Course Descriptions


The foundation of Mythological Studies at Pacifica is the close reading of primary texts from a variety of cultural and religious traditions. These courses encourage interdisciplinary scholarship, giving particular attention to myths, iconography, symbols, religious beliefs, and ritual practices. Historical and contemporary approaches to the study of myth are also carefully reviewed.

The Arthurian Romances of the Holy Grail MS 502, 2 units

An exploration of the origins and development of the mythologies of the Arthurian knights and quests for the Holy Grail. The course begins with the sacred traditions of the European Middle Ages, as manifested in the literature and arts of the period and then tracks the transmission and transformation of the myths in the Romantic and Modern periods of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Hindu Traditions MS 503, 2 units

This course examines the primary Indian mythic complex embodied within Vaishnava, Shaiva, and Shakta traditions. Special attention is given to prominent myths and symbols, epic literature and other primary texts, as well as influential philosophies and practices such as Yoga, Sankhya, Vedanta, and Tantra. Depth psychological interpretations of key thematic issues and spiritual practices are also examined.

Greek and Roman Mythology MS 505, 2 units

This course explores the most important contemporary approaches to the study of classical mythology. Its focus on how the poets of ancient Greece and Rome reworked inherited mythic themes and plots entails close readings of the cultic, bardic, and lyric poetry of the archaic period and the dramatic poetry of 5th century Athens. It also looks at the very different Roman understanding of myth conveyed in the epic poems of Virgil and Ovid. Attention is given both to the role these myths played in their original historical context and to their ongoing archetypal significance. As Nicole Loraux has observed, “There is no statement about Athens that does not nourish very contemporary passions.”

African and African Diaspora Traditions MS 506, 2 units

The myths and rituals of Africa are a rich legacy, still vital today. Moreover, they endure in adaptive form, in Vodou, Santeria, and other religions of the African Diaspora. The course explores common mythic characters, themes, rituals, symbol systems, and worldviews in Africa and traces their connection to New World Traditions.

Myth and Philosophy MS 515, 2 units

This course examines the historical relationship between myth and philosophy in the West. Rationality and science emerged as the revolutionary critique of myth, but that revolution is not beyond criticism. Myth represents a meaningful expression of the world, different from, and not always commensurate with, the kind of understanding sought by philosophers. The notion that philosophy has corrected the ignorance of the past is challenged while philosophy itself is shown to exhibit elements of the mythic world from which it emerged.

Native Mythologies of the Americas MS 522, 2 units

This course explores the meanings of selected mythic texts from North American, Mesoamerican, and South American traditions. It considers these texts not only in regard to their manifest narratives and images, but also seeks an understanding of their potential interpreters. This factor, involving history and hermeneutics within a context of Euro-American colonialism, presents important methodological as well as political issues for working in mythological studies, and the course engages such issues as it surveys these texts.

Greek and Roman Mythology II MS 705, 2 units

This course explores the critiques of myth and poetry put forward by Plato and Aristotle in 4th century Greece, as well as the new understandings and revisionings of myth put forward in the Hellenistic period and in early imperial Rome. Particular attention is given to the works of Virgil, Ovid, and Apuleius.

Yoga Spiritualities: Traditional and Contemporary MS 707, 2 units

Yoga has become a transnational phenomenon. Over 20 million Americans practice modern postural yoga. However, yoga is far more than physical exercises that engender flexibility, health, and an attractive body. Traditionally, yoga is a philosophy and array of psycho-spiritual practices designed to liberate human beings from existential suffering and the limitations of conditioned experience—a worldview and praxis that often seeks a transcendence that eclipses the value of worldly existence. This course examines how core teachings and practices of traditional yoga derived from classical texts are reframed in contemporary culture. Modern sages such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, and Sri T. Krishnamacharya revision yoga spirituality as a means of addressing challenging social, political, and environmental issues. In this way, contemporary yoga spiritualities seek Self-realization and freedom in the world rather than beyond it. Special attention is given to the immanent presence of the divine in nature and the human body, the role of goddesses in yogic practices, kundalini, chakra symbolism, and the complementarity of yoga and depth psychology.

Colloquium MS 540, 640, 740, 1 unit each

This series is an exploration of critical issues pertaining to the study of myth in relation to religious traditions, literature, depth psychology, and culture. The course is based on a guest lecture by a major scholar in the field of mythology. Pass/No Pass

Ritual and the Embodied Mythic Imagination MS 603, 2 units

Myth and ritual are inextricably related. This course proposes that ritual offers an equally eloquent, though non-discursive, commentary on the human condition. The aims are: to make students familiar with classic theories of ritual process; to explore comparatively fundamental ritual phenomena across cultures, such as initiation, divination, purification and healing, pilgrimage, sacrifice, masking, and funerary rituals; and to assess the association of myth and ritual in religious traditions and depth psychology.

Buddhist Traditions MS 605, 2 units

This course focuses on selected aspects and primary texts of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. Particular attention is given to the life story of Shakyamuni Buddha, as well as the myths associated with major bodhisattvas. Key thematic issues, doctrines, and contemplative practices are examined from philosophical, feminist, and depth psychological perspectives.

Alchemy and the Hermetic Tradition MS 616, 2 units

This course focuses on the Hermetic tradition (broadly conceived as a synthesis of alchemy, Kabbalah, Platonic philosophy, theology, and mythology) from its Egyptian, Greek, and Arabic origins during the Hellenistic era, to its development in the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. The approach is interdisciplinary, embracing Jungian psychology, literature, music, and the visual arts.

Egyptian Mythology MS 717, 2 units

The mythology that informs the ancient Egyptian way of life and death is the subject of this course. It explores the principal Egyptian creation myths, gods, goddesses, motifs, symbols, temple ritual, pyramid building, and mummification. The night sea journey of the sun god Re and that of the deceased Pharaoh, and eventually of all deceased Egyptians, is studied through Pyramid, Coffin, and mortuary texts, particularly the Amduat. The Isis and Osiris myth receives particular attention, and its reverberations across literature, alchemy, and depth psychology are followed.

Hebrew and Jewish Mythology MS 702, 2 units

This course studies Hebrew and Jewish monotheism from a mythological perspective. The focus is on the emergence of monotheism in early Israel and on trying to understand the ways in which this mythic system differs from polytheistic traditions. Attention is given to how this mythology develops and changes in relation to changing historical circumstances, not only within the Biblical period but throughout the course of Jewish history.

Christian Traditions MS 703, 2 units

This course examines Christian narratives, images, archetypes and symbols within a historical context. It provides an epistemological basis for a mythological and depth psychological hermeneutics. Key themes include cultural influences and theological paradigms of the Greek East and the Latin West, mysticism, iconoclasm, and post-Reformation worldviews.

Islamic Traditions MS 608, 2 units

This course explores the major historical traditions of Islam, including Sufism, as well as modern religious movements. Special attention is given to central themes in the Qur’an and the life of Mohammad. The cultural clash between Islam and the West is also examined.


These courses focus on the interpretation of classical literature, poetry, and literary works from the medieval, modern, and postmodern periods.

Cultural Mythologies I, II, III MS 514, 614, 714, 2 units each

These courses are taught on a periodic basis as means for investigating a cultural tradition or thematic topic that is not addressed in the current curriculum.

Joseph Campbell: Metaphor, Myth, and Culture MS 516, 2 units

Following on Joseph Campbell’s insight that “metaphor is the native tongue of myth,” this course explores the centrality of myth in subjects as diverse as history, cosmology, religion, and poetry as well as the wide range of world narratives as inflections of one great monomyth. These explorations examine the nature of mythic consciousness and provide insight into the power of myth in psyche and culture.

Folk and Fairy Tales MS 602, 2 units

This course studies the origins, structure, and interpretations of folk and fairy tales with a focus on the archetypal mythological symbolism of the stories. In addition, the course will explore the re-visioning of fairy tales in the folk ballad tradition, fairy tale illustrations, and postmodern literature. Finally, the course analyses and critiques the various theories of interpretation of folktales.

Epic Imagination MS 604, 2 units

Epics are stories created by poets to give an entire people a sense of their history and their destiny. As stories that give shape and coherence to the collective myth, epics engage the figure of the epic hero, who either breaks through the conventional wisdom of the people or re-establishes their most profound wishes.

Myth and the Underworld MS 619, 3 units

This course explores the changing faces of the mythologies associated with the underworld, in representative Ancient, Classical, Medieval, Romantic, Victorian, and Modern texts. What was the primary focus of the myth in each of these periods? How does it reflect the changing spiritual, psychological, intellectual, and social issues of these periods? The course emphasizes the syncretic aspect of the mythologies of the underworld, which typically bring together motifs from a wide range of artistic, literary, and spiritual traditions.

Personal Myth and Creative Writing MS 613, 2 units

This course combines the fields of mythological studies as well as the theory and practice of creative writing. Its intention includes: defining the nature of myth generally and personal myth specifically; utilizing cursive writing as an expressive art form to shape one’s meditations on myth both personally and collectively; discovering the psychic patterns imbedded in students’ writings that expose many of the contours and creative impulses that give form to the myth we are living within; exploring the energy fields out of which arise the specific novelty of one’s personal mythology. The course includes body movement, exercises in active imagination, as well as poetry and short story writing. Other areas of the course include mimesis, imagination, depth psychology, neurology and creativity to supplement the above works.

Myths of the Self: Memoir and Autobiography MS 726, 3 units

This course examines the mythic aspects of two literary genres (memoir and autobiography) and engages questions concerning the relation of memory and the imagination, the individual and the archetypal, self and others, and narcissism and guilt. Attention is given to classic examples of the genres, as well as reflections on the defining characteristics of these genres by literary critics, depth psychologists, and feminists. Pass/No Pass

Dante’s Commedia: A Triple Journey into Depth and Individuation MS 727, 2 units

Beginning with a brief study of La Vita Nuova, a collection of Dante’s poems that placed him on the poetic path to write his grand work, the Commedia, this course studies the three canticas that comprise the poem: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Through a close reading of the text, students engage in Dante’s progression through these three stages of increased awareness to investigate the 14th century mythos that guided the poet and to ask what relevance such a worldview might have for us today.


Depth psychology is an important resource for the study of myth, literature, religious traditions, and culture. These courses draw substantially on the work of Freud, Jung, and Hillman and provide hermeneutical approaches that complement methods used in other disciplines such as religious studies and literature.

Jungian Depth Psychology MS 511, 2 units

Key Jungian concepts such as the collective unconscious, archetypes, and the individuation process are surveyed with attention to the evolution of these theoretical constructs. The influence of Jung’s ideas on the arts, literature, and religious thought is explored.

Dreams, Visions, Myths MS 521, 2 units

Examination of dreams arises out of certain assumptions: that psyche is nature revealing herself in images, that psyche is multidimensional, and that the images of dreams give form to the various expressions of psychological life. The focus is on dream theory and amplification methods. Pass/No Pass

Archetypal Psychology MS 611, 2 units

The depth psychology of C.G. Jung and his successors enables us to see how mythology expresses psychology and how psychology may be understood as mythology. Special attention is given to insights from James Hillman’s archetypal psychology, including the notions of personifying, pathologizing, psychologizing, and dehumanizing. The works of other post-Jungian writers are also examined to exemplify selected aspects of the archetypal approach.

Psyche and Nature MS 615, 2 units

Geographies of paradise, wilderness, frontier, desert, and ocean are mythic interior landscapes as well as external habitations of divinities and demons, where individuals experience tests, revelations, and illuminations. This course explores external landscapes and their (archetypal) analogues as mythopoetic spaces to discern how mythic consciousness is rooted in the poetry of landscapes.

Mythic Motifs in Cinema MS 626, 3 units

A myth, like a movie script, is a story that is false outside (not a true story) and true inside (like a symbol). The power of film to provoke emotions comes from the archetypal core of all conflicts that define human nature. Each generation of artists re-interprets the eternal stories to evoke the everchanging cultural context. Using a mythological approach, the instructor presents selected portions of films to isolate the universal archetypal pattern at play. It also offers an explanation for mistakes and failures to evoke an emotional response from the audience.

Sex and Gender MS 609, 2 units

Every culture seems to have had myths and rituals through which it has sought to contain and constrain human sexuality and to define gender roles. This course will focus on Hindu and Graeco-Roman traditions and on ostensibly post-mythic contemporary attempts to move beyond the binarisms so central to the traditional understanding, though it will also include reference to indigenous American and Jewish-Christian perspectives.

Comic Books as Modern Mythology MS 621, 2 units

From comic books and graphic novels to blockbuster films based on superhero characters, mythological and archetypal material is exploding in popular culture. Through a variety of academic lenses, this course considers the comic book genre alongside, and as part of, such divergent disciplines as mythological studies, comparative religion, and gender and cultural studies, with an eye toward the (im)possible capacities of the (super)human psyche. The combined reading of comic books and recent superhero films alongside and as part of critical discourse from within historical, theoretical, and depth psychological traditions, empowers students to unpack and interpret a variety of mythological themes and examine their impact on contemporary culture.

Evolving God-Images and Postmodernity MS 711, 2 units

Nietzsche’s announcement of the “death of God” still ripples through the Western psyche. Against the backdrop of individual and cultural dependence on a fundamental mythos, this course examines Godimages in the context of secularization, religious pluralism, and postmodern network culture. Attention is also given to Jung’s recovery of soul, the retrieval of the divine feminine, and other emergent forms of postmodern spirituality. Self-inquiry is conjoined with critical reflection on the relationships between religion, culture, and the psyche. Pass/ No pass.

Graphic Mythologies MS 708, 2 units

This course explores the ancient roots of the so-called “graphic novel” in the postmodern tradition. Those roots include the synthesis of text and image that we find in the Egyptian Books of the Dead, the Mayan Codices, and, more recently, Jung’s Red Book—all of which fuse narrative and image in ways that pre-figure, enrich, deepen, and challenge those associated with such forms of expression as comic books, graphic novels, video games, and animated films.


Research skills are cultivated through a series of courses leading to dissertation writing.

Approaches to the Study of Myth MS 620, 2 units

An exploration of philosophical, artistic, literary, musical, and psychological approaches to myth, from Antiquity to Modernism. The course will introduce the student to the major schools of the interpretation of myth, with a focus on key figures in the field. In addition to theoretical approaches to myth, the course will explore responses to myth in major works of film, painting, literature, and music. Finally, the course will track changing approaches to certain key myths as they reflect the theoretical and artistic preoccupations of different periods (Classical, Renaissance, Romantic, and Modernist).

Methods and Contemporary Issues in Religious Studies MS 720, 2 units

In many ways Religious Studies can be seen as a forerunner of Mythological Studies. Awareness of the debates that shaped this field and the methodological approaches that emerged from them can help students determine how best to hold the phenomenon of myth up to view. The aim of this course is to understand these various possible approaches and the wider implications of those choices.

Research Strategies for Dissertation Writing MS 730, 2 units

This course examines dissertation research options supported by the program including theoretical studies in the humanities, humanistic social sciences approaches, and production style projects. It explores the technical aspects of conducting research such as style, rhetoric, and utilization of library resources. The psychological aspects of research and writing processes are also addressed. Pass/No Pass

Dissertation Formulation MS 733, 2 units

The issues, tasks, and processes of conducting research and drafting initial concepts are addressed. This course provides the framework for implementing a research idea and writing the concept paper which serves as the basis for the dissertation proposal. The classes also teach strategies and techniques for research and completion of the concept paper. Pass/No Pass. No incompletes are allowed in MS 733.

Special Topics in Mythological Studies MS 599abc, 699abc, 799abc, .5 units each

This course consists of lectures by institute faculty and guest speakers on a wide range of topics pertaining to myth, religious traditions, literature, depth psychology, and culture. The lectures provide opportunities or learn about traditions, text, and themes that are beyond the scope of other courses and/or to present alternative perspectives on course material. Pass/No Pass

Comprehensive Exam MS 800, .0 units

The purpose of this course is to enable students to consolidate and integrate their learning during the second year of the program. The course also serves as the Comprehensive Exam in the program. Students must successfully pass this exam to be eligible for the M.A. degree. The exam allows the faculty to assess students’ understanding of theoretical perspectives on myth, and their ability to apply these perspectives to a particular cultural tradition; their understanding of myth and literature; and how depth psychological perspectives may be utilized to understand cultural phenomena. Pass/No Pass

Self-Directed Studies MS 970, 3.5 units

The purpose of Self-Directed Studies is to allow students to explore areas of interest in mythological studies and depth psychology 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 disciplinary components of the program: mythology and religious traditions; myth and literature; depth psychology and culture. Student must complete a total of 35 hours and submit a reflective 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 a self-directed studies coordinator. Pass/No Pass

Dissertation Writing MS 900, 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. Pass/No Pass. Prerequisite: MS 733