A New View of Depth Psychology's Link to the Astrological Tradition

A Review of Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View by Richard Tarnas

by Janet Kane


Our psyche is set up in accord with the structure of the universe, and what happens in the macrocosm likewise happens in the infinitesimal and most subjective reaches of the psyche

--C.G.Jung
Memories, Dreams, Reflections

 

As a practicing astrologer, I have studied many books on astrology but this new work by Richard Tarnas is by far the best one I have read in many years. Tarnas, a respected scholar and cultural historian, wrote his first book, The Passion of the Western Mind, in 1991. It was a best seller and is still widely used in universities today. Tarnas describes his latest book, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, as scandalous because it supports astrology by presenting the results of his 30 year long study of planetary alignments and how they correlate to historic patterns of human culture. This work outlines a fundamental transformation in the way we see and understand our world. He combines astrology with Jung's theories of archetypes, the collective unconscious and synchronicity. I believe that this book is destined to be a classic, not only among astrologers, but philosophers, historians and students of culture as well.

Cosmos and Psyche builds on the work of Carl Jung's idea of archetypes. Tarnas says, "We can define an archetype as a universal principle, or force that affects-impels, structures, permeates-the human psyche and the world of human experience on many levels. One could think of them in mythic terms as gods and goddesses." Essentially, archetypes are living symbols that we all share. They reside in our psyche but they also manifest in the physical world. Many contemporary astrologers see the archetypes of modern psychology as a description of the planetary energies. Astrologers have always believed that these planetary archetypes reside in us and outside of us, hence the hermetic belief of "as above, so below." Tarnas believes that, "The astrological tradition can be seen as essentially continuing and deepening the depth psychology project, to make conscious the unconscious to help free the conscious self from being a puppet of unconscious forces."

Astrologers find the archetypes in the natal chart and use the movement of the planets around the natal chart, called transits, to identify the maturing or transformation of the basic natal archetypes. Astrological counseling helps to reveal the natal archetypes so that they become more conscious to the client and also brings understanding of the changes in their life based on the transits. Of transits, Tarnas states that, "A considerable body of evidence suggests that the movements of the planets named Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars, and Mercury tend to coincide with patterns of human experience that closely resemble the character of those planets' mythical counterparts."

In the main body of the work, Tarnas looks at world transits and how planetary cycles of the outer planets; Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto coincide with cultural and historical movements. His conclusion is that there does exist a significant correspondence between planetary movements and human affairs.

As an example, Tarnas traces the Uranus/Pluto conjunctions and oppositions from 318 BCE to show how this cycle corresponded to radical mass movements for freedom. Uranus is The Great Awakener, the archetypal symbol for individual freedom and creative ideas and Pluto is the symbol for power and mass upheavals. In aspect, these two dynamic archetypes fuse, combine and increase their force and correspond to archetypally similar events on earth.

The most recent examples of Uranus/Pluto cycle are:

1. 1787-1798 - Uranus Opposite Pluto. This was the time of the French Revolution, which Tarnas describes as "an upsurge of tremendous rebellious and liberating energies sweeping the world, with radical change affecting many societies." Also during this time Mary Wollstonecraft's published A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In the US, Britain and France there was the first widespread call for the abolition of slavery. The US Constitution and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen were written during this period.

2. 1845 to 1856 - Uranus Conjunct Pluto. A wave of revolutionary upheavals in almost every capital of Europe such as Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Dresden, Baden, Prague, Rome, Milan occurred during these years. The Communist Manifeso and Thoreau's On the Duty of Civil Disobedience were written at this time. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman led antislavery efforts in the US and the women's rights movement began with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. There were also upheavals in China.

3. 1896-1907 Uranus Opposite Pluto. There was a rise of radical labor movements throughout Europe and North American and also the founding of socialist parties in England, the US, Russia and France. Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Rosa Luxemburg, Upton Sinclair and other reformers and radical leaders were active at this time. Other revolutionary activities were the Boxer Rebellion in China, the rise of revolutionary Chinese nationalist movements and the civil disobedience movement led by Gandhi.

4. 1960-1972 - Uranus Conjunct Pluto. This period, as the examples above, coincided precisely with a time of tremendous innovation and revolutionary impulses across the world, with both great social upheaval and liberating change occurring in many countries on the planet. During that time in the United States we had the civil rights movement, the women's rights movement, founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Freedom Riders, numerous demonstrations and marches, the civil rights acts of 1965 and 1968 and the hippies. There was also civil unrest all over the globe. Tarnas predicts similar upheavals and liberating energies for the next fifteen years starting in 2007 with the square of Uranus and Pluto. The transit will bring about the next evolution of the energies that were started in the Uranus/Pluto conjunction period of 1960-1972.

Tarnas also traces historical events related to other planetary cycles. For instance, he describes the Saturn/Pluto cycle which culminated in the world trade center and pentagon attacks on Sep 11, 2001. Saturn, the wise old man, is the archetype of the established order and material structures and Pluto, the embittered man, is the archetype of power, death, rebirth and transformation. He traces the Uranus/Neptune cycle and the emergence of new religions. Uranus is the Great Awakener and Neptune represents our spiritual yearnings. The Jupiter/Uranus cycles heralded breakthroughs in music and literature. Jupiter is expansive, moving outside the boundaries and Uranus represents new, free and creative energies.

As Tarnas describes these world transits, he also shows us how the people who became identified with these events are those with natal aspects that correspond to the aspects of the planetary cycle. In other words they share the same archetypes. Some examples are Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem all born with Uranus Square Pluto. They contributed in a major way to the Uranus/Pluto events during three of the eras when these planetary cycles were eminent. It's as if those of us with certain natal planetary aspects are fated to take an important role in or be highly influenced by the activities manifested during the planetary cycles that match these aspects.

After all of his research, Tarnas came to the conclusion that "The universe is a fundamentally and irreducibly interconnected whole, informed by creative intelligence and pervaded by patterns of meaning and order that extends through every level and that are expressed through a constant correspondence between astronomical events and human events." He believes that the universe is not only conscious but it is also caring and sentient. I believe that the ideas in this book will stimulate a paradigm shift in how we view the world and our place in it, how we understand history and also how we can look to the future and see what energies will be impacting the world in years to come.

Richard Tarnas will be in Washington DC on Monday, March 12. He will give a lecture at the Washington Society for Jungian Psychology in Washington, DC. The title of the lecture is "Jung, Cosmology, and the Transformation of the Modern Self." See http://www.jung.org for more details and to register.

Be sure to sign up early for this event and do yourself a favor a get a copy of the book. I promise you that it will dramatically transform the way you view world history and culture.