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The Gods at Play: Archetypal Powers and Patterns in the Arts

Richard Tarnas

As ancient poets and modern depth psychologists have long recognized, the arts represent an especially vivid expression of the archetypes that inform and inspire the human psyche. The aim of this weekend’s program is to provide a rewarding interplay of instruction and entertainment, each enhancing and illuminating the other.

The capacity to discern archetypes – the cultivation of what James Hillman called an “archetypal eye” – requires not only our thinking but our emotions, imagination, aesthetic and moral intuition, our bodies: our whole being. Because the arts engage all these dimensions of the human sensibility, these presentations will use representative works of art as windows into the archetypal character of different eras and individuals, and into the archetypes themselves.

We’ll focus especially on major examples from music and comedy. Music provides perhaps the most profound and direct expression of the archetypal psyche, reaching back to the earliest origins of human culture, capable of touching the depths of our souls. Comedy is ancient as well: the Trickster, whether in the individual psyche, in a tribe or a royal court, or commenting on a presidential campaign, is crucial to the self-regulating and regenerative play of the whole. It is the agent of the unconscious, rebelling against the conventional rulers, speaking the truth from below.

Our approach will be facilitated by the combined lenses of depth psychology and archetypal astrology, which permit an extraordinarily precise focus on the specific archetypal complexes most prominently at work in a given individual, work of art, or cultural era. More details.

As ancient poets and modern depth psychologists have long recognized, the arts represent an especially vivid expression of the archetypes that inform and inspire the human psyche. The aim of this weekend’s program is to provide a rewarding interplay of instruction and entertainment, each enhancing and illuminating the other.

The capacity to discern archetypes – the cultivation of what James Hillman called an “archetypal eye” – requires not only our thinking but our emotions, imagination, aesthetic and moral intuition, our bodies: our whole being. Because the arts engage all these dimensions of the human sensibility, these presentations will use representative works of art as windows into the archetypal character of different eras and individuals, and into the archetypes themselves.

We’ll focus especially on major examples from music and comedy. Music provides perhaps the most profound and direct expression of the archetypal psyche, reaching back to the earliest origins of human culture, capable of touching the depths of our souls. Comedy is ancient as well: the Trickster, whether in the individual psyche, in a tribe or a royal court, or commenting on a presidential campaign, is crucial to the self-regulating and regenerative play of the whole. It is the agent of the unconscious, rebelling against the conventional rulers, speaking the truth from below.

Our approach will be facilitated by the combined lenses of depth psychology and archetypal astrology, which permit an extraordinarily precise focus on the specific archetypal complexes most prominently at work in a given individual, work of art, or cultural era. More details.

Richard Tarnas, Ph.D. is a professor of philosophy and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. He also teaches archetypal studies and depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of the Western world view used in many universities, and Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, which will be the basis for the upcoming documentary, Changing of the Gods, narrated by John Cleese. Richard Tarnas frequently lectures abroad as well as at various Jung institutes and societies throughout the U.S., and served for many years on the Board of Governors of the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.