Archetypes & Imagination: 2017 Speaking Engagements

This year is turning out to be full of exciting opportunities for travel and speaking engagements. In two weeks’ time I will be going to the Northwest Astrology Conference in Washington state, and giving my first presentation at a regional astrology conference. The title and description of my talk is below:

Calling the Generations: Participating in Outer Planetary Alignments
During major outer-planetary cycles, entire generations are born carrying the archetypal signature of that time. When these same outer planets realign in new configurations there is an archetypal resonance between the generations born with those alignments and the needs of that time. Each planetary combination offers unique gifts, and in our current era of social, ecological, and spiritual crisis each may have its significant role to play in creating a life-enhancing future.

For those in the Bay Area who may be interested in this topic, I will be presenting a longer version of this talk at the end of the year on December 14 with the San Francisco Astrological Society.

Prior to this engagement I have a few more events coming up. In August, in alignment with the total Solar eclipse taking place on August 21, I will be co-presenting with my father, Richard Tarnas, at the Oregon Eclipse Symbiosis Gathering. In honor of the eclipse we will be speaking in dialogue about the archetypal meaning of the Sun and the Moon, and the significance of their powerful conjunction during the eclipse. This is a conversation I have wanted to have for many years, and I am delighted that we will be able to conduct it in alignment with such a dynamic cosmological event. The title and description of our dialogue is below:

Solar and Lunar, Feminine and Masculine 
A total Solar eclipse, the exact alignment of the Sun and Moon, has often been described as a cosmic enactment of the sacred marriage, king and queen, ruler of the day and ruler of the night. Many cultures have considered the Solar as symbolizing the masculine, and the Lunar as the feminine. But can we speak of “the feminine” in ways that don’t fall into the trap of a cultural stereotype, and same with “the masculine”? How can we liberate these categories in a way that would do justice to the diverse ways we have of being male and female, and of being human? Perhaps the ancient archetypal symbols of the Sun and Moon can help open up our understanding of the deep mysteries of the feminine and masculine so we can better articulate the great social and psychological transformation of gender roles and identities in our time.

Finally, I am honored to be presenting at the International Transpersonal Conference in Prague at the end of September this year. I will be speaking on my dissertation research on the two Red Books of C. G. Jung and J. R. R. Tolkien, focusing particularly on the imagination as a realm of participatory creativity. A number of professors, alumni, and students from the California Institute of Integral Studies will be speaking at the conference.

All of my upcoming events are posted with relevant details on my Calendar of Events, which I update regularly. There are also several confirmed engagements for 2018 which are listed there as well.

Deepest thanks to the many people who have offered their support and interest over the years, and who are helping me bring forward my scholarly and creative work from the cocoon of graduate school out into the wider world.

Butterfly Emerging

When Music Takes You to the Beyond

Iceland seems to be calling us back. My husband Matt and I traveled there for our honeymoon last October, and only six months later an opportunity has arisen for us to return. From April 26-29 we will be participating in the third annual Spirit of Humanity Forum, taking place in Reykjavik. We are going to learn about spiritual leadership in governance, and how to bring about lasting transformation in the world that enshrines love, respect, and compassion at the core of decision-making. I hope also to connect with the Professor of Folklorists at the University of Iceland, who I synchronistically met in Berkeley right after watching him speak in several documentaries on the Huldufólk, Iceland’s hidden people, who I was researching for a presentation at Esalen.

But before departing once more for Iceland’s volcanic shores, we first had the opportunity to experience an outpost of Iceland’s popular art when we saw Sigur Rós play at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I’ve always enjoyed the music of Sigur Rós, the ethereal voice of Jónsi Birgisson contrasted with the deep drum beats and guttural distortions for which the group is so well known. Yet I had a feeling that seeing them perform live would be a radically different, powerful experience—and I was right.

First I will mention that this concert took place while the Sun was aligned with the powerful Jupiter-Uranus-Pluto T-square that is shaking the world into chaos at our current moment. The Sun was in a conjunction with Uranus, bringing this highly charged and deeply revolutionary alignment into even greater focus and clarity. One would expect individual creativity to be at its peak, pushing the edges of what has previously been achieved to greater heights and extremes.

From its first notes, the full sensory experience of the concert was remarkable, sound moving through light that shifts and plays across the space like Faërian lanterns from a future world. Yet it was when Sigur Rós reached the third song of their set that I felt I could really take in what they were capable of, the new edges where art can be explored. The third song of the set is entitled “Glósóli,” from the 2005 album Takk. Paired with the release of this album, Sigur Rós crafted an enchanting yet haunting music video to illustrate “Glósóli.” The short film depicts a group of children, all dressed as though from the pages of a fairy-tale, walking together across the open Icelandic landscape.

 

When Sigur Rós played “Glósóli” live, the images displayed behind the musicians showed footage of Iceland’s topography, shown from the perspective of someone traversing the landscape. It was almost as though as the audience member you had become one of the children walking over the stones and hillsides of Iceland’s starkly barren regions. At the end of the original music video the children jump off a sheer cliff side, and as the viewer your understanding of what has occurred hovers for a moment in uncertainty. You may not yet comprehend what these children are really doing, until you recognize that they are able to fly, to soar above the ocean waves. In the live performance, as the musicians reach this same point in the song, the view of the footage on stage lifts off the cliff so that you as an audience member feel the sudden drop in your stomach like you too have taken flight. In this moment I could feel the intertextual dialogue being woven between the live performance and the music video, the footage shown on stage overlaid by the memory of the events unfolding in the music video. You have become one of the flying children, crossing that threshold from this realm into the next, entering into the mystery of the imaginal realm.

Yet in the music video of “Glósóli” the narrative ends there, with the final child jumping into the air. Does he keep flying? The music video leaves you uncertain. But in the live stage show Sigur Rós takes you to the beyond. The music continues, escalating into a powerful, rhythmic climax. As you soar far beyond the cliff’s edge you enter a realm of clouds, of bursting lightning, and the rolling drums of thunder. For all of us with the memory of the “Glósóli” music video echoing through our imagination, the live performance has swept us into the next stage of the story.

The themes that brought the live performance of “Glósóli” to a soaring conclusion fully carried the archetypal patterns of our current moment: the dazzling experience of breaking into a new realm that is so characteristic of the Jupiter-Uranus alignment, along with the powerful, almost overwhelming rhythms of Jupiter-Pluto, and the electronic display of lightning and thunder symbolized by Uranus-Pluto. In the dialogue between sound and light, visceral, somatic rhythm, and the blended imagery of memory and film, I felt art being pushed past a new limit.

The rest of the concert carried forward these themes, cresting again in the final song of the set. In this concluding song I felt the performers begin to channel powerful, even demonic, Plutonic energies, grasping members of the audience into its frenzied motion. The intensity of the music and the light displays continued to escalate, finally reaching a peak in which the musicians themselves faded away off the stage, and nothing but sound and light dazzled the audience, pounding the extremity of the artistic experiment into every pore of one’s senses. The thought began to creep in as the crescendo kept rising that they had pushed the entire display so far beyond the human that as the audience we might lose connection to the narrative arc of the concert if they didn’t conclude the song in some tangibly human way. Yet the song reached its final peak and cracked, coming to a sudden end—silencing the fragmenting display of technology and chaos into darkness.

I almost felt my heart fall in disappointment. They hadn’t resolved it into the human. They had chosen to go the way of spectacle and technological achievement.

And yet, following this blazing conclusion, in the subtle darkness of the stage, a single light came on and illuminated the three musicians walking forward, dressed simply in all black, linking arms affectionately as they bowed, applauding the audience as the crowd roared back in approval. I realized that they had resolved the crescendo in the human realm—by stepping forward as mere human musicians, no spectacle anymore, but purely incarnated talent. The word “takk” appeared projected at the back of the stage, the word for “thank you” in Icelandic.

Following the show I decided to explore the birth chart of Jónsi, the lead singer, and found one of the most remarkable configurations of planets I have ever seen. Each alignment in his complex chart can be seen expressed through the unique blend of styles and sounds that is Sigur Rós’s music. Jónsi was born on April 23, 1975, interestingly on the same day as Shakespeare’s birthday, although 409 years later.

Jónsi Natal Chart

The first alignment that stands out is his exact Venus-Neptune opposition, expressed so clearly in the angelic and otherworldly tones of Jónsi’s singing voice. This Venus-Neptune opposition is in a T-square with Mars, which brings in the assertive fire that also runs through their music. Furthermore, the Venus-Mars square clearly fits the chart of a musician, a performer bringing the art of music (Venus) to life and action (Mars) upon the stage.

Jónsi has a second T-square in his chart, this one comprised of Jupiter opposite Pluto, each squaring Saturn at the midpoint. Without knowing his birth time it is uncertain whether his Moon is also in this alignment. One can see the expression of this Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto T-square in both the guttural heaviness and the intense grandeur of the music.

The two oppositions that make up these two T-squares in Jónsi’s birth chart, of Venus opposite Neptune and Jupiter opposite Pluto, are also part of another major aspect pattern: the Mystic Rectangle. The two oppositions cross each other, two trines forming two of the sides of the rectangle, and two sextiles forming the other two sides. This remarkable aspect pattern brings together both the dynamic tensions of the two oppositions, with the flowing, harmonious aspects of the trines and sextiles. Thus Jónsi was born with Venus trine Pluto and Venus sextile Jupiter, each lending a greater depth and breadth to the artistic creativity of his music; and he was also born with Jupiter trine Neptune and Neptune sextile Pluto, bringing in the expansive transcendence and mystical power of his music.

A trine of Mars and Saturn also tie the midpoints of the two T-squares together, which can be recognized in the marching, almost militaristic drumbeats that so often punctuate Sigur Rós’s songwriting.

Finally, Jónsi was born with a Sun-Mercury conjunction in a tight opposition to Uranus, reflecting the individual brilliance, creativity, and even genius that he is able to bring forward through his musical performances.

Of course, the complexity of Sigur Rós’s music is also shaped by the natal charts of the other two current band members Georg Hólm and Orri Páll Dyrason, and the past members Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson and Kjartan Sveinsson, but exploring the dynamic interplay of all of their charts is beyond the scope of this essay. However, the band formed in 1994 under the exact Uranus-Neptune conjunction of the last decade of the 20th century, and I could still perceive the archetypal qualities of this alignment in Sigur Rós’s musical style—the blend of flowing, ethereal melody with electronic, technological experimentation, the use of light and flowing imagery, sparkling sunlight dazzling across ocean waves, and the overall feeling of wonder and enchantment running through every aspect of their artistic creation. These Uranus-Neptune qualities of exploratory imagination and mystical play, blending the contemporary with the eternal, have now been brought into dialogue with the titanically revolutionary energies of the current Jupiter-Uranus-Pluto alignment, giving birth to an art form that pushes imagination to its peak, bursting beyond the merely human sphere into a realm of both mystical transcendence and underworldly depth—finally to return to the humble human performers bowing low on a darkened stage, illuminated by the glow of a single, focused spotlight.

SIgur Rós 2016 World Tour rehearsals with Bruno Poet and Matt Daw

Archetypal Panpsychism: Whitehead, Jung, and Hillman

This upcoming weekend, on January 20 and 21, Matthew Segall and I will be presenting together for the Idaho Friends of Jung in Boise on “Archetypal Panpsychism: Whitehead, Jung, and Hillman.”

Together we will make the case that a Whiteheadian cosmology is not only compatible with archetypal psychology, but provides a metaphysical foundation for key concepts of the latter—such as the collective unconscious, synchronicity, and archetypes—which are otherwise difficult to account for in a materialist view of the cosmos. Whitehead’s cosmology is often described as “panpsychist,” which means that psyche, far from being exclusively human, pervades the cosmos. Those inspired by Jung, we believe, will also find spiritual and intellectual nourishment from Whitehead’s philosophy.

Matt and I will be offering a lecture on Friday evening from 7:00-9:00 pm, and a workshop on Saturday from 10:00 am-1:00 pm. If you are in the Boise area, please see the website of the Idaho Friends of Jung for further details.

jung-vessel-of-the-sun

For those who are interested, I have several other presentations and events coming up in 2017 and 2018. For information on these engagements please see my Calendar of Events page, which I will continue to keep up to date.

“The Phenomenology of Astrology” in Immanence Journal

The inaugural issue of Immanence: The Journal of Applied Mythology, Legend, and Folktale will be published in just a few days on October 31, and I am delighted to have my article “The Phenomenology of Astrology” included in the publication! A preview of the issue, which is titled The Mythic Present, is available and includes the table of contents, featured artwork, an article by Keiron Le Grice, and the founding editor Craig Chalquist’s introduction to the journal and its contents. This new journal looks at how myth, legend, and folklore continue to saturate our contemporary lives—an inquiry into which astrology provides a particularly compelling perspective. The practice of astrology allows one to perceive archetypes, which can also be discerned in the world’s mythic traditions, manifesting in human events synchronistically correlated with the movement of the planets. My article for the Immanence journal explores how one can also experience these numinous archetypes when contemplating the celestial bodies of the night sky.

phenomenology-of-astrology

Iridescent Infinity: Participatory Theory and Archetypal Cosmology

This essay, originally written in April 2012, has now been published in Issue 5 of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, edited by Grant Maxwell and myself.

“A kind of fluid interpenetration belongs to the very nature of all archetypes.  They can only be roughly circumscribed at best.  Their living meaning comes out more from their presentation as a whole than from a single formulation.  Every attempt to focus them more sharply is immediately punished by the intangible core of meaning losing its luminosity.  No archetype can be reduced to a simple formula.  It is a vessel which we can never empty, and never fill.  It has a potential existence only, and when it takes shape in matter it is no longer what it was.  It persists throughout the ages and requires interpreting ever anew.  The archetypes are the imperishable elements of the unconscious, but they change their shape continually.”

– C. G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

The creative magnificence of the universe is so irreducibly complex that no human framework will ever capture the full extent of its dynamic and indefinable nature. Yet human beings need an orientation in the cosmos to allow the meanings of existence to unfold. The spiritual and intellectual quest of humanity has impelled generation after generation to engage with the divine mystery out of which everything arises, in part to come to a fuller understanding of what our role is within the majesty of the cosmos. This quest has produced a plurality of religious and spiritual traditions that diversely engage and enact spiritual truths through their practices, texts, rituals, celebrations, experiments, and customs.

The rest of this article can be read in Issue 5, Saturn and the Theoretical Foundations of an Emerging Discipline, available in paperback and as a Kindle ebook.

Archai Journal Issue 5

Exploring Jung: Astrology Podcast

I participated in a wonderful conversation on the podcast Exploring Astrology with Adam Sommer, where we spoke about C.G. Jung’s natal chart, his transits during his Red Book period, and several other astrological topics.

The podcast is available for download or can be listened here: Exploring Jung with Becca Tarnas.

Jung Mandala

Panel Event: Publication of Issue 5 “Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology”

Archai Event Poster

Imaginal Ecology at the Symbiosis Gathering

In September of this year I will be offering a presentation on Imaginal Ecology at the Symbiosis Gathering held at the Woodward Reservoir, California. For a description of my talk please see the Symbiosis website.

Symbiosis Gathering

Introduction: A Comprehensive Exam on The Red Book of C.G. Jung

On this New Moon in the heart of spring, I wish to share my comprehensive exam on The Red Book of C.G. Jung, which has been my primary academic focus since the start of this year. This is the second of my two comprehensive exams for my dissertation on the Red Books of Jung and Tolkien. My first exam, on the works and context of J.R.R. Tolkien, can be found here. As with the previous exam, much of the material I’ve written will be part of my dissertation, so I am again not posting it in its entirety, but rather sharing the introduction to give a taste of the work. 

A Comprehensive Exam
on
The Red Book of C.G. Jung

“The years when I was pursuing my inner images were the most important in my life—in them everything essential was decided. It all began then; the later details are only supplements and clarifications of the material that burst forth from the unconscious, and at first swamped me. It was the prima materia for a lifetime’s work.”
– C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections[1]

“But your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart. Without, everything seems discordant; only within does it coalesce into unity. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakens.”
– C.G. Jung, Letter to Fanny Bowditch, October 22, 1916[2]

Introduction

The sea, the mountains, the infinite expanse of stars, the fiery depths, the darkness of the abyss—the world recorded on the pages of C.G. Jung’s Red Book is not the physical domain of the outer world, the world of common day. It is the realm where dreams and fantasy visions arise. It is the wellspring of imagination. It is the natural habitat of the soul, the place where the depths of the psyche are encountered. Many creative individuals have attested to the existence of this second world and have recorded their experiences there in the forms of art, literature, and mystical revelation.Jung – The Red Book

Beginning in 1913, Jung began to engage with a series of profound, visionary fantasies, an encounter with inner images and figures that would change the course of his life. Some say that Jung had gone insane, others that he had received a revelation. Perhaps he had descended to the source where such visions emerge, whether such visions are the delusions of the insane, who are entirely severed from outer reality, or the revelations of the mystics who remind us, as Nietzsche says, that “the world is deep, deeper than day can comprehend.”[3] But rather than proclaiming himself a new prophet, Dr. Jung instead maintained his scientifically-oriented, empirical perspective: he sought an understanding of the origins of the visions, dreams, and fantasies. The journey toward understanding their source led him through the veil into the collective unconscious, the realm of archetypes.

In an effort to understand the meaning of his visionary wanderings, Jung chose to craft a record of his experience in an exquisite, leather-bound volume with the words Liber Novus—the New Book—etched in gold along its red spine. Sonu Shamdasani, editor of The Red Book, has described Jung’s unique project as “a literary work of psychology.”[4] Liber Novus can be seen as the meeting of many rivers, an intersection of psychology, art, literature, and religion—an expression of the efflorescence of human experience.

To enter into an understanding relationship with this unusual work, it must be situated: first in relation to Jung’s biography, and then in relation to the arena of world events in which Jung’s experiences were unfolding. Thus, I begin by focusing on this pivotal period in Jung’s life, drawing from several biographical perspectives and scholarly positions. Next, I look into the practice of active imagination to better understand the method Jung employed to engage with his emerging fantasies. From here I enter into a distillation of The Red Book itself, drawing forward a narrative summary of the three sections Jung composed: Liber Primus, Liber Secundus, and Scrutinies. Finally, I conclude by exploring the implications of The Red Book, first as it shaped Jung’s subsequent theories and writings, and secondly, how its publication in the twenty-first century has begun to change depth psychology, as well as our understanding of the ontology of imagination.

[1] C.G. Jung and Aniela Jaffé, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 199.

[2] C.G. Jung, C.G. Jung Letters, Vol. 1: 1906-1950, ed. Gerhard Adler and Aniela Jaffé, trans. R.F.C. Hull, Bollingen Series XCV: 1 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973), 33.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. R.J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 333.

[4] Sonu Shamdasani, Jung Stripped Bare by His Biographers, Even (London: Karnac, 2005), 25, note 59.

 

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Talking Tolkien and Jung on Rune Soup

I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Gordon White, host of the London-based podcast Rune Soup. We discussed the synchronicity of the “Red Books” of Jung and Tolkien, as well as the role of the imaginal and the mythic in ecology. The podcast is available for download or can be listened to directly below.