Understanding Our Moment in History
An Archetypal Perspective

Our time is pervaded by a great paradox. On the one hand, we see signs of an unprecedented level of engaged global awareness, moral sensitivity to the human and non-human community, psychological self-awareness, and spiritually informed philosophical pluralism. On the other hand, we confront the most critical, and in some respects catastrophic, state of the Earth in human history. Both these conditions have emerged directly from the modern age, whose light and shadow consequences now affect every part of the planet.

We seem to be living at the end of an era. The past and the future are converging in our time with extraordinary force. Old structures are cracking, the moment of creative chaos is upon us, and the drama of our age has become a great question: What new principles, what new structures—social, political, economic, ecological, psychological, spiritual—will emerge to shape our future? So much is at stake. We are facing a threshold of fundamental collective transformation that bears a striking resemblance to what takes place on the individual level in initiatory rites of passage, in near-death experiences, in spiritual crises, and in critical stages of what Jung called the individuation process. Can we find a place of equilibrium, an eye in the storm, from which we can engage this time of intense polarization and radical change? And in such an era of transition, what is the role of “heroic” communities like that of Wisdom University, or of the Bioneers or Damanhur, Schumacher College or CIIS, Esalen or Findhorn, Jungian associations and astrological societies—which carry principles and perspectives that run counter to the mainstream modern world view?

There are few frames of reference more helpful in illuminating the timing of individual and collective archetypal dynamics than an archetypally informed knowledge of the ongoing planetary movements. Perhaps more than any other form of analysis, archetypal astrology can illuminate synchronistic waves of events and trends occurring throughout the world at a given time, while also revealing larger historical patterns that unfold cyclically through the centuries.  We will examine the current planetary alignments to help identify the major dynamics at work in the cultural zeitgeist for our complex and precarious moment in history.

To help us navigate this threshold of transformation, we need multiple perspectives and sources of insight. Join Richard Tarnas this weekend as he draws on depth psychology and archetypal astrology, philosophy, religion, and cultural history as we seek together a larger context for both understanding and action.

Course Objectives

  • explore the collective transformational process
  • understand the role of "heroic" communities
  • illuminate archetypal astrology as potential revelations of larger historical patterns
  • examine current planetary alignments to assist in identifying major dynamics in history
  • relate these larger patterns to our lives and practices


Friday Afternoon Session (for Wisdom students only) with Jim Garrison: 2:00–5:00 pm

Meeting place tba.
Jim will set the context for Rick’s course with a lecture on “The Living Universe,” drawing from recent writings by Dr. Ervin László, Duane Elgin, and others, who show that the cosmos is alive with intelligence and intelligible communication.


Friday eve: Tarnas Introductory session - 7:00–9:00 pm

Saturday: Morning lecture: 9:30–12:30 pm

Lunch Break 12:30–2:00 (Vegetarian lunch, and great chai!) is available on location at the Bookstore

Afternoon lecture: 2:00–5:00 pm

Optional evening with Radiance Kirtan Band, 7:30–9:30

(Vegetarian Dinner and Kirtan available at special advance ticket price of $20. Call 415-686-3442)

Sunday: Morning lecture - 10:00–1:00 pm

Lunch Break - 1:00–2:00 (there are many local restaurants & cafes within a few blocks)

Afternoon lecture - 2:00–5:00 pm

Required Reading

Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View (Viking Penguin, 2006)

If you have time, reading the whole book would be helpful and relevant. The most relevant sections, however, are the following pages:

Recommended Reading

Richard Tarnas, Archetypal Cosmology: Past and Present
(click link to download PDF)

Richard Tarnas, World Transits 2000-2020: A Brief Overview
(click link to download PDF)

Archai Journal of Archetypal Cosmology

Keiron Le Grice, The Archetypal Cosmos (Floris Books, 2011)

Stanislav Grof, Psychology of the Future (SUNY Press, 2000)

Pre- and Post-Paper Writing Assignments

No pre-paper
Post-paper (12-15 pages) to be assigned in class.


Dates: March 15–17, 2013
Friday eve 7:00–9:00pm / Sat start 9:30am / Sunday start 10:00am
Friday afternoon 2:00–5:00pm: Special additional session for students only, with Jim Garrison

Location: Open Secret Bookstore, San Rafael, CA

Faculty: Richard Tarnas, Ph.D.

Credit: 2 credits

Faculty Bios

Richard Tarnas

Richard Tarnas is a professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. He also lectures on archetypal studies and depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, and is on the Board of Governors of the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. He is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of the Western world view widely used as a text in universities, and Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, which received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network.