“Godhood, Wisdom, and Self-Becoming: A Spiritual Meditation On Star Wars: The Last Jedi” by T. Hasan Johnson, Ph.D.

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(SPOILERS)

“We are what they grow beyond. That is the burden of masters.” – Master Yoda

As a Black Gnostic, The Star Wars saga always inspired me. It was The Matrix before there was a Matrix, and without it there likely would not have been a Matrix series. Clearly, it’s lack of direct reference to people of African descent or African spiritual traditions–Jar Jar Binks aside (rumored to have been inspired by Rastafarians)–it still references an ancient tradition mostly reaching back to Nile Valley civilizations. It set the standard and brought Joseph Campbellian spiritual mythicism into the forefront—and rightfully so. Powerfully symbolic, it re-framed the very language we use to talk about God, spirituality, life, growth, and the universe. “The Force,” and Eastern inspired notion that reframes God as an impersonal field of energy that interpenetrates and connects all life was a powerful influence on spiritual and philosophical reflection.

Even the notion of the master and the student was re-introduced by this saga. “Always two there are,” as Yoda would say, and this was often true. Unlike mass religions, esoteric-based practices are designed for enhancing internal knowing, not exciting or entertaining the masses, raising economic capital, or organizing mass political movements. Inner knowing. One would apprentice under a master teacher in many ancient African societies to deeply ingrain a spiritually-based perception of the world. And later, that apprentice, upon achieving mastership of his/her craft, would then mentor someone else… Star Wars captured this well. So well in fact that there are those that’ve made the Jedi order an actual religion. There is even a documentary on iTunes about them entitled American Jedi.

The dynamic of harnessing your grasp of the Force is what’s known as achieving godhood in esoteric circles. The “abilities” one develops are mythologized in the Star Wars series and shown in terms of glamourized sci-fi combat. This is metaphorically true. Except it need not apply solely to physical combat. It usually applies to health, navigating life issues, combating internal demons (e.g. self-doubt), or transforming one’s life situation. Although there are many that would take this into metaphysical realms, I focus on the more approximate, because we often overlook the metaphysicality of the approximate. In other words, I don’t believe we need to go to the fantastical to witness the mysteries of life. They are all around us, and we’ve learned to overlook miracles by waiting for fantastical situations, events, and occurrences. This addiction can hamper one’s spiritual progression and cause people to hyper-fetishize the fantastical. No need. You already are the fantastical.

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In Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), we witness many such events. One that stood out to me was finally seeing General Leia use her force powers beyond sensing things (may Carrie Fisher rest in peace). Despite being blasted out of her ship, she calmly flies back into the ship despite being out in the cold, atmosphere-less environment of space. Later, she force busts throw a metal blast door to discipline Poe Dameron. But what else can such a raw display of power symbolize? As Samuel Jackson’s character Mr. Glass in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000) asserts, such representation might be a titillating re-imagining of some very natural human capacities.

In the case of Leia, one interpretation is that in the real world, what she did would be similar to one enduring the isolation and lifeless space of being outside of life, or rather, detached from pain and able to focus on what others deem impossible (for them). One such example would be the Vietnamese or Tibetan monks that set themselves on fire, sit still, and burn to death. Although I’m not advocating for such actions, their capacity to endure intense pain yet not break from focus is exemplary of the superpower Leia exemplified.

Or,

It would be similar to an esoteric reading of the Christ standing on water (which metaphorically is translated as divine thought over emotion), also being understood as the light from the sun reflecting atop water. Christ as the anthropomorphic astro-theological representation of the Sun that is symbolic of higher internal consciousness, would translate fantastical supernaturality in a manner that both highlights abstract symbolism in metaphorical prose while highlighting what we all experience (and ignore) daily.

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But I adore the symbolism, because it highlights our capacities. I just abhor not putting forth the effort to translate them to our reality. Whether it’s the symbolism of the Ewoks (representing the ‘everyperson’s’ contribution to revolution) in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) or that of the crystalline foxes in The Last Jedi. The foxes seemed to symbolize inspiration and spiritual impulse, as they led the way to an exit for those trapped in the bunker in the film.

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It could also be the symbolism of Yoda, the master’s master whose backward prose immediately forces you to think. In fact, in the film, Yoda’s presence immediately addressed Luke (now an aged master) as a master would: as his student. Master-teachers always challenge your greatest and most hidden weakness in an effort to make you grow—even if your master-teacher is your conscience…or life itself.

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Yoda challenges Luke’s two greatest weaknesses: fear and distraction. Luke’s fear of his failure at training Jedi is hyper-apparent. His guilt at the failure to train Kylo Ren forces him to cut himself off from the Force itself and stunt his own spiritual progression, something that engaging a young student eventually breaks him out of. Yoda tells him that all parts of his being go into teaching, even his failures.

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My favorite part is watching Luke struggle with himself about setting aflame the sacred Jedi tree and the original written texts. This reminds me of our religious fetishization of text in traditional major world religions. Yoda handles this much the way of a Gnostic. He pushes past Luke’s indecision and calls forth a lightning bolt and burns the sacred relics himself. He understood that such symbols themselves hold no wisdom. It is WE that hold wisdom, whether from direct experience or via the Akashic record, which is the compendium of wisdom all of us access. Our fetishization of texts and our rigid belief that they have any intrinsic meaning forces us to focus on them rather than the process of knowing and becoming…or rather, fulfilling our potential. He calls for Luke to let go of his bonds to them. I believe here he calls for Luke to accept the wisdom of the Living Force Quigon Jinn often spoke of…the first Jedi to master becoming a force ghost (according to the comics) who could communicate with others after his death.

The second weakness of Luke’s, distraction, was something I think Luke mastered by the end of the film. Yoda says the same thing to him he said when they met, that Luke spent much of his time staring off into the distance, not minding where he was and what he was doing. Sometimes our weaknesses are actually not weaknesses, but the tools we each can use to reach our own unique potential. For Luke, by the time we find out he has projected an illusory visage of himself to distract Kylo in mortal combat in order to allow the Resistance to escape, he actually fulfills Yoda’s critique of him. In other words, his capacity to be ‘off in the distance’ is precisely what power he manifests (something I’ve never seen another Jedi do by the way). It symbolizes the ability to project one’s self astrally, but here it also demonstrates how upon turning a weakness into a gift, he achieves a state of consciousness worthy of the ultimate transformation, symbolized in the Star Wars universe by Jedis such as he, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Yoda who disappear upon death and join with the Force. It’s the transmuting from a lower state of knowing and being to a higher one (or spiritual alchemy). It can occur on any level really, and need not be dramatized in order to be meaningful. It can be changing your health through diet and healing a sickness, or studying to grow your understanding on a matter, learning a more productive yet conscientious financial means for providing for one’s family, or changing a debilitating habit and improving your overall well-being. There are various levels of transmutation, but Luke’s suggests the highest level, one of spiritual awareness to the degree where the physical realm becomes immaterial. This is an act of choice, and comes with developing past one’s own limitations and foibles. He achieves this when sacrificing for others and using his own weaknesses as strengths. Essentially, he ascends in peace and purpose.

Addendum: I want to say that I recognize that the writers of the latest films (sans George Lucas) have little knowledge of the esoteric tradition these stories originate from. I gleaned my observations from what occurred, true, but it’s clear the filmmakers and the studios don’t have such initiatory knowledge. This clip here shows Mark Hamill’s frustration with the absence of Lucas on the last few films.

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~ by Lord Amaru on December 18, 2017.

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