The Force is an inherently personal notion and one for which there are probably as many definitions as there are Jedi walking the path. I’ve seen others describe the Force as God, or as nature. I’ve also heard many describe the Force in ways which don’t really fit with my understanding of it; for example, in our capacity to “change things” by “using” the Force somehow, but I will explore this further later. The term “The Force” like the word Jedi comes from Lucas’ Star Wars saga. Lucas described the genesis of the concept of the Force thus:

“The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. I began to distill the essence of all religions into what I thought was a basic idea common to all religions and common to primitive thinking. I wanted to develop something that was nondenominational but still had a kind of religious reality.”

My worldview has been Taoist since I was a teenager, so about half my life now. Before that I held a slightly Christian worldview, but only so far as if I really wanted something (or didn’t want something) I would implore some “higher power” to look out for it, that typical childish thing of “I’ll never ask for anything else, ever, if you can just do this for me…” suffice to say, my results varied, to about a 50/50 degree! I’ve previously described the moment when I had my “all things are one” vision, and that profoundly changed my understanding of how the universe worked; for the first time, I saw myself as a smaller part of a wider system, and realised that what others called “God”, I thought of as nature, or the intersection of time physical laws and the current state of energy and matter in the universe, or – as I came to discover later – Tao.

Taoism was a major discovery for me because for the first time I found a spiritual teaching which seemed absolutely, 100% correct with my innate worldview. The universe is huge and mysterious; truly unknowable. Within it we are small elements. We are like fish, born into a river. Most fish don’t perceive the river, as it’s all they know. They see only other fish, ducks, insects etc. They feel currents and eddies and give no more thought to the wider system. Perhaps they imagine a giant fish created the river, a long long time ago. So humans are born in Tao, a huge, strange and powerful system. Humans can “fight the tide” and swim against the current, but they get nowhere, or make minimal progress. But they can choose to flow in the direction of the river, either to get there faster (current + propulsion), but this will exhaust them. Soon they might find themselves in the poisonous waters of the sea, which they have no capacity to deal with. Taoism teaches us the best approach is to do everything we can to submit to the flow of the river. The best life is lived quietly, gently and modestly, working “with” the system rather than against it.

For me, the Force (or as I often call it, the living Force) is the “alive” aspect of the wider Tao; if Tao describes the universe, then the Force describes life, in all its forms, as part of that bigger system. Life is undoubtedly different to the rest of the universe. It moves in more complex and mysteriously unpredictable ways than almost anything else humans have encountered; while we’ve a deep and working understanding of most aspects of the physical universe which allows us to accurately predict most things over time, the behaviour of living things remains profoundly unpredictable. Again, as I’ve said in former essays, I believe this unpredictability isn’t the privileged “free choice” implied by Free Will, more that living things are hugely complex and therefore harder to fully understand. But I also believe that, like the wider Taoist worldview, there are things we can do to move in harmony with this complex living Force. I believe those things are described by Jediism; by the tenets, code and creed, the teachings and maxims of this temple.

As I mentioned at the outset of this essay I don’t believe we have as much capacity to “influence” the world by “using” the Force as others do, more that we are expressions of it and our lives and actions are akin to cogs turning in a wider machine; if we don’t “work with” the Force (for instance, becoming a “stuck cog”) we can create a blockage which impacts the rest of the machine’s working, but that at most all we can do is move in harmony with the Force. My conception that we can “use” the Force for a wider influence is similar to imagining a cog working “above and beyond” its capacity to turn and mesh with other cogs. For me it seems like imaging a cog stepping outside the machine and pressing one of the buttons which operate it, or perhaps moving to a different part of the machine and applying some oil to another stuck cog – it’s simply not plausible and represents a failure to understand the way things work, as I perceive it.

I also recognise that my view is just that; that other people have a different understanding of how things work, and that’s fine, their views are as valid as mine. As I said in my last essay, one of the things which attracts me to the Jedi path is that it allows us to be individuals and engage with our beliefs in personal and unique ways. What truer expression of the living Force could there be, than many people living with differing beliefs, but all moving in the same direction; small, unique cogs working in similar ways towards larger common goals.