“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
“Why?” my son asked me as we enjoyed reliving the first Star Wars movie. “Why would he be more powerful dead?”
I smiled, a little embarrassed. I love it when he asks me stuff like this. He knows I will answer. Because Luke was alive is the short answer. That’s not enough for him, so I dive into the long answer.
First we must ask, does Obi-Wan actually become more powerful. Too be honest I think the movies do a poor job of showing or explaining it, but that’s not important. I have to answer based on the rules I know about life, death, and spiritual power. Is he more powerful dead than alive?
In truth every dead person, demon, angel and even God has told me I was far more powerful alive. They have all insisted it is my being alive and able to commune with spirits that makes me special.
There are two situations I know of where a being might be more powerful dead than alive. Martyrdom, to die for what you believe in, is already well known to inspire armies to battle. The situation does matter though, as was questioned in the case of Thomas Beckett. Personally I favor Beckett, he was unarmed, he was praying, he had exercised his free-will to believe what he felt was true. The King did not have to have him killed, he could have imprisoned Beckett or banished Beckett.
While Obi-Wan did turn off his lightsaber and seems to surrender to Darth Vader, I can’t call him a martyr. His goal was to help the Rebel Alliance destroy the Death Star and noble as that may seem to some, that Death Star was filled with men, Stormtroopers yes, but still men. When it comes to spiritual power, killing is still killing, no matter how righteous you may think your cause is. Believing that the end justifies the means is the path to darkness every time. A message I desperately wish I could tell anyone considering being a suicide bomber, you can’t be a martyr if you willingly kill anyone including yourself. Every murder you commit will weigh down your soul like rocks in the stomach of Red Riding Hood’s wolf.
So we are left to look at the other way a person can become more powerful dead. The other way is to be linked with an empathic living person. You are not actually more powerful, but the living person you link to is. In the story Obi-Wan failed his apprentice Anakin. He needed redemption, by surrendering his spiritual energy to Anakin’s son, Obi-Wan would have become more powerful simply because he had partially redeemed himself by becoming the servant of the son of the man he failed and betrayed. Luke wasn’t just the savior of his father, he saved Obi-Wan too. Luke’s trusting nature was the key. His innocence and and belief in others brought out the best in everyone around him. Had Obi-Wan lived and tried to teach Luke himself he would have corrupted that innocence, only by giving complete control to Luke could he keep his own cynicism and fear from staining the boy. Yes, he was more powerful dead.
I think my son is sorry he asked now. He says he still doesn’t get it.