Posts Tagged ‘MBTI’


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.


Knowledge and Wisdom

October 6, 2009

Coruscant truly was the “bright center to the universe”: a glittering jewel that embodied the ideals of the galaxy, housing both the Jedi Temple and the Galactic Senate amidst a sprawling planet-wide cityscape. Nothing could tarnish its sheen.

And yet something went wrong. The democratic Republic became the authoritarian Empire, and despite its appearances in The Phantom Menace, Coruscant was a little more than an empty husk when it came to its former, noble glory.

The greatest twist in the prequel trilogy was not that Palpatine was a Sith Lord or that the Chosen One turned to evil; it was that democracy was not overthrown but instead surrendered. The Senate was complicit in its own eventual demise.

Meanwhile, the Jedi aided and abetted this destruction of democratic ideals, despite their own misgivings. By taking advantage of the trafficking of manufactured human life and allowing themselves to move from being “guardians of peace and justice” to fully fledged military Generals, they betrayed their own code of ethics, sacrificing ideals for expediency in a moment of manufactured desperation.

The Jedi sacrificed their ideals when it came to the use of clones.

The Jedi sacrificed their ideals when it came to the use of clones.

What allowed this to happen? Was it a shifting in the Force? No, that is merely a metaphor. In reality, it was the gulf “between knowledge and wisdom”.

On the one hand, you have compassion, true understanding, direct experience and an appreciation for the shades of grey that exist in real life: wisdom. Wisdom comes with both age and an open mind (and open heart).

On the other hand, you have rules, procedures, legalism and rigid modes of thought: knowledge. Knowledge is abstract and linguistic, and can be gained through purely academic means.

The Republic no longer embodied wisdom. The Jedi were stubborn and intellectual, while the Senate was bloated and bureaucratic. They were both victims of an overemphasis of superficial knowledge.

At its best, Star Wars has always been about more than just heroes and villains, instead shedding light on the nature of the human experience. This case is no exception.

Palpatine manipulated the bureaucracy of the Senate to great effect.

Palpatine manipulated the bureaucracy of the Senate to great effect.

Another way to look at the split between knowledge and wisdom would be by analogising to the left- versus right-hemispheres of the brain. The left-hemisphere is linguistic, linear and sequential, whereas the right-hemisphere is intuitive, dynamic and holistic. This is not the split between science and art, however — both can involve either hemisphere.

Yet another approach is to draw upon Lenore Thomson’s work on Jungian psychological functions, where Extraverted Thinking and Feeling, and Introverted Sensation and Intuition, are left-hemisphere functions, and Extraverted Sensation and Intuition, and Introverted Thinking and Feeling, are all right-hemisphere functions. The left-hemisphere functions are essentially “top-down” in their approaches, placing emphasis on external order and hierarchy, whereas the right-hemisphere functions are “bottom-up”, focusing on a more organic means of interacting with the world. In the Myers-Briggs system, this is the split between J-types and P-types.

But of course the point is not that order and hierarchy are bad and holistic and non-linear thinking is good. Rather, the point is that Western culture, like the Republic, has forgotten that rules and order are means to an end only. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the system should serve people and not vice versa.

This was the real downfall of the Republic. It’s a cautionary tale, and one we should all heed.