The Jedi Knights were once known as the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, the reason for the Republic's moral strength and the stability of a thousand generations: that is the legend which precedes their downfall. Yet it obscures a terrible truth; that the fall of the Old Republic was mirrored by the implosion of the Jedi Order itself.
For centuries before the Clone Wars, the Jedi had become the arbiters of all judicial forums in the Republic. Law-keepers, judges and juries both, they held a powerful sway over all the systems which were a part of the Old Republic. Where they went, their word was law - their mystical powers and legend always preceded them, and none dared question their decisions. Nor their judgements.
Those few who did paid a terrible price for their defiance against the most powerful arbiters of galactic law and order.
Most of the planets of the Core Worlds were governed by a Jedi Knight, or perhaps a council of several Jedi, who enacted justice through the imposition of a rigid code of laws which stifled freedoms and demanded codified behaviour.
Legend speaks of their great arbitrations, of their love for justice, but in practice many Jedi were ruthless, and tolerated neither dissent nor opposition to their decrees. Yet this is the way of strict order, of a guarantee of peace by force, and for those thousand generations the Jedi held the Republic together by the strength of their law, and the absolute belief in their moral righteousness.
The Jedi Council on Coruscant dominated galactic politics, and while they remained ostensibly and legally removed from the Senate and the corporate guilds, their fealty was to the Republic and the Republic alone. Most Jedi were, nevertheless, highly influential figures, and were unafraid of flaunting that influence. Eventually though, even the Jedi Code could not prevent internal strife among the guardians themselves, and much like the Republic as a whole, the once-disciplined Jedi Order began to eat itself alive.
Outwardly powerful, they became inwardly brittle. While each individual Jedi thought himself above the rabble of politics and believed he or she was fighting for ideals like truth and justice, such things are often clearer in theory but hopelessly muddied and complex in practice. The strictures of the Jedi allowed no fluid interpretation of their doctrine. Inevitably there came to be several competing factions among the Jedi, each of whom defined such concepts differently.
The most notable dogmatic differences revolved around the structure and hierarchy of the Order itself, as well as its place within galactic politics and the extent to which individual Jedi should become involved in particularly grey areas such as class conflict and economic events within the galaxy.
Several of these issues came to a head when a group of Jedi, who would later form the core of the Immersion faction, acted against a supposed terrorist threat in the mid-rim, on behalf of the Cybot Galactica corporation, who, they claimed, would have faced severe financial strain and unrecoverable year-end deficits should the facility they defended have been damaged; this fed into galaxy-wide fears of recession, and any corporation as large as Cybot Galactica was by default a lynchpin of economic stability.
Yet the faction did not consult with the Jedi Council in this regard which, while not explicitly mandated within the Code, was a tradition typically followed out of respect. That the group acted unilaterally against the threat was something they felt necessary, and the danger to the corporation was effectively nullified; their success was an early shield against criticism.
Opponents of the Immersion faction claimed they, in protecting the corporation, had acted only to shore up funding for their own interests against their rivals in the Jedi Council, who were due to face election within the year. Factions as a whole, as well as individual Jedi, often sought what many saw as corporate sponsorship for their political ambitions; a process reviled by many of the so-called 'apolitical' Jedi and yet utterly necessary for those who wished to serve on the Council. Several other factions, led by Purity on Serenno, went so far as to demand the rogue Jedi be expelled from the Order entirely, and stripped of all their privileges.
The mere suggestion of exile raised the spectre of previous division within the Jedi, which had sown both dissent and, inevitably, terrible conflict in the past; the result being a great schism and resulting war. This was, naturally, a situation most Jedi were desperate to avoid repeating, no matter their ostensible disagreements with other factions.
So the Council withheld its verdict, waiting for the current crisis to resolve itself before exerting their influence by alternative means, designed to avoid direct conflict. At this time, the One Spirit faction began manoeuvring to make the Council subservient to a single Supreme Jedi Master, and enshrine a more formal hierarchy throughout the Order itself.
For many Jedi, the very idea of the Council's power being held by an individual was repugnant, and yet the nature of the Council's recent deliberations had become - just like the Galactic Senate - hopelessly mired in endless discussions and arguments, designed to pacify often contradictory agendas, resulting in largely inefficient and bloated processes and outcomes, most of which neither offended nor satisfied.
Hence, the concept of a more directly accountable and effective leadership of the Jedi had garnered a great deal of popular support across multiple factions, despite its vehement resistance by noted opponents. The instruments of careful deliberation and organisation that had served the Order well in the days when its numbers were few, had failed them once their reach had spanned a galaxy. Both the Jedi Order and the Republic Senate had reached the bounds of their ability to control the very processes they had put in place to ensure the smooth administration of enormously powerful bodies peopled with ambitious individuals who spoke with half a mind upon the interests of influential allies and rivals alike.
In fact, the prelude to the Clone Wars was neither the first time the Jedi had internally warred, nor the first time they had suffered a crisis of belief within their Order.
For centuries the factions among the Jedi had debated their role in the galaxy, with one side or the other spending its time in the spotlight, counselling their kin as to how best interpret the Code and in what manner the Order should act unilaterally against perceived threats against the Republic, or how much of their independence to surrender to the will of the citizens of the galaxy. During eras when the Order remained tightly controlled by a single powerful faction, or when the balance of power between most or all of the factions remained such that no one group could defy the will of the collective, the Jedi Order remained at peace.
Over a century before the crisis of the Clone Wars, the Third Jedi Schism, also called the Great Scission, had separated the faction later known colloquially as 'dark Jedi' from the politically dominant 'light Jedi', and had seen the former exiled from the boundaries of the Republic entirely. This was what Purity were now seeking from Immersion; to essentially banish them from the politics of the Council and its codified restrictions just as the Sith faction had once become political pariahs and a mechanism for cathartic restoration within the Order itself.
Should they have succeeded, many of the exiled Jedi would have become gifted mercenaries for hire; which Purity had already suggested Immersion had essentially become. The Purity faction did not want the rest of the Order tainted by these beliefs, which argued for pragmatism and the integration - or, immersion - of the Order into a greater range of galactic activities without the appearance of financial benefit.
Others in the Order naturally viewed this position as hypocritical, given that the Order could not survive without material support unless they turned a portion of their numbers from monastic studies and training their fantastic abilities simply to undertake menial tasks like tending to agriculture or engaging in trade. That was the business of the galaxy as a whole - the Jedi were above the fray, but to remain so meant garnering support by other means. Those among the Purity faction often touted tithes and taxes imposed on various bodies from the average galactic citizen to corporations to the Republic bureaucracy itself, as one such solution.
Perhaps because of the existing tensions between notable Council members, between the factions themselves, the dredging up of painful memories and a heightened sense of urgency surrounding the matter of the Council's effectiveness brought the situation to a head sooner and with more vitriol than any among on the Council could have predicted. This new conflict was, therefore, quite different to previous iterations in scope and intensity, and quickly drew multiple factions into direct conflict.
Consequently, the multiple causes of conflict and the uniquely fractured nature of the Order itself resulted in a sequence of events which created a vastly greater consequence for the galaxy as a whole than almost any rupture which had come before it.