Philosophy and religion in Star Wars

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George Lucas' creation of the 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, where the two 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]

According to postcolonial scholar Edward Said, the Orient’s association with the mystic, magic, spirit, and the inexplicable allows the West, armed with scientific rationality and technological superiority, to overpower the Orient.[9] But in the Star Wars universe, the sourcing of power from magic, the Force, reconfigures Edward Said’s magical, mystical Orient versus the scientific, rational Occident dichotomy in terms of a postcolonial system of power, in which one can imagine a world that, rather than being governed by who has the latest and greatest technology (as in the Cold War, and during imperialism), there is some larger conflict, some higher actors in a mystical world who have control.

The power of the Jedi and the Sith show not an exoticized magic, as an Orientalist world would assume, but a distinctly powerful magic, for it is the Force, and those who can use it, that is the superior force in the power system of Star Wars. In this post (or anti?)-colonial power system, the colonial power system’s way of exoticizing magic such that those who believe in the spiritual and the inexplicable are then controlled is completely turned around. In other words, rather than complicating, or reconfiguring, the Orientalist power structure in which technology rules the mystical, the system in which power is configured in Star Wars totally rejects that Orientalist power structure.

Book on the subject[edit]

Star Wars and Philosophy is a compilation book written by various college professors, most of them in the philosophy field. The book is edited by Kevin S. Decker, Jason T. Eberl and William Irwin and published by Open Court.[10]

Published in March 2005, the book discusses various philosophical issues regarding the Star Wars franchise and its universal settings such as the ethics of the conflict between good and evil or if the role of robots constitutes slavery or not.[11]


  1. ^ Kraemer, Ross; Cassidy, William; Schwartz, Susan L. (2009). Religions Of Star Trek. Basic Books. ISBN 0786750227. 
  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. ISBN 081088514X. 
  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. ISBN 0812697014. 
  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. ISBN 0812697014. 
  5. ^ a b Rowlands, Mark (2012). The Philosopher At The End Of The Universe: Philosophy Explained Through Science Fiction Films. Random House. p. 214. ISBN 1448116678. 
  6. ^ Jamilla, Nick (2008). Sword Fighting in the Star Wars Universe: Historical Origins, Style and Philosophy. McFarland. p. 45. ISBN 0786451793. 
  7. ^ Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  8. ^ Rosen, Steven J.; Young, Jonathan (2010). The Jedi in the Lotus: Star Wars and the Hindu Tradition. Arktos. pp. 109–110. ISBN 978-1-907166-11-2. 
  9. ^ Said, Edward (1979). Orientalism. New York, New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0394740676. 
  10. ^ Star Wars and Philosophy at Google Books
  11. ^

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bortolin, Matthew (2005). The Dharma of Star Wars. London: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 978-0-86171-497-1. 
  • Decker, Kevin (2005). Star Wars and Philosophy. La Salle: Open Court. ISBN 978-0-8126-9583-0. 
  • Grimes, Caleb (2007). Star Wars Jesus: a Spiritual Commentary on the Reality of the Force. City: Winepress. ISBN 978-1-57921-884-3. 
  • Hanson, Michael (2002). Star Wars: the New Myth. S.L.: Xlibris. ISBN 978-1-4010-3989-9. 
  • Jones, Timothy (2005). Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Portland: Multnomah. ISBN 978-1-59052-577-7. 
  • Mcdowell, John (2007). The Gospel According to Star Wars. Louisville: Westminster John Knox. ISBN 978-0-664-23142-2. 
  • Staub, Dick (2005). Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0-7879-7894-5. 
  • Wetmore, Kevin (2005). The Empire Triumphant. Jefferson: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-2219-7.