It’s about the most badass way a Jedi can go out
First, I want to make one thing clear:
I cried my fucking eyes out during The Last Jedi. Bawled like a baby. I think Carrie Fisher’s recent death made me particularly sensitive, because I knew this would be her last film, and that she wouldn’t get to finish her legacy. But also because I thought that what the film is doing — tearing down the old, ripping off the band-aids and plowing ahead into the unknown — is critically important. And because dear baby Jesus Leia fucking FINALLY got to use the Force (now, with no bikinis!).
What I’m saying is: I’m a Star Wars fangirl. I am. I feel passionately, just as many fanboys do, because it’s personal for me.
And if you’re passionate about Star Wars, it must mean a lot to you, too.
So, with that in mind: even though TLJ haters and I may disagree on a lot, I want to set all that aside and have an honest conversation about one particular nuance.
Because I think there’s something in particular about Luke’s ending that a lot of people are really missing, which I think is pretty damn important.
The argument: Luke wasn’t even there!
So, as I understand it (as a nerd who participates in plenty of nerd forums and also runs a nerd magazine), there’s a lot of disgruntlement over how Luke Skywalker’s character was written in The Last Jedi — particularly in how his final battle scene with Kylo Ren went down.
And also Luke’s overall message of asserting the Jedi order should be torn down, and his hiding away on an island in the first place, which I really don’t want to go into, mostly because to me it all seems completely consistent with what we know of Luke, and the nature of the Jedi, from canon. Go back and watch the prequels, and pay attention to what the Jedi are doing, and tell me they’ve had a net positive effect on the galaxy.
Or don’t — that’s not why we’re here.
That final battle scene in particular has gotten a lot of shade, in supposed defense of Luke’s character, and that’s what I want to talk about.
Spoiler alert (duh) — in the final (and visually stunning) epic battle between Luke Skywalker, Kylo first levels his entire massive army’s firepower where Luke is standing, carving a small crater, but it leaves Luke standing unscathed.
Then, after Kylo comes and battles him face to face, Luke allows Kylo to get a killing shot in, and Kylo then realizes he is fighting a projection of Luke, not his physical form. We immediately cut to a shot of Luke meditating intensely, hovering above the ground, on his remote Jedi island.
Luke’s astral form before Kylo Ren disappears, then Luke himself evaporates into the wind leaving his robes in a pile, in the same style as Qui Gon Gin and Obi Wan before him.
I have to say: I was absolutely shocked to hear this scene get criticized as being a “pussy move”.
In the movie theater, my husband and I immediately turned to each other in shock.
“OH MY FUCKING GOD HE WAS ASTRAL PROJECTING!” I whisper screamed.
“I KNOW, THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME,” he replied.
Because astral projecting is (at least according to a heluvalot of people) an actual thing, that’s quite well documented. And as a Jedi, Luke’s demonstrating such mastery over such an intensely psychic power, I immediately read as the most powerful, badass Jedi move that’s ever been made.
Let me explain.
Astral Projection 101: Dr. Strange is real
See: I’ve been studying astral projection over the last year or so. Not just the nuts on YouTube (love you, YouTube nuts!) — I’m talking about the modern godfather of the scientific and mystic study of astral projection, Robert Monroe.
A radio executive in the 1950’s, Monroe was a very matter of fact, rational, particularly unspiritual fellow who fell out of his body one night quite by accident, and began to document the journeys his astral form would take, through this dimension, and many others. In partnership with scientists, psychiatrists, biologists, electrical engineers and physicians, he studied the beneficial effects frequencies can have on the human body to induce sleep, and altered states of consciousness.
Monroe’s body of work inspired much of the clinical research done on altered states of consciousness in the 60’s and 70’s using LSD and DMT, as well as government remote viewing programs. And beyond that, it’s some trippy shit to boot.
It’s really fascinating, to listen to this dry old man drone on about inhabiting the body of his self in an alternate dimension with the tone of a man reading this month’s revenue projections.
The best way to describe Monroe’s experiences is to point to Marvel’s Dr. Strange. He travels into all kinds of dimensions along the astral plane, and the MCU’s first Dr. Strange movie showcased astral projection quite a bit, both in Dr. Strange’s initial interaction with his teacher, and in the astral fight in the hospital later, in which he and his teacher shared their last moment — in astral form.
I know it’s science fiction, but the mechanism of Dr. Strange’s interactions with the astral plane are actually pretty close to being a stone cold rip from Robert Monroe’s documented travels.
Hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of people all over the world are trying to astral project, and according to the accounts of many, some are succeeding. It’s a practice which requires a lot of understanding of how your chakras and energy flow work, a lot of practice in meditation, and — as evidenced by Monroe’s own bumbling encounter — seemingly a bit of luck from the Universe.
I’d offer you sourcelinks, but you’re kind of not supposed to talk about it. I’m kind of breaking the rules of Fight Club RIGHT NOW.
But we’re burning it all down anyway — right, Yoda?
Astral projection is Jedi AF
So, back in the “fantasy” world of Star Wars (the intense realism of the universal, Jungian and Campbellian archetypes Lucas drew from notwithstanding), let’s look at how astral projection fits in to the Jedi practice.
Here are some of Star Wars’ most quotable moments from intensely spiritual recommendations:
Search your feelings.
Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side.
Let go of your anger.
And probably my favorite, from a character no Star Wars fan could hate (our beloved Chirrut):
I am one with the Force, and the Force is one with me.
There’s clearly a lot of physical training involved in becoming a Jedi, but it really seems to wane in comparison to the emotional, mental, and spiritual training that are so central to being a Jedi. Luke’s running through the jungle with Yoda riding him like a backpack, egging him on, feels much more like an exercise in testing Luke’s will than it does in getting in a good cardiovascular workout.
And, as we all know, a Jedi’s power is not in his light saber or physical might, and violence is to be used only as a last resort to protect the innocent. This is why wisdom, discernment, and discretion are so vital.
Control. Concentration. Balance. Sensing the Force — the light, the darkness.
This is what a Jedi practices. This is the root of it all.
It’s meditation, in a nutshell, really. And if we take these tools, and this technique, under this Jedi mentality, to its most extreme, most powerful manifestation possible, what we have is astral battle.
It’s both in line with and more powerful, if you think about it, than both Qui Gon Gin and Obi Wan’s endings. Both of these characters essentially surrendered themselves to be slaughtered by their enemies when they deemed the timing right, for a purpose that wasn’t clear to their padawans. Obi-Wan clues us into his purpose with his line: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” In his “deceased” state, Obi-Wan is free to travel as a Force Ghost wherever he pleases.
Yet this is a power Luke achieves while still in corporeal form — and beyond Obi-Wan’s apparent abilities as a Force Ghost, not only is he able to travel as a body of energy, but to actually do battle.
Luke’s final battle scene wasn’t a cop out. Quite the opposite: it was the ultimate demonstration of mastery of the Jedi arts. The true arts — which is not about laser swords or lifting rocks, but something infinitely more powerful: our Oneness with the Force.
I would go so far as to say that his final battle move was also a powerful vindication of his “hiding away” on a deserted island. Once we see Luke revealed in his full raw power, we understand that he wasn’t just twiddling his thumbs and pouting out there on that island. He was practicing, and training (albeit psychically) and conserving energy, for the moment when he could redeem himself, and come to his sister’s aid when it mattered most — in a manner most befitting a Jedi master.
You get what you need
I don’t think you have to be a guru or astral nut to appreciate what an incredible manifestation of power Luke’s astral battle is. I think that a little pondering over the words of wisdom from the Star Wars Universe’s most beloved teachers confirms it pretty well.
But — you know what? I get it. Maybe that doesn’t change how you feel. Maybe all that makes sense, and all that may be in line with the Jedi order, but at the end of the day, it still wasn’t the ending some fans wanted. They wanted more Luke — more heroic, active Luke, like the kind they looked up to as children. They wanted a Luke they could feel and touch, and who…you know…showed up, basically.
And I get that. But sometimes what you want isn’t what’s best — because it’s not real.
Sometimes you get what you need. And I think Luke’s last astral battle was exactly what we needed.