Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Force (Star Wars)
The definition of the Force
The Force is described by Obi-Wan Kenobi as "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together." The Force is life, and life is the Force. It can only be harnessed by a minority of beings described as "Force sensitive". These have been defined as either having a high count of internal micro-organisms called midi-chlorians (Episode I) - the more midi-chlorians a body contains, the greater the person's force ability - or having a strong Force "aura". Force-adepts are able to tap into the Force to perform acts of great skill and agility.
Some think of the Force as an entity that may be capable of intelligent thought - almost as if it were a sort of god while others simply consider it "something" that can be manipulated. Anakin Skywalker was conceived by the messengers of life, the Midi-chlorians, and other events have occurred which some say point towards an understanding of the Force as sentient. In this way, the Force is quite similar to Philip Pullman's "Dust".
The source of the Force
Although fictional, the Force does contain many similarities to existing philosophical and religious systems, most notably Taoism.
Many have related it to the concepts of Chi/Ki/Qi (China and Japan), Prana (India), Mana (Polynesia) and other similar traditions focused around the idea of a spiritual energy that exist within the universe. With Taoism, the primary focus for Star Wars originates in the idea of Yin and Yang - the two diametrically opposed forces of the universe. Everything from good and evil (as metaphysical concepts) to hot and cold temperatures are considered as being part of this, and it is from here we see the most prominent comparison to the Light and Dark sides of the Force in Star Wars.
The sides of the Force
Orthodox Jedi philosophy
The Jedi and others refer to two sides of the Force, a dark side and a light side. This echoes the concept of Yin Yang in Eastern philosophy, but is not a straight translation, as the emotional dark side is denoted as a force of evil by the Jedi. The dark side is not made up of specific "parts" or "abilities" of the Force: the dark and light sides of the Force exist inside of the life form which uses it, made from their emotions. George Lucas compared the light and dark sides to the processes of symbiosis and cancer. A follower of the light side tries to live in harmony with those around him. Mutual trust, respect, and the ability to form alliances give the Jedi their distinct advantage over the Sith. In contrast, a follower of the dark side is only out for themselves. To strike down a living creature with the Force out of anger, fear or other emotion is of the dark side. To refrain and clear one's self of these emotions is of the light side. Use of the dark side of the Force is distinctly frowned upon within the Jedi order, and is strictly considered the domain of the Sith. The Force plays a major part in the Jedi use of a lightsaber in that their heightened awareness keeps them from accidentally injuring themselves while in combat using the weapon. Similarly the Force allows a Jedi to use his/her lightsaber to deflect incoming blaster bolts. The Force also comes into play during the construction of a lightsaber, either in assembling its intricate innards, or the initial charging of the power cell.
Jedi are keen to keep the Force in balance. They attempt to achieve this by destroying the Sith and denying the dark side, as the dark side is corruption. This involves the purging of negative emotions such as aggression, anger, and hatred, since they can easily bring on acceptance of the dark side. In contrast, positive emotions such as love, compassion, and courage nurture the light side of the Force. The Jedi Code compares such feelings and provides insight into the ethical use of the Force.
The dark side of the Force: Sith philosophy
The dark side of the Force is innately tied to the distinctly negative ethical paradigm of the Sith. It comes from the hate, vengeance, and malice in all living things. In the Star Wars movies, the practitioners of the dark side are Darth Sidious and his successive apprentices Darth Maul, Darth Tyranus, and Darth Vader.
The Jedi believe that emotions such as fear, uncertainty, doubt, anger, suffering, and attachment are "inevitably" self-destructive, and lead to the dark side. The Sith philosophy, on the other hand, is to use such emotions to fuel one's own will to power, ego, and selfishness. The inevitably destructive havoc caused by the actions of a dark side practitioner are conveniently forgotten or excused as serving a greater purpose under this philosophy.
The negative emotions increase the strength and abilities of a dark side practitioner. As a result, the dark side of the Force is extremely addictive: every time one calls on its power, one becomes more and more attached to it. Darth Vader desired to use this to his advantage during his time trying to turn his son, Luke Skywalker, to the dark side. If he could convince the young Jedi hopeful to call on the dark side enough times, the boy would find it more difficult to resist in the future. The dark side is not only mentally corruptive, but also physically corruptive: over time, the raw power wastes away the body of a dark side adept (see Palpatine).
Overall, dark side relationships and organizations are inherently unstable. For instance, the pupil-master relationship of the Jedi is perverted under the Sith, as both the apprentice and the master naturally plot against one other, and one will eventually kill the other. Every time a dark side force has risen in the Star Wars galaxy, it has collapsed from within due to its own unstable nature. The Empire is no exception.
The Sith Lord Darth Bane considered the Force to be finite, and thus best restricted (ideally) to the use of a single Sith Lord. He eliminated the practice of having vast numbers of Sith at the same time and concentrated the dark side of the Force into two individuals: a Sith Master and apprentice. This tradition, or "rule of two," is still in practice with the current Sith Order, which underwent a small reformation by Dark Lady Lumiya after the deaths of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine at Endor.
Potentium and unitary views of the Force
The Potentium view of the Force, considered heresy by Old Republic Jedi, holds that the Force, and the galaxy in general, were given a master plan which was inherently good, and that there was no evil side to the Force. This view gained greater acceptance under the New Republic, mostly due to the influence of Vergere, a surviving Jedi from the days of Old Republic.
Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious) says that there is only one Force: the only difference worthy of note is that the Sith see the Force as a means to an end; the Jedi see it as an end in itself.
This is echoed by what Vergere teaches Jacen Solo in the New Jedi Order, (part of the Expanded Universe of Star Wars). She tells him that there is no light side nor dark side of the Force - only the Unifying Force.
Organized Force Traditions
The Jedi and Sith Orders teach the Force as described above, but there are other traditions which teach different philosophies and uses of the Force, or powers similar to the Force.
- The Aing-Tii Monks
- The Baran Do
- The Believers of Cularin
- The Bendu Monks
- The Disciples of Ragnos
- The Ee Worms
- The Ewok shamans
- The Fallannassi
- The Followers of Palawa
- The Gand Findsmen
- The Gesaril
- The Golden Sun
- The Guardians of Breath
- The Heresiarchs
- The Jal Skey
- The Jarvashqiine shamans
- The Jedi Order
- The Jensaarai
- The Kilian Rangers
- The Krath
- The Matuki
- The Nightsisters of Dathomir
- The Order of Shasa
- The Potentium heretics
- The Prophets of the Dark Side
- The Scitrok Warriors
- The Seyugi Dervishes
- The Sith Order
- The Sorcerors of Tund
- The Ta-Ree
- The Theran Listeners
- The Tyia
- The Witches of Dathomir
- The Wyrd
- The Ysanna
- The Zeison Sha
The abilities of a Jedi
Manifestations of Force-skills include telepathy, psychokinesis, enhanced physical and metaphysical perception as well as the abilities to bend the will of the weak-minded and improve one's own physical ability. The Force can also be used to allow an adept's body to be guided by the Force itself: such action enabled Luke Skywalker to launch a proton torpedo into an extremely difficult target on the Death Star in the Battle of Yavin. Through this ability one can cease to react to his or her surroundings and predict the future, such as the next blow in a duel. As a consequence of these skills, the Force has occasionally been associated with the real-life concepts of Taoism and parapsychology.
In addition to the above powers, Jedi are also capable of attacks through the Force by producing "Force lightning" from their hands. Use of this ability murderously is of the Sith cult. As a contrast, adherence to the light Side allows its user to transcend death and become a "Force ghost," allowing the deceased to exist as an energy being who can interact with other Force sensitive individuals. According to Kenobi, in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire book, this can only continue for a while before the Jedi must "move on" to a spirit realm. The Jedi were unaware of the possibility of speaking from beyond until a time during the Clone Wars. This is to be built upon by future installments of the Star Wars universe.
Some Jedi and Sith have learned the skill of transferring one's spirit to another body. Palpatine used this in order to preserve himself with his failing body, and later, Callista transferred herself to the body of a dying friend so that she could stay alive. Unfortunately, in the process of doing this, she lost her ability to touch the Force.
Disturbances in the Force
When Alderaan was destroyed in the original Star Wars movie, Obi-Wan Kenobi sensed "a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced..." The Force exists in all life, and when great amounts of life pass away, a disturbance is created, running through the Force like a scream which only a Force adept can hear.
Sometimes, other things are defined as disturbances. Life creates small disturbances, and Force adepts even more so. Dark-side users create strong, evil-feeling disturbances.
The phrase "I have a bad feeling about this" is repeated a great deal, even by non-Force-adept characters, which may point to a universal connection with the Force. However, this is usually a tension-relief or comic-relief moment; few times is this said before some dramatically bad event.
Disturbances in the Force also come from people with a high Midi-Chlorian count. Qui-Gon Jinn felt a disturbance in the Force when approaching Tatooine in The Phantom Menace, where Anakin Skywalker was.
May the Force be with you ...
The Force is associated with a phrase used by some characters in (and fans of) the films: "May the Force be with you," meaning something like "Good luck", although usually only Jedi and other believers in the Force use the expression. Han Solo, who expresses his doubt about the Force in A New Hope, eventually uses this expression to wish Luke good luck. George Lucas used the Christian phrase "May the Lord be with you and with your spirit," as the model for it.
The expression has found its way into popular culture as a result of the popularity of the films.
Some might believe that, as the Force exists between all living things in any case, the phrase reflects a misunderstanding of its nature. In fact, the phrase implies a wish that the power of the Force is working alongside you, in order that your goals are more effectively accomplished. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi always used a different form that expressed a reminder rather than a wish: "The Force will be with you, always" stating that his apprentice would succeed, as he would work alongside the power of the Force.
Beyond these also exist the two primary modern representations of this belief in real life. The first is Jediism, the Force-based religion, which sees the 'Force' (universal energy, subtle energy, chi, etc.) as a higher power which serves as the basis for a form of worship, whereby it acts almost as a form of God and guides those adhereing to its tenets towards particular actions. This metaphysical form is a twist on generic New Age pantheistic systems. The second is the ideological or moralistic form (by far the most prominent of the two, but later in origin) known as Jedi Realism, which uses a belief in life energy as a platform for various beliefs - the main being that life in itself should be protected and that all individuals are part of a Universal Energy (i.e. the Force) and therefore affect others by their actions. Thereby both systems seek to benefit life through intervention in dispute, ethical conduct and the pursuit of a more peaceful sense of self and community through the use of techniques such as meditation, mindfulness and various forms of energy work.
Video game portrayal
In games licensed or developed by Lucasarts with the Star Wars license, the Force is commonly separated into certain 'powers'.
- Force Grip - Original usage by Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Force Grip allows the user to hold the target in the air, either to temporarily immobilize the target, choke the target to death, slam the target into a wall, or send the target flying over an edge.
- Force Push - Telekinetic ability to push objects away. The greater the user's aptitude with this, the heavier the object that can be pushed or the more people that can be simultaneously pushed away.
- Force Pull - Exact opposite of Force Push. Same details apply.
- Force Leap/Jump - Uses the Force to augment the user's natural leaping ability. Force users adept in this can perform record-smashing vertical/horizontal leaps with impunity.
- Force Lightning - Used by Count Dooku and Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine. The user is able to project lightning from his hands. The greater the user's aptitude, the more power the lightning bolts possess and the more they fork, allowing the possibility of striking multiple foes at once.
- Force Heal - The user uses the Force to accelerate the natural healing process rapidly for a short duration. Greater aptitude usually grants faster regeneration within the same amount of time.
- Force Drain - Same as Force Heal, except that the user drains the target's Force reserves to fuel the regenerative process, or to replenish their own strength in the Force. Greater aptitude allows exceptional drainage speed and the ability to drain multiple people at once. A very few (Possibly Darth Nihilus alone) have taken this ability to such heights that they can feed on entire worlds at a time.
- Force Speed - Augments the user's athletic prowess, enabling the user to maintain sprinting speeds (even moving in awkward directions like backwards) for as long as the effect lasts. Greater aptitude grants boosts to speed and/or greater duration.
- Force Cloak - Rarely seen, users with this rare ability can use the Force to bend light around themselves, rendering them invisible to others. The liability of this ability can be seen when machines/aliens that can scan beyond the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as infra-red, easily note the person.
- Force Lightning (Droid) - This version of Force lightning is attuned to generate maximum damage to electronic systems such as processor circuitry, but do absolutely nothing to the electrical systems of organic creatures.
- Force Seeing - A neutral Force power that enhances the bearer's visual and spatial perception. Trained users are capable of having their sight amplified, being able of even counter-attacking persuasion and blinding powers of the Force.
- Force Persuasion - Trained warriors can use the Force on their advantage to persuade the enemy on thinking they are not there. With this power, the bearer can turn completely invisible to people of weak mind. It is very useful on planning surprise attacks or avoiding dangerous confronts. This is also known as the "Jedi mind trick".
- Force Blinding - With this power, a Jedi can obfuscate any person's vision, making it very difficult of being spotted and targeted, converting the enemy to a more fragile position.
- Force Absorb - A trained Jedi may convert all kinds of Force attacks used against them to additional Force charge. As the energy used to perform Force-related powers is limited, a Jedi can use the enemy's attacks into their own benefit, instead of receiving damage for them.
- Force Protection - A power only achieved by high-rank Jedi masters, Force protection will make the bearer invulnerable to a wide range of attacks. The ultimate power in terms of defense.
- Force Destruction - Certain gifted Sith warriors are able to perform devastating explosive attacks upon their enemies. The Force destruction power, fueled by the Sith's hatred, can create a massive energy field and throw it at any direction.
- Force Deadly Sight - The power of the dark side is capable of making Sith masters inflict damage upon their enemies merely with their sight. With this power, the user can also damage entire groups within the field of vision.
- Protection Bubble - With this Force power, the user can create a defensive sphere around the body, which will protect the bearer from a wide range of attacks, deflect laser blasts and inflict a certain amount of damage upon contact with the enemy.
- Force Field - Generates a large energy field around the user, damaging and knocking out nearby foes.
- Force Spark - With this power, the user can create an energy spark that will track and hit the nearest enemy.
- Battle Meditation - This power can influence the course of an entire battle, raising the morale of allies, and sapping the will to fight from enemies.
- Force Crush - Possibly the darkest Force ability known to both the Jedi and the Sith and used only by the greatest of the Sith Lords, this deadly Force ability lifts the opponent off their feet, and instantaneously, as they are floating, their body literally implodes as it is crushed from within.
- Thought Bomb - The most destructive Force power ever displayed. Only known to be activated by Lord Kaan in the Battle of Ruusan, the Thought Bomb exterminates all life within a large radius (known to be as large as to surround planets) by targeting the brain or nucleus (with one-celled organisms and such) and wiping all information in it out. Ever since Lord Kaan detonated the Thought Bomb, Ruusan was left uninhabited. The only one to escape a Thought Bomb was Darth Bane.
The Living Force
The Living Force is in most living beings. Jedi can sense Living Force in life-forms. Sick or dying organisms have little Living Force, while healthy ones usually have the quantity of their midi-chlorian count. Strangely, Yuuhzan-Vong aliens have no Living Force, as if they were already dead. This has consfused most New Republic Jedi, but others don't care - they kill them anyways.
- The Tao of Star Wars, John M. Porter, Humanics Trade Group, 2003, ISBN 0893343854.
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