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Buy 2 or more classes at the same time and save 25% off the total.

The Myth of American Innocence

Save 25% when purchasing this with other classes from this Fall's semester.


Instructor: Barry Spector
Thursdays, April 11 – May 16, 3:00 – 5:00 PM, East Rec
6-week session Cost: $95

Course Description:
Objectives of the Course:
1 –To understand the deep currents underlying American history, politics and popular culture.
2 – To teach mythological thinking, which offers a broader perspective than contemporary political, religious or psychological thinking, and to inspire new ways to consider our pressing social and environmental problems.

Course Detail:
We face profound political, social and environmental crises, but conventional thinking no longer helps. We need to re-imagine our place in the world, to extricate ourselves from national narratives that no longer serve us. We must identify why our myths — the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves — have such a strong hold on our emotions. This class will look at American history, race relations, media and politics through the lenses of indigenous thinking, Depth Psychology and Greek myth.

Week 1: Mythology (1). The functions of myths in traditional societies. The relevance of Greek myth, with telling of The Bacchae by Euripides. Hero myths and rituals of initiation.

Week 2: Mythology (2). The underlying myths of western culture, focusing on the myth of the sacrifice of the children. Comparisons to tribal cultures. The creative imagination and the indigenous soul.

Week 3: Psychology

“The Other,” an archetype of the human soul, represented by the mythic image of the Greek god Dionysus. The Other is the most repressed aspect of our nature, which we project onto convenient scapegoats. But indigenous cultures understood that we need the Other to know and complete ourselves.

Week 4: History. The evolution of the American character and its bifurcation into the Paranoid Imagination and the Predatory Imagination. The critical importance of racial distinctions and white privilege. American Exceptionalism and the American Empire.

Week 5: Popular culture.

How Americans consume and internalize our mythologies. The American Hero, Western movies, mass media, fundamentalism and the culture of consumerism.

Week 6: The Future.

Looking mythologically at social problems selected by the class. Re-framing the myth of American Innocence. Evolving the appropriate narratives and rituals for a peaceful and sustainable world.

Since a familiarity with the creative imagination is so critical to mythological thinking, each session will involve recited poetry. Copies of my book Madness at the Gates of the City: The Myth of American Innocence will be available for purchase but not required for the course.

Instructor Biography:
Barry has taught a course in the Depth Psychology Master’s program at Sonoma State University and served as a guest lecturer at Meridian University (formerly the Institute for Archetypal Psychology), Sophia University (formerly the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology) and the California Institute of Integral Studies. He has taught Osher Lifelong Learning Institute courses at U.C. Davis, U.C. Berkeley and California State University, East Bay. He serves on the planning committee of the Redwood Men’s Center of Sonoma County, CA, which presents an annual men’s conference. Barry has coordinated an online discussion group about his book for the Depth Psychology Alliance (http://

Basic Teaching Principles

Caroline Casey’s Thoughts copy

Defining the Myth of Innocence

Monotheism and Polytheism copy

Myths and rituals mentioned

Recommended Books

Recommended Readings

Some Words and Concepts to Discuss copy

Understanding Trump

Writing Recommendations