Theosophy in Star Wars: The Force, Its Sides and the “Two Paths”
two central concepts HELD between Theosophy and Star Wars
There is no coincidence to the fact, there are similarities between Star Wars and Theosophy. The former is a fictional universe, but the latter is an actual high philosophical collection of teachings and ethical codes. In no other school of thought is the semblance in ideas as exact as it is in language, than between the force philosophy in Star Wars and its theory in Occult Philosophy. This is to say, even more than one would find in a current book on either Buddhism, or Daoism. There are two central concepts shared between Theosophy and Star Wars. These are (1) the Force, and (2) the two Paths. Then, there is the concept of good and bad Masters, light and black Magic, a subject too muddied in contemporary esoteric discourse. This is a reaction to stronger lines drawn between light magic and dark magic in the nineteenth-century spiritual milieu.
Despite all that we elucidate upon, people of religious influence are most convinced of the existences of true manifested and corporeal evil of supernatural origin. One is made to believe that the origin of such manifested evil is found in anything related to “the occult.” Many of the popular themes we’ve grown up with from Star Wars, superhero comics, Harry Potter, and so forth have all shown a common struggle between two forces. In this case, it is “two schools of magic” and types of mages of different intent in their practice. This theme shows up in Theosophy and many other traditions, not just in Tibetan Buddhism, where the belief in black magic, good spirits and bad spirits are part of its foundations, to be explained later.
“All that is good, noble, and grand in human nature, every divine faculty and aspiration, were cultured by the Priest-Philosophers who sought to develop them in their Initiates. Their code of ethics, based on altruism, has become universal.” (H.P. Blavatsky, The Origin of the Mysteries, Collected Writings 14, pg. 256)
“Be mindful of the living Force, young Padawan.” QUI-GON JIN, THE PHANTOM MENACE: EPISODE I
“The Force” is a metaphysical binding principle that connects all living things in the fictional universe of the Star Wars galaxy. It was created by George Lucas, and inspired by both a 1963 abstract film 21-87 (Silberman, Steve (May 2005). “Life After Darth”); and the universal concept of the life force held long among ancient traditions. It is the object of study among the Dark and Light side orders. The Force has different aspects, such as the Cosmic Force, that binds the galaxy and living things together, and communicates through the midi-chlorians. The cosmic force is a ubiquitous presence, and energy field, that can be sensed, and living things effect “turbulence” in the field. It is connected with the awakening of latent force abilities in the force-sensitive. The living force, another aspect of the Force however, is described as force fed from the energy of living things, which makes possible, e.g., the phenomenon of Force spirits. A knowledge of this dynamic side of the Force, among both the Jedi, Sith, and other users, give them different abilities, “some consider to be unnatural.”
The simplicity of the teaching through Star Wars come from more than 2,000 years of traditions and beliefs.
“ALL IS LIFE, and every atom of even mineral dust is a LIFE, though beyond our comprehension and perception, because it is outside the range of the laws known to those who reject Occultism. “The very atoms,” says Tyndall, “seem instinct with a desire for life.” Whence, then, we would ask, comes the tendency “to run into organic form”? Is it in any way explicable except according to the teachings of Occult Science?” –THE SECRET DOCTRINE, VOL. 1, PP. 248-249.
“Fohat” is a misleading spelling, that has been identified with ’pho-ba (verb form) or spros-pa (noun form) in Tibetan transliteration. Blavatsky first uses this term in 1885, spelling it pho-hat, in a conversation on the concept of 魂 (hun) and 魄 (pò), which she spelt “hwun [hun]” and “pho” (Chinese philosophy). It represents the symbol of the “root of matter” and manifestation, or of Motion (Spirit). It asserts that this unified force animates and electrifies the atoms into life, and permeates every nerve of Nature.
Like the Force in Star Wars, it has many aspects, and thus has force-correlations with every force in the cosmos, being but its own aspects, because it is the aggregate of all these.
“In reality there is only one force, which on the manifested plane appears to us in millions and millions of forms. As said, all proceeds from the one universal primordial fire, and electricity is on our plane one of the most comprehensive aspects of this fire. All contains, and is, electricity, from the nettle which stings to the lightning which kills, from the spark in the pebble to the blood in the body. But the electricity which is seen, for instance, in an electric lamp is quite another thing from Fohat.” (Helena Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 10, 1889, pg. 379.)
This FORCE, or Cosmic Energy is the synthesis of all the primary Energies, with the centripetal and centrifugal forces of nature representing two aspects of one Primordial Force. It is described as being the synthesis and guide of those primary differentiations of MATTER.
Moreover, this illimitable Force is brought up in The Mahatma Papers, which were private correspondences advised never to be published between two Theosophists and mainly two teachers. These were men of flesh (not disembodied spirits) under the pseudonyms K.H. and Morya. They detail the theoretical and philosophical side of their school’s teachings. The original manuscripts are kept in the British Museum.
In Letter no. 22, 1881, K.H. argues for the philosophical necessity of the powers of voluntary and conscious attributes to the mind, further asserting that its underlying involuntary and unconscious (or mechanical) power has its basis in MOTION. Motion, it posits, governs the laws of Nature, and like MATTER, or its root, is eternal and uncreated, but nothing governs that MOTION or MATTER. This is a clear theoretical position, that connects Theosophy and Star Wars, but carries it on much further, arguing that what they’re discussing is not the God-theory:
“…did you ever suspect that Universal, like finite, human mind might have two attributes, or a dual power — one the voluntary and conscious, and the other the involuntary and unconscious or the mechanical power. To reconcile the difficulty of many theistic and anti-theistic propositions, both these powers are a philosophical necessity. (…) There are some modern philosophers who would prove the existence of a Creator from motion. We say and affirm that that motion — the universal perpetual motion which never ceases never slackens nor increases its speed (…) but goes on like a mill set in motion, whether it has anything to grind or not (for the pralaya means the temporary loss of every form, but by no means the destruction of cosmic matter which is eternal) — we say this perpetual motion is the only eternal and uncreated Deity we are able to recognise. (…) Meanwhile we may say that it is motion that governs the laws of nature; and that it governs them as the mechanical impulse given to running water which will propel them either in a direct line or along hundreds of side furrows they may happen to meet on their way and whether those furrows are natural grooves or channels prepared artificially by the hand of man. And we maintain that wherever there is life and being, and in however much spiritualized a form, there is no room for moral government, much less for a moral Governor — a Being which at the same time has no form nor occupies space!”
“(…) Study the laws and doctrines of the Nepaulese Swabhavikas, the principal Buddhist philosophical school in India, and you will find them the most learned as the most scientifically logical wranglers in the world. Their plastic, invisible, eternal, omnipresent and unconscious Swabhavat is Force or Motion ever generating its electricity which is life.”
“Yes: there is a force as limitless as thought, as potent as boundless will, as subtile as the essence of life so inconceivably awful in its rending force as to convulse the universe to its centre would it but be used as a lever, but this Force is not God, since there are men who have learned the secret of subjecting it to their will when necessary.” (K.H., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter No. 22, Received Autumn, 1881.)
H.P.B. early on in Isis Unveiled employed the use of the term God, but in the Platonic and Hermetic sense, stating once, that “the existence of God and immortality of man’s spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid.” During the time of the nineteenth-century, force and matter were considered two different principles, but K.H., the master of H.P. Blavatsky, had written in a correspondence, that this notion was absurd, and that force acts through matter. In this philosophy, everything is considered an expression of some kind of intelligence; and even electricity is a manifestation of the elementals (another concept similar to the Whills in Star Wars).
Force, K.H. writes, is “but matter in one of her highest states.” H.P.B. explains again on this, that the ‘monism of Theosophy is truly philosophical. We conceive of the universe as one in essence and origin. And though we speak of spirit and matter as its two poles, yet we state emphatically that they can only be considered as distinct from the standpoint of human, mayavic (i.e., illusionary) consciousness. We therefore conceive of spirit and matter as one in essence and not as separate and distinct antitheses.’ (Collected Writings, Vol. XI, p. 336).
Likewise, K.H. states, that matter and spirit are not entirely distinct, but one, and yet distinct in their manifestations.
“The conception of matter and spirit as entirely distinct, and both eternal could certainly never have entered my head, however little I may know of them, for it is one of the elementary and fundamental doctrines of Occultism that the two are one, and are distinct but in their respective manifestations, and only in the limited perceptions of the world of senses.” (The Mahatma Lettters, Chronological, Letter No. 22, 1881)
At the same time, the divisibility of the atoms was not established in science at the time. This notion was accepted until the discovery of the electron, the first subatomic particle in 1897. However, H.P.B. had asserted in her writings and major work published in 1888, that:
“It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of Occultism is built. It opens limitless horizons to substance informed by the divine breath of its soul in every possible state of tenuity, states still undreamt of by the most spiritually disposed chemists and physicists.” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 520.)
In one of K.H.’s letters to ornithologist, A.O. Hume, he wrote that “the world of force, is the world of Occultism and the only one whither the highest initiate goes to probe the secrets of being. . . . He sees how to guide force in this direction or that — to produce desirable effects. The secret chemical, electric or odic properties of plants, herbs, roots, minerals, animal tissue, are as familiar to him as the feathers of your birds are to you.”
All of this, and much more yet to be written on, long before the creation of the fictional Star Wars, through which such ideas, more than its Buddhist, Western Cowboy, and Japanese influences, are directly elucidated word-by-word, treated as facts of nature (albeit occult), and not as mere fiction.
The Two Paths
“It is one of the fundamental teachings of occultism that nothing can be truly known which is not experienced, lived through. . . . different stages or degrees of initiation are really a kind of forcing-process, for certain chosen spirits, certain chosen souls, who have proved themselves worthy: . . . These different stages or degrees of initiation are marked by preparatory purifications, first. Then came the “death,” a mystic death. The body and lower principles, so to say, are paralyzed, and the soul is temporarily freed. And, to a certain extent, the freed inner man is guided and directed and helped by the initiators while it passes into other spheres and to other planes and learns the nature of these by becoming them, which is the only way by which knowledge thereof roots itself into the soul, into the ego: by becoming the thing.”
G. DE. PURUCKER, FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, PP. 258-9
“Thus is dramatized in esoteric imagery the spiritual travail of those “giving birth to themselves“ (Secret Doctrine 2:559) — as an ancient manuscript describes the birth of the adept within the neophyte, the supreme initiation.”
GRACE F. KNOCHE
The dark and the light-side are two aspects of the Force — a metaphysical power that binds the Galaxy together. In Star Wars Legends (non-canon), at the dawn of the Galactic Empire a discussion and investigation between scientists, priests, warriors, and philosophers of an ambiguous energy in the universe, led to the discovery of what would come to be known as Ashla (the Force, or light side of the force). Later, the dark side of the force was discovered. Both aspects have a particular nature. The light side is described as a flowing river with hidden strength, aligned with love, benevolence, happiness, joy, or calmness. The dark side is often aligned with darker emotions, but appears to be a pathway, that claims to embrace everything the Force offers, and darksiders gain this by not repressing emotions. Lightsiders however, are taught to be aware of the dark side of the force, claiming that the darksiders have much to learn about the Force.
Mainly, the two paths have different ultimate objectives; and refer to the difference between two kinds of adepts on the path of compassion versus the path of selfishness (or selfish attainment of Buddha-hood), which is a recognizable set of concepts in Buddhism. Helena P. Blavatsky, a Buddhist and Theosophist differentiated this, between: (a) the Bodhisattva; and (b) the Pratyeka Buddhas. The two paths, does not also only come from the Buddhist tradition, in Modern Theosophy, but it is also a Stoic and Pythagorean conception:
“The Pythagoric Letter two ways spread,
Shows the two paths in which Man’s life is led.
The right hand track to sacred Virtue tends,
Though steep and rough at first, in rest it ends;
The other broad and smooth, but from its Crown
On rocks the Traveller is tumbled down.
He who to Virtue by harsh toils aspires,
Subduing pains, worth and renown acquires;
But who seeks slothful luxury, and flies,
The labor of great acts, dishonored dies.”
(The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, compiled and translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, 1987, pg. 158)
In the Hesiod (Chapter I, Book II), Xenophon details in the youth of Herakles, how he had to make a choice between two paths.
In The Secret Doctrine, Helena P. Blavatsky curiously asserts:
“The Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, is but a series of historical records of the great struggle between white and black Magic, between the Adepts of the right path, the Prophets, and those of the Left, the Levites, the clergy of the brutal masses (…) That there were two schools of Magic, and the orthodox Levites did not belong to the holy one, is shown in the words pronounced by the dying Jacob.” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, 1888, pg. 211)
“The two poles are called the right and left ends of our globe — the right being the North Pole — or the head and feet of the earth. Every beneficent (astral and cosmic) action comes from the North; every lethal influence from the South Pole. They are much connected with and influence “right” and “left” hand magic.” (ibid., pg. 400)
Lets take a passage from The Key to Theosophy (published in 1889), in which the enquirer is asking the Theosophist (H.P. Blavatsky) questions about Theosophy.
H.P.B. is asked if her superiors (masters) are Devils or ‘Spirits of Light?’
She replies, no; and that they are mortal men.
Then H.P.B. explains the line drawn with counterpart initiate-adepts —
“Even the students of occultism, though some of them have more archaic MSS. and direct teaching to rely upon, find it difficult to draw a line of demarcation between the Sodales of the Right path and those of the Left.” (Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, pg. 211.)
K.H. and M. explains in their letters with A.P. Sinnett and A.O. Hume, that their adversaries are various:
- disembodied, and
This passage will make the point the point of similarity clearer:
“On earth there is no evil power higher than the Dugpas. They cannot when seen psychically conceal the presence of red about them. It is always visible in their aura. The color is deep crimson red. The sign of the presence of a Dugpa is a cold, clammy, empty, snaky feeling. Do not mistake the above for another feeling, viz., when chelas materialize they create a vacuum around them, which feels to us like a change of atmosphere, like being suddenly removed to a high plateau in Thibet. (The one a dry cold like high atmosphere, the other clammy).” K.H., Commentaries on H.P.B.’s Esoteric Instructions I and II by K.H., pg. 10, last line, Par. 2, MATERIAL DATES BACK TO 1880s
T. Subba Row, a Tamil Theosophist and scholar, had differentiated the two paths, as a safe path of steady development, from the occult path of dealing with the inner forces. It is a difficult and dangerous path. It is the “narrow path,” the Secret path of the “Heart Doctrine.” The doctrine of the heart, the Secret Path they teach, leads to Parinirvana. The Buddha of Compassion, like the Vedantist, feels no man is liberated until all beings are liberated, similarly to the Gnostic concept of Jesus.
The OPEN PATH, as it is called, leads to the goal of LIBERATION, and second — the Secret path (of RENUNCIATION) to Self-Immolation (though it is the “Path of Woe”). This might lead students to self-destruction, and “sorcery” if they fail, T. Subba Row warns. Many proclaim they are prepared, but have failed, and fallen into the traps. The adepts hope this path in Nature will make of its candidates: adepts or great philanthropists, and therefore beneficial to the epoch. Hence, theosophists state, that the ethics of theosophy is much more vital, than the divulgence of psychic laws.
“If modern masters are so much in advance of the old ones, why do they not restore to us the lost arts of our postdiluvian forefathers? Why do they not give us the unfading colors of Luxor — the Tyrian purple; the bright vermilion and dazzling blue which decorate the walls of this place, and are as bright as on the first day of their application? The indestructible cement of the pyramids and of ancient aqueducts; the Damascus blade, which can be turned like a corkscrew in its scabbard without breaking; the gorgeous, unparalleled tints of the stained glass that is found amid the dust of old ruins and beams in the windows of ancient cathedrals; and the secret of the true malleable glass? And if chemistry is so little able to rival even with the early mediaeval ages in some arts, why boast of achievements which, according to strong probability, were perfectly known thousands of years ago? The more archaeology and philology advance, the more humiliating to our pride are the discoveries which are daily made, the more glorious testimony do they bear in behalf of those who, perhaps on account of the distance of their remote antiquity, have been until now considered ignorant flounderers in the deepest mire of superstition.”
ISIS UNVEILED VOL 1, PG 239
GEORGE LUCAS SPEAKS ABOUT THE MESSAGE OF STAR WARS
George Lucas was interviewed by James Cameron in a special on the connection between Star Wars and his feelings during and about the Vietnam War period, and the anti-Authoritarian message of his vision.
George Lucas specifically created and used these concepts in Star Wars, not as mere fiction, but to awaken spirituality in young people. Star Wars blends eastern metaphysics, the bushidō, and martial arts, and pays homage to films and directors that came before it.
As even Darth Vader in his iconic scene from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope stated, his script explains our attitude towards scientific-technological advancements. One might say, that with all the great issues in the world, the science and technology, the least of our occupations should be concerns with the fantasies of magic!
To them we say as Vader said to Admiral Motti:
Admiral Motti: “Any attack made by the Rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they have obtained. This station is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it.”
Darth Vader: “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
Admiral Motti: “Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels’ hidden fortress…”
(Vader makes a choking motion with his hand)
Darth Vader: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”