This was originally written as a Facebook Note on August 19, 2017, and is reproduced here to make the content more accessible.
In the Star Wars mythology, it is said that a Jedi is the embodiment of the Force. The will of the Force is made manifest through the actions of the Jedi. But for those of us that take inspiration from this mythology and apply the ideals of the mythical Jedi to our day-to-day lives, what does the attainment of the title Jedi Knight mean?
There are many ways to claim a title of Jedi Knight. If you were to assert it for yourself, no one could stop you. There are many online or web-based communities that can give you titles for online activity. I took neither of these routes. I committed myself to the Knighthood standards of an offline Jedi community. http://californiajedi.org/real-life-training/knighthood-standards/ My goal was not the attaining of a title, but that I found the standards as something concrete that would assist and guide me to becoming a Jedi of quality. When I stated my intention of working towards the standards of a California Jedi Knight, I began to wear a thin braid behind my right ear as an outward symbol of my commitment to the path and my status as a learner.
There were requirements in the California Jedi Knighting Standards that I had not yet met. But with the support of my loved ones, they one by one were met. These were mostly commitments of time, money, and participation. One of the biggest outlays was attending the National Gathering in Oregon, Illinois in August of 2016 more than a year after I made my commitment to the Knighting Standards. It was my second gathering, after attending the 2016 California Jedi Gathering in April of 2016, and the first time being around a large number of Jedi from outside California. It is considered important for a California Jedi Knight to have interfaced with Jedi around the country, and I indeed made a handful of friends at that gathering, and friendships with other Jedi that have since deepened over the past year, and have taken on a new relevance now that I am a Knight. It was the one requirement I most bristled at, and even at the time, I did not see the importance of it the way I see it now.
These requirements were a bit like a checklist. Easy to tick off. But that was not the meat of my training. For that, it was the requirement to show growth in the five areas of wellness. These are Physical Wellness, Emotional Wellness, Intellectual Wellness, Social Wellness, and Spiritual Wellness. Not only to show growth in these areas of my life but “ an ability to synthesize them together in [my] path.” During my time training in the nearly two and a half years of working towards knighthood, these were where the bulk of my work was focused. The “self-betterment that leads to world-betterment” that my friend Opie Macleod speaks of. There were obstacles and some personal lack that I had to address and overcome. Maybe even some setbacks, but nothing that I would categorize as a failure. Which is not to say I have never failed as a Jedi -- I surely have, but with my commitment to meet the Knighthood Standards, all my progress was forward progress, albeit at times very slow, very small progress. But it is my understanding that it is the small incremental steps, over a large period of time that leads to the large changes.
The culmination of this training occurred at the California Jedi Gathering in August of 2017. A kind of four-day retreat with Jedi from all over California (and one visiting from Utah), and our supporters who we call the “Jedi-adjacent”. It was days filled with conversation, meditation, workshops, and thanks to the skills of Aubrey Wantola's most excellent food. In short one big Jedi party. I admit much of the weekend for me was filled with a bit of anxiety. It was not a given that I would be made a California Jedi Knight. I was confident but was trying to take a non-attached attitude towards it on the slight chance that I was not deemed ready. I was clear that either way it went, it meant the same thing: another year of training.
I chose this gathering to do something I had not yet done in my real-life Jedi career: teach a workshop. I chose the topic on an area I have devoted much study to, attachment and non-attachment. At the California Jedi Gatherings the time for the workshops are scheduled, but that is at best a rough guideline. The times were scheduled, but it was really more when we collectively felt like doing a workshop. To choose the first workshop, we literally picked a name out of a hat (or a small cup as it were) of those that had prepared or wanted to do workshops. I was not first. But when it came time to do a second workshop, by popular acclamation, they wanted to do mine. It was well attended. In fact, every Jedi there attended. I am still unsure if it was the relevancy and popularity of the topic I chose, or if it is as I strongly suspect, this was my first real evaluation to see if I was indeed Knight material. I have experience teaching, I have taught a variety of things in both the real world and in virtual ones. But this was the first time I did a prepared lecture and discussion for real-world Jedi. It actually went very well, and it was very well received. I am pleased as punch at how it went. It did give me a boost for the remainder of the Gathering.
Saturday night at the California Jedi Gathering is the big night. We have the formal dinner where we all dress in a way that expresses us as Jedi. Last year we had dinner first, then a business meeting, and then we Knighted Opie and Katie in the most haphazard fashion possible. This year we did things a little different. We did the business meeting first, then the knighting process, then dinner to (hopefully) celebrate. In 2017 Katie Mock wrote out more formally our Knighting process. Part procedure, and part ritual, it went swimmingly but I would be the first to go through this process, and really none of knew what the process was. I was going into it cold only knowing what it would entail in broad strokes.
Keeping with our culture, the California Jedi Knighting process is one that is open. Any California Jedi (and visiting Jedi) have a seat at the table. All are permitted to ask the candidate questions in the presence of all others, and the voting is also done in the open.
It was opened by statements of fact that I had met all the “checkbox” requirements of the California Jedi Knighting Standards. Then we came to the stuff that was not so easy to evaluate, the requirements pertaining to my personal character, my interpretation and application of the Jedi Path, and my growth in the five areas of wellness. To start this off letters of reference were read. First was California Jedi, Saan C. Norment Sr. who though is hesitant about public speaking gave me a very moving referral. I broke decorum afterward and gave him a heartfelt hug. Next a letter was by my friend William Zavala who is not a Jedi was read by one of our Jedi-adjacent attendees. And finally Katie Mock read her referral for me which was followed by another hug.
Then came the most difficult part of the trial. One at a time, we went around the table, and the Jedi assembled in council would ask me questions. Any question at all. Some I could answer easily, most took considered thought. I don’t know how much time this part of the process took perhaps an hour until everyone had asked questions to their satisfaction. When all the questions had been exhausted we voted. As we went around the table I heard one Jedi after another when asked if I met the standards for California Jedi Knighthood say, “yes”. Every Jedi there voted yes. It was both a very validating and humbling moment.
There was still a bit of ceremony and ritual to be performed. Again, keeping with our culture, it was simple and brief. I swore a small oath I had written. Katie declared me to be a California Jedi Knight, and then there was one small task that was important and symbolic to me. The braid I had tied in my hair on April 26, 2015 was cut off on August 12, 2017. I wore it for 840 days, or 2 years, 3 months, 18 days. As the two California Jedi Knights that went before me, I had Opie hold my braid, as Katie cut it with some shears I had brought.
This was the culmination of my career as a Jedi, but it is not the end. I vowed to continue to live up to the California Jedi Knighthood Standards, and my work of self-betterment certainly continues, as well as my improvement in the five areas of wellness. More work and more responsibility will come my way in California Jedi, and some already has. My work at Jedi Path Academy will continue and I am sure there are new experiences awaiting me as a Jedi Knight. Maybe I will take an apprentice. Whatever the future holds, I will now meet it as a Jedi Knight.