Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness

Enrolling for Fall 2024 Pending Approval from the U.S. Department of Education

The fully online PRC program critically considers the psychology of religious experience across a wide range of disciplines and examines the nature of religious consciousness as it arises both individually and collectively.

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M.A./Ph.D. in Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness

“It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different…. How to regard them is the question.”

~ William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

The study of human consciousness traverses a wide range of phenomena, including advances in the psychology of the unconscious, religious and spiritual experience, near-death experience and altered states of consciousness, the mind-matter problem, as well as the broad spectrum and phenomenology of consciousness itself. Pacifica Graduate Institute’s online MA/PhD program in Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness rigorously and creatively engages with such diverse and wide-ranging phenomena, and dialogically synthesizes these vital areas of academic inquiry into a unique inter-disciplinary graduate-level education.

The emergence over the past fifty-plus years of a reinvigorated, pluralistic, and spiritually diverse culture has demonstrated increasing numbers of people eschewing traditional religious belief and practice in favor of experimental, individualistic, and highly syncretized spiritual paths. In response to the prevailing secularism of modern society and the decline of traditional religions, such people find themselves embarking on a quest for deeper life meaning, self-knowledge, and direct religious experience, often within the context of alternative or emerging communities. One need only consider the plethora of practices and perspectives now available—depth psychology, transpersonal psychology, integral theory, yoga, shamanism, psychedelics, mindfulness, esotericism, mysticism, global mythologies and nonwestern religions, creative arts, Indigenous practices, new-paradigm sciences, ecological consciousness, and more.

This program seeks to critically consider the context in which this situation has arisen, to explore and examine the psychology of religious experiences and practices across a wide range of disciplines, and to consider the nature of religious consciousness as it arises both individually and communally. The approach is both theoretical – and to a certain extent – experiential, with students sampling certain practices or considering forms of spirituality as ways of life through the living examples of specific individuals, cultures, and emerging paradigms. An inter-disciplinary approach that integrates the tools and traditions of depth psychology, religious studies, and consciousness research serve as guiding paradigms within which to explore broader as well as more focused curricular topics, with disparate and often diverse disciplines juxtaposed and brought into dialogue, potentially yielding emergent creative syntheses and new knowledge. The program also considers the extent to which the areas and approaches studied here might form part of a holistic, integral vision of human spirituality in relation to nature and the planet. Throughout, the program will address the pressing problems and crises of our time, including the growing ecological crisis, post-patriarchal religion and spirituality, the violation and exploitation of nature, the restitution of Indigenous and marginalized psychologies and cosmologies, and the emergence of globalized consciousness.  


  1. Demonstrate ability to articulate and apply key concepts and approaches derived from relevant perspectives in psychology, religion, and consciousness studies.
  2. Critically analyze theoretical approaches in the study of psychology, religion, and consciousness.
  3. Conduct research that makes an original scholarly contribution.
  4. Demonstrate introspective capacities and a depth psychological or religious sensibility in the exploration and understanding of both personal and collective experience.
  5. Evaluate the study of psychology, religion, and consciousness in relation to other disciplines and to historical and cultural contexts.
  6. Demonstrate the capacity for structured thought, and the clear articulation and persuasive communication of theories and perspectives in the psychology of religion and consciousness studies.
  7. Analyze the significance and practice of psychology, religion, and consciousness studies to 21st century conditions, including globalization, ethical concerns, diversity, and multiple ways of knowing.


  • Postdoctoral research in the psychology of religion, comparative religion or religious studies, consciousness studies, cultural studies, depth psychology, transdisciplinary studies, and cognate areas.
  • College professor / university lecturer in the above areas.
  • Government and non-profit think-tanks and research bodies dealing with complex problems and future trends, such as commentary on social patterns and practices.
  • Psychotherapists and healers with a special interest in spirituality.
  • Guides, coaches, and mentors in the areas of transpersonal psychology and spirituality.
  • Workshop leaders and authors of popular books, articles, and blogs on spiritual matters.


Education Assistance The Education Assistance Scholarship is sponsored by Pacifica Graduate Institute and offered to new and returning students based on extreme financial hardship and strong academic excellence. Awards are made annually at the beginning of each academic year. The award is $1,000 to be equally divided over the academic year. This scholarship is not renewable, and students must apply each academic year. Students enrolled in the PhD and PsyD Dissertation phase of their programs are not eligible for scholarship consideration.

Yellow Ribbon Matching Scholarship Pacifica Graduate Institute is pleased to announce that we have entered into an agreement with the Veteran’s Administration in support of veterans continuing their education under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Pacifica has agreed to provide up to ten Yellow Ribbon Scholarships each year for qualifying veterans under the Post 9/11 GI Bill on a first-come first-serve basis. Students in the M.A. Counseling program will qualify for up to $6,500 per year, M.A. Engaged Humanities and Creative Life will qualify for up to $5,400 per year, and those in the doctoral programs will qualify for up to $7,800 per year.

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Chair & Faculty

The faculty members of Pacifica’s M.A./Ph.D. in Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness bring a passion for education and a wealth of real-world experience into the classroom. As leaders in their fields, the members of Pacifica’s faculty include academic authors of international acclaim, renowned lecturers, skilled classroom facilitators, depth psychologists, historians, psychologists, and philosophers of religion, and committed critical thinkers. All Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness 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 Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness, then read the individual descriptions below.

Curriculum Overview

The Master of Arts degree is awarded after the first two years of study and successful completion of the comprehensive examinations. Students seeking the doctorate degree engage in a third year of course work that includes a sequence of research courses and the development of a concept paper for the dissertation. The fourth and fifth years of study focus on dissertation writing and research. Continuing supervision is provided for the completion of the dissertation.

The live, online portion of PRC classes takes place twice per week during fall, winter, and spring quarters. There are no courses offered during the summer quarter.

*The curriculum may vary depending upon evolving academic needs. The required fourth and fifth years of study focus on reading, research, and dissertation writing.

Graduation Requirements

Degree Requirements For Graduation

  1. Students must complete 72 quarter units to fulfill the unit requirement for graduation.
  2. A minimum grade of “C” is required in each completed course. A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained.
  3. Students must attend at least two-thirds of each course.
  4. Students must successfully pass a Comprehensive Examination during the second year of course work. Each exam essay must receive at least 80 points. The M.A. degree is awarded when the Comprehensive Exam is successfully completed along with 36 quarter units. To be eligible to continue coursework towards the Ph.D. degree, students must complete the Comprehensive Exam and 36 units of coursework.
  5. Students must pass an Oral Consultation pertaining to a concept paper for the dissertation.
  6. Students must submit and defend an original dissertation accepted by the faculty.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination is a written exam taken during the second year of the program that examines students’ understanding of theoretical perspectives pertaining to the core competencies of the three PRC program areas. In addition, an oral consultation takes place in the Dissertation Development course during the third year of the program. The purpose of this assessment is to raise critical questions pertaining to the proposed dissertation project. Students must successfully incorporate the critique of this consultation into their dissertation concept papers in order to advance to candidacy.

Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation requirements include successful completion of the advanced research courses offered in the third year of the program. Students must produce an acceptable Dissertation Concept Paper before enrolling in Dissertation Writing. The Dissertation Committee is composed of a Chair, a Reader, and an External Reader. Each member must possess an earned doctorate degree based on a dissertation, unless this requirement is waived by the Research Coordinator of the PRC Program.

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For information regarding Pacifica’s Online M.A./Ph.D. in Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness, please contact the Admissions Advisor, at 805.879.7305, or at
All of Pacifica Graduate Institute’s degree programs are accredited by the Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC) and the Department of Education to offer financial aid.