Lots of fans were shocked by the quote from Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi teaser trailer. In fact there is a strong possibility that Mark Hamill himself had this impression. Let’s take a moment to try and understand what it could mean.
If you haven’t checked out our breakdown of the teaser trailer, check it here.
First let’s clear up the notion of balance. We’ve written extensively, in fact in one of our first articles, about the meaning of “balance of the Force“. This concept from the prequels clearly means “the elimination of the Sith”. It is the Sith that took the Force out of balance, and clouded the Jedi’s vision and abilities. Anakin Skywalker returned in Return of the Jedi, and destroyed the Emperor (and himself) and therefore destroyed the Sith.
However, the concept of “balance” from The Last Jedi teaser may have meant something different. It appears that it might refer to a balance at the individual level. It is the state of balancing the light and dark side powers. Why is this more powerful? There are several hints of this. The first comes perhaps from Rebels, where we learn that the merger of the Jedi and Sith Holocrons is the key to unlocking a greater power and knowledge. The second perhaps comes from Legends. Recall that in the old EU, Luke taught some dark side powers in addition to light side to his new Jedi academy. In fact, the Republic and the Imperial remnants joined forces against the Yuuzhan Vong. There is a greater strength in cooperation, and in the combination of these otherwise different powers. However, how can one practice dark side powers without being consumed by the dark side as Yoda warned?
This brings me to my next point, why the Jedi must end. The Lucasfilm story group has pretty much said that there is no such thing as a “gray Jedi”. This is because the concept of a Jedi is a light side Force user and only that. You’re either a Jedi, or you’re not. To dabble in the dark side is to not follow the Jedi path. Consider this tweet from Pablo Hidalgo:
I don’t get the ‘gray Jedi’ thing. You’re either a Jedi or you’re not. It’s like being a ‘gray vegetarian’ who eats meat.
— Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) January 17, 2017
Therefore, the Jedi by definition can’t achieve the most powerful form of balance mentioned in the teaser trailer.
We recently wrote an article that perhaps balance is necessary to retain one’s consciousness after death–to become a Force-ghost. This could be why the Jedi never achieved this before Qui-gon. Although there are places in Legends where Qui-gon is referred to as a “gray Jedi”, we can take the new canon as different, and this concept is no longer valid in the new canon.
However, we are introduced to another dimension of the Force in the prequels, however subtly. This is the concept of the “Living Force”. Qui-gon focused on “instinct”. He let the Living Force guide him, rather than the strict rules of the Jedi code. Recall the quote in The Phantom Menace from Obi Wan to Qui-gon:
“If you would just follow the Code, you’d be on the Council.”
So perhaps a key part of achieving balance without being consumed by the dark side is to let go, and act on instinct, and let the Force guide you. The conclusion of all of this is the formation of a new group of Force-users. These Force users won’t be Jedi, but be something else. They might actually have more in common with the first Jedi, before the strict rules of the “Jedi order” were imposed. This could be what is discovered in the first Jedi temple, and alluded to by the image of a book with the Jedi symbol:
We’ve written on this idea a lot in the past too. There is a growing theme in Star Wars storytelling that reinforces the idea that we already know: You don’t have to be a Jedi or Sith to be a Force-wielder. You could say this about Snoke, and many other characters. Even Kylo Ren fits this description. This new era of bad guys that aren’t Sith will take a new era of good guys to defeat them. Just like in Legends where the Republic and the Imperial remnants had to team up to defeat the Yuuzhan vong, a new era of Force-wielders will have to balance light and dark powers to defeat the growing threats of Snoke and the First Order.