"For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere! Yes, even between the land and the ship."
That's our first deeper description of the Force, coming from the wizened nearly millenium-old Jedi master, Yoda in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. It echoed and expanded upon what Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars about the mystical connection in the Star Wars galaxy: “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together."
While that's all you need to have a basic grasp on what the Force is and what it does, there's been a renewed focus on expanding our understanding of this energy field, this sense within all life. In the stories of Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One this year, we continue to learn more about the Force; here's everything you need to know going into the newest Star Wars movie.
Let's Talk About Midi-chlorians
While some Star Wars fans balked when George Lucas decided to explain why some people in that universe could openly channel the Force and others couldn't, midi-chlorians actually heighten and expand upon the original concept, according to creatives like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni.
“To me, when you talk about the Force, the Force is in everything that’s alive; that’s what Obi-Wan says originally. That’s true, even in the days of midi-chlorians, which everybody is afraid to talk about, but I’m not," Filoni told Comicbook.com at Star Wars Celebration Europe. "What that tells you is – when I was a kid, I believed that everybody probably had the Force, and they just didn’t believe – midi-chlorians actually prove that theory out. We all have them, just to differing degrees."
Filoni previously explained that there's the living Force and the cosmic Force, two levels of interacting energies; midi-chlorians let the living Force, which is in all life, communicate with the cosmic Force, which surrounds all things. A high count of midi-chlorians allows folks like the Jedi and the Sith better interact with the cosmic Force - it's that simple!
There is a religion built around the Force
Something we've only just started to see in canon material is the concept of the Force devotee - someone who worships and seeks to understand it, but doesn't have any ability to manipulate it. Lor San Tekka, for example, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (the old man with the map to Luke Skywalker), was no Jedi, but he believed in and understood how the Force affected the galaxy. This will be greatly expanded in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, when we travel to a holy land of the Force, Jedha, and meet Chirrut Îmwe, a devoted monk-style character whose philosophy is to simply "Trust in the Force."
This idea helps explain why the non-Jedi of the galaxy, like some of the leaders in the Rebel Alliance, would still say "May the Force be with you" when addressing their troops in the Original Trilogy.
There is a dark side, and a light
The Force is commonly spoken of as broken into two categories: The dark side, and the light side. The dark side is channeled by the evil Sith lords and others who have been corrupted by it, while the Jedi use the light to drive back the darkness.
The main differences between the two, which are both channeling the same living and cosmic Force, seems to mostly be in intention. The dark side is used to overpower, to harm, and in a quest for strength. The light side, while similarly powerful and sometimes reacing the same ends, is meant as a source of protection. Channeling the light side is helping the natural energies of the universe to flow, while channeling the dark is forcing (no pun intended) it to do your bidding.
There is also a "grey area," that very few beings in the Star Wars universe have ever been shown to use without succumbing to one side or the other. The Bendu on Star Wars Rebels has a much greater understanding of the Force, and the ability to easily harness either end of the spectrum. The "Force god" known simply as "Father" on the mystical planet of Mortis also had access to both light and dark in equal measure. The grey area was explored considerably more in the non-canon Legends universe, but it remains to be seen how much we'll see that within the new canon.
It seeks balance
The Force as a concept encompasses several things, acting as both a spiritual being or connection, while also embodying the concept of entropy. When the universe is in turmoil, it's because the Force is out of balance, swinging too far in one direction or the other. This expansion of the light/dark motif is especially interesting, as it's not saying the dark side should be eliminated, but rather that balance - both existing in concert - is the only way the universe can thrive.
It's not unlike the concept explored in the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out, which taught the lesson of embracing and experiencing all emotions, including "negative" ones like fear, sadness, and anger, in order to be a whole person. This was most visually demonstrated by the aforementioned "Mortis Trilogy" of episodes in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which introduced "The Ones" - Father, balance, Son, dark, and Daughter, light... and it could also be viewed as the one thing the Jedi never quite understood about the Force.
It's meant to be a mystery
While exploring how the Force influences and is influenced by the citizens of the galaxy, Force-wileders or no, can be a source of entertainment and excitement, like any spiritual concept, we'll never know everything about it, nor should we.
"I think the neat thing that people have come to understand is that the Force is a lot more complex than they thought, and that the Jedi and the Sith are just orders within the concept of using the Force. They can't lay claim to being the only ones that have power over the Force because the Force is an energy field that surrounds all living things. Everyone's involved in it," Lucasfilm's Dave Filoni told ComicBook.com in an interview. "I love those Force ideas, though I think that touching upon them briefly is better than explaining them outright. It's a delicate line to cross there if you start explaining too much of it," he cautioned.
"I would say that foretelling many different things about the Force now or revealing it, we still want to keep it very special and unique and not, you could say, give it all away. You can't do that. You don't want to undermine the magic of it. It's a delicate balance, for sure, when you're dealing with the Force."
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16, 2016. Star Wars Rebels airs Saturdays on Disney XD.