In KoTOR 1, the player character undergoes Jedi training. During which they are made to memorize the Jedi Code, but no explanation or justification is provided for it. You also meet the Jedi turned Sith, Yuthura Ban. She teaches you the Sith code, but unlike the Jedi, she explains it and makes a case for it.
She explains the meaning behind the code. It is after all a code that some other person developed into words a long time ago and must have had their own meaning attached to it. No code or teaching comes from the aether. It is developed by someone at some point and that person has their own meaning and understanding of the code. Does anyone ever develop a code that is meant to be interpreted differently by everyone? I’m actually not sure. I suppose it isn’t impossible, but Yuthura explaining the code indicates that the Sith code at least, was meant to be understood in a specific way.
The Jedi also seems to have a code that is meant to be understood in a specific way. But after telling you the code, they tell you to think about it, probably hoping that you would come to the “correct” interpretation on your own.
If you want someone to better internalize something then technically this is a stronger way then to simply explain it to them. People internalize information better when they discover it on their own.
While it is a more effective way to internalize the code, that’s assuming they arrive at the conclusions you want them to. In KoTOR 1, all they have you do is memorize the code. Perhaps that was due to some sort of game development limitation and in reality, It’s possible that if the student doesn’t understand the code, then a master might step in and attempt to explain or guide them a bit towards the answer they want to hear, before sending them back to ponder the code.
The Jedi have a habit of taking this practice to an extreme however. We see this showcased in KoTOR 2 with the Exile. The Jedi Council exiled her thinking that she would reflect on things, and in that reflection she would naturally come to the conclusion that they were right. They crossed their fingers and hoped that her isolation would eventually lead to the Jedi way of thinking. The Jedi consider their truths to be self evident.
After the Hundred-Year Darkness that followed the second Jedi schism, all of the dark jedi were rounded up. The Jedi leaders banished them into the unknown, in the hopes that, with time, they would see the error of their ways. Instead they landed on Korriban, encountered the Sith species,and the rest is history.
They became the Lords of the Sith and established the Sith Order. A religion that was to be the antithesis of the Jedi Order. They developed their own code almost in direct defiance of the Jedi Code. The Jedi code starts by saying that “there is no emotion, there is peace”; or if you prefer, “Emotion, yet peace.” The Sith code opens with a line directly challenging this by saying that peace is a lie, there is only passion.
It seems that in a way, the Sith order, as an offspring of the Jedi, always remained in the shadow of the Jedi order, never progressing into complete uniqueness, and instead simply remained the anti-Jedi. We all know that after millenia, the Sith eventually got their revenge against the Jedi. But what did they really gain? They slaughtered each other, consciously dwindled their numbers down to two, and for what? A few decades of ruling the galaxy with nothing else to really do.
There were personal goals by Darth Sidious, like attaining more power within the force for the mere sake of it, and he even wanted to cheat death, which he technically ultimately succeeded in.
It could be argued that Darth Sidious was a Sith’ari. A being that broke all of his chains and could do whatever he wished. With that said however, the legend of the Sith’ari comes off as a bit weird to me.
The sith code’s ultimate goal is freedom, a worthwhile goal if you ask me. But is there a limit to freedom, or at least should there be? Try and imagine ultimate freedom. Having the freedom to even avoid dying, or to destroy the entire galaxy. But unless you also have the freedom to create a galaxy anew, destroying the galaxy would shed you of freedoms you can only have within a galaxy.
Then there’s living beings, you’d have to have the freedom to manipulate them in any way you wish, whether it’s mentally or even physically. It’s almost as if the Sith are describing some kind of God. A Jedi might say that the Sith covet the power of the Force, but the Sith don’t see the Force as some kind of God like the Jedi do.
Being the anti-Jedi that they are, the Sith take the direct approach, telling you their code and explaining it. Telling you exactly what they mean and what their entire philosophy is all about. Leaving very little room for interpretation and directly making you adopt someone else’s beliefs. I say “very little room for interpretation” because there have been instances of Sith lords doing the unexpected.
The Sith strive for total freedom, and it is true that complete freedom within a society is indistinguishable from anarchy. People assume that if a person can do whatever they want, they will immediately devolve into a murderous wild animal. The same with moral relativism. People assume that if someone understands that morality is a social construct and not any kind of universal law, then obviously that person will automatically succumb to nihilism and again seek to either destroy others, themselves, or both.
It’s debatable whether this would be the case for the majority of the human race, I don’t have any data in this area. But I’m sure we can all agree that this cannot be the case for everyone.
This brings us to a certain Sith Lord called, Darth Vectivus. Despite using the dark side and being a Sith Lord, he didn’t succumb completely to the same pitfall as many of his brethren. Instead of random acts of senseless violence, he actually kept his wits about him and didn’t try to kill everything that looked at him cross eyed. In the end he lived out a pretty quiet life in a mining asteroid. If the Sith advocate for freedom then doing whatever you want includes being fair in your dealings, being charitable if you want to be, or living a quiet life.
With the Jedi you have situations like the mandalorian wars and the Revanchists. It could be that the Jedi council interpreted the teachings one way and Revan another. It could also be that they all interpreted the teachings the same way. But the council members wanted the rest of the Jedi to obey the chain of command. Disavow the teachings for now and instead allow the authority of the council to be your only guide.
Atris, who’s interpretation of Jedi teachings, eventually led her to attempt construction of a new Jedi order that would essentially function just like the Sith. The only difference would be that they would have called themselves “Jedi.”
Whether you tackle this the Jedi way or the Sith way, there are strengths and weaknesses in both. The question remains, is one way ultimately more beneficial than the other?
I made a poll concerning this question to see what others thought of it. The question being “Should Religious Code be Explained or Individually Interpreted?” With a total of around 1800 voters, Individual Interpretation wins by quite a large margin.
People sometimes seem to wonder if Kreia has a code. The answer is no. But I suppose if you really want to you could say that her code is the absence of a code. As a person we tend to see her as quite the individualist, even though there are certain instances, including her ultimate plan of deafening the galaxy to the force, that arguably come off as being highly collectivist.
In a way Kreia reminds me of one of the teachings of Bruce Lee. Be flexible, be adaptable, be like water. So many people, idealists, and even philosophers end up constructing their views on the world and people that it becomes all they’re able to see. They get so caught up in how things should be, that they’re blinded to how things really are.
Once they encounter a situation or a person that challenges, contradicts, or otherwise questions their views, they can’t adapt. It requires that they admit that they might not have been entirely correct. That’s when you can expect the excuses and the rationalizations to manifest. Instead of maybe discovering another, better truth by confronting this new information. But human beings can be very stubborn and we never want to be wrong.
In the Mass Effect universe there’s a group called the Justicars. They hold on to a code that’s more of a manual that informs their actions in supposedly every possible situation.
The Justicar, Samara, held on to her code to such an extent that she found herself in a situation where she almost killed her own daughter in cold blood to uphold it. In order to avoid this she was prepared to take her own life. It took both the player character, Shepard, and her daughter to talk her down and convince her into an acceptable solution.
The Justicar code is so rigid that they don’t believe in morally grey situations. Everything is black and white. Because of that, curiosity is highly discouraged. If a Justicar has to kill murderers, she doesn’t want to know anything that could potentially redeem them in her eyes. Because of this, Justicars can easily be seen as evil. They can also be tricked into committing all kinds of atrocities.
All you’d have to do is lure them to an impoverished place like Omega. If they encounter someone who turned to crime as a last resort to feed their family, the Justicar will kill them. After that she’ll have the pleasure of watching the criminal’s family slowly starve and die. It’s also said that Justicars would give up their lives without hesitation to protect innocents, another potential avenue to trick one into killing herself. All this compounded with how rigorous the training is, and it’s no wonder that there’s so few of them.
I’ve argued before in Kreia’s Conundrums - Help that I think even Kreia can fall into this philosophical trap, and take things too far in my opinion. After all, she’s only human. But you could say that she’s more self aware than most, and obviously not against reevaluation.
The lesson is this: Your beliefs are not supposed to be in control of you. You are in control of what you believe.
Papito Qinn is into the whole YouTube thing, is the winner of the 2016 SpookTAYcular Scary Story Contest, and a twitter incompetent. “Don’t enslave yourself.”