Elizabeth Greene: An inspiring look inside the state of humanity

“He looked at his own Soul with a Telescope. What seemed all irregular, he saw and shewed to be beautiful Constellations; and he added to the Consciousness hidden worlds within worlds.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, quoted in Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams and Reflections.

Every once in a while, someone comes to town and brings ideas that inspire and challenge the minds and hearts of religious, spiritual, philosophical and just plain old wondering people.

Every once in a while, a scholar comes along who speaks clearly and understandably about truly religious matters, like the fate of humankind, like how our collective fate merges with our individual soul choices, like how there might be evidence of grace in our world.

Every once in a while, there arrives on our doorstep a person with a brilliant mind and the heart of a poet, someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously, but who gives our hearts and minds hope and light and reality and connection.

Dr. Richard Tarnas is one of those people. He is a professor of philosophy and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he founded a graduate program in philosophy, cosmology, and consciousness. He wrote a brilliant and engaging book that basically changed my life, “The Passion of the Western Mind.” (Now a required text in many universities.) He received Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network in the United Kingdom, for Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View.

More importantly to a lot of us, he is a solid thinker with enough mysticism, poetry and Jungian ideas to feed our whole questing selves, to keep us going, to just be glad he is in the world.

And Tarnas will be in Boise this coming weekend, sponsored by Idaho Friends of Jung. On Friday, April 24, at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 6800 Garrett, he will reflect on the question “Is Humanity Undergoing a Rite of Passage?” On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., he will conduct a workshop on synchronicity. (For more information, go to )

Here’s where I bog down in trying to describe what Tarnas will be sharing with us, and why it is so important. Is humanity undergoing a rite of passage? What on earth might he mean? Well, on the one hand, he does not deny that we here on earth — all life here on earth — face the most critical, even catastrophic, state of Earth in human history. On the other, he sees increased global awareness, moral sensitivity to the human and nonhuman community, and the potential for nobility. Plus, he brings each of us, in our individual struggles, into better awareness of how our journeys affect the collective journey, how our moral and spiritual and ethical choices affect humanity’s possible “rite of passage.”

His workshop on synchronicity delves into that fascinating subject of the “coincidences” we experience all the time in our lives. Jung coined the term, and it has been explored vigorously for decades: What do these “accidents” mean? If we are religiously or spiritually inclined, can we call them providence or grace? Whatever we call them, what do they mean and how do we know? Can we be better, more conscious people because of them?

We Unitarian Universalists — and a whole lot of other religious people — believe passionately that each and all of us need to work toward embracing more and more of life in all its richness. We believe that our religious practices mean little without courageous, faithful attention to the world and universe we live in. We believe that mystery unfolds when we have the generosity and the strength and the courage to live with open eyes and ears and hearts and souls.

Richard Tarnas challenges us, lifts us up, makes us laugh, and stands with us as we make this journey with all the integrity and holiness we can muster. I hope you will join us.