Photo by SamuelStone from Pixabay
Or find the audio wherever you get your podcasts.
DECEMBER 31, 2021
“This is the last day of the year,” she said, looking up at Aran. She took in their surroundings with a flash of pleasure. Around them spread a sitting room beside a fire with a round window looking out on a beautiful woodland garden. She smiled at him in satisfaction. “And this is a much better location for us to meet and work. At least, it is now.” She shrugged, acknowledging that the observation lounge on the campus of a start-up company where they’d met for the past three years had been right while it lasted.
She did wonder why they’d used that location for so long. But it had felt right until all of a sudden, it hadn’t. Now, the lounge struck her as terribly impersonal, public, and not nearly cozy enough. Had she been “listening” to the streams of the culture that flow through start-up companies over the last three years? Was that whence came the torrent of entrepreneurial ideas that had yet to run dry? [link to post series] However the change had come, she was more than ready to snuggle down into this magical space that evoked Bilbo’s study without actually being his.
If the suspense is killing you, you might want to take a detour to read/listen to more about who Aran is and what the heck is going on.
Aran lifted his hand and cast a handful of fine sparkling dust at a dark oval mirror held up by a floor stand between his chair and the fireplace. The mirror was placed so as to take advantage of the hearth, which was amply wide, paved in semi-rough stones, and so made a good overspill spot to receive things like dust tossed at a magic mirror. For all its ornate age and warmth, the study was well-ordered and clean, especially for Middle Earth.
The dust ignited on the surface of the mirror and filled the air before the mirror with a cloud of shifting patterns and faint blushes of color. She wondered if the color came from the smoke itself, or was reflected from the room. It smelled wonderful – sharp and aromatic, subtly floral and mysterious. It evoked memories of those long ago Babylonian nights when she and Aran had last known each other in incarnate form. As the fragrance took her, she found herself drifting in a world of vague memory, swelled by feelings of euphoria that soon became worry, gripping her stomach and twisting her spine.
Who is Aran?
Aran looked sharply at her, reading the play of emotions with a practiced eye.
“Why do I always get so anxious?” she asked, and then answered her own question because this too was a nervous habit. “It’s probably just because I have actual cause for anxiety–not enough work, money running out, long road before I can expect results…” her voice trailed off as she stared into the mirror. She couldn’t see her face in it, but neither could she see much except a dimness. It was dark but not black, a variable dark navy color, with maybe a lighter area in the upper right corner.
“Keep looking,” he said.
As she watched, the vague darkness in the mirror swirled together and opened in the center to reveal a brilliant light, though it was not a celestial light. It was the warm and brilliant luminosity of a clear sunrise sun shining through a narrow window. It was beautiful, golden and white, and scintillating in that way that only sunrises and sunsets are.
“Low angle sunlight,” she said. “I love it. And I love that I now have a scientific explanation for what’s different about it (courtesy Andrew Huberman). As well as data about its concrete benefits!” The light continued to flow into her mind, through the lens of her eyes, vibrating as Beauty and Nature in Eternity in a timeless flow.
“I also love that my certainty about the mental health benefits of all those gorgeous Hawaiian sunrises and sunsets – is now validated by science. I mean, Andrew Huberman didn’t study amazing sunsets specifically, and definitely didn’t mention Hawaiian sunsets, but it all falls under the umbrella of their research. You know, since they found that any old morning and evening sun, even when filtered through clouds, is good, or beneficial.” She grinned.
Her mind-blown ecstasy at some of the Hawaiian sunsets she’d seen in her earlier life came back so readily, scenes so glorious she remembered them to this day, with no idea how one could ever render them in art. How, for example, do you paint cloud puffs gilded on their undersides in glowing gold so that they look like a massive brilliant shoal of golden fish or like the scales of one great fish, its body spread end-to-end across a vivid salmon and lavender sky? Her eyes glowed with the light in the mirror and with the memory of that past light. She still remembered the street where she’d been walking on her way to work more than thirty years ago in college in Hawaii. She remembered thinking, This has to be good for the mind, seeing beauty like this, flooding your eyes with this kind of light and color.
“And so do you see how might the rationalist adventure lead unto humanity’s religious impulses, its mystical insights, and its imaginal visions?” Aran asked.
“Yes,” she said, her eyes glowing. He was closing the loop on an intellectual, erudite in the extreme, conversation she listened to yesterday: “Richard Tarnas & Matthew D. Segal – Journeying within a Cosmic Journey” on the Conversations in Process podcast, which had included discussions about the five hundred year foray humanity has made into a rationalist, disenchanted worldview since the Scientific Revolution starting in the 16th century.
“So,” Aran said, “How can we help now?” He smiled almost primly down into his hands, and then looked back at her more intently, waiting for her to begin.
“Well, I’m working on my website,” she said. “ And thinking about this phase of my development. Also chewing on money, as always. I guess I’d like some help in thinking about the website and about my work. I had a million ideas churning about both, but now that I’ve got some time to sit down and work on it, I’m feeling a little stuck. I was thinking that the website is entering a new phase but that it might be transitional and lead somewhere as yet to be revealed.”
Then her guilt popped–because of something she’d read yesterday in the record of their Conversations, something she’d completely forgotten about. She brought it up now, pushing past her apologies in her rush to get it out:
“I was remembering your instructions to create a website–I guess our last conversation about that was in February? You said that the timeline had been moved up and that I should make my website my main central focus–for creative output, for making money, for connecting with people, for everything. And that the website needed a redesign for that, so that it could serve as that. Which, by the way, I completely bailed on. Sorry about that.” She chewed her lip and frowned. “I hope it hasn’t made things harder (for you)?” She cringed. “I’m just wondering how to play catchup?” Karan tucked her leg up under herself as she adjusted her seat on the small, come to think of it, rather hard, velvet couch she was sitting on.
Glancing down, she noticed that the sunlight slanting in from the front window and the sunnier west end of the garden was shining off the far shoulder of the couch. This was surely to blame for the velvet’s very faded appearance. Some of the deeper crevices were clearly blue, or a deep blue-gray. But the topsides were pale almost to the point of glinting white amidst an expanse of icy blue-gray over most of the couch. She ran her hand across the surface of the seat beside her to see if she could stir up a deeper color in the velvet. Failing to find much of interest in the way of patterns under her fingers, something new occurred to her. She looked up and went on.
“Actually, I remember why I didn’t do it. I think it related to that wall I hit when we were doing…when all that stuff was happening and you said that. I was excited initially, but then I got overwhelmed and panicked. I remember coming to the conclusion, and that I felt pretty certain about my conclusion, that using a Seth Godin approach (summarized in Finding Your Calling) had been effective, but wrong for me. Oh yeah, we processed that together! I decided that I needed to continue–to follow the song of my heart and the life that was flowing through my front door! It was the whole Jesus advice to focus on what is right in front of me. And so actually, the period of doing A Little More Free, the podcast, was me stepping out in faith into that river. Which…was why I was so depressed when it blew up! ” She blew the hair off her forehead with a sharp exhale and sighed.
“But now it’s dropped me right back where I started,” she said, brightening suddenly. “With some major upgrades. Both in terms of skills, but also in terms of a whole mental arc that can now make better sense of–in the sense that it can more deeply metabolize–Becca Tarnas’ offering. As well as of course, the major upgrade that is her offering itself, which has been very helpful. Which: is that to work with the Imaginal, which is where you and I work, is to work with Truth. We who work with the Imaginal do shape it as a creative act (what Tolkein calls the “sub-creative act”), but we also interact with it and are acted upon by it. Because working with the Imaginal has nothing to do with make-believe.”
Read more about Katy and this project.
Karan went on. “I’ve seen your and my imaginal interaction…because you called it that years ago–well, you said we meet in the imaginal, not in the astral. And that in order to meet in the imaginal, you, Aran, have to have a foothold in the astral. You compared it to having an office in Times Square. And you…eased my fears about that.” She flashed him a look and saw a wry crinkle at the corners of his eyes, but his eyes were hooded as he watched her. She had grown very suspicious of the astral plane in recent years, which was the source of her unease about that bit of their arrangement.
“I’ve been seeing this way we communicate as a downgrade, kind of. You know, since we used to talk with a lot more directness. I mean, there was the long period when I was learning to trust you–all the yes-no guidance about everything and how awesomely reliable your counsel was. And then the writing of the memoir. Which, somehow, was you. Even though Sir Francis Bacon appeared to me before I began writing, and confirmed he would be helping me to write my memoir.” She glanced up at him, the question in her eyes. “That true?” she asked.
He nodded and bent his head thoughtfully. She could see he was thinking his own thoughts, though still closely following their conversation.
“Anyway, that period of being inspired by the Muse while writing the memoir was so extraordinary and intense and revelatory and constant! Now it’s much quieter and different. And there have been long stretches when it hasn’t worked at all and I’ve actually stopped trying for long periods. Plus the long years when you wouldn’t answer me.” She gave him a sidelong look. That period had lasted a very long time and had at times felt very lonely. She held his eye, and finally nodded to acknowledge that–Yes, we had that time. It happened during a very dark time in my life, but I know it wasn’t a punishment or cruelty. And I see it as a necessary time that helped me to grow.
She went on. “I think I should also say, for the record, that I think of what we do as something other than automatic writing or visionary revelation or channeling.” She watched him as she proposed this, and went on when he nodded quietly.
“Now, with Becca Tarnas’ offerings on the Imaginal, which she builds on the shoulders of both Tolkein’s and Jung’s work, I suddenly feel like this method of ours is not only legitimate, but that I understand how to access it more reliably. ”
“What that means is, when I get stuck, I need to think like an author, not a medium or a teacher, or a psychic. I need to more fully enter the writing of a fictional work–that is ensouled, illuminated by the numinous, of Numenor. I need to lean into the creative in order to enter more deeply and fruitfully into the world of soul, into the soul of the world–to make love-play-create with the anima mundi.” She looked up at him and grinned suddenly, lit with joy. He was smiling back at her, and she saw the insides of things as they resonated with that shared love, joy, and purpose, as their very beings sang with it… all the way down to the purple fluorite crystal glowing in front of her.
JUST AFTER MIDNIGHT, NEW YEAR’S EVE
Sirius blew my mind this year! Shining bright like a diamond in the sky at midnight (yes, Katy Perry got there first). Read more about that in my next post, and about Jade Wah’oo Grigori, the Mongolian American shaman who taught me about the Underworld, which may or may not be the same as the imaginal realm.
Becca Tarnas shares her discoveries and developments in her thinking in three episodes on the podcast Rune Soup, beginning in 2016.
Becca also has a website, beccatarnas.com, and a book out called, Journey to the Imaginal Realm: A Reader’s Guide to J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (on Amazon).
I haven’t read it (yet), but I plan to begin a re-read of The Lord of the Rings. This will be the first time since maybe the 90’s? At last count, I’d read LOTR sixteen times, but I put fantasy down in the late nineties and only returned to it in the last few years. So, I’m looking forward to the adventure. My next post is about the fantasy and science fiction that I discovered in the past couple of years and which really kept me company during the pandemic. (Available now)