What Led Anakin To The Dark Side – Can “Good” Lead to Evil?

Anakin Skywalker

Like any true myth, the story about Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side is compelling in its overwhelming persuasiveness. What led Anakin to the dark side?

C.S. Lewis once wrote in a letter to Peter Milward that a good myth is

“a story out of which varying meanings will grow for different readers and in different ages.”  

And then he added that a myth is not really dependent on the words in which it is told or the art form in which it is conveyed. It’s not the narrative itself that makes the myth convincing but something much more elusive. 

“The narrative is more of a net whereby we catch something else.”


What led Anakin to the dark side?

What I caught in the net of the Star Wars myth is HOW Anakin was led to the dark side — it happened, oddly enough, through his inordinate desire for something good.

As a young boy he swore a solemn oath at his mother’s grave: “When I grow up, I will become strong and will never let my loved ones suffer and die.” 

This oath marked his transition to the dark side long before it happened in chronological time. At that moment, a bargain was struck in his soul for the possession of a loved one in exchange for breaking God’s law.

At that moment, he made a decision for himself to never ever part with his loved ones again, no matter the cost. The perfectly good desire — to protect his loved ones from death — turned in him into a demonic possession when he put it on a pedestal.

As Tim Keller said, an idol is a good thing turned into the ultimate thing.

An idol is usually a good thing that we make ultimate. We say, “Unless I have that, I am nothing.”


Why did Anakin choke Padme?

When Anakin had to choose between losing Padme — fearing that she might die in childbirth — or turning to evil to “save” her from death, he chose evil. It was his desire to “save” her at all costs that led Anakin to the dark side. For him, the dark side became a means of saving his loved one. He chose evil to achieve what he thought was the ultimate good. 

Ironically, this led to Padme’s death. He choke the one he wanted to save with his own hands. When we turn a good thing into the ultimate thing and try to get it at all costs, we lose that good thing — destroy it with our own hands.

Such is the harsh logic of idolatry. We are captivated by some version of good and turn it into the “summum bonum” — without noticing it. And then everything becomes a means to an end, a sacrifice offered on the altar of this god. 

A wise man once said that a myth is something everyone knows without being told. This “story” lives in humanity’s collective unconscious, and we all instantly recognize it once it is put in the form of a narrative.

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The Power of an Empty Mind – The Wisdom of Meister Eckhart

“The soul does not grow by addition but by subtraction.”

Meister Eckhart

I was looking at the lampshade that I was designing as part of my business. I liked the way it turned out. And yet, something made me doubt whether it was ready to go to the client. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was.

Was it the shape? The size?

Straining my mind for an answer, I suddenly felt some unease growing in me. I knew very well what it meant. It usually means that I am frustrated with how things are going and want quick results.

Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, told a parable of an archer who “needed to win.” At first, he was shooting just for fun and seldom missed.

When he was offered a reward, a brass buckle, he became nervous. Then, he was offered a prize of gold and went blind – started seeing two targets.

His skill didn’t change, but the prize divided him. He cared more about winning than shooting. The need to win drained him of power.  

I also knew what my mind was doing. It was set on winning. On results. Not on the fun of designing. My unease made me blind – I couldn’t see what was lacking in the lampshade.

I stopped and took a breath. I needed a break. “The soul does not grow by addition but by subtraction,” the famous quote crossed my mind.

It felt counterintuitive – I had a deadline to meet. The project was due the next day. Just thinking about it gave me more anxiety. I was desperately grasping for control.

Sitting down in a chair by the window, I turned away from the lampshade. Do I really need to get it done today? What if I let it go and stay inactive for a while? The thought sent shivers down my spine. I could lose the client if I didn’t ship it on time.

But there was something else behind it all that I feared even more. Deep down in my heart, there was a little perfectionist who couldn’t bear the thought of not meeting someone’s expectations.

It was my self-image, my EGO, I was holding on to. It was my ego that made me so uneasy. I knew I needed to let go. I will stop striving for results and will trust my creative instincts.

Taking the leap of faith, I finished the last of my coffee and stepped out for a bike ride.

For the rest of the day, I was watching my mind intently – it would shoot back to the lampshade again and again. But, after some time of silence, it slowly loosened its grip.

I sat by the window, watching the kids play with a plastic bag that they inflated like a balloon. My wife was busy in the kitchen making pancakes – the Russian style! And then, finally, my mind was empty. For a while, I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular.

Noticing the smells, the rustling of the plastic bag, the laughter of the boys, I was becoming increasingly aware of what was going on around me. And there was peace, undisturbed by any thinking.

The next morning, I walked into the room and looked at the lampshade. And suddenly – bang! I got it. It struck me like lightning. It was a simple solution that only an empty mind could produce.

I added one piece to the shade and immediately knew in my heart that it was it. There was no doubt. Because it came out of emptiness. There was no ME in it.