Cosmos Café: Integrating Science, Art, and Time [6/5/18]

Good find @johnnydavis54. Like the connection/bridge/filling in the gaps from the Taylor quote into Jung’s territory; gives a nice visual of where the collective unconscious “originated.” Taylor does not mention Jung in A Secular Age.

This one is a deep dive for sure…I made it through the first 300 pages before I gave up. He starts it off by simply asking “what does it mean to live in a secular age?” then goes on a 900 page meandering through the course of relevant history. He writes like I think: starts with one main idea in mind, paddles through twists and turns, is easily distracted by other thoughts spotted in the passing scenery, then eventually gets back on course with a deeper understanding of the main idea, but loses others (or at least my) attention along the way. Many similarities to the depth of Sloterdijk but without language games, for better or for worse. His book Social Imaginaries is an expanded version of a chapter in A Secular Age and might be a wade into his writing before any such deep dive. (I would though try again if was a group effort :wink: )


This connects to my posting about Morris Berman’s 1981 book called The Reenchantment of the World, which laid out a similar argument. Tarnas talk is a good summary of these ideas, though.

He does seem to be saying that God’s role in the evolution of world views was to be a kind of cosmic vacuum cleaner that sucked away all the magical elements of pre-Christian world views and cleared the stage for the modern “disenchanted” world view.

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I read The Sources of Self number of years ago with a similar response but the force of the book was felt for years afterwards. I find him much easier than SLoterjdiik.

I have yet to read Cosmos and Psyche which is Tarnas most resent big book. I did read his first one and he has some interesting lectures on line. He has an easy style.

There is always of course Whitehead and though some find him really hard I like his style a lot. He has some smaller books that are digestible.

What book, after Aurobindo, could help in creating an Ecological Civiliaztion?


(Mind you…I have probably forgotten half of the point of this book, but) Cosmos and Psyche digs deep into (or circumnavigates, quite literally,) the Cosmos. Tarnas gives an in depth analysis of astrological cycles and maps these onto certain eras in history (the axial age, French Revolution, 1960’s). As @jfmartel and Phil Ford noted in the Stalker episodes in their Weird Studies, there was some sort of zone that was opened up/awakened during that time, the 60’s, something that was felt then and can be felt now as more than just a cultural revolution…it was some sort of massive fissure in the fabric of ____ (time? space?) that we enter into and know/feel as foreign; it is not the realm of which we typically reside. Tarnas, though perhaps 95% of the population would not give the subject the light of day, supplies a stellar effort into how the Cosmos has an astrological (astronomical?) effect on the individual and collective psyche.

Tarnas does not reference spiral dynamics or Wilber throughout the book but creates a sort of “theory of everything” (in a non-Wilberian sense) that valiantly takes into account the typically forgotten depths of the movement of the cosmos, focusing on Jung, especially synchronicitous events, and the cycles of Astrology (of which I could understand from his book, but which is something that has trouble applying to my daily doings). Wondering if @Amanda has heard of/read this one. I feel strange having read a book that you haven’t @johnnydavis54! Cosmos and Psyche would definitely have us “rethinking time,” that’s for sure! :sun_with_face::first_quarter_moon_with_face::hourglass:


Tarnas’ The Passion of the Western Mind is an insightful look (albeit it from a different perspective) at what Gebser terms the Mental (and Rational) structure(s) of consciousness. For me, it serves a similar function as does Peterson’s Maps of Meaning in regard to the Mythical structure. Texts such as these help loosen up the density of Gebser’s presentation, I find.

His “lecture” which @johnnydavis54 posted is a follow-on to this book, at least at the level of particulars. (That is, the clip itself is from his “Psyche and Cosmos II transit practicum course” … and he’s at the level of “transits” which are somewhat esoteric even for lots of “mainstream” astrologers. It’s one of those levels of detail that even the quasi-involved layperson has difficulty keeping track of. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day.)

Now, I wouldn’t go so far to say that he’s proposing any kind of “theory of everything”, rather he is pointing to the interconnectedness of everything, especially in one particular area of our “being in the world” that was once a very central factor but which has fallen into forgottenness and neglect, perhaps unjustifiably so. Cosmos and Psyche is a sober and rigorous look at the connections between astrological statement and historical fact. Another “big picture” book in this regard which is worth the time wading through is de Santillana & Dechand’s Hamlet’s Mill which places humans’ dealing with astronomical/astrological phenomena at the center of myth creation.

You do remind us of an important point, though @Douggins, namely there was more going on – or perhaps to put it in more Tarnas-like terms, coming down – in the 60s than most, let us say, more materialistic-oriented thinkers would like us to believe. Even back in the late 80s/early 90s there was a whole lot of talk about the coming Aquarian Age, which fell into the New Age black hole. There was some good work being done – such as Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy and Harman’s Global Mind Change – that got shuffled offstage in the New-Age chaos.

Yet, his chalkboard map of the evolution of self (if that’s the proper term) was, I think, a very helpful explanation of how the notion of “who we are” has changed in very significant and revealing ways over the past millennium or so. We often forget just how young the very notion of “self” even is. When thought about in Gebser’s terms, his map helps explain why magic and myth are making such a comeback. I think he wants to intimate that we are coming back around at perhaps a higher octave of permeability (which would resonate with some kind of coming integrality), but I’m not sure that’s exactly what is happening with large majorities of people (fundamentalists of all colors spring immediately to mind). In that case, it could very well be a simple looping-back-around.


How odd, Ed, that is a book I have not read that I meant to get around to. I also have not read all of Proust or gotten through Finnegan’s Wake and I dont like astrology. I have huge gaps in my bibliography! There are so many books to read and you better do it ASAP, because , like money in the bank, you cant take it with you. In other realms, I have discovered to my great disappointment, that I am totally dyslexic.

I think, to paraphrase Whitehead, that we are a footnote to the sixties. I once had a friend, who was well versed in Marxist philosophy and Foucault ask me. " What is the Post-modern?"

I shrugged my shoulder and replied. " We are the Post-modern."

Those who lived through the post-modern did not at the time know that is what was happening. It was only after the French Invasion that the term became popular. I imagine that our review yesterday is just the " tip of the iceberg."

I recall the Paris protests and the Stonewall riots happened in '68. Those events were riding upon waves of discontent with Vietnam, the Cold War and other social injustices. My teen years happened then. In many ways, after the crack down initiated by Reagan and Thatcher, which shut down many liberating initiates, we hunkered down. And we have continued to hunker down. In many ways, each decade has become even more disappointing. The AIDS epidemic shut much of it down. The heat, as one hooker said, from the street is gone.

I have a vague hope that with the pressures we are confronting, that the aging boomers and the agile millennials, could reawaken to those weird, pagan, nature mystic rhythms of the 60’s and break out of the Neo-Liberal consensus trance states transmitted by the flat screened culture.

I have my doubts that this will happen and yet I sense that there are underground public events ( like our Cafe) that are perhaps connected to a 4th dimension, a non-Euclidean social topology, just beneath us, that wants to happen. that could break up our habitual patterns. As Arran Gare says, Western Culture has become Nihilism, Inc.

Is there something we can do to re-enter a reconstructive phase that breaks up the Nihilistic wave? We need to repair the rifts that the deconstructive post-modernists have created by deconstructing the humanities. I have the hope that we can start that reconstruction phase by honoring the Post-modern attempt to preserve pluralism. Now that we have pulled up the weeds can we start planting some seeds? I think Peterson is partially right and partially wrong. So I need to do a better job of getting clear about those indeterminate zones, where angels fear to tread.

I expect that by reviewing these Integral thinkers we could rekindle a new wave. We have lots to win if we can make even a minor gesture in that direction. I’m open to that possibility.


And I was off to college in the fall of '67. The old saying is partially true: if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there. I spent four years rebelling and hoping but ended up joining the Army to avoid the draft. I managed that way to avoid Vietnam, but ending up at the end of the so-called Free World in the intelligence community revealed our true self. America had already then become what it hated. Reagan only took off the mask in public, but he’s been quasi-canonized to compensate. That’s what happens when enough don’t like what they see.

That you become what you hate is an old Kabbalistic aphorism that I learned only later. Confirmation of insight is always in retrospect. William Irwin Thompson used that aphroism as a chapter title in his Self and Society, writing about the American response to 9/11. That was simply the next loop of the spiral that had begun so long ago.

Agreed. But he fell prey to the same malady. He’s gone down the rabbit hole of hate, and while he could clean up his act if he took his own advice, I doubt he’ll do that. Who the hell takes their own advice? The value-added by the post-modernists was small, but it was significant. Like their prose, however, there is a whole lot of verbiage that has to be hewn away to get to the nut-like core. (Tarnas did this quite well, and I’m fairly sure it’s all we really need to take away from the phase.) But like it’s (in Peterson’s mind) apparent counterpole, neoliberalism, it’s going to die a much slower death than is good for any of us.

Some physicists talk of 26 dimensions, if you assume strings, not quarks. Others will tell you there are 11. While slogging my way through the Mereon Matrix (which I haven’t finished yet … I’m still sane, aren’t I? – or at least it appears as-if I am) Kaufmann noted that regardless of how many dimensions there may (ultimately) be, projecting them into 3-5 yields the optimal results: it’s there that we appear to get the biggest bang for the buck. This is (at least) part of Tenen’s point as well. So, I’m guessing this is the area we would do best to focus on for the moment. In other words, there may be (many) more dimensions, but we can deal with things best as if there were only the few we can handle. Yes, Rovelli showed us that the variable time in the grand scheme of things is meaningless, but our experience tells us otherwise. So we act as if there is a shared present. We engage reality as if it only had a manageable number of dimensions. So we should think and act as if even our CCafés are making a difference in the world.

Why? Because as-if’s constitute a reality, just like our experience of a shared present, which is every bit as real as it needs to be, because it keeps us focused and together. It’s not specifically what we do in our CCafés that makes the difference, it is how we do it, and it’s the fact that we continue to do it. The CCafés have a feel to them, and it is this feeling that, I believe, is most important to maintain, for it is feelings that attract and repel more strongly than a concept, a notion, idea, method, approach, or technique (and we have a wide variety of all of these to be sure). Feelings generate sympathy, and sympathy is a strong attractor. But feelings are neither fast nor focused nor forgeable. They have to be grown.

We’ve already started planting.


I agree he won’t change his tune as many Neo-Libs love his anti-post-modern diatribe and will pay him big bucks to keep it going. Now I’m no fan of Derrida but I would never call him Evil with a capital E. He sort of misses the point. Derrida was an Algerian Jew.

The first wave of Post-modernists came out of the trauma of the Holocaust and ended up at the New School or ended up in Paris left bank, trying to purge themselves of the Nazi mythic hysteria and tried to locate the sources of Totalitarianism and tear them up by the roots. It was Hannah Arendt who said the roots were not in Germany but in the American Slavery loving South where the Nazi ideology was born. I agree as most of my southern relatives talked just like Hitler. They were in some ways very conservative enclaves.

But when the post-structuralism impulse came in the 80’s to USA it happened with the backdrop Andy Warhol and shiny suburban surfaces that made a joke out of everything and that was the movement went very sour. Anything goes. Debunking meta-narratives became the meta-narrative and made them powerless to fight against the Scientism and Neo-Liberal trickle down economics. I dont sense that Peterson understands this at all. Trickle down economics is an unnecessary evil. He seems to assume Capitalism is the same thing as Democracy. Corporate take overs of public assets ( especially by foreign actors) is the great danger to democracy, not Marxist theory.

Now I have problems with Marxism, too, but not because it critiques Capitalism but because it ignores Nature. It is not just about who owns the means of production but is about how that impacts Nature. So Marxism needs to be updated, not discarded, so that an Ecological Civilization can emerge. And the Soviet Union practiced something more like bureaucratic Capitalism that utterly failed, and looks like what we are becoming. That is why Putin gets along fine with Neo-Liberalism. He owns much of the real estate of Upper East Side of Manhattan.

So we need cool heads and warm hearts to make a viable Ecological movement to happen and Jordan Peterson I fear has neither.


I’ve been summoned!
Yes, I’m familiar with Mr. Tarnas. Cosmos and Psyche is one of the two most influential books I’ve ever read. Although I wouldn’t call his writing or speaking styles very accessible…
His website ( Essays | Richard Tarnas) has two essays I recommend often:
TWo Suitors, which is the intro to Cosmos and Psyche and then the Epilogue to The Passion of the Western Mind — which he purposely wrote before Cosmos in an attempt to get himself some credibility before plunging into the less acceptable Astro-text. He and Stanislav Grof spent time at Esalen in the 70s doing experiments with halucinogens and psychedelics in conjunction with studying astrological transits. So he knew where his work was headed…

Other sources of interest for y’all might be the Archai Journal (online), everything going on at California Institute for Integral Studies’ Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness program (Tarnas is faculty there), work several folks are doing with Archetypal Cosmology (which aims to blend psychology, astrology, biology, math, mythology) including Keiron LeGrice…

… and then a lecture Rick has done several times about heroic communities. Clearly this community here is an example of that :slight_smile:


Excellent suggestions, Amanda. I am very inspired by CIS. I follow Matt Segall and many of the scholars coming out of that noble institution. I am curious about your observation about heroic communities.

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@ccafe: This has actually nothing to do directly with this thread, it is only because we talked about next week’s topic during our last session.

Having just checked my RL calendar, I see that I’m not going to be able to make our get-together on 12 June. My brother and sister-in-law from back home will be here for a short visit, and even though I love all ya guys to death, family comes first. As far as I can see there is nothing preventing me from showing up again on the 19th.

Point is: y’all can do whatever tickles your fancies.


Some inspirational sounds (some of) you may or may not remember, ahead of our Life Divine gathering tonight—

—via an older buddy who was or wasn’t there (I didn’t ask).


Hey Amanda, want to join us for an upcoming Café to talk about Cosmos and Psyche? Maybe we could read an essay you’d recommend, plus watch that video posted above, and you could help us begin to work with Tarnas’ ideas?


Totally! Everything on my life is on hold until after the local burning man regional event, but after July 17 I’d love to do that.

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Cool. I’ll message you to coordinate a date.

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A follow up on the quest for a grand unified theory (aka ‘theory of everything’) in physics:

…which, though I know the mathematics and research methods are incredibly sophisticated, sounds like so many angels dancing on the head of a pin to me! Multiplicities of possibilities of probabilities…quantum particle jambalaya.

Perhaps the field is ripe for a new breakthrough or paradigm shift, which maybe will be stirred by some particular observation of real occasions, leading to some bold new unifying idea. This tends to happen in the creative process generally, and I imagine it will happen for modern physics too. I wish them luck!

Instead, many of us have switched from the old top-down style of working to a more humble, bottom-up approach. Instead of trying to drill down to the bedrock by coming up with a grand theory and testing it, now we’re just looking for any hints in the experimental data, and working bit by bit from there. If some measurement disagrees with the Standard Model’s predictions, we add an interacting particle with the right properties to explain it. Then we look at whether it’s consistent with all the other data. Finally, we ask how the particle and its interactions can be observed in the future, and how experiments should sieve the data in order to be able to test it.

The bottom-up method is much less ambitious than the top-down kind, but it has two advantages: it makes fewer assumptions about theory, and it’s tightly tethered to data. This doesn’t mean we need to give up on the old unification paradigm, it just suggests that we shouldn’t be so arrogant as to think we can unify physics right now, in a single step. It means incrementalism is to be preferred to absolutism – and that we should use empirical data to check and steer us at each instance, rather than making grand claims that come crashing down when they’re finally confronted with experiment.

Interesting article, @madrush. Sobering perhaps, too, although physics has hit such snags before and come through. Regarding the earlier issue of consciousness inside the theories, the problem at the quantum level is that, for example, although Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle seems to involve an “observer”, and the so-called “collapse” of the wave function, for example, when the Schrodinger Cat’s box is opened (remember, the cat is assumed be both alive and dead before the box is opened, due to the peculiar design of the poison delivery system) seems to require the action of someone, neither of these phenomena seem to require an “intelligent” observer, instead, they seem to require a “perception process”, that is, an “act of perception”. This seems closer in principle to what Whitehead or William James was talking about, that is, that the universe includes processes that can be associated with either living or non-living entities (Whitehead) and which can be viewed as “perceiving” - what Whitehead calls “prehension”, or that the universe is made of “pure experience” (James) so that so-called inanimate objects have experiences the same way humans do (well, with some differences). I have started reading James’ Essays in Radical Empiricism after spending years promising myself to do so, and the first thing he does, in the first two pages, is to throw out the idea that something called “consciousness” exists! Instead, he suggests that “conscious function” exists, but there is no distinct entity called “consciousness”. It is a startling but intriguing position to take, and one followed up by Whitehead and Deleuze/Guattari later on. Food for thought.


So who or what does the conscious functioning? Is there an agent of some kind calling the shots? Debunking the agent ( it is all unconscious and you are a packet of genes and neurons) has led to what we have now. So it all gets watered down into various kinds of behaviorism, and the black box theories and views from nowhere. The triumphal Freudians filled the gap, and rear its ugly Nihilistic head. Psychology has been a reductive disaster.

This is not what James wanted, as he was a student of paranormal and psychic research. Bottoms up/top down are flawed. We need good observers with a skilled phenomenology, not sloppy Heidgarrians, nor the frat boy type of observer who drank too much beer the night before but a really good observer, tuned into propriocpetive and interceoceptive capacities, the ’ invisible architecture’, aware of in here and out there in a seamless field effect display. A trans-individual in alignment with all her chakras. In other words someone who can gather clean data about a performance and then do it on purpose rather than just a random assortment of odd accidents.

Observers who are not aware of what they are doing when they are observing are not very good modelers, for they get stuck ‘out there’. We need people who can self-model while in motion, participant observers, who pay attention to attention, intention and relational pulses simultaneously in more than one frame. Sort of like a Shakespeare who can act and write and improvise in a group all at the same time. Such a person is not among us yet but we could start to set the stage for that kind of performance if we trained all of our waves, from the narrowly focused to the immersive and diffuse. Our factory model education kills this capacity.

I regret that the Steven Rosen guest event did not happen. He is working a new kind of fractal psychology that used good phenomenology. I wanted to interface his ideas with what Clean Language actually does, which could shift the paradigm.

Alas,this does not seem to be the direction that the Cafe has taken but I am confident that maybe Quantum Poetics could handle such big topics with a Batesonian twist? I think a weekly forum, for all of its charm, is not a disciplined enough place for developing modeler’s mind(s) signalling from the field within fields. But I am on the look out for adjacent possibilities…

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That’s interesting, Geoffrey. But I’m curious, wouldn’t the “perceptual process” require an intelligent observer to observe it (i.e., the process or act) to determine what was perceived regarding the cat?

This is very interesting, too, and I’ve been getting multiple signals that I need to review James at some point. I haven’t yet listened to @jfmartel & @phord’s talk on this very subject, but it would seem like a great place to start.

I thought this was in the works, but would need to be scheduled more in advance than we typically do. Why don’t you coordinate with @Lisa and schedule it whenever is possible for Steven and the two of you (and whomever you’d like to invite)? It doesn’t have be a “Café” event per se. If you want it to happen, make it happen!


There is some controversy around that, @madrush, Many argue that, indeed, an intelligent observer is required - that the wave only collapses in the presence of an intelligent observer. But others argue that any interaction with a separate quantum system will also cause wave collapse - that it isn’t perception or measurement per se, but interaction that is at issue. Is the observer really necessary? However, this begs the question of what is a pertinent system, since systems are rarely defined unequivocally. What I’m trying to say is that there is still a lot of controversy over this question, which remains an area of open inquiry. It is not necessarily “resistance” to the role of consciousness within the problem, but rather the fact that no formal, unequivocal mechanism has been identified to model or understand how consciousness might be present. The experiments are still open to differing interpretations. There’s a new book (2018) by and for physicists about the collapse called Collapse of the Wave Function - unfortunately, the book is prohibitively expensive (150$ to 200$).

As I understand James (he is not “easy” to understand, however), he is positing a kind of “conscious field” instead of agency. We are very close to the idea of “agencement” as it came up in the discussion on Erin Manning’s book - indeed Erin draws heavily from James’ work in making her arguments. And remember James was writing before Heidegger, before Whitehead and the others. I think his writing is worth investigating in more detail - it contains the germinal forms of many of the ideas that resurge in other writers/philosophers over the course of the 20th century.

I, too, would like to see Rosen come on as a guest, if we can get this organized. He straddles the worlds of physics and integral ideas in ways that are unusual and I suspect highly knowledgeable.