The astrologer Adam Sommer welcomed me back onto his podcast Holes to Heavens for a rich conversation about The Red Books of C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien, in which we explored astrology, myth, imagination, ecology, and the power of eclipses. From dragons to elf-light, this was a wonderful dialogue in which to 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.
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.
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
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.