“Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was a world-renowned mythologist who helped modern society understand the true power that storytelling has in our culture and within our personal lives. He studied and identified the universal themes and archetypes that are present in mythical storytelling across history and across the world. His seminal work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, outlined what Campbell called the Hero’s Journey, a motif of adventure and personal transformation that is used in nearly every culture’s mythical framework. George Lucas was an avid admirer of Campbell’s writings, and used them as a direct reference in his creation of Star Wars. The two didn’t meet face to face until after Lucas had already finished his original trilogy of films…”
Elements of Campbell’s “Heroes journey” are visible in all of George Lucas’s Star Wars films. Perhaps that is the draw for many, an often unconscious desire to connect deeply with our own inner hero, the depth of our very own human conflict as well as potential.
Each archetype represented in the Star Wars saga are aspects of ourselves, each and every character relatable through various stages and circumstances of our lives.
The contrast between light and dark, and ultimately, our innate desire to seek balance between our very own darkness and light.
Such films touch us, often times on an unconscious level, connecting us with the deepest, most hidden aspects of ourselves a silent, ethereal call from deep within longing to be brought to the surface and witnessed fully.
Last nights film was no exception. My five year old son, like his three brothers before him has been introduced to Lucas’s films. A rite of passage of sorts in our household.
Our film of choice, “Star Wars episode 3, Return of the Sith”. Most evident in this particular film is Anakin Skywalker’s journey from young padawan (apprentice) to Jedi, a coming of age.
Anakin is faced with many choices, and struggles to find the inner balance necessary to live out his chosen path, his destiny as a Jedi Master.
One of the final scenes in the film, Padme goes to see Anakin and pleads with him to resist the pull of the darkside and to chose love, to choose her and remain true to the mutual cause they both once shared. Carrying his child (ren) she begs and pleads. In realizing she has lost him to darkness through tears she tells him “Anakin, you are breaking my heart.” Anakins anger returns full force when Obi-wan kenobi emerges from the ship to try and get through to Anakin. Feeling betrayed by his love Padme he begins strangling her, the very own mother of his children.
In the end, Anakins anger and lust for power destroy him. He lay scorched and dismembered among the flames, only the very essence of who he was remains.
He is rescued and re built as Darth Vader. Anakin no longer exists. although consumed and turned to ash, he rose, not as the rise of the mythical pheonix, there was no exchange here of beauty for ashes, but a destruction that led to a death of his very soul.
Anakin represents that part of us that can easily become consumed with the most destructive, unbridled thoughts and emotions within us. Anger takes on a life of it’s own when left unchecked. We can easily justify our anger, especially when we have been victimized or instances where our anger would seem justified. But where to we draw the line between righteous indignation and unbridled anger? Self protection and self destruction? Again, the common theme, balance. Life seems to be a journey towards balance in our own lives and that balance then becoming a part of the collective unconscious, contributing to the greater whole of existence.
As within, so without
As above, so below
It begins in each of us first and foremost.
These films were a huge part of my childhood, and young adulthood. Such valuable lessons interwoven throughout each episode. I am elated that my son has taken a liking to these films, and that each film acts as a gateway to further discussion into various aspects of ourselves, and deeper insight into our own “Heroes Journey.”