Prometheus the Awakener Paperback – May 1 1998
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About the Author
Richard Tarnas is a cultural historian and professor of philosophy and psychology and the author of "The Passion of the Western Mind," He teaches on the faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.
Top Customer Reviews
Tarnas believes that the first seven bodies of the solar system were given archetypally accurate names, reflecting the intuitive consciousness of the ancient Greeks. However, in 1781 when Uranus was discovered, the modern scientific mind had lost its intuitive and subjective faculties and the new planet was given a name derived with conventional logic: Uranus was the next planet out from Saturn and so it was given the name of Saturn's father in Hellenic mythology, just as Saturn lay just beyond Jupiter's orbit and was Jupiter's father. In the essay's thesis, Tarnas describes his realization that the planet Uranus does not correspond with Ouranos after all, but with the rebel figure Prometheus. Ouranos has a distinctly paternal and static character, very different from the qualities of rebellion and innovation observed in individuals with Uranus strongly aspected in their charts. In contrast, Prometheus is known for outwitting and stealing fire from Zeus, and giving that fire--life, culture, and science--to humanity. These and other characteristics of Prometheus fit the nature of Uranus so completely that Tarnas concludes the new planet was misnamed.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Tarnas believes that the first seven bodies of the solar system were given archetypally accurate names, reflecting the intuitive consciousness of the ancient Greeks. However, in 1781 when Uranus was discovered, the modern scientific mind had lost its intuitive and subjective faculties and the new planet was given a name derived with conventional logic: Uranus was the next planet out from Saturn and so it was given the name of Saturn's father in Hellenic mythology, just as Saturn lay just beyond Jupiter's orbit and was Jupiter's father. In the essay's thesis, Tarnas describes his realization that the planet Uranus does not correspond with Ouranos after all, but with the rebel figure Prometheus. Ouranos has a distinctly paternal and static character, very different from the qualities of rebellion and innovation observed in individuals with Uranus strongly aspected in their charts. In contrast, Prometheus is known for outwitting and stealing fire from Zeus, and giving that fire--life, culture, and science--to humanity. These and other characteristics of Prometheus fit the nature of Uranus so completely that Tarnas concludes the new planet was misnamed.
The body of the essay consists of an impressive mosaic of cultural figures with the planet Uranus prominent in their natal charts, men and women known for their rebellion against orthodoxy or tradition, display of scientific or artistic genius, and other Uranian-Promethean qualities. Tarnas' unique background--a Jesuit education, Harvard, and then Esalen Institute where he was Director of Programs--has created an unusually rich diversity of perspective.
I was impressed by the discussion on Uranus-Pluto and the Sixties, in which the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of 1960-1972 is convincingly applied to comprehend that unique era. The "rebellion against established structures of all kinds, the intense intellectual adventurousness and restlessness of the era, the radical consciousness transformation, the titanic technological advances into the space age, the general atmosphere of revolution on all fronts" precisely fit what one would expect knowing the astrological natures of Uranus and Pluto.
This correlation is given more credibility by an examination of previous Uranus-Pluto aspects in history--such as the opposition of 1787-1798 which straddled the similarly radical and Promethean decade of the French Revolution, or the conjunction of 1845-1856 (immediately preceding that of 1960-72) which coincided with a wave of revolutions effecting the entire European continent. Similarly presented is the opposition of 1643-1653 (the one that immediately preceded that of the French Revolution) which was the period of England's Puritan Revolution known in its own century as the Great Rebellion--and other examples. The discovery of the Uranus-Pluto cycle with its upsurges of apparently spontaneous revolutionary energy, is an unexpected deciphering of one of history's long-puzzling questions, and he continues with several other major historical cycles.
Tarnas uses examples of both diachronic correlations, in which a sequence of events in one field occurs under successive transits--for example scientific breakthroughs under a series of Jupiter-Uranus conjunctions--as well as synchronic correlations, in which multiple events occur during a single transit. Examples of this type include the wide-ranging events of years such as 1914, 1969, or 1990. In this section is also included a representative comparison between Freud's and Jung's charts, their respective approaches to psychology, the nature of their relationship, and the timing of their historic split.
The essay concludes with a review of the potential effects of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction of the present decade (1985-2001). This combination is associated with periods in which the archetypal-"the mythic, the spiritual, the transcendent, the imaginal, the numinous--is suddenly awakened and liberated in new ways into human consciousness." After reviewing the variety of contemporary manifestations of this transit--both positive and negative--Tarnas cites a series of remarkable historical precedents.
To name several in the 172-year cycle, conjunctions of Uranus and Neptune occurred in 1815-1829 during the age of Romanticism, in the 1470's and 1480's at the heart of the Renaissance, and during the early 1300's wave of mystical fervor that saw Dante's Divine Comedy and the birth of Petrarch. They were conjunct in the 620's and 630's during the birth of Islam, and in 15-35 A.D. during Jesus' ministry, crucifixion, and the conversion of St. Paul. They were also conjunct during the last decade of the fifth century, B.C. and the first decade of the fourth, that saw the most influential teachings of Socrates, and his death in 399 B.C.--the event that initiated the birth of Platonism. Finally, during the only triple conjunction of outer planets in modern times--Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto being conjunct from the 580's to the 560's B.C.--"we find the heart of the great 'axial age' that brought forth so many of the world's principal religious and spiritual traditions: the age of Gautama Buddha in India, of Lao-Tzu in China, of Zoroaster in Persia; the age of the major prophets of ancient Israel, Jeremiah, Ezekial, and Second Isaiah, when the Hebrew Scriptures began to be compiled; the age when the oracle of Delphi was at the height of its influence in ancient Greece; the age of the earliest Greek philosophers, Thales, Anaximander, and Pythagoras.... Thus there is reason to believe that our own experience of Uranus and Neptune in conjunction will not be without its enduring blessings."
Tarnas' intellectual labors and twenty-year collaboration with Stanislav Grof have yielded a luminous overarching vision of psyche, cosmos, and history scarcely imaginable a generation ago. This participatory world view has implications in every discipline and not insubstantial possibilities for personal and planetary healing. This is truly a promising and exciting direction for the mainstream culture, both unexpected and inevitable. The fire of the divine has again come to earth.
I would like to see the author do an update in the future about the effects of the Uranus/Pluto conjunction of the 1960s and the Saturn opposition on people who were born during that time. Perhaps this is simply self-interest on my part, as I am part of this generation. I did find his comments about Uranus oppositions to Saturn in a natal chart to be quite accurate.
I think the author slightly misses something in his discussion of whether or not Uranus was named incorrectly. He points out that in Greek mythology, Ouranos is more of a repressive figure that leads others to rebel against him than a Promethean liberator. I think, however, that this actually means the planet was named correctly in a mirror image kind of way. If Uranus transits incite rebellion and lead to liberation, then certainly the liberation effect is the same. One cannot exist without its opposite, so perhaps Uranus holds within it both archetypes - that which rebels and that which must be rebelled against. (Or maybe I am simply seeing it this way because of the Uranus/Saturn opposition in my own chart.)
Next time I meet someone who is skeptical of astrology and challenges me to show its validity, I may recommend this book to them. I would think it could be quite convincing to the skeptic.
Where I part company with Tarnas is at the very end of the book when he analyzes the recent conjunction of Uranus and Neptune (from roughly 1989 to 2001). I cannot share his optimism. He cites the positive developments, such as the collapse of the repressive Communist regime that controlled Russia and Eastern Europe (he points out that the phrase "velvet revolution" is the perfect description of the Uranus/Neptune combination), but there is a great deal that he seems not to be aware of. I don't think it's any coincidence that the conjunction of Uranus and Neptune occurred at the time of the advent of Political Correctness (wherein one can lose one's job for saying "six foot two is tall for an Asian" and have no recourse under a "zero tolerance" policy), which basically signals the end of the Bill of Rights. Nor does he mention the blatant promulgation of misandry which has been so pervasive that it is now an accepted part of our culture. He only hints at "spin" when he mentions that image overpowers reality. Just as the conjunction reached peak intensity, the O.J. Simpson trial was spun so that it was not really about the defendant's act of murder but about the racism of a police officer. Concurrently, the Clinton impeachment trial was spun so that Clinton's perjury and obstruction of justice (of which he was clearly guilty) was not the issue, but the Conservatives' opposition to sexual misconduct. Perhaps if Tarnas's book had been published a year later he would have seen the destructive influences of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction more clearly. Perhaps he will update the book in the future to address these issues. However, there is the possibility that he may not be allowed to do so. I'd still give the book four stars and would recommend it to any serious astrologer as well as to intelligent non-astrologers who are capable of reading such a book without preconceived notions regarding astrology.