“When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.” – Yoda
Everyone has a Dark Side. To never encounter your own Shadow and come to know it is to never become fully integrated as a human being. Most people are too afraid to peer into the dark recesses of their psyche. They do not want to know what dark secrets exist there. They remain strangers to themselves as a result.
When the Dark Side does come out in force it is overwhelming. You can find yourself doing things you could never imagine doing before. Horrors that you thought were beyond the pale now no longer seem deplorable, they also become desirable. The Dark Side becomes you and it consumes you utterly.
No one is entirely light or dark, we are all of us shades of grey. Humans are without exception full of fears, doubts, and flaws. All of us have biases which shape out thoughts and judgements on things. We surrender to base emotions and act on them when confronted with monsters only to become monsters ourselves. This is when we surrender to the Dark Side.
“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” – Yoda
The policemen in Nazi occupied Poland, Ukraine and France who arrested Jews and Gypsies for deportation to the concentration camps were only following orders. Perhaps many were fathers with young children and were merely trying to survive. Were they evil? They did evil deeds which seemed justified at the time but otherwise they may have lived virtuous lives. Even the Confederate soldiers who fought to keep separated from the union and perpetuate a system of late slavery were men only doing their duty as they understood it. A quick browse of the internet and you will be bombarded with images of people of all kinds doing horrific things and condoning atrocity while justifying them or deflecting blame to others.
We are each responsible for our own actions. If I am capable of evil deeds, then so are you. The question is what would push you to the Dark Side to make that choice? What perceived horrors and injustices would compel you? How much force would need to be exerted on you to abandon reason and commit a crime against your soul? That’s a question only you can answer if you dare to know the truth.
Through alcoholism I lived in the twilight of the Dark Side for many years. The “Cave of Dagobah” yawned before me, threatening to swallow my soul. I dared to stare into it my Dark Side and it grinned back. Eventually I had to invite the Dark Side out to play, to look deep within it and stare it down. I had a choice. That was the path to salvation. Not any other way, that way.
“The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see, the future is.” – Yoda
What has this to do with Star Wars?
Star Wars is a saga of Heroes and Villains. There is conflict, struggles to overcome and the ever-present tension between the opposing sides of the Force. There are those that follow the Dark side who oppose those on the Light side of the Force. The story of epic struggle between light and darkness, good and evil is as old as time. The Epic Gilgamesh was the earliest tale of where a man embarks on an adventure where in the end, he finds peace and redemption by overcoming his darker side.
The Greek legends, Beowulf, Nordic sagas, and the Indian Vedas all share the same theme of the struggle of the hero to not only overcome the monster, tyrant or evil before him but also the darkness in his own heart. Overcoming his struggle, the Hero returns home redeemed and reborn. In the ancient world the Gods played out the eternal saga of birth, death and rebirth as the sun bought life and hope with Spring, rose to fully glory in Summer and then was dragged to the underworld to battle with dark forces through Winter only to arise anew in the following Spring to allow the sowing and the Harvest.
Always the struggle between light and dark. Darkness tries to snuff out the light and eclipse it from existence. Fear and despair prevail. Light shines forth and beats back the darkness bringing hope and salvation. A cycle, until, like Ragnarok or the Kali Yuga, the end of days comes and brings with it a harvest of blood.
“Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware anger, fear, and aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” – Yoda
The Star Wars prequels presented the fall of the Divine Child, the promised one, into darkness. The original trilogy introduced a New Hope. This time the dim flicker of light would prevail against the darkness and not falter. The Darks Side would be beaten back into the shadows. Darth Sidious would be cast down, Anakin redeemed, and Luke Skywalker would bring balance to the Force…for a time. Every story end is a new beginning.
Like the seasons the story repeats in the sequel trilogy. The light has dimmed, the Hero has grown old. The sky darkens and hope struggles against despair. A new Hero steps forward and holds a candle to the darkness once again. The forces of Light always prevail in myth. They must. The myth gives hope to the living that the darkness can be beaten back, that life can prevail over death.
“To be Jedi is to face the truth and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle or the night.”– Yoda
Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”. Despite his warnings Anakin succumbed to the Dark Side. Luke overcame the temptation to join his Father and submit to the Dark Side however in an alternative ending to “Return of the Jedi” by Lucas, Luke does take up the helmet of Darth Vader and surrenders to the Dark Side. Many years later in a moment of folly and rage Luke fails his nephew Ben Solo who turns to the Knights of Ren embracing the Dark Side. Luke later redeems himself as does Kylo Ren in the final chapter.
Were Dath Vader and Kylo Ren evil? No. Did they suffer? Yes. The Sith claimed that the Dark Side gave them freedom and power to control natural laws and life. The Sith did not claim to be evil but believed that the means justified the ends. Morality was relative and open to debate. Is nature not cruel and indifferent to suffering? Is evolution not evidence that the weak must perish and the strong prevail for the benefit of life? The Sith offered the Galaxy safety and security in exchange for liberty and justice. No surprise they were met with resistance. No one wants to be a slave to darkness.
“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” – Yoda
What is your Dark Side? Have you faced it? Do you recognize your Shadow? Are you willing to accept that it exists, that you are capable of horrible and dark things? Life is a struggle between the Dark and Light sides of your nature. Which side prevails is the question you must resolve in your own personal Hero’s Journey. Remember that what you sow you shall harvest later. Whatever you decide, choose never to forsake your humanity in that quest.