

The season shifts, and a heavy snow falls. Ice crystals thunder down mountainsides, thunderous avalanches levelling trees, dying with a rumble, a thud, and a silence more profound than even that first great void; the emptier for having known sound at all. Eventually the thaw comes, and great rivers form, all the way up to the creaking glaciers which sway in their creeping beds. Night settles without darkness up in the farthest North; but another light dances a ring around the sleeping earth. The aurora leaps across the sky, a billowing, arcing ribbon beyond the clouds, themselves an ocean sweeping inland miles below.

Further out, the stars wheel in circles as time rolls forward, until a few feeble camp-fires spark into street lamps, villages into great cities. Skyscrapers rise in the crescents of flightpaths, as one species learns to communicate, to collaborate, to roam and map the whole globe. Their early monuments crumble and sink beneath shifting desert sands below as tiny lights flare in the equatorial night, sending life beyond the blue bubble of its birth. They reach their silver moon, and return; next they reach the neighbouring red planet, and remain. Eventually one tiny light is lost to its closest star, whispering a faint message homeward as it quests on into unknowable darkness.

And in the midst of all this are you and I. We find ourselves here, now. What wonder it is, that we can communicate at all! What luck, to have even become aware of any of this. We could be a rock, a cloud, a nebula. But we are humans, Jedi, engaged in the mystery of Being, the experience of Being, the majesty of Being.

What a gift it is, to find ourselves amidst and part of such limitless splendour.

Do not forget that you are but one infinitesimal part of this vast and endless symphony; that you are but the echo of the one, and so an extension of the one. You are thus an integral part of everything, all that is, all that will be. You contain it all, and thunder your own echo of all this with every beat of your heart. You are part of the start and the end of all things, attuned to all that’s here, to all “heres”, all “nows”. Take a walk outside, and recognise the unimaginably distant stars as twin echoes of the same great harmony, the same ancient reverberation.

Know that what is, is one. There is no us, no them. No “Other”.

Just one, of which the universe echoes.

May the Force be with you.