Physiology, Physics, and the Force
By Chris Knight
What are Midi-Chlorians?
Midi-Chlorians and the Force
Force in the Family
Time, Space, and the Force
A Final, Force-ful Exit
A Final, Force-Ful Exit
(or, brand-new meaning for "No Deposit, No Return")
"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
-- Obi-Wan Kenobi, just before being struck down, "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope"
This part isn't so much about midi-chlorians, but it does go back to the relationship
that the Force has with physical life. Why do some of the Jedi (maybe all even) live on
as spirits after death? Why did Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda vanish when they died? Could
Palpatine or Darth Maul ever return as spirits?
At the end of Return Of The Jedi, Luke sees the "ghosts" of Obi-Wan and Yoda. They are
joined by the spirit of Anakin Skywalker, finally redeemed to the Light Side. We can at
least hope that someday, when Luke is "old and gray" according to "Yoda" by Weird Al Yankovic,
that he'll be playing Scrabble in the Jedi Retirement Castle when suddenly something gives.
He'll keel over and vanish, leaving behind his bathrobe, his wheelchair and his Depends.
Obi-Wan and the gang will now have a "foursome" for what they're driving at being the longest
stretch of Bridge in history.
The good finding everlasting rest after death might be the most recurring theme in
religion and mythology. In Star Wars, it is no different: those who strived for purity of
heart and harmony with the Force are rewarded by the Force with neverending life. The
wicked in the Dark Side, if the mythic elements are consistent, will be consigned to eternal
contempt and damnation. These two exclusive destinies are part of another theme of many
belief systems: that evil will one day be defeated for all time. That death and suffering
and Hell, and all such change, will be brought to an end. There comes a hope, a promise
even, for not change but everlasting renewing of all things. In the meantime, good fights
evil because evil has staked a claim on the souls of men, and evil must be given time to
makes its case, to justify its existence. This proceeds because good, to be known as good
with justice, must be fair also. It must prove why evil is wrong, even though sometimes this
isn't so much a problem for good as it is for us poor mortals in the way of this fairness
being met out. But if good is right, and we know that it is, then even this suffering will
In the Star Wars mythology, that's what it means to yield to the will of the Force,
even though sometimes our heroes are wondering "why?" Qui-Gon Jinn is seeking out that will,
wherever the Force might lead him, though it clearly irks young Obi-Wan. Being a Jedi, as
Jinn tells Anakin, "is a very hard life," no doubt because of the tremendous requirement to
seek out and surrender to the Force. A Jedi's life is not comfortable, nor is it meant to
be. Jedi aren't seeking power or privilege: theirs are lives dedicated to service in
humility. The Sith, on the other hand, move in secrecy but are no less proud and arrogant
in their designs for power. They crave obeisance through the Force, and not to obey the
So, with these two philosophies of the Force in mind, and knowing the roots that
Star Wars has in mythology, let's take a look at life, death, and the Force...
Obi-Wan the First: Polycarp
Obi-Wan Kenobi is something of a "galactic Polycarp". For one thing, Kenobi bears a striking
resemblance to the classic image of Polycarp. For another, they both die as martyrs while
spiting their oppressors. Polycarp was burned alive at Smyrna in 155 A.D./C.E. for not
recognizing the divinity of the Roman emperor. Tied to the stake and booed by the crowds,
he shouted back "away with the atheists, away!" before being consumed by flames. Kenobi
calmly says his now-famous words to his former pupil. With both men, the end result is the
same: the cause each believed in was strengthened by self-sacrifice. Polycarp's dying in
faith bolstered the early church. Kenobi's dying in the Force strengthened the Force. In
return, the Force sustained his identity after the passing of his body.
Watching Obi-Wan's passing, it could be wondered if there is a physical trick to the
vanishing as much as an energy/spiritual one. And maybe the midi-chlorians do play a role.
If they are the connectors of all life to the Force, maybe a physical effort is needed to
call them to task. Obi-Wan seems to need a moment's preparation for the change-over. That
could be his time to calm mind and body so that the Force can proceed unhindered. However it
happens, Obi-Wan's appearances afterward (and Yoda's and Anakin's) means that midi-chlorians
are not the "source of the Force", because a spirit doesn't possess midi-chlorians...
or possess cells for that matter. And if midi-chlorians are produced by a person's
"Force-potential", being able to pass one's physical body into the Force would be the
symbiotic flip-side of that: the Force leads to the building up of midi-chlorians in a
cell, and now a person's self-sacrifice of body builds up the Force. Perfect symmetry.
Now you see him...
...and now you don't!
Is there something more going on here? When Kenobi and Yoda died, their bodies
vanished, leaving only their robes behind. Qui-Gon Jinn did not vanish. Anakin Skywalker,
after shedding his identity as Darth Vader, likewise did not vanish. Anakin later appeared
in spirit form: presumably, Qui-Gon might do the same. The other two Force-wielders we have
seen perish are Darth Maul and Emperor Palpatine. They have not returned in spirit and given
their philosophy of the Force, they aren't likely to, either...
When the Light Side is taken, a person uses the Force for benefit of others and for
personal growth. To be in harmony with the Force means pursuing a symbiotic relationship
with it: a Jedi uses it, and the Force works through the Jedi in accordance to its "flow"
or "will". In return, the Force allows for the Jedi to grow tremendously as a person.
There is no symbiosis with the Dark Side. The Sith are drawing from the same Force that the Jedi call upon, but they believe in taking, not giving. They accumulate the Force's power without returning to the Force in kind, by denying the Force the growth that it needs from life.
Have you ever wondered why Palpatine's body explodes violently with malevolent
energy after Vader throws him down the shaft? Maybe all bodies do that on the Death Star...
this is Star Wars physics and there's no telling what kind of pressure change exists with a
drop like that. But did you ever notice how fully counter Palpatine's death is to those of
Kenobi and Yoda? The Jedi passed away peacefully, even yieldingly to the inevitable: one
moment they are there, the next they disappear. The Force embraced them, while it ruptured
in screams from Palpatine's body.
Because the Jedi had abided in the Force according to its "will", and because they
had given just as they had taken, their strength in the Force retained their identities
after death. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda understood what it means to grow more than Palpatine
did, because growth does not come with mere flesh, but in what your identity really is behind
the flesh. They believed in nurturing that, not the trappings of power . Anakin, when he
became redeemed to the Force, was also allowed peace following his death because in his final
moments, he yielded to the Force. But for Palpatine and almost certainly Maul, there will be
no final rest. They took from the Force for their own evil, selfish interests. And they never gave
back in return. They grew in power of the flesh but not strength of the spirit. When
Palpatine died, the Force finally "balanced the books" with him, taking back everything
from him that he had taken from it for untold decades. Not even the flesh was left, so
thorough was the Force's accounting. And even if it were not obliterated, if Palpatine's
spirit still existed after his death, the Force would have shut him "outside" of itself...
forever. It couldn't allow for so iredeemable a spirit as Palpatine's to tap into its vast
energies. The only thing left for Palpatine is eternal banishment from all existence.
Such is the price for passing glory,
The Force giveth, and the Force taketh away...: Palpatine pays the price
Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, however, will forever after know
satisfaction in their beloved pupil, friend and son, Luke Skywalker.
Old friends long gone... together again
Okay, let's try to wrap all this up!
Concepts in these pages are derived from
material created by Lucasfilm Ltd. and George Lucas. While these pages discuss Star Wars, they
are NOT to be considered "canon". This is merely a theory. As for the
true nature of midi-chlorians, as Mark Hamill once said, "only George knows."
Most of the ideas presented here are my original thoughts about midi-chlorians
to the best of my knowledge but some, such as theoretical physics and Kirlian photography,
are in the province of those who discovered them. Otherwise,
the layout, structure, and interpretation in these pages
is Copyright © 2000 Chris Knight and TheForce.net.
Got questions? Comments? Suggestions? Think Chris has WAY too much time on his hands? Let us know!