Richard Tarnas: EIE-Ni; or Alpha NT
- from Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View by Richard Tarnas; pp. 9-10 (The Dawn of a New Universe): The nature of the Copernican revolution was so fundamental that what had to be rethought was not only all the conventional scientific theories but the entire established hierarchy of humanity’s place in the universal scheme of things: its relation to the rest of nature and to the cosmos, its relation to the divine, the basis for its morality, its capacity for certain knowledge, its historical self-understanding.
Such a radical transformation could not happen overnight. For the cultural mind and psyche to support that transformation, the passage of entire generations was required, including the deaths of the many intellectual authorities who were incapable of escaping the hold of the reigning paradigm. The required change was not just physical but metaphysical: The entire world needed to be revisioned. In the end, the implications of the greater shift—cosmological, religious, moral, epistemological, psychological, existential—were so far-reaching that it would take centuries to work them out, even to become conscious of them.
Gradually, the passage of time, and heroic efforts against powerful opponents and entrenched assumptions brought about the complete triumph of the Copernican shift. Yet as the modern age progressed, the passage of yet more time brought forth, with what now seems a fateful inevitability, a succession of new consequences and elaborations out of the deep matrix of the Copernican revolution that could scarcely have been more paradoxical, revealing implications often sharply antithetical to the cosmological vision of its originators. Its larger meaning has been transformed with each succeeding age, and is, today, still unfolding.
- pp. 12-15 (Two Paradigms of History): A paradox concerning the character and fate of the West confronts every sensitive observer: On the one hand, we recognize a certain dynamism, a luminous, heroic impulse, even a nobility, at work in Western civilization and Western thought. We see this in the great achievements of Greek philosophy and culture, and in the profound moral and spiritual strivings of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. We see it embodied in the Sistine Chapel and other Renaissance masterpieces, in the plays of Shakespeare, in the music of Beethoven. We recognize it in the brilliance of the Copernican revolution and the long sequence of dazzling scientific advances in many disciplines that have unfolded in its wake. We see it in the titanic space flights of a generation ago that landed men on the Moon, or, more recently, in the spectacular images of the vast cosmos coming from the Hubble Space Telescope that have opened up unprecedented perspectives reaching back in time and outward into space billions of years and light-years to the primal origins of the universe itself. No less vividly, we find it in the great democratic revolutions of modernity and the powerful emancipatory movements of our own era, all with deep sources in the Western intellectual and spiritual tradition.
Yet at the same time, if we attempt to perceive a larger reality beyond the conventional heroic narrative, we cannot fail to recognize the shadow of this great luminosity. The same cultural tradition and historical trajectory that brought forth such noble achievements has also caused immense suffering and loss, for many other cultures and peoples, for many people within Western culture itself, and for many other forms of life on the Earth. Moreover, the West has played the central role in bringing about a subtly growing and seemingly inexorable crisis—one of multidimensional complexity, affecting all aspects of life from the ecological and economic to the psychological and spiritual. To say that our global civilization is becoming dysfunctional scarcely conveys the gravity of the situation. For many forms of life on the Earth, catastrophe has already begun, as our planet undergoes the most massive extinction of species since the demise of the dinosaurs. How can we make sense of this tremendous paradox in the character and meaning of the West?
If we examine many of the major debates in the post-traditional intellectual culture of our time, it is possible to see looming behind them two fundamental paradigms, two great myths, diametrically opposite in character, concerning human history and the evolution of human consciousness. As genuine myths, these underlying paradigms represent not mere illusory beliefs or arbitrary collective fantasies, naive delusions contrary to fact, but rather those enduring archetypal structures of meaning that so profoundly inform our cultural psyche and shape our beliefs that they constitute the very means through which we construe something as fact. They invisibly constellate our vision. They filter and reveal our data, structure our imagination, permeate our ways of knowing and acting.
The first paradigm, familiar to all of us from our education, describes human history and the evolution of human consciousness as an epic narrative of human progress, a long heroic journey from a primitive world of dark ignorance, suffering, and limitation to a brighter modern world of ever-increasing knowledge, freedom, and well-being. This great trajectory of progress is seen as having been made possible by the sustained development of human reason and, above all, by the emergence of the modern mind. This view informs much, perhaps most, of what we see and hear on the subject and is easily recognized whenever we encounter a book or program with a title such as The Ascent of Man, The Discoverers, Man’s Conquest of Space, or the like. The direction of history is seen as onward and upward. Humanity is typically personified as “man” (anthropos, homo, l’uomo, l’homme, el hombre, chelovek, der Mensch) and imaged, at least implicitly, as a masculine hero, rising above the constraints of nature and tradition, exploring the great cosmos, mastering his environment, determining his own destiny: restless, bold, brilliantly innovative, ceaselessly pressing forward with his intelligence and will, breaking out of the structures and limits of the past, ascending to ever-higher levels of development, forever seeking greater freedom and new horizons, discovering ever-wider arenas for self-realization. In this perspective, the apex of human achievement commenced with the rise of modern science and democratic individualism in the centuries following the Renaissance. The view of history is one of progressive emancipation and empowerment. It is a vision that emerged fully in the course of the European Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though its roots are as old as Western civilization itself.
As with all powerful myths, we have been, and many perhaps remain, largely unconscious of this historical paradigm’s hold on our collective imagination. It animates the vast majority of contemporary books and essays, editorial columns, book reviews, science articles, research papers, and television documentaries, as well as political, social, and economic policies. It is so familiar to us, so close to our perception, that in many respects it has become our common sense, the form and foundation of our self-image as modern humans. We have been so long identified with this progressive understanding of the human project, and particularly of the modern Western project, that it is only in recent decades that we have begun to be able to see it as a paradigm—that is, to be able to see, at least partly, from outside its sphere of influence.
The other great historical vision tells a very different story. In this understanding, human history and the evolution of human consciousness are seen as a predominantly problematic, even tragic narrative of humanity’s gradual but radical fall and separation from an original state of oneness with nature and an encompassing spiritual dimension of being. In its primordial condition, humankind had possessed an instinctive knowledge of the profound sacred unity and interconnectedness of the world, but under the influence of the Western mind, especially its modern expression, the course of history brought about a deep schism between humankind and nature, and a desacralization of the world. This development coincided with an increasingly destructive exploitation of nature, the devastation of traditional indigenous cultures, a loss of faith in spiritual realities, and an increasingly unhappy state of the human soul, which experienced itself as ever more isolated, shallow, and unfulfilled. In this perspective, both humanity and nature are seen as having suffered grievously under a long exploitative, dualistic vision of the world, with the worst consequences being produced by the oppressive hegemony of modern industrial societies empowered by Western science and technology. The nadir of this fall is the present time of planetary turmoil, ecological crisis, and spiritual distress, which are seen as the direct consequence of human hubris, embodied above all in the spirit and structure of the modern Western mind and ego. This second historical perspective reveals a progressive impoverishment of human life and the human spirit, a fragmentation of original unities, a ruinous destruction of the sacred community of being.
Something like these two interpretations of history, here described in starkly contrasting terms for the sake of easy recognition, can be seen to inform many of the more specific issues of our age. They represent two basic antithetical myths of historical self-understanding: the myth of Progress and what in its earlier incarnations was called the myth of the Fall. These two historical paradigms appear today in many variations, combinations, and compromise formations. They underlie and influence discussions of the environmental crisis, globalization, multiculturalism, fundamentalism, feminism and patriarchy, evolution and history. One might say that these opposing myths constitute the underlying argument of our time: Whither humanity? Upward or downward? How are we to view Western civilization, the Western intellectual tradition, its canon of great works? How are we to view modern science, modern rationality, modernity itself? How are we to view “man”? Is history ultimately a narrative of progress or of tragedy?
John Stuart Mill made a shrewd, and wise, observation about the nature of most philosophical debates. In his splendid essay on Coleridge, he pointed out that both sides in intellectual controversies tended to be “in the right in what they affirmed, though in the wrong in what they denied.” Mill’s insight into the nature of intellectual discourse shines light on many disagreements: Whether it is conservatives debating liberals, parents arguing with their children, or a lovers’ quarrel, almost invariably something is being repressed in the service of making one’s point. But his insight seems to apply with particular aptness to the conflict of historical paradigms just described. I believe that both parties to this dispute have grasped an essential aspect of our history, that both views are in a sense correct, each with compelling arguments within its own frame of reference, but also that they are both intensely partial views, as a result of which they both misread a larger story.
It is not simply that each perspective possesses a significant grain of truth. Rather, both historical paradigms are at once fully valid and yet also partial aspects of a larger frame of reference, a metanarrative, in which the two opposite interpretations are precisely intertwined to form a complex, integrated whole. The two historical dramas actually constitute each other. Not only are they simultaneously true; they are embedded in each other’s truth. They underlie and inform each other, implicate each other, make each other possible. One might compare the way the two perspectives coalesce while appearing to exclude each other to those gestalt-experiment illustrations that can be perceived in two different, equally cogent ways, such as the precisely ambiguous figure that can be seen either as a white vase or as two black profiles in silhouette. By means of a gestalt shift in perception, the observer can move back and forth between the two images, though the figure itself, the original body of data, remains unchanged.
One is reminded here of Niels Bohr’s axiom in quantum physics, “The opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth,” or Oscar Wilde’s “A Truth in art is that whose contradictory is also true.” What is difficult, of course, is to see both images, both truths, simultaneously: to suppress nothing, to remain open to the paradox, to maintain the tension of opposites. Wisdom, like compassion, often seems to require of us that we hold multiple realities in our consciousness at once. This may be the task we must begin to engage if we wish to gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of human consciousness, and the history of the Western mind in particular: to see that long intellectual and spiritual journey, moving through stages of increasing differentiation and complexity, as having brought about both a progressive ascent to autonomy and a tragic fall from unity—and, perhaps, as having prepared the way for a synthesis on a new level. From this perspective, the two paradigms reflect opposite but equally essential aspects of an immense dialectical process, an evolutionary drama that has been unfolding for thousands of years and that now appears to be reaching a critical, perhaps climactic moment of transformation.
Yet there is another important party to this debate, another view of human history, one that instead of integrating the two opposing historical perspectives into a larger, more complex one appears to refute them both altogether. This third view, articulated with increasing frequency and sophistication in our own time, holds that no coherent pattern actually exists in human history or evolution, at least none that is independent of human interpretation. If an overarching pattern in history is visible, that pattern has been projected onto history by the human mind under the influence of various non-empirical factors: cultural, political, economic, social, sociobiological, psychological. In this view, the pattern—the myth or story—ultimately resides in the human subject, not the historical object. The object can never be perceived without being selectively shaped by an interpretive framework, which itself is shaped and constructed by forces beyond itself and beyond the awareness of the interpreting subject. Knowledge of history, as of anything else, is ever-shifting, free-floating, ungrounded in an objective reality. Patterns are not so much recognized in phenomena as read into them. History is, finally, only a construct.
On the one hand, this robust skepticism that pervades much of our post-modern thought is not far from that necessary critical perspective that allows us to discuss paradigms at all, to make comparisons and judgments about underlying conceptual structures such as those made above. Its recognition of the radically interpretive factor in all human experience and knowledge—its understanding that we are always seeing by means of myths and theories, that our experience and knowledge are always patterned and even constituted by various changing a priori and usually unconscious structures of meaning—is essential to the entire exercise we have been pursuing.
On the other hand, this seeming paradigm-free relativism, whereby no pattern or meaning exists in history except as constructed and projected onto history by the human mind, is itself clearly another paradigm. It recognizes that we always see by means of myths and interpretive categories, but fails to apply that recognition consistently to itself. It excels at “seeing through,” but perhaps has not seen through enough. In one sense, this form of the postmodern vision may be best understood as a direct outgrowth, possibly an inevitable one, of the progressive modern mind in its ever-deepening critical reflexivity—questioning, suspecting, striving for emancipation through critical awareness—reaching here in its most extreme development what is essentially a stage of advanced self-deconstruction. Yet this perspective may also be understood as the natural consequence of the Enlightenment vision beginning to encounter its own shadow—the darkly problematic narrative articulated by its opposing historical paradigm—and being challenged and reshaped by that encounter. For just this reason, the deconstructive postmodern perspective may represent a crucial element in the unfolding of a new and more comprehensive understanding. There is a deep truth in this view, though it too may also be a deeply partial truth, an essential aspect of a much larger, more embracing, and still more richly complex vision. The postmodern mind may eventually be seen as having constituted a necessary transitional stage between epochs, a period of dissolving and opening between larger sustained cultural paradigms.
- p. 18: From the modern perspective, if I see the world as if it were communicating humanly relevant meaning to me in some purposeful, intelligent way, as if it were laden with meaning-rich symbols—a sacred text, as it were, to be interpreted—then I am projecting human realities onto the nonhuman world. Such an attitude toward the world is regarded by the modern mind as reflecting an epistemologically naive state of awareness: intellectually undeveloped, undifferentiated, childish, wishfully self-indulgent, something to be outgrown and corrected through the development of a mature critical reason. Or worse, it is a sign of mental illness, of primitive magical thinking with delusions of self-reference, a condition to be suppressed and treated with appropriate medication.
- pp. 32-34 (The Cosmological Situation Today): Since the encompassing cosmological context in which all human activity takes place has eliminated any enduring ground of transcendent values—spiritual, moral, aesthetic—the resulting vacuum has empowered the reductive values of the market and the mass media to colonize the collective human imagination and drain it of all depth. If the cosmology is disenchanted, the world is logically seen in predominantly utilitarian ways, and the utilitarian mind-set begins to shape all human motivation at the collective level. What might be considered means to larger ends ineluctably become ends in themselves. The drive to achieve ever-greater financial profit, political power, and technological prowess becomes the dominant impulse moving individuals and societies, until these values, despite ritual claims to the contrary, supersede all other aspirations.
The disenchanted cosmos impoverishes the collective psyche in the most global way, vitiating its spiritual and moral imagination—“vitiate” not only in the sense of diminish and impair but also in the sense of deform and debase. In such a context, everything can be appropriated. Nothing is immune. Majestic vistas of nature, great works of art, revered music, eloquent language, the beauty of the human body, distant lands and cultures, extraordinary moments of history, the arousal of deep human emotion: all become advertising tools to manipulate consumer response. For quite literally, in a disenchanted cosmos, nothing is sacred. The soul of the world has been extinguished: Ancient trees and forests can then be seen as nothing but potential lumber; mountains nothing but mineral deposits; seashores and deserts are oil reserves; lakes and rivers, engineering tools. Animals are perceived as harvestable commodities, indigenous tries as obstructing relics of an outmoded past, children’s minds as marketing targets. At the all-important cosmological level, the spiritual dimension of the empirical universe has been entirely negated, and with it, any publicly affirmable encompassing ground for moral wisdom and restraint. The short term and the bottom line rule all. Whether in politics, business, or the media, the lowest common denominator of the culture increasingly governs discourse and prescribes the values of the whole. Myopically obsessed with narrow goals and narrow identities, the powerful blind themselves to the larger suffering and crisis of the global community.
In a world where the subject is experienced as living in—and above and against—a world of objects, other peoples and cultures are more readily perceived as simply other objects, inferior in value to oneself, to ignore or exploit for one’s own purposes, as are other forms of life, biosystems, the planetary whole. Moreover, the underlying anxiety and disorientation that pervade modern societies in the face of a meaningless cosmos create both a collective psychic numbness and a desperate spiritual hunger, leading to an addictive, insatiable craving for ever more material goods to fill the inner emptiness and producing a manic techno-consumerism that cannibalizes the planet. Highly practical consequences ensue from the disenchanted modern world view.
The ambition to emancipate ourselves as autonomous subjects by objectifying the world has in a sense come full circle, returned to haunt us, by turning the human self into an object as well—an ephemeral side effect of a random universe, an isolated atom in mass society, a statistic, a commodity, passive prey to the demands of the market, prisoner of the self-constructed modern “iron cage.” Thus Weber’s famous prophecy:
No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: “Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.”
Defined in the end by its disenchanted context, the human self too is inevitably disenchanted. Ultimately it becomes, like everything else, a mere object of material forces and efficient causes: a sociobiological pawn, a selfish gene, a meme machine, a biotechnological artifact, an unwitting tool of its own tools. For the cosmology of a civilization both reflects and influences all human activity, motivation, and self-understanding that take place within its parameters. It is the container for everything else.
This, therefore, has become the looming question of our time: What is the ultimate impact of cosmological disenchantment on a civilization? What does it do to the human self, year after year, century after century, to experience existence as a conscious purposeful being in an unconscious purposeless universe? What is the price of a collective belief in absolute cosmic indifference? What are the consequences of this unprecedented cosmological context for the human experiment, indeed, for the entire planet?
It was Friedrich Nietzsche who seems to have recognized most intensely the full implications of the modern development, and experienced in his own being the inescapable plight of the modern sensibility: the Romantic soul at once liberated, displaced, and entrapped within the vast cosmic void of the scientific universe. Using hyper-Copernican imagery to depict the dizzying annihilation of the metaphysical world and death of God wrought by the modern mind, and reflecting that peculiarly tragic combination of self-determining will and inexorable fate, Nietzsche captured the pathos of the late modern existential and spiritual crisis:
What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us?
- pp. 50-51 (Synchronicity and Its Implications): Most of us in the course of life have observed coincidences in which two or more independent events having no apparent causal connection nevertheless seem to form a meaningful pattern. On occasion, this patterning can strike one as so extraordinary that it is difficult to believe the coincidence has been produced by chance alone. The events give the distinct impression of having been precisely arranged, invisibly orchestrated.
Jung first described the remarkable phenomenon he named synchronicity in a seminar as early as 1928. He continued his investigations for more than twenty years before at last attempting a full formulation in the early 1950s. He presented his influential, still-evolving analysis of synchronicity in the final paper he gave at the Eranos conferences, and immediately followed this with a long monograph. Developed in part through discussions with physicists, particularly Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, the principle of synchronicity bore parallels to certain discoveries in relativity theory and quantum mechanics. Yet because of its psychological dimension, Jung’s concept possessed a special relevance for the schism in the modern world view between the meaning-seeking human subject and the meaning-voided objective world. From the beginning, it has held a unique position in contemporary discussions, having been simultaneously described by physicists as posing a major challenge to the philosophical foundations of modern science and by religious scholars as holding deep implications for the modern psychology of religion. With each decade, increasing numbers of books and heightened attention, both scholarly and popular, have been devoted to the concept and the phenomenon.
Jung took particular interest in meaningful coincidences, in the beginning no doubt because their frequent occurrence had exerted a considerable influence on his own life experience. He also observed that in the therapeutic process of his patients such events repeatedly played a role, sometimes a powerful one, especially in periods of crisis and transformation. The dramatic coincidence of meaning between an inner state and a simultaneous external event seemed to bring forth in the individual a healing movement toward psychological wholeness, mediated by the unexpected integration of inner and outer realities. Such events often engendered a new sense of personal orientation in a world now seen as capable of embodying purposes and meanings beyond the mere projections of human subjectivity. The random chaos of life suddenly appeared to veil a deeper order. A subtle sign, as it were, had been given, an unexpected color in the pale void of meaning—an intimation, in William James’s phrase, of “something more.”
Accompanying the more profound occurrences of synchronicity was a dawning intuition, sometimes described as having the character of a spiritual awakening, that the individual was herself or himself not only embedded in a larger ground of meaning and purpose but also in some sense a focus of it. This discovery, often emerging after a sustained period of personal darkness or spiritual crisis, tended to bring with it an opening to new existential potentialities and responsibilities. Both because of this felt personal import and because of its startling metaphysical implications, such a synchronicity carried a certain numinosity, a dynamic spiritual charge with transformative consequences for the person experiencing it. In this respect, the phenomenon seemed to function, in religious terms, as something like an intervention of grace. Jung noted that such synchronicities were often kept secret or carefully guarded, to avoid the possibility of ridicule concerning an event possessing such significant personal meaning.
- p. 55: Synchronicities seem to constitute a lived reality the experience of which depends deeply on the sensitive perception of context and nuance. For synchronicities have a shadow side, as in the exaggeration of the trivial to discover a self-inflating meaning. Another form this shadow can take is the paranoid’s morbidly narrow interpretation of coincidences in terms of other people’s malign plots cunningly directed at the self, or psychotic delusions of self-reference. Such interpretations are, as Jung once suggested, pre-Copernican, egocentric. They center the world of meaning naively on the old narrow self, inflating the separate ego or persecuting it, and thereby evade the more complex and often painful emergence of the individuated self that is in dialogue with the whole.
Such an emergence requires attending to the claims and communications of the larger cosmos of the unconscious. A painstaking cultivation of self-knowledge must be undertaken to avoid succumbing to mere projection. Discriminating such events requires a self-critical awareness of unconscious tendencies towards narcissistic distortion by which random or peripheral events are continually transformed into signs of an egocentric universe. No less crucial is the development and balanced interplay of multiple faculties of cognition—empirical, rational, emotional, relational, intuitive, symbolic. A capacity for acute yet balanced discernment has to be forged, founded not only on an alertness to meaningful pattern but also on a disciplined mindfulness of the larger whole within which the individual seeks orientation.
- pp. 61-63 (The Archetypal Cosmos): In the course of his career Jung’s attention was increasingly drawn to the ancient cosmological perspective of astrology, which posits a systematic symbolic correspondence between planetary positions and the events of human existence. Here was the thesis, widely accepted in most other cultures as well as in earlier eras of the West, that the universe is so ordered that the movements and patterns of the heavens are synchronously correlated with the movements and patterns of human affairs in such a manner as to be both intelligible and meaningful to the human mind. Jung began to examine astrology as early as 1911, when he mentioned his inquiries in a letter to Freud. (“My evenings are taken up very largely with astrology. I make horoscopic calculations in order to find a clue to the core of psychological truth. Some remarkable things have turned up. . . .”) The interest gradually developed into a major focus of investigation, and in his later years Jung devoted himself with considerable passion to astrological research. “Astrology,” he stated, “represents the sum of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity.” Though his published writings presented varying and at times ambiguous views of the subject over the course of his life, it is evident that insights from his astrological studies influenced many of his most significant theoretical formulations in the final, extraordinarily fruitful phase of his life’s work (archetypal theory, synchronicity, philosophy of history). It is also clear from reports from his family and others close to him that in his last decades he came to employ the analysis of birth charts and transits as a regular and integral aspect of his clinical work with patients in analysis.
Of course, astrology has not been held in high esteem during most of the modern era, for a variety of compelling reasons. Certainly its popular expressions have seldom been such as to inspire confidence in the enterprise. More fundamentally, astrology could not be reconciled with the world picture that emerged from the natural sciences of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, wherein all natural phenomena, from the motion of the planets to the evolution of species, were understood in terms of material substances and mechanistic principles that functioned without purpose or design. Nor could it prevail against that tendency of the modern mind, established during the Enlightenment, to uphold its own rational autonomy and to depreciate earlier thought systems that seemed to support any form of primitive participation mystique between the human psyche and a world endowed with pregiven structures of meaning. One can appreciate Jung’s reluctance to make more public the extent of his use of astrology. In the context of twentieth-century beliefs and the dominance of scientific thinking, he had already pressed the boundaries of intellectual discourse about as far as could be sustained.
Like most products of a modern education, I myself long viewed any form of astrology with automatic skepticism. Eventually, however, influenced not only by Jung’s example but also by a number of colleagues whose intellectual judgment I had reason to trust, I came to think that some essence of the astrological thesis might be worth investigating. Several factors contributed to my interest. Once I moved past the usual disparagements of the conventional accounts, I noticed that the history of astrology contained certain remarkable features. It seemed curious to me that the historical periods during which astrology flourished in the West—classical Greek and Roman antiquity, the Hellenistic era in Alexandria, the High Middle Ages, the Italian Renaissance, the Elizabethan age in England, the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in Europe generally—all happened to be eras in which intellectual and cultural creativity was unusually luminous. The same could be said of astrology’s prominence during the centuries in which science and culture were at their height in the Islamic world, and so too in India. I thought it curious as well that astrology had provided the principal foundation for the earliest development of science itself, in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, and that its intimate bond with astronomy had played a significant role in the evolution of Western cosmology for two thousand years, from its Greek origins through the pivotal period of the Copernican revolution. I was also impressed by the high intellectual caliber of those philosophers, scientists, and writers who in one form or another had supported the astrological thesis, a group that to my surprise turned out to include many of the greatest figures of Western thought: Plate and Aristotle, Hipparchus and Ptolemy, Plotinus and Proclus, Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Ficino, Kepler, Goethe, Yeats, Jung.
- p. 64: What is unequivocally rejected in one age may be dramatically reclaimed in another, as happened when the ancient heliocentric hypothesis of Aristarchus, long ignored by scientific authorities as valueless and absurd, was resurrected and vindicated by Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. Widespread or even universal conviction at any given moment has never been a reliable indication of the truth or falsity of an idea. I could not dogmatically rule out the possibility that there was more to astrology than the modern mind had assumed.
After learning the rudiments of how to calculate natal charts, I directed my attention to a curious phenomenon of which I had heard reports circulating among professionals in the mental health field, corroborating an observation that Jung had also made. The reports concerned planetary “transits,” which are alignments formed between the current positions of the orbiting planets and the planetary positions at an individual’s birth. Beginning with a small sample and then steadily augmenting it, I found to my considerable astonishment that individuals engaged in various forms of psychotherapy and transformational practices showed a consistent tendency to experience psychological breakthroughs and healing transformations in coincidence with a certain category of planetary transits to their natal charts, while periods of sustained psychological difficulty tended to coincide with a different category of transits involving other planets. The consistency and precision of these initial correlations between clearly definable psychological states and coinciding transiting alignments seemed to significant to be explained by chance.
- pp. 75-76: The widespread emergence of a more psychologically sophisticated astrology in the second half of the twentieth century, with Jung and Dane Rudhyar the key figures, represents the dominant historical trend, but an important peripheral development at this time was a new interest from outside the field in statistical tests of astrological hypotheses. Of these, the most significant were the massive studies conducted by the French statisticians Michel and Francoise Gauquelin over a forty-year period beginning in the 1950s. The widely discussed “Mars effect” first observed by the Gauquelins and since replicated by other research groups demonstrated a highly significant statistical correlation of Mars located on either the eastern horizon or the zenith at the birth of prominent athletes. Similar correlations with planetary position were found at the birth of eminent leaders in other fields: Saturn for scientists, Jupiter for politicians, and the Moon for writers, all correctly corresponding to the traditional astrological principles and character traits associated with those particular bodies. [See, for example, Michel Gauquelin, Cosmic Influences on Human Behavior (New York: Aurora Press, 1973). For a thorough discussion of the Mars effect, see Suitbert Ertel and Kenneth Irving, The Tenacious Mars Effect (London: The Urania Trust, 1996), and Hans J. Eysenck and David Nias, Astrology: Science or Superstition? (London: Penguin, 1982). For an insider’s account of the scandal of the attempts by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) to discredit the Gauquelin results (the account of the scandal was written by one of the committee’s own founding members and chief researchers), see Dennis Rawlins, “sTARBABY,” Fate, No. 32, October 1981 http://cura.free.fr/xv/14starbb.html See also John Anthony West, The Case for Astrology (New York: VIking Arkana, 1991), and G. Cornelius, The Moment of Astrology.] In 1982, after extensive examination of the Gauquelin research, Hans Eysenck, a prominent academic psychologist unsympathetic to astrology (and famous for his criticism of psychoanalysis for its lack of statistical support), published with his coauthor David Nias a summary of their conclusions:
We feel obliged to admit that there is something here that requires explanation. However much it may go against the grain, other scientists who take the trouble to examine the evidence may eventually be forced to a similar conclusion. The findings are inexplicable but they are also factual, and as such can no longer be ignored; they cannot just be wished away because they are unpalatable or not in accord with the laws of present-day science. . . . Perhaps the time has come to state quite unequivocally that a new science is in process of being born.
The positive results of the Gauquelin studies and their replication by others presented a robust challenge on science’s own terms to the scientific dismissal of astrology. Yet, paradoxically, statistical studies have added relatively little to the astrological understanding, and they appear to be methodologically inadequate for entering into the archetypal frame of reference central to the astrological tradition. The larger resurgence of astrology during these decades has continued to be qualitative rather than quantitative in its practice and research, reflecting its sources in the Western astrological tradition and contemporary depth psychology rather than experimental science and behaviorism. Common to the two approaches, however, has been an underlying impulse in the past half century, from both within and outside of the astrological discipline, that has moved astrology into a more direct engagement with the mainstream modern world view.
- from Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View by Richard Tarnas; pp. 275-276 [V – Cycles of Crisis and Contraction (Paradigmatic Works of Art)]: Contemplating the full gestalt of Kafka’s life and work, one would be hard-pressed to conceive of an overarching principle of order and meaning more apt than the Saturn-Pluto archetypal complex in its capacity to bring all the diverse motifs we recognize as quintessentially reflective of Kafka’s universe – as “Kafkaesque” – into a coherent unity. Whether he was depicting the insanely pointless and diabolically defeating procedures of a totalitarian bureaucracy or an internal prison of relentless shame and self-disgust, his imaginative world possessed a pervasive consistency easily discerned by every reader. It was saturated with a particular ambiance and spirit that was diffracted in multiple yet deeply coherent ways, with nightmarish clarity and intensity.
While it was in Kafka’s art rather than his external circumstances that the full depths of the many archetypally relevant themes were explored, even here the ambiguity between inner and outer realities again arises. For the highly wrought character of Kafka’s imaginative vision prophetically anticipated such all-too-real historical developments as totalitarianism and the Holocaust, which were associated with the same archetypal complex and the same planetary cycle as it unfolded after his death. This prophetic and anticipatory dimension of art has often been noted (as in Oscar Wilde’s well-known statement, so acutely prophetic of his own life: “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”). Yet the consistent coincidence of works of art and the events they anticipate with different alignments of the same archetypally appropriate planetary cycle presents a new dimension to the mystery of the creative imagination.
W. H. Auden, for example, who was born in 1907 with Saturn square Pluto, wrote September 1, 1939, the poem that was widely circulated beginning on the day of the World Trade Center attacks with a sense of wonder at its prophetic relevance. The poem itself was written during a Saturn-Pluto square exactly one full cycle after the birth of Auden. Saturn and Pluto were 1 [degree] from exact alignment on the day commemorated in its title, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland – just as the same two planets were again in nearly exact alignment on the fateful September 11 of 2001.
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night. . . .
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. . . .
Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
And the international wrong . . .
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies. . . .
- p. 520 [Notes (Part V: Cycles of Crisis and Contraction – 22.)]: Auden’s September 1, 1939 explores many Saturn-Pluto themes relevant to the events of September 11, 2001: the dark end of an era, evil done by those to whom evil is done, blind steel and concrete skyscrapers and the cold thrusting power of imperialism, a psychopathic god served by an enemy gone mad. Perhaps especially relevant is its insight concerning humiliation and violence: “The poem, as Joseph Brodsky once pointed out, is really about shame – about how cultures are infected by overwhelming feelings of shame, their ‘habit-forming pain,’ and seek to escape those feelings through violence. What drives men mad – drives them to psychopathic gods – is the unbearable feeling of having been humiliated” (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, October 1, 2001).