When the Original Trilogy was all fans had to go on, there was a widespread interpretation that all Jedi simply disappeared into the Force upon death. In A New Hope, Ben Kenobi says to Darth Vader that if Vader kills him, Kenobi "shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." Vader seems to react with surprise or puzzlement when Kenobi leaves only his robes behind. But then, Vader's training was incomplete, and anyway Kenobi seemed to just be using a linguistic flourish in describing the incomprehensible power of the Force (of which he would become a part). Vader could have also been checking to make sure Ben - a very powerful Jedi - wasn't tricking him. Later in the film, Ben speaks, but does not appear, to Luke. In Empire, Kenobi's ghost makes a visual appearance, as well as an aural one. And in Jedi, Yoda fades into the Force as well. We don't see Anakin disappear, but he was sort of a special case. He was also wearing armor which concealed most of his body. And anyway, we don't necessarily see the exact moment of his death (how does the Force determine exactly when to 'take' the person - the exact moment?). At the end of the film, we see three Jedi ghosts: Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin. The EU of the intertrilogy era also operated on this model, where the ghosting was something that simply happened to Jedi (and probably most light siders, I think), while dark siders (including the Sith) could only continue after death in very limited form (usually by being tied to/imbued within locations or talismans). Also, sometimes the energy of a dark sider exploded out of their bodies upon death; the blast that accompanied the Emperor's impact at the bottom of the shaft in the Death Star II was presumed to be a kind of death throe. There were Jedi like Qu Rahn and Nejaa Halcyon, who could appear in ghostly form, and Sith like Exar Kun, who (if I recall) quested after immortality but could never achieve it like the Jedi could, while holding on to the dark side. The Sith wanted eternal life in their physical forms, while Jedi accepted that there came a time when they had to move onto a different plane of existence, only visiting the physical one occasionally. Then came The Phantom Menace, where a Jedi dies but does not disappear, and a Sith also dies and there's no blast of energy. There were lots of discussions and fan hypotheses at the time about why this was the case. Perhaps Ben and Yoda were mentally prepared to die; they knew what was happening. Perhaps Qui-Gon would still appear as a ghost, but the disappearing trick relied on that preparation, or something. But the subsequent prequel films made it clear that Lucas meant for the disappearing trick and the ability to manifest as a ghost to be specific skills, ones that the Jedi as a whole did not possess. The Old Republic Jedi were supposed to be galactic policemen with monkish trappings, but apparently they did not have quite the depth of wisdom about the Force that Ben and Yoda demonstrated in the OT. In Attack of the Clones, Qui-Gon's voice speaks to Yoda, and in Revenge of the Sith, Yoda mentions that Qui-Gon will teach Yoda and Ben both how to retain their identities after death. And though it was never filmed, the script of ROTS called for Qui-Gon to have a conversation with Yoda in which he said that he learned the secret of life after death from a Shaman of the Whills - calling back to some of the earliest lore (or at least an early name) Lucas developed. Interestingly, even before the prequels came out, there was mention of this ghosting-as-something-different-than-the-usual: In The Annotated Screenplays (page 269) there is a quote from Lucas about how Ben learned to retain his identity after death between Episodes III and IV, was taught by Yoda, and that this aspect will never be explained because of its placement in the timeline. Lucas does say that this is something Ben learned 'as a Jedi,' but despite that, it does seem that this might indeed relate to how the Jedi as a whole don't have this knowledge in the prequels. Though Lucas said in 1997 that it would never be explained, the Mortis trilogy and the Yoda-centric episodes that close out the Clone Wars television series Lucas has actually shown a bit of how he envisions the secrets of retaining the identity after death. (It appears to have to do with knowledge and wisdom the Jedi should really already know, but maybe we'll get to that later.) In the Mortis arc, in the space or dream-time that was Mortis itself, Qui-Gon could manifest as a ghost, not just as a voice. In the Yoda arc, Yoda travels to a planet that is strong in the Force and encounters 'Force priestesses' who are some form of apparitions from 'between realms.' (Are these the Whills?) Apparently he also finds a Sith spirit (voiced by Mark Hamill) on the planet Korriban (called Moraband in the episode); I haven't seen that episode so I'm not sure how the spectral nature of this Darth works with the notion that the power of life after death is something dealing with compassion and oneness with the Force. I'm wondering if we can find resonances with older sources (notes and scripts for previous films) that would help fill in the concepts Lucas is dealing with here. Maybe we can figure out how this concept of ghosting, having power from beyond the physical realm, etc, came about and developed. What are the points Lucas is making by having the Jedi lack this knowledge, and by having it be a specific skill rather than 'just something that happens? What is different between the selflessness Anakin mentions to Palpatine in defending the Jedi, and the specific version that apparently needs to be felt to achieve ghosting (doing things for others vs. anattā?)? As SW developed, was ghosting always supposed to be something the Old Republic Jedi as a whole were ignorant of, or was that an aspect that Lucas added with the prequels? Also, given Lucas's seeming increased focus on these aspects of SW metaphysics (was he going to delve even more into it with Clone Wars, before it was cancelled?), perhaps we can come up with some good guesses as to how these themes and might play into the upcoming Sequel Trilogy.