Star Wars Glossary: Force Ghost

Definition: A Force ghost is the spirit of a dead Force user who is able to communicate with the living. The concept first appears in The Empire Strikes Back, when Obi-Wan Kenobi's spirit communicates with Luke and Yoda. While the Original Trilogy suggested that all Jedi become Force ghosts, later material established that becoming a Force ghost is a special, learned ability -- perhaps one that can even be discovered after death.

In-universe: Early Jedi discovered how to live on as ghosts after death, but this knowledge became lost to the main Jedi Order. Before his death in 32 BBY, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn learned of this ability from a Shaman of the Whills, an ancient order of Force-sensitives. As a ghost, he taught this technique to Yoda and Obi-Wan. They in turn helped Anakin Skywalker become a Force ghost when he returned to the light side of the Force.

Jedi who have learned to become Force ghosts often disappear when they die, leaving behind only their clothes. This is not a hard and fast rule, however. Mara Jade, for example, was able to manipulate her body after death, making her body disappear at a precise moment to point out her killer. Qui-Gon's body did not disappear at all when he died; this may suggest that he did not fully learn how to become a Force ghost until after his death.

In general, being a Force ghost is only temporary.

The spirits eventually have to pass on to the afterlife, where its exact fate is unknown to the living. It's possible that they maintain some of their consciousness, or that they lose all individuality in the process of becoming one with the Force.

Sith and other dark side users can sometimes preserve their spirits after death.

It's unclear how this is different from a Jedi Force ghost, but the key might be a dark side ghost's tendency to be attached to a place or object in the physical world. This fits with the Sith philosophies on striving for physical immortality, while the Jedi believe instead in accepting death.

Read More