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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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Ram Dass – Bridging East and West

ram dass by ari evergreen

ram dass by Ari Evergreen via Flickr

Ram Dass (1931 – ) Richard Alpert, now Ram Dass, was born into a wealthy, educated Jewish American family. After receiving his Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford he grew increasingly dissatisfied with conventional approaches to understanding the psyche. So he became a full-fledged spiritual seeker.

He traveled to India and found a personal guru. His Indian guide eventually renamed him Ram Dass (teacher), which for many he was to become.

Since the 1960’s Ram Dass has lectured across North America and authored several popular books about comparative religion and spirituality. Ideas like synchronicity and the miraculous are all quite real for Ram Dass. He argues that the Western mind is too linear and pragmatic to appreciate these phenomena.

For Ram Dass, spiritual awareness and the phenomena accompanying it are usually viewed by Westerners as “weird.”

Writing in a kind of 1970’s flower-power hippie style, Ram Dass unfortunately contributes to the misguided and judgmental notion that the East is more spiritual than the West. This shortcoming aside, his work is not without merit.

Interestingly, Ram Dass says his brother lived in a psychiatric hospital. His brother, he says, believes that his way of seeing the world is the only way. So the sane differ from the insane, he implies, in that the former can consider other viewpoints while the latter cannot. This definition seems a bit lacking. It would make, for instance, Catholic priests or any firm religious believers insane.

Concerning the idea of reincarnation, he suggests that it

doesn’t have to be linear…it may well be in terms of past, present, and future all being here simultaneously. There are many ways of thinking about the fifth dimension of infinite repetition and changes¹

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ram Dass

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ram Dass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Noted for his honesty, Ram Dass once wrote in Yoga Journal that loving one’s enemies, as Jesus Christ taught, is easy to fake but not always easy to do.²

After suffering a stroke in the 1990’s, Ram Dass still holds public engagements. He says that his condition has brought him closer to God. In a 2003 Toronto Star article he remarks that while most people his age are still trying to be youthful, he sits by the window and contemplates the Divine.

Today, his influence lives on, as travelerseeker testifies:

Ram Dass is an amazing person. I had the honor of meeting him many years ago at a metaphysical conference where he was signing books. Got the book, his signature and a hug…will never forget it or him!

For me, one of the more amusing stories comes from a tape I heard back in the 1980s. Ram Dass tells the tale of being stopped by a police officer on the freeway. Apparently the officer was momentarily affected by Ram Dass’ blissful state and gave him a free pass, which reminds me of the scene in Star Wars where Obi-Wan Kenobi gets past security guards by using “The Force.”

On a more practical note, I find that giving out good vibes, for their own sake, often does help in sticky situations—unless the other person is just a creep through and through, which also happens sometimes.

¹ Ram Dass, The Only Dance There Is, New York: Anchor Books, 1974, p. 143.

² I saw this in the early 1990s in a bookstore while buying books by Carl Jung for my PhD. Unfortunately, that’s about as precise as I can be on this reference.

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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