The Terrible Disappointment of Star Wars

How the Star Wars films started going wrong.
A bit breathless, but why not? This piece uses the Sanskrit term "sanyama", which refers to a yogic technique, the essense of the advanced practices of the TM movement called the TM-Sidhi program, by which the mind effortlessly launches an impulse into its own deep silence, in order to trigger a particular effect.
As for Obi-Wan's advice about "letting go," few phrases describe the essence of Transcendental Meditation as simply and accurately as that.

I first saw Star Wars in the west of England in 1978. I remember driving home that night through the winding, thickly-hedged lanes of Herefordshire, in an old borrowed Jaguar which I piloted like a rebel Tie Fighter, lost in exhilaration.

For all its annoyances, I had never seen a movie that came as close to expressing something quite so profound. I was transported by the fact that such ideas had found their way into a blockbuster that would be seen by hundreds of millions, thrilled that they had been captured on film at all.

Recall the scene, near the end, in which Luke Skywalker finally becomes capable of destroying the Death Star. After trying repeatedly, using his ship’s computers and the best thinking he could muster, to fire his weapon at just the right time to pierce his target’s defenses at the sole point of weakness — and missing each time — Luke hears the quiet voice of his master Obi-Wan, teaching him another way. He tells Luke to use his feelings, to trust the Force, but most of all simply to "let go." In a dramatic demonstration of what many of us are looking to achieve, Luke switches off the computers, switches off the thinking mind with its ever-so-slightly incorrect guidance, closes his eyes, and fully lets go. And at just the right moment, an impulse arises in him to fire. In a stunning visual analog of the process of sanyama, the impulse that emerges from the silence of his mind finds the correct path and plunges deep, suddenly, into the heart of the Star — as if guided by its own nature — and there it touches off its desired effect. From silence, an impulse, and a powerful, inevitable result. In early 1978, with the TM-Sidhi program newly available, this scene echoed with profundity and promise.

But now it is 2002, and the promise has dried up. In 1978, I felt that George Lucas had touched on something "deeper than he knew." So deep, unfortunately, that it is evident now that it has slipped his mind entirely. The recent Star Wars films, particularly this year’s Attack of the Clones, show almost no interest in the furthest reaches of the mind’s possibilities. Among other casualties, we have also lost the sense of masterful spiritual authority seen in the original Obi-Wan and Yoda; what is left is Jedi knights spending too much time in meetings in glass skyscrapers, the young Obi-Wan squabbling with his student Anakin, and Yoda as an almost comical Ninja Turtle.

I will not say that I projected into the original Star Wars profundity that was not there. Whatever an artist creates in the viewer is real, and a valid part of his art. What saddens me is Lucas’ dissipation into mere magnificent superficiality.

In the first Star Wars film, Lucas created a fleeting, resonant image of the unbounded possibilities of human consciousness. But he cast it aside to pursue exquisitely rendered empty shells and glorious computer-generated distractions. Luke switched off his computer at the climactic moment, and that made all the difference. Lucas, in contrast, has gone on to buy more and more high-tech hardware, and he chooses to leave it running all the time.