Myths-Dreams-Symbols exploring the unconscious world of Dreams through Myth, Symbols & Metaphor
the psychology of dreams....a Jungian perspective
The psychology behind Star Wars
Star Wars: The psychology, religion and history
Watching Star Wars, most people see just a good or a bad film. Most people don’t take the time to anlyse it, some people love it, and just don’t really know why. And some people hate it, for various reasons.
People say that commercial narrative films aren’t worth analysing from a Jungian perspective. That you instead should look to more psychological films. But Jung was interested in the collectivesub-consious. If a film then is consciously Jungian then it isn’t subcunsious content that was being portrayd, but consciously Jungian content. So I say, that if you want to look for subconscious archetypes or proof for Jungs theories, you need to look at the commersial narrative film, which is not made for psychological self-realization, but to earn money. It is there the real proof for that Jung’s subconscious archetypes really exists.
If you take the time to analyse Star Wars you will se, as Gorge Lucas “A great classic hero saga, dealing with the classical questions about religion and history based on a psychological theme, played out in the futuristic setting of space”1
I will try to show a little of the main psychology in the film, and also point out the main archetypal characters.
I will only work with the old films, episode IV-VI because they to me represent the true Star Wars spirit that the new films really miss. From the trilogy I will mostly work with episode V-The Empire strikes back, where I belive most of the psychology is found. I will also mostly joggle ides from Carl young because his dream-analysis theories seem to best fit the concept of Star Wars.
The classical Saga
To understand, and truly appreciate the Star Wars trilogy you have to understand and see the main theme. This is religion based and is something we all can identify with.
It’s a story where a ordinary person gets his life turned upside down and has to go out on a quest. Here it becomes a classical fight between good and evil, where the to are clearly represented by the force and the dark side of the force.
So what is the force? Well described in the film, it’s small living creatures that live in every cell in all living organisms and can help you, guide you and show you the future. If you interpret that you can se the resemblens with two things. 1- God; god in any religion, is “something” that can help you guide you, and if you behave accordingly it can predict your future. 2-Carl young’s collective unconscious; The force shows you what to be afraid of, it’s inherited from you forefathers and colours your perception of the world and guides you. The only thing that I really can’t find in the collective unconscious is the predicting or future seeing.
The Dark side of the force attracts people/characters in an old classical fashion. Characters seem to imagine there is more power in the way they are using it. Pure selfishness, without any struggle with conscience, gives the illusion of greater power. Just because someone avoids struggling with conscience, or the concern for other people, or fairness, or ethics, does not mean these issues go away. But however this is how an evil person always is described-in mythology, the Bible, and Star Wars, but it always is clear do define that the denied elements always return to present their demands.
Gorge Lucas himself says that Star Wars is a classical saga, but in a futuristic environment. But what is a classical Saga. German anthropologist Adolph Bastian (1826-1905), first proposed the idea that myths from all over the world seem to be built from the same "elementary ideas”. This “elementary ideas” is what Carl Jung named archetypes, which he believed to be the building blocks not only of the unconcious mind, but of a collective unconcious. In 1949 Joseph Campbell began a revolution in anthropology (the study of people and culture) with his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” and it is on this book Gorge Lucas mainly has based is story of Star Wars on.
Basic psychology of the Jedi Knight or a good person.
The Jedi knight is a quite basic psychological theme that fits with the hero archetype. But it also fits any kind of fighter or good person. Yoda explains the basic concept of a Jedi knight quite easy and clearly with his famous phrase “I sense much fear in you boy. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate, leads to suffering”. This shows everyone the goal that needs to be achieved. To be a good person, and especially if you want to control the all mighty force, you have to be able to control your fear. If you don’t you’ll end up suffering and/or make other people suffer. This is therefore also a way fore Gorge Lucas to try to explain why evil people act the way they do.
Archetypes are the unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way. It works in the way instincts work in Freud’s theories. A child, for example, just wants something to eat, but it doesn’t really know what, however some things can satisfy the craving, and some things can not, and with time and experince the child learns what, and as it grows up, the craving becomes for something special, like pizza or hamburgers.
But difference is that they aren’t really biological like Freud’s instincts. If you fore example dream about long things, according to Freud this would be a phallic symbol and therefore mean sex. Jung on the other hand would be ready to disagree, even dreaming about a penis according to Jung would not really have anything to sex. It would represent Mana, and spiritual power. This is proven from many old primitive cultures where many phallic symbols had nothing to do with sex. Sex on the other hand, together with life instinct are instead represented in the archetype called the shadow. It derives from our prehuman the animal past, from when we weren’t really self-conscious. The dark side, of the ego, and the evil that we are capable of is often stored there. Actually the shadow archetype really isn’t evil, but amoral, neither good or evil. It only does what we humans really would like to, and what it has to do to thrive and flourish. This can in a way bee seen in the Star Wars movies, if you rethink the dark emperors role in the movie, you discover that he really isn’t evil he just looks out for Vader an tells him what he should do if he want’s to achieve as great success as possible.
Many of the characters of the film act as archetypal figures, actually they often play the role of more than one archetype. For example, Ben Kenobi primarily seems to represent the Wise Old Man archetype, but he also carries many elements of the Father archetype for Luke.
The Hero archetype however is really the main archetype of the starwars films, and the archetype they are most know for. Luke skywalker is a typical example of a hero archetype. Basically the hero-archetype represents the ego, it is the person in the film we are most likely to identify ourselves with. The hero however is often dumb, after all he as no knowledge of the collective unconscious.
Luke himself seems to fill the role of the Child Hero archetype. He is represented as a vulnerable, yet invincible hero, and he carries "magical" powers through his use of the Force. The trilogy is mainly concerned with following Luke´s liminality and rites of passage, especially during the Jedi training sequences in The Empire Strikes Back.
The hero is often out to rescue a maiden, in Star Wars the maiden is represented by princess Leia in the beginning, however later on Leia evolves into the amina discovering the powers of the force-the collective unconscious- and becomes a more equal partner to luke, who turned out to be here brother.
An Anima figure is the female-like part of a male´s personality. One of the objectives in the self-realization process is identifying the individual´s Anima and to reintegrate this part into a persons personality. Princess Leia represents an Anima figure for Luke, and his realization that she is his twin sister shows that he integrates the Anima into his personality. As you see in the film Leia is portrayed as Luke´s sister rather than a romantic interest in Return of the Jedi (although Luke flirts with the Anima in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back), it shows that he accepts the Anima, but isn´t dominated by its influence. Leia also carries many of the nurturing aspects of the Mother archetype, such as when she comforts him in scenes in all three movies. Leia even exhibits the use of "magic", a quality of the Mother archetype, like in The Empire Strikes Back, when she hears Luke´s call of help through the Force and takes the Millenium Falcon back to rescue him where he is dangling underneath Cloud City.
The Jedi Master Yoda carries aspects of many archetypes. Yoda´s wisdom and age seem to reflect the Wise Old Man archetype. Yoda´s surroundings and communion with nature are characteristics of the Mother archetype. Yoda lives on a swamp planet, which is covered with trees and mists. His house is similar to a cave, and this closeness to nature is associated with the Mother archetype.
Yoda´s small size and his characteristics of being "smaller than small, yet bigger than big" associate him with the Child Hero archetype. In fact, Yoda makes a statement that precisely reflects that idea: "Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? (Luke shakes his head) And well you should not, for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is." But Yoda also carries some qualities as the father archetype for Luke just like Ben Ken-obi dose.
Darth Vader, who was Anakin Skywalker, Luke´s father, before he turned to evil, also carries many archetypal projections. As Luke´s father, he acts as a representation of the Father archetype. He acts as Luke´s shadow, because of his almost unremitting evil, and the implication that Luke could become like him. Luke´s potential for turning to the Dark Side is expressly foreshadowed when Luke has a vision of striking down Darth Vader, only to find his own face inside Vader´s mask. Finally, Vader acts also in some scenes as the birthing and devouring Mother archetype. But although he gave life to his children Luke and Leia, he destroyed both of their adoptive families in Star Wars and threatened both of their lives throughout the trilogy.