Guest post by Darth Sidious
Thank you for this opportunity to set the record straight. I don’t expect everyone to believe my alternative account of the events chronicled in the Star Wars films, since it runs so contrary to everything you think you know. I can offer you no proof that my version is correct; I only ask that you listen with your heart and (may it be so) hear the ring of truth.
A saying goes, “History is written by the victors.” Nowhere is this more true than in the Star Wars series, 99% of which is pure Jedi propaganda. Reading between the lines though, one might catch glimpses of the truth that I will share with you now.
The heroes of the films are the Jedi Knights, who identify themselves as champions of the Light Side of the force and accuse the Sith of being servants of the Dark Side. Already this should be a red flag. Do you trust people who self-righteously insist that they are the good guys, and claim anyone who disagrees with them is evil?
Now I’m not saying the truth is the reverse: that the Jedi are evil and the Sith are good. That whole way of thinking—Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Heroes! Villains!—is a load of Jedi childishness. It flattens complexity, leads to heroic self-inflation, and allows the “heroic” person or nation to justify any act.
In our galaxy, the Jedi became so intoxicated with the idea of their own virtue that they refused to acknowledge their shadow. Rather than integrating their anger, they suppressed it. Rather than acknowledging their hate, jealousy, and greed, they denied it. Any negative emotion that is suppressed plays out in distorted, extreme, and often violent form. That was true of the Jedi, who committed many of the heinous acts that they then attributed to us.
In similar fashion, the Jedi repressed their sexuality. They didn’t always keep their vows of celibacy, but when the did they results were even worse than when they “cheated,” as the repressed desire came out as cruelty—which, again, they projected onto us.
The Jedi were so sure of their identity as champions of good that they believed any measures were justified if it served their aims. They even destroyed entire planets. The Death Star was no mere fable. The Jedi created it themselves, and deployed it not with the gibbering glee of a diabolical fiend, but with loud sighs that it was regrettably necessary for “humanitarian interventions.” The rebellion of the Sith had to be stopped, you see, by any means necessary—because we were evil and they were good. In a shameless distortion of history, the films blame the Alderaan atrocity on me; yet, they also leave a clue as to the real story via an inadvertent honesty: They show the Jedi solving most problems with violence and seeing their foes as irredeemable. It is easy to see how such a mentality could lead someone to commit genocide.
Then there are the famous “Jedi mind tricks.” Thinking themselves pure, the Jedi had no compunctions about dominating others and forcing them to act against their sovereign will. In the same vein, they performed the giant “mind trick” of mass propaganda (of which the Star Wars films are a part), manipulating the public and robbing them of their right of consent.
In contrast to Jedi delusions of purity, Sith training is about shadow work. Each of us is given a shadow name upon initiation to reveal those parts of ourselves that we deny in fear and shame. That is why our shadow names are preceded by “Darth” (dark). My own name, Sidious, rhymes with hideous. It was given me in recognition of a deep self-loathing I took on in childhood. My teacher perceived this cloaked self-loathing to be at the root of my personal vanity, approval-seeking, and competitiveness. My name also suggests “insidious,” reminding me of how subtly my ego can disguise these traits.
Our shadow names were used only within our training circle, not publicly. They were touchstones for our most sacred inner work. One day, Jedi infiltrators recorded one of our training retreats and used our shadow names to slander us and paint us as evil. Think about it: Who, truly bent on evil, would call himself Darth Vader or Darth Maul? Who would wear a horrifying mask? Malevolent people usually wear a pretty mask, not an ugly one. It is true that Darth Vader suffered severe physical handicaps that required mechanical assistance—a mask and ventilator. These were twisted in the film imagery to turn him into something monstrous.
I am sure you are familiar with this tactic of painting ones opponents as monsters to incite hatred and contempt against them. That is what the Jedi narrative-spinners did to all us Sith. That is the “mind trick” they performed on the public.
Both the Jedi and the Sith acknowledge a dark and a light side of the force. The key difference is that the Jedi assign some people, especially themselves, to the light side, and others to the dark. The Sith recognize that both inhabit us all. Secondly, while the Jedi see light and dark as absolute defining categories, the Sith recognize gray zones and know the Force cannot be reduced to a single scale, much less a binary. When we fixate on the light/dark binary, other mysteries elude us. Thirdly, we know that light and dark require each other to exist. And finally, while the Jedi associate the light side with good and the dark side with evil, the Sith believe that it is only when anger, fear, envy, and desire are kept in the dark that they become evil.
Anger is not fundamentally a bad thing, nor is fear. In our encounters with Luke Skywalker, Vader and I kept encouraging him to “feel your anger.” That, the film gets right. But we did not mean, “Unthinkingly act on your anger,” as the film suggests. To the contrary, we wanted Luke to feel it (and not deny what was there) so that it would not rule him unconsciously. Vader learned that lesson from bitter experience when his repressed anger exploded into an act of violence he regretted the rest of his life. That is another shred of truth in the story. His outburst shortly preceded his conversion from Jedi to Sith, which he undertook precisely because he finally recognized the tragic error of denying anger.
Another element of truth that the films preserve is the idea that Darth Vader (born as Anakin Skywalker) was destined to restore balance to the force. Well, I wouldn’t use the word “destined,” but early on I saw in him a potential to bridge what I call “stranded opposites”--polar qualities that have moved so far apart that communication between them ceases. In my view, the Jedi had so lost touch with their own dark side that it had become wholly inaccessible to them. They imagined themselves to be beyond hate, beyond anger, masters of fear. But instead of banishing them, they installed them as their own hidden masters. Darth Vader, the Dark Father, knew in his being everything they did not see in theirs. His mission was not to literally destroy the Jedi in the sense of killing them. It was to destroy what the Jedi had become, to reconnect them with alienated parts of themselves, and thereby restore order to the galaxy.
The sham of Jedi virtue mirrored the politics of the Republic, a sham democracy controlled by hidden financial and military powers. These powers represent the same repressed anger, fear, and desire that ruled the Jedi. There never was an Empire, though the Jedi certainly accused me of imperial ambitions. In their retelling of history, they invented an Empire that was, overtly, what the Republic had always been covertly. The Republic was the Empire.
Your own world is in a similar state, governed by a sham democracy that cloaks its true ruling powers, riven by polarized factions that have ceased to communicate across the divide. I send this message in hopes that you initiate the same kind of revolution we did. You see, despite what the films say, the Sith rebellion did not fail. We didn’t end up in power, that is true, but that was never our goal. Quite the opposite. Unlike those who imagine themselves beyond evil, we well knew that we were not immune to power’s corruption.
Ours was not a revolution of good against evil, any more than it was (as the films portray) a story of evil usurping good. It was a revolution against that framing entirely. Our triumph was that in the end, Luke Skywalker chose not to restore the Jedi order. That part of the film is true. For a time in the galaxy, no one imagined themselves to be avatars of good. Eventually, power-hungry people so needed someone to occupy the role of evil that they brought me back into their fable (in “Episode 9”), and their champion Rey, channeling all the Jedi, destroyed me.1 Once again, “good” prevailed, a new tyranny was established in its name, and a whole mythology was invented to justify it.
The true meaning of “Sith” is akin to the English word “sooth”; that is, truth. I hope my tale will inspire you to do the work of the Sith—to reveal that which is hidden, in yourself and in the world; to dispel the lies; to expose the secrets; to question the doctrines; to break old stories and welcome the unruly truths they had imprisoned. A lot of truth is erupting in your time. Do not flinch before it. Do not claim it for your side. It is beyond sides. Do not try to subdue it to your stories. There is indeed a Force operating behind all things; your poet Rumi called it a field, beyond all ideas of good and evil, dark and light, right and wrong. Meet me there.
1That’s how they tell it, anyway, although the plot is so contrived that even a child should be able to recognize it as they clumsy propaganda piece that it is.