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Force Misconceptions: The Unifying Force (Preface)

The Unifying aspect of the Force is a dimension of the Force’s nature that is so remarkably misunderstood that I feel I will need more than one blog to address it properly. This blog will simply cover the basic and most prevalent misconception plaguing it without addressing the enormity of its total facets. The Unifying Force is a very expounded principle of the Force, and its outlook represents a vast range of points of focus for Jedi. Its counterpart, the Living Force, is another property of the Force that will receive its own individual blog. After posting that one, I will then probably discuss both of them together in one final essay that will actually enumerate countless qualities of the Force as a whole, but that will be a long time from now (finding time to accumulate sources for these blogs is tough). This, however, will be my preface to the blog I will write in the future.

In this blog, I will detail the fundamental characteristics of the Unifying Force and deal, more aggressively than usual, with the accompanying misconception about it. Understand that unlike my other blogs of this kind where I treated the subject matter very seriously, in this blog I will take a few liberties in how I attack this misconception, because this misconception, to me, has the unique characteristic of being both tiresome and also unintentionally funny. Note however that because this is only an overview blog, some particular details pertaining to the Unifying Force will not be covered, and as a result, certain sources on the issue will not be cited, such as the novel The Unifying Force. In my later blogs, I will more loquaciously detail those other sources and their contribution to the subject.

To begin, instead of starting off by establishing what the Unifying Force is, like I normally would in a misconceptions blog, let’s just cut right to the misconception and talk about what the Unifying Force is not. The conventional definition of the Unifying Force championed by many casual EU readers would be a paraphrase of “an outlook on the Force which maintains that the Force does not intrinsically possess a light or dark side.” Were I to ask any users who subscribe to that opinion on the Unifying Force for a source to corroborate that interpretation, I would hazard the guess that nine out of ten users would be unable to provide any. Typically, they would direct me to Wookieepedia or claim that the novel The Unifying Force confirms this definition (which it doesn't). Wookieepedia is not a canon source, and while it is a very useful tool for finding sources, it should not in and of itself be referenced as a source. When it comes to the Force, Wookieepedia can sometimes be unreliable in its summaries on it, and some of its articles on the Unifying Force are a prime example of that. Therefore, allow me to quote a source that talks about this:

The Living Force, as accepted by Jedi throughout the ages, is believed to exist in most living creatures. Jedi who believe in the tenets of the Living Force rely on their instincts and become attuned to the living things around them. They are mindful of the future and what might result from their current actions, but they remain focused on the present. The Living Force has both a light and a dark side, and Force-users must be mindful of their emotions lest they succumb to the temptations of the dark side. Those who adhere to the doctrines of the Living Force believe that life creates the Force and that the Force is an omnipresent field of energy that surrounds and permeates living things, and that living things are connected by it. Through the Living Force, certain Jedi are able to retain their identities after death, manifesting as Force spirits while still becoming one with the Force.

Jedi who adhere to the Living Force view recognize the existence of mid-chlorians in all living beings. The higher the concentration of midi-chorians in a life form, the stronger that life form’s connection is to the Force, and the greater its potential to use it—for good or evil.

The Unifying Force, garnering less support among the Jedi than the Living Force, teaches that the Force is a single power and has neither a light side nor a dark side. The Unifying Force has no sides and does not take sides, treating all living creatures equally. This view has been supported by the likes of Vergere and Emperor Palpatine. (The only significant difference between the Jedi view and Palpatine’s view is that the Sith see the Force as a means to an end, while the Jedi see it as an end unto itself.) Those who follow the Unifying Force tend to keep their eyes on the future and possibilities, leading them to act in ways to fulfill a destiny instead of focusing on the here and now, like those who follow the Living Force.

--Taken from Jedi Academy Training Manual

This is a source that contends the Unifying Force outlook dismisses the notion of constituent light and dark sides. In fact, this is the only source that makes this assertion about the Unifying Force. No other sources in the entire lore that I have ever been able to find reiterate this description. The materials that first introduced the concept of the Living and Unifying Force never did either. That this is the only source may not necessarily be condemning (although it does carry less weight), but the fact that several other sources, both preceding and succeeding this source, contradict what this source says does diminish its credibility. I repeat: to my knowledge and research, not a single other source ever released coincides with this explanation of the Living Force and the Unifying Force.

More importantly, take note of one very crippling item found in that text:

The Unifying Force, garnering less support among the Jedi than the Living Force, teaches that the Force is a single power and has neither a light side nor a dark side. The Unifying Force has no sides and does not take sides, treating all living creatures equally. This view has been supported by the likes of Vergere and Emperor Palpatine.

--Taken from Jedi Academy Training Manual

Did you catch the flaw? Let me isolate the text of significance: “The Unifying Force…has neither a light side nor a dark side… This view has been supported by the likes of…Emperor Palpatine.”

Do you see the problem yet? Let me isolate the text again but condense it just a little more: “The Unifying Force has [no] dark side. This view has been supported by Emperor Palpatine.”

Do you see it now? This sourcebook just stated that Emperor Palpatine adheres to the Unifying Force perspective, and that, by consequence of the Unifying Force’s declared precepts, he does not believe in the existence of the dark side of the Force…

Let me qualify that statement to help you grasp its import. Emperor Palpatine, Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith, the character for whom at least half of his dialog in the films consists of extolling on the virtues of the dark side of the Force…does not believe in the existence of the dark side. Darth Sidious, who brought the Sith Order to its zenith in culmination of their philosophy and lineage…does not believe in the existence of the dark side. Emperor Palpatine, who founded a New Order built on the power of the dark side to permeate the galaxy in order to subdue it…does not believe in the existence of the dark side. Palpatine, who made every effort to expand the imbalance of the Force towards the dark side, whose only sentimental relationship is with the dark side of the Force, whose sole intention was to subordinate all life in the universe to a rule of darkness, who once in a moment of solidarity with the dark side claimed himself to be the dark side itself…does not believe in the existence of the dark side…

Emperor Palpatine does not believe in the existence of the dark side of the Force.

Emperor Palpatine does not believe in the existence of the dark side of the Force.

Palpatine does not believe in the existence of the dark side.

Palpatine does not believe in the dark side.


Words fail me. I honestly cannot fathom how any Star Wars authors could so thoroughly misrepresent the most fundamental qualities of a prominent movie character. It baffles me as to how a source like that could even be published without the editors noticing the glaring error. Really, where did they even get that idea from? “Palpatine doesn’t believe in the existence of the light or dark sides.” What nonsense. I have no idea how you can possibly write that about a guy who spends most of his screen time sharing his twisted fantasies about how sexy the dark side is. Call it an ad hominem against the source if you want, but that one statement disqualifies the entire source for me, never mind that several other sources run contrary to the definition of the Unifying Force espoused by the Training Manual. Seriously, I...don’t…even…

Sigh. Anyway… To continue, the fact of the matter is that this proposed interpretation on the Unifying Force is met with an overwhelming number of sources that discredit it. Since I’ve stalled long enough talking about what the Unifying Force is not, what is it then, and, since it was mentioned, what is the Living Force? The Living and Unifying sides of the Force are simply this: the Living Force is the present, personal, organic flow of the Force; the Unifying Force is the cosmic, future, transcendent flow of the Force. The Force is an omnipresent field, and it manifests itself on both a minute and astronomic scale. The Force both pervades living creatures individually, even microscopic creatures, but it also spans the galaxy and wraps around celestial bodies. The Living Force and the Unifying Force simply draw attention to this dichotomy.

Sabla-Mandibu, a Jedi seer who chronicled Jedi teaching, illustrates the Living Force and the Unifying Force like this (this section also conflicts with the Training Manual in that it identifies Force Ghosts as extensions of the Unifying Force, not the Living Force as the JATM suggested):

The Force is bigger than all of us, but expresses itself in two aspects. The Living Force is raw and close at hand. It is the life energy tingling around you when you pass among plants and animals in a walk through the jungle. When beings die, you sense it through the Living Force. When many die at once, the loss of their energy may shock you, even knock you out. All of your tangible Force Force abilities—such as running, jumping, heightened senses, moving objects, or soothing the emotions of others—are techniques by which we become agents of the Living Force.

The Unifying Force is a vast cosmic power. You may not sense it yet, but with patience and insight you will. The Unifying Force is the stars and galaxies, the rippling surface of space and time. It is this voice that whispers of your destiny, and make no mistake—the Force does have a will. To commune with the Unifying Force is to temporarily leave your body, allowing you to walk in the past or see the future. Some of the ancients believe it is even possible to transcend death.

--Taken from The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force

Tionne Solusar similarly relays this account (pay attention to how Tionne insists that the light and dark sides are echoed in both the Living and Unifying Force):

On Ossus, the Jedi came to understand that both the light side and dark side of the Force reflect aspects of the living Force, the in-the-moment manifestation of life energy, and the unifying Force, the cosmic expression of prophecies and destinies.

--Taken from Jedi vs Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force

These sources offer a more consistent and, quite plainly, accurate examination on the Unifying Force. And just to reinforce the point, here are three instances where the Living Force is called to Obi-Wan’s attention as well as a quote from Yaddle about listening to the Unifying Force to acquire foresight, and in each quote, the Living Force is contrasted with the “big picture,” so to speak, while the Unifying Force is a reference to broader events:

Obi-Wan bristled slightly at the mild reprimand, but it was deserved. He had a habit of looking forward, as opposed to staying in the moment, as Qui-Gon preferred—of attending to what the Jedi called the living Force.

"I'm not worried, Masters," Obi-Wan said good-naturedly. "I'm only thinking forward." He waited for Qui-Gon to offer some piece of wisdom regarding the living Force, but for once his Master kept silent.

Yaddle turned to face Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, who were standing outside the Masters' circle. "You two: flying here, flying there, chasing clues... If stopped for a moment to listen to the unifying Force, see what was coming you might have."

--Taken from Cloak of Deception

The reclosing of the deck canopy quieted the howl of the wind outside, and now from deeper within the city Obi-Wan could hear a ragged choir of hoarsely bellowing cries that had the resonance of large animals—they reminded him of something...

Suubatars, that was it—they sounded vaguely like the calls of the suubatars he and Anakin had ridden on one of their last missions before the war, back when biggest worry Obi-Wan had had was how to keep his promise to Qui-Gon...

But he had no time for nostalgia. He could practically hear Qui-Gon reminding him to focus on the now, and give himself over to the living Force.

So he did.

--Taken from Revenge of the Sith

To further establish this point, let’s consider this: if the Unifying Force really is a philosophy that the Force is not possessed of a light or dark side, then we should find that devotees of the Unifying Force deny the existence of the light and dark sides. Do we? Well, Sabla-Mandibu, who authored the above expository segment on the Force from The Jedi Path, certainly believes in the existence of the light and dark sides and even warns Jedi students about the dangers of the dark side:

You already know of the Force as omnipresent, simultaneously existing as both a personal energy and as an imposing power through its Living and Unifying aspects. The dark side is not some "missing piece." Don't be tricked into seeking it. The Force is a mountain rising from water—the dark side is merely the submerged, scum-covered underside. If you choose to dive, the slime will trap and drown you.

--Taken from The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force

Dooku mentions in a conversation with Palpatine that Qui-Gon’s emphasis on the Living Force competes with his faith in the prophecy of the Chosen One, which aligns with the Unifying Force. Dooku absolutely believes in the light and dark sides:

“Qui-Gon is rash,” Dooku was saying. “Despite his fixation with the living Force, he demonstrates his own contradictions by being a true believer in the prophecy—a foretelling more in line with the unifying Force.”

--Taken from Darth Plagueis

Dooku understood that this was more than a test for Skywalker; though Sidious had never said so directly, Dooku was certain that he himself was being tested as well. Success today would show his Master that he was worthy of the mantle of Mastery himself: by the end of the coming battle, he would have initiated Skywalker into the manifold glories of the dark side, just as Sidious had initiated him.

--Taken from Revenge of the Sith

Yoda’s vision through the Force was a product of his stressing the Unifying Force, and Yoda even found himself in dispute with Qui-Gon over Qui-Gon’s centrality of the Living Force where Yoda would rather he attended to the Unifying Force.

Yoda and Qui-Gon had a long-standing relationship, but Yoda was one of those who sometimes took issue with Qui-Gon's focus on the living Force over the unifying Force.

--Taken from Cloak of Deception

"The larger prophecy: that unfold the dark times would. Born into their midst the Chosen One is, to return balance to the Force."

"Anakin," Obi-Wan said.

Yoda regarded him for a long moment. "Difficult to say," he said quickly. "Maybe, yes; maybe, no. More important the shroud of the dark side is. Many, many discussions Dooku had. With me, with other members of the Council. Most of all, with Master Sifo-Dyas."

Obi-Wan waited. "Close friends they were. Bound together by the unifying Force. But worried about Master Dooku, Sifo-Dyas was. Worried about his disenchantment with the Republic; about self-absorption among the Jedi. Saw in Dooku the effect of Qui-Gon's death, Sifo-Dyas did. The effect that resurfaced the Sith had." Yoda shook his head mournfully. "Knew of Dooku's imminent departure, Master Sifo-Dyas did. Sensed, he may have, the birth of the Separatist movement."

--Taken from Labyrinth of Evil

I really shouldn’t have to post proof that Yoda believes in the existence of the light and dark sides, but just for the sake of it:

As Obi-Wan grew as a Master, he found himself more inclined towards the Unifying Force.

Whether foresight was something innate in Obi-Wan or the result of his continuing fascination with the unifying Force—the long view—Obi-Wan couldn't say.

--Taken from Labyrinth of Evil

Again, there should be no need for this, but in case there is any doubt that Obi-Wan believes in the existence of the light or dark sides:

Luke also accepts the function of the Unifying Force.

"Seeing into the future is an aspect of the Unifying Force, but Yoda warned me that the future is always changing. We have the power to make our own destinies."


--Taken from Book of Sith: Secrets of the Dark Side

…Do I really have to post evidence that Luke of all people concretely believes in the existence of the light and dark sides?

More examples of this sort could be produced. There is a surplus of characters who simultaneously believe in the duality of the Force’s light and dark sides as well as the Unifying Force. How is this possible? Because the Unifying Force has nothing to do with the existence, or lack thereof, of the light and dark sides. The Unifying Force is the Force as it expresses itself on a grand and cosmic scale. Numerous sources consistently convey this meaning. The Training Manual is overruled by the multiplicity of sources that distinguish the Unifying Force as a timeless and cosmic power, not to mention the stories that narratively incorporate the Unifying Force without disregarding the light and dark sides. This is the real definition of the Unifying Force.