Richard Tarnas guest (Part 1) – 5 of 7 On the Road of “2012 NOW – Empowering the Transformation”
Living Dialogues
Duncan Campbell

Episode 96 - Richard Tarnas guest (Part 1) – 5 of 7 On the Road of “2012 NOW – Empowering the Transformation”

Episode Description:

“For human evolution to continue, the conversation must deepen.” – Margaret Mead

This is the fifth in a seven-part series of “Pilgrimage Dialogues” forming part of and leading up to a Conference Gathering in Fort Collins, Colorado on May 29-30, 2009, entitled “2012 NOW – Empowering the Transformation”, for which I am serving as the Master of Ceremonies and opening presenter. Past Living Dialogues in this series have included dialogues with myself and Robert Sitler, John Major Jenkins, Stanislav Grof, and with Sobonfu Some’. Future Living Dialogues in the series will include my dialogues with Richard Tarnas (Part 2) and with Christine Page.

Details and registration information available at

Duncan Campbell: 2012 Now: Empowering The Transformation, a uniquely innovative, interactive and affordable gathering in this time of global uncertainty, will take place Friday night and all day Saturday May 29 and 30 at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in Fort Collins, Colorado. Beyond just information, to practical tools for change and direct experience of participating in the ongoing transformation of our times. Now is the time and the opportunity to synchronize consciousness with the evolutionary pulse of the cosmos. Join participants bringing stories from around the planet as we explore, co-create, and experience together the tranformative dynamics necessary for a successful transit from now through the year 2012 and beyond. More information available on the Conference website, See you there.

The meaning of the Greek word “Apocalypse” is “lifting the veil” or “revelation”. These seven “pilgrimage dialogues” in advance of the Gathering – contemporary 21st century versions of the medieval Canterbury Tales – are examples of such revelatory “shared stories” on this Road of 2012 NOW.

Here is a summary dialogue excerpt describing the Conference between myself and Sobonfu Some’, who will conduct the concluding ritual of celebration:

Sobonfu Some’: Well I really believe that initiation is a necessity, you know, much like, you know, 2012 is saying “here is a big initiation”. It, initiation, is a necessity because we have to initiate in order to be able to move forward, to be able to tap into our essence, into our gift and so on. And, you know, in my African tradition the first initiation that we all go through is that of being born, because we are coming from being full of spirit to taking on this human tool that we call the body. And, you know, also, we’ll go through many, many initiations. And I think what we’re talking about in the Conference is that we’re going to get to the place where we are basically going to celebrate being able to give birth to our self and to whatever new vision is going to come out of this Conference Gathering -- so that we can together welcome each other and celebrate together. And I think that is the icing on the cake, you know, that is awaiting us.

Duncan Campbell: I think absolutely that’s the case, and myself as Master of Ceremonies and yourself as the person who will be leading us in the concluding celebratory ritual are both involved in helping the entire gathering to activate, all of us together, a kind of transformational space -- including not only the presenters who will be articulating on the stage, but all of the participants with their deep listening who are evoking the insights that are articulated coming out of the group energy field. And this opportunity for expression will also be something we can all look forward to at the extended lunch time on Saturday, when there’s going to be a large and deliberate space for people in very small groups to share stories, deep stories, with each other and evoke and integrate their experience. This is very essential to a true initiation -- that is not just a one way transmission of information, but is actually a transformative initiation -- where together we can evoke an experience that is both intimate and personal in our sense of shift, as well as a kind of collective amplification that allows all of us to celebrate, as Barack Obama suggested in his Inaugural Address, “our common humanity”. And that experience has a great carry over effect into our everyday lives and relationships.

Sobonfu Some’: Now how amazing is that, because, you know, a lot of people go into conferences and never really get to put in their voice; and, you know, in my Dagara people’s African tradition, when you go anywhere we are always trying to get our voice in, you know, to express yourself with and to others, because it’s like we are all making this huge cauldron and the stories that we bring, everything we share of our self, is part of what is going to make whatever we’re cooking really delicious. And for people to be able to have this opportunity as a gift, not only to themselves but a gift to the community, I really believe is amazing.

Duncan Campbell: That’s beautifully put. I love the image that you give here of together we’re collectively creating a crucible or a great cauldron, not only a crucible for the water of life, but a great cauldron in which to cook and use the fire of life to transform our experience, because these are transformative elements, all of the elements are: Eaarth is nurturing, Wind is empowering, a Fire literally is transforming, and Water is liquid and fluid and moves between the solid state of ice to the evaporated state of the clouds. And so every one of the elements will be involved here. We will be having time outdoors; we will be celebrating the natural world in a beautiful natural environment in Fort Collins, Colorado. And I think that these “pilgrimage dialogues” are pointing to that transformation as they are evolving here. In my first dialogue, with Robert Sitler, he emphasized the joy and the wisdom that is accessible in everyday life that he himself has experienced in the Mayan culture and which he shares so beautifully. Next has been John Major Jenkins, whose great research into the galactic alignment and embedding it and situating it in connection to the primordial tradition, sometimes called the perennial philosophy, has shown how we can bring all of this that 2012 is pointing to into the Now; that this “2012 phenomenon” is not an event that we’re waiting for, that we’re going to have to be acted upon at some time in the future, but it is an atmosphere of opportunity that is present right here, right now…And that energy field is present right now in helping germinate and evoke from you and I what we’re saying and inviting people to; so that in a sense you and I are acting here as inviters and embodiments of the kind of dialogue and transformation that we can anticipate will be happening among us all and amplified at that particular moment on May 29 and May 30 of the Gathering. But that’s only a moment in a continuum of many moments before and after, that we’re all already uncovering and witnessing being unveiled in people all over the world.

Sobonfu Some’: Yes, and, you know, as you speak and you share that it makes me think about today being this energy that renews itself time and again, which gets stronger every time, as the energy is being shared every time. So as people today listen to this dialogue, and share it with other people, it is renewed and it gets stronger and so on. That’s the image that came to me.

Duncan Campbell: Well, I have to say, Sobonfu, it’s been just a wonderful opportunity here for myself and our other deep listeners, and yourself for that matter, for us to have this chance and opportunity to engage in this dialogue together, and I have always so appreciated the great joy and cheerfulness that you embody and bring to any time that I’ve ever had the pleasure and privilege to encounter you. And so I’m very much looking forward to this conference, even as I’m deeply appreciating the present moment here, because the gift I think of this very dialogue is not only to inspire that more such moments can happen between us, but in one’s own life everyday, today for instance, and the moments that follow.

Sobonfu Some’: Yes, and I’m very grateful for you, for the gift of yourself to the world really and for having such a strong and powerful vision that you can not only share with the world, but that you can get other people be a part of the dance of that vision as well. And I think that is, that is a gift that not everybody has, and I thank you for holding that for all of us.

Duncan Campbell: Well thank you very much Sobonfu, and I want to thank our co-producers Larraine Tennison and John Major Jenkins and everyone involved with this project, all the presenters that are part of this pilgrimage series that is now leading us, as it were, like milestones toward the Conference Gathering on May 29 and 30. If people are wanting further information, they can go to And we really extend an extraordinarily warm and intimate invitation for your continued participation. If you cannot physically put yourself in that Fort Collins environment, you’re very much invited to participate through your deep listening to not only these dialogues, but to the continuation of Living Dialogues after that, and also to honor the fact that really it is true -- and we’re experiencing it with great gratitude for our listenership and their Website Contact emails from around the world -- that as the world becomes smaller, “yes, we can” and do experience in greater depth and greater joy our own common humanity.

We invite you and look forward to seeing you at the conference on May 29 and 30, 2009 in the natural beauty of Fort Collins, Colorado, entitled “2012 NOW - Empowering the Transformation”. For further information and registration you can go to

“We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth…. and we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself....For the world has changed, and we must change with it…why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration…" -- Barack Obama Inaugural Address, January 20, 2009

And as we say on Living Dialogues:

“Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation”™.

Contact me if you like at Visit my blog at ”. (For more, including information on the Engaged Elder Wisdom Dialogue Series on my website, click on Episode Detail to the left above and go to Transcript section.)

Among other heartful visionary conversations you will find of particular interest on these themes are my Dialogues on this site with Robert Sitler, John Major Jenkins, Sobonfu Some, Stanislav Grof, John O’Donohue, Michael Meade, Eckhart Tolle, Ted Sorensen, Frances Moore Lappe, Angeles Arrien, Matthew Fox, David Mendell, Deborah Tannen, Gangaji, Michael Dowd, Duane Elgin, and Joseph Ellis, among others [click on their name(s) in green on right hand column of the Living Dialogues Home Page on this site].

After you listen to this Dialogue, I invite you to both explore and make possible further interesting material on Living Dialogues by taking less than 5 minutes to click on and fill out the Listener Survey. My thanks and appreciation for your participation.



“Duncan Campbell, I heard about your podcast a few months ago, and have been deeply listening to all the dialogues with your fantastic friends/guests. Your words, ideas, and wisdom are truly inspirational. You have evoked a new appetite for knowledge in me that I hope to share with a starving younger generation. Thank you for doing what you do, and creating a unique space, void of boundaries and classification. A breath of fresh air! Much love and respect.” – Amit Kapadiya

In furtherance of creating and maintaining the planetary dialogues now required in the 21st century, we featured a special series of dialogues with myself and other elders in the weeks leading up to and including the 2008 Olympics hosted by China and the U.S. 2008 elections. Those dialogues can be listened to separately on this site or as gathered as a series on my website under the collective title “Engaged Elder Wisdom Dialogues”. They address various specific political aspects of our planetary crisis, with its dangers and opportunities for creating and sustaining a visionary and evolutionary shift. (We remember that the Chinese character for “crisis” is often described as meaning both “danger” when visioned from a fear perspective, and “opportunity” when visioned from a wisdom perspective.)

In all my Living Dialogues from their inception I talk in various ways about the call to generate dialogues across generational, ethnic, gender, religious, wealth, and national boundaries -- building bridges of understanding and wisdom in the cooperative spirit and reaching out -- required by our 21st century realities, and the essential roles that we all are called to play in our evolution for it to take place.

This is the time for renewed dialogue, for visionary and inspiring discourse producing practical and innovative ways of living and sharing together, to engage the deep spirit and spirituality of our own elder wisdom and youthful inspiration, and in so doing to experience and exemplify that “Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation”™.

And that is what we all do, in our mutual roles as host, deep listeners, and guests, when we gather together here from all parts of the globe in Living Dialogues.


The best way to reach me is through my website: Many thanks again for your attentive deep listening in helping co-create this program.

All the best, Duncan.

P.S. As a way of further acknowledging and appreciating your part in these dialogues, and since I cannot personally answer all of them, I have begun to publish from time to time in these pages some of the appreciations received from you.

"Duncan Campbell: 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 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 am truly delighted to have as my guest, my great friend and colleague, Richard Tarnas, cultural historian and professor of philosophy and depth psychology, whose first book, The Passion of the Western Mind, became both a bestseller and required reading eventually at many universities. A graduate of Harvard University, he is the founding director of the Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness graduate program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and also teaches on the faculty of Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.

About his first book, The Passion of the Western Mind, Joseph Campbell had this to say: 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 great novel. A noble performance”, close quote. With respect to Cosmos and Psyche, his masterwork published in 2006. William Van Dusen Wishard, the author of Between Two Ages: The 21st Century and the Crisis of Meaning, said, quote, “It is hard to think of many books written in the past century that will still be read 200 years from now. Richard Tarnas’s Cosmos and Psyche will top that short list. It is majestic, sweeping and profound. This will be a book for the ages. It will stand over time with the seminal expressions of the human spirit”, close quote.

And as you know Rick of course, we have done several deep dialogues about both Passion of the Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche, subtitled Intimations of a New World View, and this is a particularly timely dialogue we’re now doing to follow on those earlier dialogues because it is in preparation for a great gathering that we’re going to have in Fort Collins, Colorado, May 29 and May 30 of this year, 2009, entitled 2012 Now: Empowering the Transformation. And in leading up to that, since you are one of the presenters, I am one of the presenters and I also serve as master of ceremonies, I have also orchestrated this pilgrimage dialogue if you will, a series of dialogues that are On the Road to 2012 Now.

And that is really in the tradition, it occurred to me Rick, of something you would be very familiar with, which is Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which was one of the great medieval works in which Geoffrey Chaucer broke with tradition, where the focus of most literature until that time had been on the noble class Boccaccio’s Decameron, the nobles fleeing the plague and that collection of stories, and Chaucer was the first to group a set of shared stories under the rubric of, or the framing of a pilgrimage, and here he has his characters leaving London and walking and spending the night at various inns and they’re walking on a pilgrimage toward the cathedral of Thomas Becket at Canterbury, and so as they continue to walk toward the object of their pilgrimage, they are in effect on the pilgrimage already, and as they share stories there is a revelation of the deep commonality of the human spirit. One of the great breakthroughs of Jeffrey Chaucer was to have characters that extended through all social classes. He had The Millers Tale, The Wife of Bath, The Knight’s Tale and so on.

And so, here we are, embarked on a series of Pilgrimage Dialogues, which are part of our 21st century evolution of consciousness where all of us together come into this gathering, and all of those virtually listening on the internet or on the radio are participants on this great psychic unfolding and co-creators of the energy field that is emerging already from this intentionality.

And so with that background, I’m going to ask you Rick maybe to tell a little bit about your own personal journey that led you here, and then we’ll embark on this journey together with shared stories and bring the ostensible subject matter, which is the event of the December 21st, 2012 end of the Long Count calendar of the Mayans into a larger framework of the Primordial Tradition, the great tradition of archetypal astrology in the western world, which you have really revivified in your masterwork, Cosmos and Psyche.

Richard Tarnas: Well thank you for welcoming me here Duncan, and good to be back in this series…

Duncan Campbell: Yes.

Richard Tarnas: I, in thinking about the journey that I’ve taken here, I suppose when, I could look right back to the fact that I come out of a European Christian and Catholic background for which, of course, Chaucer was embedded in and that was the whole processional and the sacred festivals that went through the year where it’s characteristic of that world as they are of any good indigenous society that lives in a sacralized world. So there’s that in the background.

Though of course, by taking the more characteristic path of modernity into the modern engagement with a cosmos that’s been shaped by the scientific revolution in our collective psyche and by kind of absorbing, as anybody who gets a good, or received a good 20th century education received a kind of forging of a skeptical and critical intellectual engagement with life and the world, and so that move went into a very different relationship to these mysteries, and I suppose its been my journey with, it’s not unusual, it’s very similar to so many others over the last 50 years, is a journey in which one in a sense moves from that kind of childhood womb of meaning into the, into “the light of common day”, to use Wordsworth’s famous phrase, the Romantic poet, and then through longer, deeper transformative process, one comes back into relationship to a mystery that perhaps, we could say, points to the existence of an ensouled cosmos after all, but perhaps a little more complex and multidimensional and extraordinary than our childhood version of it -- and one that in some sense represents the synthesis of the, of the more modern and scientific and rational and materially empirical synthesis of that with the more mythopoetic spiritually informed consciousness that is characteristic of the shamanic traditions and the Romantic cultural tradition within the West.

So in a way my journey has kind of reciprocated that, which I think so many of my, our, contemporaries of the last century have had an experience like that. I could point out the big stages within that for me were certainly in the late 60’s and early 70’s when I was at Harvard as you mentioned in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge was like every college university center in, certainly in the United States and England and really I think most Europe and most of the world. These were centers of tremendous counter-cultural ferment and new ideas and radical changes of perspective and practice were taking place, and it was also the time of the psychedelic revolution where sacred medicines were coming into widespread use, and in that process, many, many people’s worldview was opened up radically.  And at the same time the great Asian mystical traditions were entering very strongly into the Western consciousness, coming from Hinduism and Buddhism and Taoism and Sufism as well.

So in all those respects there was quite a transformation of consciousness, you know, that is still unfolding in our time, and on top of that, or I should say for me, mediating that was the decision I made after leaving college to do my graduate education out here in California, and I then met Stanislav Grof and began ten years of living and working and studying at the Escalon Institute in Big Sir, California where many remarkable teachers were, you know, Joseph Campbell, Gregory Bateson, Houston Smith; and Stan Grof was very significant Scholar in Residence there during those years, and I eventually became the director of programs.

But for all the time that I was there I was also a student, and, you know, basically kind of assimilating these extraordinary extremes of thought and understanding that were really kind of opening up the more constrained vision that has been the price that we’ve paid for the conventional modern mode of consciousness that has brought us, you know, many technological and scientific gifts, but at the same time at a price, a price of what we could use to perhaps sum up most concisely with the word ‘disenchantment’, “the disenchanted universe” that’s Max Weber’s famous term, to describe the universe that emerged out of the scientific revolution and the kind of rational objectification of the world and the eclipsing of that of those dimensions of mystery that cannot be comprehended or penetrated by the reductionist mind. That’s a bit of a journey description that brings us up anyway into the 1970’s and 80’s, and from then on it was my own sort of personal writing and research that came out of that gestating matrix, or womb, of processes that I’d been through up until that point.

Duncan Campbell: It’s a very wonderful summary and explanation that you give there as the very fine cultural historian and philosopher that you are, and it’s very similar to my own journey, as you and I know, as we’ve mentioned before. We found ourselves together in many of these same places at different times. You and I were both at Harvard in Cambridge. I was there from ’67 to ’70 in the Law School, and you were there ’68 to ’72 as an undergraduate; and we were both there during the two years of the Harvard Strike during the Vietnam era. And also as you point out, all this tremendous ferment was taking place also in that pillar, we might say, of the rational mind that is Harvard University, one of our great universities, dedicated to the search for knowledge through reason; and I would say that the Law Schoo, if anything, was even a bit more a temple of rationalism than the undergraduate curriculum…

Richard Tarnas: Yes.

Duncan Campbell: But they were both heavily marked by that. For instance, the Harvard Philosophy Department in those days was dominated by the English analytic philosophers who were very different than the existentialist philosophers or those influenced by Nietzsche or the Romantic era, George Frederick Hegel, for instance, and Heidegger and so on, who were really absent for the most part from the Harvard curriculum (although I had studied them all in the more progressive, and less modernist-establishmentarian, Philosophy Department at Yale in my undergraduate years there).

And it was really in the margins of that Harvard university curriculum in the late ‘60s that people like yourself and myself, who became seekers of a larger truth, who were open to the beginning inroads of the mystical Eastern traditions that began to show up on or near campus, that also were exposed to the other indigenous traditions that began to filter through, and I think it’s very interesting that both of us then moved out west in the United States. I wound up going to Colorado, where I became a student of a Tibetan teacher who was bringing with him a particular very refined and evolved spiritual system from the East that’s now become quite common knowledge with the emergence of the Dalai Lama and the old Tibetan tradition, Robert Thurman, popularizing it and so on. And you went all the way out to California and joined with Stanislav Grof, one of the great pioneers in consciousness research whom you lived and worked with there in the same house for a number of years. And you opened to the natural world by going to California, out of that kind of cerebellum, where it really was the, you might say, the heritage of our Atlantic European culture in the Cambridge University environment. It was very much…

Richard Tarnas: The neo-cortex of the Western self, you know, all the universities throughout the land."

For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell