Guest: Craig Chalquist
Summary: Dr. Craig Chalquist explains what it means for a place to have a soul and how ancient myths can play out quite literally in the modern world, offering a tool for predicting the future.
**Boston:** Hi there. And thank you for joining me for another episode of Mythic. I have an amazing guest today, but before we talk about the good doctor, I want to acknowledge that the podcast is coming back after a really long break. It has been months since my last episode.
And here's the reason for it. Just over a year ago, I started a professional development training that required a lot more time and energy than I expected.
And as a result, some of my favorite projects fell by the wayside. Including this podcast and I am sorry. I apologize for my extended and unexpected absence.
But before that happened. I recorded a lot of interviews.
And during the unexpected hiatus I heard from some listeners. And you told me that you wanted more storytelling, like in the first couple of episodes. So that's coming back soon.
And to make sure that I can stay on a more consistent schedule. I've hired an editor to help me catch up on the backlog and move forward.
If you'd like to help me keep them employed, you can visit mythic podcast.com and hit the, buy me a coffee button and you can make a one-time or ongoing contribution to the program. Okay enough behind the scenes stuff. Let's get to today's discussion. Dr. Craig Chalquist is on the show today. Dr. Chalquist is a professor, author and consultant. He's a depth psychologist. Who writes and teaches at the intersection of psyche story and imagination. What's great about Craig is he has one foot in the academy. And another foot in the world. Making him great to talk to about really deep, intricate, and complex topics.
Craig is a former associate provost at Pacifica graduate Institute and former full professor in the department of east-west psychology at CIIS in San Francisco. He has designed and launched 40 psychology philosophy mythology and ecotherapy courses for graduate students and undergraduates.
His books include ecotherapy healing with nature in mind ,Counterpoint and Myths Among Us: When Timeless Tale Return to Life. And this year he launched THE LORECAST, a podcast to deepen into the stories that we live by. You'll find links for all of those in the show notes and now without further ado here is Dr. Craig Chalquist.
Dr. Chalquist, thank you so much for being with me here today. Will you introduce yourself for our listeners a little bit about your origin story?
**Craig:** Hey everybody. I'm originally from Southern California, I was born in San Diego and my background until recently was mostly psychology, particularly depth psychology. I practiced as a psychotherapist on and off for nine years before I became a full-time educator and I'm a core faculty member as well as a student at the California Institute of integral studies where I'm working on my second PhD, which is going to be in philosophy and religion.
My first one was in depth psychology, so it's good to be here. And I'm glad you're here too.
**Boston:** And what specifically is depth psychology. How do you define it?
**Craig:** Many different possible definitions. the simplest one that I sometimes share with students is the multidisciplinary approach to studying how consciousness and the unconscious interact, which is really bare bones. I'm actually studying this philosophically right now. One way of thinking about it is it's an elaboration of an ancient wisdom path that now takes the form of the psychology that looks into the depths below the surface of things like mood and behavior and conscious life to see what's going on underneath, not just personally, but collectively as well. That wisdom path I referred to as hermeticism. A lot of hermetic influences in depth psychology.
**Boston:** Fascinating. as soon as you said hermeticism, this is where that link between psychology and mythology slip in so beautifully. How do you think hermetics --Hermes. Where do you think depth psychology and mythology overlap?
**Craig:** Huge question. You know, there's a picture of Freud that I really like. Actually not Freud Fred's desk, that's floating around on the internet somewhere. And it was taken by somebody who sat at Freud's desk in what's now the Freud Museum. And when you look across Freud's desk, what looks back at you is all these figurines and statuettes of gods. And I really liked that view. So even Freud was aware that mythology works like a kind of collective psychology and that it's always with us. I'm very distrustful of these, scheme as that say, you know, we start out in magical thinking and then mythic thinking and then supposed rationality, No, myth is something that's always with us, I think.
And so, psychology, which here in the states markets itself as a strict science is full of mythological motifs and images and old patterns that replay. And of course, part of James Hillman project was to show that, to show how much mythology there was in psychology. So there's some overlap right there.
**Boston:** Thank you. I was first introduced to your work. I think it was through the Mythologium last year. You gave a lecture through the Mythologium Conference and introduced me to a term I had not heard which is terrapsychology. Can you tell me about terrapsychology?
**Craig:** Yeah. some years back there was a group of us at Pacific Graduate Institute, who all at first unconnected with each other. We all, were all having experiences of the intensity of the presence of the places where we were. So for instance, for part of that time I was living in San Diego. and The city kept showing up in my dreams.
And I learned that some of the dream characters that I previously had thought were just parts of my own psyche were actually accurately reflecting things that were going on in the city that I had no knowledge of. So we began to look for what I called at that time the psychoanalysis of place And asking things like, how is it that a place can be showing up like this internally for us? You know, and what is place presence? What is all this soul of place stuff that you've you hear about or genius loci whatever, So that was the beginning of it. And then we met each other, Matt Cochran and Molly Mitchell, and then other people joined up afterwards and we all in different ways, we're doing doctoral work on that, different aspects of it,
**Boston:** Can you give me an example of these aspects of place that were showing up in your dreams?
**Craig:** Yeah. The, a couple of examples. One is, you know, I went all over California investigating the different place presences as part of my doctoral work, and that project ended up extending after graduation. So I've written it up in my Animate California trilogy. So it took three books. It could have been longer.
And, I often encounter that. So for instance, when I, the first time I went to San Luis Obispo, I had never been up there. I had seen pictures of the freeway going through the town, but I'd never been there myself. And the night before I went, I had a dream in which one of those freeway images popped up with the word polluted.
And I went, wow. And there's so many different ways of interpreting a dream like that. And I was wondering if it meant something about me or my psyche or whatever. And then when I got there, I quickly realized there was a massive level of ecological crisis happening up there, whether it was invasive species or a broken sewer line in the city or Avila Beach, which had a 90 year old spill and basically had to be completely.
So there was a lot of ecology disaster happening when I went up there. So the dream accurately reflected. the first dream I ever got onto about all of this was a feminine figure, who in the dream told me that she was San Diego. And I had no way of understanding this because the dream theory and practice that I had learned from depth psychology in my years practicing therapy all made it about us, about human beings, but it didn't explain to use a young Ian term. It didn't explain how the presence of a place, the complexities of a place could personify could turn into a dream character and actually address me. And when I talked to other people, they were having similar experiences.
So we all decided we need to study it more.
**Boston:** And what does it look like to study it more.
How do you study this?
**Craig:** There's a body of practice that came out of this theory and practice called Terrapsychological inquiry. And terrapsychology is my own coinage for what we, a group of us were doing in terms of looking at how, the things of the world, not only the natural aspect and plants and birds and trees and all that, which is studied by eco psychology, not only how those things become part of us, but also the built environment, cars and freeways and houses and things like that.
How do those get into us? So terrapsychological inquiry became a research method, a qualitative research method for studying this, and so we look for recurring mythological and other kinds of motifs popping up in particular places. We studied the geology and the geography. We talked to long-time residents of a place, ask them questions about what they're noticing and what's coming up for them. There's a number of things we do to try to tune into what's happening in that particular place and what makes it unique. You said something in the Pacific of course, the, Applied Myth program. And you, I think you said it like this, that the living heart, the heart of Dionysus beats in San Francisco, or something to that effect. I've lived in San Francisco for 25 years now with some times away. I 100% agree with that assessment on so many levels. And I really want to hear what you meant by that and play with this idea,
uh, because I definitely have my own thoughts on it. The heart of Dionysus beats in San Francisco.
**Boston:** Tell me about that.
**Craig:** Yeah, it's fun to talk over this with somebody who's been a resident of the place so long and knows it pretty well. So I haven't ever lived in San Francisco. I've taught there for years. So I know at that way a bit, not the way a resident would you know. Not everybody does terrorist psychology this way, but because of my strong interest in myth,which people outside the west just referred to as sacred stories, or old tellings or whatever. I'm always curious about which mythological presences are strong in particular places. And it tends to be one plus a whole story that they're embedded in. So when I first started working in San Francisco, I noticed that the place felt really intense and loud to me.
And even that I was starting to learn to think and perceive terrapsychologically, so I was looking for recurring motifs and there was a day when I've, when I was pretty new to the city where I was riding the cable cars up and down the Hills. I was starting to read about the city and I was thinking about how, a drunken city planner named, Jasper O'Farrell, instead of running the roads on contour up the hill so the characters of the time could actually reach the top, he just, he designed that part of the city for the roads to go straight up the hill, and nobody had any way of going up that steep route except by walking. So, mining's gifts were converted. They were brought up from underground and they were turned into what we now recognize as cable cars in order to meet that difficulty.
So I noticed in myself that when I go up a steep hill and down and up the steep hill and down, the psychotherapist in me was like, this place is a mood swing,
**Boston:** Okay. I hadn't thought about that as a geographic experience, but yes.
**Craig:** Yeah. When I first got there, I was, I was really moody and after awhile, my psyche adapted to it. As you know, there's always something going on there, there's big showy street parades and all kinds of drama, right? Strong cultural life in the city. So that, andthe place as a queer haven, which is what one of my doctoral students, did her dissertation on. Why is the city like that? Why is it that people are drawn here and feel safe here, you know? And so that, and a number of other things got me thinking about Dionysus the gender queer drama God of altered states. That was another thing I noticed too. I, when I worked at CIIS for the first time, I would say about a quarter of my doctoral students were interested in psychedelics.
And I remember being mystified. Why is everyone so into getting high in altered states? But then when I understood who is there, I went, oh, of course, of course that's how it is. Also Dionysus in Greek mythology is a figure that Heraclitis told us is sometimes very close to Pluto or Hades, I should say, in Greek mythology. And in some tellings is Hades. So the presence of money in San Francisco and the plutocracy that rules, the city politics for one, there's that there and a lot of underworld themes. When the fire and earthquake happened in 1906, a lot of people got buried under ground that now freeways were set up over. The Golden Gate Bridge was supposed to be some version of battleship gray and the primer coat went on and it was flame orange, and they went well. Yeah, that kind of works, So they left it that way. There was a group of people who. We're builders working on the bridge. And they had, at that time, they had nets below it to catch people who fall off. So a number of them fell and would have been killed without those nets as they were building the bridge in the 30s.
And so they all formed a drinking club. So there's Dionysus again, and it was called the Halfway to Hell Club. So, it's pretty clear to me that Dionysus ruled San Francisco. I should mention too about the heart.There's an old Orphic story that when Dionysus was a child, some of the Titans, they're basically the giants of Greek mythology.
They wanted to eat him. So they distracted him with shiny gadgets. in other words, the tech boom, you know. While he was playing with these toys, they set up a tripod with a big bowl that they cooked him in. And they dismembered him and they ate all of them except his heart, at which point Zeus became aware of what was going on.
So Zeus threw lightning that electrocuted the Titans. And there's various versions of how this happens, but basically Dionysus was regrown from the heart, which is why he's called twice born. You know, that theme of death rebirth is strong in the city. It's even on the city flag, the phoenix is the city's symbol. Whenever I think of that song, I left my heart in San Francisco. I think about Dionysus being regrown.
**Boston:** It's so good. It's so rich. And in recent decades, the thing that I'm aware of is, Burning Man emerging from San Francisco, starting on the beach by the water. It being moved out to the desert as an annual cycle, that is the phoenix rises and falls away. For one week a year, it's the third largest city in Nevada, and then it ceases to exist at, and this and that, a huge percentage of those people come back to San Francisco.
You also said something that really caught my attention. The tech boom. I have this sense right now of San Francisco that we're in between chapters.
San Francisco natives talk about the city undergoing a complete transformation, seven year cycles. Everything here happens in seven year cycles, and there does seem to be some truth in that.
There's been a merger of tech. And you mentioned a lot of your students were interested in psychedelics. So there's this interest in the psychedelic experience that is Dionysian. There's also the extreme, there's so much mental illness. In San Francisco, there is the disintegrated. You know, what happens when you can't integrate the experience and I'm bouncing from topic to topic here, but one I wanted to bring in is the story of, Emperor Norton.
do you know this story?
**Craig:** Yeah, that's a great story.
**Boston:** It's a great story. That Emperor Norton was a man who may have been delusional or may have been an incredible performance artist or both. But he lived a dream that he brought San Francisco into his integration of madness and culture and transformation, and strikes me as a Dionysian figure.
**Craig:** Yeah, totally.
I really likeEmperor Norton. I wish I could've met him.
**Boston:** Me too.
**Craig:** He's fascinating. And he was a tremendous activist in some ways when people, John Brown and others, when people were being victimized, he stood up to the oppressors. He did it in the city itself, And, I love how, I don't know if there's still any restaurants left that do this, but, he created his own money
And he would use it and they would accept it, like if he went out to dinner or something, cause he was basically homeless.
**Craig:** And they used to have certificates. Remember that said this establishment has been patronized by Emperor Norton or something like that. This is great.
**Boston:** I want to go. That would actually be a really fun scavenger hunt. I'm sure those still exist, especially up in North Beach and in the older places.
**Boston:** There's something about reinvigorating that that is what's missing from San Francisco right now. When I moved here, there were out, there was a man, there was this.
Oh, there was this African-American man who stood outside six Saks fifth avenue. He was there every day that I was. So I assume he was there on the days that I wasn't and he sat and he sang, he performed, he had an amazing voice and there were people who painted themselves silver. And just
**Boston:** posed this was happening all over the place.
There was the Bushman. I don't know if you ever encountered the Bushmanout on the pier 39, he would hide himself in brush and then jump out at people.
**Craig:** Oh, so Pan was there
**Boston:** So Pan was there too, also connected with Dionysus and the Underworld and Hades-- Pluto. And that underwhelm the underworld and performance element were all just kindof swirling in together.
So these are all very interesting. What do you think, what do you think is the value of looking at the world through this mythic lens.
Several years ago, I was teaching class and I made a prediction. I made it in a couple of different classes. I told students about the Orphic myth that I think is playing out there. And I said, all this tech driven gentrification is temporary. Because sooner or later, Zeus is going to become aware of it, throws lightning bolts, and that'll be the end of that. so right before the T this recent time where the tech companies started moving out, do you remember? There was a whole series of lightning strikes in Northern California
**Boston:** certainly do. Yes.
**Craig:** terrible fires, people's homes got burned up. There were casualties.
So that would be the Zeus piece of the Orphic story, And then after that, I
was in Martinez when that happened right across the bay for you guys. And that day where the sun never came up, it was orange all day, kind of a dim orange. And so at that point, a lot of tech companies started pulling out of the city.
When you mentioned that the city is an in-between place. I imagine it in terms of the story being between the heart of San Francisco is still intact and it's still beating, and now it needs to have a body reconstituted around it. That's how I would hold it. So there's an actual predictive value in understanding things this way.
I'm inspired to ask you about that day of the orange sky. Because, I moved back to San Francisco. I had spent six months in Oklahoma for the first part of the pandemic with my parents. I moved back. I woke up the next morning and the sky,
**Boston:** The sky was incredible. It was like, are we in the other world? But what struck me even more was the stillness.
**Boston:** The birds were quiet. There were no crickets. There was no wind. There was no wind in San Francisco. It was dead silent. And I went up to the top of Twin Peaks, dead silent. what does your, what do you imagine about that day?
What's what does that day represent to you?
You know, when people ask me, is there an archetype of the time that we live in being activated right now? Like on a global scale? Not just locally. I always go back to the archetype of the apocalypse, but with the understanding that when you look at apocalypse in different mythic pantheons, it's always two-sided. It's not just everything falls apart and the world ends.
There's a few tellings that are like that, but for the most part, there's a double movement where in the first phase of apocalypse, everything comes undone everything descends into the underworld. And of course, with how we treat this planet industrially we're turning the upper world into the underworld.
**Craig:** Because we're not into the underworld journey in ourselves and our own psyches. So as Jung pointed out, when we have work to do internally and we don't, we externalize it right. So instead of making all the descents, giving up old attitudes and even old institutions that don't serve us anymore, we hang on to them and so then we do the underworld ride literally. But the second phase is when things rise. And I think about, the, when I looked at, went outside and I looked at the sky that day, I thought immediately about the Ragnarok. Ragnarok and how at, in the end of Norse mythology, the gods and the giants fight each other, and all kinds of celestial stuff happens, blood and orange color and all this other, all these other horrible things.
And then there's a universal destruction by fire brought about bySurtr who is... he swings his fiery sword and it all comes to an end, but then a new earth rises afterwards, a new gods come onto the field. so that's, that's the other side of apocalypse. the phoenix burns itself up, but then it does so that it can rise again. So that's the kind of thing I think about when I see all these apocalyptic happenings in the world that we're in the descent phase, but what will the rise look like?
**Boston:** How should we ride this descent?
**Craig:** I think we should ride it together. I think we need to really strengthen our bonds with each other and with the natural world. I have a lot of faith in human's ability to bear up under really catastrophic times, not just on large scales, but small too. But we always do it when we hold together with each other.
I saw a very small example of this many years ago. I think it was 1989, but there was a big earthquake in Northridge. And it, it pushed houses off their foundations and killed some people. And it was a pretty big quake. I was living in, nearby and, forget the name of the town, but it'll come back to me in a second.
**Craig:** Anyway, I was about 10 miles from the epicenter. And in my, in the apartment complex I lived in, no power, no water. The local grocery store was looted within two hours of the earthquake. No food. The way the building was laid out, there was a central courtyard. And so a lot of us gathered to talk, and we didn't have any idea when emergency rescue people might come by or anything, or when the power would go back on.
So one person said, you know, I'm a plumber, and I can inspect people's pipes and let you know where that is. And somebody else said, I'm a construction manager. I can look over the integrity of the buildings and this guy next to me said, I just bought a ton of steaks and they're all in my freezer and they're going to rot if we don't eat them.
**Boston:** So I think we should have a big barbecue. So everybody pulled together and then within a couple of days, the power was back on and the water and everything else. and everyone was closer than they had been before.
**Boston:** Brings an interesting component into this, which is how humans bond under the pressures of horrific circumstances.
**Boston:** At the end of the day, there's a, there's an impulse to gather, an impulse to survive, and an impulse to commune
**Boston:** that we get distracted by or distracted from when life happens on a computer screen.
**Craig:** Yeah. I see some of that too, in the pandemic when people are, you know, all those beautiful voices from Italy and other places, Palestine, where people were singing together, you know,that's, that's the humanity I recognize.
**Boston:** It's so important to remember those things. And I do forget. I admit my optimism is waning in recent times,
I'm also reminded that there are forces of light at work at the same time there are these shadowy forces.
**Boston:** I'd like to spend a little more time on what you said about the underworld coming into the above world, coming into the overworld that if we don't do the work on ourselves, if we don't make the descent and do our work and come back transformed, then we, then it comes up with us. How does, yeah. Will you say a little more about that?
**Craig:** Some years ago, back in my therapy days, I had a client who at first was really out of touch with her own sadness. She had gone through terrible losses and never really mourned anything, And during this one session she said, I can't understand why there's so many sad people in my life. And it wasn't just that she was projecting.
They were actually carrying some of that for her, So it was showing up outside because it wasn't being worked with and felt inside. So I think whole civilizations go through that where the current institutions procedures worldviews, we talk a lot about worldviews in the CIIS philosophy program and, and the values embedded in them. When all of those are worn out, then we need to descend, meaning we need to get rid of them or transform them somehow.
I was talking to my dad some years ago before he died and he and I are politically miles apart, never, hardly ever talked politics at all. But we were watching the news together once and he was cursing about the incompetence and gridlock of Congress. And surprisingly, he said, what do you think about all this?
**Craig:** And I said, I can't, I don't understand how an institution, and not just Congress. The whole apparatus, how an institution that was built in the 1700s for a much smaller group of people can possibly be up to the challenge of 21st century governance. I don't, that makes no sense to me.
And he said, well, what do you think we should do? And I said, basically keep the ideals and rebuild everything. And he actually agreed with me from the other side of the aisle. I think that when we, when there's things that need to be rebuilt because they're were worn out or they just need to be discarded... When we hang on to them, the decay multiplies.
**Boston:** It's like rot..
**Craig:** And that's what we're living in right now that we're, I think we're in a pandemic because the world worldwide, not just in the States, the body politic is sick.
The wrong people are in charge almost everywhere.
**Boston:** Yeah, that absolutely speaks to some of my own feelings and observations about it. I've not really so far in the podcast, I've steered clear of any kind of specifics around politics, but I. But I'm going to break that right now because I see people who are truly insane. who've managed to be elected who are representative.
It's not the person who's in there it's that they were elected to be there. And a crazy woman yelling through a mailbox is somebodies representative
**Craig:** That's right.
**Boston:** And that, that can even happen, that election can even happen tells us that it is broken at a really fundamental level. and that the rot has been spreading.
and the more I think about it, I don't see a way to stop the spread. It seems like it has to collapse because the rot is gaining power. And then, this whole concept of alternative facts ever since those two words were uttered, it like that has just metastasized.
**Boston:** And that has me thinking about other archetypes in play and you know, Dionsyus has a trickster aspect. Hermes is probably ruling the day right now in world of half-truths and immediate communication and money. And it just seems like you've got a liar on the throne. How do you imagine we find our individual roles in this drama, as it unfolds.
**Craig:** I always suggest to my students to try I'm listening through dreams and through personal reactions and things like that-- imagination-- to get a sense of what the world wants from you. How is the world itself calling out to us? You know, another example of the usefulness of the mythic education. Before Trump was elected, regardless of what anybody listening to this thinks of him, whether they like him or don't or whatever, there's a mythic background to power plays of all kinds, including elections, and there's a Shoshone story about Coyote, who's a trickster. He wanted to steal the fire from the desert people cause he wasn't getting any attention. So he put on a wig and he went north with his accomplice, his accomplices. Like a stinkbug was one of them and porcupine and people like that and he stole the fire and he ran away with it.
And there's different versions of how this story ends. Some say that an Ember from the fire burns up as a wig and then burns up coyote. And others say that he handed the ember off, to one of his minions who then brought fire into the world. So there's different versions of how it ends.
But I wrote an article, a blog actually awhile ago about this called Trickster Goes to Washington. This was before the election. So when a governance system has become rigid and business as usual on both sides of the aisle for too long, that's an invitation for a Coyote to blow it up.
That's why Trickster comes, right.There's a great story from West Africa about issue where there's a couple of farmers who were on different sides of the road, and they've got a relationship that therapists would call pseudo mutual, which means basically they pretend to like each other, but they actually despise each other.
So as she goes walking down the road one day when they're both out in the field and he's wearing a hat, that's red on one side and black on the other, and he waves to both of them. And then they both start arguing about what color the hat is, and it completely blows everything up. And once they've after they fight each other and get all their anger out, then they become close with each other. So Trickster brings chaos, but in service to a new kind of order. And of course how human beings carry these archetypal energies goes all the way across the spectrum from carrying them well, like a Martin Luther king being basically our king Arthur, but in, in a noble sense, to carrying them badly and very unconsciously and impulsively, you know, so that's a possibility too.
And in terms of Trickster also, when you go to the original stories, Trickster is a force of nature and often amoral.In a recent podcast conversation, I discussed. This from a different angle with David Odoriso.
**Boston:** And we were talking about the Lucifer, the devil as a he's a perfect trickster figure. Once you Christianize it. Once you create this good versus evil, then it's all good and all bad, but the Trickster is still there and w consciousness waiting to happen.
being able to see it once again and the absurdity of it-- the I'm right and you're wrong. There's also an argument to be made. This is the recent low-key TV series, positioning trickster as free will, like that freewill is chaotic and that there's not necessarily order to it.
**Boston:** And that these things are in in balance or in struggle.
**Boston:** What are you working on now?
**Craig:** So I'm looking into the possibility of hermeticism being reborn. The phoenix has been flying around after me and most of my life, so I'm very fond of that particular energy, and familiar with it. And it occurred to me, um, I don't know, three or four years ago that hermeticism also known as the way of Hermes, which starts in Egypt with ancient roots, the way back in Egypt and religion. It's a wisdom path that puts magic first in some ways, not magic with a K or magic literal, but living with what we might call enchantment and it hugely influenced Jung, and he even had a kind of hermetic ring that he wore.
But it's in his thought too, and alchemy's technical hermeticism, Jung was onto Gnosticism, which is a related branch, way early, before his career really got fully started in some ways. So hermeticism has shown up again and again on the world stage. Just one example of many Copernicus got the idea of the sun and the center from reading the Corpus Hermeticum.
**Craig:** and he admitted it in a letter. He said, where else would it be? The hermetics tell us it's there, you know,so huge influence. so I'm interested in the possibility of that wisdom path being updated, in all sorts of ways. It's originally, it's an earth honoring, cosmos honoring path.
But I think there's a misunderstanding of it that, the figure of Hermes, Which also is part of hermeneutics, that $10 word for interpret, things like that, that it actually refers to Hermes the trickster. But Hermes Trismegistus is a wizard.
We might talk about the archetype of the mage. So that's really the figure who's in the center of this. He's based on Thoth, who was also that archetypal energy in ancient Egypt. So from this comes all this stuff that Jung was into-- alchemy and some esoteric studies and things like that. But you know, can we put together some hermetic practices, and see where that gets us-- see if it helps encourage us to Revere the world and get along with each other? So I'm probing that.
**Boston:** Yeah. What do you think some of those practices might look like?
**Craig:** There's an ancient practice that comes from the days of, Egyptian priesthood, where the priests would go out at certain times of days, and the big ceremonies were at Dawn and dusk, and they would face the directions, which here in the states, a lot of us associate of course, with American Indian practices, which they're part of. But it turns out paying some sort of reverence to the cardinal directions is a part of many cultural traditions, including some of the Celtic ones that are back in my ancestry, Irish in particular. And so,that would be at one practice where they would actually go out and greet the directions as though they had themselves were divine powers. That would be one practice. They were practicing vegetarians. They were interested in art, culture and lore. They not only recorded the ancient stories, they retold them. So this is all part of it too. Mindful speech as part of it. Ethical behavior. In the Corpus Hermeticum, they use the word God interchangeably with big mind.
Which is an interesting metaphor. God, for them, wasn't a father figure up in Heaven. God was non-gendered, basically the creative power behind everything. They said, if you want to know God, be not evil. So it has an ethical core. there's a lot built into it actually. So,you know, if we dust it off and we have some stories that are maybe a little bit different, a little bit updated, then I wonder where that goes. Do we need a new mythology, or do we need a new religion? Or as Brian Swim asks and Thomas Berry, do we need a new big story? I actually don't think so. I think we need new storytelling, but big stories and big religions, and mythologies have, a way of excluding people that don't resonate with them. So if there's a set of practices instead, that might offer something that's a little more inclusive.
**Boston:** That rings true for me. One of the things that I think we're disconnected from right now because of mass media, is that stories arise out of place. That stories are native to a culture. And when we talk about these old mythologies, they spread by people coming into contact with one another and sharing and trading their stories.
And seeing what they had in common, recognizing they had similar stories for the sky and for the earth and this animated, enchanted world that they were all a part of. And when we watch Netflix,
we all have access to the same stories. And so many of them are.
**Boston:** Joseph Campbell, blenderized.
**Boston:** So this idea of a set of practices that then people can do stories emerge also out of behavior. And so I can really see also just the embodiment component to bring stories alive in the body, pulling this all the way back to Burning Man. It's an embodied ritual. And as my friend, Melanie says, trying to describe burning man to somebody who's never been there is like drawing a picture of a snowflake and expecting them to understand downhill skiing.
**Boston:** There are as many ways to have that experience as there are humans to have that experience and we all somehow create a mythology around it, create a story around it.
Is there anything that you want to bring into this conversation before we transition out.
one thing you mentioned Campbell, and one of my favorite books by him actually is Creative Mythology and it doesn't get enough billing. His hero stuff gets all the billing because Hollywood likes that. It's formulaic, the way they use it anyway. But, in Creative Mythology, he says we're all bearers of new kinds of myths. And the creative people among us, the artists, the performing artists, everybody along those lines. That the great figures of literature and just us writing in a journal in some ways, I would add. We're all working on our own mythological stories in some ways. They don't have the status of the institutionalized myth that's been handed down over the centuries, but we're all potential mythmakers according to his way of holding it.
Recently I started playing with virtual reality just to see how I would, my psyche would respond to it, and you can actually go into places where there's a fi fire in front of you and you're out in the woods. And so when you have the. The, virtual reality set on, wherever you turn your head, you see forest and there's forest sounds and there's owls flying by and stuff like that.
**Craig:** And there's others seats like a log over here on a camp chair over there. So you can meet in those places, which I think would be fun, but what I noticed was it made me long for a real campfire,
**Craig:** So but we can do both. We can meet all the way across the world in a virtual campfire that isn't as cool as a real one, but at least we can meet there and talk and tell stories, And then when we're in person, we can do it the right way,
**Boston:** Oh, that is so delicious. I hadn't thought about that potential of VR, which, which headset are you using?
**Craig:** Oculus 2. There's another program. I forget the names. But you can go to, you can go into earth orbit and sit outside one arm of a space station where again, there's a circle of chairs. And so in front of you is the moon, but huge. And then there's shuttles flying by every now and then, and there's stars all around you.
And then probably a third of your visual field is earth turning. And it gives you a little bit of a sense of what it must be like to be up there. And not nearly as, again, not nearly as good as actually doing it, but it gives Earthrise which Campbell wrote about a different meaning. In some ways, and you can see the shadow side of this.
There's a lot of them actually, a lot of shadow sides. It's a virtualization of the imagination for one thing. It flattens everything, but it does give you at least a taste of wonder. I think, if you're open to it, And th the potential of doing it as a communal experience, I can see it being a way to unplug as an individual, of retreat, but to go and have a campfire conversation in Earth's orbit. I can see that having some really interesting effects on the storytelling that might emerge---- the conversations that could happen.
that is not to be discounted.
**Craig:** Yeah. It could be a training device for imagination. if it's used properly, there's always that, I've gone into other places that are just horrible online, where there's no, they're not regulated and, Facebook otherwise known as Meta, now just opened it up for every adult on Earth who has a headset.
So I can imagine the really abusive, low level, awful conversations that are going on between avatars right now, cause I've been in some of them. Or that people just come up and insult you for no reason. They don't even know who you are. So there's all that yucky shadow stuff as well. But if it's used right, then it can be an invitation to a different kind of storytelling.
Yeah, I've I deleted my, all of my meta accounts recently. I just couldn't anymore. And I guess I'm waiting for the next I'm waiting for the one that's not quite so Meta.
**Craig:** If you need his metaphor. Meta's dismembered, right? It's a a psychic dismemberment,
**Boston:** And we need metaphor. The whole thing, put together.
So if people want to follow your work, how can they get ahold of you?
**Craig:** The best way is through my website, which recently got redesigned. So it's my last, thank you?
It's my last name.com. So Chalquist.com. There's a newsletter people can sign up for. I send out something monthly about what I'm up to in events that are coming and things like that, but that's probably the best way.
**Boston:** I will link to that in the show notes, of course. Craig, thank you so much again for your generosity, your time, your bringing all of your wisdom and experience to Mythic. I look forward to more conversations with you in the future. Any parting words?
**Craig:** No, just thanks for this opportunity and for the great conversation. And I hope that whoever watches, this will be inspired to have their own conversations about things that matter and things that are deep.
**Boston:** That's all for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. For more episodes, show notes and other resources, visit mythicpodcast.com.
That's also where you can subscribe to my newsletter, which includes information about upcoming virtual events, including the monthly mythic webinar where we look at personal growth through a mythic lens.
Until next time, journey on.
01:39 Introduction to Dr. Craig Chalquist
03:35 Depth psychology, mythology, and terrapsychology
07:41 The terrapsychology of San Luis Obisbo
10:32 Dionysus and San Francisco (Burning Man, Emperor Norton, and the Bushman)
20:21 The Orphic myth playing out in San Francisco and the day of the orange sky
31:24 The Trickster in politics
35:20 Hermeticism Reborn - Hermes Trismegistus and the mage archetype
41.12 Virtual reality storytelling environments as training for the imagination
- Dr. Craig Chalquist's website
- California Institute of Integral Studies
- Pacifica Graduate Institute
- Professor David Odorisio
- The Freud Museum
- James Hillman
- The Mythologium
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About Dr. Craig Chalquist
Core faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies, teaching and writing at the intersection of story, psyche, place, and nature. Author of Myths Among Us: When Timeless Tales Return to Life; also, Storied Lives: Discovering and Deepening Your Personal Myth. Host of LORECAST.
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Music composed by Kevin MacLeod
Edited by Meldson Gerard Godawen