When does the Trickster become the Villain? How might we imagine a post-Hero's Journey myth?

Dr. David Odorisio of Pacifica Graduate Institute shares his own synchronistic journey as we explore the problems hero, villain, and trickster archetypes, the superhero film phenomenon, and how the human potential movement must integrate the senex and puer in order to outlive the personalities that founded it.


Boston: [00:00:00] Welcome to Mythic, a podcast where we explore meaningful living through the power of Nim. I'm your host, Boston Blake.

Hello there and welcome back to Mythic or welcome to Mythic if it's your first time listening. Before the pandemic, a few years ago, I was planning to start a PhD program in mythological studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and the pandemic kind of screwed that up.

And, uh, it's on hold for now. But during that process, I met a super cool dude. His name is Dr. David Odorisio. We connected --we reconnected through Pacifica's Applied Mythology certification program. It was an online program that I did in 2021. And now I am so stoked to have him [00:01:00] here as a guest on the podcast.

His background is chock full of spiritual exploration, academic achievement, and some superhero geekery. And we are going to get into a little bit of all of that today. David earned his PhD in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where I live. Currently, he serves as Director for the Retreat at Pacifica Graduate Institute, which offers online seminars, residential workshops, and interactive conferences.

His work has been published --in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Quadrant, Philosophy East and West, and the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, to name a few.

If you check out this episode's show notes, the first link you'll see takes you to Dave's lectures and they cover all kinds of topics ranging from Hinduism and Dionysus to Grant Morrison's Invisibles comic and [00:02:00] Chris Claremont's Phoenix Saga.

There is a breakdown of Jean Gray and The Phoenix Saga that will blow your mind. David has this uncanny ability to mind the world and media for meaning. And I loved every minute of my conversation with him and now I get to share it with you. So without further ado here is Dr. David Odorisio.


Boston: What is your origin story? You sent me those questions to reflect on And it really got me thinking a lot about childhood and the importance of childhood regarding the mythic and the archetypal. And that got me thinking about Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections, his autobiography biography, autobiography, and his whole idea of a personality number one and a personality number two. That there's a spirit that's alive, at least for him as a [00:03:00] child, that he called personality.

Dave: One of them, was more of a shamanically nature-based, spiritually oriented aspect of himself that would talk to rocks and talk to trees. And it was very much connected to plants and the natural world and the spiritual realm or what he would later consider the numinous qualities of life.

And then he had this other aspect of him, which I think was personality number two, which was more of the extroverted external, intellectually driven. That's the part of him that eventually is drawn a medical school and studies and academics. And I really relate to that. I think that's a very potent way for me to frame my own origin story because as a child, I spent a lot of time in nature and a lot of time in the woods.

And it was very important to me. As a child, it fed me in very deep, important and lasting ways. [00:04:00] And then, as I entered into my adolescent years, I was consumed with music. I'm a drummer and I was playing in bands. In high school, I started taking it more seriously and played in a band and we were recording and putting out albums.

And my whole focus shifted to business and music and like rock and roll and punk rock. Then by the time I got to college, personality number one, or these earlier aspects of myself, just completely resurfaced in very surprising way. And I actually ended up going into colleges to study religion and religious studies.

And as part of that, growing up Catholic, I felt a very strong pull towards contemplative aspects of Christianity. And I ended up spending my junior year of college living in a contemplative Roman Catholic men's religious community, where again, it was like time in the woods and nature and more of an internal introspective kind of experience.

The [00:05:00] 20 years that passed between then and now are like another story, but what ended up happening was, during that year, it was a very formative year. I was living at this essentially a monastery. and I was also going to college and I happened to take a class with a very progressive, rabbi who had done his PhD at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in the eighties, I think, before the school was even accredited. And I had a class called psyche and spirit, and it was on the integration of psychology and spirituality. And a lot of it was on Depth Psychology and Jung and Jungian psychology. That year was so important in my life. It was my junior year of college and it was both the inner and the outer.

Like the inner was this rich, extraordinarily rewarding, deep introspective year of living with this religious community. And then the outside was being introduced to Carl Jung [00:06:00] and reading Abraham Maslow and learning about transpersonal psychology and studying with somebody who I would then go. And I ended up doing my PhD at CIIS in San Francisco, I don't know 10 years later. So it was a journey to get there, but a lot of that stuff was planted really in that year in my life, which is extraordinary how these sort of things happen to us, at different times in our life.

Boston: That is quite a journey. So much of it's encapsulated in your Twitter handle. Monkrocker?

Dave: Yeah.

Now you know where it comes from.

When you were young and you were having that experience in nature, what were the stories that you were hearing?

Boston: Do you remember favorite children's books or movies or cartoons or stories that were informing you.

Dave: Yeah. It's interesting. When you first asked, what were you hearing? I immediately went back to being in nature and what I was hearing was like the sounds of wind in trees and creeks flowing and tadpoles in [00:07:00] creeks. And like what I was hearing, like the stories that I was hearing were the stories that were being told In the natural world.

so that was happening like at one level. And then another level, the stories that I was hearing were biblical. I was raised in a very committed Italian Catholic household. And my first comic book was the Bible. It was like an illustrated Bible. And I went to Catholic school and I went to church every Sunday and then I became an altar server, so the biblical narrative was like the first graphic novel that captivated me at that level of the archetypal and the mythic.

And then populating that as a child of the eighties was all of the insanity of the television, pop culture, Saturday cartoon, like sugar cereal, like pandemonium that the eighties [00:08:00] was and just the explosion of, toys and plastic and just like all that stuff. So that was a big part of it too.

Boston: Do you remember any particular, stories that you loved from the Bible, from those, from that graphic novel?

Dave: The quote unquote old Testament portion, like the Hebrew scripture portion because that was like the Noah's story. So the Noah story was of course completely wild in a graphic novel as you have all of these animals being herded, in pairs into an arc and the flood and just the terror and sort of the trauma of all of this.

It was extraordinary. As Jung would say, the Hebrew God or the God of the old Testament is very much ambivalent, symbol, archetypal symbol, both in its beauty and goodness, and also its extreme wrathfulness and destruction terror. In the imagination of a child, particularly when it's put into images and into graphic narrative is actually quite [00:09:00] poweruful.

Boston: And then you had your contemplative time in nature, you found music and music. It sounds like it's just seized you in a different way. What was that experience like?

Dave: It was in a certain sense, religious. We're really circling around the Dionysian here, but that's the nature-based sprituality, the sort of the pulsating, aliveness of playing live music and particularly playing drums and like what it's like to be a drummer. the ways that it's a very unique and different. playing guitar or a different kind of instrument. I mean, There's a very primal aspect to playing drums. And I was John Bonham, Led Zeppelin was like, he was like my guy, I would just beat the shit out of my drums. it was a very raw primal experience for me that was religious in a different kind of way. It was different than, what I would discover later in life I don't want to set up these [00:10:00] splits or polarities, but it's like an above ground below ground sort of thing, Nietzsche or what the Jungians would refer to as like the Dionysian and the Apollonian

you of have the light bright, Official religion, existing above ground with its certitudes and it's clarity, and it's emphasis on the rightness and goodness and order, but there's always, there's always an underground.

Boston: I just read your essay, Dionysus Out of Exile. And this is just a perfect segue into that because one of the things that you argue in that essay is that there's a dismembered aspect of masculinity and dismembered shape of masculinity. Apollo represents a more socially acceptable version. Zeus might be a p aragon of this kind of toxic masculinity, and then you have Dionysus embodying something very different.

How do you see that Dionysian masculinity?

Dave: Let me just back up for a second. At that time when I [00:11:00] wrote that I was thinking very much in terms of gender at that time. But just to connect to what we were just talking about, I think it's also about religion or religious instinct, which also of course, has these very strong archetypal and mythic and mythological components.

And so it's not just about this whole dismemberment and remembering from like a male perspective, but think it's also a religious impulse and religious instinct, especially when you see how much institutional religions, which in many ways are institutionalized myths, have declined. And both of these things are happening at the same time. The decline and the death of the American white man is happening in tandem with the decline of institutional churches and religions, which are patriarchal. Many of them. In their origin and their nature and their function. So there's this decline and this dismembering [00:12:00] happening on a wide scale, whether you look at it from the gender perspective of patriarchy, the white men that have been on top for a long time, and the way that connects with our religious, which are our mythic structures in our current society. There's a massive downturn and potentially renewal.

That's the whole idea, right? Particularly with the Dionysian mythos, is that it's about dismembering and then remembering, but it's making whole in a different way. And my thinking or my hope is that particularly with the American masculinity piece, the remembering and the remaking whole will need to include the feminine and women and marginalized persons of color.

That's going to have to be a part of the read, the remaking, the remaking of men, or at least, heteronormative white folk men.

Boston: The image that [00:13:00] came to mind is the remembering of the human body. That collective as a human body, that these pieces have been split and disenfranchised from one another, in this patriarchal system. And that, we may be in the descent right now. In that underworld space.

How do you think the study of mythology? What is the mythologist's role in in this transformation, in this ritual ritual that we're undertaking.

Dave: James Hillman the archetypal thinker psychologist. He has this phrase that he used. He referred to it as a therapy of ideas. He, at one point in his career, he shifted away from working with individuals and doing individual therapy to being more interested in doing cultural therapy and doing therapy with

The myths of our time. And I think that's the job or the role of a [00:14:00] mythologist today. The one question we get here at Pacifica is like always, what do you do with, a PhD in mythological studies? Well, In a certain sense, it's one of the most important things that a person could be doing in our current times, because it's a barometer test of what's happening in the culture.

And it's training to be able to read and pay attention to the signs of the times and to see which myths, quote unquote, are, speaking through us today because they're not new. If Jung is correct idea of archetypes or archetypal reality, that there are these sort of archaic patterns of the psyche that are instinctual and libidinal reoccur in strikingly similar patterns throughout the centuries in different cultural dress, if that's correct.

And I think there's plenty of evidence for it. That's one of the most important things you can do is learn how to understand these patterns, both. [00:15:00] So an individual person that's sensitive to this stuff, doesn't lose their mind and get caught up in it. But that you can become almost like a cultural diagnostic.

You can be a person who does therapy with the wider culture. And that's why I think pop culture is so important because pop culture many ways is, I'm using. Phrase intentionally it's the screen upon which we project our stories. it happens literally in the film industry, but it also happens in the newspaper and you can watch it walking down the street.

Boston: In this summer's Applied Mythology program, your presentation about the, about Phoenix in the Marvel comics universe just absolutely blew my mind. The depth that you looked at that phenomenon. Chris Claremont it started with him. Is that right?

You did a deep dive into the Phoenix saga, and I'll absolutely leave a link to that lecture in the show notes. But what do you think is [00:16:00] going on with this rise in superheroes that superheroes dominate the film and television landscape right now in an unprecedented way?

Dave: Yeah, it's a really important and really complicated question. If I hear you correctly, you're asking why superheroes? Why now?

Boston: Yes. and something that you said made me think, the title, Our Gods Wear Spandex, There's something about these heroes that have shown up again and again, and they seem to be here again, but in a way, on a global scale.

Dave: Yeah. It's interesting, we started out talking about the Bible and that sort of graphic novel, those are stories of the Hero. There's a whole cast of characters, but a lot of them are very heroic stories.

And there is a lot of conquering. There's a lot of good guys versus bad guys. There's the winning tribe that has Yahweh on their side and Yahweh, you know, their deity enables them to crush their opponents. what I was saying earlier [00:17:00] about Jung's notion of archetypes as recurring patterns or myths.

This story of conquest, this story of the hero, you don't even have to read Joseph Campbell, you just have to pay attention. This story of the hero and the villain is archetypal in the sense that it is perennial, right? The question is why, and when does it constantly as fiercely and as intensely as it is now, and as it has in certain times in history.

And Another one of those times is when the contemporary American comic book hero was born, which was around a pre and post world war II, kind of culture where you had. Captain America punching Hitler in the face, on the cover of certain comic book issues. So there are certain times in our culture, when the hero archetype gets constellated and it's not happening, sometimes [00:18:00] devastating consequences in history.

It happens through our religious systems, you know, The crusades, for example, that the crusades in the middle ages were a perfect example of constellation of hero archetype in a specifically devastatingly religious. Culture. Now we live in a sort of, post-modern and maybe even post religious culture now.

So the way in which the hero archetype is constellating is through our pop culture, As the dominant carrier of our archetypal myths today. question is why. We know that it's something that happens. Why and why now? And there's a number of different ways to look at that. One is from a very critical deconstructive way, that I think does have to do with the shifting currents of American soil, particularly what's happening, with the heteronormative white man.

But what's interesting is that throughout the last [00:19:00] decade and Phoenix certainly ties into this. What we're seeing is a lot of these heroic male roles being recast as feminine or as women. you have these extraordinarily strong female leads, which speaks to shifting currents of our time, but the critique, and then the criticism of that piece is that you have women that are being trained or being taught to act like men.

So it's still a very specific, almost, I won't say patriarchal, but it's dominant in a certain sense, that men in many aspects are still writing women in their own image.

If I hear you correctly, of patriarchy, not just as a male dominated structure, but as a hierarchical structure, there's a shape to it regardless of the gender associated with it. And It doesn't solve any problems to simply change, to envision somebody else at the top of a shape that's toxic in [00:20:00] itself, a system is toxic in itself.

Boston: Did I get that right?

Dave: Yeah. it's a psychology. Patriarchy is a psychology. That's a great way to think of it. Like it takes a shape or it takes a form. And it can still exist as a construct or as an energetic imprint or as a, a complex, a cultural complex. And then the people that are on top can rotate.

As long as that complex is still there. It's still going to be a system of power and domination, which still means that there's a good guy on the top any time, there's a good guy. There has to necessitate. Uh, Villain. And this goes back to what we were talking about here with the hero and the heroic complex.

 Any time there's a hero, it means that there's something that has to be conquered. And I think this is one of the greatest challenges. Maybe that's implicit in human nature because on one hand we need to be heroic and we need to be courageous, because there are things that we need to come up against and to be able to face heroically.

Dave: But at the same [00:21:00] time, there is, there's a difference between acting heroically and. Acting out complex. And the difference between that is one is it becomes one sided. So the hero becomes all good. And this was Jung's big critique Christianity or the Christ figure was that Christ was an all good hero.

 He was born without sin, right? he had no original sin within him. So he was all good. And anything that is all good by necessity has to project its shadow or its evil onto an other. So anytime you have an all good hero, you have to have in necessitates in all bad villain. And personally that's where I'm getting really stuck in struggling and wondering where this superhero empire in our contemporary Hollywood film, pop culture is going to go because we've had 20 years of good guys beating up on bad guys.

Dave: Only to have it be replayed over and over again? Where does [00:22:00] this go for us? Where does this go for us? So that's my critical piece about, about the complex of the hero. He doesn't know what to do if he doesn't have anyone to kill. He's very one dimensional in that regard or she,

 there's this polarity, there's nothing to soften the polarity. There's nothing to triangulate the, or shifted. It's all going back and forth. Good evil, black, white, masculine, feminine. And even those constructs seem to be, they're coming into question, like what is masculine and feminine?

 the Trickster. And Dionysus has a Trickster element to him. It's something that we demonize. The Trickster messes with our idea of how things should be. And something gets really twisted when the Trickster becomes evil, we lose something. and I think it can constellate the hero in this way that you're describing.

Dave: So like thinking about the Thor and Loki's a Trickster god, you put him in Marvel Comics and he is opposite. So that's exactly it. because he's [00:23:00] actually in reality, not Thor's opposite, he's his brother. there's a pairing there's a link there that they're actually complimentary.

So with Thor, you have this sort of like chiseled, rugged masculinity. And then with Loki, you have more of this Dionysian femininity or androgyny. And that's the important piece is that cultures, or at least more traditional cultures have always had this kind of a clown, jester, in between figure who could transverse worlds and was not entirely identified with either.

So this is a figure that by nature can straddle and transcend binaries and polarity It's very interesting to me that kind of energy has emerged in our previous presidential political spectrum, because in many ways we had president who was both Trickster, but also, depending on who you ask, either hero or [00:24:00] villain, but regardless the former president was a very dark Trickster role and play a Trickstery roll with the ability to manipulate facts and manipulate truth.

So it's interesting to me that with all of the American obsession with heroism and valor and these traditional masculine qualities, significant portion of the American people elected an extraordinarily Trickstery figure who has in a lot of ways, exemplified those characteristics, but also at the same time, upended the entire culture as a whole.

it's like the return of the repressed, even if the Trickster is repressed, the Trickster will reappear. And in this sense, reappeared in very public political way, but with a really dark twist. And all of the Q Anon stuff, that's all very Trickstery. So I think in a certain sense, what we're talking about. We're talking about the death of the hero, but maybe even more constructively or positive that we're talking about, the resurrection and the resurgence of the Trickster and [00:25:00] how can we actually honor and cultivate more positive Trickster- like capacities and qualities.

So the Trickster doesn't come out in this negative capacity to completely pull the rug out from underneath us or our society as a whole. How do we actually befriend more of that Trickstery kind of energy?

Boston: I'm rereading The Odyssey right now and one of the things that is really jumping out is that Odysseus he's just lying through his teeth through the whole thing. His first impulse, when he shows up someplace is to lie. He's in disguise, he's withholding and he is a hero.

Are you a game of Thrones person?

Boston: I am, but if I'm honest, I had so much trouble following that series. I was mostly interested in the relationships and individual scenes.

Dave: So I just, as a important, I think, pop cultural phenomenon, Tyrian Lannister who, he plays the hand of the king to a number of different [00:26:00] rulers, but, Tyrian Lannister's character, as a marginalized person, as a quote unquote dwarf, or half-man, as they called him. He has this perspective from literally this perspective from below.

And it's interesting that he ends up he's so aligned more of the heroic figures. And There's very specific interaction between John Snow, who completely exemplifies traditional heroic sort of rugged values and like masculine values. And then you have Tyrian Lannister, who's more of the inquisitive, clever Trickstery, politically savvy. And there's this wonderful scene where John Snow could have lied, to, help the team, but instead he, cause he can't lie because he's a man of virtue and Tyrian says to him, you know, you could have lied.

You know, It could help us once in a while, if you would just tell a lie and it's that sort of thing. And James Hillman [00:27:00] in his wonderful essays on the Senex and the Puer he talks about how oftentimes in history, in classical mythology, they're paired-- that the Senex, the old man and the Puer, the boy who's oftentimes Hermes. They're paired.

So you have Saturn and Mercury, or Saturn and Hermes, who oftentimes appear together to represent both of these polarities or qualities of these different archetypal aspects of masculinity that we're actually supposed to be able to trade places that, that there is a time to act from the place of the Senex and then there's a time to put on the face of the Puer. And the ability that the mastery or the skillfulness skillfulness is the ability to. To embody them, to embody them both in different aspects. So I think that's really important.

 Can we take a moment and define Senex and Puer for [00:28:00] to this who may not be Jungian oriented?

Dave: Yeah. they're Latin terms for the, old man, and Puer means youth, or the young boy. It's the old, qualities of age. The wisdom that comes through age and is earned through experience. And then the Puer, the more youthful qualities of dreaming and inspiration and vision and idealism, and in and of themselves, it's the stuff of life.

But what oftentimes happens is that in our stories, because they're archetypes, in our stories, they oftentimes become one-sided. you have different characters that just represent one of those things. And then we end up oftentimes just identifying with one of those things. So instead of the more generative qualities of the wise old man, we might get stuck in the more chiseled, hardened, stuck in our ways kind of qualities.

That's the Senex in its more negative capacity. Or the Puer more negative capacity, which is the idealistic dreamer, when it becomes [00:29:00] disconnected it has grounding, and i t loses its legs. It has no connection to the earth. So it just flies away. And Hillman's whole thing is that these are actually vitally connected aspects, that Saturn and Mercury, the Senex and the Puer actually need each other to renew one another, as well as to grow.

When people talk about institutional religion are talking about the Senex that's become disconnected from the Puer. It's all form and it's all but it's lost touch with the essential spirit. with the puer, but then you also have the new age movement, which is almost entirely Puer and has no Senex grounding or structures to contain it.

Dave: So that's another thing that's very interesting about our current crisis or the decline of institutional religion, but also the explosion age spirituality and new age culture.

Boston: That just nailed me. creates suspicion around resistance to a spiritual dimension of things because neither one [00:30:00] is satisfying for a huge swath of people. I find both of those descriptions, if those were my only two options for an experience of spirituality, I don't want any part of either one of them.

So what does an integrated soulful spirituality and embodied spirituality look like? Do you have a sense of that?

Dave: That's a great question. That's one of the reasons why I went to CIIS. I wanted to go to graduate school. I had a very wonderful masters experience. I did my masters for, you very traditional, relatively progressive Catholic seminary type of culture.

And it was extraordinarily rigorous, but I knew that what I was going through at that time in my life, I wanted to ask questions about integration of embodiment, bringing spiritual inquiry into academic studies. I wanted something that was more holistic and integrated. That was the big, the buzz in I don't know, the early two thousands [00:31:00] was like holistic education and all these schools are talking about mind, body spirit, but in practice and pedagogically, you were still just sitting there and, in a chair as a passive receiver taking it information.

 I wanted to do something that was practitioner focused. To be in class doing practices, whether it was embodiment practices or somatic practices or spiritual practice. And that's what I got, from the East West program at CIIS.

Dave: And it really made me think differently about the question that you just raised. I think it's a work in progress, cause what happened in the 1960s, in the seventies, when a lot of these institutions were seeded or came alive, places like CIIS, there was such a cultural upheaval, in which all of these questions and inquiries and practices all emerged but there wasn't a whole lot of containing structure.

It's taken a lot of these organizations like 40 or 50 years to actually try to contain the massive-- And here we are at Senex and Puer and to try to [00:32:00] contain that wellspring of inspiration that came up around the founding of these institutions. And then it takes a long time.

It's not answering the questions you just asked. You have to do real question. It's like the whole Rilke thing about living the questions. And someday you'll live into the answer. I think that's what's happening. it's something that we live into. We have to do it both at the institutional level and a culturally, like our culture right now is living into a lot of upheaval, a lot of questions.

You have to live into it so that hopefully you can someday live into the answer. Integration is not, it's something that has never been seen before. We have a lot of examples of things not working. One of my professors from CIS, Jorge Ferrer wrote this paper, "What does an embodied spiritual life look like?"

And there's a quote in something else he wrote about the history of religion or a history of [00:33:00] spiritual practices. A lot of ways, it's a history of dissociation. It's a history of mostly men doing spiritual practices to try to get out of the body or transcend the body.

You don't have a whole lot of examples of what does it actually look like to live in embodied spiritual life? These are in a certain sense new questions that people are asking.

Boston: Do you think it's possible is integration a thing that we can do or is integration a sort of ideal that we, that, that keeps us trying, that keeps us moving in a direction.

Dave: I think it's both. I shared that story earlier about when I was living at that contemplative religious community when I was 19 and 20, and that was what I first learned about Jung. was the first time I ever heard the word [00:34:00] or the concept of wholeness.

And it's both what sort of kept me engaged and kept me alive spiritually, but it's also what led to me, making decision to not formally enter the community and take a vow of celibacy for example. And it's interesting how that concept or that idea of wholeness or integration, became like an ideal.

But I think with stuff like that, some of these things it becomes this signpost that you just keep having to live into it. And it's it keeps moving. It's like the milestone of the goalpost keeps moving down the field

Boston: Do you have an image of wholeness right now? What is your current understanding of wholeness?

 at a more personal level than collective.

this word is so overused, but like welcoming home. The Jungians call it the shadow, welcoming home, all aspects[00:35:00] of myself. It's welcoming home the young parts and welcoming home the old parts and welcoming home the wounded parts, welcoming home the nature based parts that were rejected or neglected in my religious tradition of upbringing. And it's like this work of reclamation.

 Do you have a practice right now? How is this living in your life?

Dave: I think a lot of it's is, has to do with paying attention. I'm not alone in this, but I'm one of those people that my psyche is pretty active. And when I don't pay attention to it, it really pounds at the door, so in a certain sense, It's a very active presence in my life that it's almost integrate or die. There's that phrase from The Gospel of Thomas, the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, you might've heard [00:36:00] it's, "if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

Boston: I I that quote. I didn't remember where it was from And I so relate to that having a very noisy psycheIf I drift too far, comes and me.

I was fortunate because at CIIS I was surrounded by people like that. And here at Pacifica, a lot of our students are constantly getting emails from students. They're like, sorry. I just know it's either like an illness or a car accident, a lot of people that say, sometimes they don't say yes sometimes it's Jonah being swallowed by the whale.

Dave: Sometimes the rug just gets pulled out from underneath us, People that let's just say involved in that sort of dialogue with their psyche. Like Yeah, It's for some of us, it really is. It's do or die. It's wake up or don't, I don't like being so black and white or [00:37:00] extreme about it, but those, for you Boston or the, your listeners, like there, people get it,

Boston: Yeah, I do think like if you get it, you get it. And that binary, if it's not real, it is certainly a persistent illusion.

Speaking of Pacifica. So you're the director of the retreat at Pacifica, is that correct?

Dave: Yes.

Without going into the whole story, the grail right now, looks to me like a PhD in mythological studies from Pacifica. And there are just reasons I can't pursue that right now. So the at Pacifica getting to do the applied myth program, there are two other programs coming up that I am just chomping at the bit for So initially the idea behind the retreat at Pacifica is that people come here to both of our campuses, our gorgeous coastal campuses in Santa Barbara, and actually be able to have physical retreat.

Dave: And, clearly that's not [00:38:00] possible. It hasn't been possible for quite some time. So we've had to do some rebranding over the past few years, and we're now shifting more towards Pacific Online, because what we've seen is that with our online programs, we're able to read. So many more people that are hungry for what you've just shared.

People are wanting this kind of archetypal, mythological, depth psychological content, because I think it helps people frame capacity for understanding what actually is happening right now, culturally, that we are going through a massive cultural shift, that there are these very strong, almost I'm thinking about Rick Tarnas and his work with cosmology and archetypal astrology.

There are tremendous forces that are shaping and reshaping our society right now in Pacifica really creates a home for people to understand and lean into that. So they can become those people we were talking about earlier, people that can become cultural therapists, not just individual or family therapist.

So you asked me about Pacifica's [00:39:00] role in all this. I think that's part of it, but Pacifica like CIIS and like Esalen and Naropa and so many of these extraordinary places, Kripalu Center where I used to work in Western Massachusetts. I have a lot of history there. A lot of these places emerged from the 1960s and 1970s and the spiritual, cultural upheavals that were happening at that time.

But what's happening is that a lot of these organizations, as they're starting to turn 30 and 40 and some of them 50 years old, they're having to face these Senex Puer kinds of questions we were talking about music earlier and the whole thing in the nineties was like, sell out.

If you were a punk band, did you sell out or did you go corporate. But as any entity, any business entity, whether it's individual or corporate, you have to consider the notion of going, you want to go public, you have to have certain corporate business practices and things in place and in order.

So all of these institutions have, some of them have had some really difficult learning curves because they're like, how do we [00:40:00] hold on to the spirit of the seventies or the eighties, or the spirit of the founder. How do you shift away from that to create enough institutional coherence that you can actually outlive the first wave, or the first generation of charismatic founders and that you can actually create an institution that lasts. And in order to do that, you really have to be in touch with the Senex. Can't just be pure puer. And I that's what a lot of these organizations are really going through and have been going through, particularly over the last several years.

it's a question of how do you stay in business or how do you perpetuate a healthy generative business and business model and not lose the spark of the founder? With Esalen, it's Michael Murphy was a big part of the human potential movement. He created a temenos. In many ways for the human potential movement to [00:41:00] have a physical structure, that's the senex.

Dave: So he created a structure with Dick Price and other folks of the early Esalen community, so that people like Abraham Maslow and Stan Grof and Joseph Campbell and excused, extraordinary luminaries and figures to have a place to gather on the wild, rugged edge of the continent

and the container. Because, if it's a healthy container, it can hold the sparks. And then the sparks ignite into a greater and greater fire, other communities have had to go through immense amount of suffering because the container couldn't hold for whatever reasons and particularly in the yoga community, a lot of it had to do with scandals, sex scandals. You're seeing that we've seen that in the Catholic church and other communities too, which goes back to what we were talking about the shadow and wholeness and integration, sexuality being completely cut off from spirituality in a lot of cases in our current culture.

 but that's [00:42:00] the question, each institution, each organization has its shadow and for some of them, for whatever reason, a lot of the yoga communities has to do with sex and sexuality. For some of the other more new age communities it has to do with money. Money has been a huge shadow for a number of these organizations and institutions, whether it's feeling not good enough, like we're not supposed to have money because money's not spiritual.

Dave: Or then you get the sort of shadow aspects of that, which has to do with power and greed and the sort of insatiability. no money is enough money and we need more money. So we're going to get it by any means possible, which sometimes has led to some other shadowy sexual behavior.

 these small sort of spiritual startups.

Dave: they have to take these questions very seriously, because if they can't work with Senex and puer in a very daily, mundane, operational way, they're not going to survive. One of the things I'm really interested in [00:43:00] is this connection between charismatic founders of spiritual leaders, and then the organizations that grow up around them. And if you look at the history of Western mysticism or really any religious tradition, but specifically in the Catholic church.

Look at St. Francis. St. Francis was this charismatic founder who had these extraordinarily powerful, mystical experiences gathered. Almost unintentionally gathered following that. What did I want to do? We want to start organization around you. Like, how do we make your legacy last? How do we create the Franciscans,

And then when you look at the early history of these religious orders from a Jungian perspective, you can see all the different personality types. You've got the charismatic founder, you've got like the intuitive sort of visionary founder, and you've got the more like sensate function, pragmatic, practical person who's trying to create laws and constitution and rules for the order. And you need all these people. In order to create the Franciscans, but [00:44:00] then the next generation after Francis, you have this other group of people that ended up being called the spiritualists, or the spiritual Franciscans who thought that the order had gone too far on the institutional side and had lost too much of the spirit.

And then what ends up happening? If they can't hold If the organization can't hold it splits and it fragments and it fractures. And this is what's happened not only within Catholic religious leaders, but within Christianity in Europe as a whole. It's how we got the Reformation. The Reformation was about reigniting, that initial spirits and the puer of the founder. So then you end up with all these different factions in churches, but so much of this stuff whether it's institutional, operational business practices or looking at charismatic founders of religious orders and organizations that so much of this has to do with this basic archetypal principle of what we're mythologizing as the Senex [00:45:00] vitally important living organization.

Boston: And not just the spiritual conversation you're talking about, as you're saying this, I'm thinking about what's happening in American culture, maybe global culture. I can only speak to where I am along the lines of.

want to limit a technological development, but technology seems to be a pretty good metaphor where you have this split happening in American society as there's this progressive element that really just wants to carry forward. And it has a strong Pu-erh energy to it, like more and more bigger grow, and then you have this other, no, I want to slow down.

Let's get back to nature let's or not just nature. I just want to go back to the structures the way they were 20 years ago. And the schismsthe fissures are growing and everything that you were describing in the institution of the church and the institution of spiritual evolution, it's applying to cultural, the cultural evolution in a parallel way.[00:46:00]

what I hear, yes, it is vitally important to be looking at these things. How can, and we have to step back if we're going to heal those fissures. If we're going to keep the thing together, we have to be able to step back and see what needs to be included and how to, open dialogue between them.

Dave: It's wholeness. We were talking earlier about personal wholeness or individual wholeness, but there's also the communal wholeness, organizational wholeness. It's what our culture is going through right now, as far as attempting, by Biden's whole thing about what was it like recovering the soul of America?

That wasn't that was an urge or impetus towards wholeness. It's about inclusion, diversity, equity, inclusion. So many at least institutes of higher ed or are having those conversations right now. Inclusion is a form of organizational wholeness.

There's a, there's an individual psyche and there's a corporate psyche, and that's both corporate in the sense of our [00:47:00] institutions where we run on workplaces, but also our local structures, our society, there's a global suck. And all we have to do is just read the New York Times. And it'll tell you who are the, to go back to what we were talking about earlier, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? That's the New York Times and they're not the ones who they're the ones telling the story, but they're both reporting the news and they're telling a story just like any newspaper. So there are. And any newspaper, whether it's a more liberal, progressive paper or a more conservative, quote unquote right-wing paper, they're gonna, they're going to mythologize and tell a story and there's always going to be good guys and bad guys. So this whole superhero, like heroic, complex thing, like it's being played out every day of our lives. That's why I'm critical of a lot of the superhero stuff now, because I don't know how much more, it'll be interesting just to tie a whole bunch of things together [00:48:00] here. It'll be really interesting to see how that genre of superhero supervillain thing plays out.

Given what we were just talking about. Because if I really do believe that film is a way for us or for a culture to work their stuff out publicly, tragedy was in ancient Greece. It's a way for people to work through their complexes and do therapy, like as a group, but almost like group therapy in a certain sense, like the whole idea of catharsis.

And I think it's gonna be really interesting to see what happens with the superhero or supervillain piece, because I don't know if a story would sell or be renewed for season two, if there actually was any sort of app integration, and I wonder if people will get tired of good guys beating up bad guys or bad guys winning and then waiting until season two for the good guys to win.

I wonder how much of [00:49:00] that our American pop culture, consumer society will handle until they're like, oh, to be like, if the good guy, I couldn't even tell you what a plot, how, maybe you can answer that. What are some plot lines that have ended in some sort of integration where to do people do consumers want reconciliation?

Boston: Th the team up, when the bad guys and good guys team up to take on a bigger threat or, the enemy of my enemy is my friend kind of thing. I can imagine it. I can imagine it. And I really liked the way game of Thrones landed the plane, where they all decided they needed to rebuild Westeros, but the humanity instantly emerged, and there was, and there were new, it was clearly not going to be all sunshine and roses, but they were being true to themselves and they were working together to make something new.

I don't know. It will be fascinating to watch it unfold. I'm really clear about this conversation that it's [00:50:00] not going to end. We're just going to run out of time. So I want to bring this part in for a landing. Cause there are four questions. I got one, I snuck one of them in early on in the interview, but there are four things I'd like to ask you.

These have led to some interesting, insights with other guests, are you game

Dave: Yeah.

Boston: cool. So what is something that you believe to be true that you cannot prove?

Dave: I guess the existence of a higher power. Although I don't know.I think there are ways to prove

Boston: a way to prove that.

Dave: I think that the number of synchronicities that I've encountered in my life from weight, all point to higher intelligence somewhere.

Boston: In what ways are you the same now as you were when you were a little kid?

Oh, man, I'm, thinking about this a lot as I engage with my early forties. I just bought a 1980 Murray BMX bike. And it's if this is not a new life crisis, [00:51:00] this is like midlife renewal. I don't know if that answers your question, but I almost feel it's it's talking about recovery and wholeness. Something has come back into my life that has just been extraordinarily, yeah. BMX bikes, man. They're just, especially for kids in the eighties.

Dave: It's I feel like I've been given wings. It's just

Boston: Oh, that's awesome. Are you cruising around Ojai?

Dave: yeah, totally. That's totally what I do.

Boston: So great. This might tie into the synchronicity piece. Have you ever encountered a phenomenon that you just can't explain and how do you think that has affected your worldview?

Dave: I feel very blessed to be a person who synchronicity has. Let's just say synchronicity touches my life and it's oftentimes happened that moment, like very important moments. And one of the most extraordinary in my life today is, before I got hired at Pacifica, I was still working. It was in Western Massachusetts. I was still working at Kripalu.

So my graduation from CIIS was at The Palace of Fine Arts and that was the last time [00:52:00] I was there. So it was like, maybe. 2015. I come out to Pacifica November of that year, and it was a very important, I ended up meeting the former president and then it led to me being hired here.

I had an Airbnb close to campus and I arrived very late. After dark, I go and I enter the Airbnb. I turn on the light in the bedroom, on the wall of the bedroom was a painting of The Palace of Fine Arts.

Boston: Okay. That's cool.

Dave: And That's what I mean. Like it was, it was like, a stunner of a moment for me. I probably cried, but it's the linkage. And I think that's the thing with these moments like these synchronicities, which is another conversation, but it's like the, it's like an electric current that jumps from one moment to, just how it jumps from one connects the links between one moment of sort of transition or opening into this other piece that became another moment [00:53:00] of transition and opening.

People like to talk about the universal, the capital, you, it was like the universe connecting the dots in that moment. And it was still to this day. I have to remind myself of that when I, if I ever doubt or lose faith in the universe, it's no, this happens. This is real.

Then I ended up getting hired and stayed at that Airbnb again when I moved here,

Boston: That threads the needle into this whole next chapter of your life. That's what? Six, six years ago.

And the last question I have is when in your life have you experienced ecstasy?

Dave: Man, that was a moment. That was, I was sure that was more like profound bafflement, but, I'm very fortunate. Like I'm very blessed that I get to live in an extraordinary, beautiful place. Both the Santa Barbara area with the coast and the front country, like the mountains, the Hills, the foothills, and, the back country and out in Ojai parts of Ventura County.

You asked me earlier about, [00:54:00] embodied spirituality for me. being in nature as a spiritual practice. And, that's the only kind of ecstasy I'm interested in today. When I was a younger man, I was very interested in leaving my body.

I was very interested in leaving this earth. I was really a sort of pyschonautwithout psychedelics. Like I was like a spiritual psychonaut, and I was very interested in transcendence. I think that's a good way to put it. I was very interested in transcendence and there's a certain kind of ecstasy that comes from transcendence, and these days I'm more and more interested in the imminent and the earth and what's happening below my feet and on the ground in front of me and I, and that's a very, that's also ecstasy too. It's just, when we don't hear about maybe so much.

Boston: One of the distinctions I've been hearing lately is between spirit and soul. And my current orientation to spirit is that desire for transcendence, that expansion, that upward motion and that soulfulness is something more soul is embodied. And we describe, a spirited individual as [00:55:00] somebody who's energetic and moving outward and soulful as something deep and connected and grounded.

And maybe cavernous. And so from spirit to soul is what I heard in what you just said. Is there anything burning in you? What's alive for you right now.

Dave: I just think it's interesting. We had initially planned to talk a lot about the sort of comic book based and superhero thing. And I'm just, I'm feeling like really stoked on our conversation about like organizations and systems theory and like architectural systems theory analysis.

 I'm appreciating , your openness and willingness to like wing it and just go with the spirit and see where that whole conversation led. Some I'm actually feeling a lot of appreciation and gratitude for you. Boston, just, I'm happy to get to know you better, really glad to be here.

Boston: That's it for today. Folks, if you want to learn more about David or [00:56:00] anything we talked about check out mythic podcast.com, where you can find show notes, more episodes, and a host of other resources. And if there was anything that jumped out at you that you'd like to discuss further, find me on Twitter at mythpod that's M Y T H P O D.

Thank you so much for listening and supporting the show until next time journey on.

Meaningful Moments

  • [00:00] Introducing David Odorisio
  • [03:00] Jung's Personality #1 and #2
  • [11:00] Decline of patriarchy, white male power, and organized religion
  • [13:55] The importance of Mythological Studies
  • [20:00] Patriarchy as a Psychology; Heroes vs Villains25:
  • [25:49] Tyrian Lannister and Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
  • [27:54] Defining Senex and Puer
  • [37:44] The Retreat at Pacifica and Pacifica Online
  • [38:57] Human Pontential Movement Institutions
  • [50:17] Five Questions
  • [55:33] Wrap-up

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About Dr. David Odorisio

David Odorisio is Director of The Retreat at Pacifica Graduate Institute where he also serves as Associate Core Faculty for the Mythological Studies MA/PhD Program.

Dr. Odorisio's work stems from a decades-long personal journey that incorporates aspects of contemplative Christianity, the embodied practice of yoga, and formal academic training in theology, religious studies, and depth psychology. His dissertation, completed through the California Institute of Integral Studies, developed an alchemical approach to the study of select religious and spiritual texts from east and west.  His research and writing involve the application and integration of post-Jungian, psychoanalytic, and critical theories within the field of religious studies, specifically in the area of comparative mysticism.

Courses he's taught include:
Methods and Contemporary Issues in Religious Studies
Christian Traditions
Comic Books, the Paranormal, and the Sacred
Dreams, Visions, Myths

Courses he's taught include:
Methods and Contemporary Issues in Religious Studies
Christian Traditions
Comic Books, the Paranormal, and the Sacred
Dreams, Visions, Myths

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