Jedi Trials: Trial of Insight (5/5)

From The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

Trial of Insight Reveals a Jedi’s aptitude for distinguishing reality from illusion through deceptive challenges.

Can Jedi be deceived?  Of course, but only if we ignore the will of the Force or the information in our Archives.  A Jedi who is deceived is no longer working for the cause of the light side.  In extreme cases, a Jedi operating under delusions may become a danger to innocents.

The Trial of Insight guards against this threat.  It was the last test to be formalized as part of the Trials of Knighthood, and rose to prominence after it became clear that the Trials were producing Jedi who were brave, competent, and could overcome temptation–but who could not see through the patter of a simple con artist.

Deception and misdirection are threats to the Jedi, and our enemies frequently use them against us.  The Hutts have been the ruin of countless Jedi campaigns throughout history, not due to their martial prowess but through their trickery.  The Trial of Insight tests a Padawan’s ability to see through illusion and judge the person beneath, and to filter out distractions in search of the truth.

Over the centuries many challenges have been employed to assess this ability in the Trial of Insight.  These include locating a single grain of sand within a field of stones, determining the content and meaning of a fragmentary text from scattered pieces, and solving any of the High Riddles of Dwartii–and no, researching the riddles in the Archives beforehand is not permitted.

The Trial of Insight may occur at a moment when you are not prepared for it, and may in fact be part of an unrelated challenge.  I am reminded of three Padawans undergoing the eighth hour of the Trial of Skill.  Through a perceptual trick all were made to believe they faced a horde of angry warriors.  One battle on the face of certain defeat and passed her Trial of Courage.  The second perceived the illusory nature of the combatants and passed his Trial of Insight.  The third bowed out of the trial, citing exhaustion, and failed to become a Knight.

“Insight may also be gained by seeing beyond what is physically in front of you, to what is real.”

Of the five Trials, the Trial of Insight gives me the most issue when trying to come up with potential ways to test insight.  As I have been told it has been done in the past, the deception has been done during the interview/trial process and has been done in increasingly disruptive ways.  This does not settle well with me.  With how draining the trials can be, especially with the Trial of Spirit, I feel like the student should be able to rely on the Jedi administering their trials.  If a Jedi is the one to represent the Trial of Insight, I would rather it be one not otherwise involved with overseeing the trial.  Not to say that there are ways it could be done ethically, but I see many problems.

I lean rather, to having someone not involved with the trial present the “deception.”  Either a fellow Jedi not involved in the trial, or to have a scenario set up outside of the Jedi community, although this again proves the difficulty of having qualified individuals available for this.

As for the exact deceptions that could be used…it is difficult to say.  While it would have to be something significant enough to register to the students sense of insight, I would also suggest that it not be something that causes a student deep distress.

A possible example that comes to mind is actually an April Fool’s joke some friends and I pulled on a friend back in High School.  My friend was very much against smoking, so I acquired a pack of cigarettes from my older brother and my other friends and I acted as if we were going to go out back to “Smokers Corner” as it was known.  Something like that could be done, to see if the Jedi figures out it is all a farce or if they believe their friends apparent actions.  In fact, a good number of April Fool’s type ideas could work well for this.

A student could test out of the Trial of Insight if they have seen through significant deceptions before.  For example, a deception I admittedly failed during my senior year of High School was being “quick changed” (in my defense, I was 17 years old and had only been a Jedi for about a year).  Where a Jedi to encounter such a deception and see through it, that could warrant a pass on the Trial of Insight.


Jedi Trials: Trial of Spirit (4/5)

From The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

Trial of Spirit Tests a Jedi’s ability to vanquish inner battles and emerge unscathed.

Outsiders think that the Jedi exist to crusade against enemies–that we are mere counterbalances to the threat of the Sith.  Only among our own ranks do we recognize that being a Jedi is an emotional commitment to a higher spirituality.  This is the challenge represented by the Trial of Spirit, known among some as Facing the Mirror.

Jedi possess great power, and those who have fallen to the dark side have unleashed their power in waves of misery.  The Trial of Spirit measures your temptations and whether you can put them aside in the service of a greater cause.  Although this is just as much a battle as the Trial of Skill, during this challenge you might not flex a single muscle.  The battlescape is in your mind, and victory is marked by a profound sense of peace.

It is impossible to describe the Trial of Spirit.  I do not know the fears coiled in your heart.  Not even Grand Master Fae would presume to dictate your challenges.  The Trial of Spirit is to be carried out under deep meditation, with a Master who will nudge you onto the path that you least wish to tread.

Under meditation you may feel that you’ve been transported off Coruscant entirely.  You may see the faces of colleagues who have long since passed into the Force.  You will undoubtedly see things that disturb you, from enemies you have faced to the most horrific cacodemons in the Core’s nightmarish mythology.

Remember the third precept of the Jedi Code: There is no passion, there is serenity.  Stay true to the discipline of self-control, and keep in mind that you are but an agent of the Force.  Once you accept that grief, shame, revenge, and all other emotions that center on the self have no hold on you, you will emerge victorious.  If you do not, you will emerge broken and screaming.  You should hope you do not fail the Trial of Spirit.

“During the Trial of Spirit, Jedi must mentally face their deepest fears.”

This Trial would probably be the most difficult and intensive.  It could be useful if done before the Trial of Courage however, as it will likely present many fears and insecurities.  This Trial is the primary reason I think the Trials should be given more adequate time then just a few hours.  I believe for this Trial, a student should sit down with a Jedi and go through their life, slowly, bit by bit.

About a year ago, I started typing up a sort of autobiography.  It is amazing how emotionally trying this is, not to mention liberating.  To go through all the painful moments, many that you forgot, to find the root of most of your fears and insecurities, and to examine the experience of your youth through an older, more aware and knowledgeable set of eyes.  There will likely be tears and laughter, but in the end, the student would come out of it with a better understanding of themselves.

Ideally, this should be done with someone who has trained in a field like psychology, or specializes in this sort of healing, that way they can help the student deal with things, or know well enough to advise them to seek out additional help if needed.  The student should also be prepared to take time to recover from the experience after if possible.  This could be done in one day, or several days, depending on the amount of detail brought out and whether there were any major issues in a students past.


Jedi Trials: Trial of Flesh (3/5)

From The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

Trial of the Flesh Determines a Jedi’s capacity to overcome great pain.

For many Padawans, the Trial of the Flesh is the most difficult of the Knighthood trials.  This ordeal will test your ability to overcome great pain, and it may be quite literal.

As a historian, I have studied the Trial of the Flesh in its incarnations throughout the millennia.  During the Pius Dea era, the Jedi Order subjected Padawans to torments of cold, cuts, sonic shock, and the application of sustained, low-powered blaster fire in the technique that the smugglers call “the Burning.”  Now condemned as barbarism, this practice is best understood as a product of its time.  It did, however, crystalize the Trial of the Flesh’s most fundamental principle:  divorcing the self from the spirit.

During the most recent war against the Sith, the Council viewed battle as a living expression of the Trial of the Flesh.  All Padawans who survived a war injury passed this Trial on the evidence of their scars.  Padawans who had defeated a Sith Lord sometimes passed the Trials of the Flesh, Skill, and Courage simultaneously.  Far from being a matter of political expediency, these battlefield trials have a long precedent in the Jedi Order.  Padawans who lost a limb to cho mok or another Mark of Contact surrendered their flesh to demonstrate their commitment to the Jedi Order.

It is now a different time, and we do not expect Padawans to prove their worth through wounds.  The Trial of the Flesh, in fact, is about more than physical agony.  The pain of loss is part of your passage from Padawan to Knight, for you are giving up the closest pond you have ever known.  As the partnership with your Master is formally dissolved, you may be overwhelmed by feelings of sadness or regret.  This is part of your Trial of the Flesh.  Think well on the first precept of the Jedi Code: There is no emotion, there is peace.

“Physical pain is one type of test a padawan may face in the Trial of the Flesh.”

This is probably the only Trial I think is more suited to not being tested on the spot. Additionally, it should probably be the easiest to pass.  Everyone experiences pain throughout their natural lives, both physical and emotional.  I think this should be a trial where a student is asked for examples of times they felt both extreme physical and emotional pain.  If a person is out there, living life, they will have more than enough to tell.

Emotional:  The loss of a loved one, betrayal, abandonment, ecc.
Physical:  Broken bones, sprained limbs (take it from someone who has done both…sprains can hurt SO much worse), severe illness, chronic disease/pain, ecc.



Jedi Trials: Trial of Courage (2/5)

From The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

Trial of Courage Establishes a Jedi’s skill and fortitude in the face of danger and overwhelming odds.

Even if your talents lean more toward diplomacy than war, courage is an intrinsic part of being a Jedi.  Though the Force is with us, we are small in number when compared to the people of the galaxy.  We have numerous enemies, and must also contend with those who do not understand our Order and therefore misinterpret our motives.  As Jedi, we can never relax our discipline–nor can we fail to confront injustice is no Jedi at all, which makes the Trial of Courage a revelatory test.

I cannot tell you what you will face in your Trial of Courage.  Its purpose is for a Padawan to persist in the face of fear.  If you know what the trial will consist of, then the true measure of your courage will not be tested.

In previous eras, a Padawan was considered to have passed the Trial of Courage if he or she demonstrated battlefield heroics such as standing up to a vastly powerful Sith Lord.  Similar dispensations were handed out by the Council during the last war.  But in such situations it was at times difficult to sort out courage from recklessness.  Overconfidence is a flaw, and rushing in unprepared can often make things worse.  Courage must be aligned with the fourth precept of the Code: There is no chaos, there is harmony.

The war is over, but the Council may still assign special missions to Padawans who wish to pass the Trial of Courage.  The mission could simply be a creation of the Council to test your reactions within the Jedi trials Chamber, or it could be deadly dangerous.  Regardless of the nature of your challenge, it is important you do not share the details of your experience with your fellow Padawans.  All must experience this Trial untainted.

“The Trial of Courage measures a Padawan’s willingness to fight evil despite the fear it may instill.”

Testing a Jedi’s courage in battle is very difficult, unless fate presents an opportunity that can be observed, but it is unlikely.  It is possible that a scenario could be prepared and presented without the students knowledge, but that would require willing participants that are both unknown to the student, and skilled actors.  Possible, but not easy.

Another route, is to test a Jedi’s courage in handling fears that are non-confrontational.  It would take some deep searching, but find what the student is afraid of and expose them to it while having them complete some sort of task.  Don’t go overboard on this and force them to wade through a pit of snakes if they are afraid of snakes, but have the thing that they fear present somehow.  Each fear would have to be addressed differently of course.

Ways to “test out?”  Well, does the student regularly encounter something they are afraid of and still manage to act in the face of it?  Is the student afraid of heights yet works in the catwalks of a theater?  Are the afraid of flying but have already managed to fly a few times?  Are they afraid of sharks but somehow swam with sharks?

Combat again is a possibility, but again it is difficult to prove that one has faced an opponent directly in a fight and stood their ground.  If enough of a case can be made however, this is, as I said, I possibility.

Jedi Trials: Trial of Skill (1/5)

From The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

Trial of Skill Demonstrates a Jedi’s competence with a lightsaber and the Force principles of Control.

Don’t be fooled into thinking of the Trial of Skill as a physical challenge.  Master Vaunk and the Council members will judge your performance based on a series of lightsaber tests, but in truth this Trial hinges on a Jedi’s ability to maintain self-discipline in the face of distraction.

Lightsaber combat is attached to the Trial of Skill as a matter of modern convenience, for every Jedi must demonstrate the ability to wield a blade.  Yet lightsaber combat springs from the discipline of Control.  Early in the history of the Order, the Trial of Skill took many forms, including acrobatics while balanced on the tip of a wooden staff and keeping a single pebble suspended while standing in the vortex of a howling Tythonese hailstorm.

Do not bother to anticipate what type of lightsaber challenge you will encounter during the Trial of Skill or which opponent you will face.  The popular rumor among Padawans is that you must outlast the Jedi Battlemaster in a session that may span hours.  This could be true, for aching fatigue provides exactly the kind of challenge to a Jedi’s focus that the Trial of Skill is meant to evaluate.  Yet you may face multiple opponents at once; a succession of fresh opponent while you become increasingly exhausted; a duel with one Jedi while another manipulates your perceptions or shifts the floor tiles beneath your feet; or perhaps even a duel with a member of the Council, including our venerable Grand Master–a rare privilege indeed.

Such challenges are not meant to be unfair.  All are designed to mimic challenges you may one day face if you are to serve the Order and the Republic as a Jedi Knight.

The latest feature in the Jedi trials Chamber is a holographic projector, introduced after the victory at Ruusan and capable of creating enemies from the air itself.  With this tool you might face Darth Ruin, Lord Kaan, or any of the worst monsters to ever rise from the dark side.

“The Trial of Skill is not a test of athleticism, but of control.”

So essentially, the Trial of Skill is more a test of the Force control than of just your fighting, which at first thought could leave the Jedi of Earth in a bit of a quandary.  We do not have Force abilities like what is shown in the fiction.  However, control can still be tested.

First, I think that combat should remain part of this Trial.  Yes, there are some Jedi out there that choose more the path of a healer, diplomat, or some other, less combative path, however I believe that all Jedi should be able to, at the very least, defend themselves and others if need be.  Within the fiction, all Jedi carried a lightsaber, and therefore all Jedi were trained in how to use a lightsaber, whether they actually ever had need to use it or not.  So how to test control within this?

Well first off, there is the simply act of distraction.  Have the student sparing with another, set up a distraction to occur mid-sparing, and see how they react.   The distraction should not be something that would require the student to act upon, but something simple and just out of place.

Also, many styles of Martial Arts already have this control in practice.  For example, in Capoeira, the ranking is reversed.  Instead of the belt darkening, with the idea that it grows dirtier the longer you train, your pants grow lighter, with the idea that the longer you are training the more control you have over your body and the less likely you are to get knocked to the ground.  It is also a sign of a capoeiristas proficiency NOT to knock a sparing partner to the ground.  During a Jogo, the players should never actually make contact, but instead should show their level of control by pulling back on the strike before it makes impact.

It is difficult to say how one would “test out” of the Trial of Skill.  Holding a certain belt level could qualify, but only if the school has been vetted by a Jedi with expertise in Martial Arts in general, if not in that specific style.  There are many martial arts schools out there who will pass people simply because that is what they are paying for, and they produce a lot of black belts who could not hold  their own in a true fight.

Military service is also a very gray area.  Just because a person is enlisted and served overseas does not mean they ever saw true combat, and with this, there is no real way of vetting a students experience.

As will be the case with many, if not all of the Trials, the exact Trial should be taken on a case by case basis.  If a student was reluctant to learn any sort of Martial Arts/Self Defense, then their ability in such should be more closely examined, though control/concentration still taken into consideration.  If it is a student who has already shown prowess and enthusiasm in such fields, the focus would be more on the control/concentration, and also perhaps on whether they have a case of “lightsaber syndrome.”

Jedi Trials Intro

I walked away from the Jedi community in Spring of 2008.  At that time, various sites and groups had all made attempts at coming up with some sort of “Jedi Trial,” but each attempt was short lived.  We had the idea teased to us when Phantom Menace came out in 1999, but it was not until September, 2010, with the release of The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force, more than two years after I had left the community, that we finally received a description of what these trials were.  I was ecstatic when this book came out, so full of possibilities and inspiration, but the resource, to me, appears to be squandered.  Over the next five weeks (starting this Thursday), I want to look at each one of the five Jedi Trials, starting this week with the Trial of Skill.

First, some general thoughts.

The current way I have seen these implemented is somewhat of an application process.  In a way, I can see that making sense.  If someone has already experienced something that was at a trial level, just like in the Jedi of fiction, they should be able to be waived from being tried in that area again.

I have also seen some attempt to standardize the trials, which I do and do not agree with.  Yes, you want consistency, and you want to make sure everyone meets a certain baseline, but everyone has different strengths or weaknesses, and the trials should focus on both of those.  If you are prone to arrogance and temper, that boundary needs to be pushed in order to make sure you can control yourself.  If you are someone who claims to be a top martial artist, you need to be tested more than someone who has learned to fight only as a means of defense.

Finally, the “trials” that I have seen at gatherings are basically a two-ish hour interview process.  Granted, many feel that it is more of a review of piers than a trial.  So, my thoughts on timing, is that each trial should be given individual attention, and it could take several days to complete them all.  The Trial of Spirit, for example, could take hours, just going through a Jedi’s life to find their fears, guilt, insecurities, ecc.  Proper time must be allotted.