This essay is from paraquem
Published on October 7, 2001
George Lucas & Carlos Castaneda in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Disappearing Jedi (and the relevance of lineage)
The following is possible explanation for Jedi disappearance upon death as gleaned from Castaneda?s books. The explanation is, not itself exhaustive or all encompassing of what I believe Lucas ideas? for Jedi disappearance are - rather, simply one avenue of exploration.
Lucas has already specified that a Jedi?s ability to disappear upon death (and to then retain their identity) is a "learned discipline", and presumably therefore, not governed by how deserving the individual is of an afterlife. While it would appear that one?s connection/strength with the Force is a factor, what seems most likely is that Lucas is confirming a break in the lineage of the Jedi - the old order being unaware of this technique - the new order, most likely beginning with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, developing a new awareness and from that, the ability to avoid death.
If this is correct, Qui-Gon?s non-disappearance (one of the hot topics of discussion following the release of "The Phantom Menace") demonstrates nothing other than his place in the lineage - squarely in the dying days of the old order. His rebellious nature and focus on the living force (over the unifying force) would therefore not appear to be a decisive factor in his non-disappearance upon death.
So what does Lucas himself have to say on this aspect of the Star Wars mythology? -
" One of the things that we will never get explained in the films is how Ben was able to retain his identity, because it happened somewhere in between the third and fourth movies. I set it up as a discipline he learned from Yoda. Yoda told him how to do that. We don?t ever get to see how he does it, but the idea of retaining your identity after you?ve passed on is something that Ben learned as a Jedi". (Annotated Screenplays, page 269).
While the first part of this quote would at one time seemed to have negated any need for examination of this subject, it would now appear to be once again up for debate, as Lucas has promised an answer over the course of the next two movies. So, with the cards back on the table, where could Castaneda?s books be seen to have had an influence?
I would suggest that Castaneda?s "The Fire From Within" gives the most insight into the disappearance technique. Don Juan explains that the old lineage of seers succumbed to death as ordinary mortals. Here, my mind is drawn back to the Skywalker?s abode in "The Phantom Menace", where Anakin confidently says, "no one can kill a Jedi Knight". Qui-Gon, as you?ll remember, responds, "I wish that were so". We can surmise then, that death to a Jedi at this point in the Star Wars timeline does, evidently, mean actual death. Somewhere along the line this changes, both in Castaneda and Star Wars. The following may shed some light on the subject (and perhaps even provide a partial reason for the inclusion of midichlorians in the SW saga).
In "The Fire From Within", we can find something of a correlative to the omnipotent "Force" of Star Wars in the shape of the "Eagle". The Eagle is the way in which Don Juan chooses to explain to Castaneda that which is beyond description. It is in no way suggested in a literal sense - it actually reads as Don Juan?s method of giving Castaneda a frame of reference (something which is a constant aspect in Castaneda?s books, as he always seeks to understand Don Juan?s "lessons" based on his own cultural background).
We are told that, from this Eagle come the powerful Eagle?s emanations (a Star Wars translation of which would have to be the midichlorians), which in basic terms allow us life and sentience. From "The Phantom Menace" we have Qui-Gon?s dialogue - "Without the midichlorians, life could not exist and we would have no knowledge of the Force"). A comparison between the Eagle?s emanations and the midichlorians seems worth considering, given that both act as conduits between an omnipotent force and sentient life.
It is further described that, through the course of life, sentient beings become enriched by their life-experiences, until death arrives, at which point there is a return to the Eagle who feeds on the enriched awareness. Don Juan himself clarifies it terms it in the following way - "there is a force that attracts our consciousness, much as a magnet attracts iron shavings". This would appear to be a fair approximation of a symbiotic relationship, would it not? The Eagle has no continuation without sentient life; sentient life does not come into play without the Eagle.
So, moving onward, as Don Juan recites his history lesson to Castaneda, we are told that the new lineage of seers, namely Don Juan, his contemporaries and apprentices etc, practice a newly discovered technique of repelling the emanations at the point of death. It is this repulsion of the Eagle?s bombardments, which allow the seer to cheat death, and retain corporeal identity. The best visualization I can come up with is that of having a car coming at you at full speed, but being able to step out of the way of it?s deadly approach.
Castaneda makes further allusion to this technique in "The Power Of Silence" (page 14) -
"The aim of sorcerers is to reach a state of total awareness in order to experience all the possibilities of perception available to man. This state of awareness even implies an alternative way of dying".
If any of this was to pan out in the way I am suggesting, it would suggest that, rather than becoming one with the force, Yoda, Obi-Wan & Anakin are actually thwarting it. How would this play cinematically, and how much exposition (in the way of dialogue) would be required to put it across - well, your guess is as good as mine. However, it?s fairly clear that Lucas likes to be quite spare by way of description of the philosophies in Star Wars, so I wouldn?t expect expansive dialogue and explanation.