The new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens,” is in theaters this weekend.
I was a huge fan of the first three movies. I tried to keep up with the following ones but eventually lost interest in them. This new one though I will see. It reminds me of the earlier films.
In the second movie in the original trilogy, “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke Skywalker crashes on the planet Dagobah with his mentor and guru warrior, Yoda.
Luke is in training to be a Jedi Knight and at one point Yoda instructs him to enter a dark cave without his weapon. Luke looks at the cave and then looks around. He says, “Something is not right. I feel cold. Death.” Pointing to the cave Yoda says, “That place is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.”
Luke hesitates, “What’s in there?”
“Only what you take with you,” Yoda says.
Once in the mysterious cave Luke is confronted by Darth Vader. He draws his light saber and comes at Luke. They wrestle and Luke takes the saber and slashes off Vader’s head. He then bends down and lifts the black visor on the helmet and he is shocked to see his own face in it.
Yoda had given him a lesson in reality. The cave was a place for Luke to discover his own vulnerability to evil, to see that he, too, had a dark side.
We all do. The scene was for us as well.
Today, in our wrecked society, this could not be clearer. The dark side of the Force within us seems to be frighteningly prevalent, and winning. Our presidential campaign with its disturbing lies, obsessive fear baiting, and ugly smear tactics; the ongoing shooting of unarmed or already wounded civilians by police lost in some inhuman response; the homegrown white abortion and racial terrorists who keep murdering people with guns now celebrated in America, guns available everywhere; and the random foreign-American terrorist who kills hoping to identify with Islamic terrorists—they all remind us that evil is not a menacing form in a black cape and veiled helmet. Evil has a human face. Sometimes our own.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung invited his patients to experience the painful journey of individuation. This is coming to an inner awareness where we meet both the Divine and the human self, the light and the dark, in an understanding of acceptance and a willingness to grow into a synthesis of these two powerful forces. The Divine/Light is our capacity to love, to care, to feel compassion, to relate, to connect with others in healthy meaningful experiences. The Self/Dark is that part of us capable of evil, that vulnerability within us of going our own way doing whatever we want no matter who is hurt in the process or how much damage we do to the good within ourselves and in the world.
Jung wrote, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul.”
This seems to be where many of us are today. We see everyone who is not like us as Darth Vader, an evil presence out to destroy all we hold dear. We are so consumed with our own rightness, our own wanting to be some Jedi warrior fighting for what is ours that we fail to see that underneath the enemy’s helmet is often our own face. We are not always right and we are not always just. Sometimes we are dark and evil, too.
We need each one of us to look at our own soul. Self-reflection, not self-indulgence is necessary if we are to stop this insane back and forth belligerence, quarreling, warmongering and personal assaults on the president, our neighbors, the Pope, minorities, women, veterans, Muslims, immigrants and refugees. That stuff is devouring our humanity.
It takes courage and humility to bend down and lift the visor over the helmet and see who the enemy is. But that’s when our learning to be a fully realized human being actually begins.
© 2015 Timothy Moody