“You have a problem,” my husband declares.
He’s probably right. Another shirt with a Princess Leia graphic has just arrived in the mail. This one professes “A woman’s place is in the Resistance.” As I try it on, I must admit (again) I have a thriving Star Wars addiction. Further proof: My license plate is FORCBWU. My right arm bears a tattoo, words of the Buddha lettered in Aurebesh (a primary galactic alphabet). And I claim Jedi as one of my many spiritual paths...
To be honest, it’s more of Princess Leia issue; I realized while thumbing through a bit of Jung’s work this weekend. Psychologist Carl Jung believed that mythical characters—archetypes—reside within humanity’s collective unconscious. Outlining 12 primary types divided into subsets of Ego, Soul, and Self, Jung sought to explain our basic motivations. By understanding more about the archetype, he suggested, we can learn more about what drives our individual behavior. What’s more, these archetypes are not static, someday we might be embracing a hero archetype, the next day the sage.
Soon, mythologist Joseph Campbell also dove into archetypes, with a primary focus on the “Hero.” From this exploration, he crafted The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which is “a symbolic expression of the psychological journey of the second half of life--the journey from ego consciousness to the unconscious and back.”1
Since Jung and Campbell, authors and screenwriters have been exploring myriad archetypes and repackaging them for generations of kids. George Lucas drew heavily from Campbell’s work in creating Star Wars, redefining myth for kids living in the so-called “Space Age,” hence fueling my Princess Leia obsession.
The effect of Leia in my generation of rebellious Gen-Xers cannot be underscored. In 1977, our initial introduction to this “damsel in distress” was a mirror for the tension between changing masculine and feminine roles in our society. She was a rare female hero in a world of male superheroes. As we aged, and more pieces of the Star Wars movies were revealed, Leia seemed to grow stronger as feminine roles grew stronger. Just last year, icons of her face flooded the Women’s March in Washington, while we simultaneously mourned her death. In fact, since her death, the cult of Leia seems to be increasing. Archetype and human incarnation have merged posthumously into an iconic figure in which it is hard to separate the actress from the role from the archetype.
Consequently, over the last year, I’ve found myself more and more drawn to embracing and embodying my inner Leia. Which makes sense, because I’m on the edge of that “second half of life,” striving for a higher purpose on my own hero’s journey. I wondered, what I could I learn by consciously leaning into my archetypal identity?
Anondea Judith, in Eastern Body Western Mind, notes that our (Western) archetypal identities align with our (Eastern) sixth chakra (not to be confused with Sith chakra, of course): “In the sixth chakra we move into our archetypal identity. This identity is gained through the recognition of images and symbols that appear in our lives through dreams, imagination, art, relationship, or situations. Recognizing the archetypal significance of these symbols brings us into a larger spiritual framework. We enter a broader context of understanding, and a deeper recognition of who we are and what our purpose is.”
With Leia as my Facebook profile image, a rebel alliance logo hanging around my neck, and a lot of time on my meditation cushion, I looked inward, opening my mystical third eye to the Force. Not surprisingly, clarity appeared in the words of the Princess:
1. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
Leia tossed these words at Han as he flew into (what he thinks is) a cave… but instead turns out to be a giant space worm. It’s hard to admit we don’t always know what we’re doing. Intuition can help. When in doubt, tuning in to the intuition, imagination, and visualization of the sixth chakra can help us tap into the wisdom within, bringing answers into clarity through creative exploration.
In my teens (ok, and my 20s… and early 30s) I prided myself on being a full rebel, with a mantra of “Not that! I’m against that.” But recently I’ve realized rebellion is just a flag—a start of something. It can’t be an effective end game. Rebelliousness for rebelliousness sake is just ego… often with a side of anger and resentment. As my “second half of life” journey is unfolding, my rebelliousness is transforming into creative exploration, replacing “Not that!” with “What instead? What if?”
In fact, thanks to an eye-opening quiz on archetypes.com, I determined I’m now actually 39% Explorer, 33% Creative, and 28% Intellectual. Which seems surprisingly accurate and insightful.
Lesson: I may not always know what I’m doing, but I’m willing to take a thoughtful, creative, curious risk, rather than jumping into situations reactively. (…most of the time)
2. “Someone has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, fly boy.”
So says Leia to Han as she takes over the reins of her own rescue. Which reminds me, that ultimately, I need to guide my own destiny. While it’s true I have strong beliefs about dharma and karma, and I certainly don’t live in a vacuum, without insight and action, my life doesn’t resonate for me, it stagnates. Back to Judith’s Eastern Body Western Mind for a moment: “Insight is the ability to see within, the 'aha' of recognizing a pattern, seeing where it relates to the larger picture, seeing what it means… chakra six is the ground in which dualities meet and become transformed.”
Perceived dualities are what often stop me in my growth, unable to decide. I want to be silent, yet loud. I want my bank accounts full, but free time to do whatever I want. I want to stay young but have the wisdom of age. Working with these dualities, to allow both to exist simultaneously, is my challenge. Testing certainty, I strive to live from a place of both/and rather than either/or.
Lesson: Constantly challenging my inner perspective leads to the discernment of a path forward (which may indeed require sorting through some garbage.)
3. “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
This is the quintessential Leia quote. Often leading to the “damsel in distress” criticism, there is instead considerable strength in the statement. We live a connected life (and I don’t just mean our tech--think quantum entanglement). We can’t do everything on our own. And if we could, we shouldn’t. Finding our higher purpose often means enlisting others.
So, I forced my husband to take archetype.com’s quiz (secretly hoping he’d further expose his inner Han Solo). Turns out, he’s not a full rebel either. Instead, his 60% creative / 20% explorer / 20% advocate beautifully complements my archetype. We can creatively explore together, while his advocate-ness can balance out my intellectual side.
Lesson: Our alliances matter. While I may no longer be a full-fledged member of the Rebel Alliance, and my spiritual Jedi side is still a work in progress, it’s the people behind the group labels that matter. Our hope lies in connecting with each other, to create more far-reaching impacts on the world than we can alone.
So, my husband is likely right—I do have a problem.
And I’m also likely right—that tongue-in-cheek problem is useful. It’s fueling my inner work and insight.
But I’m not sure either of us is prepared for what will happen when I get back on the cushion to dive into my archetypal Yoda.
Read more from Sarah Bowen in her award-winning Void if Detached: Seeking Modern Spirituality Through My Father's Old Sermons.