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on 7 July 2011
Although as an astrologer I've read his recent work,I hadn't come across this extended essay before.Written 15 years ago,it changed and enhanced psychological astrology.Richard's theme is outer planet Uranus which through very extensive empirical research he links to Prometheus,the fire bearer.He explores and synthesises archetypes and the planetary cycles with numerous detailed analyses of people with Uranus prominent in their birth chart.The themes are individuality, seeking of freedom,the genius,the rebel,the artist and musician.
He has certainly deepened my own understanding of archetypes and astrology.
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on 27 November 2014
"Prometheus the Awakener" is short book by Richard Tarnas, a professor of philosophy and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, a private college with a spiritual orientation. Tarnas is the author of the highly acclaimed "The Passion of the Western Mind", about the history of Western philosophy. A more controversial opus by Tarnas is titled "Cosmos and Psyche", in which the author argues in favour of astrology and the reality of Soul. I haven't read either of these books (yet), but they look interesting! "Prometheus the Awakener" seems to be a kind of teaser trailer to the second book, "Cosmos and Psyche".

Tarnas is inspired by Jung and Hillman, and presumably also by Steiner and similar thinkers (he discusses the evolution of consciousness). Interestingly, he doesn't see any contradiction between the Jungian, Platonic and "Homeric" (purely mythical) concepts of archetype, arguing that they are all true. The archetypes are both psychological patterns emerging from the collective unconscious, objectively real metaphysical essences and figures from human mythology. Archetypes are above all "autonomous patterns of meaning that cannot be localized or restricted to a specific dimension", bridging the gap between subjective and objective. Thus, the "subjective" unconscious is part of the Jungian collective unconscious, which in turns forms part of the objective universe. The archetypes are eternal and "divine", and humans cannot but be "within" them, embodying one or several archetypal patterns. Astrology is the connecting link between the subjective and objective dimensions of the archetypes, since the mathematically exact motions of the planets somehow represent the eternal Platonic archetypes, while also influencing human behaviour on Earth, both individually and collectively. Tarnas believes that astrology is strictly empirical, and that the ancient Greeks correctly named the then-known planets after various deities that really represent archetypal behaviours. Thus, Mercury was named after the swift god of intellect, since the planet actually influences our intellects in a "Mercurial" direction.

"Prometheus the Awakener" deals with Uranus, one of the planets unknown to the ancients. Uranus wasn't discovered until 1781 by William Herschel. Tarnas believes that the planet was misnamed, since its dramatic and liberating effects (astrologically speaking) correspond to the rebel figure Prometheus rather than to Ouranos in Greek mytholgy. Most of the essay is devoted to an investigation of the horoscopes of famous scientists, artists, authors and psychoanalysts, arguing that Uranus-Prometheus triggered their genius. Even more controversially, Tarnas argues that Uranus also influences human history. Thus, both the Axial Age, the ministry of Jesus, the American and French revolutions, the revolutions of 1848, the liberating sixties and the fall of Communism in 1989-91 were caused or influenced by Uranus, usually in alliance with other planets. Thus, the events of 1968 were connected to a conjunction between Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Tarnas predicts that we will soon see other positive changes courtesy of "Prometheus", and that our collective consciousness will evolve accordingly. (Note the paradox that Prometheus, an "anti-god" rebel, is simultaneously an eternal archetype!)

A sceptic might wonder about the lack of control groups. What about geniuses who didn't have Uranus in a prominent position? What about important events which didn't take place during an allignement of Uranus and some other planet in the skies? What makes an event important, anyway? Is peak oil astrologically conditioned? As far as I can tell, Tarnas also strays from regular astrology at one point. Astrologers regard oppositions between planets as negative, while conjunctions are usually seen as positive. Tarnas treats all planetary aspects as both positive and negative, which considerably broadens the scope of possible "predictions", since it would be difficult not to find some aspect not connected to an important event (good or bad). This makes Tarnas' approach much less "empirical" than he is letting on. Occasionally, the author admits that his approach may owe quite a bit to intuition, something that's presumably anathema to the sceptics.

That being said, I nevertheless regard "Prometheus the Awakener" as an interesting and yes, Promethean, read. It *is* daring for a high-brow intellectual to suggest that there might be something to astrology - Tarnas' book-length treatment "Cosmos and Psyche" was panned by the Wall Street Journal. As a budding Promethean myself, I bestow five stars (from the constellation of Aquarius) on this Tarnas Teaser Trailer!

PS. My own Uranus is, ahem, close to the Ascendant...
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