George Lucas has said that all of his movies “are about one thing: the fact that the only prison you’re in, is the prison of your mind, and if you decide to open the door and get out, you can”1. In other words, his movies are about the transgressing of limits or boundaries. In the Star Wars Prequels, Anakin very much wants to escape all of the limits that have been placed on him. After all, Anakin was sold into slavery at a young age. In consequence, his life is characterized by compensation against the limits he experienced during slavery. As a child, Anakin’s talent for transgressing limits works to his benefit, but as an adult, an enantiodromian shift occurs. The need to transgress limits no longer serves to free Anakin but imprisons him instead. This shift is preceded by a key change in motive.
According to Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who in turn was influenced by Greek philosopher Heraclitus, enantiodromia means “a running contra wise”2. To elaborate, this means that when the conscious attitude becomes too extreme, it will transform into its opposite. For example, an overabundance of yang will transform into yin, and vice versa2. In Anakin’s case, this means that his compulsion to transgress limits becomes a prison itself. This compulsion exceeds its optimum when his motivation shifts from compassion/selflessness to fear/greed. When Anakin is fearful, he mistakes the death of his wife as a limit that must be transgressed, instead of seeing it as an opportunity for expansion or liberation.
Not only does George Lucas explore the transgression of limits through his characters, but he also practices it in his creative process. At Star Wars Celebration 2017, Dave Filoni, director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, described what he learned from working with George. He said:
“When you’re coming on board to direct this major franchise that all of you love and around the world people love, it is easy to get overwhelmed by that and that idea. And that is going to limit you and more importantly limit your creativity if you become afraid of it. So, you can never be afraid of things, to try things, to experiment…To do things that have never been done. When we would find something that a lot of people would say, ‘Well, you can’t do that.’ It’s the first thing George would say, ‘Okay, we’re going to do that'”3.
In The Phantom Menace, Anakin is assailed by characters who try to limit him. One of his childhood “friends” tells him that his pod is “never gonna run,” and Sebulba insists before the race “you won’t walk away from this one, you slave scum.” Anakin responds to both of these versions of, “Well, you can’t do that,” with his own version of, “Okay, I’m going to do that,” by insisting that his pod will run, and rebukes Sebulba’s threat with, “don’t count on it, slimo!”
In Revenge of the Sith, when Yoda advises Anakin that “death is a natural part of life,” or when the Jedi permit Anakin a seat on the council, but do not grant him the rank of Master, all Anakin hears is Sebulba echoing in his ear, “Well, you can’t do that.”
While child Anakin and adult Anakin have the same goal: to transgress all limits placed on them, they differ in terms of motivation. In The Force featurette on The Empire Strikes Back Blu-ray from 2011, Lucas outlines the difference between the light side and the dark side of the Force, saying that, “one is selfless, one is selfish”4. The dark side is all about the selfish or greedy desire for pleasure and the fear of losing that pleasure. The diabolical twins of fear and greed are the locks on the doors to the prison of the mind. Selflessness and compassion are the keys to unlocking the door to the prison.
Padmé, of course, is ground zero for Anakin’s greedy and compassionate motivation. In The Phantom Menace, Padmé is stranded on Tatooine. Anakin’s goal is to win the prize money from the podrace so that Padmé can repair her ship. This means Anakin is helping Padmé go where he cannot follow. After all, Anakin is unaware of the fact that Qui-Gon has arranged for Anakin’s freedom should he win the race. Therefore, Anakin isn’t participating in the race so that he can keep Padmé in his life, he is racing out of a selfless or compassionate motivation to help Padmé and his friends. In Revenge of the Sith, by contrast, Anakin is trying to prevent Padmé’s death because he is afraid of losing her. He even begs Darth Sidious, “help me save Padmés life, I can’t live without her” (acting as his own Sebulba!). Here we can clearly see how the attempt to transgress against death is imprisoning his mind instead of setting it free.
In an interview with Seth MacFarlane, Lucas explains the prison of the mind in alternate language when he unpacks the symbolism of one of Star Wars‘ most iconic images: the binary sunset. He describes the sun as “being outside the box,”5 which is just another word for prison. In addition, the sun is also “the essence of change”5. When Anakin is about to leave his mother he laments, “I don’t want things to change,” to which his mother responds, “You can’t stop the change. No more than you can stop the suns from setting.” Here, he overcomes his fear of change and leaves his life with his mother behind. His mother reminds him of this lesson again in Attack of the Clones when she passes away in his arms. This makes sense, given that death is one of the most extreme forms of change that there is. Anakin mistakes change and death for limitations, limitations he promises to overcome when he insists that, “I will even learn to stop people from dying!” So, resisting the natural rhythm of life and death that Yoda spoke of is like resisting the natural rhythm of the sun.
The funny thing is that by trying to be limitless all the time, Anakin comes to fear limits, even though fear is the very thing that limits him. So, by trying to be limitless, he achieves the opposite of what he hopes to accomplish. This is the essence of enantiodromia.
Despite Lucas practicing this transgression of limits in his own creative process, in the Prequels we see him nuancing this view. It is like he is admitting, “transgressing limits is good, but be careful because if you are afraid, what appears good can actually be bad.” Even though limits are to be transgressed, they should not be transgressed out of fear, but out of joy and compassion instead.
If this all sounds contradictory that is because enantiodromia is paradoxical by nature, which is better expressed through imagery than words. Therefore, there is no better way to conclude than to return to a variation on Lucas’ image of the sun. Anakin wants a life outside the box so badly, that it is like he is trying to shrink the sun down and bottle it up so that he can tuck it away in his pocket. This gives him the illusion of limitlessness. After all, if he confines the sun in a bottle, it can never set. Of course, if the sun is confined in his pocket, it can never light the world either. Furthermore, by pocketing the sun, Anakin disconnects himself and the sun from what Dante called “l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle” (l. 145, Canto 33, “Paradiso”). Paradoxically, allowing the sun to run its course and set, is to not fear the limit, which is the true path to limitlessness.
Rendering a thing static or permanent does not make it limitless.
The following is my Star Wars inspired visual interpretation of an alchemical poem from the Verus Hermes (1620), as cited by Jung in his paper “The Spirit Mercurius,” located in Volume 13 of The Collected Works, pp. 228-9.
At the beginning of Roman Holiday, the protagonist, Princess Ann, finds herself in a twilight state of consciousness. Twilight, of course, is the threshold between the old day and the approaching night. It stands to reason, then, that a twilight state of consciousness is akin to that threshold between wakefulness and sleep where dreams and desires begin to flow more readily into awareness. Ann’s twilight state of consciousness is an indication that the day world of her girlhood, defined by stale routines and duties, no longer contains any psychic vitality for her. Therefore, she has to undergo an initiation rite in order to pass into a new day, that is, into adulthood. To make this transition she passes through the night world, the land of dreams (represented in this movie by the world of the commoner). In this unfamiliar realm she learns to embody the elixir that restores her psychic vitality and grants her access to adulthood.
Ann is overcome by her twilight state of consciousness at bed time, which is itself a threshold between day and night. It is in this state of mind that Ann receives her call to adventure. Ann’s bedroom window acts as a conduit between the day world and the night world because it is through this window that the call arrives in the form of music wafting up from the Roman nightlife below. This music is the voice of Ann’s daemon. A daemon is an inner authority figure, in contrast to the many external authority figures found in human life.
Ann’s Eyeline Match
Ann’s Eyeline Match & Her POV of the Roman Nightlife.
The music draws Ann to the window. Her POV shows a high angle shot, at long distance, of the Roman nightlife below. Trees overwhelm the foreground and partially obscure the dancing figures located in the background. The trees are in the dark while the activity in the background is brightly lit and centre frame. In effect, the contrast between background and foreground causes the background to leap out as if it is the foreground. It is as if the shot is mimicking Ann’s desire to drop her routine, a desire that is itself leaping out to grab her attention. However, the trees and the long distance maintains a barrier between Ann and her desire, underscoring the feeling that what she desires is so close, yet still so far out of reach. The moment concludes when one of Ann’s external authority figures, the Countess, shoos Ann away from the window.
Ann’s Consecutive Looks Off Camera, Followed By Her Emotional Explosion.
The Countess dictates the next day’s schedule, telling the Princess what she will wear and what she will say to the press. The effect that this external pressure has on Ann is portrayed by camera placement, editing, and body movement. As the two women proceed through the schedule, the camera eventually rests on a tightly framed medium close up of Ann, directly from the front. The close proximity and tight framing makes Ann’s sense of constriction painfully obvious. In fact, it looks like she might explode from the pressure. As Ann recites the sterile lines she does not feel in her heart, the pressure builds, which is conveyed by Ann matching each line with a look off camera in different directions. These consecutive looks off camera create the impression that Ann is like a tiny boat getting thrashed about by violent waves. The pressure releases when the film cuts to a medium two shot of Ann and the Countess. Ann whips her head toward the Countess and yells: “STOP! Please! No! No!” The medium two shot provides Ann with the necessary room within the frame to express this emotional explosion with her entire upper body. Ann explodes because her external authority figure is antagonizing her inner authority figure. When the daemon is denied what it wants for too long it applies its own pressure until the person is in such misery that they have no choice but to obey the daemon’s call.
In response to Ann’s emotional explosion the Countess calls on the Dr. Bonnachoven to administer a sedative. In this scene, Bonnachoven performs the role of Asclepius, the Greco-Roman god of medicine. It was believed “that Asclepius effected cures of the sick in dreams” (Britannica Encyclopedia, 2021). By administering the sedative, the Doctor is handing Ann a passport to the land of dreams where she will find her cure. The sedative is a passport because it weakens the inhibitions of the conscious mind, making Ann more receptive to the daemon’s call. Effectively, it strengthens her twilight state of consciousness. Next, the Doctor identifies the elixir when he advises Ann that the “best thing I know is to do what you wish for a while.” It would seem, based off of this advice, that the elixir is the satisfaction of desire. However, the daemon has more than that in store for Ann. The advice from the Doctor, on a deeper level, points to the skill Ann requires, not merely to satisfy desire, but to transform her into a fully-functioning adult that can be of service to something beyond desire. The elixir, it turns out, is self-direction.
To understand the curative role of the elixir, Chapter 3 of Jessie L. Weston’s book, From Ritual to Romance, is instructive. In this chapter she discusses the freeing of the waters motif from the Rig-Veda. According to Weston, many of the hymns, prayers, and rituals contained therein are used to seek the blessing of Indra. The blessing is required to unleash the waters that will fertilize the land. Like Indra, the daemon performs a fertility function, but not of the land, rather, in a Jungian sense, the daemon unleashes the fertilizing water that will restore psychic vitality to the human being. After all, in order to produce new life, fertility is a prerequisite. In this regard, fertilization and healing are synonymous. For Ann to restore her psychic vitality, she will need to be self-directed in regards to her routines and duties. Due to the fact that the daemon is the source of this self-direction, the only way to become self-directed is for Ann to respond to the daemon’s call. It is only in responding to the call that Ann can begin to embody the elixir that is on offer.
Ann’s Eyeline & POV in Her Own Bedroom.
Ann’s Eyeline & POV – The Next Morning.
The sedative succeeds as a passport because the next morning Ann wakes up, not in her own bed, but in the bed of a commoner. In the process of waking up, Ann is still in a twilight state of consciousness. As a result, she can’t distinguish her day world from the night world. She is only able to distinguish the two worlds when she looks up and is greeted by a very different ceiling fixture compared to the crown molding found in her own bedroom. It is this distinguishing feature that makes her realize she is not in Kansas anymore, and thus, she fully passes through the threshold of twilight in to the land of dreams.
Before Ann distinguishes between the two worlds she mistakes her host Joe Bradley for the Doctor. This mistaken identity signals to the audience that Joe Bradley will continue the Doctor’s Asclepian role. Like the Doctor before him, Joe encourages Ann to spend the day doing whatever she would like. As a guide through the land of dreams, Joe Bradley affords Ann the opportunity to practice, and therefore, embody self-direction. Joe is able to do this because he himself already embodies self-direction, albeit in a negative manner. This is evident because he is a selfish journalist looking to make a buck at Ann’s expense. While the dark side of self-direction manifests as selfishness, healthy self-direction manifests out of a concern for one’s own wellbeing and that of others.
Ann & Joe Make A Trade.
One of the reasons Princess Ann tours the European capitals is to encourage trade-relations between nations. Like nations themselves, Ann and Joe make a trade. Joe initially steers the relationship for his own benefit, but Ann defeats Joe’s selfishness with her charismatic innocence. In doing so, she trades her over-abundance of selflessness that lead her to be directed by external authority figures, thus remedying Joe’s over-abundance of selfishness. In return, Joe shares a healthy dose of selfishness with Ann so that she can learn the art of self-direction. At the outset of the relationship he is all yang and she is all yin. Via their trade they balance each other out, and balance, in this case, is the same as vitality. Perhaps the best image that sums up the trade is the moment that Ann seizes control of the Vespa and all Joe can do is hang on for dear life.
Ann completes her initiation rite upon her return to the day world by enacting the self-direction she has learned on her journey. Instead of taking directions from the adults in her life, she now gives directions to them. For example, she refuses her customary milk and crackers at bed time because this is a routine meant to calm a child. Her refusal of this bedtime custom indicates she has successfully passed into adulthood. Most notably, she even tells the press that Rome was her favourite stop on her tour, instead of offering the diplomatic response that the adults script for her. Therefore, her words to the press are no longer sterile, but fertile, because her words now come from a place of internal authority instead of external authority. To obey internal authority in this fashion is what it means to be a fully-functioning adult.
Ann’s initial desire was to escape her stale routines and duties. In the end, she returns to the day world and embraces her duties and routines, revitalizing them with the water of self-direction. This resolution reveals the daemon’s true intentions. By calling Ann to follow her desire, the daemon was not encouraging Ann to become the permanent servant of that desire. Instead the daemon uses desire as a hook to teach Ann a kind of self-direction that is in service to something that transcends desire. If this had not been the case, Ann would have stayed with Joe in the land of dreams forever. The fact that she returns to her duties and routines, but approaches them in her own way, suggests a concern for both her own well-being and that of her people.
In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker loses his right arm in a lightsaber duel against Count Dooku. In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin, as a part of his transformation into Darth Vader, loses his remaining limbs in another lightsaber duel, leaving him in a state of dismemberment. Altogether that adds up to four limbs, a number of great importance; a number that appears again in the design of the Japor Snippet necklace.
At various moments throughout the saga, C-3P0 is also dismembered, leading to the conclusion that C-3P0 is a parallel to Anakin. David Begor comes to such a conclusion when he describes 3P0’s beheading and transformation into a battle droid during Attack of the Clones as a “commentary on the more abstract metamorphoses of the other characters, whose purpose also shifts from diplomacy to war” (Bright Lights Film Journal, 2002).
On the Blu-ray commentary track for The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas confirms, more or less, Begor’s analysis when he explains the narrative purpose of reoccurring dismemberment:
“The idea of 3P0 being disassembled and then trying to get himself put back together again is a motif that is carried through with Luke and also even with Han. It’s a motif of the movies. In this case it’s physical, but in the rest of it, it’s either an emotional manifestation, or a personality manifestation, or somebody that’s sort of ripped themselves apart and is trying to put themselves back together again. So it’s fun when you can take a literal character, in this case a Tin Woodsman or Humpty Dumpty, and break him all apart and then have part of the movie be about how he gets put back together again physically, which is what Luke is trying to do, what Han is doing in terms of his morality. But more importantly, is what, in the end, Darth Vader is trying to do.”
All of the manifestations above accurately describe Anakin’s dismemberment. The most encompassing of the three terms used by Lucas to describe the non-physical manifestations of dismemberment would be “personality.” After all, emotions and morality are characteristic of the human personality. Alternatively, an even more encompassing descriptor would be to say that Anakin undergoes a psychological dismemberment.
In Jungian psychology it is said that there is a unifying centre that renders the conscious and the unconscious halves of the human personality into an undivided whole. This centre is called the self. One of the analogies Jung uses to describe the self is the philosopher’s stone. Its ability to transform lead into gold is like the self’s ability to transform the personality’s disunity into a unity. Anakin’s psychological dismemberment is the disunity of his personality and all that entails.
Another symbol for the self that Jung is fond of would be the four-part circle or mandala. The four-part aspect of the mandala is called the quaternity, sometimes visualized as four smaller circles within a larger circle that is the mandala, sometimes as a square within the mandala, or even as a cross that splits the mandala into quadrants. If the mandala is the self that will render Anakin’s dismembered personality into a whole, then his limbs symbolize the quaternary aspect of that mandala. If it sounds like an overreach to compare Anakin’s limbs to the quaternity, consider the case of the Gnostic original man, the Anthropos, whose limbs Jung equates with the four gates of a city called the Pleroma, itself a mandala (Psychology & Alchemy, pp. 108-9).
When the mandala/quaternity is used as a layout for a sacred space for a deity, it is called a temenos, whether in the form of a field, or a city (Psychology & Alchemy, pp.107), such as the Pleroma, or even a garden with a fountain at the centre (pp. 118). One example of such a temenos comes from a dream that one of Jung’s patients experienced. Jung interpreted the fountain in this temenos as “the source of ‘living water’ mentioned in John 7:38” (pp. 118):
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The Biblical verses above position the heart and the deity as the fountain or source of the living water. As a quencher of thirst the water has restorative or healing powers. As an agent of healing the water fulfills the same purpose as the self, because healing in the Jungian sense of the word means to make whole. The living water, then, is the healing power of the self. For Anakin, this means he will have to find his own version of the living water to heal his severed limbs.
This water is hinted at by Begor’s observation about 3P0’s shift “from diplomacy to war.” A droid’s intended function says a lot about the motivation of the droid’s creator. Anakin creates C-3P0 and introduces him as “a protocol droid to help mom.” Therefore, Anakin’s motivation for creating 3P0 is one of compassion. Diplomacy, of course, is a form of protocol, and protocol is a function that serves an ethos of compassion. Battle droids, in contrast, are built by The Trade Federation as a means to enforce their trade interests on anyone who resists, a function motivated by an ethos of greed. In Star Wars, compassion is the living water that gives the self the ability to heal or bring together, while greed is the opposite, that which wounds or tears apart.
A scene from the Biblical epic Ben-hur seems to corroborate the connection between the living water and compassion. Sold into slavery, and suffering from dehydration, the titular character played by Charlton Heston is denied water by his captors. Jesus witnesses this, and like Anakin when he builds 3P0 to help his mother, Jesus acts out of an ethos of compassion to not only relieve Ben-hur’s thirst, but heal his despair as well.
Consider, as well, the roles of compassion and greed in The Legend of Spider and Sun Boy, an indigenous story as summarized by Scott Preston on his blog, The Chrysalis:
“The legend of Spider and Sun Boy, tells of a wicked Medicine Man (sorcerer) named (appropriately) “Spider.” Spider was jealous of Sun Boy who had it all — all the noble virtues of a man of quality. Spider schemed to trap Sun Boy, murdered him, dismembered his body and threw the dismembered fragments into a pot. Sun Boy’s father, the Sun, took compassion on Sun Boy and warming the pot with his light, re-membered Sun Boy and restored him to wholeness. Sun Boy then ascended from the pot on a beam of light to join his father the Sun.”
Or, as Preston alternatively states, “Sun Boy dies as a man, but ascends as spiritual being.”
Anakin and Sun Boy: different cultures, same story. When Anakin is a boy he exemplifies the virtue of compassion, but as he ages the Spider within (Darth Vader) and the Spider without (Palpatine) provokes his jealousy. Master Yoda warns Anakin that jealousy is the shadow of greed, but Anakin fails to heed this warning. As a result, his greed leads to his psychological and physical dismemberment and containment within a pot (Vader’s suit). In the end, it is Anakin’s son Luke, playing the role of the father that Anakin never had, who warms Anakin with his compassion. Luke’s compassion provokes Anakin’s own dormant compassion, allowing Anakin to rescue Luke in a moment of need. By remembering his own capacity for compassion, Anakin is also psychologically “re-membered” in the process. Like Sun Boy, Anakin “dies as a man” and then “ascends on a beam of light” where he unites with his version of the Sun (The Force) where he becomes a “spiritual being.” The spiritual being is the Force Ghost, which takes the appearance of Anakin restored to youth, presumably with all four limbs intact, demonstrating the healing power of the self.
The word play of “re-membrance” in Preston’s summary of Spider and Sun Boy is very consequential for the Japor Snippet necklace. After all, Anakin gifted the necklace to Padmé as a good luck charm, but more importantly, as a token to remember him by. With her final words, Padmé insists that there is still good within Anakin. Years later, her son Luke echoes these words, keeping his mother’s memory of Anakin alive. Via Luke, Padmé does indeed “re-member” the compassionate boy Anakin once was, fulfilling the purpose of the Japor Snippet necklace.
Not only is the function of the Japor Snippet meaningful, but its design is as well. On the necklace is a carving of a square ( i.e. a quaternity/temenos), but unlike the Pleroma with its four gates, the square on the necklace has wavy lines emanating from the four corners. Another quaternity worth mentioning here would be the Civitas Dei (City of God) with the four rivers of Paradise surrounding it. In the depiction above, the flowing movement of the rivers is represented by wavy lines, not entirely unlike the four lines on the Japor Snippet, capturing the energy that brings the rivers to life. In Anakin’s case, when he feels compassion for his son and acts on it, his heart overflows like a fountain with the living waters, restoring his missing limbs in the fashion of four dried up rivers receiving a fresh supply of water. In the end, the necklace depicts wholeness itself, that which “re-members” and is to be “re-membered.”
Part I: The Child Archetype and the Creative Process
Anakin, as a literal child in The Phantom Menace, personifies the child archetype. After reflecting on the meaning of Anakin’s role as the child, I combined my findings with the advice of a practicing artist. As a result, I developed a better understanding of the obstacles that creative people encounter when engaging in a creative process. By acting on that understanding I was able to overcome the obstacle that I have struggled with the most throughout my own creative endeavours.
Much of what I have learned about the child archetype is drawn from Carl Jung’s paper, “The Psychology of the Child Archetype.” To sum up, the child archetype is a symbol for that which unifies the conscious and unconscious halves of the human personality into a whole (1). The important take away from this summary is that the whole personality is like the adult that the child is going to become. However, this whole personality is a paradox because it is an adult with a child-like quality.
The child’s journey towards wholeness is an apt analogy for any creative process because the child’s journey is a creative process, albeit a creative process of a psychological kind. Although, to be honest, any creative process that the human being engages in is psychological, at least in part, and not just physical. Whether you are creating something with materials, such as a painting, or creating something more abstract, like a new identity for yourself, you are engaging in a creative process that is psychological in nature. The child, by uniting the opposite halves of the personality, is creating something seemingly abstract, that is, the aforementioned state of wholeness.
Part II: The Child and The Setting of Star Wars
Anakin’s purpose in the Star Wars narrative is to bring balance to The Force, which is made up of the opposites of light and dark. Bringing balance between the light and the dark is just another way of expressing the unification of the conscious and unconscious halves of the personality. The Force is in a state of imbalance or disunity, which bleeds into the galaxy’s political situation. According to Senator Palpatine, “the Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good.” Palpatine’s exposition describes a society with a consciousness that is clouded by fear and greed, by the dark side.
The states of disunity and unity have their counterparts in the Grail motifs of enchantment and disenchantment. Anakin’s job is to disenchant, through his compassionate acts, a galaxy that has been enchanted by fear and greed. As the Prequel Trilogy progresses, Anakin becomes enchanted by fear and greed, and in consequence, loses touch with the compassionate child he once was. As Joseph Campbell once wrote about the Grail heroes Parzival and Gawain, Anakin too, “must disenchant himself before he is able to disenchant the Waste Land” (2). To disenchant is to create a state of wholeness, a personality and society with a consciousness unclouded by fear and greed.
Part III: The Child and The Boxes of the Mind
Years ago I listened to an interview or a commentary with Star Wars director George Lucas, in which he describes, in his own terms, what sounds like the motifs of enchantment and disenchantment. I was unable to track down the source for Lucas’ observations in preparation for this blog post. To summarize from memory, Lucas explained that his movies are about people trying to escape from “the boxes of the mind.” These boxes are the enchantments that must be dispelled. An example would be the emotion-suppressing drugs in Lucas’ first feature, THX-1138. In Star Wars, the primary boxes are the previously mentioned diabolic twins called fear and greed.
Lucas does not refer specifically to the child archetype when discussing the boxes of the mind, but I would argue that Lucas’ characters are actually trying to free the child in themselves—the symbol for that which creates wholeness—from the boxes or enchantments that prevent the child from completing its creative process.
The boxes of the mind motif is not only present in Lucas’ movies, but in his creative process as well. At Star Wars Celebration 2017, Dave Filoni, Supervising Director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, shared what he learned about creativity from George Lucas:
When you’re coming on board to like, direct this major franchise that all of you love and around the world people love, it is easy to get overwhelmed by that and that idea. And that is going to limit you and more importantly limit your creativity if you become afraid of it. So, you can never be afraid of things, to try things, to experiment…To do things that have never been done. When we would find something that a lot of people would say, “Well, you can’t do that”…It’s the first thing George would say, “Okay, we’re going to do that” (3).
The fear and naysaying that Filoni describes above are boxes that stifle the child and its creative process, boxes that, according to Lucas are not to be tolerated. Having to deal with fear makes it obvious why any creative process undertaken by a human being is psychological in nature, because dealing with fear, a regular companion to creativity, is a form of psychological labour.
Part IV: The Creative Person’s Relationship with the Child
The idea of labour leads us to discover what kind of relationship a creative person has to that which they are trying to create, or more precisely, to that which is trying to realize itself through them. Jung confesses in his Liber Novus that “the spirit of the depths teaches me that I am a servant, in fact, the servant of a child: This dictum was repugnant to me and I hated it. But I had to recognize and accept that my soul is a child and that my God in my soul is a child” (4). Like Jung’s relationship with his soul, the relationship between the creative person and their creation is that of a parent to a child. Jung does not use the term parent, but the term “servant of a child” conjures the image of a parent in my mind because to be a parent is an act of service to a child, and this service, as any parent is likely to attest, is one of considerable labour. If the creative person attaches parental feelings to what he or she is trying to create, these feelings can provide the necessary energy for the labour needed to free the child from the boxes of the mind.
Part V: Overview of Anakin’s Child Characteristics
Using Anakin as an example, we’ll now examine some of the characteristics that he shares with the child archetype as detailed by Jung in his paper. These examples serve to illustrate the child’s struggle against the forces that try to box it in and how it is that the child manages to overcome them.
The child is exposed and endangered (5): Every time Anakin participates in a podrace, his rival, Sebulba, tries to kill him via acts of sabotage. Over the course of the series, Anakin’s fear of loss exposes him to the dangers of the dark side of The Force.
The child is in a state of abandonment (6): Anakin meets this characteristic because he is enslaved on a planet in the Outer Rim where the laws of the Republic do not apply, meaning that he is abandoned by the Republic. The fact that the Republic would abandon a compassionate child such as Anakin is evidence that the society has abandoned compassion itself in favour of greed.
The child is insignificant (7): Anakin, as a slave, occupies the lowest social status possible. He is also insignificant in regards to podracing because he has never managed to finish a race. Therefore, he is not seen as the favourite to win the Boonta Eve Classic.
Despite the above qualities, the child is divinely powerful (i.e. has powers beyond that of the average person) (8): Anakin is the only human that can podrace. Qui-Gon explains this phenomenon by saying of Anakin, “he has special powers. He can see things before they happen. That’s why he appears to have such quick reflexes. It’s a Jedi trait.”
The child performs miraculous deeds (9): Anakin wins the podrace and even destroys the droid control ship by accident.
Jung discusses more traits in his paper than what I have listed above, but suffice to say, the above qualities give a broad impression of how Anakin manifests the traits of the child
Part VI: Endangerment, Exposure, Abandonment, and Insignificance
The purpose of the traits of insignificance, exposure, abandonment and danger is to communicate “how precarious is the psychic possibility of wholeness” (10). Like the child, all creative processes exist in a state of peril. In my experience, whenever I undertake any creative endeavour, it amazes me how swiftly the boxes of the mind swoop in to put an end to the process before it can reach its conclusion. Fear-driven naysaying, of the sort that Lucas and Filoni encountered, although, primarily from within, is for me the most prominent.
As mentioned above, Sebulba endangers Anakin via acts of sabotage, such as when he tampers with the engine on Anakin’s pod before the race. Even Sebulba’s dialogue is a form of sabotage. For example, he tries to intimidate Anakin before the podrace, telling the boy, “you won’t walk away from this one, you slave scum.” Therefore, Sebulba is the embodiment of fear-driven naysaying, that voice in every creative person’s mind that tries to sabotage everything they set out to create.
Luckily, Anakin has zero-tolerance for this kind of fear-driven naysaying, contradicting Sebulba’s verbal sabotage with, “Don’t count on it, slimo!” What this means is that Anakin is not enslaved by the fear that Sebulba deploys against him. Anakin’s inward situation is in contradistinction to his outward situation of enslavement. If Anakin allowed himself to be enslaved by the box of fear he would not win his outward freedom, and as a result, he would not complete his creative journey towards becoming the Jedi who can create a state of wholeness both within and without.
Like the child in its state of abandonment, the creative person can feel abandoned in the midst of their creative endeavours, especially at those times when they are besieged from all directions by the boxes of the mind. However, the creative person, and that which they are trying to create, or who they are trying to become, is only truly abandoned when the creative person believes their inner Sebulba when he leans over and whispers in his or her ear, “Well, you can’t do that.” It can be dangerously easy to believe Sebulba’s sales pitch. The reason for this is because, when a creative process begins, it often shows no clear signs of success. It appears to be, and may very well be insignificant. This is the equivalent situation to Anakin’s abysmal racing record. Therefore, serving the child is nothing less than an act of faith.
Part VII: The Child’s Divine Powers and Miraculous Deeds
To counter the forces of endangerment, abandonment, exposure, and insignificance, the child uses its divine powers. Jung explains that the child comes “equipped with all the powers of nature and instinct” (11). These are its divine powers. In fact, it is because the powers are of nature that they are divine. Anakin’s Jedi abilities are his most obvious divine power. After all, they are the very thing that makes Anakin capable of winning the race, which is one of his miraculous deeds. Before the race, Qui-Gon even advises Anakin to use his instincts, which one assumes is a set of instructions for accessing his Jedi abilities more reliably. As a result, no matter what Sebulba does during the race to endanger Anakin, Anakin escapes the danger by using his Jedi abilities.
Besides winning the race, Anakin’s other miraculous deed in The Phantom Menace is his accidental destruction of the droid control ship. The fact it is by accident is immensely interesting. Again, it is Anakin’s powers that allows for this to happen. The powers, being of nature, hints at the idea that it may actually be nature itself, The Force, acting through Anakin. Even when Anakin doesn’t intend to bring about a particular outcome, nature has other ideas. Remember, in A New Hope, when Luke asks Obi-Wan if The Force controls your actions, Obi-Wan answers: “Partially, but it also obeys your commands.”
Jung further reveals the power of the child when he describes the child as “the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself. It is, as it were, an incarnation of the inability to do otherwise” (12). I can’t help but read Jung’s description and conclude that the child sounds awfully stubborn. If the child is equipped with the powers of nature and instinct then it stands to reason that stubbornness is one of these powers. Anakin’s intolerance for the boxes of the mind is a great example of his stubbornness because no matter what anyone does to deter him from participating in and winning the podrace, he just isn’t having it.
Creative people are well acquainted with the stubbornness of the child. When creative people neglect their craft for too long, the child has a way of correcting this behaviour. If you don’t help free the child from the boxes of the mind, or as Jung puts it, from a conscious mind “caught up in its supposed ability to do otherwise” (13), then the child, to put it mildly, is going to make the creative person an offer that he or she can’t refuse. This it accomplishes by rendering the creative person so miserable that he or she has no choice but to tend to the child.
The child’s stubbornness or resistance to limitations is paradoxical because it demonstrates the child’s flexibility. This, the child shares in common with the uncarved block of Daoism. The image of an uncarved block, itself, conjures the image of solidity. However, the uncarved block is the portal to flexibility. The uncarved block is what the Zen koan refers to when it instructs the listener to, “Show me your face before you were born.” To stay in the boxes of the mind is to retain one’s current face (the carved block), which for Anakin, would be his identity as a slave (an identity he never actually accepts). What Anakin, as the uncarved block, teaches humanity, is that we are capable of unbecoming who we are currently so that we can become someone new. To return to the uncarved block is to become open to possibility. Therefore, the child-like personality is defined by a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. In other words, Anakin, as the child, shows us that the human personality has the power to shapeshift. This is what Master Yoda meant when he told Luke to “unlearn what you have learned.”
Part VIII: Compassion and The Child
Above and beyond any of Anakin’s other powers is his ultimate divine power…The power of his compassion. After all, in stark contrast to Sebulba, who is destructive out of a greedy desire to ensure his own victory, Anakin’s creativity is driven by a sense of compassion. When he hears that his friends are stranded on Tatooine because their ship is damaged, Anakin manifests the creative energy that is contrary to the energy of the saboteur when he insists that he “can fix anything.” Instead of sabotaging other racers’ pods, Anakin builds his own and offers to race it to win the parts his friends need to repair their ship.
Over the years, Anakin becomes disconnected from the child that he once was, and thus, he loses his power of compassion. The motivation of his desire to fix anything becomes rooted in fear and greed instead of compassion. When he tries to save his wife, not to prevent her suffering, but to alleviate his own, the result is destructive instead of creative. His inner child is enchanted by the boxes of the mind and is prevented from completing its creative process. Of course, compassion is the power Anakin will one day need to disenchant a galaxy that has been enchanted by fear and greed. Due to the fact that compassion is the key to unlocking the boxes of fear and greed, it is indeed Anakin’s most divine power.
Anakin re-discovers his compassion or returns to the uncarved block when he witnesses his son suffering at the hands of the Emperor. At this moment, in contrast to his experience with his wife, Anakin wants nothing other than to end the suffering of someone other than himself. Anakin’s parental feelings for Luke reignite the compassionate energy necessary to overcome the enchantments of fear and greed that have enslaved him to the Emperor. In doing so, he can be of service not only to his literal child, but more importantly, to the child within as well. By serving the child, Anakin ensures the fruition of that which is trying to realize itself through him—a state of wholeness—the Force in balance. He throws down the Emperor, and in thus doing, disenchants the galaxy from the “spell” that the Emperor cast over it. The lesson here is that the creative person must have compassion for that which is being created through him or her above all else.
Note: The “servant of the child” motif reoccurs in Star Wars: The Mandalorian.
Part IX: My Escape From The Boxes of the Mind
By examining Anakin’s journey the crucial takeaway is that compassion is a necessity for the escape from the boxes of the mind. That’s all well and good, but what does this look like for the creative person in the real world? An episode from my own experience should provide an adequate illustration.
As I touched upon previously, the most common box, in my experience, is fear-driven naysaying. Whenever I create something, my inner Sebulba tags along, speaking to me in the language of fear, launching verbal sabotage such as: “you don’t have enough time to do that,” “it isn’t going to turn out well,” and “that’s going to be too stressful for you.” If I understand myself correctly, all of these fears are rooted in entitlement, a type of greed not entirely unlike Sebulba’s. You see, Sebulba doesn’t want to earn his victory, and whenever I create anything, there is a part of me that wants to achieve victory without any discomfort whatsoever. It would be easy to wallow in self-pity the moment one realizes that one’s fear is rooted in entitlement, but the trick to avoiding this self-pity is to recognize the utility of one’s fear and entitlement. While fear and entitlement are, indeed, the boxes that entrap the child, and compassion is the key that sets free the child, I learned from a practicing artist that the boxes don’t have to be entirely antagonistic to the child.
Here’s how it happened…In July 2019 I heard that my local college would be hosting a free three-day filmmaking workshop. I knew instantly that I wanted to attend, but predictably, Sebulba leaned over and whispered in my ear: “Making a film in only three days sounds really intense. You can’t handle it.” By this time in my life, I could recognize the voice of fear for what it is: a box in the mind. I knew that it was catastrophizing, exaggerating, and imagining worst-case scenarios. Adopting Anakin’s policy of intolerance towards Sebulba, I ignored the voice of fear and signed up for the workshop.
The day before the workshop I did my best to keep ignoring the voice of fear no matter how loud it became. Being intolerant of my fear is an approach that has worked for me before, but I was definitely wavering on whether or not to go through with the workshop. That day, I was listening to “Episode 40” of the podcast, Fun with Dumb, in which artist Lauren Tsai discussed her fears in regards to showing her art to an audience for the first time. What she had to say about her experience is: “if you’re scared of something, it’s because it matters to you. If you can tackle that, you really become stronger” (14). Let’s just say this piece of advice cut through my fear and entitlement with the precision of a lightsaber. At that point, I said to myself, “Okay that settles it. I have no excuses. I have to do this workshop because filmmaking definitely matters to me.”
Lauren’s approach is so effective because it transforms fear into a compass that points the way to what is of value to the person who feels the fear. In hindsight, I felt entitled to success because filmmaking matters to me. Thus, I was afraid of the potential for discomfort if I performed poorly at the workshop. However, that sense that something matters to you, is actually your feelings of compassion for that which is trying to realize itself through you. Lauren’s advice focused my attention on that compassion, which rendered fear and entitlement incapable of preventing me from serving my inner child. If Anakin’s compassion allowed him to suffer for the sake of his son, and in so doing, bring balance to The Force, then I, at the very least, could certainly withstand some discomfort for the sake of that which is trying to realize itself through me.
If we take a second, closer look at George Lucas’ approach to fear, even though he seems to regard it with intolerance, we can see that he too is actually using it as a compass. Remember, Filoni says that when he and George were bombarded with a fearful, “‘Well, you can’t do that,'” George would respond, “‘Okay, we’re going to do that.'” Even if the former phrase disgusts him, he is still using it to confirm valuable ideas. However, I failed to see his approach in this light until I considered Lauren’s point of view. Lauren showed me that creative people can regard fear and entitlement with gratitude instead of intolerance.
So, for all you creative folks out there, the next time your inner Sebulba tells you, “Well, you can’t do that,” you can respond: “Thank you Sebulba. Your attempts at obstruction have shown me that I am on the right path.”
And, for good measure, make sure to compliment Sebulba on his goggles. After all, he does have some serious goggle game!
Part X: Conclusion
While the child can be thought of as that which is trying to realize itself through the creative person, it is not just the end product of the process. Why is this? It is because “the child motif represents not only something that existed in the distant past but also something that exists now” (15), and furthermore, “the child is potential future” (16). To put it plainly, the child connects past, present, and future. It is the seed and the fully-blossomed tree. This is why Anakin’s compassionate behaviour as a child points to his future compassion in regards to his son and his compassion towards his son is rooted in the compassionate child he once was. The end product of a single creative act is merely one stage of a greater process, part of a greater whole, a whole that is the child itself. What this means for the creative person is that to be in service of the child is a lifelong creative process, and not a pursuit of a single and static end-product to be preserved for all time.
1.Jung, C.G. “The Psychology of the Child Archetype.” The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, 2d ed., translated by R.F.C. Hull, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), 164.
5. Ibid., 166.
8. Ibid., 170.
9. Ibid., 171.
10. Ibid., 166.
11. Ibid., 170.
15. Ibid., 162.
16. Ibid., 164.
2. Campbell, Joseph. Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth, edited by Evans Lansing Smith, (New World Library, 2015), 155.
11. My Life as a Zucchini (2016, Dir. Claude Barras, Switzerland & France).
The title might cause interested parties to ask: “Is this movie about an anthropomorphized Zucchini?” The answer I can provide is a simple no. Rather, “Zucchini” refers to the nickname of an orphan who forms a close community with the other children at his orphanage. The nickname of the character and the aesthetic of the animation initially put me off because they both queued me to expect a quirky movie. The filmmakers won me over by pairing the quirky presentation with substantial emotional content.
10. The Red Turtle (2016, Dir. Michael Dudok de Wit, International).
Essence takes priority over plot in The Red Turtle. Words such as simple, spare, or laid-back describe that essence. Dudok de Wit supports this essence by starting with a premise we have all seen before: a tale that observes the life of a castaway on an unpopulated island. Next to no dialogue, unspecified time period, low-detail animation, and calm atmosphere (most of the time) also add to the spare nature of the proceedings. The character arc transforms the castaway from an uptight person into someone who adopts the laid-back approach of the movie itself. In many stories, nature plays the role of chaos while man creates order. The Red Turtle inverts the paradigm when the order in nature soothes the chaos in man.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017, Dir. Jon Watts, USA).
Spider-Man: Homecoming surprised me because I was completely unenthused for yet another movie starring this character, but like a sudden gust of wind, the movie’s child-like enthusiasm swept right into me and carried me away. The enthusiasm carried me away to such an extent that I watched the movie three times back to back on the same day, which is how I approached my favourite movies as a child. My adult self sees time as a scarce resource, which makes giving anything the level of attention I gave to Homecoming a rare occurrence. From now on I want to approach the things I love with the enthusiasm of a child, with intense attention, like there is nothing else in the world—to hold fast to that sudden gust of wind.
8. What We Did on Our Holiday (2014, Dir. Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, UK).
A separated couple tries to keep their relationship status a secret during a visit with their family. In the meantime, the couple’s children bond with their grandfather. The premise results in a genuinely moving and hilarious feel-good dramedy. It earned frequent laughs out of me and even convinced me on an emotional level. Considering the fact that comedies often annoy me and feel-good movies often fail to convince my emotions, What We Did on Our Holiday was a rare beast. Furthermore, in a decade when the anxiety-addled zeitgeist became an aesthetic of its own in various forms of media, genuine feel-good movies provided pathways out of the fog.
7. The Guilty (2018, Dir. Gustav Möller, Denmark).
A police officer named Asger answers emergency calls after his superiors pull him from street duty. A kidnapped woman calls the emergency line and Asger proceeds to do everything he can to help her. I love this movie because of Asger’s excellent character arc. The arc reminds me of a famous Biblical verse that asks, “why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (New King James Version, Matt. 7.3). I consider The Guilty to be the best meditation on the question from Matthew 7.3 I have ever seen. On top of that, Asger’s arc is the best redemption arc since Anakin Skywalker and Prince Zuko. For these two reasons alone, The Guilty earns a spot among my favourite movies of the decade.
6. Samsara (2011, Dir. Ron Fricke, USA).
Samsara proves that documentaries can be so much more than a vehicle to deliver facts to an audience. The movie’s website explains that “SAMSARA takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation” (“About Samsara”). I feel that the preceding description encapsulates why I love this movie and movies in general. For me, movies are primarily a means to a spiritual experience. Entertainment and education are secondary concerns.
5. Inception (2010, Dir. Christopher Nolan, USA).
Inception ranks as my favourite blockbuster of the decade because it gifts the audience with an abundance of psychological questions, ideas, and concepts to consider years after the fact. For example, the movie implies a question that is particularly frightening. How do you know if an idea is beneficial to you? After all, an enemy could have planted it in your mind to harm you. The final shot of the movie gracefully refuses to resolve the doubt that arises from the above question, and many other questions for that matter.
4. Our Little Sister (2015, Dir. Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan).
Some movies enchant us primarily by what they make us feel. Our Little Sister falls squarely into that category. The feeling I refer to stems from the relationships between the characters. When three twenty-something sisters attend their father’s funeral they meet their teenaged half-sister. This set-up primes the audience to expect that the three older sisters will hate their little sister because she is a living reminder that their father left the family for another woman. Instead, the older sisters make an effort to form a sincere bond with their half-sister, a move that left me feeling warm and breezy.
3. Inside Out (2015, Dir. Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen, USA).
A girl’s anthropomorphized emotions seek psychological wholeness for the girl after she moves to a new city. The boon of the quest reminds the audience that we humans are more complex than we prefer to acknowledge. Ever since my first viewing, whenever I discover something new about myself, especially if it is something I don’t like, I remember Pete Docter’s masterpiece and crack an ironic grin in response.
2. Paterson (2016, Dir. Jim Jarmusch, USA).
Paterson observes the day to day life of a fictional poet who sticks to a regular routine, which the director explains, in an interview with Film Comment, is very beneficial to the character because the routine makes it easier for him to write (Jarmusch). I find the approach to routine in Paterson very inspiring because I often think of routine as restrictive instead of freeing. This movie snags a spot in my top three for encouraging me to reconsider my opinion about routines.
1. Silence (2016, Dir. Martin Scorsese, USA).
Two Jesuit priests embark on a mission to Japan in 1633 to learn what has become of their mentor. Once in Japan, they hope to resume their mentor’s work despite persecution from the Japanese authorities. Silence earns its place as my favourite movie of the decade because it follows in the tradition of Dante Alighieri. Figuratively speaking, the protagonist travels through hell on his way to heaven. The hell to heaven trajectory makes Silence a pressure cooker for the spirit. The movie releases this pressure with a strong and meaningful ending. I prefer movies that exit on a strong and meaningful note because without them a movie tends to feel like an incomplete sentence.
In my previous post about Roman Holiday I described Ann’s daemon as her inner authority figure. To be more precise, Ann’s daemon manifests itself to her in external, internal, and even ambiguous form. The external manifestations include the music wafting into Ann’s bedroom window and a visit from the Doctor, while the putti that decorate the crown moulding and bedframe are ambiguous. The internal manifestation occurs in the form of Ann’s anxiety, which fuels her emotional outburst. Ann’s daemon, then, has the ability to violate the boundary between inner and outer. As a psychopomp of sorts, the daemon’s ability to violate boundaries is an essential characteristic. After all, a psychopomp is a guide that transports human beings from the mortal realm into the Eternal realm. In order to complete this function, the ability to violate the boundary between the mortal and Eternal realm is necessary. Due to Roman Holiday’s designation as a coming-of-age narrative, the realms in question are not the mortal and the Eternal, but childhood and adulthood, respectively.
More specifically, these realms can be described as childhood consciousness and adulthood consciousness. Like the setting sun, Ann’s childhood consciousness has arrived at its twilight. In this twilight, Ann’s day world (the land of routine duty) and her night world (the land of dreams) overlap. It is in this boundary violating overlap that the daemon communicates with Ann, encouraging her to dream about or envision the possibilities offered by adulthood. It should be noted that adulthood consciousness is not exactly analogous to the Eternal realm. The Eternal realm corresponds more closely to the land of dreams. The adult is no more Eternal than the child. However, the daemon is trying to get Ann to cross over from childhood to adulthood in the same fashion that the psychopomp transports a person from the mortal to the Eternal realm. If childhood consciousness is the old day, and the land of dreams is night, then adulthood consciousness is the approaching tomorrow. In other words, it is not only the dayworld and the land of dreams that overlap during twilight, but childhood consciousness and adulthood consciousness as well.
The fact that the childhood consciousness has reached its twilight means that it is no longer adequate, which is evident from Ann’s frustration towards her old routines and duties. What makes this inadequacy even more apparent is Ann’s childish habit of deferring to the authority of the adults in her retinue. Of all the possibilities offered to Ann by the land of dreams, the courage to follow the daemon’s lead is the most important of all. However, twilight also means that the old childhood consciousness still has enough strength left to discourage Ann from heeding the daemon’s call. When Ann rushes to the window to investigate the music, the Countess easily reinforces the habits of childhood by reminding Ann of the next day’s schedule.
Another way to describe Ann’s daemon is to say that it is an agent of the Self. In Jungian psychology, the Self is the archetype of wholeness. When dealing with technical jargon such as “the Self,” “archetype,” and “wholeness,” it is understandable to feel like you’ve been handed meaningless, empty words. The most meaningful and immediate way that I’ve heard the Self described is with the more poetic terminology, “the You of you.”
One of the analogies that Jung uses to describe the “You of you” is the alchemical spirit Mercurius (pp. 246, AS). This spirit derives his name from the Roman god Mercury, and Mercury is a parallel to the Greek god Hermes, the messenger of the gods. As such, he violates the boundary between the mortal and Eternal realm to deliver the messages from the gods, uniting the two realms, making them whole. Ann’s daemon, then, is the Self in the form of a messenger. As Hermes, this “You of you” invites Ann, on behalf of itself, to come and partake of the prima materia out of which Ann will form her adulthood consciousness. As the source of new consciousness, the Self is indeed, the “You of you.”
As a messenger that crosses boundaries, the daemon can be described as serving a double function of summoning and release. When the daemon calls to Ann, it is summoning her to adulthood and releasing her from childhood. What’s more is that summoning and release are parallels of birth and death. Summoning being the equivalent of birth while release is the equivalent of death. In Ann’s case, the child is dying and the adult is about to be born. The daemon’s call is not only a momento mori, but a momento renovatio as well. In this manner of thinking, birth and death are not opposite processes, but complementary halves of the same process.
The first external manifestation of the daemon comes in the form of music. This music bridges the gap between external and internal by passing through the window, moving from the exterior of the building into the interior. Secondly, this music, originating from the Roman night life (the land of dreams), disrupts Ann’s day world (the land of routines). In other words, the boundary between routine and unroutine, are violated.
Ann Inhales The Night Air.
Moreover, there is yet another boundary of inner and outer that the music violates. Music, of course, travels through the air, just like Hermes with his winged feet. Normally, music is thought of as being heard. Ann is indeed drawn to the window the first time by the sound of the music, but towards the end of the scene Ann returns to the window for a second time. On her second visit to the window she takes a deep breath of fresh air. If the music is the daemon’s message, then Ann literally breathes it in. She is literally inspired by the music. What is interesting is that, if the music is a message from the You of you, which is already present within Ann’s psyche, then the music out there is merely the counterpart of what is already within. The external music activates the music within, which means that the boundary between inner and outer is indeed very difficult to distinguish. It is after this boundary blurring inspiration that Ann finally surrenders to the call.
Ann’s Anxiety-Fueled Outburst.
It is now time to return to the idea of birth and death as complements of the same process. I draw this idea from the work of poet and phenomenologist Jean Gebser. In his book, The Ever-Present Origin, he lays out the history of human consciousness and touches upon the role of anxiety in the unfolding of that consciousness. Five consciousness structures are detailed in the book: the archaic, the magical, the mythic, the mental-rational, and the integral. When a consciousness structure is no longer adequate, it dies, but this death is accompanied by the birth of a new consciousness structure. The death of the old and the coming of the new is accompanied by anxiety, especially when the birth of the new consciousness is thwarted, requiring anxiety to step in as “the great birth-giver” (pp. 133-4).
I make reference to Gebser because when Ann fails to respond to the daemon’s first external manifestation, the daemon switches direction and rises from within in the form of anxiety. As with Gebser’s consciousness structures, Ann’s childhood consciousness is no longer adequate, but the Countess discourages Ann from acting on the daemon’s call, thus thwarting the birth of Ann’s adulthood consciousness. In effect, Ann is trapped in limbo, between death and re-birth, requiring her anxiety to step in as the birth-giver. As the Countess recites the next day’s schedule, Ann’s anxiety builds and builds until she explodes at the Countess with: “STOP Please! No! No!” The anxiety fueled outburst succeeds in its role as birth-giver because it causes the Countess to call on the Doctor to administer a sedative, which is the next step in freeing Ann from her childhood consciousness.
Alternatively, Ann’s outburst could also be described as a ventilation or exhalation of the old spirit, making way for the new. After all, her outburst precedes her moment at the window when she inhales the night air. This circle of exhalation and inhalation mirrors the circle of death and birth and even illustrates how two seemingly opposite processes are one process, in this case, the process of breathing.
The Doctor Prepares A Sedative.
The Doctor is the second external manifestation of the daemon. After all, like the psychopompic daemon, the purpose of a Doctor is to be a guide, taking the patient on a journey across the boundary from illness to health. Consider Asclepius, the Greco-Roman god of medicine. He is famous for having “effected cures of the sick in dreams” (Britannica Encyclopedia, 2021). By adminstering the sedative to Ann, the Doctor succeeds as an agent of Asclepius. In other words, he weakens the inhibitions of her childhood consciousness so that she can pass into the land of dreams, where she can effect her cure. In this regard, the sedative is the passport; the means by which the Doctor guides Ann across the boundary.
Furthermore, the Doctor gives Ann a piece of advice that points directly to the cure itself. He tells her (in a tone of voice that is even more soothing than the sedative): “the best thing I know is to do what you wish for a while.” The cure is to be Self-directed, in contrast to the child’s tendency to take directions from adults. After all, the Self wants Ann to do what she wishes, at least for a while. By going on holiday (letting herself dream), Ann is granting her own, and by extension, the daemon’s wish. Ann’s holiday affords the opportunity to practise and therefore embody the spirit of Self-direction. In this manner, we can say that Ann is inspired by the Doctor’s advice. In fact, Ann is inspired by the Doctor’s advice in the same manner that she is inspired by the daemon’s music. The advice is merely the music translated into language. In the end, Ann must bring this embodied spirit of Self-direction back from the dream world so that it can transform her conscious world of routines and duties. The Doctor’s advice is transformative, and transformation itself is a violation boundaries.
Ann Looks Up At The Crown Moulding.
Cropped Selections – The Two Putti.
Thus far we have explored two external manifestations of the daemon, and one internal. The next manifestation is more difficult to categorize. After the Doctor administers the sedative, he leaves Ann alone to sleep. As she lays in bed, her eyes wander to the crown moulding. In each corner of the crown moulding is a depiction of a female figure accompanied by putti.
Ann Looks Up At Her Bedrame.
Next, Ann looks up to find more putti hovering over head, adorning the bedrame. Given the positioning of the putti; both in the moulding and the bedframe, the resulting impression is that of dream bubbles, like in a comic strip. The images of the putti are really there in the crown moulding, but this dream bubble effect gives the impression that we are getting a look into Ann’s dreams. Her inner dream images are externalized for us, the audience, to see. In effect, it feels like she is dreaming while still awake (In fact, what I’ve been trying to get across this entire time is that her entire holiday is a waking dream). This is why it is difficult to categorize the putti as either external or internal. They appear to be both at once. Again, the boundary between inner and outer has been violated.
It is well know that putti are often used to depict the corresponding Roman and Greek gods, Cupid and Eros. Anyone who has read enough of Carl Jung will know of Eros’ relevance to the daemon because Jung is fond of referring to the famous instruction that Socrates recieved from Diotima in which she identifies Eros as “a mighty daemon” (pp. 27, Aion). What we have depicted in the crown moulding then, are images of the daemon in erotic form. The likelihood of this increases given the context of the story within the genre of romantic-comedy. The manifestation of the daemon in erotic form suggests that the healing efficacy of the dream will be in its ability to make Ann fall back in love with life.
The idea of falling in love, like the idea of Hermes as messenger, suggests that the daemon is all about unification. A glance at the etymology of the word “daemon” complicates this idea of unification. According to Gebser, the Ionian Greek verb daio means “‘to divide, to take apart, to lay apart, to tear apart, to lacerate'” (pp. 173, TEPO). Etymonline.com states explicitly that the Proto-Indo-European root, dā, itself means, “to divide,” a root that daio and daemon obviously share. Daemon is the Latinized version of the Greek daimōn, which Etymonline.com describes as “‘divider, provider’ (of fortunes or destinies).” In the wake of learning that the daemon is a divider, the question becomes: how on earth can it ever be a unifier?
The answer is that the daemon divides in order to unify. In Roman Holiday the daemon tears the child apart and then reassembles the pieces into an adult. Alternatively put, it separates Ann from her childhood and unites her with adulthood. The moment it becomes clear that this process of unification by division has succeeded is during the movie’s climax. At a press conference Ann is asked which city on her tour she favours the most. The advisors in her retinue urge her to answer with a diplomatic, pre-scripted response. Instead of falling back into her old habit of deferring to the authority of her advisors, Ann embodies the spirit of Self-direction by giving the answer that the daemon wants her to give, which is to tell the truth that Rome was her favourite stop on her tour. In so doing, Ann successfully embodies her adulthood consciousness, a consciousness that is separate or independent of her retinue. This is accomplished by Ann being able to distinguish between the daemon’s desired response and that of her retinue, but also by Ann separating her feelings from their private context so that those feelings can be shared with the public. These separations produce an erotic bond or union between not only Ann and her own adulthood, but between Ann and the audience as well.
“A boy that can’t be good, might as well be made of wood.” – The Blue Fairy
“There’s good in him…I know…There’s…Still…” – Padmé
Dis-membering & Re-membering
Invitations to Pleasure Island
“Don’t you see? We don’t have to run away anymore. I have brought peace to the Republic. I am more powerful than the Chancellor. I can overthrow him. And together you and I can rule the galaxy. Make things the way we want them to be!” – Anakin Skywalker
“Ever been to Pleasure Island? Me neither, but they say it’s a swell joint. No school, no cops, you can tear the joint apart, and nobody says a word! Loaf around, plenty to eat, plenty to drink, and it’s all free! Boy that’s the place! I can hardly wait!” – Lampwick
In an interview with Cartoon Brew, director Yonebayashi comments, “In my films, I place emphasis on the re-creation of what we can feel with our senses.” The focus on senses is one of the reasons why The Secret World of Arrietty boasts such a potent setting. Grounding the audience in the senses has the effect of a meditation exercise, one where the practitioner pays attention to what it feels like to be in his or her own body. The movie simply shifts this attention from body to setting.
For example, a slow panning-shot establishes the yard when Sho arrives at the house at the outset of the movie. The shot seems to ask the audience: “please stop for a moment and take a close look at where you are.” Animation is an excellent medium to create a meditative atmosphere because animators must pay close attention to their subjects in order to render them in an effective manner. Essentially, the animators have to do what the film is asking the audience to do.
The mellow pacing aids the movie’s objective, because, like the slow panning-shot, the pacing asks us to savour the experience of being in the setting. In one moment, instead of immediately moving on to the next story event, the movie grants us the privilege of witnessing Arrietty reclining on a broken flowerpot, where she listens to the patter of falling rain. This lull in the action is so soothing because the pacing emphasizes the time aspect of the setting, it lets us remain long enough to appreciate the fact that, at this moment, rain isn’t just background noise, but music instead.
The POV of the tiny Borrowers is another device that contributes to the power of the setting. From the height of a little person, the audience is granted a high-resolution image of the things that we often overlook. From this POV the setting takes on a grander scale—an entire kitchen transforms into an epic landscape—or a set of vines becomes a towering tree to be scaled.
Senses, pacing, and POV accumulate to reveal the extraordinary qualities that are hidden in an otherwise ordinary setting. This “hidden-extraordinary” is what the movie’s tagline, “discover a secret world within our own,” refers to. The secret world, a world shaped by the hidden-extraordinary, is discovered when we see the ordinary world in such a way that we actually experience it as if it is a brand new world; the hidden-extraordinary transforms the ordinary world before our eyes. The hidden-extraordinary can refer to all of those wonderful qualities, located in our own backyards, that remain unnoticed and unappreciated.
I’m going to tell you a story about a time in my own life when I snuck a glimpse of the hidden-extraordinary. I hate shopping at the grocery store because it is easy to despise other human beings when you witness just how uninspiring and ordinary they appear while attending to such a banal task. One day, instead of focusing on my feelings of revulsion towards other shoppers, I started to play a game. I imagined each of them had a special talent. The woman standing ahead of me in the queue became a master gardener, the man in the dairy aisle became a musician, and the teenager operating the cash register became a talented cosplayer. In other words, a kitchen became an epic landscape. I can’t be certain that any of these fictions I told myself about these people were true, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was something special about each of them that their ordinary exteriors obscured from sight. Therefore, there was some truth in my fiction. The effect that this hidden-extraordinary had on me is that it reconciled my spirit with the ordinary by revealing that the extraordinary and the ordinary are secretly one.
Perhaps the trick to peaking beyond the veil of the ordinary is to not force it. The experience of the hidden-extraordinary can be a very spontaneous occurrence. Sometimes I catch glimpses of it, and sometimes I don’t, but movies like Arrietty remind me that it is always there waiting for me.