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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.

Embed from Getty Images

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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Princess Leia – A Star Wars icon lives on

Carrie Fisher who plays Leia – Wikipedia

There’s a new Star Wars film out which some say is the best since The Empire Strikes Back, and Princess Leia is up next for revision.

A nice coincidence, especially since actor Carrie Fisher, who plays the original Leia, also plays Leia in later years as Senator and General Leia Organa.

In the Star Wars Trilogy, Princess Leia is Luke Skywalker‘s twin sister and Darth Vader‘s daughter.

Reflecting attitudes of the late 1970s, Leia is cast as a feminist and still serves today as a feminist role model.

A few people say she’s not a great feminist icon, but on the whole Leia is seen that way.

Perhaps the critics don’t like the male chauvinism that pervades the early Star Wars scripts.

Han Solo, for instance, condescendingly says he knows, despite Leia’s apparent disgust toward his sexual advances, that she “really wants it.” And Leia’s role in the film sometimes evokes a more traditional female sex role stereotype.

As noted in a sidebar at Wikipedia:

Leia wearing her iconic golden “metal bikini” slave outfit at Jabba’s palace. Leia’s appearance has been voted one of the most memorable swimsuit moments of cinema history.¹

English: Christy Marie as Slave Leia Organa.

Christy Marie as Slave Leia Organa – Wikipedia

Is this a showcase for the feminist sentiments of the time? I suppose it depends on the person interpreting. Like most social movements, feminism moves within a total context so has been evolving… slowly.

Before her untimely death in 2016 Fisher occasionally introduced vintage films with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne.

She also struggled with mood swings that she managed with drug use. Embracing the diagnosis of “bipolar disorder” given to her by the medical establishment, she evidently had no other way to decode her feelings and the medical model arguably didn’t help too much.

This is unfortunate. I often feel that if some took a broader view of their unconventional psychological experiences they might get a better grip on them—without the use of heavy drugs or, as Fisher underwent, ECT.²

General Leia is in theaters as I write this. The posthumous release of Fisher’s performance in The Last Jedi is helping to make box office records.

Like all Hollywood greats, Fisher lives.

¹ This quote is from several years ago. The link and caption has changed to 

² Recently I was surprised to learn that the medical establishment still practices ECT. When I took psych in the 1980s ECT was frowned upon as a part of psychiatry’s dark history. That this practice continues today, with such spurious scientific backing, imo is horrific.

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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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Surya (Asian deity/deities)

Konark Sun Temple Panoramic View via Wikipedia

One of the main identities of Surya is an Indian sun god associated with fantastic temples, like that found at Konark.

Like most mythic beings, Surya appears in different contexts. The deity variously exhibits divine, semi-divine and aristocratic attributes, according to the tradition in which it has evolved. This variety poses a problem to archetypal theorists who tend to simply complex mythic histories by interpreting them in vague, watered-down “general principles”—e.g. Great Mother, The Wizard, The Wise Old Man.¹

Surya or the Sun God, Konark.

Surya or the Sun God, Konark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Upon closer inspection much of the data forced into conceptual boxes by archetypal theorists is far more inconsistent and variable than they claim. Mythic and religious data is linked to politics, economics, geography, and war. With war we find that the aggressive movement of populations usually results in the conquest and subjugation of peoples, whose gods may be replaced, adapted or tolerated by the conquerors, who themselves almost always introduce something new to the cultural and religious landscape.

In defending their archetypal position, theorists like Joseph Campbell and C. G. Jung assert that they’ve distilled the underlying essence or commonality among various cultural expressions of an archetype. To distinguish a cultural manifestation from the archetype, proper, they use the term archetypal image. Archetypal images of a given archetype vary, but the underlying archetype behind its imagery is (supposedly) one and the same.

To my mind that’s like saying all cities are “the same” because they share core elements such as people, a downtown, suburbs, roads, utilities, government and housing. Anyone who has compared a developing to a developed city will find it a gross simplification to say that all cities are “the same.” And so it is, I would argue, with those archetypal theorists who claim that all myths and religions are “the same.” It’s an unwarranted simplification often made with good intentions, out of political correctness, or perhaps through lack of experience.

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See the following for the tremendous variety found in the Surya character, according to Asian tradition and scripture:

¹In the Star Wars mythos Obi Wan Kenobi arguably plays a dual role of the Wizard and the Wise Old Man. Filmmaker George Lucas actually consulted the mythographer Joseph Campbell to facilitate the idea that Star Wars would tell a modern story with timeless, mythic appeal. So, in fairness, we could say that the success of Star Wars throws a vote in favor of the archetypal theorists and their tendency to generalize. However, many films use so-called archetypal ideas and bomb at the box office. So that’s clearly not enough for the making of a blockbuster.

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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.

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Joseph Campbell

English: Joseph Campbell, late 1970

Joseph Campbell, late 1970 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an influential American scholar and educator in world religions and mythology.

Campbell’s books and PBS videos (hosted by Bill Moyers) have enjoyed worldwide acclaim. With other innovators like Mircea Eliade, Otto Rank, and Carl Jung, Campbell championed the syncretic study of psychology, myth and spirituality.

Campbell was ahead of many of his peers by seeing the film Star Wars as a contemporary variant, par excellence, of the age-old hero myth.¹ Campbell’s interest in the hero archetype can be traced to the works of Rank and Jung.

Campbell learned several original languages, and had an impressive knowledge of textual data from a wide variety of interconnected fields.

Pedantic and dogmatic critics, however, still entirely dismiss his pioneering attempts. His critics that say his opinions are simplistic. But it’s possible that he’s dumbing things down for a general audience not familiar with the specifics of world myth and religion.

A more serious charge could be that, and contrary to Campbell’s dictum of “follow your bliss,” every once in a while he seems a bit autocratic, particularly in reference to his beliefs about orthodox Catholicism. This isn’t just a problem with Campbell. Many Gnostic,  Fundamentalist, Protestant, New Age, Humanistic, scientific and even environmental thinkers arguably lump “The Church” into one big personal projection of The Big Bad Wolf (as if the Catholic Church is supposed to be perfect here on Earth, which is entirely unreasonable).

ep_greek_man_clr.gifCampbell, himself, was a fallen away Catholic, which may have had some bearing on his somewhat negative treatment of Catholicism. He does seem to highlight the Catholic Church’s past mistakes without fully appreciating its positive aspects—e.g. how the Eucharist enriches the lives of present-day believers.²

Another difficulty in Campbells’ analyses of world religions echoes difficulties found in Jung’s work. At times Campbell seems to say that the various paths in world mysticism evoke identical mystical experiences and lead to the same afterlife abode.

This may be a politically correct view and, for all we know, could be true. But ultimate claims about the afterlife cannot be made with any certainty (unless you believe you have a pipeline to God, as so many zealots do).

These shortcomings aside, Campbell’s contribution to the study of myth, religion and culture is noteworthy (some might say remarkable). His popular PBS lectures, taped just months before his unfortunate death due to cancer, reveal that, in his own dignified way he was just as heroic as a Heracles or Luke Skywalker.

It’s not surprising that his name has become almost archetypal among students of world myth and religion.

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¹ Star Wars creator George Lucas says Campbell’s work was influential for the mythic structure of the film. Lucas had the insight to realize that his sci-fi story would work better if it had an authentic mythic feel. By adapting Campbell’s ideas, Lucas hoped that the Star Wars epic would resonate with the masses, which, of course, it did.

² Creative thinkers like Campbell are rarely one-dimensional, however. He also says that one of his peak experiences came when entering Chartres Cathedral in France.

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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: