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Record Type: Review   ID: 717

The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View

Tarnas, Richard

 This is one of the most highly acclaimed intellectual works I have known. I certainly can do no better than the author, in describing what this book attempts. "My aim," writes Tarnas, "has been to provide . . . a coherent account of the evolution of the Western mind and its changing conception of reality. . . . The following account traces the development of the major world views of the West’s mainstream high culture, focusing on the crucial sphere of interaction between philosophy, religion, and science" (pp. xiii-xiv). The impetus for writing the book was the "epochal transformation" in which the Western mind is currently engaged. He writes: "I believe we can participate intelligently in that transformation ... only to the extent to which we are historically informed. Every age must remember its history anew. Each generation must examine and think through again, from its own distinctive vantage point, the ideas that have shaped its understanding of the world. Our task is to do so from the richly complex perspective of the late twentieth century" (p. xiv). There are six major sections: The Greek World View, The Transformation of the Classical Era, The Christian World View, The Transformation of the Medieval Era, The Modern World View, The Transformation of the Modern Era, and an Epilogue. In the latter, he notes that until now the whole impulse of Western culture has been masculine, but today he sees that "an epochal shift is taking place in the contemporary psyche, a reconciliation between the two great polarities, a union of opposites: . . . between the long-dominant but now alienated masculine and the long-suppressed but now ascending feminine" (p. 443). He sees the greatest challenging facing the Western mind today "is for the masculine to undergo an ego death in order to reintegrate with the repressed feminine." So only can the feminine be "fully acknowledged, respected, and responded to for itself . . . not as the objectified ‘other,’ but rather [as] source, goal, and immanent presence" (p. 444).
Publisher Information:New York: Ballantine Books, 1991. 544p. Bibl: 494-512; Index: 515-544
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