Stars Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has taken over the world. And rightfully so.
(Photo left: Lego Vader brandishing a light shaver, “I can’t believe I slept in again.”)
My kids have been vanquished by the darker side of light many times over and into the night, replicating the famous whom-whoum/ crack-crckkk-ckk-crack until the Duracells run dry.
But I’m glad I know better than to worship God according to Star Wars.
The Force Awakens
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens will no doubt be like the rest in the series: entertaining.
But the makers of Star Wars knew they would need something deeper than space war to make a lasting impression.
Director of Empire Strikes Back Irvin Kirshner, a Zen Buddhist, says of the film:
“I wanna introduce some Zen here because I don’t want the kids to walk away just feeling that everything is shoot-em-up, but that there’s also a little something to think about here in terms of yourself and your surroundings.”1
“Lucas’s biographer, Dale Pollock, concludes: ‘Yoda’s philosophy is Buddhist—he tells Luke that the Force requires him to be calm, at peace, and passive; it should be used for knowledge and defense, not greed and aggression.’ The Star Wars parallel with Eastern religion is further exemplified in the belief that ‘when people die, their life spirit is drained from them and incorporated in a huge energy force,’ joining ‘the ethereal oneness of the Force. . . .’ So, wittingly or unwittingly, Lucas presents a dramatic portrayal of a Zen Buddhist conception of God which he calls the Force, but in Zen is known as the Tao.”2
These Are Not the Worldviews You’re Looking For. . .
In pantheism-based worldviews (Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age modalities), your natural conception of reality is an illusion, and true knowledge of reality can only be obtained through awakening and enlightenment—remembering your divinity (New Age), renouncing desire (Buddhism), and paying off karmic debt (Hinduism).
Pan (all) theism (God) means all-is-God. On pantheism, everything is God.
Monism—the concept that “all-is-one”—is peas to pantheism’s carrots. When combining the concepts that everything is one and everything is God, everything becomes God, including you. And the allure of claiming a Divine spark
has become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
But all distinctions are dissolved by monism. Everyone and everything are the same thing. The fact that they look different is an illusion.
The appearance of individuals relating to each other in community is an illusion. There are no persons. There is only the ultimate force.
And that is why this “force” described so often in Eastern philosophy and embraced by the Star Wars trilogies must be impersonal.
The Impersonal Force
Impersonal does not mean anti-social (although the Force might indeed spend too much time on Facebook). Impersonal means not a person.
According to Obi-wan, the force is “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”
I wish Luke would have asked him what bound the galaxy together before living things.
So by all means, when you’re playing with your kids in the backyard, use the force.
But don’t ask anything of it. Don’t try to love it. And for Obi-wan’s sake, don’t pray to it.
Energy doesn’t answer, and it has major issues showing its love. It’s no wonder Stormtroopers are on the street begging for hugs.
Just Nine More Minutes. . .
The force awakens but is not ready to face the world, and so it delays the inevitable clash with reality for nine more minutes.
1 Rolling Stone Magazine (July 24, 1980), p. 37.
2 Richard G.Howe and Norman L. Geisler, The Religion of the Force, (Matthews, NC: Bastion Books, 2015), 58-59.