“The Force: Not Just Science Fiction”
Dan Tres Omi
Most can agree that what attracted a great number of people to the Star Wars (SW) universe was the concept of the Force and its adepts, the Jedi. Even Darth Vader, in his calm and dark demeanor, carried a certain confidence about him. Despite the evil path he took, his movements and reactions were smooth and confident because of his immersion in the Force. As we watched Luke Skywalker come of age in Return of the Jedi, we see his character grow in stature as he faced down Jabba the Hutt and his notorious crew. He did not even flinch when he faced the rancor. As he stood on the plank overlooking the Sarlacc pit and his friends were helplessly frantic, Luke turned around and asked Jabba to reconsider his decision or face doom. Again, his strength in the Force made him as hard as stone. George Lucas did not make this idea of the Force out of thin air. According to the interview he did with Vanity Fair shortly before the release of Revenge of the Sith (ROTS), Lucas was inspired by The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Campbell published the book in 1948 and it was welcomed with much praise. Campbell through extensive research discusses the similarities found in the myths in hundreds of the world. He demonstrates that all myths pretty much follow the same pattern. After reading this book, the two SW trilogies are understood from the standpoint of modern mythmaking.
“It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening
through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour
into human cultural manifestations. Religions, philosophies, arts,
the social forms of primitive and historic man, prime discoveries
in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil
up from the basic, magic ring of myth.”1
It is no lie that Lucas used many concepts from several myths spanning at least half a dozen cultures. The actual idea of the Force is similar the concept used by several Asian based martial arts “chi.” In Taoism, chi is described as the “breath of life.”2 In Taoism, it is understood that natural forces, not the gods, generate the chi that fuels creation and causes all to come to birth.3 In The Phantom Menace (TPM), we learn about the midichlorians. These are microscopic beings or in our case, the natural forces, that generate the energy (chi) that fuels the universe.
Chi is not a concept that is central to just Tao. It is also found in other cultures. The Japanese called it “Qi.” The Yoruba of West Africa call it “Aşe” (pronounced Ah-shay). They consider it the energy that permeates everything much like the Force 4 The Ancient Egyptians called it the “Ba.”5 Even though Campbell does not discuss the concept of the energy force found in several belief systems throughout the world, his book encourages the reader to do the research. Many have stated that the Jedi have reminded them of the Samurai or the Knights Templar. Both groups were warrior monks who studied not just martial culture but the arts and promoted the spread of knowledge. In India, “guru” can be broken down into two parts: “gu” means to dissipate, while “ru” is darkness. One can equate a Jedi to an Indian guru.
This is only scratching the surface. There are several movies that deal with many of these concepts. We are hoping that as followers of the SW universe, one can do further research on this topic. It explains how Lucas completed his vision of a modern mythology. Several critics of SW have made this assessment and this description cannot be disputed. There are several people who are baffled at the reason a person of color is remotely interested in these trilogies. It is much deeper than cool lightsaber scenes and fly ass spaceships.
1Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With A Thousand Faces: 3.
2Simpkins, C. Alexander & Simpkins, Annellen, Simple Taoism: A Guide to Living in Balance: 85.
3Palmer, Martin, The Elements of Taoism: 5.
4Capoeira, Nestor, Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game: 53. Actually the fonts on the United States microsoft office software does not allow one to write the “s” with an accent on the bottom. It has been written as “ashe” in English since the Yoruba do not have a “h” in their written language. It has also been written as “axe” in Brazilian Portuguese. For our purposes, it will be written “aşe.”
5Akbar, Na'im, The Light from Ancient Africa: 10.