Hey everyone and welcome back to the Sarlacc Pit! Today I will discuss the mystical energy field that gave the Jedi and Sith access to the incredible abilities I discussed last week: the Force. I will be talking about what the Force was, how sentients used it, the philosophies involved with it, and I’ll even throw in a few of my own ideas. I hope you enjoy it!
Side note on proper rhetoric: When talking about movies, novels, or any other kind of story, the common way to refer to events is as though they happen in present tense. However, with Star Wars, all events are set “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” so it is common for people to refer to the events in past tense, as I do. Just an interesting note.
What Was the Force?
“It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” –Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”
The Force can be broken down into two subcategories: the Living Force and the Cosmic Force. The Living Force was an energy field produced by all living beings in the galaxy which fed into the Cosmic Force, the energy that connected all living beings. This energy could be used by those who were considered “Force sensitive.” While most Jedi focused on the Cosmic Force, gaining insight into the future and the paths they must travel in their lives, those that focused on the Living Force, such as Qui-Gon Jinn, were more grounded in the present, able to have a better sense of those around them as well as increasing their response to events around them. A strong understanding of the Living Force was also necessary to achieve manifestation of a Force ghost after death.
Not only could sentient beings be strong in the Force, but some places and objects had strong connections in the Force. Planets such as Moraband and Dagobah had strong ties to the Force and Force sensitives on these planets were brought closer to the Force.
“Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.” –Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”
In Star Wars each living being had a number of microscopic intelligent symbiotes living in their cells called midi-chlorians. Midi-chlorians were able to sense and communicate with the Force, and then relay knowledge of the Force to their hosts. As a biologist I cannot help but liken them to mitochondria, which originated as symbiotes in our single-cellular ancestors and now use ATP to power our cellular functions, so I often wonder if mitochondria were the inspiration behind midi-chlorians (see, a biology degree can be useful). Sentients with higher midi-chlorian counts were most likely to be able to sense and use the Force. The highest measured midi-chlorian count was Anakin Skywalker’s with a count of over 20,000.
Midi-chlorians aside, just because a being was Force-sensitive did not automatically make them a Jedi or Sith. The Jedi and Sith were essentially two “religions” in the Force, each practicing their own philosophies. However, each of these “religions” did follow different paths in the Force, which I will discuss next.
The Light Side and the Dark Side
“A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force, but beware of the dark side.” –Yoda “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
In using the Force, there were two main paths to power, called the light side and the dark side. Those who followed the light side believed that to better wield the Force, one’s emotions needed to be suppressed so one could better follow the will of the Force. This path took a large amount of patience as strength was often gained slowly. However, abilities that required patience and knowledge such as befriending animals, mind tricks, and manifesting Force ghosts came much easier to those that followed the light side.
Those that followed the dark side, on the other hand, gained strength through using their emotions to bend the Force to their will and fuel their power. While it is possible that positive emotions could have been used to achieve this effect, negative emotions like hatred and anger were most commonly used. Often, these negative emotions would feed into each other (“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”), which allowed for more power. Beings who followed the dark side often gained strength much quicker than those who followed the light, but often at the expense of themselves or their loved ones as those who perpetually focus on negative emotions tend to not be very fun to be around (looking at you, Kylo Ren). Because they were often overcome with negative emotions, offensive abilities such as Force lightning and Force choking came very easily to those steeped in the dark side. Those who gave into the dark side completely also got cool yellow eyes so that everyone knew that they were in the dark side club. These yellow eyes could be disguised though, which is useful when you are the chancellor of the galactic senate and don’t want everyone in the room to know that you’re really plotting their deaths.
Now, just because one person followed the light side or the dark side did not necessarily mean they were Jedi or Sith. The Jedi only used the light side, but believed that the Force must be used to help all living beings. Sith only used the dark side and believed that the Force should be used to gain personal power. There were, however a few individuals (such as Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress, and Maz Kanata), that followed their own philosophies, using the light side or the dark side as they saw fit. There were also groups other than the Jedi or Sith that used the Force (i.e. the Dathomiran Nightsisters, the Force Priestesses, and the Dagoyan Masters).
So the eternal question: which is stronger? I believe that if you study the canon, you can find evidence that shows that while the dark side gains power quicker, the light side is ultimately stronger, even allowing those strong in the light side to overcome death. However, there is plenty of evidence that the dark side is more powerful as well, such as the fact that the Sith lord Darth Sidious was able to pretty much destroy the entire Jedi Order without the Order being able to do anything about it. This is a question that constantly pops up, but I think there is a third option that I will discuss shortly.
Throughout the Star Wars canon, balance in the Force is constantly talked about. There was a constant struggle between the light side and the dark side. On the “planet” Mortis (Mortis was actually more of an ethereal realm than a planet), this struggle was given a physical manifestation in the form of three beings who called themselves “Force Wielders.” The Son represented the dark side, the Daughter represented the light side, and the Father kept the two in check. This realm served as a fulcrum through which the Force flowed. This continued until Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ahsoka Tano showed up, creating some chaos, and eventually causing the deaths of all three Force Wielders. The affect this had on the Force is not very well explained, but my theory is that the three Force Wielders’ deaths may have made the Force more balanced, allowing for intermingling of the two sides as they were no longer separated into dark and light. This is 100% speculation though, as the series did not really explain its impact very well.
Along with the question of which path is stronger, there is also the constant question of which path does the Force favor, the dark side or the light side. This is where I will inject some of my own theory. When the Jedi and Sith spoke of balance, they spoke of the eradication of their opponents. Either a galaxy controlled by the dark side or completely devoid of it does not, however, represent a true balance. My theory is that the Force would have favored true balance, a complete reconciliation of the best parts of the light side and dark side (*gasp* the best parts of the dark side?). While the Sith used anger and hatred to completely fuel their power, this focus on passion was often their downfall as their emotions would control them, completely obliterating any good intentions they may have started with. The Jedi, however, completely shunned their emotions, attempting to focus purely on the will of the Force. In Legends canon, there was a third group, the Gray Jedi who straddled the light side and dark side. The Gray Jedi used their emotions to fuel their strength, but did not let themselves be controlled by their passions. While the Gray Jedi are no longer canon, their philosophy is certainly intriguing as they fully embraced true balance in the Force. In my opinion, this balance would hold the secret to true strength in the Force, as at its core the Force is a natural phenomenon, and nature exists in its strongest form between extremes (biology degree strikes again!).
The Force was a mysterious energy field, but those who could unravel those mysteries could obtain incredible power. After the fall of the Jedi Order, many believed the Force to be just a myth, not willing to believe that any mysterious energy was responsible for their fate, but the Force always found a way to get its way. Just as the Force holds all captive to their destiny, so too does it captivate Star Wars fans everywhere. Anywhere there are automatic doors you will find at least one kid waving his hands, pretending to tap into the mysterious energy field that binds us all. If I had a Republic credit for every time I’ve struggled to pick something up and someone told me to “use the Force,” I would have enough to buy some new power converters at Tosche Station, but I digress…
So now we’ve talked about Force abilities, and what the Force is, but I want to shift gears and focus on a particular character for a bit. Throughout all of canon there is one character that has always captivated me: Obi-Wan Kenobi. But how does one truly discuss Kenobi in one post? I have decided to break up my discussion on Obi-Wan into three different parts, so next week will be a post on Obi-Wan Kenobi, focusing on his story before the outbreak of the Clone Wars. Thanks again for reading, and as always may the Force be with you!