#04 Dr Becca Segall Tarnas - Recovering the Imaginal with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.G. Jung


For the fourth episode of MUTATIONS, I am very honored to bring you a conversation with Dr Becca S Tarnas. Becca and I have had the chance to work together to offer an online course at Nura Learning last fall, “Journey to the Imaginal Realm: Reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,” which is now also becoming a book through Revelore Press (in the Nuralogical series), and coming up next Monday, Nura is launching her next online seminar: “Sub-Creating Middle-Earth: Reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.” You are most definitely invited to join the class and participate in the fascinating Q&A sessions.

Becca is a scholar, artist, counseling astrologer, and editor of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology. Her dissertation, which is the subject of our podcast this episode, is titled “The Back of Beyond: The Red Books of C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien.”

In this episode, we explore:

  • The surprising intersections of two of the twentieth century’s most fascinating writers: C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien

  • The two Red Books, C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus and Tolkien’s Red Book of Westmarch

  • The nature of imagination as a participatory faculty of knowing the world

  • The gnostic influences, convergences, and divergences of Jung and Tolkien

  • Comparing the Atlantis “Complex” of Tolkien and C.G. Jung’s vision of a flood

  • “World building” versus “World discovering.” (Tolkien: ““I always had the sense of recording what was already there somewhere.”)

  • Fantasy as escapism vs. fantasy as “sub-creation.” The connections this has with philosopher Jean Gebser’s concept of Ursprung (origin) and the spiritually creative cosmos.

  • Imagination and myth as a means of self-knowledge: how we come to know what is true, and how The Lord of the Rings reflects truths about our own moment in history

  • How Tolkien’s historical moment — WWI, WWII — echoes and reflects itself in The Lord of the Rings without needing to become allegory

  • What Sam coming home and regrowing the Shire has to teach us about our own efforts in an age of planetary ecological crisis

  • The Silmarillion course — what to expect, what we’ll be focusing on, and how to sign up!


Becca’s homepage

Archai Journal

Register for Becca’s course: Sub-Creating Middle-Earth: Reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion

Becca’s dissertation defense


Featured artwork by Archan Nair

Featured music by Lightbath

Intro/outro, “Planars of Existence”

Intermezzo, “Cathedral Rock”

Lightbath offers bonuses like patch notes, album downloads, livestreams, and one-on-one lessons at

Subscribe to Lightbath on YouTube for brilliant live performances and check out his Bandcamp page for more tracks.


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