This is one of the great lingering questions of the Star Wars saga for me. Is the Dark Side, in fact, more powerful than the light? It’s a lingering question because the films seem to contradict themselves on this point and Lucas seeming to contradict himself on this point over time. While I think it has to do with poor word choice leading to a semantic confusion of the answer, the question remains.
Is the Dark Side of the Force more powerful?
Preface: A Question of Balance
You’ll notice that Lucas extended a theme through the prequels that retroactively applies to the entire series. The theme of Balance.
There’s a very clear sense of balance that comes to the galaxy, especially if you regard the films as the authoritative text. At the end of Sith, you have four major powers remaining, two on each side.
There are two masters [Sidious, Yoda] and two disciples [Vader, Kenobi]. To be sure, it’s a simplistic view of balance, but effective symbolism nonetheless. Basically, by the time A New Hope happens, the Force is held in an inflexible state of constancy, until Luke and Leia come of age to throw things out of whack again.
All of this seems to discount the “expanded universe” materials that show a Jedi refugee under nearly every rock. Obviously, the Jedi would therefore still outnumber the Sith; until you take into account that in the “expanded universe” materials, there are about six million rules-lawyered exceptions to the Rule of Two.
So for simplicity’s sake, I leave it to the films as the text discussed and eschew the rest. Even taking it in, it seems still to be a wash.
Yes with an “If,” No with a “But”
Palpatine: Power! Unlimited Power!
–Revenge of the Sith
Examining the series through that lens, there’s an ebb and flow to things that determines which “side” of the Force is more powerful at any given time. This is the framework of Destiny wherein Free Will can still work.
To wit, when Anakin comes on the scene, the Dark Side is ascendant. The Sith are in a powerful enough position to reveal themselves to the Jedi. Darth Maul’s line, “At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi,” implies that they’ve been waiting for this moment for a while yet.
Pair that with the moment in the Jedi Council chamber when Qui–Gon states his theory that the charming man in the face paint was a Sith Lord. Ki–Adi–Mundi exclaims that the Sith “have been extinct for a millenium.”
I point these things out to underline the nature of the Force’s flow as demonstrated in the text. Basically, if we’re to take what the films present, the power of the Dark Side is growing quickly after the Light has been shining brightly for a long time.
This does not rule out people falling to the Dark Side from time to time. Like the stock market, there are peaks and valleys even when the overall trend is upward.
Further join this understanding with Mace Windu’s line in Attack of the Clones, “…our ability to use the Force is diminished.” This paints a clear picture that the Dark Side itself is ascendant, and is at one of its peak moments.
It’s bound to happen; this is especially in line with the thought that the actions of people will influence the general energy of the world. We know that the Republic Senate at this point is filled with “greedy, squabbling delegates.” Corruption has become the norm for the Republic.
The basic conclusion of both of these lines of thought is basically hopeful, because even when evil wins, it’s brief. The Light burns more evenly and so lasts longer.
Anakin’s actions will determine where the peak of the Dark Side is on this graph. If he made different choices, then the Dark Side could be stopped and made to recede (not disappear, of course, since evil never truly dies) until it can ascend again.
Instead, he takes it to new heights, though it will inevitably have to collapse again. So I suppose you could argue that Vader is actually causing the duration of the New Sith Empire to be shorter in duration since the brighter candle burns more quickly.
It’s an investment bubble of Fate!
Playing the Long Game
Luke: Is the Dark Side more powerful?
Yoda: No…no. Quicker, Easier…more seductive.
–The Empire Strikes Back
It’s during only certain moments of time that evil is resurgent and every so often, dominates the scene. Think of real human history. There have been real moments of despair and dysfunction; during the Twentieth Century, despite the greatest technological advances of all time, there were leaders who rallied evil forces to impose some heinous darkness on the world (Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Woodrow Wilson).
But the Light – Good – will always win because it’s the baseline. Underneath everything is goodness. And since this is all a marathon, not a sprint, true Evil doesn’t have the endurance to sustain itself. Anakin ushered in an era of great despair only to have his son embody the Balance his choices prevented him from being.
Either that, or I’ve thought about this stuff way too much.