Taoism and disappearing Jedi

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Mex, Dec 20, 2000.

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  1. Mex Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 2000
    Hi there, just picked up something interesting (I hope ) on the spiritual of Star Wars. To me StarWars movies have always essentially been Taoist movies, for whole concept of the Force strongly reminds me of Taoist philosophy, with the unifying Force being the Tao and the living Force being the energy-field Chi. And lets face it, in EP V Yoda is introduced as the perfect taoist hermit. And now I found further evidence in support.

    A few days ago i got a book by taoist master Mantak Chia, "Awaken Healing Light from the Tao". Essentially it describes taoist energy practices and their spiritual background. Now a major part of taoist practice is the process of "Inner Alchemy", during which the adept gradually cultivates a spirit body, thereby attaining immortality. Inner Alchemy proceeds in several steps, beginning with healing and cleansing the physical body and ending with the transformation of the physical body into the spirit body. And here it comes. On the next to last step of Inner Alchemy, Chia writes (I quote): "At this level one transfers all physical essence into the immortal body. When all the body's material elements are transformed into subtle Chi, what remains is known as the "rainbow body". When a master of this level leaves this world, there is nothing left of the physical body but nails and hair." (pp.8-9). Is this behind our disappearing Jedi, and maybe is it also behind the non-disappearance of Qui-Gon (he didn't complete the Inner Alchemy far enough, perhaps dying too young or being too concerned with the Living Force)? To add to the StarWars-Taoism connection,on the first page of the book there is a short text titled "The Goal of this Book" and it's last sentence is: "May the Chi be with You"! Is Master Chia a StarWars fan? Any information?
  2. Jedi Merkurian Episode VII Thread-Reaper

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    Excellent information, Mex!

    I don't know enough about Taoism to comment, but I've noticed strong parallels like these between the Jedi & mystics of the Far East. It's kindof a chicken/egg paradox for me: am I fascinated with eastern mysticism because of Star Wars, or fascinated with Star Wars because of eastern mysticism?

    Excellent info, though. I'd not heard of the "disappearing act" from Taoism before. I think that it's a discipline that VERY few Jedi know.
  3. Jedi_Raziel Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Dec 18, 2000
    That definitely is intriguing...
    Your chicken and egg situation might mirror all of ours Merkurian, in this way-
    "Do these authors write Eastern philosophy based on Star Wars, or did Lucas write Star Wars based on this Eastern philosophy?"
    Do you have a copyright on that book, Mex? If you posted it, I forgot.
    As far as Taoism is concerned, I've only read the Tao Te Ching, and I've never heard of Inner Alchemy, but it's very compelling.
    I can see that phrase 'May the chi be with you' being old, as in Japanese there is the phrase tsoyuki, 'The chi is strong with this one'. (-Vader and Luke in the DS trench).
    I do know that the samurai originally wanted super powers, the ability to walk through fire, resist injury, move at incredible speeds, among others. Once Zen came into japan they adopted it for the focus it gave them-- who's to say it wasn't the same with Taoism... I can't give any dates, though...
    Great post, Mex.
  4. Mex Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 2000
    Hi Jedi Raziel,

    actually all over the book when it comes to energy/chi, the author speaks of the force (referring to the universal force, the original force etc.). No idea if there is any real connection to StarWars. Btw., didn't think of the copyright problem when I posted this, so I just hope you/they won't sue me for quoting these three sentences. No harm intended at all, I hope it will contribute to promote this book, it's great work.
  5. Jedi_Raziel Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Dec 18, 2000
    Don't get me wrongo, by copyright, I mean WHEN was it written!
  6. Mex Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 2000
    It was originally published in 1993, so it was published after StarWars first appeared on screen. You never know, judging from hearsays Chia seems to be a pretty extrovert man, very humorous and pretty much into hightech (at least for a spiritual teacher). Maybe his continous referring to Chi as "the Force" is deliberate.

    But as to the Inner Alchemy stuff, this is indeed thousands of years old and the cultivation of the spirit body may be found in ancient taoist texts. It is just the thing with the disappearing physical body that I hadn't heard of before. I'm pretty sure, though, that this is an original taoist concept, too, and if there is a connection to StarWars, it was George Lucas who adopted it.
  7. Force of Nature Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 1999
    star 3
    That's really interesting, Mex. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it ties in quite well with some ideas put forward by Obi-WanTHErebel in a thread in the Eps.II & III forum a couple of months ago. I don't have time to reread his ideas right now, but, in case anyone wants to have a look, I'll post the link.

    As far as I recall, the only characters mentioned were Anakin/Vader, Obi-Wan and Yoda, and possibly Qui-Gon, in relation to their disappearance (or otherwise!) in the movies we've seen so far. However, it is an SA forum so, if someone's posted more recent speculation since I read it, please don't say you weren't warned. :-D

    Eastern and Western philosophies merge as Jedi Disappear: http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=1176624&replies=14
  8. Wylding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 13, 2000
    star 5
    Awesome post Mex!

    I have always maintained that Lucas is a closet Taoist! What he wrote into Starwars comes too close to reality to be a "mistake" or "coincidence."

    Now from a Martial Aritists perspective, SW is an awesome guide to ki/chi/prana/Tao and Bushido. In the system of Danzan Ryu Jiujitsu I am studying now, I am told that all of what I have seen in SW is taught and more. Of course I have to wait until the black belt ranks for that to happen. That kind of power is just too dangerous in the wrong hands.

    Mex please PM with some titles of good books on chi. I love this stuff!
  9. Jedi Merkurian Episode VII Thread-Reaper

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    Hey Wylding, a good site to check out is jedicreed.com They also have a link to a lit. section for recommended reading.
  10. Mex Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 2000
    Hi Wylding,

    books on Chi, what exactly do you mean? There is one book on research on qigong "Scientific Qigong Exploration" Zuyin Lu, primarily on qigong research on Yan Xin. Additional material, including journal articles, may be found on Yan Xins website, www.qigong.net.

    On Qigong in general, there are the books of Yang, Jwing Ming, esp. "The Roots of Chinese Qigong", a very thorough and detailed description of qigong theory and connection to modern research, but not so much about Taoism and spiritualism. Very technical language, but a lot of information. The same author wrote a number of books on special branches of qigong focussing more on exercises and on qigong in martial arts. A complete cataloge may be found on Yang's website, www.ymaa.com.

    And there's another one, "Qigong Empowerment" by Shou-Yu Liang and Wen-Ching Wu, that covers several branches of qigong complete with exercises.

    If you are interested in Qigong discussed from a strong spiritual (taoist) background, I would recommend the books of Mantak Chia, especially "Awaken Healing Light". Very beautifully written and lots of medical information. The soon-to-be-published book on "cosmic healing" will probably be another reference. Some articles and additional information on qi-related research, as well as a (not complete) cataloque are posted on Chia's website, www.universaltao.com.

    Of course, this selection reflects my personal tastes, others may recommend something totally different. I'm also aware that many people flame the above-mentioned authors for openly teaching this long-time top-secretly guarded taoist knowledge to Westerners. This is especially true for Chia, who as far as I know in 1978 was the first to teach this material in the West. Hope this helps.
  11. Ecthelion Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 4, 2000
    star 3
    The only danger in identifying the Force with the Tao (I don't think this is a real issue but it'll irritate the hell out of the fans who's perspective is rooted in occidental notions of good and evil and SW being about them) is that the Tao is concerned with natural process and the philosphy doesn't concern itself with good and evil...the Tao is bigger than that.

    with courtesy,

    MH
  12. Wylding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 13, 2000
    star 5
    Thanks for all the links and info everyone!

    I've definetly got some reading and research to do...
  13. Mex Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 2000
    Ecthelion,

    this is definately true. Nevertheless, in "practical" Taoism (I mean energy exercises, Inner Alchemy etc.), it is believed that emotions like fear, anger, hate and the like are "sick energies" that destroy physical and mental health (remember what the dark side had done to the Emperor by the time of ROTJ). Acting on these emotions is considered acting against the Tao and ultimately strikes back to the originator (which the Emperor experienced at the end of ROTJ). In "Awaken healing light" it is also mentioned that neglect of continously transforming negative emotions into (positive) life-force has caused some masters to become corrupt.

    On another thing: Anyone else noticed that in the taoist five elementary Processes of Energy cycle (frequently erroneously translated as "five elements"), in which each process is associated with a negative emotion, "fear leads to anger" and "anger leads to hate" just like Yoda said: The Water-phase, associated with fear, is directly followed by the Wood-stage, associated with anger, and the Wood-phase is followed by the Fire-phase, associated with hate (for completeness: hate leads to worry and worry leads to sadness and depression, i.e. to "suffering"). There's a little to much connections and reflections to Taoism in StarWars to be just coincidental, mesa thinks.



  14. Ecthelion Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 4, 2000
    star 3
    Mex,

    Meesa thinkin' that Yousa thinkin' righto...or something to that affect. Gungan patois has never interested me that much. :)
    Anyway, I guess what I was trying to say is that Taoism doesn't see 'good' and 'evil' in a way that's very compataible with a typical western idea. Passivity can equal action and the reflection and immersion of the person in 'the moment' and awareness of nature and natural processes is 'good'....or something to that affect (again). I'm going to have to reread Lao-Tzu to catch up with you.

    Which brings me to another thought...threads like this one tend to be quickly buried on this board Mex...there aren't too many people around here anymore that think about SW at this level. Don't be discouraged and don't attempt to tailor your discussions or topical preferences for anyone...keep pluggin' away...you never know what old ghosts you'll provoke into action. :)

    with courtesy,

    MH
  15. Mex Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 2000
    Ecthelion,

    I appreciate any (constructive) comments on subjects like this one. It is hard to find people who are interested in Taoism (or Eastern philosophy in general) AND in Starwars simultaneously. I've got some TaiChi friends but only one of them is interested in StarWars. And I've got some StarWars friends, but the only one interested in Taoism is the TaiChi Lady. Nevertheless, I'll try to keep this going. If necessary, I'll start a new thread.

    Btw. You won't find anything directly applicable to this subject in the TaoTeKing (do you know the WenTzu, edited by Thomas Cleary? It's like a commentary on Tao Te King by an apprentice of LaoTzu). Taoism has evolved a lot since LaoTzu, especially when it comes to guidelines for daily life. Most of chinese medizine and nutrition in effect is taoist in origin.

    On the good-and-evil thing, again, you're definately right concerning the incompatibility with Western black-and-white attitude. But in introducing Anakin as such an innocent boy in EP I, Lucas perfectly reflects Eastern philosophy: All good contains the seed of evil. And by picturing Vader as the perfect villian in EP IV-VI, he does the same: All evil contains the seed of good. It's just like in the Yin-Yan (TaiChi) Symbol. Maybe we should collect evidence on connections between StarWars and Taoism, write an essay and try to get theforce.net to post it?
  16. Ecthelion Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 4, 2000
    star 3
    Mex,

    I know Thomas Cleary although I don't know the book you're talking about.
    I'm leary of the very concept of modernization of any philosphy. Laying additional contextual layers over an idea or changing that idea to suite a given paradigm tends to dumb the original idea down or mutate it to make it more palatable to 'the masses' or whatever. This sort of an idea has happened to nearly every major religion in existence today. Certainly the core ideas of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, etc. can be reengineered through careful study BUT, at face value, everything is changed and not necessarily for the better.

    with courtesy,

    MH
  17. Jedi Merkurian Episode VII Thread-Reaper

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    Ahh...would that I knew more about Taoism and other Eastern practices so that I could keep up with you! **sigh**

    At this point, my knowledge is limited to such books as "The Tao of Physics", "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" and "Seat of the Soul" That and my own intuition.

    One common thing that I notice from various Eastern beliefs is what is referred to as the "illusion of separation" Yoda & Obi-Wan allude to it in their teaching Luke. For example Luke is admonished to feel the Force between the land and the rock and the water and the ship. Qui-Gon also alludes to this illusion when speaking to Anakin, hence his favorite statement is also part of my signature.

    From what I understand also, it takes years of discipline to focus the mind enough to "pierce the veil" and recognize the illusion for what it is. It's not enough to understand this on a cognitive level; I can understand that right now. What makes Obi-Wan & Yoda different is that they've achieved focus enough to understand the illusion on an experiential level, allowing them to transcend the ultimate illusion. Part of the (EU) Jedi Code is "There is no death, there is the Force."

    Anyway, that's my two cred's worth. We've gotta keep this thread, and those like it, active. Jedi Bratzilla has a couple of good threads like this here on the Misc. Forum, and anything by Shar Kida is pretty much a sure bet.

    MTFBWY
  18. Ecthelion Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 4, 2000
    star 3
    "...anything by Shar Kida is pretty much a sure bet."

    Hell yeah babeee...


    with courtesy,

    MH
  19. Wylding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 13, 2000
    star 5
    Mex,

    I agree with Ecthelion in that you won't find too many people here willing to discuss starwars on such a deep level, but I love it!

    Regarding what was said before about the illusion of seperateness: In the system of jiujitsu that I am studying we have a specific meditation that we call projection. It is essentially founded on the truth that we are all interconnected on a spiritual level and our thoughts can impact us tremendously. Hence the name of the art: projection. You litterally project good will and peace to someone. It is amazing in that after you have completed the exercise usually the recipient (who has no idea you are doing this) will call you up saying they were thinking about you! Oddly enough Christ talks of this in a verse somewhere where he says, "If ye have thought it ye have done it." Which is totally Taoist in that the chi moves the mind!

    Argh, I digress from my orginal point. We are all more connected to each other than some of us would like to think...
  20. Mex Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 2000
    Wylding,
    the notion of interconnection and wholeness is actually the basis of all higher taoist qigong and energy exercises. Getting clear of the "illusion of separation" is actually the final goal of all eastern practices. And practices like repelling negative energies and sending Qi are taught in medical qigong. In Chinese hospitals Qi-healers working with external Qi have been employed for a long time. At higher levels, more subtle exercises of interconnection are also taught (Note on the literature: if this aspects of Qigong are what you are interested in, go for Chia and "Qigong Empowerment", you will have a hard time finding these exercises taught in a useful form anywhere else).

    And Ecthelion, maybe I was choosing the wrong words when I talked about Taoism having "evolved" since LaoTzu. Adding a lot of fads to a philosophy to make it more accessible to the masses was not what I had in mind, I totally agree with you, this is a very undesirable development and has indeed happend to Taoism when so-called "religious Taoism" with its pantheon of gods and godesses came into being.
    What I really meant was that many roots of Taoism have existed long before LaoTzu, especially those concerning energy work and medizine (e.g. the Yellow Emperor's book as far as I know is much older than TaoTeKing, I'll have to look the dates up). What I credit the more recent writers with is the fact that they try to bring these branches together and establish a connection to the TaoTeKing. That these branches remained separate for a very long time is due to the fact the Taoist practices of achieving spiritual development and enlightenment were really top secret and taught only to a few hand-picked students. Only when during Cultural Revolution many of the Taoist masters were executed and a great deal of the ancient texts got burned, some of the remaining masters decided to hand over what was left to people like Yang and Chia, who lived outside China and were both young and knowledgeable enough to write it down and perserve it for future generations. During these developments sort of a synthesis of formerly separate Taoist practices is emerging. As much as I love the TaoTeKing, it doesn't show you the path to spiritual development (I know, it doesn't intend to do so) but it's the energy practices that do.

  21. Jedi Merkurian Episode VII Thread-Reaper

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    "That these branches remained separate for a very long time is due to the fact the Taoist practices of achieving spiritual development and enlightenment were really top secret and taught only to a few hand-picked students. Only when during Cultural Revolution many of the Taoist masters were executed and a great deal of the ancient texts got burned, some of the remaining masters decided to hand over what was left to people like Yang and Chia, who lived outside China and were both young and knowledgeable enough to write it down and perserve it for future generations."

    Hmm....kinda like the Jedi, the Empire, Obi-Wan, & Yoda.

    But I digress. This topic is great!
  22. Darth_Raze Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 10, 2000
    star 1
    I do want to say one thing about the issue of modernization of philosophies...
    I post about the deep stuff like archetypes, and Zen (and I posted as Jedi Raziel already on this very subject) and I want to submit the idea, for your examinations, and not because it can be backed up or shattered by any particular "dogma" like Star Wars canon (after all, we are, I assume, more men than fact checking machines) and it is this:
    Every philosophy, story character, religion, what have you, comes out of eternal human feelings, and it is the very modernization of such feelings as the indifferent, stable peace of the Tao;the egotistical wrath of the Emperor; the humble good-intentioned-ness of Luke; which makes Star Wars something we can write about all the time, and not some flash-in-the-pan fluke.
    I know, there's a difference between potraying eternal human truths in a very far out futuristic light (yeah, it's set in the past- so?) and shamelessly using the Tao or the Buddha to back up some weird and soul-less New Age cult...
    Blake, who I quote a lot, did make the point that every poet, or artist, is born with his own idea of the Word of God, and his own ability to render it uniquely, and that every artist has the duty to revise and reinvent it as the technology or progress of his time makes possible...
    We are witnessing art in its eternal rebirth, friends, and those of who can should keep the fire alive to the best of our abilities.
  23. Kessel Runner Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 1999
    star 6
    I'm going to go back and read through this again, it's an absolutely spectacular thread, but I wanted to add my own comments before I lose them....


    This discussion of the Tao and how it reflects/relates to the Jedi teachings reminded me a Taoist concept I read recently. I believe it is the concept of the Wu Wei (but I could be misplacing my terminology, I'm very "new" to this).

    The idea that the most natural way to resolve a conflict is by yielding, not by resisting. This seems to fit perfectly with the Jedi concept of "Use the Force always for defense, never attack". The antithesis to this Taoist concept would be the approach of the Dark Side---In particular Lord Maul. Direct attack, escalation of conflict to resolve a fight. The Tao teaches that the greatest results are achieved by yielding to the situation. With no resistence, the attacker loses his advantage (he is has nothing to confront).
  24. Mex Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 2000
    Kessel Runner,

    you are perfectly correct with regard to the "Wu Wei" concept. Wu wei is often translated "doing by not-doing", it really means not acting against the Tao. This doesn't necessary mean doing nothing, but it means acting in accordance of the Tao, which may include fighting for defense, and even, if necessary, attacking to counter Forces of Evil. But it definately excludes attacking for selfish reasons, like power, wealth, superiority, i.e. the motivations of the Dark Siders, as this would cause harm for society and would ultimately strike back to the originator, as the emperor has experienced in ROTJ.
  25. Kessel Runner Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 1999
    star 6
    Quote:
    From what I understand also, it takes years of discipline to focus the mind enough to "pierce the veil" and recognize the illusion for what it is.
    It's not enough to understand this on a cognitive level; I can understand that right now. What makes Obi-Wan & Yoda different is that they've
    achieved focus enough to understand the illusion on an experiential level, allowing them to transcend the ultimate illusion. Part of the (EU) Jedi
    Code is "There is no death, there is the Force."

    I think this is a perfect example. I've often heard "fanboys" talk about how Obi-Wan is a liar. I feel they are missing the point entirely. He has learned to look at reality from another perspective. The "truth" is not always what it seems. This knowledge can only be gained by piercing the veil, so to speak.



    And, on an aside, am I the only one that finds it incredibly symbolic that qigong and Qui Gon are so close in both pronounciation and appearance?

    PS--Thanks for the clarification Mex. Believe it or not, I'm in the process of reading the Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet, and found this thread an ironic meeting of my thoughts, experiences, and recently read material.
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