During key moments of my life, I have often felt forced to acknowledge a divine spark in astrology, something momentous and awe-inspiring, sending messages to us from unseen forces.We just had to decode it, if only we could read the signs. It is hard not to notice that this month, April 2014, we are at a pivotal moment, poised between two eclipses and locked in a Cardinal Grand Cross so you might be feeling the internal tug of war, urging dramatic change. Astrology is enigmatic, yet everyday; obvious, yet maddeningly elusive: untouchable, yet at the same time prostituted everywhere as a common superstition. It is not easy to understand in depth, yet is incredibly easy to simplify into a stock set of character types, and thus ridicule the true riches it has to offer. The debate over the legitimacy of astrology has raged for centuries;it has been labelled 'quackery' by the so called 'real' custodians of knowledge; and it has been vilified by the Church as a form of black magic, yet also pursued in secret by more than a few world leaders ( Reagan famously consulted an astrologer) seeking to bargain with fate.
Umberto Stanucci (image)
That a natal birth chart could offer a snapshot of the interplay of archetypes in our character - read ‘personality DNA’ - has long been a source of fascination. How could that be so? Yet, ask yourself how many of your best friends happen to have the same sign, or element? How many of the events in your life tied in with sextiles, oppositions, squares and transits of the heavyweight planets? Why should any of this even be true once, let alone with a staggering exactitude, if there’s nothing at all to it? The trouble is it takes a lifetime to track such patterns. Yet tracking them really can provide some eye opening insights into the uniqueness of the patterning of a single life. After reading Tarnas' Cosmos and Psyche I felt the need to put a few words together on this puzzle written in the stars.
How to begin about Cosmos and Psyche (2006) which is a cornucopia of ideas? It simply blows the mind, but gently yet relentlessly. Tarnas’s style is methodical and assured and his range is staggering.By reading it, vast chasms appear to expertly illustrated with new relevance and you cannot but feel more expanded in terms of scale and panoramic breadth of vision. It transports you to an elevated, but intricately woven insider’s viewpoint that adroitly illuminates all that we (thought) we knew about history and culture and then turns all that on its head. I'm inclined to agree with a reviewer, Mary Hynes, who said "This is the closest my head has been to exploding while reading a book". If the Passion of the Western Mind (1991) was Tarnas’ Ulysees then Cosmos and Psyche is most definitely his Finnegan’s Wake; the first, charted the conscious ideas that have shaped the Western world view; the second, is attempted map, no less, of the unconscious mind of the entire universe - at least thus far.
You might think that this book is difficult to read, but just like the multiple and repeated cycles that appear like motifs in a symphony, the writing is expertly controlled. It flows well for 544 pages of dense information, allowing for much previewing, subtle iteration, layering of themes and accumulation of impact, building up to Wagnerian crescendos worthy of
such a Titanic subject. The wealth of cultural, scientific, historical and literary knowledge in any one person is in itself astonishing- putting aside that Tarnas is a Harvard Professor of Psychology - but in addition to this there is the accumulation of 30 years of careful study of astrology. This is no mere sun-sign coffee table trivia, but the deepest, most profoundly psychological and penetrating set of insights into how planets align with historic processes, leaving their unmistakable stamp upon events. It is rare that such a book comes along and dares to describe the ‘whole’ picture and at the same time revolutionise our picture of history and our intimate place within its inexorable, archetypal evolution.It starts by saying we have not been served well by the loss of meaning to the modern era. Tarnas points to a schism in our understanding of the universe, especially in the modern era. Meaning has become divorced from the world we live in. It often seems random, soulless, impersonal, where we are just cogs in arbitrary mechanical wheels. Shamans however, still understand that we are intimately connected to the ‘anima mundi’ or world soul, and astrology may just provide that vital missing link. Yet, until now it did not seem possible to rejoin ancient hermetic philosophies with a stark, random, god less, postmodernist universe which offers no shape or pattern to our lives.
Tarnas puts forth a scrupulously delineated set of correlations and alignments that match
up with not just significant turning points in the lives of great leaders, writers, artists and scientists, but also with eras of distinctive progress. This process is not bat-hits-ball Newtonian mechanics, with a simplistic, deterministic, linear causal relationship of material, external forces upon events upon the Earth. The key players are the more recently discovered and less visible outer planets: Saturn, Uranus - which Tarnas defines more correctly as Prometheus- Neptune, and Pluto, which is defined by Tarnas more accurately as Dionysius. Rob Brezsny, who was astrologer for the Village Voice, has cited Tarnas’ book as “the definitive astrology book of the 21st century - probably the 20th too.” Daniel Pinchbeck says that Tarnas has "staked his success and academic reputation on this radical thesis," for example on the idea that from 2006 to 2020 we are experiencing a
further period of revolutionary/innovative/radical energy, just as in the 1960s, when Uranus (Prometheus) and Pluto (Dionysius) were in alignment, which - surprise, surprise- also happened to be in alignment during 1797-1789- the French revolution. Even Lennon noted that Love and Peace were not just restricted to the 1960s.
Tarnas is careful to emphasise that it works more subtlely as archetypal and dynamic energies that unfold and express themselves in diverse ways, depending on the circumstances. Similar influences can manifest quite differently, multiplying the possibilities and permutations. C.G. Jung talked of the need to discern ‘symbolic patterning’ in events, which is a skill that requires development for most of us. All synchronicity indicates is that two things occurring together have a meaning, and are not just happenstance. Knowledge of the positions of planets in our natal charts, and of the transits and progressions, can allow us to have a more creative approach to cyclical shifts and changes occurring now and over the next decade. You can get your chart from Cafe Astrology.
Tarnas’s grand breathtaking sweep of history/science/events interlinked with the movements of planets. Hence, it underscores the old esoteric proverb ‘as above so below’ of the Hermetic Philosophers. He recognised that the extraordinary changes during the 1960s aligned with the only conjunction of Uranus (Prometheus) and Pluto (Dionysius) of the 20th century. The precision of these alignments can be mapped across centuries to evidence common traits - revolution and cathartic transformation- associated with those planets, leading to the possibility that human behaviour, and how that works itself out in history, aligns rather too neatly for other explanations, even down to
precise moments. Our current cultural transformations are an echo of the 1960s, and should give us insight into what may happen in the next few years, suggesting the predictive power of astrology comes from understanding larger cycles, rather than merely 'seeing' the future. The impulse for radical change is certainly on the cards, in the growth of feminism, the overthrow of corrupt governments, social justice, eco-activism and technological advancements.
In short there is a grandeur that inevitably emerges from this new 'world view', this illuminated understanding that astrology and history are thoroughly enmeshed. Tarnas' approach is delightfully cross-disciplinary in that it has managed to join quite a few dots across previously divided fields of study, from depth psychology (which was itself considered pseudo science only a hundred years ago) to astrology, from science to art, to make the previously fragmented picture we had of the world ‘whole’ again.
© Kieron Devlin, 2014 artshealswounds.blogspot.co.ukshow more