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 brings 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  

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Narrative Prologue: The Red Book and The Red Book

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.

The Back of Beyond: Presentation at the International Transpersonal Conference

All of the presentations at the International Transpersonal Conference in Prague, which took place September 28-October 1, 2017, were video recorded and have been made available online! To view my presentation, as well as the accompanying slides, please follow the link below.

“The Back of Beyond: The Red Books of C. G. Jung and J. R. R. Tolkien”

Red Books Presentation

Three Upcoming Talks

During this upcoming week I will be participating in three dialogues and presentations on archetypes, discussing topics from the Solar and Lunar principles, to the astrological dynamics of outer planetary alignments. The first is an online dialogue with Richard Tarnas, titled “A Room of One’s Own: Re-Visioning ‘Feminine’ and ‘Masculine’.” The presentation is for Seeing Red, and will be taking place Monday, November 6 from 5:00-6:30 pm, Pacific time.

A Room of One’s Own: Re-Visioning ‘Feminine’ and ‘Masculine’
When we speak of “the feminine,” are we referring to an essential principle that informs all human beings, female and male, or are we referring to the particular character of women’s psychology? Such a question is not simply academic, as many who have written about the feminine, including Jungians, can move back and forth—sometimes, it seems, quite unconsciously—between these two very different meanings in the same work, even within a single sentence. Similarly, to what extent does “the feminine” reflect a genuine biological or psychological universal, as compared with a specific cultural set of assumptions about what a woman is or should be? For these and other reasons, many feminists have been sharply critical of the widespread use of gendered terms like “the feminine” and “the masculine” to describe essential traits, virtues, and susceptibilities.

A Room of One's Own.jpgIn this first of our two-part presentation, we will illustrate our discussion with references to Eileen Atkins’s extraordinary one-woman performance of Virginia Woolf’s classic work, A Room of One’s Own, based on Woolf’s 1928 talk to undergraduate women at Cambridge. We will also allude to two classic films from past decades that had major impact on the cultural psyche, The Wizard of Oz and Titanic, both of which vividly embodied relevant archetypal and mythic themes.

Here is a link to the Youtube performance of Atkins’s A Room of One’s Own.


The second presentation is titled “Calling the Generations: Participating in Outer Planetary Alignments.” The online presentation is for the Nightlight Astrology School, and will take place on Tuesday, November 7 from 7:00-10:00 pm, Eastern time.

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.


The final presentation this upcoming week will be another dialogue with Richard Tarnas, titled “Solar and Lunar Principles in The Return of the King.” This presentation will continue to explore the themes from the previous dialogue for Seeing Red, and will be taking place Monday, November 13 from 5:00-6:30 pm, Pacific time.

Solar and Lunar Principles in The Return of the King
Can we speak of the feminine or the masculine in ways that don’t fall into the trap of a cultural stereotype? 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. Return of the King

Building upon the themes presented in our session last week, Becca and Rick will explore the Solar and Lunar archetypal principles in relation to their expression through female and male figures in The Return of the King, the final installment of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. We will also deepen our analysis of feminine and masculine principles, and suggest ways of expanding the range of ways we can speak about, and live, our different modes of being human, each in our unique and ever-evolving forms. We will also examine some of the principal challenges and new possibilities faced by contemporary women and girls in our age, poised at the threshold of a post-patriarchal world.

Here is the link to rent Peter Jackson’s film edition of The Return of the King on Amazon.


All three presentations can be watched live online, and recordings will also be available for those who wish to tune in later. To see what other upcoming events I have scheduled, please visit my Calendar of Events. Thank you all for your ongoing support and interest in this work!

Psychedelics Today: Jung, Tolkien, and Human Imagination

In anticipation of the International Transpersonal Conference, which will take place from September 28 to October 1 in Prague, I had the honor of joining Joe Moore in dialogue on his podcast Psychedelics Today. We spoke about C.G. Jung’s Red Book and J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories of Middle-earth and his Red Book of Westmarch, as well as exploring facets of transpersonal psychology, archetypal cosmology and astrology, and the participatory relationship of the imagination to the collective unconscious.

The podcast is available here: Jung, Tolkien, and Human Imagination

Psychedelics Today

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.

I will also be offering a similar online presentation for the Nightlight Astrology School on November 7. 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

Huldufólk: The Inhabitants of Iceland’s Faërian Realm

 

In the North Atlantic there is an island, and it is said that upon this island live two nations: the human nation of Iceland, and a second nation, one that is mysterious and veiled. This is the realm of the Huldufólk, Iceland’s “hidden people.”

This presentation, given at Esalen Institute in the autumn of 2016, offers a glimpse into the world of the Huldufólk and the dynamic landscape in which they live.

 

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.

Towards an Imaginal Ecology

This essay, originally written in May 2013, has now been published in the inaugural issue of ReImagining Magazine, a publication created by the Chicago Wisdom Project.

“To speak, to ask to have audience today in the world, requires that we speak to the world, for the world is in the audience; it too is listening to what we say.”[1] With these words James Hillman opens his essay “Anima Mundi” in which he speaks of the return of soul to the world. Such is the task we face as a species, as human beings, as we learn to cultivate a different kind of relationship with our planet, the Earth which supports our very existence. But what eyes can we use to see the soul of the world? What languages can we speak to call out to the anima mundi? With what ears shall we listen to hear the Earth’s voices in reply?

To read the rest of this article please see: “Towards An Imaginal Ecology

Imaginal Ecology

[1] James Hillman, The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World (Putnam, CT: Spring Publications, Inc., 2007), 91.

“The Biology of Story” Now Live!

The interactive web documentary, The Biology of Story, created by Amnon Buchbinder, is now available online! The full website is fascinating to explore and has interviews with over one hundred individuals who speak about the many facets of story and the narrative tradition.

Becca Tarnas IndexMy own clips for the documentary are now accessible as well, exploring topics ranging from the imagination and ecology, to archetypal astrology, and my dissertation work on The Red Books of C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien. The full playlist of my videos is available here.

I encourage you to take the time to explore the many amazing offerings by the vast range of individuals the film makers have brought together!