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We've seen Rey use the Force in TFA and TLJ without any proper training, but at that point she was already aware of the Force and its existence.

What about someone who didn't even know such a power existed? Would they need to understand and feel the force before using it?

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    Anakin has "Jedi reflexes" and prophetic dreams but is basically unaware that he's a Jedi. – Valorum Sep 29 '18 at 19:06
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    I mean, apparently you can be impregnated by the force without any training... – Broklynite Sep 29 '18 at 20:47
  • This reminds me of the question of whether or not a user can use the Force without realizing it. One fan theory is that Anakin made Padme love him by force/Force without consciously making the effort. – Alec Sep 29 '18 at 23:39
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(Note: this answer is from a Legends standpoint, though some of the examples hold true in canon and I believe the conclusion does as well.)

No, you don't need either knowledge or understanding. It's possible to wield the Force not knowing what you're doing, although (as you might expect) results will not generally be as refined as someone who's familiar with the technique.

I'll start with the second part of the question: understanding. Understanding the Force is a tricky thing to be sure: there are plenty of Jedi who'd be the first to say that they don't understand the Force, and neither do the rest of the Jedi. But for the purpose of the question, I'll take this to mean an understanding of the Force in roughly the way the Jedi describe it, as an all-encompassing vital force. Can it be used without that understanding?

The answer to that is a straightforward "yes". Groups of "Force adepts" - usually shamans and the like - are found in various cultures. These groups know they have powers, and they can refine and shape the form those powers take, but they generally have little or no understanding of the greater nature of the Force. They cannot "see" the connections between people that make up the Force in the same way that Jedi learn to.

The best-known and explored of these groups are the Witches of Dathomir. The Witches understood that there was power in the world, which they manipulated and directed through spells and rituals, but they did not have any knowledge of the Force's transcendent nature. (As I recall, they vaguely believe that they are the source of the power, rather than using power from an outside source.)

However, while they might be in the dark about some aspects of the Force, and might not understand the full implications of the power they used, the Witches and other Force adepts clearly knew they were doing something. That brings us to the second part of the question: knowledge. Can someone use the Force without knowing that it exists at all?

Again, the answer is clearly "yes". There are numerous instances of people, even children, using the Force totally on instinct, with no conscious knowledge or effort. Anakin himself subconsciously uses a crude form of danger sense, giving him the precognitive reflexes needed to survive in the high-stakes podracing circuits. Before training as a Jedi, Streen had such a powerful gift for Force mindreading that he actually couldn't turn it off and became a recluse. People like Corran Horn had intuitive leaps that they believed were normal but were actually the product of Force sensitivity. There's even a charming image I sadly cannot source of a young twi'lek telling a stormtrooper to talk to the Force hand. None of these people had any kind of knowledge of the Force, formal or otherwise; they just acted on instinct.

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    Force adepts are aware of the existence of a mystical power and understand some aspects of it. Anakin is a special case since, as far as we know, he was literally 'bred' by the Force itself. Streen knew he had a supernatural ability. Horn wasn't really using the Force since he didn't control those intuitive leaps, as far as I remember. Since there's no source on that Twi'lek picture, we do not know if the kid or his parents knew about the Force, if the kid had been trained or not or anything. – Sava Sep 29 '18 at 20:05
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    There was also that one time Corran accidentally mind tricked a Stormtrooper, completely whiffed it the next time he tried once he was aware of his force abilities. – IG_42 Sep 29 '18 at 22:35
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    @KyleSentient I feel like that's straying dangerously close to M-word territory XD – delinear Oct 2 '18 at 14:15
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    @KyleSentient I recall an official word some years ago (before the new canon system) to the effect that "every source that describes the Force is from a character's perspective; they might all be wrong". I don't know if that's still the editorial line, but if so, I would very much doubt that there's an official explanation of its mysteries. We see what it lets people do... otherwise, we're just as much in the dark as they are. – Cadence Oct 2 '18 at 14:27
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    @delinear Goodness. You're right. It's not my fault, though. Blame Luke. – Kyle Sentient Oct 3 '18 at 17:47
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WEG RPG material makes a distinction between Force users and people who are simply sensitive to the Force.

Force users know what the Force is and often have been trained in its ways, albeit usually very poorly during the Civil War period depicted in the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI). They have knowledge of the Force, of some of the ways it can manifest itself, and also how to use it to some effect.

People who are sensitive to the Force may never have heard of the Force, or simply dismiss it as a legend or folks tale, and cannot use it in any conscious ways. But, sometimes, they'll have a stroke of luck or an intuition that helps them in some way and they'll always be able to tell right from wrong intuitively.

Thus, someone needs to understand the Force and feel it before being able to really use it in a conscious and directed way.

  • That's a fair point. I imagine proper training and awareness of the Force is what separates those who can merely use it instinctively to moderate effects from those who can literally project lightning and revive the dead(legends). Thank you for your time, @Sava. – Kyle Sentient Sep 29 '18 at 22:37
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Yes: Vornskrs and Ysalamiri

In Legends(1), vornskrs are animals that use the Force as a hunting sense. Being non-sapient, they can't strictly be said to understand the Force or to be aware of its existence. They simply use it.

Similarly, ysalamiri — also non-sapient — evolved a defense against the vornskrs' Force-sense. It's not clear whether the ysalamiri have any awareness or control regarding their own ability.


(1) Vornskrs first appeared in Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy.

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    That's an interesting point. Leaving aside the point about sapience (This is Star Wars, what can be considered sapient or not is quite blurry) the vornskrs and ysalamari are aware of the specific sense that they posses and they know how it works and how to use it, even if it's on an instinctual level. So, to keep with the question asked: they know of this very specific power, which is a facet of the Force, and they understand it to be able to use it. – Sava Sep 29 '18 at 20:56
  • I guess instinct trumps awareness in this sort of case. – Kyle Sentient Sep 29 '18 at 22:42

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