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Spoiler Alert.

In the movie, The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine tells Rey that after she kills him, he will transfer his spirit into her. He also says all previous Sith Lords live on within him. Not just some of them, but all, so that seems to imply all previous Sith knew the secret of how to transfer their souls at the moment of death.

Here's the relevant quote.

PALPATINE: Kill me, and my spirit will pass to you. All the Sith live in me. You will be Empress. We will be one.

In the movie, The Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells Anakin Skywalker that at least one Sith already knew the secret of immortality.

Darth Plagueis the Wise had such a knowledge of the Dark Side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.

In the same movie, he also tells Anakin (now Darth Vader),

To cheat death is a power only one person has learned, but if we work together we can discover the secret.

Why would the Sith (and Palpatine in particular) care about learning immortality if they can simply transfer their spirits into new hosts moments after death?

Please provide answers from canon sources.

I am willing to believe this thing about the Sith transferring their spirits was made up for the final movie and not supported by any previous canon sources.

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    I hate to defend Disney Star Wars and your last sentence is almost definitely the truth but the quote provided simply says he doesn't know how to cheat death, between ep 3 and ep 9 he could have discovered this and used the ability against Rey and Kylo. – Geneworm Dec 25 '19 at 19:38
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    Out of universe, it's lack of imagination combined with not caring about past work. – Petersaber Dec 25 '19 at 20:07
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    Note that when Palpatine is talking to Anakin about immortality it is in terms of the power to keep the ones you love from dying, which isn't the same thing at all, even if he was being honest. – Harry Johnston Dec 25 '19 at 21:50
  • It may be a case of Disney going "Legends isn't canon unless we nitpick bits that we like". In the days of the Old Republic, the Sith Emperor had learned that ability, but only he did. Other "soul transfers" happened by accident apparently. Source: replay of SWTOR during the holidays. – Marakai Dec 26 '19 at 3:44
  • The fact he built back a body from his spirits make his statements of "immortality" in ep3 kinda consistent. He might want to get better immortality that beeing said – LamaDelRay Feb 5 at 13:25
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I don't think there is any evidence that all the Sith knew the power of transfering their spirit. First, I don't recall Palpatine saying that every previous Sith Lord had transferred their spirit to their apprentice. What he said was:

PALPATINE: Kill me, and my spirit will pass to you. All the Sith live in me. You will be Empress. We will be one.

The Rise of Skywalker

He also later claimed that "I am all the Sith."

When he says that "all the Sith live in" him, I expect he is speaking metaphorically, saying that he has the power of all the Sith, since he is on the Sith planet of Exegol with the apparent support of the remnants of Sith spirits that are there, in much the same way as Rey says that she is all of the Jedi when their Force echoes are backing her up. Or, although the context makes this less likely, it could just be a straight boast. Remember "I am the Senate"?

In fact, taking this to imply that every Sith has performed an essence transfer of the sort Palpatine proposes would contradict a number of things, such as the fact that Palpatine is not Plagueis, or that the Rule of Two involves an apprentice killing their master. But another possibility is that, after arriving at the Sith planet of Exegol, he did take up the spirits of the Sith, who may have bound themselves to that place as the Dathomir witches bound themselves to their cave, or as Lord Moomin bound himself to his mask.

Yet another possibility is that when Palpatine says that his spirit will pass to Rey upon his death, he doesn't mean his consciousness, but rather his power and evil in the Force, as some have proposed. In such a case, perhaps this is what happens whenever an apprentice kills their master, but it's not exactly immortality of the sort that the Sith desire. Palpatine, who at this point is not exactly in good shape, may have viewed dying as a worthwhile sacrifice to inaugurate a powerful new Sith Lord.

As for the "Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise," we have very little idea how honest Palpatine was being in that scene. In fact, we know he was lying at some point, because at various times he claimed the following:

  • Plagueis taught his apprentice everything he knew, presumably including the power to cheat death. He heavily implied that he could teach Anakin the secret: "not from a Jedi".

  • That he didn't know the power, and that if he and Anakin worked together, he could discover it.

Obviously, these are inconsistent. Throughout the entirety of Revenge of the Sith, he is twisting the truth to persuade Anakin, and we can't take any of these statements at face value. Maybe he knew Plagueis's methods of cheating death at that point. Maybe he didn't.

If Palpatine didn't actually learn how to cheat death before Revenge of the Sith, at some point during the 50 years between then and the new trilogy, he may have discovered how. The end of Revenge of the Sith suggests, if Palpatine is being honest, that he intends to pursue such investigations with the help of Vader, and canon works like Lords of the Sith and Tarkin suggest that this is exactly what he was doing. This was also the purpose of Project Blackwing. We know, moreover, that he intended not only to avail himself of this limited form of immortality, but to attain a greater form and become all-powerful.

And he would not allow himself to be sidetracked from his goal of unlocking the secrets many of the Sith Masters before him had sought: the means to harness the powers of the dark side to reshape reality itself; in effect, to fashion a universe of his own creation. Not mere immortality of the sort Plagueis had lusted after, but influence of the ultimate sort.

As his Empire swelled, bringing more and more of the outer systems into its fold, so too would his power unfurl, until every being in the galaxy was held captive in his dark embrace.

Tarkin

In other words, Palpatine wanted to go beyond anything that previous Sith had attempted to attain immortality. Note that this also suggests that (a) not all the Sith Lords knew the secret of immortality, (b) not even Plagueis knew it to his satisfaction, (c) Sidious and Plagueis are separate people.

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    "Palpatine says that his spirit will pass to Rey upon his death, he doesn't mean his consciousness, but rather his power and evil in the Force, as some have proposed." This one line might be the best part of your entire answer. Do you have some source for this? – LincolnMan Dec 25 '19 at 22:06
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    Palpatine also said "I am the Senate!" and he was nothing of the sort; indeed, the Senate continued to hinder him up until A New Hope. Maybe we ought to stop taking the evil megalomaniac at his word? – Cadence Dec 25 '19 at 22:33
  • @cadence that was just a play on the Luis XIV quote of "I am the state" , I don't think we should read anything more into that. – terdon Dec 26 '19 at 23:27
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    @Cadence: At the point he said that he was a member of the Senate as Chancellor (with the Galactic Senate seeming parliamentary, with the Chancellor being more of a first-among-equals "Prime Minister"-style executive than an external "President" ), and he had a great deal of overt political control over the Senate (in contrast to his predecessor, Valorum, who was politically weak enough to be removed by at the instigation of one planetary queen). So while not literally true, I wouldn't say he was "nothing of the sort". – sharur Dec 27 '19 at 19:03
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Why would the Sith (and Palpatine in particular) care about learning immortality if they can simply transfer their spirits into new hosts moments after death?

This is probably a false premise. If it were so simple, then:

  1. Palpatine would not have needed to wait ~30 years to resurface after being killed in Return of the Jedi.

  2. Palpatine wouldn't have needed some reconstructed body that needed to be supported by machines.

  3. Palpatine could have just transferred his spirit into Rey or Ben/Kylo when he died again in Rise of Skywalker. (Or into Luke when he died in Return of the Jedi.)

We can conclude that Palpatine can't just transfer his spirit into anyone under any circumstance. More likely (and this is educated speculation) is that the circumstances need to be right to allow it.

So learning immortality still would be a useful insurance policy because there are many ways to die (particularly with pesky Jedi around) without having the circumstances necessary to perform the spirit transfer.

Additionally, that Palpatine states "All the Sith live in me" implies that the transferred spirit merges with the spirit of the new body. (If no such merging occurred, then there would be only a single Sith spirit that passes from one body to the next, but "All the Sith" suggests the presence of multiple spirits.) This means that even though a Sith can transfer (and merge) their spirit to another person's, they might still prefer to stay alive for as long as possible in their own body so that they can advance their own agenda (and not be concerned with what the new gestalt will do).

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Id say its a colmination of the Concept of the rule of 2 mixed with 2 abilities listen in legends continuity. The powers of essence transfer and Force Walk. In essense when a sith master is felled by their successor their power flows through them anointing them as the next master of the sith, which means their spirits become a part of the new sith but they remain themselves mostly. I believe Palpatine was convinced he had such a strong will that if his granddaughter killed him he would be able to erase her personality like the Inquisitor from the old republic mmorpg was in danger of being when he took on the spirits of previous Sith for power. It also reminds me of a similar Event in Terry Brooks'Shannara series "The Heritage of Shannara" With a Character named Waller Boh, who had the spirits and knowledge of the members of an order called the druids remake themselves within his body so he could serve as the Next druid and restore their order.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. The question specifically requests answers from canonical sources, not just speculation. Can you cite any references to support your theory? – DavidW Dec 27 '19 at 17:10

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