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I'm about half way through Perelandra, so please don't spoil the end for me, but I've read the entire conversation between Ransom and Weston were talking

" Why did I do physics? Why did I discover the Weston rays? Why did I go to Malacandra? It-the Force — has pushed me on all the time. I’m being guided. I know now that I am the greatest scientist the world has yet produced. I’ve been made so for a purpose. It is through me that Spirit itself is at this moment pushing on to its goal.”

“Look here,” said Ransom, “one wants to be careful about this sort of thing. There are spirits and spirits, you know.”

“Eh?” said Weston. “What are you talking about?”

“I mean a thing might be a spirit and not good for you.”

C.S. Lewis - Perelandra - Chapter 7

And when I saw the words "The Force" in here, I conjured up every prejudice against the Manichean mysticism imbued in Star Wars about opposing philosophies balancing each other out.

It seemed nuts that George Lucas would want to run with this if he read it, but I don't know where he was spiritually in the 1970's. The Force in Perelandra and Star Wars don't only have the same name, they obviously describe the same idea, an invisible Force that works described as having a good (light) and bad (dark) side.

What I want to know is A: Do any "star wars scholars" recognize that C.S. Lewis' work may have impacted Star Wars the way other works added up to the story underlying Star Wars (i.e. Dune, Galactic Patrol, A Princess of Mars) and if so, why would Lucas choose something that was antagonistic and false as the prime mover of his universe?

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    I'm not sure that one should infer any connection between two fictional things merely because they have the same name. Feb 8 at 18:29
  • @M.A.Golding Does it matter what you call a boat on Mars? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Aren't the mental picture and the actual idea both things? If they describe the same thing, isn't likely that they're called the same thing. GL. could have called it something else, he could have called Jedi something less like Jeddak's he could have easily left out the Spice Mines of Kessel. Feb 8 at 19:00
  • "why would Lucas choose something that was antagonistic and false" - I think you're misunderstanding Ransom's statement. Finishing the book (and especially the second book) may help that understanding. Understanding Lewis's Christian background and his penchant for allegory may also help.
    – NKCampbell
    Feb 8 at 19:41
  • Just to add (whilst voting to leave open), Thulcandra (Earth) means "cold men", so named because it's Oyarsa has remained hidden for a long time (Lewis being fond of languages like his friend Tolkien), akin to the hidden nature of the dark side that casts a veil over it's activities. Feb 13 at 4:08

2 Answers 2

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I'm going to say "no" here. The key is in your own quotation:

It is through me that Spirit itself is at this moment pushing on to its goal.

There are a few ways to interpret what The Force in Star Wars is, but one thing it appears to not be is goal-oriented. It's more of an "ocean" of (spiritual?) energy that some people can draw on.

Perelandra is another one of C.S. Lewis's (IMO ham-handed) Christian allegories. Perelandra (Venus) is billed as a second Eden, and the nature of the novel's "adventure" is to prevent a Fall From Grace there similar to what happened on Earth.

The "Force" described by Weston in Perelandra is some sort of entity (Satan?) using him for its own purposes.

It might be tempting to describe Ransom as belonging to the "light side" and Weston as belonging to the "dark side" of something, but remember in Lewis's theology, Good and Evil are two separate things, not two sides of the same coin. And "bringing balance" between the two would be (literally) anathema.

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  • That's very good point, does anyone every consider whether the Force has an interest in self-preservation or drawing in adherents in Star Wars? Feb 8 at 20:13
  • @PeterTurner I don't even think there's any indication that the Force has agency or even consciousness.
    – Spencer
    Feb 8 at 22:13
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    I was scanning the scripts and you're right about the original trilogy, I thought there was a "The force binds us" line or something. But The Phantom Menace begs to differ (unless Qui Gon was really full of crap or actually evil) Feb 8 at 22:23
  • Kenobi in "A New Hope" responds to Luke's question: "So it [the Force] controls your actions?" with - "Partially. But it also obeys your commands." - now if Kenobi is talking he's probably lying but that does sound like some agency
    – NKCampbell
    Feb 9 at 2:29
  • @NKCampbell Regarding agency: would you say that a river you were kayaking down had agency? Both you (a paddler) and the rivers motion and conditions will determine what your journey is like, but I suspect some folks would not ascribe conscious agency to the river (but some would, so there's that :).
    – Lexible
    Feb 9 at 2:46
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Fundamentally I think the two works (and in theory, their authors) just have very different views of the ‘supernatural’ (for want of a better word).

In Star Wars, ‘the Force’ is some kind of vast energy field, generated by living beings (midichlorians, whatever). Certain people can ‘tap in’ to it and use it to transcend the laws of physics. If you use the Force in a calm, creative way, for the benefit of others, you’re morally good (‘light-side). If you use it in anger or fear, destructively, for your own gain, you’re evil (‘dark-side’). The Force itself is impersonal, it doesn’t create anything and it doesn’t have an inherent morality, any more than gravity or electromagnetism does.

In Perelandra, the ‘force’ that Weston is talking about in this chapter is actually somewhat similar, in that it’s a kind of vast impulse of all life. However the key point is that Weston is being used or deceived, and the ‘force’ that he’s in contact with is actually

Satan

In the reality of the Space Trilogy, there is no impersonal, amoral ‘force’. God, the various angels, and the demons are all ‘persons’ (again, for want of a better word), who are inherently moral or immoral. Lewis actually makes this point (via the character of Ransom) right after your quote:

’But I thought you agreed that Spirit was the good - the end of the the whole process? I thought you religious people were all out for spirituality? … Didn’t we agree that God is a spirit? Don’t you worship Him because He is pure spirit?’

‘Good heavens, no! We worship Him because He is wise and good. There’s nothing specially fine about simply being a spirit. The Devil is a spirit.’

Lewis’s characters can’t ‘use the Force’, in the sense of tapping-in to a morally-neutral power source. Instead they allow themselves to be used either by God or by the Devil. In fact, you could even see the dialog between Ransom and Weston in this chapter as Lewis’s critique of the whole idea of an impersonal supernatural ‘Force’.

So why did Lucas use the term ‘the Force’? Well I guess that C.S. Lewis would argue that he was deluded about the true nature of the universe and potentially slipping under Satanic influence. I would offer my own view, but I’m afraid this answer has already taken me way beyond my limited knowledge of metaphysics/theology/philosophy, so I’m going to stop now!

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  • Ahh, now that I've finished the book I see that A LOT clearer. Man that possession was creepy, actually reminded me a lot more of Ward in the 4th season of Agents of Shield creepy, if you've seen that! Feb 14 at 3:18

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