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Cosmos and Psyche
The well-travelled road to disaster

Geoffrey Dean

The original review, of which this is a much-expanded version, appeared as "Saving a disenchanted world with astrology" in Skeptical Inquirer 30(4), July/August 2006.

Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View
By Richard Tarnas. Penguin Viking, 2006.
ISBN 0-670-03292-1. 569 pp. Hardcover, $29.95.

Abstract -- Richard Tarnas is a professor of philosophy and depth psychology in San Francisco. He is convinced that astrology works, and that it promises an escape from the disenchanting scientific world view. His claim is based on thirty years of research with birth charts and historical events, examples of which fill the major part of this thick book. The examples are drawn from philosophical, religious, literary and scientific sources and involve two kinds of comparisons, namely historical events versus aspects between the outer planets Jupiter through Pluto, and prominent people versus their birth charts. In each case he explains what the particular archetype means, and then shows how it can be discerned in the events or births that are coincident with it. But his approach has fatal defects. Mostly he looks at isolated factors, often with very wide orbs, and not the whole chart. Birth data and birth charts are rarely given. No controls are used despite being essential. Similar work by other astrologers is generally ignored and scientific studies are dismissed -- even Gauquelin rates only a passing mention. Despite his erudition, Tarnas seems incapable of writing concisely or vigorously, or of organising his material coherently. Once the noise is removed the flaws become obvious and the case falls apart. Unless you see the combination of paralysing unreadability, inferential incompetence, and unfounded conclusions as a virtue, give this book a miss.

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