At the very beginning of The Force Awakens, we see Kylo Ren whip up some fairly standard—and some not so standard—Force tricks, like stopping blaster fire and doing a bit of mind-reading.
Apart from the blaster-fire stopping being a new trick we hadn’t seen before, this all seems fairly bog-standard in the Star Wars universe. At this point, we don’t yet know who Kylo Ren is, but we tacitly assume that he’s some kind of Force user, probably a Sith.
We later find out that he is in fact Han and Leia’s son, and that he was trained in the ways of the Force by Luke Skywalker until he did a 180, decided to kill off all Luke’s other trainees and turned to the Dark Side, prompting Luke to do a Yoda and go into exile on a remote planet, albeit a slightly less unappealing one than Dagobah.
Throughout the film, we find that Kylo Ren is seemingly more or less the only Force user left, except perhaps for Snoke: the Jedi and the Sith appear to be no more, at least, and no one else uses the Force, apart from Rey (and she’s new). I always assumed that this was what got him his rather nice gig with the First Order to begin with, which presumes that he has been an active Force user the whole time since, well, let’s say Luke’s disappearance.
But then I just now saw this answer by DVK on what exactly it is that ‘awakens’ in The Force Awakens, and that basically just royally buggered up that notion… as well as a fair bit of the movie itself. From the Visual Dictionary, which I don’t have access to, DVK quotes:
Since the disappearance of Luke Skywalker and the shattering of his fledgling Jedi following, the cosmic Force has lain dormant, seemingly quieted to those able to sense its presence.
The adventures of Rey and Finn on Jakku coincide with a turbulence in the cosmic Force, a sudden ripple indicating the awakening of newfound ability. With the Jedi and their records vanished, few—other than Kylo Ren and his mysterious master—are able to appreciate this occurrence.
So, for whatever (unexplained and frankly quite unfathomable) reason, Luke going into exile made the very Force itself go into hibernation and lie dormant for a good decade or so, something that I don’t recall ever having seen any mention of ever occurring before. Clearly no prequel Midichlorians or the-Force-holds-all-life-together spiel here, or that would have made pretty much the entire universe drop dead (or into a coma).
But even if the prequels are negated here, surely the Force is still the source that ‘drives’ all those supernatural things that Force-sensitives can do. That much has never changed. No Force (or a dormant, inactive Force), no Jedi/Sith tricks and whizzes.
So given that the Force itself was apparently somehow dormant right up until some (unspecified) time during The Force Awakens, what Force was Kylo Ren using to ‘drive’ his Force-activity all those years, and in the beginning of the movie? Or to put it more plainly: