Cosmos and Psyche
The 2007 Plume edition.
Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View is a 2006 book by cultural historian Richard Tarnas, who proposes the existence of relationships between planetary transits and events in the lives of major historical figures, as well as cultural events.
Tarnas' first book, The Passion of the Western Mind serves as an introduction to Cosmos and Psyche. Tarnas acknowledges that astrology's status in contemporary thought is, as he puts it, "the gold standard for superstition".
The book's objective is to challenge the materialistic and dysteleological assumptions of the modern world view, and to set forth evidence for a correspondence between planetary alignments and patterns of human history. The book attempts to provide an archetypal cosmology to accompany Tarnas' proposed participatory epistemology, "in which human beings are regarded as an essential vehicle for the creative selfunfolding of reality".
The idea for Cosmos and Psyche began when Tarnas realized that the climax of the 1960s cultural revolution took place precisely during the only Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the 20th century. For Tarnas, the characteristics of the astrological entity Uranus match with those of the Greek mythical figure Prometheus better than with those of the conservative mythological figure Uranus. Tarnas associates the astrological planet Uranus with freedom and change, while Pluto is associated with evolution, instinct, and eros. Thus on Tarnas' theory, the apparent relationships (conjunctions, oppositions, and squares) of Uranus and Pluto have momentous potential for human history. (Tarnas' research has not found significant correlation between the zodiac signs and human events.) Tarnas further observed that a Uranus-Pluto opposition occurred during the French Revolution. Like the 1960s, the French Revolution featured the characteristics of Uranus-Pluto alignment: revolution through the manifestation of the suppressed. These historical-astrological coincidences or synchronicities led Tarnas to further explore the relationship of pivotal moments in Western cultural history to the conjunctions, oppositions, and squares of the outer planets. The historical events analyzed include the Reformation, the Renaissance, Romanticism, the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, Modernism, Postmodernism, etc.
In the book Tarnas discusses the correspondences between planetary transits and the biographies of such figures as Friedrich Nietzsche, William Blake, Walt Whitman, and Arthur Schopenhauer. Tarnas believed the correspondences between historical events and astrological alignments to be consistently astonishing.
Tarnas does not argue for a causal relationship between the planets and human events:
In the perspective I am suggesting here, reflecting the dominant trend in contemporary astrological theory, the planets do not "cause" specific events any more than the hands on a clock "cause" a specific time. Rather, the planetary positions are indicative of the cosmic state or archetypal dynamics at that time.
Thomas Meaney panned Cosmos and Psyche in The Wall Street Journal, writing that the premise may sound "like an elaborate joke". Calling it "unadulterated crack-pottery", he said that Tarnas' observations were vacuous, opining that they "...drain human events of meaning rather than fill them with significance."
Other reviews were more positive. In Inside Bay Area, Esther Fields wrote that "...[n]ot only does it challenge modern assumptions about how the world works, but it also points the way toward a new way of understanding your place in the cosmos...and shows how we are on the brink of world changes as great as those of the time of Galileo and Copernicus." Anthroposophist Frederick Dennehy wrote in Lilipoh magazine that "Tarnas’ deeply radical hypothesis is that the disenchantment of the modern universe is unreal – the result of a “simplistic epistemology” and moral positioning totally inadequate to the depths, complexity and grandeur of the cosmos."
'In effect, the objective world has been ruled by the Enlightenment, the subjective world by Romanticism,' Richard Tarnas says in his remarkable book Cosmos & Psyche, an attempt to heal that schism, to 're-enchant' the cosmos and redeem what he calls the 'pathos' of the modern condition. By contrast, Dawkins' one-eyed view turns reason, as Blake warned, into the enemy of imagination and of art.
John Heron critiqued the methodology and conclusions of Cosmos in the journal Network Review, describing 18 internal problems with Tarnas' theory. In the following issue of Network Review, Keiron Le Grice responded point-by-point to Heron's critique. Rob Brezsny, American astrologer, called Cosmos and Psyche "the definitive astrology book of the 21st century—probably the 20th century, too." In Tikkun magazine Jordi Pigem concluded,
In the last ten years, landmark works...have been reflecting and kindling a growing awareness that nature is not merely a sum of molecules obeying physical and chemical laws, but a living, sensuous, and ensouled matrix in which we fully participate and belong. Tarnas' Cosmos and Psyche extends this rising awareness beyond the bounds of the biosphere. Our psyche is not only deeply connected with our immediate natural environment, but with the whole of the cosmos encompassing us, with the rhythms of the planets we can see above us on clear nights. Searching beneath the depths of the psyche, Tarnas has found the heights of the cosmos. Cosmos and Psyche may radically transform the way we see cultural and political history, individual life journeys, and our sense of participation in the universe.
Daniel Pinchbeck, writing in Reality Sandwich, called Cosmos "scrupulously researched and carefully argued", and that it advances "a radical thesis...which seeks to revive astrology as a serious intellectual discipline and provide a cosmological missing link between the human world and the greater universe in which we are embedded." Pinchbeck writes that Cosmos may offer "a transformative matrix for reconceiving our relationship to the cosmos."
- Ray Grasse, "Cosmos and Psyche: An Interview with Richard Tarnas" The Mountain Astrologer, issue #124, Dec/Jan 2006.
- Keiron Le Grice, The "Birth of a New Discipline: Archetypal Cosmology in Historical Perspective"
- Anthony Freeman, 'A Daniel Come to Judgement? Dennett and the Revisioning of Transpersonal Theory', Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13, No. 3, 2006, pp.95–109.
- J.N. Ferrer, Revisioning Transpersonal Theory p.115 (New York: SUNYPress, 2002)
- Cosmos and Psyche, p. 77
- "Writer's Block: Cosmos & Psyche" The Wall Street Journal JANUARY 21, 2006
- Esther Fields, "Spring into a great read" insidebayarea.com Inside Bay Area 4 April 2006
- Frederick J. Dennehy, "The Disenchantment of the Modern Universe and the Tale of Two Suitors" lilipoh.com Lilipoh #44 - Summer 2006
- Neil Spencer,"The Dawkins delusion: science good, the rest bad" The Observer, Sunday 12 August 2007
- John Heron, "A commentary on Richard Tarnas' Cosmos and Psyche'" Network Review: Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network, No. 95, Winter 2007, pp. 11-16.
- "A Response to John Heron’s commentary on Cosmos and Psyche" scimednet.org Network Review Winter 2007 p13 pub by Scientific & Medical Network
- Damon Orion, alibi.com "Sign Language: A skeptic’s cosmic quest for a reason to believe in astrology"
- "Towards a Meaningful Universe", Tikkun (magazine), May–June 2007, p. 75.
- Daniel Pinchbeck, "Psyching Out The Cosmos" 20 May 2007