What Led Anakin To The Dark Side – Can “Good” Lead to Evil?

Like any true myth, the story about Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side is compelling in its overwhelming persuasiveness. What led Anakin to the dark side?

C.S. Lewis once wrote in a letter to Peter Milward that a good myth is

“a story out of which varying meanings will grow for different readers and in different ages.”  

And then he added that a myth is not really dependent on the words in which it is told or the art form in which it is conveyed. It’s not the narrative itself that makes the myth convincing but something much more elusive. 

“The narrative is more of a net whereby we catch something else.”

What led Anakin to the dark side?

What I caught in the net of the Star Wars myth is HOW Anakin was led to the dark side — it happened, oddly enough, through his inordinate desire for something good.

As a young boy he swore a solemn oath at his mother’s grave: “When I grow up, I will become strong and will never let my loved ones suffer and die.” 

This oath marked his transition to the dark side long before it happened in chronological time. At that moment, a bargain was struck in his soul for the possession of a loved one in exchange for breaking God’s law.

At that moment, he made a decision for himself to never ever part with his loved ones again, no matter the cost. The perfectly good desire — to protect his loved ones from death — turned in him into a demonic possession when he put it on a pedestal.

As Tim Keller said, an idol is a good thing turned into the ultimate thing.

An idol is usually a good thing that we make ultimate. We say, “Unless I have that, I am nothing.”

Why did Anakin choke Padme?

When Anakin had to choose between losing Padme — fearing that she might die in childbirth — or turning to evil to “save” her from death, he chose evil. It was his desire to “save” her at all costs that led Anakin to the dark side. For him, the dark side became a means of saving his loved one. He chose evil to achieve what he thought was the ultimate good. 

Ironically, this led to Padme’s death. He choke the one he wanted to save with his own hands. When we turn a good thing into the ultimate thing and try to get it at all costs, we lose that good thing — destroy it with our own hands.

Such is the harsh logic of idolatry. We are captivated by some version of good and turn it into the “summum bonum” — without noticing it. And then everything becomes a means to an end, a sacrifice offered on the altar of this god. 

A wise man once said that a myth is something everyone knows without being told. This “story” lives in humanity’s collective unconscious, and we all instantly recognize it once it is put in the form of a narrative.

Why is Plato’s concept of anamnesis so important?

According to Plato, all cognition is re-cognition. Seeing again. Recognizing. He calls it anamnesis, recollection. It is an important concept because what we call learning is actually the soul remembering something it always knew. It is the soul’s response to an inner call.

As C.S. Lewis pointed out,

most myths were made in prehistoric times, and, I suppose, not consciously made by individuals at all. But every now and then there occurs in the modern world a genius — a Kafka or a Novalis — who can make such a story.

George MacDonald: An Anthology

George Lucas may well be another such genius who retold the old myth in a fresh way. It is a timeless story of how a human being tries to use the power of the dark side to achieve some good. 

There is Anakin Skywalker in each one of us — in every person and in every nation. The tragedy of turning to the dark side for the sake of gaining some “good thing” unfolds every single moment in my soul and in the collective psyche of humanity. What led Anakin to the dark side is a timeless motif.

What have I made into my highest good this very moment?

Family? I will destroy it with my own hands.

Health? I will always feel I am not healthy enough and will wreck my body by worshiping the god of wellness.

Money? I will always feel poor and will sacrifice everything I have, including time, health, and family, on the altar of Mammon.

Power? I will always feel like a loser and will end up destroying myself in an attempt to prove to the world that I am somebody.

Beauty? I will always think of myself as ugly and will end up mutilating my body to achieve an elusive ideal.

Perfection? I will always feel “I am not enough,” because no one can live up to their own standards.

Pleasure? I will always feel that circumstances threaten my “happiness” and will flee from the harsh reality into some form of escapism.

Of course, these are extreme examples, but we slip into them gradually and subtly. 

What is disordered love for Augustine?

A Christian saint
Image from Pixabay

National ideologies are often rooted in the harsh logic of idolatry too: the government elevates some form of “good” and sells it to the public as the highest good. It works.

Isn’t liberty, equality, and fraternity a good thing? It is. So let us shed the blood of millions who disagree. 

Aren’t human rights a good thing? Let us turn them into a sacred thing and give absolute power to human institutions so they can enforce them in a top-down fashion.

Isn’t it good to protect your country from enemies? Yes, it is. So let’s demonize our enemies and exterminate them from the face of the earth.

Any “good thing” turns into evil when it becomes the highest priority. As Augustine put it, sin is disordered love. He believed that our problem isn’t necessarily that we love the wrong things. It’s that we often love the right things in the wrong order. What we should love first, we love second. What we should love second, we love first.

What did Padme beg Anakin not to do?

“Anakin,” begged Padme, “let me go! If I should die, don’t go over to the dark side to save me.” As King Solomon said, “cast your bread on the surface of the water because you will find it again after many days.” 

We need to let go of the Ring of Power, our precious, to be as free as only a hobbit can be.

We need to pass the test of greatness like Galadriel did when she chose to remain herself and be diminished with her people.

Slowly and subtly, our hearts are seduced into loving a good thing above the ultimate thing every day. And when something threatens my little god, “my precious”, I turn into a beast and start growling. 

But all I need to do is to realize what’s happening. It is not the end. It’s the beginning. 

It is a sign from above that it’s time to let go. It’s time to drop the Ring.

How was Anakin saved?

The ending of the Star Wars myth is just as convincing as the beginning. Anakin was saved by his son and IN his son, Luke. Luke was able to let go of something that Anakin had a tight grip on— his own idea of good and evil. 

Palpatine tried to draw Luke in by arousing in him the same weakness that flowed in the veins of his father — anger and inordinate desire to save those he loved at all costs.

But Luke let go of his anger and his desire to save his loved ones by killing Palpatine. He honored the laws of the Jedi above his family idol. He put his sword down and put in order his father’s disordered love. That moment the magic spell broke. Darth Vader died, and Anakin was reborn. 


How did C.S. Lewis define myth?

An ancient book and fountain pens
Image from Pixabay

According to C.S. Lewis, myth is “a story out of which varying meanings will grow for different readers and in different ages.” And yet,

[myth’s] connection with words… turns out to be merely external and, in a sense, accidental.

Myth haunts us again and again, re-emerging in various shapes and forms. Our souls recognize it from deep inside and it moves us deeply.

It comes to us as Bilbo letting go of the Ring — the only creature in the whole Middle Earth who kept the Ring for such a long time but was able to part with it anyway!

It comes to us as Harry Potter who realized that he was the last Horcrux and that Voldemort was part of himself — so he died to his own self and destroyed the last Horcrux.

It comes to us in Owen Barfield’s Silver Trumpet, where a dark spell of a lost appearance is broken when prince Peerio looks through the image instead of at it. 

Idols don’t survive our looking through them, they want us to look at them! Their life depends on us looking at them as if they were the ultimate thing!

Yet, there is a Luke Skywalker inside each one of us who puts the sword down and puts all things in order. The curse snaps, and Anakin joins Obi-Wan and Yoda as they appear at the final celebration.

The end of the Myth is just as moving as its beginning. The curse is lifted, and the celebration begins.

On and on and on they danced, citizens and courtiers, lords and ladies, kings and queens, till the sun had gone down in the west, and the sky over their heads was cool green and gold. And then they all gathered in a knot round the fiddlers and danced a very old country-dance called “Mr. Barney’s Breeches”. And that was the end. Owen Barfield, The Silver Trumpet

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2 Replies to “What Led Anakin To The Dark Side – Can “Good” Lead to Evil?”

  1. You did a great job of pointing out how our myths and legends reflect a truth we recognize within ourselves that when we exalt good things and loved ones above God, how that idolatry then becomes destructive to the very ones we love. “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple.” Luke 14:26 (MSG)

    God in his power and wisdom can turn evil to serve his good purposes and use even evil men to that end. Idolatry seems to be when we extol such men in our hearts and put our trust in them, such as an unscrupulous religious leader or political leader. “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
    — 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (ESV)

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