Dissertation Title:

Sacred Illness: Breast Cancer and the Dark Feminine


Alice Proskauer Arnold

Date, Time & Place:

March 21, 2016 at 2:00 pm
Studio, Lambert Road campus


This work explores the phenomenology of numinous experiences during a time of critical illness and how these experiences create healing. Diagnosed with breast cancer as I was beginning research on the power of numinous experiences, this work evolved into a partial memoir of my dreams during illness and recovery. Because numinous experiences are a powerful revelation of the sacred, they bring an awareness of the unification of psyche and matter which provides a healing consciousness. Through a discussion of the breast in the context of the archetype of the feminine and a mythopoetic amplification of dreams, this work explores how tending numinous dreams can transform a scary illness into a sacred illness. The archetype of the feminine is explicated through the symbolism of the breast as an expression of the divine feminine. The historical view of the breast as a bodily representation of the Great Round of life, death and rebirth, is offered as a framework for the particular psychological devastation that breast cancer causes. Through an imaginal approach and the methodology of alchemical hermeneutics, healing dreams are amplified within the context of archetype of the feminine, and particularly the dark aspect of the Great Mother. Ultimately, the mythopoetic and archetypal images lead to the healing source deep within the trauma, the dark feminine. This depth psychological approach to facing breast cancer provides tools for others to understand dreams as a source of healing.



This is due to Pacifica’s conditional use permit, which restricts campus parking. Please call 896-1887 or 896-1888 for a shuttle pickup from the Best Western. A Pacifica shuttle driver will pick you up within 10 minutes or so and take you to the campus.

Thank you for your kind consideration

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology, Track J, 2008
  • Chair: Dr. Lionel Corbett
  • Reader: Dr. Monika Wikman
  • External Reader: Dr. Sylvia Perera
  • Keywords: Breast Cancer, Numinous, Healing Dreams, Archetype Of The Feminine, Great Mother