Faculty Biographies - Mythological Studies

The Faculty members of Pacifica's M.A./Ph.D. in Mythological Studies bring a passion for education and a wealth of real-world experience into the classroom.
As leaders in the fields, the members of Pacifica's faculty include authors of international acclaim, renowned lecturers, practicing psychologists, active psychotherapists, registered nurses, theologians, and philosophers.
All Mythological Studies faculty members share a passion for education and are dedicated to working with adult learners. To learn more about the faculty in the M.A./Ph.D. in Mythological Studies, then read the individual descriptions below.

Program Chair

Evans Lansing Smith

Evans Lansing Smith, Ph.D. has degrees from Williams College, Antioch International, and The Claremont Graduate School. He is the author of ten books and numerous articles on comparative literature and mythology, and has taught at colleges in Switzerland, Maryland, Texas, and California, and at the C.G. Jung Institute in Kusnacht. In the late 1970s, he traveled with Joseph Campbell on study tours of Northern France, Egypt, and Kenya, with a focus on the Arthurian Romances of the Middle Ages and the Mythologies of the Ancient World. His books include: Rape and Revelation: The Descent to the Underworld in Modernism; The Descent to the Underworld in Literature, Painting, and Film: 1850-1950: The Modernist Nekyia; The Myth of the Descent to the Underworld in Postmodern Literature; Ricorso and Revelation: An Archetypal Poetics of Modernism; Figuring Poesis: A Mythical Geometry of Postmodernism; The Hero Journey in Literature; Sacred Mysteries: Myths About Couples in Quest; Postmodern Magus: Myth and Poetics in the Works of James Merrill; and Thomas Pynchon and the Postmodern Mythology of the Underworld. His areas of emphasis include: Myth in Literature from Antiquity to Postmodernism; Arthurian Romances, and The Hermetic Tradition.

He currently teaches: Myth and the Underworld; Alchemy and Hermeticism; Arthurian Romances and the Grail; Folklore and Fairytales; Theoretical Approaches to Mythological Studies; Cultural Mythologies; and Native Mythologies of the Americas.

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Core Faculty

Patrick Mahaffey

Patrick Mahaffey, Ph.D., helped found the program in 1994 and has served as its chair for 18 years. His Ph.D. in Religious Studies is from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is Editor of Evolving God-Images: Essays on Religion, Individuation, and Postmodern Spirituality. His areas of emphasis include Hindu and Buddhist traditions, Comparative Philosophy of Religion, Contemplative Practices, and Mysticism. He has conducted participant-observation research in India and practices Hindu and Buddhist meditation. He has published essays on Hindu yoga traditions; Jung's Depth Psychology and Yoga; Religious Pluralism; World-Making and Postmodernity; and Religion in America.

He currently teaches: Hindu Traditions; Buddhist Traditions; The God Complex and Dissertation Formulation.

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Christine Downing, Ph.D., is a core member of the faculty at Pacifica. She has made extensive scholarly contributions to the fields of Religious Studies, Mythology, and Gender Studies. She is Professor Emeritus in Religious Studies from San Diego State University where she taught for almost twenty years. She has also taught concurrently at the San Diego campus of the California School of Professional Psychology, and at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. She lectures frequently to Jungian groups both here and abroad. Her undergraduate degree is in literature is from Swarthmore College, while her Ph.D. in Religion and Culture is from Drew University. Dr. Downing is the author of numerous scholarly essays and important books in the field: The Goddess; Myths & Mysteries of Same-Sex Love; Psyche's Sisters; Long Journey Home; Women's Mysteries; and Gods in Our Midst. Collections of her essays have also been published: The Luxury of Afterwards; Preludes; and Gleanings. Her areas of emphasis include: Greek Mythology; Women's Studies; and Psychoanalysis.

She currently teaches: Greek and Roman Mythology I; Greek and Roman Mythology II; Hebrew and Jewish Mythology; and Myths of the Self: Memoir and Autobiography.

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Dr. Laura Grillo, Pacifica Graduate Institute

Laura S. Grillo, Ph.D., is core faculty in the Mythological Studies program. She earned her Ph.D. in History of Religions from the University of Chicago, specializing in contemporary indigenous West African religions. She also holds a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and an A.B. from Brown University in Religious Studies and Psychology. She is a published author of numerous academic articles on comparative religious studies for encyclopedias, scholarly journals and chapters to edited anthologies. In addition, she has translated work in her field from French to English. Her research on West African divination won her grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Academy of Religion and the West Africa Research Association. She is currently completing a work of creative nonfiction on this same theme, a memoir about her life in Ivory Coast and her investigation of divination. In support of this effort she won several Writers' Residency Fellowship awards at artist colonies including The Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In 2013 she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, working on a book on "Female Genital Power in Ritual and Politics in Côte d'Ivoire." Her areas of emphasis include: Theory and Method in History of Religions; Comparative Religions; Cultural Anthropology; African and African Diaspora Religious Traditions; Gender Studies and Post-colonial Studies.

She currently teaches: African & African Diaspora Mythologies; Ritual and the Embodied Mythic Imagination; Theory and Methods in Mythological Studies; and Dissertation Formulation.

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Ginette Paris, Ph.D.

Ginette Paris, Ph.D., is a core member of the faculty at Pacifica. She was originally trained as a Social Psychologist at the University of Montréal, Canada, and was concurrently trained and licensed as a Clinical Psychologist. She taught for 20 years in the Department of Communications at the State University of Québec before joining Pacifica in 1995. Her books include: Pagan Grace and Pagan Wisdom which explore the archetypal way of understanding Greek and Roman gods. Her latest book, Wisdom of the Psyche: Depth Psychology after Neuroscience (Routledge, 2007) has been translated into several languages and brought her invitations to lecture internationally. She teaches and lectures in Jungian and post Jungian approaches, especially the theory and practice of Archetypal Psychology.

She currently teaches: Archetypal Psychology and Neuroscience; Mythic Motifs in Cinema; Research Strategies for Dissertation Writing; and Dissertation Writing.

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Dennis Patrick Slattery Ph.D.

Dennis Patrick Slattery Ph.D., is a core faculty member who helped shape the development of the Mythological Studies program. He has been teaching for 44 years from elementary to secondary, undergraduate, and graduate programs. He has received the prominent rank of Distinguished Core Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute. His areas of emphasis include the poetic imagination, writing and reading as mythic activities, the relation of psyche, spirit and matter, and the place of contemplation within the academic setting. He is the author of several books including: The Idiot: Dostoevsky's Fantastic Prince; The Wounded Body: Remembering the Markings of Flesh; Grace in the Desert: Awakening to the Gifts of Monastic Life; Harvesting Darkness: Essays on Literature, Myth, Film and Culture; A Limbo of Shards: Essays on Memory, Myth and Metaphor; Riting Myth, Mythic Writing: Plotting Your Personal Story; and Creases in Culture: Essays Towards a Poetics of Depth. With Lionel Corbett he has co-edited Depth Psychology: Meditations in the Field as well as Psychology at the Threshold. With Glen Slater, he has co-edited Varieties of Mythic Experience: Essays on Religion, Psyche and Culture. With Jennifer Selig, he has co-edited Reimagining Education: Essays On Reviving the Soul Of Learning. He is the author of three volumes of poetry: Casting Shadows; Just Below the Water Line; and Twisted Sky. He serves as the Faculty Advisor to Between, the student literary journal as well as The Mythological Studies Journal, the student on-line journal, both published by the Mythological Studies Program.

He currently teaches: Mythopoetic Images: Dante's Divine Comedy; Joseph Campbell: Metaphor, Myth, and Culture; Epic Imagination; Dissertation Development.

The following MP3 is from a recorded teleconference where Dennis Slattery gave a mini-lecture and led prospective students through the process of Riting Your Own Personal Myth. Prospective students read a small exerpt from Dennis's book Riting Myth, Mythic Writing: Plotting Your Personal Story before listening to the lecture.

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Glen Slater Ph.D.

Glen Slater Ph.D., has taught in the Mythological Studies Program since its inception. His academic background includes degrees in Religious Studies and Clinical Psychology. He edited and introduced volume three of James Hillman's Uniform Edition of writings, Senex and Puer, and he co-edited Varieties of Mythic Experience: Essays on Religion, Psyche and Culture (with Dennis Patrick Slattery). Glen has also written a number of articles for Jungian journals and essay collections. His areas of emphasis include: Jungian Psychology; Archetypal Psychology; Psychology of Religion; Technology and Psyche; and Cinema and Psyche.

He currently teaches: Jung's Depth Psychology; Psyche and Nature.

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Adjunct Faculty

Stanizai Cut 14

Zaman Stanizai, Ph.D. has a doctorate in Political Science and completed his postgraduate studies in Islamic Mysticism (Sufism) and Islamic Gnosticism (Erfan). He has taught at Kabul University, the University of Southern California, the University of California, Los Angeles, and several community colleges in Southern California. His of areas of specialization are: Islamic Studies; Sufism; Theosophy; Political Philosophy;and Poetic Expression in Mystical Thought.

He currently teaches: Islamic Traditions.

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Elizabeth Terzian, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Terzian, Ph.D. completed her PhD in the Mythological Studies Program and wrote a dissertation entitled, “The Aesthetics and Poetics of Light in Eastern Christian Iconography – A Mythopoetic Perspective.” She has an M.A. in Dance History from the University of California at Riverside. Her studies, at several universities and institutes in France and Lebanon, included Philosophy and Letters, training in classical ballet, and piano. She has presented and performed in a series of lecture-concert-demonstrations throughout California and taught at Loyola Marymount University, the University of California at Irvine, and at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has contributed essays, papers, book and film reviews to the Encyclopedia of Mythology on CD Rom, St James International Dictionary of Ballet, Dance Research, The Society of Dance History Scholars, Headline Muse, and Mythopoety.com. She is also an iconographer in the Byzantine style. Dr. Terzian serves on dissertation committees for students ad as the Research Coordinator for the Mythological Studies Program.

She currently teaches: Myth and Philosophy; Christian Traditions.


Paul Zolbrod, Ph.D. is a literary scholar who has also done on-site field research and participant-observation in tribal communities, particularly in the Southwest, and especially among the Navajos. He has taught at many colleges and universities and is the author of numerous books and essays including Diné bahane': The Navajo Creation Story. His areas of specialization are: Native American Oral Traditions; Medieval and Renaissance Literature; Early American Literature; and Epic Traditions.

He currently teaches: Native Mythologies of the Americas.

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