Richard Tarnas’s contribution: archetypal astrology – The Rosetta Stone of human psyche

Timp de lectură: 5 minute



ADRIAN: What a model of reality! And in this almost unbelievable landscape they had an impossible riddle…

RENN: Yes, for years, Grof and his colleagues had looked for some kind of diagnostic technique to predict the experiences of their clients in psychedelic sessions. They looked at the Rorschach test, the DSM-III categories, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and others, but they were not able to find any reliable predictive technique.

ADRIAN: And when the search seemed in vain, a light suddenly appeared, the Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone
By © Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 4.0,

RENN: (laughing) This is where Richard Tarnas entered the picture – he had already been exposed to some of Grof’s research, and earlier had been educated by Jesuits and then went to Harvard. He was getting a great education, as well as being inspired by the countercultural evolutionary wave of the 60s while he was at Harvard. He moved to California and Esalen Institute in the mid-1970s in order to meet Stanislav Grof and they struck up a very close friendship, as well as a working relationship which they’ve maintained ever since.

Tarnas was familiar with Grof’s discovery of these four basic clusters of experience that people have when they are accessing the perinatal layer of their psyche, the ones based around the stages of biological birth and named by Grof the perinatal matrices (BPMs). To his astonishment, Tarnas began to realize that the very distinct thematic qualities of the four perinatal matrices fit exactly, and in very richly detailed ways, the traditional archetypal character of the four outermost planets in the solar system: Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. (Now, Pluto has been reclassified as a dwarf planet but its archetypal, symbolic power in astrology does not seem to have been affected). Grof was equally amazed and impressed by this discovery and he had to remark on yet another irony of his career: that the one successful predictive technique that could shed light on the content of people’s psychedelic and holotropic sessions turned out to be something that was even further outside of the range of acceptability in terms of conventional science than psychedelics – it was astrology!

ADRIAN: “The gold standard of superstition…”

RENN: (laughing) Yes. So what Tarnas discovered in amazement – and not all at once – was that the most powerful astrological influences that are activated in a person’s birth chart at a given time by what are called transits, will reveal the basic thematic quality and timing of their experiences in non-ordinary or holotropic states.

Again, the most amazing correlation was with the perinatal matrices. If a person had transiting Neptune interacting with almost any point of the chart in a powerful way, then he or she was more likely to access the experiences from the first perinatal matrix or BPM I, based around the union with the mother, feelings of cosmic unity or oceanic ecstasy. People can have a rich inner life, an openness to spirituality, sense of basic security and higher meaning, feelings of more fluid, open boundaries with others, with nature, with the greater cosmos. The difficult side of Neptune does not seem to be related to the Neptune archetype per se but I’m suggesting it is related to leftover toxic womb memories, where the feeling of no boundaries is experienced as difficult, toxic or confusing, where people feel that somehow they’re uncertain where their own boundaries and other people’s boundaries begin and so on. This seem to be related to disturbances in their intrauterine situation.

So not only was Tarnas able to discover these correlations, such as Neptune with oceanic experiences, but these were then further inflected by the other archetypes interacting with Neptune. If Venus was interacting with Neptune, then the oceanic experiences would tend to have inflections of the Aphrodite archetype, with elements of beauty, love, enjoyment, friendship, revelations of higher beauty and so on. If the Moon was interacting with Neptune than it would tend to bring in feminine elements around nurture, maternal feelings, community, family, bonding and so on. If the Sun was interacting with Neptune that it would tend to bring out the archetypal masculine qualities so they would experience the spiritual, oceanic nature of Neptune inflected through the solar masculine archetype of the Sun: people with Sun-Neptune transits can have easier access to the masculine personas of the Divine such as Apollo, Buddha, Christ, The Heavenly Father, or the Divine Sun.

To complete this layer of discovery, when Saturn was heavily aspected, people would tend to be more in touch with the No-Exit stage of birth or BPM II, and feel that they were compressed, they had lost something and there was no way out. They tended to see the world with the cup as half empty, their horizons tended to narrow… Of course there’s a positive side to Saturn as well: building the sense of moral conscience, integrity, responsibility, discipline, practical feelings, focusing on the here and now and on the material side of life.

When Pluto was heavily aspected Tarnas discovered that people were more likely in their inner lives, and in a concentrated way in their holotropic sessions, to access the dynamic stage of labor, Grof’s Third Perinatal Matrix or BPM III: activation of extreme biological energies, aggressive feelings, a sense of being in a titanic death-rebirth struggle, possible sexual or sadomasochistic feelings, demonic feelings, scatological issues, or pyrocatharsis “purification by fire”.

And then when Uranus was highly aspected, people would tend to have feelings of rebirth, breakthroughs, freedom, sudden intensification of suffering and then dramatic liberation and release from it, opening of new horizons, quantum leaps, sudden resolution of all problems, and so forth. As with all the other major archetypal influences, the Uranian or Promethean qualities associated with Uranus transits would then be inflected by the other archetypes interacting with Uranus. So if Uranus was interacting with Mars, the breakthrough qualities would tend to have a more physical, decisive, energetic, or fast quality, all associated with the Mars archetype. People can identify in their inner life with rebels and outlaws, the pirate archetype, images of cutting their way out of the whale or slaying the dragon, killing the tyrant, escaping from prison, heroic rebellion, and so forth.

If Jupiter was interacting with Uranus, the Uranus archetype would tend to be broadened and expanded by Jupiter: the sense of daybreak everywhere, the world is again made new – there could be a sense of universal redemption, feeling that the Promethean rebellious, genius, breakthrough qualities connected with Uranus are celebrated and glorified and honored in the mainstream culture as opposed to being seen as antagonistic toward it.



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