ADRIAN: What really amazes me is that they discovered these astounding correlations calculating everything by hand, not using computers, right?
RENN: (laughing) Oh, yeah . . . this was long before the advent of personal computers. I believe Rick made many of his most important discoveries sometime around the fall of 1976. I know that around the time of the winter solstice, December 21, 1976 – as he writes in the opening of his great handbook Prometheus the Awakener which is, I would say, the best introduction to astrology – is when he made the association between the planet Uranus and the archetype of Prometheus. He felt that Uranus had been misnamed: it had been named by a kind of linear logic because it fell outside of the orbit of Saturn and Ouranos was the father of Cronos/Saturn in mythology. But while there are some basic formal similarities between the planet Uranus and the archetype of mythological figure of Ouranos, it much more closely fits the character of Prometheus, the rebel who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. This was an amazing discovery and I imagine one of the most exciting moments in the early part of Tarnas career, in December 1976.
Tarnas was able to do quite a bit of his own research back then. I imagine it was a very exciting time for both of them and not only was he exploring his own psyche and looking at the astrological transits but he was also then enthusiastically pouring over the Encyclopedia Britannica. This was at Esalen, the heart of the California counterculture (laughing) famous for a somewhat anti-intellectual ethos – but it was very important to him and he was able to make correlations between the experiences he was having and the different thematic qualities and experiences, with the natal charts of famous people in Western history: philosophers, artists, painters, writers, historical figures… he would look at their natal charts and then their major contributions – what were their painting styles, their philosophical contributions, etc. – and he see parallels between these themes and the experiences he was encountering in his own inner explorations, at the same times that he had the precise astrological archetypes activated that they had had for their entire lives.
Not only that, but he was able to see that the timing of their specific creations, such as when they published their books, when they made their great paintings, when they had their notable military adventures such as Napoleon, that all these and many others were discernible and intelligible in terms of the transiting influences, the part of the chart that changes over time. I think it was just a time of Promethean ecstasy for him. They coined this term – Promethean ecstasy – to describe the type of ecstasy where you feel like your head is opening, your crown chakra is opening and you’re getting inspired by a flood of insights. He often described this Uranian feeling as lightning strike, a strike of inspiration and I think he has been in these states for long sustained periods of time.
ADRIAN: This was all in the afterglow of the great Uranus-Pluto conjunction.
RENN: (laughing) Yes, I guess you could say that. In 1976 I believe it was also a Jupiter-Uranus opposition which was probably still active in December, just checking that out… yeah, the Jupiter Uranus opposition was still well within orb in December 1976, so… The Jupiter-Uranus combination was one of the most distinct cycles that he discovered, probably the most distinct cycle in history. He discovered that the years when Jupiter and Uranus were in conjunction or opposition (especially those two, which he called the axial alignments), tended to correspond back through history to some of the great quantum leaps in terms of cultural flowering, sudden new revelations, sudden breakthroughs and I think it’s only fitting that it was in one such year, 1976, that that he made his great discoveries with Grof.
ADRIAN: I’m blown away by the description of the Promethean ecstasy; this sounds like Divine Grace.
RENN: Oh, definitely. Rick is ten years older than I am and a hero to me in so many senses of the word. I remember one day, I had been up in the hills of Big Sur doing some research of my own, and I came back in the late afternoon and remember walking across the creek and up the other side and I looked over toward the wood shop and there was Rick working on something. He was cutting some wood with a power saw, busily working. He had long hair and a ponytail which was sort of flowing from side to side as he worked and I just stood there looking at him, from about 100 feet away, he didn’t see me. He had encouraged me and inspired me to do the session, given me the encouragement to pursue this path and I just stood there in gratitude looking at him. He just looked so free and inspired, truly a great cultural hero.
I was able to read the prototype of all three of his books. I read Prometheus the Awakener in its unpublished manuscript form in 1980 and wrote out some feedback on it. I thought it was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.