Mythological Studies

Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2024

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.

Request More Information

The Mythological Studies Program at Pacifica

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

State Authorization: Click to View States Pacifica is Authorized to Enroll By Program.

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 operates on the underlying assumption 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. Myth 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. Faculty Emeritus explains Mythological Studies at Pacifica

Contact the Admissions Advisor
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 in the 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—religion, popular culture, politics, the environment, and the arts. 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 African Diaspora and 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; memoir and autobiography.
  • Depth psychological courses devoted to the perspectives of Sigmund Freud, C. G. Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, James Hillman, and Joseph Campbell.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. Mentoring throughout matriculation on the program is available from core faculty members. Two journals provide students with opportunities for publication in academic and creative writing. The curriculum is further augmented by an annual colloquium lecture given by distinguished guest scholars—such as Maria Tatar (Harvard University), Jeffrey Kripal (Rice University), and Yvonne Chireau (Swarthmore College)—who address critical issues in the study of myth and contemporary culture. 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.

Program Goals

The program’s curriculum is designed to help students achieve six primary learning objectives or goals that are distributed across four domains of the curriculum:

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

Mythology and Religious Traditions
  • Interpret the primary myths and rituals of a variety of religious and cultural traditions.
Myth and Literature
  • Interpret the mythological and archetypal aspects of literature.
Depth Psychology and Culture
  • Critically apply the hermeneutics of depth psychology with optional application of other contemporary theoretical approaches.
  • Interpret the mythic themes and dynamics that are present in contemporary events and popular culture.
Research and Scholarly Writing
  • Critically evaluate and utilize scholarly approaches.
  • Critically evaluate cultural assumptions, especially those pertaining to diversity.

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.

Mythological Studies Program Benefits:

  • Personal and professional enrichment and transformation catalyzed by the deep engagement with the power of mythological imagery.
  • The spiritual and intellectual growth that comes from studies in the liberal arts and the humanities.
  • An understanding of the multicultural diversity represented by the world’s great traditions of mythology, literature, and religion.
  • A deep appreciation of the importance of mythology in the history of art, music, and philosophy.
  • A dynamic engagement with the archetypal energies of the dream, seen through the lens of the depth psychology of Freud, Jung, Hillman, and Von Franz.
  • Enhancement of the fundamental skills of writing, deep reading, and research.
  • A profound understanding of the cultural mythologies of Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Native Americas, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Alchemy, and Judaism.
  • An understanding of gender and sexuality in mythological studies.
  • An understanding of the complex interrelationships between Psyche and Nature.
  • Intimate knowledge of the canonical works of Classical, American, European, and World Literature.
  • An understanding of the sustained power of myth in contemporary art, music, literature, and film.
  • An understanding of the mythological dimension underlying contemporary events and history.

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.

Li Sumpter, PhD (2014)
Li Sumpter, Ph.D. (2014)
Li Sumpter is a multidisciplinary artist and independent scholar who applies strategies of worldbuilding and mythic design toward building better, more resilient communities of the future. Li’s creative research and collaborative design initiatives engage the art of survival and sustainability through diverse ecologies and immersive stories of change. Li is a cultural producer and eco-arts activist working through MythMedia Studios, the Escape Artist Initiative and various arts and community-based organizations in Philadelphia, PA, and across the country. Li has taught courses on Myth and the Media, Film and Ecology, and Afrofuturism at Haverford College and Moore College of Art and Design. She also teaches special topics for youth and adult courses at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Barnes Foundation, and Fleisher Art Memorial. Li was a recipient of the Sundance Institute and Knight Alumni grant, a 3-time recipient of the Leeway Art and Change Grant, and a 2022 nominee for the distinguished Pew Fellowship.

Joanna Gardner
Joanna Gardner, Ph.D. (2019)
Joanna Gardner is a writer, mythologist, and magical realist. She co-founded and co-leads the Fates and Graces Mythologium, an annual conference for mythologists and friends of myth. Joanna serves as Managing Editor on the Educational Task Force of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, and as a thought leader with the think-tank iRewild, where she works on the EcoStories initiative. Joanna’s research focuses on creation myth and the creative process. Her publications appear in a variety of venues, many of which you can find on her website,

Devon Deimler
Devon Deimler, Ph.D. (2019)
Devon Deimler is a writer, artist, and scholar. She is adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute in both the Mythological Studies and Depth Psychology and Creativity programs. She is also Curator of exhibits and events at OPUS Archives and Research Center (home to the collections of James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, Marija Gimbutas, and more), Scholar-in-Residence at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, and previously worked as North American Mythological RoundTable Coordinator for the Joseph Campbell Foundation. Devon’s dissertation, Ultraviolet Concrete: Dionysos and the Ecstatic Play of Aesthetic Experience, won the Institute’s Dissertation of Excellence award. She is currently writing a monograph on the work of archetypal psychologist and dramaturg, Nor Hall.

John Bucher, PhD (2019)
John Bucher, Ph.D. (2019)
John Bucher is a mythologist, storyteller, and writer based out of Hollywood, California. He serves as Creative Director for the Joseph Campbell Foundation and is also an author, podcaster, and speaker. He has worked with government and societal leaders around the world as well as culturally impactful companies including HBO, DC Comics, The History Channel, A24 Films, Atlas Obscura, Star Wars Celebration and The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation. He has served as a producer, consultant, and writer for numerous film, television, and Virtual Reality projects. He is the author of six books including the best-selling Storytelling for Virtual Reality, named by BookAuthority as one of the best storytelling books of all time.  Disruptor has named him one of the top 25 influencers in Virtual Reality. John has spoken on 6 continents about using the power of story and myth to reframe how individuals, organizations, cultures, and nations believe and behave.

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.


Joseph Campbell Scholarship Offered to newly admitted students entering into the M.A/Ph.D. Mythological Studies program. Average awards range from $2,000-$3,000. The number and amount of individual awards is contingent upon the number of eligible applications received. This scholarship is renewable provided recipients meet the required grade point average.

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.

Request Information

Learn More

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.

*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 89 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.

Enroll Today

Apply Now

For information regarding Pacifica’s M.A./Ph.D. in Mythological Studies, 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.