Our residential MA program has been designed to help shape the intellectual, moral, and spiritual leadership necessary for meeting historic global challenges. Drawing upon some of the most powerful ideas and impulses of our philosophical, scientific, and religious traditions, our faculty has constructed an intensive multidisciplinary course of study to help accelerate students' journeys into their leadership roles.
Students focusing on Integral Ecology will learn to address the ecological crisis in a way that integrates nature and culture, facts and values, science and spirituality. The curriculum supports scholar-activists committed to eco-social justice and the ideal of a flourishing Earth community.
Course of Study (36 units)
I. Foundational Course (3 units)
- Introduction to Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness
II. Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness Electives (18 units)
Select from the following courses (course options may vary):
- Cosmological Powers
- Cosmology of Literature
- Synchronicity and Its Implications
- Asian Spiritual Masters
- Plato and Platonism
- Christian Contemplative Traditions: History, Theology, Practice, and Theory
- Merleau-Ponty: The Body and the Earth
- Epic of the Universe
- The Alchemy of Permaculture
- Spirit and Nature
- Karma and Biography
- Becoming Intimate with Nature
- A Brief History of Western Thought
- The Great Turning
- Science, Ecology, and Contested Knowledge(s)
- Environmental Ethics
- Perspectives on Integral Ecology
- Touch the Earth
- Krishna, Buddha, and Christ
- Buddhism and Ecology
- Integral Gaia
- Hill of the Hawk I and II
- The Earth Journey
- Nature and Eros
- Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy
- Integral T'ai Chi
- Hegel, Wilber, Morin: System and Method (Advanced Seminar)
- Archetypal Process: Whitehead, Jung, and Hillman
- Psyche and Cosmos I: Transpersonal Psychology and Archetypal Astrology
- Psyche and Cosmos II: Transits in Depth (Practicum)
- American Philosophy
- James Hillman and Archetypal Psychology: An Introduction
- Teilhard and Steiner
- Archetypes, Art, and Culture
- Advanced Seminar: C. G. Jung
- Psyche and Spirit: From the Psychology of Religion to Transpersonal Theory
- Advanced Seminar: Nietzsche's Life and Work
- The Planetary Era: Toward a New Wisdom Culture
III. General Electives (13 units)
- Choose courses from any CIIS program.
IV. Culminating Coursework (2 units)
- Integrative Seminar (see description below)
V. Optional Thesis (0 units)
- Advisor approval required (see description below)
Course of Study, Integral Ecology Track (36 units)
I. Required Courses (6 units)
- Introduction to Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness
- Towards an Integral Ecological Consciousness
- Integral Gaia
II. Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness Electives (7 units)
- Select from the courses listed in the electives list above.
III. Integral Ecology Electives (6 units)
Select from the following (course options may vary):
- Cosmological Powers
- Cosmology of Literature
- Epic of the Universe
- The Alchemy of Permaculture
- Spirit and Nature
- Becoming Intimate with Nature
- The Great Turning
- Science, Ecology, and Contested Knowledge(s)
- Environmental Ethics
- Touch the Earth: Integral Ecology Practicum
- Buddhism and Ecology
- Hill of the Hawk I and II
- The Earth Journey
- Nature and Eros
- Advanced Seminar: Hegel, Wilber, Morin
- The Planetary Era: Toward a New Wisdom Culture
IV. General Electives (12 units)
- Choose courses from any CIIS program.
V. Integral Ecology Practicum (3 units)
- Touch the Earth: Integral Ecology Practicum (This course combines a semester-long Integral Ecology fieldwork experience of the student's own choosing with a discussion seminar.)
VI. Culminating Coursework (2 units)
- Integrative Seminar (see description below)
VII. Optional Culminating Coursework (0 units)
- Advisor approval required (see description below)
Some of our courses are described below. For further descriptions, please visit the CIIS academic catalog.
Introduction to Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. This course is a required introduction for all master's and doctoral students in their first year of coursework. It has three goals: First, it allows students to become familiar with the scholarly work and worldview of our faculty, each of whom presents the key ideas and insights that they most wish to emphasize as their contribution to the academic content and larger vision of the program. Second, students meet each other at a critical time and gain a sense of their cohort and the community. Third, the course includes an introduction to essential skills in research, writing, and strategies for maximizing the learning experience throughout the course of the program (3 units).
Cosmological Powers. The universe uses a variety of processes, laws, and powers that are identified within modern scientific discourse as electromagnetic interaction, the second law of thermodynamics, and gravity. These fundamental and ultimately mysterious activities of the universe have given rise to all the complex beings throughout 14 billion years of evolution. The human being, from this perspective, is a new, holistic blending of these processes and powers. This course examines the way in which humanity can be understood as a "hominized" form of cosmological processes. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).
Cosmology of Literature. Poets, novelists, and writers of epic literature are among our finest philosophers, for they present penetrating metaphysical principles within the dramatic and concrete actions of particular characters in context. This course is a journey through Earth's literary cosmologies, stretching from the earliest epics to the literature of the twenty-first century. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).
Spirituality and Moral Action. What is the relationship between inner spiritual experience and the ethical quality of an individual's actual day-to-day life? This course will examine this question in the light of spiritual teachings and practices, ancient and contemporary—Jewish and Christian mysticism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the work of Krishnamurti and Gurdjieff. The background text will be Jacob Needleman's Why Can't We Be Good? and selected source readings to be announced. Prof. Jacob Needleman (1 unit).
Birth of the Diamond Soul. The objective in this course is to explore the impact that the planetary crisis may be having on the human soul. We will examine the hypothesis that the size and scale of the transformation taking place globally mirrors an equally profound shift taking place within the soul. This course will bring into dialogue two lines of inquiry that often appear separately in the literature: (1) the dynamics of the soul's growth through reincarnation, and (2) the dynamics of humanity's evolutionary collective transformation. In this respect, it will be integrating themes from Christopher M. Bache's two earlier books: Lifecycles and Dark Night, Early Dawn. Integrating these two perspectives takes us into the nuts and bolts of the evolutionary pivot that the soul may be undergoing at this critical moment in history. Prof. Christopher Bache (3 units).
Modern Cosmology Through the Media. Each era of human history has had its unique manner of expressing its deepest knowledge of the world. In southern Africa, beginning some one hundred thousand years ago, the earliest humans used cave paintings; in the Neolithic cultures and then in classical civilizations, our ancestors employed ritual and theater or else captured their cosmologies in literary masterpieces. In the twentieth century, yet another mode of expression has appeared, that of electronic media, in which a number of presentations of our modern understanding of the universe now exist, including Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man, James Burke's Connections, and Brian Swimme's Journey of the Universe. David Kennard was either director or producer of these as well as five other cosmological productions, all of which, taken together, make up the central subject matter of this course. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).
Synchronicity and Its Implications. If synchronicity is real, the universe must be very different from what is assumed by the conventional scientific understanding. This course investigates the implications of accepting the reality of synchronicity and the role it has come to play in the psychological and spiritual life of our time. The course begins with a discussion of C. G. Jung's original formulation of the issue, including how that differed from the approach he actually adopted in his own life and practice, and then examines the various theoretical explanations that have been proposed by scientists, philosophers, and depth psychologists. Prof. Richard Tarnas (2 units).
Romanticism and Philosophy. What is the imagination and what is its relationship to truth, goodness, and beauty? One of the most astonishing developments of modernity is the new literary, philosophical, and cultural role that Western society gave to the imagination. In this course, we will trace how the imagination emerged from its previous role as a subordinative cognitive faculty into the creative organ of meaning, the summit of artistic creation, and the mediator between spirit and matter that it seems to be today. Through a reading of key texts by figures such as Vico, Hume, Kant, Coleridge, Blake, Shelley, and Barfield, students will be led to consider not only the history of the creative imagination, but also its relevance for continuing questions in contemporary philosophy and religion. Prof. Jacob Sherman (3 units).
Rilke: A Poetic Introduction. We will endeavor to open doors to Rainer Maria Rilke's world by looking at his art through the lens of his life and availing ourselves of the light that modern depth psychology may shed on both. Rilke's formative struggle with Christianity, his romances with Russia and the brilliant Lou Andreas-Salomé, his apprenticeship to the sculptor Auguste Rodin, these and other crucial biographical developments will provide the context for close readings of key poems (often in the instructor's own translation) spanning virtually the whole of Rilke's oeuvre. In the course of this compact odyssey, we'll see how basic depth psychological concepts play out on the stage of poetic life, and gain a glimpse of Rilke's complex and compelling vision of the nature and destiny of the human soul. Prof. Daniel Polikoff (1 unit).
Asian Spiritual Masters. A companion course to “Western Spiritual Masters,” this course studies twentieth-century spiritual teachers and activists rooted in Asian spiritual traditions. The course introduces Indian/neo-Hindu ideals and focuses on M. K. Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Prof. Robert McDermott (3 units).
Archetypal Cosmology. This course examines the origins, fundamental concepts, historical development, and theoretical implications of the new discipline of archetypal cosmology, which has arisen from the confluence of ancient Greek thought, astrology, depth psychology, and the new paradigm sciences. In particular, we will consider the historical evolution of the new discipline's fundamental concept, archetypal principles, starting with the concept's origin in ancient Mesopotamian, Greek, and Hellenistic thought. Building on that foundation, we will examine how major figures of Western intellectual history have contributed to our developing understanding of the nature of archetypes, including Plato, Aristotle, Ficino, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Whitehead, Freud, Jung, Hillman, Grof, and Tarnas. We will also explore how the theoretical contributions of the new paradigm sciences support the overall vision of archetypal cosmology. Finally, we will consider the implications of archetypal cosmology for our understanding of the relationship between the psyche and the cosmos, and the relevance of this emerging field for leading us beyond the disenchanted worldview of the modern era. Prof. Richard Tarnas (2 units).
Plato and Platonism. This course is an exploration of the writings, thought, and legacy of Plato, from Plato's root encounter with Socrates through the development of his own writings, and into the continuous tradition that his writings inspired-a tradition that continues to be debated in philosophy and other disciplines. The first half of the course is devoted to a careful reading of and philosophical engagement with central Platonic dialogues. In the latter half of the course, attention turns to the consideration of some of Plato's 'Neoplatonic' successors. We will conclude by considering the ways that Plato's thought continues to be debated, appropriated, and a creatively retrieved as a means of addressing central concerns of our own day. Prof. Jacob Sherman (3 units).
Christian Contemplative Traditions: History, Theology, Practice and Theory. This course is an introduction to some of the central figures, theories, practices and texts that contributed to the development of the Christian contemplative tradition from its beginnings through to our own twenty-first century. Through primary readings of classical sources, alongside key readings drawn from the secondary literature, students will become familiar with a variety of central voices in the history of Christian spirituality and contemplative practice. Because of the interdisciplinary and integral nature involved in contemplative studies, the course may additionally address various aspects of the history of theology and philosophy, women's history, politics and spirituality, and the psychology and cognitive science of religion. Prof. Jacob Sherman (3 units).
Implications of Modern Consciousness Research for Psychiatry and Psychology. In the last five decades, psychedelic therapy and other avenues of modern consciousness research have revealed a rich array of "anomalous" phenomena that have undermined some of the most basic assumptions of modern psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy concerning consciousness and the human psyche in health and disease. Many of these observations are so radical that they question the basic philosophical assumptions of materialistic science. In this course, we will review these remarkable data and explore the most important major revisions that would have to be made in our understanding of consciousness, of the human psyche, and of the nature of reality to respond to these conceptual challenges. These radical changes in our thinking would fall into the following categories: the cartography of the human psyche; the architecture of emotional and psychosomatic disorders; effective therapeutic mechanisms; the strategy of psychotherapy and self-exploration; the role of spirituality in human life; the nature of reality: psyche, cosmos, and consciousness; and the relevance archetypal psychology and astrology. Prof. Stanislav Grof (2 units).
Merleau-Ponty: The Body and the Earth. In this course, we will read several texts from Merleau-Ponty and his heirs, focusing on how Merleau-Ponty's work builds a strong matrix for understanding how our very souls are intertwined with the earth, the foundation for a more passionate environmental sensibility. We will engage in various experiential exercises, inspired by clues from Merleau-Ponty, designed to extricate us from residues of the dualistic thinking that infects so many of us, making it difficult for us to feel fully at home...here. Prof. Don Johnson (3 units).
The Epic of the Universe. In the modern form of consciousness, the connotation of universe is "stars and galaxies and planets and life." But this objectivism no longer serves to orient us in the quantum evolutionary universe we have discovered through contemporary scientific methods. Though it is approximately true to say that we can store within us an objective knowledge of a universe out there, it is even more accurate to say that our knowledge of the universe is one of the ways in which the universe awakens to its own ongoing creative development. In our post-Heisenberg, post-Einstein world, each human is the autobiography of the universe. Similarly, each rosebud is the epic of the universe. This course is an inquiry into the ways in which the universe has developed. Our overall aim is to participate in the awakening of a non-dual, integral form of humanity. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).
Subtle Activism: The Role of Consciousness in Planetary Transformation. Set within our current context of unparalleled planetary crisis and the call to participate in the Great Turning toward a life-sustaining civilization, this course considers the historical, scientific, and spiritual dimensions of the emerging field of subtle activism. Traditional methods of front-line activism (e.g., marches, demonstrations, putting one's body in front of bulldozers), essential as they are, represent only the most immediate and direct expressions of activism. A synchronized global meditation and prayer event, in which thousands or millions of people around the planet unite in silence and prayers for world peace, is a prime example of subtle activism. Along with the lectures, shared readings, and dialogue, this course includes practice in Gaiafield Attunement, a subtle activism practice that has emerged from several years of experimentation by members of the Center for Subtle Activism at CIIS. Profs. Sean Kelly and David Nicol (2 units).
The Alchemy of Permaculture. This ten-day off-site residential field course investigates the psycho-cultural origins of the planetary crisis and pursues direct practical solutions to it. Utilizing the ethic and practice of deep ecology and permaculture, we aim to envision, create, and live a sustainable way of being, and, most important, explore a playful and joyous kinship with the wild and natural world. Readings include selections by E. O. Wilson on the ecological crisis, C. G. Jung, and a variety of readings on permaculture and deep ecology. Prof. Blair Carter (4 units).
Plants and People: Understanding the Plant World through Relationships. Through this course, students will learn about the plant world from an interdisciplinary, relationship-based perspective. Doorways into relationship include gardening, farming, conservation, and restoration; philosophies rooted in indigenous wisdom, bioregionalism, deep ecology, and Gaia; and celebrations of these relationships found in imaginal practices, earth-based rituals, and direct communion/meditation with the plant world. The above relationships and philosophies form a rich tapestry of experience from which we will draw inspiration and tools for connecting to ourselves and the Earth. Explored concepts will find embodied expression as students cultivate their own unique relationship with the plant world and express that relationship through direct engagement and creative expression. Prof. Kathren Murrell Stevenson (3 units).
Spirit and Nature. This course explores the application to nature of an anthroposophical worldview and practice. It is situated within the broadly Romantic tradition and esoteric research advanced by Goethe and Emerson in the 19th century and by Rudolf Steiner and his followers in the 20th century. It includes a study of the Aristotle-Aquinas-Steiner tradition, Steiner's spiritual ecology, Pagacnik's esoteric Gaia research, Zoeteman's Gaiasophy, and Steiner's directions for biodynamic farming. The course will include a visit to one or more biodynamic farms, and one or more guest classes taught by biodynamic gardeners or farmers. Profs. Robert McDermott and Sean Kelly (3 units).
Karma and Biography. This course will join the study of karma to the biographies and autobiographies of individuals who were influential in the twentieth century and whose lives reveal an ideal blend of thinking, writing, spiritual striving, and activism. The class will attempt to find critical destiny moments in the lives of each individual studied. The final paper will be a 30-page spiritual-intellectual autobiography. Prof. Robert McDermott (3 units).
Becoming Intimate with Nature. This course begins with field explorations of nature in the natural attitude, our normal, everyday mode of seeing/interpreting the world. Further explorations will be conducted in the phenomenological attitude, accomplished by a bracketing, or putting aside, that everyday mode for one that investigates the way observed phenomena are constituted in consciousness. Explorations conclude with an introduction to the participatory mode, one that seeks direct perception of the Other, ostensibly unmitigated by the senses. The course will take place over six days in the Oakland hills near Holy Names College and/or the Berkeley hills near U. C. Berkeley. All classes will be conducted in the field. Prof. James Inabinet (3 units).
A Brief History of Western Thought. This course presents a brief introductory survey of the evolution of the Western worldview, beginning with its roots in Greco-Roman culture and the Judeo-Christian religious traditions. Following its development through the medieval period to the Renaissance, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution, the course explores the gradual transformation of the modern worldview, established during the Enlightenment and counterbalanced by Romanticism, into the radically pluralistic postmodern sensibility and increasingly global civilization of the present period. Familiarity with the grand lines of Western intellectual and spiritual history was long considered the mark of an educated person in the West, and to a crucial extent this is still the case. Such knowledge is a necessary part of what we require to comprehend the larger context of our own critical moment in history, which has been fundamentally shaped, for better and for worse, by the powerfully dynamic character of the Western mind and its evolution. Prof. Richard Tarnas (1 unit).
The Great Turning. Inspired by the philosopher-activist Joanna Macy's "work that reconnects," this intensive is devoted to facilitating the Great Turning-that is, the shift toward a life-sustaining society and a culture in harmony with the long-term interests of the wider Earth community. Through experiential exercises, lectures, and dialogue, students gain insight into such topics as deep time, ecological guardianship, and the systems view of life. Profs. Joanna Macy and Sean Kelly (2 units).
History of Western Thought and Culture: An Archetypal Perspective. This course explores and analyzes the history of Western thought and culture from the ancient Greeks to the present. Using the narrative provided by The Passion of the Western Mind as the basic text, we will examine the major figures, ideas, and eras of Western intellectual and cultural history both on their own terms and as aspects of a larger unfolding drama that has shaped our own historical moment. To help illuminate that history, this course will apply the insights of archetypal astrological analysis, examining the correlations between planetary alignments and the archetypal patterns of history and biography. Each week we will explore a particular era (such as the Hellenistic age, the Renaissance, or the scientific revolution) in terms of the major planetary cycles of the time, the birth charts of leading figures (Descartes, Nietzsche, de Beauvoir), and personal transits for major turning points (Augustine's conversion experience, Petrarch's climbing Mont Ventoux, Galileo's turning his telescope to the heavens). We will also strive to discern the deeper significance of this long historical trajectory when seen through the lens of an archetypal evolutional perspective. Prof. Richard Tarnas (3 units). Prerequisite: Psyche and Cosmos I: Transpersonal Psychology and Archetypal Astrology, or Psyche and Cosmos II: Transits in Depth (Practicum), or permission of instructor.
Science, Ecology, and Contested Knowledge(s). A critical examination of the social construction of scientific and ecological knowledge, through frameworks from science, technology, and society (STS) studies, reveals Western scientific knowledge as a contingent cultural phenomenon, vulnerable to critique from alternative epistemologies. This course compares the dominant forms of scientific knowledge about the natural world with countervailing epistemological understandings, such as situated knowledge, indigenous knowledge, citizen science, and traditional ecological knowledge, examining the ways that the social construction of knowledge shapes our understanding of the natural world. Applying feminist and non-Western epistemologies to environmental issues, it will seek to generate alternative ways of understanding ecological crises, which may in turn generate healing alternatives. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).
Environmental Ethics. This course surveys ethical approaches to the natural environment, with particular focus on the American context. It will trace the ways in which the natural environment has been theorized over time and the ethical approaches that derive from various views of the natural environment. The goal of the course is for students to construct, articulate, and defend a theoretically rigorous environmental ethics. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).
Towards an Integral Ecological Consciousness. How can the study of ecology become more integral? Can ecology embrace the realm of ideas, philosophy, spirituality, poetry, and religion, along with the dynamic currents of politics, economics, and culture that shape human interactions on and with the Earth? How might it be possible to enter into a more personal relationship with a living Earth? This foundational course for students in the Integral Ecology track begins with a review of the state of the Earth and myriad factors threatening ecological resilience. It considers the responses that may arise in the face of eco-crisis, and explores how religious and philosophical worldviews are expanding to incorporate new ecological understandings. Readings, lectures, and dialogue examine the spectrum of eco-activism, and the search for more harmonious and just ways forward. Students are encouraged to articulate the meaning of integral ecology through both philosophy and practice. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).
Christianity and Ecology. What is the relationship between Christianity and ecology? How have various aspects of Christian thought and theology contributed to the present ecological crisis? In what ways might Christian thought and practice help to heal our present crisis? By focusing both on the scriptural, theological, and spiritual background as well as on recent articles and monographs, this course seeks to provide students with an introduction to the way that Christians respond to the current concern over the human relationship to the creation in order to come to a fuller understanding of some of the spiritual, philosophical, social, and economic forces that have shaped this relationship and to imagine how Christian wisdom might contribute to answering many of the pressing ecological concerns of our time. Prof. Jacob Sherman (3 units).
Touch the Earth. Through practical engagement with the larger San Francisco Bay Area socio-ecological community, students apply theoretical tools developed during coursework and gain experience in the practice of integral ecology. Students receive guidance in selecting a practicum site that suits their unique gifts and interests, and spend most of the semester engaged with projects at the practicum site. Monthly seminar meetings offer an opportunity to analyze experience in the context of literature on leadership, social change, service learning, activism, compassion, ecological restoration, and resilience. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).
Krishna, Buddha, and Christ. This course provides an opportunity for students to deepen their relationship to Krishna, to Buddha, and to Christ. To this end, the course includes a study of the Bhagavad Gita according to Sri Aurobindo; His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Tibetan Buddhism and in dialogue with Catholic contemplatives; a Jungian interpretation of Christ as a symbol of the Self; and Rudolf Steiner's lectures on esoteric relationships among Krishna, Buddha, and Christ. Prof. Robert McDermott (3 units).
Wisdom and the Sacred: An Introduction to Philosophy of Religion. This course will explore the sometimes surprising way that a range of Western philosophers have sought to respond to these questions and the implications that these different responses hold for our intellectual, sociopolitical, and spiritual lives. The course is roughly divided into two halves, one historical, the other contemporary. Beginning with the birth of modern philosophy of religion in the seventeenth century, the historical half looks at key philosophers from early modernity through the Romantic period in order to consider three approaches to the philosophy of religion: integration, opposition, and separation. Historical readings will include primary and secondary sources on the Cambridge Platonist Anne Conway; the Enlightenment thinkers Immanuel Kant and David Hume; and the Romantic philosopher and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the second half of the course, we turn our attention to contemporary twentieth and twenty-first century options, paying special attention to questions of politics, gender, secularity, violence, language, truth, and metaphysics within the philosophy of religion. Prof. Jacob Sherman (3 units).
Toward an Ecological Economics. The empirical evidence makes it increasingly apparent that our industrial society, with its emphasis on permanent growth, is unsustainable. Can the human project continue under a single economic ideology-capitalism-that distorts wealth and devours resources while destroying the biosphere? Can we just green capitalism, or do we need to create a new system with different guiding principles? This course examines our current economic system and its free market ideology through the lens of ecology, and explores new economic models that support the reinventing of the human-and the economic system-as part of the larger Earth community. We will explore how modernity is trapped by its adherence to eighteenth-century economic principles that are mechanistic and abstract in origin yet are accepted as immutable laws of nature. In particular, we will examine why the chimera of economic growth must end, and what the underlying principles might be for an economy that is sustainable as well as fair and spiritually fulfilling for all members of the Earth community. Prof. Bruce Thompson (1 unit).
Foundations of Integral Philosophy: Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo was one of the greatest yogis of the twentieth century. His spiritual realizations were vast and are reflected in everything he wrote. He was educated at Cambridge, and English is his native language. Thus his works are the only writings we have from a realized Vedic master that are not diminished by translation. Sri Aurobindo was also a great philosopher and cosmologist. He (like Teilhard) articulated a cosmological vision that is evolutionary and spiritual at once. His particular story is interesting because it accounts for mystical and occult experiences very clearly, and makes way for reincarnation and life after death. In this class, we will begin with a general introduction to his ideas, and then we will get as far as we can in his book Essays on the Gita. We will, of course, read the Gita text on which Sri Aurobindo is commenting as well. Prof. Robert McDermott (3 units).
The Ecology and Poetry of Trees. The aim of this course is to delve into the ecology of native California trees and their habitats: forests, woodlands, and savannas. Topics will include succession, disturbance, conservation, restoration, and global climate change. The spirit dimension of trees will be explored concurrently through weekly exercises and creative projects. Prof. Kathren Murrell Stevenson (1 unit).
Buddhism and Ecology. In this course, we will examine Buddhist perspectives on nature along with Buddhist responses to Asian and global environmental issues. We begin with historical texts that frame the Buddhist perspective on nature. We examine Buddhist foundations for ecological thought, the role of Buddhism in the development of the American environmental movement, and challenges in reconciling Buddhist positions with modern science. Works by Buddhist leaders and scholars, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sulak Sivaraksa, Joanna Macy, and poet Gary Snyder, illuminate the role of modern Buddhism in environmental discourse. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).
Wordsworth's "The Prelude." Arguably a Faust for the English-speaking world, William Wordsworth's long autobiographical poem "The Prelude" stands as a true modern human epic. In this course, we will read and discuss "The Prelude" as a meditation on the evolution of consciousness, spiritual striving, and imagination as a mode of cognition. Prof. Fred Amrine (1 unit).
Art, Psyche, and Cosmos. This course explores deeper understandings of major works of art through the insights of depth psychology and archetypal astrology. In turn, we will study how such works of art can illuminate deeper aspects of the human psyche. The multimedia-illustrated lectures offer the opportunity to compare insights of different schools of depth psychology and to clarify fundamental principles of both psychological and archetypal astrological analysis. Prof. Richard Tarnas (3 units).
Comic Genius: A Multidisciplinary Approach. In this three-weekend intensive, we will explore the nature of comedic creativity from several overlapping perspectives: cultural history, biography, depth psychology, archetypal astrology, performance, and writing. We will examine the complex role that comedy plays in cultural life, from broad popular entertainment to subversive social critique, and its unusual capacity to express archetypal complexes, both individual and collective, in ways that articulate otherwise suppressed energies and tensions. Films will be assigned in advance and clips of individual performances viewed in class as a basis for the analysis. The focus will be on major figures in the history of modern comedy, beginning with Chaplin, Keaton, W. C. Fields, and the Marx Brothers, and including Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Woody Allen, Lily Tomlin, Monty Python, Robin Williams, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. Prof. Richard Tarnas and John Cleese (3 units).
Gurdjieff and the Crisis of Our World. Although there is increasing recognition of the importance of G. I. Gurdjieff in the spiritual landscape of the modern world, the main elements of his teaching remain largely unknown. This brief course will seek to clarify some of the essential ideas and principles of this teaching, especially as they bear directly on the hopes and fears of our present moment in history. Prof. Jacob Needleman (1 unit).
Integral Gaia: Ecology for the Planetary Era. Though we are now in the sixth century of the planetary era, it is only in our own times that a wider consciousness of the fact has begun to emerge. Global climate change, a looming mass extinction of species, widespread habitat loss, and increasing pressures of global economic and political interdependence are all forcing us as never before to "think [and sense, feel, and imagine] globally." Standard Gaia theory and established schools of ecology are the most important attempts to think globally from the perspective of contemporary science. The unparalleled character of our historical moment, however, also calls for more integral approaches to ecology and to Gaia. Prof. Sean Kelly (3 units).
Radical Mytho-speculation: Cosmic Evolution and Deep History. This course essentially combines and brings into dialogue two longtime core courses of the curriculum, Brian Swimme's "Epic of the Universe" and Richard Tarnas' "Brief History of Western Thought." The lecture course will be interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, as we examine both the evolution of our cosmos and the evolution of our civilization's cosmology. "Radical mytho-speculation" is the term that the sociologist and historian Robert Bellah, drawing on an insight of Eric Voegelin, used to describe an important phenomenon in the history of human thought, when the evolution of symbolic consciousness in certain societies reached a degree of critical reflexivity that transcended the traditional social-religious world of the archaic civilizations but did not reject the mythic-narrative mode of cognition, and thereby led to the emergence of the axial age. We will consider whether a new axial age might be emerging out of our own late modern and postmodern era. The two primary texts for the course will be Swimme and Thomas Berry's Universe Story and Tarnas's Passion of the Western Mind. Profs. Richard Tarnas and Brian Swimme (3 units).
World as Lover, World as Self: The Work That Reconnects. There are powers within us for the self-healing of our world. They arise from the dynamics generating the intricacy and intelligence of the living Earth. The Work That Reconnects helps us understand and open to these intrinsic powers. It draws from Buddhist teachings and living systems theory to evoke our inter-existence in the web of life and our authority to act on its behalf. It has helped people around the globe to find insight, solidarity, and courage, despite rapidly deteriorating conditions. Its interactive exercises help us to see more clearly the roles we can play in the Great Turning to a life-sustaining civilization. Come prepared to fall in love again with life. Profs. Joanna Macy and Sean Kelly (1 unit).
Hill of the Hawk I and II. This course will take place on the Hill of the Hawk, an inspiring farm and retreat center between Route 1 and the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur. The surrounding farmland and coast will provide students with a context for the content of the course over the weekend intensive. Students will learn from the land, lectures, and discussion. Both of these one-weekend, 1-unit courses are independent of each other but are also continuous. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (1 unit each).
The Earth Journey. The major contribution of modern science for the emergence of a planetary civilization is the detailed articulation of the evolutionary sequence beginning with the cosmic flaring forth 13.7 billion years ago and continuing through the appearance of the stars and galaxies and all the adventures of our living planet. This new empirically based creation story is simultaneously a radical expansion of our knowledge base and a deconstruction of the very form of consciousness that gave birth to it. The dualistic, reductionist, univocal modern consciousness can now be understood as the scaffolding that enabled the construction of an integral awareness capable of feeling in the ordinary events of one's day the vast unfolding of the Earth Journey. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).
Nature and Eros. This course is an engagement in holistic education. During the industrial era, education was understood primarily as the transfer of knowledge and information from teacher to student. The widely assumed world view of the industrial era regarded nature as something out there, something inferior to the human, something that humans learned about in their classrooms. But in the new evolutionary cosmology, nature is understood as both our primary matrix and our primary teacher. Nature is the source of existence and is an ongoing wellspring of wisdom for what it means to be human. This six-day intensive retreat employs conceptual, emotional, experiential, and intuitive learning processes in order to embrace nature as the multidimensional matrix, not only of our bodies, minds, and souls, but of our civilization as well. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).
Sri Aurobindo and Rudolf Steiner. This course explores the biographies, vision, foundational ideas, spiritual practice, and influence of Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) and Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Aurobindo Ghose, initially a radical political leader of the Indian independence movement prior to Gandhi, evolved into Sri Aurobindo, the preeminent Indian spiritual teacher of the first half of the twentieth century. His Integral Yoga philosophy is at the source of the CIIS founding vision. Rudolf Steiner, founder of anthroposophy, Waldorf education, and biodynamic agriculture, is the preeminent esoteric thinker of the twentieth century. Prof. Robert McDermott (1 unit).
Steiner and Jung. This course explores the foundational contributions of two prophetic visionaries of the twentieth century: Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) and C. G. Jung (1875–1961). Situating both figures in the wider Christian, Romantic-Idealist, and esoteric traditions from which they drew and which they also advanced, the course aims to facilitate a creative dialogue between these two great figures. Major themes include multiple ways of knowing, the evolution of consciousness, the problem of evil, the influence of archetypal and spiritual powers, and a diagnosis of the ills of late modern culture. Profs. Robert McDermott and Sean Kelly (3 units).
Integral T'ai Chi. Tai Chi Ch'uan is a subtle and profound "internal art" that, through embodying the chi, promotes greater health and vitality, psychological equanimity, and spiritual alignment. This course introduces students to Tai Chi Ch'uan as an integral, body-based, psycho-spiritual discipline. The core in the first section of Yang Ch'en-fu's original version of the modern Long Form. Students also learn the fundamentals of Taoist cosmology, chi-kung, standing meditation, and of Tai Chi as a method of self-defense. Prof. Sean Kelly (1–3 units).
Archetypal Process: Whitehead, Jung, and Hillman. Two key figures in the twentieth century's engagement with the intersection of philosophy, cosmology, and consciousness were Alfred North Whitehead and C. G. Jung. This course offers an overview of their work, grounded in entirely different disciplines but approaching the same mystery. The final part of the course is devoted to Archetypal Process, based on a 1983 conference that was perhaps the fullest academic anticipation of the concerns and themes that later came to inspire the multi- and transdisciplinary focus of our program. Profs. Richard Tarnas and Brian Swimme (3 units).
Advanced Seminar: Hegel, Wilber, and Morin: System and Method. This seminar explores selected works of three highly influential panoptic thinkers. Hegel's "Science of Wisdom," both a system of complete knowledge and a method for its (re)creation, played a generative role in such subsequent movements as existentialism, phenomenology, Marxism, and post-structuralism. Ken Wilber, though more popular in tone than Hegel, has produced a still-evolving "theory of everything" with equal pretensions to systematic completeness. While both Wilber and Edgar Morin acknowledge their debt to Hegel, Morin nevertheless renounces the possibility of such completeness, choosing instead to cultivate a "method" or way of knowing that might prove adequate to the complexity of the real. All three thinkers have valuable contributions to make to any serious and transdisciplinary inquiry that seeks to illuminate the shifting landscapes of science, politics, and culture at large in this most critical phase of the planetary era. Prof. Sean Kelly (3 units).
Milarepa and Eckhart. A comparative study of two spiritual masters, Milarepa (1052–1136) and Meister Eckhart (1260–1327). The aim of the course is to understand that religion serves differing purposes at different levels of human consciousness. Dealing in this course with Buddhism and Christianity, we will start by noting their striking differences at the "exoteric" level and their even more striking similarities at the contemplative or "esoteric" level. We will propose an outline of the vision of human nature and reality that lies at the "mystical" core of all the great spiritual traditions and philosophies of the world. Reading assignments will be from The Life of Milarepa and the sermons of Meister Eckhart. Prof. Jacob Needleman (1 unit).
The Hieros Gamos: Archetype of the Sacred Marriage. This course will explore Jungian interpretations of the archetypal pattern of the sacred marriage in the world's mythologies, religions, and other products of the collective unconscious. Topics will include the interrelationship of sexuality, culture, and the psyche; the archetypal basis of polytheism and monotheism; the evolution of patriarchy; the dyadic relationship between consciousness and the unconscious and its archetypal expressions; the symbolism of the sacred marriage in art and literature; and the role of sexual and gender symbolism in esoteric systems such as alchemy, astrology, and magic. Prof. Richard Tarnas (3 units).
Advanced Seminar: Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy. This course covers the core texts by Rudolf Steiner, including Philosophy of Freedom, Theosophy, How to Know Higher Worlds, An Outline of Esoteric Science, According to Luke, Start Now!, and Reappearance of Christ in the Etheric. The course includes lectures, discussion, and exercises. As an advanced seminar, the course presupposes that students will have read several books by Steiner (or at least Robert McDermott, ed., The New Essential Steiner, 2009). Prerequisite: Advanced standing or permission of instructor. Prof. Robert McDermott (3 units).
Psyche and Cosmos I: Transpersonal Psychology and Archetypal Astrology. This course examines the emerging understanding of the relationship between the human psyche and the cosmos, based on observed correlations between various psychological conditions and transformations and specific planetary positions. Topics include the extended cartography of the human psyche suggested by modern consciousness research and experiential therapies, analysis of birth charts and planetary transits, archetypal and perinatal patterns in art and culture, and the relevance of this evidence to both the larger tradition of depth psychology and the cultural emergence of a radically integrated worldview. Profs. Richard Tarnas and Stanislav Grof (3 units).
Psyche and Cosmos II: Transits in Depth. This seminar is a practicum designed to help students become skillful in the use of archetypal astrological methods of analysis for understanding the timing and character of a wide range of psychological conditions and biographical events. Classes will be devoted to detailed weekly analyses of one's own personal transits as well as representative transits for significant cultural figures and their major biographical experiences. The course focuses on the archetypal dynamics of human life, expressed both psychologically and in external events, and reflected in the coinciding planetary alignments. Profs. Richard Tarnas and Stanislav Grof (3 units).
The Wisdom of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry. The focus of our course will be the overall vision first developed by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) and subsequently deepened by Thomas Berry (1914–2009). Teilhard's great contribution was his synthesis of science and spirituality, drawing especially on evolutionary biology and paleontology, in which he was a world expert. With an intellectual background in cultural history, Berry carried Teilhard's thought beyond its original Christian formulations and into the more comprehensive context of the world's religions; in addition, Berry grounded Teilhard's thought in contemporary ecology and cosmology. This course will cover the major works of Teilhard, including The Human Phenomenon, Activation of Energy, and The Heart of Matter, and the major works of Berry, including The Dream of the Earth, The Universe Story (coauthored with Brian Swimme), and The Great Work. Profs. Robert McDermott and Brian Swimme (3 units).
James Hillman and Archetypal Psychology: An Introduction. This brief course offers an introduction to the ideas of James Hillman, the principal founder of archetypal psychology and one of the most influential thinkers in contemporary psychology and culture. From its beginnings in the late 1960s, archetypal psychology has called for depth psychology to move beyond the consulting room to engage the larger cultural, historical, and ecological issues of our time. Prof. Richard Tarnas (1 unit).
Teilhard and Steiner. This is a one-semester, co-taught course on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Rudolf Steiner, with an emphasis on the evolution of consciousness and on spiritual epistemology. Steiner (1861–1925) was a comprehensive esotericist; Teilhard (1881–1955) was a mystic in the Roman Catholic tradition and a world-class paleontologist. They both wrote extensively on the evolution of consciousness, and they both exemplified and taught ways of attaining spiritual knowledge. The course will be half lecture and half discussion; both professors will participate in every class. Profs. Robert McDermott and Brian Swimme (3 units).
The Mysticism of Swedenborg. In this weekend course we will explore the place of mysticism in Swedenborg's thought, Swedenborg's design of existence, and the relevance of Swedenborg's revelation for today's culture and our personal lives. We will use the modalities of presentation, discussion, and personal reflection. Time will be given for students to ask anything they ever wanted to know about Swedenborg, and also to have the opportunity to try on Swedenborg's view of reality as a way of exploring both one's relationship with the source of life itself and one's place in the design of existence (1 unit).
Advanced Seminar: C. G. Jung. This seminar is devoted to an in-depth exploration of the ideas of C. G. Jung, a towering figure in twentieth-century intellectual and cultural history and a formative influence on our program. The course begins by setting Jung in context, in terms of Jung's life and of the broader history of ideas. It then turns to such themes as the nature of the psyche, the archetypes of the collective unconscious, the theory of psychological types, dream analysis, the process of individuation, synchronicity, and the evolution of consciousness. Along with key texts from Jung's Collected Works, selections from the recently published Red Book are also considered. Doctoral or advanced master's students only. Prof. Sean Kelly (3 units).
Archetypes, Art, and Culture. Informed by the insights of Jungian, archetypal, and transpersonal psychology, this course uses lecture presentations and works of music, film, and literature to explore and understand the meanings of the planetary archetypes in natal charts and transits. In turn, the archetypal astrological perspective is used to illuminate and more deeply understand the deeper dimensions of major works of art and cultural epochs, from Beethoven's symphonies and the French Revolution to Fellini, the Rolling Stones, and the 1960s. Prof. Richard Tarnas (2 units).
Advanced Seminar in Process Philosophy. This course, which is intended for those already familiar with some of the basic contours of process philosophy, considers the work and legacy of two of the early twentieth century's greatest philosophers, Alfred North Whitehead and Henri Bergson. Our attention will be devoted not only to the careful reading and discussion of key texts by Bergson and Whitehead, but also to some of the more recent work by philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze, Isabelle Stengers, and others who have sought to continue and extend the Bergsonian and Whiteheadian legacy for the twenty-first century. Prof. Jacob Sherman (3 units).
Psyche and Spirit: From the Psychology of Religion to Transpersonal Theory. This course explores the relation of psyche to spirit-that is, to religion, spirituality, and spiritual philosophies and worldviews-through a consideration of the development that leads from classic representatives of the psychology of religion to the principal paradigms of contemporary transpersonal theory. Readings include primary texts, set in their appropriate contexts, by William James, C. G. Jung, Stanislav Grof, and Ken Wilber. Prof. Sean Kelly (3 units).
Integrative Seminar. The Master's Integrative Seminar is the capstone course (offered in spring only) that guides graduating master's students summarizing, integrating, and refining their knowledge and experience in preparation for life after graduation. The course is designed to help students clarify and articulate their particular perspective and intellectual lineage, in the context of foundational texts. Working as a collaborative learning community, students review subjects and texts studied, and reflect upon classroom and community experiences, to draw together an integrated and integral conclusion to their education in our program. The course concludes with a public Symposium, at which graduating students present their most compelling ideas. Students who plan to graduate in the summer or fall semester should plan to take the Integrative Seminar in the preceding spring. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (2 units).
Advanced Seminar: Nietzsche's Life and Work. This advanced doctoral seminar explores the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche in its dramatic evolution over the course of his life. Most of his major works are covered, as well as a sampling and survey of the others. Our task is to enter into this extraordinary and immensely influential philosopher's intellectual and spiritual world, engage his ideas in dialogue, and attempt to grasp their deeper contours and larger significance. This course is intended for doctoral students; master's students need permission of the instructor. Prof. Richard Tarnas (3 units).
The Planetary Era: Toward a New Wisdom Culture. This seminar considers the complex network of factors related to the birth and ongoing transformation of the planetary era. Drawing on the insights of such big-picture thinkers as Hegel and Jung, Karl Jaspers, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, or more recently of Ewert Cousins, Ken Wilber, and Edgar Morin, we seek to discern the deeper pattern of world history and the evolution of consciousness. Emphasizing the continuity among such traditions as Renaissance esotericism, Romanticism, the 1960s counterculture, and the new paradigm, we participate in the creation of a wisdom culture worthy of the planetary era. Prof. Sean Kelly (3 units).
The Master's Integrative Seminar is structured to help graduating students discover and consolidate what they have learned in their studies. Through a process of collaborative inquiry, students refine their unique perspectives and their ability to bridge various bodies of knowledge, while developing plans for their next steps after graduation. The course culminates with a public presentation of the students' key insights to the assembled community. Students who plan to graduate in the summer or fall semesters should plan to take the Integrative Seminar in the preceding spring.
An MA thesis is available under exceptional circumstances which are determined in consultation with the student's advisor. Requirements for approval to write an MA thesis:
1. A proposal for an MA thesis must secure the agreement of a program faculty member to serve as thesis mentor. The student and mentor must also secure the agreement of a program or appropriate CIIS faculty member to serve as the second reader. Both agreements should reflect a strong alignment between the student's proposed thesis topic and the faculty member's scholarly expertise and interests.
2. A program faculty member will be unlikely to serve as mentor for a thesis that does not issue from the student's positively evaluated coursework with the professor in question.
3. The student and topic must be at an advanced MA level.
4. The proposed topic must be able to be adequately treated within the proper thesis length of 60-80 pages.
Program Learning Outcomes
Our program supports students in the cultivation of both intellectual rigor and sympathetic imaginative capacities which will better enable them to enter fruitfully into a plurality of worldviews, historical eras, and cultural sensibilities. By understanding transformative historical and contemporary ideas, students will develop the ability to discern creative possibilities for bringing about life-enhancing futures.
Goal 1: Agents of Change: To generate creative and effective thinking and action in response to the unprecedented evolutionary challenge of the ecological, cultural, and spiritual crises that are currently facing the human and nonhuman members of the Earth community.
- Students will be able to articulate sophisticated critiques of the causes and consequences of the current planetary crises.
- In response to the dominant worldview, students will be able to generate alternatives that promote a socially and ecologically just future for the entire Earth community.
Goal 2: Sophisticated Evaluation: To develop and apply appreciative and critical evaluations of major transitions in worldviews including those that have contributed to the current planetary situation.
- Students will be able to speak and write cogently about the nature of worldviews for a variety of scholarly and popular audiences.
- Students will be able to engage confidently as public intellectuals in conversation regarding the history of and interaction between Western, Asian, and indigenous perspectives, remaining sensitive to the dangers of appropriation while also developing an appreciation for the potential of newly emerging hybridizations of these perspectives.
Goal 3: Transdisciplinarity: To critique, evaluate, and apply transdisciplinary scholarship.
- Students will demonstrate competence in transdisciplinary thinking by integrating content and frameworks from a variety of disciplines to create scholarly products.
- Students will be able to engage critically and constructively with a diverse array of research topics (e.g., religious, spiritual, and esoteric traditions, historical and scientific paradigms, and other marginalized perspectives and ways of knowing).
Goal 4: Inner and Outer Evolution: To clarify and expand the relevance of ideas studied to one's personal life and aspirations, with an eye to their implications for the transformation of culture and society at large.
- Students will be able to build connections between their studies, their personal lives, and the larger communities in which they are embedded.
- Students will be able to tap into and express individual creativity through personal and/or scholarly communication.
Applicants must meet the general admissions requirements of the university. For Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness, applicants from a variety of academic backgrounds will be considered. The materials required include an autobiography, a statement of goals (ideally several pages), a writing sample, and transcripts. Applicants should be familiar with the program curriculum and the published writings of at least one program faculty member.