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New Academic Movement Champions Astrology

January 9, 2011

By ANS   

They scoffed at Sigmund Freud’s disturbing ideas about repressed libidinal impulses and childhood sexuality, and didn’t think much of the Viennese psychiatrist’s preoccupation with dream analysis, either.

But despite his more exaggerated claims and unsubstantiated theories, Freud’s psychoanalytic method — and its many offshoots in the wider field of depth psychology — is currently viewed by Western scholars as “a necessary corrective to the values and world view of the nineteenth century.”

Writing in Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, a new online publication, Editor Keiron Le Grice places Freud in a unique category of visionaries who serve as emissaries for emerging truths that become a lightning rod for dismissive skeptical criticism and contempt.

In Freud’s day, the “shockingly wicked” notion that humans might be the unwitting instrument of unconscious impulses and complexes was met with derision and scorn. In the current century, Le Grice sees a parallel in the response that has greeted the emergence of a controversial new academic discipline that is based on the methodology, interpretive principles and cosmological perspective of astrology, the “most controversial subject of all.”

The new discipline draws upon an understanding of archetypal patterns described in psychology, history, art and culture by Carl Jung, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell and others, he noted.

“Although many are quick to reject the truth claims of astrology, striking evidence of correlations between planetary cycles and the major patterns of world history has given archetypal astrology a new, unexpected credibility. There is compelling evidence that astrology is once again worthy of serious consideration,” he maintains.

Le Grice says the new academic discipline is based on research begun at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif., in the 1970s. A detailed account is provided by cultural historian and philosopher Richard Tarnas in his award-winning book, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View.

Like Vienna, Le Grice says the San Francisco Bay Area has become a hotbed for challenging embedded establishment views on why humans behave the way they do. The movement currently involves a group of about 70 researchers, practitioners and scholars who have come together to form the Archetypal Research Collective.
The group seeks to understand, in philosophical and scientific terms, the basis for astrological correlations. And it hopes to bring the work of Tarnas and like-minded academics to the attention of a wider audience, he said.

Tarnas studied cultural history and depth psychology at Harvard, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the Saybrook Institute in San Francisco, and worked and lived for more than 10 years at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif., at one point serving as the Institute’s director of programs and education. He is founding director of the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, where he currently teaches, and also is on the faculty at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The Passion of the Western Mind, his best-selling history of Western thought, is currently used as a textbook by more than 100 universities around the world.
The scholarly academic began to develop a rigorous way to test the planetary themes and qualities described by traditional astrology while working at Esalen with psychologist Stanislav Grof, one of the founders of transpersonal psychology. The pair was studying the timing and character of transformational experiences when it was suggested they should check out astrology.

After getting beyond initial skepticism, the pair examined hundreds and eventually thousands of individual astrological charts, concluding that the archetypal principles astrologers associate with the sun, moon and planets — and the correlations between planetary motion and events on earth they uncovered — were “undeniable and uncanny in their subtlety and specificity.”

According to Le Grice, the central supposition informing archetypal astrology is that one can gain a deep insight into the archetypal dynamics underlying human experience by interpreting the meaning of the positions of the planets in relationship to each other. Importantly, Tarnas and Grof were able to demonstrate that the angular relationships formed between transiting planets affected not only the personal biographies of individuals but the changing patterns of collective human experience as well.

In Cosmos and Psyche, Tarnas describes how astrology illuminated key moments in the lives of pivotal historical figures in the West. For example, when Galileo wrote the Starry Messenger, a defining moment in the birth of the modern era, the transiting planet Uranus, which is archetypically associated with revolutionary breakthroughs and awakenings, was forming a particularly powerful one-time configuration in his birth chart.

The same type of configuration or “aspect” was influencing the birth chart of Rene Descartes in 1637 when he published his epoch-defining Discourse on Methods, and was prominent in the birth chart of Isaac Newton in 1687 when he published the Principia, which is widely regarded as the foundational work of modern science. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, Einstein’s theory of relativity and Darwin’s theory of natural selection also emerged in coincidence with the same planetary cycle.

Le Grice believes Tarnas and Grof succeeded in presenting the astrological perspective in a radically different light, finding in the long-discredited ancient symbolic system “something of great value to the postmodern mind.”

Potentially, he thinks that something could “radically transform our understanding of the nature of the universe itself.”

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