When you become one with the Force, your essence is forever imprinted within the fabric of its energy. You essentially become immortal, able to wander the galaxy forever as an avatar of living sentient energy that flows in all living beings in the Galaxy far, far away in the Star Wars Universe. The greatest Jedi Masters have the power to imprint their essence into the Force, becoming Force Ghosts. The purest and one of the hardest Jedi abilities, only a handful of Jedi Masters have been able to use it to become one with creation. Master Yoda and Luke Skywalker are one of the most prominent examples. But recent discoveries point to the fact that the Star Wars Universe has a secret Sith technique that could manipulate Force Ghosts.
In other words, the Master Yoda and Luke Skywalker may have become embodiment of the Light Side. But they are still not safe in the after-life. The Sith have a way to turn them into Sith Lords. Things just got a lot more interesting.
The idea of Force Ghosts dates back to the 1977 Star Wars movie Star Wars: A New Hope. In that movie, the deceased Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice helped provide guidance to Luke Skywalker while he was making the Death Star Run. George Lucas was able to build on that idea. The idea of spirits and ghosts existed way before Star Wars came into the scene. But Lucas gave the concept a typical Star Wars twist by adding the Force into it. In Return of the Jedi, the Force Ghost concept was used in its full glory and vigor. The Force Ghosts of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Master Yoda appeared to celebrate the victory and triumph of Luke Skywalker over the Sith and Emperor Palpatine.
In the novelization of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Matt Stover gives us a rather accurate description of how the ability works. Stover claims that only the users of the Light Side of the Force aka the Jedi, can become Force Ghosts. If you turn to the Dark Side, you lose the ability of becoming One with the Force. Qui-Gon Jinn, a prominent Jedi that starred in the Star Wars prequel series, gives us a better answer to the question of why the Sith can never become Force Ghosts.
“[Immortality is] the ultimate goal of the Sith,” the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn said, “yet that can never achieve it. It comes only by the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness.”
Force Ghosts are generally seen as neutral witnesses to the many events of the universe. They are omniscient but they cannot affect the physical world. The purpose of the Jedi is to attain freedom from every materialistic tendency. And that involves having any physical connection with the universe. The reason the Sith can never become Force Ghosts is because ultimately, they are in the pursuit of total control. The Jedi’s goal is to give up control and become a tenet of the universe. They follow the Force instead of the Sith’s belief to make the Force follow them.
That core principle changed with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Yoda’s Force Ghost appeared in front of Luke Skywalker, giving him a new way to guide the next generation of Jedi. To do that, he needed to take away the old teachings of the Order and make way for a new one. Yoda’s Force Ghost summons powerful elemental lightning that burned down the monument that was housing the Jedi scripture. All of a sudden, the Jedi Force Ghost is no longer a neutral observer. They were powerful beings and a force of nature that can affect the physical realm.
There are many novelizations within the Star Wars Universe that the movies do not vocally embrace. But they have indeed given indirect hints that at least a few of them are canon. One of the many novelizations to have been given that honor was Star Wars: Dark Legends, a novel that explored an ancient war between two Force Sensitive Factions. The Jedi were not involved in this battle. The two factions were the Sith and an ancient clan of Female Dark Side Force Warriors called the Nightsisters of Dathomir.
The Nightsisters are basically witches of the Force. They use an ancient practice of Force manipulation called Magick. Using the Dark Side, they have access to a level of power not even the greatest Sith Lords could boast of like communicating with the dead and resurrecting the deceased as an unstoppable horde of zombies to fight for them. During the War between the Nightsisters and the Sith, a particular incident comes to light. The Nightsisters, in a story called “The Gilded Cage” are seen fighting the Sith Lord Darth Caldoth. Knowing Caldoth is way more powerful than any of the Nightsisters, they use an unnatural technique of Magick.
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Luring Darth Caldoth into a trap, they made the Sith Lord fight what appeared to be a Force Ghost. Caldoth was able to see through their plan and used another ancient Sith technique of his own design to capture this Force Ghost under the control of the Nightsisters. A binding ritual pulled the Force Ghost into the confines of a vial.
George Mann, creator of Star Wars: Dark Legends probably took examples of real world mythologies. The story of the genie, a powerful spirit mage that can warp reality and grant wishes was the inspiration for the new Sith technique. Another chapter within Dark Legends also introduces to the world the truth of the existence of werewolves within the Star Wars Universe. What it means is that even the most ancient Sith Lords were aware of the existence of Force Ghosts. They had even developed techniques to counter them. Interestingly, Star Wars: Dark Legends reveals that the binding ritual that Dark Caldoth used was a technique he stole from the pages of the Nightsisters.
Up until now, we were led to believe that the Force Ghosts were ethereal beings that could only observe but never affect the natural order of things. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we realized that it was not true. The Force Ghosts are forces to be reckoned with. They can also use their powers to destroy and wreak havoc if need be. That was a startling revelation for us all. The fact that ancient Sith Lords knew it already proved beyond the shadow of a doubt how little we know about the Force. There is still so much to learn.
If a future Star Wars movie does have Force Ghosts in it (which we think it will since Disney will never stop itself from cashing in on the success of an established legacy), then the idea of using Force Ghosts as weapons would be a concept worthy of exploration. Remember only the Sith as of now have revealed to have the power to perform the powerful binding ritual necessary to capture a Force Ghost. If they decide to conjure the Force Ghosts of Yoda, Anakin Skywalker or Luke Skywalker and turn them into Sith Lords to Sith their battles, would the nascent Jedi Order even have what it takes to stop the onslaught?
This leaves another gaping plot-hole. Emperor Palpatine, the living repository of all the Knowledge the Sith have acquired over several millennia, had to know about the Force Ghost binding ritual. How come we did not see Darth Sidious using this against Rey and Kylo Ren in the climactic final battle? There seems to be something missing here. Further novelizations may be able to shed some light into this matter. For now, this is all we have.