Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio: Jung, Tolkien & the Imaginal

When I first started researching the parallels between Jung’s Red Book and Tolkien’s Red Book of Westmarch, I came across a wonderful 2011 interview with the Gnostic scholar Lance S. Owens, conducted by Miguel Conner of Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio and titled “Gnostic Themes in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” The ideas set forth both affirmed and furthered my thinking on the two Red Books, and Owens became an essential source in my research.

Now, seven years after I first heard that interview, I had the great honor of being invited myself onto that same podcast to discuss my new book, Journey to the Imaginal Realm, with Miguel Conner. To listen, here is the interview: “Jung, Tolkien, and the Imaginal.”

Jung Tolkien and the Imaginal with Becca Tarnas

We intimately understand the events and processes that allowed C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien to enter the Imaginal. Can we access those creative energies and charged symbols from the realm of archetypes to alchemically transform ourselves and the surrounding culture for the better? Our quest into the minds of these magicians of the imagination leads us as well to discover the deeper meanings in such hallowed works as The Lord of the Rings and The Red Book.

The Two Red Books in Orange County

For those who are in the area, I will be bringing my lecture The Synchronicity of the Two Red Books: Jung, Tolkien, and the Imaginal Realm to the C.G. Jung Club of Orange County! I will be presenting on Sunday, November 10 at 4:00–6:00 pm at St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach.

For more information, please visit the website of the Orange County Jung Club.

Jung & Tolkien

The Synchronicity of the Two Red Books

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. This presentation 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.

Course objectives:
• Explore the nature of imagination and its participatory relationship to the collective unconscious.
• Understand the relevance of Jung’s and Tolkien’s Red Books to modernity’s assumptions of a disenchanted world.

The Astrology of Jung’s Red Book

On Thursday, November 7 I will be offering a presentation for Adam Elenbaas’s Nightlight Astrology School on “The Astrology of Jung’s Red Book“! The talk will bring an astrological lens to bear on The Red Book of C.G. Jung, exploring Jung’s natal chart and transits, as well as drawing on Liz Greene’s astrological analysis of Liber Novus. The presentation will be hosted online, at 4:00 pm Pacific time, 7:00 pm Eastern. Please visit the Events page of the Nightlight Astrology School for details on how to log in to the meeting.

Astrology of Jung's Red Book

The Astrology of Jung’s Red Book 

Recently, new scholarship has been emerging demonstrating the essential role astrology played in the development of C.G. Jung’s analytical psychology. Although Jung kept his practice of astrology relatively concealed, he was using it regularly with his patients. With particular focus on Jung’s remarkable manuscript Liber Novus, better known as The Red Book, this presentation looks at the role astrology played in shaping Jung’s psychology and world view, drawing significantly on Liz Greene’s work to explore the astrological symbolism throughout The Red Book, as well as the transits Jung was experiencing at the time of his self-described “confrontation with the unconscious.” 

To view my schedule of upcoming events, please visit my Events page!

Lecture & Workshop at the Comox Valley Jung Society

On March 8 and 9, I will be bringing my lecture and workshop on The Red Books of C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien to the Comox Valley C.G. Jung Society in British Columbia! This is a special visit for me, in part because I already have a connection to this part of the world: my mother is Canadian and thus I have dual citizenship with this country, and she lived on Vancouver Island for a number of years when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I also had the great adventure of working for two summers at the beautiful retreat center Hollyhock on Cortes Island, and fell in love with the quiet lapping of the waves on these temperate rainforest islands. I am eager to return now to connect with the Jungian community in Comox Valley.

For those who are in the area, I will be offering a lecture on Friday, March 8 at 7:00-9:00 pm on The Synchronicity of the Two Red Books: Jung, Tolkien, and the Imaginal Realm. The following day, on Saturday, March 9, I will be offering the workshop Jung’s Red Book and Active Imagination from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

More information about the workshop can be found here: Comox Valley C.G. Jung Society. To register, please message cvjungsociety@gmail.com. I hope to see some of you there!

Comox Valley Workshop

Mutations Podcast: Recovering the Imaginal

In anticipation for my upcoming course with Nura Learning, Sub-Creating Middle-Earth: Reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, I had a wonderful conversation with Jeremy Johnson on the Mutations podcast about J.R.R. Tolkien and C.G. Jung, and the recovery of imagination in our era. Jeremy is a skillful interviewer, bringing his own ideas and research to the table in a way that deepened our mutual inquiry. The conversation was an absolute delight to participate in, and I am thrilled to share the podcast.

To listen: “Recovering the Imaginal with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.G. Jung

Mutations Podcast

If you are interested in joining us for the course on The Silmarillion, there is still time to Register!

Doctoral Dissertation Defense: February 26, 2018

CIIS LogoThe Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion Program

Invites You to

A Doctoral Dissertation Defense 
by
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