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Obi Wan Kenobi – Wise Old Man and Sacred Warrior

Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi via Wikipedia

In the Star Wars Original Trilogy (1977-83), Obi Wan Kenobi is an honorable Jedi knight, played by actor Alec Guinness. He is also a spiritual teacher for the young hero, Luke Skywalker.

Obi Wan is the only character to appear within the first six Star Wars films. He appears in voice for the seventh but is absent in the latest Star Wars incarnation, The Last Jedi.¹

Guinness was nominated for an academy award for his 1977 Star Wars performance.

In the Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005), Obi Wan is portrayed by Ewan McGregor.

Most moviegoers and critics generally agree that the Prequel Trilogy isn’t quite as good as the Original Trilogy, but it does highlight the early development of Obi Wan’s charitable character.

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In Jungian thought, the Alec Guinness version of Obi Wan exemplifies the archetype of the wise old man. Obi Wan’s miraculous ability to manipulate “The Force” for the greater good also fits with the archetype of the Sacred Warrior.

In the PBS TV series The Power of Myth (1988), the American mythology expert Joseph Campbell says the original Star Wars films are a modern myth. They take ancient themes and recast them in a modern light.

Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (right) and Padawan O...

Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (right) and Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, as portrayed by Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace via Wikipedia

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, consulted with Campbell while making the original trilogy so the classic “hero cycle,” as scholars put it, would ring true with 20th century moviegoers.

Campbell met regularly with Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, Karl Kerényi and other notable scholars of myth at the annual Eranos Conferences.

So this is a good example of scholarship having relevance, meeting with pop culture, and actually reaching the people—unlike some scholars who use academe as a kind of hideaway where they can enjoy the good life while doing mediocre work.

¹ Apparently there was not enough archival material to include him, and director Rian Johnson felt that a meeting of Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan played by Ewan McGregor (the second actor to portray Obi Wan) would be emotionally unsatisfying.

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Star Wars Memories

Updated scene of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Ob...

Updated scene of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi appearing as Force Ghosts in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star Wars, well, we all know about it. But back in 1977, I remember my next door neighbor (who was a sci-fi fan), telling me, a young lad of 15 yrs, that a whole new kind of sci-fi movie was soon coming out. I could sense his excitement. He was in the know. And the timing was perfect.

Star Trek the original series had wrapped up in 1969. And almost all we had to watch on TV in the mid-seventies were Star Trek reruns, old Doctor Who episodes and a fairly dull program called Space 1999, which was stylistically based on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. At least, that’s what we had in Toronto, Canada. I don’t  know about other places.

So along comes Star Wars in 1977, the groundbreaking film written and directed by George Lucas. The original Star Wars won seven academy awards and broke box office records. I remember another friend saying, after seeing the film, that “he didn’t know they could make a movie that good.”

People dressed as Star Wars characters walk in downtown Angouleme on January 30, 2016, on the sideline of the city’s International Comics Festival. GOBET

Not a few Star Wars sequels followed. But I’m more interested in the symbolic import and psychological meaning of Star Wars, so won’t outline all the sequels here. Many other sites do this just fine.¹

The idea of Star Wars as a mythological creation is found throughout So follow the links below for more info.

¹ For example,

Related » Abyss, Joseph Campbell, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Hero, Jedi, Luke Skywalker, Odysseus, Obi Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, Yoda

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Yoda’s tear (Photo: Niall Kennedy via Flickr)

Yoda is a wise spiritual teacher of Luke Skywalker and other Jedi knights in the Star Wars films of George Lucas.

As the Grand Master of the Jedi Order, his power extends to being able to mediate and control “The Force,” which in the greater Star Wars cosmology is a spiritual life force pervading the universe.

Yoda’s species and last name remain unknown, although Lucas originally planned to call him Yoda Minch.

Yoda essentially is an American fictional variant of the Indian guru and, to some extent, the Siberian shaman. Links to these actual religious beliefs and practices shouldn’t be surprising, considering Lucas was friends and consulted with the renowned scholar of religion and mythology, Joseph Campbell.

Master Yoda

Master Yoda (Photo: Alex Abian via Flickr)

The fact that the Yoda character has become enshrined in popular culture can hardly be disputed. People even makes jokes about others being “like Yoda” if they’re wise and, perhaps, a bit eccentric.

This attests to the genius of American culture, in particular that of Hollywood. Unlike people in countries clinging to a glorious national past, mythological and otherwise, Americans are creating meaningful myth and culture today.

Related Posts » Obi Wan Kenobi, Odysseus


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Darth Vader

Star Wars - Darth Vader

Star Wars – Darth Vader (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Darth Vader is a character and a personification of evil in the Star Wars films.

Darth Vader originally was Annakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker’s absent father. Annakin was also a Jedi knight, which made him a righteous freedom fighter with mystical powers called the force.

But Annakin always had a chip on his shoulder which contributed to his choosing the dark side of the force. Afterward, he became a kingpin for the evil Emperor Palpatine, spreading interstellar death and destruction.

In essence, Vader is devoured by his own choice to follow the evil Emperor. A machine – a full-body suit – keeps him alive in a state of psychopathic evil.

The ending of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi finds the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker, in a very bad situation. After mercilessly trying to kill Luke for some time, Vader sees that Luke is about to be killed by the Emporer’s lightning bolts. If not for Vader’s sudden change of heart and helpful intervention, Luke would have been killed.¹ As summed up at Wikipedia,

Palpatine attacks him [Luke] with Force lightning. Moved by the sight of his son’s suffering, Vader turns on his master and redeems himself by throwing the evil Emperor into the Death Star’s reactor shaft, killing him.²

Vader then dies but his benevolent action in finally choosing good over evil redeems him and he earns a place in Jedi heaven (we later see him smiling at Luke as an afterlife apparition).

The hopeful message is that even the most hardened sinner still possesses free will and the potential for compassion, good deeds and redemption.

¹ Readers following this blog for a few years may have noticed that the original version of this entry incorrectly stated that Darth Vader, and not Palpatine, was about to kill Luke before Vader had a change of heart. I was never a die hard Star Wars fan and wrote the original entry from memory after seeing the film many years ago. Since then, I’ve watched the films again and corrected the error.  No excuse really… just an explanation! Here’s a good summary of Vader’s death:


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Star Wars - Darth Vader

Star Wars - Darth Vader via Wikipedia

The Jedi are a sagely band of warrior-knights in George Lucas’ Star Wars films. Imbued with a high concentration of ‘the force,’ a bio-mystical power permeating all existence, Jedi’s work to liberate their galaxy from an oppressive empire and more generally, to keep the the force in balance.

In much of the Star Wars films, the empire is ruled by an evil emperor and his No. 1 minion, a Sith Lord. The most famous Sith Lord is Darth Vader, who himself is a fallen Jedi.

Jedi Masters normally belong to a Jedi Council. And at death a Jedi becomes immortal and honored, not unlike the ancient Greek heroes who, through their outstanding valor, escape the bonds of the shadowy underworld to enjoy eternal life on the blessed isles.

As with the religious sinner, a fallen Jedi, even a Sith Lord, may be redeemed by a significant act of kindness or self-sacrifice. Darth Vader, for instance, realizes that, without help, his son Luke Skywalker would perish. At a critical moment when Luke is about to be destroyed by the evil emperor, Darth’s humanity is rediscovered and he turns to fight the emperor. This guarantees Luke’s survival at the cost of Darth’s physical but spiritually redemptive death.

Also similar to most ancient myths, the Star Wars films exhibit subtle variants. For instance, in the original release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the redeemed Darth Vader appears in spirit form, played by actor Sebastian Shaw.  But due to the popularity of Hayden Christensen’s subsequent portrayal of a youthful Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader’s name before he became a Sith Lord), in a 2004 DVD release of the film Shaw was replaced by Christensen as the resurrected Vader. And over the years, other scenes have been altered, added or expanded upon due to artistic choice and also the enhanced technologies which became available.¹

The word Jedi was added to The Shorter Oxford Dictionary in 2002.


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