Tag Archive for “depth psychology”

Inside and Outside: How the Unconscious Reveals Itself Through Art—An Interview

making pottery

As an artist, Margeaux Klein has always approached her art from an imaginative direction and produced works in her studio that felt like they originated deep within her heart and soul. Now she has begun to understand how to “read into” her work using a depth psychological lens.

Reflecting back on some of her favorite works, Margeaux marvels how the unconscious psyche can take so many subtle avenues that we’re not necessarily aware of.

raku bowl

After being inexplicably drawn to making raku bowls, she realizes the imperfection or brokenness of the bowl reflects our own brokenness back to us.

After she embroidered a series of Octavio Paz essays about creativity and the creative process on the inside of a coat, she grasped the idea that what we carry on the insid isn’t necessarily part of our persona shown to the outside world.

cello novelHaving copied an entire Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison on the inside of a cello that she plays regularly, she began to see the inherent meaning had to do with how innocent parts of ourselves are silenced because of wounds we’ve experienced in the past.

Artists, poets, and musicians have long tapped into the ways in which invisible forces are at work in the unconscious all the time…

Read a detailed summary article or listen to the audio interview with Margeaux Klein at http://www.pacificapost.com/inside-and-outside-how-the-unconscious-reveals-itself-through-art

Symbolism of the Black Madonna: A Jungian Perspective—Interview with Judy Zappacosta

Black Madonna

Our Lady of the Garden, near
Sant Llorenc de Morunys,
Catalonia Spain

Sandplay therapist, Judy Zappacosta, MFT, first became interested in the Black Madonna at a suggestion from Dora Kalff, founder of Sandplay therapy, to visit one of the mysterious iconic figures in Einsiedeln, Switzerland. Zappacosta was immediately drawn into the “silence and dark interiority of the Black Madonna, and has made an extensive exploration of the history and symbolism associated with her.

In this interview for Depth Insights™, Zappacosta reveals the powerful and evocative significance of Black Madonna figure from a Jungian and depth psychological perspective, and shares how she can impact us both individually and collectively. Zappacosta is co-leading a 14-day pilgrimage to Black Madonna sites in Northern Spain in May, 2018.



Judy Zappacosta

Judy Zappacosta

Judy Zappacosta, MFT, is a Certified Sandplay Teacher and Sandplay Therapist of America, (also known as STA) and the International Society for Sandplay Therapy, the ISST. She has maintained a private practice for adults, children, and families on the Monterey, California, coast for over 30 years. The focus of her practice is Jungian Psychotherapy, Sandplay, Dreams, and the integration of Psyche and Soma. She consults and supervises therapists using Sandplay and publishes and teaches both nationally and internationally. Judy was trained in Sandplay by Dora Kalff, the founder of Sandplay, and she completed the Body, Soul. Rhythms Leadership Training Program with Marion Woodman Foundation. She teaches summer programs for caring for the soul offering two-week intensive for Sandplay training in Switzerland and pilgrimage trips to Black Madonna sites in Northern Spain and soon Southern France. Learn more about Judy Zappacosta and the 14-day Black Madonna Pilgrimage at CaringForTheSoul.org

Excerpt from the interview:


Judy, you have such a really diverse background and of course, I’m always fascinated by the many aspects that Sandplay brings into any kind of a mix. It’s really a unique practice, and while the focus of our conversation today will be primarily on the Black Madonna, I’m wondering if there’s any correlation between the two that we should know about as we jump into the conversation here. Can you share a little bit about what a Black Madonna is first of all, and then how you became interested in it?


Well, I think it’s actually not too far a leap if you think of Sandplay as offering the ability to touch the Earth as sand as a symbolic kind of holder or matter and earth. And that the Black Madonna actually is very much related to the Earth’s landscapes—found many, many eons ago which relationship even back to the early goddesses. So, we’re talking today about a deep connection to what is nature, what is matter, what is earth, and what constitutes the divine feminine. I first got interested in the Black Madonna after Dora Kalff suggested when I was doing my Sandplay process with her to take a trip to Einsiedeln, which is where one of the more prominent Switzerland Black Madonna cathedrals is found. And after making that pilgrimage to visit that particular Madonna, I was very, very moved by the essence of sitting before a feminine dark figure that had such a deep interiority, maybe, to her that she just pulls you in, into darkness, into silence, and actually into mystery.


Yes. And, of course, this is the thing that’s so intriguing about her—has always been to me as well. And what we do know—I guess maybe we should establish that for those who aren’t as familiar with the concept—what we do know is that the Black Madonnas seem to be sort of found around the world. There are hundreds of them if not more, mostly in cathedrals or gracing shrines—often sacred sites, obviously. And they are something of a mystery though, aren’t they? Because they apparently originated in early Christianity, but I’m sure if it’s in your studies and engagement with the Black Madonna, you have come across different explanations for why they exist.


Well, it’s actually really interesting because there’s often a suggestion, “Well, she’s black because she’s Black.” Or “Well, so many people have lit candles at the foot of her altars that she just naturally turned black from the soot of all the wax that has burned before her.” But ultimately, there’s been no way to know for sure what the direct connections are. But certainly, Marie-Louise von Franz suggested that the Black Madonna actually came back through historically from Isis, and the feted throne of Horus, and that this is the beginning kind of that was coming actually out of the goddess sites that were also found in southern Europe, southern France.

Many of the sites– the ones that belong now to the church—often sit right upon older goddess sites. So, it’s interesting that there’s a quality of relationship that reaches far, far back, and that we continue to kind of have to suggest what would make her black, why did she show up as black. But for most people, she represents something that has perhaps been hidden away, perhaps rejected. She shows up as a figure, and particularly for peoples that have been marginalized, and interestingly enough, although the churches are where she’s found, it’s actually the people that take ownership in the region where she lives or she is venerated.

There’s an ownership that is taken up by the local people, that they are the keepers of—they’ll say—”of the Lady.” So, the Lady is part of their lives in a very everyday way where they go and they change her clothing; they have festivals, dances, lots of relationship to fertility, and motherhood, and things that bring them close to the people that are beyond the church’s style of owning a particular icon, or a particular way of venerating her. The Black Madonna seems to have slipped through ownership by the church, although she lives within chapels all through the places that you usually find her. But where she’s been found is often way upon rural wild wilderness places, less-traveled regions—lots of different ways that she has always been discovered…..

Listen to the full interview via the Depth Insights Interview Podcast

Find the interview on YouTube (audio)

Read/Download the full written transcript here



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Cosmology, Ritual, and Ecology: A Message from the Kogi Indians about Earth


Kogi Indians

Kogi Indians. Photo courtesy of Lisa Maroski.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a mysterious tribe of Native Indians who live high in the mountains of Colombia, speaking only their own original language, and having little contact with the outside world. These people, the Kogi Indians, have long referred to themselves as the “Elder Brothers,” as they carry the responsibility of being caretakers of the world, helping to maintain a balance of harmony and creativity in the world.

In recent years, the Kogi have begun speaking out. They are deeply concerned that non-indigenous consumer cultures living in the modern world, whom they call the “Younger Brothers,” are harming the earth, and they want to share the message that we need to change our ways.

The Kogi have a profound relationship with the Mother Earth, whom they call “Aluna.” reports Lisa Maroski, a board member of Monterey Friends of C.G. Jung. Maroski had the remarkable opportunity to travel with a group to visit the Kogi in Columbia, to hear their message, and to see firsthand how they live and what they are asking from us.

Maroski, who shared her experiences from the journey in an interview with me, explains how the “Mamas”— the priests of the tribe—were traditionally trained. Those who were identified as being future holy people were taken into caves at just a few months of age and they remained there for several years without ever experiencing the outside world. After several years, they were finally introduced to the outside world, where everything was so much more vibrant and alive than they could have ever imagined, that they become deeply psychically embedded in a universe that is alive and animated—even objects we westerners traditionally don’t think of as being alive.

Other traditions, such as weaving, are deeply ritualistic, based on the understanding that everything in the world is interconnected. When they weave, it is symbolic, Maroski notes, and weavers maintain ritual practices like spinning around during certain points in the process to remind themselves that they are weaving the world.

Maroski’s time with the Kogi changed her. She came away with a powerful understanding of what C.G. Jung called the unus mundus, the “one world”, and the possibilities of living with a worldview that understands how everything is alive and profoundly interconnected.

We are longing for that personal connection with the Earth, she believes, and there are ways we can each take individual action to help amplify this message in the world. Whether it’s ritual acts such as Maroski describes during our conversation, or literally writing to corporations that are harming the planet to let them know w won’t accept it any longer, we each carry the possibility to honor the Elder Brother and start creating the change we want to see in the world.

Lisa Maroski is an author, editor, and playwright. She is a board member of the Monterey Friends of C.G. Jung. She traveled to Colombia with John Perkins to meet with and learn from the Kogi Indians.


Listen to the interview via Depth Insights™ at  

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Find the audio interview on YouTube


How Memory Tending Can Transform You: An Interview with Dr. Daphne Dodson

You may have donated that Times of Your Life Paul Anka 8-track to charity when it didn’t sell at the last neighborhood rummage sale, but the words to “Good Morning Yesterday” live on. Sometimes it is hard to find the “memories you left behind” as Anka sang in 1976. Sometimes, as Freud argued, those memories sink below the level of our consciousness, but continue to work on us in various ways even decades later. Sigmund Freud even formulated a term “return of the repressed” to explain where neurotic symptoms originate, writing that illness is

…characterized by the return of the repressed memories — that is, therefore, by the failure of the defence…. The re-activated memories, however, and the self-reproaches formed from them never re-emerge into consciousness unchanged: what become conscious as obsessional ideas and affects¹

Jung, too, expressed the opinion that our memories can torment us to a dangerous extent when he wrote,

It may be that the majority of hysterical persons are ill because they possess a mass of memories, highly charged with affect and therefore deeply rooted in the unconscious, which cannot be controlled and which tyrannize the conscious mind and will of the patient.²

You don’t have to be a depth psychologist to notice when, at times, memories of your own rise up unexpectedly out of nowhere, often instigating powerful emotions. It happens for me with a handful of certain memories that show up, surprising me with their content and their intensity, making me wonder why a certain memory would arise for me when millions of others are lost.

memory_4.jpgThis is why I was fascinated to meet Daphne Dodson, a qualitative researcher who has spent the past 20 years interviewing people, who is currently researching and writing about a concept she calls “Memory Tending.” Daphne, who recently completed her Ph.D. in Depth Psychology, specializing in Jungian and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, began thinking about the idea of Memory Tending after noticing that her daughter frequently seemed to have different memories of the same experience they had both lived through. As a researcher, Dodson realized that people she interviewed often utilized a memory to relay to Daphne who they were, to paint a picture or convey an image of how they perceive themselves to be. She began to wonder if memories might be “images,” and could be experienced much in the same way as we experience our dreams.

memory_2.jpgLooking at memories as images can be a tool to help us understand who we are and “where we might be going psychologically,” Dr. Dodson believes. The fact that we can each have a different memory of the same lived experience means it creates for each of us own personal psychic material that we can work with, or tend. The beauty of looking at a memory as an image (which in addition to being visual, could also be sound or smell), is that the image can invite us to engage with the way we see certain things of the past. Engaging with memories in an imaginal way enables us to create new relationships and perspectives with those images or stories from the past, resulting in clearing ongoing associated negativity or trauma that makes us stuck, or in amplifying the benefits of positive memories.

memory_3.jpgI consider the possibility that memories themselves may evolve as we transform our own relationship to them, much in the same way we humans individuate according to Jung—a self-generating pattern in which, as we change, the memory also transforms itself. Then, the more the memory transforms, the more we do as well. Daphne has a thoughtful response to this. It is important to note that while our memories can indeed change and evolve, she asserts, the original event doesn’t change—just our relationship to it. The original event will always be just as important in shaping who we are because of it. However, if we’re able to step into a memory of an event imaginally through a process like Memory Tending, even negative memories that haunt us can be engaged, allowing us to reshape our relationship to that memory and therefore to our own past self.

There is also clinical value to the process of Memory Tending, and Daphne shares some interesting examples from her research about how Memory Tending is helping people transform their lives and the lives of those around them. One therapist she knows has been using the practice in conjunction with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which was developed for emotional processing of traumatic memories. In her practice, the therapist uses EMDR to help integrate emotion in the body, and then brings in Memory Tending with the client to work with it imaginally and deepen the EMDR experience.

Daphne suggests an idea that might radical to some, but one that resonates with me personally. A particular memory tends to choose us, she submits. In this way, memories might then be considered an extension of the objective psyche that Jung described so passionately; the collective unconscious or archetypal Self, a field in which we move at all times, and which has our best interest at heart. Dream work is seen similarly in Jungian theory.

Memory Tending could also be an extremely useful for application to the collective, I think. In the midst of the overwhelm we all feel on a regular basis, due not only to a constant inundation of bad news in world, but also perhaps due to what must surely be disenfranchised trauma arising from our terrible history of colonialism in the west, and even memories held in the land.

When I inquire about applying Memory Tending to the collective, Daphne relates how the idea of Memory Tending originated through Dream Tending®³ (a practice developed by Pacifica’s Chancellor, Steve Aizenstat, over 40 years ago). In Dream Tending, as she describes it, one first amplifies dreams as Jung suggested, then engages with them in a transpersonal way, moving to the imaginal where images are seen as having their own wisdom. While Dream Tending doesn’t typically take place on behalf of a group, Daphne points out, she has seen cases where individuals who are present during Dream Tending sessions can get pulled into the experience, almost as if they get caught in the psyche and are there “among” the psyche, so it’s no longer “just an individual experience.” Something similar could potentially take place if it were done around a particular place and with intentionality by a group who sought to create a meaningful practice dedicated to something other than themselves, she muses.

memory.jpgI think about what Jung referred to as “big” dreams, and how they can often be given to an individual on behalf of the collective. Some indigenous peoples had rituals of gathering in the mornings to share their dreams in order to determine what messages to provide guidance to the tribe. Could certain collective memories choose us so we would do the work of psyche together for collective healing? It’s an intriguing idea.

Anytime one of us is willing to engage in our own personal psychological work, or the work of the land or the greater world and the greater psyche, Daphne affirms, it has a tremendous reach for the anima mundi, the soul of the world, itself. In our conversation, Daphne goes on to address the ethical concerns of Memory Tending, and shares more examples of how it has been instrumental in the process of transformation for many of her case subjects.

In spite of her long career as a researcher, Daphne first developed the idea of Memory Tending while in her doctoral program at Pacifica. She credits her professors there with much of her inspiration. Not only do the professors at Pacifica teach students academically, they also nurture souls, she insists: “Pacifica provides access to that kind of deep understanding of self, others, and the world around us. Pacifica itself holds that much-needed container for growth, not only academically, but on a soul and psychological level as well.”

View research topics from recent and upcoming dissertation defenses at Pacifica.edu – oral defenses.

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Daphne Dodson with Bonnie Bright here (approx. 26 mins)

¹ In “Further Remarks on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence” in 1896, Freud introduced the idea of “the return of the repressed” as a mechanism that fuels neurotic symptoms.

² C. G. Jung, para 176 in “Cryptomnesia” from his essay, “On the Psychology of So-called Occult Phenomena,” in Collected Works Volume 1.

³ See www.dreamtending.com


Daphne Dodson, Ph.D. is a global qualitative research psychologist primarily conducting studies in the fields of infectious and auto-immune diseases. Her specific areas of interest include cultural psychology, the imagination, and memory. Dr. Dodson’s work will appear in two upcoming publications. Her essay, “Rebirthing Biblical Myth: The Poisonwood Bible as Visionary Art” will be published in Jungian Perspectives on Rebirth and Renewal: Phoenix Rising, a new book from Routledge. “Saying Goodbye to Our Children: A Phenomenon of Soul-Making” will appear Psychological Perspectivesa journal sponsored by the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles.

bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., is a graduate of Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program, and the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies. She also founded DepthList.com, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners, and she is the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal. Bonnie regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. She has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute and in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and she has trained extensively in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

NOTE: This blog post was originally posted at Pacifica Post, the official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute

Archetypal Reflections: Dr. Keiron Le Grice on Jungian and Depth Psychologies

C.G. Jung contended that our personalities are made up of a multitude of archetypes, Dr. Keiron Le Grice, Chair of the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, reminded me when he recently sat down with me to share his insights into the field of depth psychology. Each archetype asserts its own aims, moods, and ideas on our personalities, influencing our lives on a day-to-day basis. Jungian and depth psychologies, by aiming to make what is unconscious conscious, offer an entrance point into recognizing and understanding the various deep forces that move through us from one day to the next, engendering a deep comprehension of the psyche and the motivations, instincts, and impulses that are at work in our lives.

Individuation, a term coined by Jung, is a way that we can come to terms with this multiplicity of forces, and to attune to a greater organizing force, perhaps looked at as “the god within.” An archetypal view can enable us to find deep meaning in life, Keiron notes. We live in a time when we no longer have a religious, spiritual, or mythological framework to provide orientation in our lives. To be able to turn within, through the study of dreams and synchronicities that occur to us, through direct engagement with the unconscious and through spiritual experiences, we can begin to find our own personal sense of meaning. When we encounter the numinous, (a term coined by Rudolf Otto and adopted by Jung), that tremendous and fascinating mystery that underlies our experience can ground us in our own spiritual and moral autonomies. We need to each find our own individual myth at a time when the collective myths are rendered invalid by the dominant scientific rational perspective in the western worldview.

Keiron became interested in spirituality in his late teens, particularly dedicating himself to learning astrology (which led him to Jung’s writings), then studying philosophy and psychology at university in England. Disappointed at how mainstream academia bypassed Jungian ideas, Keiron read most of Jung’s Collected Works in his spare time, and pursued the work of Joseph Campbell after seeing him interviewed by Bill Moyers for The Power of Myth. He found himself most impressed with Jung’s Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, written in the 1920s, which focused on the role of archetypes in individuation, and described how these ideas really gripped him. He felt like he was tapping into a deep current in his life, he declares. In his late twenties, his interests in astrology, Jung, and Campbell evolved into a book, The Archetypal Cosmos, which was ultimately published in 2010.

For people who are predisposed to find their way in this field, there’s a “right time” for them, Keiron maintains. For him, discovering depth psychology so early in his life was perhaps something of an impediment to participating in the world because when one is powerfully drawn to the depths of the psyche, it can have a tendency to pull us away from the world, a concept even Jung made note of in his many writings. After having some profound spiritual experiences in his late teens and early twenties, Keiron reveals how he made a conscious decision to put some of it aside for a while and “build his ego” in Jungian terms. He believes, however, that his early exposure was helpful, providing a strong foundation as he took time to integrate and really discern which ideas were relevant and valuable to him and which were not.

Now, years later, as professor and chair of a Jungian and Archetypal studies program, Keiron is keenly aware that the “gifts” of Jungian and depth psychology are that they empower the individual to find a spiritual, mythic, or symbolic mode of being in the world, which, in his words, can counter a sense of existential meaningless which is so prevalent today. It may well be the responsibility of depth psychology practitioners to bring awareness and recognition around the dark side of the unconscious energies that have not been brought into conscious awareness and which manifest in destructive ways, he asserts.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Keiron points out, it says that if you “bring forth what is deep within you, it will save you, but if you do not bring that forth, what is within you will destroy you.” Some of that unconscious destructive energy seems to be surfacing in our time, so the more we can be aware of it, the more we can engage to mitigate it. We need to be able to channel the forces at work in the world constructively, in service of the deep psyche. The challenge of our time for those in depth psychology is to be able to communicate the tenets to a new audience, Keiron believes, to somehow convey the integrity of the ideas through a new medium in a way that they are not rendered superficial. It’s critical to connect people and bring them into community into a web, akin to the noosphere discussed in the writings of French philosopher and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).[i]

Keiron has recently published a new book called Archetypal Reflections: Insights and Ideas from Jungian Psychology,which emerged in a way from exactly that kind of archetypal web he refers to. It is a compilation of short writings and reflections Keiron initially made online in the form of posts to graduate students in the hybrid Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica. These reflections encompass a variety of depth psychological topics organized into themes, including archetypes, individuation, synchronicity, the evolution of consciousness, and the mind/matter relationship among them, delving into material that is essential for both seasoned scholars of depth psychologies as well as those who are new to it.

In discussing his current role in depth psychology, Keiron notes how gratifying it is to see students in the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program—who typically arrive in answer to some sort of call from psyche to be there—move from a more tentative longing to study these kinds of esoteric topics to really moving into a place of maturity, authenticity, and authority as they write about what resonates most with them. At Pacifica, Keiron and other faculty members really strive to cultivate the art of critical thinking for students to bring their own engagement and insight into the field in order to find their own truths in what typically ends up being a profoundly transformative journey.

Hearing Keiron mention this brings back warm memories of my own time doing coursework at Pacifica. I’m compelled to point out that there’s a kind of an inside joke among students there that it’s the “Hogwarts” (of Harry Potter fame) of graduate schools, a place that provides opportunities to learn concepts and skills that truly seem magical in many aspects. It definitely brings us into a more enchanted way of being in the world, Kieron confirms, and therefore counters the disenchantment of the modern worldview, bringing about opportunities to engage with the numinous, the spiritual power and mystery that shines through the psyche in so many ways.

Listen to the full interview with Keiron Le Grice here (Approx. 36 mins)

Learn more about the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica

legrice_keiron.pngKeiron Le Grice is a professor of depth psychology and chair of the Jungian and Archetypal Studies specialization at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, where he teaches courses on archetypes, alchemy, synchronicity, and the history of depth psychology. He was educated at the University of Leeds, England (B.A. honors, Philosophy and Psychology) and the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco (M.A., Ph.D., Philosophy and Religion). Keiron is the founding editor of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, and the author of four books––The Archetypal CosmosDiscovering ErisThe Rebirth of the Hero, and the recently published Archetypal Reflections: Insights and Ideas from Jungian Psychology. He has also taught for Grof Transpersonal Training (UK) and is commissioning editor for Muswell Hill Press in London.

NOTE: This blogpost was originally posted at Pacifica Post, July 22, 2016

Yoga Meets Depth Psychology: Union, Consciousness, Healing

silhouette of woman practicing yoga on the beach at sunset

“The body is merely the visibility of the soul, the psyche; and the soul is the psychological experience of the body” —C.G. Jung

“Yoga is most often understood as the union of the individual with the transcendental self, with what Jung terms the Self.” —Judith Mills


In recent years, the practice of yoga has made headlines in the mainstream media as parents in U.S. school districts challenged its inclusion in the curriculum at public schools, insisting it amounts to religious indoctrination and that it violates religious freedom.[1] In the U.S. today, while mainstream yoga is largely focused on physical poses and breath work, historically it evolved over millennia in the context of the spiritual and religious traditions of India. As such, it is not a religion, but rather a philosophy that enables mindfulness and a sense of well-being, among other benefits. No matter where you fall in the debate on whether—and where—it should be taught to children, practitioners of depth psychology and those seeking positive transformation appreciate yoga for its powerful potential to heighten spirituality and increase consciousness.

C.G. Jung, who valued yoga for its evidence-based experiential approach, perceived “important parallels” with psychoanalysis. He made a comprehensive study of yoga, delivering multiple lectures over the course of several years focusing on a psychological interpretation of kundalini yoga. He asserted that as yoga, being the oldest practical philosophy of India, is the mother of psychology and philosophy (which are one and the same thing in India) and therefore the foundation of everything spiritual.[2]

Yoga, meaning union in Sanskrit, seeks to create awakening through somatic experience, cultivating states that connect us more wholly with something larger than our ego selves—the ground of being, the web of life, or what Jung termed the “Self”—effecting a transmutation of consciousness that stems from attention to inner experience. The experiential, embodied practice puts us in touch with our physical being and grounds us more fully in the earth, anchoring us to something immutable, even as our breath and movement serve to make us more consciously aware and to shift inherent patterns and blocks we may be experiencing.


“Yoga teachers are well aware of how the practice of yoga brings awareness through the layers of the body, often dredging up previous traumas and somatic awakenings,” Cheri Clampett, who is a certified yoga therapist with over 25 years of teaching experience, and the co-author of The Therapeutic Yoga Kit confided. “When these two complimentary fields come together, they offer deep avenues of healing for the soma and psyche.”

What are those avenues of healing, exactly? While yoga serves to balance and unite opposing forces to create a harmonious being, Jung went as far as to describe the intersection between depth psychology and yoga as the capacity for liberation, for each to lead to a “detachment of consciousness…a freeing from the passions and from the entanglement with the realm of objects…a psychical experience, which in practice is expressed as a feeling of deliverance.”[3]

Practitioners have long reported the capacity for yoga to evoke the numinous, a term Jung borrowed from psychologist Rudolf Otto to describe something beyond the ordinary; inexpressible or mysterious—something spiritual or sacred that carries us past the ego experience of the everyday self and reveals our divine belonging, our wholeness in potentia.[4] Indeed, yoga has been known to lead to the awakening of Kundalini, a force described as primordial energy, Shakti or universal power, which can be constellated a combination of ritual spiritual and somatic practices. When its ascent culminates in topmost chakra in a “blissful union of Shiva and Shakti,” it leads to a “far-reaching transformation of the personality.”[5]


For Jung the Kundalini is the anima, or soul. “From the standpoint of the gods, this world is less than child’s play; it is a seed in the earth, a mere potentiality,” he wrote. “Our whole world of consciousness is only a seed of the future. And when you succeed in the awakening of Kundalini, so that she beings to move out of her mere potentiality, you necessarily start a world which is a world of eternity, totally different from our world.”[6]

Jung believed that yoga originated as a “natural process of introversion,” and that such introversions characteristically lead to personality changes. While Jung viewed these inner processes that evolved from yoga as universal, he felt the methods that led to them were culturally specific.[7] For this reason, Jung discouraged westerners, whose core beliefs are founded on a perception of separation—of dual and opposing poles in the realms of mind and matter, nature and psyche— from practicing yoga, fearing it could lead westerners into territory they were not culturally prepared to encounter. He suggested the west would develop its own “yoga” to explain or engage the unconscious in due time, ideas now being debated in the field of Jungian psychology.

Indeed, yoga, like many eastern or mystical spiritual traditions, is rooted in the idea of non-duality; that is, that all creation, including humans, is an aspect of the divine and is not separate from it. While this kind of transcendent consciousness is potentially available to each of us at any given moment, our ego-identity often stands in the way of that sense of unity. Yoga, in part through enabling us to engage our bodies and to be more in the present moment, allows us to suspend the thoughts, ideas, concerns, and conditioning that typically stand in the way of our sense of the sacred.

Jung makes a compelling description of the kind of transcendence one might experience in awakening to these kind of psychological or spiritual truths. On the subject of freeing ourselves from outer and inner entanglements, Jung wrote that “consciousness is at the same time empty and not empty. . . . no longer preoccupied with compulsive intentions but turns into contemplative vision.”[8]

Lionel Corbett, M.D., Jungian analyst and author of Psyche and the Sacred, writes about this apparent dissolution of boundaries, noting that “innumerable people have been able to …have numinous experiences of union with the larger psyche. In such moments,” Corbett suggests, “the world and the personal self seem to flow into each other, both part of a greater unity, with no sense of separation or personal unity…. In such an experience, the personal self is lost in the larger Consciousness of the Self, revealing our essential continuity with it.”[9]

Corbett points out that Jung, in much of his work, displays a spiritual sensibility that is compatible with the great non-dual spiritual traditions, even while remaining dualistic in his thinking in others. Both these approaches are valuable to psychotherapy, Corbett insists, yet most Jungian therapists ignore Jung’s non-dual thinking. Corbett intends to expand on some of the important implications of non-duality for psychotherapy at the Yoga Meets Depth Psychology program offered by Pacifica Graduate Institute in July.

Another Jungian analyst contemplating the value of the interface between yoga and psychotherapy is Dr. Joseph Cambray, who proposes that Jung’s incorporation of yoga practices and principles in his version of depth psychology started largely with the Red Book in which Jung documented his exploration of his unconscious and his active imagination encounters with various images and figures during that time. In fact, Jung revealed that during this intense period of confrontation with the unconscioushe frequently turned to yoga to eliminate powerful, wrought up emotions that had been stirred up.[10]

The correspondence between yoga and depth psychology emerged in subsequent theorizing that included references to the yogic literature, points out Cambray, including Jung’s Kundalini seminars in which Jung endeavored a western symbolic analysis of the Chakra system. As a long time psychotherapist (and past President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology), Cambray asserts that the interface of these two approaches provides profound advantages for contemporary psychotherapy.


meditation yogaMindfulness is another powerful tool for accessing states of unity and flow according to Dr. Patricia Katsky, psychotherapist and Vice-Provost at Pacifica Graduate Institute who, in conjunction with Dr. Juliet Rohde-Brown, Director of Clinical Training for the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Pacifica, and long-time Buddhist meditation teacher, is exploring the critical characteristics of the mind states that are common to the three fields of yoga, depth psychology, and Buddhist meditation.

Similarly, the two clinicians are inquiring into the implications of “deep play”—a mind state comparable at an adult level to the meaningful childhood play of our past. “Deep play experiences are capable of bringing us into healing contact with the numinous,” writes Katsky. Indeed, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung recounted his own experience of how the act of play created a powerful psychic state in his own life. After spontaneously recalling a childhood memory of play, Jung felt compelled him to take it up again as an adult. Each day, before his patients arrived, Jung succumbed to the urge to “play,” mindfully building an “small town” of stones. For him, it released a “stream of fantasies” and led to an inner certainty that it was helping him to discover his own inner myth. “In the course of this activity my thoughts clarified, and I was able to grasp the fantasies whose presence in myself I dimly felt,” he wrote.[11]

In psychotherapy, Katsky proposes that the therapist mind state of “evenly-hovering attention” is one form of deep play, and submits that the practice of yoga can bring one to similar inner states of release and nourishment, leading us to rich self-reflections, creativity, greater contact with the imaginational world, and to deepened consciousness, including numinous experience.

Ultimately, yoga, like many of the world’s wisdom traditions, can become a portal to the present moment, to being anchored in our bodies and on the earth through the embodied use of breath and movement. This, in turn, may give rise to a dissolution of boundaries, enabling us to feel more relaxed, connected, and unified with a larger ground of reality—even ultimately awakening us to numinous experiences of the sacred. Depth psychology, with its emphasis on engaging the unconscious in order to achieve greater wholeness, can lead us to similar states. 

“At the intersection of yoga and depth psychology lies the threshold where psyche meets soma,” asserts David Odorisio, a depth practitioner who has created a professional practice that integrates the spiritual heritage of the world’s wisdom traditions with Jungian and depth psychologies in an accessible and embodied way. “This mysterious meeting point between soul and body holds unlimited—and often untapped— archetypal wisdom, vitality, healing, and wholeness.”

Join these and other world-renowned scholars and practitioners July 15-17, 2016, for Yoga Meets Depth Psychology: Embodying the Sacred, Encountering the Soul, an experiential, transformational weekend immersion at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Pacifica faculty, including expert-level Jungian analysts and depth psychologists, will present alongside internationally recognized yoga teachers to highlight and illuminate the rich intersections of these diverse yet complementary fields. Details and registration here

Recommended reading: 

The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932 by C. G. Jung, edited by Sonu Shamdasani. Princeton University Press, 1996

Jung and India. Spring Journal, Volume 90, Fall 2013, edited by Al Collins, Elaine Molchanov, and Nancy Cater

Jung and Yoga: The Psyche Body Connection, by Judith Harris. Inner City Books, 2000.

“Jung’s Encounter with Yoga,” by Harold G. Coward, Journal of Analytical Psychology23(4), 1978, pp. 339-357,

Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C.G. Jung, edited by Aniela Jaffe (1961). Vintage Books, 1989.

Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion by Lionel Corbett. Spring Journal, 2007.



[1] See “Beyond ‘Namaste’: The benefits of yoga in schools” by Dana Santas. CNN, May 10, 2016: http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/10/health/yoga-in-schools/index.html

[2] Jung and Eastern Thought by Harold Coward, State University of New York Press, 1985, p. 11

[3] In The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, C.G. Jung, p. 83

[4] See “On Psychic Energy” in Jung’s Collected Works, Vol. 8.

[5] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. xxv

[6] In The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. 26

[7] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga

[8] C.G. Jung in “Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’ ” in Alchemical Studies, Collected Works Vol. 13, para. 65

[9] Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion by Lionel Corbett. Spring Journal, 2007, p. 25

[10] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. xxv

[11] Jung, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage Books, 1989, p.174

The Genius Myth: An Interview with Storyteller and Author, Michael Meade

When Michael Meade was thirteen, his aunt, seemingly by accident, bought him a book of mythology for his birthday. Though he felt profoundly aligned with the book and stayed up all night reading it, it would take another 20 years before it became evident it was his path in life, guiding him to his current calling as a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar in mythology and depth psychology.

“The soul’s way of being is unique to each person,” Meade wrote in his acclaimed book, Why The World Doesn’t End. “It was seeded and sown within each of us from the beginning and it tries to ripen throughout our lives. What exiles us more than anything is the separation from our own instinctive, intuitive way of being. We are most lost and truly in exi
le when we have lost touch with our own soul, with our unique inward style and way of being in this world.”

Child Walking In Woods To Glowing Red DoorIn a recent interview, Meade shared insights with me into his own mythological and depth psychological view of how—though we’re living in a radical time when it seems like the world is falling apart; when “nature is rattling and culture seems to be unraveling”—being in touch with one’s innate genius is “an unerring guide to what a person’s life is supposed to be about.”

Meade’s latest book, The Genius Myth, focuses on how a person navigates a period of such turmoil and uncertainty. Meade’s use of the word “genius” is based on the old sense, he notes, referring to the unique spirit that is in each person’s soul, a concept often obscured in the modern world. One example of how the individual soul is oppressed is in that of transgendered individuals, Meade points out, especially children for whom the issue is active in them for some mysterious reason. The notion of the individuality of each soul makes it more feasible to respect the differences we all live in spite of appearances or backgrounds. One’s “complex” of abilities and gifts is what makes each individual unique and valuable. In a collective society, the uniqueness of life is often overlooked, yet this is the very thing that often provides meaning and purpose in an individual life.

In the face of what Meade terms, the apparent “unraveling of the world,” I wonder how each of us might tap into the genius within. It is important to distinguish the genius myth from the hero’s journey—introduced into the mainstream by the legendary Joseph Campbell, Meade responds. This is what Meade does in his new book, The Genius Myth.

Discussions in Depth Psychology, Click Here to listen to the Interview with Michael Meade

Meade describes the hero as a person making “dramatic moves in the outer world,” emphasizing that in the hero’s journey, the accomplishments are in the outer world. Further, the hero is associated with a masculine way of being from a depth psychological sense, as the “hero” is linked to power and strength. The Genius Myth argues that the genius was already there before we were born, and is not only something we bring to the world, but even something that brings us to the world. It is about discovering the genius within.

Meade, who works extensively with youth suicide situations, has found that many youths who committed suicide in the United States feel empty inside. The culture contributes to this feeling, imposing the belief that one must “make something of themselves.” Meade’s stance is that each of us already is something. We have to make ourselves aware of who we are.

Given the dramatic changes going on in the world—and the rapidity of that change—along with “the rattling and even hollowing out of institutions,” there’s not much in the outside world a person can depend upon for orientation and coherence, Meade declares. We must look inside to find the orientation of our lives and ways to cohere. One idea is that of an inborn genius that encompasses not only the gifts and abilities of a person, but also our purpose and destiny.

Meade refers to the need for “vertical imagination.” In mythology, he notes, there’s an old idea that there’s always two stories going on: one is the ongoing story of the world, and the other is the story of the individual soul in the world. The soul involves the depth of a person, and in depth, a person is naturally connected to nature and the world around them. Our world has become rather flat, Meade suggests: Everybody is connected all the time, but it’s a horizontal connection. The connections don’t go deep enough to contain the growth of soul that is needed for either the individual or world, and we can see that in the consequences of that in increasing polarization and division, exemplified very tragically in the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, as well as in other current events.

People get back into an imaginative creative connection to the world through vertical imagination. Our connection goes deep into the soul on one end, where it connects not only to deep emotions but also the depth of feeling for being—for being present in the world and being connected to the world in depth, Meade believes. The other connection goes upward where one is connected to the great “high ideas” and the great imagination where people used to consider themselves connected to the stars. The human was originally intended to be the channel between the stars of the sky and the core of the earth, he insists. Each human is in that connection if they awaken to it.

The problems we are experiencing, whether in nature or culture, will not be solved without a vertical imagination. Healing needs to happen in our culture—not only in connection with genders— but also between races, in the political arena, and in ecosystems, waterways, and forests, among other things. According to Meade, we are living in a time when everyone’s genius nature is being called upon; perhaps there is even an acceleration of calling and vocation as “both nature and culture need an awakening of the genius in as many people as possible.”

Michael goes on to offer two ways to access our inner genius, not the least of which is to glean what we can from traumatic circumstances or rejection by one’s family or community, both instances where the genius is often awakened most strongly. Jung wrote that genius hides behind the wound, so whenever we harbor a wound, we may believe that our genius was an integral part of our survival. “Something deep in the human soul awakens when things fall apart,” Michael penned in Why the World Doesn’t End.

Meade closes with some thoughts on what he views as the two layers of hope: One is the sort of naïve hope that has to ultimately be deconstructed, and there is also despair, meaning “to be without hope.” It’s generally essential that we, at times, fall into despair because at the root of despair is another level—a second layer—of hope. That layer, in depth psychology, might be called imagination—imagination being the deepest power of the human soul. “When we think that all is lost, we are actually falling closer to the deepest ground of soul, which, you could say, has the power of imagination,” he insists. “Imagination is what we need in order to begin to reimagine and recreate the world.”

Meade recounts an Irish myth that teaches us that when the center can no longer hold—as currently appears to be the case in a current political, economic, and ecological sense—we must go to the margins and find the thread that intrigues us there. Then, upon pulling those threads of genius, the center is remade. “A person doesn’t need to be heroic,” Meade insists. “A person just has pull the the threads of their own life as close to the center as possible and they are contributing to the renewal of the world. If enough people were pulling the threads, we would be participating in the re-weaving of the world.” Further, if this re-weaving strikes a chord with you, it’s probably not a coincidence. “There is an old deep sense that we are being called on—we have always been called on—to be our own selves. That’s the real job of a person.”

Jung called this process “individuation,” Meade affirms. Individuation is not only the natural calling for the individual, but the world itself is calling on people to come to consciousness and individuate on an individual level. Once enough of us are doing that, the imagination of assisting the world to renew itself becomes possible.

Michael Meade is presenting a weekend workshop, “The World is Churning: The Myth of Genius, The Genius of Myth, July 8-10, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute. “Pacifica is one of the few homes in the entire culture for depth psychology and mythology,” Meade notes. “It’s one of the very few places where those two essential studies are being honored.” At the workshop, Meade plans to discuss creativity, imagination, and the genius in the soul in order to discover how to encourage this in ourselves so we can do meaningful work in the world. “Pacifica is the right place to do that,” Meade proclaims.

Get more details or register for the “The World is Churning: The Myth of Genius, The Genius of Myth” with Michael Meade, July 8-10, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute: http://www.pacifica.edu/current-public/item/the-myth-of-genius-the-genius-of-myth

Mosaic-Multicultural.jpgMichael Meade, D.H.L., is a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology. His hypnotic and fiery storytelling, street savvy perceptiveness, and spellbinding interpretations of ancient myths are highly relevant to current culture. He is the author of many books including Fate and Destiny: The Two Agreements of the Souland The World Behind the World. Meade is founder of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to education and cultural healing. For more information, visit www.mosaicvoices.org


Note: This blog originally posted at Pacifica Post June 27, 2016

The Value of Multi-Cultural Perspectives in Depth Psychotherapy: Interview with Dr. Matthew Bennett

Counseling is an applied healing art that helps us address suffering, enrich personal lives, activate our potential, to live more fully, and to develop more adaptive capacities to life in the view of Dr. Matthew Bennett, a psychotherapist and lecturer who teaches Counseling program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. More, psychotherapists and counselors that have a depth psychological orientation are prepared for a “broad spectrum slice of the human experience,” which for Bennett, includes the ability to be emotionally present in difficult emotional circumstances or even to simply better hold and tolerate emotionally powerful situations.

Depth psychology is grounded in the humanities, Bennett reminded me when we connected for an interview on the topic, and therefore it can contribute to an individual experiencing a fuller and richer life. Being able to identify with different kinds of people and to accommodate varying perspectives are just some of the advantages that depth training can contribute to a therapeutic practice. In addition, if one is willing to be a student of the human mind, and of the context provided by mythology and literature, it all serves to “broaden us out”—in a depth psychological way.

Jung spoke of his own work in archeological terms, which does imply a depth that is “going toward the center,” Matthew points out. All depth psychological orientations anchor us, and mythology, storytelling, dreams—even reading fiction—each express some dynamic of what it means to be human. Each contains energetics that are useful in reconciling opposing points of view. That’s how depth becomes breadth, Matthew says. It enables us to countenance the deeper or chthonic layers of life and to draw closer to the archetypes, where things become not only more dynamic and more irrational, but also more powerful.

Jung warned against getting too close to the archetypes, Bennett notes, because identifying with an archetype too strongly may potentially lead to one being consumed by it, so there is a need to take action—to come back from that world and operationalize and integrate what was found and experienced there. Bennett relates how certain old Zen stories tell of pilgrims who go out into the wilderness seeking enlightenment, but who always end back “bare of breast in the market, buying vegetables.” For Matthew, this signifies closing the circle, of coming back home again; of bringing what was learned into everyday life.

Matthew, who spent three years in the Peace Corps in Warsaw, Poland—his own version of “venturing into the wilderness” I would dare to say—insists he found a new way of being in the world through the experience. “The kinds of capacities that depth psychology encourages and fosters allows us to be more in the world more fully and more vibrantly,” he insists.

Peace Corps and Pacifica  Announce New Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program

The idea of wholeness is, in fact, a fundamental idea of Jung’s work, and it entails in part developing the ability to embrace the parts of ourselves that are not wholly conscious, welcomed, or appreciated. It’s important to engage those aspects of the world (and therefore ourselves) in order to make meaning. Reflecting on this, I am reminded of something Jung wrote about how critical it is to go out into the world and encounter people in everyday situations in order to relativize and amplify our understanding:

Anyone who wants to know the human mind will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart through the world. There, in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, Socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with real knowledge of the human soul[1]

Bennett likens the idea to something written by Terence, the Roman slave who became a playwright: “I count nothing human as alien to me,” a statement that further illustrates how reality is grounded in human experience. Bennett goes on to point out that T.S. Eliot even insisted that magical formulas are for practical results, such as getting a cow out of a bog. Bennett’s own work has largely been connected to helping people be in this world, he notes, not to transcend out of it. In the end, that was the instinct that led him to the Peace Corps.

Bennett, who served from 1991 to 1994, never intended to join the Peace Corps, but as he describes it, it was just something that “grew out of” him, and which unfolded in a series of small steps that led to it. He likens it to Tolkien’s hobbits, whose walkway approaches a larger road, that in turn leads to the whole world, and you “never know where you’re going to get swept off to”—which is also true of depth psychology, Bennett points out.

Listen to the 28 minute interview with Dr. Matthew Bennett here.

When our conversation turned to the question of whether Americans are too identified with our own culture, Bennett offered a clear perspective. The American culture is a powerful solvent, he suggests, making it easy for us to dissolve into it. It’s a big country with peaceful borders, vast resources, and intellectual vibrancy with fewer of the conflicts many other countries face. It’s easy for Americans to “float” through our culture and be “suspended” in it, Matthew insists: “Culture is a prism through which we view all of reality, and I think reality itself is culturally determined.” In a consensual reality, the more people decide and agree what is real, the more powerful an idea becomes, he notes: It’s good for us to step out of the culture and see what else is out there.

Joining the Peace Corps and other similar kinds kinds of experiences serve to place people in new cultures. Matthew reminds me that there is a tradition of young people of means, particularly in Europe, to take a year off school and travel the world, and joining the military also provides a similar experience to some extent. To be able to turn around and view one’s own culture from afar is valuable and healthy. Often it’s said it’s harder to re-enter one’s own culture after such an eye-opening experience, he notes, and it illustrates how powerful and seductive one’s culture can be. Such insights include the meaning of truth, justice, and even life itself—and such beliefs as the role of men and women, among others. When we’re able to take back and take those cultural differences in stride, the more we’re going to be able to take those differences in stride when trying to help people who are culturally different.

Having had the good fortune to study abroad myself during my undergraduate years, and to travel quite extensively since in a myriad of cultures that are vastly different from my own, I can relate. Being able to see how people live and think in ways that are often radically different from own very way of being in the world has opened my own eyes to new and different ways of seeing—changing me so much even that I occasionally find myself impatient when I feel others are unable to imagine a certain perspective I have gained and adopted through my experience. In depth psychological terms, identifying, opening to, and ultimately embracing the “other” is a required step toward wholeness.

However, culture isn’t something that necessarily can be or should be transcended, Bennett believes. Like personality organization, another core interest for Bennett, each belief is like its own little culture contributing to a sense of self. Sometimes cultural information contains something almost akin to survival data. The combination of information, the lenses we engage, really flow from how we understand ourselves to be. The process of psychotherapy then, becomes the journey of beginning to understand it and empathize with it. For a therapist, it’s figuring out how a client “makes sense.”

“Just that act of treating people as if they made sense, and trying to connect empathically with how it does make sense is really heart and soul of what I think psychotherapy and counseling are,” says Bennett. “Visiting other cultures and seeing the world sets you up up for that and makes it easier to do.”

The Peace Corps, in partnership with Pacifica Graduate Institute, recently announced the launch of a new Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, which will provide graduate school scholarships to returned Peace Corps volunteers who complete a degree-related internship in an underserved American community while they pursue their studies. The Coverdell Fellows Program gives returned volunteers the chance to build on their classroom experience by sharing their unique knowledge and skills with local communities.

Matthew Bennett is presenting a 2-day workshop, Artifice of Eternity: Aging and Long-Term Care, July 16-17, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Learn more or register at http://www.pacifica.edu/current-public/item/artifice-of-eternity-aging-and-long-term-care

[1] C.G. Jung, “New Paths in Psychology.” In Collected Works 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, p. 409

Matthew-Bennett.jpgMatthew Bennett, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, lecturer, and administrator with experience in public sector mental health and substance abuse treatment. He has broad experience in program development. He was formerly founder and first Director of Training for the Ventura County Behavioral Health Pre-Doctoral Internship in Clinical Psychology and Chair-Elect of the Psychology Department at Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, California. His research interests include personality disorders, comparative personality theory, and internet applications for mental health. Dr. Bennett is also a returned Peace Corps volunteer (“Poland III, 1991-1993”).

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on Pacifica Post June 22, 2016

Dreaming the Earth: Earthing the Dream—Depth Psychology and Appreciative Nature Practices with Dr. Pat Katsky

Dr. Pat Katsky is a Jungian Analyst and core faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and she has been a therapist for thirty years. When Pat sat down with me in a recent interview, our conversation focused on the idea that some of the most psychologically healing experiences come from the natural world, a theme derived from an upcoming certificate program, “Dreaming the Earth: Earthing the Dream” starting April 15, 2016.

dreaming_the_earth.jpgPat mused on how in the last million or so years of history, humans have always needed nature and did not feel separate from it. But with the industrial revolution and the development of society as we know it, we have lost the connectedness. It has become something we do for vacation, she observes, then we return to jobs and daily life where nature is distant.

Knowing Pat is a Jungian analyst, I ask her how she believes our dreams shed light on our connection to the planet. Dreams are the deepest part of us speaking to us, sharing wisdom and perspective, she responded, noting how Jung used the word numinous to describe certain kinds of dreams that make us feel we are in the presence of something larger than ourselves—when we feel awe or a sense of mystery.

As an analyst, she has seen many “big” dreams—that is, life-changing dreams clients from clients that involved the natural world. She recounts some stories (which, she notes, she has permission to share). Some dreams, for example, introduce a particular animal which becomes a totem figure for the dreamer. In one specific dream, an individual found himself standing on the ground, which began to shake. In the dream, the dreamer thought he was experiencing an earthquake, but then became aware it was a giant animal shaking itself awake. Other clients have had images about unusual movements of stars, or of the sun and moon in an unexpected relationship to one another. As you might imagine, Pat insists, some of these kinds of powerful images can have lasting, life-changing effects on people.

I ask Pat how she recommends people work with the images they receive, particularly for those individuals who are longing for that sense of reconnection with earth. One of the beautiful things about nature is that it exists both inside of us and outside of us, Pat notes in response. For some people, their greater sense of connection with the earth requires them to do something in the outer world, whether cultivating a garden or visiting certain natural settings.

Pat mentions that the certificate program she is co-teaching at Pacifica will incorporate some special elements, including community dreaming where people gather at the beginning of the day and share dreams. Often themes emerge throughout the day that echo the images that came out of the group dream work in the morning. Among other experiential activities, participants will also have the opportunity to use art supplies or nature elements to engage with a dream image.

Are there other practices, I wonder to Pat, that can be used to enhance our engagement? She responds with her own enthusiasm about topics that will be included in the upcoming certificate program, including a presentation from Pacifica’s organic gardener whom she likens to the “archetypal green man,” Dr. Steve Aizenstat, who will be presenting on DreamTending™, and Dr. Joseph Cambray, who will speak about complex adaptive systems. We are increasingly discovering that as a system develops, new more complicated order can evolve—a rather radical idea, as Pat notes. Cambray will also go into the biological basis of how our mind works when we go into natural settings. Dr. Joseph Bobrow, a zen roshi, will talk about Buddhism and interdependence in the natural world, and Linda Buzzell will present with Craig Chalquist on eco-resilience—how to find a path forward with heart in the midst of the difficult times we face, and the need to forge a different kind of relationship with the natural world than we currently have as a species.

I ask Pat then if her calling to work as a therapist and provide a container for people to do that kind of work was based in any way on her relationship to nature and what she saw happening on the planet even 20 or 30 years ago. For her personally, she finds something so replenishing about being in nature in that way after immersing herself in the psychic life of so many as a therapist. There’s something that can’t be put into words, Pat insists, about experiencing remote natural settings where one can access very meditative places of deep silence. There we can let nature speak to us, and gift us its gifts to enrich us, giving us the capacity to go back and help others.

Katsky is currently a docent in a nature preserve owned by UCSB, which offers trips into nature for school children and the general public, and she mentions to me how greatly she has enjoyed watching people make that step and to see what it does for them. I am reminded of a talk I heard at a women’s conference a couple of years ago, where the speaker, who was from India, mentioned that in some of the worst slums in India, kids had never seen a tree except in a book. That just broke my heart when I heard that, I tell Pat, and it makes me appreciate the work she is doing to make nature more accessible to kids and everyone.

I think about the wonder of seeing a tree, and query Pat on how she feels about wonder and awe in our culture today? Have we lost the capacity for it, I wonder. What role does it play for us moving forward into the future? Pat has a ready answer. Jung said the main focus of his work was not on pathologies but on the approach to numinous experiences—of awe and of being in the presence of the sacred. He felt that that was the direction in which he wanted people to move, because he believed having these experiences is what healed people. When you have a numinous experience, it’s not something you can ignore she expounds. It’s like a puzzle; sometimes you have to “puzzle over it” for years sometimes to ascertain the range of its meaning.

When you work with numinous experiences, you get the sense that you’re engaged in a dialogue with “a kind of inner wisdom that will give you dreams, synchronicities and knowledge you need to help you continue the path of your own individuation,” she believes.

For me, this evokes the memory of one of my favorite teaching from Jung, who asked, “Is man related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life.”

rhizome.jpgWhen I quote this, Pat responds with another idea from Jung, that personal human growth is like the growth that comes out of a rhizome. Rhizomes, she clarifies, are an extraordinary class of plants where the roots go out sideways. You don’t know it when it’s happening but suddenly a new plant emerges that looks like a separate plant, but it’s actually living off of this much larger rhizome. It can be transformational to think of ourselves in this way, as not separate beings but rather feeding off of this larger rhizome.

As we close the interview, I am left with this image of the rhizome, which has continued to work me, almost as a dream might do. It is but one of millions of metaphors that come to us from the natural world that we can relate to strongly. Nature is indeed a remarkable teacher, and engaging with it intentionally and appreciatively can only enhance our own personal growth.

Listen to the full interview with Pat Katsky here (Approx. 29 mins.)

Learn more / Register for the Depth Psychology and Appreciative Nature Practices certificate program here


Pat Katsky, Ph.D., has been a core faculty member at Pacifica for over 15 years, teaching and mentoring students in many of Pacifica’s programs. She is currently serving as Vice-Provost, and formerly was Chair of the Depth Psychotherapy Program. She was certified as a Jungian analyst 20 years ago, and has been a psychotherapist for over 30 years. Her research interests include the process of becoming a psychotherapist, the world of dreams, and the religious function of the psyche. She has published and lectured on these topics in the United States and abroad. Pat was formerly the president of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, and serves regularly on the reviewing and certifying boards of the San Francisco and Los Angeles Jung Institutes. She co-founded a non-profit counseling center in Los Angeles, Counseling West, which serves individuals, couples, and families seeking a depth psychotherapeutic approach in charting a path in their lives, and she continues to participate in this organization as a member of the board of directors.

bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., graduated from Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program after defending her dissertation in December 2014. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies, and of DepthList.com, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners. She is also the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal, and regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. Bonnie has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute; in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and has been extensively involved in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.


*This blogpost was originally posted on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute, on March 24, 2016

Spirit, Soul, and the Secular: An Interview with Thomas Moore

Depth Psychology is often associated with “soul.” Many great thinkers in the field have shared some important thoughts on the topic, and perhaps none more so than psychologist and author, Thomas Moore, whose best-selling book, Care of the Soul, is one of the most recognized and appreciated works on the topic. Thomas Moore is speaking at the upcoming Climates of Change conference in celebration of Pacifica’s 40th anniversary in April 2016.

soul.jpgWhen I sat down recently with Thomas to discuss the topic of soul and spirituality, my first request was that he elaborate on the difference between spirit and soul. Moore’s understanding of the topic is rooted firmly in the past, going back to some of the earliest teachers of soul. While he explained his perception of the difference between spirit and soul in some detail, what struck me is that soul thrives on the “holy” and that there is a “non-human” dimension to it.

Most of the work Tom does is rooted in the spiritual traditions or in the depth psychology of both C. G. Jung and James Hillman. Both of these fields generally accept that there’s more going on within us and in the world around us that we can know, understand, or control. As an example, Tom points out that he did not “design” the life he has led, but rather has “discovered” it as he went along, trusting and having faith in life itself, even when he had no idea what was going to happen next. That for him is “not human,” because it is more than any human being can possibly understand.

While you may call one’s unfolding “destiny,” or “fate,” the language or metaphor or poetic language we engage to express the Mysterious is primarily about our feeling of its value and our great reverence toward it is what Thomas calls the “holy.” This describes Moore’s own sense of reverence for the Mysterious which has shaped his life.

In his most recent book, A Religion of One’s Own, Thomas shares some ways to tap back into a sense of spirituality. When the topic arose, I asked Thomas his opinion about the role of formal religion, which seems to be waning in our modern world.

Tom surmises that existing institutions, including religions, need to be re-imagined to suit our times. His definition of religion is a “creative and concrete response to the Mysteries.” Religion is not just an idea or belief, he insists, nor is it about perfecting ourselves. It’s about our relationship to the Mysterious “other.”

path_beach.jpgMoore cites Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, nineteenth-century authors, poets and philosophers whose grasp of religion was, in the sense that Moore describes it, a “personal experience of the holy.” They designed their lives to be more contemplative, Moore suggests, in order to be in relationship to nature and to the mysterious things in life. Thomas also insists secular literature is holy, confirming that he gets religious and spiritual guidance there. Traditional religions have changed in contemporary culture and are now “losing favor” because we are moving into a new world, he says.

Upon hearing this, I think of the alchemical adage that the the “old king” must die in order for alchemical transmutation to begin and so something new can take its place. We are seeing dynamic change on the planet, and so much is in decline— not just religion, but also in the natural world and in social systems around the globe. Allowing ourselves to be open, to be touched by wonder and awe of otherly forces is a critical process. If we don’t surrender, transformation will be forced on us, because it will happen whether we like it or not, I suggest to Thomas.

Moore agrees, invoking a Latin term he utilized as a monk, contemptus mundi, which means not contempt for the world, but rather resistance to the world. To develop a sense of the holy, he says, we have to resist the secular culture and resist the science-based culture of today, as it doesn’t make room for the holy and the “other.” The secular world is not enough for us. In order to have a soulful life, we need to have a sense of the holy. In a paradoxical way, the more we can be in touch with the transcendent and the mysterious, the more human we are, Thomas contends. It touches and opens and feeds our soul in a way that can only happen when we have a connection to a bigger reality, so a “soulful life” corresponds to the life of the holy.

James-Hillman2010.jpgI felt a growing realization as Thomas talked about being human, a reminder that the root of the word human is related to humus which is related to the earth itself. There is no “inside” and “outside,” just as Thomas said. Everything is connected. When I mentioned this to him, he reminded me that James Hillman, with whom Moore was friends for 38 years, believed that soul is in everything. Hillman was greatly interested in the anima mundi, or soul of the world, Moore told me, remembering how Hillman decided to stop his private therapy practice because he wanted to turn his therapeutic attention to the world. For his part, Thomas tells me, he chose to do both—to continue his private practice in order to help the individual, and to write books to help bring an awareness of soul in the world outside of us.

I’m reminded then how Jung talks about how the work must begin with the individual, and as we each do our own work, it can ripple out into the world. It makes me think of how hard it can be at times to actually do the work and how precious and poignant it is when we get overwhelmed by the world and experience dark nights of the soul. I ask Tom if he has insights on how we can deal with these valleys we encounter.

Among other suggestions, one important practice is to express ourselves in poetic language, to find an artistic way, even a beautiful way, to depict how you’re feeling. It’s the beauty that brings soul forward, Thomas maintains.

I think of a lecture not long ago where I heard Thomas talk about a Japanese art form, wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of imperfection, where cracks in pottery are repaired with gold to enhance them and make them beautiful. All of us could benefit from the idea of wabi-sabi when we are in the valleys, or dark nights, Moore expounds, because we are wabi-sabi in that moment. “What if we had the idea of ourselves as essentially and beautifully imperfect?” he asks. That would help us get through those dark moments.

In response, I contemplate how each of us has a different way of dealing with challenges that arise for us, and different ways of tapping into that sense of soul or holy or sacred. How can we introduce the holy more fully into the collective, I wonder.

We are suffering from our secularism, Thomas says. The church and the secular world are split into opposites. That kind of split is an indication of neurosis. Something is wrong. It would help if we didn’t separate what we do on one day of the week from the rest of the week.

Another positive move is to find the holy manifested in the natural world. By doing this, we can make every effort to move against the degradation of the natural world we’re experiencing. Spiritual life requires nature. It also requires time and work—a lifelong process of going through passages and initiations in order to become a mature person, and a psychology that is deeper than what is currently taught in most schools, Thomas suggests.

For Moore, connecting psychology with religions is very valuable. Religions teach a lot about initiation, values, and seeing a vision of the world. Secular psychology doesn’t provide the depth of thought, or “deep culture,” or a connection with the wisdom of the past, all aspects of soul which are so greatly needed for tending the soul of the world. Engaging with depth psychology and finding the holy in our own experience, though, is a beginning. May each one of us make that move toward consciousness in whatever small, precious way we can.

Listen to the full interview with Thomas Moore here (Approx. 33 mins.)

Learn more / Register for Pacifica’s upcoming 40th Anniversary Conference, Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas


Thomas Moore, Ph.D., received his degree in religion from Syracuse University. Before that he was a monk for thirteen years. He is the author of Care of the Soul and nineteen other books, with four new publications coming out in 2016. He has been a psychotherapist for forty years and lectures widely on depth psychology, religion/spirituality and the arts. He was a close friend of James Hillman for 38 years. He is also a musician, translator and writer of fiction. For more information, visit www.careofthesoul.net

bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., graduated from Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program after defending her dissertation in December 2014. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies, and of DepthList.com, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners. She is also the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal, and regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. Bonnie has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute; in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and has been extensively involved in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

*This blogpost was originally posted on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute, on March 17, 2016