When Obi-Wan fights Darth Vader in Episode IV: A New Hope, he says:

You can't win, Vader. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

What does he mean by that? Is it true? If it is true, why does he tell Vader?

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    Cause it sounds badass! – Kevin Howell Apr 23 '12 at 19:31

He is referring to the fact that he will become one with The Force - a technique only a handful of jedi have learned.

As a 'spirit' he will continue to guide Luke, and thus become somewhat omniscient - subsequently becoming more powerful.

You might say as an older man, he had become physically weak, but once bonded with the Force he becomes greater than the sum of his parts.

  • Isn't there a spot in the film where Obi-Wan predicts his own death? I'd be interested in knowing what he says about his death cause that might explain something. – Reactgular Apr 22 '12 at 22:07
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    I believe the prediction you are referring to is in Episode two, when Obi-Wan says to Anakin "Why do I get the feeling you'll be the death of me". – Peter Grill Apr 23 '12 at 0:04
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    That's not a prediction. I believe this is meant for fans of the movies since we know that he eventually does die by Anakin's hand. It's just a quirky reference that real fans will clue in on. – Bernard Apr 23 '12 at 2:15
  • I haven't watched a New Hope in a while, but doesn't Obi-Wan go to shut down the power for the tractor beams just to get himself away from Luke. So he can face Darth Vader? I'm going to have to watch it again. – Reactgular Apr 27 '12 at 16:25
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    Not to mention that, as a Force ghost, he can't be harmed and can instantaneously travel anywhere in the galaxy. – Omegacron Jun 9 '17 at 4:06

Obi Wan learned a specific force technique from Qui-gon Jin that allows him, after death to retain communication with the living via the force. This partially explains Kenobi's comment.

What Obi Wan is most likely referring to is the fact that if Vader kills him it will drive Luke to learn the force and take on the Empire. Obi Wan believes that since Anakin was not the chosen one, the one who would bring balance to the force, (although arguably either side winning results in unbalance) that Luke is in fact that person. Kenobi is aware of the fact that Luke will witness Vader killing him while he is clearly in a pose of surrender, and he believes this will motivate Luke to become a Jedi Master and a match for Vader.

So Obi's comment foreshadows at least two major plot developments - his post-death ability to tutor Luke in the ways of the force, and Luke's increased interest in the destruction of the Empire/Vader.

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    This is interesting because it suggests that Obi-Wan is trying to motivate Luke to learn the ways of the force driven by a need for revenge... which is clearly aspect of the dark side of the force. – Liath Jun 17 '13 at 10:15
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    I always thought that, by eradicating most of the good Jedi, Vader had brought balance to the force ... and that this was not as good as it sounded. – SamB Dec 23 '14 at 21:30
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    @steve I heard about your comment, a ...technique from Qui-gon Jin that allows him, after death to retain communication with the living..., [before] somewhere else. However, I have never been able to find it in any of the movies. Could you please point me in the right direction where I can find it? – Omar Dec 26 '16 at 6:56
  • @Omar There's a throwaway line from Yoda to Obi in the new trilogy, near the end of Episode III about "an old friend". – JKreft Jul 29 '18 at 21:42

You need to understand clearly one crucial point.

Only a Jedi who adheres to the 'good' side becomes part of The Force in the event of his death.

A Jedi adherent of the dark side who perishes is truly dead; he cannot survive as a part of The Force. Hence Vader, having adopted the dark side, had no knowledge that a Jedi was capable of surviving beyond death. This is why Kenobi warns him that he has a surprise coming if he strikes Kenobi down.

We learn later, in 'Revenge of the Jedi', that the Emperor has imbued Vader with awesome powers, by courtesy of the Dark Side. It gives tremendous power in life, but there is no existence after death. Vader has learned about the Dark Side from the Emperor, so they are both ignorant of the truth about The Force.

Ultimately, Vader saves Luke from the Emperor, turning against the Dark Side, thereby redeeming himself; hence Anakin is accepted into The Force, and Luke can see him - or his 'ghost' or spirit - become a part of it.

It is interesting to note, from Leia's reactions in that final scene, that only Luke can see Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin. Only another Jedi has the power to communicate with one who has passed into The Force. Others, such as Leia, cannot see or communicate with them.

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    What do you mean by Revenge of the Jedi? – kapa Jan 7 '13 at 22:11
  • I assume they meant Return of the Jedi. – user5651 Aug 26 '13 at 2:27
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    @kapa: It's the previous title for Return of the Jedi – SamB Dec 23 '14 at 21:31
  • @SamB You learn something new every day :) – kapa Dec 23 '14 at 21:33

Its a reference to the power of selfless action for the greater good. Martin Luther King and Gandhi both acted in similar fashion. Their deaths were a catalyst of greater social change.

The original act of selflessness for the salvation of humanity was that of Jesus Christ. Obiwan's death (Oh be One is a play on words referencing the union of Christ the Son and God the Father) is an homage to Christ's death and resurrection. Jesus appeared multiple times to his disciples after having risen much like Obiwan appears to LUKE as a spirit several times through out the trilogy.

  • 5
    Now, some references would be in order. – theUg Feb 16 '13 at 23:43
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    Wow, some serious leaps there. – AHungerArtist Nov 13 '15 at 15:24
  • @ian-dalton well said! – Omar Dec 26 '16 at 6:58

I know this is an old post but I feel I must provide another perspective, because it seems to me that many people miss the fact that Vader actually strikes an empty cloak. The Jedi, Obi-Wan has vanished before the strike.

I'll describe the scene for you: As our heros approach the falcon (Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and the droids) the stromtroopers are distracted by the duel and abandon their post. The heroes rush out to the falcon when Luke spots Ben and Vader. At this point Ben has already uttered the quote from the OP and now as he spots Luke, he pauses, smiles, raises his sabre to a vertical position, holds it in front of his face and closes his eyes in concentration. Vader swipes, but suddenly there is no more Ben. He has completely vanished. This is in stark contrast to all other sabre duels, where the bodily remains are always left behind.

a youtube clip (the video is perhaps a few seconds shorter than a would've liked though, becuase afterwards Vader even steps on the cloak and prods it with his toes, because he is confused that Obi-Wan has vanished)

And from the script itself (albeit an early draft, but this scene is consistent with what we still see in the film today). Emphasis, mine:

The old Jedi Knight looks over his shoulder at Luke, lifts his sword from Vader's then watches his opponent with a serene look on his face.

Vader brings his sword down, cutting old Ben in half. Ben's cloak falls to the floor in two parts, but Ben is not in it. Vader is puzzled at Ben's disappearance and pokes at the empty cloak. As the guards are distracted, the adventurers and the robots reach the starship. Luke sees Ben cut in two and starts for him. Aghast, he yells out.


So, to answer the question: why does Obi-Wan say he will become more powerful? Because that is part of his vision and his plan. In order to provide ongoing guidance to the rebellion's last hope, Luke, this is what must happen. Does Vader actually kill him? That is debatable, but in light of previous duels between Obi-Wan and Anakin, perhaps Ben has decided that neither one of them can defeat the other because they are too well matched against each other. He simply gives in to the force, transcends to his next spiritual being and lives on.

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protected by Tablemaker Feb 16 '13 at 23:57

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