Good and Evil in Knights of the Old Republic

~ essay on the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic saga.

The Star Wars mythos has always been something of an fascination to me. A fascination, and an oddity. So much of what makes the universe and saga is already past in the initial films — Episodes IV, V and VI; the last of an order of space samurai calls a forgotten son into rebellion against a giant imperial state led by a hooded, yellow-eyed ‘Dark Lord’ and his demon-voiced cyber-warrior Dragon by his side who can choke a man out with a thought.

Who were the Jedi and Sith? What is The Force? How did we get here, rebels and the empire, blue sabers versus red?

Beyond being extremified, black and white notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ for the sake of crafting a mythological space opera with its requisite heroes and villains in constant opposition — what defines the philosophy of the “Light side” and the “Dark side” of this Force?

Light and Dark sides of the Force:
https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Light_side_of_the_Force
The light side of the Force was selflessness; the Jedi’s purpose was exemplified by their acts of altruism and letting go.
https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Dark_side_of_the_Force
The power of the dark side was channeled by Force-sensitives who twisted their gifted ability to use the Force to acquire power for themselves, in return for allowing the dark side to override their character and consume their soul.
~ You have taken your first steps on the path to the Light Side. Heroic acts and charitable responses to others will elevate you further, bringing you more in touch with the Light Side of the Force and its higher mysteries. Cruel or selfish actions will reverse this, causing you to fall to the Dark Side. ~ KOTOR II message after first Light decision
~ The Force is the transcendent mover in all living things — and is especially concentrated and powerful within sentient beings — thusly, its connection to willpower and morality is inherent to its very existence, to its eternal and continuous presence throughout a Universe peopled with so many sentient minds. ~ Luke Skywalker Becoming One With The Force – by Tony Warne
“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.
~ Obi-Wan Kenobi

How deep does it all go?

I just replayed the classic video game saga of Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) — the first game being the best Star Wars story of all time {imho}, and the second, The Sith Lords, bringing to the narrative and philosophical forefront everything that makes the mythos so compelling. *This* is the past that establishes the conflicts of Star Wars into a definitive foundation, with morality, geopolitics, and fate all intertwined in a grand opera of poetic echoes and rhymes.

I wish to speak on these stories, the Force, the Jedi and the Sith, and the nature of good and evil within Star Wars.

My KOTOR review, simply stated.

Revan and Malak’s war

Four thousand years before the rise of the Galactic Empire, the Republic verges on collapse. DARTH MALAK, last surviving apprentice of the Dark Lord Revan, has unleashed an invincible Sith armada upon an unsuspecting galaxy.

Crushing all resistance, Malak’s war of conquest has left the Jedi Order scattered and vulnerable as countless Knights fall in battle, and many more swear allegiance to the new Sith Master.

In the skies above the Outer Rim world of Taris, a Jedi battle fleet engages the forces of Darth Malak in a desperate effort to halt the Sith’s galactic domination…

The ^ opening crawl ^ of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic once more throws us into the midst of a conflict long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Just longer ago. It centers the conflict — like every Star Wars story — on war. The new Dark Lord Malak, apprentice to his late master Darth Revan, wages a war of conquest and domination against the long-standing, now-faltering Republic. A former Jedi, he has fallen to the Dark Side. Cruel and merciless and supremely powerful, Darth Malak threatens to bring the entire known galaxy under his rule. Rising many millennia before Sidious and Vader, these Sith Lords are built differently — they wage their fiery war for control in the Sun and not in the shadows, in open and sustained conflict with the Republic, with their sabers drawn and their Force powers flashing.

In this ongoing saga — of constant wars between warlords and their oppressed masses, masters and apprentices, the Light and the Dark — how did we get here? As the player character {vague and variable in their origins: a soldier, smuggler, or scout} travels to the planets embroiled within Malak’s campaign, you and your ragtag group of complex misfit heroes learn the true history of events leading to this dire situation. And whether you now act as a source of light or darkness to those in the world around you {like all BioWare games, many interactive moral choices are in play through your questing}, you also learn of your past self. Their moral choices as a Jedi, AND as a Sith; they are ones you do not remember. The truth is that you *are* Revan, no longer captured and not dead, suffering from an amnesia that has separated you from your previous persona. Revan, known to the galaxy as a great Jedi warrior who fell to the Dark Side and became a transcendently powerful Dark Lord. In fact, your past actions are the source of this war you are now desperately trying to end {no doubt one of the best twists in gaming history!}

Revan on Korriban, among the Great Sith Tombs

As you trail this path of blood marked by Malak and his Sith armies, as you learn of your colleagues’ intertwining pasts and find solutions to minor squabbles in the side stories along your journey, the core conflict repeatedly begs the question — can a Jedi survive war? Not as a warrior, merely keeping their life through the battles, but as a ‘Jedi’ — can their oath and their soul survive the necessary horrors of war?

You {Revan} and Malak’s march to war against the Mandalorians in the era just previous — righteously, as *Jedi* hoping to save the Outer Rim from violent subjugation — end up providing compelling evidence on the corrupting nature of warfare. The Mandalorians, a warrior clan of compulsory conquerors, represented the proverbial ‘barbarians at the gates.’ In light of the Jedi Council’s indecision and refusal to act in opposition of their sudden emergence at the fringes of the Republic’s core worlds, taking planets in an indeterminate campaign of guerilla domination, the Jedi Revan and Malak took their loyalists unto the breach to fight back — in a stark separation from the Jedi Council’s decree. Their strategic brilliance and combat superiority, no doubt aided by their Jedi-trained mastery of The Force, won them the war, thereby saving the Republic from the Mandalorian threat.

Canderous Ordo, your Mandalorian mercenary companion across both KOTOR games — a former Mandalorian military commander — speaks of Malak and Revan’s intervention being the determining force in the conflict; he speaks candidly of his respect for Revan, as a true warrior of the highest caliber, one that prevented him and his kin from taking the Universe into their own hands.
Jedi Malak: “It was within our power to end the war. And the Council chose to debate behind closed doors while planets burned.

But simultaneously, the Dark Side — and the Sith, as the prime adherents to its presence — gained a pair of Dark Lords. The Jedi lost them, along with their many followers. Whether out of a passionate desire to save lives, or with secret pathological ulteriors in hand, the Jedi that fought in the Mandalorian War — as depicted in the aftermath of it, in the sagas that KOTOR I and II play out — could never be the same. Waging war demands not only a will to win — but a will to power. And this Nietzschean impulse is only articulated within the Dark Side, among the Sith. This is where Revan and Malak drew their power; the Dark Side is what powered their weapons and supplied their growing forces. Importantly, this became true for both their victory over the Mandalorians, and their subsequent rebellion against the Republic.

It stands to reason any Jedi that chooses to engage in war, whether for some righteous conquest or even for the defense of innocents, cannot avoid a confrontation with the Dark Side. War is the ultimate source of chaos and conflict and temptation within the Star Wars mythos because it creates a dire ultimatum. Almost all of those caught in its throes end up either dead, or falling to the Dark Side. Sacrificed, or corrupted.

Undoubtedly, in Star Wars or elsewhere — war is a source of evil.

~ “The Star Forge” — predates the Republic itself; ancient weapon capable of producing entire fleets of warships. Map to it found in old Jedi ruins, yet it is undoubtedly a pure Dark Side technology. ~ Star Forge art source
The Builders” —  the “Rakata”, rulers of the infinite empire, creators of the Star Forge, mysterious progenitor race within the Star Wars universe {foreshadows similar beings in BioWare’s other epic Mass Effect}

No matter how you view any particular conflict, ideologically — war is ultimately systematic murder. Every fight — no matter how ‘good’, how black and white it may seem to be — is ambivalent; violence inflicts itself upon killed and killer. Those who live by the saber are likely to die by the saber. For the sake of victory, war necessitates the search for better weapons to fight it with — for greater and greater power. The Force readily supplies such power, but only to those willing to tap its darkest reaches.

~ Mastery over Force powers, joined with the Light side or Dark side, via Jediism or Sithism, it is akin to being a God. It is intuitive that that kind of power over life and death necessarily displaces you from humanity.
Commentary: Light Side and Dark Side come down to Life and Death; empowering The Force within living things, or severing it. Moreover, The Dark Side is the moral failing within all of us from the start. Because we are sentient — we are able to choose evil. It is the possibility that we may fall, no matter to our self-image as one of righteousness. Everyone is necessarily capable of betrayal.

Thusly, the Jedi — as this aged order of nigh-pacifist ascetics, trained to deny passion and sooner die themselves than take another’s life — are not fit to last long within a universe where war is always on the horizon.

The Jedi, as demanded by their code, *cannot* fight war. And they do not endure it, for they are as likely to fall into The Force, no longer among the living, as they are to become submerged within its struggle — later emerging as Sith, under new names and new personas. So no — Jedi do not survive war. But in the long run, neither do many Sith. The Jedi fall and the Sith self-destruct. Just as their code, in its suppression and denial of passion and emotion, disallows any true blue ‘human beings’ to reside for long within the ranks of the Jedi, so too do the Sith seem eager to turn their war inevitably on themselves, among their brethren and within their heart. The lore and events covering The Mandalorian wars, as recounted in both KOTOR stories, reflect this.

“Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun, the Dark Lords during the Sith War many decades ago, were once Jedi Knights, as were Revan and Malak.”
But the reason the Jedi Civil War was named such was because few in the galaxy can recognize the difference between the Sith and the Jedi.” ~ Mical, Jedi scholar

In this way, the exogenous wars of geopolitics and droids and clones and cool lightsaber dueling is just the inciting incident. The true battle of the Star Wars mythos’ iconoclastic heroes and villains {sometimes one and the same} comes within their own wartorn souls, every path marking its way at some point through such warring.

~ In ironic effect, the Sith creed ensures they will never be free; the Jedi Code ensures they will never be at peace. Pick your poison: absolute freedom with nigh unlimited power in hand, leading inevitably to corruption / suppression of all passion for the sake of self-discipline alone, i.e. self-sacrifice…
Your companion Atton Rand, on the conflict between the Jedi and Sith
“A Jedi’s life is sacrifice.” ~ the Jedi code demands too much from a person, most people are not willing to endlessly sacrifice themselves for others, or for some future, abstract “greater good”

This thesis is proven in examination of the stars of the saga: Revan and “the Exile” {protagonist from KOTOR II}, from the Old Republic. And Anakin, from its fall and the birth of the Galactic Empire. With its conflicts and its power and its death-dealing, war changed them each. This trio all experienced the pinnacle of the Jedi and the Sith, the Light and the Dark within the Force, each a victor and a defeated within war. They — the ones with arcs spanning each side of the eternal strife — are likely the carriers of some kind of universal truth within Star Wars.

Commentary: The whole point of KOTOR was to show how Revan used both sides of the force to get the job done. They knew when they should be passive and when they should be proactive. It points out how the sith are killing themselves for power and how eventually it will be their doom. It also points out how weak and useless the Jedi are until someone forced their hand.

Them and another, one who best marks the philosophy of Jedi and Sith with equal parts dialectical philosophizing and scorn, making her appearance in KOTOR II: The Sith Lords: Kreia. Formerly Arren Kae, then Darth Traya. At one time all-powerful in the Force, betrayed, then forgotten, she is a phantom-like woman with a crisp voice and a clear vision of what it is she wants, all her learnings from a long life of duty and pathology gathered to scaffold such a view. Kreia, the one-handed, bright-eyed monologuer and judger of everything within her purview at all times, the ‘enlightened centrist’ of Star Wars canon, provides the self-examinatory missing link within the grand conflict at the heart of the saga:

Synthesis.

That is, “the dialectic combination of thesis and antithesis into a higher stage of truth.”

Kreia and Synthesis


The Philosophy of Kreia: A Critical Examination of Star Wars

~

“Your stance, your walk tells me you are a Jedi. Your walk is heavy, you carry something that weighs you down.”
~ Kreia

Ultimately, every consequential drama within Star Wars comes down to Jedi and Sith in battle with one another. A continuous attack and defense of values as much as territory, their conflict is existential. At its heart is The Force, its utility and its comprehension. Should the Force be embraced like fate, or abused as a tool? Is the Force merely a moral test — emblazoning its boons upon those willing or unwilling to draw from its well — or a final master for our reality, the fateful, deterministic force behind all events, every sentient choice annulled before its endless balancing act?

Commentary: Jedi vs Sith is always first a battle to turn your opponent over to your side. Initially, at least. Because gaining your opponents as allies is infinitely better than killing them, if possible. It is a binary struggle, life and death, possibility versus its opposite. 0, dead. Or, 1, alive and able to do ANYTHING. If someone is dead, then they can never any longer affect anything. They are gone. Only their memories can influence… Additionally, the Jedi do not wish to kill if they can help it, whereas the Sith cannot manipulate a dead man to their greater designs…

An especially Force-sensitive individual’s unconscious answer to some of the above questions marks them upon one or another path inside of the Star Wars universe: Jedi, or Sith. Respectively, someone that will be selfless, that shuns power for anything beyond defense, or someone that will be selfish, that pursues power without end. It is a world where many starts and finishes along these lines reverse place, changing the actors as they explore the Force.

However, not to be discounted within this dichotomy is the simple fact that the Jedi predate the Sith. In fact, the Sith — as the galaxy-spanning ideology it becomes — only exist as a result of the Jedi Order; many Sith lords are necessarily created through the ranks of the Jedi — or as a reaction to the environment where the peaceful monks dominate galactic politics. These dark warriors come out of the light — from out of, or in response to, the ‘good side.’ Understanding this fact and why it may be is imperative to grasping the nature of the conflicts within this saga.

Exar Kun ~ In the canon, Exar Kun was one of the first Jedi Masters to fall to the dark side and become a Sith Lord, a betrayer of the Jedi Order and its teachings. He started the The Sith War.

George Lucas on the Light side and the Dark side  ~
One is selfless, one is selfish — you want to keep them in balance / Falling to dark side entails 1) forgetting about others, 2) harboring desires, 3) fighting to get them — from there, you fear losing what you have gained. Fear leads to Anger leads to Hate leads to Suffering. If you spend all your time being afraid, then you have no compassion for anyone’s pain but your own, you have no time for anyone but yourself. / If you give to others, you don’t think about yourself — then you no longer feel the pain. / “You are allowed to love people. But you are not allowed to possess them.” ~ Anakin’s mistake wasn’t loving, it was not letting go of his love when he knew it was fated to die.

One thesis for why this is — why the Jedi cast their own shadows in the Sith — is not just because human beings {or sentients, in Star Wars alien-inclusive terms} are inherently capable of evil. That may be true, to some degree, for any given person. But I don’t think it entirely explains why so many Jedi fall. No, instead it is because the Jedi Order demands a perfection that cannot be — a highly individualized and *inhumane* perfection within a chaotic and decidedly imperfect galaxy.

Some say ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ The will to power, freedom, and confrontation with empowering conflicts and adventure is not evil, it is innate to sentient experience. Thus, that march to becoming a Sith is not the final evil it may become — it’s just the pull of human nature. The Jedi, then, pressure a person to abandon much of their humanity. No desire, no power, no love. No passion. Such asks are impossible, of course. All these things inescapably come into consciousness throughout life. Maintaining discipline and choosing deprivation in the face of their constant beckoning, via mentorship, training and wisdom, is what makes a Jedi strong, potentially.

You could say ‘the path to enlightenment is full of temptations.’ The Jedi try to build out a foundation of order within the disorderly, constant-conflict of intergalactic civilization; the Sith are merely ones falling back into id and instinct, into the innate nature of the universe itself.

To many, what the Jedi are trying to do might seem impossible. To deny freedom, passion, power, is to turn away from your sentience itself. For some – for many – betraying that kind of regime becomes easy.

The Jedi, with their damnable sense of overcaution, would tell you love is something to avoid. Thankfully, anyone who’s even partially alive knows that’s not true. Love doesn’t lead to the dark side. Passion can lead to rage and fear, and can be controlled…but passion is not the same thing as love. Controlling your passions while being in love… that’s what they should teach you to beware. But love, itself, will save you… not condemn you. Love causes pain, certainly. Inevitably love is going to lead to as much sorrow and regret as it does joy. I suppose there are perfect, eternal loves out there… but I haven’t seen any. How you deal with the bad part of love is what determined your character, what determines the dark side’s hold over you. A life without risk is boring. You want love, you’ve got to fight for it.” ~ Jolee Bindo, ex-Jedi
At this critical moment, is this really what Anakin needed to hear… ?

And yet, the Jedi Order — indisputably the ‘good side’ in this conflict — in order to achieve their special {potentially impossible} enlightenment with the Force in hand, canonically keeps to practices which are inhumane and somewhat horrifying in their own way — such as separating Force-sensitive children, anointed for training, from their parents from an early age, for the sake of tempering notions of attachment and love. They engage in the wholesale indoctrination of children. Despite their categorical renunciation of war, and refusal to become involved in violence if they can help it, the Jedi’s prime tool and symbol is that of the lightsaber — a weapon. They fight and kill all the time; they are trained as warriors. For all intents and purposes, the Jedi teachings do not allow for the mediation of inner moral struggles beyond the process of individual meditation through the Force — “search out your feelings” and *it does not matter what you want, you must sacrifice [your loved ones] [yourself].* Taken in full, Jediism can appear as a quasi-religious death cult, enervating to self-determining action and in many ways, anti-life.

In making an enemy of emotion, it is a methodology that is inevitably doomed to provide no worthy answer to one in conflict with their duties and passions, feeling the pull of the freedom of the Dark Side.

Something both KOTOR sagas establish with clear eyes and full hearts {as well as Old Man Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi film}: the Jedi Order is not without its contradictions and sins. They create their own demons out of ignorance or hubris or both. Refusing to fight in war is the most noble, right-hearted choice the Jedi make in the whole Old Republic saga — and it’s a perfectly terrible irony that the consequences of that choice spell their near end. They cannot get out of their own way; they cannot help creating the Sith, the very thing that constantly threatens to destroy them.

“The Jedi have long since lacked anyone to judge their actions – and provide support should their power corrupt them. We are this strength.” ~ one of the Echani Handmaidens on the Jedi
“Not once did I hear one of the Council claim responsibility for Revan, for Exar Kun, for Ulic, for Malak… or for you.” ~ Jedi Master Zez-Kai Ell to the Exile
Commentary: The Jedi train *warriors* to be pacifists. They demand that their agents protect the innocent but discourage them from loving them {‘a Jedi is allowed to love but cannot possess’, a slippery slope…}. They practically never {effectively} intervene with students struggling to maintain their balance, being tempted to the Dark Side. They disallow war — even to protect life — save for when it is against their own mortal enemy, in civil wars against the Sith, their former students, ultimately a selfish strife over the Force itself, and its power. They — just like their Sith foes — depend absolutely upon the Force, surrendering to it instead of trying to master it, and yet are still controlled by it in this way. {*Marxian analysis mode initiated*: During the Old Republic Eras, they are integrally involved in all aspects of geopolitical and socioeconomic diplomacy and policymaking within the Core Worlds of the known galaxy, and yet there is still slavery, genocide, constant warfare and classes! Trash ass Jedi!}
Count Dooku / Darth Tyrannus on Yoda and the Jedi
the symbol of the Jedi order – a shining lightsaber
Commentary: The Jedi code suppresses conflict — the craving for adventure, the demands of personal pride, the yearnings to love beyond compassion — these things are what make the Jedi fall to the Dark Side. For better or worse, the Dark Side is the compulsion toward freedom. From one perspective, in fact, to start down the path of the Sith is to embrace one’s humanity.
“Jedi are not supposed to be like the rest of us, they are supposed to see a higher purpose in all things…a single Force wielder can change the face of the galaxy, and that is a frightening thing indeed.”

“We are the select few who refuse to be carried by the Force, and who carry it instead. Thirty in a millennium, rather than the tens of thousands fit to be Jedi.”
~ Darth Plagueis

Freedom — their definitive restrictions upon it — seems to be the principal problem with the Jedi and why they fail to prevent their own from falling. Their code of self-restraint does not allow much room for maneuvering through the necessary complexities of life, individually or collectively. Their code does not trust its adherents; their code does not seem to allow for personal judgments, or choice. Patience and discipline with the baser passions of life can be worthy pursuits, most would agree. Some may find a special kind of freedom within strict diligence to a creed or code. But more commonly, when the exigencies of the real world fall upon a person, especially when gifted with the power and responsibility — and burden — of a rare Force affinity, everyone desires agency.

They say only a Sith deals in absolutes. And yet, I would mark this statement as such, as absolutely true:

Everyone desires the capacity to exert their will and their power upon the galaxy around them. Everyone absolutely desires agency. Volition.

This is where Kreia comes in.

Kreia (pronounced /ˈkɹeɪə/) was an unconventional and highly controversial Force-sensitive Human female exiled Jedi Master who took it upon herself to build a new Jedi Order of her vision in freeing sentient beings of the galaxy from being enslaved to the will of the Force.

Kreia, a wizened and mysterious, and very un-Jedi-like, master in The Force, is an invaluable companion through the opening events of The Sith Lords. She provides our hero — “the Exile” — with much needed context to their current predicament ~ you are an ex-Jedi now Force-less, on the run from being captured by a crime syndicate or assassinated by the Sith, escaping a Republic battle cruiser to land on a mining station as a wanted rogue… Known simply as “the last Jedi,” you begin your journey searching for the truth of your past. {You are not unlike Revan in this capacity…}

Opening crawl of KOTOR II: The Sith Lords:

It is a perilous time for the galaxy. A brutal civil war has all but destroyed the Jedi Order, leaving the ailing Republic on the verge of collapse.

Amid the turmoil, the evil Sith have spread across the galaxy, hunting down and destroying the remaining Jedi Knights.

Narrowly escaping a deadly Sith ambush, the last known Jedi clings to life aboard a battered freighter near the ravaged world of Peragus….…

As you and your adventurous tag-alongs begin to explore the nearby worlds for the remaining Jedi masters in hiding at the behest of the *real* last Jedi in Atris — Kreia verbally weaves her philosophy together before the party’s travails through thick and thin. Force-bonded for reasons unknown — sharing thoughts and experiences and emotions through the Force — the Exile and Kreia work each other for answers regarding themselves and their fate. Kreia admonishes the Exile throughout, for their choices {such as vigorously side-questing} and their lack of concern for the ‘true’ mission, whatever it may end up being.

As an ex-Jedi {ex-Sith Lord} with considerable Force powers and an unnerving affinity for entering the minds of others without asking, Kreia is discernible as neither light or dark. Not a Jedi or Sith. She is grey, just like her robes and hair. At surface, Kreia’s prime commitment seems to be toward you, the Exile — following you, relying on your choices, constantly anticipating the Force to deliver both of you to your cosmic deserts by the end. Conversations reveal her convictions unto freedom, and to the contrast. Kreia preaches the necessity of exploring Light and Dark, order and chaos, selflessness and selfishness. Morality, and immorality. She is tacitly obsessed with power, and with the Force. She does not wish for you to rely on others for the source of your power or your path; she believes unearned aid can corrupt people, or those around them. She thinks that everyone should build their own source of strength. She understands that suffering begets suffering, and that cruelty and pain should only be inflicted when it is ‘worthwhile’, i.e. advancing one onward to their larger goals. Altogether, she tells you that you should only indulge your disciplines or passions when it is useful.

One quickly learns that the Jedi Code does not give all the answers. If you are to truly understand, then you will need the contrast, not adherence to a single idea.” ~ Kreia
Commentary: So, the Jedi do not allow for passion // the Sith take it too far ~ Kreia’s philosophy marks the possibility for passionate Jedi / balanced Sith — one who can use their power to their own individual judgment of ends, and not toward the end of any solidified code {the disciplined, self-restricting duty of Jediism for the sake of an abstract peace and tranquility} or creed {the freedom, pursuit of power, self-destructive march of the Sith}
If you seek to aid everyone in the galaxy, you will only weaken yourself and them. It is the internal struggles, when fought and won on their own, that yield the strongest rewards. You stole that struggle from them, cheapened it. The currents of the galaxy, of nations and peoples, may all stem from such “kindnesses… Every small weakness, small fracture, that you create weakens the whole. If you care for others, then dispense with pity and sacrifice, and recognize the value in letting them fight their own battles. And when they triumph, they will be even stronger for the victory.” ~ Kreia, Force-wielding libertarian / Social Darwinist

For these reasons, she opposes both the Jedi and Sith. Kreia is one that believes that every person should live by only a single absolute code: to live by no code. Kreia’s philosophy is pure freedom, and pure judgment. The heart of her words bears out the necessity of volition. Or free will. The ability to choose. Kreia is obsessed with the prospect of us living while wielding absolute volition in all things.

Or the tragedy of not doing so.

Sith Triumvirate ~ “From the teachings of the Trayus Academy, Sion learned pain, Nihilus learned hunger, and Traya learned betrayal… and then was betrayed in turn.” / Darth Traya {Kreia} trained Sion and Nihilus — left the Jedi order and teachings in order to better understand why so many Jedi fall to the Dark Side. She understood something was missing from the Jedi Code — “conflict” is a necessary component of life, which the Jedi discount and despise — in their avoidance of it as part of their ethos, they open the door for such falls to the Dark Side.

This is Kreia’s proposed synthesis — the higher stage of truth — that meets the Jedi and Sith, as ideologies. Kreia’s individualist x libertarian thinking builds it out, in defiance of any prior mold. Every moment of living within this orderly x chaotic universe must be met with our will, lest we lead tragic and meaningless lives. For a worthy existence, no action may pass without bearing the full weight of the likely consequences, cognizant of our desires and our duties as we’ve carried them. Every employment of our power may come with full individual volition unto past, present and future. No dogma. No code or creed. No ideology. Pure judgments, pure dialectics, pure self-determination. Impossible or foolish as it may be, this is the synthesizing ethos between the extremes the Jedi and Sith represent — as Kreia sees it.

She wants the ability to make choices, free of a greater will upon her, such as the ideals or pasts of the Sith or Jedi {or her code in the game}.

In truth, Kreia desires to be like you — like Revan and the Exile {like YOU, the player playing the game}.

Kreia’s lore – Contrast / Betrayal / Exile ~ Silently withdrawing from the Jedi Order, Kreia began to question her own beliefs as she took those who followed her teachings with her away from the Jedi. Some believed that she had followed Revan and his Jedi to war, but she instead traced her former Padawan’s footsteps, searching for an answer that she alone could provide...
The power to kill can be just as satisfying as the power to create.” ~ Rope (1948)
Could be the creed of the Sith.
Might the Jedi fail ultimately because of their outlaw not only on love – but on child-rearing?
Because of it, they do not truly create, to offset all the Sith’s destruction. And so, without this balance of life and death, the Jedi fall. They are weaker to the passions of life, because they do not even try to deal in them, let alone embrace them.
“At times, I wonder what we would be if the Force was taken from us – if we would truly be Jedi or Sith… or simply human.” ~ Atris, the last Jedi

“All those who gain power are afraid to lose it. Even the Jedi.”
~ Darth Sidious

“It is because he sees planets, stars… not people. To him, the planet below, the station with its teeming life, only that is massive enough to demand his attention.” ~ Hot take: The Jedi and Sith are both detrimentally obsessed with the Force and utterly reliant on it. Because of this, their art is hollow. The Jedi fall and the Sith die. They do not wield their power for community — only for self-improvement or self-denial. Either way, there is self-absorption. This lack of communal spirit is what makes their quest empty of any staying power or meaning in the end. Neither builds anything but a fortress of self. The Jedi and Sith’s fate is always to be at war with one another, like mythical gods, unconcerned of the large swath of life in the galaxy. This is because no synthesis or ascension of their ideals has yet taken place. With the Force superstructuring their eternal power struggle, they seemingly exist ONLY to fight one another over its flow, all of them obsessed, individualized and thus, doomed.

But while it may help resolve the failings of the Sith and Jedi, Kreia’s philosophy of contrast and freedom may not be the synthesis that truly joins together the Light and Dark sides of the Force. For the Force changes everything. Including the Jedi and Sith, who may not be synonymous with the sides of it they claim. And because of that, it changes everything in such equations.

If — as Kreia dreads to be true in the end — The Force could bring its own will to bear upon the universe around it, with no blessing from anything outside of it as to that will… then life would be meaningless for us, and the Force would be the prime force of evil in the Universe. Or at the very least, our enemy — the enemy of sentient liberty.

For the Force, in its seeming pursuit of balance, while it enslaves both Jedi and Sith to its will, commits atrocities. Not the least of which: the devouring of free will.

Good and Evil and Reality under the Force

Something that always kinda bugged me about Star Wars was how cartoonishly evil characters like the Emperor were. In the video games, this is also true for many of the “evil” / Dark Side dialogue and action choices. Some turns are needlessly murderous, while others are just mean or spiteful, or even stupid. It is evil-ness to the point of being silly, beyond cunning or for the sake of amplifying power. Even if that is how it plays out for the Emperor and Revan or the Exile, for the sake of the plot, their cruelty often does not seem to have a purpose beyond just establishing the character as cruel. As in, not good. Not a Jedi.

^ Now that is a bad guy.

It is like choosing the Dark Side is this self-aware descent into nearly unconscious pathology. Whether for fun or for power, the player character — and in turn, all the Jedi-turned-Sith throughout history — were allowing for the Dark Side to co-opt their soul, and their will with it, into its tenebrous folds. In reading about the Force and its Dark Side, you come to find the lore even says there is an “overriding” element to its work upon sentient minds.

The power of the dark side was channeled by Force-sensitives who twisted their gifted ability to use the Force to acquire power for themselves, in return for allowing the dark side to override their character and consume their soul.
~ The Dark Side of the Force

Why? Does this overriding ethic yearn for passion? Freedom? For power? Yes, maybe at the beginning. But what do the reality of these choices become? In Star Wars, every single Jedi-turned-Sith ends up falling away from their original reasons for the jump into the Dark Side. At some point, they turn away from the original liberating or ‘goodly’ end(s) they intended to use that power or freedom for. Inevitably, this passion, freedom and power within the Dark Side becomes fascistic, genocidal, self-destructive.

To put it more aphoristically — in Star Wars, no plan ever survives contact with the Dark Side of the Force.

Seduced by the dark side, Anakin Skywalker ceased to exist and became Darth Vader.” // A Sith is truly a different person than they were before. No longer a Jedi — no longer willing to shun the power offered to them by the universe, they change completely into a new persona.

The point here being — that the original *character* reason that the Jedi chose to pursue the pathologies of power — to save someone, or to save the galaxy — do not end up being relevant any longer once they have become powerful. Once they have grasped that power within the darkness, their prior objectives no longer matter. Without that consistency in their motive and action, they change. They become evil {sometimes cartoonishly so..} Not irrevocably, as we see with the grand redemption of someone like Anakin, and with the changing journeys of Revan and the Exile. But for the time they are a Sith Lord or ‘dark’ Jedi warrior, they cannot claim their previous persona or desires, however righteous or convicted they may have been. They become someone else. As we know, “Darth” is affixed before a brand new name. They become murderers and tyrants for the sake of… their Sith master? The empire? The fall of the Jedi? Their hunger for power, the Force, for life itself. For murder and violence alone…

This may all be implicit; in Star Wars, the purpose of the Dark Side is to show the pitfalls of seeking power. Metaphorically speaking, The Force could just be power incarnate, right? “With great power comes great responsibility.” / “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” As in, power always changes a person, along with their plan, their dreams and objectives; once powerful, you cannot remain the same person that you were.

A Force-user cannot tap its inner power without changing as a result, sure. But whether that knowledge or power comes from the Light or Dark side, if the Force-user cannot choose their own moral path in the end beyond those lines — if, through this overriding aspect, power *must* become evil and cannot be used to fight against evil… then where is the choice? In cosmic terms, if every action has an equal and opposite reaction — if every good must be met with a commensurately powerful evil — if balance is always the endgame, regardless of any individual’s will — then there is no real meaning to the sides, let alone the choices. If a Jedi cannot learn of the Dark Side without falling into pathology, if a Sith cannot protect and defend and act sometimes in selfless ways — then there is no free will there within this conflict, is there?

The question remains through all this, going back to that original point about the *override* within the Dark Side.

What exactly is doing the overriding? And why?

The Force. And it does so for reasons beyond mortal understanding, able to efficaciously chart life and death against one another for the sake of promised future only it can envision and actualize.

Yoda on the The Force: “Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us. And binds us.”

It may be because the Force itself is a kind of sentience, or simply transcends it while housing parts of its core character. With it at the helm, there can be no self-determining contrast for the characters within Star Wars. Power is pathology incarnate; it’s usage demands a fall into darkness as retribution against such desires. Or the death drive rises up out of such beings unconsciously as a way to keep life in check, such as the natural course of wildfires occasionally ravaging the vegetation of a rampantly growing forest. For one reason or another, the Force engenders an absolute balancing throughout the universe. And this is possible through the Force acting independent of all else, doing its cosmic overriding for its own ineffable inner logic. Maybe so.

My hypothesis, here at the end, is simply that the heroes and villains of the Star Wars mythos are not good or evil based on their own choice alone; they do not become corrupted just because ‘power corrupts absolutely.’ The Jedi and the Sith are the subjects and tools of the Force. The Force subsumes their wills into its own game, its continuous cycle of balancing. For the Force itself, as we know by now, is the deciding factor within every Star Wars conflict.

Theory: Good and Evil in Star Wars is really more Patience (peace) vs Passion (war) — the struggle between the Jedi and the Sith, light side and dark side of The Force — has everything to do with power. When humanity joins with potentially limitless power in The Force, they are influenced into serious moral action — eventually equating with good and evil acts. The Jedi shun such totality, whereas the Sith embrace it. The Force dictates such things, sowing for the sake of reaping balance — and not entirely from the people’s will. This is why Jedi fall to the dark side and it takes considerable time and effort for them to return to the light — once Sith, they are being controlled by an external party, The Force. // r/swrpg — Is the Light Side “good”? Is the Dark Side “evil” ~ Well, one thing to understand here is that, by George Lucas’s own view, the dark side is a corruption of the Force, and the Force being in balance would mean that the dark side is eliminated. Ergo, Vader being redeemed and then killing Palpatine is what balances the Force, as it effectively eliminates the Sith and thus the strongest practitioners of the dark side. Hell, IIRC, no one mentions “the light side” in any of the original six movies — they just say “the Force” and “the dark side of the Force.”

Gathered from the full context of the canon as I have experienced it, and from Kreia’s own philosophizing distillation of the vast saga’s events, it seems clear the Force is the dominant actor within this universe, using sentients and their consciousness for its own purposes.

The theorization then comes that The Force, as a metaphysical entity or omnipotent superstructure, wishes to {or must?} balance all life into Light and Dark, no matter to what it will mean for the sentience and reason and passions of its subjects. The dramas and the deaths along the way have no objective moral worth, no good or evil content — they are just the reality of this continuous saga of balancing. Jedi and Sith as people, therefore, are neither good nor evil, just the emotional vessels of the Force’s cosmic game. This is true, else all their choices just coincidentally align with the Force’s perfect endgame. Of balance.

Fibonacci / Golden ratio ~ real-life Force analogues?

Kreia believed — or rather, feared — this reality, atop all her aspirational synthesizing of an individual toward some form of freedom under the Force’s domain, free from the Jedi and Sith as symbolic orders with a history and a seemingly deterministic ideology. Her hopes appear to be irrelevant in the end. In this universe, as sentient beings can come to perceive it — The Force acts with a will of its own. An invulnerable, unchangeable, and decisive, will. Thus, in the grand scheme, there is no freedom for individuals under its reign. To Kreia, for these fatalising reasons, the Force does not empower life but demeans it. For the sake of balance, it bends the sentience of the universe to its whim. In this roil, free will is abolished; the conflicts are rigged from the beginning.

~ The Lost Jedi Masters‘ reason for why you were exiled — ”In you, we saw the end of the Force…” The Exile, affected by the war, but unlike any other Jedi — did not become Sith and instead stepped outside of the Force’s domain. You are one that is capable of siphoning, manipulating – and potentially destroying – the Force in all other life.
The Council’s conclusion: “You are a threat to us all” — Malachor V was a crucible that shaped you into threat to the Force, and thus, to all living creatures. “You have brought about an end to the Jedi.” And now, *we must end you.*
She seeks the death of all Jedi, all Sith.. and the death of the Force. It is madness, it is impossible — but she believes you are the key.” ~ Atris on Kreia // You could make the argument, in the end, that Kreia, as the enlightened centrist, embracing aspects of both Light and Dark side, seeking the abolition of both Jedi and Sith — simply became a more subtly manipulative Sith. She abandons morality and seeks power, though through less corruptive means — it is still inherently selfish. She is still on the side of power / mastery / self-serving / self-absorbed. Her final will to destroy the Force itself makes her quest one of nihilistic and extinctive proportions at the end of it all.
“Because I hate the Force. I hate that it seems to have a will, that it would control us to achieve some measure of balance, when countless lives are lost... In you, I see the potential to see the Force die, to turn away from its will. And that is what pleases me. You are beautiful to me, exile. A dead spot in the Force, an emptiness in which its will might be denied… I would have killed the galaxy to preserve you. I would have let the galaxy die. You are more rare than you know; and what you have taught yourself must not be allowed to die.”
~ Kreia is obsessed with free will, with the prospect of living while wielding absolute volition in all things. Ultimately, you could say her whole philosophy and life course is a Sisyphean battle FOR free will and AGAINST The Force, which demeans it. She corrupts herself in order to try to defeat The Force’s indelible influence upon the universe and the lives of sentient persons. In order to try to be free of fate’s designs, she becomes evil {This reminds me of Griffith from Berserk!}

Because of this, naturally, Kreia hates the Force. And why she seeks, yet fails, to destroy it.

The Force deigns to control the free will of sentient beings in the universe, using its own powerful flow as an endless draw to enrapture new consciousness into its designs. Jedi and Sith congregate around the well, drinking the Light or Dark in order to gain more knowledge or power in the hopes of exerting their will in the galaxy around them. They believe they do it consciously, initially. But from there, the Force urges absolute balance, beyond the wells and throughout the universe — charting the hearts, minds and paths of its users — no matter to the costs to life or liberty. The Force causes Jedi to fall to the Dark Side and to become betrayers, mean and cruel and pathological beings that hunt their former friends, destroying planets and peoples along the way, causing galaxy-wide conflicts of genocidal proportions. The Force causes the Jedi to misread prophecies and prevents the Jedi from making the necessary self-reflections to effectively stop their own disintegration. The Force maddens the ambitious, manipulating the Sith into destroying themselves in the end. The Force creates wars. And then, the Force ends them.

So it follows, under the omnipotent environ of the Force, in the Star Wars mythos, there is no good and evil. Because there is no volition. No free will. Every Jedi and every Sith, every heroically compassionate action and every violent descent into the darkness — it’s all the will of the Force. That choice the Jedi makes to instill discipline and shun desire, or to pursue power, or war, or love — is not their choice to make. It is the Force choosing them, to play their role within the grand conflict, as a soldier on one side of the war or the other, providing transient tensions unto the great balance that the universe needs to {definitely will} arrive at in the end.

In this way, the Force is akin to fate, or to God. It is not just a metaphor for power or consciousness, but for Time or reality itself. In Star Wars, The Force is the unmoved mover.

Thesis: The Force is simply an analogue to power and its usage must be balanced lest the user become corrupted along their path. The Force is just a tool in determining who becomes good or evil. No one is absolute, or predisposed to anything. You only find a person’s worth when they are able to wield power / come in contact with the Force.

Antithesis: The Force is more akin to fate, or to God — and is an unmoved mover type entity within the universe that exerts its will onto sentient minds, leading them into the light and dark as a matter of its balancing course. The Force is an instrument of something like predetermination, or eternal recurrence. It is the force that negates the concept of free will within sentient existences.

Synthesis: The Force is inexplicable — and it is both an energy for sentient minds to tap into and grow their knowledge/power — as well as — a primordial balancing entity, that may or may not have its own will … There is no final answer. But the universe of Star Wars seems to embrace both aspects as possible interpretations.

Going further in this vein of analysis, the Force… is deus ex machina incarnate. In a meta-sense, in the context of Star Wars as a fictional world created by George Lucas, with the canon extended and carried on by many other writers and directors working inside the universe’s established-but-growing holds — the Force represents the will of the creator.

Every Star Wars saga, or Episode, or conflict — needs its war. And war must come from good and evil in opposition, from the chaos of disunity and dialectics, from thesis>antithesis>synthesis>>new thesis, and so on.

Thus, the Force acts this way for a reason.

For the sake of the story, and its arcing through initiation, conflict, and resolution. The Force acts in this way for a reason that stands outside of the reality of the fiction of Star Wars, and inside the reality *we* inhabit.

This is because the presence of the Force mirrors the necessity for the Star Wars creator to make a story out of conflict and madness and death. Simply, there has to be good guys and bad guys. The chaotic up and down swinging of events and characters and emotions is necessary to build a tale worth telling. Balancing battles among conflicting forces of good and evil is inherently intriguing to bear witness to. The Force is there because the story has to be interesting, and people have to want to experience it. Both as souls relating to a similar reality, and as consumers of fiction. The Force is the ability to change anything at any time, to force the issue of the story’s inciting incident and final denouement and every other event throughout to get from one end to the other. In the beginning, a Big Bang-esque force of initiation into adventure; in the end, a deus ex machina unto a grand and delightful resolution.

Continuing with this meta-analysis, a caveat must now be issued to all of the preceding words — this is true for the *vast majority* of all Jedi and Sith, who fall in line and are slaves to the perhaps unfathomable will of the Force {and the story being written on the page}. Only the vast majority, and not ALL — for their are *some* free souls within the Star Wars universe. Such as,

You.

You, as the player character in the Knights of the Old Republic video game saga.

Consider that in both KOTOR games, the player character — Revan and then, the Exile — represents not only a hole in the Force, but in the reality of the game. Meta-wise, the player character is unlike every other character within the game, because you are the only one being controlled by a real person outside of the world of fiction, of the bits and lines of code making up the experience on the screen. You are someone not wholly established within the predetermined potential pathways beforehand, for the choices you are to make are yet to be made. And they are being made in real-time by someone that is conscious, and free to make them.

That is, you are the only one free from the will of “the Force.” It is stressed by the other characters throughout your adventure that Revan and the Exile are the only characters within their universe to be able to boast this.

{Darth Revan} ~ “Where Revan wanders now is knowledge only Revan holds…” ~ With amnesia, with their memories gone, Revan was once more a free agent, morally speaking. They could chart their own path through KOTOR I, irrespective of their previous doings.
{Revan and The Exile} ~ In KOTOR II, the player character is “the only Jedi that survived the Mandalorian War”, as in — they did not become Sith. ~ A former general under Revan in the war, The Exile consciously cut themselves off from the Force in order to save themselves from doom. Too much death and suffering has been witnessed in the Mandalorian Wars. It made hearing the Force impossible, so the Exile exiled themselves from it and the Jedi and the Sith in order to go on.

Revan and the Exile, we come to find out within the internal lore of the saga, were each *separated* from the Force for a time. In the fictional universe’s past, they were cast out of its flow, for a time able to travel anywhere and choose their fate freely. ~ For a time outside the bounds of the game and its narrative. ~ For a time able to choose freely, as a conscious person on the other side of the experience, outside of the screen.

After defeating the Mandalorians, discovering and firing the Star Forge, and then doing revolutionary battle against the Republic, alongside Malak — all for reasons which were their own — Revan’s memories were wiped through the Force by the Jedi Council; both ex-Jedi and ex-Sith — as you now control them — fate casts Revan into another confrontation with the Dark Lord Malak, but now free to live and fight as they may. The Exile, an ex-Jedi general under Revan, went to war alongside them, eventually pathing their fate to Malachor V, where their connection to the Force was severed as a means of coping with the horror and madness of war; afterward — as you now control them — the Exile continues their travels, free to live and fight as they may.

And along their journeys, as the players control them and reconnect them to the Force, Revan and the Exile are able to choose their fate for themselves. You are, regardless of their pasts. As in, through your adventure, you may commit acts of good or evil, angling to gain mastery over the Light OR the Dark side of the Force, or cast yourself somewhere in the middle of them. The choice lay within your hands, within the hands of a conscious mind and free from the Force’s totality. Your companions — including Kreia — are merely reactive to your vanguard, each non-playing characters spitting out predetermined lines and actions in response to your choices.

Revan and the Exile’s roles are in-narrative metaphors for the very person playing the game. A being out of the Force, constituting moral actions not yet out of a mind. Though you may arrive at where the Force desires you to — it is no less true that you held real agency in your actions throughout.

Everyone else in the story — Carth, Bastila, Malak, Kreia, Atton, Nihlus, Sion, Atris, etc. — are all mired within the Force’s will, unable to change their fate. Only Kreia seems aware of this reality, and then, it is only her function to convey it to us, the Exile — the player. Her whole arc is that of guiding the player to an endgame where she can tell us these things, now stronger than her and able to defeat her. In the narrative, she uses the player to achieve her ends / while the game and the creator {The Force} uses her to achieve its storytelling.

Kreia: “I am but a mirror, to show you what your own eyes cannot yet see.” / “…From the moment you awoke, I have used you. I have used you so that you might become strong, stronger than I.” / *My purpose was to get you here — to THE END — now stronger than me as a matter of course*

In a similar mold, Anakin Skywalker’s harrowing arc through the Force necessarily bridges Episodes I, II and III with IV, V and VI. The Force {and the Star Wars universe’s creator, George Lucas} delivers this saga by using him, the proverbial Chosen One, as the lodestar of the conflicts, to create a compelling story.

Necessarily so, it is a balanced story with equal parts good and evil; Anakin transforms into Darth Vader, and then is redeemed by his own son, Luke, in the end.

My final thesis is that the Force is an apt metaphor for fiction itself. In the Star Wars mythos, the Force is the ultimate tool for deus ex machina — the mysterious, all-consuming power of imagination — that always delivers the story to its end, finally resolving the conflicts between the equal and opposite forces in play. Beyond being like fate or God, the Force is creation incarnate.

Important to point out — a Star Wars ending is always a *happy* ending. This is because the saga must go on. There must be redemption, the triumph of good over evil — life over death — lest the stars blink out on its Universe once and for all, darkness consuming all possible futures, and there is no longer any light to illuminate the pages of another Star Wars story yet to be told {or sold.} ~

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…