It’s not black. It’s not white. But it is wisdom.
As the title suggests, you’ve been lied to. We all have. By George Lucas of all people.
Star Wars lore goes well beyond the typical tropes of good and evil, white and black, portrayed on the big screen. We were taught that force users have to pick a side and pursue the agenda of the Sith to attain power and control by any means necessary, or commit to the path of light, and seek peace and balance in the galaxy.
In Yoda’s own:
“To be Jedi is to face the truth and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night.”
…and nothing in between.
But in Jedi canon there is a third category of force user conveniently overlooked by Hollywood - The Grey Jedi.
They Grey Jedi stood alone, abstaining from political affiliation and commitment of cause. They had a code of their own. A code, if I may be so bold, that speaks deeper truths that better encapsulate the complexities of real life.
Where the Jedi and Sith codes are idealistic and megalomaniacal, respectively, the Grey code is pragmatic and poetic, embracing the light while acknowledging the dark that in many ways fuels it.
Written by Leor Danal, the first Kage of the order, the Grey Jedi Code:
Flowing through all, there is balance
There is no peace without a passion to create
There is no passion without peace to guide
Knowledge fades without the strength to act
Power blinds without the serenity to see
There is freedom in life
There is purpose in death
The Force is all things and I am the Force
The Grey were Jedi who explored the dark side of the force without being corrupted by it. Nice sentiment, surely, but what does it mean?
To answer that, it helps to examine the quintessential weapon of the Sith - the red light saber. The process (for a Sith) of attuning oneself to their lightsaber crystal - the kyber crystal - and infusing it with the force, is called bleeding… a concept so deeply moving and insightful it almost brings me to tears. For it reveals the source of their power isn’t as simple or malicious as it seems, but stems from intimate connection to and embrace of deep pain.
To bleed one’s kyber crystal a Sith must infuse it with negative emotion - rage, fear, pain, and hate, emotions that Yoda strictly admonished:
"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
These are the emotions of the dark side, yes, but have you ever heard of a war hero, a civil rights leader, a loving parent, or a peak performer that, at least at some point (most likely the point of process where purpose is doubted and the pains of failure are ostensible) is driven by righteous anger?
Yes, it is compassion that delivers communion, but it is grit, my dear reader, that buys you a seat at the table.
The dark side of the force, of which The Grey are intimately acquainted, cannot be learned without surrendering to these emotions. Living in them. Knowing thy darkest corners, the shadows of self that we bury and disguise and hide from those we wish to love and accept us.
It’s only those in the margins of society who let their demons loose, only to pick up the broken pieces later. Some do so with eyes wide open and years of training - the soldier, the fighter, and in many cases, the artist. And some do so unwittingly, because they scorn tomorrow or because they lack the tools to contain and harness their darkness.
But the darkness exists. And a forgotten breed of Jedi embrace it.
The Grey live in a world of nuance and context.
When Luke asked Yoda, “Is the dark side stronger?”
Yoda replied, “No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”
Luke followed, “But how am I to know the good side from the bad?”
And where Yoda answered, “You will know... when you are calm, at peace, passive.” I imagine Leor Danal would have rolled his eyes and spat,
“You’ll know because you’ll know. You’ll know because of the pain and hurt that you’ll feel. You’ll taste it, and the acridity will tempt you to wince and turn away. But you mustn’t look away. It’s there, whether you like it or not. You must know it the way you know an exploding sunset, an enchanting melody, or raw passion - without self, without judgment, and without expectation. You must become the dark. And then, only then, will you know the good side from the bad.
"And then, young Padawan... you must choose."