A Scholarly Look at the Dark Side of the Force

by Greg Hanson

(writer’s note: This was several years ago, when I still liked Star Wars.)

The Dark Side of the Force

For the purposes of this article I will admit to the existence of Star Wars Episodes 1-3. Outside the confines of this essay I deny the validity of the foul creations of George Lucas. I was a Star Wars fan for several years, and certain things about the Force gave me pause. After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the so-called “Dark Side” of the Force is actually the true path. This is not to say that I promote or approve the use of the “Dark Side”, but if the Force were a tool, the Dark Side would be its intended use.

"Yeah, that's right. WE are the correct path."

Consider the benefits to be gained through sensitivity to the Force. First, the adept gains heightened physical performance including strength, speed, and reflexes. Second, an ability to sense other force users and even non-Force sensitive beings. Third, the ability to levitate the adept’s own body as well as manipulate objects. Fourth, the ability to drastically influence the minds of other beings. Fifth, visions of the future and past. Other abilities have been suggested, but these are the mainstay powers of any Force sensitive individual, and they all seem to be most useful in combat.
The physical augmentation gained by tuning into the Force gives the adept abilities valued in a hunter or warrior, a class of people whose basic objective is to cause harm to their prey or opponent.

The ability to sense other people is arguable for both sides. It can help in search and rescue operations, but when searching for a lost person there is no real gain to knowing how strong in the Force that person is. Conversely, this ability would be very useful during wartime. Since the adept can sense any other adepts nearby, any stealth attacks are impossible. The approaching threat would be felt before the two ever saw each other, and they could even get a sense of the opponent’s strength.

I acknowledge that telekinesis is both useful and helpful. However, despite the variety of constructive applications that exist for levitation and the mental manipulation of objects, neither the Jedi nor the Sith seemed to use it for anything other than combat, except when wise Qui Gon used it to cheat at dice. Both sides showed how useful telekinesis can be in a battle situation, but a powerful political counsel responsible for the protection and mediation of a galactic alliance should be able to think up better uses than crushing an opponents lungs.

The willful and direct manipulation of the mind of another being is offensive on a basic level. The circumvention of free will is wholly unacceptable, and the Jedi freely affect the very thoughts of those around them. There are times when all of us would like this ability, but the potential for misuse is enormous, especially in the political arena. Anything they don’t like, they can simply make you not like. This elite group of randomly empowered individuals who can impose their will on the majority of the population also happen to be as politically powerful, if not more so, than the Imperial Senate. This is a coincidence? I don’t think so.

Finally, we come to the visions. This is the original point that made me question the true nature of the Force. These visions seem to happen almost at random, and the few we were preview to involved the suffering and pain of people important to the person experiencing the vision. It would be useful as a warning, to allow the adept to prepare for and help prevent this coming pain. A perfect time for a vision would be before a major disaster occurred, for example the destruction of a planet. Yet even when these very personal visions occurred, Yoda instructed the person not to do anything about it, to in effect ignore the suffering that they could prevent. What, then, is the purpose of the visions? Is the Force just sadistic? How does the Jedi Council justify ignoring a premonition that they taught the adept to receive in the first place? And why was something as huge as the destruction of Alderaan, an event that caused a “great disturbance in the Force,” not foreseen? The only conclusion I can come to is that the Jedi Council is frightened and confused by the visions. They themselves don”t understand the power they are tapping into.

The Force is like a gun. Though the Jedi put on a calm face and suggest peaceful resolution, it is only through the withholding of the power the have been trained in that they are able to talk peacefully. The Jedi Council wields its power as a bargaining chip, threatening unstoppable force if the other party refuses to “negotiate” or accede to their demands. A telling feature of the Force’s true nature lies in the final task of all initiates into the Jedi way. The rite of passage that identifies an adept as a full fledged Jedi is the construction of a personal lightsaber, a weapon that can cut through virtually anything. This is also recognized throughout the galaxy as the badge of the Jedi. The sign of the revered peacekeepers is an unstoppable blade, a hint to the real path of the Force. Though it is invaluable for its ability to deflect laser blasts and shield a small group, it is a point of pride among the Jedi that many can actually deflect a beam back to strike the person who fired it.

The Force is power, suggested even by its name, and the power of the “Dark Side” was referenced several times. A Jedi must remain calm and focused to tune into the Force, but a Sith’s power is fed by rage. The calm detachment yields less power than the anger of the “Dark Side.” This difference of power was clearly shown when a single Sith apprentice held his own and very nearly triumphed over a Jedi Master worthy of a Council seat and his apprentice at the same time. Darth Maul’s loss was due only to overconfidence and a foolish desire to postpone his remaining opponent’s death in favor of taunting him, and even then Obi Wan may have been fed by anger at the murder of his mentor. This shows that true anger can unlock the full potential of the Force.

The one obvious argument against the “Dark Side” is the degeneration of its wielder, illustrated most vividly through Emperor Palpatine. While Darth Maul never showed any sign of degradation, this could be due to the regenerative powers of his species. In a later story, Darth Maul was shown pulling the two halves of his body together and healing them. A body capable of such a feat could possibly be able to fight off the shriveling brought about by the “Dark Side.” In yet another story, however, Vader managed to fully restore his body through focused anger and channeling the Force. In the black chamber where Vader was first displayed without his helmet, the Dark Lord trained to see how long he could remain whole and function without his life support. Thoughts of his son broke his hold on his anger and the Force, and his body relapsed. With this in mind, the “Dark Side” could potentially be wielded without the degeneration of the adept’s body so long as the adept could perpetually maintain a strong hold on the Force. If you’re going to use it, use it correctly.
Because of all this, I have concluded that the Force is more primal than the Jedi Council would like to admit and follows the policy of survival of the fittest. It creates powerful warriors capable of imposing their will through manipulation or brute force, and the noble Jedi are merely deluding themselves.


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