“The force be with you, young Skywalker.” – Yoda, in Star Wars
Change is hard. For most, it exacts a high price: anxiety, loss of confidence, high emotion, and persistent confusion. But if we can, if we can …let go our normal habits around trust and engagement, then the benefits that follow are often manifold and great. Provided we know what we are doing.
Joseph Campbell, the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), outlined an archetypal pattern that all journeys take: Departure, Initiation and Return.
- Departure is separation. We let go of normal habits and consciously engage with the unknown.
- Initiation is immersion and submission. Not only do we separate from our normal routine, but we become immersed in a world not of our choosing. We are made to submit to a power greater than ourselves.
- Return is the good part. The high price has been paid; anxiety and confusion subside. We have skills, knowledge and power to do things in new ways.
What a blessing it would be if every story ended with this type of return? But fairy tales have endings that don’t “measure up” to life. Sometimes our “return” feels like a defeat, and it’s unclear whether the risk was worthwhile. In essence, our journey was a dud.
Now, that is a very limited reading of the development that is being evoked. Understandable, but limited.
Upon a closer look examination, every stage of Campbell’s journey includes many friends, allies, supernatural beings, and personifications of personal destiny. (After all we are engaged with the unknown.) Strangers offer aid and assistance which the hero willingly accepts. And that really is the developmental miracle implied by the journey. Every hero myth ever told is a parable of learning how to draw upon the inner strength needed to join with others in search of new answers and solutions. It’s not that we do it alone (or even that we succeed), but rather, that we do it to realize the dreams and encouragements of others which have now become our own.
So what does this tell us about the serpent devouring its tail (and about awareness as a human endowment)?
As Margaret Wheatley says, “Relationship is all there is…Nothing exists in isolation.” The serpent devouring its tail is a representation of renewed connectedness continuously engaged. Once you accept the idea that nothing exists in isolation, friends, allies, and personifications of personal destiny can exist everywhere – even from within the unknown. Awareness expands to look favorably upon the unknown.
And why is immersion and submission so critical to the hero’s journey? Immersion represents our dependence on the unknown. Every initiation ritual immerses its subject in a total environmental surround that prevents normal or conscious response. Dependence on others, especially those who can support and encourage, sets the stage of a new type of independence. The unknown becomes friendlier and more tolerable because we are invited to stay in this new state of immersion.
And submission? Does submission create isolation (the opposite of Meg Wheatley’s comment)? Not really. It only generates the conditions that enable us to join something new.
Submission is an encounter with a power that presses down until some part of us dies in the struggle. Every submission invites new relationship. And as we fall back into the well of our own experience, drawing insight from buried and forgotten places, new truths are uncovered. We become different. We have accepted the invitation to learn.
And everything that follows from submission is impossible without 1. our relationship to others and 2. the inner willingness to join. Submission is necessary to create availability and willingness; however, by itself, submission cannot be the reason for new independence. After submission, we must care for ourselves and others with either the same or even more commitment.
Evil blocks the renewal of independence and the capacity to care both for ourselves and others. Evil is submission for no purpose and with no end.
So when Obi-Wan Kenobie, says, “Trust the force Luke,” .. here is the invitation to be bigger, to extend relationship and renew connectedness. And when we know what we’re doing, we give ourselves over to that which is greater than us based on the invitation that arises from submission. It’s not that Darth Vader craved our submission, rather it is because Obi-Wan was inviting it.
The force be with you. Thanks for listening!