[Note: This is an evaluation of spiritual perspectives in the movie, not a summary of the plot or a critique of the acting. Parents of younger children, keep in mind this is a PG and not a G movie. Scenes of violence, Anakin’s mother dying, and some scary creatures might be too intense for children under age 8. Further information and explanation of spiritual views in previous Star Wars movies can be found in CANA articles, “The Dark Side,” and “Yin and Yang: Going With the Flow.” Also see the term “polarity” in the article, “Occult Terms.”]
One of the most noticeable repeating themes in the dialogue was that one should rely on “feelings” in order to have victory. Very early in the movie, Anakin (the future Darth Vader but a young Jedi apprentice in this prequel) is told to trust his feelings, and “you will be invincible.” In another scene, Yoda, a Jedi master, is training young children, apparently in using light sabers, which means it is a training on using the Force as well. These children are quite young; they appear to be around 6 and 7 years old. Yoda distinctly tells them to “use your feelings,” as he teaches. There is nothing wrong with feelings; however, using them as the prime basis for decisions and actions is not a good idea.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin’s mentor, father figure, and Jedi master, and Anakin discuss the fact that they are using their “senses” to protect Senator Padme Amadala as she sleeps nearby. These senses are not hearing, smell, or touch, but an implied supernormal sense that apparently is the result of being experienced with using the Force. When danger is near, they both “sense” this and rush into the room. Later in the movie, Yoda states that he has not “sensed” the clones due to his weakened “Force;” in another scene, he strongly “senses” Anakin’s pain as Anakin, on another planet, encounters his dying mother.
Showing off for Senator Amadala, Anakin uses what appear to be paranormal powers to get food to float from the table into his hands and over to Sen. Amadala. This same type of paranormal ability is seen several times in the movie later on, when various Jedi warriors “pull” their weapons toward themselves, without touching them, after having dropped them in battle. Only the Jedi seem to be able to do this since it is an ability obviously connected to the Force.
The Force, as almost everyone knows, is a central point in all the Star Wars movies. Interestingly, in the last movie, “The Phantom Menace,” (the first prequel), Yoda declares that Anakin must be taken on as a Jedi apprentice in order to “balance” the Force. This is repeated in this movie by Yoda, when he says that Anakin will be the one “to bring the Force into balance.” This should cause viewers to wonder why the Force needs to be balanced. Isn’t the Force just supposed to be used for good? If so, why should it be “balanced?” Isn’t this about good versus evil, and good overcoming evil? Well, not exactly.
George Lucas, a student and admirer of Eastern religions, has embedded all the Star Wars movies with spiritual themes, predominantly from Zen Buddhism and Taoism. The Force is a prime example of the light and dark dualism found in Taoism. All opposites only appear opposite but are actually part of the whole. Ideally, these forces are equal, and the dynamic of opposing forces is what holds everything together in harmony. Therefore, light and dark, day and night, male and female, dry and wet, heat and cold, etc., are necessary for each other’s existence. There is no goal to eradicate either side of the dualistic entity. Furthermore, these opposing forces actually merge and become each other, so they are not actually opposite, and there is no absolute good or evil. The best visual example of this is the symbol of Yin and Yang, which has the black dot on the white side, and the white dot on the black side, representing the equal dualism and the merging of yin and yang. The concept of good and evil are only temporary in this view; there is no goal to vanquish dark or evil as that would destroy the dualistic whole. Hence, the goal is to balance the Force.
This dualism is seen not only in Taoism, but also in contemporary Wiccan and witchcraft as a concept usually called polarity. In this view, there is no eradication of evil, or the dark side, since it is seen as necessary for the existence of good. In fact, most modern Wiccans and witches believe that their gods, or the Goddess, also possess a dark side. A variation on this dualism plays a role in the Harry Potter books, which present the concept of using power (occult or otherwise) for good or evil. Power ultimately is neutral, and one’s intentions and the results determine whether the power was used for good or bad (see CANA Harry Potter articles). This is a white magick and white witchcraft philosophy.
Yoda. When I saw the first three Star Wars movies quite a few years ago, I was a follower of Eastern/New Age and occult worldviews. Yoda was my favorite character because he spouted the Zen Buddhist worldview I so dearly loved (he also expresses Taoist dualism as well). Yoda has more of a central role in this film than the first prequel; and it is clear from this movie, as well as the other Star Wars movies, that Yoda is considered to be perhaps the wisest character for his understanding of the Force and the philosophy behind using it.
The Force and the Holy Spirit. There have been comments on the Internet and elsewhere that the Force can represent the Holy Spirit. However, the Force and the Holy Spirit actually have nothing in common.
- The Force is impersonal; the Holy Spirit is personal and is the third Person of the Trinity, and, as God, has a mind and will, unlike a Force.
- The Force emphasizes intuitive (or perhaps psychic) feelings; the Holy Spirit is neither a feeling nor a psychic power.
- The Force has a dark and light side; the Holy Spirit, being God, is absolutely good. “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all, ” (1 John 1:5b).
- The Force exists only for itself; the Holy Spirit exalts Jesus Christ, and regenerates and indwells believers in Christ (Titus 3:5; John 3: 5, 8; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20) as well as other actions for believers.
- The Force needs to be balanced between dark and light for harmony; the Holy Spirit, being God, is perfect and actually convicts believers of wrongdoing.
- The Force is accessed and manipulated by men for their ends; the Holy Spirit is not a power nor does the Holy Spirit serve man’s will.
To Christian Parents.. The Star Wars movies, if seen by parents as well, can be a good platform for a discussion with older children of these various philosophies as compared to Scripture. The concept of the Force versus the personal nature of God; the dark/light dualism of the Force versus the absolute good and evil declared by God; and the emphasis on feelings in Star Wars versus the Biblical mandate to use our minds and love God with our minds, are all productive areas for discussion, and a good way to teach your child to be discerning. The worldviews presented in Star Wars movies may be somewhat subtle, but such views exist in our culture and need to be understood and responded to.
There is absolute evil and good: Genesis 3; Isaiah 5:20; John 3:19-21; John 8:44; Ephesians 5:11; 1 John 1:5; 1 John 3:5, 8.
We are to use our reason and rational mind: Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 119:59; Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:3; I Corinthians 14; Philippians 4:8.
Good and light do not need evil or darkness to exist: Isaiah 60: 19,20; Revelation 21:23, 25 and 22:5.