The Western Revival of Goddess Worship – Academic Paper

very excited to share the first academic paper of mine that is published in complete form in a peer-reviewed journal! it is entitled ‘The Western Revival of Goddess Worship’ and it has been published in Feminist Theology, volume 31(2).

‘[Western] Women are resisting secularism and are connecting with the transcendental on their own terms, while seeking self-understanding and self-realisation in a gynocentric cosmology. From deifying female sexuality to revering the cosmos as the womb of an all-pervading Mother Goddess, the Goddess Movement encapsulates women’s defiant quest for wholeness.’

i wrote this article two years ago (which is the approximate duration of academic publishing, haha!) during my first MA at Lancaster University, under the supervision of the fantastic Dr. Brian Black, whom i am most grateful to. this paper encapsulates my views at that time, and although my perspectives have become more refined since – both as a scholar and as a practitioner – i remain pleased with this work and i am hopeful that it contributes to the illumination of the phenomenon of religious revival in scholarship. 🙏

you can read it here:

Warwick Writing Programme and Mahābhāratam Diaries

i have officially completed my first year of the Warwick Writing Programme ✅! 🥰! it has been absolutely delightful. 🤍🙏 my gratitude to my professors for guiding me on working on my first collection of bhakti poetry, in researching devotional literature & in translating from sanskrit, as well as from my mother-tongue. 🤍

it was so much fun to venture into freelance writing & to work with my colleagues on different projects – a highlight of this year has been a collaborative audio-translation of my beloved Draupadī’s imposing speech from the Mahābhārata created with Sumithreyi Sivapalan! it is always a joy to work on anything Mbh-related, but it truly is an honour to collaborate with someone equally enamoured with itihāsa! 🙏

you can read a sneak peek here:ṇa-a-collaborative-and-experimental-audio-translation/

indeed, what i adore about academia is the opportunity to meet and connect with people with similar (or identic!) research interests! it truly is so enriching to discuss your research with someone as equally passionate about it as as you, and these discussions unmistakably propel each of you towards greater growth and understanding. in my case, it has been one of the greatest gifts to meet someone as madly infatuated with the Mahābhārata as me!

it wasn’t until meeting my colleague Sumithreyi that i realised how much i had longed to dissect the Mbh with a fellow lover of this magnificent epic, and I can wholeheartedly say that the insights we shared together refined my understanding of the intricacies of its narrative – a narrative so grand that it undoubtedly humbles anyone who dares to venture in it. thank you, dear sakhī! here’s to continuously learning and to emptying our cup of the arrogance of knowing.

pics: all smiles after 7 hours of editing work for the Warwick Anthology 2022!

Jungian Reflections on Mainstream Cinema

happy to share my academic article, “Jungian Reflections on Mainstream Cinema”. ♥️

“Jungian Reflections on Mainstream Cinema” was written during my undergraduate degree, and i expanded on its conclusions in my undergraduate dissertation. my research interests have shifted since then, and, as i dive deeper into other topics in academia, i want to briefly share some of my past findings – how perfect the form of an academic letter is for that! thank you to AL for gifting me the opportunity to publish open-access and, graciously, free of cost, my swift farewell to Jung, psychoanalysis & to the mystical gaze of cinema. grateful to all i’ve learned about myself while immersed in Jung, grateful for the bridge this individuation journey of mine represented – a transition to my postgraduate studies in philosophy & religion. very much looking forward to sharing complete papers centred on religion & philosophy in the future – if i’m ever done with obsessively editing them, that is! ♥️

end-note: have loved conversing with other Jung enthusiasts since this came out. i thought – oh! so this is the magic of presenting & sharing ideas with those who have similar interests as you do!

Jungian Reflections on Mainstream Cinema
Téa Nicolae, Lancaster University

Fantastical worlds have been enchanting humans for centuries. From fairy-tales and legends to science-fiction blockbusters, we have been drawn to bewitching stories of heroes, magic and supranatural creatures since the dawn of creation. (Zipes, 2006) Although this subtle desire to encounter mysticism in art has been labelled as ‘escapism’ (Addis and Holbrook, 2010; p.823), I propose that the phantasmal imagery  of mainstream cinema offers valuable insights into the human psyche. 

I am building my assumption on the work of psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875-1961), who believed that fantastical images of mythology and religion are allegories, cohesively constructed to supply ideas about the psyche. According to Jung, mythology and religion resemble psychology by perfectly creating ‘archetypes’ packed with meaning, which allow humans to dwell upon images of rebirth, transformation and self-realisation. (Jung, 1998) 

The psychoanalyst was unconvinced that our ancestors went to great lengths to interpret the happenings of the natural world through religious iconography because they lacked scientific explanations. Instead, he considered that mystical imagery does not serve as a rationalisation of the physical world, but of the inner one. Thus, such images use the external, chimerical universe to decipher the complex layers of the mind. (Jung, 1998) Therefore, in Jungian thought, images that cross religious and modern myths reveal the nature of the Self, which represents one’s authentic identity. The Self emerges when consciousness and unconsciousness are united; Jung considered this union to be the nucleus of all psychological and spiritual inquiries, as he associated this psychological aspiration with the spiritual yearning for the Divine and believed that the ‘God’ referred to in religion is the Self. To allow the Self to arise, one undergoes psychic processes such as ‘individuation’ and integration, which are reflected in religious iconography within prototypal storylines and quintessential imagery. Hence, Jungians believe that humans have been telling similar stories for centuries: stories that are imbued in our collective unconscious because they are meaningful, soulful, because they guide us to understand our humanity. (Jung, 1998) 

Jung considered that new myths are continuously created in lieu of ancient ones. (Jung, 2002) The concept of modern myths greatly interests me. As cinema has undoubtedly become one of the most accessible and popular artforms, I am inclined to believe that it is a medium where modern myths are crafted. 

Accordingly, as technology allows our unconscious to rapidly absorb images and ideas without properly processing them, Jungian scholars consider that cinema ‘offers both a means and a space to witness the psyche in projection’, thus proving to be an ‘antidote to the modern assault on the unconscious’. (Hauke and Alister, 2001; p.2) I would thereby maintain that, while watching aspects of their humanity and layers of the world unravel on screen, spectators are guided to understand themselves and to find meaning in cinematic tales. 

Indeed, numerous mainstream films encode traditionally religious beliefs that interlace with the Jungian worldview. For example, Star Wars: A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977) is heavily influenced by Hindu thought and is rich with archetypes, whereas George Lucas himself based his work on Jungian conceptions. The Lord of The Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003) embodies Catholic consciousness and constructs a distinct individuation process. Both Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014) and Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) include influences from Eastern schools of thoughts and address the concept of the collective unconscious, while Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) mirrors Hindu convictions and illustrates unity of consciousness. These works have been enthusiastically received by audiences and critics alike. 

I suggest that the popularity of these cinematic pieces arises from a collective subconscious yearning for modern myths and self-reflection. The archaic nature of images that appear in the enumerated films allows cinema, even in its mainstream form, to engage the psyche, and to guide spectators to find purposefulness in life and in themselves. A Jungian analysis of mainstream cinema would thus unveil commercial films as psychic expressions of the unconscious that transcend individuality and collectively touch upon the complexities of our humanness, thus resembling religious myths. 

I would therefore reject the dismissal of commercial films as ‘escapist’, embracing scholar Christopher Hauke’s articulation that ‘their very popularity (…) demonstrates a resonance with unconscious needs in the collective psyche to which the cinema frequently responds.’ (Hauke, 2001; p.9) Additionally, I would sustain that ancestral symbols present in film have the capacity to perform healing functions and to ‘indicate a psychic reality to which each person potentially has access’, which ‘transcends bounds of personal history’. (Frederickson, 2001: p.29) In a fast-moving society which allows little space for introspection, cinema makes complex psychological inquiries approachable and attainable: ‘when an intensity of experience is mixed with the less intense, psychological and emotional replenishment and growth may be made bearable and possible’. (Hauke and Alister, 2001; p.2) 

In conclusion, I propose that cinema is becoming a religion of our own: it is a medium where stories of self-understanding and self-realisation are crafted, where our shared humanity reverberates in archaic images that are pregnant with meaning. Films, our modern myths, invite us to embark on inner, earnest journeys which lead to the Self: the nucleus of humanness. 

‘I believe there’s spirituality in films, even if it’s not one which can supplant faith… It’s as if movies answer an ancient quest for common unconscious.’ 

Martin Scorsese (Scorsese and Wilson, 1995)

Corresponding Author: Téa Nicolae
Citation: Nicolae, T. (2021). Jungian Reflections on Mainstream Cinema. Academia Letters, Article 3814.

you can read the bibliography and the filmography of this article visiting the link pasted above.

Navarātri beginnings…

♥️ this week is one of beginnings for me, and i am delighted that it coincides with the auspicious time of Navarātri… ♥️ overjoyed to share that i am joining the Warwick Writing Programme to complete my second master’s degree in poetry & literary translation, as well as commencing my study of Sanskrit at the Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies ♥️ and, this week i’m beginning my new job as a transcriber-translator! 😸 in typical fashion, i will turn this around to the Mahābhārata, and hope that this paves the way to translating some of its most beautiful ślokas… sometime in the far future 😝♥️

MA dissertation: “Mapping the Absolute: The Iconography of the Daśa Mahāvidyās”

💚 over the moon to share that i have submitted by MA dissertation, entitled: “Mapping the Absolute: The Iconography of the Daśa Mahāvidyās” 💚

💚 my dissertation has been fuelled by Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan’s books & courses addressing the lustrous wisdom embodied by the ravenous sequence of the Mahāvidyā Goddesses. my intention (icchā, if you will 😺) to explore the deities from a cosmogenic standpoint was sown during a retreat i attended in 2020 that was centred on the first five of the Mahāvidyās, led by Kavithaji & Hareesh Wallis. i was spellbound listening to Kavithaji present the Goddesses as non-dual expressions of cosmological creative forces and i was concomitantly dismayed to realise that all the material i had encountered which addressed them was rooted in strong misconceptions. poignantly, the distortion & appropriation of the Goddesses in popular culture & western scholarship appear to majorly stem from the legacy of colonialist writings – and, i tried to offer my small contribution towards the deconstruction of the colonial / orientalist gaze through this thesis. 💚 if there’s one thing i know for certain after writing my dissertation is that one needs dozens of lifetimes to come to grasp the vidyā embedded in one Goddess – and my 100 pages have barely scratched the surface:

“The six systems of philosophy remain powerless to describe Her.
She is the inmost awareness
of the one who realises
that Consciousness alone exists.
She is the life blossoming within
the creatures of the universe.
Both macrocosm and microcosm
are lost within Mother’s Womb.
Now can you sense
how indescribable She is?”

💚 Śākta poet Rāmprasād Sen, translated by Lex Hixon.

💚 very grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Brian Black, who has encouraged and guided me through the entirety of my MA. (and who shares my obsessive love for the Mahābhārata!)


*the painting appearing on my cover-page: Mātaṅgī by Kailash Raj. 💚

A Journey to the Self

thrilled to have finally gotten my undergraduate dissertation printed & bound – a tangible copy to celebrate its one year anniversary! 🌻

☀️ taking a moment to gush: my final year as an undergrad was so very precious to me, as it represented the first big leap i took with my writing. dissertation-wise, i wanted to focus on what Richard Leonard calls “the mystical gaze” of cinema: cinema’s arguably innate fascination with the esoteric that enables the viewer to encounter the transcendent. although my supervisor advised me that it could be a tricky topic, i felt curiously pulled to it and decided to trust my gut – and so, my dissertation addressed the archaic imagery emerging in commercial cinema as seen through a Jungian gaze & argued that cinematic archetypes unveil layers of the psyche. 

☀️ while i immersed myself in mystical Jungian realms, esotericism concomitantly trickled into my poetry modules. i stepped out of my comfort zone & compiled a collection of occult poetry for my final year portfolio: the poems centred on constructing a numinous female gaze that coloured the experience of transcendental states. 

☀️ it was magical to delve into the otherworldly and to construct my very own lyrical cosmos, which resulted in deep awe of our internal psychological processes. i grew, and, most importantly, i had fun! it turned out to be my most mature & appreciated work at that time, while i myself realised that what had been missing in my approach was passion! i was playing safe with my writing, unwilling to pursue what truly interested me out of fear. the fear made my writing & myself stale, dry of wonder or juiciness – which are two things i’ve become committed to seeking in all that i do. thank you, sleepless dissertation nights, for this! here’s to piercing through the fear & to taking big scary beautiful leaps! 


God(dess) knows we need them! 

mid-term journal musing

and, journal-musing: this term has been so fruitful, despite working completely from home! i haven’t spent so much time at home since high school and, to an extent, i’ve felt like i was transported back to that time – minus the insecurities 😹!

anyway, Mahābhārata’s been living in my head rent-free, and i’ve dedicated my time & research to writing about violence & religious conflict as they transpire in my beloved Kṛṣṇa’s actions and speech in the Kurukṣetra war & in the Bhagavad-gītā. 🤍 additionally, i’m excited to be completing my first independent study, an exploration of issues of purity & impurity in non-dual philosophy, and to be undertaking a small research project into consumer spirituality and the relentless commodification that comes with it. 🤍

all in all, i am deeply grateful to be offered the opportunity to explore the marvellous Mahābhārata once more. its poetic teachings and ample cosmological symbolism have permeated through me and i often wish its universe would swallow me whole 🤍 nonetheless, i’m certain that one needs to dedicate ten lifetimes to one parva, and i am not exaggerating ! as Vyāsa himself states in Ādi Parva: ~ what is found here, may be found elsewhere. what is not found here, will not be found elsewhere ~

i’ve never had so much workload crammed into such a short timespan, but i’ve been trying to savour the flavour of busyness. it’s alien to be doing all of this in my childhood home. it’s a fun parallel, though – whilst musing on the Bhagavad-gītā (by the way, we are exploring the B-g in our monthly satsaṅgs at #sabdainstitute with our beloved teacher Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan!), it dawned on me that i was so hungry for this knowledge in my teens, but i didn’t know where or how to look. it came to me in the end, and what a great joy it is ~ to sip the honey of “the stainless lotus of the Mahābhārata, born on the waters of the words of Vyāsa, fully blossomed through the grace of Hari…” ~ {my vague attempt at translating a śloka} 🌺🕊🌺🕊❤️

mid-term study-break selfie 🤍