Richard Tarnas

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Richard Tarnas
Richard Tarnas, 2012.png
Born (1950-02-21) February 21, 1950 (age 65)
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 Richard Tarnas, was 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. His thesis was on psychedelic therapy.[1][2] In 1974, Tarnas went to Esalen in order 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 director of programs and education.[4] Jeffrey Kripal writes that Tarnas was 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 continues to be a widely used text in colleges.[6][7] Passion 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 and he remains a core faculty member.

Tarnas' second book, Prometheus the Awakener, was published in 1995 and focuses on the astrological properties of the planet Uranus, and is a "description of the uncanny way astrological patterns appear to coincide with events or destiny patterns in the lives of both individuals and societies".[8] 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 be with the mythological figure Prometheus.

In 2006, Tarnas' third book, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, was published. The core argument of Cosmos and Psyche rests on the claim that the major events of Western cultural history are consistently and meaningfully correlated with the observed angular positions of the planets.[9] The book received favorable reviews in Tikkun magazine, an anthroposophical journal, and the web magazine Reality Sandwich, but was panned in the Wall Street Journal.[10][11][12][13]

Tarnas was featured in the 2006 film Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within, a documentary about rediscovering an enchanted cosmos in the modern world.[14]

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, was begun a year later, based on the research orientation and methodology established in Cosmos and Psyche.[15] 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.[16]

In 2007–8 John Cleese and Tarnas gave some public lectures together at Esalen and in Santa Barbara. The lectures were about regaining a connection to the sacred in the modern world.[17] Cleese and Tarnas then taught a seminar at CIIS called "The Comic Genius: A Multidisciplinary Approach."[18]


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 Westem 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
  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. ^ Janet Kane, "A New View of Depth Psychology's Link to the Astrological Tradition"
  8. ^ Ray Grasse, untitled book review, Quest Winter 1995
  9. ^ Sean Kelly, Coming Home [np] SteinerBooks
  10. ^ "Towards a Meaningful Universe", Tikkun (magazine), May–June 2007, p. 75.
  11. ^ Frederick J. Dennehy, "The Disenchantment of the Modern Universe and the Tale of Two Suitors" Lilipoh #44 - Summer 2006
  12. ^ Daniel Pinchbeck, "Psyching Out The Cosmos" 20 May 2007
  13. ^ "Writer's Block: Cosmos & Psyche" The Wall Street Journal JANUARY 21, 2006
  14. ^ Mann, Rod (Director) (2006). Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within (DVD video). Critical Mass Productions. OCLC 181630835. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  15. ^ Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology
  16. ^ Alice Klein, "The Intelligent Universe: Is nature trying to change our minds?" Now Magazine
  17. ^ Zack Lynch, Byron Laursen, The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World 137
  18. ^ CIIS Staff, "And Now For Something Completely Different" Spring 2009 CIIS Today
  19. ^ WorldCat
  20. ^ WorldCat
  21. ^

External links[edit]

Articles and interview[edit]