The Birth of Yoda: Manichaeism and the Jedi Religion (Joseph Wilson5/04/24, Voegelin Views)

Jediism now has real-life adherents (whether serious or otherwise) and one modern UK census (2011) revealed that Jedi was the seventh largest religion in that kingdom, dwarfing British Scientology (another so-called “religion” founded by a science-fiction auteur).

In Jediism, world-mythology merges with adventure and fantasy fiction, combining Akira Kurosawa’s Buddhist and samurai themes with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Christian allegories. A historical Buddhist master is the most likely model for Yoda. We can only guess which varied influences account for Yoda’s extreme longevity. Biblical Methuselah lived more than 900. Tolkien’s Gandalf lived more than 2000. The historical second-century Buddhist patriarch Nagarjuna lived to more than 700 (according to legend). Padmasambava (Tibet’s “second Buddha”) allegedly dissolved like a Jedi into a rainbow body of light. The oldest attested ending of the oldest attested Christian gospel (the “short” ending of the Gospel according to Mark) depicts Jesus of Nazareth simply disappearing from his tomb with the witnesses running scared.

British Jedis might outnumber Scientologists, but Lucas was not the first savant to forge a universalizing hybrid religion. Yoda’s esoteric roots are ancient. Yoda’s very name may in fact be derived from an obscure Christianization of the name “Bodhisattva” (lit: “Enlightenment Being” a.k.a. one who will attain Buddhahood), distorted in transit to Christian Europe on the trade routes, and preserved among the various Buddhist and Christian scriptures sacred to a different ancient religion: Manichaeism.
Gnosticism and Manichaeism: Religion of Light

Tolkien’s “Catholic myth”, Lord of the Rings, deeply influenced Star Wars. Tolkien’s wizard Gandalf seems to be one of Lucas’s primary models for Obi Wan Kenobi. Paralleling Kenobi’s ill-fated duel with the Sith Lord Vader on the Death Star, Gandalf also died in single combat against an enemy clothed in shadow (the Balrog Durin’s Bane who lived in the Mines of Moria). He was later resurrected and arrived during the crucial battle scene, having been transformed into a luminous white form. His triumphal return to aid the war effort proved decisive at the battle of Helm’s Deep, just as Kenobi’s transcendent Force Ghost proved to be Luke Skywalker’s decisive aid at the Battle of Yavin.

Nonetheless George Lucas’ homage to Tolkien is clearly Gnostic, not Catholic or Orthodox or Protestant. (“Gnostic”, referring to esoteric knowledge, is a somewhat controversial umbrella term for various early Judeo-Christian heresies most of which can be characterized as “anti-materialist”). At the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, the luminous resurrection of three deceased Jedis (Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker) differs from mainstream Christianity’s tenet of material/bodily resurrection. It instead conforms closely to Gnosticism’s non-material/spiritual resurrection. The Force Ghost is pure light/energy, not “crude matter.” The overtly Gnostic implications of Jedi resurrection have been known to trouble Christian apologist Star Wars fans. The similarity between Jediism and Gnosticism runs deep.