ficino-book.jpgRead part 1 here.

Cosmos and Psyche is hefty book, and it presents many interesting ideas which I am sure many people — those with some prior astrological understanding and those without — will chew on for some time. From an astrological perspective, one of the more exciting things about the book could’ve, should’ve been new access to a comprehensive collection of historical data which could in turn be cross-referenced with astrological data. I have been using Passion of the Western Mind in this precisely this manner for years.

For example in the chronology after the epilogue in my copy of Passion, I noted on page 463 that in 1925, the year Yeat’s Vision, Thomas Dewey’s Experience and Nature, and Alfred Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World were published, Pluto stationed retrograde at 12 Cancer. I did this because I was examining relationships between specific degrees which appeared to be intensified by stations of the outer planets, eclipses and partile aspects between planets, and notable events in art and science. Many of the margins within my copy of the text itself are filled with such notations indicating possible correspondences (only in my case, I used exact aspects) between various historical periods and astrological significators, as are many other books I have studied, particularly history and biographies. This is typically how many modern western astrologers begin to study mundane astrology, before moving on to the complexity of ingress and lunation charts. And Tarnas’s Passion was a godsend in terms of this kind of work and study.

Unfortunately it will be very difficult to resource Cosmos and Psyche in this manner because the book’s structure is extremely cumbersome. There are no references to the planets which are only obliquely referred to by the chapter titles (e.g. Saturn-Pluto is “crisis and contraction”); the index is, in many instances, sketchy and difficult to use (Saturn-Uranus is not mentioned; Uranus-Neptune is given only one page, while Saturn-Neptune configurations are covered at some length); and even under the entry “astrology” one must hunt through more general headings like “natal astrology” (instead of index entries that list natal charts by name) or “planetary alignments and correlations” (rather than the specific planetary correlations according to the name of the planet). Obviously, a conscious effort was made to keep names of planets out of the Table of Contents and the Index as much as possible. And even if the book is directed at a non-astrological audience, its purpose is presumably to inspire people to undertake a study of astrology — in which case a well laid out index would be quite helpful.

Which leads me to a point I covered briefly in my previous post.

One of the first things I like to do when beginning a new book to which I am really looking forward — particularly if it is a “big read” — is to browse the references or bibliography. As a book-hound, I am always looking for interesting new treasures. I also enjoy learning something of the context in which an author is forming his or her ideas. When it comes to astrology books, this can lead to frustration because, unfortunately, those who write them seem unable to properly cite and credit sources: in fact there is seems to be such an aversion to foot or end notes or even decent bibliographies that one suspects that many astrological authors are afraid that if they did, they would loose all credibility; for to acknowledge that what one has learned is originates from another human being would jeopardize the magical aura of the all-knowing and all-seeing astrologer (i.e., they need to be Gurus — and Gurus don’t learn, they reveal.).

I challenge anyone: open your favorite astrology book. With very few exceptions, you will find few — if any — footnotes or references.

Since I was anticipating a book about astrology, and Passion appeared to be so carefully researched and notated, I was expecting something of a gold-mine in terms of astrological scholarship – particularly regarding astrological history, since Tarnas is, after all, known as a historian. Sadly, no where, not once in this enormous book about mundane astrology, there is not any mention — not even fleetingly — of the enormous amount of scholarship on astrological history which has become available in the last 15-20 years: including the work of Tamyson Barton, Jim Tester, Geoffrey Cornelius and Nick Campion (to name only a very few).

But I was most surprised — no, shocked — at how spare Tarnas was with giving credit where credit must be due, to other astrologers!

The following is a list of the number of times the following astrologers (or astrological “thinkers”) names are mentioned in Cosmos and Psyche:

Stephen Arroyo . . . . . 1
Liz Greene . . . . . . . . . 1
Rob Hand . . . . . . . . . 1
Charles Harvey . . . . . . 1
Nick Campion . . . . . . . 1
John Addey . . . . . . . . 1
Dane Rudyar . . . . . . . 0
CEO Carter . . . . . . . . 0
Albertus Magnus . . . . .1
Johanas Kepler . . . . . . 3
Tycho Brahe . . . . . . . . 2
Thomas Moore . . . . . . .1
Victor Mansfield . . . . . . 1

And that is it, these names are simply mentioned — nothing else. Many important references are altogether ignored. There is no mention of Sue Tompkins (whose book Aspects in Astrology is recommended by Tarnas in his class syllabuses and is widely used by his students). With the exception of Mundane Astrology by Baigent, Campion and Harvey, not any of the enormous amount of work on mundane astrology done by 20thy century astrologers is ever mentioned, cited, or referenced. Not mentioned is Mike Harding, Harvey’s co-author of the incomparable Working with Astrology and the phenomenal Hymns to Ancient Gods. Not mentioned is any of Dane and Lael Rudyar’s work on planetary cycles. Not even mentioned are very well known astrologers who have written about and explored astrology from an archetypal or Jungian perspective such as Maggie Hyde, author of Jung and Astrology, neither is Geoffrey Cornelius (Moment of Astrology), Dennis Elwell (The Cosmic Loom), or Noel Cobb, Angela Voss, or Greta Bauman-Jung. It is as if all these people who have thought about, written about and studied astrology from an archetypal perspective (whether or not they actually used the word archetypal is irrelevant, as it is a multivalent concept) never existed in Tarnas’s imagination, though it is obvious that he draws inspiration from many (even if he wishes he didn’t).

While there are many surprising — and frankly incredible — omissions from this list, considering that Tarnas aligns himself firmly in the archetypal-Jungian “camp” of astrology, it is most remarkable that the ideas of the great Renaissance astrologer Marsilio Ficino and the modern archetypal psychologist and writer Thomas Moore, author of The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino have not made it onto Tarnas’s bookshelves. I understand that Ficino and Moore did not address the outer planets, which is the focus of Tarnas’ work, but one would think that, since Moore put forward an eloquent case for an archetypal approach to astrology (and did so back in 1982 during one those all important Saturn-Pluto alignments–and–when Tarnas was still a baby astrologer) Tarnas would at least refer to Moore’s pioneering scholarship and soulful meditation on Marsilio Ficino his archetypal/neo-Platonic approach. In Noel Cobb’s introduction to this book we find the following:

The Ficino-Moore revisioning of astrology makes it supremely psychological, reclaiming the Zodiac as a theatre of the soul, a Memory Theatre-in-the-Round, an alchemical vessel for the planetary workings of the imagination and a container for the sufferings of the psyche — psychological not just in the introverted, introspective sense. Psyche, as World Soul, according to Ficino, and following Plato, is scattered thoughout everything; everything manifests soul’s interiority and depth. The planets mirror their metaphors within. They are also person’s with characters, physiognomes, styles of speech and action, who form complex relationships among themselves. Psychology this finds a cosmology for the soul. The Gods are embodied, astronomically, in the planets, but psychologically in myths and in the phenomenological texture of the sensible world. Ficino’s psychology is one which could imagine the divinity within each thing, the God in each event.

So how on earth, after reading the above which was written in 1982, could Tarnas have possibly consented to the following blurb on the dust jacket:

Based on thirty years of research, Cosmos and Psyche is the first book by a widely respected scholar to demonstrate the existence of a direct connection between planetary movements and the archetypal patterns of human experience. (emphasis added)

Is he really saying that in addition to Moore, Hyde, Cornelius, Harvey, Harding, Hand, Campion, and Mansfield are not scholars?

In the Acknowledgments to Cosmos and Psyche, Tarnas credits James Hillman, the father of post-Jungian archetypal psychology, as being a crucial contributor to his work, “not only as an encouraging and guiding editor and publisher of its early incarnations as Prometheus the Awakener” (and Hillman’s deft editing is indeed evident in that book), but also through the influence of his many brilliant lectures and writings.
One can only conclude that Tarnas has been bitten by the same deadly affliction which seems to afflict so many astrologers: The intense need and desire to be seen as though he is the carrier and bestower of revealed wisdom, rather than a man (albeit a very intelligent one) who lives in in an ensouled, interdependent and interconnect world (right along with everyone else). As Tarnas himself says:

For is it not an extraordinary act of human hubris — literally, a hubris of cosmic proportions — to assume that the exclusive source of all meaning and purpose in the universe is ultimately centered in the human mind, which is therefore absolutely unique and special and superior to the entire cosmos? To presume that the universe utterly lacks what we human beings, the offspring and expression of that universe, conspicuously possess? To assume that the part somehow radically differs from and transcends the whole?

Replace the world cosmos with the rest of humanity or just other people — and well, it is impossible not to see the connection.

To be continued . . .