Author Richard Tarnas talks about the intersections of history and astrology, and the evolution of our 'uninitiated' culture - A respected academic creates a 'scandal' with
a new work that merges cultural and planetary history
2006 07 01
By Shelley L. Ackerman | beliefnet.com
Article from Light Eye
Is the universe conscious? And does the cosmos actually
care about what happens to Earth? In a new book, "Cosmos
and Psyche" cultural historian and professor
at California Institute of Integral Studies, Richard
Tarnas, Ph.D., makes the case for a caring and sentient
universe. While many scientists and academics subscribe
to a paradigm in which faith and reason are separate,
Tarnas offers an integrated perspective. Using astrology
and planetary correspondences to illustrate patterns
in world history, he reminds us that the stars do, in
fact, light the way for humanity in its spiritual evolution
and struggle with maturity.
Tarnas recently spoke to Beliefnet about history and
astrology, and how, in a culture with a soulless cosmology,
"you can never get enough of what you don't really
Your first book, "The Passion of the Western
Mind," published in 1991, is widely taught in universities.
You’ve used the word “scandalous" to
describe your new book, "Cosmos and Psyche."
Why a scandal?
Given current assumptions about the cosmos, it is a
scandal for a professor of philosophy to come out with
a book that is in any way supportive of astrology. I
think it's safe to say that of all perspectives, astrology
is the one most subject to automatic rejection and scorn
in the modern intellectual world. I myself was skeptical
until I conducted my own research. But the evidence
is very compelling: There is an astonishingly consistent
correlation between planetary alignments and the patterns
of human experience. "Cosmos and Psyche" sets
out that evidence in a way that readers new to this
perspective can examine and assess for themselves. It's
a little like Galileo's telescope: Anyone could look
through it to see the new universe it revealed, but
it was a scandal at the time.
How would you describe the astrological perspective?
Most cultures, including our own prior to the modern
era, had some kind of astrology as part of their world
view, for they understood the cycles of the moon, sun,
and planets as deeply meaningful. The astrological perspective
sees the universe as both meaningful and unified. Instead
of the modern division between the purposeful, meaning-seeking
human consciousness and a random, meaningless universe,
astrology points to a universe that is integrated at
all levels: outer and inner, macrocosm and microcosm,
celestial and terrestrial. As was said by the ancients,
"As above, so below."
What would be the advantage of a world view
that includes astrology?
The existence of correlations between the planetary
cycles and human life makes it possible for both individuals
and societies to understand better what archetypal energies
are at work and at what time. This can help us be more
skillful and aware as we engage in the activities of
life. It's like knowing the weather report before going
out into the ocean to sail or surf. It helps to know
where the winds and waves will be coming from.
But there is also a deeper advantage: Modern civilization
pays a high price for living in a universe that it believes
is random and spiritually meaningless. Nature is not
honored but is instead exploited for short-term benefit.
And a purposeless universe creates a sense of deep spiritual
emptiness inside, which people try to fill with endless
consumer products, so that the industrial technology
producing those products is cannibalizing the planet.
But as we know, you can never get enough of what you
don't really need. A new vision of nature and the universe
as ensouled, as spiritually significant, would give
a better ground for both moral responsibility and a
sense of spiritual belonging.
Our economic system seems to have lost much
of its moral and spiritual foundation. Every major company
must show a profit each quarter. Nature herself dictates
otherwise. For example, farmers would let a field go
fallow every seven years. Shouldn’t cycles in
business mirror cycles of nature?
Our civilization desperately needs to develop more awareness
about the consequences of our activities. We need to
be paying attention not just to the bottom line of the
next quarterly profit report, but to what seven generations
from now will experience as a result of our actions.
The only way that such a fundamental change will occur
would be if enough individuals become more deeply aware
of our profound embeddedness within the larger Earth
community and the universe itself. Our civilization
basically seems to be caught in an immature period in
its development, like a self-enclosed adolescent who
has not yet been initiated into the deeper realities
of life and who therefore continues to act from a short-sighted
and often self-destructive state of consciousness. It's
as if our entire civilization is undergoing an initiation
in our time, into a new world view and a new way
How and when did astrology fall out of favor
with established academia and science?
Historically, astrology actually has a long, noble
tradition that was central to Western civilization from
the ancient Greeks onwards. As recently as the Renaissance
it was highly regarded by most of the intellectual and
cultural elite. The shift really happened in the later
17th century, when many factors came together—the
growing conviction that the modern mind was superior
to all ancient traditions and perspectives, the new
sense that the cosmos was disenchanted or soulless,
a belief that to be free, the human being could not
live in an astrological universe, and a gradual intellectual
decline within astrology itself that made it increasingly
vulnerable to criticism. Underlying all of these, a
deep change of consciousness was occurring in the modern
self that eclipsed the astrological vision so that something
else could emerge. Astrology stopped being taught at
Harvard and Oxford by the end of the 17th century; interestingly,
though, astrology courses are again entering higher
education, this time in a form that has integrated modern
and postmodern developments.
Short of a complete technological-electronic
meltdown, how can we go from our present state of constant
distraction and addiction to technology to one that
comes out of a serene relationship with nature and the
cosmos, one that allows us to hear our own heartbeat?
It's an enormous challenge. On the one hand I think
each individual is on a journey of her own or his own.
Individuals need to be listening closely to their own
hearts, their own calling to new horizons. They need
to pay attention to where they feel "not right"—perhaps
unplug the television, go out into nature more often,
look at the heavens and the night sky outside of the
city. We all need to orient our lives more towards beauty,
towards art, towards relationships, and towards interior
self-exploration, whether it's meditation or more powerful
forms of experience. For example, the ayahuasca rituals
coming from South America are extraordinary, powerful
initiatory rituals that help people become aware that
they are in a larger universe than they thought.
So on the one hand, there are individual paths on which
each of us has to find our own way. But then there's
the question of how we are to deal with the major problems
of modern consciousness on the collective level--for
example, the vast collective entrancement that's happening
right now through the mass media.
Entrancement? As in electronically medicated
Exactly. Many people today are more tuned into the
weekly sitcoms and "reality shows" than they
are to what's going on in the planetary biosphere or
even in their neighborhood community. What will wake
people up from this trance? Many experts believe that
some very critical events will unfold within the next
decade or so. We've already seen some in these last
two years: Katrina, the tsunami, the many violent hurricanes
and tornadoes, the strangeness of the weather patterns,
the melting of the ice caps... And we know from individual
lives that there is nothing like a mortal crisis to
profoundly reconfigure a person's life. Out of such
a crisis a radical shift of values tends to emerge.
The whole moral structure of a person's or an entire
society's way of being is transformed. It seems to me
quite possible that we as a civilization and as a species
may face some kind of crisis that will serve to catalyze
this awakening. The question is: How severe will the
crisis have to be for this awakening to take place?
This is where we come in, with our free will, our courage,
How did you come to use planetary aspects (cyclical
relationships of planets to each other) instead of "signs"
in your research?
Over the 30 years of research, I found that the most
striking correspondences involved the aspects, like
between the planets, rather than the signs. It's more
important that there is a new moon or a full moon (which
is formed by the conjunction and the opposition of the
sun and the moon), than what sign the moon is in. It's
not that signs have no significance. But the most basic
archetypal dynamics that we see in history and in people's
biographies seem most precisely connected to the geometrical
aspects between the planets. Signs color those energies,
but the energies themselves are related to the planets
and their cyclical alignments.
We see this, for example, in the great conjunction
of Uranus and Pluto that took place from 1960 to 1972.
This coincided precisely with a time of tremendous empowerment
of innovative and revolutionary impulses across the
world, with both great social upheaval and liberating
change occurring in every country on the planet. Which
is just what one might expect given what astrologers
have long concluded about the meanings of those two
planets. Those same two planets were also in alignment
during the French Revolutionary epoch, 1787-1798, when
there was a virtually identical upsurge of tremendous
rebellious and liberating energies sweeping the world,
with radical change affecting many societies. We actually
are going to be getting the square aspect of these same
two planets during the next fifteen years, so on the
basis of the past correlations we can anticipate some
changes and new social energies in the not-too-distant
What do you hope "Cosmos and Psyche" will
I hope my book opens thoughtful readers to a new dimension
of the extraordinary universe we live in, a universe
that seems to be informed at all levels by a profound
creative intelligence. I believe that we can participate
in the evolutionary unfolding of this universe more
consciously and fully if we are aware of the correspondences
between the planetary movements and our lives. And we
can move into a more trusting relationship to life and
the cosmos when we recognize the larger patterns of
meaning and purpose in which we are embedded.
Article from: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/193/story_19389_1.html
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