“May the Force be with you.” Utter this famous line and there's no mistaking it. You're referring to the driving force (pardon the pun) behind the Star Wars world of exploding planets and intergalactic wars. But what exactly is it? In the words of the character Obi-wan Kenobi, a Jedi knight: "The Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." Neat. A power in all of us that we can manipulate to, say, blow up an evil empire or control the galaxy. Played out in a world of Jedi knights, princesses and evil Imperial troops, it's a tantalizing basis for a hyper-tech fairy tale. But, as synonymous as the Force is with the make-believe world of Star Wars, some of its basic principles can be found in a real-life, ancient Chinese philosophy called Taoism.
"The Tao is kind of, well, a force that pervades the universe," says Anne Collins Smith, a philosophy and classical studies professor at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. "It is the source of the universe, but it also IS the universe." There are enough similarities between the Force and the Tao that Smith, an avid Star Wars fan, uses the movie to help explain concepts in Taoism in her classes. Taoism is one of the two major indigenous religio-philosophical traditions that has shaped Chinese life for more than 2,000 years. A mysterious, master Taoist named Lao-tzu, an archivist at the court of the Chou dynasty (c. 1111-255 BC) and an instructor of Confucius, is said to be one of its founders, after writing a series of poems called the Tao-te Ching. Tao, often translated as the way or the path, is the ineffable, eternal, creative reality that is the source and end of all things. Te refers to the manifestation of Tao within all things. Thus, to fully possess Te, one must be in perfect harmony with one's original nature. Put another way, the Tao can be understood in three ways, explains Smith. It is the nature of the universe. It is also your true essence. And it is the way to lead your life. "Really this meaning ties the other two together, because the way to lead your life is to get your personal Tao in touch with the Tao of the whole universe." Sound familiar? "Be one with the force, Luke," advises his teacher Obi-wan Kenobi, as our hero learns the "ways of the Force".
A key principle in becoming a master Taoist, is wu-wei, sometimes translated as creative inaction. "It literally means getting things done without doing anything," says Smith. But perhaps it's better described as an action that is so well in accordance with things, that there is no evidence of the action. To the Taoist, any deliberate intervention in the natural order of things will eventually turn into the opposite of what was intended and result in failure. And that is a common theme in Star Wars, says Smith. Take the scene from the first Star Wars movie, where Obi-wan Kenobi is teaching Luke Skywalker the "ways of the Force" on Han Solo's Millennium Falcon. Luke is trying hard to avoid laser blasts from a remote, but fails miserably. When Obi-wan Kenobi places a blaster helmet on his head so he can't see, he easily deflects the remote's laser blasts.
Luke Skywalker turns off his targeting computer to take a shot at the first Death Star. "That's really Taoist."
And remember the last battle scene when Luke blows up the Death Star? Several deliberate attempts by the Rebels, using a targeting computer, end in failure. But when Luke, once again listens to Obi-wan Kenobi to "use the Force", he turns off the device and takes a successful shot. "That's really Taoist," says Smith. One poem in the Tao-te Ching describes the Tao like this: The Tao is like a bellows: it is empty yet infinitely capable. The more you use it, the more it produces; The more you talk of it, the less you understand.
This idea of doing rather than understanding is paralleled in Luke Skywalker's experiences with his second Jedi teacher, the small, wrinkled Yoda. When Luke tries and fails to lift out his spacecraft from a swamp after trying to get a mental grip on such an impossible-seeming feat, Yoda replies "Try not. Do," and effortlessly raises the ship onto dry land. But that's where the analogies end. Taoism "celebrates a kind of agrarian lifestyle where people are very much in tune with nature - trees, grass and growing things," points out Smith. "It's against the idea of conscious manipulation of the environment." Not exactly in line with the technology-driven world of Star Wars.
In Taoism, the yin yang symbol represents the unity of apparent opposites in the universe. The Force is also expressed as two opposites - good vs. evil, dark vs. light. And on a superficial level, it has a parallel in Taoism. One of its icons is the yin yang symbol. A circle divided in two, it represents the unity of apparent opposites. The Yin represents the dark, death, winter and female side of the universe, while the Yang symbolizes the light, life, summer and male side. But unlike the theme of the positive energy of the Force overcoming the Dark Side in Star Wars, the two sides are inseparable in Taoism.
"The ethics in Taoism is to respect both the yin and the yang aspects because both are necessary," explains Owen Smith, a philosophy and classical studies professor at Susquehana University and Smith's husband. "It is a mistake philosophically to try and foster the yang at the expense of the yin." A mistake for those practicing Taoism, but it's a perfect way to incorporate a mysterious, unidentified religious force into a fairy tale. Visit the official Star Wars Site at www.starwars.com
2. STAR WARS ORIGINS – FAQ (FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS)
What is the Force?
The Force probably borrows some ideas from Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan books and a few other places, but I think it's mostly a combination of the Chinese idea of Ch'i, especially as used in martial arts, and Joseph Campbell's idea of the transcendent. Campbell spent his life studying the way different cultures thought of the divine: In the West divinity is usually anthropomorphized as a human-like god, goddess or pantheon of gods. In the East divinity is often represented as a "vital energy which pervades the universe" called Prana in India, Ch'i in China and Ki in Japan. Campbell's studies of myth revealed that although cultures often have different ideas of what shape divinity takes, they all seem to agree on the same basic underlying ideas. This led him to conclude that "All religions are true, but none are literal." That is, the divine cannot be experienced except through metaphor, and the important thing is to remember that any word, name, image or other representation of the transcendent is only a metaphor, not the transcendent itself. Campbell believed that the purpose of myth is to help us figure out how to live in communion with the transcendent. Doing so gives us a sense of our place and purpose in the world, brings us into inner balance, removes our fear of death and teaches us how to treat other human beings with dignity and compassion, even when they want to hurt us. Campbell's message is valuable because, as he points out: "There are countries going to war because they have different names for the same god."
How can I learn more about The Force? To understand The Force as spirituality, I suggest starting with the work of Joseph Campbell. His books are brilliant, but may be a little dry for the nonacademic, so you might begin with any of his excellent video or audiotape interviews, then move on to his books when you're ready to go deeper. You might also read some Jung*, Campbell's main inspiration (Campbell edited a Jung collection, so that's probably your best bet to understand the Jung-Campbell-Lucas evolution).
If you learn best through stories, you might try reading the books of Carlos Castaneda, beginning with Teachings of Don Juan; A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Castaneda's brilliant work created a quiet spiritual revolution in the Western world in the 1960s and was a direct influence on the Yoda character. If you learn best through movement, I recommend studying a martial art with a focus on directing Ch'i. *C.G. Jung, a leading New Ager, discussed in the Vatican doc. on New Age
If you consider yourself a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or member of any other religion, then the best way for you to learn about The Force is probably for you to study your own religion: read the canonical scriptures, attend the rituals, and spend time with spiritual leaders who earn your respect. If Campbell's theories were correct, then the more deeply orthodox you become (spiritually orthodox, honoring the original spiritual message over the political system which has sprung up around it), the more you will appreciate that your path toward communion with the divine is one of an infinite number of correct paths, and yours feels "right" because it is right for you.
If I learn enough about The Force, can I become a Jedi?
Um... sort of. Communion with The Force cannot give you magical powers! Those parts of the movies are a metaphor! But you can become the hero of your own life, by learning to listen to "The Force" speaking through your heart.
If you work hard enough you might even be the next Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mary Lyon or Joan of Arc. That's pretty darn close to being a Jedi, I think.
On the other hand, there's no reason to feel embarrassed or childish if you enjoy stories about superheroes. All primary myths involve a moment of apotheosis (becoming god-like), in which the hero's sacrifice is rewarded by making her in some way superhuman. Superhero metaphors are just another way of exploring and understanding the relationship between humanity and the divine. As with all metaphors, the trick is to not get stuck in the metaphor! Keep in mind that other ways of seeing the world are just as valid, and don't be afraid to move on to the next metaphor once superheroic stories have stopped teaching and become merely a comfortable escape from the disappointments and hardships of real life. At some point you have to stop dreaming about becoming a hero, get out there and do it. The stories are only the roadmap, not the road. If you want to learn more about the superheroic aspects of The Force from Star Wars, try reading some of Lucas' inspirations: Frank Herbert's Dune, E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen series, and Marvel comics from the 1960s.
CHRISTIAN NOTES ON “THE FORCE”: THE NEW AGE CONNECTION
Unless examined carefully, this does not seem to be an issue to be overly concerned about. But Luke’s teacher is a Zen master. Zen is Buddhism. [This is the subject of an article which is under completion. Catholics are warned about Zen Buddhist meditation in two Vatican documents.] The Force is also mentioned in the Vatican document on the New Age.
It has various names, some of which are listed below. This “Universal Life Force Energy” is the philosophical basis and the practical application of all forms of the Chinese/Japanese/Korean Martial Arts, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Pranic Healing, Reiki, etc., and even in Homoeopathy [see individual articles on these subjects].
Master Choa Kok Sui, the Founder of Pranic Healing, takes great care to warn practitioners of the dangers of the dark side of this Force - people have fallen seriously ill, both physically and mentally, and some have died. The case is the same with the shakti force of kundalini yoga. A large number of yogis and gurus – whom I can quote, and have quoted in my several articles on yoga – have strongly warned would-be practitioners about the potential crippling and fatal dangers involved with the haphazard manipulation of this energy. What Force is this that seems to have the power to take over and become master? To “dominate one’s destiny” and to kill? The answer, to Bible-believing Christians, is obvious.
Producer George Lucas admits to having been greatly influenced by Carlos Castaneda’s Tales of Powers which chronicles the story of Don Juan, a Mexican Indian sorcerer, who speaks of a life force. And by the mentioned Joseph Campbell.
1. NEW AGE TRAPS by Anne Feaster New Oxford Review, February 2005 [A Catholic source] EXTRACT:
“In the past thirty years, a false and alien spirituality has swept through this country, infecting millions of souls… It is based on the old heresy of pantheism, and borrows many of its ideas from Hinduism. It is called New Age spirituality and it would have us look inside ourselves to find a Higher Self or True Self, to discover our divinity or "God"-power. It is the belief that "God" is deep within each one of us.
To connect with this "God within," New Agers use mantras (repetitious words or phrases) or yoga to empty the mind in order to reach altered states of consciousness or pure consciousness, whereby to discover their own divinity. In order to warn Catholics of this false spirituality, the Vatican issued a document in 2003 called Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age. This document describes New Age spirituality as pantheistic (the belief that everything and everyone is "God"). The Vatican document contradicts this by stating, "As Christians, we believe on the contrary that 'man is essentially a creature and remains so for all eternity, so that an absorption of the human I in the divine I will never be possible" (#2.3). New Agers and Hindus believe that they eventually become "God."
The document states that New Age spirituality is based on the belief that "God" is an "'impersonal energy' immanent in the world, with which it forms a 'cosmic unity': 'All is one.' . . . [This] 'divine energy' is often described as 'Christic energy" (#22.214.171.124). The document goes on to say that New Agers believe that "Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ, but simply one among many historical figures in whom this 'Christic' nature is revealed, as is the case with Buddha and others" (#126.96.36.199). New Agers address "God" as the "Divine Love Energy" or the "Source."
According to New Age spirituality, the divine energy, which is also called "spirit," connects all of us - "God," nature, people, animals, and the universe as a whole. New Agers believe we are all one. This pantheistic belief is the common thread or shared belief of Hinduism, Buddhism, witchcraft, New Age and Native American spirituality, and occultism…
Where would a Catholic run into New Age ideas? …When he goes to the movies, he is exposed to New Age concepts such as "the force" in the Star Wars series and other films.
Any member of the family might be introduced to New Age spirituality by watching the Oprah Winfrey Show. She often hosts New Age speakers, such as Shirley MacLaine. For many weeks, she had a 3- to 5-minute slot called "Remembering Your Spirit." One segment featured the popular New Ager Dr. Wayne Dyer. A prolific writer and author of 27 books, including Your Erroneous Zones, Dr. Dyer teaches people how to tap into the universal energy force, or their Higher Self.” NOTE 1. I would like to enhance Anne Feaster’s references to the Vatican Document by including the following:
A powerful trend in modern Western culture which has given space to New Age ideas is the general acceptance of Darwinist evolutionary theory; this, alongside a focus on hidden spiritual powers or forces in nature, has been the backbone of much of what is now recognised asNew Age theory. [#1.3]
New Age is often referred to by those who promote it as a “new spirituality”. It seems ironic to call it “new” when so many of its ideas have been taken from ancient religions and cultures. But what really is new is that New Age is a conscious search for an alternative to Western culture and its Judaeo-Christian religious roots. “Spirituality” in this way refers to the inner experience of harmony and unity with the whole of reality, which heals each human person's feelings of imperfection and finiteness. People discover their profound connectedness with the sacred universal force or energy which is the nucleus of all life. When they have made this discovery, men and women can set out on a path to perfection, which will enable them to sort out their personal lives and their relationship to the world, and to take their place in the universal process of becoming and in the New Genesis of a world in constant evolution. The result is a cosmic mysticism based on people's awareness of a universe burgeoning with dynamic energies. Thus cosmic energy, vibration, light, God, love – even the supreme Self – all refer to one and the same reality, the primal source present in every being. [#3.1]
Is God a being with whom we have a relationship or something to be used or a force to be harnessed?
TheNew Age concept of God is rather diffuse, whereas the Christian concept is a very clear one. The New Age god is an impersonal energy, really a particular extension or component of the cosmos; god in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world. Divinity is to be found in every being, in a gradation “from the lowest crystal of the mineral world up to and beyond the Galactic God himself, about Whom we can say nothing at all. This is not a man but a Great Consciousness”.
In some “classic” New Age writings, it is clear that human beings are meant to think of themselves as gods: this is more fully developed in some people than in others. God is no longer to be sought beyond the world, but deep within myself. Even when “God” is something outside myself, it is there to be manipulated.
This is very different from the Christian understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life. God is in himself personal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created the universe in order to share the communion of his life with creaturely persons. “God, who 'dwells in unapproachable light', wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him, and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity”. God is not identified with the Life-principle understood as the “Spirit” or “basic energy” of the cosmos, but is that love which is absolutely different from the world, and yet creatively present in everything, and leading human beings to salvation. [#4]
NOTE 2. For more on Qi Gong [re. Qi Gon Jinn] please refer to my article titled “CONYBIO”.
2. OF MEDICINE, MAGIC, AND ORIGINAL SIN by Brian J. Kopp, DPM [A Catholic source]
Published by The Wanderer Printing Company, March 8, 2001 EXTRACT:
The public, in essence, is turning away from science, and returning to that which so much of early man embraced, namely superstition and gnostic* paganism. These "new" alternative techniques rarely have scientific basis, but rely on mystical interpretations of the body and soul which are inherently foreign to the Catholic understanding of reality. Despite the dangers and traps of western science noted above, these "powers" or "energies" of the body, which form the fundamental basis of these alternative remedies and techniques, still must be examined objectively. Are they "real?" Do they indeed exist? Can they be quantified or measured? If not, why? Are they part of that Nature God created?
Of course, if they do exist, they must be made to "fit" into the realm of God's creation, best understood by western philosophy and theology. However, our western understanding of God's creation has no place for powers or energies freely floating around for us to tap into, use and manipulate. Western tradition has a simple word for the tapping into and manipulation of energies or life forces. That word is "Magic."
Magic, in the western Christian world view, is a forbidden art.
God did not make energies freely floating around into which we may tap and which we may manipulate by our will, like some cosmic Star Wars "Force."Any religion or "medicine" that promises its adherents such power is a dishonest or sinister one, for such is forbidden by God. Such "knowledge" is Gnostic*, or forbidden or hidden knowledge, and it is antithetical to Christian belief. *see pages 32-35
3. THE NEW AGE: A CHRISTIAN CRITIQUE by Ralph Rath, Greenlawn Press, 1990, pages 254, 255 [Catholic]
“May the force be with you.” Almost everybody knows what that means. This is a catchphrase the good guys used in the tremendously popular Star Wars movies. The underlying theology was pure New Age. There is no Creator God, no objective rules of right and wrong. There is simply this blind force which can be used by good people for good, and bad people for bad. This force can be tapped into by suspending reason and using instinct. [Three examples from the three films of the original trilogy are provided.] This was all New Age stuff. [Ralph Rath then quotes Bob Larson, Larson’s Book of Cults, pages 98, 100 to explain the Taoistic philosophy underlying these movies, the ch’i [or ki], yin-yang, etc.]
Another theme in contemporary movies common to the New Age is that of a more highly evolved race from outer space visiting us to improve our lives. E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were two very popular movies with this theme. This concept presupposes that humans can evolve into a higher type of existence. These outer space beings have evolved further than we humans have and the implication is given that, with luck, we can evolve further, too. E.T. was so evolved, in fact, that he could heal humans and resurrect himself from the dead. No hint was given in these movies that there is a Supreme Being, a God who created the extraterrestrials as well as the humans.
4. Gods of the New Age – When Lies Masquerade as Truth by Caryl Matrisciana, Marshall Pickering, 1985
As a woman who had been to school in India, and as a New Ager who later re-visited India seeking spirituality in Hindu mysticism, Matrisciana writes in detail and with personal authority on the concept of ‘energy’ and ‘life force’. Some excerpts:
The ingredients of New Age thinking can be no more clearly presented than by my friend and colleague in cult research, Mark Albrecht. In his article ‘New Age Spirituality- a General Overview’, he offers this synopsis:
God. God is usually perceived in an impersonal sense as law, energy, or creative force. The Judeo-Christian concept of a personal, transcendent God is usually discarded or modified within a pantheistic or monistic framework…
I so desperately wanted to belong to this energy- even if meant giving up the old and embracing the new (although I really didn’t understand it) and even if it meant turning to concepts that I thought were strange and weird, perhaps even wrong...
[As New Agers,] We were led through guided imagery, visualization, rhythmic music and enthusiastic energy to merge with the universe. Through powerful suggestion, colors meshed and individuals joined together in one cosmic force- a force I eventually learned to call “God”…
The field of mathematics evaluates the theories of physicists such as Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics. Their scientifically questionable ideas provide believers in the Star Wars “Force” or cosmic consciousness with “evidence” that such a force really exists. “The 1980s will be a revolutionary time,” said Capra, “Because the whole structure of our society does not correspond with the world-view emerging from scientific thought.”
Probably the most powerful instrument available for influencing millions of minds is film. Box office records indicate that films either reflect the consciousness of a people, direct it, or do both. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a bold statement about the dark and light side of Hinduism’s god, “the Force”. It spectacularly “proves” that the “white side” is terrific.
[After her conversion to Jesus, Matrisciana recounts her visit to the cinema with her husband and two nephews-“Jeffrey and Jonathon had heard all about the heroes and villains- they smiled and leered from calendars, toys, cookie boxes, and soap containers all over London”- “Twenty years after my own first New Age conditioning at Aquarius> Hair”. She writes:
It made me smile to watch their enraptured expressions. But I began to get a sinking feeling inside as I listened to the dialogue and digested its philosophical content. First there was the Force- with its dark and light side. That’s the same concept as black magic and white magic. Then Obiwan initiated Luke into the Force. As Luke struggled to work his laser sword, Obiwan said, “Luke, your problem is you’re trying to think… tune everything out and let the Force take over”. That’s nothing short of an altered state of consciousness. After Obiwan died, he began to communicate from “the other side”. That can only be spiritism. In later films, Obiwan appeared as a sort of Ascended Master. Ascended Masters create the hierarchy that is suppose to be bringing man into the New Age.
Of course, my nephews and I didn’t miss the other Star Wars features- George Lucas had us all coming back for more, but by now my reasons were far different from theirs.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda is a Yogi. He’s got Luke standing on his head. He is going through these contortions in order to develop enough mind-power to raise his mired spaceship out of a swamp. When Luke can’t do it, Yoda does.
Luke says, “I don’t believe it”. Yoda replies with his bewitching smile, “That’s your problem”. In other words, it’s all in the mind. If we would only believe, we would have the thing we want.
When Luke goes into the cave to confront Darth Vader, Yoda says, “Don’t take your laser sword, Luke, you don’t need it. All you need is within you”. That’s the Divine Within. Luke finally cuts off Darth Vader’s head. As it rolls to the ground, he opens the visor- and sees his own head. That’s the most powerful presentation of Eastern mysticism one could ever find.
Finally, we learn in the Return of the Jedi that even evil Darth Vader has a Higher Self. He is converted from the dark to the light side of the Force.
[Moving over to the application of the Force in New Age alternative medicine, the so-called “laying on of hands” and the Mind-Body-Spirit Festivals, she gives her response to a friend who informs her, “The facilitator said that we all have healing energy within us. Do we? Is it okay for me to think of it as being Jesus?”]:
I explained to Sharon that this form of healing energy is a basic occultic principle. Not only do Hindus and Buddhists believe it, but there are Christians like Agnes Sanford who promote it as well. In her book The Healing Light, [Ballantine Books, 1972, page 18] Mrs. Sanford says:
“We are therefore made not of solid and impenetrable matter, but of energy. The very chemicals in the body- the ‘dust of te earth’- live by the breath of God, by the primal energy, the original force that we call God… This being so, it is not strange at all that when we establish a closer connection with God in prayer we should receive… an increased flow of energy. The creative force that sustains us is increased within our bodies.”
“The Biblical God”, I reminded Sharon, “is our heavenly Father, not an impersonal ‘power supply’. Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God… He is not an ‘energy flow’. The Holy Spirit is a Person… He is not ‘the original force that we call God’.
‘Healing energy’ bears different names in various cultures and settings.
[Matrisciana reproduces a table, see following excerpt, though from a different book- The Holistic Healers, by the same authors. She briefly analyses the New Age systems- Acupuncture, Yoga etc. that use this ‘energy’ or ‘force’.] pp. 11, 25, 175-190
5. NEW AGE MEDICINE, A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON HOLISTIC HEALTH by Paul Reisser, M.D., Teri Reisser, M.S., and John Weldon, M.Div., InterVarsity Press, 1987
EXTRACT: Chapter 3, Energy: The Common Denominator
If humanity survives long enough to produce a written history of the 20th century, the focus of a final chapter will surely be the problem of energy… [Presently] we are seeing an exploding interest in another form of energy. This is not the product of familiar sources (the sun, the atom, the earth’s deposits of crude oil), but rather what some believe to be an invisible, unmeasured, yet infinite energy which is the basis of all existence. In the New Consciousness and in much of holistic health, it appears under a variety of aliases, such as universal life energy, vital forces, para-electricity etc.
We are told that, regardless of its name, this energy pervades everything in the universe, unites each individual to the cosmos, and is the doorway to untapped human potential. It is at the root of all healing, all psychic abilities, all so-called miraculous occurrences. It is what religions have called God…
Actually, the idea of a pervasive life energy is very, very old. It has borne many names over the centuries, and to this day many labels are being applied to what is essentially the same concept:
Ch’i (Ki, Qi) Taoism and ancient Chinese medicine*
Orenda American Indian
Animal magnetism Franz Anton Mesmer
The Innate D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic
Orgone energy Wilhelm Reich
Vital energy Samuel Hahnemann, founder of homeopathy
Odic force Baron Karl von Reichenbach
Bioplasma Contemporary Soviet psychologists
The Force George Lucas (Star Wars)
*Pranayama, Vaastu Shastra, Yoga.
**Acupressure, Acupuncture, Acu-Yoga, Feng Shui, Pranic Healing, Reflexology, Reiki, Shiatsu, Martial Arts. 6. WHAT IS NEW AGE? by David L. Brown EXTRACT:
God: New Agers confuse the Creator with His creation and think that God is part of creation, not separate from it.
They borrow from Eastern religions the belief in monism - that "all is One" - only one essence in the universe, everyone and everything being a part of that essence. Everything is a different form of that essence (energy, consciousness, power, love, force). But the belief in monism is really Hinduistic pantheism (all is God). New Agers view God as an impersonal life force, consciousness, or energy e.g., the "Star Wars Force", rather than a Person…
7. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH THE NEW AGE by Kevin Logan, Kingsway Publications, 1991, pages 22, 23
[In an investigation of New Age basics, Logan first describes an encounter with a New Ager, then adds his comments:]
“He’s all around,” enthused Mike about his god-force. “He’s in us. He’s in everything. He IS everything.” “The one-ness of monism,” I smiled, striving for a lightness that I did not feel… Talk to any New Ager, and you will inevitably meet a monist, a pantheist, or a panentheist. Monism states that everything in the universe is one; monism is one-ism. Pantheism adds a rider: all is God – you and I, the plants, our pet dog, the tree against which it wees, planet Earth, the universe, the whole shooting-match. What is, is God! Panentheism takes a sophisticated step on from there, declaring that God is in everything. Some New Agers talk of God, while others speak of a force of nature that has a thousand names.
They include cosmic force, life force, life essence, etheric (that which lends substance to life), Kundalini serpent force (said to be coiled round the base of the spine), ch’i (Chinese form of universal energy), prana (Hindu version), shakti (energy of the gods)… Whatever the name, New Agers tend to believe that all is one and that one is a god or force or whatever. By contrast, orthodox Christian belief declares that God created, and then looked at his creation from outside and ‘saw that it was good’ (Genesis 1: 10, 21, 25, 31). There is a great difference between the Creator and his creation. God might be in his creation, but he is also above and apart from it (Isaiah 57: 15).
Esoteric Mike went on to the logical conclusion of his beliefs: “We need only reach within to find the divine, to realise we ourselves are God.”
When you believe that everything is one and God is everything, it stands to reason for the New Ager that he is God.
8. MORE UNDERSTANDING THE NEW AGE by Roy Livesey, New Wine Press, 1990, pages 30, 31
[Livesey is also the author of the following books which I possess- Understanding the New Age , Understanding Deception, New Age Teaching in the Church , Understanding the New World Order , Understanding Alternative Medicine , More Understanding Alternative Medicine , etc. In all the books, he treats this subject extensively.]
Leading New Age visionary… Barbara Max Hubbard believes that humanity is genetically “programmed” for enlightenment, and as the New York Times Magazine (1st May, 1988) reports, her view is that a New Order is being born that will be as different from what exists now as the Renaissance was from the Middle Ages. She was the central figure behind the New Age event, the World Instant of Cooperation on 31st December, 1986…
I transcribed the final part of [her] address following her campaign for the nomination as Vice-President to Walter Mondale.
She spoke of the rainbow… [rainbow, a leading symbol of the New Age movement]. [She] in 1984 had spoken of the “Rainbow Coalition”. The text of her speech which follows offers [a] valuable opportunity to discern the New Age position…
“The Rainbow Coalition is bringing together all colours and races… Our forebears set forth a vision. It is written on the dollar bill as it is written in our hearts – E Pluribus Unum – Out of many, one; Novus Ordo Seclorum – A new order of the ages. You see the unfinished pyramid of the cosmic eye. This means that when we combine our magnificent building power with our spirit and love, we will have a new order of the ages.
And finally it says Annuit Coeptis – God favours this enterprise. This means that we are not doing this work alone. The Force is with us. It is the intention of creation that human beings cooperate to build a world in which all people are free to do their best. It is to this new order that we must now recommit…”
9. A CRASH COURSE ON THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT by Elliot Miller, Monarch Publications, 1989, page 185
One of the most influential cultural establishments, the arts and entertainment media, has been infiltrated by the New Age movement… Films like George Lucas’ Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist, and television series like Star Trek: The Next Generation… have propounded pantheism, mysticism, and occultism.
10. NEW AGE FROM A BIBLICAL VIEWPOINT by Mother Basilea Schlink, The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, 1988, pages 9, 10
Even children and teenagers are being influenced by New Age ideas through a barrage of fantasy games, video films, comic books, party games and toys. Seven of the ten most popular films in the history of film-making are classified as fantasy. Heading the chart is E.T., which has given rise to a whole new youth cult- with Star Wars in second place.
Seventy-five percent of box-office successes have fantasy themes. Fantasy books are best-sellers, with editions running into millions. Hundreds of titles are already on the market, almost always presenting some form of occultism, such as communication with the dead, conjuring spirits, clairvoyance, telepathy and levitating objects by the power of thought, and featuring sorcerers, witches and magicians.
11. WHAT IS THE NEW AGE SAYING TO THE CHURCH? by John Drane, Marshall Pickering, 1991, pages 70-72
When New Agers claim they have no beliefs, they are not quite coming clean… In seeking to identify some core to the New Age philosophy, [leading New Ager and author of The Aquarian Conspiracy] Marilyn Ferguson observes that ‘the mystical experience of wholeness encompasses all separation’. What this amounts to is a belief that everything in the universe is one: ‘This wholeness encompassing self, others, ideas… You are joined to a great Self… And because that Self is inclusive, you are joined to all others’.
There is a ‘life force’, ‘energy field’, or ‘consciousness’ that animates the whole of existence. It is found in people and animals, but it also runs through every part of the natural world- grass, trees, mountains, stones, stars, galaxies and much more besides. They are all bound together into one great system by this energy field that is common to them all.
In fact, it is the only ultimate reality there is. This means that finding true meaning and fulfilment in life is a matter of accepting one’s place in this great cosmic scheme of things.
This point of view is more widely held in the west today than most people realize. The average person in the street may not express it in this kind of jargon. But I well remember that when Star Wars (the first of a long series of Hollywood block-busters based on the discovery of spiritual forces) was released, conventional greetings like ‘Good morning’ were replaced almost overnight by cosmic statements such as ‘May the Force be with you’.
Other box office successes have been dominated by similar themes. Indiana Jones gains his reputation by searching for all sorts of magical and spiritual keys to the meaning of life and the cosmos, while films like E.T. and Gremlins* affirm the reality of some extra-terrestrial life force – and the Superman series depicts a hero from another world not only entering our own, but through his superior power and ancient wisdom actually putting right many of the wrongs and injustices that concern us all so deeply. *see pages 1, 2
Film critics have had a field day trying to discern and analyze the religious messages coming from modern Hollywood.
E.T., for example, has been compared with the story of Jesus in the Christian Bible. Al Millar, an American professor of biblical literature, wrote a pamphlet called ET – You’re More Than a Movie Star in which he noted more than thirty parallels between E.T.’s visitation and that of the Christian saviour Jesus. Others have seen more sinister messages lurking behind such films, while director Steven Spielberg denies there is any religion in his [Star Wars] films at all!
Whether religious themes are incorporated deliberately is debatable, but there can be little doubt that certain spiritual assumptions lie at the back of all these productions. In particular, there is the idea that the term ‘God’ means the cosmic process rather than the personal and powerful being of the old Judaeo-Christian worldview. [Writing about] the new ‘Systems Age God’ of the Age of Aquarius, internationally acclaimed management consultant Russell Ackoff encapsulates the essence of this contemporary view when he says that the New Age ‘God’ “cannot be individualized or personified, and cannot be thought of as the Creator… In this holistic view of things, man is taken as part of God just as his heart is taken as part of man”. Transpersonal psychologist Scott Peck* says pretty much the same thing: “If you desire wisdom greater than your own, you can find it inside you… To put it plainly, our unconscious is God… It is for the individual to become totally, wholly God”. *Transpersonal Psychology will be the subject of a future article
12. UNDERSTANDING THE NEW AGE by Russell Chandler, Religion writer of the Los Angeles Times, Word Publishing, 1988, pages 21, 22
A Northern Illinois University 1987 survey reported that more than half of Americans think extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth, a belief held in many New Age circles. Credence in such articles of faith have been bolstered considerably by entities like NBC-TV’s “ALF”, a puppet “alien” whose ratings have sometimes hit the Nielsen Top Ten. Spinning the saga of his journey from Melmac to Earth, ALF- for Alien Life Form- climbed to the top three ratings for Saturday-morning TV cartoon shows. No harm in introducing a little magic and fantasy into our children’s lives- or ours- especially if toy makers and schlockmeisters can peddle 250 ALF items with sales rocketing above $200 million. Shades of E.T.!
There’s no business like show business to introduce New Age suppositions and make them credible to a general audience. Take science fiction cinema, for instance. George Lucas’ Star Wars epics in which the Force is “an energy field generated by living things” easily pass muster as a New Age definition of God. Tal Brooke, author of The Cosmic Circuit, considers the “Hollywood connection” a chief channel for “vigorously injecting Eastern mysticism” into the national culture. Such films as
Clockwork Orange, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, 2001, Dr. Strangelove, Cocoon, and Angel Heart convey New Age themes and occultism,” Brooke said.
13. WHAT IS THE NEW AGE? by Michael Cole, Hodder and Stoughton, 1990, page 32
Children can subconsciously get caught up in New Age thinking. For example, Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars saga can unwittingly lead children down the wrong pathway. George Lucas, the creator of the series, has Luke initiated into the league of Jedi knights; this involves mastering the ‘force’ that animates the cosmos, dwells within, and is tapped intuitively through feelings. Millions of young minds will be familiar with the ‘force’, and the desire for the ability to control the world.
14. TRUTH SEEKER – A NEW AGE JOURNEY TO GOD by Mark Phillips, InterVarsity Press, 1998, pages 34, 185
This ex-New Ager quotes one of his former associates explaining his understanding of the Force:
“God and the universe are both the same thing. [They are one.] Wherever God is, the universe is [and vice versa.] By definition, God is complete and perfect. If something is perfect, it could not be God. Therefore, the universe is already perfect. We must bring ourselves in line with this perfection by achieving our own state of godly perfection… That’s what the Christian Bible hints at with the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Separate, but all one God. Each one is considered by Christians to be totally God… The so-called Trinity was just a symbolic way for Jesus to communicate that all the fragments of the universe are complete in and of themselves, but are part of this single force we call God.”
In his treatment of “Witchcraft”, Phillips later adds, “Most agree that the recent resurgence [of witchcraft, or ‘wicca’] in the west began with Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). He enjoyed referring to himself as the Great Beast of Revelation. Anton La Vey, author of The Satanic Bible, founded the First Church of Satan in San Francisco. To him, Satan is a symbolic term representing the Force, which can be tapped for power and success… It is possible to see philosophical associations between witchcraft and movements based in the power of femininity, since there is a tradition of tapping the creative ‘feminine side’ of the Force in modern white witchcraft.”
15. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT by F. LaGard Smith, Harvest House Publishers, 1993
One of the Cayce-inspired [Edgar Cayce, an occult prophet] books that [a friend] had read with interest had offered a more fanciful explanation of God: In the beginning, so it seems, there was a sleeping, slumbering ball of energy known as God Force. God Force is all there was. And it was energy. But God Force roused itself, and when it did, it exploded- in Big Bang fashion- into billions and billions of points of consciousness, each one of which was still part of the God Force.
And that, according to the book, is where we come in. Each of us, said the author, is one of those points of consciousness, or what we call a ‘soul’. Since each soul was once a part of God, each soul still is God. [pages 159, 160]
16. UNMASKING THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT by Dr. Clarence Sexton, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1992, pages 7, 8, 9
The New Age Movement [NAM] and pantheism have reached our soil from the East. The NAM is being promoted through our media, and especially the movie industry… You can notice that the overwhelming emphasis of the movie industry today is a fascination with the spirit world, ghosts and life after death. George Lucas with his Star Wars, Willow and other such things, has been one of the many that have helped to introduce this kind of thinking to the young minds of the world…
People all over the world are being convinced that there is somebody out there who has power, and they want power.
They have rejected God and rejected Christ. They have thrown their lives open to this power, to this force.
17. THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF THE RAINBOW – THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT… by Constance Cumbey, Huntington, 1983, page 253
The New Age Movement has a comprehensive body of doctrine which includes the following tenets:
1. Belief in a central spiritual being known as “The Source”, or “The God of Force”, which is to them “God Transcendent”.
18. YOUR CHILD AND THE NEW AGE by Berit Kjos, Victor Books, 1990, pages 82, 83
The Star Wars epics put America in touch with “the Force”. Their thrilling cosmic power struggle mesmerized millions, inspiring dreams of connecting with the same power system. Few bothered to examine the source of that “force”…
In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda employs the “good side” of the Force to raise Like Skywalker’s ship out of the swamp, showing the spell-bound audience that man can accomplish anything he wants through faith in the “god of forces”.
[“But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour…” Daniel 11: 38 KJV]
19.The book by Peter Jones, The Gnostic*Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1992 is dedicated wholly to the New Age connection in the Star Wars series. *see pp 32-35
20. CLASH OF WORLDS by David Burnett, Monarch Publications, 1990, pages 174, 175
New Age and the media The New Age has had a powerful influence upon the mass media… New Age concepts have become commercially profitable especially when linked with science fiction and fantasy. Jungian psychologists would say that science fiction has in fact become the mythology of Western man. Here the archetypes identified by Jung are explored within cultural overlays of extra-terrestrial intelligence.
The Star Wars series of films provides an interesting example… [They] have all been major box-office successes. Television too has known the influence of this way of thinking with even children’s cartoons like He Man and the Masters of the Universe manifesting a mythical dimension.
21. THE GREAT DECEPTION by Jonathan D. James, GLS- Genesis, 1994. Chapter 5, Entertaining Demons Unawares – Media Deception, pages 56-69 EXTRACT:
Dr. Emil Gaverluk, formerly president of International Television Productions Inc. USA., says, “There is a strange phenomenon that is occuring in our time. We are being bombarded by messages that have overtones of another world.
We are being invaded by space… I believe it’s the preparation for the coming Anti-Christ”.
Dr. Robert Lindsted, a former Professor of Wichita State University says, “As the time of Christ’s return draws near, Satan will be very active. One of the ways he will be very active is in the entertainment business. Projected on the screens of human entertainment we see a number of movies, games, TV shows where we see man’s fascination with that which is oriented to the spirit world”. The mass media more than any other means is being used on a large scale to introduce, promote and reinforce New Age ideas and practices.
[He then explains the deception in the Star Wars trilogy movies, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Care Bears etc. cartoons and toys, Dungeons and Dragons etc. RPGs which are dealt with in the preceding two articles.]
Wise as a Serpent, Harmless as a Dove by Charles Strohmer, Word Publishing, 1984, page 98, 380
God. Most New Age people take the truths of God’s existence seriously. But then, all who grapple with this big question must come to some conclusion about ‘God’s’ nature. Is God a He or an It? A personal being or an impersonal energy or force? …The Bible reveals that though God is Spirit, He is also personal in nature. Though the New Age ‘way of seeing’ assents to the truth that there is ‘God’, it then distorts the nature of God, who becomes strictly ‘It’, an impersonal energy or life-force. It is the ‘God’ typified by the Luke Skywalker mentality in Star Wars: the Force be with you…
The Force. Term popularised by George Lucas in his Star Wars movies to describe ‘an energy field generated by all living organisms. It surrounds us and penetrates us. The Force is where the Jedi gets his power’- so says Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke… The Force is but another attempt to invent monistic energies for any sorcerers, black or white, who wish to wield it.
22. THE LUCIFER CONNECTION by Joseph Carr, Huntington House Inc., 1987, page 76
Pantheism The key New Age god-concept is ‘pantheism’. This idea claims that all is god: I’m god, you’re god, this book is god, the typewriter is god, etc. The pantheist’s god is not personal, but, rather, is a force, consciousness, or essence in the universe. Some New Agers reduce God to a mere force of nature. “The Force” of Star Wars is a good example of a pantheistic god-concept.
23. THE SEDUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY by Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, Harvest House Publishers, 1985, pg.13
The impersonal “Force” that occultists also refer to as Universal Mind or Nature is naively accepted by large numbers of both Christians and non-Christians as just another way of referring to God, when in fact it is a substitute for Him.
24. Journal of Religion and Film: ANY GODS OUT THERE? http://www.decentfilms.com/sections/articles/2562
Perceptions of Religion from Star Wars and Star Trek by John S. Schultes Vol. 7 No. 2 October 2003
In “A New Hope,” Obi-Wan had described the Force as “what gives a Jedi his power… an energy field created by all living things, it surrounds us and binds the galaxy together.” Yoda tells Luke further that “life creates it, makes it grow” and that one can “feel the Force around you” between “you, me, the tree, the rock….” This notion of a universal Force everywhere has several religious parallels, both in the notion of Brahman and karma in Hindu and Buddhist thought, as well as the omnipresence of God in various monotheistic traditions. Luke tries to use the Force to pull his crashed starship from a swamp in which it has become stuck, but gives up. His lack of faith is admonished by Master Yoda.
To Luke’s statement, “I don’t believe it,” he says “that is why you fail.” Yoda demonstrates his power by levitating the massive vehicle through the air and landing it safely on the ground. Luke is shown a vision in a cave by Yoda of Darth Vader. Luke attacks the specter and cuts off its head with his Lightsaber, only to find his own face beneath the helmet.
25. THE NEW SPIRITUALITY by Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, Harvest House Publishers, 1988, page 270
Children are being brainwashed into a shamanic worldview not only in our public schools but through television cartoons, movies, comic books, toys, and games. Science fiction exerts a powerful influence for Eastern mysticism. Once looked upon as pure fantasy, sci-fi now has a long track record of accurately foretelling what legitimate science would eventually accomplish. Thus its fantastic stories hold out the promise, particularly to youth, that similar exploits can be accomplished by all those who learn the secret of the“Force”. This influence begins at a very early age.
A recent issue of Shaman’s Drum: A Journal of Experiential Shamanism, Summer 1986, ‘Shamanism on Television’, page 19, announced triumphantly, “Every Saturday morning, millions of kids of all ages are treated to lessons in shamanic practice on the ‘Ewoks’ cartoon show, produced by George Lucas of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark fame. Nearly every show involves good Ewok shaman Logray doing battle with his arch-enemy Morag, and the word shaman is used directly. Clairvoyant dreams, talking trees, magical spells, amulets and wisdom teachings are gently woven into this entertaining and popular series.”
26. STAR WARS AND THE BIBLE - Star Wars, Episode III: Lure of the Dark Side May-June 2005
A Brief Reviewhttp://www.markdroberts.com/htmfiles/resources/luredarkside.htm
Mark Roberts explains, "The Force is neither good nor bad, but has both good and bad sides. Thus it's somewhat like magic in Harry Potter or nuclear energy in the real world. These are powers that have the potential to do both great good and great harm depending on the moral state of the practitioner. From a Christian perspective, the Force bears only a vague resemblance to the Holy Spirit. Both can empower people to do things far beyond their ordinary abilities. But here the similarities end. The Force is an inanimate entity that permeates all creation. The Holy Spirit is a person of the triune God, and thus is essentially transcendent of creation. This is one reason, by the way, that Christians refer to the Spirit as ‘He’ rather than ‘It’, even though the Spirit is not male. (Curiously enough, the Hebrew word for ‘Spirit’ is ruach, which is feminine. If we were speaking biblical Hebrew today, we'd refer to the Spirit as ‘she’.) The use of a personal pronoun doesn't signify the gender of the Spirit. Instead, it reminds us that the Spirit isn't a thing or an inanimate force, but rather a living, willful personality. The Holy Spirit has a personality and a will. God's Spirit does not have a dark side. The Spirit is good, and only good. Orthodox Christians believe that there are evil powers in this world, but they're distinct from God. Satan and demons fill the biblical world, and though they originate from the one God, they are separate from the good Creator. I realize that what I'm saying is obvious to many of my readers. But I have sometimes heard people talk about the Holy Spirit as if ‘it’ were a ‘force’ to be ‘used’ by Christians. This sounds more like Star Wars than biblical Christianity.
We'd be much better off thinking of God's Spirit as an almighty being who chooses to use us sometimes rather than the other way around. Even spiritual gifts are not something we can control at will. Just ask someone who is praying for the sick. We can't make the Holy Spirit do what the Spirit hasn't chosen to do. God's Spirit is truly sovereign.
So when I talk about the lure of ‘the dark side’, I do not mean ‘the dark side of the Spirit’ because there is no such thing. Rather, I'm thinking about how people who are empowered by the Holy Spirit and walk in God's ways can be drawn to turn away from God and put their trust in human and/or demonic powers.
In the Star Wars saga there are good guys, the Jedi and their allies, and the bad guys, the Sith and their allies. Ironically, both the Jedi and the Sith draw inspiration from the same source, the immaterial, immanent Force. So when the Jedi bless each other with "May the Force be with you," it's really a qualified greeting, "May the Force be with you, just so long as it's not the dark side." The Jedi knight is not immune from the dark side of the Force. Not only is the Jedi at risk of being killed by a Sith lord, but also of being seduced by the dark side of the Force. This latter threat is particularly acute for younger Jedi, young men like Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker.
Mature Jedi masters, folks like Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda, continually warn their younger colleagues about the danger of the dark side of the Force, especially the danger of being seduced by its power. What can turn a Jedi from the light side to the dark side of the Force? It's largely a matter of negative feelings: anger, hatred, jealousy, fear, and a passion for power. If a Jedi indulges these feelings too regularly, he or she might be sucked into the dark side."