We often speak here about spiritual awakening, including what it feels like—terrifying; why it’s necessary—to know what we really are; and how it unfolds. And so let’s take a look at a character we’re all likely familiar with and examine how he becomes enlightened, empowered and reborn.
George Lucas drew heavily on the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell when creating the first three Star Wars movies, giving protagonist Luke Skywalker an archetypal hero’s journey. But Luke’s journey dramatizes much more than apprenticeship to a martial art or conversion to a forgotten faith, and draws on trials and symbols associated with initiation into a knightly spiritual order with keys to the secret workings of the universe. But in order to rise to knighthood, Luke must undergo an ego death.
Star Wars opens with a naive blond farm boy straight from Germanic legend, bored and restless, wholly unaware of what fate has in store. When all attachments to material life are burned to the ground, he has nowhere to go but into the supernatural realm of “outer space” and fulfill his rendezvous with destiny.
Along the way he meets a guardian of the ancient tradition known as the Jedi. The order has lost all connection to the supreme center, and the balance of the galaxy has tipped to evil. The kind of man who lives in this faithless era, when the tradition goes underground, awaiting the arrival of a Parsifal type who will “find the grail” and “heal the injured king,” is exemplified by the materialistic nonbeliever Han Solo.
Through a conscious act of will—and this is key—Luke endeavors to learn the ways of the Force, the binding energy of the cosmos. It’s what alchemists posited as the Great Magnetic Agent, what was created, according to the Book of Genesis, when God said, “Let there be light.” Luke’s first attempt to establish contact with this higher power is awkward, but his devotion is eventually rewarded. When he is the last man standing in the face of evil and must venture beyond himself, he hears the voice of his master admonish him to “use the Force” and let the power he has discovered act through him as divine will.
Luke’s first victory over evil is only the beginning. He has discovered the Force, but does not understand it or know how to control it. And the wisdom tradition tells us there are two wars, of which the one with our enemy is the lesser. The greater war, the one leading to immortality, is with ourselves.