Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Star Wars  The Force Awakens

The Emergence of the Archetypal Feminine and Discovering a Personal Access to the Force

Dennis Merritt, PhD, Jungian Analyst and Ecopsychologist

The Force Awakens arrives at a propitious moment in the history of planet Earth. Opening days before the 2015 winter solstice and the Christian version of its celebration, its ending can be interpreted as a hope that individuals and cultures will turn towards the light of greater consciousness and have the courage to confront the roots of terrorism, violence, and the harsh realities of our deteriorating environment.

1.     The Dark Side of Life

The Dark Side in The Force Awakens is led by Supreme Leader Snoke, his generals, and a mysterious leader hell bent on finding and eliminating the last of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker. Skywalker went into exile after one of his students went over to the Dark Side. The faces of evil in real life are clearly evident in the leaders of Boko Haran, Isis, and the Muslim couple responsible for the killings in San Bernardino. Where does one draw the line on the question of evil? We see the disturbed young men who murdered children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary and moviegoers at a theater in Aurora, Colorado. We are horrified by the policeman who pumped 16 bullets into a young black man on a Chicago thoroughfare. More subtle but far deadlier in the long run are the multitude of faces that created the systems, particularly in America, that funnel wealth to the top 1% of the population and deny the overwhelming scientific evidence of human induced climate change. Severe wealth inequality leads to a deteriorating quality of life for millions in terms of health, housing, educational opportunities, and increasing violence. Delaying action on the elimination of fossil fuels means greater losses occurring sooner from massive droughts, floods, severe storms, food and water shortages, and the creation of millions of climate refugees. We are all complicit in environmental degradation, for the activities of ours species will be responsible for the elimination of 30 to 50% of the other species on the planet mostly through the adverse effects of climate change. The strange December weather in the US is a timely reminder that all is not well in Bethlehem and beyond.

2.     The Force

What is the Force that can be awakened to counter evil in its many forms? In Star Wars it is defined as an energy that pervades the universe in and around everything, best described as chi energy by the Chinese.  Subtle imbalances in the bodies’ chi can be detected by body workers, sensitive individuals, and in dreams. The energies can be adjusted, but if unaddressed for too long they lead to organic damage. Western medicine is particularly good in this final stage by using an array of drugs and sophisticated operations to attack the problems. This final level in a culture and in politics is what is portrayed in The Force Awakens where it takes dramatic, heroic efforts to defeat the forces of darkness and death.

Every system has positive and negative aspects, most clearly seen with nuclear energy (x-rays for health care vs. hydrogen bombs). All processes from the human life span to the life of a star go through a cycle of origination, maturation, and eventual extinction. Ecclesiastes reminds us that for everything there is a season, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to build up and a time to tear down. (Eccl. 3: 1-8 RSV) As human systems age, be it an individual human or religious and cultural systems, there is a strong tendency to get more rigid, dogmatic, and controlling. The Star Wars saga follows the cycle of the creation and decline of empires.

3.     The Archetype of the Hero and the Emerging New Age

The immense appeal of Star Wars can be attributed to the creative, imaginative genius of George Lucas deliberately using archetypal motifs best elucidated by the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell.  Lucas admitted that he followed archetypal frameworks, especially that of the hero, described by Campbell, otherwise it would have taken him much longer to create Star Wars or it may never have happened. ( “Where the Star Wars Myths came from”)

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung offered an even broader archetypal framework for understanding our current planetary and cultural affairs. Jung described archetypes as the basic patterns of perception and behavior found in all humans, the sum total making up the collective unconscious. Archetypes like the Hero, the Divine Child, the Trickster, and the Wise Old Man can be found in all cultures across all historical periods. It was Jung in 1940 who coined the terms “New Age” and “Age of Aquarius” to label the necessary paradigm shift he saw coming in the West. (Jung 1973, p. 285) His deep analysis of the West dominated by Christianity was that Christ was associated with the Age of Pisces that began at the time of his birth 2000 years ago.  The symbol of Pisces is two fish swimming in opposite directions. The first thousand years Jung said were to build up the good side of God and strengthen the human ego; the last thousand years brought out the dark side of God like the dark side of the Force. (Jung 1969, p. 357-470; Merritt 2012a, p. 54-58) For Jung this included the development of the atomic bomb; the horrors of World War II with Nazis, Communists, and the Holocaust; the ongoing rape of indigenous cultures; and the destruction of the environment. (Jung 1961, p. 328, 329; Von Franz 1975, p. 145) Jung died in 1961 before the transformational turmoil of the sixties emerged.

4.     The Christian Myth and the Question of Evil

Jung said the Christian myth was stuck (“myths are other people’s religions”); it like all myths needs to evolve and it must address the question of evil. He saw the Western image of wholeness, of God and Christ, as being split into light and dark sides. Where we live on earth the Devil’s power is as strong as God and indeed, as Jung saw it, the Devil is the Dark Side of God, the dark side of the Force. (Jung 1961, p. 327-342; Merritt 2012a, p. 54-70) Surveys reveal that 31% of American believers have a personal relationship with an authoritarian, judgmental God. [1] This split in the foundation myth of the West affects every level of culture from the intra-psychic level to politics. The good vs. evil, God-on-my-side, my-way-or-the-highway approaches have thoroughly infected American politics and created an impasse in our interpersonal dialogues and in our political system.

5.     The Emergence of the Archetypal Feminine in the Age of Aquarius

Jung said a significant aspect of the New Age would be the rise of archetypal feminine energy. The Christian Trinity is a masculine Father, Son, and suspect holy Ghost. Catholics have at least adopted the doctrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, but there operative systems dominated by old white males in the Vatican have clearly shown a sickly Old King position in the form of clergy sexual abuse and high level cover up. [2]

The women’s movement emerged in the 1960s along with concerns for the environment, civil and gay rights, and Native Americans. Although women have achieved significant gains in America and many other parts of the world, there are still many glass ceilings and a continual erosion of reproductive rights.

Strong archetypal feminine figures are seen in the initial Star Wars in 1977 with Princess Leah and more recently with Sabina Spielrein in A Dangerous Method and of course, Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games (See my blog posts at of “A Dangerous Method Seen From A Jungian Ecopsychological Perspective, Even” and “Hunger Games From A Jungian, Political, and Environmental Perspective”). The prime mover in the latest Star Wars film is Rey, a young woman sharing with Jesus the archetypal motif of being from an insignificant backwater place of origin. Rey is at the bottom of the social order where she survives as a scavenger of parts left over from past destruction.  As is often true with heroes like Rae, there comes a point where they want to escape the burden of their roles and disappear.

6.     Dreams and The Force

A basic question for each of us is “where can we experience the transformative aspects of the Force in our lives?” There are two fundamental ways from a Jungian perspective—through our dreams and through use of the Chinese book of wisdom and philosophy, the I Ching. Dreams are like amazing movies created every night in our psyches as we sleep. Each person has within the equivalent of a great scriptwriter, casting artist, director, and producer of stories most intimately about us. They present unpleasant aspects of ourselves and continually try to move us toward wholeness as they guide us through life’s ups and downs and significant transitional moments.

Most significant are Big Dreams, dreams with a numinous or sacred sense about them.  These infrequently occurring dreams set the stage for big transitions in our lives, tell us of our true nature, and give us a sense of meaning and direction in life.  Numinous dreams about landscapes, plants, animals, and natural elements like the winds give us a personal experience of what indigenous peoples call spirit or medicine animals akin to guardian angels in Christianity. (Merritt 2012a, p. 2-4) [3] The experience over time of relating to dreams as the entrée to the unconscious gives one a sense of inner guidance and wisdom –the positive side of the Force.

This sense of something within that brings together the various and diverse elements in our psyches and integrates consciousness with the unconscious is what Jung called the archetype of the Self. It is experienced as God within and projected outside the psyche as God, Allah, Wakantanka (Lakota Sioux), etc. It is that which is experienced as eternal and of highest value in an individual and in a culture, thereby linking the inner and outer, the unique individual and the collective. Jung stunned the BBC viewers in 1959 when he said in an interview that he didn’t believe in God, he knew. He later said he couldn’t believe in anything, he had to have a reason to believe something was true or not true. He was talking about his personal experience and that of many of his clients of the sacred in dreams and in visions. (Google “’Face to Face’ interview with Carl Jung”)

The concept of the Self and recognition of the spiritual dimension of human experience as being of utmost value can be used to address ugliness of the religious wars that continue to plague human societies.  If we could realize and instruct that the Self manifests in different forms in different historical and cultural contexts, and the images of the Self can change over time, it would go a long way towards eliminating religious hatreds.

7.     The Mathematics of God and the Force

Scientists, mathematicians, and atheists can begin to relate to the Self via the concepts presented in the mathematics that began to emerge in the l960s. Complexity theory has been put on a par with relativity theory and quantum mechanics in terms of its revolutionary significance. It describes how complex systems emerge and evolve, how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and all elements are interrelated—these are all ecological principles. By increasing the energy even in simple systems, more complex systems are generated as the individual elements self-organize. Within the human psyche, what I experience as my personal father complex gets ramped up to the archetypal dimension of a domineering Old King when I experience my father complex in extremis. What brings into relationship the Old King in my psyche with the Old Queen, the Hero, etc., is the Self.  We now have the mathematics for an ecological concept of the intra-psychic experience, the interpersonal, the societal and cultural, and the human relationship with nature, culminating in the mathematics of the God experience. (Merritt 2012a, p. 46-49, 190-195; Merritt 2012c, p. 87-132) [4]

8.     Accessing the Force through the I Ching

The second major access to the experience of the positive side of the Force comes through use of the I Ching.  The I Ching is one of the oldest books in the world, first developed in 1050 BCE in China.  It is composed of 64 hexagrams, combinations of solid (yang) and broken (yin) lines. At its core it is a binomial system, the same numerical system computers run on. There are 4096 possible line combinations, each combination having a commentary describing archetypal situations ranging from the personal to the environmental.

What is amazing is that one can address an important issue to the I Ching and toss coins to generate numbers that tell one what answer to read in the book. Jung called this process synchronicity because no cause can be found to explain how the random process of tossing coins can establish a meaningful connection between a purely psychic state and the writings in a book. It has been the experience of millions of people through the millennia that it works. My experience of using the I Ching both personally and professionally for over 30 years is that it indeed does work. [5] This is the clearest, cleanest sense of being able to connect with the positive side of the Force.  There is something in the operations of the universe the Chinese call the Tao that we can connect with that will guide us in our moral and ethical behavior. There is some Force that we can approach with humility that will help us follow a path with heart and meaning in life.
This is the same Force that generates our dreams. Connections can be shown between dreams and the hexagrams a person gets about the issues being addressed in dreams. There are even dreams where hexagrams are given within the dreams. [6] This is not something one has to believe in. You try it and see if it works, both in serious dream work and in using the I Ching. You don’t have to believe you had a numinous or sacred dream or that the answer from the I Ching has an uncanny relevance to your life situations—you experience it.

9.     Synchronicity, Archetypes, and Miracles

Synchronicity relates to the most intriguing mind-over-matter elements in Star Wars. Synchronicity occurs mostly around archetypal situations like birth, death, and jealousy. We’ve all heard stories like grandma appearing at someone’s bedside at 2:05 a.m. only to find out the next day that grandma died 1000 miles away at 2:05 a.m. Jung attributed this to the psychoid nature of archetypes having an inner and outer reality, like light waves behaving like particles or waves depending on how they are looked at. The archetypal domain is the realm of shamans, holy men and women, and saints. The most profound and “miraculous” events can occur around anyone approaching the most powerful archetype, the Self, people like Jesus or Mohammed or Black Elk. The power can also be used for personal and evil intent as seen with dark shamans and Hindu myths about evil characters with tremendous power. [7] Jung said only ignorance denies the fact of synchronistic events. It is a particular problem with Westerners trapped in the belief systems of science and the Enlightenment.

The most convincing experiments proving the reality of synchronicity are described in Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home (Sheldrake 1999, p. 54-63) A continuous filming was made of the spot where a dog named Jaytee would go when his owner was coming home. Calls were made at random times to have the owner begin her journey home by public transportation. The results were statistically highly significant (p < 0.000001) that the dog began waiting after his owner had decided to head towards home.

Jung’s favorite story about the synchronistic relationship between inner and outer realities, which we can relate to Yoda’s teachings, involved a Taoist rainmaker. Richard Wilhelm, who translated the I Ching into German, was living in a Chinese village suffering from a severe drought. They called in a Taoist master who upon arriving in town immediately asked for a hut to be constructed just outside the village. He meditated and on the third day it rained. As to why it rained, the sage told Wilhelm that he was infected by the discordance in the town, which was why he had to retreat in order to enter the Tao. This was the essence of Chinese Taoism for Jung: by being in Tao the universe is in Tao “and then naturally it rained.” (Hannah 1991, p. 127-129; Merritt 2012a, p. 90-91).

Jung was equally impressed with the visionary experiences of Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux Holy Man. At age 9 Black Elk was unconscious with an illness for 12 days during which time he was given the entire pantheon of Lakota Sioux spiritual powers. (Neihardt 1972, p. 20-47; DeMallie 1984, p. 111-142) Black Elk spent his adult life, until age 37 when he converted to Catholicism, developing rituals and ceremonies to bring his visionary powers into tribal experience for wholeness and healing. After recounting his life story to John Neihardt for the biography, Black Elk Speaks, the two men visited Harney Peak, a very sacred spot for the Lakota. Black Elk performed a ceremony calling forth the spirits and out of nowhere it started to rain. (Neihardt 1972, p. 277-289; DeMallie 1984, p. 293-296) [8] 
10.  Luke Skywalker’s Challenge and Our Challenge

The Force Awakens ends with Rae offering an aging Luke Skywalker his light saber, imploring him to take up the Jedi cause of restoring the good side of the Force to a sick galaxy threatened by the Dark Side. The Celtic shaman Merlin went into exile after getting disheartened that his efforts to help mankind went awry, leading to a resurgence of the dark side. (Von Franz 1975, p. 269-287; Merritt 2012b, p. 141-147) But Jung and many others are hopeful that the destruction we see now is the consequence of the chaos created by the breakdown at the end of the Age of Pisces. The Age of Aquarius will eventually lead to a greater humanitarianism of brother/sisterhood and a spiritual evolution. [9] It is clear that the New Age will have an ecological framework.  The issue is how consciously we can move towards it rather than having it imposed upon us after considerable destruction coming from environmental disasters and a deteriorating human condition. The struggle to create a new paradigm is just beginning.

Will Luke accept the light saber and will Rae as archetypal feminine play a leading role in generating the Age of Aquarius? Will each of have the courage to face our own Dark Side and confront our own rigid and dogmatic positions? Will we be able to see that love and compassion are at the core of all religions and that compassion begins with compassion for our self? Will we accept Pope Francis’ challenge to treat all people and our planet with care and respect and to confront the false belief that the scientific evidence is not in about the human role in climate change? Will we have the strength to listen openly and honestly to other opinions and have the heart to engage in real dialogue?

The answers will come from our own actions and the new systems we create. (Reich 2015) Much is at stake for ourselves and for this beautiful planet we call home.


2. A PBS Frontline program “The Secrets of the Vatican” offers an excellent expose of the problems with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

3. My numinous dream of a typical Wisconsin meadow helped place and ground my psyche in the Midwest (Merritt 2012a, p. 3,4). It became the inspiration for developing the field of Jungian ecopsychology as articulated in the 4 volumes of The Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the Universe—Jung, Hermes, and Ecopsychology. The dream and writings gave me the opportunity to integrate my background in entomology (a PhD from Berkeley in insect pathology, microbial control of insect pests) with my Jungian training and practice as a Jungian analyst. Volume 4 of The Dairy Farmer’s GuideLand, Weather, Seasons, Insects—An Archetypal View illustrates how one can deeply connect to a region, seasons, and a life form (insects) using a combination of science, myths, symbols, dreams, Native American spirituality, imaginal psychology and the I Ching.

4. For a summary of complexity theory and its application to basic Jungian concepts and using this to describe how sacred places are created and maintained, see my article “Sacred Landscapes, Sacred Seasons—A Jungian Ecopsychological Perspective.” (Merritt 2008) Until I get this reprinted next year in A Jungian Bouquet (in preparation) I can send the reader a pdf of the article. Email your request to

5. For examples of using the I Ching in conjunction with dreamwork and the psychoanalytic process see “Use of the I Ching in the Analytic Setting” on my website The article has been translated into Chinese.

6. In a 2014 Founder’s Day lecture sponsored by the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago I presented a complex series of dreams from a man in analysis with hexagrams given in the dreams or with suggestions to cast a hexagram about an issue in the dream. On two occasions the dreamer remembered the line numbers as the hexagram was cast in the dream by a mysterious anima figure of the caliber of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.” The hexagrams helped guide the dreamer through the analytic process and showed a remarkable connection to the developing theme in the dream sequence. The analysand’s intent was to develop a deeper connection with his anima, his inner feminine side, and the dream/hexagram combination illustrated how this occurred, demonstrating a profound link between a Western psyche and a central conceptual system in Chinese culture. Meditation and neurobiology are also part of the gestalt in the dreams.

The video of this presentation can be downloaded from the Chicago Jung Institute website for $5.99 for my individual talk in the program: It is complex and has to watched at least twice to understand the many dimensions of the material. This is by far the most complex, intricate, and orderly sequence of dreams I have worked with in my 32 years as a Jungian analyst specializing in dreamwork from an ecological perspective.


8. Neihardt interviewed Black Elk in 1930 at age 67 that was 30 years after he had converted to Catholicism and become a leading figure for converting Indians to Catholicism. By 1930 Black Elk realized that Christians were not living up to Biblical teachings in the way they were treating the Indians. He knew the old ways were powerful and healing and wanted to have his life experience recorded for posterity. The Catholic Church was deeply upset that he displayed some of his old pagan powers when it rained atop Harney Peak during his visit there with Neihardt. (DeMaille 1984, p. 58)

9. Jung was committed to the idea of an emerging paradigm shift in Western culture that he labeled a “new age” and “the age of Aquarius.” Three years before he died he carved an image of himself as a woman into the side of his retreat on lower Lake Zurich. She is reverently reaching out to milk a mare. The description of this carving presented on the cover of The Cry of Merlin: Jung, the Prototypical Ecopsychologist reads like this: “Jung's relief carving on the side of his Bollingen Tower, a place he associated with Merlin. The inscription reads, ‘May the light arise, which I have borne in my body.’ The woman reaching out to milk the mare is Jung's anima as ‘a millennia-old ancestress.’ The image is an anticipation of the Age of Aquarius, which is under the constellation of Pegasus. The feminine element is said to receive a special role in this new eon. Jung imagined the inspiring springs that gush forth from the hoof prints of Pegasus, the ‘fount horse,’ to be associated with the Water Bearer, the symbol of Aquarius.”


DeMallie, R. ed. 1984. The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk’s Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, NB and London.

Hannah, B. 1991. Jung: His Life and Work. Shambala: Boston.

Jung, C. G. 1961. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Aniela Jaffe, ed. Richard and Claire Winston, trans.Random House: New York.

1969. Psychology and Religion: West and East. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. 2nd ed. H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler and W. McGuire, eds. R.F.C. Hull, trans. Princeton University Press:Princeton, NJ.

1973. Letters. Vol. 1. 1906-1950. Gerhard Adler and Aniela Jaffe, eds. R. F. C. Hull, trans. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Merritt, D. L. The Dairy Farmer's Guide to the Universe, Carmel, CA: Fisher King Press.
2012a. Volume 1: Jung and Ecopsychology
2012b. Volume 2: The Cry of Merlin: Jung, The Prototypical Ecopsychologist.
2012c. Volume 3: Hermes, Ecopsychology, and Complexity Theory.
2013. Volume 4: Land, Weather, Seasons, Insects: An Archetypal View

---------“Sacred Landscapes, Sacred Seasons: A Jungian Ecopsychological Perspective.” in George Nash and George Children (eds.). The Archaeology of Semiotics and the Social Order of Things. Oxford: Archaeopress. 2008: 153-170.

Neihardt. J. 1972. Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux as told to John G. Neihardt. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln.

Reich, Robert. 2015. Saving Capitalism for the Many not the Few. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Sheldrake, Rupert. 1999. Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home. Three Rivers Press: NY.

Von Franz, Mary-Louise. 1975. C. G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time. Hodder and Stoughton: London.

Copyright December 29, 2015

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