In 1913 two men in Western Europe, of different age and unknown to each other, began to undergo a highly unusual experience: C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien both stepped across a threshold and entered into a realm of imagination, into the realm of fantasy. For Jung this process, which he called active imagination, took the eventual form of the Liber Novus, also known as The Red Book, that became the seed from which nearly all his 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 also named, within its own contextual history, The Red Book of Westmarch. Although working in different fields—namely psychology and philology—there are many synchronistic parallels between Jung’s and Tolkien’s “Red Book periods”: the style of their artwork, the nature of their visions and dreams, and a similarity in world view that emerged from their experiences are all indications that they may have been treading, at times, the same paths through the archetypal realm.
Becca Tarnas is a doctoral student in the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion program at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she also received her MA in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program. She received her BA from Mount Holyoke College in Environmental Studies and Theater Arts, and was educated at the San Francisco Waldorf School for thirteen years. Her current research is on ecology, imagination, and archetypes in relation to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. More of her work can be found at beccatarnas.wordpress.com
Intro Music by: Richard Wormstall