Richard Tarnas

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Richard Tarnas
Richard Tarnas headshot 2017.jpg
Born (1950-02-21) February 21, 1950 (age 68)
Geneva, Switzerland
Era Contemporary
School Jungian psychology, Participatory theory, Transpersonal psychology
Institutions Harvard, Saybrook Institute, Esalen, California Institute of Integral Studies
Main interests
Archetypal cosmology, Archetypal astrology
Notable ideas
Participatory epistemology

Richard Theodore Tarnas (born February 21, 1950) is a cultural historian known for his books The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View and Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. Tarnas is professor of philosophy and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and is the founding director of its graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness.


Tarnas was born on February 21, 1950 in Geneva, Switzerland, of American parents. His father, also named Richard Tarnas, worked as a government contract attorney, former president of the Michigan Federal Bar Association, and professor of law. His mother, Mary Louise, was a teacher and homemaker. The eldest of eight children, he grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where he studied Greek, Latin, and the Classics at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy.

In 1968 Tarnas entered Harvard, graduating with an A.B. cum laude in 1972. He received his Ph.D. from Saybrook Institute in 1976 with a thesis on psychedelic therapy.[1][2] In 1974 Tarnas went to Esalen in California to study psychotherapy with Stanislav Grof.[3] From 1974 to 1984 he lived and worked at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, teaching and studying with Grof, Joseph Campbell, Gregory Bateson, Huston Smith, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, and James Hillman. He also served as Esalen's director of programs and education.[4] Jeffrey Kripal characterizes Tarnas as both the literal and figurative gate-keeper of Esalen.[5]

From 1980 to 1990, Tarnas wrote The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View, a narrative history of Western thought which became a bestseller and remained in use in universities as of 2000.[6][7] The book was highly acclaimed by Joseph Campbell, Huston Smith, Stanislav Grof, John E. Mack, Stanley Krippner, Georg Feuerstein, David Steindl-Rast, John Sculley, Robert A. McDermott, Jeffrey Hart, Gary Lachman, and others.

Tarnas is the founding director of the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), where he remains a core faculty member as of 2014.[8]

Tarnas' second book, Prometheus the Awakener, published in 1995, focuses on the astrological properties of the planet Uranus, describing "the uncanny way astrological patterns appear to coincide with events or destiny patterns in the lives of both individuals and societies".[9] Tarnas suggests that the characteristics associated with the mythological figure Uranus do not match the astrological properties of the planet Uranus, and that a more appropriate identification would involve the mythological figure Prometheus.

In 2006, Tarnas published his third book, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. It claims that the major events of Western cultural history correlate consistently and meaningfully with the observed angular positions of the planets.[10] The book received favorable reviews in Tikkun magazine,[11] in an anthroposophical journal,[12] and in the web magazine Reality Sandwich (by Daniel Pinchbeck),[13] but was panned in the Wall Street Journal.[14]

Tarnas featured in the 2006 film Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within, a documentary about rediscovering an enchanted cosmos in the modern world.[15]

In 2007 a group of fifty scholars and researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area formed the Archetypal Research Collective for pursuing research in archetypal cosmology. An online journal, Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, edited by Keiron LeGrice and Rod O'Neal, began a year later, based on the research orientation and methodology established in Cosmos and Psyche.[16] Advisory-board members include Christopher Bache, Jorge Ferrer, Stanislav Grof, Robert A. McDermott, Ralph Metzner, and Brian Swimme. Contributors have included Keiron Le Grice, Richard Tarnas, Stanislav Grof, and Rod O'Neal.

In 2008 Tarnas was invited to address members of the Dutch Parliament about creating a sustainable society.[17]

In 2007 John Cleese and Tarnas gave some public lectures together at Esalen and in Santa Barbara. The lectures discussed regaining a connection to the sacred in the modern world.[18] Cleese and Tarnas then taught a seminar at CIIS called "The Comic Genius: A Multidisciplinary Approach".[19]

American Astronaut Susan Helms cited Tarnas' The Passion of the Western Mind as one of the five 'classic American books' that inspired her career as an astronaut.[20]


By Tarnas[edit]



  • "Uranus and Prometheus" Spring, 1983
  • "The Transfiguration of the Western Mind in Philosophy and the Human Future" Cross currents ISSN 0011-1953, 1989, vol. 39, no3, pp. 258–280 Association for Religion and Intellectual Life, New Rochelle, NY
  • "The Transfiguration of the Western Mind" ReVision, 1990
  • "The Masculine Mind" Only Connect: Soil, Soul and Society, 1990
  • "The Western Mind at the Threshold," The Quest, Summer 1993 (also published in Re-vision, Vol. 16, 1993)
  • "The Western World View: Past, Present And Future" in R. E. Di Carlo (Ed.), Towards a New World View: Conversations at the Leading Edge., 1996
  • "The Great Initiation", Noetic Sciences Review, Vol. 47, Winter 1998
  • "A new birth in freedom: A (p)review of Jorge Ferrer's Revisioning transpersonal theory: A participatory vision of human spirituality" Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 2001
  • R Tarnas, E Laszlo, S Gablik, "The Cosmic World-How We Participate in Thee and Thou in Us" Revision 2001
  • Foreword to Revisioning Transpersonal Theory by Jorge Ferrer, 2002; SUNY
  • "Two Suitors: A Parable" ReVision: A Journal of Consciousness 2007 Heldref Publications
  • "The modern self and our planetary future: a participatory view" symposium De Binnenkant van Duurzaamheid 2008
  • "The Planets" Theoretical Foundations of Archetypal Cosmology, 2009 -
  • "The Ideal and the Real" Theoretical Foundations of Archetypal Cosmology 2009
  • "World Transits 2000–2020"


  • Tarnas, Richard; Pacifica Graduate Institute (2006). Jung, Cosmology, and the Transformation of the Modern Self (DVD). Santa Barbara, Calif.: Depth Video. OCLC 642056090. Recorded at Pacifica Graduate Institute on April 8–9, 2006. 

About Tarnas[edit]

  • Sean M. Kelly, "The Rebirth of Wisdom" Review of The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal pp. 33–44
  • Geoffrey Dean, "Saving a Disenchanted World with Astrology?" Skeptical Inquirer Volume 30.4, July / August 2006 Review of Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ LSD psychotherapy, theoretical implications for the study of psychology, 1976
  2. ^ ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Citation/Abstract Archived September 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Stanislav Grof, When The Impossible Happens, 337
  4. ^ Jeffrey Kripal, Esalen: America and the religion of no religion, 265, 378 University of Chicago Press, 2007 ISBN 0-226-45369-3, ISBN 978-0-226-45369-9
  5. ^ Jeffrey Kripal, Esalen: America and the religion of no religion, 378 University of Chicago Press, 2007 ISBN 0-226-45369-3, ISBN 978-0-226-45369-9
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Kane, Janet (2000). "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". Jung Society of Washington. Washington DC: The Washington Society for Jungian Psychology. Archived from the original on April 22, 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-28. 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. 
  8. ^ "Faculty: Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness: Core Faculty". California Institute of Integral Studies. San Francisco, CA: California Institute of Integral Studies. 2014. Retrieved 2015-08-28. Richard Tarnas[:] Professor 
  9. ^ Ray Grasse, untitled book review, Quest Winter 1995 Archived March 23, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Sean Kelly, Coming Home [np] SteinerBooks
  11. ^ "Towards a Meaningful Universe", Tikkun (magazine), May–June 2007, p. 75.
  12. ^ Frederick J. Dennehy, "The Disenchantment of the Modern Universe and the Tale of Two Suitors" Lilipoh #44 - Summer 2006
  13. ^ Daniel Pinchbeck, "Psyching Out The Cosmos Archived August 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine." 20 May 2007
  14. ^ Meaney, Thomas (2006-01-21). "Writer's Block: Cosmos & Psyche". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2015-08-27. [...] his new book has less in common with responsible scholarship than with the senescent Isaac Newton's ramblings about alchemy. 
  15. ^ Mann, Rod (Director) (2006). Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within. Critical Mass Productions. OCLC 181630835. Archived from the original (DVD video) on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  16. ^ Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology Archived November 29, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ Alice Klein, "The Intelligent Universe: Is nature trying to change our minds?" Archived October 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Now Magazine
  18. ^ Zack Lynch, Byron Laursen, The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World 137[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ CIIS Staff, "And Now For Something Completely Different" Archived May 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Spring 2009 CIIS Today
  20. ^ Five classic American books that inspired my career as an astronaut
  21. ^ WorldCat Archived October 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ WorldCat Archived March 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Archived April 19, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]

Articles and interview[edit]