As far as we know so far, in the life of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, we see a growth from farmboy to hero; from innocent child to mature adult. The unspoken thing in each of those phrases is the path in between. Luke went from moisture farmer to student to hero pilot. He went from his innocence, through an awakening to a cause which resulted in a mature Jedi. A deep and true transformation of the state of his personhood, as well as his soul, was effected. He went through a process of purification, illumination and union with the Force.
Admired by the whole galaxy, Luke Skywalker is a hero who burst onto the scene in, what may seem to the observer, a quick rise to prominence. The man who destroyed the first Death Star and who put the Galactic Empire on the run, did so through his unwavering love of his erring father. He unites the cause of the Rebellion and is pure in his intentions. His ascendancy from moisture farmer to general is a case study in the development of the human person. This progression is a good way to talk about the theological concept of theosis – the way in which human beings find their ultimate fulfillment by becoming more and more like God, ad infinitum and never being completed.
When we first come upon Luke, he is a cocky but immature teenager who is trying to shirk his work and meet up with his friends. He is a bit resentful of his Aunt and Uncle because they are keeping him on the farm in order to shield him from the dangers of the galaxy. He is living on a desert planet. The desert has been and still is seen as a place of purification. John the Baptist went into the desert to get away from the allurement of the material world and to unite himself with God. Luke is trying to get away from the very same thing. He wants to leave the desert and taste the sweet things of Anchorhead. What he does not realize at this immature age is that he is being purified for his inheritance, to follow his destiny. Luke is no mystery to Uncle Owen. Ben is keeping a close watch waiting for the moment when the boy will be ready to restore balance to the Force. But for now, the naïveté needs to be purged so that the next steps of his growth and development will take sure root.
This is the level of purification. It is during this phase of spiritual development that one realizes that there is something greater and better which ought to be sought after. As children, we often yearn to be more mature (and now that I am in my mid 30s, I am not sure when that is supposed to happen). In order to begin that journey, a spiritual soldier needs to prepare for that journey. We need to purify our lives – reject all things that stand in the way of true fulfillment and train ourselves in beneficial spiritual exercises. The obstacles to Luke’s growth were his desires to follow after his friends. He was tied to a farm that he longed to leave. When his opportunity arises, we see the purification process through the rest of the events leading up to the Battle of Yavin. Through saving the princess, we see the change from the thrill of the adventure to desiring to be part of the larger quest to overthrow the evil empire. His motivations become pure, and are guided at that point by the Force itself, through the voice of old Ben.
In The Empire Strikes Back, we find our heroes on the run. Having found a base on Hoth, they are now living solely for the opportunity to survive and spread their message. Luke receives the message that he needs to leave his friends for a little while to complete his training in the Jedi arts. After the evacuation of Hoth, he leaves for Dagobah without any reservation. It is there that he is given knowledge that he never even knew to ask for before. He is illuminated with a knowledge that was kept safe from all harm. It is a knowledge of the deeper mysteries of the universe. For the Church, “Only in the state of illumination does divine grace makes possible the contemplation of the divine light,” (An Introduction to Orthodox Spirituality at www.goarch.org).
The final step of spiritual maturity in Luke’s life is shown to us upon his arrival at Jabba’s palace. A confident man, even one who is not quite able to master his new-found powers, arrives to confront the gluttonous one who is oppressing his friends. He is clothed in the garb of a Jedi. He is powerful, and is using it for the good of those who cannot help themselves. This man is no longer selfish, but utterly selfless. He is one with the Force. He is open to the other and receives it willingly. He passes it on for the betterment of his friends. In the life of a spiritually mature person, we see the same dynamic. Having gone through purification and illumination, the interactive part of the spiritual life begins in earnest. This is known as deification, or theosis. Here is a good example of it in the Star Wars universe: Obi-Wan says “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” And when Luke is in the Emperor’s Throne room on Death Star II, he says “I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You have failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” He knows that, even if he were to die, it would be an act of selflessness that would unite him with the Force. It is only when this life is not lived for itself, but for the life to come, that one has begun to work on deification. Like I said, I am young. This has not happened for me personally yet. I still fear death, but only because I fear that I have not achieved the spiritual heights that the Lord has asked of me. Luke overcomes evil, saves his friends and millions of others, all out of his belief in the other (the Force) to bring the right things into being. It is my belief that God does all things through His people, His friends. It is the utter adherence to this belief that will be a hallmark of someone who has risen above the selfishness of our current society and made some progress on the path to unity with the almighty creator.
As we prepare to see the next chapter in the greatest movie franchise of all time, it will be interesting to see how Luke handles the great heights to which he has risen in light of the length of years he has survived. There is great power in spiritual growth, but also immense dangers and perils that can only be overcome through intense cultivation of spiritual gifts.
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Please leave comments on this and all my posts – I really look forward to it. You can find me on Twitter at @adelphotheos and email at jamesw@CoffeeWithKenobi.com, occasionally at TheForceandFaith.blogspot.com as long as I am not listening to the latest edition of the Coffee With Kenobi podcast!Powered by Sidelines