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The Spiritual Appeal of Star Wars

January 24, 2016, in Articles > Videos & Film, by

There is surely something beyond fascinating characters and an exciting if familiar story that has been attracting people by their millions to see the new Star Wars movie.

My feeling is that a big part of the appeal is “the force”, the ongoing theme in the Star Wars series that gives the latest film its name: The Force Awakens.

In the Star Wars movies, the force seems to me to be roughly equivalent to the creative energy that pervades the universe, but there is also a dark side to it.

What might that mean in Baha’i terms? We are fine with the idea of a creative force and are familiar with the concept that “good has a positive existence; evil is merely its absence”.1 We could view the “dark side” of the force as the absence of the creative energy, a black hole of evil.

So, apart from the other factors mentioned, why do millions of people get attracted to a movie that has “the force” as an ongoing theme in the story?

Hard-wired into us all is a desire to transcend the mundane, the temporary physical realties of our lives. In my view, that desire is intended to motivate us to seek and ever approach the ultimate, everlasting reality, God.

We can’t resist this urge to transcend but it is up to individuals as to how they do so. Some opt for drink and drugs, others become obsessed with sport and politics, get addicted to pornography (a major cause of depression), adopt militant atheism or fanatical religion, or focus only on money and career goals.

Fortunately, despite some of us being temporarily distracted by those siren calls, there is also something in many of us that recognises that these methods of transcending our humdrum lives provide only a temporary satisfaction.

They don’t give lifelong fulfilment, and can ultimately become blind alleys, often destructive ones. The real transcendence is a spiritual journey and the vehicles that take us along that path are prayer, meditation, service, virtuous living, inspiration from art and natural beauty, and upliftment through the sacred scriptures.

This urge to transcend helps explain part, but by no means all, of the widespread appeal of The Force Awakens. Although many people are disillusioned with contemporary expressions of religion, millions are in tune with the idea of a positive creative energy, they yearn for upliftment, and they sense that the movie has an element that harmonises with a compelling truth. In fact, we are drawn as if by a magnet to this truth, even if it is only partially present in the object of our attention.

There are other elements in the movie that also harmonise with principles clearly expressed in the Baha’i teachings. (If you have yet to see the film and want to avoid a possible spoiler, you might now want to postpone reading any more of this article.)

The overall story is a mission to save the world and the conviction that this is possible. It is a story of hope and of trust. As Baha’is, we have a somewhat similar mission and it involves working alongside others — whether Baha’is or not– to create a peaceful, just global society.
What else in The Force Awakens is in tune with Baha’i teachings?

A young woman plays an active, strong and positive role in the story thereby reinforcing another truth — the equality of women and men.

The two young key characters have different coloured skin but they form a close bond of friendship. Genetics has proven that Baha’u’llah’s spiritual teaching of the oneness of humanity is also a scientific fact, so to see this symbolised in the movie is appealing.

In one of the most enjoyable scenes, we see all types of creatures — somewhat humanlike for the most part — hanging out in a bar. They may look weird to us but they can all intermingle quite happily.

One of the Ten Commandments, and a teaching emphasised in the Baha’i Faith, is to “honour thy father and thy mother”. About the worst contravention of that commandment would be the murder of one’s own parent, and we witness the horror of that in one scene.

As a counterpoint, respect for the wisdom of learned elders is an ongoing theme of the Star Wars movies. This is also a teaching of the Baha’i Faith which urges us to honour our teachers, a reference in the Kitab-i-Aqdas2 indicating that when it refers to provisions in our last Will and Testament.

In the Star Wars movies we learn about Jedi training. The young have to make an effort to acquire the skills, they don’t come automatically. There is a parallel with spiritual education. Unless we make an effort we don’t develop. There will be set-backs, but if we try and are persistent we are likely to achieve.

In a quote attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, the reference to a painter could be extended to those who produce moving pictures.

All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvellous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose when showing forth the praise of God.3

Yes The Force Awakens is commercial entertainment but it is also an artistic work that conveys aspects of divine reality, and creates a magnetic force that is attracting and uplifting millions of people around the world.

  1. Abdu’l-Baha. Some Answered Questions, Haifa: Baha’i World Centre, 2014 p.304. []
  2. Baha’u’llah. The Kitab-i-Aqdas. Haifa: Baha’i World Centre, p. 26. []
  3. Lady Blomfield. The Chosen Highway. London: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1940. Reprinted, Oxford: George Ronald, 2007. []
Posted by

Michael Day

Michael Day is the author of a new book, “Point of Adoration. The story of the Shrine of Baha’u’llah 1873-1892.” He is also the author of "Journey to a Mountain", "Coronation on Carmel" and "Sacred Stairway", a trilogy that tells the story of the Shrine of the Bab. His photo book "Fragrance of Glory" is an account of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha. A former member of the New Zealand Baha’i community, Michael now lives in Australia. He was editor of the Baha’i World News Service in Haifa 2003-2006.
Michael Day

Discussion 9 Comments

Couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on the movies. Thanks


Mehran (January 1, 2016 at 10:09 PM)

Good. That makes at least two of us!

Michael Day

Michael Day (January 1, 2016 at 6:06 AM)

Loved the post. What George Lucas did was to introduce eternal spiritual truths (borrowing from far eastern faith traditions) in a way that appeals to late 20th and early 21st century Western youths like me and you. 🙂 May the Force be forever with you, Michael.


Sam (January 1, 2016 at 6:11 AM)

Thanks, Sam.

Michael Day

Michael Day (January 1, 2016 at 6:06 AM)

Great article. Thanks! I’ve considered myself an honorary Jedi Knight since the first Star Wars film came out. I was just back in the states from the Peace Corps, following college and I saw it as a basic good vs evil film, with evil taking its toll but good winning in the end.

Kimberlee J Benart

Kimberlee J Benart (January 1, 2016 at 8:26 PM)

Gleanings XCIX seems foundational for the Star Wars phenomenon in this secularized, materialistic world. (I love the use of a capital F on the word Force.)
“…the still greater task of converting satanic strength into heavenly power is one that We have been empowered to accomplish. The Force capable of such a transformation transcendeth the potency of the Elixir itself. The Word of God, alone, can claim the distinction of being endowed with the capacity required or so great and far-reaching a change.”

Marisa Petersen

Marisa Petersen (January 1, 2016 at 10:41 PM)

The first movie was inspiring all right.

Michael Day

Michael Day (January 1, 2016 at 6:08 AM)

“[…] an unseen force described as the Ancient Power, causeth these elements to come together, every formation giving rise to a distinct being.” – ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to Dr. Auguste Forel


Francesco (January 1, 2016 at 6:03 PM)

Yesterday watched Clone wars, and episode S5:E6 is great: younglings are at the most holy place, caves where they must find gemstones, developing virtues! And guess what, the rotation time on this most holy planet is 19 days! That can’t be by chance, the authors know about Baha’i. Does anyone have other hints from other episodes or movies?


Ralf (December 12, 2023 at 9:02 AM)

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