Part Two: The Fourth Jedi Schism

Sometimes referred to in later texts as the Pre-Clone War, and by some included within the larger definition of the First Clone War, the Fourth Jedi Schism was nevertheless the event which sparked and guided the early stages of the galaxy-wide wars which would see the Old Republic fall, and usher in the rise of the New Order.

At first, the petty conflicts among the Jedi and their various factional leaders did little more than encourage unrest and discontent among several outlying worlds already prone to rebellion. But the squabbles and political jousting by the Jedi quickly coalesced into full-blown feuds, and enmity flowed from the chambers of debate into vicious personal rivalries, before the entire argument flared into outright civil war.

Initially, many of these battles were small-scale, limited in scope only to the Jedi themselves, or even resolved by personal combat. But as the stakes gradually rose, and more Jedi joined the factional fault lines to which they were tied, which crackled dangerously through the Order, the conflict spread ever further and Jedi from across the galaxy converged upon Coruscant in particular, as well as other notable Jedi enclaves and shrine-worlds throughout the Republic.

Many of the planets upon which the Jedi had once maintained order now threatened to abandon the Republic, as their guardians departed and the justice which they enforced was gradually eroded. Dissent and malcontent began to stir throughout the further-flung sectors of the Republic, and some planets ultimately usurped control from their former governors, announcing independence or refusing to pay neither tithe nor tax to their Republic overlords.

With the loss of guaranteed security and peace, the Republic lost the support of some of its most influential citizen-states. Entire sectors began breaking off or announcing their own unions and sub-fiefdoms within the Republic itself, fracturing the unity of the whole and greatly reducing the power of the Senate to speak for the entire galactic citizenry.

The crisis reached its most desperate hour when the Core Worlds of Alderaan and Corellia recalled their Senators from Coruscant, pending the outcome of the civil war. This single announcement instigated hundreds of other worlds, many of them corporate headquarters and economic powerhouses, to follow suit. The Republic economy sat on the brink of disaster.

The haughty idealism which underscored the Jedi Code was rendered impotent against the reality that, without a distinct hierarchy, the Order itself was vulnerable to such strife. This was, inevitably, the first weakness which the New Order sought to remedy from its very inception.

Similarly, the Jedi held little account of financial trouble, and the delicate position they were forcing the entire Republic to adopt. Secure in their own private holdings, the various Jedi factions largely concentrated only on their own influence within the Council, and few yet even dared plan for any kind of extended military conflict; such things were relics of the past and not the Jedi way. Even once the Schism itself began in earnest, most of the early conflict remained highly ritualised and interpersonal, the bloodshed rarely spreading beyond the individuals involved.

But, eventually the need to press for complete dominance over their rivals and enemies caused the Jedi to coalesce in larger numbers, some of the more militant among them bringing squired apprentices and loyal companions who had no business being part of the Council's internal machinations. Yet they appeared nonetheless.

Soon, the Jedi who procured such assistance outnumbered and overpowered those who did not, who in turn swiftly learned to recruit support of their own. Escalation upon escalation grew throughout the areas of conflict; first, upon Coruscant itself in the temples and squares among the Jedi enclaves, later raging in orbit above the planet within their consular starships; later still, violence flared on outlying worlds, or any place where one faction or another sought to usurp or disrupt the influence of their rivals.

Exploiting the friction between the Jedi factions, each of which were initially little more than a few individuals or splinter-groups among various philosophically inclined scholar-Jedi, scores of military and paramilitary organisations, most of the largest corporations, and the vast resources of countless underworld fiefdoms, flocked in great numbers to the battlegrounds of the Core Worlds, hoping to join the growing conflict.

Soon, the bickering Jedi found themselves supported by entire armies of vested interests, with their vaunted Knights at the head of each, as its various factions refused admit weakness or wrongdoing and, critically, the Jedi took it upon themselves to make physical a conflict which had for many generations been merely political.

The Fourth Jedi Schism had begun to tear the entire Order apart.

Weaker factions became quickly subsumed within the strength of others, or were defeated in the cold halls of debate. Still others were eradicated on the growing fields of battle. Several grew strong, burned brightly, and were exhausted by their own over-reaching ambition.

Foremost among the factions was the highly rigid and orthodox faction known as Balance Before All, which had controlled the Order and its Council for decades, and the small and elitist but influential sect of Jedi Masters known as One Spirit, One Order. Each began to act quickly to stifle their enemies in the hope that they could quickly gain the ascendancy and end the conflict before it could further damage the integrity of the Order.

In their effort to draw support from various neutral factions, Balance and One Spirit essentially diluted their own original intent, disillusioning many power brokers and founding supporters, thus further fracturing their own unity. For every group that joined, another departed, and the cycle of disagreement continued.

But beyond the worst fears of the Jedi, not only did the schism fail to resolve itself, but the mere whiff of dissent among the great judiciaries of the galaxy shuddered the very foundations of the Republic they had so long fought to protect. After several years of fighting, it brought the structures of government to their knees.

The flames of war engulfed the entire Republic.

Observing the chaos which had arisen during the Schism, the Republic itself took belated action to restore order, yet even within that august institution there was nothing close to consensus in regard to the means by which the Republic should - or even could - intervene.

Three Senatorial regimes began to form. The first was a hard-line, military interventionist model, around which formed a nucleus of anti-Jedi Senators who believed that the Schism represented the perfect opportunity to suppress the burgeoning power of the Jedi.

The second regime included most Senators, who took the side of one or more specific factions within the conflict, believing that the Jedi should be able to resolve their own internal conflict, but that the Republic's place was to act to ensure that one side or the other claimed a swift and bloodless victory.

The third regime supported largely no action at all, and favoured simply acting only to protect Republic assets and trade routes during any fighting, professing something of a middle ground between the other two groups. These Senators proposed that the Jedi could, after the Schism abated, be tried as war criminals should their conflict spill into civilian space. This simple idea, which was little more than a footnote to other concerns at the time, would later become a pivotal platform in the New Order's response to the Jedi after the Clone Wars.

Ultimately, it was the third regime to whose attitude the Senate majority and, perhaps, even the Republic as a whole, generally accepted. Yet it did not take long for particular interests within the Republic to align themselves with various Jedi factions, which suggested that, in practice, the second regime retained its ability to act even as the Senate itself officially decried any official response against, or in support of, the Jedi.

Galaxy-wide conflict soon took its toll. The Jedi, never a numerous Order in comparison with other branches of government, found the frequent clashes on the field of battle had depleted their numbers. Leading vast armies by the nobility of their own example, and from the front, the Jedi were relentlessly exposed to terrible risks. Dangers which, despite their incredible abilities, soon thinned their numbers.

Furthermore, the Jedi were also not infrequently lured into engaging in the ritualised duels enshrined in ancient texts and believed by many Jedi to be the only truly honourable way to resolve serious disputes. This, perhaps more than any other single factor, saw the end of many of the most powerful Jedi Knights of the era.

Further, while the Jedi frequently dominated ground battles and conflicts where individual soldiers could turn the tide of battle, many were also lost in the frequent space battles which, with their absolute dependence on strategy and the manoeuvring of enormous vessels, were less reliant upon the particular talents of the Jedi. This also made many of their Order vulnerable to defeat when, in other circumstances, they may have felt themselves relatively safe.

Once a battle moved from the confines of a planet's environment into deep space, the trained officers and admirals of the Galactic Senate, not to mention many talented pirates and Outer Rim mercenaries, were equally matched against many of their Jedi opponents, allowing corporations and other minor players into positions of strength within certain parts of the galactic conflict.

Naturally, many Jedi were also talented strategists and admirals themselves, perhaps none more so than Kal Ul-Maas, one of the heroes of the Schism War. Yet Ul-Maas was killed before the Schism's end, prior to the Clone Wars, a testament to the reality that even the greatest Jedi were vulnerable in their own way.

Matched head-to-head against their own peers and among the mightiest warriors in the galaxy, utilised heavily in almost every manoeuvre their forces engaged in, the Jedi soon became perilously few. The ferocity of the Schism was such that the population of Jedi, even across the entirety of the galaxy, simply could not suffer such losses indefinitely.