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Philosophy and religion in Star Wars


Philosophy and religion in Star Wars

Star Wars saga was influenced by certain elements of mythology, philosophy and religion. In particular, the conflict between "light" and "dark" sides of the Force resembles Zoroastrianism, while their close connection recalls the yin and yang of Taoism:

Lucas's dualism may have been modeled on Chinese yin-yang notions in some ways, but it has equal inspiration from the Zoroastrian ethical dualism of good and evil. Both the dark (yin) and the light (yang) are present in the Force (as they are in Tao), but in Star Wars the dark is associated with evil and the light with good; in Taoism no such ethical links are made.[1]

There is therefore an inconsistency in Lucas's ideas between the duality of yin/yang (which should be in balance with each other) and the duality of good/evil (where evil is viewed as wrong).[2] There is nevertheless a strong ethical element to Star Wars, which has been linked to that of Buddhism[3] and Stoicism:

To recap, the virtues the Jedi shares with the Stoic sage are patience, timeliness, deep commitment, seriousness (as opposed to frivolity), calmness (as opposed to anger or euphoria), peacefulness (as opposed to aggression), caution (as opposed to recklessness), benevolence (as opposed to hatred), joy (as opposed to sullenness), passivity (as opposed to agitation), and wisdom. Given all these virtues, Yoda certainly resembles what the ancient Stoics described as the sage—the ideal person who has perfected his reason and achieved complete wisdom.[4]

The concept of evil in Star Wars also resembles that of Manichaeism.[5] However, since Christianity views evil as the absence of good, rather than as something real in itself, the concept of evil in Star Wars conflicts with that of Christianity.[5]

The physical aspects of the Force in Star Wars have been compared to Qi in Chinese and Japanese thought.[6] In the first film it is described this way:

Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.[7]

Connections of the Force to Prana in Hindu thought have also been suggested, but this has been criticised as a misinterpretation which confuses the Paramatman with the individual soul.[8]


  1. ^ Kraemer, Ross; Cassidy, William; Schwartz, Susan L. (2009). Religions Of Star Trek. Basic Books.  
  2. ^ Jamilla, Nick (2012). "Chapter 12: Defining the Jedi Order". In Brode, Douglas; Deyneka, Leah. Sex, Politics, and Religion in Star Wars: An Anthology. Scarecrow Press. pp. 156–157.  
  3. ^ Robinson, Walter R. (2013). "Chapter 3: The Far East of Star Wars". In Decker, Kevin S.; Eberl, Jason T.; Irwin, William. Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful than You Can Possibly Imagine. Open Court.  
  4. ^ Stephens, William O. (2013). "Chapter 2: "Stoicism in the stars: Yoda, the Emperor, and the Force". In Decker, Kevin S.; Eberl, Jason T.; Irwin, William. Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful than You Can Possibly Imagine. Open Court.  
  5. ^ a b Rowlands, Mark (2012). The Philosopher At The End Of The Universe: Philosophy Explained Through Science Fiction Films. Random House. p. 214.  
  6. ^ Jamilla, Nick (2008). Sword Fighting in the Star Wars Universe: Historical Origins, Style and Philosophy. McFarland. p. 45.  
  7. ^ Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  8. ^  

External links

  • Studying 'Star Wars': Professor offers philosophy course in the Force

Further reading

  • Bortolin, Matthew (2005). The Dharma of Star Wars. London: Wisdom Publications.  
  • Decker, Kevin (2005). Star Wars and Philosophy. La Salle: Open Court.  
  • Grimes, Caleb (2007). Star Wars Jesus: a Spiritual Commentary on the Reality of the Force. City: Winepress.  
  • Hanson, Michael (2002). Star Wars: the New Myth. S.L.: Xlibris.  
  • Jones, Timothy (2005). Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Portland: Multnomah.  
  • Mcdowell, John (2007). The Gospel According to Star Wars. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.  
  • Staub, Dick (2005). Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.  
  • Wetmore, Kevin (2005). The Empire Triumphant. Jefferson: McFarland.  

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