“You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring
balance to the Force. You believe it’s this….boy?” –Mace Windu,
to Qui-Gon Jinn
“Without the Jedi,
there can be no balance in the Force,” – Lor San Tekka, to Poe Dameron
Let me begin with a semi-rhetorical question: why are the
Jedi viewed as the ones who keep the Force in balance? And what does “balance”
actually mean? Why are the Jedi “good” when they took children from their
families at a very young age – in order to prevent their (completely normal and
healthy attachments) to their birth families? Let’s break this down a little
Premise: the Jedi
are of the Light (read: good) Side of the Force.
Why is the Light Side good? Ostensibly, because it works for
the greater good, right? But what is the greater good in the Galaxy Far, Far
Away (GFFA)? Is it having a strong and efficient central government that allows
for the maximum freedom for all galactic citizens? Let’s consider some
PADME : I can’t believe there is
still slavery in the galaxy. The Republic’s anti-slavery laws…
SHMI : The Republic doesn’t
exist out here…we must survive on our own.
WELP, that’s out. Okay. We’re the Light/Good Side and we’re
cool with slavery. The Republic has a lot of squabbling and red tape; Padme
Amidala comes to the Senate to stop a trade blockade and is largely dismissed
until she puts forth a vote of no confidence in the current chancellor – a vote
which clears the way for Palpatine/Sidious’ takeover of the Republic.
Now, that being said, I’m Pagan clergy and I know damn well
that you can’t be everything to everyone and that no matter what your morals
are, no one puts them into practice at a 100% success rate. I’ll give the Jedi
Order that much.
But, but, the Sith did terrible things! Yep, they did. But
here’s the thing: every government does terrible things. Power corrupts. Name
any real or fictional government and you can dig something up, and often many
things. Imperialism. Star courts. Civil rights violations. Guantanamo Bay. Not
to get too real-world political but you get the gist: governments do bad shit
in the name of the greater good, and often consider themselves justified in
So why then, is the Light Side the good side? Spoiler alert:
it’s not. The Jedi are presented as the good guys because they control the narrative.
And they are unreliable narrators.
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” –
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi master, making an absolutionist statement.
Now, let’s take a look at the Sith. I’m going to be delving
into some Legends (former EU territory) here because it’s relevant and because
AFenough to have read it and to have seen the films when they
were originally released in theatres.
The Sith Empire was founded by a group of Jedi who wanted to
explore the Dark Side of the Force, which was forbidden by the Jedi Order.
So let’s take a moment to discuss the Jedi and Sith’s theological
The Jedi Code:
There is no
emotion, there is peace.
There is no
ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no
passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos,
there is harmony.
There is no death,
there is the Force.
The Jedi Code is often likened to Buddhism, which itself
covers a wide range of beliefs and practices; you can find a basic breakdown on
the differences between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism here. I have some
experience with Mahayana practice – my wife is a practitioner – and her
particular sect does not tell people to extinguish emotions, rather it teaches
that through praxis you can be happy in all circumstances. It’s not that there
is no emotion, it’s about using a daily practice to help you control how you
view and react to adverse circumstances. I lack enough exposure to feel that I
could adequately speak to Theravada beliefs or praxis.
Now for contrast, let’s look at the Sith’s morality:
The Sith Code:
Peace is a lie.
There is only passion.
Through passion, I
I gain power.
Through power, I
Through victory my
chains are broken.
There’s a lot of use of the “I” pronoun in this code. And
there is a comparable earth-based philosophy: the Left-Hand Path (LHP). “The
Left Hand Path is solitary, individualistic, personal, based on self development,
self analysis, self empowerment. Altruism is materialistically
equated as long term selfishness.” – Vexen Crabtree
“The term ‘Left-Hand Path’ has become an umbrella term of self-designation
used by certain contemporary ritual magicians and is usually taken to incorporate
practitioners of Thelemic magick (beginning with Aleister Crowley), Tantrik
magick, and Chaos Magick (inspired by both Crowley and the magickal techniques
devised by the occult artist Austin O. Spare, 1886- 1956). The notion of the
Left-Hand Path is derived from the Tantric term vama-marga
(‘left-path’), i.e., the Left-Hand Path in Tantrism. […] Its usage represents
a deliberate attempt by Left-Hand Path magicians to transcend the outmoded and
value-laden dichotomy of ‘black’ versus ‘white’ magic […] because it is held
to reflect the ‘moronic oversimplicity of …the distinction between good and
evil’.” –Richard Sutcliffe, “Left-Hand Path Ritual Magick: An
Historical and Philosophical Overview” published in “Pagan Pathways” by Graham Harvey &
Charlotte Hardman (1995)
As a Pagan who practices witchcraft, I want to take a moment
to critique the Star Wars universe’s demonization of magic. Jedi don’t practice
(ostensibly) and the Sith do, often quite outright.
Still canon, y’all.
So on one hand, we have a purportedly very selfless
philosophy, and on the other (ha, the left-hand) there’s a ‘selfish’ one. But
let’s look at this: is it healthy to be completely selfless?
As a member of Team Dark Side/LHP, I would make the argument
that no, it’s not. There’s this
thing called “self-care” that people need to do, and are often made to feel
selfish when they engage in it. Magic in the GFFA is depicted as selfish and
evil, because it is only practiced by villains. As a Pagan who practices
witchcraft, I see the demonization of my religion and praxis in the othering of
the Dark Siders.
If you’re a monotheist reading this, no, you don’t get to
tell me that I’m being oversensitive. Magic is often used “selfishly” and I
would make the argument that it’s perfectly appropriate. If I use magic to
benefit myself or my family, I am not using it selflessly, but if I don’t take
care of myself or my family, who else will? If I don’t take care of myself, how
will I have the energy or desire to engage in any selfless behavior?
Note: this is not to say that witches never do selfless
magic; we do, and depending on what branch of witchcraft – we’re not all
Wiccan, though I have nothing against Wicca – some engage in magical social justice
workings, for example.
The greater point in all of this is that both polarities are
screwed. Being completely selfless is nigh impossible and not to anyone’s
personal benefit. Being completely selfish makes a person, well, a dick.
Fortunately, the GFFA does offer something of a middle
ground in the form of the Je’daii
There is no
ignorance; there is knowledge.
There is no fear;
there is power.
I am the heart of
I am the revealing
fire of light.
I am the mystery
In balance with
chaos and harmony,
Immortal in the