The Tao of Star Wars – Book Review

Tao of Star Wars – Book Review

Today I will be reviewing a book named “The Tao of Star Wars” written by John M. Porter, MD. in which he explores the worldview and concepts of Taoism by drawing metaphors and examples from the Star Wars movies.

Dr. Porter has been practicing Taoism for the past couple of decades and integrates his Taoist practice with Aikido (which works on the same principles as Tai Chi).  He is also the Professor of Clinical Surgery and is the Chief Trauma Surgeon at the University of Arizona.

Before I go on, I’d just like to note that Buddhism and Taoism are very similar and even influenced each other when Buddhism was introduced in China by the Indian monk named Bodhidharma.  In fact, the people in ancient China viewed Buddhism as a foreign relative of Taoism.

Book Summary

The author spends the first part of the book defining all of the basic Taoist terminology such as Tao, Te, Yin & Yang, Emptiness, Acceptance, Patience, and many others referencing quotes from the Tao Te Ching.

After this overview, the rest of the chapters are devoted to using Star Wars metaphors and examples that relate to specific Taoist themes such as Acceptance, Patience, Simplicity, Humility, etc.

For example in Star Wars: A New Hope Obi-Wan tells Luke:

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

The author draws a parallel between the Force and the Tao and cites the following passages from the Tao Te Ching:

“The great Tao flows everywhere
All things are born from it…
It is merged with all things
And hidden in their hearts”
– Chapter 34 (Tao Te Ching)

“It flows through all things,
Inside and outside, and returns
To the origin of all things”
-Chapter 25 (Tao Te Ching)

My Critique

I was really impressed by this book and the way the author seamlessly integrates the Star Wars examples into the text without missing a beat.  The author writes in an engaging manner and presents all of the concepts in a way that is very easy to understand.

This is by far one of the best books on Taoism that I’ve ever read and since I also love the Star Wars movies, that made the book even better for me.

Conclusion

After reading this book not only did I have a better understanding of Taoism, but also a better understanding of how Eastern philosophy influenced George Lucas when he created the Jedi & Sith (which are like Yin and Yang) and the concept of the Force.

To illustrate this, the author includes a quote by George Lucas on how he developed the concept of ‘The Force’:

The Tao of Star Wars

The Tao as the Force

“I read a lot of books about mythology and the theories behind mythology; one of the books was ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ by Joseph Campbell, but there were many others, maybe as many as fifty books.

I basically worked out a general theory for the Force, and then I played with it. The more detail I went into, the more detracted from the concept I was trying to put forward.

I wanted to take all religions, major religions, and primitive religions, and come up with something that they might have in common.  It worked better as I got less specific, so the real essence was to try to deal with the Force but not to be too specific about it.”

I would definitely recommend this book to both Star Wars fans as well as those who are interested in learning more about Taoism and how it influenced the Star Wars mythology.

 

Get your copy today!


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18 Responses to The Tao of Star Wars – Book Review

  1. G.C.Horton says:

    Nice review. In the past, I have described myself as a homemade Taoist. I think Taoism and Buddhism are the greatest hope for the modern age. They both teach sanity and responsibility for ourselves as well as tolerance and acceptance of others.

    I’m pleased that Dr. Porter has tied these ancient and powerful teachings into popular culture with The Tao of Star Wars.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks! I totally agree with you. The Dalai Lama once said that if we taught every child on this earth how to meditate we’d eliminate hate and war in one generation. I think that’s an amazing thought.

  2. theresa says:

    Your article is very informative. I was wondering if this book is considered fiction or non-fiction? You have peeked my interest in learning more about Taoism. Can this book be found in a Library? I am a little old school and enjoy reading there. I am looking forward to checking out this book and reading all of the Star Wars references and how they relate.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Theresa,

      This would definitely be a non-fiction book in the Philosophy/Self-Help section or in the Religion section of a bookstore or library. I’m not sure if libraries would have this book, but then again

      You can also purchase the paperback and take it to the library with you as well. 🙂

  3. Stefan says:

    Hello Ian
    Very interesting review of a unique book! Having studied Christian Theology and Religion in general in depth I see the benefit of this book relating popular culture to general memes common in all religions.

    Just recently I came across the notion that exercises like Tai Chi or Aikido originally enabled the practitioner to enter the force field. As a result, some could even fly. It doesn’t surprise me anymore 😉

    Since I’m a Stress Coach I wonder what kind of exercises you do that help with PTSD? This post of mine and others too may support your healing process: OVERCOME ANXIETY NATURALLY – Improve Your Will Power.

    Take care and happy 2016, Stefan

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Stefan,

      Yes, I’ve heard and seen some pretty amazing stuff done by Tai Chi masters who are able to basically use the Force to push attackers away from them.

      With regard to my PTSD, I do mindfulness (I’m not ready yet for meditation since my case is quite severe), adult coloring books, origami, other crafts, and a little bit of yoga (as in once every week) in addition to the meds and therapy. That and working on my Wealthy Affiliate sites also keep me focused though sometimes I just get too exhausted.

      I’ll definitely check out your article. Can you share the link to it here?

  4. Katia says:

    Hi Ian,

    I’m so happy I’ve come across this, it sounds like it combines two of my favourite things, Eastern Philosophy/Religion and Star Wars. Hopefully there’s a Kindle version!

    I wouldn’t have ever thought that a book like this would even exist, but I can totally see how that could work now. It sounds super interesting and I’m not sure I would’ve ever stumbled upon it on my own, so thanks so much for sharing!

    All the best,

    Katia

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Katia,

      Thanks!

      Yes there is a Kindle version available. When you click on the link in this post, it gives you the option to choose which format you want.

      It is definitely an awesome book and has some very profound insights.

      I also reviewed another book named The Dharma of Star Wars which you would love as well.

  5. arcadiaecho says:

    That’s amazing to use starwar to inspire people about Buddhism. Starwar has so many blind followers at the moment so it is good that they get inspired by it also. I am not a buddhist but has always admire the thinking and principal behind the teaching. I like too that you have books and quotes in your site. It is a very enjoyable read.

  6. Heather Grace says:

    This is really interesting. I think the author was shear genius to write his book with metaphors from Star Wars. With the huge hype around it and the loyal following, I could see many wanting to pick this up solely because it says Star Wars haha. I think it also puts things into a perspective that people can understand and make it much more interesting to read. Great review!

    • Ian H says:

      Yes I agree that the author found a lot of insight in the Star Wars mythos and presents it in simple language. I was one of the ones who bought it because it was a mix of Star Wars and Asian philosophy.

  7. J-Money says:

    I really liked reading this article and I thought it was very interesting to read about and it really hooked me.

    I found in very interesting and I have recently been looking into new books to read and I think I may put this one of my list because it seems to be a good book and a good investment.

  8. Nick Rose says:

    Clashing pop culture and historical ideologies is a great way to attract viewers and keep them interested. Very different topic and overall great idea. Interesting to see how Star Wars used so much of Taoism to construct the hypothetical social order that so many people have fallen in love with with the Series.

    • Ian H says:

      Yes, combine that with Buddhism and a love for mythologist Joseph Campbell and you can see the seeds of Star Wars in those sources. It is absolutely fascinating.

  9. braxa0103@gmail.com says:

    It is amazing how Hollywood uses religious ideology within its movies and even though I had heard about George Lucas use of religious concepts before, the review of this book makes it clear how the Taoist ideology has permeated every aspect of the legendary movie – Star Wars.

    I really enjoyed reading this and i can’t wait to read more content from this blog because it is completely different than any of the other info that I come across online.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate the positive feedback. Not only Taoism but also there are Buddhist elements there as well. On my site you’ll find a review of a book called “The Dharma of Star Wars” which is another great read.

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