While diving into the structure of the Force last week I wanted to give some attention to the balance of the Force and how it may apply to the prophecy of the Chosen One, but there was no room for it in the previous column. This week I want to help you visualize what the balance might look like, how the unbalance benefited the Sith, and how the prophecy itself may be flawed (but no less true in its purpose).
The same way I used a family tree analogy to explain the structure of the Force (check out the last week’s column if you are unfamiliar with this analogy), I would like to share the visual way I picture the balance of the Force. When trying to picture how a balance in the Force might be achieved–specifically how the Jedi and Sith might visualize it–the first thing I thought of was a weighted scale. However, I quickly realized that a doesn’t work. The only balance that can be achieved using that device would be caused by an even weight on both sides to keep balance neutral. But the Jedi want to eliminate the Sith, not balance out the scale with them.
This led to me picturing a large disc, balancing in the center, on top of a thin pole. There would be a natural balance as the disc rests on the pole unaffected by outside forces. The Jedi seek to keep the balance in its natural and neutral state while the Sith, seeking to unbalance the Force, would find ways to tip the disc. If the disc starts to tip to one side then the Jedi would attempt to bring it back to the middle. However, if they were to overcompensate and tip too far in the opposite direction they would be the ones putting the Force out of balance. It is much easier for the Sith to try and accomplish their goal of unbalance, while the Jedi have the difficult task of finding the precise balance to keep the disc “level.”
So what why would the Sith want to cause the Force to become unbalanced? We get our first indication in The Phantom Menace:
QUI-GON JINN: … He was trained in the Jedi arts. My only conclusion can be that it was a Sith Lord.
KI-ADI MUNDI: Impossible! The Sith have been extinct for a millennium.
MACE WINDU: I do not believe the Sith could have returned without us knowing.
YODA: Ah, hard to see, the dark side is.
Setting aside Mundi’s short-sighted dismissal of this news, let’s focus on what Mace Windu and Yoda are saying. Prior to the events leading to The Phantom Menace the Jedi order probably felt comfortable with its position in the galaxy. The Jedi believed their chief rival, the Sith, were no longer a threat and they maintained a working relationship with the leader of the Republic. To put it bluntly, the Jedi had become complacent, so it is not surprising they did not notice or foresee the Sith once again gaining power.
Pictured Above: A room full of complacent Jedi Masters and the Chosen One
This allowed Palpatine, and the other dark side users he was working with over the years, to secretly manipulate events to their benefit. Somewhere along the line the Jedi stopped listening the the Force (whether it was the Living or Cosmic Force) like they were supposed to; this allowed Palpatine and his fellow dark side users to “tilt the disc.” For the Jedi to be able to connect properly with the Force there needs to be balance. If the disc tilts to one side the Jedi would not longer be able to see straight across it, figuratively clouding their vision and their ability to use the Force to its fullest extent.
By the time the Clone Wars are about to begin the Jedi council have realized how dire the situation has become.
Yoda: Blind we are, if creation of this clone army we could not see.
Mace Windu: I think it is time we inform the senate that our ability to use the force has diminished.
The Jedi may have spent the ten years between Episode I and Episode II investigating how the Sith returned, but at that point they had already lost the war to Palpatine. He had too much of a head start on the Jedi order, which allowed him to put the Force out of balance enough that the Jedi would always be playing catch-up. Not only did the years of preparation and planning give Palpatine the advantage, but the state of the Jedi order (arrogant, complacent, lazy) placed it at a huge disadvantage. The lord of the Sith had been hiding in plain sight for years, manipulating the galaxy on multiple levels and the Jedi had no clue. That is how far the “disc” was out of balance in the Force.
Regardless of how powerful certain Jedi like Yoda or Mace Windu may have been, they more than likely would not be able to correct the balance of the Force at this point. By the time they fully grasped what would needed to be done (eliminating Palpatine) the power completely belonged to the Sith. Palpatine is able to execute Order 66 and essentially wipe out the entire Jedi order. With very few Jedi left to correct the unbalance in the Force, now tilted even further off its axis thanks to Palpatine successfully eliminating his rivals, the Sith have now control of the galaxy.
After the fall of the Jedi order there is only one person who would still be able to correct the balance of the Force and stop the Sith.
The Chosen One. Anakin Skywalker.
For those of you that need a reminder, the prophecy of the Chosen One is a Jedi legacy which predicts the coming of a being who would be strong enough to bring balance to the Force and destroy the Sith. Before we dive into the prophecy I want you to keep this quote from Ahsoka Tano in mind:
Ahsoka: There’s always a bit of truth in legends.
I’m including this so as we start to dissect the prophecy and the idea of the Chosen One we realize that not everything we hear from the Jedi’s perspective may be true. Let’s start off by stripping away the bias and agenda by removing the Jedi and Sith from the prophecy:
The prophecy of the Chosen One predicts the coming of a being who would be strong enough to bring balance to the Force.
By removing anything to do with the Jedi and Sith we are left with the expectation that at some point a being who is unusually strong in the Force will be powerful enough to correct a foretold unbalance in the Force. Now, let’s only focus on the agenda aspect:
The Chosen One, a Jedi, will help destroy the Sith.
You may wonder why I refer to this part as the agenda. If the Force has a will of its own, which means it allows the Chosen One to exist. As I pointed out last week the dogma of the Jedi and Sith do not derive from the Force itself, but instead are teaching/ways of understanding. If we look at the Force not through the eyes of a Jedi or Sith we realize that there would be a Chosen One even if the Jedi or Sith dogmas did not exist.
One of the major things we do not know is WHO discovered and transcribed the prophecy. In Revenge of the Sith Mace Windu and Yoda hint at the possibility of an “unreliable narrator” who created the prophecy:
Mace Windu: It’s very dangerous putting them together. I don’t think the boy can handle it. I don’t trust him.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: With all due respect, Master, is he not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?
Mace Windu: So the prophecy says.
Master Yoda: A prophecy that misread could have been.
The implication here is that whoever discovered the prophecy (more than likely from a vision in the Force like all other glimpses of the future we see) may have misunderstood or misinterpreted what the Force was telling him/her. This is entirely possible, but I’d like look at it from another angle.
Above I used the phrase “unreliable narrator” to describe the person who created the prophecy. For those of you unfamiliar with what a unreliable narrator represents:
An unreliable narrator is not simply a narrator who ‘does not tell the truth’ – Rather an unreliable narrator is one who tells lies, conceals information, misjudges with respect to the narrative audience – that is, one whose statements are untrue not by the standards of the real world or of the authorial audience but by the standards of his own narrative audience. […] In other words, all fictional narrators are false in that they are imitations. But some are imitations who tell the truth, some of people who lie.
Let’s apply this idea to the prophecy of the Chosen One. At some point a Force user (who let’s assume was a Jedi for the sake of this argument) received a vision of the Force becoming out of balance. Not only that, but that person also see a being who will possess never-before-seen potential power in the Force. Depending how vague the vision would have been (from what we have seen a Force vision is never specific in details) there is a good chance that only the basics of this possible future revealed themselves.
If you are a Jedi who sees a vision of the future that is too important to keep to yourself, but also realize that by the time it comes to pass you and everyone you know will be long dead, what would you do? The Jedi of the future would need to be aware of someone with such potential, but verbal messages passed between people are muddled over time. The other option is to write the vision down as a prophecy so it will pass through time unchanged. The prophecy, as delivered by the Force, may look like this when put to words:
There will be a Chosen One who will be strong enough to bring balance to the Force.
Then, our Jedi realizes a being that strong will possess the power to do unimaginable things for good or for evil, depending on who this person learns from. If that power were to end up in the wrong hands (in Sith hands) it could mean complete destruction for the Jedi order, and potentially for the galaxy as well. So the Jedi looks at what has first been written and decides it needs a revision:
There will be a Chosen One, a Jedi, who will be strong enough to bring balance to the Force and destroy the Sith.
The Jedi would see a chance to not only make sure the Force becomes balanced, also put the Chosen One on the path to defeat the greatest enemy of the order. So when Yoda says “a prophecy misread could have been,” he could have easily had said, “a prophecy not accurate or truthful may be” and not necessarily been wrong.
While keeping in mind that the prophecy may or may not be entirely accurate as the Jedi know it, events are put into motion that forever link the Chosen One to the Sith. It’s impossible to know what would have happened if the prophecy made no mention of Jedi or Sith, but using a great scene from The Matrix after Neo knocks over the vase following a warning from the Oracle we get this intriguing line of dialogue, “Oh, what’s really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything?” What is illustrated here is that it doesn’t matter HOW something came to pass, whether is was preordained or a chain reaction of consequences rippling from individual choices, only that it happened regardless.
Anakin, the Chosen One, was set with a destiny to destroy the Sith while bringing balance to the Force. These things are intertwined and cannot be separated.
All the events of Anakin’s story bring him, Palpatine, and Luke together at the end of Return of the Jedi.With no one to bring the “disc” of the Force back to a neutral center, Palpatine went unchecked. For 24 years Palpatine had no rival to combat the dark side might he wielded. He rose to power by keeping the balance of the Force in his favor, clouding the vision of the Jedi by creating a great unbalance. When Anakin chooses to kill Palpatine he brings the Force back into balance by removing the tremendous “weight” Palpatine was applying in the Force to keep the “disc” uneven.
Could Luke have found a way to kill Palpatine and correct the unbalance the Sith lord had created? Possibly. But it was Anakin who fulfilled his own prophecy without even using the Force. He only needed the strength of his body to lift the fragile old man over the railing to throw him to his death. The prophecy linked Anakin, the balance of the Force, and Sith together. We hear the phrase “the will of the Force” used throughout the saga many times and this moment is the finest example we see.
The Force delivered a vision years and years ago, which may or may not have been passed down accurately for generations, and which starts to come to pass with the birth of a Force user with nearly limitless potential, only to intersect with the destruction of the Jedi and the rise of the Sith due to the corruption of the Chosen One, who 24 years later decides to do the right thing which leads to the Force “resetting” and finding balance for the first time in decades (maybe even longer).
Had any one of these events played out differently and the pieces been in the wrong place by Return of the Jedi the Force potentially would have never found balance again. Coincidence or good luck? Destiny or free will? The only thing we do know is that from start to finish, it was the will of the Force.