Episode 32: Richard Tarnas – Part 2 of Cosmos and Psyche – Intimations of an Evolving New World View

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Duncan Campbell:& Rick, one of the great gifts that you're giving us here as we read through this wonderful work "Cosmos and Psyche", we do all get "intimations of a new world view", as you humbly say. Not proclaiming "this is how it is", but these are possibilities that if we join in together in awareness, we can make a future of the kind that we want in this evolutionary journey.

Rick Tarnas:& Duncan, as always it&’s a pleasure to speak with you in your program.& You bring an extraordinary capacity for insight and clear articulation of quite complicated ideas.& So it&’s a pleasure to have the dialogue with you.

In this Part 2, Rick and I talk about the little-known extensive use of depth astrology by C.G. Jung in his clinical work and his realization that the collective unconscious functions as a kind of anima mundi, or world soul, evolving and maturing over time as it is energized through various cosmic constellations.& We also give examples of some archetypal constellations that have repeated throughout history with amazing synchronicity – such as the alignments in the paradigm-shifting 1960-1972 period and the previous similar combination in the energy field of the 1787-1798 period, which saw the creation of the United States, the French Revolution and the Mutiny on the Bounty.& We discuss the planetary alignments and the energies of 1981-1984 and their recurrence in 2001-2004, which were also present at the beginnings of the Vietnam War (1964-67) and World Wars I and II.& As in the traditional arena of our individual psyche, the point of having such cosmic awareness, particularly in turbulent times, is to consciously identify the larger archetypal patterns at work in the individual and collective psyche, and to transform and enact their possibilities in the most life-enhancing and conscious way.& (This was effected, for instance, by the worldwide anti-nuclear war demonstrations in the &“1984&” Reagan era, when in response the U.S. shifted to open negotiations with the &“Evil Empire&”, rather than continuing to fall back into the era&’s &“we = good; other = evil reactivity and nuclear escalation of the Cold War).


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


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Richard Tarnas: Duncan, it’s always a pleasure to speak with you. Your knowledge of the subject makes the dialogue flow so beautifully and also there is something about the very nature of a dialogue that you do that is sort of a parallel towards life and towards the cosmos. That I think my book is trying to support and 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 that blends with the cosmos itself. In a sense what we are doing here as a personal dialogue and that you do with so many people that visit with you is a kind of microcosm of this kind of this larger dialogical imperative that it kind of calls us at this time.

Duncan Campbell: Well thank you so much Rick. It’s really a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate all together all of our deep listeners in an alive universe and cosmos full of beauty and wonder and possibility.


From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions, through the work of western visionaries such as Plato, Galileo and Quantum Physicist, David Bohm mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness. Evoking a flow of meaning; a diode 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 am your host Duncan Campbell and I am truly delighted to have my friend and author here with me, Richard Tarnas 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 best seller and continues to be widely read in Seminaries and Universities throughout the world.
He currently teaches on the faculty of the California Institute for 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 Institute in Santa Barbara. Of his first book, “The Passion of the Western Mind”, Joseph Campbell said, “This is the most lucid and concise presentation I have read of the grand lines of everything a 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. “
And I couldn’t agree more Rick. We have been waiting 30 years now for the apparent sequel to “The Passion of the Western Mind”, published in 1991, now in use in over 80 or 90 universities. And it’s finally arrived; the much anticipated “Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View.” Your masterwork here and in fact as you reveal in the introduction and prologue to Cosmos and Psyche this book, this new book is actually the central contribution to your life’s 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 receptivity in a live universe that speaks to us in many ways different than even the great philosophical and psychological insights that we are familiar with.

And so perhaps it’s best to situate you and your work at this point by going back to the work of say Freud, and Jung and Stan Groff, depth of psychology tradition, that the breakthrough that Freud made at the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th and then the discovery of the collective unconscious; taking it beyond the personal biography that occurred with Young, and then Stan Groff’s great work where he extended Freudian and the Jungian analysis and created what’s been known as transpersonal psychology by introducing another element which we can describe.

I’ll lay on the table if you will for your work on “Cosmos and Psyche” in which you’re 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 as you put it is creating an archetypal telescope through which we can see and understand a wider and vaster universe. So with that situational introduction let’s just start with maybe a little biographical note of your own about maybe the time you were a child or maybe the time you were at Esalen, when this all began. Looking at the night sky as a night guard, looking at Esalen Institute in California. Because you’ve thanked in your introduction the great Californian coastline, the power and majesty of the oceans and the cliffs and the night sky and the clarity of being able to see it far from the urban scene.

Richard Tarnas: 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 are talking about was 30 years ago. Actually just a little more than 30 years ago I came to Esalen Institute to study actually with Stanislaw Groff at that point. I had studied psychology during my four years at Harvard focusing on Freud and Yung at that time.

Duncan Campbell: Was that during the early 70s there?

Richard Tarnas: Yes it was 1968 to 1972 were my years there. That kind of period that was really at the peak of counter cultural ferment at places like Cambridge, New York and New Haven, Ann Arbor, Madison, and Berkley.

Duncan Campbell: I myself was actually at Harvard Law School from 67 to 70 so we overlapped in that very key period. Not knowing each other and when the Harvard strike happened in two successive years it was a very dramatic period.

Richard Tarnas: So I heard about Gross’s work there. I remember reading a statement of Abraham Maslow who was one of the cofounders of transpersonal psychology with Stan Groff. And he described Stan Groff’s first book as the most important contribution to psychology since Freud. And I was quite impressed with that particularly because I knew Groff had worked with very powerful psychoactive substances as adjuncts to psychotherapy such as LSD. I thought anybody who was able to work fruitfully with that kind of powerful pharmaceutical adjunct to the psychotherapy and he had the capacity to integrate both the Freudian psychoanalysis with the mystical perspectives of the human psyche that came from Hinduism and Buddhism and so forth. I realized this is somebody I’d like to study with. This was in the early to mid 1970s.

Duncan Campbell: Let’s just pause to remind people that by the time you got to Esalen LSD had been declared illegal in the United States so that 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 did use it for those years from 67 to 73 he did have the legal right and permission to use it in that very structured way in Maryland’s Psychiatric Research Institute working through the John Hopkins University and for the National Institute of Mental Health. It was very limited so he could only, for example, do three sessions per person. Which is not adequate to able to activate something in that time to fully explore and integrate it.

Duncan Campbell: And I meant really to say by the time he got to Esalen LSD was declared illegal. So when you were working with him he had already moved on to holotropic breath work and was at the beginning of his work that would lead to holotropic breath work in his work in Maryland. By the time you came affiliated with him you were moving into other arenas to replace what LSD in a sense had to offer.

Richard Tarnas: Also, actually when I came to Esalen, Stan got there in late 1973 and he became the scholar in residence for the next 15 years or so. I came in early 1974 about the time that Alan Watts passed away; and Stan at the point was putting all his efforts into writing up and publishing the results of 15-20 years of research he had been doing. So I was studying with him, working on my doctorate at that point. And my first position for Esalen was as a night guard. We were situated on the cliffs of Big Surr and the high cliffs overlooking the Pacific far out into the wilderness away from the urban areas. The stars and planets and moon were extremely bright and luminous.

I spent many a night, from late at night, midnight, one o’clock, until dawn where I was often alone and just being able to take in the majesty and the beauty but also the mystery of the night sky and the changing planetary positions and the constellations. At that point I didn’t know any astrology and didn’t really have any reason to take it seriously but I almost feel in retrospect I almost feel as if some type of preparation was happening in a sense to initiate me into a deeper grasp of that mystery and what was the turning point was in early 1976, which was exactly 30 years ago which is exactly what you meant when you said you were waiting 30 years.

It was exactly 30 years ago that the evidence actually started pouring in and the basis for “Cosmos and Psyche” the book I just published was laid. And that came as a result of learning how to calculate birth charts and what are known as personal transits. That is where the planets are in the sky relative to where they were at the time of your birth.
Duncan Campbell: And how did you first start this work? Was it you or was it Stan that first initiated this? How did this first come about?

Richard Tarnas: Stan and I had had brief encounters with people who had given us reason to believe there was something intellectually valuable about astrology. Prior to that time we had given no credence to it. So independently while Stan was in Prague and while I was at Harvard, someone that had been trained by Jung but was a professor at the Divinity School had spoken to me about this in such a way it gave me some reason to think there was some value to it as Jung had used it.

Duncan Campbell: But the important thing is as you tell this story, 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: He was the therapist for my girlfriend and we were meeting once, he was about 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 came in on a subsequent conversation mentioned something you derived from it 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 found it a bit embarrassing. This is important, and we’ll find out in your book, most times when the modern mind encounters astrology, unfortunately the only thing most people know about it is this kind of flatlander attempt to be concretely predictive which is literalist and is really not the essence of a true deeper wisdom we can gain from ancient astrology.

So we want to say that right up front. You came in as a skeptic, gradually opened your mind to these possibilities and the same thing with Stan.

Richard Tarnas: Yes both of us were explorers of the new paradigm as it’s now called but astrology was the last possible directive that one would take seriously that was beyond the acceptable paradigm borderline. So we had these initial experiences that gave us some pause about it while neither of us was pursuing it in any way. And then when we were at Esalen and working together and we were dealing basically with a kind of mystery why people, we had 20 years of records of people doing their psychoanalytic process using LSD as an adjunct. 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 at the research institutes at Stanford that Stan had been a part of in Prague in Maryland had any success in predicting the response that the different individuals would have with the same substance used at different times.
MMPI the Rorschok test none of these were of any value. Someone came through Esalen one time named Arm Chesovic [phonetic]. He was an astrologer. Many people took astrology seriously at Esalen in a way that I didn’t when I got there. It was actually part of the ambiance of Esalen, which is kind of a counter culture robust place where many different perspectives that were esoteric, mystical and tantric were being explored there; Yoga and Daoism and so forth. So it was almost part of the enchanted spiritual, psychological milieu of the place.

Duncan Campbell: You might pause atmospherically just a second as there are those that have been there to say it’s about a three and a half hour drive from San Francisco in the gorgeous Big Surr mountain range which comes right down to the sea; cliffs plunge one hundred feet down into the sea. It’s where Henry Miller lived when he wrote “Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch”. He would go and bathe right in the hot waters that are there right on the edge of the ocean.

Native Americans had been using these springs for many many generations. So in a sense that spot had a long history of healing and opening to the Cosmos in many ways. As you point out the work in depth psychology got excited in a sense with the great deal of literature called Erotic Liberation, liberating Eros with D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and many other authors in the same time frame. Freud and Jung were opening up this perspective.

We might just add with respect to LSD for those that are not acquainted with the reason Stan Groff was using LSD was that in traditional Freudian talk analysis was the gift of the therapist was to listen acutely as the person free associated with and identify when a person is touching on an area that could point to a complex that could be illuminated. 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 track like radar those hot spots in the psyche which would allow the analysis to proceed an even faster and more efficient way. It wasn’t just a matter of taking a drug to get an altered state of consciousness and was using it very precisely to advance the profession if you will of psychiatry.

Richard Tarnas: And many therapists in the mode of psychotherapeutic practice, Gestalt for example, as well as Jungian and psychoanalytic and Reichian were convinced that the skillful use of psychedelic substances represented the future for effective psychotherapy. I think many who are in the know continue to believe that our government’s policies have not been coming from the wisest place in the culture.

Duncan Campbell: And like all governments before and after, they found a way to ban the research and sacred substances. For instance there were cultures that took Peyote or Iowaska or other forms even in Europe of plant substances Albert Hoffman distilled, that were the natural substances that were distilled into a chemical substance and in every one of those societies throughout history those who were rulers, elite, often time began to ban the substance so there would not be an opportunity for people to go direct. So in a way that is what Luther was protesting in the Catholic Church. 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. That’s another way of lensing it as well.

Richard Tarnas: You can see how the reformation is kind of the breaking through of the individuals direct relationship to the divine and that the psychedelic revolution of the later 50s, 60s and beyond was a further step in that development. Well, getting back to your original question, what occurred there at Esalen was that people were coming and having very powerful transformative experiences, walking onto the grounds and doing their workshops. People seemed to come there at a time in their lives when they wanted to go through significant transformations and were willing to do that and I think there was almost something about the land and the sea and the air and the morphic field of the place that helped elicit these powerful kinds of experiences.

So when we learned, this individual came through named Arna Treskovich [phonetic], how to calculate birth charts and transits we discovered this was the one method that permitted us to get an extraordinarily illuminating perspective on what the nature of the experience a person would be likely to have during a particular time period both the timing of it and the archetypal character. Because it turns out as Jung says many times, astrology was using as its basic principles of understanding these archetypal forms whether we call them gods and goddesses, Mars and Venus and Neptune and Mercury and Neptune and so on and so forth or whether we think of them as Jungian archetypes of psychological principals. James Hillman is very good as the founder of archetypal psychology good in a sense calling these archetypal principals’ gods and goddesses as well their neumanocity [phonetic], their transcendence. Our power is not something that should simply, categorically, subsumed under a…

Duncan Campbell: Mental construct.

Richard Tarnas: That’s right.

Duncan Campbell: Then we might think it’s a projection of the human which falls into the human mind, rather than acknowledging there are powerful forces that have been reified as gods and goddesses and given different personalities in recognition of their neumanocity [phonetic] and power one can dialogue with rather than just project onto an inert universe the superstitious notion that “Oh, there’s a fire god,” which is what the modern mind tends to do with the primal experience.

Richard Tarnas: And Jung was very sensitive to that fact and he recognized that the astrological principals deeply understood were essentially to the archetypal principals he was working with. He was empirically uncovered in many patients and himself over many years. And even Freud in a sense was getting a glimpse into the archetypal realm as Hillman says as Eros and Donatos and ego and super ego. These are essentially archetypal principals. Freud was really describing as Lichtenstein said, was really describing a mythology, that psychoanalysis was a new mythology.

Jung 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. Jung walked through that veil and into the larger collective unconscious and saw the full pantheon of the full archetypes. Stan Groff really walked into it with these powerful modes of accessing nonordinary states of consciousness.
Duncan Campbell: And here we might add Joseph Campbell’s, who was your colleague for many years, commented on that at Esalen.

Richard Tarnas: Teacher and colleague and friend.

For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell