Gordon White, the fantastic host of Rune Soup, kindly invited me back on his podcast to discuss the practice of active imagination and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It was such a pleasure to drop back into conversation together two and a half years later, and to see how my research has evolved since my first interview with him back in 2016! The podcast is available for download or can be listened to directly below.
Since I was 9 years old, I have been a devotee of the work of J. R. R. Tolkien and an avid explorer of the world of Middle-earth. I am therefore beyond excited to be teaching an online course through Nura Learning this autumn on Tolkien’s magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings. I feel as though I have been waiting half my life to teach this class, and at last such an opportunity has arisen. If you have never read The Lord of the Rings before, or wish to return to Middle-earth to deepen your connection with this remarkable tale, I would be delighted to have you in this course.
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien has been a beloved story to several generations since its publication in the mid-1950s. The story has a timeless quality to it, and engages with a complex struggle between good and evil, death and immortality, power and freedom. The Lord of the Rings blends otherworldly romance with the high rhetoric of epic mythology, at times interwoven with the internal depths of the nineteenth century novel and the political climate of the twentieth century. As Tolkien’s close friend and colleague C. S. Lewis once said: “Nothing quite like it has been done before. This book is like lightning from a clear sky . . . here are beauties which pierce like swords and burn like cold iron.”
The Lord of the Rings is a text treated by many as a sacred text, one to be returned to year after year, or read aloud with loved ones. The Lord of the Rings, for many, has become a myth for our time. This course offers a journey through Tolkien’s magnum opus in a community of learning, guided by a scholar who has spent more than two decades engaging Tolkien’s writings and artwork. This course is designed both for newcomers to Tolkien’s narrative, and for veteran travelers through Middle-earth’s many realms. Together we will explore the grand themes and hidden nuances of Tolkien’s epic story, connecting The Lord of the Rings to the larger mythology of Middle-earth, and situating Tolkien’s process of writing within his own powerful experiences of the imaginal realm.
To learn more and register, please visit: Nura Learning: Journey to the Imaginal Realm
This Thursday, I will be making my way to Chicago for the United Astrology Conference, the largest gathering of astrologers I have ever attended. Astrologers from all over the world, representing a vast diversity of astrological lineages and perspectives, will be presenting on their research and practices, insights, discoveries and awakenings.
I will be offering a presentation entitled “Astrology as a Spiritual Practice,” which brings transpersonal spirituality and participatory theory into dialogue with the discipline of archetypal cosmology and the practice of archetypal astrology. Coming into relationship with the cosmos through the art and discipline of astrology is a life-long practice. Astrology opens up realms of knowledge to its practitioners that fundamentally challenge dominant perceptions of a disenchanted universe, awakening us to deeper participation in the spiritual meaning permeating the cosmos. I will be exploring how astrology can be lived as a daily practice with profound relational and psychospiritual implications. My presentation will take place on Monday, May 28 at 4:30-5:45 pm.
For those unable to attend UAC, I will be speaking on this same subject later in the summer for the Metropolitan Atlanta Astrological Society on Thursday, August 16 at 7:00-9:30 pm, Eastern time. Whether I connect with you at either or both events, I look forward to deepening the exploration into the spiritual dimensions of the cosmos in which we all participate.
My dissertation defense took place on February 26, 2018 at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
The Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion Program
Invites You to
A Doctoral Dissertation Defense
Becca Segall Tarnas
The Back of Beyond:
The Red Books of C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien
Monday, February 26, 3:00 – 4:30pm
Room 607 & Online via Zoom (details below)
Beginning in the years leading up to the Great War, both C. G. Jung and J. R. R. Tolkien independently began to undergo profound imaginal experiences. They had each stepped across a threshold and entered into another world, the realm of imagination, the world of fantasy. Jung recorded these initially spontaneous visionary experiences, which he further developed using the practice of active imagination, in a large red manuscript that he named Liber Novus, although usually it is referred to simply as The Red Book. The experiences narrated in The Red Book became the seeds from which nearly all of Jung’s subsequent work flowered. For Tolkien, this imaginal journey revealed to him the world of Middle-earth, whose stories and myths eventually led to the writing of The Lord of the Rings, a book he named within its own imaginal history The Red Book of Westmarch. There are many synchronistic parallels between Jung’s and Tolkien’s Red Books: the style and content of their works of art, the narrative descriptions and scenes in their texts, the nature of their visions and dreams, and an underlying similarity in world view that emerged from their experiences. The two men seem to have been simultaneously treading parallel paths through the imaginal realm.
The revelations of this research hold deep consequences for modernity’s assumptions of a disenchanted world, and bring to the surface implications concerning the nature of imagination and its participatory relationship to the collective unconscious. In this dissertation, I will point to the possibility that Tolkien and Jung are preliminary guides on a journey to the depths of an ensouled cosmos in which imagination saturates the very foundations of reality.
Dissertation Committee Chair: Jacob Sherman, PhD
Dissertation Committee Member: Craig Chalquist, PhD
Dissertation External Member: Daniel Polikoff, PhD
Prologue from The Back of Beyond: The Red Books of C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien, written and narrated by Becca S. Tarnas. Video composition by Ashton Kohl Arnoldy.
My essay on Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy and its intersections with archetypal cosmology has now been published in Issue 6 of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, edited by Grant Maxwell.
Everlasting Concrescence: A Process-Relational Cosmology
Substantial evidence has been put forward for the astrological perspective, demonstrating the multifaceted ways in which astrology works. Yet below the surface of this evidence lies another question: why does astrology work? What does the recognition of this highly precise, yet poetically subtle, correspondence between planetary movements and events on Earth indicate about the nature of the cosmos? The evidence for planetary correlations with human affairs can, in many ways, address the alienation from the rest of the cosmos felt by the human being in late modernity. Through the recognition of such symbolic patterns, we can feel the deep interconnection that has always been present between us and our world. We are our world. The cosmic web has not been cut, although part of our human journey has been to feel as though the threads of our existence have been severed.
To read the rest of this article, please see: “Everlasting Concrescence: A Process-Relational Cosmology.” Issue 6 of the Archai journal, Cultural Awakenings, is now available in paperback and Kindle ebook.