Are Joseph Campbell's contributions underestimated?

War of Gods. The secret message in "Star Wars"

Luke receives a lightsaber - a Michaels symbol - from his master Obi Wan Kenobi.

Luke Skywalker fights with Darth Vader, who appears to him as a vision of his own being.

An attempt to defeat evil through morality: Luke (with a robe) frees Princess Leia from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt.

Experts say that anyone who wants to decipher the secret of the space saga's success has to deal with mythology like its creator George Lucas; because Joseph Campbell, an important mythologist of the 20th century, had an influence on his filmmaking. What is less well known is that Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy could also have had an influence on the design of Star Wars, as recent revelations suggest.

Anthroposophy in Star Wars

According to witness statements, George Lucas and some close colleagues at times maintained serious contacts with the Waldorf school movement and anthroposophy. In 1977 they supported the Highland Hall Waldorf School in Northridge with a benefit preview of the first Star Wars film Star Wars and in 1978 the Marin Waldorf School with several Star Wars concerts. According to one participant, Lucas himself visited the so-called "Raphael Circle" in the 1980s and participated knowledgeably in the discussion of anthroposophical topics. According to statements made by the Waldorf teacher Douglas Gabriel, the script for the first three films (episodes IV - VI) was deliberately designed in the 1970s using anthroposophy; this, among other things, as part of a three-day think tank at the invitation of Marcia Lucas, the then wife of George Lucas. She played a previously underrated role in the production of the first Star Wars films, as biographical studies show. According to Gabriel, the well-known anthroposophist Werner Glas (1929-1991) arranged the think tank (which his daughter Fiona Glas recently confirmed) and introduced it with the words: »Marcia is familiar with anthroposophy and the work of Rudolf Steiner and needs our help with its design of the script. ”And she had added that the cinema should be used“ to convey important messages to the audience and to tell a spiritual story that has a good basis in the truth ”.

So far, it has largely been overlooked that this is primarily about anthroposophy. Only the NZZ wrote in 2015: In order to participate in the »higher, cosmic force« in Star Wars »you need the discipline and anthroposophy that only a small order exemplarily embodies: the Jedi Knights«. The writer Frank Linde also discovered links between Star Wars and anthroposophy in 1994.

The myth of our time

It would fill a long book to prove in detail to what extent Steiner's spiritual cosmos is contained in Lucas ‘virtual space drama. Some philosophers are already on a hot track. You describe Star Wars as the »myth of our time« (Philosophy Magazin 11/2015). The drama of the present is projected onto the screen in the form of modern mythological images. It is therefore not a question of the mere reproduction of old myths, but of the creation of a new myth. This fits in with anthroposophy insofar as it also wants to be a contemporary rebirth of mythological culture (on a scientific level). She created works that are comparable to myths, such as the Mystery Dramas, to which Star Wars shows a number of parallels if one understands how to translate the different imagery adequately. Similar to old myths, anthroposophy also describes external events as an expression of the activity of spiritual beings and uses imaginative imagery for deeper connections. Like ancient myths, she also understands planet names such as Jupiter, Venus or Saturn as names for gods. From a mythological point of view, "Star Wars" means the same as "War of the Gods". Gods fight against each other, not stars as such, which are only their abodes. In Star Wars there are superhuman fantasy beings like Jabba the Hutt on the hot desert planet »Tatooine« or its opposite pole Darth Vader on the cold machine planet »Death Star«.

"Darth Vader is a being that we call Ahriman in anthroposophy," explains Gabriel. The parallels are actually striking. Accordingly, Jabba can be identified with the "Lucifer" of anthroposophy, who forms the opposite pole to Ahriman.

This polarity of evil (represented by Jabba and Vader) agrees in every detail with Steiner's characterizations of Lucifer and Ahriman. Jabba is soft, puffy, fat. Vader, on the other hand, was tough and sclerotic. Jabba indulges sensual desires, lives in a filthy den of vice and likes to laugh loudly. The control freak Vader, on the other hand, has no fun. Pedantic and joyless, he rules a sparkling machine planet that spreads fear and terror in the universe.

Sword and monk's robe

The main concern of the hero in the face of this polarity is the struggle for balance between the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers. In the first Star Wars films, it is above all the future Jedi knight Luke Skywalker who represents this wrestling. He's neither cold and calculating like Vader, nor indulgent like Jabba. Steiner called the middle principle expressed here the "representative of humanity" or "Christ". Both one-sidednesses have to be balanced on the Christian way of education. In the film, this is expressed when Luke confronts both Jabba and Vader.

Two battles, which, however, cannot be waged with the same weapons: “There is only one power,” says Steiner, “from which Lucifer withdraws: that is morality. That is something that burns Lucifer like the most terrible fire.

And there is no other means that counteracts Ahriman than the power of judgment and discernment trained in spiritual science ”(GA 120).

Star Wars symbolically expresses this duality: In Jabba's den of vice, Luke appears in a monk's robe, a symbol of morality. Against Darth Vader, however, he fights with the lightsaber, a symbol of clear thinking. Like the razor-sharp understanding, it separates correct from wrong concepts and, like the "light of reason", illuminates the darkness of Ahriman.

Accordingly, in Steiner's mystery dramas, the spiritual student Maria fights with the lightsaber against Ahriman: »There is only one area in the spirit land / in which the sword can be forged / Before seeing it you have to disappear. / It is the realm in which the human souls / form knowledge from intellectual powers / and then transform them into spiritual wisdom. / And can I rightly / forge the word of truth to my sword at this moment / So you will have to leave this place «(GA 14).

Jedi Knights and Michaelites

According to Gabriel, the confident motif of the lightsaber in Star Wars comes from anthroposophy. It has always been known in Waldorf circles. For Michaelmas, children bring home exercise books with the "flaming sword" of the knight George. In the so-called »Book of Seasons« of Waldorf schools, a fairy tale even bears the explicit title »The Lightsaber«. Waldorf educators wrote it based on motifs from old Michael legends. It describes how a knight defeats a dragon with the help of a flaming sword that Archangel Michael lends him. In Star Wars, those who fight "Darth-Ahriman" with the flaming sword are called "Jedi Knights". Steiner called them "Michaelites": people with an affinity for independent judgment. The struggle of the Michaelites against Ahriman, which Star Wars thematizes, corresponds almost exactly from an anthroposophical point of view to what is happening today: power politics, manipulation, materialism and excessive mechanization are facets of Ahriman, which the Michaelites oppose.

The roots of the lightsaber motif reach into Celtic mythology. Anthroposophy attaches great importance to it because it is closely related to esoteric Christianity. That explains Star Wars echoes of Celticism: for example the Jedi Temple in Star Wars VIII or the name "Luke", which is strikingly similar to a central hero in Celtic mythology called "Lugh". Like Luke, Lugh also receives a lightsaber from his master.

On the way to the machine planet

Darth Vader's main weapon in Star Wars is the so-called »Death Star«, a huge machine planet that destroys entire planets. It is not for nothing that Greenpeace has used it as a symbol in actions against the overexploitation of nature. It symbolizes the ultimate consequence of a social development that wants to machine everything. This development is controlled by the subconscious: Ahrimanic beings »rush into the unconscious of humans«, Steiner explained, »they are the gender among the spiritual beings who want to teach humans a special interest in everything mineral-material ... for example external-mechanical "Mechanical" (GA 203). They “would like the animal world to disappear, the physical human world to disappear, the plant world to disappear, that only the physical laws of the mineral kingdom remain ... and they would like to create a new Saturn made of all machines, a new world made of all machines. So the world should then go on ”(GA 203).

Anyone who would like to see this "new Saturn made of all machines" visualized can do so in Star Wars. It is called the "death star" there. Even in the Middle Ages, Saturn was regarded as the "god of death", which from a mythological point of view, as already mentioned, can be translated as "star of death" or "death star". "This is not a moon, this is a space station," shouts the Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, while his spaceship is caught in the magnetic beam of the Death Star. What follows is the liberation of Princess Leia from the tentacles of the machine god. It symbolizes the cosmic wisdom of Michael, which Ahriman wants to usurp. The audience trembles spellbound with the Jedi Knights in the lightsaber fight against Darth Vader and is visibly relieved when the Death Star finally explodes. In reality, however, the boisterous high-tech enthusiasm of our time continues to rage.

Surrogate for mystery culture

The visualization of such - and many other - anthroposophical content in Star Wars raises the question of the spiritual significance of this phenomenon of time. Obviously there is a strong unconscious interest in spiritual content and new mythological imaginations. Steiner saw the development of a modern culture of myths and mysteries as a time requirement. Instead, outer civilization became more and more materialistic, desolate and unimaginative. In view of this, many people have little choice but to flee into virtual fantasy worlds that are everywhere - and by no means only in Star Wars - full of hidden mystery symbols, often mixed with violence and the glorification of war.
But where else can the thirst for pictorial spirituality be quenched? In anthroposophy it would be possible, provided it succeeds in realizing a real culture of mysteries. If not, no reason, no matter how plausible, will prevent the masses from continuing their entertaining but dangerous journey into virtual abysses.

About the author: Ingo Hoppe is a freelance journalist and book author. He gives lectures on request. Contact: ingo.hoppe (at)

Revised article from

Literature: G. Charren: Letter to the Editor, Info 3/11/1999
R. Steiner: The evolution from the point of view of the truthful, (GA 132), Dornach 1987
R. Steiner: The Revelation of Karma, (GA 120), Dornach 1975
R. Steiner: The human responsibility for world development (GA 203), Dornach 1989