Astrology · Book Reviews

Cosmos and Psyche: Book Review

Cosmos and PsycheIn this groundbreaking book, Richard Tarnas demonstrates the consistent correspondence between planetary alignments and the archetypal patterns found running through human history, both collectively and individually. Subtitled Intimations of a New World View, it offers a worldview and cosmology to heal the disastrous split in the Western psyche and is based on thirty years meticulous research.

In his first book, The Passion of the Western Mind, Tarnas told the story of the development of Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the postmodern era. He explored all the great philosophical, religious, and scientific ideas that would gradually give rise to the world in which we find ourselves today. That book lays the foundations for Cosmos and Psyche, and while it probably isn’t necessary to read Passion of the Western Mind first, it wouldn’t do you any harm.

Cosmos and Psyche addresses the issues raised at the end of the previous book: the crisis of the modern self and worldview, and then goes on to describe a new perspective based on astrology. Tarnas’ attitude towards astrology was one of scepticism, but after studying the subject and putting it to the test for himself, he became convinced of its power in delivering a new worldview, one that places meaning at the heart of the cosmos.

Machine Universe

The modern and postmodern mind sees itself as cut off and alone in a vast, meaningless universe. Within Western culture there is a general lack of real purpose and direction, unless it involves making more money. Nothing has any inherent value or meaning. This leads to a deep sense of personal isolation and alienation. Individuals feel estranged from the world and from nature. Meaning is ‘bought in’ from outside, constructed from externals such as possessions, jobs, and cultural consumption.

We no longer have an overarching worldview to guide us through life. We don’t see ourselves as part of the universe; it’s as if we just landed and don’t really belong here. The universe is seen as blindly mechanistic, atoms crashing into each other, guided by nothing more than a randomly created mathematics. The idea that what goes on in our heads could be connected somehow to what goes on out there in the universe is unthinkable.


With overwhelming levels of detail and great clarity, Tarnas demonstrates that there is another way of looking at reality. He explores the correlation between the human psyche and the movement of the planets, and delineates all the major archetypal alignments, comparing how they play out in different eras.

For example, we are currently experiencing an alignment between Uranus and Pluto which always correlates with great revolutionary upheavals. The present alignment is a square (90°), and the last time these two planets lined up through the 1960s to early 70s, it was a conjunction. See Zeitgeist: Revolution for more on the similarities between those times.

You don’t need detailed astrological knowledge in order to follow the arguments of Cosmo and Psyche. Tarnas does a fine job of explaining exactly how it all works, from planets and archetypes, to transit cycles and how to assess patterns of correlation. This book is essential reading if you want to understand the movements of history, why humanity seems to repeat the same mistakes over and over, and how we can move forward from here.

…as we gaze out now at the immense starry heavens surrounding our precious planet, and as we contemplate the long and richly diverse history of human thinking about the world, must we not consider that in our strangely unique modern commitment to restrict all meaning and purposive intelligence to ourselves, and refusing these to the great cosmos within which we have emerged, we might in fact be drastically underestimating and misperceiving that cosmos – and thus misperceiving, at once overestimating and underestimating, ourselves as well?

For more information, extracts and essays visit Cosmos and Psyche

For more articles from Richard Tarnas visit the Astrology News Service