Lit Stepping Into A Larger World: A Metaphysical and Philosophical Discussion of the Force

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Dawud786, Dec 12, 2008.

  1. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    This is a thread I've wanted to see here for a long time and thanks to Ulicus' suggestion in the Dark Empire Trilogy: Quality Literature or Galactic Trash? thread, I'm starting this as a spin off of the issues a few of us have been dealing with over there that aren't directly pertinent to the discussion of the value of the Dark Empire saga.

    That said, I want to lay out some ground rules that hopefully we can agree upon. I'd rather this not become a place to discuss Force powers or feats done with the Force unless they are pertinent to discussion of the philosophical mindset behind them and/or their relevance to a metaphysical conception of the Force and perhaps the comology and cosmogony involved.

    As an example, one of the divergent elements of the DE conversation had to do with Yoda's maxim "sizes matters not" with regards to the telekinetic abilities the Force grants. This line of discussion is pertinent because of the mental and metaphysical undertones of the statement... not because of the feat being performed.

    Off the top of my head there are a number of issues that are rarely addressed IU, and rarely discussed by most fans that I'd like to suggest.

    -The ontological questions related to the origins of the Force, the origins of life, how the Force and life are related and whether or not there's a chicken or the egg sort of dilemma here. For instance, while on the one hand Yoda says of the Force "life creates it, makes it grow" he also says "luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." That hints at something much larger than the first proposition... or even that "life" in Yoda's conception is not merely the existence of material bodies but something more subtle. I think the existence of midi-chlorians also goes in this direction... they are necessary for life to exist and also communicate the will of the Force and rather than de-mystifying the Force they kind of increase the mystery. The only de-mystification they do is the "how" a person communicates with the Force.

    -Force-ghosting. This is something deeply rooted in the real world's esoteric religious traditions and deserves alot more investigation than is usually done. This is an entirely new mode of being and one that requires... as Qui-Gon's spirit tells Yoda in the ROTS novelization... that one relinquish conceptions of self to retain identity in the Force.

    -Issues relating to the dark side of the Force and its existence. Whether it doesn't exist externally, or it does, or doesn't exist at all and is just a figment of the imagination or a projection from within the individual upon the external world. This is crucial and figure out what it means in the context of the Force as a whole. Starting points can be Vergere, Potentium, and GL's analogy of the dark side being like cancer while the light side is like symbiosis.

    Here are a few links to my TOS blog(which I haven't been contributing to because I don't have Hyperspace currently) of some of musings on these issues:

    Does the Dark Side Exist?
    Bringing Balance to the Force
    To Die Before Death - Oneness With The Force
    Everything is proceeding according to MY design!
    A Certain Point of View - Obi-Wan, Luke, and Vader's Redemption

    Have at it!
    Ulicus likes this.
  2. Ulicus Lit'ari

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    Jul 24, 2005
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    Thanks, Dawud. :)

    Let's say you're absolutely correct on the issue of Force Ghosting, as I think you probably are. How, then, do we explain the existence of Sith Spirits within the Force? These are individuals who have - ostensibly, at least - kept their own identities *warts and all*. They're still just as evil, cold and ruthless as ever (with perhaps the exception of Ajunta Pall) and have certainly not "died" before they died.

    Obviously I wouldn't claim that a Sith spirit is the same thing as a Force Ghost (I don't think a Sith spirit could truly claim to be 'immortal' so much as 'post-mortal') but I think it raises some questions that it's possible to retain your identity for any length of time after death without, to use the phrase again, "dying before you die".
  3. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    The only explanation I've ever been able to come up with for Sith ghosts is that they never really left the material world, and always seem to float around localities. Exar Kun is quite obviously bound to the Massassi Temples of Yavin IV, except when he's latched onto a person like Kyp Durron and even then he seems to have still really been tied to the Massassi Temples enough that his power was centralized there. I think Freedon Nadd might be a little harder to explain, given that he was all around the galaxy and in two places at one a couple times. However, it's notable that everyone he appeared to he'd either already contacted in some way on Onderon and were in possession of some of his property. Kun had the scrolls from Nadd's tomb, and the Ketos had the Sith book that King Ommin had given them that he inherited from Nadd.

    All the disembodied voices of mummified Sith Lords of the past on Korriban never go anywhere but within the tombs and mostly apparently in their own tombs. Like Ajunta Pall, who's been stuck like that so long he's apparently reflected on his own evil, and Marka Ragnos who never appeared anywhere but on Korriban near his remains.

    All that gives me ample enough reason to believe they aren't really immortal unless they are firmly tied to something and losing their anchor, they'd probably dissipate after some time. Like Luke's earlier ideas on Force ghosting that Tim Zahn introduced in TTT. Seems a plausible explanation for Sith ghosts. It also suggests a certain irony... all they've learned to grant themselves "immortality" is spirit transference from body to body to object to object. The fact that most of them latched onto inanimate objects is an added irony, because it leaves them basically powerless to effect the world and thus most of them are obsessed with possessing people or finding some way to resurrect their bodies or find a suitable host.

    Which I think explains Palpatine and his clones. Isn't there something about him tying himself to one of his aides after dying over Endor? The individual Sith Lord could feasibly have been strong enough in life to keep his spirit intact for years without latching onto something, but eventually he's going to need to find something to anchor himself. So with Palpatine, if he had to wait around Endor for a while before finding someone to anchor to to get to Byss and transfer to a clone body he may have expended alot of that energy which necessitates a certain desperation for him to transfer to new bodies as the old decay and die. He seems even more desperate to take Anakin Solo than he ever did to get to his own clone bodies. Now, that's certainly due in part to him having used up his last clone body... but there may be something more to as well. It could've been the desperation to complete the transferences that drove him insane too. Explaining his seeming psychosis compared to the Palpatine of the movies.
  4. ChildOfWinds Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2001
    star 5
    This a really intellectual thread, and I don't know enough about some of the religions of the world to probably make a decent contribution. But I thought I'd at least comment about this:

    Dawud786 : -Force-ghosting. This is something deeply rooted in the real world's esoteric religious traditions and deserves alot more investigation than is usually done. This is an entirely new mode of being and one that requires... as Qui-Gon's spirit tells Yoda in the ROTS novelization... that one relinquish conceptions of self to retain identity in the Force.

    I'm not exactly sure what Qui-gon meant by this. It does seem from the Force ghosts that we've seen, that the identity, the personality, the essence of the person *is* retained in the Force ghost of the deceased Jedi. So, my thought is that at death, the person completely and freely offers himself/herself to the Force, and the Force grants the good Jedi the gift of retaining his/her identity, his/her essence in the "afterlife in the Force", a sort of Jedi Heaven, if you will. Perhaps all Jedi who "die in the Light" are actually granted the reward of "Jedi Heaven", but only a very few come back to "visit" with the living?

  5. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    No, they don't all get to be immortal; Qui-Gon specifically says it's something you have to be taught or learn to do.

    "It cannot be granted, only taught. It is yours to learn, if you wish it."

    -Qui-Gon, ROTS novel, Chapter 21, page 409.
  6. ChildOfWinds Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2001
    star 5
    DarthBoba
    No, they don't all get to be immortal; Qui-Gon specifically says it's something you have to be taught or learn to do.

    Okay, thanks. That kills my theory. ;) Although, maybe Qui-gon was just referring to being able to return to visit with others? Maybe the others can enjoy "Jedi Heaven" but can't return to interact with those left in the physical universe?

    And if it has to be taught, I wonder how the first person was able to do it?
  7. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Bear in mind we don't know that "the whills" really are. For all we know, they're one with the Force to begin with, and therefore wouldn't have needed to be taught.
  8. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    Yeah, the Whills are such a mystery I don't want to get into them. Question is, how much of Marvel is still in effect and just what is the Netherworld of the Force? Because that is pertinent to this particular topic. Qui-Gon is said to have come back from the Netherworld and the question is... is the Netherworld an afterlife that all beings go to, or is it an intermediary stage between physical death and a sort of spiritual dissipation back into the Force? I feel inclined to a form of afterlife and how one experiences it depends on how one lived life... but that may not be what is. It's not entirely relevant just because those that can't retain their identity as spirits by annihilating the self in the Force don't impact the story anymore. If they've gone on to an afterlife in the Netherworld there's a barrier that they can't cross, and if the Netherworld is an intermediary stage before they sort of merge back into a sort of Oversoul they aren't really there anymore.

    Still, an interesting question. And the Marvel story that depicts life after death would be something that perhaps indicates afterlife. I still need to get my hands on that story and read it.
  9. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Uh-oh, here comes the fanon. :p

    The Netherworld is, well, I have no idea obviously. "Nether" according to my trusty Mac dictionary means "Under", so it's technically "the underworld", which iirc is how the Greeks perceived life after death. '

    *Wikis*

    Okay, not just the Greeks.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underworld
  10. DarthUr Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2008
    star 4
    It seems to me pretty obvious that everything we know about the "Netherworld" is basically speculation and metaphor -- obviously so, since no one comes back from it except Force ghosts, and they don't talk much about it.

    It probably is just a way the Jedi describe the experience of melting away into the Force as a physical metaphor we can understand (just as scholarly Buddhists understand the "Pure Land" to be a metaphor even if ordinary people tend to treat it as literally true, and same with the Christian Bible's description of golden streets in a city made of shining gemstones).

    I mean, we could go either way. For the sake of pulp sci-fi it probably works to have some image of good spirits floating away in a realm of quiet peace while evil spirits are consumed in the fires of Chaos or whatever. But for the sake of believable, satisfying metaphysics, it also makes sense to see these images as metaphors for what's really going on (that a person with a well-lived life can peacefully return to the oblivion of being one with all other life without conflict, while a person whose life has been dominated by selfishness will find the inevitable loss of self in death to be terrifying and painful).
  11. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    Well, fanon is somewhat an irrelevant concept when it comes to dealing with things that aren't themselves concretely described or with any particular canon definitions. Know what I mean?

    We could be discussing things that even the Jedi don't have a complete understanding of, and that's fine. It's sort of more fun. Of course, if all this leads to discussing actual metaphysical ideas all the better... because then a once stated goal of GL in making Star Wars was to have people thinking about the concept of a higher power and thus metaphysics(which, just for an example, are called falsafa al-ilahi in the Muslim world which translates as divine philosophy).
  12. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    My bad, was being sarcastic and all.

    I'm hoping we get a Gladiator ref at some point in the new Clone Wars show. Have some Jedi General tell his troops that if they find themselves riding alone in green fields, then not to worry, because they're in the Netherworld, and they're already dead. :p
  13. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    That depends on how much Mando culture the clones have been instilled with at this point. The hardcore ones would at least believe in the Mando oversoul thing. I could see such a thing coming from Rex or Cody or another clone commander, for sure. I hope we get to see Alpha at some point.

    I don't think we can discount entirely the Netherworld being experienced as hellish, paradisal or even as a purgatory for most beings, simply because every culture seems to have a concept of an afterlife in their native religions. And, I'm also inclined to see the Force as the explanation for the origins of all religions and the experiences of early mystics tapping into the Force being the inspirations for those religions. The NJO suggests that with the way things were resolved between the Yuuzhan Vong priest and the Jedi on Zonama Sekot.

  14. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Alpha was cool.

    I sat out most of the second half of the NJO; mind posting abit about the relevant Force/YV Gods sections?
  15. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    It could be said that binding oneself to the Force is more of a duty than a reward.
    Qui-Gon uses the phrase "release of self", in counterpoint to the Sith way of "exaltation of self", but the irony is that in so doing the Jedi actually retains self.
  16. LordRevan19 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2005
    star 4
    Yeah that is ironic. The Jedi are always saying stuff like "Become one with the Force" and stuff about losing yourself in the Force yet in the end when they die they keep their identity an consciencenes and are not really "One with the Force", but still are...

    Good Stuff
  17. Ulicus Lit'ari

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    Question: If we go by your interpretation of ghosting, Dawud, how can we explain ghost Obi-Wan disagreeing with Luke that "there is still good in [Vader]"?
  18. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    Well, there's a couple ways... first, it could certainly be a ploy on Obi-Wan's part to get Luke to do the opposite of what his teachers ask him to do. A risky ploy, but it's the Force right? The second is that while Obi-Wan releases his sense of self that doesn't mean all his thoughts ceased and didn't carry over, and there's that whole pesky certain point of view thing. Obi-Wan told Luke the truth from a certain point of view, and that was a spiritual point of view. While bodily and even psychologically Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker were the same person... spiritually it could be argued that they were different, or that Anakin underwent a spiritual transformation where his goodness was destroyed and supplanted by his flaws mutliplied to a degree that made him evil. He considered himself a different person as well.

    There's nothing to assume that reaching this particular spiritual state necessitates that the person in question need become infallible and all-knowing. They may only know what the Force enables them to know, and act only as the Force allows them to act(which I think fits pretty well). Having recognized their own nothingness before the Force they become identified with the Force and vessels for the will of the Force in life and in death. So I don't see any inherent contradiction.

    I would post them, but all my SW books are packed up except a select few... and most of those have come out in the last couple months. Maybe we can enlist someone else to do so.

    It's certainly a paradox. Tough one to get your mind around really. With that, if you folks wouldn't mind I'd like to post a section from a modern Sufi work dealing with this very thing. It's only a matter of elucidation of the princible behind the matter at hand.


  19. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Responding to something a little earlier in the thread:

    IMO, the mere existence of Sith ghosts, let alone in such high numbers, kind of destroys the whole argument (made in the films, at least) that ghosting/immortality is something that can only be achieved through some kind of pure selflessness - the tragedy of Anakin's fall is that he wants to defeat death, but the only way to do it is with compassion. The only reason I can live happily with all the Sith spirits floating around the EU (pun intended) is to assume that post-mortem consciousness for a Sith involves basically constant agony - it's still tantamount to hell, only it's a conscious hell instead of a more ethereal one.
  20. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    Yeah, I can jive with that. Ajunta Pall's part in KOTOR sort of suggests this is the case. I think that strengthens the idea that they are in such a desperate rush to get a new body too. Part of their suffering is their essential impotence to effect the world, and part of it is that they are probably being pulled to the Netherworld and they are desperately trying to cling to the material world. To me what they've done just isn't immortality, they've only extended their lifespans by sketchy means. If you tie your soul to a building you can potentially be alive for millions of years... but if the structure gets destroyed are you ties to it severred? Mummified remains could potentially be in a tomb for just as long. There's also further reason to suggest that once looters desecrate those tombs the spirits can't hold on, since in DB:pOD it says the Sith ghosts have long since left Korriban.
  21. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    In The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, it's made very clear that spirit Kenobi doesn't know what's coming. He's shocked when Anakin kills Palpatine. Qui-Gon's spirit had been saying he wasn't ready earlier, and he realized that he'd meant that Kenobi wasn't ready to forgive Anakin, and his refusal to believe there could be good in Vader was holding him back.
  22. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    That makes a case, for me, that there's even differing levels within the whole concept of surrendering self to the Force, then. I'd forgotten about that part in The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, thanks for bringing it up. I'll have to dig that book out of a box that must be closer to the top of the stack. I definitely bought that one after I moved.

    Still, the whole idea of how this special spiritual attainment is possible suggests to me that the Force still uses Obi-Wan to fulfill its will in the matter. Obi-Wan would've told Luke his point of view and would've told him Vader needed to die, in life, but Luke perhaps needed to hear that because of his natural tendancy to rebel and the possibility that he'd have broken early on had the full truth been revealed to him. I don't think any of this was a lack of wisdom on Obi-Wan's part in his dealing with Luke. Interestingly, Yoda's words to Luke are a bit more vague without ever directly encouraging him to kill his father. Which suggests that Yoda was able to forgive Anakin.
  23. DarthUr Jedi Master

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    Oct 14, 2008
    star 4
    It's always been clear to me that Sith spirits and Jedi ghosts are completely different phenomena that only appear alike. Nearly everything important about them is different, in fact -- Jedi ghosts are on a higher plane of existence and seem to have a magical degree of omnipresence and omniscience when it comes to the material world. (Obi-Wan can appear to Luke anywhere and anywhen he wants and knows all about what's been going on back in the world while he's been dead.) Sith spirits are the *opposite*, being strongly tied to specific places, strongly limited in what they can do according to certain "rules", and depicted as totally unconscious about what's gone on in the world after his death -- Ajunta Pall not only has no clear idea of what's going on in the outside world but has even begun to lose any specific memory of his own past, living in a constant present of agony and rage.
  24. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 7
    I see the difference between Force Ghosts and Sith Spirits as resulting from the fundamental difference between the Jedi and the Sith: The Jedi Way is that of acceptance of the way of things, the Sith oppose that. Thus, the Jedi accept they must die and join the Force, the Sith refuse out-right. Part of that will be due to the claim the dark side of the Force has upon them, the other is the attachment to all they have built up in the world.

    One of the best illustrations of the sheer hollowness of the Sith's version of 'immortality' is in the end of the Sith War. Ulic visits Yavin IV, finds and senses nothing and leaves, but Kun has been trapped there for 2 years already and spends the next 4000 - doing what? Hanging around in a state of being perpetually hacked off? I'd say it could be argued that this is so different from what the Jedi achieve that it heightens that achievement so much that the idea that the two are somehow equal, with the Sith undermining the Jedi, just isn't viable.
  25. Master_Starwalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 20, 2003
    star 6
    I have to agree with those who have said that Sith ghosting is nothing but a pale imitation of what the Jedi can achieve which leaves them isolated and with a slowly degrading grip on reality, while the Jedi are able to accept their place and thus are in many ways actually happier as Force ghosts than they were while alive due to their complete sacrifice of self.