The Force ghost was the soul and essence of a deceased Force-sensitive who denied the will of the Force upon death, yet was able to interact with the living. It also described those who had come to terms with death and invoked this technique to preserve their identity, manipulating their own pneuma to guard against being absorbed into the Force in such a way that they would lose their identity. Some Sith Lords learned similar techniques, which in some cases were combined with the art of Essence Transfer, and thus allowed them to physically interact with their environment. This ability also allowed the Force user to interact with both living beings and other Force ghosts.
- "I was able to touch you because we are connected by the Force. I drew on your link with the Force to become more solid, just as I draw on it now to become visible to you."
- ―The ghost of Aidan Bok to Tash Arranda
While most Jedi would lose their bodily envelope and become one with the totality of the Force upon their death, some had learned a technique allowing them to retain their own identities separate from the Force for a time. Those individuals could linger in the physical world in the form of "Force Spirits," nonphysical entities that exhibited most traits and abilities they had in life. This ability did not have to be learned, and could be achieved through denying the will of the Force upon death, or committing a selfless act of sacrifice. According to the knowledge contained in Asli Krimsan's holocron, that feat could mainly be achieved by sublimating one's organic cells into a state of pure energy.
In its "normal" state, a Force ghost could only interact with other noncorporeal entities. In order to be heard or seen by the living, the Spirit had to manifest itself. There were different types of manifestation. On a basic level, a Force ghost could appear as a floating, milky gray mass of energy that lacked distinctive features. But it could also manifest itself as the exact image of the dead being during their lifetime, only transparent and emitting a bluish glow. While it could appear to anyone it wished, a spirit could not choose to become audible or visible to only some beings and not the others, since the ability to perceive the manifestation depended on the beholder's strength in the Force. While many Force ghosts could appear as a vision of their former selves unmarked by injury or disease, others still bore the marks of what killed them. The ghost of Aidan Bok wore tattered robes and had gaping wounds in its body, the marks left by a lightsaber. Sometimes, a particular Force ghost would bind itself to a Force-sensitive as a guardian spirit for the purpose of providing wisdom, continuing training, and offering aid.
In theory, Force spirits could neither harm or be harmed by physical entities, due to their spiritual nature. For the same reason, they could pass through solid matter effortlessly and were never hampered in their movements. While some spirits would simulate the walk of the living beings, subject to gravity, others would hover and drift above ground level. However, in some cases, a spirit could acquire temporary solidity by drawing on a living creature's link with the Force, which allowed it to actually touch that creature. Notably, the ghost of Aidan Bok could make itself solid enough to shove Tash Arranda through a doorway.
A manifested spirit could wield Force powers, although not all of them. It also might have the ability to travel instantaneously to any point in the galaxy by force of will. That power, however, required that the spirit be familiar with the destination. The presence of the Force in sufficient power at the place of arrival was also necessary for that ability to work, since it acted as a beacon.
This technique of maintenance of the identity in the pneuma was prone to eventually fade such that they passed into whatever was beyond death and even Force ghosts, however, unless the Force user had used the dark side to bind their spirit to a place or thing. Despite this, lightsiders sometimes could manifest for decades or millennia after their deaths.
According to the Jedi tradition, death was a part of life, and it meant becoming one with the Force. In death, sentients lost their ability to communicate with the living, but mastery of certain obscure paths of learning could avert it.
The origins of that knowledge, as well as its history, are not known. Ancient Jedi of the Galactic Republic such as Arca Jeth, as well as Sith Lords, knew a secret which could enable the user's essence to "survive death", but this knowledge was somehow lost over the millennia. However, it was secretly preserved over the millennia by the native Ysanna, descendants of Jedi trapped on the world and slowly driven to barbarism.
- "Just as he was drifting off, a familiar voice came into Obi-Wan's head.
There were others, Padawan, it said. Obi-Wan let out a long breath. The voice was Qui-Gon's. His deceased Master had always been there to help him, and still was…even in death.
Others were involved in Lundi's search for the Holocron. Contact them...
Obi-Wan opened his eyes. Thank you, Master..."
- ―The voice of Force ghost Qui-Gon Jinn advises his former Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi en route to a mission to the planet Kodai in 29 BBY to recover the Sith Holocron of King Adas.
In the time preceding the rise of the Empire, Darth Sidious’s master uncovered again how it was possible for a being to preserve itself after death. However, he had no interest in this power, seeking physical immortality.
Qui-Gon Jinn was the first of the recent Jedi who rediscovered this secret with the assistance of a shaman of the Whills. Qui-Gon's spirit guided Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi and revealed to them the secret of retaining one's individuality after becoming one with the Force. Yoda during his exile taught it to another Jedi Master, Qu Rahn. The Dark Woman also learned of it at some point.
Death for those Jedi were different: their spirits could retain their individuality and could return as voices, dreams, or apparitions at will, so that they could help those in need of their guidance. On death, their bodies vanished; this was not the case with Qui-Gon, however.
This state was temporary, as Force ghosts were an intermediate state between life and afterlife; after a certain amount of time, they would then have to move on to the Netherworld of the Force, another realm of existence. Darth Vader learned of this ability through Darth Sidious, and upon his death, the spirits of Kenobi and Yoda completed his training by granting him the last step in becoming a spirit. Anakin's spirit appeared as that of his younger self, prior to his fall to the dark side.
Certain Sith Lords had also discovered similar techniques. Occasionally their bodies would fade as Jedi would, though like Jedi this was not a prerequisite for becoming a Force ghost. It was not uncommon for the spirits of Sith Lords to remain, bound to the living world through an object, location, or simply due to the force of their malice and hatred. Unlike the Jedi, however, the Sith found little peace in this form, instead existing for restless centuries, eventually driven insane by solitude, memories, or dark side inflicted madness. In many ways, these techniques differed from those taught by the Jedi; the most distinct difference being the user's limited ability to interact with his surroundings. One proficient Sith user of these techniques was Exar Kun.
Notable Sith such as Darth Andeddu and Darth Bane feared their own mortality rather than embracing it and becoming ghosts of the Force such as their Jedi counterparts. Due to this fact they sought ways to escape death and live on indefinitely. Though there was much speculation, Bane's body did not disappear and become one with the Force when he died. His soul was absorbed into his apprentice's body and dominated by her soul leaving behind only a trace of his soul, only sufficient to trouble her hand on occasion. In this case, and many others, the Sith lived on only in the small essences of their souls that they embedded into their Sith holocrons. Whereas the many Jedi who believed that there was no death, only the Force, lived on forever through the acceptance of their death, the Sith believed that the Force would free them and break their chains that bound them to their mortal self.
Ergast, a Lord of the Old Sith Empire, discovered a technique called the Force walk that allowed a Sith to bind a Force ghost to themselves, allowing them to harness the ghost's Force presence as a source of energy for their own powers. During the Cold War, Ergast's own ghost taught the technique to the renegade Sith Inquisitor Lord Kallig, who sought a weapon against Darth Thanaton under the direction of their ancestor, the ghost of Lord Aloysius Kallig. The younger Kallig went on to bind a total of four ghosts, including Ergast himself.
Known Force ghosts
- A * indicates that the individual had no known ghost appearances. However, their body vanished upon death.
A † indicates that although their body did not vanish, they later appeared as a ghost.
- Vodo-Siosk Baas
- Empatojayos Brand
- Daeshara'cor *
- Orgus Din†
- Dominus *
- Nejaa Halcyon *
- Noab Hulis
- Arca Jeth *
- Qui-Gon Jinn †
- An'ya Kuro
- Last Curator of Records *
- Kento Marek †
- Crian Maru
- Callista Ming (Only via being absorbed by Abeloth)
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Odan-Urr *
- Ooroo *
- Lanius Qel-Bertuk
- Ulic Qel-Droma
- Qu Rahn
- Wolf Sazen *
- Echuu Shen-Jon
- Anakin Skywalker (Formerly a Sith Lord, repented before death)
- Kol Skywalker †
- Luke Skywalker
- Mara Jade Skywalker
- Anakin Solo † (authenticity questionable)
- Jacen Solo † (As a Sith Lord and only via the Lake of Apparitions)
- Andur Sunrider †
- Meetra Surik
- Matta Tremayne *
- Hosk Trey'lis
- Kazdan Paratus *
- Dree Vandap
- Halagad Ventor
- Vergere (Was also trained as a Sith, light or dark side alignment unclear at time of death)
- Jem Ysanna *
- Jesper Altax
- Nerra Ziveri
- Tulak Hord
- Darth Andeddu † (spirit incapacitated in 137 ABY)
- Darth Andru
- Darth Caedus † (Only via the Lake of Apparitions)†
- Quorlac Fornayh
- Githany (Only as a prisoner of a Thought Bomb )
- Dathka Graush † (possessed Naz Felyood in 0 BBY)
- Darth Iratus
- Skere Kaan
- Aloysius Kallig
- Exar Kun † (spirit incapacitated in 11 ABY)
- Darth Krayt
- Saalo Morn
- Terrak Morrhage
- Karness Muur † (spirit incapacitated in 137 ABY)
- Freedon Nadd † (spirit incapacitated in 3997 BBY)
- Lord Dramath I (spirit destroyed in 3630 BBY)
- Darth Nihilus
- Ajunta Pall (spirit redeemed to the light side in 3956 BBY)
- Darth Sidious (final body destroyed in 11 ABY; spirit condemned)
- Qordis †
- Marka Ragnos † (spirit incapacitated in 14 ABY)
- Naga Sadow
- Darth Vax
- Darth Vectivus (authenticity questionable)
- XoXaan †
- Darth Zash (possessed Khem Val)
- Kalatosh Zavros
- Darth Marr
- Zeth Durron
- Father *
- Tag Greenley (non-canon)
- Grotrugga (ambiguously canon)
- Dice Ibegon
- Herian I'ngre
- Morgan Katarn †
- Dllr Nep
- Neas Nyl
- Teril Nyl
- Bink Otauna (non-canon)
- R5-D4 (non-canon)
- Lak Sivrak
- Erpham Warrick
- Zik'tath (ambiguously canon)
Behind the scenes
During the original trilogy, some fans and Expanded Universe writers believed that this happened to all Jedi who died, even fallen Jedi who repented at the end of their lives, such as Darth Vader and the Jedi Ulic Qel-Droma. In the latter case, the vanishing was a sign that his spirit was redeemed. In works such as Tales of the Jedi, some Jedi who die are seen dissolving, and sometimes later appearing as ghosts.
Many questions arose during The Phantom Menace, when Qui-Gon Jinn's body did not vanish after his duel with Darth Maul, and instead was cremated on a Jedi funeral pyre like Vader. In Revenge of the Sith it is made known that "dying AND maintaining one's identity" is not in fact what happens to every Jedi, but an ability acquired by Qui-Gon's spirit and passed on to Yoda and Obi Wan.
Qui-Gon Jinn and other differences
- "We never see the ghost of Qui-Gon; he's not that accomplished. He's able to retain his personality, but he's not able to become a corporal ghost."
- ―George Lucas on Qui-Gon's Force ghost ability
Qui-Gon Jinn was the first character in a film to show Star Wars audiences that not all Jedi became Force ghosts upon dying (by virtue of his body not disappearing at death), but he was established in Attack of the Clones as a voice addressing Anakin Skywalker, and also in Revenge of the Sith as the first (by chronological order) film character to learn how to become a Force ghost, despite his body not disappearing at death. Mara Jade Skywalker did something similar after dying. She only faded away when Jacen (secretly Darth Caedus) entered the room in a last-ditch effort to inform the Jedi about him, which would seem to imply that a Force-user who has mastered the ability to turn into a Force ghost has control of their body. Qui-Gon Jinn, as a Force ghost, is also seen to appear to both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in the Clone Wars animated series episode, "Ghosts of Mortis."
It is explicitly stated in Champions of the Force and the Databank on the official site that the organic part of Anakin's body disappeared, and that Luke just burned his suit and mechanical parts for ritualistic purposes.
Controversy sparked when, in the DVD of Return of the Jedi, Sebastian Shaw's Force ghost was replaced by that of Hayden Christensen's image, thus removing Shaw's Force ghost from canon and placing Christensen's in its stead.
In both the novel and the comic book version of Revenge of the Sith, the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn tells Yoda that only light-siders may live on as Force ghosts, and that this is something that dark-siders cannot learn, but this claim is not, in fact, true. However, in Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Darth Sidious (who mastered and perfected the technique with the use of clone bodies himself) reveals that the ancient Sith Lords once had the ability to "survive death", but this knowledge was somehow lost over time. It is unclear which Sith Lords qualify as "ancient" in this context, although Skere Kaan and Qordis were the last known Sith to have escaped being lost in the Netherworld of the Force before Palpatine. It could be possible that Qui-Gon was misinformed, considered the Sith way a separate technique, or even that the concept of it only applying to Light side users was simply one of his many (often radical) theories. There is also the distinct possibility that light side Force ghosts and dark side Force ghosts are fundamentally different, and that's what Qui-Gon meant. Indeed Jedi Force ghosts seem to be "freed" into the netherworld by the passing of their physical forms and conversely, Sith Force ghosts seem to be "trapped" or attached by death, be it to a relic (the Muur Talisman, Ulic Qel-Droma's Sith amulet, etc.) or to specific locations (such as the Massassi Temples in Yavin IV, ancient Sith tombs, etc.), however the Sith Lord Darth Marr became a Force ghost after death and was apparently able to move freely in the material realm.
This question applies to non-Jedi, such as Morgan Katarn who have appeared in that form. It is assumed that spirits of Force-sensitives, although not fully trained Jedi when they lived, can be manifested by the Force in a Force nexus (places where it is extremely strong), such as the Valley of the Jedi. Also, the Sith Lord Ajunta Pall lived on through the Force in such a manner as a Force ghost, though it is relatively unknown how or why he remained. However, it can be speculated that his extreme rage and anger made his presence linger. This has been applied to Exar Kun, who used the dark side to feed off of the life force of the Massassi just before he died. It may be possible that spirits of other Sith Lords latched onto a place strong in the dark side, feeding off of it like a parasite.
The non-canonical characters Tag Greenley and Bink Otauna become Force-ghosts after dying in the explosion of the second Death Star, and appeared on Endor next to Obi-Wan, Yoda, and both a younger and older vision of Anakin Skywalker.
Mace Windu appears as a Force ghost in the alternate history comic Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back in a vision to Darth Vader, though this may only be a mental vision in Vader's mind as opposed to an actual Force ghost.
The Force Unleashed Ultimate Sith Edition depicts that Obi-Wan's Force ghost is able to be affected by Starkiller's Force attacks, including Force lightning. This is like how in Knights of the Old Republic one can strike a ghost with lightning or any other power or weapon in the non-canon duel the player may cause if they fail to redeem the ghost.
- The Force Unleashed Ultimate Sith Edition
- Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope
- Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi
- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
Notes and references
- Jedi Academy Training Manual
- Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force (real-life book)
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Destiny"
- Legacy of the Force: Betrayal
- Galaxy of Fear: Ghost of the Jedi
- Hero's Guide
- The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
- Jedi Academy Training Manual
- Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side
- Heir to the Empire
- Legacy (2006) 11
- Champions of the Force
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith novelization
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide
- Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Sith Inquisitor Mission: "Sith Hierarchy" on Dromund Kaas
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Sith Inquisitor Chapter 2
- Into the Storm Clouds
- "La Légende des Cristaux"—Casus Belli 76
- Hunting the Wyrd
- Though a canon character, R5-D4 becomes a Force ghost at the end of the non-canon Star Wars Tales story "Skippy the Jedi Droid". In the official canon, R5-D4 was not destroyed, and was taken in by Voren Na'al.
- From the Trees
- Ewoks—"Wicket's Wagon"
- Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Ghosts of Mortis
- Knights of the Old Republic