The following open sermon was submitted by Temple Member Williamkaede. It may be a slight departure from what some people usually expect from a sermon but I hope that you will find it an interesting read...we thank William for the time and dedication that went into writing this.
Trial Of Darkness
Have any of you ever looked upon the dark side, within and without? Not just the dark side, mind you, but the unquestioning, evil thoughts that seep into the back of your mind? We've all been there, don't attempt to delude yourself otherwise. Temptation and impulsion rise up every now and again. You'll see them coming sometimes, and at others, they'll catch you off-guard.
In the Monomyth, the hero faces the Road of Trials, a "series of tests, tasks or ordeals that the person must take to begin the transformation", as well as Temptation. So too do we all in life. And our trials greatly vary, depending on who we are, or where we are.
Has your conviction ever been tested so? Have you ever looked upon the dark side and felt its embrace? Been tempted? Heard the whispers and liked their promises? In this sense, the dark is the cold. It's the creeping frost that you don't feel until it's too late. It's the sudden change in temperature we call a cold snap. The overnight plummet. The instantaneous fall.
The promise of wealth is common. Pleasure, in some shape or form. An easy way out of a problem, but at what cost? My own values? My ethics? My morals? Because often, that's the cost. Your self-respect. Your Self.
I worked at a liquor store in a fairly bad neighbourhood. Every now and then I'd get the same offer: Deal drugs, trade stolen goods, sell to minors. And it all came with the same offer; "make a little more money". I turned them down, after a moment's hesitation. Then, temptation gave way for the rest of my thinking process. The moral, ethical and legal senses screamed out at me. And each time, I refused. Even the "little" offers that seemed so insignificant.
I stood against the darkness, the evils that lurk within my society. And I won a little victory there that day. I was in a position to ruin lives, to sell that which had been stolen by force, to sell poison to children. I refused to become part of what I hated. But when I gave it thought later on, I knew on the flip side, what I had refused. The money was tempting, for a moment. The power? I've seen the slaves addicts make of themselves, and they'd be beholden to me.
And so, I turned away from it. It wasn't worth my values or my standards. I looked upon the face of corrosion, and corruption. Its face was the Tempter made manifest. I looked at that face, and turned it down. And a victory was won. But I won't forget that moment where I weighed it up. Where I thought to myself 'I could use some extra cash'. I felt the touch in that moment.
So too, the Jedi of the fiction have stood against darkness, within and without. It is a trial of willpower, of strength. A test of their wisdom, their courage and their conviction. Resisting the temptation of the dark side. And not all of them do. Look at Anakin Skywalker. Look at Isildur, from Lord of the Rings. They gazed too long into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back.
Evil and the Dark Side don't always whisper though. Sometimes they'll take you. Easily. In a snap. A momentary lapse in judgement or reason is all it takes. That one bout of profanity. One punch, or slap. A brief instant where you do something you'd say only a jerk would do. Inconsiderate, violent, abusive.
Like Rorschach in the Watchmen, who discovered something so fundamentally evil that it drove him over the edge in a single night. He went from street-walking vigilante who worked with a good man like the Nite Owl (II), to a grim parody of the loner antihero, amoral and nigh-sociopathic.
It just takes a moment. That one bad second. And bang. You'll regret it then, or you'll regret it later, but you'll go over the edge. You might just come back, but too late. You lost your control for a second there, and now someone or something around you is paying the price for your moment of weakness.
The child you yell at. The friend you abuse. The loved one that you injure. The stranger you're inconsiderate towards. The rival, or enemy, who just didn't deserve it today. These are all Dark moments. The lack of control.
I won't speak for everyone but I've been there. And I'm sure more than a few of you will have. Many of you who have, will regret it to this day. You'll have apologised profusely, made amends, grown from it. But the imprint is there, especially in those who did lasting damage. And the damage is done to you
Have you been there at the snap and resisted at the last second? Pulled back your raised hand, lowered your voice before it rose? I've been there, too. Recognised the signs and held myself back, as it were. Stopped myself unnecessarily escalating an already bad situation. And that's a victory, too. Not one you'd be lauded for, but a victory of principles, fundamentals and decency. And definitely one you can grow from if you know how to.
There I've listed two brushes with the darker side that we'll all experience in our day to day lives, without having to go look for it. It will find you. The point of this?
I want you to give it some thought. Don't just meditate, but contemplate. Introspect. Think about yourself. Think about your own experiences with these things. The quick snap, the slow corruption. The really dark side, that the Dark Aspect doesn't represent. The evil side.
Think about what you learned. Think about how you felt. About how you've grown since then. About your victories and your defeats. Reflect on what happened, how you reacted. Why you reacted that way. Make a note of it in your journal, or just mentally.
Chances are, you've been tried. It's just a matter of knowing, and willingness to learn. The defeats won't be proud moments. And the victories may just be our day to day lives. But that doesn't demean the experience. Learning from this experience is paramount, so that you may better stand against the darkness in the future and overcome the trials your life will throw at you.
May the Force serve you well.
"Chaos claims the unwary or the incomplete. A true man may flinch away its embrace, if he is stalwart, and he girds his soul with the armour of contempt."
~Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor, writings, Warhammer 40k: The Armour of Contempt