Archive for the ‘The Original Trilogy’ Category

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The Light and the Darkness

October 14, 2009

“What’s in there?” Luke asks before entering the cave.

Yoda, sitting on a tree root, looks down and and plays with his cane as he offers his wisdom: “Only what you take with you.”

Inside the cave, Luke has a troubling vision — one that foreshadows the terrible truth he is about to discover…

A vision; an omen; a foreshadowing of things to come...

A vision; an omen; a foreshadowing of things to come...

The surprise twist at the end of The Empire Strikes Back is infamous for its sheer audacity. Here we have Luke Skywalker, the young man who destroyed the Death Star and helped bring the galaxy that much closer to freedom, and Darth Vader, a heartless cyborg who has fully embraced the Dark Side of the Force, and yet… they’re father and son?

“That’s not true! That’s impossible!”

But indeed it is true. And it’s so shocking because it cuts to the heart of that which we would rather ignore: the darkness — the Dark Side of the Force — is not some external foe that can be battled with blasters and lightsabers; it is an internal potentiality that we all carry with us.

The Ego is the conscious light in the darkness of the psyche’s depths: it is who we are, from a very limited, temporal perspective. The Shadow, on the other hand, is those aspects of ourself that cannot be seen by the Ego: our personal blind spot.

But the Shadow is more than just quirks and foibles. To quote Carl Jung, it has a “demonic dynamism” — the evil that lurks in the hearts of ordinary men. It’s exactly because these aspects hide in the darkness that they are twisted and distorted, appearing as caricatures and grotesqueries; had they been brought into the light, they would breathe and grow as trees in the open air.

In an earlier post I made the point that the characters in Star Wars are not meant to be interpreted as individuals but rather as aspects of the human psyche. Again, I must emphasise this point, especially in regards to the Ego and Shadow: Luke and Anakin Skywalker both represent the Ego; Darth Vader represents the Shadow.

More specifically, both Anakin and Luke symbolise the dominant psychological function; using John Beebe’s framework, Vader symbolises the Opposing Personality: “a figure that opposes, critizes and seduces the ego”. The entire climactic duel of The Empire Strikes Back places Vader very plainly in this role.

Darth Vader as Beebe's "Opposing Personality"

Darth Vader as Beebe's "Opposing Personality"

And so now we’re ready to look at the real message behind the line that stunned Star Wars fans the world over:

“No. I am your father.”

The shock is not so much that Vader is Luke’s father; the shock is that, just as the good man who was Luke’s father turned to evil, so too could Luke — as could any of us.

The vision in the cave, of Vader’s mask cracked open with Luke’s face staring out from underneath, has dual (yet synonymous) meanings: on the one hand, it foreshadows the twist, that Vader is Luke’s father; on the other hand, it equates Luke with Vader. They are both sides of the same coin.

And so this is a problem we all must face up to eventually. Will we refuse to accept that we aren’t so different from our enemies after all, or will we integrate our Shadow, pulling it up into consciousness and realising the Self? This is no easy task.

Good and Evil, Ego and Shadow: the light and the darkness. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader: an archetypal duality.

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Technological Terror

October 12, 2009

“The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force,” intones the menacing Darth Vader as he stands in the Death Star conference room. And so it is — even a Dark Lord of the Sith can recognise this fact.

The Force is “an energy field created by all living things” — it is the vitality of life itself: that ground of being that is accessed through mythological motifs, prayer and meditation. The Death Star, on the other hand, is the antithesis of the experience of living, snuffing-out any bright flame of hope in the galaxy.

Admiral Motti and Darth Vader debate the effectiveness of the Death Star

Admiral Motti and Darth Vader debate the effectiveness of the Death Star

This is the line drawn between the feminine and masculine principles. The feminine is passive, introspective and compassionate, exemplified by none other than Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. The masculine, meanwhile, is active and aggressive, operating from the head instead of the heart.

Woman represents life: she is that from which all life enters the world. She is creative and organic, symbolised by Mother Nature herself; she is the Force.

Man wields the symbols of death: the spear, the sword, the gun. He is the warrior: the ultimate destructive force. What he creates is artificial, towering over nature as a monument to the ability to harness and dominate.

In our Western culture, it is no coincidence that we worship at the altar of a masculine God. Unlike nature-based Goddess religions, our spiritual heritage is one where nature is a corrupting influence, where man is separate from nature and both are separate from a jealous God. Indeed, man has dominion over the natural world itself.

And what is the price for this warped view of our place in the world? Global warming, mutually assured destruction and a disposable consumer culture where two all-beef patties serve as the foundation for a nutritious meal.

The Death Star is that masculine principle writ large without any balancing feminine influence. Instead, the feminine is subjugated within it, held captive and tortured while men in monochromatic costumes debate the sheer effectiveness of this instrument of fear.

What is the first target to test the Death Star’s destructive capabilities? It is Princess Leia Organa’s homeworld of Alderaan. Firstly, Alderaan represents Leia, the feminine, the Anima; secondly, it is a modern yet natural, organic planet (as seen in Revenge of the Sith), symbolising the ability to embrace life on its own terms; and thirdly, it is a key component in the Rebellion’s plan-of-attack, thus acting as a proxy for the Force itself. All three are in conflict with the callous ideals that the Death Star embodies.

The Death Star approaches Alderaan

The Death Star approaches Alderaan

Initially, high-tech might wins out over the creative life-force, and Alderaan is destroyed. But, as Vader points out, the Force is stronger than even the greatest intellectual construct.

It is not technology, nor conscious skills, that win the day for the Rebels and help them to destroy the Death Star. It is the Force itself, with one young man letting go his “conscious self” and surrendering to the impulse of life, using the Force and taking a leap of faith.

Life — the Force — resists the urge to be bent, twisted, moulded to suit the purposes of the intellect. You may succeed briefly, but in the end, your “moment of triumph” is mere illusion.