Tarnas, Richard 1950-

views updated

TARNAS, Richard 1950-
(Richard Theodore Tarnas, Jr.)


Born February 21, 1950, in Geneva, Switzerland; immigrated to the United States. Education: Harvard University, A.B. (cum laude), 1972; Saybrook Institute, Ph.D., 1976.


HomeSan Francisco, CA. Office—California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103. E-mail[email protected].


Eslen Institute, Big Sur, CA, former director of programs and education; California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, professor of philosophy and psychology and founding director of graduate program in philosophy, cosmology, and consciousness; Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA, adjunct professor.


LSD Psychotherapy, Theoretical Implications for the Study of Psychology (microform), 1976.

The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Prometheus the Awakener: An Essay on the Archetypal Meaning of the Planet Uranus, Spring Publications (Woodstock, CT), 1995.

Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.


Richard Tarnas's lifelong interest in philosophy led him to write his history of Western thought, The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View, a work that took a decade to complete and became a best seller. The book discusses the origins of Western thought, giving credit to a meeting of Hebrew and Greek ideas and cultures that took place around 800 B.C.E., when the Homeric poems and Mosaic books were first recorded, representing the heroic ideals of each society. From there they moved on to the Logos, the theory of order that governed the universe, and then the teachings of two great speakers: Socrates and Jesus. Jeffrey Hart, writing for the National Review, observed that "Tarnas possesses a fascinating lucidity," going on to remark that his book "moves with ease among complex matters without sacrificing a bit of their complexity." Publishers Weekly contributor Genevieve Stuttaford wrote that "this challenging synthesis throws a sharp light on ideas central to the modern outlook."

Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View takes a serious look at astrology, operating under the belief that pure science alone leads to a spiritless, meaningless outlook on the world. Tarnas points out that many great thinkers through the ages, such as Plato and St. Thomas Aquinas, included a belief in astrology as part of their world view as a matter of course, despite the fact that others dismissed it out of hand. He indicates that an increased knowledge of scientific fact alone is insufficient reason to ignore the more enchanting aspects of the cosmos, and encourages skeptics to look at things with a more open mind. He uses philosophical, literary, religious, and scientific sources to illustrate his claims, showing the correlation between both historical events and the movement of the heavens, and the indications of birth charts regarding the personalities and lives of famous individuals. However, as Geoffrey Dean pointed out in a review for the Skeptical Inquirer, Tarnas often neglects to back up his theories with more practical materials, leaving out the birth charts for the individuals discussed and so on. Regarding the book, Dean commented: "Once the noise is removed the flaws become obvious and the case falls apart." On the other hand, Jason Moore remarked in Library Journal: "Tarnas succeeds in pointing out overwhelming coincidences that will undoubtedly be difficult for readers to disregard." A contributor to Publishers Weekly concluded that "Tarnas's call to redefine what we consider as 'legitimate knowledge' will resonate in some sectors," but the critic suggested it would not go over so easily with "the more scientifically hard-headed."



Booklist, January 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, p. 27.

Library Journal, February 1, 2006, Jason Moore, review of Cosmos and Psyche, p. 81.

National Review, November 18, 1991, Jeffrey Hart, review of The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View, p. 52.

Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1991, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 48; December 12, 2005, review of Cosmos and Psyche, p. 57.

Skeptical Inquirer, July-August, 2006, Geoffrey Dean, "Saving a Disenchanted World with Astrology?," p. 56.


California Institute of Integral Studies Web site,http://www.ciis.edu/ (October 10, 2006), faculty profile of author.

Cosmos and Psyche Web site,http://cosmosandpsyche.com/ (October 10, 2006), author biography.*