May the Fourth Be With You: The Force and Nous compared

In both Star Wars and Hermeticism there exists a profound concept that serves as a central pillar of their respective narratives: the Force and Nous. While they emerge from different cultural contexts and storylines, these two ideas share striking similarities in their essence and function.

It is important to note that while there are parallels, the Jedi are fictional characters within the Star Wars universe, whereas students of Hermeticism are individuals who study and follow the Way of Hermes in the real world.

The Jedi’s abilities are portrayed within the context of a fantastical narrative, whereas the Way of Hermes is a philosophical and spiritual tradition with its own historical background.

The Force

The Force, as portrayed in the Star Wars saga, is a metaphysical and omnipresent energy field that binds all living things. It is divided into two distinct aspects: the light side and the dark side.

Those attuned to the Force can tap into its power and manipulate it through their thoughts and actions, becoming Jedi or Sith, the guardians or manipulators of this universal force.

The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

Obi-Wan Kenobi:

The quote above by Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars shows the big difference between the Force and Nous. The Force is created by all living things, while Nous creates all living things.

Nous

Nous, the Word, emerging out of that which is whole, entire and complete; Nous containing itself, unembodied, steadfast, unaffected, and impalpable, itself standing by itself, containing and preserving all beings, whose glories are the Supreme Good, truth, the origin of breath, the origin of soul.

Master Hermes in the Corpus Hermeticum

In Hermeticism, a philosophical and spiritual tradition with roots in ancient Egypt and Greece, Nous represents the highest form of intellect and divine consciousness. It is considered the intermediary between the ultimate divine source and the material world.

Nous encompasses wisdom, intuition, and spiritual insight, enabling individuals to access higher realms of knowledge and align themselves with the divine will.

The Force as a recorded concept existed for well over twenty-five thousand years. There were two overarching and symbiotic aspects of the Force. The Living Force was the energy of all life, which, in turn, fed into the Cosmic Force—which bound everything together and communicated the will of the Force…

Wookiepedia

The “Will of the Force” sounds similar to how Poimandres introduces itself to the visionary in Corpus Hermeticum Book I: “I am Poimandres the Nous/Mind of the Supreme.” Later in Book I Poimandres explains when the visionary asks about the origin of the elements of nature (aka everything in the universe: “He (Poimandres) answered: ‘From the will of God…”

“The Force was the energy field that bound the galaxy together.[9] Thus, distance was nothing when compared to the Force, which connected life forms together across the galaxy. Additionally, it was believed nothing was impossible to the Force..”

Wookiepedia

Nous teaches Hermes in Corpus Book XI the following, which could also have been said by Luke Skywalker to Rey if we replace “God” with “The Force”:

“Reflect on God in this way as having all within Himself as ideas: the cosmos, Himself, the whole. If you do not make yourself equal to God you cannot understand Him. Like is understood by like. Grow to immeasurable size. Be free from every body, transcend all time. Become eternity and thus you will understand God. Suppose nothing to be impossible for yourself. Consider yourself immortal and able to understand everything: all arts, sciences and the nature of every living creature. Become higher than all heights and lower than all depths. Sense as one within yourself the entire creation: fire, water, the dry and the moist. Conceive yourself to be in all places at the same time: in earth, in the sea, in heaven; that you are not yet born, that you are within the womb, that you are young, old, dead; that you are beyond death. Conceive all things at once: times, places, actions, qualities and quantities; then you can understand God.”

When a life-form died, they would become “one with the Force” by becoming a part of the Cosmic Force, which then provided power to the Living Force.

Wookiepedia

In Hermeticism returning to the Source is a privilege that only humans have. In Book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, Poimandres explains to the visionary what happens after bodily dissolution:

Then in due order, they ascend to the Father and they surrender themselves to the powers, and becoming the powers they are merged in God. This is the end, the Supreme Good, for those who have had the higher knowledge: to become God.

When asked why the Force wasn’t simple “magic” by Princess Xiri A’lbaran, Jedi Knight Gella Nattai described the Force as existing everywhere and being everything, further explaining it was vital to the continual flow of life. Indeed, the Sunset Prayer of the Guardians of the Whills linked the Force to life itself, saying that life and the Force could be found in each other. The prayer also declared that the Force was eternal.

Wookiepedia

In Hermeticism the Source is also described as being Light and Life:

“Because the Father of all is constituted out of light and life, whence Man has been begotten.’
Poimandres then said, ‘The truth isn: light and life is God and Father, whence Man is begotten. If, therefore, you realise yourself as being from life and light and that you have been made out of them, you will return to life.”

And just like the Guardians of the Whills prayed at sunset, so do the followers of Hermes:

Leaving the sanctuary of the temple they began to pray to God, having first turned towards the South, for anyone wishing to ask anything of God at sunset should face that direction, just as at sunrise one should face East.

Asclepius 41

Pathways to higher realities

Both the Force and Nous share the concept of a transcendental power that goes beyond mundane existence. They offer a pathway to connect with a higher reality and tap into its limitless potential.

The practitioners of the Force and the followers of the Way of Hermes strive to develop a deep understanding of these forces, seeking to harmonize their thoughts, emotions, and actions with the cosmic order.

Moreover, both the Force and Nous emphasize the duality of existence. In Star Wars, the dichotomy between the light side and the dark side embodies the eternal struggle between good and evil, inner balance, and temptation. The Jedi and Sith navigate this tension as they grapple with their choices and the consequences that arise from their allegiance.

Close your eyes. Feel it. The light…it’s always been there. It will guide you.

Maz Kanata in Star Wars

Nous, the Father of all, who is life and light, brought forth Man, the same as himself, whom he loved as his own child…

Corpus Hermeticum

In Hermeticism, the duality manifests as the distinction between the spiritual and the material realms. It is believed that humans possess a divine essence within them, an inner connection to divine Nous. But their connection, an unhealthy fixation, and addiction, to the material world often obscures their awareness of this inner essence.

Through the cultivation of Nous, seekers can rise above the limitations of material existence and reconnect with their divine origin.

From life and light Man became soul, and Nous, from life soul, from light Nous and all things of the perceptible world remained so until the end of a cycle and the beginning of ages.”

Corpus Hermeticum

Training and Discipline

Both systems acknowledge that the mastery of the Force or the attainment of Nous requires rigorous training and discipline. Jedi undergo extensive education and learn to control their emotions, while Hermeticists engage in spiritual practices such as meditation, contemplation, and ritual to refine their consciousness, expand their understanding, and come closer to the divine.

Hermes: “Cleanse yourself from the torments of the material world which arise from the lack of reason.”
Tat: “Do I have tormentors within me, 0 father?”
Hermes: “More than a few, O son. In fact there are many and they are fearsome.”
Tat: “I am not aware of them, O father.”

Corpus Hermeticum

Despite the differences in their presentation and terminology, the Force and Nous converge in their invitation to explore the realms of spiritual growth, self-discovery, and cosmic interconnectedness. They inspire individuals to transcend their limited perspectives and engage with the profound mysteries of existence.

The concept of the Force in Star Wars and Nous in Hermeticism serve as potent reminders of the potential of Mankind and its capacity to reach beyond the boundaries of the ordinary.

Whether in a galaxy far, far away, or in the depths of a mystical tradition like Hermeticism, these concepts illuminate our innate potential to tap into the transcendent forces that shape our world and ourselves.

I, Nous itself, come to the aid of the devout, the noble, pure, merciful, and those who live piously, and my presence becomes a help, and straightaway they know all things. By a life full of love they win the favour of the Father…

Corpus Hermeticum

Similarities

The Jedi and the students of Hermeticism share certain similarities in their pursuits of knowledge, self-mastery, and spiritual development. Let’s explore some of the comparisons:

  1. Training and Discipline:
    Both Jedi and students of Hermeticism undergo training and discipline to refine their abilities and understanding. Jedi apprentices receive education and guidance from experienced Jedi Masters, learning the ways of the Force, combat techniques, and the Jedi Code. Similarly, students of Hermeticism engage in practices such as meditation, contemplation, and ritual, honing their minds and seeking higher levels of consciousness and a deeper connection with the source of reality.
  2. Seeking Inner Balance:
    The Jedi and Hermetic students strive for inner balance and harmony. Jedi teachings emphasize the importance of controlling emotions, maintaining calmness, and avoiding the temptations of the dark side. Similarly, Hermeticism emphasizes the cultivation of balance between the spiritual and material realms, fighting against the temptations of the irrational tormentors, and reconnecting with divine Nous.
  3. Knowledge and Wisdom:
    Both paths value the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom. Jedi seek to understand the nature of the Force, its interconnectedness with all living things, and the history of their order. Similarly, students of Hermeticism explore metaphysical concepts, esoteric teachings, and philosophical insights to deepen their understanding of the divine and the universe.
  4. Ethical Principles:
    Jedi and students of Hermeticism embrace ethical principles to guide their actions. The Jedi Code emphasizes concepts like justice, peace, selflessness, and the preservation of life. Similarly, Hermetic teachings promote virtues such as self-control, steadfastness, justice, generosity, and truth.

As for those without Nous, the evil, the worthless, the envious, the greedy, murderers, the ungodly, I am very far from them…

Corpus Hermeticum

Great masters: Yoda and Hermes

Yoda, the Jedi Master in Star Wars, and Hermes Trismegistus, the legendary master associated with Hermeticism, exhibit certain similarities as revered spiritual masters. Although they belong to different fictional and philosophical contexts, we can draw some parallels between them:

  1. Wise Teachers:
    Both Yoda and Hermes Trismegistus are renowned as wise teachers who possess profound knowledge and insight. Yoda serves as a mentor and guide to numerous Jedi apprentices, imparting wisdom and guiding them on their path of enlightenment. Similarly, Hermes Trismegistus is considered a revered spiritual teacher in Hermeticism, who serves as a mentor and guide to his students Tat, Asclepius, and Ammon, imparting wisdom and guiding them on their path of enlightenment.
  2. Transmitters of Esoteric Knowledge:
    Yoda and Hermes Trismegistus are associated with the transmission of esoteric knowledge. Yoda, as a Jedi Master, is responsible for passing on the teachings and traditions of the Jedi Order, including the ways of the Force and the Jedi Code. Hermes Trismegistus passes on his teachings in the Corpus Hermeticum, a collection of philosophical and spiritual texts, and in his perfect discourse the Asclepius.
  3. Emphasis on Inner Transformation:
    Both Yoda and Hermes Trismegistus emphasize the importance of inner transformation. Yoda often instructs his students to look within themselves, to control their emotions, and to strive for inner balance. Similarly, Hermes instructs his students to look within themselves, to control their emotions and desires, and to strive for inner balance.
  4. Mastery of Universal Forces:
    Yoda and Hermes Trismegistus are depicted as individuals who have mastered their inner potential and learned the deepest metaphysical truths. Yoda’s deep understanding of the Force enables him to tap into its power and guide others in their connection to it. The deep connection Hermes Trismegistus has with Nous enables him to tap into its knowledge and guide others in their connection to it.
  5. Symbolic Representation:
    Yoda and Hermes Trismegistus have become symbolic representations of wisdom and spiritual insight in popular culture and philosophical traditions. They embody the archetype of the wise old sage, revered for their vast knowledge and profound understanding of the mysteries of the universe.

While it is essential to differentiate the fictional world of Star Wars from the philosophical tradition of Hermeticism, the movies can serve as a source of inspiration and contemplation.

By extracting the symbolic, ethical, and archetypal elements embedded within the Star Wars narrative, students of Hermeticism can find inspiration to further their understanding and application of Hermetic wisdom in their own lives.

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