A request to my watchers: Please be mature in the comments to this commentaries. Religious matters will be dealt with because of the hard stances that are represented in this and the previous section of The Book of Sith, and my character, Tarssus Kallig, is going to have an opinion too, and express it very decisively. I understand that you guys have your own views both on how you interpret the Force in
Star Wars canon, and how you believe in your real lives. This is not intended as an attack on anyone; I am NOT having a go at anybody. While anyone who knows me knows where I stand and should not be surprised by the way things go, please understand that I am not denying anyone a right to their opinion, any more than I want to be denied the right to my own. That said, NO flamewars here, regardless of whether aimed at me or others.
Compared to the spiritually-focused Mother Talzin of the Nightsisters, one could hardly imagine finding a more diametrically opposed philosophy than that of Darth Plagueis--except for the fact that both of these extremists ended up in the position of throwing the concept of morality to the wind. Plagueis dismisses all forms of spirituality or morality for the dogma of cold, rigid science. He views the Force as an entirely natural phenomenon, and dedicates his study to understanding the role that the Force plays in life and how midichlorians can be manipulated to shape life according to his own designs in a far more precise and, dare I say it, cold-hearted manner than the experiments of Sorzus Syn. He less resembles the alchemist that the artistry of his diagrams and handwriting would suggest, but some disgusting individual like Josef Mengele (whom I will NOT call a doctor, for he forfeited the slightest shred of any right to that title with his horrors).
Tarssus Kallig's reaction to this section was...quite unlike his reaction to any of the other sections of The Book of Sith
. Certain elements of Tarssus' own philosophies, which you have seen in prior sections and will see more of here, seem to resemble those of Plagueis. And those similarities aren't lost on Tarssus. Of all of the Sith in this book, I think he sees a dark shadow of the sort of Sith Inquisitor he
could have become had he not held firm to the foundation of his morals and beliefs, and had he not been more balanced and compassionate in his approach to life and death.
While Plagueis' section does not leave a lot of room for comments because of the way he wrote on his pages, Tarssus' amanuensis was clever and still helped him find a way.
And, as with Talzin's section, there's definitely some humor had, for the fact that a Force-ghost is offering this commentary on the ultimate Force-rationalist's work. So here goes!
Tarssus' opening comment offers the foundation of the approach he will take to the rest of Darth Plagueis' text. Plagueis states that life arises from the natural phenomenon that is the Force:
The Force is certainly intertwined with physical life. But Plagueis, rational though he is, seems to confound natural Force with the will I am growing convinced exists above it. Imperius
Nature, in effect, ends up deified in Plagueis' philosophy just as surely as it did with Talzin's--except that where Talzin saw a spirit in everything
, Plagueis saw a spirit in nothing
and in effect deified what he viewed as blind chance. Plagueis points out, "The galaxy's leading scientific minds are largely ignorant of the Force, and the galaxy's most skilled Force-users reject science. The latter are caught up in romantic mysticism, convinced they have been called by a higher power. The former have no excuse." You can almost see Tarssus facepalming as he dictates the following:
I applaud rationalism, but Plagueis establishes a false dichotomy. Imperius
He follows up on this by adding in response to Plagueis' remark that "the Sith of old never asked these questions" about why things worked, "for tradition and obedience extinguished their spark of curiosity." Clearly Darth Plagueis had no idea about Tarssus Kallig's unquenchable spirit of inquiry (on the light side) or the hideous experimentation of people like Lord Grathan on the Dark Side.
Curiosity and reverence can in fact exist harmoniously. Imperius
In other words, there is no reason to act as if science and faith are opposing forces, where one must defeat the other in some sort of holy crusade (and yes, I apply that term to both sides).
Plagueis then states his goal: to learn to manipulate life to the point where he can create new life and then sustain his own indefinitely and live forever. Things start getting interesting when the dead (i.e. Tarssus) start talking back and we get one of the first reflections in this section upon his own state:
You cannot truly find comfort in eternal binding to the brokenness of the mortal world. That is why it is in our nature to die and accept that our eternity will be different, not a continuance of what is familiar by routine. Imperius
Plagueis then goes into the in-universe science behind the midichlorians. I know some fans hated that whole theory and wish it would die in a fire, but I personally found the whole concept utterly fascinating and in no way cheapening the Star Wars universe. Just more for my mind to chew on. As for Tarssus, he points something out about these studies: that no matter how much you discover, the more there is to keep
discovering, and the fact that you can never get rid of the ultimate version of the question, WHY?
Plagueis' contribution is to recognize the truth that the Force is on par with any other natural law and not beyond that. But that fails to answer the question of how this tapestry of laws and constants was woven together. Imperius
So if it's not the Force that has a will, that put everything together...then what did
Luke calls out Plagueis' focus on midichlorians as misguided and states that "they are a natural lesson in symbiosis. When we listen to the smallest creatures, they open us to the expanse of the Force. Only a Sith would seek to dismantle a relationship that benefits both parties." While I don't think Tarssus disagrees with the fact that such a lesson can be observed (remember what he said in Talzin's section about "taking wisdom from the possibilities nature allows us to observe" and never ceasing to "question and imagine as a child does"?), he addresses Luke personally with his rebuttal to the last assertion:
Luke, the old Jedi sought to divorce cold doctrine from vital passion. How does that differ? Imperius
Plagueis describes what he believes is a "unified consciousness" among the midichlorians and states that they "can be influenced by the host's mental state. In particular, negative emotions such as the loss of hope can induce cellular necrosis." To this Tarssus responds:
Death of a broken heart has been known since the dawn of time. Plagueis proves my contention that our Darkness or Light goes into the Force and not the reverse. Imperius
To Plagueis' contention that the midicholorians themselves contain such a unified consciousness, well...Tarssus delves deep into his own theories. (I could expound far, FAR more on this, but this will give you just a tiny taste.)
I do not see the midichlorians as the cause of will, nor the Force that we wield. Rather, they seem to behave more as quanta than ordinary creatures, and thus as the quanta in the nonliving provide a vector for will, they are a vector for will above them rather than its originator. The painting does not create the artist; it is the reverse. Imperius
(Quanta, to put it in simple terms, are the simplest packets of matter/energy--let's call it "information"--that can exist in the universe. They behave very differently than larger conglomerations of matter. While these larger conglomerations--such as stars, planets, or our own bodies--operate in a very predictable manner, currently best described by Einstein's theory of relativity, everything about quanta comes down to probability and "common-sense" precepts such as "an object cannot exist in two places or states at once" break down. So too do causality or the effects of distance, on that tiny scale; see quantum entanglement. Seems like an interesting potential vector for deity to act, doesn't it? Or even, on a lesser scale, our own spirits?)
Tarssus then points out a problem in one of Plagueis' statements, specifically the claim that he could bring about "new life where none existed." Tarssus takes issue with the use of the word "create" to describe this act.
You did not create life, Plagueis. You merely used cells and midichlorians already imbued with life before you. Imperius
In other words, all Plagueis is doing is shaping existing matter and energy in new ways...no different, in the end, from any of Sorzus Syn's experiments. Plagueis did not introduce new matter or energy into the universe--only use existing materials. To do anything other than that was beyond him. (This, incidentally, is my comment should there ever be a success with the Miller-Urey experiment IRL, or any of its successors: so what, it's just existing elements. Big whoop.)
The next comment is directed at Luke's remarks when he read Plagueis' account of creating life, specifically life with incredibly high midichlorian counts. Needless to say, the likely applicability of this to his father doesn't escape him. To this Tarssus comments:
Luke and ultimately Vader prove biology is not destiny. Imperius
In other words, Plagueis may have done what he did from the materialistic standpoint, but he and even Palpatine, with all his machinations, were fundamentally unable to control for free will: the ability of the spirit to override the material.
Tarssus next addresses Plagueis' "philosophy of life," which is essentially a treatise on immortality and who deserves it. Plagueis makes a comment that the Snark Lord of the Sith can't help but respond to. (And while funny, it also implies a position he believes every
mortal being should take, one that harkens back to his other comments so far about his own ghostly state and how he feels about that.) Plagueis says, "I do not wish to live in a galaxy where any fool can perpetuate his ignorance for eternity."
Including myself! I stepped aside when it came time. Imperius
Regardless of how his death came about (which he isn't telling right now), he seems to view it regardless as "time." Then he notices Luke offering up a similar comment: "No one wants to die. But this obsession with extending life is selfish. We all have our time. Nothing good comes from trying to cheat it." Tarssus' response is simple enough:
This Sith, at least, concurs, Luke. Imperius
Plagueis describes other possibilities in the Force, including using it to fold time and space, essentially creating Einstein-Rosen Bridges, or as they are popularly known, wormholes. Plagueis states that "such a thing would permit the study of all knowledge through history, even the secrets recorded in the long-lost Library of Silversisi." Although Tarssus did not comment on whether or not this power should be pursued in the mortal world, he has this to offer about his own current experience:
And all Plagueis in actuality needed to do to experience instantaneous transportation and exploration was to simply allow death in its right time. Horak-mul was right: so much to see and learn! I can accept even the loss of writing for myself, in the mortal realm, for this. It is different but not to be feared or loathed. Imperius
That had to have been a big adjustment in mindset to Imperius, not to be able to manipulate things in the mortal world as he once did, and thus pass on most of his new learning and observations to others (except by the method he is using with The Book of Sith
, of dictating notes to a Force-sensitive who is capable of seeing and hearing him)--but he is taking plenty of advantage of the opportunities he has to grow his knowledge not because of what he might do in our world, but the sheer joy of the learning and the knowing itself.
Plagueis claims that the afterlife is a lie and a fable, and he thinks that the patterns of the mind degrade almost instantly if not anchored to a biological form. The next comment is nothing other than a pure Snark Lord of the Sith moment--not hard to picture his face when he dictated this in response to Luke's response to this proving the existence of Force-ghosts: "I've seen Yoda, Ben, and my father return from death. The Force is a welcoming place, far larger than Plagueis' attempts to measure and minimize it."
Hi, Luke! Imperius
Plagueis then makes the assertion, commonly seen in the Star Wars universe (and with fans too!) that the non-Force-sensitive and even most Force-sensitives do not retain awareness after death. Tarssus counters with this:
Plagueis had no basis to claim the non-Force-sensitive and others did not maintain identity; he could only have honestly justified a statement that they cannot manifest to the living as a general rule. Imperius
Tarssus is well aware that just as his ancestor Lord Aloysius could not prove to him that the non-Force-sensitive survive meaningfully past death, he
cannot prove this to anyone who reads his words. He can, however, warn them against making too many leaps based on too little evidence. He expounds on this further, saying:
Pure rationalists believe they must dismiss what they cannot prove, but they err to believe that the only viable conclusion is nonexistence. Imperius
In other words, you should recognize that the scientific method will not work for certain things, and not try to claim that you CAN use science to prove those things (or warp scientific theory). But you should also not claim that non-falsifiability
equates to non-existence. One should neither create pseudoscience, nor dismiss faith that acknowledges itself to be
faith and not science.
Then Plagueis starts commenting on the spirits of dead Sith Lords. Oh, boy, you can bet Tarssus is now paying even more
attention than he was before! Plagueis thinks that these stories are generally false, and that the one apparition he witness that he thinks MIGHT have had something to it: the spirit of Marka Ragnos, furious at Plagueis' plans to dismantle the traditions of Korriban. (One would at first wonder if Ragnos had to tell Tarssus to get behind him and take a number...
) Ragnos, however, did not answer Plagueis' questions or scientific inquiries, so Plagueis suspects the whole thing just played out in his head.
And we get one of those other fun instances of Luke and Palpatine agreeing in their comments that Sith spirits DO exist, though as Palpatine rightly notes (for most cases!
) that they are "evasive in their speech and are ultimately treacherous." Our friendly neighborhood Sith Force-ghost, of course, can't help adding to this little "dialogue":
Why would I, for one, have favored Plagueis with this level of direct dialogue, however he craved it? I knew better! Imperius
Obviously the sweetest Sith Lord of them all isn't the treacherous type, and he is engaging his amanuensis in direct dialogue (not to mention anyone else who is in the room, and anyone reading his comments). Pardon my French, but Plagueis should be reeling from that little bitch-slap from beyond the grave!
Plagueis then describes his plan to use the prophecy of the Chosen One/Sith'ari to manipulate the Jedi and lead to their downfall. While we know that the Jedi were
just about eliminated, Imperius comments on the reason for the ultimate failure of Plagueis' idea: the fact that Plagueis was so sure that this artificial Chosen One would be an agent of his will. In the last minutes, of course, that proved untrue.
To fashion the body of a being with fully free will renders the sort of control Plagueis envisions impossible. Imperius
Tarssus then offers a comment to Luke, who states that "Plagueis made the mistake of believing that if something isn't literally true, then it has no value. I don't know the Jedi legends well, but the balance of the Force is a subject to be studied, not dismissed."
Though I differ on certain philosophical points with Luke, he is correct that neither physical nor spiritual should be dismissed. Where there is no conscience, in the end there is no meaning, only dead and drifting matter. Imperius
Plagueis concludes by saying that he saw himself as in a way becoming the Sith'ari by "freeing" the Sith from symbols, mysticism, traditions, and philosophy, and thus as the Sith'ari becoming a being with ALL of his chains broken, and free from restrictions, as the prophecy states.
Or as Ivan Karamazov stated in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
, "If God is dead, then everything is permitted."
Tarssus offers his own conclusion to Plagueis' section, leaving with this:
The mind of Plagueis was an inquisitive one, but the failure was a fatal combination of rationalized preconceptions and a belief that science was its own religion that--not unlike Talzin's own amorality ironically enough!--allowed total disregard for the implications of both means and ends. These notes are invaluable but never forget the horrifying cost with which this knowledge was bought. I destroyed the works of Lord Grathan for this in my time. As for myself...I hold no regrets in transiting through mortality. Let that stand both as a warning, and a call to take heart: for none of what Plagueis did was ever necessary. Nor do I wish that for me, it had been fulfilled. Imperius
The last section of The Book of Sith
will cover how Palpatine employed the lessons of past Sith to break the power of the Jedi Order and create his Empire.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts on what these selected remarks that Tarssus Kallig made on the writings of Darth Plagueis reveal about Tarssus' character and philosophies!
(Just remember...be mature; don't be a jerk!)