Happy Day, Mark137,
Thanks for coming to play with us in Conversations of a Higher Order. Serendipity does seem a guiding theme – your origin story certainly rings bells for me!
I spent many a year on the road with no fixed address, sofa surfing my way across the USA. At one point, no matter where I’d go, from Portland to Madison to Taos and such, there would be brochures addressed to me waiting when I arrived, announcing a brand new Mythological Studies graduate program at the Pacifica Graduate Institute. I had been aware of Pacifica for some time, and knew Joseph Campbell’s personal library lived there – but a Depth Psychology degree, even with a focus on myth, didn’t hold much appeal. An actual graduate degree in myth, on the other hand, did pique me interest (not to mention the mystery of who was sending these brochures, and how did they know the address of friends I’d likely be visiting over the course of a year?), so I eventually decided to take that serendipity as a sign and follow-up.
When I received word Pacifica had scheduled an orientation day for prospective students to learn more about the Mythological Studies degree, I thumbed my way to Isla Vista (for any who might be reading this that aren’t familiar with the area, Isla Vista, on the edge of the UC Santa Barbara campus, contains the most densely populated square mile west of the Mississippi – some 18,000 students living there at the time). I crashed over a few days with a young friend, a film major at UC Santa Barbara who was sharing part of a house with several other students.
The orientation consisted of myself and two others asking questions of Jonathan Young, who was serving as curator of Campbell”s archives and chair of the new program. I also spent a long, leisurely period among Campbell’s books, similarly fascinated by the marginalia. Unfortunately, much as I would have loved to attend, Pacifica had a daunting gatekeeper blocking matriculation – a scary, bloated beast called Tuition (at the time, quite impassable for a full time hippie hitchhiker Deadhead with no visible means of support).
The actual highlight of the journey for me was a hike with my friend and his roommates, taking a trail behind Thomas Aquinas Seminary, meeting the river and following it up through the punchbowls to Ojai springs. Several episodes occurred on that hike (which I’m likely to recount in greater detail elsewhere) that turned out to have been foreshadowed in uncanny detail in a dream I had recorded exactly forty days earlier! Blew my companions away on our return to Isla Vista when I pulled out my dream journal and let them read the relevant passages.
Ironically, even though I did not attend, some two decades later I was co-chair (with Toni D’Anca of Pacifica and Dr. Safron Rossi of OPUS Archives) of the Study of Myth symposium, attended by over 200 people, consisting of 80 different presentations over Labor Day weekend on one of the Pacifica Graduate Institute campuses. I was given a spacious secret suite for visiting faculty tucked away in a corner of the dorm (with its own kitchen and dining area, living room, office area, and bedroom). As I dined in the Boardroom the night before the symposium began with a number of Pacifica faculty and other mythic luminaries, who embraced me as a peer, I realized I had managed to sidestep that portal guardian and accrue many of the benefits of a Pacifica education without actually jumping through all the traditional hoops.
I’m glad you are here, Mark, and look forward to your participation in other conversations in these forums.