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Home / Articles / Columnists / Life 101 /  Star Wars, The Force, & You
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Friday, May 6,2016

Star Wars, The Force, & You

By Cary Bayer  

I along with most everyone else in America, recently saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the most current installment of the Star Wars franchise, now competing with the Rocky and Friday the 13 th franchises for most movie episodes. Unlike the latter two, the George Lucas films have much to teach us spiritually. And financially, as well, as it has become the highest grossing film of all time in America, and is well on its way to being the highest grossing film worldwide, as well. Which is a good thing that the two highest grossing films - it and Avatar - both have great spiritual lessons to impart to moviegoers.

 

Yoda Yoga The nine-part franchise - only seven in the nine have so far been released - has featured one of my all-time favorite spiritual cinema characters - namely, Yoda. This adorable gnome-like lookalike could easily have been called Yoga, as he taught Luke Skywalker some very esoteric things about consciousness and its latent abilities. You may recall that the pint-sized guru, in excess of 800 years old, showed Luke a number of what people who believe that gravity is more powerful than levity would call superhuman abilities. These include such latent abilities in all of us as the ability to tap into the Force, or what we on earth would call God, the Great Spirit, or the Tao, for example. This manifests for Luke in the Star Wars film saga as telepathy, clairvoyance and psycho kinesis, the latter being the ability to move physical objects with his mind alone. What’s more, he can also influence the minds of others, intuit the feelings of others nearby, and even levitate. In battle, he can sense what his opponent will do prior to him doing it, a huge advantage when battling for life and death. Also of great benefit to the benign warrior is the ability to engage in combat for many hours at a time without getting fatigued. Like the X-Men hero Wolverine, he can also heal most physical injuries, and quite quickly at that.

George Lucas & Yogi Patanjali The Yoga Sutras, written by the Indian Yogi Patanjali more than sixteen hundred years ago, record similar natural skills that can be developed through what the yogi referred to as sanyama, a Sanskrit term that translates loosely as subtle intention from consciousness settled in Samadhi, or steadiness in the Transcendent.

Speaking of India, Luke, as a Jedi Knight, must kill his father Anakin, aka Darth Vader, who’s become so seduced by the dark side of the Force that he lives behind a black mask and has become more of a machine than a man. Obi-Wan taught Luke that the Jedis “were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.”

Luke’s killing of his father echoes what the military hero of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, had to do to his cousins and uncles. Vader and Arjuna’s family were spreading evil throughout the land. In the Gita, Arjuna is encouraged to do this justified killing because it’s his dharma, or purpose, in society to protect it from evil. As a hero, Luke Skywalker must do the same on his planet, and he succeeds in destroying his evil father in the third film in the series.

While Yoda is adorable and lovable to the popcorn munching couple in the bijou, he’s one tough teacher. When he teaches his young Jedi disciple the power of commitment, he says, “Do or don’t do. There’s no trying.” He’s about results, not efforts. He’s also about commitment, not wishy-washy waffling. But he’s not just teaching commitment, here, he’s also teaching conscious use of language. He doesn’t want the word “try” to enter into Luke’s consciousness or pass through his mouth as speech.

The Force “May the Force be with you,” the saga reminds us. The Force actually always is with you. It’s only your unconscious thoughts, speech, and action that make it appear to you as if you’re disconnected from it. Since the Force pervades our being, not having it be with you is much like a fish not having water be with it. Not only does the Force pervade our being; in truth it is our being, but that insight dawns only in the highest state of consciousness. When you live consciously connected to the Force life flows much like a river, and the Universe works to fulfill your desires. As Luke’s other teacher - Obi - Wan Kenobi - tells him, “The Force obeys your commands.”

What is the Force that Lucas presents?

To Obi - Wan, “It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

Like the Tao, which is an interpenetration of light and dark forces, it has a light side and a dark. Yoda teaches Luke that he’ll know the difference between the Light and the Dark sides of it when he is “calm, at peace.” He adds:

“For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us…You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you…me…the tree…the rock… everywhere! Yes, even between the land and the ship!” On the other hand, Yoda added, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” This is the temptation that Luke’s father Anakin Skywalker succumbed to.

Yoda’s teaching of Luke is very reminiscent of Krishna’s teaching of Arjuna for anyone who has ever read the Bhagavad Gita. As Krishna said, "These bodies are known to have an end; the dweller in the body is eternal, imperishable, infinite, Therefore, O Bharata, fight!” (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi translation) It’s obvious that Lucas intended his Star Wars political and military saga to be something of a spiritual story, as well. In fact, he read some 50 books on religion in preparation to creating his tale. The author who most influenced him was the great mythologist Joseph Campbell; the book that most influenced him was the professor’s A Hero with a Thousand Faces. As Lucas said, “The stories I fund most interesting are stories of Zen education or the Zen master teaching a pupil how to transcend physical prowess into some kind of mental process. That’s what all the training sequences are about.”

 

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