Jung’s Participatory Imagination

This Sunday, August 30 I will be offering an online presentation for the Carl Jung Depth Psychology Reading Group. The presentation is titled “The Participatory Imagination,” and is based upon the chapter I wrote for the fourth volume of Jung’s Red Book for Our Time: Searching for Soul Under Postmodern Conditions, edited by Murray Stein and Thomas Arzt.

In this talk I will speak about Jung’s Red Book, and how the active imagination fantasies Jung experienced can be understood as a co-creation of the human faculty of imagination in participatory relationship with the archetypes of the collective unconscious. These are ideas that arose while I was writing my dissertation, and while they have implicitly informed many of my presentations and classes, this is the first time I am giving a lecture entirely devoted to this topic! After the presentation we will have time for questions and dialogue.

For those unable to attend the live event, the recording is now available:

The Astrology Podcast

A dream came true for me this week when I had the opportunity to be a guest on Chris Brennan’s The Astrology Podcast. We ranged through a variety of topics, beginning with my background in archetypal astrology and what it is like to be a second generation astrologer, before picking up the topics of the Archai journal, why C.G. Jung’s Red Book is important and relevant to astrologers, and the connection between outer planetary cycles and the unfolding dynamics of world events.

To listen to the episode: Becca Tarnas in Outer Planet Cycles and Jung’s Red Book

I am deeply grateful to Chris Brennan for the invitation to converse with him on one of my favorite podcasts!

Two Nightlight Astrology School Presentations

Over the last couple years I have kindly been invited by Acyuta-bhava Dasa to present for the Nightlight Astrology School on topics dear to my heart: “The Astrology of J.R.R. Tolkien” and “The Astrology of Jung’s Red Book.” I am now sharing the videos of each of these presentations, which were recorded about a year apart. Thank you to all those who expressed interest in seeing these presentations and who have waited patiently for the recording!

While my dissertation research focused on the parallels between the Red Books of C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien, these two presentations treat their works separately, viewing them each through an astrological lens. If the presentations are viewed in conjunction, you will certainly see the overlaps and parallels, in the timing of events and the correlated astrological transits, and in the symbolic content of each.

The Astrology of J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien is best known as the author of the fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings, first published in the mid-1950s and now translated into almost 40 languages. Tolkien first began writing about the world of Middle-earth during World War I, and continued doing so almost until the end of his life in 1973. Although he is best known as a writer, Tolkien was also a visual artist and an extraordinary linguist, holding a position as a professor of philology at Oxford University in England. As his close friend and colleague C.S. Lewis once said: “He had been inside language.” Drawing on an archetypal astrological perspective, this presentation will explore the natal chart of J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as his transits during the creation of some of his major works of art and writing.

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.”

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!

Astrologers in Profile Interview

The astrologer and teacher Adam Elenbaas kindly invited me to do an Astrologers in Profile interview, in which we discussed my journey into becoming an astrologer and scholar. Doing the interview was a deeply meaningful and moving experience for me, and I am so grateful to Adam for the opportunity to share my story in this way. Our conversation ranged through a wide variety of topics and ideas, and we dove into some rich philosophical and spiritual eddies. 

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