In writing my recent quote articles, I went back and watched all eleven movies. When I reached The Last Jedi, Luke said something that really stuck with me and made me think. He tells Rey: “And this is the lesson. That force does not belong to the Jedi. To say that if the Jedi die the light dies is vanity.” Too often, I think people do look at it as Rey so wrongly put it “It’s a power the Jedi have.” This of course led me back to Han in The Force Awakens when he tells Finn “That’s not how the force works!” So let’s sit back and take a look at the true nature of the force.
True Nature of the Force: Gray Jedi Do Not Exist!
For the longest time there were two sides – Jedi and Sith, but when the prequels came out they exposed us to actual Jedi. In doing so it showed us Jedi are not so single minded. Jedi were falling away from the order. One of our main protagonists openly butted heads with the council in Qui-Gonn Jinn. Later Ahsoka Tano would likewise fall away. This gave birth to the incorrect term – Gray Jedi. There is no such thing.
Either someone is a Jedi or they are not. Try calling yourself a gray vegan. It does not work. Either you are a vegan or you are not. This is where the nature of the force begins to become corrupted. A Jedi is a belief system of a certain group of light side force wielders. If one wields the force that does not make them a Jedi. To be a Jedi you must hold the beliefs of a Jedi. AS we have now been shown there are many groups across the galaxy that wield the force that are neither Sith not Jedi (Nightsisters for example).
True Nature of the Force: What Is the Force?
Rey tells Luke the force is a power that Jedi have that lets them control people and make things float. Of course this is wrong, but to the average person in the galaxy, that probably represents their views. Its all a bunch of simple tricks and non-such as Han put it. Were we any different? For much of the early day of Star Wars all we see of the force is mind control, blocking laser bolts and feats of super athleticism.
I think all factions could agree on this much at least. Old Ben tells Luke the force is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together. Yoda would add a little more nuance in ESB, but in the end it is an energy centered around life. One could even argue it can even be a consciousness. Qui-Gonn believed in the living force and that it had a will. It wanted things to happen. The fact a prophecy even exists supports this as well. It also supports life after the body, but how that life continues depends on the user’s beliefs and use of the force, but we will cover that below.
Is the force good or bad? Actually I would say no. The force is. Its use shades it as good or bad, but even that is in our narrow views. Let’s take a look at what the galaxy defines as the three shades of the force – the good, the bad and the neutral.
True Nature of the Force: The Light Side
In the Star Wars universe the light side of the force is represented by the Jedi. They are the ‘keepers of the peace’ and guardians of the Republic. Their ways are the selfless ways that would rather negotiate a conflict than fight it. They use the motto:
As Anakin states in Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi are selfless. They use their gifts to help others and see to the greater good. This is what is deemed the light side of the force. The light side seeks knowledge for the greater good and the advancement of all. The great force healers use the light side of the force to heal and mend others.
Sounds perfect right? The problem is that the Jedi seek their knowledge and power at the expense of their feelings and emotions. Some could say the perfect Jedi would be Vulcan. Attachment and emotion are forbidden. At one time, according to Legends materials, the Jedi married and had families. The problem with this is when a being becomes so powerful they cannot be touched, it becomes easier to hurt them through the ones they love. These attachments become a weakness and a path to the dark side.
As Luke said in The Last Jedi, the Jedi fell at the height of their power. They became so detached from the real world they no longer sympathized or empathized with those around them. They became too detached and this became their weakness.
True Nature of the Force: The Dark Side
The dark side in the Star Wars universe is embodied in the Sith. Whether it was the armies from Legends or the rule of two represented in canon, the Sith were seen as the great evil of the force. They followed the following code:
Again using Anakin’s views from RotS, the Sith rely on their passions for their strength and think inwards, only about themselves. The dark side seeks personal gains at the cost of anything else. Their battery for power comes from passion, hate, rage. The end is all that matters no matter the means, which is why under the rule of two the master is always killed by the apprentice. The dark side seeks self healing and self preservation, but it always comes with a terrible cost. Life may be preserved, but the physical price is extreme, whether for them or other life forms. In Legends Exar Kun preserved his spirit at the cost of the Massassi race on Yavin IV. Their ways are not the natural ways. Dark force users prefer powers like choking, mind control and lighting (although in Legends light side users had a different form of force lighting).
But are passion and power really that evil? How many stories in sports or history tell of an underdog rising up and defeating a bigger, stronger opponent. They used their Passions to stoke their strength and give them focus. Even the Jedi do this in almost every single fight against the Sith (Obi-Wan v Maul, Mace v Sidious, Luke v Vader). Why are these principles considered dark then?
True Nature of the Force: How Evil Is the Dark Side?
If the dark side were so evil, why did it help two of our three main protagonists? In Empire, Luke feels the dark side in the cave. Yoda tells him a domain of evil it is and in it you must go. Then what does the cave do? It warns Luke of his possible destiny. Luke’s destiny could be the same as his father’s. Without the chilling vision of Luke in his father’s armor, Luke would not have pulled back when Sidious goaded him. The sight of Vader’s missing mechanical hand and Luke’s own mechanical hand pulled him back from the edge of the dark side.
With Rey, the domain of evil on Ahch-To called to her. Luke feared it since he could feel the dark side, but what did the pit do? It essentially told Rey it did not matter who her parents were. She controls who she is. Leia later echos this in Rise of Skywalker by telling Rey “Never be afraid of who you are.” Both of these came from dark side sources yet served as guides that kept Luke and Rey away from the dark side.
True Nature of the Force: Is the Dark Side Stronger?
The light and the dark fight against each other in the real world through out time, but is it the force fighting itself or the living dividing up its power? Snoke tells Rey “Darkness rises and light to meet it.” The prophecy talked about the one who would bring balance to the force, yet Luke comes closer than any other since Qui-Gonn Jinn to accurately describing the force to Rey. When he has Rey stretch out with her feeling (not her hand), she feels the force everywhere in both states – light and dark. The two feed and nourish each other in nature.
In Empire, Luke asks Yoda if the dark side is stronger. Of course Yoda’s answer is no, or he might as well of quit training Luke right there. In the end the strength is no different than the user and the nature of the Force’s use. The being that uses the dark side will possess more raw power and the ability to use it. Note of all the Jedi, only Yoda was strong enough alone to stand up to Sidious. Mace used the dark side in the form of his Vaapad lightsaber form.
The trick is not to compare the one side only according to the strengths of the other. Where the dark side fails is when the light side unites. The power of the light resides in the group where the dark side’s power rests in the individual. This is why the dark side seeks to divide and conquer while the light side attempts to unite. So can there be no compromise?
True Nature of the Force: The Bendu
The light and dark must balance each other out. That is the ‘war’. Both sides have benefits and draw backs, but in the end it comes to the balance of the whole whether it be at peace or war. During the ancient Sith War the force existed in balance even though the galaxy was at war. The two sides fought, but their powers balanced each other. Both existed. When the Jedi drove the Sith off and Bane instituted the rule of two, the force began its millennial slide into imbalance. So is there no other option then Sith and Jedi?
Of Course there is. In Rebels, we learned of both a creature and way of the force referred to as the Bendu – the balance in the force. The creature despised both the Jedi and Sith because they lacked balance. The Bendu was the middle ground between light and dark represented by balance. Some of these teachings and beliefs were what Qui-Gonn stumbled towards in his beliefs in the living force. These beliefs caused the rifts between him and the Council.
In some ways the Nightsisters were closer to Bendu beliefs. Many of their ways resembled darker teachings, unnatural ways, but they believed strongly in family and sisterhood. One could argue they existed somewhere between balance and darkness.
True Nature of the Force: So Is Bendu Perfection?
Some might argue the Bendu beliefs represent the true nature of the force and all force users should these beliefs, but do not pull the trigger so fast. As with all things there comes a price. Keep in mind the Bendu belief is balance over all else. The force becomes more important than the believer or their wants.
The Bendu beliefs mean if the will of the force wants your friend or loved one to die you must let them die. If the force calls for your death, the believer must listen. While this belief may be the truest of the beliefs, it is perhaps the most difficult. You get the best of both worlds, but at a price steeper than any other as well.
True Nature of the Force: Life After the Force?
One of the most interesting aspects of the force (and a convenient back door for questionable actors) is existence after life. To be honest the aspect of force ghosts exists for one simple reason. Is Alec Guinness going to return? Guinness hated Star Wars so much Lucas did not know if the Jedi Master would return for any sequels. Much like carbonite and Han Solo, a gimmick was created to allow for either his return or exit. Sure we hear Ben in Luke’s mind at the end of A New Hope, but should Guinness not want to come back, Lucas had an easy out.
In Legends (pre-prequels) the idea of force ghosts was pretty straight forward. Any Jedi who died could become a force ghost. The gimmick shows up often, but since this was the force no one really cared as most times it was used effectively. Both light and dark side users could become ghosts to haunt later generations of Force Users, but then came the prequels.
True Nature of the Force: Light vs Dark Afterlife
With the release of the prequels, force ghosts became something new and before now, impossible. If older generations of Jedi knew how and the secrets were lost we may never know, but as we see at the end of Revenge of the Sith, Qui-Gonn Jinn becomes the first known master to hold his consciousness together after death. Ben and Yoda would then become the first to Masters to generate a ghostly form. The Jedi found life after death. Granted in Legends there was a time limit as Old Ben faded away forever in Heir to the Empire.
But all that is for light side users. What about the Dark side of the force? Could their users accomplish this same feat? Yes and no. In Legends they could. We meet many dark side phantasms through out stories. Between Tales of the Jedi and the Jedi Academy trilogy, we meet Exar Kun who became a force ghost but at the cost of thousands of Massassi lives. In canon though the answers are much more complicated.
In canon, Sidious and Plagueis sought eternal life. Plagueis solves eternal life for others, but it is Sidious who uses the dark side to jump from body to body (a legends ability as well), but at a cost. Most things when using the dark side of the force corrupt and decay the living body. Sidious accomplished this first, but we read in Vader #22 a Sith Lord attached his consciousness to a mask. These are the only two instances we have for dark side users being able to exist post death (not counting Mortis). Sidious himself says the dark side is a pathway to many abilities that are considered unnatural.
Force users can live after their bodies die through the force, but for light side users it is more natural and peaceful. For dark side users it comes with a heavy price.
In all things is the Force. The users define it as light, dark, bendu or something else entirely, but in the end the Force lives in all things. This is the true nature of the Force.