Saturday, August 7, 2010

Is Anakin Skywalker really the chosen one?

To any serious fan of Star Wars a serious question arises now that the entire saga seems to be complete. It has been 5 years since Episode III brought the series full circle and I think at this point it is finally safe to say that Lucas will not make more. Of course this is Flannel Man we’re talking about. Anything (within the limits of CGI) is theoretically possible with this filmmaker. But let’s assume that the series really is finished. The important question is whether or not Anakin really is the chosen one? We’re never given a direct answer during the series.

Lucas has publicly given an answer to this question but as with similar situations (Ridley Scott and Blade Runner) it’s almost as if the filmmaker hasn’t really understood his own work. The answer Lucas has given is that yes Anakin is the chosen one. Which I think is true but his reasoning is problematic. He thinks that because Anakin ends up killing the Emperor in Episode VI that he has brought balance to the force. But this doesn’t really make sense because of the nature of the prophecy and the metaphysics of the Star Wars universe.

The prophecy is that one day a Jedi will be born who brings balance to the force. Lucas believes that balance in the Star Wars Universe is ultimately the defeat of evil. But given that Star Wars is a dualistic and pantheistic universe balance has nothing to do with evil being defeated. In fact there is no preferential state of the force except for a harmonious one. For a westerner harmony looks like a peaceful state whereupon evil has no influence on the state of affairs. But for an Eastern religious outlook peace is simply balance, balance between good and bad. Not good and evil, not right and wrong. It’s more like rough and smooth. Or male and female. Bad isn’t evil, bad is simply that which is different from good. It’s like the difference between passion and calm. So given this metaphysic bringing balance to the force actually means making neither good nor evil the dominant force in the galaxy. It also doesn’t mean that good and evil are exactly equal juts that one doesn’t have a disproportionate amount of power over the other.

So during the Star Wars history what we find is that there used to be many Sith and many Jedi. Exactly how many of each we can’t tell from the movies. But it’s safe to say that the forces of light and darkness were pretty much equal. But at some point the Sith realized that they couldn’t sustain their order with so many dark agents. The dark side tends to create ambition in its adherents and a lack of compassion for others. This means that the Sith were always trying to kill each other in order to become more powerful. So after a major massacre the Sith decided, in order to preserve their order, that there should only be two: a master and an apprentice. That way the dark side’s tendency towards ambition could be healthily sought after, after all an apprentice should naturally take over his Master’s responsibilities. But the implications of this practice were far-reaching. It meant that the dark side of the force only had two agents utilizing its energies. This means that the dark side had fewer outlets for its power but in those outlets the dark force could be manifested more powerfully because there was more force to go around.

Of course the Jedi never instituted such a practice and their numbers probably grew from whatever they were during the golden age of equality between Sith and Jedi. After all they weren’t fighting the Sith, their only equals in combat, so less Jedi probably died on a regular basis. What this means is that the light side of the force was stretched thin across a large group of individuals. This led to a lack of control over the force because it was less concentrated in particular Jedi and spread across the entire group. We see clear evidence of this during conversations between Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Mace Windu. Particularly the scene in Episode II where they discuss how the young Jedi tend to struggle with pride and that their control over the force in general was weakening. Jedi should not struggle with pride because the light side tends to take away ambition and create contentment within its adherents. In other words the more powerful the Jedi the less prideful. But this new generation, particularly Anakin, was struggling constantly with this very thing. The only explanation for this increase in pride and ambition is that the weight of the force had lessened. The light side being spread “like butter over too much bread” was losing its effectiveness within the Jedi themselves and in turn their control over the force was slowly dissipating.

So out of this unfortunate situation comes young Anakin Skywalker. He was actually created by the will of the force. His mother conceived him without a father. His father was the force, and he was fathered in order to help the force. What other reason could the force have had to create the one but to bring itself back into balance? This is exactly what happens in every “incarnation” of Vishnu within Hindu theology. Vishnu becomes an avatar or human in order to bring balance between the forces of good and evil. But the process is cyclical. It happens over and over again. The point being ultimately that there is no good and evil, simply the one. Evil is an illusion and so is good. Balance is what is really important.

We see the same thing in the Taoist symbol of the ying and the yang. Balance between the two is the key to harmony. So then how does Anakin bring balance to the force? Well Lucas is right that when Anakin kills the emperor he has balanced the force. The force had become very unbalanced because Obi Wan and Yoda were in exile and essentially didn’t count as Jedi except in name. Whereas the emperor and Vader were still active participants in the Dark side. But by the end of Episode VI there is only 1 practicing Jedi left and he isn’t very powerful. So assuredly Luke and Leia will build up the light side again but by the time Vader dies he has in fact brought the force essentially back down to ground zero. But Vader’s work as the one started several decades before when he converted to the dark side. If what Lucas says is true and simply killing the emperor is how Anakin brings balance to the force he could have done that at any time. But this is not true. In fact if he had killed the emperor when he had the perfect opportunity to the force would’ve actually become more imbalanced because there would have been no more Sith and only the currently unhealthy Jedi. So in fact the main way in which he brings balance to the force is by betraying the Jedi and joining the emperor. Together the emperor and Anakin destroy the over saturated light side except for a few remnants. This allows the light side to regrow in a more healthy way over the next several decades which will eventually fight back against the Sith, turning Vader at the last moment and finally truly purify the force of its disproportion. And thus harmony will reign in the galaxy until that harmony is disturbed and the whole cycle will start over again.

In other words Vader’s “sins” in the prequel trilogy aren’t sins at all but desirable actions for the sake of the force. They are in fact Vader’s most significant contribution to balancing the force. And it is also interesting to note that the Emperor helps greatly with this, as he had set up the whole situation for decades.

But in this light Star Wars doesn’t seem like a very desirable story for a Christian to enjoy. The fact of the matter is that Lucas’ Characters don’t really act or believe in the Metaphysics of their universe. Yoda tells Anakin not to hold on to those who are lost in the Force. When we die nothing bad happens because we’re simply becoming one with the universe. Well then why not commit suicide? The story is riddled with the belief that the dark side isn’t just different but actually evil and should be destroyed. But for a dualist or a pantheist this is not true. There is no preferable state. Evil or good are both equally acceptable. So Lucas’ western tendencies shine through his essentially Hindu story and that’s why we gravitate towards it. Emotionally the characters aren’t Hindus, only theologically.

4 comments:

  1. Cameron cheated in Avatar too. Christian ideas are too powerful (and too true) for either Eastern mysticism or old paganism to be fully satisfying to a post-Christian audience.

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  2. I agree with everything you said except for Christian ideas in Avatar. Granted its been a while since I watched it but I wasn't struck by anything particularly Christian about the themes. To me it just seemed like a lot of manufactured liberal white guilt about imperialism. Or just Dances with Wolves with the Stars. I'm curious about your observations.

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  3. I like to call it, "James Cameron's Pocahontas" haha. Seriously I was watching the Disney cartoon Pocahontas a few weeks ago while working at daycare and about half-way through the movie it hit me that it had the exact same plot as Avatar.

    I guess there isn't anything explicitly Christian in Avatar, but I was mostly referring to the fact that they cheated and made the deity personal at the end, despite the claim that she (it?) was an impersonal force.

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  4. Yeah thats pretty much right. Though I think the Dances comparison has struck a cord because it really does involve a serious change in the main character. As in they both become natives.

    Really they do? I honestly can't remember. I just remember Gaia or whatever Pagan thing they called the earth fighting for them. But you're right if they did make it personal its only an illusion or if it really is personal then they're being inconsistent.

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