Archetypal astrology is a branch of astrology, influenced by Jungian and post-Jungian depth psychology, that studies the connection between the changing positions of the planets in the solar system and archetypal patterns in human experience. It is practiced by a growing number of archetypal astrologers and by some Jungian therapists.[1] It is different from archetypal psychology and some forms of psychological astrology in that the archetypes are seen as cosmological, rather than merely psychological principles.


In archetypal astrology, planetary configurations in the solar system are thought to bear a significant and coherent correspondence with archetypal themes and patterns evident in human experience. Archetypal astrology combines techniques drawn from conventional forms of astrology with an understanding of archetypes and the psyche emerging from the psychological theories of C. G. Jung, James Hillman, and Stanislav Grof. The term archetypal cosmology is used to refer to the academic discipline based on archetypal astrological analysis.[2]

Richard Tarnas' book Cosmos and Psyche is an example of archetypal astrology. Tarnas believes that "nature of astrology is to be archetypally predictive, not concretely predictive":

That is, when we know what a particular planetary alignment is, there is a wide range of ways in which that particular transit or natal aspect can manifest in our life and still be precisely reflecting the archetypal principles involved. But you cannot predict exactly which way it's going to come out in advance on purely astrological terms. I believe that an understanding of astrology as archetypally rather than literally predictive is both more true to the reality of astrology and more empowering in its support of human autonomy. It supports the ever-evolving capacity of the individual human being, with her free will and reflective consciousness, to bring forth the highest potential manifestation of a given archetypal complex, rather than simply be a puppet of it. The beauty of the astrological perspective and the gift it represents is that it provides us with a capacity to know what energies are constellated at a given time; this gives us a greater freedom to express these energies and embody them in a more intelligent and life-enhancing way, rather than just react or "act out" the archetypal complex in a predetermined or fatalistic way.[3]

In Cosmos and Psyche, Tarnas explores correlations between planetary cycles and discernible patterns in world cultural history and biographies of prominent individuals. Since 2008, Tarnas’s work has been carried forward by a new academic journal, Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, edited by Keiron Le Grice and Rod O’Neal, which includes figures such as Stanislav Grof, Chris Bache, Robert McDermott, Brian Swimme, and Jorge Ferrer on its advisory board. According to the website for the Archai journal, archetypal astrology combines “rigorous astrological methodology with the archetypal perspective emerging from modern depth psychology” to analyze the “shifting patterns and cycles of world history, culture, art, and individual biography.”[4]

Background and influences

The fundamental claim of archetypal astrology is that human experience is shaped by archetypal principles. This perspective has its origins in ancient mythic conceptions of gods and goddesses, like the Olympian pantheon of ancient Greece. Archetypal astrology is also influenced by the Platonic conception of transcendent universal Forms existing behind the phenomenal world. More recently, the idea of archetypes was set forward in Jungian analytical psychology and James Hillman’s archetypal psychology. Particularly relevant to archetypal astrology is Jung’s idea of psychoid archetypes, which are organizing factors of both psyche and cosmos, and his exploration of synchronicities connecting the inner and outer worlds. Archetypal astrology extends Jung’s understanding of archetypes by connecting them to the universal principles associated with the planets.[5] In archetypal astrology, each planet is thought to be associated with a planetary archetype that possesses a range of related meanings.

Regarding its astrological lineage, archetypal astrology grew out of modern psychological astrology developed by Dane Rudhyar, Stephen Arroyo, Liz Greene, Robert Hand, and others. These were the first to explicitly connect astrology to Jung’s ideas and to humanistic and transpersonal perspectives. This modern psychological reformulation of astrology assisted its popular resurgence, especially from the time of the 1960s counterculture. Tarnas began using the term archetypal astrology in the late 1970s during his research with transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof, a collaboration that appeared to demonstrate astrology’s capacity to illuminate the archetypal content of different types of non-ordinary states of consciousness. According to Le Grice:

Working together at Esalen Institute in California, where they came into contact with astrological practitioners, Grof and Tarnas began to explore whether astrology could be used to help understand the widely varying non-ordinary states of consciousness arising during experiential therapy sessions. Despite their initial skepticism, to their astonishment they found that personal transit analysis was a reliable method of illuminating the archetypal themes, stages, and experiences encountered during these sessions, far surpassing in accuracy and predictive power all other forms of psychological diagnostics. Encouraged by this successful application of astrology, Tarnas then turned his attention to the wider culture, applying methods of astrological analysis and interpretation to the study of biographies and world history.[6]

For example, Tarnas suggests that historical periods occurring in coincidence with major alignments between the planets Uranus and Pluto are often characterized by an increased pace of cultural and technological evolution or by revolutionary turbulence and tumult, as in the period of the French Revolution in the years around 1789 and during the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. By contrast, periods when the planets Saturn and Pluto are in major alignment, such as during the start of the two world wars and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, are, Tarnas claims, typically associated with a collective “atmosphere of gravity and tension,” and with “profoundly weighty events of enduring consequence.” Tarnas maintains that historical periods such as these reflect qualities and themes associated with the specific combinations of planets that are in alignment at those times.[7]

In The Archetypal Cosmos: Rediscovering the Gods in Myth, Science and Astrology, Keiron Le Grice attempts to show how the ideas of scientists David Bohm, Fritjof Capra, Rupert Sheldrake, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Brian Swimme, can be combined with Jungian psychology to provide an explanation of archetypal astrology. Le Grice also argues that archetypal astrology can provide a new mythic world view, connecting Jung’s and Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology to the planetary alignments studied in archetypal astrology.[8]

See also


  1. Shelley Rabinovitch, James Lewis, "Neo-Paganism and Psychology" in The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, 174 Citadel (2002) [1]
  2. Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, vol 1:1, [2]
  3. "Cosmos and Psyche: An Interview with Richard Tarnas" by Ray Grasse, Associate Editor for The Mountain Astrologer[3]
  5. Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche:Intimations of a New World View, New York:Viking, 2006. See also, Keiron Le Grice, "The Birth of a New Discipline: Archetypal Cosmology in Historical Perspective" in Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, vol 1:1
  6. Le Grice, "The Birth of a New Discipline: Archetypal Cosmology in Historical Perspective" in Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, vol 1:1
  7. Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche:Intimations of a New World View, New York: Viking, 2006.
  8. Keiron Le Grice, The Archetypal Cosmos: Rediscovering the Gods in Myth, Science and Astrology, Edinburgh: Floris Books, 2010.
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