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Who is Richard Tarnas? 
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Post Who is Richard Tarnas?
Add some comments and info here on Richard Tarnas so we can get to know our author better.

I see on his web site that he not only believes in astrology, but he does forecasts.

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Astrological Readings

It is always valuable to have one's birth chart interpreted by a number of good astrologers. While there will be an underlying commonality in what they see and share with you, each astrologer will be able to discern and articulate specific dimensions of the chart in a way that reflects his or her particular expertise, sensibility, and life experience. Multiple interpretations of the astrological birth chart are like multiple translations of great works of art. The poems of Rilke or Rumi, for example, are of such multivalent depth and mystery that every gifted translator brings forth something new and essential from the original, revealing new insights and levels of meaning, different facets of the jewel, different windows into the mystery, further blossomings of the original. So too I recommend getting one's astrological chart interpreted by every gifted astrologer who crosses one's path, for the birth chart possesses the same depth and complexity of archetypal meaning. In a participatory universe, every true translator or astrologer brings particular qualities of experience and knowledge that provide essential vessels for the mystery's self-unfolding.

That said, we must all rely on recommendations from others. Because of my full-time teaching commitments, I am no longer able to do personal consultations, but for a reading that would be as close to what I would give as anyone I know, I highly recommend Matthew Stelzner. Matthew has fully assimilated the archetypal perspective that informs Cosmos and Psyche, and is a brilliantly insightful astrological counselor. He lives in San Francisco, but does many readings and consultations by phone. His website is www.matthewstelzner.com. He can be contacted at 415-641-1992. Email: mstelzner@aol.com.



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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
The Passion of the Western Mind is a mainstream book, very insightful into intellectual history but not raising suggestions that would be particularly controversial. Tarnas has also written Cosmos and Psyche where he outlines more of his own ideas. I met him when he visited Australia a couple of years ago and have kept in touch from time to time.

* Chris, you might like to change the discussion months on the home page to February and March.



Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:19 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
I'm interested in the excerpt from Tarnas that Chris posted. Looking at astrology as religion (valid to do this, imo), astrology may be evolving according to Robert Wright's idea in The Evolution of God. Wright says that in most cases, religion changes to conform to new facts on the ground. In order to remain relevant and more or less in step with what people are willing to believe, religion has to keep up with the times. Or there may be opportunity for religion to increase influence as social change occurs. Thus, if claiming that blacks can't be true Momons won't fly anymore, lo and behold a revelation from God arrives to say that being black is okay. With astrology, it could be that the simple claims about reading destiny in the stars begins to lack sophisitication compared to that of the populace. So astrology adopts a more art-based approach that features gifted practitioners and less reliance on simple answers. Or perhaps astrology reacts to an opening provided by the draining of adherents from mainstream Chiristianity, in the entrepreneurial mode. It then offers a more attractive blend of beliefs to this disaffected set.

This New Age astrology reminds me a little of Gnostic Christianity of the old days. The Gnostics stressed the possession of special, esoteric spititual wisdom, like the gurus of astrology to whom Tarnas refers.



Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:07 am
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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
Chris, I raise an old question about an author. Does it really matter, in evaluating an author's thoughts as to the reader's finding personal value in them, what kind of a guy/gal the author was. We all know better than we do. Being a director of Esalen Institute, which Tarnas was, would not be a qualification of worthiness for many people anymore than being the President of AIG or General Motors. C.S. Lewis was certainly on my side of this discussion. After I read his biography "Jack" wherein the author concluded Lewis was a compulsive masturbator, while society considered him the outstanding Christian apologist of the twentieth century, I understood his feelings of low self-esteem, but he respected the conclusions he had reached for himself about God.

The second reason not to judge a book's thoughts by the author's conduct is timeliness. A book is a segment of thoughts at a specific time in the author's life. Boy can I personally certify thoughts, knowledge, understanding, paradigms' change over the years. But just as an author's thoughts now are an accurate reflection of his current beliefs does not mean they are more or less of an accurate reflection of reality for humanity than his/her earlier works.

I do believe it is important to be aware of an author's paradigm to filter his/her propaganda from his/her thoughts. It was useful to me in reading history to know Toynbe was a proselytizing Christian but it did not keep me from appreciating an astounding mind and an extraordinary grasp of historical facts. Knowing Nietzsche's rebellion from organized religion was a driving force in trying to construct a Utopia of what life would be if humans had never believed in a god enabled me to appreciate what he was attempting without turning it into a new philosophy. It helped me in reading G.H. Wells' works on history to know he was a Utopian and looked to the events of history to project or predict the future of society.

I wouldn't fall on my sword over the accuracy of any of Tarnas' conclusion about the philosophers he reviewed and the conclusions he formed as a result of his study. I am now reading this book again, and with relish. I think he did strike close to the mark with most of the philosophers and it is a wonderful panorama, sweeping over the centuries, of the human effort to answer the great questions of life. Why are we alive? What are we to do? Is there life after death?

I think we will have great fun with this one.



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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
I agree with you completely and am looking forward to reading the book.



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Post Who is Richard Tarnas?
Overview

Having read this book almost 20 years ago I cheated in my rereading. I read the preface to discern his thesis statement. “My aim has been to provide, within the limits of a single volume, a coherent account of the evolution of the Western mind and its changing conception of reality.” (Emphasis added) It was there on the second page I refreshed my spirit to his wonderful statement for discerning any writer’s thoughts with his quotation of Virginia Woolf: “The success of the masterpieces seems to lie not so much in their freedom from faults – indeed we tolerate the grossest errors in them all – but in the immense persuasiveness of a mind which has completely mastered its perspective.”

That statement has been my key to interpret Tolstoy, Toynbee, Einstein, Freud, Marx, Mill, Hume, Locke, and any other author I’ve read (and your postings as well) not with the egomaniacal belief my perceptions were accurate but with the reverence of these men’s vulnerability to “buck the system.” They were, or are, just men. Assuming they were honest to their spirit they were attempting to communicate and I try to hear their voice.

I then shift to his Epilogue and remembered my précis of this chapter. Until the 15th Century the common wisdom concluded only “God” could answer questions pertaining to spiritual or material matters. (Don’t beat me up on semantics, you want to say corporeal or incorporeal, you want matters subject to empirical inspection and matters only opined upon with belief, ok) From the beginning of recorded history men concluded that all matters spiritual or material can only be answered by “God.” This is the mind set being described as Pre Modern in Philosophy. Beginning with Descartes who considered, matters of material issues may be answered by man but matters spiritual must be left to “God.” (i.e., Our religious dogma.) This era is called the “Modern era of philosophy.” When Nietzsche came on the scene he concluded man wasn’t going to figure out the material questions (and hasn’t) and there was no spiritual answer because “God” was dead. This began what is called the Post Modern era of Philosophy in which we currently languish.

I am expecting to learn a great deal from this BT discussion and I present my first query now. If, as it has been said “Life is largely history as present, and history is life as past” who is qualified to do a history of Philosophy? Historians or philosophers?
Quote:
The most extreme of historicists, Croce, once seemed to think that it would be prudent and safe to entrust the history of philosophy to historians, who have the patience, and exacting discipline, and impartiality, instead of to philosophers with their ‘passion’ of commitment to ‘schools.’ But he rejected historical ‘objectivity’ as ‘absurd’ and insisted that ‘whoever would judge the philosophers’ must himself be a philosopher who by virtue of his thought is a historian.
John T. Graham, A Pragmatic Philosophy of life in Ortega y Gasset (Univ of Missouri Press, 1994), preface ix.

So, does it appear to you that Tarnas passed Croce’s criteria?



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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
Lawrence wrote:
Overview

Having read this book almost 20 years ago I cheated in my rereading. I read the preface to discern his thesis statement. “My aim has been to provide, within the limits of a single volume, a coherent account of the evolution of the Western mind and its changing conception of reality.” (Emphasis added) It was there on the second page I refreshed my spirit to his wonderful statement for discerning any writer’s thoughts with his quotation of Virginia Woolf: “The success of the masterpieces seems to lie not so much in their freedom from faults – indeed we tolerate the grossest errors in them all – but in the immense persuasiveness of a mind which has completely mastered its perspective.” That statement has been my key to interpret Tolstoy, Toynbee, Einstein, Freud, Marx, Mill, Hume, Locke, and any other author I’ve read (and your postings as well) not with the egomaniacal belief my perceptions were accurate but with the reverence of these men’s vulnerability to “buck the system.” They were, or are, just men. Assuming they were honest to their spirit they were attempting to communicate and I try to hear their voice.
Hi Lawrence, you are saying here that narrative confidence and self knowledge are keys to creative mastery. I tend to think that such self knowledge, which of course Socrates and Plato said was the goal of philosophy, can always be critiqued by subsequent thinkers. Where they are judged as in error, it involves a lack of self knowledge and reliance on questionable assumptions. Within your short list, Tolstoy had assumptions about pacificism, Einstein about quantum mechanics, Freud about infantile sexuality, Marx about class, Mill about pleasure, Hume about fact and value, Locke about property and mind, that have produced significant social movements where these assumptions caused problems (except Einstein).
Quote:
I then shift to his Epilogue and remembered my précis of this chapter. Until the 15th Century the common wisdom concluded only “God” could answer questions pertaining to spiritual or material matters. (Don’t beat me up on semantics, you want to say corporeal or incorporeal, you want matters subject to empirical inspection and matters only opined upon with belief, ok) From the beginning of recorded history men concluded that all matters spiritual or material can only be answered by “God.” This is the mind set being described as Pre Modern in Philosophy. Beginning with Descartes who considered, matters of material issues may be answered by man but matters spiritual must be left to “God.” (i.e., Our religious dogma.) This era is called the “Modern era of philosophy.” When Nietzsche came on the scene he concluded man wasn’t going to figure out the material questions (and hasn’t) and there was no spiritual answer because “God” was dead. This began what is called the Post Modern era of Philosophy in which we currently languish.
Use of God as the criterion to demarcate the ages of thought in relation to modernity is an incisive method. I regard Descartes' deism as a mere political convenience, designed to get the bigots off his back while he proceeded with a purely atheist method. Ascribing belief of any form to modernity, given its focus on evidence as the basis of knowledge, is dubious.
Quote:
I am expecting to learn a great deal from this BT discussion and I present my first query now. If, as it has been said “Life is largely history as present, and history is life as past” who is qualified to do a history of Philosophy? Historians or philosophers?
Quote:
The most extreme of historicists, Croce, once seemed to think that it would be prudent and safe to entrust the history of philosophy to historians, who have the patience, and exacting discipline, and impartiality, instead of to philosophers with their ‘passion’ of commitment to ‘schools.’ But he rejected historical ‘objectivity’ as ‘absurd’ and insisted that ‘whoever would judge the philosophers’ must himself be a philosopher who by virtue of his thought is a historian.
John T. Graham, A Pragmatic Philosophy of life in Ortega y Gasset (Univ of Missouri Press, 1994), preface ix. So, does it appear to you that Tarnas passed Croce’s criteria?

So-called 'objectivity' claims that meaning is a property of objective facts, and that subjective values are unreliable. A history that does not seek to synthesise lessons against the values of the historian will be very dry, and will in fact reflect a set of values that is not admitted as such. A philosopher who is not a historian is a fool. You cannot separate logic from life and hope to provide anything more than unreliable abstraction, form without content. Tarnas jumps in to passionate historical philosophy to provide a framework for identity.



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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
Oh Robert, I just knew this was going to be great! Thanks, L



Tue Jan 26, 2010 3:26 pm
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Post The possible benefit of our discourse
January 27, 2010
I’m still reveling in the Epilogue. Tarnas’s use of Bateson’s et. al. “double bind” (p. 418) to apply as an explanation of our modern human dilemma of living in this world is extremely incisive. I see the analogy played out in Yergin’s, The Commanding Heights, The Battle for the World Economy, Barzun’s, From Dawn to Decadence, Gasset’s, Revolt of the Masses, Hayek’s, The Road to Serfdom, and to some extent in Toynbee’s seven stages of civilizations.

I don’t believe any thoughtful person doubts the conclusion that we are living today in a world society that has no standard of measurements for any aspect of civilization. From architecture to zoology, everyone is doing what is right in his/her own mind. And no one knows what to do about it. Or whether such a condition is good or bad. What we do know is we can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. But where do we go from here? A person a long time ago appreciated this dilemma when he wrote in a psalm “If the leaders loose their vision, what will the people do?” Do not infer that by quoting a psalm I’m suggesting organized religion is an answer for I definitely do not so believe. But the statement shows societies have always had leaders and followers. Gasset believes our problem lies in the fact we have become a society of all Indians and no chiefs.

It seems to me BT’s study of Tarnas’s treatise will enable many to come to the conclusion there is no single cause to our problem nor a single solution and that our condition is no one’s fault. To be aware of this reality of our situation is the beginning of solutions. We know well the admonition of Carlyle “Nothing is more painful than activity without insight.” We also know an informed and educated citizen is critical to a properly functioning democracy. I believe this study can be BT’s contribution to those admonitions.



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Post Re: F.A. Hayek
In my last post I referenced Hayek from memory. It gave me a check in my spirit and I returned to his The Road To Serfdom. Glad I am I did and I now bolster my post with Hayek’s concluding paragraph. (p. 262)
“If we are to build a better world, we must have the courage to make a new start – even if that means some reculer pour mieux sauter. [to move back for better jumping]
It is not those who believe in inevitable tendencies who show this courage, not those who preach a “New Order” which is no more than a projection of the tendencies of the last forty years, and who can think of nothing better than to imitate Hitler. It is, indeed, those who cry loudest for the New Order who are most completely under the sway of the ideas which have created this war (WWII), and most of the evils from which we suffer. The young are right if they have little confidence in the ideas which rule most of their elders. But they are mistaken or misled when they believe that these are still the liberal ideas of the nineteenth century, which, in fact, the younger generation hardly knows. Though we neither can wish nor possess the power to go back to the reality of the nineteenth century, we have the opportunity to realize its ideals – and they were not mean. We have little right to feel in this respect superior to our grandfathers; and we should never forget that it is we, the twentieth century, and not they, who have made a mess of things. If they had not yet fully learned what was necessary to create the world they wanted, the experience we have since gained ought to have equipped us better for the task. If in the first attempt to create a world of free men we have failed, we must try again. The guiding principle that a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy remains as true today as it was in the nineteenth century. [Emphasis added.]



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Post Re: The possible benefit of our discourse
Lawrence wrote:
I don’t believe any thoughtful person doubts the conclusion that we are living today in a world society that has no standard of measurements for any aspect of civilization. From architecture to zoology, everyone is doing what is right in his/her own mind. And no one knows what to do about it. Or whether such a condition is good or bad. What we do know is we can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. But where do we go from here?

F.A. Hayek wrote:
If in the first attempt to create a world of free men we have failed, we must try again. The guiding principle that a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy remains as true today as it was in the nineteenth century

Lawrence, could the problem as you state it above also be termed an excess of freedom, in some sense? Then, you approve of Hayek's prescription of freedom as the solution. Do these jibe? Thanks.
DWill



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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
Whoa! I just received the book yesterday. This means I'lll have to stay up all night reading to catch up with you guys (gee darn). Certainly looks to be a good discussion! Cheers!


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Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:37 am
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Post Freedom
DWill wrote:
Lawrence, could the problem as you state it above also be termed an excess of freedom, in some sense? Then, you approve of Hayek's prescription of freedom as the solution. Do these jibe? Thanks. DWill


Hayek sees a distinction between freedom and anarchy. Freedom for Hayek means private enterprise governed by rule of law. It goes back to Hegel's concept of freedom as the recognition of necessity. For Hayek, the highest freedom derives from realization of the highest potential, and free enterprise is the only source of resources to free people from drudgery, while state socialism leads to bondage and stagnation. Hayek is unfairly maligned as an advocate of laissez faire economics, whereas in fact he recognises a strong role for the state as providing a level playing field through transparent regulation and rule of law.

I don't have a clear recollection of freedom as a main theme for Tarnas. As Chris noted, Tarnas has an interest in astrology, a topic which often produces a fatalist outlook. I suspect that Tarnas sees the transformation away from modern concepts of freedom as providing a path to a new sense of liberation arising from self knowledge. The modern concept of freedom, for example grounded in Locke and Descartes, is very culturally determined and has actually reduced freedom for exploited people while claiming to be universal.

I would be interested in people's thoughts about the relation between freedom and capitalism, and to what extent western concepts are universal.



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Post For DWill
For DWill January 28, 2010

If you have never been to Esalen I think it will be difficult to understand or appreciate the conclusions Tarnas reached to be a goal for humankind. When I visited Esalen 35 years ago it was a touchy-feely place where all solutions revolved around getting in touch with your inner self. Notice on page 47 he defines Logos, page 60 Nous, and page 61 Telos.

On page 438 he prepares us to receive his insight:
Quote:
“And as with the evolution of scientific paradigms, so with all forms of human thought. The emergence of a new philosophical paradigm, whether that of Plato or Aquinas, Kant or Heidegger, is never simply the result of improved logical reasoning from the observed data. Rather, each philosophy, each metaphysical perspective and epistemology, reflects the emergence of a global experiential gestalt [you need to understand this word to understand his conclusions] that informs that philosopher’s vision, that governs his or her reasoning and observations, and that ultimately affects the entire cultural and sociological context within which the philosopher’s vision is taking form.”


Then start reading on page 441, he floats into a discourse about the masculine domination controlling western civilization and creating all the problems and on 443 he presents his solution:
Quote:
“And this dramatic development is not just a compensation, not just a return of the repressed (feminine spirit), as I believe this has all along been the underlying goal of Western intellectual and spiritual evolution. For the deepest passion of the Western mind has been to reunite with the ground of its being. [emphasis added] The driving impulse of the West’s masculine consciousness has been its dialectical quest not only to realize itself, to forge its own autonomy, but also, finally, to recover its connection with the whole, to come to terms with the great feminine principle in life: to differentiate itself from but then rediscover and reunite with the feminine, with the mystery of life, of nature, of soul[emphasis added.”


Well DWill that’s what I understand is his conclusion. I didn’t say I agreed with his conclusions but his analysis of the evolution of philosophy in Western Civilization was very clear, insightful, and useful to me. That’s why I enjoyed Jacques Barzun’s book From Dawn to Decadence. His conclusion is there are the following forces acting on the emotions as gravity acts on the body. They are: Emancipation, Primitivism, Individualism, Secularism, Self-Consciousness, Specialization, Analysis, Reductivim, Scientism, and Abstraction which he carefully defines and then shows what historical activity, during the last 500 years, was a result of one or more of the above forces being addressed by different segments of society at different times. I don’t recall Barzun ever mentioned freedom nor Tarnas for that matter.



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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
Outstanding discussion already. I just ordered the book through the link.


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