Love and Chi
Tien Shan Chi Kung
The Star Wars Connection
Many years ago a friend mentioned that they saw similarities between the Jedi, the Force, and Taoism. At first I didn't see it, but then a mentor of mine, who was a very old Taoist, who I believe is a Taoist immortal, who shall remain nameless, said it was true. He was friends with the late Joseph Campbell, who was an advisor to Lucas, and they discussed many of the points of the movies together.
The Star Wars series is a classical warrior story but it's not a generic warrior story. The movies were specifically modelled on Taoism with special emphasis on Taoist Chi Kung training and philosophy.
My mentor said that prior to the last three movies some Taoists got Lucas detoxed from the Campbelism of the earlier three and so the later movies are more accurate in their portrayal of the training methods, the way of life, and the philosophy of Taoist Chi kung training. The force represents Chi and the Jedi represent chi kung masters and adepts. Some of the abilities portrayed in the movie are decidedly far out. These far out abilities are cultivated by only a very few of the most advanced masters, however it is not so difficult for most of us to cultivate some of those abilities to a lesser extent.
Following is an explanation of some of the parts of the movie that are representative of esoteric Taoist Chi Kung.
In the First movie Obe Wan Kenobi finds Luke Skywalker lying on the ground after being hit in the head with a club. He puts his hand on Luke's forehead and then he tells R2D2 that Luke is OK. What is happening here is he is doing healing energy work on Luke. Chi Kung masters are very effective at doing energy healing.
In the bar fight scene in the first movie it shows Obe Wan dealing with two attackers. The second one got his arm cut off but the first one is casually pushed, goes flying off to the side at high speed, and crashes into an immovable object with a loud bang. This type of pushing is straight out of Tai Chi Chuan, a Taoist martial art which is also a type of Chi Kung. The attacker that got pushed would have been hurt more than the one that got his arm cut off.
The casual, informal way that they dress and act towards each other and strangers is typical of Taoism. Teachers and students are learning together, they also learn from each other, and there are no ritual acts of formality, such as bowing. There are no ranks or belts or graduations within Taoist Chi Kung (excludes religious Taoism), all are students. The only thing that really matters and the only way rank can be determined is by who has the most Chi power (has the most Force in them). This was represented by the way Obe Wan and Darth Vader talked to each other about who was the most powerful just before their last duel.
Taoist masters were often hermits, wandering in the wilderness such as Obe Wan and Yoda but sometimes were the closest advisors of the emperors, such as Darth Vader. There also possibly was one Chi Kung master who was an Emperor, and this would be the legendary Yellow Emperor of China.
Many times Obe Wan and Yoda tell Luke to feel the Force, to listen to the Force. In Chi Kung one of the first rules is to be soft and listen to the energy. You must be soft and relaxed in order to feel Chi and you "listen" to it in yourself, in your environment, and in other people. This was represented by Luke practicing sword fighting blindfolded. It was also demonstrated by Obe Wan and Darth knowing where and who each other were before they saw each other just prior to their last duel. Darth even mentions this, that he could feel him. By this he means feel the energy, as in a tactile feeling, not a psychic feeling. Just as an example of this: my Chi Kung teacher has so much energy, and my Yang Tai Chi teacher, Andy Dale, is so sensitive to energy that he, standing inside a large building, can tell when my Chi Kung teacher is standing around outside, and he can follow this feeling to locate him.
Listening to energy is the first of the three steps in energy cultivation that a person takes as they progress slowly along the Taoist Way of Energy. As it says in the Tai Chi Classics, the three steps are: 1 - Listening energy, 2 - controlling energy, and 3 - knowing energy. And learning these things is all very entertaining to chi energy junkies.
Another way the movies portray Chi Kung practices is by the way Darth Vader breathes. Without all the noise, of course, but the long, slow, full, deliberate breaths without pauses except for speaking, are the way people should always breath and this is taught in some Chi Kung systems. The noisy breathing was due to the mask and machinery, but is the only way that it could be demonstrated. All Jedi breath with long slow full breaths all the time.
Obe-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, Yoda, and the Emperor are all very old yet they are still strong, healthy, and full of energy. This matches perfectly because the goal of Chi Kung is to be able to live to very advanced age while still being strong, healthy, and full of energy.
It is possible for an advanced practitioner to cause other people to physically move against their will. This is done without touching, only with the use of energy, and is a common objective with certain kinds of Chi Kung. It is much rarer to find a person who can cause an inanimate object to move without touching it. An even more advanced master can give off a sudden explosive burst of life energy which can injure or possibly kill another person. This was demonstrated many times by Darth Vader. This explosive burst of energy can be transferred through the air without touching but it commonly accompanies a physical strike. Someone who is not sensitive to the energy may not feel the energy shock but they will still be injured. Someone who is advanced in Chi Kung may experience pain but no injury, this was demonstrated when the Emperor was attacking Luke Skywalker on the Emperor's spaceship in one of the later movies. A true master, someone who can handle the extra energy due to their practice of handling large amounts of energy won't be injured, it will just make them stronger, which is why advanced masters won't use these energy techniques on each other, which is also demonstrated in the movie.
Keep in mind that Star Wars is an adventure movie and that energy is normally used for healing and rarely used for fighting in real life. This is partly due to most Chi Kung practitioners preferring to lead quiet peaceful lives and partly due to the fact that it is an effective spiritual practice, for as a person advances spiritually along the Way of Energy they experience more and more synchronicity. It appears that synchronicity causes you, if there is a fight, to "not be there".
Another point where the movie blends with Chi Kung is that many of the very advanced masters traditionally had very few students, oftentimes only one, and if more than one it was often one at a time. Also, those who become very advanced usually start their training at a young age. For example, when Yoda started training Luke he said that Luke was too old.
When Luke skywalker was a student of Yoda he was shown balancing, doing a handstand while practicing levitating rocks. This is representative of the common Chi Kung practice of holding strenuous standing meditation postures while doing energy work at the same time.
The place where George Lucas was in disagreement with Taoist philosophy, as mentioned earlier, is that people on the dark side do not have the ability to cultivate really high levels of chi power. High power can be attained only by people of the highest ethics. However, Star Wars is an adventure movie, and what good is an adventure movie without a powerful bad guy? I'll leave it to you to try to figure out why only people of high ethics can cultivate high power. The kind of power I'm talking about here is not political power but Chi power. The kind of ethics I'm referring to are not "rules", they are internally validated values concerning what is best.
There are many schools and sects within the Taoist tradition. The types of schools that we are dealing with here are some of the more esoteric schools of Chi Kung, Nei Kung, or internal alchemy. They are the spiritually oriented powerful self-improvement systems commonly called cultivation, in the branch of Taoism sometimes called Hygene Taoism. Most of the people in old China studied martial arts; this was because it was a matter of survival. Most of the people who peruse these esoteric energy practices are also advanced martial artists. The martial artists acquire these special psychic and energy abilities because gave them an "unfair" advantage when in self-defence. So it was common for the people who were the most serious and dedicated researchers and practitioners of the esoteric internal arts to also be advanced martial artists. Keep in mind that these abilities are really just "side effects" of the cultivation which is primarily for spiritual growth purposes; it's like some of the frosting on the cake, if you will.
Most of the sects that teach these abilities are secret, they are difficult to find and get into and once a person gets in they don't get out. One of the better known sects that are an open school is the Dragon Gate sect. People on this particular spiritual path are sometimes said to be on the path of the sorcerer. There is a good book that deals with this subject: "Opening the Dragon Gate - The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard".