Last year I was introduced to Joseph Campbell and his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This book explores myths from all over the world throughout time. Myths have existed since the beginning of man’s time on earth. The depth of knowledge Campbell demonstrates in this book, from Greek mythology to ancient religions to myriad primitive societies is truly amazing. I confess my lack of knowledge of the myths discussed made it tough to get through this book.*
Nevertheless, the underlying message was clear. What Campbell suggests is that myths from across geography, time and different cultures, have developed independently and all seem to follow a similar path he calls the Hero’s Journey. How is it that unconnected societies around the world all came the same conclusions? The characters and their stories vary, but the message behind them all seem to point in the same direction.
We don’t have to go back far back in time to understand. In fact, there are plenty of modern myths that demonstrate the Hero’s Journey. Some of my favorites include the stories of Batman, Russell Crowe’s Maximus in the movie Gladiator, and let’s not forget all the incredible characters of Star Wars. In fact, it turns out that Joseph Campbell’s work was a key source of inspiration for George Lucas when he created the original saga.
The Star Wars universe is full of characters who each experience their own Hero’s Journey. The most obvious, of course, is Luke Skywalker who answers the call to adventure, experiences a series of trials, and comes out on the other side as a different person, a Jedi.
As part of his journey, Luke meets Obi Wan Kenobi, a guide, who teaches him about the Force. Obi Wan tells Luke that,
“The Force is what give a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”
This description sure sounds familiar to the unconscious that we talked about yesterday. This particular scene in the movie causes my heart to beat a little faster and sometimes, (yes, I watch this movie often), I feel the need to hold back tears. Perhaps its the “Force theme” music that plays as Obi Wan is talking. Or perhaps it’s a connection to the unconscious and my own hero’s journey that causes such a strong feeling of emotion. We can chalk these feelings up to me just being a Star Wars geek, but I think there’s something deeper going on. There is a massive Star Wars fan community that confirms I’m not alone.
Yet Luke Skywalker’s story is just one of so many stories from times past and present. The common theme is the path each hero takes and the person he or she becomes in the process. Joseph Campbell suggests that there has always been one hero, but with many different faces. So, who is that hero?
* For an easier to follow look at Joseph Campbell’s work, check out the six part video series, The Power of Myth.