Force (Star Wars)

The Force is a mystical and binding, ubiquitous power that is the object of the Jedi and Sith monastic orders in the fictional Star Wars universe.



The Force is described by Obi-Wan Kenobi as "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together." The Force is life, and life is the Force. Some think of the Force as a sentient entity that may be capable of intelligent thought—almost as if it were a sort of God—while others simply consider it a thing that can be manipulated.

The four aspects of the Force are as follows: the Light Side (often referred to as "The Force"), the Dark Side, the Unifying Force, and the Living Force. The first two angles are concerned with the moral compass of the Force in its various manifestations. The Light Side of the Force is the facet of that energy field aligned with good, benevolence, and healing. The Dark Side of the Force is the element aligned with fear, hatred, aggression, and malevolence; this side of the Force seems more powerful, though it is just more tempting to those that can touch upon the power. The latter two are defined by prominent Jedi philosophies. The Unifying Force essentially embraces space and time in its entirety. The Living Force deals with the directly ongoing niches present in the Force.

It can only be harnessed by a minority of beings described as "Force-sensitive." These have been defined as either having a high count of microorganisms called midi-chlorians—the more midi-chlorians, the greater the person's Force ability—or having a strong Force "aura." It is probable that these traits are connected. Force-adepts are able to tap into the Force to perform acts of great skill and agility and control its various embodying powers (see below).


Although fictional, the Force does contain many similarities to existing philosophical and religious principles. The concept is clearly indebted to the Odic force of Baron Carl Reichenbach. Many have related it to the concepts of Qi (also "chi" or "ki") (China and Japan), Prana (India), Mana (Polynesia) and other similar traditions focused around the idea of a spiritual energy that exist within the universe. With Taoism, the primary focus for Star Wars originates in the idea of Yin and Yang—the two diametrically opposed Forces of the universe. Everything from good and evil (as metaphysical concepts) to hot and cold temperatures are considered as being part of this, and it is from here we see the most prominent comparison to the Light and Dark Sides of the Force in Star Wars. But, it must also be noted that it is even more similar to Taoist philosophy with less of a dichotomy and more of a necessary balance (seen in the philosphy of the balancing of the force).

Some have also drawn parallels between the Living Force and the use of Chi in Chinese martial arts. In the more internal arts (such as Tai Chi, Hsing-Yi, Pa-Kua and Qigong), the maintenance and use of Chi is a key part of training. Such Chi is sometimes referred to as Empty Force, meaning that it is not seen, but its effect can be felt with time and training. Some of the abilities seen in the Star Wars movies are reported to have been attained by high-level Gung-fu Masters.

The Sides of the Force

Orthodox Jedi philosophy

The Jedi and others refer to two Sides of the Force, a Dark Side and a Light Side. This echoes the concept of Yin Yang in Eastern philosophy, but is not a straight translation, as the emotional Dark Side is denoted as a Force of evil by the Jedi. The Dark Side is not made up of specific "parts" or "abilities" of the Force: the Dark and Light Sides of the Force exist inside of the life form which uses it, made from their emotions. George Lucas compared the Light and Dark Sides to the processes of symbiosis and cancer. A follower of the Light Side tries to live in harmony with those around him. Mutual trust, respect, and the ability to form alliances give the Jedi their distinct advantage over the Sith. In contrast, a follower of the Dark Side is only out for themselves. To strike down a living creature with the Force out of anger, fear or another emotion is of the Dark Side. To refrain and clear one's self of these emotions is of the Light Side. Use of the Dark Side of the Force is distinctly frowned upon within the Jedi Order, and is strictly considered the domain of the Sith. The Force plays a major part in the Jedi use of a lightsaber in that their heightened awareness keeps them from accidentally injuring themselves while using the weapon in combat, as the blade has no relative weight, making it difficult to judge its position. Similarly, the Force allows a Jedi to use his/her lightsaber to deflect incoming blaster bolts. The Force also comes into play during the construction of a lightsaber, either in assembling its intricate innards, or the initial charging of the power cell.

Jedi are keen to keep the Force in balance. They attempt to achieve this by destroying the Sith and denying the Dark Side, as the Dark Side is corruption. This involves the purging of negative emotions such as aggression, anger, and hatred, since they can easily bring on acceptance of the Dark Side. In contrast, positive emotions such as love, compassion, and courage nurture the Light Side of the Force. The Jedi Code compares such feelings and provides insight into the ethical use of the Force.

It seems most Jedi are proponents for the Unified Force, wherein they focus on the past, present, and future as a whole (however, visions of the future are of particular significance in the conservative Jedi mindset), ignoring primary use of the Living Force. Voices for the latter espouse a philosophy of "live for the moment" and heavily rely on their instincts. This viewpoint might have allowed the Jedi Order to stave off the conflict that gave rise to the Galactic Empire, as its members lost themselves in looking forward rather than analyzing the unfolding events before them.

Missing image
Emperor Palpatine using Force Lightning

Sith philosophy

The Dark Side of the Force is innately tied to the distinctly negative ethical paradigm of the Sith. It is largely based on emotions and passion rather than peace and serenity which are preached by the Light Side of the Force. The Dark Side of the Force comes from the hate, vengeance, and malice in all living things. In the Star Wars movies,the practitioners of the Dark Side are Darth Sidious and his successive apprentices Darth Maul, Darth Tyranus, and Darth Vader.

The Jedi believe that emotions such as fear, uncertainty, doubt, anger, suffering, and attachment are "inevitably" self-destructive, and lead to the Dark Side. The Sith philosophy, on the other hand, is to use such emotions to fuel one's own will to power, ego, and selfishness. The inevitably destructive havoc caused by the actions of a Dark Side practitioner are excused as serving a greater purpose under this philosophy.

The negative emotions increase the strength and abilities of a Dark Side practitioner. As a result, the Dark Side of the Force is extremely addictive: every time one calls on its power, one becomes more and more attached to it. Darth Vader desired to use this to his advantage during his time trying to turn his son, Luke Skywalker, to the Dark Side. If he could convince the young Jedi hopeful to call on the Dark Side enough times, the boy would find it more difficult to resist in the future.

The Sith also believe that instead of living along side the Force, one must master it and use it as a tool.

Overall, Dark Side relationships and organizations are inherently unstable. For instance, the pupil-master relationship of the Jedi is perverted under the Sith, as both the apprentice and the master naturally plot against one other, and one will eventually kill the other. Every time a Dark Side Force has risen in the Star Wars galaxy, it has collapsed from within due to its own unstable nature. The Empire is no exception. This phenomenon is probably the closest one can come to proving that the Dark Side is in fact weaker than the Light Side, as it is likewise one way of arguing that evil is weaker than good in Abrahamic religions; it was no doubt seized upon by proponents of the Potentium theory of the Force (see below).

The Sith Lord Darth Bane considered the Force to be finite, and thus best restricted (ideally) to the use of a single Sith Lord. He eliminated the practice of having vast numbers of Sith at the same time and concentrated the Dark Side of the Force into two individuals: a Sith Master and Apprentice. This tradition, or "rule of two," is still in practice with the current Sith Order, which underwent a small reformation by Dark Lady Lumiya after the deaths of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine at Endor.

Potentium and unitary views of the Force

The Potentium view of the Force, considered heresy by Old Republic Jedi, holds that the Force, and the galaxy in general, were given a master plan which was inherently good, and that there was no evil side to the Force. This view gained greater acceptance under the New Republic, mostly due to the influence of Vergere, a surviving Jedi from the days of Old Republic.

Palpatine (Darth Sidious) tells Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith that one must study the entire Force, including the Dark Side, in order to truly understand it. In the Expanded Universe he later states there is only one Force: the only difference worthy of note is that the Sith see the Force as a means to an end; the Jedi see it as an end in itself.

This is echoed by what Vergere teaches Jacen Solo in the New Jedi Order, (part of the Expanded Universe of Star Wars). She tells him that there is no Light Side nor Dark Side of the Force—only the Unifying Force, and that what manifests itself as the "Dark Side" is a perversion of the Unifying Force.

Kyle Katarn also seems to embrace the Potentium view of the Force when he instructs his padawans Jaden Korr and Rosh Penin in the computer game Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. Here, he tells them that no Force ability is inherently good or evil. It is how it is used that counts.

Belief in the Force waned after the fall of the Old Republic and the destruction of the Jedi, to the point that most of the galaxy's inhabitants viewed Force users as sorcerers and magicians. Many did not even believe that the Force existed.

Two such examples occur in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Smuggler Han Solo scornfully told Obi-Wan Kenobi that he had "flown from one side of this galaxy to the other" and seen nothing to make him believe there was "one all-powerful Force controlling everything," contemptuously adding that no "mystical energy field" controlled his destiny.

The second example of this viewpoint was voiced, quite loudly, by Admiral Motti aboard the Death Star. When Darth Vader explained that the Death Star's ability to destroy a planet was pitiful compared to the Force, Admiral Motti, who did not believe in the Force, proceeded to brazenly mock the Sith Lord's "sad devotion to that ancient religion." Vader was swift to prove to the admiral that the Force did indeed exist, when he used its power to telekinetically strangle the arrogant officer (see below).

Organized Force Traditions

The Jedi and Sith Orders teach the Force as described above, but there are other traditions which teach different philosophies and uses of the Force, or powers similar to the Force.

  • The Aing-Tii Monks
  • The Ancient Order of the Whills
  • The Baadu
  • The Baran Do
  • The Believers of Cularin
  • The Dai Bendu Knights
  • The Disciples of Ragnos
  • The Ee Worms
  • The Ewok shamans
  • The Fallannassi
  • The Gand Findsmen
  • The Gesaril
  • The Golden Sun
  • The Guardians of Breath
  • The Heresiarchs
  • The Jal Shey
  • The Jarvashqiine shamans
  • The Jedi Order
  • The Jensaarai
  • The Kilian Rangers
  • The Krath
  • The Matuki
  • The Order of Shasa
  • The pelekotan Korrunai
  • The Peranus Order
  • The Potentium heretics
  • The Prophets of the Dark Side
  • The Scitrok Warriors
  • The Seyugi Dervishes
  • The Sith Order
  • The Shimuran Monks
  • The Sorcerors of Tund
  • The Ta-Ree
  • The Theran Listeners
  • The Tyia
  • The Witches of Dathomir
  • The Wyrd
  • The Ysanna
  • The Zeison Sha

    • Note: Only the Jedi and Sith Orders are mentioned in the films. The rest appear in the Expanded Universe.

The abilities of a Jedi

See also: Force Powers

Manifestations of Force-skills include telepathy, psychokinesis, enhanced physical and metaphysical perception as well as the abilities to bend the will of the weak-minded and improve one's own physical ability. The Force can also be used to allow an adept's body to be guided by the Force itself: such action enabled Luke Skywalker to launch a proton torpedo into an extremely difficult target on the Death Star in the Battle of Yavin. Through this ability one can cease to react to his or her surroundings and predict the future, such as the next blow in a duel. As a consequence of these skills, the Force has occasionally been associated with the real-life concepts of Taoism and parapsychology.

In addition to the above powers, Jedi are also capable of attacks through the Force by producing "Force Lightning" from their hands. Use of this ability murderously is of the Sith cult. As a contrast, adherence to the Light Side allows its user to transcend death and become a "Force ghost," allowing the deceased to exist as an energy being who can interact with other Force sensitive individuals. According to Kenobi, in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire book, this can only continue for a while before the Jedi must "move on" to a spirit realm. The Jedi were unaware of the possibility of speaking from beyond until a time during the Clone Wars, when Qui-Gon Jinn revealed to Yoda what must be done to accomplish this. Yoda soon passed this teaching on to Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, it is claimed that the Sith Darth Plagueis discovered a method to use the Dark Side to prevent death in the first place.

Some Jedi and Sith have learned the skill of transferring one's spirit to another body. Palpatine used this in order to preserve himself with his failing body, and later, Callista transferred herself to the body of a dying friend so that she could stay alive. Unfortunately, in the process of doing this, she lost her ability to touch the Force.

Disturbances in the Force

When Alderaan was destroyed in A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi sensed "a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.…". On learning of Anakin Skywalker's son being alive and leading a group of Rebels in The Empire Strikes Back, the Emperor says to Vader while communicating with him using a hologram that "There is a great disturbance in the Force." In Attack of the Clones, Yoda felt a disurbance in the Force, when Anakin, enraged by the death of his mother, destroys an entire village of Sand People. Likewise, Yoda sensed a disturbance in the Force almost every time a Jedi was killed as a result of Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith. The Force exists in all life, and when great amounts of life pass away, a disturbance is created, running through the Force like a scream which only a Force adept can hear.

Sometimes, other things are defined as disturbances. Life creates small disturbances, and Force adepts and people with a high midichlorian-count even more so. Qui-Gon Jinn felt a disturbance - or a convergence - in the Force when approaching Tatooine in The Phantom Menace, where Anakin Skywalker was. Dark Side-users create strong, evil-feeling disturbances. In Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy, Luke Skywalker sensed the existence of the maddened Force adept clone Joruus C'baoth as a ripple in the Force. Likewise, Luke and Kyle Katarn both sensed disturbances in the Force created by the Sith cult of Marka Ragnos in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.

The phrase "I have a bad feeling about this" is repeated a great deal, even by non-Force-adept characters, which may point to a universal connection with the Force. However, this is usually a tension-relief or comic-relief moment; few times is this said before some dramatically bad event.

May the Force be with you …

The Force is associated with a phrase used by some characters in (and fans of) the films: "May the Force be with you." For more information, see Notable lines in the Star Wars series.

The Living Force

The Living Force is in most living beings. Jedi can sense Living Force in life-forms. Sick or dying organisms have little Living Force, while healthy ones usually have the quantity of their midi-chlorian count. The connection to the Living Force apparently also allow Jedi Masters to retain their identity when they become one with the Force. The only known beings without the Living Force are the Yuuzhan Vong. They exist without the Force and it cannot be used on them (still it can be manipulated around them). The Yuuzhan Vong once existed with the Force but were stripped of it by their home planet, which was a living planet much like Zonama Sekot. It stripped the Yuuzhan Vong of the Force after they waged war on others. The planet later disappeared mysteriously.

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