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Christine Downing

Christine Downing


  • Ph.D., Religion & Culture, Drew University

Christine is a core faculty member in the Mythological Studies Department, she has made extensive scholarly contributions to the fields of Religious Studies, Mythology, and Gender Studies. She is Professor Emeritus in Religious Studies from San Diego State University where she taught for almost twenty years. She has also taught concurrently at the San Diego campus of the California School of Professional Psychology, and at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. She lectures frequently to Jungian groups both here and abroad. Her undergraduate degree is in literature is from Swarthmore College, while her Ph.D. in Religion and Culture is from Drew University. Dr. Downing is the author of numerous scholarly essays and important books in the field such as:

Collections of her essays have also been published: The Luxury of Afterwards: The Christine Downing Lectures At San Diego State University 1995-2004. Her areas of emphasis include Greek Mythology, Women’s Studies, and Psychoanalysis. Curriculum Vitae (pdf)
(All the in-print books are available through the Pacifica Bookstore) Gleanings: Essays 1982-2006. Gleanings is a gathering of hitherto uncollected essays written by Christine Downing during the quarter century since the publication in 1981 of her seminal book, The Goddess: Mythological Images of the Feminine. Many of the essays continue her exploration of Greek goddess traditions and other aspects of Greek mythology. Others grow out of her ongoing involvement with the thought of both Freud and Jung. Theinterrelationship between polis and psyche, city and soul, is a central theme of several of these papers, including those that focus on the Holocaust. Various facets of lesbian and gay experience are also examined. Distrubances in the Field: Essays in Honor of David L. Miller. Spring Journal Books, 2006 Edited by Christine Downing A collection of essays in honor of David l. Miller (Professor of Religion Emeritus at Syracuse University and until recently a Core Faculty Member in Pacifica’s myth program) whose work explores the intersections of religions and mythologies, literature and literary theory, and depth psychology and theology. The volume includes essays by James Hillman, Thomas Moore, Wolfgang Giegerich, Ginette Paris, Glen Slater, Robert Romanyshyn, Greg Mogenson, Paul Kugler, and other leading scholars, Jungian analysts, and former students of Dr. Miller. Preludes: Essays On The Ludic Iimagination, 1961-1981, iUniverse, 2005. A collection of early essays by Christine Downing, author of The Goddess, Women’s Mysteries, The Luxury Of Afterwards. Topics explored include biblical theology, Greek mythology, Hasidism, dreams and daydreams, and jealousy. Several of the essays are drawn from Downing’s doctoral dissertation devoted to a study of Martin Buber. Other essays discuss the fiction of Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse and Heinrich Boll and the approaches to depth psychology of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Medard Boss and James Hillman. The book opens with autobiographical reflections by the author on the period in her life (1961-1981) during which these essays were composed and also includes a discussion of how the understandings of self put forward by Freud and Jung has transformed autobiographicalwriting. The Luxury Of Afterwards: The Christine Downing Lectures At State University 1995-2004, iUniverse, 2004. Christine Downing has graced the campus of SDSU, returning like Persephone each spring for the past ten years to deliver the annual lecture named in her honor. Printed here in their entirety, the talks are autobiographical, poetical, literary musings on the subjects that have occupied her for the past ten years, including the Holocaust, memory, the Bible, Martin Buber, Sigmund Freud, the myth of Orpheus, Greek tragedy, and the Imagist poet H.D. The Goddess: Mythological Images Of The Feminine. iUniverse 2007. In a series of chapters each focused on a different goddess or mythical woman, Christine Downing traces her own path of individuation from maiden-daughter to mature woman. She writes what is essentially an autobiography with an inner focus on her dreams and fantasies, and their meanings to her. She writes in a direct and intimate way, using to great but effortless effect her deep culture and wide learning Myths And Mysteries Of Same-Sex Love, iUniverse 2006. Myths and Mysteries is a remarkable book. A kind of Dionysius herself, Downing skillfully interweaves the personal and the scholarly, the spiritual and the erotic, accounts of her own male and female lovers, passion and grief. Myths and Mysteries offers important accounts of gay/lesbian experiences rarely explored and a vision of not one homosexuality, but many. Its explorations of the links between men’s fear of femininity and their fear of death sheds new light on the psychology of sexism and homophobia. And while it acknowledges the traumatic impact of AIDS on the gay/lesbian communities, the book’s predominant image is one not of loss but of infinite possibility. The Long Journey Home: Re-Visioning The Myth Of Demeter And Persephone For Our Time, Shambhala, 1994. The story of the mother-and-daughter goddesses Demeter and Persephone has seized the imagination of people in every age, from ancient times to the present. Considered today by many to be the archetypal myth for women, it touches on timeless themes, such as the male-female relationship, love between women, initiations into puberty and old age, the mother-daughter bond, death, and ecological renewal. Christine Downing has brought together essays, fiction, poetry, and even performance art with her own insightful commentary to shed new light on the myth’s ancient meanings and to offer new insights on its implications for contemporary men and women. Women’s Mysteries: Toward A Poetics Of Gender, Spring Journal Books, 2003. For the past thirty years or so, we have been richly endowed with articulate explorations of the sociology of gender, critical theory about gender, philosophies and theologies of gender and—both from the right and the left—politics of gender. What we have needed is a poetics of gender, a work that stresses the process of the continued creation and alteration of gender identity. This is that work! Internationally known for her earlier works on the feminine from the perspectives of mythology, religion and depth psychology, Christine Downing in this book turns her attention to a poetics of gender that is as much for men as for women. It gives attention—from a feminine perspective, to be sure—to the mystery of the human and the humane. Gods In Our Midst: Mythological Images Of The Masculine—A Woman’s View. Spring Journal Books, 2004. In this book Christine Downing turns to the “gods in our midst,” the gods as they appear to women, and she shows how these energies and epiphanies embodied in male gods are relevant to women’s “inner experience, their most profound needs and hopes, their bitterest suffering and greatest fear.” Whether as counter-players or ego-figures, figures to whom women relate or with whom they may even identify, the Greek gods embody ways of being, worlds that enter into the experience of both men and women. They “help us see who we are and what we might become.” Journey Through Menopause: A Personal Rite Of Passage, Spring Journal Books, 2005. Christine Downing combines mythology, depth psychology, and the experience of both her waking and her dream selves to marvelous effect. She unwraps the motifs and challenges that belong to the experience of menopause, traces its archetypal pattern, uncovers its symbolic meaning, and reveals its psychical significance as “soul event.” Downing shares with her sisters the lessons learned on the journey: “ the discovery that I was done with the heroic quest,the acceptance of weakness and vulnerability, the recognition of my dependence on other women, the revelation that I am loved enough.” Psyche’s Sisters: Re-Imagining The Meaning Of Sisterhood, Spring Journal Publications, 2007. Although feminism has made us all newly aware of the importance of sisterhood, there was early on a tendency to conceive the sister bond only metaphorically and thus in highly idealized terms. Almost inevitably we found ourselves subject to intense feelings of disillusionment when our ‘sisters’ failed us, when we discovered that relationships between women can be as difficult, as demanding, as ineluctably ambivalent as all other human bonds. Returning to the source of the metaphor, the relation between actual biological sisters, may help us recover a more resilient and more complex sense of what sisterhood might mean.” Mirrors Of The Self: Archetypal Images That Shape Your Life. Tarcher, 1991, (out of print) Archetypal images reveal a rich mirroring of our inner experiences and our interactions with the world outside ourselves. This anthology brings together essays on archetypal figures in the inner world, the archetypal family, archetypal aspects of the life-cycle, and archetypal roles by (among many others) C. G, Jung Edward Whitmont, Robert Bly, James Hillman, Patricia Berry, Helen Luke, Linda Leonard, and David Miller. Face To Face To Face: An Experiment In Intimacy. (co-authored with Gordon Clanton.) Dutton, 1975. (out of print.) This book tells the story of a young couple who, after nine years together in an open marriage, decided to expand their marriage to include another woman. Aware of the unusualness of this step and its risks, all three agreed to keep personal journals. After the experiment came to an end, they entrusted these diaries to Clanton and Downing out of a sense that their experiences would be of interest to others. Downing and Clanton then edited the diaries and Clanton added an essay on the sociological context within which the experiment took place and Downing supplied a psychological commentary on the relationship’s human dynamics.