We’ve all heard the expression “all style, no substance.” Lamentably, it is a condition of the world we live in, and the so-called ‘culture’ which is dominating mainstream society everywhere we turn. While it would be unfair to say that there are no oases of meaning to be found in culture—we have previously written about what sci-fi, fantasy, and even video games can tell us about our state of consciousness and are working on an esoteric unveiling of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Gladiator—one would be hard-pressed to argue that the vast majority of what gets created and sold today in any medium is little more than mindless entertainment.
When it comes to the world of movies, it has degenerated into a world of fluff so dressed up with glitz, glamour, and CGI devoid of anything vaguely substantial, that a throwback to the good ol’ days of practical special effects suddenly qualifies as ‘meaningful’ in the eyes of die-hard fans. We are, of course, referring to the latest installment in the much beloved Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens. J.J. Abrams sequel to the original trilogy which spawned a generation of loyal Star Wars fans. To quote Francis Ford Coppola’s response to the original script presented to him by George Lucas, “what you’ve got here isn’t a movie…it’s a religion.”
So, it should come as no surprise that after the ‘travesty’ that was the Star Wars prequels—in the eyes of many of those adoring and loyal fans—a fresh new approach was needed…or rather, a fresh OLD approach…a safe, secure approach down a well-worn path that everyone would immediately recognize as genuine Star Wars. And if you believe the vast majority of reviews of The Force Awakens on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems that’s exactly what the people wanted: a fresh take on an old faithful source of entertainment—everything ‘cool’ about “a galaxy far, far away…”
That’s exactly what they got. And for the moment at least, they seem pretty pleased with it all. Disney and J.J. Abrams delivered them a genuinely Star-Warsy experience. A nostalgic thrill-ride with just enough new twists and turns to make it fresh, and just enough tease to set up the next film (which we can expect in 2017)…and very little else.
Let us be clear on terminology for a moment. By substance, we are not referring to ‘meaning’ in a typical intellectual sense—no, not by any stretch of the imagination. We are especially not referring to substance in the sense of physical matter—absolutely not. And yet ironically, it is precisely that corporeal sense of the term which evokes the correct sense of the term substance which we wish to invoke, despite the fact that we in no way, shape, or form are referring to ‘matter’ as such.
Substance has weight: as in the weightiness of a property and the property of heaviness. We even use the expression: “wow man, this is heavy,” to connote something which evokes depth of meaning; something which touches our psyche in a more significant way, beyond the superficial thrills and chills of typical entertainment. In much the same way we tend to value something which has weight to it—such as jewellery and watches—the heaviness suggests not only greater quantity of what is valuable, but also a higher grade of quality of content. The difference between 10 Kt and 18 Kt gold, for instance.
But again, we must stress we are not referring to any physical phenomenon here. It is merely essential to comprehend the timeless axiom, “as above, so below.” As we have often written, “as within, so without.” Our appreciation for weighty substances of material value in the physical world is a reflection for our deep appreciation for weighty matters of substantial value to our psyche. Not just in the mind: far deeper than the machinations of our cerebral intellect can process…and not just matters of the heart, either. No, we are referring to those matters which cut through the illusions of our mundane reality to our core and touch us in our very Soul.
This is what we mean by substance. And once upon a time, in a movie theatre far, far away…Star Wars had it.
The Magic of Mythmaking
In 1977, George Lucas and Industrial Light and Magic showed the world something they had never seen before. Yes, it was an incredible achievement in special effects, movie merchandising, a pop-culture phenomenon the likes of which no one had seen (or has seen since—with the exception of maybe Star Trek). But all that would never have materialized were it not for the essence of Star Wars—it’s deep roots in established mythology.
Not only did Lucas draw heavily on the work of Joseph Campbell, he drew inspiration from such traditions as Zen Buddhism, the Samurai warrior-monk archetype from feudal Japan, the works of Akira Kurasawa (including “The Hidden Fortress”), and others. In crafting the Star Wars universe, Lucas created an archetypal fairytale whose characters and adventures were destined to become legend—that is what made it legendary.
People may not know this consciously. But anyone with even a remotely critical eye going back and watching the film from 1977 cannot help but guffaw at the campiness, silliness, bad acting, inane directing, dumb dialogue…it’s actually not a very good film. It’s fun, sure. But fun can only get you so far. There were lots of fun, campy sci-fi films which had nowhere near the impact as Star Wars. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Battlestar Galactica, the list goes on.
No, it wasn’t the special effects, the entertainment value, the fun thrill ride, the clever banter between loveable characters, nor the chemistry of the cast members, no…none of that can explain Star Wars’s near-mythic following because there have been plenty of films which have had all of that and have not come close to touching the impact Star Wars had on an entire generation—several generations, now.
Only one thing can have that deep an impact on the world…and it is something which is at its core, very deep. It is the stuff of Shakespeare, Wagner, high art, opera, Greek tragedy…mythology…it is the stuff of folk songs, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, legends…scripture. It is Truth.
There—we said it. The ‘t-word,’ which is more frowned upon in liberal academia these days than is the f-word (as ironic as that may seem, but these are the times we live in). We of course do not mean that any of these properties directly convey Truth in any literal, superficial, intellectual way…in any exoteric way—no. Genuine knowledge cannot be transmitted thus. Any written or verbal expression of Truth is just that, an expression of it. It is through the expression that we experience Truth. It is in the experience of Truth that we come to know it. And experiential knowledge, gnosis, is unshakeable.
One’s conviction to what one knows versus what one merely believes is very different. We find that those with genuine gnosis do not have to defend their beliefs…they have no beliefs to defend. Only those who only have beliefs become fanatics, needing to violently defend their beliefs, because deep down they have no real conviction in them…they are only beliefs, after all. They cannot face facts: that they do not know. The insecurity of not knowing is unbearable to the ego, and so it lashes out against the world and anyone threatening the sandy foundations on which their so-called convictions are built. Those who know have the confidence of their knowledge. They know what they know, and that is all.
Liberal intellectuals tend to go nuts when confronted by this. They immediately leap to quoting Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and all the other post-modernist theorists of the deconstruction movement (at least, that’s what they did when we studied English Linguistics in university decades ago…they may have moved onto to something else by now). Regardless, it will be some form of intellectual relativism / nihilism whereby they assert there can be no objective Truth, because everything is experienced subjectively through the mind.
Liberal intellectuals know nothing of the esoteric experience. They are completely ignorant of anything beyond their mind, and they project onto the universal experience of all humanity the limitations of their own shortcomings. Just as modern psychologists believe they know what archetypes are because they interpret them superficially and intellectually, then make sweeping statements about humanity’s invention of mythology as some primal need inherent in the intellectual animal. And they are correct—the intellectual animal desires the comfort and security of superstition, superficial literal interpretations of scripture, dogmatic religious beliefs and the fanatical tribalism it and their associated organizations feeds. But all that is in the mind; on the surface. None of it has any real weight, and none of it holds any water. Esoterically speaking, it is all fluff. Pure illusion; or, more aptly put, pure delusion.
Knowledge is power. But the reality is the intellect cannot hold true power, and facing the reality of that fear, the mind tries to TAKE POWER by creating the illusion of knowledge. The mind THINKS it knows. It does not know. True knowledge—experiential knowledge, gnosis—is a faculty of consciousness. And it is precisely that consciousness which found a deep, refreshing, nourishing current of Truth running beneath the special effects, sounds, etc of the original Star Wars trilogy.
This is what no one seems to remember coming out of the theatre (because they were too mesmerized by what was on screen and were not in observation of themselves)…Star Wars made us feel POWERFUL. Star Wars gave us an experience of KNOWLEDGE. That we couldn’t figure out what it was doing to us intellectually is because Star Wars wasn’t feeding our intellect, nor our emotions, nor any reasonable sensibilities about what a ‘good film’ is. Truth belongs to the consciousness, and with a mind so caught up in the superficiality of what’s going on, only the faintest glimmer of consciousness is there to experience that underlying yet very deep current.
And yet we ALL EXPERIENCED IT. The symbols and archetypes so veiled in glitz, lights, and explosions could not be hidden from our consciousness, not when Lucas so consciously made an effort to embed them in his story/movie. Lucas made a conscious effort to imbue Star Wars with the timeless Truths which have permeated story, legend, and myth throughout the world and all time…and he succeeded. And that is why Star Wars succeeded.
That is the true magic of Star Wars…NOT Industrial Light & Magic (apologies to ILM). And as every esotericist knows, where we find true magic, we find true power, for magic is possible only with knowledge, and knowledge is power. This is the very essence of Star Wars—to use the Force, one mustknow the Force…one must feel it. At no point does anyone say “understand the Force.” They say “may the Force be with you.” This is not an expression for the intellect, which must take and consume what it believes it knows…it is an expression for the consciousness which knows through direct contact…by being.
The Impotence of ‘Movie Magic’
Fast-forward 30 years, three prequels, countless video games, TV shows, toys, spin-off’s, digital remastering, conventions, fanboy rants, fan theories, and even fan edits and films.
Every religion under the sun is born, divides into many sects, and dies. The law of entropy applies to all manifest things. If Francis Ford Coppolla was right—and history to-date seems to indicate he was—and that Star Wars started out as “a religion,” than its fate will be no different than every other religion.
In other words, in its original form, Star Wars had at its core an underlying current of powerful archetypes and deep Truths. The form these took were in many ways completely novel, in some ways revolutionary, and in every way captivating and almost hypnotising. As a result, the minds of a generation of Star Wars fans became fixated on what they THOUGHT they really loved about Star Wars. They became ‘believers’ in Lucas’s religion without actually getting to know the Truth hidden within themselves—deep within the consciousness of their own psyche—which Star Wars stimulated and ’empowered.’ So, it should come as no surprise, then, that in the decades which passed, advances in filmmaking technologically led to improvements to ‘the Star Wars movie magic’ while forgetting the deep undercurrent which was the true ‘secret sauce’ of the original.
In their desperation, a legion of fanboys and critics lashed out at Lucas and his “juvenile, imbecile” prequels. Of course, in its desperation the ego-mind will always seek to lay blame…it needs a scapegoat, someone to make responsible for “why this just doesn’t feel like Star Wars.”
And, another truism of ego-mind: it is destined to repeat the same errors over and over again—just like any other mechanical system or program. If audiences didn’t connect consciously to the real source of magic in the original trilogy, they certainly weren’t going to connect with it in the prequels!
And yet, isn’t it funny how everyone hated what Lucas did with his “digitally remastered” original trilogy? They felt like he was somehow bastardizing something which was sacred. They couldn’t put their finger on exactly what it was, or why, so again: they blamed the CGI, the whole “Han shot first” scandal, etc.
All they knew was that their beloved Star Wars had lost that feeling. And they wanted to feel the love again. Enter J.J. Abrams and “The Force Awakens.”
What Star Wars fans got was, as we pointed out at the start of this article, a very Star-Warsy looking, sounding, feeling, swooshing, blasting, quipping, slashing, swashbuckling, brooding, and all around StarWarsing blockbuster.
And it is impotent. Star Wars The Force Awakens gives people what they think they want the same way Viagra saves marriages…by artificially giving people the means to pleasure themselves…not because conscious love and awakened Kundalini rekindles a deep spiritual connection allowing people to know each other’s souls once more. (Of course, that’s very difficult to do with fornication, but that’s a topic for another post).
The point is Star Wars is going the way all properties of substance go. Just as today intellectuals read mythology as quaint legends and fantasies of a primitive humanity, and parents read nursery rhymes and fairy tales to children with NO conscious awareness of the timeless Truths they convey (there’s that t-word again), a new generation are flocking to see and appreciate a movie franchise for all the wrong reasons, forgetting what it is they REALLY love about their beloved Star Wars. It’s because they never really knew what they really loved about it…it was just beyond their consciousness, as it still is. They really WANT to like this new film, and insofar as it hits all the right Star Wars notes, they practically have to love it, otherwise, they’ll have a mental breakdown.
But for those of us who know…for those of us who actually followed the advice of Obi-wan Kenobi, Yoda, et al to “feel the Force”—well, sorry Disney & J.J., the Force awakened in us a long time ago, in a theatre far, far away…and lamentably, in your Star Wars film, it slumbers on.