Swamp with sunrise

Luke Skywalker and Yoda: Meeting the Inner Master

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The Hero’s Journey is an important part of the story of humanity throughout the ages and cultures of the world. Fabulously and dramatically it recounts the human being’s internal process of liberation, transformation and restoration. Personifications of conscious and subconscious aspects along with other inner principles make up the dramatis personae of this universal account.

Luke Skywalker is the original Star Wars trilogy’s hero. During the second installment, The Empire Strikes Back from 1980, he is tasked by his mentor, Obi-Wan, to seek out the Jedi master Yoda on the remote planet Dagobah. Here, Luke is to be trained in the ways of the Jedi.

Let us cast a glance at this episode. Can we recognize it as a description of a psychic process happening within ourselves?

After some adventures Luke reaches the planet. His vehicle is a fighter spacecraft – small, agile, unobtrusive yet well-armed. Luke is accompanied by his trusty droid R2-D2 who personifies practical intelligence. The planet Dagobah turns out to be a quagmire shrouded in fog. When Luke tries to land he crashes the fighter in the swamp. R2-D2 is devoured by a water-dwelling creature but quickly spat out again, on account of being indigestible.

Luke salvages what he can from the sinking fighter craft and makes camp. Brooding despair threatens to get the better of him when, all of a sudden, an absurd figure reveals itself: only about knee-high, green-skinned, with a wrinkly, good-natured face and long, pointy ears. The figure is clad in coarse threadbare cloth seemingly as ancient as its wearer and rests its weight on a gnarled little stick. Luke is out of his depth at what to make of the little creature – who soon turns out to be Yoda.

Yoda’s training is difficult and frustrating for Luke. His restless mind does not get satisfying answers. What’s more, Luke continues to fail Yoda’s tests – except the decisive one: despite the constant beckoning of despair he does not give up.

Meanwhile his fighter has almost completely been swallowed by the swamp. Yoda tells Luke to use the Force and lift it but that seems impossible to Luke. Eventually he gives in: “I’ll try”. But with a not-so-faint-air of impatience Yoda replies: “No! No try! Do – or do not. There is no try!”.

Luke fails. “You want the impossible!”, he tells Yoda sulkily. But Yoda raises his hand towards the fighter, lifts it from the swamp effortlessly and places it on firm ground. Luke is stunned. It is a pivotal moment. “I can’t believe it!” – “That is why you fail.”

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