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Sun Tzu wrote:
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”

Life has been, as my journal entries might attest to, more chaotic than usual, of late.

What is chaos? We habitually think of something “chaotic” as essentially random: unpredictable, hence incomprehensible. I have a systems background. Chaotic systems those where there are so many variables they cannot be accurately predicted, certainly. But that does not make them random. The outcome of a roulette wheel spinning obeys certain physical laws of force and momentum. Randomness is something I’m not sure really exists. Even those devices we use to produce a random output (the roll of a die or flip of a coin) aren’t in anywhere near a real sense, random. Even digital devices used to give a random number follow preset and comprehensible structures to produce their output. It’s fairer to say those things we call random, are chaotic.

And so it goes with life, from time to time. Chaos prevails, our expectations or plans are confounded. The Force moves in some unforeseen direction and we must adjust our course, or be dashed on the rocks. So it’s been for me, recently – having to make plans for the future of my children, my home life and my finances, only to have them all rearranged without my consent. It has been, in parts, terrifying, infuriating, deeply sad and utterly incomprehensible.

And yet.

We are Jedi. We follow the Force. The Force, that great, wide system which contains all things – all objects, all non-objects, all laws, principles, thoughts, words, meanings, everything and nothing itself. Can you imagine a more chaotic system? Such a thing is not possible, it seems to me. Were we the types to bow down before our creator, I can imagine this Temple like a great Mayan pyramid, with those of us engaged in our favoured brand of spirituality prostrate before the Great Knotted Ball of Wool that the messy, often senseless experience of life in the Force. The object of our “devotion” is just this: the chaos.

Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Almost Sith-like, given their denial of harmony. For me, the only true sense of harmony exists in such a chaotic, messy, unpredictable, confounding system. The zig-zagging line averages out to a straight course, and the sea stays in roughly the same place, despite high and low tide. Waves. If the system has any pattern at all, it is in waves. What sweeps in, sweeps on out again. What grows, decays. What lives, dies. And what comes up, descends again into obscurity.

My own crazy path through my recent periods of unrest has been, frankly, necessary. How does one come to serenity without ever knowing agitation? I recognise and welcome both elements, however hard it is to do. I accept the bad things which happen to me as bad, without denying myself the emotional experience of anger, fear, frustration. I need that fuel for the kiln of my self. I need the truth of all my experience, to live a real, authentic life. I need all this, whether I want it or not. Not wanting it, not coping with it, not dealing with it… that’s all necessary.

We require the chaos, but we can recognise the waves. The old quote goes “We can’t stop the waves, but we can learn how to surf”. I understand the wisdom there, but for me I’d say we need to drown a good few times in our lives, too. We need to fly, too. And once we have, we start to recognise the value of our place here on the surface, floating, bobbing. Do the peaks and troughs get less extreme? If anything, in my life they have only grown more so. But my ability to descend into those gullies, and emerge on those peaks, has been vastly improved by both their recognition, and the training I have received (and continue to receive) from my mentors.

Some might chastise others, for things in their life which are “not Jedi”. For me, the only thing which comes close to being “not Jedi” is the incapacity to learn from whatever comes into a life. Both our lives, and those of others. To be a Jedi is to be a student of the universe, a pupil of chaos, a scholar of the waves. To take what we’re given and to BE it. To DO it. To EMBODY it. And to learn everything this wide plane of existence has in store for us. Even those who would chastise us as “not Jedi” for some of it. Even those who expect us to feel less because our code speaks of Peace. It also speaks of Emotion. It also speaks of Chaos.

Everything in its measure, each in proportion.

Chaos, yet Harmony.
Waves, yet Serenity.

Meditation is a core practise for many of us, as Jedi, and as such we frequently field requests from members new and old who are unsure how to actually do it. Today I’d like us to try a technique I use pretty much daily, along with sharing some of the insights it has provided. A metaphor I use for meditation is to “gaze into the puddle”. Doesn’t sound very glamorous, does it? And that’s deliberate; meditation isn’t something fancy, which requires great spiritual insight to accomplish. It isn’t special or fancy, doesn’t require specialised equipment, and if done with the right attitude it can be the most natural thing in the world. Indeed, if one can gaze into a puddle for a few minutes, then they can meditate. The two things have more in common than it might seem…

When we meditate, we are taking something very ordinary to ourselves (our mental life) and responding to it in a different way. Rather than chasing our thoughts, we observe them. Rather than directing the flow, we let whatever comes, come. Like a puddle, stirred by storms or footsteps, our minds can become opaque to us. And like a puddle, if our minds are too turbulent we can find clarity by allowing them time to settle. Like a puddle, we may only see through to the ground, a clear and featureless shape without any obvious meaning. We may see our own familiar face, reflected back. The face we have seen more times than any other, since our first glimpse into a mirror. And also like a puddle, we may catch a glimpse of something else entirely: something unexpected, and something beautiful.

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Most often, the puddle in my mind’s eye takes on the reflected image of a sunset, full of vibrant colours, drifting clouds and fluid movement. It swirls with a dreamlike life of its own, flashes of images and snatches of ideas coming and going as I quietly observe. I feel myself, my true, authentic self, the thing that notices all this. “I” am outside of all this shifting motion, yet aware that at a very real level what I am observing is “me”. I wonder to myself; am I a Jedi in the form of a puddle? Or a puddle in the form of a Jedi?

Both Jedi and puddle, puddle and Jedi, all as one in the Force. The wind blows across my face, over my arms and on through the trees. The puddle shifts again and I am indelibly aware of the connection between it all, wind, puddle, tree and me. The boards I sit on. The stars overhead. The ticking of the clock on the wall and the turning of the earth. All necessary. All perfect. All one, in the Force.

I’d like for us to take a moment, now, to sit in contemplation, around puddles of our own. When I ask you to, please close your eyes. Let yourself become still. Observe your breath, without control, and imagine you are standing over your puddle, looking down. Whatever comes next, let it come. Observe without becoming engaged in whatever you find there. If your mind wanders, nudge it back kindly. Take at least three minutes for this exercise.

Let’s begin: You are standing over your puddle. Close your eyes, and gaze in!



What did you see? How did you feel? What surprised you? What did you learn?

I hope this exercise was useful for you, as it has been for me. I hope you can continue to use it, adapt it and evolve it into your practise. And I hope this gives you just a small glimpse of the amazing power of our own perception; we can take a simple pool of water, something we each pass every day without a second thought, and turn it into a formidable tool for reflection, understanding and growth. Gaze into it all: the swaying branches, the billowing clouds, the crackling fire. What’s out there can reveal what’s within, if you let it.

The entire world has lessons for us, if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Move through this world with open eyes. Stay receptive to that which crosses your path. Be thankful for all that you learn.

And may the Force be with you, my friends.



I am a Jedi, in tune with the Force.

Let me be mindful as I walk,
Let me be open as I discover,
Let me be thankful as I learn.

The Force is with me always, for I am a Jedi.

“Happiness is the struggle towards a summit and, when it is attained, it is happiness to glimpse new summits on the other side.” – Fridtjof Nansen

Nansen speaks from experience. An accomplished explorer, his “dash for the pole” has become legendary (if you’ve not read about it, I urge you to!). But Nansen didn’t stop there, and later in life devoted himself to the service of displaced citizens in the aftermath of the First World War, gaining a Nobel Prize in the process. Nansen embodied Jedi values in many ways – courage, service and a commitment to the world “as it is”. Nansen is in my mind when I speak to you today, because it was his ability to try new approaches, see new things, and live a new kind of way which let him become one of the greatest pioneers in history.



Every day the world is remade. An infinite waterfall of changes cascades through the universe, sweeping away what we knew, what we expected, what we believed. The universe does not know how to sit still, and our study of the Force shows us quite clearly: the only constant is change. That which is, will evolve. That which will be, will confound our expectations. The Force is chaotic and vast, and in such systems we can only expect a few things. How wonderful to know that we know so little! There is a vast universe out there, and even the same park, the same garden is new with each passing day.

As Jedi, we are more attuned with this constant flow of change than many other humans. Other animals seem, to me at least, more capable of holding this changing nature of the fabric of reality in mind. A birth, a sickness, a victory, a death. These punctuating moments of our lives can strike us hard and shatter our ideas of what was, what is, what may yet be. Causal chains ripple unseen in the dark, hidden waves and eddies in the surface of things. Tiny in comparison, we pilot our fragile vessels through the chaos.

The world itself is wide, strange, beautiful and terrible in equal measure. For me, my path as a Jedi is one of getting out amongst it. Seeing things with my own eyes, touching, tasting, smelling, hearing and truly feeling the terrain and cultures we find ourselves amidst. We are blessed with a menu as long as time, and can paint from a palette of undiscovered colours. Every space is wild space, because in every area of our life there is the potential for surprise. Likewise, every action we take is a new creation, with a life all of its own. By doing, thinking, just BEING at all, we contribute to the unpredictable nature of all that is.

Go boldly into that unknown, unknowable reality! Face the death of a thousand dreams and the birth of a thousand more with an explorer’s attitude, confident enough in yourselves that you may observe, experience, and then return home richer, wiser for the experience. Be brave! Bring back what you’ve learnt so that your communities may benefit from your new-found wisdom. Let yourself be wrong. Let your constants become your doubts, your doubts become your mistakes, your mistakes become your lessons. Let your lessons teach you. So often in life we “complete” lessons so we may ignore them, rather than to learn from them. Everything in this multifaceted, crystalline reality contains a lesson, if we only have ears to hear it.

Each morning remember you are reborn from the little death of sleep. Each night remember you die to the passing day. Every time you blink, open your eyes to a new world. Every time you breathe, breathe in the new air. Every time you look, see the difference; it’s there, even if it’s hard to see.

Be pioneers of this new world – our ever changing, ever growing, ever evolving universe.



I am a Jedi, a pioneer of the Force.

Let me see for the first time, every time
Let me build on what I have learned,
Let me find the lesson in all things.

May I embrace the ever-changing universe with my whole being.

Let me walk unafraid over new earth,
Let me discover all which awaits me,
And in this let me be renewed, each day.

I am a Jedi, a pioneer of the Force.

We often see threads at the Temple asking about the traditional light vs dark conflict. We’re all familiar with the good vs evil, right vs wrong dichotomy portrayed in Star Wars, and indeed the “dark side” as portrayed in the fiction is, to some, a very real thing – yet others amongst us consider it a fundamental misunderstanding of the Force. But is there not a third perspective, which sidesteps both the previous ideas?

Light is often used as a metaphor for knowledge. We say new information has “come to light”, implying it was always there, waiting to be known. This is a very powerful thing for Jedi to understand. Our attention, our focus, indeed, our application of wisdom can be a kind of light we shine on those parts of ourselves, of others, of our world, to discover something previously hidden from our understanding. Our ability to remain open, perceptive, and to allow ourselves to see that which others pass as in darkness is a gift we all possess.

Similarly, we are used to referring to that we do not understand as darkness. “I was totally in the dark” speaks to our blindness, our inability to see what’s coming next. In this sense, we illustrate a secondary light/dark dichotomy which many miss. The light of our knowing makes sense of our feelings, of others, of the universe. The darkness of misunderstanding or ignorance clouds us, a veil over what we intuit. So many walk in darkness, blind to the truth of their existence, even to their own true nature. Darkness is the “I know I’m right, whatever the evidence!”, the “It’s not what I’d want, so it’s not OK!”, the elements of ourselves we choose not to face – and often overcompensate for in aggression, arrogance, or conversely in anxiety or self-loathing.

This is why the Jedi project of reflection and self-learning is so valuable. In shining the beam of our focus on the parts of ourselves we hadn’t previously allowed ourselves to know, we become something new. Bringing those parts of ourselves which were hidden to light raises them; growth as a whole (rather than a cherry-picked collection of “good parts”) unites and harmonises us. When we learn to work with them, we find our flaws are boons, as opposed to deficiencies to be overcome. They make us, us. Mindful of the effect of wilful ignorance, of shutting our eyes, ears, our minds to that which is there, we learn that it is better to face even an ugly truth than to dim the lights, and hope it will disappear.

The mineshaft of self-deception is darker than the night of ignorance, just as the morning mists of self-forgiveness are dim beside the clear summer’s day of self-acceptance. We can love what we are, flawed as we must inevitably be.

Jedi are, therefore, custodians of the light – that is, of the willingness to know, to understand, to discover even the ugliest truths of our world. We apply this light evenly, like beacons, shining our attention upon both the known and unknown parts of ourselves. If we face the monsters under our beds, we discover only others like ourselves. Furthermore, our courage in facing these “demons” becomes an inspiration for others to face their own challenges with similar honesty. Shadows are a consequence of light, and in understanding this we demonstrate to others that this “shadow nature” need not intimidate us, and can instead become part of a luminous and harmonious whole.

Most of all, we shine because that is our nature. Those who are called to the Jedi path are those with the courage to live in the light: to illuminate the shadows, to cast a beam for themselves, for others, for the Force entire. Embrace your nature, the spark in you which says “shine!”. Remember this integral part of who we are as Jedi, and who you are for finding yourself here today.

Remember the light is within you, always.

I’ve written recently about my studies of death and dying. Today it was rather driven home when I had to dispose of a dead fox. I don’t frequently encounter dead animals of any kind, particularly not ones as large as an adult fox. I have a real affection for the canids and this animal was around the size and weight of the dog I had growing up, my most beloved childhood pet. But this was no dog, nothing domesticated or wild.

Returning from lunch I noticed it. lying in full view on the grass beside my car park at work. Its perfect triangular ears and white-tipped tail made it unmistakable as a red fox, a common predator (often termed a pest) frequently present but infrequently seen around Milton Keynes, my town. Yet, clear and orange as it was against the dull green grass of a wet Spring, it had been ignored. The 160+ people in my office had passed it, but no-one had taken steps to do anything about it. I had my hands full and decided to speak to Reception, who told me there was no-one willing to dispose of it.

Lunch dropped off at my desk, I returned a short while later with some garbage bags and a shrill warning not to touch it with my hands (foxes are known for harbouring ticks and parasites). I know for hunters and farmers, disposing of dead animals is no big deal, but for me, here in relatively suburban Milton Keynes, I found myself doing something I’ve never had to do before. The only dead animals I’ve ever encountered were pets (or already chopped up in a supermarket). This was the first wild animal’s corpse I’d experienced up close, apart from a few dead birds I’d poked with a stick as a child.

I looked down on the noble little thing, first being certain to check it was dead. I laid a hand on it (through the bag) – it was cold, certainly not moving, even to breathe. I was reminded of the times when, in the early hours of the morning I would stagger drunkenly home through Brighton, often seeing a skinny fox crossing my path as it threaded through the sloping streets and back gardens of the city. Its eyes were closed, lips slightly drawn back. An image of peace. Above the fruit trees were in blossom, and I caught myself thinking of the animal’s few years of life, of how those blossoms would have been in its nostrils as it closed its eyes for the final time. Its final spring.

As I slipped the black bags over the animal (tail first – stiff, it had obviously died over the weekend) something bubbled up within me, and I found myself muttering a quiet “may your soul find your fathers”. I’m not a believer in souls as such, at least, I didn’t believe I was. But where it comes to wild things… there is a certain “soul” there, is there not? A ferocity, an authenticity which can’t be denied. It was apt that I gave this little involuntary blessing to this beautiful animal.

Bagged, the fox was taken to a nearby dumpster to await collection by the town council and, presumably, incineration (a horribly unceremonious end for this strangely beautiful creature). As I carried it across I had the mental image of a little blue shape following me, a little like the ghost from Coda – but vulpine.

A strangely profound experience in the middle of my working day.

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Today saw the most important act of ministry I’ve yet performed. It was for a friend outside the Temple, rather than a fellow Jedi, but they called on me because they trust me, they know as a Jedi I’m here to help, and that as a Minister that I’m here to support their spiritual needs.

I should add my friend has read this before I post it, and as such I do so with their consent.



My friend was raped just over two years ago, in a public place. It was front page news in the area. Despite counselling and a wide variety of approaches to this, they have not been able to find peace. Their nights have been disturbed by nightmares, their days by occasional replays of the night. As such, they wanted to revisit the scene of their rape, and do something to find some closure.

I went with my friend to support them, and ended up leading them through something I can only describe as a ceremony to achieve this. We first walked through their actions on the night of the crime. I asked them to take me to all the relevant places, to describe to me what they had been thinking, feeling, what their sensations were (sounds, sights, the weather, the people they met etc).

After some time we came to the place where it happened, on a beach in the town my friend grew up in. We came to the exact spot where it happened, and sat for a while, taking in the familiar sights, sounds and smells.

After some time I gave my friend a pen and paper and asked them to write a letter to their rapist. To include in it any emotions, any anger or fear or hurt, and also any questions they might want to ask this person. I encouraged my friend to be as emotional as they needed to be, to write with feeling, to create a living document of the feelings and experiences they hoped to leave behind. I reassured them that I would not read this.

Once it was complete, we spent some time holding the note, filling it with our feelings, our pain, the intention to allow all that we held onto to flow into this artefact. It was a very emotional experience for my friend.

And then we burnt it.

It was a rainy, windy day. The burning ended up being more of a singing, and then allowing the embers to turn the whole paper to ash. We did this together, constantly relighting, to the point where our fingers were sore from the lighter. It took around 10 minutes in the end, working to make it happen. I made it clear to my friend that it was good that it wasn’t easy; that it hadn’t been easy to live with, that it hadn’t been easy to get rid of it. But that, together, we could burn it away to nothing.

In the end, the paper was gone.

Next I asked my friend to take a rock from the area where the rape occurred and throw it into the (very stormy) sea. I asked them to take time in the selection, to pick the one that felt right, and to wait for the perfect wave, holding the stone, remembering what had happened on that stone, feeling the emotions that were tied to it, to the scene, the place, the memory. And then to throw it in. I asked my friend to do this alone.

My friend stood with that stone in hand for minutes, alone. Waiting for the right moment, the right wave. Filling it with that dark memory, the years of turmoil. And my friend threw it in.

I have never been more proud of a person than I was in that moment.

We walked together up onto the road above the beach, and together we walked away. I suggested my friend not look back. I spoke of the fact we were leaving all that pain, all those thoughts, all those experiences behind. That we didn’t need them any more.



Now, this wasn’t a specifically Jedi ceremony, because my friend is not Jedi themselves. It was, however, Jedi in principle. We took the echoes of that night which lingered in the Force, the route my friend took to the scene. We imbued elements of the wider Force with that painful, internal energy. We bled it out onto the paper, into the stone. We demonstrated the transformative power of the Force, to show that what hurts most can still burn away and be gone. And we showed that even the stones which bore witness that terrible night can catch a wave, and leave. It was important to me that the final moment of the ceremony be conducted by my friend, alone. The symbolism was clear: that whilst my friend had my support through all this, they ended it themselves. They had the power to do this alone.

Burning a bit of paper and tossing a pebble, sure. But lent the weight of the symbolic language of the subconscious, of our intention, our experience. Lent the weight of ceremony, of importance, of significance… let’s just say my friend has been happier and more content than they have seemed in a long while, this afternoon. I’m hopeful I did some lasting good today. And I thank the Temple for equipping me to do it.

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.

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.

The Force whispers.

Clap your hands, just once. Rest in the silence that follows. The reverberations of that single handclap echo outwards, noisily. First they reach your ears, then those of people in the next room. Maybe even the people passing in the street outside. After that, we think of the “clap” as over – gone. But the reverberations don’t stop there. That initial shock-wave pushes on, well past a range we can readily detect. It whispers on, outwards, outwards, getting more subtle and indistinct, but still undeniably there. Out of our towns, our countries. Away from our planet. Every action is like this: pebbles dropped into a limitless pool, ripples flowing out from the centre, fainter and fainter as they stretch into the distance.

Likewise, strange currents and movements buffet through distant galaxies. Weird, as yet unknowable things occur on planets we’re yet to discover. And the Force whispers of these things. From the mouths of billions of people. Rustling in the shifting leaves, and sighing through alternating tides. Even groaning from mountains as they crumble to dust. Beneath the noise we’re used to hearing, it whispers, every moment of every day, a gentle and persistent susurrus.

But we, too are of the Force. We are filled with it, permeated by it, we move through it like fish through water, and it pulsates through every vein in our bodies. Within us it whispers on. Many of us habitually disregard thoughts or feelings deep down inside us, perhaps messages from subconscious aspects of ourselves. We discount possible insights as illusions; that is, as fantasies or anxieties, hopes, doubts, daydreams. We don’t hear the closest whispers of all: the whispers within ourselves.

Our three tenets speak of focus, knowledge and wisdom. Intuition is an important source of knowledge for Jedi, but it takes a degree of focus to hear it. Intuition can scream, for example when we find ourselves in mortal danger and know nothing but “I must escape”. But for the most part, intuition is quiet, only whispering. A half-seen movement. A dimly-remembered connection. An oddly familiar feeling. Our subconscious mind can pull these barely-noticeable occurrences to the forefront of our attention, but only if we’re prepared to let it by quieting our thoughts, and hearing the whispers of our intuition.

Learning to listen is no great feat. Meditation is one technique which enables us to hear these whispers of the Force. Once we quiet the booming of conscious thought, we begin to hear the whisper of intuition almost by accident. If we follow it, we learn that the noisy thoughts we are used to are no more important than the whispers within us – just louder, more “present”. Intuition is strange. It feels mysterious when it arises, but that doesn’t make it worthless. On the contrary, it is essential. Intuition enables us to begin learning at all. We aren’t born with wisdom or knowledge, just an intuitive focus. Something inside us, whispering “listen”.

But why should we listen, once we feel our conscious mind knows enough? What benefit does intuition have for full-grown Jedi? It enables us to be quicker than our thoughts. Instinct requires no conceptualisation, it just IS. It acts, and like any muscle, by exercising our instincts more, we hone them into powerful assets. We learn to perceive the world more directly, as it is rather than as we’re used to seeing it. Think of it as wiping a misted window – our thoughts are a layer on top of what’s actually there, and they can obscure it. Our intuition is bare, not of our making, and not ours to control. Better still, we can use our voices to amplify these intuitive whispers of the Force. Give them to others. And if we listen, if we trust our instincts, we turn our whispers into shouts.

The Force whispers within us all.

“A wise man changes his mind; a fool, never.” Spanish Proverb

We habitually imagine a fool as a sort of clown. Someone who knows nothing; a bumbling, ludicrous idiot who even the second-most-foolish wouldn’t take seriously. Sadly, fools can be far more insidious, far more persuasive, and far more dangerous:

The bigot who assumes authority over those they cannot easily understand.
The authority figure who arrogantly endangers others by refusing to listen.
The coward who fears change so stands in the way of progress.

To stop thinking, to stop noticing, to stop learning, is to become a fool.

“Learned fools are the greatest fools.” German Proverb

Each of us must start somewhere. Only the very cruel would call a baby a fool. Likewise not every freshman is a fool, nor every graduate wise. Indeed, it’s very wise to make oneself a student in order to learn something, whilst the knowledgeable expert may foolishly miss a simple truth, if too set in their ways. Foolishness, then, is not simply an absence of wisdom or knowledge.

But it is foolish to ignore this absence, and actively unwise to disregard it. Foolish to remain steadfast in arrogance, fear or hatred when faced with uncertainty or doubt. Inflexibility, naïvety, unshakeable confidence and the desire to always be “right”: These are the hallmarks of the fool.

The real fool has much to teach Jedi, seeking to improve ourselves and increase our share of wisdom. One of the best lessons the fool makes clear is that we can’t know everything. We’d be foolish to try to.

“A wise man doesn’t know everything – only a fool does.” African Proverb

The implications of this are far reaching. We are not always “certain”, and should take no shame in admitting when we’re not. We do not promote one opinion at the expense of others. We understand that there are limits to our understanding; which means we also accept that we carry the capacity for foolishness, and remain on our guard for it.

It is wise to recognise this inherent fallibility. We learn the validity of other perspectives, and the wisdom of those who share them. We see the inherent dangers of believing we are “the authority” on anything. We recognise that “knowing” something doesn’t automatically make it a concrete fact.

We know only that there is always more to know, are taught always that there is always another lesson to learn, and see that to the wise, open to new understanding, even the most foolish is a teacher.

“The first chapter of fools is to esteem themselves wise.” English Proverb

Such is the root of true wisdom:
To accept one knows little, and to become a humble student, rather than a confident fool.