I never went to see Star Wars in a movie theater when it originally came out. Later, I saw parts of the earlier films (not sure how that happened), and some of the later films, complete. What with a new one recently released, and some talk of it on forums, I thought it was time to add the original three films to my collection, and watch them all the way through.
I found somewhat to my dismay that the original films are not available in digital format; newer sequences have been added (replacing the original ones) in almost all digital releases except for maybe one that is almost impossible to get a copy of. Star Wars devotees have gone so far as to reconstruct digital versions of those movies that are closer to the originals, risking copyright infringement attacks.
I settled for a modern copy – blue-ray plus DVD – from Walmart. Friday night I sat down and watched them, one after another.
Background (per Wikipedia, of course)
The first film in the series, originally entitled just “Star Wars,” was released 25 May 1977. It was created by a man named George Lucas. He was a filmmaker and had already made some other films, but had been working on the Star Wars idea for quite some time. He had always envisioned it as a series, but could only land a contract to make three films. Thus, he modified the story of the first film (the fourth in his series) so that it could stand by itself if it had to. He then sought help from other writers to develop the follow-up screenplays. His first helper was a woman named Leigh Brackett, a legendary science fiction writer who was over 60 when Lucas asked for her help. She had been married to and collaborating with Edmond Hamilton, a man 10 years her senior, since 1946. Hamilton was associated with the editor Farnsworth Wright who worked for Weird Tales magazine, was a Californian born in 1888 and had seen action in World War 1.
How these people got their inspiration for their work and story picks is not much discussed in their online biographies, yet is of interest to me and the alternative realities community.
But to continue with the background story: Lucas is a Californian from Modesto, about 10 years older than me. After he graduated USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (1967) he tried to join the Air Force and then the Army. They turned him down due to disqualifications. He resorted to instructing a documentary cinematography class for the U.S. Navy. I find this fascination with the military odd and unexplained. It has been noted that many artists who began their careers in the 1960s were connected with the military.
Lucas is said to have been influenced by Joseph Campbell, a scholar in comparative religion who in turn was influenced by many noted “modern” thinkers. Lucas has characterized himself as a “Buddhist Methodist” and lives in Marin County, where there is a sizable enclave of successful people from the entertainment industry and related activities.
He ended up being the principle writer on all three of the original films, plus the prequel trilogy, produced much later.
Superficially, the movies are strictly Space Opera, Buck Rogers style, to a degree approaching camp. [Camp: banality, mediocrity, artifice, ostentation, etc. so extreme as to amuse or have a sophisticated appeal – my dictionary.]
They trace the adventures of one Luke Skywalker, a young man first unaware of his previous political connections, but sympathetic to the cause of the Rebel Alliance, a group opposed to the vicious rule of the Galactic Empire, which has developed a planet-killing weapon known as the Death Star which they hope will quell any remaining resistance. The Alliance has a plan to destroy the Death Star, and Luke ends up being key to its ultimate success.
An extensive string of major and minor additional characters fill the story with an almost unending stream of twists and turns. Ray guns are constantly being fired, space battles regularly occur, and ancient secrets are revealed, as the rebels and their antagonists chase each other through a universe (or galaxy) filled with a huge variety of beings, stars, planets and moons. Superluminal speeds are commonplace!
At the end of the first movie, the Death Star is destroyed, but the evil Darth Vader narrowly escapes the blast. This episode is now entitled “A New Hope.”
In the second episode, “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke begins his training with Yoda as a Jedi knight, but interrupts it to go out and save his friends. During this episode Luke learns that Vader is his biological father.
The third episode, “Return of the Jedi,” first involves the group’s attempts to rescue Han Solo – a rascal but skilled pilot – from imprisonment, and ends on a moon called Endor, with a huge battle that, at the last minute, allows the rebels to destroy the second version of the Empire’s Death Star, incomplete, but functional. Luke learns that the rebel leader Princess Leia, is his twin sister. At the end there is great rejoicing as the area emerges from a long period of spiritual suppression.
According to the sequel stories, which begin 30 years after this (as all the actors from the original are now 30 years older), a new suppressive group called the First Order has emerged and attempts to gain control of the galaxy. This group is overtly inspired by the Nazis, according to writer/director J.J. Abrams, including the stories that they survived post-WWII in exile at various secret locations.
What I see as the most important theme
Superficially, this is just another epic Space Opera story. Its popularity, which has been almost unprecedented in the history of the film business, could be attributed to its central theme of good versus evil (where good always wins in the end), the skill of its story telling, and the attention paid by its creators to the details of cinematic art and technique.
But we should add a few other factors to the phenomenon of popular appeal: marketing push on the one hand, and on the other, the true depth of the human psyche.
What other films stand high on the list for popularity (by gross earnings)? Gone with the Wind, Avatar, Titanic, The Sound of Music, ET. And by franchise: Marvel (comic book superheros), Harry Potter, James Bond, Middle Earth, followed by many others involving magical powers.
To me, magic is the key theme in all these popular works.
I have been taught that at one time we were all capable of what today would be called “magic.” It can be broken down into a long list of spiritual abilities.
The appeal of stories involving magic lies, I think, in the abiding – if subconscious – question: Why don’t we have those abilities any more?
Almost all these stories address this question in a similar manner: Magic can be used for good or for evil. And because it can be used for evil, it is best left alone.
Most people, as much as they love these stories, would probably agree with this.
But is it true?
It is possible we are mistaken in some way about this. Star Wars gets as close to any popular story I know of in addressing this issue.
In Star Wars, the power of “magic” is in The Force. We are introduced to this concept in the scenes involving Luke’s Jedi training. The idea of such a Force is an ancient one, though I am by no means an expert in tracing the idea. However, its name betrays the slant of its namers. Force, in our language, is a physical phenomenon. However, the concept in one of its forms – that used by Frenchman Henri Bergson – élan vital (translated by materialists as “life force”) was translated by Bergson’s English translator as “vital impetus,” which is similar to Hubbard’s idea of a living urge, or an urge to be alive, or the simple essence of Life.
Hubbard does not teach that the The Force is some sort of energy field you can learn to tap into. He teaches that it is a manifestation of your aliveness, and is the only reason that matter and energy exist. You are The Force. You can manifest it to the extent that you can unlearn all the reasons why you should suppress those manifestations. And we all have lots of reasons.
The short version of the story is that we have used our magic to harm things we thought we had no connection to. The harm was thus inadvertent. But it resulted, over time, in our withdrawal from many activities which are now called “spiritual.” The solution was to educate beings on just how extensive their connections are, so that they could learn to avoid harming others while using their spiritual abilities. But instead they were convinced that they had no such powers and should stop wishing for them. And the beings who convinced them of this were people who had secretly turned to what we call “evil” and did not wish to be discovered, which is one of many beneficial ways the powers of a living being can be used.
Thus, the whole Jedi concept may be purposely (or unwittingly) misleading. As a being becomes, finally, disconnected from himself (or itself), it will turn to material technologies to make up for its own loss of power, and its only power lies in the threat of using those technologies on those it wishes to dominate. Those who refuse to be dominated can be exterminated, but that does not kill their love of freedom. Thus, most criminals end up concentrating on ways to substitute the love of freedom with more material attachments.
As the highest-level storytellers, we may suppose, are not interested in the spiritual freedom of their audiences, these films are not meant to help anyone achieve that, but only to “teach lessons.” And the primary lesson is that there is a Dark Side that is very powerful.
Our Lost History
One ability we lost was the ability to remember. Hubbard found a way to rehabilitate this, but most people have no idea that this is possible. It is not a particularly high ability, but it is important to the avoidance of psychosis. That an individual can’t remember its distant past is not that important. But for a whole society or race or species to forget its past can be wasteful and tragic. Look at how much time and effort we have spent to re-invent and re-learn the use of advanced electronic technologies and propulsion methods. These technologies are in fact millions of years old. Why can’t we just remember them?
But more important: Why can’t we remember some of the most tragic mistakes that human civilizations have made in the past so that we are not doomed to repeat them?
As Space Opera returns to this planet, after thousands of years of being only elsewhere, almost totally forgotten here, wouldn’t it be nice to have a leg up this time in how to handle it, so that things might turn out better than they did the last time? And wouldn’t it be nice to remember who the true criminals of the past were, before they regain total dominance through their materialistic technologies, and clamp down on us once again, as they have so many times before?
Some memories leak through
What we know for sure is that there is much we are ignorant of that might be important to know. The existence of a “secret space program” here on Earth is now widely theorized, though as yet a secret, except as some claim, through stories such as these. Whether Star Wars is some all-out attempt to “prepare us for something” or just the invention of some creative people, some memories of our ancient past have leaked through.
It has been more or less confirmed by Hubbard, was well as other researchers like Courtney Brown and Steven Greer, that certain “facts of life” have been kept from us:
- The universe is filled with life, including many humanoid societies much like our own. Some of those societies are ancient (compared to ours) and very technologically advanced.
- Personality survives death of the body. Thus, we all have long individual histories and have lived many other places besides here, Earth. This means that, to a greater or lesser extent, we can know those societies, as we have been members of them.
- No one likes getting their body shot up. Yet it has happened to all of us multiple times. Thus, body death is not the end of life, but only of a lifetime.
- Spiritual abilities are real. They are feared by the spiritually disabled. It turns out that’s really the main thing “wrong” with them.
- A spirtually able being is naturally ethical and will tend to act to help, not harm, anyone who it sees as connected to it.
- Once a being learns that biological bodies are operated by spiritual beings, it is more likely to respect those beings’ right to live as animals. The criminal, however, has demonstrated an inability to do this.
- Real criminals habitually cause bad things to happen in their environments. The best protection from them is to spot them early and restrict them to an environment where they can do the least amount of harm and which could assist them to recover.
- Freedom, in spiritual terms, includes the ability to operate without an animal body, or any kind of body. This is a high ability (now). Criminals fear it.
- Criminals, in their attempts to put an end to spiritual freedom, have invented technologies which can trap and overwhelm a free being and convince it to attach itself to a body. Long experience indicates this campaign has never been 100% successful.
- If you don’t like the way things are here on Earth (or anywhere in this universe, for that matter), there is something you can do about it. However, you must be willing to pay the price of freedom: “Constant and continual alertness…Constant willingness to fight back…”
- Treat with suspicion anyone who would try to convince you that these things aren’t true. They have likely decided that it is better to be a slave.
A more useful dichotomy?
[Dichotomy: division into two parts, groups, or classes, especially when these are sharply distinguished or opposed.]
Good versus Evil is an ancient and venerated dichotomy. Yet it is not one of the Dichotomies of Scientology (though it is addressed in Scientology Ethics). Apparently it is not a dichotomy with any therapeutic value.
Freedom versus Slavery is not one of our Dichotomies, either, but it is implied in several of them. Since the free tend to do good, perhaps simpler, less judgemental dichotomies would be of more use in rehabilitating one’s spiritual abilities.
Some of our most basic dichotomies include:
Survive / Succumb
Agree / Disagree
Be / Not be
Know / Know not
Cause / Effect
Win / Lose
Right / Wrong
We can see these are simply names for opposite ends of spectra of experience. The trick is to be able to move freely back and forth through these experiences without getting stuck. You are not exhorted by some heavenly pronouncement to avoid one end of any of these scales. Just don’t get stuck there! Thus if you are free and do evil, you don’t need to get stuck there, which is all that has happened to the criminal. Most action and living exists between these extreme points. It is a mixture of experience, which is what makes it interesting. A being that can move freely across these spectra of experience is spiritually able. So spiritual freedom could mean that we don’t need to be stuck in Star Wars til the end of time!