The American psychologist, intellectual historian, philosopher and astrologer Dr. Richard Theodore Tarnas was born on February 21st 1950, at 12:30 (= 12:30 PM) in Geneva, Switzerland.
His father, also named Richard, worked in Geneva as a government contract attorney. The eldest of eight children, he grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where he studied Greek, Latin, and the Classics at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy.
In 1968 he entered Harvard, graduating with an A.B. cum laude in 1972. He received his Ph.D. from Saybrook Institute in 1976 with a thesis on psychedelic therapy. In 1974 he had gone to Esalen in California to study psychotherapy with Stanislav Grof. From 1974 to 1984 he lived and worked at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, teaching and studying also with Joseph Campbell, Gregory Bateson, Huston Smith, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, and James Hillman. He served as Esalen's director of programs and education and was characterized as both the literal and figurative gate-keeper of Esalen.
He is the author of "The Passion of the Western Mind," 1991, a highly acclaimed history of Western thought which became both a bestseller and a widely used text in colleges and universities. The book has been acclaimed by some scholars as the best history of Western thought ever written.
Tarnas is the founding director of the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness graduate program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He is also on the faculty of the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.
He is married and has two children.
Tarnas' second book, Prometheus the Awakener, published in 1995, focuses on the astrological properties of the planet Uranus, describing "the uncanny way astrological patterns appear to coincide with events or destiny patterns in the lives of both individuals and societies". He suggests that the characteristics associated with the mythological figure Uranus do not match the astrological properties of the planet Uranus, and that a more appropriate identification would involve the mythological figure Prometheus.
In 2006, he published Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. It claims that the major events of Western cultural history correlate consistently and meaningfully with the observed aspects of the Slow-moving Planets.
In 2007 a group of scholars and researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area formed the Archetypal Research Collective for pursuing research in archetypal cosmology. An online journal, Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology began a year later.
Tarnas calls his approach Archetypal Astrology. He belongs to the schools of Jungian and Transpersonal psychology, epistomologically to the Participatory theory - a conceptual framework which attempts to bridge the subject–object distinction.
- LSD psychotherapy, theoretical implications for the study of psychology. 1976
- The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View. Ballantine 1991; 1993 ISBN 978-0345368096; Excerpt online: Epilogue
- Prometheus the Awakener: An Essay on the Archetypal Meaning of the Planet Uranus. 149 pages. Spring Publications, Woodstock, CT 1995. ISBN 978-0882142210 Excerpt/ Afterword: The Uranus-Neptune Cycle
- Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. Viking, 569 pages, 2006. ISBN 0670032921 Review online (Garry Phillipson, 2006) Excerpt and Interview with Ray Grasse (The Mountain Astrologer, No. 124, Dec/ Jan 2006) Review of "The Transformation of the Cosmos" (first part of the book)
- Jung, Cosmology, and the Transformation of the Modern Self. 3 DVDs of an Eranos-conference
- Archetypal Cosmology and Deep History (Homepage of Tarnas)
- Wikipedia: "Cosmos and Psyche"
- Wikipedia: Participatory theory
- The Role of Astrology in a Civilization in Crisis (Tarnas, 2014)
- An Introduction to Archetypal Astrological Analysis (Tarnas)
- Youtube: Charles McClelland and Kelly Lee Phipps interview Richard Tarnas (2007, 1h15)
- Tarnas keynote speech at the Baltimore NCGR conference (lecture 2007, 1h24)
- An Interview with Richard Tarnas (2009)
- Youtube: Archetypal Astrological Analysis of Japan Earthquake/ Tsunami part1; part 2; part 3; part4 (2011)
- Youtube: Cosmos and Psyche. Interview by Lilou Mace (2011, 41 min)