Why Did Luke Disappear?

The Force Awakens begins with the message that Luke Skywalker has disappeared.  But why?

The film mentions Luke going into exile out of grief for losing his Jedi students.  It also says he went looking for the first Jedi temple.  I’m not sure I buy this on face-value (and because it’s more fun to analyze).

It’s important to keep some things in context.  The Jedi with whom we are most knowledgeable – Yoda and Obiwan – were both in self-imposed exile at the ends of their lives.  Luke has actually disappeared before as well – after the Battle of Hoth.  He didn’t reappear, presumably, until he returns to the Rebel fleet after Yoda dies in Return of the Jedi.  The difference that time is that we were part of that disappearance.

In each case, there was a reason for their disappearance.  Obiwan was fleeing the Empire and keeping watch over Luke on Tatooine.  Yoda was keeping hidden as well, while waiting to teach Luke.  They both disappeared after Order 66 and the fall of the Republic – very traumatic events (to say the least).  This raises the question if he disappeared for a similar reason.

So what could be the reason?  A few thoughts:

  • He was waiting for Rey.  It’s unclear what relationship that Luke has to Rey, but it seems reasonable that her appearance would be something he would be waiting for.
  • He was going on his force journey similar to that of Yoda as seen in The Clone Wars.  This is the journey that enabled Yoda and Obiwan (and presumably Anakin) to appear as Force ghosts where other Jedi don’t.
  • He was looking for something.  As the film states, he was looking for the first Jedi temple.  But it’s not clear *why* he was looking for temple.  What was he hoping to find there?  In general, the first something of many somethings is usually not the best of it.  Like the first chocolate bar was probably terrible.  The first soccer team was probably pathetic by todays standards (this is an element to TFA that I don’t particularly care for).  So odds-are that he was looking for some source of power and/or knowledge that only that location contained.
  • He was protecting something or someone.  Luke could also have been hiding something.  A piece of knowledge or power.  Himself is one option (weak).  But it could have also been someone else.  We don’t know that Luke is alone on that island (there seemed to also be a small grave off to his side in the brief scene at the end of TFA).  So who or what could he have brought there to hide?  Ideas: A Jedi Holocron (weak). His wife Mara Jade (millions of Star Wars fans hope for this).  An ancient Jedi/force-user (Bendu?).  Something more significant.  The key issue here is that Snoke raises the point that there has been an “awakening”.  Rey is, presumably, related to that awakening.  But it’s not clear that Rey *caused* the awakening.  Is Luke’s disappearance related to this (later) awakening?  I hope so.

My hope is that Episode VIII reconciles this question.  But whatever the story is, it should be interesting.