Friday, May 4, 2012

Deus ex Star Wars?

Happy Star Wars Day!

So, in honor of this happy day, religious themes in Star Wars, anyone?

Darth Vader is a variation of Dark Father. Coincidence? Luke's last name is Skywalker. Fluke? Darth Vader was once a well-intentioned Jedi that fell from grace. Happy accident?

You decide.

Here are a few similarities to religion that make us think:

Christianity - As in many stories (The Matrix comes to mind) the main character, Luke Skywalker, is propped up as a Jesus figure, a messiah, that is destined to save the world. He begins as a humble farmer  that, because of circumstances beyond his control, is launched into a series of events that lead to his destiny.

Like Jesus, the Dark Side tempts Luke. Vader wants him to join the Dark Side, promising immense power in return. It's the Temptation of Luke.

There are mountains of Christian connections in the movies that I won't get into here. They've been done to death. Below are some lesser-known similarities.

Judaism -  During the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Jews waive the lulav, a long and straight palm branch. It symbolizes the unity of the Jews. There is a correlation there to the light saber, which is symbolic of the unity of the Jedi. It's interesting to note that lulav storage involves fitting two plastic cones together over the lulav, making it look like a light saber. Although, I wouldn't count on it to sever a hand.

Also, according to Ben Kenobi, "the force surrounds us, and penetrates us, and binds the galaxy." This is reminiscent of the lulav song "Hashem is Here":
Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere.
Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere.
Up, up, down, down, right, left and all around, here, there and everywhere,
that’s where he can be found.

Scraps: Yoda is hebrew for "the one who knows." The name Chewbacca sounds an awful lot like the Hebrew ts'va-chah, which means to scream or growl. I think Chewy did a lot of that, no? Finally, didn't we all think "Bar Mitzvah!" when C3PO was hoisted into the air on a chair while the Ewoks held him captive?

Zen Buddhism - Alright, so Kenobi's description of the Force also applies to Buddhism. And, yes, many of these themes can fit nicely into several religions. Force push me, why don't you?

Probably the two most notable aspects of Buddhism in Star Wars are the concepts of the Force and a Jedi's lack of attachments. In Buddhist teachings, attachments lead to wanting, which leads to suffering when those wants are not fulfilled (Which leads to the Dark Side?). Same goes for Jedi. Padme asked Anakin if Jedi are allowed to love. Anakin said that such attachments were verboten. Okay, he didn't use that word, but we know he meant it. What he did say was, attachment and possession are forbidden and that compassion was central to a Jedi's life. In other words, no big screen televisions for Jedis. You'll have to get your soap opera fix elsewhere, Yoda. Another example of no attachments is seen at Yoda's place. I mean, come on, that place was a hovel, right?

Buddhists also teach compassion. One cannot obtain true elightenment without it. In Star Wars, Luke's decision to take his father's mask off instead of slicing and dicing is the ultimate example of compassion found in the movie. Dare we say, it is the most memorable moment of all the movies.

Scraps: Padme means "lotus" in the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum."

There are plenty of other religions that have their holy fingers in the Star Wars pie. Taoism (Yin and Yang) and Zoroastrianism (duality of Good vs Evil) are two others.
George Lucas himself has stated in numerous interviews that he pulls themes and concepts from various religions.

What other religions can you spot? What are the themes?

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