Wed
Sep 12 2012 11:00am
The “True Nature of the Force” is Way More Complicated Than You Think

The True Nature of the Force is Way More Complicated Than You Think

It started off pretty simple—there was a young man who wanted to become an agent of good, like his father before him. He would use a mystical energy known as “the Force” to become powerful enough to defeat darkness. Once he did, the universe would be restored to its balanced state, freedom would spread throughout the galaxy, and all would be well.

But you know what? Balance is not good triumphing over evil. Balance is balance. The seesaw doesn’t tip in either direction here, so… what does that mean for Star Wars? Well for one, it may be time to reevaluate everything that we know—or think we know—about the nature of that galaxy far, far away.

While George Lucas may have based the general outline of Star Wars on western mythology, the Force itself resembles faiths and spiritual ideas from all over the world from Zen Buddhism and Taoism to audio fragments from an Arthur Lipsett film in 1963. These inspirations lead to a phrase that we hear often in Star Wars canon—“so-and-so will bring balance to the Force.” Yet we're not encouraged to actually explore what that might entail.

For the record, Lucasfilm has stated officially (in the Power of the Jedi sourcebook) that the “correct” philosophy where the Force is concerned is the one held up by the Jedi Order in the prequels. It’s an awkward insistence at best since 1) this has not been confirmed in any other licensed material, 2) there are a plethora of fascinating perspectives on the Force that have been explored in the Expanded Universe novels, and 3) this sends a lot of poor messages where the Jedi are concerned, especially when you take into account their horrible handling of, well, everything in those three films.

So let’s actually consider how the Force seems to operate in the Star Wars universe. We have a special form of energy that only certain sensitive creatures are capable of using. It allows the manipulation of objects, minds and, in certain cases, matter (i.e. you can create life at a certain level of mastery). Understandably, different groups emerged with different perspectives on how to use this energy and what its purpose was. The two most prominent sects in Force philosophy were the Jedi and the Sith. The Jedi were motivated by compassion, order, and a pursuit of peace. They believed that the Force had a dark side and a light side, and that pursuing the light side was keeping the Force in its natural state.

The Sith were practitioners who embraced the dark side of the Force, the side most commonly associated with anger, fear, and hate. It is important to note that the Jedi are the most insistent that the dark side works primarily on these emotions. However, the more interesting differences between the Jedi and the Sith lies in how they choose to operate the Force: the Jedi prefer to keep in contact with the Force occupying all living things, to draw on the natural world and use it to their advantage. The Sith are more concerned with cultivating internal energies, focusing on personal power and passions. Rather than anger and hate, it would be more correct to say that the dark side is predicated on selfish pursuits, or more interestingly on emotions at large. Sith seek to gain status and control their surroundings, while the Jedi seek to use their powers for the benefit of others and attain peace in place of emotion.

That sounds like the nobler endeavor, but the problem with the Jedi boils down to one word: order. Once you establish something as an order, rules and regulations are needed to give it structure. It would have been beneficial if the Jedi were simply “Random Acts of Kindness Agents,” helping those in need and offering a friendly hand, but once they had existed as an organization for long enough, they were simply folded into a galactic chain of command, as it were. They were called on at the behest of the largest government, involved heavily in politics, and they needed numbers to grow so they could properly handle the demand for their services.

Which is where the whole “taking babies from their parents to train them in the Jedi Way” thing started. No matter how you slice it, that’s one practice that never made the Jedi look good. While it’s understandable that you would want to start those kids early and get their brains ready for the harsh realities of the peace-keeping life, making it mandatory without consulting the child or parents in question is basically sort of brainwashing. Even if you and your compatriots are on the so-called side of goodness.

There are fascinating co-philosophies at work within the Star Wars galaxy. When the movie prequels came out, accompanying material stated that Qui-Gon Jinn and other Jedis were proponents of the “Living Force,” choosing to focus on the moment and let all living energies inform their decisions. The concept of the Force was developed further in the Expanded Universe books, where believers in the “Unifying Force” did not adhere to the notion that the Force had sides, imagining that the Force was a deity-like entity that did not judge actions or living beings to be good or evil, and focused on the future to connect with that what was meant to be. Interestingly, Yoda himself was concerned with future-gazing, though he did not seem to hold with any other beliefs associated with the Unifying Force philosophy.

How are we supposed to parse out this web of moralizing? It’s fair, perhaps, to claim that the Jedi are “more right” than the Sith in their views of the universe, but that does not make up for their myriad of errors in execution. Anakin Skywalker was believed to be the Chosen One as decreed by a prophecy. Because the Jedi believe that the elimination of the dark side equates to balance, the hope was undoubtedly that Anakin would bring the Sith out in the open and allow for their elimination. He failed to do that entirely, destroying the Jedi Order down to the last youngling. (Ouch.)

Unless you take the actions of Luke and Leia into account. In which case, Anakin Skywalker did manage to bring balance to the Force—by virtue of his children. His children who were not supposed to be born according to Jedi doctrine, because Jedi were not supposed to fall in love, get married, and have babies. Hello there, shaky ground.

That ground gets even shakier when we examine what leads up to Luke’s near-death and Vader’s change of heart. Luke goes against practically everything that he is told by Obi-Wan and Yoda; he leaves Dagobah with his training incomplete, he confronts Vader before he’s ready, he cares too much about his friends. Yoda and Obi-Wan are still operating on the old system, acting secretively and deciding what is right for their pupil to know. Luke ultimately proves them wrong, in more way than one: his defining moment comes out of a fall, an unintentional surrender to anger and pain, which then allows him to see where those emotions would lead him. Without that final duel between himself and Vader, Luke would have no basis for understanding what the dark side would demand of him. Vader would not then, in turn, have been faced with the prospect of losing his son, the tipping point that allowed him to destroy the Emperor. (I won’t say that Vader was brought back to the light side or the Jedi Way because I’m not sure he was; Vader acted out of deep personal love and selfishness to keep his child alive, at opposition with the Jedi Code and the “correct path” for light side users according to the doctrine set down by the original Jedi Order.)

Which makes one curious: if the Jedi Order was training the initiated from infancy, breeding out any opposition or understanding of darker emotions, how did it manage to survive as long as it did?

More importantly, is it possible that “balancing the Force” actually included the annihilation and rebuilding of the Jedi Order? It gives pause when you note that Luke eliminated more than one of these ideological tenants when he reestablished it. His Jedi get married, consider new ways of using the Force, argue their purpose, and have complex personal relationships with their teachers and everyone they know. Luke advocates different paths for different Force users and acknowedges that the Force may not have sides—it's people who do. It may not be a “better” way, but it is a more realistic way of expecting Jedi to function. Probably a psychologically healthier one, too. And you can’t make the argument that “he lets them have relationships because Jedi need to make tiny Jedi” because we already know that the Jedi themselves didn’t allow that, and still had plenty of kids to nab from their cradles.

Luke seems to instinctually understand the need to keep his knights away from government, and though certain factions of his own Order go against his wishes from time to time, he has continually been able to prevent the Jedi from being pulled into the ranks. And perhaps that is another factor of the balance that Luke (and eventually Leia, once she completes her training) provide. In the long game of the Force, history will always repeat itself, but that in itself is the nature of the Force—what it should be used for, and who understands the correct manner in wielding its power will be debated until the galaxy implodes.

What does this mean for the Star Wars universe? Well, on a scale of chaos to order, I’d put it in solidly neutral territory. Maybe the Force takes good and evil on a larger scale than we can comprehend. It’s entirely possible that the light side and the dark side don’t matter as much as we’re led to believe. It’s possible that the galaxy is a little more complicated than that.

And considering that we occupy a pretty complicated world ourselves, it’s nice to see Star Wars reflect that — even if you have to do a little digging to make sense of it all.


Emily Asher-Perrin would also like to point out that lightsabers are way cooler outside the prequels and come in a wide variety of colors. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

39 comments
StrongDreams
1. StrongDreams
“balancing the Force” actually included the annihilation and rebuilding of the Jedi Order?

It has been apparent for many years that Lucas does not understand his own creation. It's pretty obvious from the prequels that the Jedis' understanding of the Force is just as one-sided and screwed up as the Sith's (even if Lucas did not intend it that way and can not recognize it even now). It is not at all surprising that the authors of the expanded universe have a more realistic and mature understanding of the Force.
J W
2. Susurrin
Awesome!

I think that Yoda points to the fact that the prequel Jedi were out of balance as well when he talks about how many Jedi have become arrogant (which he says with a subtle look in Obi-wan's direction-if I remember right). The Order themselves had lost their balance. They became a rigid set of rules and regulations and believed that they knew better than anyone what was right and just. (They allowed Jar Jar to take Padme's place in the senate- if that isn't out of balance thinking I don't know what is!)
Chris Long
3. radynski
I don't think we can take anything George Lucas says at face value. It has become increasingly clear over the last decade that he doesn't understand his own creation. We, as a culture, are better off treating him as an idiot-savant, who managed to bring about this amazing thing, largely despite himself. And much like Lenny, he nearly killed his own puppy by petting it too hard when we left alone too long with it.
Mordicai Knode
4. mordicai
I dunno: the scene is set with two surviving Jedi-- Yoda & Obi-Wan-- & two surviving Sith-- Vader & Sidious. Seems pretty balanced to me.
StrongDreams
5. Cleggster
Wonderfully well written. I have to disagree with the above statement that Lucas did not know what he was doing though. The Jedi were shown as being stolid and blind. They hand crafted Anakin into Vader and give him up to the emperor on a silver platter. They lived and worked in a literal ivory tower for the force's sake!

Personally, I always felt that there was a difference between the dark and light side. But the interpretation of what defines light vs dark is often confused and wrong. The Jedi became elitists while the Sith were delusional. I actually came up with a rather nice system for how the force worked both physically and metaphysically for the old West End Star Wars game. (Not putting it up here. Way too long.) But in essence the dark side was seen as easier to gain personal power in, but with much less rewarding in the long run. The ethical considerations are more an interpretation of why you want a connection to the force and what you do with the power you gain from it.
StrongDreams
6. Cybersnark
I think it's also worth noting (re: Lucas' philosophy toward SW) that 80s Star Wars (before the prequels) was thematically very different from what it has become. For me, part of the point of the original trilogy was that there were no more Jedi or Sith --the heroes of the Rebellion weren't Jedi Masters, they were regular people like Han, Chewbacca, (non-trained) Leia, Lando, and Rogue Squadron, claiming responsibility for their own fate (and ultimately building a working government out of the Empire's ashes).

It was only when the prequels (and the NJO books, which were of course written with the new status-quo in mind) came along that Star Wars became "The Saga of the Jedi" with everyone else reduced to supporting roles.
StrongDreams
7. Kosmocentric
Really great article! I think a lot of this is articulated fairly clearly in the canonical material itself (and I include as canonical any novelizations, sourcebooks, or encyclopedias produced as supplemental material to the Prequels, such as the one that explained the Living Force vs. the Unifying Force--which is also articulated at the beginning of TPM: "But Master Yoda says I should be mindful of the future." "But not at the expense of the moment. Be mindful of the Living Force...").

One of the really unfortunate losses from the Prequels was the Qui-Gon dialogue from the end of Revenge of the Sith, when he appears in apparition form to Yoda before Luke and Leia are born. That exchange is preserved in the novelization and states that the Jedi Order has become far too rigid, formalized, and dogmatic--just as Sidious says to Anakin earlier ("Anakin, if one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi"). For whatever reason, Lucas chose to cut this from the film (as well as Qui-Gon appearing in Force-ghost form), though it would have offered a poignant critique of real-world religious traditions that have become monolithic organizations far removed from their initial mystical, spiritually enlivening and enlightening inspiration.

In fact, the whole of the Prequels could be read as sounding a warning as to what happens when spirituality becomes institutionalized. Everyone takes God (or, in this case, the Force) for granted, and there is no "living" connection to that higher power. This leads directly to the perfect opening for the Dark Side to enter in, after 1,000 years of patience, blindsighting the hapless Jedi bureaucrats completely. The Jedi also state in the Prequels that their ability to use the Force--i.e., to connect to it--is being diminished, implying that the Sith are weakening them. But that may only be half the reason for the spiritual disconnect.

They know the prophecy states that the Chosen One will restore "balance" to the Force--presumably a balance between Light and Dark sides of the Force (but it could also mean a balance between the Living Force and the Unifying Force)--and Anakin does indeed fulfill this. Of course, he has to wipe ALL of the Jedi and ALL of the Sith, himself included, in order to fulfill it--essentially creating a blank slate, which is probably as "balanced" as the galaxy has been for millennia. And he leaves behind the seed of a new order in the form of Luke, who has tasted fully of all sides of the Force (as you noted in your article) by the time he says, "I am a Jedi, like my father before me," and is therefore poised to build his new order from a more balanced perspective than the dogmatic, narrow perspective that led to the ruin of the Old Jedi Order.

This also explains why the original trilogy has more authentically surprising, enlivening, magical, and mystical spirituality happening--as Luke is being awakened to the Force, his every taste of it that we see is mesmerizing. He doesn't take it for granted; he experiences authentic religious awe. "I--I don't believe it!" he stammers to Yoda, surrounded by the mystery and raw Forceful life of the Dagobah swamp. He is grappling with the reality and power of the Force directly for himself, something that previous generations of Jedi were simply brought up knowing about from infancy (cradle-robbed, as you said). He must overcome his own doubts and fears to emerge on the other side, into the light of one who is awakened to the Force, and we can probably safely assume that the "Jedi Trials" that Padawans in the Old Jedi Order had to face were only distant approximations, institutionalized over thousands of years, from the raw internal terror of what Luke has to face in the cave in Dagobah--and then in his final confrontation with Vader ("Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will").

Even the Jedi in the Prequels take the Force so much for granted--and exist so much within an institutionalized, scientific culture--that they mostly speak of the Force in terms of the rules regarding it ("Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden") or in terms of its technical, biological, measurable correlates ("I need a midichlorian count"). Gone is the life, the zest, the LIVING connection that Qui-Gon is so adamant about...and which causes him to defy all Jedi Order rules in order to pursue his own heart's yearning to restore balance to the Force--balance beyond one-sided, narrow-minded, and ultimately fear-based dogmatism. He finds Anakin, and he vows to train him ("without the Council's approval, if I must"). He is the one who opens Yoda's eyes at the end of RotS (if only in the novelization, though Yoda does mention to Obi-Wan in the film that he's been in touch with Qui-Gon, an ambassador from the "netherworld of the Force"), and Yoda teaches Obi-Wan how to get in touch with him as well, knowing that Qui-Gon was right all along. They became so narrow-minded, so disconnected, that they couldn't even see what was happening right in front of their eyes. And perhaps Qui-Gon even knew that Anakin might have to bring the whole system a'tumblin' down before things could be set right. "He is the Chosen One. He will bring balance. Train him," he implored with his dying breath, ensuring that the galaxy would soon be refreshed and reinvigorated with the true power of the Force, even if it took a few galactic bumps and scratches to get there.
Mike Kelmachter
8. MikeKelm
I agree with StrongDreams @1 that Lucas himself didn't quite think this all the way through. He envisions the Force and the Jedi/Sith balance in very grand sweeps, but doesn't think about the nitty gritty details of it. Why only two Sith as was mentioned in the movies? Why not try to amass very large armies of Sith practitioners? It might be a little chaotic, but I'd think if I was an evil group I'd try to have as many of me as I could get. What exactly do the Jedi do on a day to day basis, and what I mean by that is where they part of the system, outside the system, or actually the system itself? We get that the Jedi seem to be the core (or perhaps only) military force in the galaxy but were the fact they were all commanders of the military the design (sort of like British officers commanding colonial troops) or was that just accidental? If a Jedi stopped a crime, what did they do with the criminal?

Ultimately I don't know if Lucas ever fully understood what "Bring Balance to the Force" meant, and if he did, he didn't really explain it very well in the movies. I think Mace Windu saw it as some Messianic figure, but what it really was could be what Mordicai said @4... Anakin Skywalker was the final piece in Palpatine's plan to wipe out the Jedi, reducing them to a very few (I always believe and the expanded universe seems to support that there were more than Obi Wan and Yoda left) while creating a Sith power group in Palpatine/Vader (and presumably a few dark jedi). The universe went from a Jedi dominated place to a non-Jedi dominated place.
StrongDreams
9. Wulfy
I think you've done a great job at trying to make sense out of a concept which doesn't seem to have been very well thought through by it's creator. It's maddening that LucasFilm would try to make the Jedi Order out to be in the right, partly because the Jedi are a draconian and deeply flawed institution, but also because it's a waste of good plot development. The Jedi and Sith become a lot more interesting once you start thinking of them as groups with opposing philosophies, rather than a typical good vs evil scenario. I've always been drawn to the concept of 'grey-side' Force users, because I like the idea of someone just being in the middle of it all, trying to keep the others in check (although maybe that's the Babylon 5 fan in me).
J W
10. Susurrin
(I always believe and the expanded universe seems to support that there were more than Obi Wan and Yoda left)
Totally agree on this score.
Why only two Sith as was mentioned in the movies?
Palpatine himself explains this when he talks about Darth Plagous. The Sith, by their way of connecting to the force do not trust others readily, and would only ally themselves with those they can best. If you have 100 other sith running around that leaves the potential for you to have to fight not only an army of Jedi to keep your power and status, but also to 100 other Sith as well.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
11. Lisamarie
I love discussing these things.

First off, I will say that I dislike a lot of the recent EU, especially the Del Rey era EU (NJO and beyond). I don't really enjoy where they have taken the story, the reemergence of the Sith and the general depressing, gritty, let's reverse every postive thing that happened in the movies aspect of it. Sometimes I like em, sometimes I don't, heh. I do like examining some of the other Force using communities though.

That being said, I don't think that the prequel era Jedi are meant to be seen as perfect. I do think the novelizations have some merit, and I think one of the scenes involves Yoda musing that they HAVE lost their way. Interesting that I was just discussing this on (of all things) the Wheel of Time thread.

I was musing about this once - I believe it was during when the prequels were coming out - on what did balance really mean for the Force, what did light/dark side mean. I actually do enjoy the idea of the midichlorians - I'm a scientist, and I am also religious, so I like the idea that there can be both mystical and scientific explanations for things. But any way - I think the conclusion I had come to was that perhaps the Force itself does not have 'physical' sides (nor is it some kind of sentient being with a will that can be good or evil), but it's more about the light and dark sides in a person. As for balance, even creating life can be out of balance - cancer is cell replication gone wild. Anakin's problem is that he is trying to hold on to life (or rather the life of others) too tightly.

I don't think emotions and attachment are bad - thats' where the prequel Jedi kind of went too extreme. That's part of what makes us human. Of course out of control emotions are bad, excessive attachment that leads to possessiveness is bad. One of my favorite Lenten meditation books discusses the idea of detachment, NOT as a way to be unemotional and apart (even Jesus wept, was unhappy about His upcoming crucifixion, had friends, etc), but as a way to be able to love and enjoy MORE things without worrying abou tthem being in your possession, needing to be greedy about it, and being able to let go if need be. I am not doing it justice. But I actually really enjoy the Episode II line where Anakin discusses the restriction on marriage, not as a way to be forbidden to love, but as a way to practice compassion and be encouraged to love ALL people. I belong to a fairly organized religion, so I don't think it automatically is a bad thing (although it has its pitfalls), nor do I think celibacy is a bad thing as it enables you to better be a servant of all.

That being said, I do like the idea that certain Jedi could marry in the later books (and also in many of the older comics) - kind of like how in the Church we have deacons and priests and religious orders and lay people and all have their roles. In my idealized version of the Jedi I came up with back in the day, some Jedi would choose to marry and maybe even have families and mostly live 'in the world', but there may be some that would choose to be single so they could better serve the masses without worrying about neglecting their family.

I also think that the Jedi should not be aligned with any specific government, and that was also part of the downfall of the prequel Jedi.

That being said, I don't believe that good is just a point of view, or that it's okay to use your power in anger in certain circumstances, etc. I think it's okay to BE angry of course, but not to draw on it, to feed it, etc, which maybe is a nitpicky distinction, but I think an important one. I am not going to be one of those that argues that the Sith are just an 'alternative' way of using the Force that we should embrace and tolerate ;) Although as I said I do think some of the other 'non-Jedi' Force users are certainly very interesting.
J W
12. Susurrin
Control always seemed to be the aspect that Yoda taught to Luke in Empire. He didn't tell Luke NOT to feel emotions but to control them. Even Obi Wan said that luke's emotions for his friends did him credit. So obviously emotions weren't the issue, but unrestrained emotion was. Palpatine's unrestrained lust for power led him to create the empire, slaughter millions (i.e. Alderaan), and wipe out the only force he assumed was capable of possibly overthrowing him i.e. the Jedi.

I think of the dark side as a corrupting influence. You use those negative emotions and use the force to hurl lightning at somebody and you get a rush just like any addict does. Then you want to do it again, and again and then you end up with your arm and legs chopped off on some lava planet screaming like a lunatic. All because you were a baby and didn't want to be restricted in ANY way from doing what you wanted to do. (Sorry, Vader lost a lot of cred for me after the prequels)
Emily Asher-Perrin
13. EmilyAP
Hey everyone - all fun perspectives coming in, thanks for your thoughts!

@mordicai - There are other Jedi left according to the EU after the Purge... not that Lucas necessarily paid attention to that, but he did technically approve all that as Lucasfim canon. Also, I'm not sure I would call it balance when one Sith essentially has unchecked control over most of the galaxy. But definitions of balance get wonky anyway, after a while.

@MikeKelm - Darth Bane was the Sith Lord who set down the "Rule of Two," basically because the Sith had a history of turning on each other whenever certain lords got too powerful. Bane's reasoning was that there had to be trust with only two because the master and apprentice had a mutual need for each other. It was a barely sustaining system, mainly because it encouraged apprentices to kill their masters as soon as they themselves wanted to be masters, or encouraged masters to kill their apprentices before they got ideas about becoming the big kid on the playground. Super fun, right?

@Wulfy - Complete agreement on the "gray area" Force users. Everything gets a heck of a lot more interesting when we stop sectioning people off into their respective bad/good arenas. It's not as though good people don't do bad things sometimes and vice versa, so it doesn't make sense for Force users to be all that different.

@Susurrin - Control seems to be part of the point, but I would point out that Obi-Wan, while telling Luke that his feelings do him credit, uses those words immediately after telling Luke to "bury his feelings deep down." It may seem as though they've gotten reasonable, but I'd argue that it's more like Yoda and Obi-Wan were trying to make up for pushing him too hard in Empire. They told him to let go of everything, just like they would have for a student in the Old Republic days. But Luke wasn't raised under the Jedi Code and he rebels against it, so they realize that they have to take a different tack with him: "Okay, fine, you can have emotions, just bury them right now and fix this mess."
Matthew B
14. MatthewB
@4. mordicai
That was my always my interpretation too. Anakin was the chosen one. He did bring balance to the force. The Jedi just didn't understand their own prophecies.
According to my own internal sequels, Luke swept away the last vestiges of the dualistic system and established a new Jedi order that embraced both the light and the dark, allowing neither one to dominate.
I doubt that bears any resemblance to the canonical version.
George Lucas...sigh.
Edit...upon a more careful re-read of the article, maybe it does. :)
Sol Foster
16. colomon
@Kosmocentric re "He is the one who opens Yoda's eyes at the end of RotS": I think there was a really good reason to leave this out of the movie. Unless you think Yodi was using a really complicated reverse psychology trick on Luke, he's still pretty thoroughly wrong with his advice in the original trilogy. He really comes off as someone who still hasn't figured out where they went so badly wrong...
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
17. Lisamarie
I thought the idea of Ben telling Luke to bury his feelings was more that they would serve as a beacon - after all, Vader WAS able to sense that Leia was Luke's sister from their fight, and that was something they rightly wanted to keep secret.

Also, it would give Palps/Vader knowledge of what they could exploit. I interpreted it more as tactical advice as opposed to 'squash your feelings, they're bad!"

Also, I disagree that making things grey automatically makes them more interesting. It makes thing a muddled mess, in my opinion. I find people actually striving towards an ideal - even if they can't meet it - much more interesting. This isn't to say I don't appreciate a good character struggling with their faults, failures, temptations, etc. and exploring the bad aspects of the 'good guys'. But everybody is so fascinated with this idea of 'greyness' and 'gritty realism' in stories so that nobody has to strive torwards actual 'good'.

Ironically, that's what Lucas was trying to get AWAY from in the original trilogy (the whole anti-hero, etc that was all the rage in movies at the time) but a lot of the EU nowadays just sinks it back to that level.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some Game of Thrones for its own reasons, I just don't want it from Star Wars. Agreed that overall it is not completely cohesive, though. It's definitely open to discussion.
J W
18. Susurrin
I thought the idea of Ben telling Luke to bury his feelings was more that they would serve as a beacon - after all, Vader WAS able to sense that Leia was Luke's sister from their fight, and that was something they rightly wanted to keep secret.
Also, it would give Palps/Vader knowledge of what they could exploit. I interpreted it more as tactical advice as opposed to 'squash your feelings, they're bad!"
This was my thought too. I guess like everything else it depends on your point of view and what if anything you think/feel Obi Wan and Yoda learned from the prequels. Vader clearly exploits Luke's emotions during their fight on Bespin/Cloud City and on the Death Star. He is so good at this that Luke calls him "father" just a few minutes after Vader chops off his hand. No wonder Obi tells Luke to clamp down on his feelings because he knows from experience (his own) how dangerous that can be and how good Vader/Anakin would be at being able to manipulate his son. After all, he was manipulated by Palpy, and that guy spent years sinking his hooks into Anakin.
But everybody is so fascinated with this idea of 'greyness' and 'gritty realism' in stories so that nobody has to strive torwards actual 'good'.
Again I agree. I like a clear cut good guy every now and then. And Star Wars started out as a very clear cut, good versus evil thing. I can even see exploring the grey areas to a certain extent, and having it be a good and interesting story but at the end of the day I do think Star Wars shouldn't be all grey areas.
Heidi Breton
19. AnemoneFlynn
I do think of the Force as neutral. I think the motivations of the people using it can be good or evil. In my opinion, Luke was definitely bringing 'balance to the force,' and I think this article makes sense - 'balancing' out a neutral force does not automatically increase the good or the bad. It would be much more likely to stabilize with some of each.
Jonah Feldman
20. relogical
I normally hate people who bring up the lame "Oh, Balance to the force! Now there are only two Jedi and only two Sith! That's what balance meant!" I'm not a huge fan of the prequels, but that's so clearly not what Lucas intended that it frustrates me to see it taken seriously.

All the same, I understand what they mean, because the underlying idea is right. The Force as an Eastern-like philosophy, as it's presented, does not work with the good vs. evil struggle we're given.

Plus, if we are to understand what Lucas is showing us, then Luke is the messianic figure to the Jedi, who can turn Vader to the light even when Yoda doubted it, who remains immune to the Dark Side despite having dark emotions and not being raised a Jedi from birth, who is fit to resurrect the Jedi Order even stronger than before. The old Jedi way CANNOT be the right one, because it failed while Luke's haphazard, half-trained, emotional path succeeded.

So it's a wash. The old Jedi code is shown to not function properly, the new one works okay but isn't any philosophy one could follow, a strict adherence to the middle isn't actually balanced (use Force Lightning to kill bad guys? Heal evil people? etc...), and the Sith code is right out.

But I don't think the prequels and the prophecy affected this issue at all. The problems with the Force were there the moment the Dark Side was introduced.
Emily Asher-Perrin
21. EmilyAP
@Lisamarie and Susurrin - I agree that Obi-Wan's advice is ultimately tactical, but then it is Vader's manipulation that ultimately leads Luke to that emotional well, which leads to Luke making the correct decision. So from that persepctive, telling your hero to keep a lid on it actually might have ruined their chances of destroying the Emperor, etc. (And I'm saying this as a fan of both Yoda and Obi-Wan; I love 'em, I just think they're lucky that Luke really had all that goodness inherently in him because that's what turned the tide.)

In addition, I suppose by my own definition, "gray area" does not mean
"morally ambiguous" or immediately equate to an anti-hero. What is
interesting to me with certain Jedi and other Force users refusing to see
the Force as having "sides," is that it implies a much larger scope for the Force and how it interacts with/imbues the universe. That's what I'm interested in. :)

As for the grittiness of the EU, I partly agree on that account. I think that there is a lot of unecessary darkness in those books, but I find that more in the overall galactic turmoil than in how the Jedi are treated. Having so many bigger, badder enemies every few years is where I think the EU gets a little hairy.


@relogical - Taking the Eastern influences of the Force into account makes for a very different sort of philosophy, absolutely. The fact that the mythos of the Force is a sort of melding of Eastern and Western philosophies in the first place really does deserve further examination.
J W
22. Susurrin
So from that persepctive, telling your hero to keep a lid on it actually might have ruined their chances of destroying the Emperor, etc. (And I'm saying this as a fan of both Yoda and Obi-Wan; I love 'em, I just think they're lucky that Luke really had all that goodness inherently in him because that's what turned the tide.)
Yeah. I love me some Yoda (I'm on the fence regarding Obi Wan because he was splitting some really microscopic hairs with his truth telling). I think Yoda and Obi Wan didn't necessarily have the same idea regarding what exactly Luke was meant to do in regards to Vader. When Luke says that he can't kill his father Obi's response is that then Luke has already lost. If taken at surface value it seems that he felt that Luke had to kill Vader, and honestly given obi's past experiences with Anakin i,e the prequels I'm inclined to take that view at face value.

Yoda on the other hand never once mentions killing. He talks about defeating Vader and his emperor which is a much vaguer notion that lets Luke choose the best path to that destination.

So I give Yoda points for not saying that Luke had to kill Vader, while I take a few from Obi for his harsher mindset. Of course the argument could be made that Obi said that Luke had already lost in that he (Luke) jumped to the conclusion that Yoda and Obi meant for Luke to kill Vader. (In the prequels doesn't Obi tell Anakin that only Sith deal in absolutes?) So, Luke taking the absolute of Obi Wan wants me to kill my father, I can't do that, would be a mindset more in line with what Obi believed was Sith ideology. (Man, Lucas really liked to keep his butt covered, because you can make a case either way.)

As for the EU, the constant one uping of the threat level did get a little over the top in my mind. Well, that and apparently every galactic threat HAD to be handled by the same 5 to 10 people that ALWAYS seemed to be the only ones out there bailing the galaxy out of its latest jam. I mean at a certain point you would think that other heroes (Jedi and non Jedi would take up some of the slack).
Alan Brown
23. AlanBrown
First point, just because the Jedi strive for the common good, that does not mean they are perfect. Some of their rules, customs and traditions work at cross purposes to their stated intentions. And some of their beliefs don't quite mesh. Look at any political or religious organization today, and you will see that occurring.
An example of an inconsistency we see today would be the Fundamentalist demands to put "Christ back in Christmas" by doing things like calling the holiday trees Christmas trees. That always brings me a chuckle, since the yule tree is an older pagan tradition that got swept up and merged with the Christian holiday, as was the selection of dates for that holiday, giving of gifts, etc. The Puritans turned their backs on Christmas celebrations because they were thought to distract people from what was really important, and now some argue that those very distractions are a core part of the faith.
Another inconsitency is how so many people's idea of Christianity has been infused with a kind of Manichaeistic duality, and presented as a struggle between good and evil beings. Sometimes it sounds like some of the monotheists believe in two gods rather than one. From listening to Fundamentalist preachers or watching movies, you would think that Satan and Hell would play a much larger role in the Bible than you actually find when you read the book. And I struggle with reconciling the thought of how an omnipotent God be locked in an eternal struggle with a seemingly equal but evil opponent. If He were that powerful, and desired happiness and love for all of creation, how long would His opponent last?
Lucas' characters have inconsistent and sometimes illogical belief systems, their aims often exceed their grasp, some of their customs seem counterproductive, and no one is really sure how things really work--to me his fictional creation sounds a lot more realistic than people give him credit for.
Joseph Newton
24. crzydroid
I wonder how much being tethered to the Galactic Government was part of the downfall of the Jedi Order, and if they should've remained their own separate entity. Someone on here mentioned though what happens if a Jedi stops a crime...in a Galactic Republic with an ordered legal system and jurisdiction, what is to be done? Stop a crime, then bring them to the local police? It might be something like Batman's criminals getting let off because there is not enough evidence to convict them. By being part of the government, the Jedi ARE the police (and whatever else).

@Susurrin 2 & 22: "They allowed Jar Jar to take Padme's place in the senate- if that isn't out of balance thinking I don't know what is!)" -- They didn't allow anyone to do anything--the Jedi have no say in Senate appointments. Which you think would make them all the more pissed when Palpatine tries to take control over Jedi appointments.

22) It's interesting about Obi-Wan's one-track idea that Vader has to be killed. I sometimes tend to look at old Obi-Wan as this sad character...pretty much the whole life he had known was turned upside down, he lost his best friend...and oh yeah, it's his fault. All the RoTS stuff happens, and then he's sitting alone in a little hut on Tatooine for 20 years. Obi-Wan seems like the type who liked the active duty more than meditating (kind of brings new meaning to his line, "I'm getting too old for this sort of thing,"--obviously he's trying to get Luke to come with, but maybe he's also just kind of depressed about the whole thing.)

Yet in RoTS, he's arguing with Yoda that he won't kill Anakin, then he convinces himself that that's the sacrifice he needs to make, and the necessary path (though he still is not able to actually do it). So maybe 20 years of jaded bitterness have locked him into thinking that is the only solution. It's clear that even after he learned from Qui-Gon and became one with the Force, he still has a galaxy-sized chip on his shoulder (I trained Anakin, I failed the entire galaxy). So maybe his advice to Luke is this path he's convinced himself needs to happen, because he didn't actually kill Anakin, but rather left him for dead, and look what happened. On the other hand, if you want to interject some really nuanced ideas into everything, maybe Obi-Wan wasn't saying this was the path that HAD to happen, but Luke must be prepared to do that in case it did.

I'm also not trying to make Obi-Wan sound like a completely sad sap--I still really like episode IV Obi-Wan and there is obviously a lot of strength of character there. He's wise, generous, and compassionate, and knows what his duty is and how to follow it.

___
Anyway, I'm going to chime in here and say that there is a Dark Side and a Light Side. Yes, these are aspects of people, to be sure, but in reference to the Force they exist from within oneself as the Force exists from within oneself. The Dark Side and the Light Side also exist outside the self. These energies can be used by people and are perhaps attractive to the good and bad natures of people. Second of all, the Force is generated by all living things, so if there are good and bad people, then the Force is good and bad. Furthermore, when a living thing dies, it becomes the Force, so if it was good or bad then the Force should have some good or bad to it--even it the amount of the Dark Side or Light Side is not dependent on how many good or bad people die. Also, I would think that the Jedi and the Sith, who meditate on the Force, would be able to see that there are these clearly distinguishable aspects (the Ashla and the Bogan) as established in the movies. I'm sorry, but the EU (ie, professionally published fanfic) doesn't get to come in and make up that there's no Dark Side.
StrongDreams
25. Mil
I've always felt the overly traditional and rule-laden Jedi Order had a lot in common with the White Tower and the Aes Sedai in the Wheel of Time - and both fell because of it. It's only been when those rules were relaxed, and the purpose of the organisation reconsidered, that they've been built up again by an "outsider" who doesn't have the prejudices built in by tradition.

As for the Sith, they've always been a wildly differing bunch. Old Republic Sith are themselves very different to Movie-time Sith, not only in structure but also in attitude. And individual Sith pursue anything from personal power to the same things as the jedi - knowledge and wisdom. One thing the MMO Star Wars The Old Republic has done really well is make it clear that there are many shades of gray - you can be a compassionate sith who avoids violence, and you can be a judgemental, rigid and prejudiced jedi. There's more than just good and evil to the sides. They also show that there are quite a few force users who aren't associated with either organisation, who do just fine... and those who have completely different force related philosophical issues (*cough*Voss*cough*).

Ignoring "official word" on the nature of the Force makes it a much more interesting philosophical study. Like almost everything in life, I think it is far too simplistic to divide it into light and dark, good and evil, and altruistic and utilitarian. More Star Wars essays please! :D
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
26. Lisamarie
I think I have a hard time grasping/reconciling the Force at times because, as people have brought up, it is mostly based on an Eastern philosophy, whereas I am definitely in a pretty Western mindset. That being said, I have actually often struggled with what the Dark Side means because it is hard for me, personally, to accept that a life-force which is not sentient (in other words, the Force is not 'God') can be light or dark or good or evil. That requires will, knowledge, consent, etc. I have played with the idea that there are somehow light and dark aspects - some kind of entropy/order thing...but again, something like entropy is not inherently evil and there are even times when we NEED entropy for life to continue - we need to break things down. And I don't like the emotional/logic dichotomy either because I don't believe emotions are bad and in fact, as has been discussed before, I think we need those emotions - that was part of the prequel Jedi downfall. It's also true today in many religious organizations - the people in religions that we are drawn to are those who still love the world (even if they are not attached to it) and have joy, sadness, etc. Not the ones who just follow the rules joylessly (this does not mean I think you shouldn't follow the rules and that organized religion is worthless, just that in and of itself it is not enough). I mean, really, in some ways, that IS the heart of Star Wars. Anakin fell because he was just too attached - he could not accept the fact that Padme might die. He could not let go. It wasn't wrong of him, per se, to love her, but it was wrong that he was so possessive of her, to the exclusion of other things (obviously killing all the other people he did is a lack of love, there). But on the other hand, the galaxy is saved by Luke's love and empathy and goodness. And in a way, he rejected what Anakin did -right before Palpatine started laughing and pointing out that Luke was walking right into his trap, Luke was in a frenzy because he was trying to save his sister from being turned (that's what had set him off). But once he realized what he was doing he let go of that and was even willing to sacrifice himself. And who knows if somehow that made something click with Vader, or maybe if Vader just finally woke up to how Palpatine was a lying liar who lies and manipulates, or just simply wanted to save the last member of his family even if it meant sacrificing himself.

So, my point is, I really am not sure what 'the Dark Side' is, and I do think it must at leat somewhat come from the user and maybe has to do with motives, state of mind, etc.

Regarding the EU - I've only read up through the Legacy of the Force series, but the whole Jacen debacle just completely depressed me. It would have been one thing if he had gone down that path, explored those ideas, and there was some chance of redemption, etc. But there wasn't...it just seemed like such a waste of a character. Plus I think it would have been more interesting to read stories about the new Jedi order (and non Jedi) in a more peaceful galaxy - there will still be conflicts, and they would need to find their place in this new structure. I'm just kind of sick of the constant galaxy-wide turmoil.

What is a compassionate Sith? Isn't that kind of an antithesis to what the Sith actually are - self focused? I haven't read a lot of the EU regarding the ancient Sith so I might be missing something, but what does that actually mean? Is it just a Force user that is always running on their emotions?
J W
27. Susurrin
They didn't allow anyone to do anything--the Jedi have no say in Senate appointments. Which you think would make them all the more pissed when Palpatine tries to take control over Jedi appointments.
Seriously? If I were a rational being that had ANY contact with Jar Jar Binks at ANY point in time, I would make it a point to tell Padme that leaving him in any role with any sort of legitimate decision making power is a mistake. Its like giving a 3 year old a loaded gun to play with at budget daycare...you totally know somebody is gonna get shot if you just let things play out.
Sylvia Borowicz
28. Plaryn
My brother and I have always been of the opinion that Anakin really did bring balance to the force. If you have ever played DnD and are familiar with the concept True Neutral, then you know that to really balance stuff, sometimes you have to aid "evil". In nature, there is no good or evil. Those are human concepts. The Jedis seriously unbalanced the Force with all their efforts to do good; therefore the Sith needed to rise to equal power. Unfortunately, Anakin did his job too well and caused the fulcrum to swing too far the other way.
Shelly wb
29. shellywb
This is really fascinating, and finally makes sense out of what has bothered me for decades. Thank you so much for exploring this and giving us your thoughts.
StrongDreams
30. JOn3
Lucas's original was meant to be very simple. Contamination of the force by powerful sith needed to be rooted out to return it to balance--meaning the force is used to prepetuate life, not used by one person to control others. Vader/Anakin brought balance because he was the one who killed that truly powerful sith, but not with the purpose of replacing them, thus fulfilling the prophecy.
Joseph Newton
31. crzydroid
@27: Ha, well taken. But you could also make that argument then of any other senator or any other person/intelligent being, so I still think laying it at the feet of the Jedi is a bit unfair.
StrongDreams
32. alreadymadwithjedifailure
What if Obi-Wan and Yoda were speaking out of the benefit of hindsight? At the end of the ROTS novelization Yoda personally accepted all the blame for the Jedi Order's failure, as for a good deal of the last millenium the order owed its training and direction to him.

The practice of recruiting Jedi as children seems to have begun in the last conflict with the Sith, under Lord Hoth. Over the last millenium the Order just kept lowering the acceptable age and completely forbade its members from any attachments. The young ages ensured complete indoctrination. And emotional stunting.

Very few of the last generation of Jedi knew how to deal with attachment and its downside, loss. Obi-Wan, having grown up as a conventional Jedi(that is, recruited at birth) certainly did not. At least not until the loss of his own master. Still he was woefully unprepared for Anakin's issues.
StrongDreams
33. Tommy Amundsen.
Really good read. I belive that is was the will of the force that the jedi order would be reborn with Luke.I also dont think there is a grey path to follow.In the start when the jedi first came around yes then i belive the force was more one, if we are to belive the new novel into the void.
Also the whole balance thing is really a 50/50 thing, Yoda said the dark side coulds everything, Mace said their abillity to use the force had diminished. This leaves no doubt that there is a actual balance.And yes there is light and dark,dont belive there is no unifying force.But this is something only Lucas can set the rules for.
StrongDreams
34. Arca of Arkania
I believe Jedi before the Great Sith War were very different from those arrogant prequel monks. I recommend You read Saga of Nomi Sunrider to get my meaning...

Jedi 4000 years before Luke are just like Luke. They have families and form a chivalrous warrior fraternity - like templars. Jedi from prequels are more of a monastic order, too rich, too old and arrogant and are ruled by countless rigid protocols.
StrongDreams
35. Arca of Arkania
I believe Jedi before the Great Sith War were very different from those arrogant prequel monks. I recommend You read Saga of Nomi Sunrider to get my meaning...

Jedi 4000 years before Luke are just like Luke. They have families and form a chivalrous warrior fraternity - like templars. Jedi from prequels are more of a monastic order, too rich, too old and arrogant and are ruled by countless rigid protocols.
StrongDreams
36. xanatos559
All this debate could maybe mean a couple things 1) that earlier posts are correct inassuming that George Lucas doesn't know his own creation or number 2 that George Lucas might actually be the most brilliant man ever. What if he intentionally made both trilogie's fundamental philosophies of the force different and vague on purpose.in doing so he created this debate over whether the force is religious or scientific.he's bringing us more into this world that he created and is having us argue over the true nature of the force just as the jedi or sith do in the movies and eu. Lol nothing too serious
StrongDreams
37. ashla
If the goal of the Jedi is to cultivate peace in the galaxy they would need to become part of the "galactic chain of command" to make any sort of progress in their goals. The "Order" isn't what's holding them back, it's what they stand for. They became an integral part in a system of order, aka the Republic, that represented the ideals that they believed. They did this as a means to an end to help cultivate peace in the galaxy. They weren't "called on at the behest of the largest government" at the beginning of the Republic, they went out and supported it because it was congruent with their goals and beliefs.
There is an interesting debate that goes on in the underground of Jedi psychology, in which the Jedi realizes that they aren't fighting to win. They're fighting for their equal place next to the darkness of the Sith. In order to achieve the goals they've been taught, they can't desire victory. They simply have to accept their battle as one that must be fought, no matter the futility. Some of them are rather bitter about it (aka Dooku, Xanatos, Anakin, ect...).
That part that states the Jedi simply take the children away from their parents is flat out wrong. They do not and would not take a child away from it's parents without their consent. There are a hundred examples of this, so I'm not going to even bother backing it up. The reason most parents DO give their children to the Jedi when they find out they're force sensitive is because the Jedi explain that without proper training their children are likely to become a force of darkness, or at the very least confused. Even if darkness is as necessary as light in the galaxy, most parents don't want their children to become Sith Lords.
The definition of the Unifying Force seems somewhat skewed based on what I've heard. The Living Force is certainly what is happening now, all the life in the galaxy (for life is always in motion and can't be depended upon in the next moment), ect. But the Unifying Force isn't about "future gazing" specifically. In fact, the Jedi in many places discourage against acting on visions of the future, and explain that they are unreliable... "Always in motion the future is". Rather the Unifying Force seems to be a web of connections that binds together the past (Ever read Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover?) present and future. The challenge for those who are more in tune with it is to pay more attention to the moment, just as the challenge for people like Qui-gon Jinn who are more oriented towards the living force is to be more aware of the 'big picture' (which is why him and Obi-wan were such an effective pair).
The whole point of this debate is that there is no 'right' or 'wrong', there is only 'is' and 'isn't'. Nobody ever said the Jedi were prefect, or that anything they did was 'right', it was simply what was. The fact that the Sith 'won' for a while is irrelevant. If the Jedi had won the Clone Wars that would've been irrelevant too. It's all just the tipping of a see-saw that's nailed into place and can only do what see-saws do.
And about the prophecy... (The very fact that the prophecy exists and they take heed of it goes against their beliefs and they themselves acknowledge this multiple times).... the Jedi only accepted Anakin in the first place because one of their star pupils was told by his beloved Master to take the kid as his padawan because it was the right thing to do IN THE MOMENT (*wink wink nudge nudge) aka save this kid from slavery, he's force sensitive, and there's this prophecy... and thirty some years later everything has rolled out according to this prophecy in some perverse way. Everyone involved played their part, but the fact that they had prophecy only made it harder for them along the way.

In fact, the way that the author of this article takes the premise that the Jedi were fighting for the complexity of balance and twists the fact that they failed to defeat darkness is probably a wonderful example of the argument of the Jedi drop-outs.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
38. Lisamarie
I don't mean to sidestep the other parts of your argument, but at least in the Coruscant Nights trilogy, they DID take away a child without his parents' consent (the main character - he was the toddler of a Temple worker, and the father continued to be very bitter and angry about this) and the implication is that it was not a unique occurrence. It could be that the EU just conflicts on this point though.
StrongDreams
39. Tumas
Maybe this could be updated in light of 'Season 6' of The Clone Wars. Yoda and Mace Windu have two separate experiences with the Force which provides new details on its nature (Yoda's in particular).

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