Most kids who grew up watching the Star Wars films, at one time or another dreamed of becoming a real Jedi while swooshing around a plastic lightsaber taking on imaginary Sith baddies. Daniel M Jones, didn’t just dream about it, he made it a reality when in 2007 he founded The Church of Jediism, a religion that worships no God, yet instead trains to harness ‘the force’ for the power of good. The 2001 census of England and Wales saw 390,127 people identify their religion as Jedi, and what may have started then as something of a joke, or rebellion against the system has turned into 500,000 people registering interest for Daniel’s church. It now boasts more followers in the UK than Scientology, Rastafarianism, Humanism and Paganism combined. We caught up with Daniel (Jedi name Morda Hehol) to find out the beliefs of this Galaxy spanning religion, whether he’s ever turned to the Darkside and his thoughts on the meaning of life.
The MALESTROM: What does the force mean to you?
Daniel Jones: That’s a great question. I get asked this a lot. The other question I get asked a lot is ‘do you believe in God?’ And my answer to those questions is the same. The force is this universal life force, the thing that binds everything together like a gloop. It’s through this gloop, this force, this energy, that gives birth to life, making things reality because it’s fueled by consciousness and consciousness is the feed of infinite creativity, so we think therefore we are. So the force is everything, it’s energy that flows through you, it’s the same as Chi, or the internal flow. The term of God has been misconstrued since the traditional way of God like the book of Matthew says, the Kingdom of God is not just in one man or a handful of men, but all men, every person in the world. And what’s meant by that is it’s a shared experience of consciousness through energy and this is what the force is.
TM: There is no deity at the centre of this faith though is there?
DJ: No there’s not, just like there isn’t in Buddhism. Buddhism is non-dogmatic, they have no deity, its simple because of the fact that it’s down to the individual. Again if we go to the term ‘using the force’, or the kingdom of God or the kingdom of reality, each person is not within one specific body so you can’t have a deity or set of beliefs that contradict that. So yeah there’s no deity. We do get asked the question a lot ‘is George Lucas the God?’ Not really, he did form an idea, but he’s not a supernatural being so to speak.
TM: All Star Wars fans worship Yoda a little bit though right?
DJ: You have to, the guy’s a beast.
TM: What are the core values or beliefs at the heart of the Church of Jediism?
DJ: The root of it is that you’re the peacekeeper of the galaxy, just like they are in Star Wars. So it’s your duty as a Jedi in the universe to always do your best, so letting creativity flourish where it grows, always doing the best you can, always implementing good thoughts. Making sure you’re mind, body and spirit is in line with the universe so you can beam like the sun. You’re in this communication with the universe. That’s what the Jedi’s do in the Star Wars universe, they’re in complete communication with the universe because they understand it and they’ve accepted what they are, who they are, and where they are. Knowing this is the key to doing amazing things. So, it’s encouragement to do more, to be the best you and to do this in a spiritually enlightening way. By doing these things and becoming more awakened with lifestyle choices and the implementation of more philosophical thinking then you will become more spiritually aware.
TM: Is there a mysterious element your tapping into?
DJ: I believe so. The idea is, when you detoxify your entire existence and what I mean by that is the food you eat, the stuff you listen to, how you digest information, who you surround yourself with, how you exist in that environment, how you live in reality. And when you do that, when you live actually in reality and see what’s going on, you’re sort of outside the realms considered normal or typical and by doing this your more susceptible to ESP (extra sensory perception), telepathy, telekinesis, psychokinesis, all these things become apparently easier to deal with because your mind is running more efficiently and not polluted with the toxins that have been thrust upon us for the past 2000 years.
TM: How does Jediism affect your day-to-day life? It’s obviously changed you as a person…
DJ: Before I started to practice Jediism you’re not always thinking about other people all the time, you’re thinking about yourself and what you’re going to do today. You kind of get caught up in your own drama. Of course I’ve got issues with my own condition (Daniel was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2013) and it causes me to have stress and anxiety, depression and demotivation. With Jediism it’s kind of the other way round, so how can I help someone today? How can I make somebody smile or make them feel loved? Those are the kind of things that you go ‘cor, what an amazing feeling to do that.’
It has that effect on you, if you make someone feel awesome you just feel so pumped and you want to go out and save the universe. With doing that it rocks you out of all the other things, it gets rid of the stress, gets rid of the depression, the anxiety. You understand you better. The daily routines are being mindful, practicing different things like Tai Chi or Karate, these things may seem like physical manifestations of defence, which they are and they’re great tools in weaponry, but they’re also a way of getting your body to move in a way which is spiritually enlightening. It edges you closer to that spiritual awakening that we’re all charging towards at an incredible rate.
TM: How much do you think your Asperger’s has helped drive you in terms of creating the church of Jediism?
DJ: I’d been misdiagnosed all my life for all kinds of stuff. It’s a difficult thing, when I actually got diagnosed it hit me like a ton of bricks. But then I was like ‘hey, what are the good parts about it?’ Well I’m extremely focused, I’ve got an analytical mind, my IQ is higher than the average person, I can do a lot of things that maybe some other people couldn’t do. So I wanted to just focus on the positives, I thought ‘how can I do something super good for people?’ I wanted to do something spectacular, something amazing to help people. So yeah, it fueled me to do more than I would have done, so it was don’t see this as a disability, I see this as a super charged superpower to do something quite effective, and I think it does do that for me, cause it hypes me up to do something cool.
TM: Is the Church of Jediism as a whole inclusive of everyone?
DJ: 100%. It’s actually inclusive of every single person regardless of their religious beliefs, their orientation, their geographical location, their mindset, their creed, race, none of that comes into it. Jediism is non-secular, non-dogmatic. If you’re a Christian you can’t be told that you can’t read it because it’s a false God, because there is no God, it’s an applied life philosophy, like routines that you implement in your life that edge you closer to spiritual awakening.
One of the nice things about it is there are no statures, no codes of conduct or rules implemented, nobody is going to say ‘oh you better feel guilty because you had sex outside of marriage or drank alcohol.’ So if you think that’s bad, you get up the next day and you do something about it, something different. It’s to take away that feeling of guilt and judgement from somebody, because no one should be judged, people should be energized to do something. Judging people and constantly battering them down doesn’t help the psyche, so encouraging the psyche and giving some confidence boosters is exactly what we’re all about. Its inclusive to every single person and I think that’s why It’s so appealing.
TM: What do you do differently than before you started the movement? Are there different morning rituals? I know your book has Jedi prayers in it…
DJ: With the Jedi prayers, in the book they’re written for someone who’s never come across anything on the subject, once they read and understand them, it becomes less of a prayer and more of a mindful state of reality, so they’re aware of all these things we’re talking about in the prayers. So, for me, I know all of these things and I live my life knowing I’m in line with nature, I know I need to look after my body, I know I need to exercise all the time, I was never into martial arts, but now I practice those, I realized the importance of mindfulness, I was never into meditation but now I meditate. It’s all these things that weren’t in your life because you’re just a typical person and now these are all daily’s for me. I think the main ones for me are mindfulness, spiritual enlightenment and having an understanding with the universe, trying to vibrate at a higher level. In terms of other things that have changed, my dietary requirements, I used to eat whatever but I’m currently a vegetarian, borderline vegan, I don’t eat any animal product, but if there’s nothing else to eat but pizza say…
TM: You can’t say no to pizza right?
DJ: That’s it, pizza is amazing, but that’s pretty much it, so that was a big life change. I always put my trust in the universe, in the force and say, ‘ok, show me what you need to happen in the world.’ I love animals and always felt guilty eating them, now I’m vegetarian I have a better relationship with them because I’m more mindful, I think ‘what was I doing!’ I don’t feel sorry anymore, I’ve got no guilt over the food that I eat, and that’s what I’m practicing, don’t feel guilty about the things that you do, feel happy with them. And I feel happy about my choice not to eat meat. It’s things like that, that definitely change your life.
TM: So you’d say Jediism can improve lots of aspects of people’s lives?
DJ: Definitely. There’s always room for improvement, no one can ever reach a state of perfect or else we’ll just decline. Everyone can use Jediism to help their lives become more enriched.
TM: How important would you say is it for people within your church to question things?
DJ: So important, questioning is the ability to understand that you may be wrong, or the status quo is not as it seems. That is golden because that shows intelligence, and intelligence is something we try and promote a lot. So to question is to be creative, it’s to wonder, and that wondering will never stop, and I love that because if you don’t question, you’re laying down accepting something without really challenging things. We should always challenge things, because by challenging things we learn and evolve and without evolving where are we you know (laughs).
TM: Obviously Jediism has two sides. Have you ever turned to the Darkside? We all have that potential inside us don’t we?
DJ: We do obviously and it’s a constant battle with everything we do, but no I’ve never turned to the Darkside. I think my life choices, the things that I do, will always guide me in the way of the light. I’ve never really wanted to be a nasty horrible person, or to do anything to hurt anyone that’s never ever my intention.
TM: Is there a way that people may be able to to protect themselves from the Darkside using something from the church of Jediism?
DJ: The teachings are in the book, it teaches people how to put their minds in a state of awareness in the light, it’s not a learning to be nasty, but to be helpful and peaceful. When you practice these things on a daily basis, like being nice to people, it’s going to have a nice positive effect and you’re not going to be anywhere near the Darkside.
TM: Is there a structure to the religion in terms of ranking? Can you move up in terms of you’re ‘powers’?
DJ: Yeah, kind of. The structure is Master Jedi, then you’re a practicing Jediist so sort of two levels. There was things like Padawans and other criteria, but we did away with that type of ranking because we felt it was making people feel inferior, and one of the things I really wanted to do was make it accessible. The way it works is that you’re a Jediist if you think the way that we think, and if you think, ‘this is for me’ then you’re a Jediist. If you start following the lessons in the book then you’re a practicing Jediist. The point where you become a Master Jedi is when you think to yourself ‘am I good enough to call yourself a master of it?’ If the answer is yes then you are a master of it, if you say no then you’re not. People often say, ‘what no one judges who’s a master or not!’
Well put it this way, If I give you a chainsaw and you’ve no experience with it and I say ‘right, were going to go in the forest and were going to go and cut down six trees safely, productively and you’re not going to kill anyone or chop your hands off.’ I’d say ‘are you a master with a chainsaw?’ And you’d say ‘no Dan I’m a load of rubbish, I’ve never done it in my life.’ I’d say ‘fine.’ But if you are a master you’d have the confidence to say ‘of course I am, lets go and do it’ and everything would be fine. You’re only kidding yourself.
TM: Do you know what George Lucas makes of the religion? Have you ever had any contact?
DJ: I’ve had no contact with George Lucas directly ever. I’ve had a Time Magazine interview and we’ve had discussions with Disney lawyers to get the contract ready for the book so we could write it without stepping on anyone’s toes, but we’ve never spoken to anyone direct from Lucas Film, Disney or anyone connected with him. I’d love to know what he thinks.
TM: What did you make of the new Disney Star Wars movies?
DJ: Well, I really liked The Force Awakens, I thought that was amazing. Nice to see everyone back and you needed the drama (spoiler alert!) like Han dying, it needed to happen. Rogue One was very well made, it’s very much a Star Wars story, it did everything it said on the tin, I thought it was pretty darn good. With the latest film The Last Jedi, I did like it, the problem was you can see Disney all over it with the Guardians Of The Galaxy style humour, I don’t know how I felt about that, I liked it but I don’t know…
TM: So you’re not sure about the direction the Star Wars universe is going in then?
DJ: I mean they’re sticking with Star Wars stories, a lot of people were winging that they weren’t going with the original stories. But anyway it’s Star Wars man, we didn’t really know what the original story was, what the hell are people talking about, George has kind of made it up on the spot with some of it. So it’s typical Star Wars, there’s no difference in it. I like how the stories are going, some are like, ‘this isn’t Star Wars,’ but of course it is, it’s always been like this. So I think it’s difficult when you’ve been in a mindset of 1970s & 1980s jokes and they’re trying to fast forward to 2018, a movie has to move with the times and have up to date comedy.
TM: Some of the purists are concerned that Disney will release too many films and saturate the Star Wars world. Do you think that’ll happen?
DJ: Maybe. The cool thing about Star Wars… take Trekkies for example. Star Trek has had ample amounts of TV shows, ongoing ones, twelve, thirteen movies, it’s crazy, they’ve got all this stuff. Wheras Star Wars fans have had three movies for like forever. It was so exclusive, I think that’s what gave Star Wars its charm, that it wasn’t super saturated like Star Trek, the fans were just there for these three amazing movies. In terms of Disney killing it, they may lose that original romance that people had with Star Wars, or people may go ‘great, it’s time to have what the Trekkies have had for years.’ Time will tell I guess, I don’t think they’re stupid, Disney are a huge company that can pay a lot of people to think wisely for them, so I don’t think we’re going to see fans disappointed too much.
TM: Going back to your religion, you’ve been held up to a fair amount of ridicule, how has that made you feel? Has it made you more galvanized or has it harmed you in any way?
DJ: I don’t think it’s harmed me in any way. I just go ‘ok, fine, challenge me,’ I love a good challenge, for someone to prove me wrong, I’m very open to the fact that I could be wrong. If someone has anything negative to say about it I’m like ‘tell me about it’ because if you’re right I’ll take it on board, but if you’re wrong we’ll go back to where we were, you have your ideas, I have mine. I love people challenging me as I feel so confident in it, if people can change my mind then I will be in support of it. So far I’ve been superior to a lot of the notions that they’ve talked about.
TM: You mention in the book about seeking the meaning of life, have you found it yet?
DJ: Well the idea is that you have to give life meaning. Giving life meaning is the meaning of life. It’s to understand that you exist and to do something about it. It’s a simple question, people make out that it’s the biggest question in the world. It’s like people who always wonder ‘why are we here?’ Well we’re here because you want to be here (laughs). We’ve been traveling through stars and space for the past billions of years just to get to this one point, it’s incredible. You have to think about this, thermodynamics predicts that energy is never created or destroyed it’s only recycled, so stars, from when the universe began like two hundred billion years ago, stars colliding in space, atoms flying about, nitrogen, carbon all these things floating about, then they form small single cell organisms which grow into plants and they grow into other organisms that eat the plants, then that thing dies and we eat that and the plant the thing dies from, there’s always a recycling of all the stuff.
Think about the amazing space travel, the places and things your body’s been and seen, all the carbon and nitrogen and hydrogen in your body at one point it may have been on Mars or Venus. So you spend your entire existence flying through space to become this human being at random chance when your parents conceive and you’re here for this short moment in time, so you’re here, lets do it! And I think that is the meaning of life right there, to give it some meaning.
TM: You’ve given us plenty of wisdom right there but is there anything else you want to share, maybe a mantra you’ve lived your life by?
DJ: Always be great, always do great things. If you always live by that mantra then you’ll do great things, you’ll be amazing, nothing can stop you. People build bridges, people build freaking spaceships that shoot people into space, people cure diseases, you’re on the front line, get out there and do something amazing.
TM: So you’re sort of manifesting greatness?
DJ: Yes. Because that’s how greatness exists, you manifest it, you think therefore you are and that is all we are. The Buddhists say we are the imagination of ourselves, that couldn’t be more right.