Father

Father

“Dad”

I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father” – Luke Skywalker

Carl Jung wrote that the archetype of the Father was in constant struggle with the son. That struggle exists because the son is born to outlive and surpass the Father. The Father places himself between the child man and the mother, rendering the sacred bond. The son in his presence also threatens the Fathers position, he makes him redundant and replaces him. The son is the symbol of the new. The power of the Father reaches its zenith and begins to wane as he ages. The Father is the past. The old is replaced by the new and the circle continues. The story continues to be written, wisdom is passed down and the son eventually becomes the Father. The passing of the mantle from Father to son has continued since the dawn of humans and continues to this day.

In the “The Hero with a thousand faces” by Joseph Campbell, the son on his perilous quest must come to an atonement with the Father. Through his struggles the boy becomes the man that he is meant to be. To complete the journey of becoming fully integrated the man must confront and overcome the Father or reconcile with him. Atonement with the Father is necessary for individuation to occur.

Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Don’t say that Master… You’re the closest thing I have to a father… I love you. I don’t want to cause you pain.” – Anakin

Star Wars is a fictional portrayal of the Heroes Journey which follows the same stages of all great myths. The archetype of the Father and the conflict with the son looms large in the mythology both in the canon and in the expanded universe stories. The story is played out between Anakin and Obi-wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and Anakin and finally Han Solo and his estranged son, Ben.

Anakin was the divine child in the Star Wars mythology. A child with no Father. Anakin was a product of the Force and he was said to be the chosen one. The coming of the chosen one was prophesized since ancient times and promised a return of balance to the Force. Without a biological Father, Anakin found a surrogate in Ob-wan Kenobi. Over the years that Obi-wan trained Anakin and mentored him on missions the Padawan and then the Jedi felt a need to better his Master and challenge him at every turn. The relationship soured as Anakin fell under the influence of Palpatine and this led to confrontation. Obi-wan Kenobi prevailed against Anakin on Mustafar condemning him to a life of regret and Anakin a life of hell. Decades later on the Death Star, Obi-wan surrendered to his fate and became atoned.

Now I am the Master” – Darth Vader

Luke Skywalker never knew his father. The identity was only revealed to him after he had already embraced the call to adventure. The second half of the original trilogy was the unfolding of the conflict between Father and son and the eventual redeeming of Anakin by his son on the second Death Star. Love reconciled and reunited them.

Luke, I am your Father” – Darth Vader

Ben Solo had a troubled life. He was the child of two of the most famous people in the galaxy and watched his mother and father fight and go separate ways. Luke taking Ben as his apprentice also failed and betrayed his nephew. In his confusion and anger he eventually turned to the dark side believing that it bought him closer to his Great Uncle while not understanding that Anakin had been atoned and returned to the light side of the Force. Han Solo sought to reconcile with his son and return him to the mother and in doing so gave up his life. Much later Ben was atoned and reunited with his Father and the Force through self-sacrifice. The prodigal son returned forgiven to the Father with one word he had never uttered before “Dad”.

Your Son Is Gone. He Was Weak, And Foolish Like His Father.” – Kylo Ren

I walked out of home days after finishing High School and made my way to an Army Recruiters office where I took the first steps in to the life of an adult. I never saw or spoke to my father again. Our relationship had been difficult. I wanted to have a good father-son relationship but I despised him for the harm he had done over the years. I also feared him and could never hope to confront him to resolve the conflict that existed. It was easier to run and never have to deal with it. To this day I still dream of a meeting between us where we can reconcile and atone for the past.

My Father was from a remote place in the Balkans. That region had suffered centuries of war and occupation by foreign powers. It had experienced ethnic and religious conflict and genocide before the oppression of communism. The mountains were soaked with blood and tears. Fleeing that country he sought a better life in the west as a refugee and married, settled in a new country and became alcoholic.

Then there were the years I remember of turmoil, grief, anxiety and fear living in poverty with a man who had no control of his behaviours or emotions. Always the ever present alcoholism that bought utter despair. I moved out as soon as I could and went as far away as I could. 

Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware anger, fear, and aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Luke… do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor or suffer your father’s fate you will.” – Yoda

A decade ago I awoke one night and had the strangest sense that my Father had passed away. I could feel his essence passing from this world to the next. Awake with that I felt nothing but a twinge of regret that whatever I had to say to him would now never be said in person. I also realised that my journey would never be really completed because I was unable to meet my Father again before he passed away.

Not long after I learned through an anonymous phone call that he had indeed passed away as a destitute alcoholic on the other side of the country. I still have no idea how I was tracked down. After the call things got worse. I felt as if I had failed in an important endeavour. Regret of a missed reconciliation turned to bitterness. I felt creeping anxiety of my own mortality and the passing of time. Shadows seemed to crowd in. I became bitter and resentful. This of course fed the final year of my drinking which became uncontrollable. I no longer enjoyed it. The taste of alcohol was revolting and my hangovers grew worse and worse. Soon I could barely support a single drink but it did not matter. I had no choice but to drink.

One thing remains. Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.” – Yoda

The figure of my Father loomed large with every drunk. At times I felt as if I was becoming him. I feared to become the man that he was but I looked in the mirror and saw him looking back. The spiral downwards continued and so did the despair. The shadows grew darker and enclosed around me. I felt my insanity beginning to slip. Thoughts of suicide pervaded my drunken thoughts and haunted me during hangovers and short periods of sobriety.

I will never forget seeing my Father when he visited I and my brother in a state orphanage. The state had intervened and removed us from his care when I was 10. My mother had died partly from his ineptitude and was in the grave three years already. He arrived at the orphanage in a dishevelled state and very drunk. I and my brother were kept indoors, away from him. Outside my father stumbled and fell while a few boys poked fun at him and threw stones, one of the boys tried to steal his bottle as the others distracted him. It was pathetic and sad to watch. I was beyond ashamed. My father was a shadow of the man he had once been and was extremely thin and pale. A counsellor from the orphanage called the police and they came and took him away. The authorities placed him in an asylum. The memory burned itself in my mind. Decades later I could see myself becoming that person.

Dad” – Kylo Ren’s (Ben Solo) last words in the Star Wars saga.

In recovery we seek to make amends where possible. Admitting our faults, making inventory and amends brings us atonement. This often includes seeking to make amends and reconciling with family members. Parents reconcile with children. Sons and daughters reconcile with parents. It is not possible to make amends with the dead in person like Ben Solo did with Han Solo. We know that there is no way we can turn the clock back and we accept that the person is beyond our reach and amends in the physical sense are impossible. Despite that we cannot fall into self-condemnation and remorse. Amends are made daily by living in virtue and practicing principles. You can make peace with the departed through your actions. You can speak to them through prayer if you want. I eventually forgave my Father and asked for his forgiveness in return.

One of the greatest responsibilities and roles is to be a Father. Sadly we see the absence of Fathers emotionally and physically in many families. Despite what many social commentators say, a child needs the presence of the Father. Boys especially need their Father, or at the very least a male role model who can guide and mentor them into life and help them reach their potential. To those in recovery that are estranged from their parents and especially men who are estranged from their sons or fathers, seek to make amends and reconcile. Atone for the past. As hard and painful as that may be do not leave it until it is too late.

Go with the Force, always it will give you strength.

Redundant

Use your time. You’ll find one day that you have too little of it.” – Qui-Gon Jinn to Obi-wan Kenobi

Star Wars is not a simple morality play. It has to do with the powers of life as they are either fulfilled or broken and suppressed through the action of man.” – Joseph Campbell

 

When we set off on a journey eventually we come to a cross road. The path branches into two or several directions. Some of us choose the way forward quickly, some take their time. Others look back at the road they traveled and don’t choose at all. As we move through life we also find that doors will close behind us and others open. Some of us stare longingly at the doors that have closed and miss the infinite possibilities that life presents. It is the past that haunts us and the fear of redundancy that holds us back.

 

Individuation does not shut out one from the world, but gathers the world to itself” – Carl Jung

 

Redundant

Currently I find myself in a weird dilemma. I’m redundant but I’m still employed and getting paid. This means I get up, go to work and find very little to do. Any meaning or purpose in my job has dried up. The weird part is no one seems to mind. To keep me hanging around I even got a pay rise and a glowing performance appraisal. Naturally I feel a tension between the need for stability and an inner yearning for self-actualization.

 

I can sit back, take the free ride, get paid well, take leave and bonuses and keep my mouth shut. My basic needs are being exceeded. Wouldn’t most be happy with that? The alternative is to take a risk, get out of my comfort zone and find a job that provides purpose and meaning.

 

I was 10 years old when Star Wars first came out. By the time Lucas released “The Phantom Menace” 20 years ago I was 32 and married. Now my children are grown up and view my ailing passion with Star Wars with a mix of humor and sympathy. Despite my efforts they never embraced it past the third grade. The truth is I’m getting old and holding on to the past.

 

I’m fast becoming redundant both at work and at home. I have become a prisoner of my own design. Stuck in a job that is no longer meaningful and has an expiry date. Meeting obligations that will within a few short years no longer be required. By that time the years will have settled like the sand on Tatooine. I will be as old as “Old Ben”.

 

“Jung’s concept is that the aim of one’s life, psychologically speaking, should be not to suppress or repress, but to come to know one’s other side, and so both to enjoy and to control the whole range of one’s capacities; i.e., in the full sense, to “know oneself.”” – Joseph Campbell

 

Kenobi

I can relate to Obi-Wan Kenobi. If Star Wars was a depiction of true events I wonder how Obi-Wan Kenobi felt exiled and alone on Tatooine for years. Were there pangs of loneliness and regret as he stared toward the two suns dipping below the horizon at sunset?

 

Did Kenobi feel a sense of fear and anxiety in his advancing years and mortality? Was there a sense of unfulfilled purpose as he waited the years out for a prophecy to eventuate? Did he ruminate over past mistakes, missed opportunities and losses or ponder over how things could have been done differently? I wonder how he found meaning in that long limbo of his life. Did Obi-wan Kenobi feel redundant even as he stayed to protect Luke?

 

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are” – Carl Jung

 

Doors

Alexander Graham Bell said that “as one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us”. Every ending heralds a new beginning. As one opportunity closes another presents itself. Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi believed his true purpose whatever it was meant to be would some day present itself. Obi-Wan could find meaning in the years of isolation, loneliness and danger of exile.

 

 

“Individuation’ is Jung’s term for the process of achieving such command of all four functions that, even while bound to the cross of this limiting earth, one might open one’s eyes at the centre, to see, think, feel and intuit transcendence, and to act out of such knowledge”. – Joseph Campbell

 

The Monomyth

Carl Jung said that to know who we truly are we need to be complete. We must integrate all aspects of our being in order for the true self (the totality of the psyche) to emerge. The process is called individuation. Since completeness is impossible to achieve in a life time the best way to arrive at meaning is to allow ourselves to grow through life experience. One must be fully engaged in life’s journey including the struggle and suffering that comes with it. We create our own Monomyth. Each human contains within the a subconscious map of the “Heroes’ Journey”.  This “collective unconscious” is expressed in myths, including Star Wars.  They exist to help us realize our true self.

 

The ego prefers comfort and safety and resists integration. The ego will throw barriers and obstacles in our way to prevent or slow the journey. We sabotage ourselves and spend a life time looking at a closed door that we miss the doors that open for us. We stand at the cross roads immobile, rooted to the past.

 

Individuation is to divest the self of false wrappings” – Carl Jung

 

Layers

Wisdom is a product of time and experience. As wisdom accumulates we become conscious of the role of the archetypes in our lives. The archetypes are symbols that manifest themselves through the long process of individuation. In other words, we never stop evolving in to the person we are meant to be. Change is a constant and we grow in to it as the layers of our persona peel back to reveal our authentic self. The best years of our life lie ahead beyond the horizon.

 

The only choice we have is to choose and to move. In doing so we evolve.

 

I had to follow the ineradicable foolishness which furnishes the steps to true wisdom.” – Carl Jung

 

Archetypes

Obi-Wan Kenobi evolved through the archetypes in his own “Heroes Journey” in the same way that Luke Skywalker did. Along the way Kenobi experienced joy and suffering, gain and loss, pride and shame, fame and infamy, success and failure. Exile on Tatooine completed Obi-Wan Kenobi. Over the years the redundant Jedi Master outgrew the person he had been and was transformed spiritually in to something transcendent. All aspect of his conscious and subconscious were united through the experience of a lifetime of struggle and suffering.

 

The Apprentice who became Jedi and then Master and finally a Hermit was all and none of these archetypes when he met Luke, he was something far more. All Kenobi had left to do was step in to the open door and meet his destiny.

 

So every man whose fate it is to go his individual way must proceed with hopefulness and watchfulness, ever conscious of his loneliness and its dangers.” – Carl Jung

 

Paths

Paths may end at crossroad forcing us to take another direction. Doors may close requiring us to choose other doors that open. I walk the high road sober. I can walk through open doors a free man. No need to lie in the coffin of my comfort zone. Meaning can be found in a new career or I can find ample opportunity in my “weird dilemma” to apply imagination and innovation. A parent is not one dimensional but can be mentor, guide, teacher, protector, support and friend to their children in adulthood. Kenobi dedicated decades of his life to protect the child Luke while remaining hidden in obscurity. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi I can find meaning in my own exile. Like he, I can view the storm from above even though I stand within it. Life, even a redundant existence, can still mean something.

 

 

Further Reading:

 

Luke Skywalker’s Individuation” by Steve Gronert Ellerhoff. Jung Journal Culture and Psyche, Vol 9, 2015 – Issue 3.

 

The Myth is with us: Star Wars, Jung’s Archetypes, and the Journey of the Mythic Hero” by Jacqueline Botha (M. Phil Thesis in ancient cultures at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Available:

 

Becoming Whole: A Jungian Guide to Individuation” by Bud Harris ( A good introduction on the process of Individuation)