Since his introduction in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda has come across as a wise Jedi. In fact, he’s usually listed as the most powerful one.

Sure, sure, he’s eclipsed by Anakin Skywalker in midi-chlorian count, but Yoda is easily the most learned and respected one around. He’s the Jedi even masters turn to when decisions are tough or when the future is cloudy.

But what if Yoda wasn’t, in fact, all that wise? What if he were, instead, being played? And not just by the Dark Side. What if, after 800-plus years of being a Jedi, teaching Jedi, and watching over the Jedi Order — what if the very institution he’d been a part of and helped create was nothing more than an echo chamber?

And what if that echo has been building him up over the years? Not just within the Order but within the Republic itself?

Yoda: Wise Jedi

An image of Yoda as wise

The Yoda we saw in the original trilogy was snarky, playful, and confident. That Yoda knew about the Emperor and his plans. He knew how powerful the Dark Side could be and how Luke could evade its advances. That Yoda, unquestionably, was wise and seemingly all-knowing. His vision extended beyond the present.

But that Yoda appeared this way because of his failures nearly twenty years prior. He knew about the Emperor because he’d gone face to face and lost. He knew about Vader because he’d witnessed the fall.

With all that background marshaled against farm boy Luke, it’s no wonder Yoda came across as wise. It would be like taking modern weapons and military tactics back into the Stone Age. Any person doing that would be naturally overpowering.

Unfortunately, as has been revealed in the prequel trilogy and in the High Republic books, Yoda’s wisdom isn’t so encompassing. He has limitations. Major limitations, in fact, that are quite damning, especially when one considers his role in the Jedi Order and how many years he’s been alive.

Yoda’s History

Image of Yoda in the field of battle

Let’s first examine Yoda during the High Republic. This is the era before the prequel trilogy. It predates The Phantom Menace by at least 150 years. During this time the Jedi Order is at its height. The Jedi are plentiful, their reach nearly unstoppable, and their union with the Republic ironclad.

During this time, Yoda is between 600 and 700 years old. He’s in the latter stages of his middle age and nearing his twilight. We know during this time that Yoda is more active than he appears in the original trilogy or during the Clone Wars. He goes into the field, leaving the temple when emergencies strike. He uses his powers directly, not always from a command center.

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Yet, even back then, our view of Yoda is mostly offscreen. He’s often teaching younglings and contemplating the future. Rather than being directly involved, Yoda counsels and coordinates. In this Age, it’s still most common for Jedi to approach Yoda for his impressions rather than to seek his immediate assistance.

The Ugly Truth

Image of Yoda with Jedi Council

You would think Yoda being in the background is a good thing. After all, he’s taught nearly every Jedi during this Age and the generations preceding this one. His outlook on life has permeated the Jedi Order for hundreds of years and the Order has flourished. Shouldn’t Yoda be allowed to relax and ease into retirement?

If his advice were sound, yes. Were the Jedi he’d taught capable of handling the growing threat around them, double yes. But his advice, as we’ve come to know it, only leads to pain and suffering. And the Jedi of the High Republic are nearly as ineffectual as the Jedi during the Clone Wars. They’re reactive, not individual enough, and seem incapable of spotting danger until it’s nearly too late.

You see, Yoda’s whole outlook, that Jedi must not have attachments, is flawed. And his insistence that Jedi be mindful of the future — and not to the living Force or even to the present circumstances — turns out to be fatal.

And the reason for this is obvious — because he’s taught nearly every single one of them. Like Order 66 and the clones who inescapably followed that command, Yoda has conditioned the Jedi Order to act and think in a particular way and to not veer off course, lest that lead to the Dark Side. Which, of course, only ensures that every one of them falls prey to the same weakness.

The Clone War Era

Image of Yoda with Clone troopers

After a couple hundred years, you would think Yoda would be better at spotting danger. That, after dealing with the Path of the Open Hand and their turn toward the Dark Side, his Spidey senses would be tingling. After all, what started off as a small cult grew in influence until it nearly brought the Republic to its knees.

Even more telling is the political ramifications of that movement and how it caused the systems within the Republic and just outside it to question the process. That is, whether the Republic government was working for them or for their own selfish reasons.

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Yet, true to form, Yoda dismisses these signs, stating that more thought and contemplation is needed when in truth what’s needed is action. What’s needed are Jedi willing to stand up for the common man. To push back against the galactic government that only services itself at the expense of the many.

Yoda: Dark Side Stooge

Image of Yoda with Anakin Skywalker, acting as a Dark Side stooge

Stooge may be harsh. Yet, to the Dark Side, Yoda is full of folly and is the butt of a cosmic joke. His whole life he’s adhered to a particular dictum, thinking that it keeps him and other Jedi safe. He’s taught it to others, passing it along as if it were an anecdote. Yet, that knowledge has only blinded the Jedi and further removed them from the people of the Republic.

As we’ve seen in the prequel trilogy and in the Tales of the Jedi, detachment and a focus on the future causes resentment. It leads non-Jedi as well as Jedi to rebel and to seek out different paths. Endeavors which only feeds the Dark Side cause. It happened with Count Dooku and Barriss Offee, and very well could have taken Qui-Gon Jinn as well as Ahsoka Tano.

Yet, in the face of these defections and outcries, Yoda — as the default leader of the Jedi — does nothing to stem it. He doesn’t take the issue head-on but rather retreats to his meditations. Instead of treating with the malady, he warns others of its effects safely from another room.

How Yoda Gets It Wrong

Image of Yoda with Luke Skywalker

If we examine the Jedi Code, we see some discrepancies from how it was originally worded to how it came to be known. The current code states that “there is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force.”

Contrast this with the original mantra: “Emotion, yet peace. Ignorance, yet knowledge. Passion, yet serenity. Chaos, yet harmony.” If we read these side by side, we see an evolution from allowing Jedi to have emotions and being passionate (within reason) to trying to remove all emotion and passion from the equation. It is, of course, a noble pursuit. It’s also impossible. At least for humans. Perhaps for Yoda’s species, things are different?

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We don’t know when the creed changed. We don’t know if it was a process or a quick change, but we know of its effect during the High Republic and beyond. And at the forefront of this code is one Jedi. The only Jedi living for those hundreds of years and hundreds of years before that. The one Jedi who has adhered to that code and taught everyone around him to do the same.

A Snake Biting Its Own Tail

Image of Yoda with Mace Windu

Yoda is wise because everyone says so. And every Jedi agrees because they have a stake in that assessment. After all, if Yoda isn’t all that great then the entire Order is diminished. If Yoda can’t see the future or — you know — the Sith Lord in the same room with him, then what does that say about his teaching and the core of their belief?

It’s in the best interest of rank and file to follow along. Not necessarily because they agree with it but because it’s convenient and leads to promotions. We saw that clearly in the Tales of the Jedi episode with Dooku and Mace Windu. Mace touts the code and acts the way the Order decrees while Dooku doesn’t. Is it any surprise who gets a seat on the Jedi Council?

The Order follows the Senate because its leadership follows the Senate. And all of that is done because Yoda gives his approval. There are plenty of times when Yoda could have interceded and by influence alone changed the direction of the Senate or — more importantly — the involvement of the Jedi, but he didn’t.

And that makes him less than wise — because a wise being would have sensed the importance of the people making up the Republic. Not just the elite. Not just the Jedi Masters. A wise being would have used wisdom to act within reason and before it was too late.

Alas, Yoda isn’t shown to be that wise. And the Republic, not to mention the Jedi, suffer because of it.

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