May 25th marks the 31st anniversary of the movie megalith Star Wars. In three decades the franchise has spawned more than just massive revenues and legions of fans it has also inspired a religion. Jediism, based on the teachings of the films, counts thousands of members worldwide.
Time spoke with Daniel Jones, co-founder of the first Church of Jediism in the United Kingdom, about The Force, a recent brush with the Dark Side and future plans for world domination.
TIME: So, The Forceů
JONES: The use of The Force is basically good things happen to good people. So, if you do good things, good things will happen to you. That's kind of like putting your good energy out into the universe and you will get something back.
Sounds good. How does someone join the Jedi?
Anyone who wants to become a member signs up through our Website. We give them the Jedi handbook and that's their research document that we use as a reference tool throughout our teachings. After a couple weeks we'll initiate them into the Jedi Academy where they can start their 15 level platform training, and each one is like a course. [Courses include light saber training, Jedi mind-control and martial arts.]
The UK government recognized Jedi Knights as an official religion after nearly 400,000 people listed it on their 2001 census forms. How does it feel to be mainstream?
Our training is serious so we have to be taken seriously. With the 2001 Census, now everyone recognizes Jedi as a religion. If the government says to us 'You can't do that because you're not a true religion," we can say 'Yes we are' because there's more Jedi than Scientologists in Britain.
The group got a lot of international attention when a drunken neighbor dressed as Darth Vader attacked several Jedi members with a crutch. Has going head to head with the Dark Side helped attract new recruits?
We get hundreds of e-mails a day now. It's a very busy and stressful time at the moment; we have had a massive load of membership requests.
Jediism is becoming big in Australia, the U.S. and cropping up in the Philippines. Is The Force going global?
We have people from all over the world who want to set up branches of our church. We've set the standard for how a training program should be done. We will eventually have chapters in most places all over the world. We've got some in America, Canada, Brazil. We're going to do an international launch day as well where all the churches will open on the same day.
As people seem to be losing faith in their governments, do you think you're the answer to the evil Empire?
I wouldn't say that we're any kind of threat to the national security. I will say that we try and get people on a like-minded level. If you have one guy running the country yet you have millions of people in that country, they already overpower him. You've just got to make them realize that. People can achieve more than they actually realize.
So is George Lucas like your Jesus?
Well he brought the idea to the surface. We admire his ingenuity for bringing the idealism of Jediism to the surface. He gave it a name and a direction. We do look up to him, but he's not our Jesus, God or prophet or anything.
The new Lucas-produced Indiana Jones movie hits theaters soon. Any potential new religion there?
I'm a big fan of Indiana Jones, but we just watch them as films. We don't really take anything from them; there's no wisdom to be learnt really from them. He's an archaeologist with a leather whip.
Is there a Jedi Ten Commandments?
We have a Jedi code that we get from the films. We follow that. Obviously I can't say it because it's copyrighted by George Lucas, but we still talk about it. It's the six things a Jedi should follow.
Afraid of a Lucas lawsuit?
We can't be called the Jedi Church because 'Jedi' is a trademarked word. So we've had to call ourselves the Church of Jediism. We just have to be careful because George Lucas likes to make money.
You don't think he would be happy considering himself the new L. Ron Hubbard [founder of Scientology]?
[Laughs.] I don't think anyone would like to be called the new L. Ron Hubbard. I don't know if Lucas even knows about it, to be honest with you. I'm sure he will after this.