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My story ..

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    Hi There!  I guess I just serendipitously found this website.  You see, there was a time, long ago now, when I had considered matriculating at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Montecito California after wanting to change my major from Math Science at UCSB to Cognitive Psychology after stumbling upon Joseph Campbell being interviewed on PBS by Bill Moyers.  I was about 26 years old at the time, and by the sheerest stroke of synchronicity, I was just then integrating my first psychedelic experiences (magic mushrooms) which I had finally procured, after 12 longs years of searching, since I was 14 and first listened to The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows.

    Well, I stayed at UCSB and didn’t go to PGI, but I did visit the campus just as Joseph Campbell’s books were arriving at the little library on campus (this was before they built a special room for his books) and I volunteered to unbox all of Campbell’s books.  They had only one librarian.  (I think his name was Mark, too, although I’m not sure.  I had dinner at his house one night and met his girlfriend.  Very nice couple!)  It was fun unpacking the books!  I read the marginalia in several books that I had read as well, Fritjof Capra’s the Tao of Physics, for instance.  I had a Japanese girlfriend named Fumie at the time who also helped unpack the boxes.  She was tickled when she saw Joseph’s workbooks when he was learning Japanese that he used on one of his foreign excursions to the Far East.

    I was lucky enough to briefly meet Joseph’s wife Jean at the campus.  She had come to Santa Barbara for a gala opening at the fabulous Arlington Theatre (with its Spanish interior and a starry night sky).   I remember that John Densmore, drummer for the Doors, and I believe Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead performed some drum routines.  (Robert Bly’s drum circles were big during those days.)

    All in all it was quite an experience!  A couple of years later I would move to a flat with some Deadheads at 610 Ashbury Street, just off of Haight in San Francisco, about a year before Jerry Garcia died.  I had moved there because I had planned to write a novel, tentatively titled, Luce Bachot: The Making of a Radical that was to take place between 1965 and 1971.  The book was meant to explore the Anti-Vietnam War movement, which would culminate in the bombing of the U.S. Capitol building around the May Day protests that was going on in Washington D.C. at the time.  Does anyone remember the Weathermen/Weather Underground?  It was to be a fictionalized account of those days.

    Alas, as John Lennon would say, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” and the book remains only a figment of my imagination.  Too bad, because I really can’t wait to read it!

    Anyway, that’s my story.  Joseph Campbell, and through him, Carl Jung, became a tremendous influence on my thinking.  I just now discovered this website, and it seems like a pretty cool place to visit!  I’m always interested in conversing with people who share my interests.  This is my first post, and I have no idea what, if any, response I’ll get.  Could be interesting, no?

    Toby Johnson

      Hi Mark, I resonated with points in your introductory letter. I was in attendance at that event you mentioned with John Densmore and Mickey Hart. AND I lived on the same block as you on Ashbury. For six months in 1973, I lived in 602 Ashbury. One of the rooms in the flat had the turret overlooking the intersection of Haight & Ashbury. Toby Johnson (my story of knowing Joseph Campbell is earlier in the Meet and Greet section here)


      Hi Toby.

      So you lived in the Haight in 1973?  I’m curious about what you experienced then.  From all I have read (like from Charles Perry’s A History of the Haight-Ashbury) if you had to choose only one year to live there, 1966 would be it.  I wouldn’t be surprised, since in my humble opinion, that was when the best music was written and recorded (Revolver, especially.)  By the next year, the so-called Summer of Love, the Haight had deteriorated by the influx of thousands of drift-less kids, a far cry from the “original hippies,” like Peter Coyote of the Diggers.

      When I first arrived in the Haight, I was introduced to a beautiful young blonde girl who went by the name of “Angel.”  This was because she was seriously strung out on heroin.  We conversed for a couple of hours while I was tripping on LSD.  We kind of connected in an oblique way, sort of like I could see where she was at mentally through the corner of my eye.  She wanted desperately to escape from her “boyfriend.”  Alas, I could offer nothing to her.  It was very very sad.  A real “bummer” trip, if you know what I mean.  It upset me for months.  Eventually, she disappeared.  However, most of the kids I met there were strung out on alcohol, mainly, and were recovering from the death of Kurt Cobain.  I kind of understood, as the murder of John Lennon in 1980 kind of destroyed my faith in humanity for a while.

      Toby Johnson

        Hi Mark, I think you’re right about 1966 being the “best year” in the Haight. I first visited in ’67. I was still in Catholic religious life; I stayed at the Servite House at Stanyan and Fulton. One evening we walked down to Haight Street for a pizza. And there was the “Summer of Love” all over the place. I was amazed. I’d done LSD the previous year, and sort of understood what was going on, though didn’t know about the term “Summer of Love” yet. I bought an ankh made out of leather, and wore it as the crucifix with my Servite habit. I remember the street was crowded with people and it was a little scary.

        I moved to 602 Ashbury in 72 or 73. My room in the top floor flat looked out onto Haight Street. There was a vacant storefront across the street. The junkies hung out along there because there were no shop owners to shoo them away. One of my roommates was a medical student at UCSF and was an occasionally heroin user himself (tragically cause it killed him the day he completed his residency and got his MD). He became a sort of doctor to the junkies; he’d bring all sorts of people to the flat where he treated minor wounds and infections. We had stuff ripped off quite regularly.

        I loved living at that address, and really liked the flat. We had a turret in the livingroom, which was actually another roommate’s bedroom, and a two story staircase and upstairs landing. It was very elegant, but shabby.

        But the neighborhood was long past hippie prime. The junkies made it hard to live there. I’d borrowed my roommate’s car (not the doctor) one day, and parked very briefly in front of the flat to check my mail and the car was broken into and, among other things, my journal was stolen.

        That was a major turning point in my life. The anonymous thief was what Joe would have called a “guide” or maybe a “boundary guardian.”


        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.

        Serendipity indeed!

        I’m glad you are here, Mark, and look forward to your participation in other conversations in these forums.

        Metaphorically Yours,


        Hello Stephen!

        Thank you so much for welcoming me to your club!  It’s taken me a little while to get back to you because I’ve been busy trying to rescue my old Toshiba laptop with Windows XP.  It’s an ancient operating system, but it’s done the job for me for 15 years, and I stupidly took it online and got infected, necessitating an operating system overhaul.  All is better now.

        Joseph (Joe?) once said that if you find an author who grabs you, you should read everything he wrote, and then go read what that author had read, and the world opens up for you in a consistent way.  So, of course, I’ve read most all of Campbell’s works.  And, believe it or not, I’ve read most of the Collective Works of Carl Jung, many decades ago now.  You see, I’ve always been anima-obsessed, and it wasn’t until I read Jung that I even had an inkling of what I was up against.  I’ve spent many years trying to exorcise her, or, more precisely, to at least mollify her somewhat.  I haven’t quite turned her into an ally yet, but I’m getting there.  She’s very strong, and dangerous, in me.  But learning about the anima turned out to be only half of the story.  I recently came across Dorothy Tannoy’s 1979 book Love and Limerence, and let me tell you, it would have come in mighty handy during a particularly fraught period for me, 1986-1991.  Alas, I remained mostly blind to my own condition, and now have the scars to show for it.

        I’m now on a Will Durant kick.  I really liked his The Story of Philosophy book, and so I bought half of his (and his wife’s) 11 volume The Story of Civilization series.  That’s about 6 thick books, and I’m only on the first one!  Interesting though!  I’ve since been able to download (for free) a whole bunch of audiobooks from him.

        The problem I have now, as for most people, is time.  I doubt I’ll get through 5% of my personal library before I finally kick the bucket and zoom out of here.  There’s so much to read, watch, and listen to!  I took some comfort from Joe’s experience when he returned from Europe and decided against a Ph.D.  You see, unlike Joe, I’m not a scholar, as I have a severe allergy to specialization.  The best part of college was studying 4 subjects at once.  As soon as I do a deep dive into any subject, I pretty much lose interest, and worse, become depressed.  Joe called himself a “generalist,” something I can relate to.  Despite interdisciplinary studies, there’s not much profit when you don’t specialize in something.  I’ve recently taken some comfort in reading an essay called In Defense of the Dilettante (or was that conveniently just in my imagination?  It often runs wild).

        Anyway, thanks again for the welcome.  I suppose I should look over some of the threads on this site.  I don’t really know where to begin, so maybe I’ll just stumble upon something good.

        Take care,

        Mark Brennan

        (Intrepid psychonaut extraordinaire)


          Mark 123

          “Specialization is for insects.” ― Robert A. Heinlein. Great author .

          For  me the quote brings a deeper understanding to the plagues and helps conflate with the Tower of Babel. Nothing separates humanity faster than a division of tongues. One field of specialization can not understand or care about what the other is saying . Locusts are legion as are the rooms in the tower . I to have an aversion and thoroughly enjoy reading. May your epiphanies manifest .



          I have not read much of Robert Heinlein, although I certainly know his name.  As a teenager I used to read Arthur C. Clark a lot, Imperial Earth (1976) being my favorite story of his.  Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood’s End were memorable too.

          However, I am a superfan of Frank Herbert’s Dune series.  Add J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings and William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, and you have the 3 stories that I would bring to that proverbial deserted island to keep me company.

          I met Frank Herbert at a book signing in Santa Barbara late in the 1980s.  As I walked away, I turned, and saw him looking quite intently at me, with his piercing eyes.  I won’t forget that one.  Coincidentally, he was born in the same hospital as I wa in Tacoma, WA, although a couple of decades earlier than me.  Crazy that his created world, Arrakis, was so unlike the Pacific Northwest, with it’s endless grey skies and its clouds depressingly hovering just over the tree line.


            I love the prophets of Sci-fi.

            My island of choice for stranding is on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue between the lions of Patience and Fortitude. All I would need is a ruler and pencil to search for the remains of Oedipus …


            I fully understand the plight of too many books and not enough time. The Japanese term for buying more books than you can read is tsundoku – an incurable condition for me.

            I credit Campbell for turning me on to Carl Jung. I purchased The Portable Jung primarily for Campbell’s foreword (still one of the most succinct accounts of Jung’s intellectual development and the trajectory of the Freud-Jung relationship until recent years; I find Deirdre Bair’s  2008 Jung: A Biography  the most thorough and comprehensive – and am disappointed to learn she just passed away in April at the age of 84), but then I started reading the selections from Jung, and from there had no choice but to start collecting the Collected Works – absolutely mind-blowing!

            Carl Jung, like Campbell, is one of the rare nonfiction authors I can read and re-read. Every time I read a passage I’ve read before, it’s like peeling an onion – layer after layer after layer of new and deeper insights. Outside the Collected Works, I can’t recommend highly enough Dream Analysis: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1928 – 1930 by C.G. Jung, (ed. William McGuire), thicker than most volumes in the CW and conducted in English by Jung, and Children’s Dreams: Notes from the Seminar Given in 1936 – 1940 by C.G. Jung. (Though Jung often mentions using active imagination, he never fully describes this technique – but in these seminars he delves more fully into that with examples galore).

            I suspect the piece on dilettantes you reference might be A Dilettante Among Symbols, the foreword from Heinrich Zimmer’s The King and the Corpse (edited by Campbell), a sweet essay – especially for those of us eschew academic specialization. I’m reminded of Campbell’s discussion re specialization:

            A specialist can come up and say, in all seriousness⁠, ‘The people in the Congo have five fingers on their right hand.’ If I say, ‘Well, the people in Alaska have five fingers on their right hand,’ I’m called a generalist. And if I say that the people in the caves in 30,000 B.C. had five fingers on their right hand, I’m a mystic⁠!”

            As for science fiction and fantasy, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Ursula K. LeGuin populate my personal pantheon (authors who create an incredibly detailed universe that is a setting for multiple novels).

            You might consider starting a discussion on Jung, Mark, or on science  fiction authors, in The Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum (your first post needn’t be too detailed – you could pretty much cut-and-paste what you said about Jung above), rather than burying it in the Meet & Greet forum (I suspect a lot of people would love to weigh in on Jung, or on sci-fi, but are unlikely to stumble across it here).


            Hey Stephen, thanks for your reply!

            So I did read a number of Biographies on Jung back in the 1980s, but don’t remember which ones they were, other than a couple of them were female disciples (probably the right word, students? patients?) of his.  They were very interesting.  One book I found insightful is called Invisible Partners by John Sanford.   I thought I read somewhere that Jung felt that one cannot very well analyse one’s own dreams (is that right?), and since there’s no chance of me talking to a Jungian analyst, I kind of ignored dream interpretation.  It seems like one has to be well versed in various mythological themes to be any good at it.  Campbell said something like “Be careful in casting out the devil in you, that you don’t cast out the best part of you,” which seemed to me to be a kind of warning.  I’d like very much to read A Dilettante Among Symbols, might make me feel better about myself 🙂

            I like your advice to start a discussion.  I doubt very much I have much interesting to say on Jung that hasn’t been said a thousand times before by thousands of people.  My favorite books of his are Anima and Animus, Psychological Types, and Memories, Dreams, and Reflections.  His work on Alchemy and Synchronicity are pretty much out of my league.

            I do like your suggestion on science fiction and fantasy.  Although I’ve read LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy and books like The Sword of Shannara, The Lord of the Rings is the only fantasy novel that really appeals to me.  However, I don’t think I’d have too much to say about it, as I don’t really agree with Tolkien’s cosmology, athough I like very much the beginning of The Silmarillion.   It was Gandalf and Galadriel (the first fictional, indeed, any, person that I fell in love with) that I liked best about the book.  (The first time I read it, in high school 1976, I was about to put the book down when Gandalf fell, but I looked ahead and saw that he came back, causing me to finish the tale.)

            But I am intrigued with starting a thread on the Dune series.  That book puts all the other science fiction books I’ve read to shame!  There are so many interesting ideas in it!

            My other area of interest is in the spiritual uses of psychedelic drugs.  Might that be a topic to find a home on this website?



            I am so sorry to be tardy in replying, Mark – it’s been a brutal week (including my first Covid test in the wake of a potential  exposure to through my wife’s work – four days later, results still pending).

            Are the spiritual uses of psychedelics an appropriate topic in Conversations of a Higher Order? Well, even though he never indulged himself, Joseph Campbell enjoyed friendships with Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who first synthesized LSD in 1938,  Huston Smith, the noted religious studies scholar involved in early psychedelic research at Harvard, Alan Watts, celebrated author and mystic who was no stranger to LSD, Stanislav Grof, known for his research into the nature of consciousness (including observation and documentation of thousands of LSD research sessions at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague and the Maryland Psychiatric Research center in Baltimore) and a frequent collaborator with Campbell at Esalen seminars, and the Grateful Dead, who occupied the epicenter of psychedelic counterculture for over three decades.

            Sure seems Campbell considered the topic appropriate, which works for me (not to mention how psychedelics spiritually transformed my own life). Please do start a discussion on this in The Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum – it’s an inspired idea. Even if it’s just you and me at first, I have no doubt others who share our enthusiasm will eventually join in  . . .

            Toby Johnson

              You know, I met Joseph Campbell when I was a work-scholar, as cook and bottlewasher and general factotem, for several summers at The Mann Ranch Seminars in the 1970s. During a conversation over dinner before the first seminar he taught there, I was quite surprised to discover how “conservative” Joe presented himself. Tho’ he said he meant it in the most traditional sense and not in a strictly political (i.e., Republican) way, but it was not very “hippie-friendly.” He commented that he thought taking LSD was like driving your car off a cliff to see what would happen when you hit bottom.

              On the other hand, many of us around that seminar program in those days were quite hippie ourselves. One summer we had a bottle of tabs of blue acid and various ones of us had some marvelous experiences of seeing what happened when the car came to the edge of the cliff. It never went crashing down for any of us. It always just took off and we went flying with it.

              One summer a Mexican psychiatrist named Salvador Roquet gave a seminar on Psychedelic Therapy. Two people were selected by drawing straws to be the guinea pigs in a demonstration, using injectable Ketamine because it was fast acting and quickly over (as opposed to LSD which lasted hours). I was one of the lucky two who drew the long straws.

              Dr Roquet explained (through a translator) that ketamine, which was an unusual and strictly surgical drug at the time and not at all a “drug of abuse,” anesthetized the ego function leaving consciousness alert (and in surgery was accompanied with a sedative so you’d sleep through it). I can still recall the experience of being unable to distinguish between myself and the other people in the room. They were sitting in a circle observing the demonstration and asking questions. I couldn’t tell whether I was asking them or they were asking me. There were just questions. Then I couldn’t tell the difference between myself and the furniture, then between myself and empty space, and then finally between myself and God. They said I rose up on my knees and spread my arms and announced: “I am God.” Then even God disappeared and, I think, I was floating in emptiness before creation and observed the Big Bang in the far distance.

              That was an “hallucination,” of course, but I think the fundamental experience is actually true—deep beneath the part of us that assembles our egos is that collective consciousness that in myth we call God. That consciousness is the observer/experiencer in all our experiences.

              Joe would have liked that, I think.


              Let me add a note to this posting a couple of days later. Synchronicity is one of the fundamental and neatest ideas in the Jungian universe. Campbell spoke about being on the track of your bliss–and one of the ways of knowing you are on it is that you experience meaningful coincidences which seem to affirm the events of your life.

              In my story above I told about Joe’s attitude to LSD–that it was like driving your car over a cliff to see what happened. So now, a couple of days later, Facebook has presented to me a video of driving a car off a cliff. It’s Australian trekkers driving an SUV over a dry waterfall, but it’s 10 or 12 feet down. And they are driving the car “vertically.” And they get through it fine and continue on driving downstream.

              But it is exactly the image of driving your car off a cliff.

              If I may speak mythically, perhaps “Joe” was agreeing from beyond eternity.🙃



              Okay… I think I shall start a new conversation.  I’ve just finished polishing off a long essay that I emailed to a pen-pal called, “On Religion and Spirituality.”  Said pen-pal is actually my friends mother, who really likes me, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not like any hippie that she had ever met.  It took reams of email-paper as well as a 39-page Wikipedia article on hippies to disabuse her notion of hippiedom.  She has lived in Tiberon for a long while, so she was smack dab in the middle of the Bay Area hippie explosion of 1967.  It was a long row to hoe, let me tell you, but I think she’s softening up her attitudes.  She’s definitely most Christian, but not overly so, as far as I can tell, so she hasn’t discarded what I have to say out of hand.

              So I’ll probably try to adapt that essay into a new conversation.  I haven’t taken the time yet to see how conversations work on this site.  You know, can I write too much?  Am I allowed to quote authors such as Campbell, Groff, Watts, et. al?  Are there any rules that I should follow?  Please let me know.


              Starting a conversation, Mark, is pretty much the same as saying hello in this thread. Some posts are brief, some are long; despite my own tendency toward excessive verbosity, I have yet to bump up against a word limit. Feel free to peruse some of the threads in the other forums (most of which are at least tangentially related to the overarching theme of that forum) to get an idea; you might consider posting in the Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum, which serves as a catch-all for any topics that don’t seem to fit in the other forums.

              Quote anyone you would like. We do ask that you steer clear of contemporary politics, but anything related to one or another of Joseph Campbell’s many areas of interest (not just mythology, but depth psychology, the arts, comparative religion, archaeology and anthropology, biology, creativity, dreams, imagination, writing . . . even quantum physics) is appropriate.

              Feel free to use the block quote function if citing lengthy passages (or quoting something from a previous poster in a thread you are responding to); for hyperlinks, do what I did above with the Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum – highlight what you want to link, then click the hyperlink icon (looks like a diagonal paperclip), and we’d prefer it if you check the option to “open link in a new window” when you do so.

              And if you would like to know when someone replies (conversation threads, as you may have noticed already, tend to unfold at a more leisurely pace here than on social media), check the “Notify me of follow-up replies via email” box at the bottom of your post before clicking “Submit.”

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