News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by
Arts & Entertainment

The Force is strong with these real life Jedis

Jedi knights Mace Windu (Sam Jackson) Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and a young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen)
Jedi knights Mace Windu (Sam Jackson) Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and a young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen)

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

Millions of people all over the world are fans of the "Star Wars" franchise. Some might even go a little further and call themselves "Star Wars" fanatics. But there are some that actually claim to feel the force in real life.

These are real life practitioners of the "Star Wars" belief system, Jediism. We talk to Ben Svetky who wrote an article in Details magazine entitled, "The Church of Jedi."

Interview Highlights:

On the gathering of Jedi practitioners:
"The event was a gathering of people who practice Jediism as an actual god religion. They have an event every year. It's in a different place every year, this one took place in a town called Norris, Tennessee, which is population 14,000. They rented a house and about 20 Jedis gathered in this place....What they were really trying to do was replicate a scene in one of the "Star Wars" movies where Yoda sends Luke Skywalker into a cave to confront a phantom Dark Vader and it's all very sort of spiritual and they were trying to see if they could, in their own Jedi way replicate that experience for themselves."

On how that involves using the Force and what do they consider the Force?
"The Force is sort of this metaphysical underpinning of the whole mythology of Star Wars. Some people describe it to me as a vague energy that just sort of floats through the system, through the universe.  One of the people that was talking about how when she was in the Army, people used to make fun of her. They would say, "You're a Jedi, why don't you turn on the light with your mind?" And she would say, "OK, I'll do that." She would get up from her chair and she would go over and flip the light switch on. They would say, "You're not using the Force." And she said, "Yes, I am because in my mind the Force is energy and chemicals in my brain were telling my finger to flip the switch so as far as I am concerned I turned the light on with my mind." 

On how it became a whole movement?
"If you follow the sort of genesis, if you will, of how it began, it started out in message boards and role-playing games and the role-playing games became more and more serious for people and people started asking the question, "Well, If I'm playing this role-playing game and these lessons that I'm learning in the game apply to my character in the game, why can't they apply to me in real life?" And that's sort of how it evolved into a more serious religion."

On whether they're criticized for their beliefs: 
"The central code, the Jedi code, which is these four lines that are sort of their Ten Commandments. The four commandments, the four suggestions, whatever you want to call it, they get that from an old role-playing book. I went into this gathering understandably very skeptical, but I left kind of feeling like this isn't any different from any other religion and they are not doing anything evil. 

"They are just trying to understand the universe in their own way and there is a code of ethics that in a lot of ways is very admirable. One of the things that is really important to the Jedi is community service and every single one of them did something good for the community, whether it was belonging to a search and rescue team or collecting cans for soup kitchens. As one of them put it to me, "This is what we do instead of praying. This is our form of prayer. So it's really hard to walk aways from that feeling like there was anything wrong them. It's just the way they deal with life."

Christians, Jews and Muslims follow the Ten Commandments, what about the Jedi?
"They follow something called the Jedi Code. The Jedi Code is four phrases, which I have not memorized so I cannot tell you what they are. But they are sort of like, there is no ignorance, there is only knowledge. There is no chaos, there is only harmony, or something along those effects. There are very cryptic, they come from a role-playing book published in 1987 that has since gone out of print. And that is sort of the cornerstone of the faith. There are lots of different Jedi websites and Jedi sects, I guess you would say, but they all have that in common. They all adhere to the Jedi Code."

On their ultimate thought on the film and series?  
"Well, they are really concerned about the J.J. Abrams movie. For them in particular these films are not under Lucas' control anymore. So, what if J.J. decides to take the mythology in a whole different direction and that kind of wipes out their whole direction? The way they sort of deal with is say, "Look, we have been around for a while now. We have developed our own philosophy, our own way of looking at Jediism. If these movies come out and these movies decided to do something else, well we are going to stick with what we believe in."