Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness: An Interview with David Odorisio, Ph.D., about Pacifica’s new online M.A./Ph.D. Program, Part I of II

David Odorisio, Ph.D., currently the Co-Chair of Pacifica’s Mythological Studies program, will be leading the launch of a new M.A./Ph.D. program in Fall 2024, in Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness. I’m delighted to hear more about this ground-breaking development.

Angela: I am truly excited by Pacifica’s new offering, Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness (PRC) Online M.A./Ph.D. program, beginning in Fall 2024. What inspired you to start this program and make it online?

David: The initial inspiration for the program arose during a think tank that convened several years ago consisting of mostly Pacifica faculty. Part of the conversation oriented around the question, “Why Pacifica and why now?” The discussion produced several key words among faculty, including, “consciousness,” “transdisciplinarity,” and “transpersonal.” These terms emerge from distinct fields or disciplines but relate to the wider umbrella of psychology, and they bring the possibility of widening Pacifica’s mission in the world beyond strictly depth psychological perspectives. It’s more about expanding what we consider the nature of mind beyond depth psychology, beyond the unconscious. Historically, depth psychology tends to consider the reality of the unconscious and the relationship between the ego and the unconscious. The PRC program widens the frame to consider non-ordinary states of consciousness, the expansion or alteration of consciousness. We look at things like near-death experiences, altered states, and psychedelics. We certainly consider Jungian psychology and archetypal approaches, but there’s more of an emphasis on the nature of consciousness, the study of consciousness, and how comparative religious traditions speak to different states or aspects of consciousness.

Angela: How will it differ from the Mythological Studies program, which you currently co-Chair?

David: This program is different from Pacifica’s Mythological Studies and Jungian and Archetypal Studies programs, in that it expands the scholarly perspective beyond comparative mythology and Jungian and archetypal psychology. They are adjacent but different areas. PRC has an emphasis on religious studies and religious experience but there aren’t specific courses on comparative mythology. There is more of an emphasis on religious experience.

Angela: Can you speak a little bit about why you chose to make this an online program?

David: We want this program to be as accessible as possible. Also, with the climate crisis at the forefront of our thinking, there is a responsibility to minimize impact on the environment, particularly through travel. I personally feel very sensitive around the environmental-impact piece but also the accessibility an online program opens up, a national and even international cohort is possible—a truly diverse cohort with the potential for global perspectives. The possibilities are incredible for what this could look like.

Angela: Would you speak to the qualifications for admissions and program accreditation?

David: The PRC program is fully approved by our accreditors, and is a non-licensing degree program that is theoretical in its orientation. It teaches students how to be researchers and scholars at a more professional level. With that said, if someone is already a licensed therapist, this program would be an excellent addition to their practice. The basic qualification for admissions is a bachelor’s degree in a related discipline, a master’s degree is not necessary. If applicants already have a master’s degree, they would still do the coursework of the PRC MA, since the program is a combined MA/Ph.D. program. The first two years of coursework include the master’s degree and the third year of the program prepares students for the PhD, followed by two years of dissertation writing. Five years total – typically – to complete the degree.  Additionally, there is no summer quarter, so that provides a break for students. The program will have capped attendance, so we’ll be limiting enrollment, particularly for this inaugural cohort, so applicants will need to apply early. I think it will fill very quickly, so we strongly encourage interested applicants to apply prior to June 1.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview. And read more about the program here. Enrolling for Fall 2024 Pending Approval from the U.S. Department of Education.

David Odorisio

David M. Odorisio, is Co-Chair and Associate Core Faculty in Pacifica’s Mythological Studies graduate degree program. David is editor of Thomas Merton in California: The Redwoods Conferences and Letters (Liturgical Press, 2024),  A New Gnosis: Comic Books, Comparative Mythology, and Depth Psychology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), Merton and Hinduism: The Yoga of the Heart (Fons Vitae, 2021), and co-editor of Depth Psychology and Mysticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). He has published in Quadrant, Jung Journal, Philosophy East and West, The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, and The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, among other peer-reviewed journals. He currently teaches the following courses in the Mythological Studies program: Methods and Contemporary Issues in Religious Studies; Christian Traditions; and Dissertation Formulation.


Angela Borda is a writer for Pacifica Graduate Institute, as well as the editor of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Her work has been published in Food & Home, Peregrine, Hurricanes & Swan Songs, Delirium Corridor, Still Arts Quarterly, Danse Macabre, and is forthcoming in The Tertiary Lodger and Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Vol. 5.