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Star Wars mania has befallen the world. Have you ever wondered what Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter have in Common? And what’s it got to do with you, anyway?!
The Force Awakens on Friday, December 18th, when the 7th episode of Star Wars blasts out of theatres around the world. Tickets are already on sale, as possibly the biggest movie of all times is about to sweep our imaginations away.
Away into a make-believe world of intergalactic warfare, strange creatures, powerful lasers, unpronounceable names that are on everyone’s tongue–a saga of galactic proportions. This isn’t just a box-office hit like Titanic and Jurassic Park, there’s something special about Star Wars. We could call it Star Wars mania.
Twitter said there were more than 17,000 tweets a minute when the trailer aired Monday night and over 1.1 million tweets since then.
Facebook reported that 1.3 million people had 2.1 million interactions related to “Star Wars” within the first hour of the trailer screening. Even Mark Zuckerberg commented on the official fan page, writing “this looks amazing. I love Star Wars.”
Let me ask you a question.
Do you know the man behind the Star Wars’ story?
Oh, you might think it’s the saga’s father, George Lucas … or Disney now that they own the franchise.
Well, no, it’s a rather obscure, unheard of individual named Joseph Campbell.
Who’s he? And why is The Explanation interested in a fantasy movie like Star Wars?
Joseph Campbell was a man who died in 1987 after devoting the better part of his scholastic life to the deep study of Mythology and Religion, especially Eastern Religion. He became an expert in those fields and taught at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, NY, for 38 years. This College is in the top 100 Private Colleges in the USA and was considered to have the best faculty of any College in 2013 by the Princeton Review. That’s the level we’re talking about.
In 1944 Joseph Campbell co-authored an in-depth study of James Joyce’s ‘Finnegan Wake’ which has the fortunate or unfortunate reputation as being one of the most difficult to understand fiction works of all time because of its ‘chaotic writing style and format.’ Campbell posited that this book around the family Earwicker with father, mother and three children could be read as a novel with characters and an internal coherent plot. This period in the mid-20th century saw the rise of the ‘New Criticism’ movement in literature which demanded ‘internal meaning’ in a literary work.
From this concept of ‘internal cohesion’ or a story with a meaningful tale to tell, came the concept of ‘monomyth’. Remember that Campbell was a student of comparative mythology and comparative religion. In 1949 Campbell authored a book entitled ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’. This book sums up the theory of ‘monomyth’ which means ‘one myth’. If I put it another way, ONE Hero with a THOUSAND Faces.
Campbell was trying to reveal that all the THOUSANDS of myths and even the religions are ‘related’. They’re all based on ONE story. As you can imagine, he was met with great skepticism… as this concept is today.
Here’s the story of which a family composed of a father, mother and children are the heroes:
Others have expressed this UNIQUE story with various steps:
|Act||Campbell (1949)||David Adams Leeming (1981)||Phil Cousineau (1990)||Christopher Vogler (2007)|
|I. Departure||1. The Call to Adventure|
2. Refusal of the Call
3. Supernatural Aid
4. Crossing the Threshold
5. Belly of the Whale
|1. Miraculous conception and birth|
2. Initiation of the hero-child
3. Withdrawal from family or community for meditation and preparation
|1. The Call to Adventure||1. The Ordinary World|
2. The Call to Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting with the Mentor
5. Crossing the Threshold to the Special World
|II. Initiation||6. The Road of Trials|
7. The Meeting with the Goddess
8. Woman as Temptress
9. Atonement with the Father
11. The Ultimate Boon
|4. Trial and Quest|
6. Descent into the underworld
|2. The Road of Trials|
3. The Vision Quest
4. The Meeting with the Goddess
5. The Boon
|6. Tests, Allies and Enemies|
7. Approach to the Innermost Cave
8. The Ordeal
|III. Return||12. Refusal of the Return|
13. The Magic Flight
14. Rescue from Without
15. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
16. Master of Two Worlds
17. Freedom to Live
|7. Resurrection and rebirth|
8. Ascension, apotheosis, and atonement
|6. The Magic Flight|
7.The Return Threshold
8.The Master of Two Worlds
|10. The Road Back|
11. The Resurrection
12. Return with the Elixir
The influence of ‘monomyth’ on George Lucas is that he said that various concepts of the original myth stories have been incorporated into the present saga. He just modernized it, bringing it into the space age, but the characters and plot are age old. Lucas in not alone in this, many films, books, and characters are based on Campbell’s concept of the monomyth: From the Lion King, to The Matrix, Batman, Indiana Jones including Harry Potter (this is what they have in common) all the way down to Dan Brown’s character: Robert Langdon.
I’ll add another discipline here, the opera: The Enchanted Flute. Much more could be said on this subject, but that will be for other occasions.
What interest is this for The Explanation?
There’s an underlying question here which the propagators of the idea of ‘monomyth’ do not broach. Let’s get the scenario: Remember, there are a thousand faces… and undoubtedly many more. These ‘faces’ or facets or representation of the ‘hero’ are spread around the world both in the Occident and the Orient, they pervade literature, movies, books, mythology, philosophy and religion.
Think about this. We’re talking about different people, different cultures, different languages, different ways of thinking, different modes of life, different philosophies, different religions, different…
HOW CAN such incredible DIVERSITY give birth to just ONE hero?
That’s the real story behind monomyth… and that’s why The Explanation is interested in this subject. Somewhere, there’s UNITY in the myth and religion of the people of the world. How can this be?
The Explanation starts out with asking the right questions before we come up with the proper answers. To be continued.
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