As I've mentioned elsewhere, we generally tend to accept that all Jedi Realists practice under the common guidance of a singular directive that governs the ethical approaches of all practitioners. In itself, it may sound extreme to possess such a mandate for moral behaviour, but since our ideology allows for quite a significant amount of flexibility regarding how one approaches ethical action, it inevitably becomes clear that we must have a singular underlying foundation for these approaches to be based on. Lacking that, it would seem reasonable to conclude that we would have no place even including a system of ethics within our ideology.
Given this, it would seem appropriate to talk more about the nature of the directive itself, thus to provide you with a better understanding of why we selected this particular mandate and how we apply this when taking into consideration our own individual approaches to ethical conduct.
It does need to be noted that we have no singular text for the directive itself – generally speaking, the mandate we use has always been something of an unwritten rule amongst the majority, something understood implicitly but not really something you want to try and formally put down on paper, since it is quite easy to end up restricting someone’s perfectly valid approach simply through your choice of language. And as long as the majority of practitioners agree, where is the harm in that, right? Yes, I am being sarcastic. I hope you’ll forgive my cynicism.
Nonetheless, when considering the ethical directive, the following principles tend to be naturally included:
A Jedi must cause no unnecessary harm, either of the physical or psychological variety.
Under those circumstances whereby such harm becomes unavoidable, the Jedi has an obligation either to minimise the impact beforehand, or to act in a manner that allows such a situation to be corrected afterwards.
‘Harm’, for our purposes, is defined as direct physical or mental injury; as the constraint of personal freedoms (for example, the ability to make choices for oneself) or as the manipulation of another for malicious purposes.
These three principles form the basis of our ethical approach, but do so in a manner that permits a significant amount of latitude with regards to their application. It should be noted that, by ‘no unnecessary harm’, we refer directly to circumstances where it is within the practitioner’s ability to prevent harm coming to another through their own actions. This extends both to our own choices (i.e. restraining ourselves from causing harm, even in the unlikely even that we desire to do so), as well as to our choices in the face of those of others (e.g. preventing someone else from harming another when we are in a position to do so).
Pretty much every circumstance we encounter can be directed by these particular principles, while at the same time allowing for a significant number of differences in how one chooses to interpret them and apply them. That noted, I should probably seek to clear up any potential ambiguities, and prevent any clear misinterpretations of the ethical directive as a consequence.
When we consider the first of the three principles, it should probably be noted that most people tend to think only of physical damage when considering the notion of causing someone harm. However, we must also consider the Jedi principle of balance here – we understand that those things which affect the body will inevitably have an effect upon the mind, and conversely, psychological stimuli can have a direct influence upon the physical body in any number of ways. For example, if someone feels stressed psychologically, they tend to feel physically tense and often weary; likewise, if the body is put under a significant amount of strain, there are natural psychological ramifications: lack of motivation and willpower, a lack of concentration, and so on.
Obviously, physical harm is far easier to handle than psychological damage, primarily because such a thing tends to be more direct and more obvious. The latter of the two is, however, far more difficult to spot, but can have far longer-lasting effects. It is for that reason that Jedi Realists believe in combining physical training with a large amount of psychological training. However, when we take into consideration our actions around others, this becomes even more important, because we cannot control how somebody thinks and feels, nor how a combination of both will inevitably affect the individual’s overall mindset.
Were it simply a case that Jedi Realists tried to avoid only causing physical damage to others, our training regimens would be far easier and the ideology as a whole would probably be far less complex. However, since this is not the case, we have been forced to take into consideration a huge number of different techniques and methodologies to assist us in preventing us from causing psychological harm to those around us. Such a thing can be achieved by something as small as preventing a negative thought from festering by cheering somebody up, or by stepping in when stress appears to be building.
The techniques we use need not be catalogued here: you’ll encounter them throughout the rest of the manual. But I feel the need to emphasise the importance of keeping the potential for psychological harm firmly within your minds: the ways in which it can be provoked and aggravated are generally far more subtle than the methods by which one comes to physical harm.
Moving on, we also have to take into consideration times when we might actually be forced to cause harm to another person in order to prevent a far greater harm – for example, defending ourselves or others in physical combat, harming our attackers in order to prevent a continuation of violence. Alternatively, you might be forced to cause slight psychological damage to prevent far greater damage (of both kinds) at a later date: for example, reprimanding your children when they do something which might cause them extreme physical harm might cause them to feel temporarily miserable, but this is better than the alternative, as you might imagine.
In such circumstances, however, one cannot approach it as though it is something moral or even laudable: any action which causes harm to another is intrinsically unethical. This is not to say that is necessarily the wrong thing to do. One must balance the idealism of our ethical beliefs with the practicality demanded by circumstances. Indeed, Jedi Realism naturally advocates a balance between these particular forces, and this is something all practitioners should keep in mind. This is not to say that one should necessarily feel inconsolably guilty for any actions they take in this vein – rather, that they should only engage in such action with the clear understanding of the reasons they are doing so, and with a singular awareness that such a thing must always be the exception, never the rule.
When we consider the third of the directive’s principles, you might be wondering why we include the notion of personal freedoms within the definition of harm. It could very well be argued that there are times when restricting one’s personal liberties could be to their benefit, rather than their detriment: say, restricting your children’s access to dangerous objects thus prevents them being harmed by them, for example. I again note that this falls under the category of having to take simple practical measures rather than acting purely from ethical idealism.
Under most circumstances, however, you have to be willing to allow people their own personal freedoms: to let them choose for themselves the best way to go about their daily lives. The duty of the Jedi in these situations, as far as ethical conduct is concerned, is to counsel others as to what you would consider to be the most appropriate course of action (e.g. not acting hastily, nor putting themselves in danger when more prudent avenues are available). In this way, we ensure that they are aware of the potential consequences of those choices they make, while not restraining their ability to actually make those choices of their own accord. You can prevent your children from getting hold of dangerous objects, or you can teach them of the dangers so that they can determine for themselves whether or not to take the risks involved.
The other part of the directive, apart from not restraining one’s personal freedoms, comes with regards to promoting those freedoms – thus, encouraging people to think for themselves; to consider the consequences of their actions; to act in accordance with their own wishes and desires and to accept the responsibility for their actions, thus to truly be in control of them. It may seem a little odd to include such a thing within an ethical directive, but allow me to explain my reasoning.
When we speak of preventing harm, we have to consider not only those forms of harm which can be inflicted directly within the present moment, but also those which might be inflicted by a person on themselves (and in this, I am not referring to physical self-harm or suicide, for example) by not exercising their potential for development, something which can lead them to be something more than they are. As you are undoubtedly aware, the Jedi path seeks to promote an individual’s self-awareness, both with regards to their current capabilities and those which they might later develop, simply by providing a practitioner with the ability to direct their own development and to be constantly aware of themselves: their emotions, their thoughts; their motivations, and so on.
However, such things are not to be restricted to those who make a dedicated choice to practise the Jedi way – inevitably, in providing students with the knowledge and techniques that will enable them to develop in the manner they have chosen, we also give them the ability to put these to use in helping others to develop themselves beyond the dictates of our ideology. Not everyone believes in the same things we do, and would not be interested in Jedi Realism as a whole, but may very well have use for our teachings and methodologies as part of their own lives.
Thus, when we direct Jedi to do no harm, we also include within that the understanding that they should also do whatever is in their power not only to prevent harm, but also to promote wellbeing and to encourage development that will inevitably serve to help those concerned with their daily lives. As it stands, our ethical actions cannot simply be restrained to reactive circumstances: we must also seek to be proactive in our conduct, working to help others in far more than a preventative manner.
Indeed, for the majority of the time, acting to prevent harm is not necessarily practical: such a thing requires that we wait until we become aware of harm being caused, and then consequently act to prevent it or to minimise the damage that might be caused by it as a result. As far as we are concerned, the simple truth is that while acting to prevent or to counteract the effects of harm certainly serves as ethical action, it cannot in itself be the totality of our ethical system.
With that in mind, we come upon the fourth principle inherent to the Jedi ethical directive:
In those circumstances where the first three principles cannot be applied (i.e. when no harm is being caused or must be prevented), a Jedi is bound to act in a manner designed to positively support those around them.
Of course, this is not to say that the fourth principle is any less important than the first three – indeed, it may very well be more important, since we do tend to feel that the best way to prevent harm is to ensure that the possibility itself is never really an option. To achieve this, one has to work against those things which create harm: anxiety, frustration, anger, malevolent intent, and so on. Those are not the only factors involved, but certainly the foremost ones.
When we consider acting to promote beneficial conditions for others, there are two things to be taken into account: the internal psychological mindset of the individual, and the consequential effect this has upon the people around them.
Considering the first, we have to refer back to our own training in regards to self-awareness – primarily focusing on our emotions and the ways these can affect us. The majority of harmful circumstances are created as a result of the build-up and expression of negative emotions. When a person becomes angry, stressed or otherwise anxious, it becomes difficult for them to restrain such emotion and this tends to become evident in the environment in which they exist. As we understand the relationships between internal anxiety and external environmental tensions, it becomes obvious that we have to treat both with equal consideration. Allow me to explain.
Imagine someone working under difficult conditions. Now imagine what kind of effect that is having on their mental landscape: they can become frustrated at the constant assault by their environment, anxious to meet particular deadlines, angry when something gets in the way. Such tension inevitably builds up and results in stress: a psychosomatic reaction dependent on environmental stimuli. Stress tends to manifest itself in one of several different ways: either it builds up and eventually requires an outlet, or it simply continues to elevate until the person becomes worn out or even ill as a result of the strain.
We can approach this in one of two ways: either dealing with the conditions which are causing the emotions that contribute to the stress, or we can deal with the person’s reaction to those conditions. Ideally, we must try to do both, but in circumstances where this is not possible, a Jedi should try and direct their efforts towards the latter: the psychological reaction of the individual to the external stimuli.
For Jedi, we begin to approach such a situation by providing something of a stable presence for those around us – calm, collected and relaxed. Since we accept that others can sense our emotions and be affected by them, as much as by our assertive actions, to create a positive environment, we must direct ourselves towards consciously exerting an encouraging and relaxed presence. In so doing, we can assist others passively simply through example: if we can remain calm amidst a storm, others can do the same.
Once others perceive this, we can begin to help them in more proactive ways: teaching them to be mindful of their own feelings, and to help them find a way in which they can relieve themselves of their psychological anxieties and thus prevent the onset of stress. As a consequence, they can eventually feel more relaxed in both a physical and mental manner, which can only contribute to creating a more pleasant environment.
As far as dealing with the conditions which contribute to stress, in the long term, we prefer instead to focus upon the individuals encountering such conditions, since removing the adverse conditions will not help the individual in the long-term: rather than teaching them to handle external stressors, you would simply be removing the need for them to do so. While that might be helpful in the short-term, alleviating some of the pressure upon them, it will not be of much help should they encounter further pressures at a later time, but now bereft of your assistance. Thus, where possible, all practitioners should focus more upon the development and assistance of the individual than upon dealing with factors that they would otherwise be able to overcome once their own understanding has progressed.
Now that we have given thought to the ethical directive itself, it might be helpful to talk about some of the ways in which practitioners can approach ethical behaviour in concert with the directive, while allowing for personal flexibility to come into play, based on individual perspective of the needs of any given situation.