Course Descriptions

The Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness program courses are grouped into three broad areas:


Courses in this area introduce the paradigms central to the program’s approach and seek to place the current era in historical context, reflecting society’s transition into a post-Christian secular age. Courses consider the influences of feminism, ecological concern, and post-patriarchal consciousness in understanding and interpreting the psychology of religious consciousness. This area also includes research courses, providing students with the skills and methodologies needed for doctoral research and preparing them for dissertation writing.


Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness in Context PRC 710, 3 units

This course approaches the Psychology of Religion from a historical and theoretical perspective and introduces students to the study of consciousness. The course uncovers the occult and Spiritualist influences on both disciplines through an examination of four founding figures of modern psychology: Frederic Myers, William James, Sigmund Freud, and C.G. Jung. Students engage with William James’ perennial question regarding the scope and limits of human consciousness, and ask, if consciousness can extend “beyond the margins” of our ordinary, waking selves, what might constitute not only its limits, but the farther reaches of consciousness as well?


Spirituality Without Religion in a Secular Age PRC 711, 3 units

Consistent data over the past several decades has shown a decline in “organized religion” among general populations in the U.S. and Europe. Yet, at the same time, these same cultures have witnessed a tremendous growth in “spirituality” – often without any corresponding religious tradition or belief. The emergence of multiple and diverse “Spiritual But Not Religious” movements can clearly be articulated with a growing scholarly body of work behind several. This course examines this phenomenon in the context of an increasingly secular landscape that remains avowedly “spiritual,” and the new (counter)cultural movements that have since emerged.


Foundations in the Study of Consciousness PRC 712, 3 units

Starting with the foundational philosophical questions “what is consciousness?” and “what is it like to be conscious?” this course considers and critiques prevailing materialist and dualist views of consciousness in comparison to panpsychism and panexperientialism. Examining the relationship of consciousness to the mind and brain, students explore the idea of consciousness as an emergent phenomenon associated with complexity of material organization. The notion of an “evolution of consciousness” with specific consideration of the possible religious or spiritual value or telos behind such an evolution is at the heart of the course, alongside the related proposition that there are different levels and/or structures of consciousness. Western views of consciousness are compared and contrasted with non-Western perspectives, especially understandings of consciousness in the spiritual traditions of India. Figures covered in the course might include David Chalmers, Susan Schneider, Max Velmans, John Searle, David Fontana, Harald Atmanspacher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, and Ken Wilber.


Research Methodologies PRC 910, 3 units

An introduction and overview of key theoretical approaches to conducting scholarly research in the fields of psychology, religion, and consciousness, with an emphasis on inter-disciplinary inquiry. Key methodological areas of hermeneutic inquiry include: spiritual and transpersonal approaches; feminist and de-colonial perspectives; consciousness studies in the humanities; and arts-based research. Students are encouraged to formulate an appropriate working methodology that will serve as the foundation of their dissertation research question.


Written Comprehensive Exam PRC 800, 0 Units

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. Students must pass this capstone requirement of the program in order to receive the MA degree as well as to continue into Year 3 of program coursework. Pass/No Pass


Dissertation Development PRC 911, 3 units

This course provides the framework for implementing a research idea and writing a concept paper for the dissertation, and prepares students for the task, guiding them through the crafting of a research project, and developing the concept paper. In this course, students learn how to navigate through the dissertation landscape, including forming a committee, organizing the project, and confronting psychological roadblocks along the way.


Dissertation Writing PRC 980, 15 units

Under the supervision of a Dissertation Committee, students submit a proposal, conduct original research, write and defend a doctoral dissertation. Additional fees will be assessed for this course. Prerequisite: PRC 911; Pass/No Pass; No Incompletes


Self-Directed Studies PRC 970, 3 units

Self-Directed Studies allows students to explore areas of interest in psychology, religion, and consciousness studies outside the boundaries of the curriculum. This may take the form of attending conferences, workshops, lectures, and/or seminars; engaging in relevant depth transformative practices; participant-observation research or fieldwork; or other training that augments the three inter-disciplinary components of the program. Student must complete a total of 30 hours and submit a reflection paper; this may occur anytime during the course of the program, and is required for the awarding of the Ph.D. All hours must be pre-approved through discussion with the Self-Directed Studies Coordinator. Pass/No Pass


Courses in this area focus on psychological models, theories, and practices that offer expanded views of the nature and scope of consciousness and the psyche, drawing especially on depth, transpersonal, Buddhist, feminist, ecological, and Indigenous psychologies and cosmologies.


Jungian Psychology I: Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche PRC 732, 3 units

This course introduces students to the main elements of C.G. Jung’s psychology of the unconscious. Key theoretical concepts, such as persona, ego, archetype, shadow, anima/us, and the Self are unpacked and explored. Jung’s more advanced notions of a transcendent function of the psyche, synchronicity, and the “psychoid” nature of reality are considered. The course integrates Jung’s contributions to the study of human consciousness through his formative and influential dialogue with theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli.


Jungian Psychology II: Psychology and Religion PRC 832, 3 units

This course examines C.G. Jung’s writings on religion as psychologist, comparativist, and theoretician, and offers an in-depth exploration of Jung’s writings on religion with an emphasis on his methodology and comparative psychology of religion. Topics addressed include Jung’s therapeutic “treatment” of Christianity – particularly through his Answer to Job – as well as Jung’s sustained interest in Eastern traditions, such as kundalini yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, and the psychology of meditation. Emphasis is placed throughout the course on Jung’s notion of a “religious function” of the psyche, and concludes with an overview of Jung’s formative and influential discovery and psychological re-thinking of medieval alchemy.


Psychedelic Spirituality, Transpersonal Psychology, and Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness PRC 830, 3 units

Known by many names – psychedelics, entheogens, sacred or plant medicines, allies, hallucinogens – the substances opening the psyche to the depths of the personal and collective unconscious are once again in the news in the midst of what has been called a “psychedelics renaissance.” This course places the contemporary exploration of psychedelics within the context of depth psychology and the path of individuation. The course provides a basic grounding in theoretical frameworks, including factors that impact experience (“set and setting”). Attention will be given to issues of cultural misappropriation, ethics, shadow, and legality.


Ecology, Religion, and Consciousness: Beyond Anthropocentrism PRC 730, 3 units

Through engagement with a variety of approaches, including eco-psychological, transpersonal, multicultural, and liberatory lenses, this course examines how western, globalized corporate cultures have over-developed the individual ego, thereby minimizing not only connection with nature, but with the larger human and more-than-human communities as well. A component of this course will be to (re)establish an ecological self through eco-embodied and nature-based practices.


Dionysian Consciousness: Gender, Nature, and Post-Patriarchal Spirituality PRC 731, 3 units

Dionysos, Greek god of wine, intoxication, sensory experience, theatrical excess, and initiatory madness, is also an androgynous god of gender fluidity and sexual liberation, whose cult was led predominantly by and for women, and who was the deity most beloved of Earth. Dionysian consciousness has hinged on paradox, cycles of death and rebirth, and especially transcendence of repressive conditions and crises. This course interprets gender, nature, and post-patriarchal spirituality in a Dionysian key, by taking their ideational and mythic histories apart and re-membering them in forms befitting present mad contexts and speculative futures. Dionysian logic – inherently transdisciplinary, creative, theatrical, and communal – must be taken in parts; not only through the eyes of Dionysos, but also through additional archetypal perspectives that play key roles in his thiasos, such as Ariadne, Pan, Apollo, the vine, and the Night.


Buddhist Psychologies of Consciousness PRC 834, 3 units

In ancient India, sometime around 500 BCE, a new species of spiritual seeker emerged known simply as śramaṇa (renouncer). Untethered from tradition and dogma, the śramaṇa looked inward and explored first-person altered states of consciousness in search of enlightenment. The historical Buddha was a śramaṇa and Buddhism is a śramaṇa spiritual tradition that, over the centuries, has developed a robust program for exploring consciousness through philosophy, meditation, and ritual. It is an embodied approach that equally engages the intellect along with the somatic. This course approaches consciousness through a variety of theories and practices drawn from primary Buddhist sources, as well as more recent philosophical, religious, and scientific investigation.


Indigenous Psychologies and Cosmologies PRC 831, 3 units

Indigenous psychologies emerge from various epistemologies, ontologies, and cosmologies that center interdependence, relationship, and stewardship of natural resources and biodiversity. Through the exploration of various Indigenous ways of knowing and being, this course critically challenges imperial forms of knowledge and seeks to construct mutually enriching worldviews in partnership with silenced Indigenous traditions in order to decolonize our current rampant and destructive materialism, and address imperative issues of cultural and ecological genocide.


Archetypal Cosmology and the Evolution of Consciousness PRC 930, 3 units

Introducing the emerging discipline of archetypal cosmology, with its roots in ancient Greek philosophical speculation, Jungian psychology, and the symbolic system of astrology, this course considers the relationship between modes of consciousness and the archetypal structure of the universe. It is especially concerned with the different archetypal dimensions of the individuation process and religious experience designated by the four planetary archetypes associated with Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Studying the cycles of these planets and their correlations with events in cultural history and individual biography, the course critically examines the relationship between the inner and outer dimensions of our experience—between psyche and cosmos—as it places the evolution of consciousness in a cosmological context.


Courses in this area focus on specialist topics, including contemplative spirituality, Nietzsche’s vision of the future form of the human self, and advanced studies in mysticism and Gnosticism. This area of courses offers students the critical tools for engaging more deeply with historical traditions while creatively reimagining future horizons and inter-disciplinary directions.


The Death of God: Nietzsche, Nihilism, and the Ubermensch PRC 951, 3 units

Nietzsche is arguably the most influential philosopher of the late modern age, heralding the “death of God,” the entrance into a post-Christian era, and anticipating many of the crises of the postmodern. Vehemently rejecting past religious dogma, Christian ethics, and metaphysics, Nietzsche sought to liberate the human spirit to reclaim its nobility and realize its great potential through self-overcoming and the unflinching affirmation of life. Moving through nihilism and in the midst of great personal suffering, Nietzsche discovered within himself a vision of a future possibility for human evolution: the Ubermensch or Overman. Influential on many of the twentieth century’s most prominent thinkers, including Jung, no assessment of religion and spirituality in our time can fail to reckon with Nietzsche. This course surveys major elements of Nietzsche’s thought, focusing especially on his most celebrated text, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.


Comparative Mysticism: From Perennial Philosophy to Participatory Spirituality PRC 952, 3 units

A methodological course with an emphasis on interpretation (hermeneutics) in the cross-cultural and inter-religious study of mysticism. Major themes and theories examined include comparative approaches to the study of mysticism; perennialism, contextualism, and “pure consciousness” debates; feminist and queer theories; psychoanalysis and self-reflexivity; and the recent “participatory turn.” Students explore various historical traditions and “case studies” from Christian, Sufi, Kabbalist, and tantric traditions, and engage with each through the variety of interpretive tools and comparative lenses offered throughout the course.


Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas PRC 850, 3 units

This course is an advanced seminar on Gnosticism, a collection of religious movements and teachings concerned with the quest for liberation from cosmic imprisonment in an oppressive reality governed by metaphysical powers. This liberation is to be achieved through knowledge (gnosis) of our deep inner identity with a spiritual being (the “alien God”) transcending the material world. Throughout the course, through a close reading of Gnostic texts and scholarship, we will critically consider the central themes and tenets of a Gnostic vision of existence, including the ways Gnosticism both complements and throws down a radical challenge to accepted interpretations of biblical teachings, and potentially offers the modern world a path to emancipatory psychospiritual insight and transformation.


Technology and the Posthuman: The Future of Soul and the Basis of Consciousness PRC 950, 3 units

Technology now largely defines our environment and way of life. Tools we once picked up and put down have given way to ubiquitous computation, mediating our relationships with others, with ourselves, and with the world. Extrapolating this trend, many foresee a posthuman existence in which virtual reality and artificial intelligence radically transform both mind and body. This prospect presents a deep challenge to our current conceptions of the psyche and notions of soulful living. This course examines these matters, drawing on perspectives from techno-science, philosophy, cultural studies, and depth psychology. Psychopathology in the Digital Age, the archetypal background of innovation, the role of consciousness, and the counter-cultural response to technocracy are examples of some of the topics that may be covered.


Contemplative Spirituality Practicum PRC 851, 3 units

This course provides students with a foundational knowledge in contemplative practices and pedagogy, and offers an introduction to the fields of Contemplative Studies and Contemplative Psychology. Students will be required to select a contemplative practice of their choice (e.g., yoga, meditation, Centering Prayer, Sufi dervish, etc.) and engage with that tradition throughout the duration of the course. Through self-directed research and self-reflexive inquiry, students will explore the historical and theoretical dimensions of their chosen discipline as “scholar-practitioners,” and present their findings in a capstone project.