The Force is often mistaken for being a binary: light and dark, good and evil. However, as Chancellor Palpatine said in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, "Good is a point of view."
The Gray Jedi are favorites among fans of Star Wars Legends, the name given to all those stories no longer considered canon, because they reject this binary notion of light and dark. Rather than seeing the Jedi or Sith as models to follow, they reject the system entirely, and exploit both the light and dark until they reach a middle ground.
With each new film or television project, many among the franchise faithful seem to expect the Gray Jedi to return. But why do so many believe the reign of the Gray Jedi will soon be upon us?
What are Gray Jedi?
Gray Jedi are a select order of Force users that appear exclusively in the Star Wars Legends canon (with a few possible exceptions). They are either Jedi who have rejected the politics of their order or else individuals who use both the light and dark sides of the Force. Or perhaps a combination of both.
The Gray Jedi appear as early as the era of the Old Republic, when the Jedi were decentralized. The High Jedi Order, which eventually became the Jedi Order of the films, often preached philosophies that contradicted other schools of Jedi thought. That led to various academies and orders of Jedi that taught different ways of interpreting the Force.
However, following the Sith Wars, the Jedi were greatly reduced in numbers. To recover, a centralized Jedi Order was established with far stricter rules. While most Jedi submitted, there were outliers. Many were outraged by how the Jedi Order refused to train future Jedi over the age of four, prohibited the Jedi to have families, and forbade any study on the dark side of the Force. They became known as the Order of the Gray Jedi.
Other nonbinary Force users who organized independent of the Council were also labeled as Gray Jedi. The Voss Mystics rejected the teachings of the Jedi and the Sith while preaching their own philosophies. While their interests often aligned with the Jedi, they never let the Jedi Order influence their views.
As Luke Skywalker points out in The Last Jedi, the Force belongs to no one; it's a force of nature. Those who claim to be its master are only fooling themselves. The Jedi selfishly believed themselves to be arbiters of the Force in order to maintain control over their supporters.
So why are so many modern Star Wars fans looking back to these old stories, and drawing parallels to the modern, Disney era?
A Lack of Vision
Some fans soured on the Jedi Order, following the prequels. As Luke expresses in The Last Jedi, the arrogance of the Jedi Order allowed Darth Sidious to take over the Galactic Republic. By ignoring all potential evidence of a Sith Lord in their midst, they let Palpatine amass enough influence to seize control of the Senate. By refusing to disclose their secrets, they lost public support.
The Jedi are not all good, but are the Sith truly evil? The darkside is rarely depicted as inherently evil. Rather, it's a destructive force used for evil. Those who use the dark side often do so for selfish ends: Darth Maul inflicted wrath upon those who wronged him; Count Dooku waged his civil war against the Jedi and the Republic; Anakin sought to keep his beloved alive and then tried to force peace on a galaxy he deemed unruly. And Kylo Ren? He sought the darkness in order to feel validated and powerful. All of those characters allowed their dark desires to control their lives.
But has anyone managed to avoid falling into darkness in Star Wars canon? As a matter of fact, yes. And those individuals appear at the beginning and end of the Skywalker Saga.
Qui-Gon Jinn and Rey
Many fans of have observed that Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Won's mentor, doesn't act in accordance with the Jedi Order's teachings. He often uses underhanded tactics. He rejects the instructions of the Jedi Order. He insists on training Anakin despite him being too old.
Qui-Gon is a peace keeper in the galaxy who rejects the Jedi Order; in Legends material, many Jedi suspect he's a Gray Jedi. In many ways, the films supports that: Any Jedi who rejects the Order is, in essence, a potential Gray Jedi.
And that leads to the most recent character to walk the line of gray: Rey. She trains with Luke on the site of the First Jedi Temple. It's there the original scriptures written -- the island upon which the light and dark sides exist in perfect balance.
In a memorable scene, after she finds no satisfaction in Luke's light teachings, Rey travels into the caves of the dark side, only to find that, by completely submerging herself in darkness, she finds no answers; only more pain. So she leaves the cave, without any temptation to return to the dark side.
Every scene involving a Jedi previously showed them at war with their dark sides. Most notably, the Skywalkers, who seem torn between choosing one over the other. The Jedi teachings provide all sorts of safeguards to protect against the darkness.
Yet here, Rey is unharmed by the dark side. She rejected the Jedi Order's paranoia, and didn't suffer as a result. In many ways, Rey, who may shape the future incarnations of the Jedi Order, is already a Gray Jedi.