Qi as Entertainment: The Force in Star Wars
Compiled from Various Sources by John Voigt
Alec Guinness as Jedi [warrior monk] Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Notice the warrior-monk cloak and the tai chi staff looking lightsaber emitting focused pure energy. Image source: bullfax.com
Yoda partially resembles an immortal Daoist master: he is over 800 years old; he is all wise; leads a simple hidden existence (at least in the 1980 film); and at death physically rises up to join the Force [picture source: Wikipedia].
Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn
Qui-Gon Jinn's name is derived from the Chinese qigong, meaning "life force," and the Arabic jinn, meaning "genie" or "tutelary spirit." His name literally translates as "Spirit of the Living Force" . [picture source: fanpop.com] The "Jinn" in his name might also refer to a basic concept in Chinese martial arts where "jin" means "internal strength" which is a combination of muscular strength and qi to create enormous physical power and force.
The Force in Star Wars is a narrative device used in a series of science fantasy adventure movies and books. Its purpose is to help tell a story.
Qi is a Chinese word used to describe the vital energy animating everything that is, or could be. Although at times it may seem bafflingly intellectual and philosophical, qi is a practical concept primarily meant to be used for human well-being, success in the martial arts, and to gain spiritual growth.
George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars series, explained the Force this way, "The act of living generates a force field, an energy. That energy surrounds us; when we die that energy joins with all the other energy. There is a giant mass of energy in the universe that has a good side and a bad side. We are part of the Force because we generate the power that makes the Force live. When we die, we become part of that Force, so we never really die; we continue as part of the Force."  He further amplified his comments in George Lucas on the Force interview (2010).
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the first released Star Wars movie (1977) presents other possible similarities between Qi and The Force: "The Force is what gives a Jedi [warrior monk] his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." A film clip of this is on YouTube, "Obi-Wan explains the Force"
The classic explanation of the Force is given by Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, (1980). "For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between land and ship." Then Yoda's with fingers in a customary position of sending of external qi—but here using the Force—levitates and frees the sunken space craft of his student Luke Skywalker. Watch the film clip here on "Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back - For my ally is the Force"
The movie Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) introduces a new Jedi Grand Master, Qui-Gon Jinn.
Aspects of Qui-Gon Jinn's use of the Force resemble the use of Qi in Chinese culture.
- Mindfulness: "A philosophical warrior, Qui-Gon Jinn believed heavily in what he referred to as the 'Living Force,' a method of focusing on the moment rather than contemplating the Force in all its degrees." In Phantom Menace he says: "Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don't think. Trust your instincts."
- Meditative Trance: "He also applied a meditative trance known as Serenity, granting him renewed strength and focus as seen during the momentary break in his final duel with Darth Maul."
- Breathing: "He could also control his breathing for a considerable amount of time."
- Extraordinary Abilities: "Jinn had considerable skill with telekinesis; lifting people or objects, dislodging enemies with a single Force Push. He was able to receive Force visions, despite his preference to focus on the present rather than the future. In addition, he had some knowledge of Force healing, as displayed in his futile attempt to save Tahl moments before her death. One of Jinn's lesser known Force powers was animal friendship. He controlled the mind of a dragon and rode on its back for as long as he needed until he reached his destination". (All above quotes from http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Qui-Gon_Jinn)
- Martial Arts Skills: This first YouTube clip is "Star Wars Episode I - Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul". Compare it to "Shaolin Monks In Three Person Staff Fight Scene". (ed. note: Shaolin Kung Fu training traditionally uses qigong exercises and qi-awareness meditations.)
Qui-Gon Jinn however adds a new concept to the Force which does not resemble anything in the Qi of Chinese culture. He calls it, Midi-chlorians. "Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life-form that reside within all living cells and communicates with the Force—.Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you." (from Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace).
Evil: The Dark Side of the Force, and is there Evil residing in the Qi?
"Lucas uses 'the dark side', and "paths to the dark side", as devices to suggest the distinction between good and evil is not a distinction between 'us' and 'them'—but rather a battle within ourselves, reflecting the frailty of human nature and our own competing (and equally compelling) internal impulses towards kindness on the one hand, and cruelty on the other." [from Wikipedia, "Dark side Star Wars."]
In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda gives the classic explanation of the Dark Side.
And in The Phantom Menace Yoda summarizes it this way: "Fear is the path to the dark side - fear leads to anger - anger leads to hate - hate leads to suffering".
[editor's note: The concrete aspect of the Dao is the universal life force of Qi. The concrete aspect of Qi is the material energy of the universe. With Daoism there is no overriding preoccupation with such things as good and evil, for to assume one is to create the other—(If I am "good" those who are not like me are "bad.")—which all too often can lead to senseless destruction and killing.]
Bad times, bad things, bad people, all forms of evil happen when things move against the harmonious flow of Dao. This does not mean there is no room for recession, decline, or death. All these things exist, but are not considered evil. Rather, they are a necessary part of the ongoing flux of life where everything is relative, and related to everything else. Evil occurs when a violent decline is forced upon nature or society at a time of growth, or when massive expansion is pushed forward at a time of rest or reduction. It is essential, therefore, to know the patterns of Dao—either personally or politically—and learn to adapt to its rhythms. [Based on Livia Kohn's "Healing and the Earth" in Environmental Ethics: Intercultural Perspectives edited by King-Tak Ip, p.149.]
The Force is Still With Us
Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion, made its television debut on Disney Channel on October 3, 2014. Spark of Rebellion was released on commercial DVD on October 14, 2014.
The plot centers around a fourteen year old Force sensitive Ezra Bridger,
who by training in use of the Force, (here defined as "an energy field that binds the galaxy together") gains advanced ESP and martial arts abilities.
Star Wars Rebels: Extended Trailer (Official)
Poster art for Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awkens.
Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens
This blockbuster movie was released in the United States on December 18, 2015. The Force as "bad-evil-devil" xie qi is heavily used by the villain, Kylo Ren to exhibit paranormal powers to do evil. Although the main hero, Rey, uses much of the skills of a Jedi by learning the Force in a surprising quick time.
Somewhat like a Daoist Immortal there is the character Maz Kanata. She is over one thousand years old and does offer some instruction about the Force which resembles what has been said about qi: "It moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes. Feel it. The light. It's always been there. It will guide you."
Postscript: by editor John Voigt
Perhaps there are two similar dual realities of the Force and of Qi. The first reality is that when the respective Energies are used, the effects are physically observable: The Jedi Master levitates the space craft; the Qi Master heals the incurable illness.
The second reality might be called "mystical." When Qui-Gon Jinn meditates in the middle of the fight scene with Darth Maul, he apparently is connecting to this otherworldly reality. When the Daoist sage practices inner-alchemical visualizations to gain immortality by entering into the empty limitless infinite of the wuji it seems he or she is connecting to a Chinese cultural version of the same thing—or something similar. Perhaps this otherworldly reality could be called "Divine," but most likely it has no name.
Here is a quote that might help in understanding this existential duality: "The Jedi view the Force as possessing both 'living' and 'unifying' aspects. The former is very in-the-moment and empathetic, while the latter is distant and cosmic. A talented [Jedi] healer uses the Living Force, and a Jedi master trying to divine the future is more apt to tap the Unifying Force." http://www.chroniclebooks.com
Perhaps Qi could be thought of as having a such a dual reality, and be used in similar ways.
In any case, May the Force—and Qi—be with you.
^ "Story Conference Transcript for The Empire Strikes Back," [as quoted in] Laurent Bouzereau. Star Wars: the annotated Screenplays. Ballantine Books, 1997, p. 181.
^ George Lucas, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda each say that life creates the Force. But those knowledgeable of the traditions of Qi say the opposite, e.g., that "Qi creates life; it is life."
^ Paul F. McDonald. The Star War Heresies. McFarland, 2013, p.165.
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