In conscious imitation of the Campbellian Hero’s Journey, Star Wars has been cited by many as a modern myth which borrows from a variety of faiths, philosophies and mythologies to create a story that speaks to the human experience. I have found over the years that I have used Star Wars to illustrate Pagan beliefs and ideas; both to my students and in interfaith work. When I think about it, I realize that the beauty of Star Wars’ mythos is that it speaks directly to themes that might be universal, and certainly seem to be for our species.
I was two years old when I saw A New Hope. I grew up on these movies and I knew the first three well enough that I could quote them line for line. Here are ten Pagan ideas that I learned from Star Wars:
Do; or Do Not — There is No “Try”
When Yoda is training Luke in the swamps of Degobah he directs the Jedi apprentice to use telekinetic powers to lift his X-wing out of the muddy sludge it sank into. Luke can’t do it. “It’s too big!” he gasps. Yoda sighs with exasperation and promptly does it himself. “Always with you it cannot be done,” he says.
Nothing is impossible. We just might not have the skillset or circumstances to do it right now. But perhaps we are stronger than we think. Writing a book, for example, is a very big task. Kind of like eating an elephant, as a book I read pointed out. So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Breaking big tasks down into a series of smaller tasks makes it seem less daunting, and gives you a sense of progress as you check off those smaller tasks one at a time. It helps you to realize that no goal is actually outside of your reach; it’s just that some things take longer than others or have more obstacles. You need to decide if the cost is worth the effort.
And for those of us who believe in magick there are greater implications. For example, it was “scientifically proven” that a human could not run a four minute mile. But after Roger Bannister achieved this in 1954, two other people had also broken that barrier within two months. It’s amazing how much more you can accomplish when you believe you can.
If Money is What You Love, Then That’s What You’ll Receive
Snapped with flashing eyes by a proud Leia who is about to go out and lead the Rebel evacuation from Hoth to a mercenary Han Solo who was making sure he got paid in light of the change of circumstances. And Harrison Ford’s expression is perfect; somewhere between a squashed orange and childlike wonder. Han senses that Leia is deeply disappointed in him somehow, and he doesn’t quite get why.
Lucas had a lot to say about the evils of rampant capitalism (ironic, considering how strictly he enforced his copyright before Disney bought it). We see it in the Trade Federation in the prequels as well. And if that’s all you aspire to, then that’s what you’ll get; and the most beautiful parts of life (such as love) will pass you by. Just like Han almost let Leia slip through his fingers.
Be Mindful of the Living Force
When the Force flows through every living thing, nothing is without spirit. Respect life, respect nature, respect the cycles of life, death and rebirth, and honour it all as sacred for its own sake, as the Jedi do.
Feel the Force Flowing Through You . . . the Rock, the Tree, and Yes, the Ship
All the power of that living Force connects us to every other living thing (and unliving thing.) The natural world is to be revered. That Force binds the universe together. We can sense it when we try, and if we live in harmony with it, sometimes it will do things for us. Nothing exists without it. And it also has its own agenda that is greater than any individual one of us. The balance is important, and that means accepting destruction as well as creation. The Force is neither good nor evil; it’s all in how it’s used. That’s exactly like the Pagan concept of life and magick.
Fear is the Path to the Dark Side
“Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” Truer words may never have been spoken. Most of the evil perpetrated in the world is born of fear; and fear stops us from stopping it when we should.
Fear is also the thing that stops us from reaching our full potential. If we release fear there’s little we can’t accomplish in our lives. We might fall on our faces if we try the impossible; but we might succeed too.
What’s in There? Only What You Take with You
When faced with the challenge of the cave, Luke asks Yoda what is inside. “Only what you take with you,” is what Yoda replies. Evil doesn’t come from outside of us, and all of our demons are manifestations of our own personal issues. Neither is anyone completely good or completely evil. When you are faced with a great challenge, it is often your own internal projections and fears that will defeat you, rather than the situation itself.
You’ll Find that Many of the Truths We Cling To Depend Greatly Upon Our Point of View
It’s a reality that the older we get, the more we recognize that there are two sides to every story. People are rarely entirely “in the right” or “in the wrong,” and often our beliefs, our truths, depend on the narrative we tell ourselves. I’ve seen the narrative shift in my time on a few key issues. Had Darth Vader killed Luke’s father? In a manner of speaking — on a spiritual level — that is exactly what happened. It’s worth it to consider what narrative our opposition is using, and whether or not they might have a point.
It is Your Destiny
The question of fate is something that humanity struggles with as a whole. How much of our lives are predestined? And how much do we master our own destinies? The Norse were big believers in predestination and the acceptance of one’s fate. The Greeks believed in forging your own destiny.
Anakin Skywalker accepted his fate as the “Chosen One.” Except that like many predictions it didn’t turn out the way he anticipated. He was supposed to bring balance to the Force. Well, he brought balance all right. If you kill all the other Jedi, except for two, and there’s only two Sith, that’s a balance, isn’t it?
Luke, on the other hand, fought fate every step of the way. He constantly fought against what was expected of him. And sometimes it worked in his favour, and sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes he was able to prevent disaster; other times he ran headlong into it. And when you have precognition, this becomes even more complicated.
Of course I believe that the reality is somewhere between the two. Much of our fate is in our own hands. But there are things that must be dealt with as they happen; waves that we have no control over that we must ride, and hopefully, weather. But even then we have a choice; we can choose how we will deal with it.
And one more thing; Darth Vader was pretty convinced that it was Luke’s destiny to join him in ruling the galaxy. But Luke had other plans. It’s a good thing he only listened to his own inner voice about what his “destiny” was, and not someone else’s.
One with the Force
When we die, we are not truly gone; we become one with the Force. We all have different beliefs about what that entails. For some it means living on in spirit; for others it means living on in the memories of our descendants. We contribute to the consciousness of the species in any case, and as long as there is consciousness, we are never really destroyed.
The Force is with Us, Always
I don’t presume to understand the Divine. I think that any metaphor we come up with will fall short of any real comprehension simply because of the restrictions of our nature as three dimensional mortal beings. I think it’s a lot like the Force, really. Does the Force actually have an independent consciousness? Not as we mortals would understand it. And yet, it exists. We feel it and we can become one with it and it has a Will. I don’t really believe in a Divine Plan, but I do believe that the Force is with us . . . always.
For a really great analysis of how philosophical concepts and Star Wars interact, I recommend Star Wars and Philosophy by Kevin S. Decker and Jason T. Eberl.
May the Force be with you!
Because I’m a total Star Wars nerd, here’s a tribute video I made in honour of the video games and their music. Enjoy!
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