Episode 31: Richard Tarnas - Part 1 of Cosmos and Psyche – Intimations of an Evolving New World View
Duncan:& Well, thank you so much, Rick.& It is really a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all of us together with all of our deep listeners in an alive universe, and in a cosmos full of beauty and wonder and possibility.
In the Episode Description for the immediately preceding Dialogue (scroll down one program on this site) between myself and Dr. Stan Grof, I described the evolution of “depth archetypal psychology” in the past century as one of the key beginnings of a new and planetary world view.& In fact, each of the programs in the Living Dialogues series illuminates a facet of this emerging, infinitely-faceted diamond-like consciousness.& This “new paradigm” consciousness includes both a re-awakening to the depths of the psychic heritage of our species – that we live in an alive, communicative universe, very much as the original indigenous inhabitants of the planet understood – and an integration of that oft-neglected primal understanding with the additional essential complexities that have evolved in the individualistic “modern” mind as well.& In this particular dialogue with Rick Tarnas, we highlight the facet of “depth archetypal astrology” as reclaimed and so richly and innovatively reformulated in Rick’s monumental Cosmos and Psyche.& This makes a key contribution to the next step in our contemporary awakening:& leveraging and going beyond the integration of the core enduring insights of our indigenous and modern minds, to a conscious awareness that we are participant co-creators of reality in ever-evolving interactive dialogue with the cosmos itself.
To order a full transcript of this program, or a CD or MP3 of the complete dialogue with myself and Richard Tarnas, you can contact me at my website:& www.livingdialogues.com& or at [email protected].& Many thanks again for your attentive deep listening in helping co-create this program.& All the best, Duncan
Richard Tarnas – Part 1 of Cosmos and Psyche – Intimations of an Evolving New World View
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Richard Tarnas: Duncan, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. The fields we cover always makes the dialogue just flow so beautifully, and also there’s something about the very nature of a dialogue as you do that is a kind of parallel to the whole attitude towards life and towards the cosmos that I think certainly my books is trying to support and I think our whole kind of spiritual challenge of our civilization at this time is to move into a more dialogical mode with each other, with other cultures, between male and female, between generations and between humanity and other forms of life and with the cosmos itself, so in a sense I think maybe what we’re doing here as a personal dialogue and that you do with so many people who visit with you, is a kind of micro cosmo of this larger dialogical imperative really that calls at our time.
Duncan Campbell: Well thank you so much Rick, it’s really a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all of us together with all of our deep listeners in a live universe and on a cosmos full of beauty and wonder and possibility.
Duncan Campbell: From time in memorial, beginning with indigenous counsels and ancient wisdom traditions, through the work of western visionaries such as Plato, Galileo and quantum physicist David Boem, mutual participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, invoking a flow of meaning, a dia-flow of logos meaning, beyond what any one individual can bring through alone. So join us now, as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in Living Dialogues.
Duncan Campbell: Welcome to Living Dialogues. I’m your host Duncan Campbell, and with me for this particular dialogue I’m truly delighted to have my and author Richard Tarnas with me for this particular program. Rick was born in 1950 in Geneva, Switzerland of American parents, and his first book, The Passion of the Western Mind, became a bestseller and continues to be widely read in universities and seminaries throughout the world. He currently teaches on the faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he is the founding director of Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness graduate studies program. He also teaches on the faculty of the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara. Of his first book, The Passion of the Western Mind, Joseph Campbell said, this is quote “the most lucid and concise presentation I have read of the grand lines of what every student should know about the history of western thought. The writing is elegant and carries the reader with the momentum of a novel. It is really a noble performance”, close quote. I couldn’t agree more Rick and we’ve been waiting actually for 30 years now for the apparent sequel to The Passion of the Western Mind, first published in 1991, now in use in over 80 or 90 universities and its finally arrived, the much anticipated Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. Your master work here, and in fact as you reveal in the introduction and prologue to the Cosmos and Psyche, this book, this new book is actually the central contribution of your life work, and the Passion of the Western Mind in a sense was a great prequel, reviewing the entire history of western thought in order to prepare the ground for a receptivity to an alive universe that speaks to us in many ways, different even than the great philosophical and psychological insights that we’re familiar with. And so it’s perhaps best to situate you and your work I think at this point by going back to the work of say Freud and Young and Stan Groff in the depth psychology tradition that the great breakthrough that Freud made at the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th, and then the discovery if you will, or the articulation of the collective unconscious, taking it beyond personal biography that occurred with Young and then Stan Groff’s great work where he extended both the Freudian and the Youngian analysis, and created what’s been known as transpersonal psychology by introducing another element, which we can describe, all laying the table if you will for your work, Cosmos and Psyche, in which you, building on that prior tradition, reclaim the great tradition of ancient astrology and create what you and Stan have called archetypal psychology and what you call archetypal astrology, and really this archetypal astrology is creating, as you put it I think brilliantly, a archetypal telescope through which we can actually see and understand a wider and vaster universe, so with that situational introduction, lets just start there with maybe a little biographical note of your own of maybe the time when you were a child, or maybe the time when you were at Escalon where all this began, looking at the night skies and night guard at Escalon Institute in California because you thanked in your introduction the great California coastline, the power and majesty of the ocean and the cliffs and the night sky and the clarity of being able to see it and the beautiful location far from the urban scene.
Richard Tarnas: Well thank you for welcoming me again to speak with you in this way, Duncan. It’s a pleasure to be here. The period that you’re talking about was 30 years ago, actually a little more than 30 years ago I came to Escalon Institute to study what actually Stanislaus Groff at that point. I had studies psychology during my four years at Harvard, focusing on Freud and Young at that time, and I….
Duncan Campbell: That was in the early ‘70’s?
Richard Tarnas: Yeah 1968 to 1972 were my four years there, so it was that kind of period was really at the peak of counter cultural ferment in places like, you know, Cambridge and New York and New Haven and Ann Arbor and Madison, Berkley, Boulder….
Duncan Campbell: Yeah, I myself was actually at Harvard Law School from ’67 to ’70, so…
Richard Tarnas: So we overlapped there without knowing each other.
Duncan Campbell: We overlapped in that very key period….
Richard Tarnas: Yes.
Duncan Campbell: without knowing each other and when the Harvard strike happened…
Richard Tarnas: That’s right.
Duncan Campbell: in two successive years.
Richard Tarnas: Very dramatic period, yeah.
Duncan Campbell: Yeah, very dramatic period.
Richard Tarnas: So I heard about Grof’s work there and just, I remember reading a statement of Abraham Maslow, who was one of the cofounders of Transpersonal Psychology with Stan Groff, and he described Grof’s first book as being the most important contribution to psychology since Freud, and I was quite impressed with that, particularly because I knew that Grof had worked with very powerful psycho active substances as adjuncts to psychotherapy, you know, such as LSD. I thought anybody who was able to work fruitfully with that kind of powerful, you know, pharmaceutical adjunct to psychotherapy, and he had a capacity to somehow integrate both Freudian psychoanalysis with the mystical perspectives of the, of the human psyche that came from Hinduism and Buddhism and so forth, I thought, “This is somebody I’d like to study with”, so I’d come to Escalon in the early mid, early to mid 1970’s…
Duncan Campbell: Let’s just pause there to remind people that by the time you got to Escalon, LSD had been declared illegal in the United States, and so Stan Groff was no longer able to use it as he had in his native Czechoslovakia when it was legal to use it.
Richard Tarnas: He could for those years from ’67 to ’73, he was still, he did have the legal right and permission to, to use it in that very structured way in Maryland Psychiatric Research Institute, working through the Johns Hopkins University and for the National Institute of Mental Health, but it was very limited so he could only do, for example, three sessions per person, which is not, not adequate to the kind of work that, you know, you can activate something in that time without being able to fully explore and integrate it.
Duncan Campbell: And I meant really to say that by the time he got to Escalon it was declared illegal, so when you were working with him he had already moved on to Holotropic Breathwork or the beginning of his work that would lead to Holotropic Breathwork. Yeah, I was aware of that work in Maryland, but by the time you became…
Richard Tarnas: Yes.
Duncan Campbell: affiliated with him, you were moving into other arenas to replace what LSD in a sense had offered.
Richard Tarnas: Also, actually when I came to Escalon, Stan got there in late 1973 and he became the scholar in residence for the next, you know, 15 years or so, and I came in 1974, right about the time that Alan Watts passed away, and Stan at that point was putting all his focus on writing up and publishing the results of those, you know, 15, 20 years of research that he’d been doing. So, I was studying with him, working on my doctorate at that point, and I then, my first position at Escalon was as a night guard for Escalon which is situated on the cliffs of Big Sir, on the high cliffs overlooking the Pacific, far out into the wilderness away from the urban area, so that the stars and planets and the moon were extremely bright and luminous, and I spent many a night from, you know, late at night, midnight, 1 o’clock, all the way until dawn, where I was, you know, often alone and just being able to take in the majesty and the beauty, but also a kind of mystery of the night sky and the changing planetary positions and the constellations, and at that point I didn’t know any astrology and didn’t really have any reason to take it seriously, but I almost feel as if some preparation, in retrospect I feel almost as if some preparation was happening to, in a sense, initiate me into a deeper grasp of that mystery, and what was the turning point was in early 1976, so we’re talking exactly 30 years ago and I think this is what you meant when you said that we’d been waiting 30 years ‘cause, it was exactly 30 years ago that basically the evidence started pouring in and the basis for Cosmos and Psyche, the book I just published, was laid, and that, that came as a result of learning how to calculate birth charts and then what are called transits or personal transits, that is where the planets are in the sky relative to where they were at the time of your birth, and what…
Duncan Campbell: Yeah, how did you first start this work actually? Was it you that initiated this or Stan or how did this first really come about?
Richard Tarnas: Well, both Stan and I had had brief encounters with individual who gave us reason to believe that there might be something intellectually valuable about astrology that we prior to that time simply had given no credence to it. So independently Stan in Prague, and when I was at Harvard someone who had been trained by Young but was a professor at the Divinity School at Harvard, had spoken to me about this in such a way that gave me some reason to think there might be some value that Young had used it and so forth, but…
Duncan Campbell: But the important thing as you tell the story is that as a young student at Harvard, even though you were very close with this man and he was close with your girlfriend and so on…
Richard Tarnas: Oh, he was a therapist for my girlfriend…
Duncan Campbell: Yeah.
Richard Tarnas: and then we were just meeting once, he was about probably 20 years older than me and we would have conversations once or twice a month about this.
Duncan Campbell: Which you found very stimulating as a student, and the key point is when he came in and asked you something about your birth chart and then at a subsequent conversation mentioned something he’d derived from, and you very quickly steered the conversation away because as a good Harvard student in those days you found it really inferior to talk about astrology and a bit embarrassing and so…
Richard Tarnas: Yeah, I though…
Duncan Campbell: Yeah, so this is important because…
Richard Tarnas: Yes.
Duncan Campbell: most times when, we’ll find out in your book, when the modern mind encounters astrology, unfortunately the only thing that most people know about it is this kind of flatlander attempt to be concretely predictive, as you say, which is very literalistic and is really not the essence of a true deeper understanding of what wisdom we can gain from ancient astrology, so we want to say that right up front, that you came in as a skeptic…
Richard Tarnas: Yes.
Duncan Campbell: and gradually opened your mind to these possibilities and the same thing with Stan.
Richard Tarnas: Yeah, both of us had that, I mean we, you know, we were both, you know, explorers of the new paradime, as it’s now called, but I think astrology, we would both agree even to this day, that astrology seemed like the last possible perspective that one would take seriously that was beyond the acceptable paradime borderline. So we’d had these initial experiences that’d gave us some pause about it, but still neither of us were, you know, pursuing it in any way, and then when we were at Escalon and working together and we were basically dealing with a kind of mystery of why people had such, you know, we had 20 years of these, of records of people doing their psychoanalytic process using LSD as an adjunct, and people would have such radically different experiences with the exact same substance at different times and none of the standard psychology tests that they tried in the research institutes that Stan had been part of in Prague and Maryland, had any success in predicting the response that these different individuals would have to the same substance used at different times, MMPI, the Roarchack Test, the TAT, none of these were of any value. Well, someone came through Escalon one time named Arno Trutevek and he was an astrologer and, I mean many people took astrology seriously at Escalon in a way that I didn’t when I got there, it was kind of almost part of, part of the ambience of Escalon, which is this very kind of counter culturally robust place where many different perspectives that were esoteric and, you know, mystical and, kind of tantric and so forth were being explored there, yoga and dowism and so forth, so it was part of the almost enchanted spiritual intellectual psychological milieu of the place.
Duncan Campbell: And we might pause just a second atmospherically for those that have not been there, to say it’s located about a 3 ½ hour drive south of San Francisco in the gorgeous Big Sir mountain range, which comes right down to the sea and cliffs plunge a couple hundred feet down into the sea. It’s where Henry Miller lived when he wrote the book The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch and he used to go down and bathe in the hot waters that are there right on the edge of the ocean that Native Americans had been using as sacred springs for many, many generations, so in a sense this exquisite spot had a long history of healing and opening to the cosmos in many ways, and as you point out, the work in depth psychology coincided in a sense with a great deal in literature of the so called erotic liberation, a liberating eros energy that came with D.H. Lawrence, with Henry Miller and many other authors in the same timeframe that Freud and Young were opening up this perspective, and we might just add with respect to LSD for those that are not as acquainted with the reason why Stan Grof was using this is that in traditional Freudian talk analysis the gift of the therapist was to listen acutely as the person free associated and identify when the person might be touching on an area that could point to a complex that could be illuminated, and what Stan found was that when people did these controlled LSD experiences that the psyche itself on its own, with the ingestion of the substance, was able to kind of track like radar those hot spots in the psyche which would then allow the analysis to proceed in an even faster and more efficient way, so it wasn’t just a matter of taking a drug to get an altered state of consciousness, but Stan was using it very precisely to advance the profession if you will of psychiatry.
Richard Tarnas: And many, many therapists in a variety of modes of psychotherapeutic practice, Gestalt, for example, as well as Youngian and psychoanalytic and Rikian, were convinced that the use of different, the skillful use of different psychedelic substances represented the future for effective psychotherapy, and I think, you know, many who are in the know continue to believe that, but our governments policies have not been, lets say, coming from the wisest place in the culture.
Duncan Campbell: And like all governments before and after, they found a way to ban these, as we might say…
Richard Tarnas: You know, research.
Duncan Campbell: the research, and also the sacred substance, like there were cultures that took Payote or Iowaska or other forms, even in Europe, of plant substances that were the natural essences of what Albert Hoffman in a sense distilled into a chemical substance, and in every one of those societies throughout history, those who were rulers and the elite, often time began to ban the substance so that there would not be the opportunity for people to go direct, and in a way that’s what Luther was protesting in the Catholic church, that he didn’t want the mediation of what he saw as a corrupt priesthood and hierarchy to stand between man and his free direct relationship to the divine, so that’s another way of lensing it as well.
Richard Tarnas: Yeah, I think in some ways you could look at the, you can see the reformation as the kind of breaking through of the individuals direct relationship to the divine and that the kind of psychedelic revolution of the, of the later ‘50’s and ‘60’s and beyond was a further step in that, in that development. Well getting back to your original question, what occurred there at Escalon was, you know, people were coming and having, you know, very powerful transformative experiences just walking on to the grounds, you know, and doing their workshops and people seemed to come there at times in their lives when they really wanted to go through a significant transformations and were willing to, to do that and I think there was almost something about the land and the sea and the air and the morphic feel of the place that helped elicit these powerful kinds of experiences. So, when we learned, this individual named Arno Trutevek came through and showed us how to calculate birth charts and transits and we discovered that this was the one method that permitted us to get a grasp of, an extraordinarily illuminating perspective on what the nature of the experience that a person would be likely to have during a particular time period, both the timing of it and also the archetypal character, because it turns out as Young said many times that astrology was using as its basic principles of understanding these archetypal forms, you know, whether we call the Gods and Goddesses, you know, Mars and Venus and Neptune and Mercury and so forth, or whether we think of them as Youngian archetypes, psychological principles, you know, James Hillman is very good, you know, as the founder of archetypal psychology, he’s very good at in a sense calling these archetypal principles Gods and Goddesses as well because they are, they are in some sense, their numinocity, their transcendence, their power is something that should not be simply categorically subsumed under a kind of….
Duncan Campbell: Mental construct.
Richard Tarnas: That’s right.
Duncan Campbell: Yeah, ‘cause then we might think it’s a projection of the human…
Richard Tarnas: Exactly.
Duncan Campbell: which falls into the human mind constraint, rather than acknowledging that there are powerful forces that have in ancient cultures been reaffied as Gods and Goddesses, given personalities in recognition of their independent numinosity and power, that one can dialogue with rather than just project onto an inert universe, a superstitious notion, “Oh, well there’s a fire God”, which is what the modern mind tends to do with the primal experience.
Richard Tarnas: Well what, and Young was very sensitive to that very fact, and the, and he recognized that the astrological principles deeply understood were essentially equivalent to the archetypal principles that he was working with, that he imparically uncovered in his work with many patients over, and himself, over many years. And even Freud, in a sense, was getting a glimpse into the archetypal realm as Hillman says, Aros and Thanotos and Id and Ego and Superego, these are, these are essentially archetypal principles and Freud was really, as Victinstein said, describing a mythology. Psychoanalysis was a new mythology. Young made that explicit, and he widened it, he deepened it, he went through the veil that Freud had kind of pierced with his notion of libido, Young walked through that veil into the larger, you know, collective unconscious and saw the full pantheon of the archetypes, and Stan Grof basically entered into it through these very powerful modes of, you know, accessing unordinary states of consciousness.
Duncan Campbell: And here we might add Joseph Campbell’s great comment, who was your colleague for many years at Escalon, whereas…
Richard Tarnas: Teacher and colleague, yes and friend.
Duncan Campbell: whereas he said Freud was fishing sitting on a whale.
Richard Tarnas: That’s right.
Duncan Campbell: You know, that he opened up the veil to psychological mythology, he used referenced as to Greek myth like Etipus and so on, the Etipus Complex, the Electro Complex, but actually it was Young that saw there was this vast oceanic consciousness underneath it all well beyond personal biography, and accessed by individuals as in the tale of the scarrub, or where, you know, the client of Young’s had an image of an animal, in this case a…
Richard Tarnas: She had a dream of a green scarrub….
Duncan Campbell: Of a scarrub, from Egypt right?
Richard Tarnas: That’s right.
Duncan Campbell: Yeah, which had nothing to do with her experience in her personal biography in Europe, but did in fact exist in, you know, another part of the world and it was accessed in a dream.
Richard Tarnas: That’s right. Well, Stan Grof’s work had entered into this, into this, you know, realm through these non ordinary states of consciousness, but also he had focused on birth interestingly because over and over again his patients were showing that it was the encounter with, first of all, very early childhood experience, which is so psychologically potent as Freud and psychoanalysis recognize, but that even beyond that there was an even more powerful, more intense and more determinative realm of the unconscious which Stan named the Perinatal Unconscious because people who entered into it experienced very intense encounters with their own birth, memories of their own birth tied to experiences of dying and death, and it was through that that they entered into these larger transpersonal and archetypal realms. So as a result of that we got an insight into one of the reasons why astrology has traditionally focused on the birth chart, that natal chart, for so long, it is that birth itself seems to be a threshold of transformation, a kind of a place of maximum impact as it were from where our psychology in a sense is being shaped in very fundamental ways right into our, our body through the, this powerful psychosymatic experience of birth.
Duncan Campbell: Like a very personal template.
Richard Tarnas: That’s right.
For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell