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Archetypes represent a deep mystery. They are powerful primordial forms and forces that have been experienced and understood in a great diversity of ways, depending on the culture and epoch in question. Within the Western intellectual and spiritual tradition, a great cosmological transformation took place during the two-and-a-half millennia that unfolded between the classical Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle and the modern depth psychology of Jung, von Franz, Hillman, and Grof. Yet the idea of archetypal principles or essences that structure our world is common to both.
For Jung, the archetypes represented the fundamental psychological principles and powers informing and impelling human consciousness, rooted in the depths of the unconscious and of nature, whereas for Plato they represented the fundamental transcendent principles ordering cosmic reality itself, as apprehended by the enlightened philosopher. Therein lies a tale with enormous implications for our understanding of ourselves as well as of the universe.
Join me this evening for a survey of our evolving understanding of the archetypal mysteriumand the overarching evolution of our world view in which that understanding has been transformed, right up to the present.
Richard Tarnas is professor emeritus of cultural history and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. He has taught courses in the history of ideas, archetypal studies, depth psychology, and religious evolution. He has also frequently lectured on archetypal studies and depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute and was formerly the director of programs and education at Esalen Institute. He is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of the Western world view from the ancient Greek to the postmodern widely used in universities. His second book, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network and is the basis for the just released 10-episode documentary series The Changing of the Gods. He is a past president of the International Transpersonal Association and long served on the Board of Governors for the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.
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