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.

Part One: The Jedi Knights and the Fall of the Old Republic

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 only acted to shore up funding for their own interests against their rivals in the Jedi Council, who were due to face election within the year. Several other factions, led by the Purity faction 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 dissent and terrible conflict int he past, which had resulted in a great schism and resulting war; 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 avert 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 High 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, 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.

Therefore, the idea of a more directly accountable and effective leadership of the Jedi had garnered a great deal of support across multiple factions, despite its vehement resistance by noted opponents.

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 allies and rivals alike as to how best interpret the Code and in what manner the Order should act unilaterally against perceived threats against the Republic. While the Order remained controlled by a single powerful faction, or the balance of power between factions remained such that no one group could defy the will of the collective, the Jedi Order remained at peace.

The Third Jedi Schism, called the Great Scission, had separated the faction 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.

Should they have succeeded, many of the exiled Jedi would have become gifted mercenaries for hire; which Purity had already accused Immersion of becoming. 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.

Perhaps because of the existing tensions between notable Council members, and 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.

This new conflict was, therefore, quite different to previous iterations, and soon drew multiple factions into conflict, over various competing issues and for a variety of different reasons.

Inevitably, the nature of these many causes of conflict and the uniquely fractured nature of the Order itself had a vastly greater consequence than almost any rupture which had come before it.