Yoda is universally accepted as a wise and powerful character and a font of significant wisdom – and rightly so – but Yoda’s understanding of the Force (and by extension the Jedi’s) just may be a little bit skewed. So let’s play devil’s advocate and look at just where Yoda might be wrong.
(Worry not. No spoilers for The Force Awakens will you find here.)
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
Okay, so the Sith are evil – we get that. Blowing up planets just isn’t the sort of thing healthy-minded people do. That being said, there is nothing wrong with embracing your emotions.
Emotions help us separate who we should be with from who we shouldn’t. Do they lead us astray occasionally? Sure. But they also lead to remorse and forgiveness.
The Dark Side of the Force seems to be the side embracing emotion, and for the Sith, that means causing chaos (while paradoxically creating orderly dictatorships), but the Jedi try to abandon emotion altogether, causing them to lose sight of some fundamental ideas – like free will.
“A slight detour, jeopardize the mission, it will not.”
The Sith use Force lightning, the Jedi don’t. Random blasts of energy do seem pretty evil, but you know what the Sith rarely do (in the main films, anyway)? Outright control people’s minds.
And yet, the Jedi mind trick is a standard staple of the Light Side. Whether it’s keeping some droids out of the hands of the Empire, or forcing someone to go against his better judgement and be put in harm’s way, that can be a pretty creepy violation of self. Good thing the Jedi primarily use this on “bad guys,” not people they love. However, it’s worth pointing out that the Jedi don’t exactly have loved ones.
“Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. “
True Jedi are expected to make no emotional attachments and view things objectively while compassionately helping people. Okay, sounds great in theory. But that means the Jedi must operate without romantic or familial love.
Over in Star Trek, it took generations for Vulcans to accept that ideal and decades for each individual Vulcan to achieve it, but for humans – and presumably other races in that galaxy far away – giving up the emotional bonds just isn’t that easy or wise. It is what makes us human.
Now sure, there are religious adherents all over the Earth who take vows of celibacy, but (ideally) those are grown men and women who voluntarily chose to follow that path. When such lifestyles are forced on others, this can lead to problems.
“He is too old. Yes, too old to begin the training.”
Understand that for a long time, one of Yoda’s biggest responsibilities was training toddlers to follow the Jedi code and use limb-rending weapons. Why do they need to be so young though?
When Yoda took on teenage Luke Skywalker, he said Luke was too old. Sure enough, Luke’s teenage rebelliousness caused him to run out on his training, but after only a few weeks of training (between Obi-Wan and Yoda), Luke was already able to take down the Sith pair in charge of the Empire.
And Anakin was brought to Yoda as a prepubescent boy, but he was still too old according to Yoda. Again, it was the attachments Anakin made before joining the Jedi that brought him down (in this case, his love for his mother and his infatuation with Amidala). Even with that failing, Anakin – as Vader – took out dozens of Jedi (including the younglings Yoda trained).
So if controlling the Force and learning fighting skills weren’t issues for Anakin and Luke, it seems the problem was indoctrination. They didn’t learn early enough and still had emotional baggage. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn established that all Force-sensitive are brought before the Jedi at an even younger age, suggesting everything they are taught, all concepts of right and wrong, come from the Jedi, not their families.
“Split up, they should be.”
Yoda also seems to have a problem with families. Yoda repeatedly tells Anakin and Luke to ignore their families and focus on training – yes for the greater good, but familial bonds are strong. In fact, it was Yoda who suggested splitting Luke and Leia up. It was for their own good, sure, but Luke was still given the name “Skywalker” and placed with his grandmother’s family. They were lucky Vader never felt nostalgic when Luke was younger.
Of course, that brings up another point, why do the Jedi prevent their most powerful and well-trained members from forming relationships and ultimately having children? In Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan confirmed that the Emperor (and by extension the Jedi) knew that if Anakin fathered children, they could be a threat to the Sith. So the Jedi knew Force sensitivity was hereditary, but they still rely on finding random children who happen to have powerful potential instead of allowing powerful Jedi to have powerful children, presumably children trained in altruistic Force uses as a family, rather than in the academy.
“A prophecy that misread might have been.”
Then there’s the big one: the prophecy of the Chosen One who will bring “balance to the force.” According to the Jedi Council, “balance” means killing all the Sith. So if the Light Side and the Dark Side are two halves of the same coin, good and evil if you will, then – according to the Jedi – preventing half of the potential uses for the Force would bring balance.
Now, George Lucas has said “balance to the Force” meant allowing good to overcome evil. The theory being that a “balanced” person is at peace.
The problem, of course, is that the Jedi are not balanced. As explained above, the Jedi forsake their strongest emotions, leading to mistakes, potential abuses of power, and a predilection towards the indoctrination of minors. The Sith are worse, of course, as they focus on negative emotions and violent reprisals.
A truly balanced Force might meant leaving both the Jedi and the Sith behind, and training Force sensitives to accept, understand, and utilize their emotions in healthy ways, perhaps even encouraging (or at the very least allowing) powerful Force users to have and lovingly raise children, increasing the number of Force users throughout the galaxy.
When Anakin was found, the Jedi assumed he was there to help them rid the galaxy of the Dark Side altogether (despite the fact that the Sith had apparently already been routed, as far as the Jedi Council knew), and Palpatine expected Anakin to help him rid the galaxy of Jedi. On either count, Anakin failed.
When Anakin failed, Luke was the new hope (and roll credits) and he seemed to be a Jedi unafraid of his emotions, but … well, maybe someday, there will be someone to bring true balance to the Force.