Richard Tarnas

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Biographical Information

"Richard Tarnas was born in 1950 in Geneva, Switzerland, of American parents. He grew up in Michigan, where he studied Greek, Latin, and the classics under the Jesuits. In 1968 he entered Harvard, where he studied Western intellectual and cultural history and depth psychology, graduating with an A.B. cum laude in 1972. For ten years he lived and worked at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, studying with Joseph Campbell, Gregory Bateson, Huston Smith, James Hillman, and Stanislav Grof, and later served as director of programs and education. He received his Ph.D. from Saybrook Institute in 1976. From 1980 to 1990, he wrote The Passion of the Western Mind, a narrative history of Western thought which became a best seller and continues to be a widely used text in universities throughout the world. He is the founding director of the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he currently teaches. He gives many public lectures and workshops in the U.S. and abroad." [1]


The Passion of the Western Mind

With regard to Tarnas' earlier book, The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View (Ballantine, 1991), Morris Berman observed that while the book is...

"...a fairly decent summary of European intellectual history... The strange bend in the road comes during the last fifty pages, when the author suddenly takes history into archetypal psychology and takes hermeneutic (the science of interpretation) and postmodernism to the new truth. Ignoring all contemporary critiques of deconstructionism, Tarnas declares authoritatively that 'no interpretation of a text can declaim decisive authority.' He claims 'to refuse the tyranny of wholes' and the 'escapism' of cults and ideologies. He then concludes by adopting Jungian archetypes, Stanislav Grof's LSD research, and the need for all of us to embrace the Great Mother and undergo 'dissolution of the ego in ecstatic unity with the universe.'” [5]

Other Criticism

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. About, Richard Tarnas, accessed December 11, 2011.
  2. About, Archai, accessed January 8, 2012.
  3. Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences People, organizational web page, accessed May 6, 2012.
  4. Culture and Cosmos Editorial policy, organizational web page, accessed September 20, 2013.
  5. Morris Berman, Wandering God: A Study of Nomadic Spirituality (State University of New York Press, 2000), p.223.