Mythological Studies

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By discerning the underlying similarities and threads in the world’s myths and traditions, we better understand our shared humanity, while honoring the diverse ways human beings live and make meaning of their experience.

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The Mythological Studies Program at Pacifica

M.A./Ph.D. in Mythological Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology

As the only doctoral program in the country dedicated to the exploration of human experience through the interdisciplinary and multicultural study of myth, ritual, religion, literature, depth psychology, and art, the Mythological Studies Program cultivates scholarship, self-inquiry, and imagination in those who seek to understand and express the depths of the psyche. The program is richly informed by the pioneering works of Sigmund Freud, C.G. Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, James Hillman, and mythologist Joseph Campbell, who taught that myth has the power to touch our deepest creative energies, and to generate symbolic images that confer significance upon the complexity of modern life and history. It thrives on paradox, ambiguity, and the shape-shifting ways that metaphor informs and transforms our lives. Cultivating the mythic imagination leads to self-revelation and a profound and dynamic understanding of cultures—both of our own and others.

The curriculum as a whole is animated by two basic questions: How is this material meaningful to me in my life and work, and how is it meaningful to the world within which I live? The sequence of course work provides a sustained inquiry into the diverse mythologies of the world, situating them in the global context of the postmodern world. Throughout the program, students engage in the close reading of classic works of world literature, including Homer’s Odyssey, the Greek tragedies, the Hebrew Bible, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the medieval grail legends, and fairy tales. The rituals and contemplative practices of religious traditions are investigated along with mythic and archetypal aspects of modern literature, contemporary events, and popular culture. Several methods of scholarly interpretation are taught with a special emphasis on the hermeneutical approaches of depth psychology.


Patrick Mahaffey, Ph.D. and Core Faculty member explains Mythological Studies at Pacifica

At the cusp of a paradigm shift in which outmoded mechanistic, reductive modes of thinking are being replaced by more complex, reanimated worldviews, the study of myth, story and fable has an exciting new relevance. The study of myth with its storehouse of narratives and images can help guide us by facilitating our personal and collective transition into a more vibrant reality. Myth reveals the unconscious narratives of both past and present, making the study of myth vitally important to our time. Issues of faith and violence, sexuality, the sacred and the secular, all co-mingle to weave the stunning tapestry that comprises mythological studies.

Guided by internationally recognized scholars, authors, and educators, Pacifica’s Mythological Studies Program invites students to understand the mythological, folkloric, and archetypal structures of the stories that play out in many different arenas all around us—politics, the environment, education, and religion. The program explores new ways to detect and study the mythic and folkloric motifs revealed in current events, tell stories in ways that bring consciousness to important issues and events, and mentor others in the power of storytelling to transform and renew culture.

Inquiry is sustained through course work sequences that investigate:

  • Similarities and differences that may be discerned within and between indigenous traditions, Hinduism and Buddhism, and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • Courses that begin with the classics and progress toward contemporary and postmodern re-visionings in literature, film, music, and art.
  • Personal development courses on dreams, visions, and myths; personal mythology and creative writing; evolving God-images in the context of postmodernity; and memoir and autobiography.
  • Depth psychological courses devoted to the perspectives of Sigmund Freud, C. G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, and James Hillman.
  • Research courses on theoretical approaches to the study of myth, ritual, philosophy, methods and contemporary issues in religious studies, and dissertation writing.

Students consolidate their learning through a sequence of special topics courses taught by alumni who utilize their training in their professional careers as well as by distinguished faculty members from other Pacifica programs, including Stephen Aizenstat, Susan Rowland, and Joseph Cambray. A student literary journal provides students with opportunities for publication. The curriculum is further augmented by an annual colloquium lecture given by distinguished guest scholars—such as Robert Segal (University of Aberdeen), Maria Tatar (Harvard University), and Jeffrey Kripal (Rice University)—who address critical issues in the study of myth and contemporary culture. Students are mentored by core faculty throughout their matriculation through course work. Graduates of the program enrich their personal and professional lives through the transformative power of myth. Alumni utilize their degree in a range of professions such as education, psychology, healthcare, the arts, filmmaking, religion, business, politics, law, and community and environmental affairs.

The program is designed as an integrated M.A. and Ph.D. sequence with courses in four areas of study:

  • Mythology and Religious Traditions
  • Myth and Literature
  • Depth Psychology and Culture
  • Research

Students in the Mythological Studies Program:

  • Investigate mythologies and cultural traditions through the lenses of religious studies, literature, and depth psychology.
  • Discover recurring mythic themes in classic and contemporary literature, ritual, theater, art, music, film, and philosophy, and explore their cultural, sociopolitical, and historical contexts.
  • Uncover the common patterns in human life throughout much of history and the varied ways human beings live and make meaning of their experience through the study of diverse cultural mythologies.
  • Engage in the transformative experiences of deep reading, scholarly and creative writing, and generative discussions that advance our personal mythology in relation to communities and culture.

What You Can Do With A Mythological Studies Degree

Graduates of the program enrich their personal and professional lives through the transformative power of myth, developing highly advanced and universal skill sets useful in a broad range of professions such as education, psychology, healthcare, the arts, film-making, religion, business, politics, law, and community and environmental affairs.

Our alumni include:

Kwame Scruggs
Kwame Scruggs, Ph.D. (2009)

Kwame Scruggs is Founder and Executive Director of the Ohio-based nonprofit Alchemy Inc., which uses mythological storytelling, drumming, and mentorship to assist urban adolescent males develop a sense of life purpose. Dr. Scruggs accepted the 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House on November 19th, 2012, for his work using myths and drumming to empower urban youth.


Janet Bubar Rich
Janet Bubar Rich, Ph.D. (2010)

Janet Bubar Rich is a Board Member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Greater Los Angeles Chapter, and author of several books and book chapters. Dr. Rich, through her writing and speaking, hopes to nourish the imagination as she delves into the mythic sense of everyday life, offering connections that help us meet life’s challenges with curiosity, confidence, meaning, and ease. Her publications include Riding on Horses’ Wings, Hestia: Goddess of the Hearth, and Exploring Guinevere’s Search For Authenticity In The Arthurian Romances.


William Linn
William Linn, Ph.D. (2015)

William Linn is Director of General Education at the Relativity School in Los Angeles, CA. He has also co-hosted a radio show that he created for the Santa Barbara News Press and Joseph Campbell Foundation Mythological Round Tables called Mythosophia (available on iTunes), in which he interviewed leading story artists and scholars from such territories as myth and religion, sci-fi and fantasy, visions and dreams, rituals, novels, films, comics and other storytelling formats and mediums.


Susan Chaney
Susan Chaney, Ph.D. (2015)

Susan Chaney is Academic Dean at Southwest Acupuncture College. Her doctoral dissertation explored how desire is a motivator for individual change and growth. Her interdisciplinary approach included mythological studies, religious studies, depth psychology, neurobiology, alternative healing, and movement arts, and presented practices that integrate the mind, body, and emotions through conscious awareness and the body’s natural senses.


Mythological Studies Scholarship Programs

The Joseph Campbell Scholarship Fund is for the M.A/Ph.D. Mythological Studies Program. A number of the scholarships are offered to newly admitted students in the Mythological Studies Program based on extreme financial hardship, academic merit, and content of essay.

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Chair & Faculty

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.

Curriculum Overview

The Master of Arts degree is awarded after the first two years of study and successful completion of a comprehensive examination. 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.

Mythological Studies classes take place once each month during fall, winter, and spring. There is also one five-day summer session each year.

*Writing projects for this course take place away from campus. This 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 82 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 70 points. The M.A. degree is awarded when this is achieved along with the completion of 45 quarter units. To be eligible to continue taking course work for the Ph.D. degree, students must receive at least 80 points for each exam question.
  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 myth, as well as their ability to apply them to particular cultural traditions. It also assesses students’ ability to reflect on myth in relation to depth psychology, literature, and cultural issues. In addition, an oral consultation takes place in the Dissertation Formulation 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 be advanced to candidacy.

Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation requirements include successful completion of the advanced research courses: Religious Studies Approaches to Mythology, Research Strategies for Dissertation Writing, and Dissertation Formulation. 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 Mythological Studies Program.

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For information regarding Pacifica’s M.A. and Ph.D. Mythological Studies Program, please contact Rene Marchington, Admissions Advisor, at 805.879.7309 or rmarchington@pacifica.edu.


For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attend this program please visit the Gainful Employment page. 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.