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The Astrological Journal

The Carter Memorial Lecture
Astrological Association Conference 2013

The Role of Astrology in a Civilization in Crisis

by Professor Richard Tarnas

Richard TarnasIn a world undergoing such fundamental and rapid transformation on all fronts, what role can be played by the newly thriving yet still marginalized practice of astrology – at once the gold standard of superstition in our culture, yet for the initiated, capable of uniquely illuminating virtually every realm of human experience? How can we hold this paradox? And what might be the historical role of the astrological community itself, carrying principles and perspectives so contrary to the mainstream culture's assumptions about the nature of the cosmos?

I would like to thank the Association for this honor – Roy, Wendy, the committee, and also Nick Campion for the invitation for me to give this lecture years ago when I could not accept because it coincided with the date of my son's wedding. Let me especially acknowledge and remember Charles Harvey here, deep friend and deeply missed, who first brought me into the Association over thirty-five years ago, through Giles Healey and his friendship with Charles and with John Addey, both of whom came to visit me in the 1970s at Esalen Institute in California. Speaking of these revered friends and elders, I also sense the presence with us today of that long procession of luminaries who have given the Carter Memorial lectures before me, some of whom are present in the room today. And of course we think of Charles Carter himself.

In my short time with you now, I want to address two major themes, for the two halves of my lecture:

First, the possibility and the necessity of astrology in our postmodern age; and

Second, the astrological community's special role in this age, its particular challenges and, as it were, the demands of its particular initiatory journey.

Part I

Everyone here feels the unique and poignant paradox of astrology in our time: Astrologers know that their perspective provides an extraordinary source of illumination for virtually every area of human experience: biography, psychology, political and cultural history, social science, archaeology, contemporary events, economics, philosophy, cosmology, religion, the arts. All of us who have been initiated into the astrological paradigm possess a tremendous tool for human self-understanding and a more intelligently participatory relationship with the cosmos.

We know that astrology should be held in high regard in our culture, yet we have had the peculiar experience of living in an era when it has been regarded by the established intellectual authorities as the most lowly and regrettable of superstitions. In fact, it is the gold standard of superstition in our culture, exactly what one points to if one wants to stress the ludicrousness of a particular belief or practice. It is over our civilization's paradigm boundary line of plausible discourse: scorned and ridiculed, unworthy of rational examination, beyond serious discussion, beneath contempt.

Now from a very transcendent perspective, perhaps this is right and just: Hasn't it always been thus with the greatest spiritual treasures? They are veiled, hidden, so encompassing yet so invisible – as encompassing as the starry night sky, one might say, yet as invisible as those stars might appear from the streets and buildings of a brightly lit modern city.

And for us personally as astrologers, perhaps this paradox has a valuable psychologically compensatory role, counteracting how inflated one might otherwise become as a result of possessing such an incalculable privilege, to be graciously given such astonishing, detailed, access to the inner workings, the sheer beauty, of the anima mundi. It keeps us humble.

For this enormous development of our bright modern solar consciousness left out the depths, the lunar mystery, the soul of the cosmos

So we know where astrology should stand in the culture, as it already stands in our own lives—yet we are acutely aware of how far from that deserved place it does stand. The tension of opposites between these two poles could hardly be more tautly drawn. Yet we know from Jung, and also from Hegel, and from William Blake, that it is precisely out of such a tension of contraries that something extraordinary and unprecedented can be born, something new that transcends the opposition and brings the polarity into a higher, richer, more life-enhancing synthesis, a coniunctio oppositorum. But it takes making the tension fully conscious, exploring and experiencing it deeply, even painfully, before whatever is to come will come — in the fullness of time, and in a way none of us could predict.

I also believe that astrology's negation by the larger society in the course of the modern era can be seen as quite understandable in a different respect, for as it was and still is widely understood and practiced, astrology in a sense had to be rejected for the full emergence of the autonomous modern self, of the individual mind and will free and self-responsible in a cosmos that did not embody a pregiven structure of meanings and purposes. That pregiven structure of meaning may have been governed by God, king, or stars, and interpreted by external religious or political or astrological authority, but it ultimately was a cosmic order that the self had to align with or submit to. By contrast, this new, modern form of human being could be self-defining in a neutral, radically open indeterminate universe.

But this unprecedented revolution of modern consciousness and cosmology also led to the hubris of modern "Man", divinely capitalized and masculinized, the highest form of intelligence and purposeful volition in the known universe, the Cartesian monotheistic ego in a disenchanted cosmos, rationally calculating and exploiting the neutralized object of a world void of intrinsic meaning. And eventually, in a kind of boomerang of the reductionist perspective, even this exalted man was reduced to the "nothing but" of random evolving matter and energy, genes and neurons, instincts and needs.

And now for something completely different. Let me bring in here the brilliant perspective of my good friend and well-known British philosopher John Cleese. John is a closet intellectual, knowledgeable in science, and very psychological. He is also the Trickster, the jester in the court. The Trickster can say things that no one else in the court is permitted to say – he can speak truth to power, point out the nature of the emperor's new clothes, with the impunity of laughter. Over the last decade or so we've done a number of collaborations together, including a memorable graduate seminar on the nature of the comic genius as seen from multiple perspectives, philosophical, psychogical, cultural, astrological. While he was living in California, he made a number of skits, and I'd like to play this one, about 3 minutes long, as it is relevant to our discussion today.

Youtube video link for John Cleese, "The Scientist"

The Trickster, whether in a society or a psyche, acts as a compensatory correction of the one-sidedness of the powers that be, of the ego function, the pretender to the throne. And in this skit we see a splendid embodiment of the later postmodern sensibility at its best, the recognition of the multiplicity of being, sharpened by irony, that perfectly pitched reflexivity by which the modern mind inadvertently sends up its own position. It laughs at itself as it laughs at the dominant bullies of our civilizational mindset, catching in one net both religious and scientific fundamentalism, simplistic literalism, and the "just-so" stories of mechanistic explanations that are transformed into scientific fact with a kind of quasi-biblical authority for the simple-minded.

By the way, we might also take this gift of the postmodern comic genius to recognize an aspect of astrology's own shadow, that need to explain, and explain away, everything within its own particular conceptual framework ("Oh, that of course is explained by your Chiron/South Node midpoint square your Scorpio Vesta intercepted in the 12th house").

The great Harvard-Berkeley scholar Robert Bellah, not long before he died this summer at the age of 86, published his magnum opus Religion in Human Evolution, one of the most brilliant contributions to human self-understanding in our time. But already in a lecture given during that annus mirabilis of 1969, Bellah eloquently described the challenge and the possibility carried by our extraordinary time:

We may be seeing the beginnings of the reintegration of our culture, a new possibility of the unity of consciousness. If so, it will not be on the basis of any new orthodoxy, either religious or scientific. Such a new integration will be based on the rejection of all univocal understandings of reality, of all identifications of one conception of reality with reality itself. It will recognize the multiplicity of the human spirit, and the necessity to translate constantly between different scientific and imaginative vocabularies. It will recognize the human proclivity to fall comfortably into some single literal interpretation of the world and therefore the necessity to be continuously open to rebirth in a new heaven and a new earth. It will recognize that in both scientific and religious culture all we have finally are symbols, but that there is an enormous difference between the dead letter and the living word.

And now I want to take the liberty of sharing one other brief video clip, one that we astrologers will perhaps appreciate at more levels than most would be able to. This is a preview or trailer for a documentary film called "The City Dark" which the producers have kindly permitted me to share with you here.

City Dark

Link for The City Dark trailer: http://www.thecitydark.com/#/Trailer

One thinks of Heidegger (and I'm paraphrasing): "Mortals have turned night into day, and day into a state of harassed unrest." But it is astrologers who especially know the larger meaning of this phenomenon, of this living parable: for the night sky carries the deeper meaning of the day. It discloses the soul of the world. Thus Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra: "The world is deep: deeper than day can comprehend."

Our civilization is the most brilliantly, dynamically, and now dangerously one-sidedly solar-dominated civilization in history, with our collective world view and modus vivendi in which the one very bright light of the limited day sky ruled by the Sun puts into shadow the many lights of the deep night sky ruled by the Moon, bringing clarity over mystery, spirit over soul as Hillman would put it, solar transcendent illumination over sublunary immanent earth, the head over the body, above over below, centralized order over fertile chaos, executive control over the unpredictabilities of life and death, the part over the whole, knowledge over not-knowing, certainty over uncertainty, conscious self over "the unconscious" (or rather, over all that a certain form of solar consciousness is unconscious of): the individual will-directed ego-consciousness over the pervading anima mundi, the Hero archetype with a thousand faces over the Great Mother with a thousand faces of her own.

We see this extraordinary solar potency already developing in embryo in the evolution of that new nexus of differentiated intentionality and discernment in the primitive animal brain itself out of the groping eukaryote organisms of the Precambrian Proterozoic Eon, and then evolving, differentiating, strengthening, and complexifying ever further in vertebrates, tetrapods, mammals, primates, hominids, Homo sapiens – the Promethean control of fire, of plants and animals and land and water, the capacity for linguistic and religious symbolization, then increasingly large, complex, hierarchical societies, king and pharaoh at the top of vast social pyramids of centralized mind and will identified with a transcendent god. And then this solar dominance becomes most explicit in Akhenaten's revolution of solar monotheism in ancient Egypt, and the ancient Hebrew God's "Let there be light" of the biblical Genesis, on to Plato's Sun as the divine Reason, the Solar Logos, and then to the Copernican Revolution itself that cosmologically ratified the solar dominance, Pope's "Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, 'Let Newton be!' and all was light". Then – and this was the crucial shift – modern man's profound identification with that brilliant all-illuminating Sun, shining the light of human reason on the entire universe as with a God's eye view, introjecting the Solar Logos and becoming the heliocentric self, decathecting from the Earth, rising above nature in objective knowledge, prediction and control, the Cartesian monotheistic ego, the Enlightenment of ever-progressing conscious man over unconscious nature and cosmos, and finally the exploding supernova of modernity.

All this forges that disenchanted modern world dominated by "the light of common day", a cosmos that, as Wordsworth recognized, had gradually, with the passage of time into the "realism" of modern maturity, lost its depths, its interiority, its wholeness, its music, its numinosity, its very meaning.

Pascal already saw this emerging in the mid-seventeenth century: "I am terrified by the eternal silence of these infinite spaces."

And by the later nineteenth century, Nietzsche felt the full implications. Declaring the death of God, by which he meant the destruction of the metaphysical world, he used hyper-Copernican imagery to express the pathos of the late modern condition, with the horizon of meaning that had encompassed humankind for millennia now destroyed:

Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? 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?

sunriseFor this enormous development of our bright modern solar consciousness left out the depths, the lunar mystery, the soul of the cosmos. But the problem of disenchantment is not just psychological, philosophical, or spiritual. It's pragmatic, and in the most global way. Why is cosmology so important? Because a cosmology is the container for everything that happens within a civilization – all the thinking, the assumptions, the actions, the strategies, the economics and politics, the ecology, the self-image of the human being, one's role in the larger scheme of things and in every specific situation one finds oneself in. A disenchanted world view empowers the utilitarian mindset, so that efficiency and control, power and profit, become the highest values governing the society.

In such a world, literally nothing is sacred, because the whole has been desacralized: everything can be objectified and commodified, ancient forests nothing but potential lumber, mountains become mining projects, children's minds marketing targets. Our relation to the universe becomes I-It rather than I-Thou. The need to fill the spiritual hunger of this cosmically isolated consciousness, combined with the imperatives of corporate profit and personal greed, produces a technoconsumerist frenzy that is cannibalizing the planet and threatening to crash the entire Cenozoic Era. Now our civilization's vaunted "Progress" doesn't look so great. "Now you don't talk so loud, now you don't seem so proud . . . .

How does it feel
to be on your own
with no direction home
like a complete unknown
like a rolling stone?1

What is the ultimate impact of cosmic 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? No civilization has ever tried this experiment before, to sustain itself with such a world view. The looming question of our time has become: 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, for the entire planet?

Thus the famous prophecy by the great sociologist Max Weber, who first formulated the concept of modernity's disenchantment of the world:

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."

All this is why James Hillman asserted, in his seminal essay "Anima Mundi: The Return of Soul to the World":

Ecology movements, futurism, feminism, urbanism, protest and disarmament, personal individuation cannot alone save the world from the catastrophe inherent in our very idea of the world. They require a cosmological vision that saves the phenomenon 'world' itself, a move in soul that goes beyond measures of expediency to the archetypal source of our world's continuing peril: the fateful neglect, the repression, of the anima mundi.

Many years ago Haridas Chaudhuri, the founder of the graduate school where I teach, the California Institute of Integral Studies, stated that "in our present age we need a worldview which takes into account the fundamental requirements of the age as well as the basic aspirations of the evolving human psyche. We need a worldview which shows how our deepest aspirations are related to the essential structure of the universe."  

What Chaudhuri was affirming as a requirement of our age is precisely what our civilization's mainstream world view does not provide. In fact the modern mind has ruled such a cosmological vision out of court as fundamentally impossible in a universe that, objectively understood, has no intrinsic meaning or purpose other than what the human being brings into it (that's the modern view). Or if the universe has meaning, it is only one of many, a purely local interpretation serving local cultural needs and power interests (that's the academically inflected postmodern view).

And yet surely this is the great task of our age, to develop a coherent moral and imaginative vision for the future of our planetary culture that is connected to the cosmos itself.

Astrology carries this precious connection to the cosmos. It is a kind of golden key out of the iron cage. It carries a fundamental correction to cosmic disenchantment and alienation. But this brings us back to the paradox we began with, for if astrology is a golden key to cosmic reenchantment, it is also, as we saw, the gold standard of superstition.

Part II

And here I begin part two of the lecture, as I want to introduce the idea of "heroic" communities and their crucial role in the postmodern world -- and, equally to the point, their crucial role for the postmodern world view; or rather lack of world view, since all is indeed in radical flux, incoherence, and uncertainty.

By "heroic" I mean communities who are consciously oriented toward a framework of values, or a vision of the true and the good, which fundamentally challenges that of the larger mainstream society. Here I would include learning communities such as the Astrological Association, and the international astrological community itself; such as CIIS where I teach, as well as communities like the Bioneers, and Jung Institutes, and Waldorf Steiner schools – so too Esalen in Big Sur where I lived and worked for many years, and Findhorn in Scotland, Damanhur in Italy, Schumacher and Emerson College in England, Auroville in India, Naropa in Colorado, Omega and the Open Center in New York, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, the International Transpersonal Association, the Scientific and Medical Network, and so forth. I obviously include here nonlocal communities, so significant in our digital and wired era. And also, ultimately, I include atemporal communities, that extend back in time, over the centuries, giving us roots, inspiration, even dialogical communication.

We absolutely need to have communities that can together sustain the enormous act of the spiritual and intellectual imagination that can vivify and co-creatively participate in the reawakening of a meaningful cosmology for our civilization.

But "heroic" usually refers to the individual as distinct from the group, the community. Indeed, I'm taking the term "heroic" from the Oxford philosopher Charles Taylor's discussion in Sources of the Self of that deep tradition in the West of the heroic stance, whether that of the individual philosopher like Socrates or the individual prophet like Isaiah, which defines a moral vision in sharp contrast to the larger community, and in spite of that society's often intense antagonism. Our civilization's fundamental spiritual and intellectual traditions coming from ancient Greece and ancient Israel have fostered the heroic individual stance, which breaks out of the historical community, the tribe of Israel, the polis of Athens. The Hebrew prophet and the Greek philosopher experience a direct individual relationship to a higher source of truth, a transcendent domain of meaning, value, and purpose, bringing forth a vision that is experienced as superior to the collective consensus, and perhaps necessary for the future of the society.

In a sense, we see here in the ancient Greeks and Hebrews onward a fusion of the ideal of heroism and the ideal of wisdom (spiritual, intellectual, and moral vision): thus the transformation we see from Achilles to Odysseus in the epics of Homer, then to Oedipus in the plays of Sophocles, and finally to Socrates in the dialogues of Plato. Similarly from Israel's early warrior kings to the great prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Isaiah, and on to Jesus.

The great historical shift that brought forth these revolutions of consciousness in Greece and Israel during what Karl Jaspers called the Axial Age also took place in India and China at the same time, with the Upanisads and the Buddha, Mahavira, Confucius and Lao-tse. Thus the prophet in Israel and the philosopher in Greece were paralleled by the mystic in India and the sage in China. In each case, the individual spirit broke through the archaic divine-king political-religious-cosmic hierarchies and thereby connected as individuals directly to a higher source of truth and being.

But heroic individualism was especially nurtured and pronounced in the Western tradition, visible in the intensely juridical relation of the individual before a historically engaged God, in Judaism and Christianity, from Abraham and Moses to Paul and Augustine, culminating in Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. And this heroic individualism in the West was also impelled in accord with the Greek stress on a form of democratic-rationalist individualism and independent intellectual judgment rooted in a higher principle of mind, critically analyzing the empirical world. Together these two root streams – Hellenic and Hebraic, climaxing in the Scientific Revolution and Reformation respectively – helped bring forth the modern age and modern spirit.

With modernity came the decisive emergence of the individual self in an objective world. And it was this modern form of a radical heroic individualism – of the Cartesian rational egoic human subject in a neutralized objectified universe – that has produced the situation we find ourselves in today. In retrospect, we can see that the peculiar achievement of the distinctively modern 'prophet-philosopher', namely the scientist, was to discern a new, higher truth beyond the old myths and assumptions, and who through his powerfully developed individual reason and his Promethean tools – telescope, microscope, equations – bring forth a vast new cosmology that completely overturned the ancient spiritually informed world views that had always encompassed human experience.

And it is precisely this situation we find ourselves in today that requires not only heroic individuals but heroic communities. For in a disenchanted universe, we cannot, as isolated individuals, bring forth a cosmology of meaning and purpose. We cannot sustain the tremendous act of the co-creative participatory imagination that would allow the constellating of an ensouled cosmology in a civilization that has voided the anima mundi and appropriated all the cosmos's soul, spirit, mind, purpose and meaning to the human self. We can only do this great defiant act of new axial vision in communities. The individual cannot do it alone.

Partly this can be understood in terms of Charles Taylor's perceptive analysis concerning the necessity of frameworks of meaning and value, of that 'moral space' within which our identities are grounded and oriented. To sustain such moral space or frames of reference requires the possibility of communication and shared meanings in communities. Even heroes cannot do without a community. As Taylor put it, "Taking the heroic stance does not allow one to leap out of the human condition." My selfhood is defined and nurtured and forged only in a community of other selves with which I am in dialogical relation.

But I want to extend this analysis further, to say that not only does the individual need a community to articulate and actualize herself, today our civilization needs a new kind of heroic community – many heroic communities -- for its own future and for the future of the planet. For a transformation of the collective psyche itself is needed. As Jung said in his famous description of our time as a kairos moment – the right moment for a changing of the gods, a transformation of the fundamental principles and symbols – the future of the world depends on the rapidly changing state of the human psyche.

Today we are having to evolve and discern, through rigor and imagination, a new cosmos within which our human actions and thoughts will be both coherent and life-enhancing. Only a community can hold space for such a transformation, for the emergence and articulation of a new – and in some sense ancient – cosmology. Individual heroic intuitions and assertions cannot succeed in this task on their own.

Without a community there cannot be articulation, because there is no common language, as Taylor said, no matrix within which we can forge our identity and framework of meaning. But more than this, a community also provides that necessary emotional and spiritual "holding space" for each other to go deep within to connect to that ground of meaning that is not being recognized by the externally culturally-validated cosmos. For the journey is often a difficult and perilous one, psychologically as well as every other way. The true solar hero not only ascends, she must also descend, go down like the Sun, the day dying into the night, to be reborn in the dark crucible of the deep psyche. Thus the old self is deconstructed in order to be transformed, allowing the solar and lunar to unite in the alchemical hieros gamos, or sacred marriage. Such a profound process requires individuals to be held caringly in communities.

So in one way, we have to overcome the go-it-alone heroic stance that goes back to our ancient roots and to our modern foundations. But in other ways, we absolutely require that heroic stance, of the prophet and philosopher and scientist, but we need to do it in community, in beloved communities, to use the philosopher Josiah Royce's phrase.

More could be said of this, but now we must move forward to one more critical point: Many of us remember John Addey's thrilling Carter Memorial Lecture from 1971, Astrology Reborn, with his famous declaration that it seemed astrology was about to assume once again an almost central role in our culture and in scientific thought. And in a sense this conviction and hope remains true and worthy. But in another sense, this great renascence of astrology did not rapidly emerge as perhaps John and Charles and so many felt would happen at the time, as if we were on the very cusp of astrology's widespread acceptance and recognition by the high culture's intelligentsia and larger society alike: virtually proved by massive statistical research and double-blind tests, and accompanied by the intellectual elite's rapid psychospiritual evolution and awakening.

But the mystery of astrology was more profound, more complex, more subtle, more relational than that, and the structures of the modern self's armored differentation from the ensouled cosmos more resistant than that. And we might say that astrology's own journey and that of the astrological community itself through its underworld of transformation, its cultural exile, its external negation and inner gestation, was to be much longer. And this is perhaps very much as it should be.

The scholarship had to deepen and expand, there had to be greater critical rigor, more thoughtful philosophical self-reflection and epistemological self-awareness, more translations and better understanding of the texts of the various traditions, greater precision of birth data collection, greater biographical and historical scholarship, a slow but definite re-entrance into the academy and higher education, a deepening integration of depth psychology, of archetypal psychology and transpersonal psychology, of feminist theory and postmodern thought, a more sophisticated understanding of archetypal symbolism, complexes, powers and gods.

We absolutely need to have communities that can sustain...the reawakening of a meaningful cosmology for our civilization

And perhaps our civilization itself and the world has had to descend deeper into its great initiatory crisis, its encounter with mortality on a planetary scale, with the responsibility of Homo sapiens and of modernity for the ecological catastrophe of our time, the facing of its shadow, the crisis of meaning, the deconstruction of its old identity.

We don't know how this will unfold, either for astrology or for our civilization. So much is uncertain. Yet we know that uncertainty is essential for any true and powerful initiatory transformation. Nothing reconfigures existential values more than the encounter with one's mortality, and one cannot have a pretend near-death experience. The risk must be real.

Thus it seems the astrological community needs to enact both a solar role and a lunar role in this crucial moment of history: It needs to bring to the larger culture a clarity of illumination to the deep mysteries of the night sky, the anima mundi, the unconscious, the interior of the cosmos and the depths of our own being, carrying a kind of prophetic light of deeper understanding. Yet it must also serve as a nourishing community to itself, providing a vessel within which individuals can find their own vision of the anima mundi that has been so negated by the mainstream mindset.

Moreover, we must be conscious of the shadow potential of any heroic community, that of becoming a cult, uncritical, uniform, sequestered and isolated: So the astrological community must strive to be a pluralistic matrix of genuine individuation for its many members, beyond any totalizing dogma. My own orientation is grounded in the Platonic-Pythagorean-Keplerian archetypal tradition, with Jung and Rudhyar, Carter and Ebertin, Harvey and Hand, Arroyo and Greene as especially valuable guides. But there are many noble modes of the astrological revelation: Hellenistic, medieval, horary and divinatory, Arabic, Jyotish, Uranian, cosmobiological, harmonic, shamanic, psychological, and more. All constitute this larger community.

And the astrological community must also be externally porous, open to the larger world, building bridges to that world by being comprehensible and relationally engaged, not locked into narrow jargon and abstruse vocabularies. We must seek to become competent, even excellent, in other fields beyond the astrological – as historians and biographers, as therapists and physicians, as economists, philosophers, priests, rabbis, ministers, physicists, astronomers, business people, social workers, community organizers – so that our articulation of astrology carries credibility with the larger culture and be more potent, efficacious, valuable. Our continuing dialogue with the whole – the astrological heroic solar principle with the surrounding lunar matrix of our larger culture – in turn keeps us growing, self-critical and self-revising, just as we as individuals constantly need the containment of relationships to both actualize and transcend ourselves.

So we cannot do it alone – neither as individuals, nor as a community, not even the larger astrological community itself. There are many diverse heroic communities carrying their special tasks in this critical time. Yet the astrological community is perhaps carrying an especially crucial gift, a cosmically healing gift, healing the rupture of heaven and earth, of psyche and cosmos, of inner and outer, of self and world, with unique comprehensiveness and precision and depth. Ultimately, what the astrological community does for its individual members – holding space for our learning, our seeking, our transformation, our initiation – is a reflection of what astrology's recognition of the ensouled cosmos does for the Earth community: It holds cosmic space itself as a numinous matrix within which our civilization and species might go through the planetary crisis and threshold of transformation, as an initation into the larger ensouled cosmos, returning to the community of life as a co-creative participant in a larger evolving mystery. Astrology opens us to a sense of trust and faith in a larger coherence of cosmic meaning, to a universe whose astonishing ceaseless orchestration of above and below suggests that in some sense it cares for this Earth, and indeed for every individual, every moment. We are not an isolated oddity of consciousness in a random unconscious universe, a meaning-seeking speck of dust in a vast cosmic void. We are participants in something much greater, a cosmos of vast meaning and purpose. With that ground of trust in the universe afforded to us by the astrological revelation, we can perhaps serve as a subtly healing and centering presence for the larger human community, as we all undergo the profound initiatory transformation of our age.

1 © 1965 Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music
Sunrise: Public Domain CC0, cowins via pixabay.com
Full Moon: Public Domain CC0, Gellinger via pixabay.com

Richard Tarnas is professor of philosophy and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. He is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of Western thought from the ancient Greek to the postmodern widely used in universities, and Cosmos and Psyche, which received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network in the UK. Formerly president of the International Transpersonal Association, he is on the Board of Governors of the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.

First published in: The Astrological Journal, January/February 2014

© The Astrological Association of Great Britain 2014

The Astrological Association

AA LogoThe Astrological Association is a registered charity dedicated to the support and promotion of astrology in all its branches. For over fifty years, it has been serving the astrological community through informing and bringing together astrologers from all over the world, via its stable of publications, its annual Conference, Kepler Research Day and other occasional events, and its support of local astrological groups. It also represents the interests of astrologers generally, responding when appropriate to issues raised within the media. 

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