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This essay is from Austin Johnson
Published on November 21, 2002

Frodo and the Force:
A Comparison of Modern Epic Stories

Taoism and the Nature of the Force

The biggest mystery of Star Wars, however, is the nature of the Force itself. While Darth Vader is evil and Yoda is good, both of them are able to call upon the Force. The Force closely resembles magic in traditional literature. It enables its users to perform impossible deeds. It can only be harnessed by a few people. The difference arises, as has been pointed out, in that the Force is not an evil power. It is simply a power, like electricity. The Force more closely resembles a much older concept from Eastern Philosophy, the Tao. Consider this passage by Lao-Tzu:

"The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering."

According to this passage, the Tao is a force in the world that influences the world without interfering with it. It creates things, but does not control them. It is similar to the New Age creation of Life Force. This contrasts heavily with the Judeo-Christian viewpoint. According to a Christian, all of the world's history has been one long interference of God with man, from Eden to Judgment Day.

Compare the above passage with one point in The Empire Strikes Back. "For my ally is the Force," Yoda begins, "And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you." The structures of these passages are incredibly similar. We are the Force. We create it as much as it creates us. In A New Hope, Luke asks Obi-Wan if the Force controls his actions and Obi-Wan responds cryptically, "partially, but it also obeys your commands." In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn tells the young Anakin Skywalker "Feel. Don't think." The Force guides its adepts, including the forces of evil. Darth Maul is told by his master to "be mindful," presumably of the Force. An encounter with the Force is described as being "felt." You do not commune with the Force. It is only possible to commune with a personal being, like the Judeo-Christian God. The Force is not personal. It is much like an emotion. Indeed, it seems to be governed by emotions, "Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side are they!" warns Yoda.


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