Lit Socrates in Star Wars: Vergere in the NJO and philosophy

Discussion in 'Literature' started by DigitalMessiah, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. Ghost Chosen One

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    Oct 13, 2003
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    Yeah, that's the jist of atman=brahman. Although brahman is more than the universal soul, it's the ultimate reality. Each atman is not a splinter of the brahman, but *is* the brahman, according to Hindu philosophy. We already have what we truly want (infinite being, infinite consciousness, infinite bliss), we've just forgotten that.
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Aug 11, 2013
  2. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    star 5
    So it's the Universe, you might say?
  3. Ghost Chosen One

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    Yes, though an even deeper and more encompassing view of the universe. As Shiva said: "Fear not, for all rests well in Brahman. The forms which come and go - and of which your body is but one - are the flashes of my dancing limbs. Know me in all, and of what shall you be afraid?"
  4. AlyxDinas Force Ghost

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    Jul 12, 2010
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    In all of this, it sort of occurs to me that we're completely ignoring Vergere during Destiny's Way. I know some might be eager to pull up "Jacen and the Two Vergeres" if we shift this way but I'll outright admit that for as well thought out a writing that essay is, I don't buy into the central conceit that there's a major difference between Vergere in the two books. Rather, only, there is a difference in how she teaches. Regardless, for the sake of the larger conversation, it is best for us to have her words in the open, lest we look at an incomplete painting.

    The burdens of responsibility.

    Rights are not given to use by others. They are things which we posses and use. Virtues which are given, taught, or thrust upon us are useless because they do not flow from us. Rights are valuable in their usage, in our decisions to act. Virtues are valuable only when they inform our actions.

    Ergo: Virtues must be self created for them to be of value and for them to be of complete value, we must act in accordance to these self formed virtues. Rights belong to us all and are precious in their enacting.

    The importance of the self.

    For the sake of facilitating a complete, genuinely personal maturation, it was necessary for Jacen to have only himself to rely on. This is explicitly because virtues that are given (ie. which we take from others as a point of fact) are useless. Our virtues must be our own. To this end, Vergere sought to place Jacen in a predicament where he could only rely on himself and learn to act on his own.

    For the record, especially to those who do not care for the what of Vergere's actions: "I regret the means, of course, but i used what I had at hand. The same inner state could have been reached more gently, given time and opportunity, but neither were at hand."

    Yet, even this regret is not something which absolves Vergere of blame. And she knows it. Thus giving us another lesson about action.

    In carrying out "bad" actions, we must understand these to be our choices and accept the consequences of what we are doing. We must accept that we might be punished for our actions. Our understanding of our actions and our intentions do not absolve us of consequences. Instead, it impresses upon us their weight. When we choose and act, we also choose to shoulder the burden of action and all that comes with it.

    But what does this have to do with gardening? With life?


    To life, we owe our compassion. How do we best bear that burden? There is no answer. Life is owe compassion but how we express that compassion is something we need to choose. Then we need to act upon our choice.

    What about the dark side?

    Serenity, to Vergere, is not a result of emotional detachment. It is a consequence of emotional understanding.

    The uncensored enacting of passions creates actions with are poorly thought, foolishly made, and consequentially destructive. It is through the understanding of the self and even our passions through which wise thought is made manifest in our deeds.

    Dark action arises from unchecked passions as manifested in deeds. Emotions such as anger are natural consequences of our knowledge.


    However, these emotions do not control our actions, even as they motivate them. A natural anger, a natural love, a natural excitement, and so on can very well prompt us to a myriad of different actions. It is our job to understand our emotional state and to act wisely nonetheless.

    Wait? So what *is* dark?

    Passion is momentary, though. Why does darkness persist?


    It remains because we choose, at some point, to permit it. But it is always we who make the choice:


    The Force is all things. There is not a dark side boogeyman which grabs you and makes you do anything. Neither is there some angel that comes down from above to guide your actions. You and you alone act. And in doing so, the Force reacts.
    Last edited by AlyxDinas, Aug 11, 2013
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  5. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Vergere's emphasis upon self knowledge definitely seems to be the starting point for what Stover summed up as "seeking truth from within, because it will reflect truth without." This goes back to your original point of being honest with yourself.

    "I can feel the dark side here. I touched the dark side, and it, and it, it touched me --"

    pg. 167

    "But everything you tell yourself should be the truth -- or as close to it as you can come. You did what you did because of who you are. Self-control, or its lack, had nothing to do with it."

    pg. 123
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 11, 2013
  6. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Having re-read Destiny's Way, I can see how people can come to interpret Vergere as being, and only being, about both "action over intent" and "intent over action." A superficial reading of Vergere's conversations with Luke could lead one to come away with the understanding that intent is important, because if you view the conversation through the lens of a hyper-literal interpretation of The Empire Strikes Back, then what Vergere seems to be saying is exactly what Denning writes Jacen to say in The Swarm War. I think the re-reading has helped me understand how Denning could, let's say, interpret Vergere that way. That being said, I still find it troubling, because although fans also interpreted Vergere the same way prior to Dark Nest or LOTF, unlike fans, Denning could have spoken to either Matthew Stover or Walter Jon Williams for clarification -- but why would he do that when he already decided that Vergere was a Sith?

    For fans that take a hyper-literal approach to Star Wars, when Vergere to says "you can be angry because you can't not be angry and so long as you don't let the anger influence your decision making, it's okay to feel anger," that becomes "you can use the dark side for good reasons." Couple that with the fact that Vergere says "the Force reflects what it finds in you," and page 167 of Traitor, and suddenly Vergere is a proponent of the erroneous Potentium Perspective that's trying to deceive Luke and Jacen by telling them that there's no dark side and you can use your anger good reasons, ergo we get:

    "Didn't Vergere teach that our intentions make an act dark or light?" Tenel Ka asked. "She did," Jacen admitted. pg. 257 TJK

    "Good," Jacen said. "Now use what you are feeling. Your anger and your grief can make you more powerful. Use them when you meet Raynar and Lomi Plo, and you will defeat them." pg. 276 TSW

    You see, the Jedi are supposed to be Grammaton clerics.

    "It's not possible to suppress all emotion, nor is it desirable. An emotionless person is no more than a machine. But to understand the origin and nature of one's feelings, that is possible." pg. 184 DW, hardcover

    What is ironic is that I see Vergere as arguing that action is more important than intent in Destiny's Way... she's saying that anger in itself doesn't lead to the dark side unless you let that anger control you.

    "When you are in the grip of an irresistible compulsion, it is then that you feel most like yourself. But in reality it was you who were passive then. You let the feeling control you." pg. 184 DW, hardcover
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 14, 2013
  7. AlyxDinas Force Ghost

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    Jul 12, 2010
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    That's the thing that gets people hung up and I can see how it'd be where a lot of Denning's surface read of Vergere gets what it does (along with, I assume, his dislike of her teaching methods).

    When Vergere talks about how Luke's anger was not dark because he understood it, she's not saying that you can suddenly claim to understand yourself or your intentions and that will instantly make them good. She means that one must always understand themselves so that it will inform how they react to such things like anger or fear in the proper, well reasoned manner.

    The major thing is the idea of control with your actions. "Greatness—true greatness of any kind—requires the surrender of control." Improperly formed action gives up control willingly for ill thought reasons. One is about trusting in yourself and the Force. The other is about being misled by unreasoning passions.
    Last edited by AlyxDinas, Aug 14, 2013
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  8. JediMatteus Force Ghost

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    Sep 16, 2008
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    yeah i think Vergere did and said some constructive things for Luke and Jacen. I also do not think it was the original intention for her to be a Sith. It is more like she was a grey Jedi. But whether it was her intentions or not, it is what SHE did that led Jacen to be open to the dark side and Lumiya's manipulations. That said, i do think the 5 years journey did most of the damage.
  9. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    "When you are in the grip of an irresistible compulsion, it is then that you feel most like yourself. But in reality it was you who were passive then. You let the feeling control you." pg. 184 DW, hardcover

    This seems to be a Jungian shadow-self concept: the ego is passive while the shadow-self is in control, metaphorically speaking.

    "Out of control is just code for 'I don't want to admit I'm the kind of person who would do such things.' It's a lie.... But everything you tell yourself should be the truth -- or as close to it as you can come. You did what you did because you are who you are. Self-control, or its lack, had nothing to do with it." pg. 122-123, Traitor

    Vergere is all for integrating the shadow. "Psychotherapy, rather than getting rid of one's shadow side, attempts to integrate these repressed contents so that one is no longer manipulated by them. When these contents are integrated, 'ego and shadow are no longer divided but brought together in an -- admittedly precarious -- unity.' This is a preliminary form of unity but by no means the final coniunctio toward which the individuation process is moving." - Samadhi: Self Development in Zen, Swordsmanship, and Psychotherapy, pg. 106

    I think my next 'project,' as it were, for examining Vergere and the metaphysics of Star Wars as a whole is to look at Jung.

    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 14, 2013
  10. AlyxDinas Force Ghost

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    Jul 12, 2010
    star 4
    Even if we want to blame Vergere, writing wise, the smoother thing to do is not imply that Vergere was a Sith and teaching Sith-y-ness. A tighter narrative would have taken advantage of "what the teacher teaches or what the student learns" to justify Jacen's actions without running amok over other author's work.

    I know I'm straying from the topic of her philosophy but if we do want to make Vergere be the source of Jacen's fall, it should probably be in a way that's a bit more consistent and, possibly, tragic. Let's ignore that saying that Vergere opened the door for Jacen's fall makes little narrative sense; if that is the way you want to go, the Denning or whoever else feels it needs to go...there's much more delicate ways to do so without strawmanning her philosophy.
  11. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    I thought Denning's blog that was linked to in the Crucible thread pretty much confirmed that the desire to make Vergere a Sith both preceded and flowed into the idea of making Jacen into a Sith, rather than the other way around. Which tells you all you need to know about the state of the Expanded Universe.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 14, 2013
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  12. JediMatteus Force Ghost

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    right, it makes more sense to blame Jacen as taking something and running the opposite direction of it. Jacen justifying his path on Vergere's teachings. Sadly tey did not go this direction. it was EASIER to just make Vergere a sith.
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  13. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    I'm finding that the word "coniunctio" and the meaning behind it has some relevance to Traitor. It is the union of opposites. Evidently it originates from western alchemy and the term was adopted by Jung. Another relevant Jungian term is enantiodromia, about which Jung says "I use the term enantiodromia for the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time." Jung seems to draw inspiration from Heraclitus as well, whom may have been the first philosopher to posit the premise of Dialectical Monism, and argued that opposites were necessary for harmony. An example used is the tension of strings in a lyre being needed for music.
  14. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    I haven't done much reading about Jung yet, but I've been doing more about eastern religion. I think Nagarjuna and Adi Shankara are the two biggest influences on Traitor. Nagarjuna wrote about the concept of interdependent origination, the ocean metaphor, i.e. we're all waves in an ocean, which is what Jacen realizes on page 271:

    He shares how much he loves it all: for all these things are all one thing: pain and joy, loss and reunion, life and death. To love any is to love all, for none can exist without every other.
    The Universe.
    The Force.
    All is one.
    The Yuuzhan Vong and the species of the New Republic.
    Jacen and the World Brain.

    Adi Shankara spoke extensively about the idea that Ātman is Brahman. His ideas also seem to be an adaptation of Nagarjuna's ideas for Advaita Vedānta, and he was accused of being a Buddhist.

    Traitor seems to be a mixture of both, because Nagarjuna wrote about the Middle Way. This may very well be why Vergere speaks about the dark side while also claiming it doesn't exist. Nargarjuna argues that if you posit the existence of something, or the non-existence of something, you run into this problem of complementary opposites where either thing requires the other to exist. Notionally, the idea of the existence of an object is dependent upon the idea of the non-existence of that object, and vice-versa. Nagarjuna argues that to articulate one or the other is ultimately a flawed concept and there's the third way, emptiness, which is distinct of non-existence.

    This is problematic with application to the Force, which is where Shankara comes in, whom takes these ideas and applies them to Hinduism, which believes in Brahman rather than emptiness. That he also argues that Ātman is Brahman really fits all the better since that's precisely what is stated on page 280:

    "...Jacen had learned that one can meet the Universe and all its irrational pain -- which means meeting oneself -- with fear, or hatred, or with despair.
    Or one could choose to meet it with love.
    Jacen had chosen.
    But still, he was astonished to discover that the Universe could love him back."

    I'm sure there's more to be gleamed from the novel though, because I think the dialectical monism is a stepping stone to Nagarjuna and the idea of a Middle Way or an ontology that recognizes the dualistic nature of the Universe, which leads to Adi Shankara and Ātman is Brahman, which Stover explicitly stated he was getting at in an interview: "I should also point out that "the Force is One." The darkness inside is reflected outside, and vice versa. What Vergere is really teaching Jacen is to seek truth within, because it will reflect truth without. To trust his feelings, you might say..."

    That is Ātman is Brahman. But I'm sure there's more work to be done in discerning meaning from the novel. Choose and act seems loaded with meaning, whether it be Existentialism, or another example of complimentary opposites in analysis and synthesis. Think/analyze and act/synthesize. I even see possible Wang Yangming influence there in his belief of knowing through acting.
  15. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

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    I think Vergere asked some basic facts and nicely illustrated a lot of moral issues.

    Stover is one of the few authors who had the Jedi confront complex moral problems.

    The irony being his Mace Windu and Luke are all the more "Jedi-like" in my mind for it.

    Rather than destroying the Jedi Temple, he rebuilt it.
  16. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Stover wasn't content to just paraphrase dialogue from the films or to reduce them in meaning to the lowest common denominator. He literally took what they meant and had his characters talk about the meaning.
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  17. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

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    I only wish this line had remained true in the EU. "Luke Skywalker is not like the Jedi of the old, he is not afraid of the dark."
  18. Trip Force Ghost

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    Dec 7, 2003
    star 4
    how is this ironic
  19. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

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    Mostly because everyone seemed to think Matt had knocked over the pillars of Star Wars when I think Shatterpoint and Mindor were the most Star Wars books of the EU.
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  20. Trip Force Ghost

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    star 4
  21. JediMatteus Force Ghost

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    Stover should just re write the entire eu. Lets just clone him
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  22. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Alright, re-reading Stover's past posts, I've noticed that the discussion when it comes to Traitor seems to mostly hinge upon morality (wonder why?), which I've intentionally not really touched on all that much although other people have a bit. Stover says he's not a moralist and Mace Windu says that Jedi aren't moralists either.

    It's a shame he no longer posts on the forum, as I'd be curious to see what his response to this thread would be.
  23. Gamiel Force Ghost

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  24. Wildwookiee Force Ghost

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    I like Stover's writing...I respectfully disagree with what Denning accomplished with it.


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