By Michael Jarzabek
This article appeared in the 2019 Issue of the Fraternal Review titled “The Force and the Dark Side”
The Star Wars Saga is a public ritual for the modern masses.
George Lucas is on record as saying that he created the movies to serve as a mythology for our time by creating a futuristic story based on past cultures. To create depth, he borrowed themes, settings, and character archetypes from a multitude of philosophies, genres, and cultures.
Freemasonry is similar. Like the composite pillar, “it has only what is borrowed and differs only accidentally.”
It would be a mistake to claim any one source as the primary inspiration for either of these rituals. Both draw their inspiration from multiple diverse sources. Some sources, however, are more critical to the structure than others. Ancient Greek culture is one of those sources, “To the Greeks, therefore, and not to the Romans…”.
Ancient Greek culture is deeply enmeshed in modern Western experience. Were it removed by pulling its threads, the entire tapestry of our civilization would come apart. The same is true for Star Wars and Freemasonry.
The Ancient Greek Tragedy is a part of that culture. One of the primary goals of the Greek Tragedy is catharsis. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines catharsis as “1 a :purification or purgation of the emotions (such as pity and fear) primarily through art”.
While catharsis is often an intellectual exercise, it is not primarily so. It engages the emotion as well as the intellect. The ancient mystery schools used Greek Tragedy and by extension, catharsis as tools. In Greek Tragedy, the audience or initiates experience catharsis by their connection to a character in the drama. The characters used to elicit this response were known as Tragic Heroes.
The state-sanctioned mystery schools were outlawed long ago. Echoes of these traditions survive, however incomplete, in both Western Esoteric rituals such as Freemasonry and modern cinema. Two characters representative of this connection are Hiram Abiff and Anakin Skywalker.
When we first meet Hiram in the Bible, we learn that he is a Widow’s Son of the tribe of Napthali. Hiram, King of Tyre, sends him to King Solomon for his wisdom, knowledge, and understanding in the working of brass and other materials. (The word brass in this setting is an anachronism. The word should be bronze or copper as zinc which is a necessary component of brass was a later discovery).
In King Solomon’s Temple, bronze was primarily used in the outer courtyards. These spaces and their furnishings served as areas for sacrifice. One reason for the use of bronze was that items like the altar could withstand the fire of sacrifice if made of this material.
Another reason for the use of bronze was because, like flame, water does not damage it. The Bronze Sea is an example of this use. The material for this sacred item was melted bronze that came from mirrors donated by female attendants.
Twelve bulls facing in the four cardinal directions, three East, three West, three South, and three North, supported the sea. There were also ten wheeled lavers, which were said to represent the ten fingers of the hands. The water in the bronze sea and the wheeled lavers was representative of the divine spirit. The priests would use this water to cleanse themselves and other items.
Whether to withstand inundation or conflagration, Hiram built them as implements of sacrifice.
When we first meet Anakin Skywalker, we learn that he was born a slave and that according to his Mother Shmi, “…there is no Father…”. He is recognized and selected as a potential Jedi apprentice by Qui-Gon Jinn for his natural skill and abilities.
Anakin possesses remarkable physical and mechanical aptitude. In addition to his mastery of pod racing, the proof of this ability is C3PO, a protocol droid that he built from rubbish to help his Mother and be his friend.
When Anakin built C3PO, the droid was naked. He later adorns him with a skin of brass. In a world of steel, aluminum, and painted droids, he stands out. Not only is he covered in brass, but he is also anthropomorphic, built in his creator’s image. Vitruvius taught that temples were representative of the human form. Could C3PO’s brass body be an allusion to temples and sacrifice? After all, instead of being sacrificed by the Ewoks, he is instead treated as a God.
Bronze and copper are metals of the gods. It is the material of which Uranus as the bowl of the sky is said to be composed. In later artwork, he was an anthropomorphic figure surrounded by a copper ring adorned with the zodiac. Furthermore, his daughter, Aphrodite, created from his castrated genitals falling into the sea, is represented by the alchemical symbol for copper. This image is also the astronomical symbol for the planet Venus and resembles a mirror. A fitting symbol for the Goddess of Harmony and Beauty.
Aphrodite’s husband, Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths and fire, was one of the first workers in metals. He primarily worked in bronze and copper. He was also said to have been born from Hera with no Father as revenge for Zeus’s infidelity with Metis from which Athena was born. Born lame, he was thrown from the Heavens by his Mother and raised by Thetis and Eurynomê.
The epithets Klytotékhnēs “renowned artificer” and Polýmētis “of many devices” were used to describe Hephaestus. He ruled the Middle or Copper Sky as the Lord of the Gates, which he built as the entrance to his masterpiece, the copper city of Mt. Olympus. He is said to rule over the souls close to deification.
He is also said to have invented or crafted many items for the Gods such as Hermes helmet and sandals, Helios’ chariot, and Aphrodite’s girdle. He also built automatons to assist him in his work. He is even said to have created both the first woman Pandora and her pithos or box of evils.
Are Hiram and Anakin based on this ancient deity?
Are they heroes, tragic or otherwise? A Tragic Hero is usually a man of great stature who has a significant flaw, which proves to be his downfall.
While Anakin and Hiram both come from humble beginnings, they rise to heights of prominence. Hiram becomes the Superintendent of the Temple of Solomon, and Vader becomes the right hand of the Emperor.
Anakin’s passions overtake him. Like Theseus’s ship in philosophy, his parts are replaced piece by piece, until we are no longer sure that Anakin remains. Has he finally become his creation? We learn the answer when he sacrifices himself to save his Son. His death is his redemption and proof of his remaining humanity.
Hiram dies a noble death. His death isn’t his downfall; it is merely the situation that precipitated it. He is supposed to represent harmony. His failure to do so results in his untimely death.
This death has further allusions to Hephaestus. The Cabiric Mysteries were transmitted at Samothrace. They included a story about the Sons of Hephaestus known as the Cabiri. They were also associated with several other similar groups of Brothers, such as the Korybantes, Kuretes, Telchines, and Dactyls. (Dactyls were ten chthonic deities that served as blacksmiths and healers. The Greek word Dáktuloi means fingers.)
Clement, in his “Exhortations to the Greeks,” writes, “If you would like a vision of the Corybantic orgies also, this is the story. Two of the Corybantes slew a third one, who was their brother, covered the head of the corpse with a purple cloak, and then wreathed and buried it, bearing it upon a brazen shield to the skirts of Mount Olympus.”
Does this not remind us of the death of Anakin and Hiram? Do we not see a connection with their burials?
The Cabiri and their relatives have a perhaps more important role. The Kouretes guarded the infant Zeus from Cronos, and the Korybantes guarded young Dionysus by performing the pyrrhichios or phyrric dance. These mythological brethren were responsible for nurturing and defending the divine spirit as it matured. They allowed it the time to realize its full potential.
Zeus goes on to dismember and replace his Father. Dionysus was distracted by during his ordeal with the Titans with a brass mirror and ritually dismembered, and resurrected. These stories have similar themes to each other. One can’t help but think that they may have been the inspiration for many modern narratives, including those involving Hiram and Anakin.
The rituals of Star Wars and Freemasonry employ symbolic language from the past. They inspire the modern man to explore the archetypal idea of the progression of the soul. They show that no matter the cultural lens or medium of transmission that a central idea remains the same. Man is born of a sacred nature, that nature is immortal, capable of change, and “can never, never, never die”.