Star Wars, Joseph Campbell, and The Power of Myth. Long long ago in a galaxy not so far away George Lucas studied folklore and mythology and made movie history with Star Wars. The Star Wars trilogy's screenplay is based on Mythologist Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, itself a publishing phenomenon. First published in 1948, it was a run-away best-seller. In the 1960's, it topped best-seller lists again when the psychedelic seekers found a road map to the inner territory in Mythology. The Hero With a Thousand Faces was a best-seller again in 1987 when The Power of Myth (filmed at Lucas' Skywalker ranch) aired. Psychologist and author Dr. Jonathan Young assisted Joseph Campbell for many years and later became the Founding Curator of the Joseph Campbell Mythology Archives and Library in Santa Barbara. His recent book, SAGA - Best New Writings on Mythology, is published by White Cloud Press.
In Star Wars, and other mythological movies, the Hero is joined by allies. Are the allies mentors?
Sometimes. They can take many forms; an old teacher, a wise old enchantress, a mysterious old magician, a strange creature like Yoda. Sometimes, friendly animals in a story showing that wisdom comes from nature. This guiding figure is more than an actual character. This is a representation of an energy or spirit. Jungian psychology talks of this.
Obi-Wan Kenobi teaches Luke in martial arts with a light saber and the force...
.. it is significant that the movie never clearly defines the Force. Obi-wan Kenobi says it is an energy field that sustains all living things. An individual may sense the force as intuition, or something spiritual. It is something beyond the individual. This is the wisdom implied in the question, "What do I know that I don't know I know?" Whether I say I am trusting my inner voice or use more traditional language, like trusting the Holy Spirit, somehow I am listening for something beyond my own calculations. I am trying to tune into a larger field of energy and knowledge. When Obi-Wan Kenobi tells him the eyes can deceive, he is saying that we must not put all our trust in what we can know clearly, there are mysteries and powers larger than our knowing and seeing.
In the Star Wars movies there is a final confrontation, where Darth Vader tempts Luke to the dark side...
characters seem to imagine there is more power in the way they are using
it. Pure selfishness, without any struggle with conscience, gives the illusion
of greater power. Just because someone avoids struggling with conscience,
or the concern for other people, or fairness, or ethics, does not mean
these issues go away. The denied elements always return to present their
demands. Only shared power is stable and safe. Even Darth Vader, who has
the dark costume that is very imposing and shows that he is part machine,
is not so impressive when Luke removes his mask. If
we give ourselves over to only one side, only to power and control, the
entire beauty of what a human being can become will not develop. So the
undeveloped larva is all there is, although the outer appearance seems
man or woman, having done that which seemed impossible, has returned with
a level of integration. To accomplish this enormous task we must have all
of the best attributes of both genders, be aligned with the forces of nature,
and have the best of allies. At the end of the Star Wars movies, there
is a big celebration. The many different characters in attendance represent
the various aspects of a highly integrated individual who is now aware
of all of those energies. The traveler comes back to ordinary life with
the boon, the elixir, the wisdom, or skill. Often it is an insight of great
value to the historic moment. The challenge then is to give it away. It
doesn't belong to the adventurer alone. It is for everyone. The seeker
returns home to a life of service, fully enmeshed in community. Ultimately,
the most satisfying life turns out to be making a useful contribution to
others. The sense of fulfillment is extraordinary at that point. Such people
have amazing energy. The force is truly with them.