It has been the subject of many Masonic historians and authors over the centuries, to seek the origins of elements of Masonic ritual, and to look to the myths, symbols, and ritual practices of cultures and societies of past ages in an attempt to understand how the rituals of Freemasonry came to be. These efforts of speculative Freemasons have usually traced some kind of initiatic origin to the rites and practices of ancient Egyptians or the philosophical and religious ideas of ancient India and China, and then tracing these ideas through Grecian, Elysian, Roman, and sometimes Druidic channels, and comparing them to Biblical narratives from the Torah and New Testament, with further exploration into Qabbalistic, Gnostic, and Alchemical ideas that influenced groups like the Knights Templar of Europe. One need only explore the works of Pike or Mackey to see this winding exploration through history!
In the 20th century, a new form of creating mythological stories came into being with the film industry. By projecting light onto a wall, stories could be told and experienced by the viewers, in a manner similar to a drama or play, and consequently movies were made. Like the Shakespeare plays of ages past, many modern movies contain ideas and symbolism from past myths of different cultures, which are just retold in new forms. It should not be surprising in this light then, to understand that many of the elements in these ancient myths were also incorporated into Freemasonic ritual in ages past, and that certain themes and symbols that are in Freemasonry were likewise incorporated into modern films. Among modern films that contain a number of ideas and themes that can also be found in Freemasonry are those of the Star Wars franchise. In this article, I will attempt to show the origin of some symbols and themes found in the Star Wars movies, and then show how these same symbols and themes can likewise be found in Freemasonry. I will not retell the entire Star Wars plot, and it falls upon the readers to watch the Star Wars films for themselves, in order to understand the context of the ideas I will be exploring. Likewise, as a warning to those who haven’t watched the Star Wars films, this article can give away “spoilers” to the plot of Star Wars.
Central to the Star Wars story is the idea that there is a binding consciousness energy field that surrounds and penetrates all things, called “the Force”. The origins of many of the quotes from the Star Wars movie in which the Force is described, can be found in works like the Tao Te Ching, and in fact, the Force is in line with what has been called the “Tao”, “Ether”, and the “All” in other philosophical systems of ages past. This energy has had various attributes in many cultures of ages past, which can be found under names like “Nous”, “Qi” or “Chi”, “Odic Force”, “Vril”, “Yin and Yang”, and other names. Some have looked to Albert Pike’s ideas about “force” in his Morals and Dogma, as another way of describing this energy. I will not provide Pike quotes about the force in this article, but I would encourage anybody to read Morals and Dogma, in which Pike’s ideas about “force” are elaborated on.
Likewise central to the theme of Star Wars are the characters who seek to understand and utilize this Force, and who go by the name of Jedi. The “Jedi Knight” is a warriormonk who utilizes and tries to maintain order by being in harmony with the Force. The Jedi seeks to balance the physical and spiritual energies in a manner similar to the symbolism behind the square and compasses in Freemasonry (where the square represents earthly things and the compasses draws a circle that represents spiritual things). The idea of the Jedi Knight comes from the Knights Templar, who were in fact both monks and warriors. The Templar theme runs throughout Star Wars, and Templars are featured in the higher degrees of all Rites of Freemasonry (to include the York, Scottish, Swedish, and Rectified systems). The ideas behind warriors who followed a spiritual code can be found going back to all ages in history, but certainly the Templars were the most recent expression of them, and many Masonic historians trace the origin of modern Freemasonry to different Templar strains that survived their persecution by the Roman Church in 1307. One of the origins of the European model of spiritual chivalry can be found in the myths and legends of ancient Celtic traditions, and it is in these Celtic traditions that we likewise find the key to the myths that unlock the story that was utilized for the film Star Wars!
In the ancient Celtic myths and traditions, the first chivalric tradition which is similar to what is found in Star Wars is the Red Branch of Ulster, also known as the “Red Branch Knights”, and which is believed to have historically been one of the models for King Arthur’s Round Table Knights, and some say the Templars themselves. The Red Branch of Ulster is likely also the model for the Rebel Fleet in Star Wars, also known as the “Red Brigade”, which Luke Skywalker becomes a part of. Understanding this basis, let us look at some further Celtic mythological elements that can be found in Star Wars, and then also compare similar elements in Freemasonry.
In the film Star Wars, the main character of Luke Skywalker has his hand cut off by his father Darth Vader (also just referred to as “Vader”), and then his hand is replaced with a metal, working hand. This is from Celtic myth of Nuada. Nuada was the first king of the Tutha De Danaan. He was also known as Airgetlam, meaning “silver hand”. In both stories, the new metal hand replaces the original, and helps aid them in their battles ahead. Without revealing Masonic secrets, this cutting off of the hand is something that is likewise found in the penalties of Freemasonry, as particularly found in the York Rite. Nuada was known for having a special flaming sword of light that he used to try and stop a lesser dark king named Bres who works for an overlord King named Balor. However, Nuada was not successful in stopping Bres or Balor, and so the job fell to one of his students named “Lugh”, who likewise inherited Nuada’s flaming sword of light.
This flaming sword of light is something that we also find in the story of the Garden of Eden, in the Torah, in which flaming swords of light guard Eden. Esoteric Masonic traditions of the past have associated this flaming sword with “the word”, and in some 18th degree rituals for the Scottish Rite, this flaming sword is still used. In other quasi Masonic systems like Martinism, it is during the first degree that the new initiate receives a “sword of light” which is emblematical of “the word”. In Freemasonry, the candidate of the first degree is received on a “sharp implement”, which in many lodges and in different cultures is actually in the form of a sword. So the candidate is received by the sword in a similar manner as Luke receives a sword at the start of his journey; for in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker begins his studies under Obi-Wan and he receives a “light saber”. In many ways, “Nuada” is the model for Obi-Wan, and “Lugh” is the model for “Luke”, and Luke inherits a light saber from ObiWan in the same manner that Lugh receives his flaming sword from Nuada. The only difference here is that Luke gets his hand cut off by Vader instead of Obi-Wan.
In the Celtic stories, Nuada had his hand cut off by a dark king named “Bres”, who worked for the overlord evil King named “Balor”. Balor is known for having a “death dealing fire eye”, which causes destruction when it opens—to include causing craters in the earth! The dark king Bres was known as being of the “evil eye” because he worked for Balor, who had the eye of destruction. (As an aside, in some ancient Egyptian texts, Horus also had an eye that could cause destruction, but he lost it in a fight). Balor, is in fact the model for Vader in the Star Wars films, and his “fire eye” is the model for the Death Star that is found in Star Wars which looks like a giant eye that opens and causes fiery destruction. King Balor is said to receive his name from “Baleros”, meaning “the deadly one”, and he is also called Balor Birugderc, meaning “Balor of the piercing eye”, and he is said to be from a race of giants known as the Fomorians. Just like in the Celtic myths, Vader uses his Death Star “fire eye” to destroy worlds, and it is the job of Luke Skywalker to stop him. In the Celtic Irish mythology, the character named Lugh ends up slaying King Balor by putting out his death-dealing fire eye, by flinging a rock through it. Lugh then becomes King of the Tuatha De Danaan. Lugh was the grandson of Balor. In like manner, Luke ends up stopping Vader by slinging a shot from his spaceship into the Death Star and destroying it, and it is revealed in Star Wars that Luke is Vader’s son.
Balor supported another Formorian king named “Bres” of the “evil eye”, who is the one who cut off Nuada’s hand. Lugh served under Nuada. Nuada was killed and beheaded by Balor, but Lugh avenged him by killing Balor. In similar manner, in the Star War’s films, Luke encounters a vision of Vader in the cave of Yoda, and proceeds to cut off his head, after which an image of his own face is found on it. Luke’s first test in becoming a Jedi involves him facing his fears in Yoda’s cave, and the result is a vision of witnessing his own head cut off from fighting Vader. In like manner, the first degree of Freemasonry has multiple symbols in it alluding to a severed head, including the emphasis on John the Baptist.
It should be mentioned that this Irish-Celtic story of Lugh slaying the giant Balor by taking out his “death dealing fire eye” is not the only story in mythology in which the evil antagonist is taken out by hitting him in the eye in similar manner to how Vader’s Death Star is taken out. In two later Celtic tales the heroes Cuchulainn and Finn defeat the one-eyed giant named Goll. Likewise, Odysseus speared the giant Cyclops through his single eye. Finally, King David slayed the giant Goliath with a single shot from his slingshot to the giant’s forehead, and some esotericists have seen in this the suggestion that Goliath was taken out by destroying his “third eye”, on the brow of the forehead—also known as the “Nazor” in Aramaic, from which “Nazorean” is derived. From a Masonic perspective, do we not see resonance with Hiram likewise being killed with a blow to his forehead? It could be argued, that the Death Star represents the all-seeing eye of the “dark side” of the Force, which needs to be taken out in order for light to not be overtaken by the darkness. The Death Star was deemed to be so large, that it was compared to a moon, and certainly something of this size would actually block out the light of any nearby sun that a planet would need to sustain life.
These are some of the mythological roots of the Star Wars films, but let’s explore some of the symbolism of these films which can also be found in Freemasonry. I will allude to some meanings of things that I find significant, and readers are welcome to draw their own conclusions. First and foremost, it should be noted that the hero of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, has a name that is not only similar to “Lugh” of the Celtic myths, but the name “Luke” in Greek means “light”. From a Masonic perspective, this is central to the Masonic initiations. Luke’s Celtic name of “Lugh”, (pronounced “Looya” in the old Gaelic), is likewise somewhat similar in sound to the pronunciation name of Luke’s Twin Sister “Leia”. Luke trains for a time under the Jedi Knight “Ben Kenobe”, also known as “Obi-Wan”. The name “Ben” means “son” in Hebrew, whereas as “Aba” or “Obi” means “father”. If we combine these two names of his – “Ben” and “Obi” in Hebrew – we can get “ABN” or “Aben”, which means “Stone” in Hebrew. The teacher of both Obi-Wan and Luke is a Jedi Master named “Yoda”, who, by his old age, is implied to be the foundation of the Jedi code and tradition. The name of Yoda is very similar to the Hebrew letter “Yod”, which in fact looks like Yoda’s head! Yod is the foundational letter in Hebrew, and it represents a point, in which all of the other Hebrew letters are derived, in much the same manner that Yoda is the foundational Jedi in which Obi-Wan, Luke, and even Vader had all trained for a time. In Freemasonry, the Yod is prominent in many degrees, and can be found on the ring of the 14th degree in the Scottish Rite. In some Masonic jurisdictions, Rites, and Degrees, a Yod can be found in the square and compasses in place of the letter G that is found in the United States lodges.
Finally, it should be noted that Darth Vader’s original name was “Anakin”, which can be a composite word of the words “Ana” or “Anu”, meaning “god” in Sumerian, and “kin” meaning “progeny” in English, which in this case, suggests that Anakin was the progeny of the gods, and he fell, in much the same manner as we find in the stories of Satan. Vader becomes the fallen one who embraces the “dark side” of “the Force”, while “Luke”, meaning “Light” fights Vader using the “light side” of “the Force”. In this light, we can also see a similar meaning alluded to in the word “Jachin”, in which “Jah” is one of the names for “God” in Hebrew, and “kin” can likewise mean progeny in English. As an aside, it could also be pointed out that Vader is a “Sith Lord”, (which are the warriors on the “Dark Side”), and “Sith” in Hebrew is similar to “Seth”, in which “S” or “Shin” has a qabbalistic meaning of “fire”, and “Th” or “Teth” means “cross”, and so “Seth” or “Sith” is a composite symbol of a cross on fire. Some interpret this as a cross of light, but in this case it could likewise mean the destruction of the cross. If we look to the Templars as the model of the Jedi, and who were known for having the red equilateral cross as their symbol, then certainly a “Sith” would use as their symbol the destruction of that cross, which is implied in the name “Sith”.
Throughout the Star Wars saga, stories are told in which both the light and the dark sides of the Force exert themselves through different characters. We can find similar symbolism in Freemasonry: the black and white checkered pavement, in the center of which is found a star —traditional symbol for the Ether, which in Star Wars is called “the Force”. So this struggle between light and dark culminates in the star in Freemasonry in the same manner as the light and dark aspects of the force contrast each other in the plot of Star Wars.
These are a few of the mythological and symbolic roots that are found in Star Wars and which are also found in Freemasonry. Others, too, can be found, if one looks deep enough! Hopefully this article will just influence the Freemason to look deeper at the entertainment that is being shown in the film Star Wars. With these key elements, however, I can insist that there is an order and deeper meaning to the Star Wars films, which can also be found within the degrees of Freemasonry.
by Timothy Hogan
Reprinted by kind permission from the Southern California Research Lodge’s “Fraternal Review.”
The author is a Past Master and runs the Templar Collegia. He has lectured all over the world in both public and private venues, including as a guest speaker at Universities and US Embassies, and has appeared on numerous television programs worldwide, as well as multiple pod cast and radio interviews. He is author of The Alchemical Keys to Masonic Ritual; The 32 Secret Paths of Solomon; Revelation of the Holy Grail (written under the pen name of Chevalier Emerys); Entering the Chain of Union; The Way of the Templar; Novo Clavis Esoterika; Thoughts from Meditations; and he is author of The Elements of the Elements. He has written for several periodicals over the last decade, including L’Initiation, Livings Stones Magazine, the New Equinox Journal, The Fraternal Review, The Scottish Rite Journal,and Heredom. His books have been translated into Spanish and German.